Ten Proposals for Change in Cuba

The model established in Cuba since the 1960s of the last century has shown, by its results, its inefficiency in solving the fundamental problems of society. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Ariel Hidalgo/Elizardo Sanchez SantaCruz, 1 January 2020 — After almost forty years of organized civic struggle of the dissident movement in Cuba, the survivors of the half dozen political prisoners who began that struggle in 1983 call for a dispassionate reflection on the general situation of the country and the opportunities of the present moment, without the anxiety of the spotlight and thinking only of the good of the Cuban people.

On Balance:

  • The model established in Cuba since the 1960s of the last century has shown, by its results, its inefficiency in solving the fundamental problems of society. The very goals of achieving universal access to education and health care for the entire population were undermined by an irrational economy, by restricting productive stimuli and citizens’ aspirations for self-improvement, and by supporting a parasitic bureaucracy.
  • It is not about the false dilemma between socialism and capitalism, since the actions of the Central Committee of the Hungarian Working People’s Party in 1955, the “Socialism with a human face” of Czechoslovakia in 1968, alternatives brutally frustrated by the Russian tanks, and the path of the self-governed Yugoslavia, these were options rejected by the Castro leadership. Even though the Soviet bloc had disappeared, Castro preferred to continue maintaining the model of state centralism that demonstrated its ineffectiveness in the Soviet Union itself with its implosion in 1991.
  • It was Castro himself, the political leader who promoted the establishment of socialism in Cuba, who confessed before he died to a journalist from The Atlantic magazine that this model “no longer works, even for Cubans.”
  • The economic restrictions of the United States on Cuba in response to the confiscations of American properties and later reinforced as an instrument of pressure on the Castro leadership has not only failed in its objectives, but has also increased the precariousness of the people and has only served to divert responsibility from that leadership for the dire consequences of its ineffectiveness and its internal blockade of the people.
  • The denial of fundamental rights, such as free association and expression of ideas, gave rise in the 1980s to the birth of a peaceful current of opposition and human rights known as “internal dissidence,” which spread throughout the country and it has not been able to be silenced, much less exterminated, despite threats, intimidation, ostracism and imprisonment.
  • However, this movement has failed to date to achieve the desired changes for the country. It has not been able to emerge from its social marginalization due to the general fear of the population of government repression and, above all, because many of these groups, influenced by opposition organizations from abroad in a different context, adopted the confrontational rhetoric in support of the politics of the besieged that distanced them from most of the people, and especially from critical intellectual and academic sectors that, in other ways, were seeking solutions to the national conflict.
  • The deep economic crisis in the country, particularly the energy crisis, exacerbated the calamities of the population and its discontent, although much of the frustration is not yet openly manifested out of fear, but could explode en masse with serious irreparable consequences, which would not be healthy for anyone, neither for the leadership, nor for the dissidents, nor for the people.
  • The regime can no longer ease internal tensions by resorting to large mass exoduses, such as Camarioca, Mariel and the rafters of ’94. All this is in the past after President Obama’s decree to return all refugees who arrived illegally, while for the population individual liberation through emigration is no longer so easy, which accentuates the urgency of an internal solution to the conflict.
  • Cuba no longer has a secure and stable supplier of fuel, as the Soviet Union and later Venezuela used to be. The possible improvement of relations with a new Democratic government in the United States could mean new opportunities to put an end to that lack, but after the experience of the Obama Administration, it is very difficult for the new administration to take actions without concessions from the Cuban regime in the field of human rights.
  • Opponents can no longer expect radical changes in Cuba, neither by a military intervention after the end of the Cold War, nor by expeditions on their own without sufficient armed resources or popular support, nor coups d’état based on effective intelligence or counterintelligence, nor by a social explosion that would only bring chaos and many deaths.
  • The physical disappearance of the “historical leaders” for biological reasons will not bring positive changes, but will leave unscrupulous business mafias at the helm of state companies, with enough power to negotiate with drug cartels that seek safer routes for that traffic to the desirable North American market.
  • The electoral result achieved by the regime for the approval of the current Constitution shows that, even without counting the absence of guarantees and the general opinion that many approved it out of fear, the figure provided by the government itself regarding the minority that expressed their disagreement is a sufficiently significant percentage as to be taken into account.

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Conclusions: what can be done?

  1. Cubans cannot count on factors other than themselves to solve their problems. The dissidents could find support from the international community in favor of their fight for human rights, while the leadership could find aid from allied countries to alleviate the oil shortage, but neither of the two contending groups will be able to definitively resolve their conflicts if it is not between them and the Cuban people.
  2. The regime-dissidence contest has long since fallen into a stalemate in which the former, with all its power, has not been able to liquidate the latter, and the latter has not been able to advance much further for a change in the system.
  3. That the Castro regime has not been able to end the dissident movement, as it did with all the armed opposition attempts, shows that the solution to the Cuban conflict cannot be resolved through violence and force, or through imprisonment ordered by that leadership, nor by the breaking of windows by potential protesters, but through peaceful solutions and putting confrontations aside.
  4. However, the present conditions are creating a favorable terrain so that both that dissidence and a reformist intelligentsia in the legal frameworks can continue advancing in their proposals. The possibilities opened up the internet and social networks have opened access for the population, not only to information, but also to the massive and instantaneous disclosure of both proposals and complaints. This became very clear recently in December 2020 by the number of people who came out, both to support the hunger strike of the San Isidro Movement for the release of rapper Denis Solís, and to join in the concentration of artists who requested a dialogue with the Ministry of Culture.
  5. It should be emphasized that in the cases cited, a factor that stimulated this popular involvement was the peaceful nature adopted in these protests, which denied the government accusations against the demonstrators of “mercenaries paid by the empire.” Dissidence will not be able to gain ground with these technological opportunities if it maintains unpopular rhetoric, such as supporting US economic restrictions on Cuba, particularly on travel and remittances. On the contrary, it must condemn all the blockades and restrictions that affect Cuban families economically, both those imposed by the United States Government and by the Cuban Government against the people in their struggle for subsistence.
  6. The Castro leadership should take note of the symptoms of popular support for those who peacefully request an end to the harassment of both artistic manifestations as well as the economic activities of independent citizens. This support is not only evident in the streets but even in the networks among many personalities who, until now, had supported the regime, and weigh what could be worse: whether to make the concessions that would end the tensions or deny them and militarize the cities with the probable consequence of a social explosion. Those who are inciting violence are not dissidents, or intellectuals, or artists, but the Government itself, by refusing to dialogue with the more moderate segments that only ask for a peaceful understanding and mutual respect.
  7. The leadership must free all prisoners of conscience and stop persecuting those who make use of their rights of free expression and association, and dissident organizations, must make it clear that they do not favor revenge against those who have perpetrated human rights violations, and advocate for a general amnesty that benefits both dissidents who face prison or other penalties and government elements who have committed abuses of power. This does not mean that the truth is not restored and responsibilities are assumed, as happened in South Africa under the Mandela presidency.
  8. The dissidence must build bridges with those Cubans who, although they have not broken with the regime, maintain critical or independent positions, and try to iron out rough spots and resentments with other compatriots who are offering their contributions for a better Cuba in other ways.
  9. The regime has the opportunity to achieve a change in the attitude of governments and international institutions that condemn it for human rights violations, changing its own position towards activists, ceasing to see them as enemies and valuing the usefulness of their work in detecting arbitrariness and abuses of power by some of their own officials that damage the image of the Government and generate discontent among the population. If they authorized the creation of a national committee of activists elected by the human rights groups themselves, who raised their complaints to the highest levels in exchange for their receiving due attention, the activists would not have to broadcast their complaints internationally, and the regime would receive the approval of the world community. Don’t kill the messenger.
  10. The Government should allow, in universities or convention centers, panels where representatives of the Government, critical intellectuals, reformists and dissidents discuss what changes could be implemented to get Cuba out of the crisis, without ideological dogmatism, but thinking pragmatically about the welfare of the population and the destiny of the homeland. We exhort all Cubans of good will, regardless of their political ideas and country of residence, to contribute to the joint mission of healing all the wounds of the great Cuban family and raising the national home, for the sake of a future where peace, fraternity and progress reign.


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Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In Cuba In 2016 / EFE,14ymedio

A member of the opposition movement Ladies in White is arrested during a demonstration on International Human Rights Day in December 2015. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 5 January 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), a dissident group, denounced today that it had documented at least 9,940 arbitrary arrests for “political reasons” in 2016, the highest figure of the last six years.

With a monthly average of 827 arrests, the opposition organization said that Cuba is in “first place” in Latin America for this type of “repressive action.”

In its monthly report, the CCDHRN reports that in December there were 458 arbitrary arrests of “peaceful dissidents,” up from 359 in the previous month, but a much lower figure than in other months of last year; data from January to April showed more than 1,000 arrests a month. continue reading

According to this organization, in December there were also 14 physical assaults by political repression groups against peaceful opponents, 37 acts of harassment and intimidation, and two acts of repudiation, “true civil lynchings without the loss of human lives until now.”

The CCDHRN documented, in December, 14 physical attacks by the political repression groups against peaceful opponents

The commission notes that the opposition groups most punished by this harassment are the Ladies in White, who march every Sunday to demand respect for human rights on the island, and the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), which has suffered “vandalism and robbery by the police” at its headquarters in Santiago de Cuba and at the homes of some of its activists.

The CCDHRN also expressed concern over the situation of two political prisoners imprisoned since November: Eduado Cardet, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, and Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” who is considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

“El Sexto” has been detained since the early hours of November 26 for painting “He’s gone” in a central place in Havana on the occasion of the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. He is being held in a maximum security prison without trial.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, led by the well-known dissident Elizardo Sánchez, is the only group to record and report the numbers of these incidents in Cuba.

The Cuban government considers dissidents “counterrevolutionaries” and “mercenaries.”

Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces “Unstoppable Deterioration Of Civil And Political Rights” / 14ymedio

From today your life will be "very difficult", Dagoberto Valdes was warned by Cuban State Security (@mariojose_cuba)
From today your life will be “very difficult”, Dagoberto Valdes was warned by Cuban State Security (@mariojose_cuba)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2016 — The arbitrary arrests of peaceful dissidents in Cuba marked the highest figure in the last three months in October, with 620 cases, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation’s (CCDHRN) monthly report, released Wednesday. The report also cites 17 physical assaults, 39 acts of police harassment and three instances of “repudiation” by the secret political police and vigilante groups.

“The repressive actions in recent months are indicative of a visible and unstoppable deterioration of the situation of civil and political rights and other fundamental rights in Cuba, despite the countless gestures of goodwill towards the regime that has ruled the island for nearly 60 years,” laments the document. “Meanwhile, the vast majority of the Cuban people continue to survive amid a lack of freedom, poverty and despair,” it.

In the first 10 months of 2016, 9,125 arrests were registered, a figure that exceeds the totals for each of the last six years. The CCDHRN is led by Elizardo Sanchez, who predicts that this year’s final count of arbitrary arrests will exceed 10,000 cases.

The CCDHRN mentioned the secret political police raid of October 21 on the home and office of a legal aid center in Pinar del Rio, also the site of the newsletter Panorama Pinareño, sponsored by the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP).

The report also addresses the threats against the Catholic layman Dagoberto Valdes, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) of Pinar del Rio, which publishes a magazine with the same name.

Patriotic Union Of Cuba Launches A Political Program / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

UNPACU leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, believes that a new document integrates the entire opposition. (EFE)
UNPACU leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, believes that a new document integrates the entire opposition. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 5 May 2016 — Since early this month, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have begun to disseminate the document Minimum Program and Projections, which outlines guidelines for the actions of the opposition organization, forms of struggle, and a proposal for the country ‘s future.

With the publication of this text, which summarizes the experience of the nation’s largest group of activists, UNPACU is demonstrates maturity and responds to criticisms about the Cuban opposition’s lack of a platform or agenda.

In nine pages, the program underlines the commitment of the opposition to use peaceful means to reach its goals. It also clarifies that the proposals contained are addressed to those living in the country and in the diaspora and proclaims the need for “a free, democratic, just, fraternal and prosperous Cuba.” continue reading

This inclusiveness is appreciated in a nation that for decades no longer exists only within the island, and where the phenomenon of emigration is growing in numbers rather than diminishing in recent months.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, national coordinator for UNPACU, is optimistic that the program’s reach to date. Speaking to 14ymedio he noted, however, that “the document is not final and is subject to changes or corrections.”

For this former prisoner of the Black Spring, the platform is a “more complete tool” in the work of the organization and has been received “very well,” mainly in Santiago de Cuba. Right now, he says, it is “being distributed throughout the province, we will continue to print it and send it to the rest of the country.”

The text has not been the result of improvisation or a race against time to publish a program. Several activists consulted confirmed that the text originated in March of 2013, when the UNPACU instructed the lawyer Rene Gomez Manzano, its chief legal adviser, to write the first draft.

That initial text was worked on by regime opponent Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz and Ferrer himself, who used as sources for the final wording of the document other texts, including: UNPACU, For The Cuba Of Your Dreams and We Are UNPACU. Only after the recent close of the 7th Congress of the Communist Party, with its disappointing results, did the organization publish its program.

Ferrer explained that the dissemination of the text was preceded by “many days of work and consensus in meetings occurring in several provinces of the country.” Technology was an ally in this effort, as they were also able to share opinions through “emails, Facebook chat and Twitter direct messages,” he says.

The organization describes itself in the pages Minimum Program and Projections as “a pluralistic and ecumenical effort of a union of activists and former organizations.” Its managers collected and summarizes in their ideology components ideology “of Christian belief and the liberal and social democratic doctrines.”

Their main proposal for the country is summarized in “the establishment of a democratic order that combines a social market economy, political pluralism and makes possible greater equity and solidarity between the individuals and groups that make up our society.”

Copies of the program will be delivered to the “different levels of the so-called People’s Power, and, why not, the oppressor Party,” said Ferrer, who is quick to note that the “the main audience is the millions of Cubans tired of living without rights, without freedom and in complete misery. ”

In its project for the economy, the program lists the current situation as “an authoritarian capitalism, combining the worst of a savage market and a state centralism,” and details the main problems affecting items such as wages, food, housing, transport, industry and agriculture, among others.

As a counterpart, UNPAC advocates a social market economy, where “both the State and the markets, open to citizen control and advocacy, serve as mechanisms to generate personal and public prosperity.” It is also committed to “the fertile combination of all forms of property and production: small, medium or large, national, foreign or mixed,” but rejects the existence of state or private monopolies.

The group claims the right of Cubans living abroad to invest and own property in the country and proposes the creation of “genuine agrarian reform that recognizes the full rights of those who work the land.” Detailing the need to respect the properties acquired after 1959, especially those used as living quarters, it intends to seek “compensation formulas” and the right to put forward impartial claims for confiscated property.

In the socio-political approach, the program calls for a new constitution and a new electoral law “to ensure free, fair and competitive elections,” and proposes the establishment of freedom of expression and association and the right to strike and unionize.

The document calls for respect for all religious beliefs and fraternal organizations, and the promotion of Internet access, freedom in art, academic freedom in teaching, university autonomy, the repeal of all laws in force today that violate human rights and the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

For those who see this emergence of this platform as a possible cause of friction between dissident forces, Ferrer says that, on the contrary, the new text “enriches and strengthens the struggle for the democratization of Cuba.” A clarification that is worth taking into account is that the Democratic Unity Roundtable a coalition of opposition organizations to which UNPACU belongs, is about to publish its own program.

Ferrer does not believe in haste or improvisation, but stresses that UNPACU members do not “like to leave for tomorrow what you can do today.”

Rights Commission Counts 1,380 Political Arrests in Cuba in April / 14ymedio

A police operation outside the home of a regime opponent. (Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca)
A police operation outside the home of a regime opponent. (Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 May 2016 – A report released on Tuesday by the Cuban National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) announced that during the April there were “at least 1,380 arbitrary arrests for political reasons” in Cuba. A situation that “confirms the ultra repressive policy adopted at the highest level of the government of the island,” says the document.

The independent entity questioned the attitude of the authorities which is “aimed at trying to silence dissenting voices and any form of peaceful public demonstrations of discontent.” In the introduction to the report an estimate for politically motivated arrests during the first four months of the year is provided: “At least 5.351.” continue reading

The CCDHRN comments on “the inability to quality the acts of repression and the climate of intimidation against all society, a victim, also, of massive campaigns of disinformation and diversionary propaganda.” A situation that keeps the Cuban people “in a state of complete defenselessness and hopelessness” it says.

On 25 April, the CCDHRN published its most recent partial list of prisoners currently incarcerated for political reasons, which included the names of 82 Cubans imprisoned for so-called “crimes against the state.” However, in the report released Tuesday, it is reported that a few days later that figure “had increased with four other women,” members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) found in “provisional detention.”

The four activists added to the list are Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda, Yunet Cairo Reigada, Yaquelin Heredia Morales and Marieta Martínez Aguilera.

Two of them “are also members of the harshly repressed Ladies in White movement,” says the text.

The CCDHRN submitted a request for opposition detainees to receive an “international recognition as prisoners of conscience.” A request that will extend also to “at least 20 peaceful political prisoners.”

The Commission, chaired by dissident Elizardo Sanchez, will continue demanding the “release, for purely humanitarian reasons, of 22 other prisoners classified as counterrevolutionary who have been in the Castro regime’s prisons for between 24 and 13 years.” The text details that these prisoners are being held “under inhuman and degrading conditions.”

Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio

Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)
Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, continue reading

the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.

For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.

For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.

“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.

“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.

In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, ​​represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.

Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”

Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.

He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”

Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.

In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.

Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.

Obama Praises The Courage Of Dissidents In An Unprecedented Meeting / EFE, 14ymedio

US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)
US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.

In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.

The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).

“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.

“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.

On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.

Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces 1,414 Political Arrests in January / EFE (14ymedio)

Act of repudiation in front of the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana this January. (Angel Moya)
Act of repudiation in front of the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana this January. (Angel Moya)

EFE (14ymedio), Havana, 4 February 2016 — The dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported Thursday that political repression continues its ascent on the island, where in January there were at least 1,414 political arrests, one of the highest monthly figures in the last decade.

This group, the only one keep an account of these incidents in the country, said in its monthly report on political repression that the number of arrests this January was surpassed only in November 2015, when 1,447 cases were reported.

The Commission, led by the dissident Elizardo Sanchez, said that in addition to the arrests, 56 peaceful dissidents were victims of physical assaults in January, three suffered acts of repudiation, and 68 cases of harassment and two of vandalism were recorded.

According to the CCDHRN, such acts are orchestrated by State Security police and other “repressive and paramilitary elements” present in Cuba, where the government “has exercised authoritarian power for 58 years.”

The government, according to the organization, is resorting more frequently to prolonged detention and provisional internment without trial, which often extends for long months, “a policy intended to wear down the opponents.”

“The number of prisoners is increasing unstoppably and in the huge prison system inhumane and degrading conditions of detention continue to prevail, while the government still refuses to accept the cooperation of the International Red Cross and other international NGOs,” laments the Commission.

Three Members of Cuban Opposition Released After Three Months’ Detention / 14ymedio

Hugo Damian Prieto and his wife, a few hours after being released. (Angel Moya)
Hugo Damian Prieto and his wife, a few hours after being released. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 January 2016 – Released on Wednesday, after three months detention, were two members of the Cuban opposition: Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Front for Civic Action, and Wilberto Parada Milan, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), according to reports to this newspaper from opposition sources. Also released on Thursday morning was the opponent Carlos Manuel Figueroa, who was arrested after jumping the fence of the US embassy in Havana last October. According to dissident sources, the activist shouted slogans at the time: “Down with Raul” and “Down with the dictatorship.”

Figueroa was a part of the group of 53 political prisoners released in January 2015 after negotiations between Washington and Havana, according to a report at the time from Elizardo Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). continue reading

Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco and Wilberto Parada Milan were arrested on 24 October 2015, two days after holding a protest against the Attorney General of the Republic through which they demanded the release of Maria Josefa Acón, Zaqueo Baez and Ishmael Reni, the three activists jailed for approaching Pope Francis before Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution on 20 September of last year

The opponents were charged with disorderly conduct and sent to prison pending trial. The first has been held in Valle Grande and the second in the Combinado del Este in Havana.

After his release, Hugo Damian Prieto and his wife visited the headquarters of the Ladies in White in Havana’s Lawton neighborhood, according to former prisoner of the Black Spring, Angel Moya.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported the arbitrary detention of the two opponents in their last three reports and condemned it for going “against the well-known expectations encouraged by the announcement of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States.”

According to the independent organization, “political repression increased steadily throughout 2015 from 178 cases in January to figures in the vicinity of 1,000 arrests by year’s end.”

Number Of Political Arrests In Cuba Doubles From Dec. 2014 / 14ymedio

A member of the Ladies in White is arrested by police on Thursday, 10 December 10, in Havana. (Photo EFE)
A member of the Ladies in White is arrested by police on Thursday, 10 December 10, in Havana. (Photo EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 January 2015 — The number of political arrests in the month of December in Cuba was almost twice that of December 2014, from 489 increasing to 930, according to the monthly report issued by the Cuban the National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

The number represents a significant decrease from November, when there were at least 1,447 arrests. However, that figure was the highest in years, according to information from the CCDHRN, which reported December was the third worst month of the year, after the two months preceding it (there were 1,093 political arrests in October).

The CCDHRN is particularly concerned because five former political prisoners – released as a part of the negotiations between the Cuban and United States governments that led to the reestablishment of relations – were newly arrested and being held in high security prisons. These prisoners are

Wilfredo Parada Milian, Jorge Ramirez Calderon, Carlos Manuel Figueroa, Aracelio Ribeaux Noa and Vladimir Morera Bacallao, who was on a hunger strike between 9 October and the end of the year. The five have been imprisoned in “rigged processes without due process,” according to the organization led by Elizardo Sanchez.

Once again, the groups most affected by repression, the report denounced, are the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who “apart from physical violence and all kinds of humiliations” suffered “acts of vandalism and the extrajudicial confiscation of toys intended to be distributed to poor children, computers, cellphones and other work tools acquired legally, as well as cash taken from many of the opponents who were arrested.”

The CCDHRN expressed despair because despite the expectations created by the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the US, “political repression increased steadily throughout 2015.” In addition, the report denounced that poverty has continued to grow, which has motivated, in the opinion of the organization, the migratory crisis of those “trying to escape Cuba by any means, including illegal emigration at the price of human suffering.”

Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces Record Number Of Political Arrests In November / EFE (Via 14ymedio)

Ladies in White and activists gathered at Gandhi Park. (Angel Moya)
Ladies in White and activists gathered at Gandhi Park. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 3 December 2015 — The dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported Thursday that there were at least 1,447 political arrests in Cuba in November, the highest figure this year says opposition group says.

The monthly report issued by this organization, led by activist Elizardo Sanchez said that the repressive activity has been “remarkable,” especially against the women’s opposition group The Ladies in White, and those who “dare to accompany them” every Sunday on their usual walk. continue reading

On every one of these occasions, the activists and their companions are “brutally beaten and subjected to all kinds of humiliation” on being arrested by the “secret political police” at the end of the Sunday Mass they attend at Santa Rita Catholic Church in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar, according to the report.

The CCDHRN says that the Cuban regime responds “with every more increasing fury” against those who “are only demanding the release of the political prisoners and the respect for civil rights and other fundamental rights. ”

According to data from this dissident group, the repressive actions take place in all regions of the island, especially in the eastern and central provinces, where the opposition group Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) continues to be a “priority target.”

In its report, the CCDHRN accuses the Cuban government of “perfecting and enlarging its machinery of repression, propaganda and intimidation.”

The report also blames the government of the island for the “tragedy” being experienced by some 4,000 Cubans stranded on the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua in their quest to reach the United States “for being most responsible for the rising poverty and hopelessness that oppress the Cuban people. ”

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation is the only group on the island which records and publishes the numbers of these incidents in Cuba.

A Growing Number Of Political Arrests In Cuba, According To CCDHRN / 14ymedio

March of the Ladies in White from Havana. (EFE)
March of the Ladies in White from Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2015 — Arbitrary political arrests continue to trend upward in Cuba, according to Monday’s denouncement from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). In its report for the month of October, the independent entity reports “at least 1,093 arrests of this nature,” the vast majority “performed or supervised by the secret political police.” This is the highest figure in the past 16 months, exceeding the previous record reached in September of this year with 882 arrests.

Among the issues the CCDHRN views with greatest alarm is that “not all of the regime opponents arrested have been returned to their homes.” Among them are Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco and Wilfredo Parada Milian, who “have already spent eight days in provisional detention as a reprisal for having participated, in the last month, in separate peaceful demonstrations in front of the Ministry of Justice and the Attorney General’s Office,” the introduction of the report states. continue reading

The commission, focused on reporting on human rights, also notes that the artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), was released at the end of October after ten months in “provisional detention” without having been taken to trial. A category of detention, they warn, that is “used by the Government with the intention of undermining and intimidating peaceful opponents.”

With regards to the conditions of the Cuban prison system, the organization warns that it is continuing to receive reports that “reveal a greater deterioration of the conditions of internment, characterized by the prevalence of cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment.” However, the government “persists in not accepting the disinterested cooperation of the International Red Cross to improve conditions of internment.”

The commission, headed by the activist Elizardo Sanchez, cites a prison population of “between 60,000 and 70,000 prisoners, mostly for common crimes or ‘pre-criminal attitude,’ who survive in the midst of filth and every kind of insecurity.” The organization details that “there are in Cuba between 150 and 200 high severity prisons, correctional centers and labor camps.”

“Wave of Political and Social Repression” in September, according to CCDHRN / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angela Moya)
Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 October 2015 – This September there were at least 882 arbitrary arrests for political reasons, according to a report by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The figure is the highest in the last 15 months, says the independent entity which also warns about an increase in “physical assaults against peaceful opponents by police agents and their collaborators.”

The cases of physical violence reported and verified y the CCDHRN reached 93, “while there were 21 in August.” The Commission, chaired by human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, points out that “September did not lack many acts of harassment and vandalism, either.” These include “house arrests and extrajudicial bans on movement,” says the text of the report.

As “a true wave of political and social repression” there were “353 arrests of peaceful dissidents to prevent them from participating in massive gatherings” with Pope Francis.

The opposition sector was not the only one that suffered police raids, and the CCDHRN reiterates that “an undetermined number of beggars, panhandlers and other homeless people who seek alms on the streets or search for food or anything else in trash dumpsters were interned without judicial order.”

The case of the three from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who “managed to breach the police cordon and approach Pope Francis” in Havana’s Revolution Plaza, is singled out with interest in the report. Zaqueo Baez, Maria Anon and Ismael Bonet “have been jailed for 15 days, under subhuman conditions, in the hands of the secret political police, without access to defense attorneys and without formal charges.” The CCDHRN “is prepared to propose that they be internationally adopted as possible Prisoners of Conscience.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Opponents Denounce Arrests And “Social Cleansing” Before The Pope’s Visit / 14ymedio

March of the Ladies in White.
March of the Ladies in White.

14ymedio, Havana, 18 September 2015 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) expressed Friday in a statement its “deep indignation and concern about the operation of ‘social cleansing’ that the government has developed in recent days” in Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. The spokesman for the organization, Elizardo Sanchez, stressed that thousands of paupers, beggars, bums, mentally ill and other wandering homeless people, in their great majority elderly people who have no place to live, have been interned before the Pope’s visit, that begins tomorrow.

The communication argues that the objective of “social cleansing” undertaken by the secret political police is to put these people out of sight of pilgrims, foreign journalists and other visitors. The organization stresses that the internments have been executed without judicial order and without disclosing the whereabouts of the victims. The CCDHRN asks the Pope to intervene for their immediate release.

The executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, has also circulated a message to publicize the arbitrary arrests of peaceful opposition within hours of the arrival of Pope Francisc.

Thousands of beggars have been detained in Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba

Ferrer says at least two members of his organization, Alberto Valle Perez and Walter Reinosa Morales, were arrested yesterday in Havana, as well as Roberto Ferrer, a member of Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID) arrested with violence on La Palma, Arroyo Naranjo.

According to the UNPACU leader, in Santiago de Cuba and Holguin there is strong vigilance and mobilization of Interior Ministry troops, “ready to act against peaceful activists, defenders of human rights.”

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has reported the detentions of some 17 members of the organization in Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Santa Clara and Pinar del Rio “to avoid” their attending the Masses that will be celebrated by the Pope on the island.

Among the detainees are the activist Leticia Ramos and her husband. Antonio Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS opposition group, has contacted their family and has said through his Twitter account that they are “confined in a room riddled with cockroaches.”

The Ladies in White Live through Another Day of Repression / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White march through the streets of Havana Sunday (14ymedio)
The Ladies in White march through the streets of Havana Sunday (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio.com, Havana, 13 September 2015 – This Sunday, 42 Ladies in White, accompanied by 21 activists from different political groups, walked down Havana’s Fifth Avenue, in the Miramar neighborhood. Finishing their usual route and subsequent meeting in Gandhi Park, next to Santa Rita Parish, the group was arrested by police and other plain-clothes forces, according to reports to 14ymedio by several eyewitnesses.

Together with the women from the human rights movement were other opposition figures such as Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles from the opposition group Estado de Sats. The current whereabouts of those arrested is unknown, and their cell phones give the message “turned off or out of area.” However, the leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, has been set free.

The Ladies in White had carried several banners demanding amnesty for political prisoners. A demand that has been the focus of attention for several opposition groups and that has gained strength before the upcoming visit by Pope Francis to the Island.

This week the Cuban government announced the pardon of 3,522 prisoners on the occasion of the Pontiff’s arrival in Cuba. Nevertheless, the opposition has criticized the fact that the list of pardoned prisoners does not include activists jailed for political reasons.

Elizardo Sanchez, who heads the National Human Rights and Reconciliation Commission, said in an interview with EFE that there are at least 60 people imprisoned “for political reasons or through politically conditioned proceedings.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel