Detentions of Activists Promoting No on the Constitutional Referendum Increase

The activist Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco was prosecuted for the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness.” (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 4, 2019 — The Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), headquartered in Madrid, has denounced this Monday the “growing aggression of the police against activists demonstrating peacefully for the No vote on the [referendum on the] Constitution” coinciding with the presentation of the report of arbitrary detentions in January.

Their count of this type of arrests in the first month of the year is 179, a higher figure than that provided by the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which registered 144 in the same period of time.

According to the Observatory, the police detained dozens of activists who were promoting a No vote on the Constitution or were carrying out peaceful acts to show their disapproval of the text.

“The government of Miguel Díaz-Canel has prohibited any reference to No in the media and uses the police to persecute the activists who try to ask for the negative vote and who are at an absolute disadvantage of means and resources,” says the body in a press release.

“The state is applying its powerful propaganda and police machinery to crush any dissidence regarding the new Constitution. Therefore, we reiterate that the February 24 referendum does not have the minimal democratic guarantees.

“We alert the international community of the imminence of new repressive episodes against independent civil society, as the referendum approaches and in light of the critical situation of the city of Havana, after the passing of the destructive tornado,” denounced Alejandro González Raga, executive director of the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights.

The network of observers that provides data to the organization from the island counted 94 repressive actions against women and 85 against men, with Havana, Matanzas, and Villa Clara being the most affected provinces.

The OCDH has also expressed its concern about the response of the government, hampering or impeding access of civil humanitarian aid to areas affected by the tornado of Sunday, January 27 in Havana.

The Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation also made public today its data from this January, and warns in its report of the continuation of harassment and physical assaults against Cuban activists, “orchestrated by the powerful and ubiquitous political secret police.”

This number of arrests and detentions, “generally of a short duration,” is lower than that reported in December, when the CCDHRN received reports of 244 arbitrary detentions. The report also includes “21 cases of harassment and 4 physical assaults,” which are attributed to the conduct of State Security, the “instrument of social control and intimidation widely used by the regime.”

The organization broadcast its concern for “the prolonged internment of the Christian Democrat political leader Eduardo Cardet, who should have been released from prison months ago.” The most visible face of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) is part of the more than “one hundred political prisoners subjected to subhuman conditions,” specifies the report.

In the text, the CCDHR also laments the sentence against Hugo Damián Prieto, who was imprisoned for a year for the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness.” The organization warns that the opposition figure “suffers from several ailments of the digestive system, contracted in several prison internments” previously.

Amnesty International and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have denounced Cuban law for punishing citizens with sentences of one to four years in prison for a supposed crime that they have not yet committed, according to articles 73 to 84 of the Penal Code.

Throughout 2018 the CCDHRN counted 2,873 arbitrary arrests on the island, some 240 per month. The independent body also denounced the harassment of activists who only “tried to exercise basic civil and political rights.”

 Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.