Government Opponent Guillermo Farinas Says Cuba is in a ‘Battle Situation’

The director of the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), Alejandro González, together with the Cuban government opponent Guillermo Fariñas. (EUROPE PRESS)

14ymedio biggerEuropa Press (via 14ymedio), Madrid, 4 March 2022 — The prominent Cuban government opponent Guillermo Fariñas has detailed this Friday that there is not “sufficient capacity in Cuba for so many political prisoners” and has claimed that the country is experiencing a “battle situation,” something that he considers “good to know.”

In a press conference organized by the Cuban Human Rights Observatory (OCDH) in Madrid, the dissident explained that currently “the most essential” part of the situation in Cuba is “the high level of social protests” that are taking place, especially against as a result of the demonstrations of July 11, which has led to the indictment of almost 800 people.

Thus, he highlights the attitude, especially, of the younger population, who are in a “confrontational position” and carry out vandalism or urban guerrilla acts, burning down fundamentally state-owned premises, as he explained.

“It is good that it is known that Cuba is in a battle situation,” he clarified before pointing out that the main groups in power are experiencing “problems.” “There is a group that is disappearing for obvious reasons, that of the generals of the Army Corps. The dynamics of confrontation make the foundation of their group repression,” he said before saying that the Cuban people “are being ignored.”

The Cuban people “do not have the right to power, to opinion, to prosperity, to free enterprise… Because the creation of small businesses is generally carried out by relatives of people with a high political profile in support of the Government,” he lamented. In this sense, he has stated that from the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (Fantu), an organization he leads, we find ourselves before “a military junta, which sometimes wears civilian clothes but every time we go to investigate it becomes military.” continue reading

Fariñas affirmed that this, “added to the fact that the young and not so young spontaneously took to the streets, makes them afraid of losing all their earnings in convertible currency… That is why we find ourselves in a situation of real repression. Because they have come to understand that the people who are protesting must be picked up and taken away, withdrawn, threatened (…) and the repression continues,” he said.

In addition, he stated that since 1980 there had not been such a high number of political prisoners –currently around a thousand — which shows that “they are willing to use the ultimate consequences to maintain their power… It is important that the Cuban nation is seen as a single entity,” he added.

“When the other social outbreaks that are going to occur occur,” he says in relation to a situation that he considers unsustainable, we will have “a high-pressure cooker with no escape valve because there is a quarter of the population that can receive aid, but the other three quarters don’t, and those are the ones who are protesting.”

The opponent stressed that this is the message that he has comuicated to the European Parliament during his visit this week to Brussels, where he has met with the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and has stated that it is important to protect those who have defended the cause even from the European institutions.

“Europe is under attack. It is now at the level of Ukraine but it is not known where it will end,” he stressed in relation to the Russian invasion of the territory, which began more than a week ago.

Likewise, he pointed out that “friends must be seen especially in these circumstances” and has defended that the opposition has tried to sit down with all political groups, “even with those who call us mercenaries.”

In Spain, he insists, United We Can and the United Left have refused to meet. “If they had wanted, we would have debated. (…) We do it with anyone, because if we are capable of dialoguing with those who oppress us, we do it with everyone because we are representing the entire Cuban society, and there are different spectrums.”

Fariñas applauds, in turn, the possibility of having signed the Madrid Charter in defense of freedom and democracy, a document prepared by the Disenso Foundation and led by the leader of Vox, Santiago Abascal. For the opponent, the current situation in Europe could lead to changes when dealing with the Cuban reality, especially from the European Union: “It is indisputable that the fact that the president of the European Parliament has decided to meet with us highlights the importance of this visit.”

Regarding his experience as an opponent, Fariñas admits that “he has always had problems… Those of us who put our bodies. We have to take the risks because it’s been 63 years of dictatorship,” he stressed before emphasizing that “it is indisputable that there will continue to be reprisals.”

Likewise, he has expressed that “there is no capacity for so many political prisoners… it is not convenient for them to have 7,000 prisoners because the prisons become unmanageable… I have been imprisoned three times and a political prisoner really destabilizes the system because he is always protesting, that is the function of a political prisoner. So, the tactic is to threaten and destabilize families and threaten relatives (…) to beat and torture so that people leave (the country). That way they get rid of the problem.”

Fariñas affirmed that this “decimates the internal opposition, which currently does not have the muscle or the amount that it had before because people need to survive, and that should not be criticized, but we believe that the work to be done is political proselytism with those people who can’t leave [the country] or don’t have the capacity to do so and are unhappy.”

In this sense, he claimed that what is important is not so much “taking to the streets” but to give arguments “to the dissatisfied people so that they are the ones who take to the streets” and he said that they aspire to a “democratic transition,” something that “historically it begins with the release of political prisoners… It is the first step to negotiating with a tyranny.”

Alejandro González Raga, director of the OCDH, who also attended the meeting, stressed the need to “emphasize that the families of political prisoners are also suffering terribly… [The regime] does not want the real dimension of the repression to be known,” he stressed, while warning that “the persecution of mothers, fathers and friends of the detainees is tremendous,” a “truly dramatic” situation.

Thus, González makes an appeal to Europe, which he has urged to “make a decision on which side they want to be on,” whether “on the side that oppresses or on the side of the oppressed… Europe now has this great responsibility,” he insisted, while detailing that Russia is “one of the few allies the regime has left.”

In addition, he ventured that the conflict in Ukraine “will cause a rethinking of relations” at the international level, which may be “positive” for countries like Cuba, although he has recognized that, for the moment, “the regime prefers to be against the European Union.”

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Yunior Garcia Requests Asylum in Spain due to the Impossibility of Returning to Cuba

Yunior García Aguilera a few days after his arrival in Madrid. (EFE/Fernando Villar)

14ymedio biggerEUROPA PRESS (via 14ymedio), Madrid, 17 February 2022 — The playwright Yunior García, one of the most visible faces of the Cuban opposition, has finally chosen to apply for asylum in Spain given the impossibility of returning to the Island, where he would be imprisoned.

“If I were to set foot in Cuba again, I would go to jail, that’s why we decided to apply for asylum,” the opponent told Europa Press. He arrived in Spain with his wife on November 17 thanks to a tourist visa issued by the Spanish government, which authorized him to stay in the country for 90 days.

“What we would like is to return, but it is impossible,” he lamented, trusting that the Spanish government will grant him asylum given his personal circumstances and the persecution he is subjected to on the Island.

García, founder of the Archipelago movement that called for the failed protests planned for November 15 in Cuba, recalled that the case against him is still open and that since his departure from the island the authorities have even proceeded to close the theater group he directed.

“The situation is even worse than when we left,” he stressed, alluding to the fact that this week a total of 20 people, including five minors found guilty of sedition, have been sentenced for up to 20 years in prison for their participation in anti-government protests on July 11.

His plans now include continuing to close ranks among Cuban exiles since “the regime is trying to divide us… We have to ignore the differences, try to establish a more solid alliance and have a concrete proposal for the solution of the conflict in Cuba, not only for the Cubans but also for the international community,” he defended. continue reading

He has also been working to strengthen ties with the opposition in Venezuela and Nicaragua, which included contacts, for example, with the Venezuelan opponent Leopoldo López and the Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, but he prefers to maintain discretion “until” these efforts are made because there are ” many interests working so that this union does not take place.”

The objective is “to strengthen ties between those of us who want democracy, whether right or left doesn’t matter, we can’t dwell on those differences now because what we don’t have in our countries is democracy,” insisted Garcia. “When we have it perfect, let the right and the left return to their speeches, but now what we are fighting against is dictatorships,” he added.

On the other hand, the opponent insisted on the need to “demolish the myth that there is in Europe and in a good part of Latin America about the Cuban Revolution.”

“It is a product that the regime knew how to sell and that unfortunately many people bought and have been scammed with that myth,” he said. “It is important that people understand that Cubans are suffering” and that what exists in Cuba is a dictatorship, he added.

Regarding his relations with the Spanish political parties, he reiterated his willingness to speak with everyone, although to date he acknowledged that he has not yet spoken with any member of the Podemos Party.

In any case, he trusts that the Spanish political class will be able to talk about Cuba without doing it in electoral terms, “that the parties understand that it is not about using the Cuba, Venezuela or Nicaragua issue for speeches or internal campaigns.”

“You have to put the human being at the center and understand that these are countries where there are people who are suffering,” he said, insisting that “it is not about political speeches, it is about human beings who do not have freedom or rights.”

“That is the main thing, beyond any ideology or any use that can be made of this issue for partisan interests,” he concluded.

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Prisoners Defenders Counts More than a Thousand Political Prisoners in Cuba in the Last Year

Dozens of detainees have been released in recent months, but with fines of “exaggerated amounts for Cuba.” (Santa Clara Court/Saily Gonzalez)

14ymedio biggerEUROPA PRESS (via 14ymedio), 7 February 2022 — Prisoners Defenders estimates that there have been 1,054 political prisoners in Cuba in the last 12 months, compared to the 137 as of February 2021, according to data made public this Monday.

Currently, the organization has 932 convicted political prisoners verified, but has warned that this figure “is only a fraction, between 50 and 60% of the real figures,” whose total verification is “simply unattainable by any organization.” At least 120 women are political prisoners in Cuba.

Of these 932, Prisoners Defenders has verified that 794 are prisoners of the 11J protests. Dozens of detainees have been released in recent months, but with fines of “exaggerated amounts for Cuba,” they reported.

Of the prisoners related to the repression of the protests, Prisoners Defenders has indicated that at least 32 are minors – 28 boys and four girls. One is 13 years old; three are 15;  nine are 16 years; and 21 are 17 years old.

In addition, of the 16 under the age of 18, 50% have been charged with sedition. Prisoners Defenders has denounced that among them there are children with “impairments and mental retardation incompatible with violence and much less with sedition.” continue reading

“Cuba is shattering its signing of and ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, imprisoning and destroying youth, bringing terror to families throughout the country and wildly causing irreparable pain to all those imprisoned and in their families and close friends,” lamented Prisoners Defenders.

In total, 166 verified political prisoners have been prosecuted on charges of sedition and at least 511 prisoners have already been sentenced. Of them, 194 with sentences of more than ten years, for 38%.

The organization has recognized, as it does every month, the other 11,000 young civilians who do not belong to opposition organizations, 8,400 of them convicted. There are 2,538 convicted of ’pre-criminal dangerousness’, with average sentences of two years and ten months in prison. In other words, these young people have not committed any crime, but – as the Penal Code verbatim indicates in its article 76.1 for these 11,000 – the Penal Code  contemplates that they would be people likely to commit crimes in the future “because of the conduct that they observe in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality. “Thus, they impose sentences of between one and four years in prison without a crime being investigated or committed.

Prisoners Defenders has maintained that in the July events more than 5,000 people were arrested and more than 1,500 prosecuted. “In addition to our sources and studies, the data, the facts and the Prosecutor’s Office itself contribute to making this assertion increasingly palpable,” it indicates.

“For now, the regime recognizes that it has prosecuted 115 defendants who ’are between 16 and 20 years of age,’ and that ’55 are between 16 and 18 years of age’,” it concludes.

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Prisoners Defenders Identified 842 Political Prisoners in Cuba, ‘A Fraction of the Actual Total’

A group protesting the Cuban Government in front of Spain’s Congress, this past September 8th in Madrid. (Europa Press)

14ymedio biggerEUROPA PRESS/14ymedio, Madrid, January 4th, 2022 — On Tuesday, Cuban Prisoners Defenders denounced that in 2021 a total of 955 people have been included in their list of political prisoners, they also alerted that the figure “is only a fraction” of the total.

In a report, the organization detailed that in January 2021 it was aware of 138 political prisoners and that from then until the end of December, another 817 political prisoners have been added.

Currently, 842 remain, according to Prisoners Defenders who reiterated that this number constitutes between 40% and 50% of the real number, the verification of which “simply cannot be accomplished” by any organization.

Of these 842 cases, 700 correspond to the repression of 11J (July 11) and 15N (November 15) in Cuba, “an estimate 40% lower than the total generated by the wave of repression, as it is impossible to know the cases among the population,” they emphasized. Of the total, 107 are women.

Among them, are included 26 minors–aged 14 to 17 years–and 50% of them, 13 minors, are accused of sedition. In all, 132 verified political prisoners have been processed and charged with sedition, according to the organization, which stated that 387 have already been sentenced; 137 received sentences longer than 10 years in prison. continue reading

The 842 verified political prisoners are divided into Convicts of Conscience, Convicted Persons of Conscience, and others.

“Convicts of conscience” number 545 and Prisoners Defenders highlights that they are imprisoned “only for reasons of conscience, that is, for strictly exercising their most fundamental human rights, with charges that are proven false and fabricated, or of a non-criminal nature, absolutely related to their way of thinking.”

A total of 205 are Convicted Persons of Conscience, “who are subjected to prosecutorial processes or judicial sentences of forced domestic labor, measures that limit their freedom, conditional release under threat and other limitations to their freedom, including those that are subject to firm sentences which are not executed.”

In this regard, they indicate that the Government of Cuba, “in addition, habitually revokes these and imprisons activists who do not cease their pro-democracy activities, as we have seen month after month for years.”

Lastly, another 92, “Other Political Prisoners,” do not fit squarely into any of the aforementioned categories, but are held in a political prison.

Translator: Silvia Suárez

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Countries Seeking Cuban Doctors Must Insist the Government Reforms Its ‘Orwellian’ System

A special envoy of Cuban doctors arrives at the Aimé Césaire International Airport, Martinique. (Twitter/@CTM_Martinique)

14ymedio biggerEuropa Press/14ymedio, Madrid, 23 July 2020 — Last Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued a reminder that “countries receiving Cuban doctors have a duty to protect the human rights of all people within their territories, including those of Cuban health workers”. For that reason, they “must ensure that any agreements reached with the Cuban government include effective guarantees for the rights of workers”.

In personal communication, the director of HRW for the Americas, José Miguel Vivanco, stated that “governments interested in receiving the help of Cuban doctors must insist that the Cuban government reforms its Orwellian system, which dictates with whom the doctors are allowed to live, speak with, or even establish an amorous relationship”.

The head of the NGO has warned that should this not occur, “governments that accept Cuban assistance that comes with absusive labor conditions imposed by La Habana, could be considered accomplices to serious human rights violations”. continue reading

“No one is surprised that the Cuban regime is not willing to respect the rights of its health workers, but other governments should refuse to contribute to this exploitation,” Vivanco demanded.

The organization has condemned the “draconian measures” imposed by the Cuban government on its health workers, which includes those health professionals who have travelled to other countries to assist in the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.

The first special envoy of Cuban doctors was sent to Algeria in 1963; since then, they have spread across the world. At present, there are an estimated 30,000 Cuban doctors stationed abroad, to which a further 1,500 have been added in various countries in Europe, Africa and South America during the fight against COVID-19,  according to the figures published by HRW.

“The Cuban doctors sent in response to the pandemic offer vital assistance to numerous communities, but at the cost of their most basic freedoms”, Vivanco went on to criticise.

The NGO insists that “Cuba has designed repressive laws that dictate the lives of those they send abroad”, laws which “severely limit freedom of expression, association and movement, as well as the privacy of health workers”.

Enacted in 2010 by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, “Resolution 168” would subsequently limit the right of freedom of association by defining as an offence “the establishing of friendships or any other type of relationship” with anyone “whose behaviour does not conform to the values and principles of Cuban society”, and especially those who hold “hostile or inimical views towards the Cuban Revolution”.

Furthermore, the resolution “limits the freedom of circulation”, because it also defines as an offence “the visiting of places which negatively affect the prestige (of the doctor) in the eyes of the public” or “places that, given their nature, pose a threat to public order”. “Health workers must also obtain ’authorization’ to ’take part in public events of a political or social character’”, the NGO explained.

HRW has indicated that “the freedom of expression of Cuban health workers is also severely limited”, since “they need ’direct orders and authorization’ to ’provide commentary’ to the press regarding ’internal matters within the workplace’ or which ’undermine Cuban assistance’ in the country. Likewise, “it is considered an offence to ’disseminate or propagate opinions or rumours which are to the detriment or the collective morale or prestige of any member of the group’”.

Cuban legislation also “significantly limits the right of the doctors and other Cubans to leave the country”. To that end, “health workers that form a part of the special envoys receive so-called ’official passports’ that are only valid for the duration of the mission. Upon their return to Cuba, authorities are able to prevent them from leaving the country for up to 5 years if it deems them to be workers who “provide services that are essential to the economic, social and scientific-technical development of the country”.

“The prospective sanctions for those who commit disciplinary offences range from the withholding of salaries to expulsion from the special envoy itself and a return to Cuba”, the two most commonly employed disciplinary measures, HRW went on to remark.

However, there is also the possibility of criminal proceedings for health workers who “abandon” the envoy, an act punishable by up to 8 years in prison or exile from the island for the same amount of time. Both penalties are established in Cuba’s immigration laws for those who it determines as “undesirable”.

Human Rights Watch issued a reminder that in November of 2019, a group of special rapporteurs from the United Nations investigated the predicament of workers participating in the Cuban medical envoys. Following the “first-hand” data they received regarding working conditions, the group warned that “it could constitute forced labor”.

Translated by: Andy Barton

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More Than Half of Cuban Households Live Below the Poverty Line, Human Rights Group Reports

8.1% of Cubans do not have drinking water service.

Europa Press (via 14ymedio), Madrid | October 22, 2019 — More than half of households in Cuba live below the poverty line, according to a report by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH) that shows the incapacity of a wide majority of households to live in a dignified manner and with access to basic services like water and electricity.

The study concludes that 55.4% of households make less than $100 per month in a country where the minimum wage is barely $16. One out of every four families earns between $50 and $100, while a little more than 12% don’t make even 20 euros, according to the Observatory of Social Rights, which does not take into account funds from remittances.

Only 11% believe that the money they have is enough to live in dignity, as 45.6% believe that they can get ahead with limitations, and 43.2% label the funds they earn as “insufficient.” Despite that, three out of every four households receive no type of assistance, while 13% have help from the State and 7% from some NGO. continue reading

The Obervatory has questioned the regime’s official statistics regarding the employment level, given that only 21.5% of those interviewed said they work full-time and 23.2% have a part-time job.

Of those surveyed, 22% admitted that they have inadequate food and 38.4% consider it repetitive — the diet is based on rice, bread, and beans, while beef and fish are scarce. A third of the population eats two times or fewer per day, says the report, composed from 1,082 cases in 11 of the Island’s 16 provinces.

When it comes to medical attention, more than four out of ten people who recently needed some medication were unable to get it. In this sense, only 18.6% of Cubans find the medicines they need in the Cuban health system.

The report also examines the state of basic provisions and determines that almost 70% of Cubans do not have a permanent water supply: 32% have water between four and five days a week and 28% have it fewer than three days, and 8.1% do not have any drinking water service.

The Observatory has denounced the general living situation in Cuba, where approximately half of the houses need repair work, with 7.6% of the buildings at risk of collapse. Only one out of four houses remains in good condition.

The deficiencies also extend to the electricity supply, unavailable in an uninterrupted form for 80% of the population. Six out of ten citizens affirm that they have suffered up to ten power cuts in recent months, while 18.8% have suffered more than ten.

The executive director of OCDH, Alejandro González Raga, emphasized during the presentation of the study that “it is evidence of the reality that Cuba is experiencing… Not the reality that the Government says, but what Cubans say,” he stressed.

The report, the first of this type published by the Observatory, was compiled from personal interviews carried out between August 15 and September 8 of 2019 and has a margin of error of 3% and a confidence level of 95%.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera