Testimony of Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca Currently Being Held at Combinado del Este Prison / Ivan Garcia

Taken at the time Valle Roca was arrested outside the Yara cinema on the downtown Havana corner of 23 and L, when together with other activists he was demonstrating peacefully on December 10, 2015, International Human Rights Day. Before being imprisoned at Villa Marista on June 15, 2021 and then sent to the Combinado del Este, Yuri was detained many times. Image taken from Radio Viva 24.

From the Blog: Iván García at Desde de la Habana, 4 July 2022, Havana

Author: Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, political prisoner of conscience. Combinado del Este, maximum security prison, June 25, 2022, three days after being arbitrarily and unjustly tried by a court.

I write these lines to release those thoughts and events that led me to make the most correct decision I have ever made in my life: to declare myself an opponent and fight against the oldest dictatorship in Latin America.

It was the year 1978 or 79 when my grandfather Blas Roca arrived at the house feeling unwell. As I heard my grandmother, Dulce Antúnez, tell it, he had had a fierce argument with Fidel Castro. Those heated discussions with Fidel were quite frequent. It is already known what the character of the dictator was like, his arrogance and smugness.

My grandmother asked Dr. Cabeza what was wrong with my grandfather and he told her that it was nothing, that it had only been a headache and he had given him a painkiller. But my grandmother, who knew my grandfather well, called me into the room and told me to get ready because we were going to take him to the clinic. Dr. Cabeza questioned my grandmother’s decision, but she told him that she knew her husband well, after having been married for more than 50 years. When we arrived at the clinic, my grandfather’s face and mouth were already disfigured and he was diagnosed with a cerebral venous thrombosis.

From that moment on, things began to get tense, to the point that they got my grandparents divorced so that they could marry him to his secretary Justina  Álvarez. They argued that my grandfather and Justina had an extramarital affair of many years, something totally untrue. In that state that my grandfather was in, Raúl Castro got him divorced and then married to Justina. There were countless things they did to my family, to the point of not letting us go to see him. I went on several occasions and Justina would say that she had to give advance notice and schedule an appointment. On other occasions they threw me out because I would talk with my grandfather about subjects they didn’t like, especially the humiliations and contempt towards my family.

I remember the day my grandfather died. My grandmother, with tremendous courage, said to me, “Yuri, your grandfather died. Get dressed, we’re going to the viewing.” And so we walked to the Plaza de la Revolución. She sat next to the coffin and I sat next to her. Imagine the scene when Justina arrived, but my grandmother and I were unshakable. Fidel, Raúl, Ramiro Valdés and Guillermo García were looking on from behind a divider nearby.

At that moment Raúl calls me over to tell me why did I not take my grandmother home, so that she could rest, to which I replied: “Why the fuck don’t you tell her yourselves, or you don’t have the courage to do it, so go fuck yourselves, you sons of bitches.” And I went back and sat next to my grandmother. Five minutes later they ended the viewing. They requested that my grandmother not continue reading

attend the burial. After the ceremony ended, my mother, seeing that there were people throwing earth inside the grave, went and took the shovels from the gravediggers and gave them to her children, so that it would be her family who would bury her father, Blas Roca Calderío.

There were many vexations and humiliations against my family. There was a lot of hatred on the part of Fidel and his clique against my grandfather, who was a humble man, simple and correct. We ate, as did the people, according to the ration book. My grandfather never wanted houses on the beach and – after much insistence from Fidel and Raúl – he would rent a beach house for vacation, but the family had would have to save all year to pay for it.

On one occasion, Raúl sent a gift Jeep to my grandfather and he returned it to him. He told him that in the Central Committee you could only have one car. There are countless things I could tell you; that’s why my grandfather was not liked, because they could never corrupt him. He had arguments with Fidel when the 1976 Constitution was drawn up, because Fidel wanted to impose arbitrary things and my grandfather never agreed with it. He was the only one who would dare tell Fidel Castro that something could not be done. That’s why they hated him, that’s why they got him divorced while he was sick, with his brain shattered by clots from thrombosis.

On another occasion, in 1981, I was 20 years old and was spending my military service in border guard troops, in the national squadron located in the Ensenada de Cubanacán, near Jaimanitas, Havana, where I worked as a radarist on a Griffin interceptor ship. Many leaders kept their boat and yachts at that marina, including Fidel. The skipper of his yachts was Colonel Kiki Finalé, who was going around there that day in a speedboat. One of the boys I had under my command ran to find me, to tell me that Finalé was harassing and humiliating them, showing off and imposing on them his arrogance and despotism for being a colonel and the skipper of Fidel Castro’s yachts.

I went to the aid of the soldiers, getting into a tremendous argument with Colonel Finalé, to whom I ended up saying that over my cojones would he leave the marina towards Varadero – where they were headed that day – and then I left on the ship to do my guard duty. When I saw his battle-drill motorboat coming and fired the warning shots at him, he stopped the boat. When I approached, in the boat with Finalé were Alejandro Castro and Juan Juan Almeida, who immediately recognized me. I didn’t know that Kiki was accompanied by them, I apologized and they continued their journey. This incident resulted in the fact that five days later I was expelled from military service, with the prohibition that I could not carry any firearm.

I hope you understand that I cannot be more explicit and provide more facts and details. I am imprisoned and I have many inmates around me, keeping an eye on the smallest detail – what I eat, what I write – everything. In addition, to produce this text and make it reach its destination, I must circumvent searches and inspections. I hope that with these few examples you understand why I decided to stand against the dictatorship.

My grandparents always told me to think and do whatever I wanted. From them I learned to hate the dictatorship, to help the most needy, and that the people – the sovereign – are the ones who rule. I was also taught these words of our Apostle*: “One man is worth no more than an entire people, but there are men who do not tire when their people get tired, and they choose war before entire peoples do, because they do not have to consult anyone but themselves. And peoples have many men, and cannot consult each other as quickly.”

The time I was most proud of my grandparents, Blas Roca and Dulce Antúnez, was on one of my trips to the United States, when I was greeted by friends who knew my family. Their words of admiration and respect for my family were moving. That is why I fight against the dictatorship, that is why every day I feel proud of my grandparents and of my mother, Lydia Roca Antúnez, who instilled in me pure and patriotic feelings.

It is my commitment to continue with the fight they started. To carry out their ideas is my guide and my strength. And the examples of Martí, [Antonio] Maceo, [Ignacio] Agramonte – they give me strength to face all of the abuses and humiliations that inflicted on me in an effort to make me desist in my struggle so that Cuba and Cubans are free once and for all. The Apostle taught us that “heroes are those who fight to make peoples free, or those who suffer in poverty and misfortune to defend a great truth.”

Thank you very much to all the brothers who raise their voices in my defense to get me out of this unjust and arbitrary confinement, which I face with the firmness of my family legacy and my ideals. And with the conviction that Cuba has to be free now.

Homeland, Life and Freedom.

Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, political prisoner of conscience.

Combinado del Este, maximum security prison, June 25, 2022, three days after being arbitrarily and unjustly tried by a court.

Note from Iván:

This testimony was made known in Havana by Eralidis Frómeta, wife of Lázaro Yuri.

*Translator’s note: José Martí, the 19th century national hero, is often called the “Apostle of Cuba” or the “Apostle of Cuban Independence.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

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.”

The IAPA Does Not See Progress In Press Freedom In Cuba / 14ymedio

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)
Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 2 October 2015 — Within a few hours of the opening of the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), scheduled between 2 and 6 October in Charleston (South Carolina), regional reports from the Commission for Freedom of the Press and Information were made public. According to the organization, ten months after the beginning of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, journalism on the island continues to be “dogged by censorship in the Cuban Communist Party monopoly over the national media.”

The report details that in Cuba there are still no signs of “economic improvement,” nor an increase in the respect for “human rights, greater freedom of expression, association and the press,” derived from the process of diplomatic rapprochement that both countries are experiencing.

With special alarm, the text includes the threats and arrests made this summer by State Security against the reporter Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, when he tried to document in videos and photos the repression suffered by the Ladies in White. The independent journalist denounced the repressive methods against the exercise of the unofficial press, including detentions for “several days without records of arrest nor of the seizure of our belongings” and the “confiscation of the tools of our work.” continue reading

The case of the artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto,” was also highlighted by the IAPA as evidence of the lack of freedom of expression on the island. Nine months after his arrest for planning a performance, the Graffiti artist remains in prison without having been brought to trial. This week Amnesty International named him as a prisoner of conscience.


The IAPA report also denounces “the censorship maintained on digital sites, as is the case of sites like Cubaencuentro, Martinoticias, and the digital newspaper 14ymedio, as well as other sites that address the Cuban issue from a perspective critical” of the authorities.

Raul Castro’s government maintains a tendency towards “paramilitarization” of the repressions, with physical and verbal violence but without leaving legal footprints, says the report. This method was demonstrated during Pope Francis’s visit in mid-September, “particularly with the detention of the opponent Martha Beatriz Roque and the independent journalist Miriam Leiva, when both were traveling to accept an invitation from the Aposolic Nunciature to greet the pontiff at Havana Cathedral,” it says.

Civil society wins spaces

Among the achievements of Cuban civil society, IAPA enumerates the first Encuentro de Pensamiento (Meeting of Ideas) for Cuba, hosted by the independent think tank Center for Coexistence Studies in the city of Pinar del Río and the magazine of the same name. Founded in 2007, the publication has already published 45 issues and addresses issues ranging from culture to citizenship.

The opening of 35 WiFi points to connect to the internet also found space in the report, although the text reminds us that Cuba remains one of the least connected countries in the world, with only 5%, which is reduced to 1% in the case of broadband.

Half of Latin Americans Have Internet Access, But Only 5% of Cubans Do / 14ymedio

The reports comments on the parole granted to the writer Angel Santiesteban and transfer to a minimum security prison mid-year of the journalist Jose Antonio Torres, a former correspondent for the Party newspaper Granma, accused of espionage.

The report made special mention of the illegal compendium of audiovisuals and alternative information, known as the “weekly packet.” The IAPA said that the weekly packet “has continued to gain ground among the Cuban population and is causing great concern in the ruling party,” while the official press continues to be characterized by self-censorship and the absence of “a journalism of investigation, that puts pressure on government entities to have greater transparency about their internal workings.”

During the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association, there will be seminars run by the Press Institute that will focus on current issues under the title “Beyond the Digital Transformation.” Other panels will address the growing contribution of women in the media, value added and copyrights, according to information from the organizers.

The meeting will feature Literature Nobelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who will participate in a special session and be interviewed by journalist Andres Oppenheimer.

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca Letter to Interamerican Press Association and Reporters Without Borders

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca in Havana
Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca in Havana

Havana,13 June, 2015

TO: Representatives of the Interamerican Press Association, and Reporters Without Borders

FROM: *Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, Independent Journalist

SUBJECT: Indiscriminate repression Against Ladies in White, peaceful activist opponents, journalists, bloggers, and independent communicators

By this letter, I am contacting you to make you aware of what is happening against the Ladies in White, activist opponents, journalists, bloggers, photojournalists, and independent communicators, who are committed to the struggle for citizen, human and political rights that have been violated, and seek to disseminate the reality that our country has suffered under the Castro brothers’ totalitarian regime for more than 56 years. Now that the repression unleashed by their specialized entities is worsening, their intent is that we not make known the brutal repression to which are subjected all who unite in demand for the release of political prisoners, and for reforms that will truly benefit the people. continue reading

I am not alone in this case. Sharing this situation are my colleagues: Vladimir Turró Páez and Enrique Díaz, collaborators on Misceláneas de Cuba and Primavera Digital; Juan González Febles, director of Primavera Digital; Agustín López Canino and Liván Serafín Moran, independent journalists; and Antonio Rodiles, director of the Estado de SATS project, to name a few among those most persecuted by the political police–a repressive institution that abducts, tortures, threatens with death and holds abductees in Detention Centers such as police stations, as well as the so-called “Vivac” prison, located in the village of Calabazar, at the southern edge of the City of Havana.

We are held in these places for several days with no arrest warrants, nor safekeeping of our belongings. Our cell phones, cameras, flash drives, and USB devices are confiscated, and their contents are erased. In addition, we are verbally and physically threatened; we are beaten inside the detention centers, and in the vehicles in which we are transported to them–even while defenseless and handcuffed with plastic clamps so tight that they cut off our circulation, and we cannot move our hands, etc. Later, they leave us for hours in the sun inside hermetically-sealed police vehicles, inducing serious disorders that have caused many to lose consciousness and present hypoglycemic symptoms.

My case, especially, is notable for the series of arrests, abductions and death threats that have been made. The last three weeks, particularly, stand out because my house has been surrounded by agents from the Department of State Security (DSE) and uniformed patrolmen of the National Revolutionary Police Force (PNR). They explained their presence by telling my neighbors that I had committed suicide. This past May 9, during the night, an automobile rushed at me on 26th Avenue, and almost ran me over. The matter reached a climax last Sunday in an incident that I will recount as follows:

On the morning of Sunday, June 7, 2015, I exited my residence to go to Santa Rita Church, located on 5th Avenue and 26th in the Miramar district, to cover the news of the return of Ladies in White leader Berta Soler from a trip to the United States and Europe. A few blocks from the church, on 7th Avenue and 28th, I was forcefully detained by an automobile carrying four agents of Precinct 21 of the DSE. They handcuffed me and put me in the car, on the floor, and immediately put their feet on me so that I would not move.

In Coyula Park, a few blocks from where I was abducted, they got me out of that car and put me in another, in the same manner as before, and after making several turns we arrived at Villa Marista prison, headquarters of the State Security police. After holding me for all that time inside the car, under the sun, they took me to an office where a gray-haired man–to all appearances, a high-ranking official–without first stating his name, started hurling all kinds of threats at me, so that I would stop going to Santa Rita Church. One such threat was that I would be responsible for any misfortune that might befall me, to which I replied that they could do what they wanted, but I would go on attending the gatherings of the Ladies in White, to cover the news.

At the end of the interview, they again placed me inside another vehicle, in the usual manner. After driving for about 20 minutes, the agent who was at my right got out of the car, drew his weapon (an automatic Browning 9mm or CZ pistol), and they got me out, made me kneel on the grass, and put the gun to my neck. After a few seconds of silence, he said, “You are now on notice about what can happen to you. Do not go to Santa Rita anymore.” He gave me a kick in the ribs that knocked me over. They got back in their Lada, threw my backpack and phone out the window, and left me helpless about 3 miles from the village of Santa Cruz del Norte, which is about 30 miles to the east of Havana.

As may be seen, the methods employed by this dictatorship are worse against independent journalists. This is even more the case following the statements by General-President Raúl Castro during the farewell to French President François Hollande at José Martí International Airport last month–remarks delivered with a burlesque and ironic tone.

Without further ado, I trust that what I am reporting to you will not fall on deaf ears. Perhaps you will agree with me that these procedures do not meet the standards for humane treatment that correspond to the century in which we live. I place responsibility on the government of Raúl Castro for whatever may happen to me and to my colleagues from now on.

Thank you very much,

*Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca
Independent Journalist

I reside at:
Loma Street, ICP Building, Apt.#1
Between Tulipán and Colón
Nuevo Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, Cuba.

Tel: +537-8818203
Mobile: +535-2494085


Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison