Mary Karla Ares is Serving Two Weeks in Prison for Filming the Obispo Street Protest

Mary Karla Ares, the journalist of ‘Amanecer Habanero’, in an image from 2020. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 May 2021 — Journalist Mary Karla Ares turned 29 this Tuesday, May 11. On that day she had also served 11 days in provisional prison since her arrest on April 30 on Obispo Street, in Havana, during a solidarity protest with the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, then on a hunger and thirst strike.

To date, all the appeals presented in her favor have been rejected, according to Marisol González, her mother, speaking to 14ymedio.

The young woman’s family had requested a change of detention measures so that Mary Karla could be provisionally released pending trial, which has been rejected, and also an appeal to the petition for habeas corpus that was denied last week, which has also not been been accepted.

“I have had very sad days, first on Mother’s Day and then on her 29th birthday. For the first time we have been been separated for her birthday,” she said.

Ares, like the rest of the 13 arrested that day, is accused of public disorder and resistance that could lead to up to a year in prison. The journalist was on Obispo Street filming a video broadcast live on Facebook when the police took her away with several of the protesters. Independent reporters Esteban Rodríguez and Mary Karla Ares González, and activists Thais Mailén Franco, Inti Soto Romero and Yuisan Cancio Vera were also arrested and remain in custody.

The legal advisory firm Cubalex presented a petition for habeas corpus for the entire group, but the Supreme Court rejected it, alleging that both in form and in substance the detention was completely legal.

In the resolution, the court explained that in the Obispo street protest, “slogans were uttered against the main leaders of the nation combined with expressions of hunger and deprivation,” actions for which the agents tried to arrest them and encountered resistance. “They sat on the ground and interlocked their hands, which caused the public order to be altered in that place, and these are the reasons for which it was necessary to take them to the Police Unit, and from there proceeding to file the corresponding complaint,” the Cuban justice wrote.

The human rights organization Amnesty International has been one of the most recent to join the voices of those who demand their release from the Government.

“Mary Karla and other journalists, artists and human rights defenders remain in prison or under strict surveillance in their homes in Cuba, just for the fact of protesting and defending rights. We demand their release and an end to the repression,” wrote Erika Guevara-Rosa, director for America of the NGO, on her Twitter account.

Days before, Human Rights Watch, another of the largest international organizations for the defense of human rights, had done the same through its regional delegate in Latin America, José Miguel Vivanco: “Cuban journalist Mary Karla Ares has been detained for several days. They accuse her of “public disorder,” a charge that the Cuban regime routinely uses to persecute critics and dissidents. We demand her release.”

Vivanco linked in his demand to the statement released by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to support the writer of Amanecer Habanero on May 3, international press freedom day. “Today, when the world commemorates World Press Freedom Day, the Cuban authorities detain a journalist and are investigating her for the simple fact of covering a protest,” said Ana Cristina Núñez, a researcher for the Central America and South America Program from CPJ.

The Ares case has been continuously denounced by the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press (ICLEP), which is following up on it. The medium for which the detained journalist writes is one of the seven that make up its network. The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) is also demanding her immediate release.

On the same day, another opponent punished for his support of Otero Alcántara was serving a week’s arrest: Adrián Curuneaux Stivens, a member of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic (MONR).

The activist was arrested on May 4 when he tried to approach the Calixto García Hospital to find out the state of health of the artist who was hospitalized against his will on Sunday, May 2. There he encountered a large police fence and, when trying to pass them, he was taken to the Technical Unit of Criminal Investigation of Picota, in Old Havana.

The MONR coordinator, Luis Díaz Silva, reports that not even his wife was allowed to see him and that a very reliable source has told them that he was beaten. They were, however, able to deliver some personal effects that the Police initially also rejected.

At the time of his arrest, Curuneaux was accompanied by other people who were also being detained and, says Díaz Silva, one of them even had his phone taken away and the images he had taken around the hospital erased from it.

Curuneaux Stivens was released in February this year after posting a bail of 1,500 pesos and after serving nine months in Valle Grande Prison. The opponent was convicted of allegedly performing work as a self-employed person without having a license.

“He is a poor carpenter who strives every day to put something on the table for his children to eat. But, above all, what bothers the dictatorship the most is that a poor black person has the courage to confront them with ideas, that’s why they are cruel to him,” denounces the leader of the organization.


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