More Than Half of the Activists Arrested in Cuba in September Were Women

Berta Soler (center, holding cardboard sign), leader of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), was arrested during a demonstration in Havana. (Ladies in White)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 October 2018 — More than half of those arrested for political reasons in Cuba this September were women, according to the report of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The organization counts 224 arbitrary arrests this month.

“Peaceful dissidents and activists of the independent civil society” were confined, “under generally inhumane and degrading conditions, in police stations or other authorized places,” detailed the document prepared by the independent organization based in Havana.

“The number of arbitrary detentions registered in September was practically the same as in the previous month of August (229)” and “some detentions extended for more than 24 hours,” detailed the CCDHRN.

The report pays special attention to the case of the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, who “this Sunday, September 30 was arrested with unusual violence and a dangerous injury to in her right eyeball.”

“Much more than half of the arrests were of women, most of them members of the Ladies in White movement,” says the report. The Commission also recorded during September “23 harassments and 4 physical aggressions against opponents who were not detained.”

“The situation of Tomás Nuñez Magdariaga, an activist of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, who has been on hunger strike for 49 days, in protest at the 1-year prison sentence imposed on him, is particularly disturbing,” denounces the report. The CCDHRN labeled the opponent’s trial “rigged and arbitrary.”

The Commission intends to start this week “the international procedure established to declare prisoners of conscience of five Ladies in White confined in prison, under subhuman conditions, due to their peaceful activities in defense of human rights.”

The Ladies in White who remain in prison are Marta Sánchez, Nieves Matamoros, Aimara Nieto, Yolanda Santana and Xiomara Cruz.

On Monday, a representative of this female opposition group denounced to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) the situation of her female colleagues and asked the commission for help.

Blanca Reyes went to the hearing Reports on the criminalization against social activists and journalists in Cuba where she talked about the “cruelty” of the Government of Cuba; the meeting was held at the University of Colorado, in Boulder.

“In Cuba there is a special demonstration of cruelty by the totalitarian Communist Government against the entire female population and, in particular, against the Ladies in White,” she said. Her words appear to be supported by the data from the CCDHRN.

“Women who belong to that organization are sent to prison, they directly suffer the threat of being taken to a cell, heavy fines are imposed on them for their public activities, and their relatives, including their children, are also victims of the political police’s unpunished behavior,” Reyes said.

Last June, the CCDHRN estimated the number of political prisoners on the island at 120. Among them, the case of Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, stood out.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), based in Madrid, made public its data for this September. According to this organization, which has a network of observers on the island, there were 129 repressive actions against women and 69 against men. In addition, it denounced a “greater number of acts of harassment and intimidation against members of civil society and activists.”

The Observatory uses its monthly recount to reject the international strategy followed by President Miguel Díaz-Canel in recent days in New York, as well as the reception that some institutions and personalities have given him.

“In the days before his visit to the United Nations, in New York, where he received honors from some filmmakers, musicians and ecclesiastical authorities, his government ordered the closure of the La Madriguera cultural center in Havana. (…) As a result, at a concert the police arrested rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez, known as El Osokbo,” charges the OCDH. The center was closed because of a protest against Decree 349.

The organization accuses the European Union, Spain in particular, and several personalities in the United States of a failing to weigh in or take action, which only generates “a scenario of greater impunity for violators of human rights.”

“The personalities that treat [Diaz-Canel] as if he were a celebrity, without demanding the cessation of the violation of fundamental rights on the island, act in an indolent manner in the face of repression and without empathy with the victims,” they accuse.


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.