Political Police Isolate Opponents During EU Representative Eamon Gilmore’s Visit to Cuba

The special representative of the European Union for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, with representatives of the EU, this Friday, in Havana. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 24 November 2023 — Before the  of the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, landed in Cuba, State Security had already detained Professor Pedro Albert Sánchez and Dr. Fernándo Vázquez, both activists, who had announced their intention to meet with the Irish senior official.

Ana Elvis Amaya, wife of Pedro Albert Sánchez, told 14ymedio that she went this Friday to the Vivac de Calabazar detention center, in Havana, and they confirmed that the activist is there and that he has not eaten for two days. The professor insists that he will remain without eating “because he had warned that if they arrested him again he would refuse to eat food.” Amaya, however, was not able to see him, although she was assured that he would have a visit next Thursday.

While Dr. Vázquez was released on Thursday, the former’s whereabouts were not known until this afternoon. Activist Carolina Barrero, currently residing in Spain, made public several videos in which Professor Albert Sánchez announced his intention to hold a sit-in in Lennon Park in Havana to try to get closer to Gilmore, whom he had sought to contact through a letter to explain the situation of political prisoners on the Island.

“I chose that park because there is a monument to the Freemasons, who are a symbol of fraternity, decency, unity, and patriotism. Let us not forget that among them were Maceo, Martí and many others, almost all the great heroes in the history of Cuba were Freemasons,” details Professor Sánchez, who also considers the place an open and striking space, where State Security could not intervene. He didn’t even have that option.

The activist also considered the place an open and striking space, where State Security could not intervene

In the videos published by Barrero, Sánchez tells the story of his arrest on 11 July 2021, his time in the Valle Grande prison, the death of his mother while he was in prison and his conviction, as well as his subsequent release – home freedom — for health reasons. “I suspect that this audio is going to be a little strong and maybe it will be the last, or maybe it will be the most important of my life. Frankly, I hope it is both: the last and the most important of my life,” he says excitedly, admitting that he would prefer to die in prison.

Before disappearing, Sánchez left Barrero the four clips with the request to “bring it to light” if something happened. “Maybe one day it will be useful, at least for those of us who seek love and justice. Maybe it will be a useless audio for those who choose hatred and revenge.” Barrero disseminated them on Thursday afternoon, 48 hours after losing contact with the professor.

Sanchez sent an email to the EU office to ask Gilmore for a meeting with members of independent civil society, such as himself or Professor Alina Bárbara López Hernández, whose trial is scheduled for the 28th, who participated in a meeting in May with the high representative of foreign policy of the 27 European countries, Josep Borrell.

“I would ask you: Do you have the possibility of visiting the relatives of the political prisoners in Cuba and the political prisoners? I would ask you other things: To what extent, when a representative of the European Union comes to Cuba, do you manage to have contact with the true Cuban reality , with the citizens? And from there, is compliance with human rights or the violation of human rights really valued?” the professor said, speaking to Martí Noticias this Tuesday, shortly before his arrest.

“My admiration to all my brothers who are in prisons, for their courage,” he said, reporting that a patrol was guarding the entrance to his home. “We live in a constant regime of tyranny”  

Fernando Vázquez, who was released after a brief detention, said that he had been detained at the door of his house at 9 a.m. on Wednesday and taken to the Zapata and C police unit, where he remained until 6 p.m. “My admiration to all my brothers who are in prisons, for his courage,” he said, warning that a patrol was guarding the entrance to his home. “We live in a constant regime of tyranny,” he lamented.

As reported by the EFE agency, Gilmore insisted this Friday that the dialogue he is going to maintain with Cuba also sometimes involves “questioning” and “challenging” the positions of the interlocutor. Gilmore made these statements at the beginning of the main formal event of his two-day visit to Havana, the fourth Human Rights Dialogue between the EU and Cuba.

“Today we will debate issues of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights. On some issues we will maintain common positions and on other issues we will question and even challenge the other side. That is what it is about,” said Gilmore, He added that they seek to maintain an “honest dialogue” within the framework of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (ADPC) that since 2017 has articulated bilateral relations between the Island and the community bloc.

For his part, the general director of Multilateral Affairs and International Law of Cuba, Rodolfo Benítez Verson, highlighted in his opening words the “high relevance” that the ADPC has for his government and the “excellent opportunity” that holding this dialogue represents. in particular.

He also stressed that Havana aspires to maintain “a respectful and constructive exchange, among equals, on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.”

The meeting began at 9:00 in the morning in the protocol rooms of Cubanacán and is expected to last four hours

The meeting began at 9:00 in the morning in the protocol rooms of Cubanacán and is expected to last about four hours. The EU, which has not released the agenda of the visit, indicated in a previous statement without providing more details that the community representative “plans to meet with a wide spectrum of actors from different segments of Cuban society.”

Gilmore began his political agenda in Havana this Thursday, whose first day was reserved for meetings with officialdom, including a visit to the National Assembly, where he was informed of the recently approved laws that, for the regime, represent a modernization of the system, and they highlighted their commitment to human rights, as pointed out by the Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, in his speech in Geneva for the UN Universal Periodic Review of Cuba on this matter.

Brussels, aware of the challenge, has explained that the trip is part of the European Union Community’s purpose of maintaining “constructive but critical” contact with Cuba, as established in the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement. It is the fourth human rights meeting since the mechanism was approved in 2017. “The EU special representative plans to raise a number of issues including those highlighted in recent EU statements on the human rights situation in Cuba” said a press release from his office.

Among the organizations that wanted to take advantage of the visit to denounce the situation of repression in Cuba are the Justicia 11J collective, Prisoners Defenders and Amnesty International, which this Thursday recalled the “mass incarceration” of protesters that occurs on the Island, with at least 13 “emblematic” prisoners of conscience – among them Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel Osorbo Castillo and José Daniel Ferrer – and the regime’s “sophisticated machinery of control over freedom of expression and assembly.” Another international NGO, Human Rights Watch, referred to the “systematic repression of critics and dissidents” on the Island.

“They just told me that they called a mother I know and that she is going to meet with two more,” said Fonseca

Gilmore, who has published a message on X saying that he will try to address “a wide variety of topics” on his trip, he expects to meet with the families of several political prisoners, according to France Presse this Thursday, citing Roberto Pérez Fonseca’s mother Liset Fonseca as a source. “They just told me that they called a mother I know and that he is going to meet with two more,” said Fonseca, a resident of San José de las Lajas, in the province of Mayabeque.

The visit of the high-ranking European official comes the same week in which the death of Luis Barrios Díaz, a 36-year-old 11J prisoner, due to an allegedly poorly treated respiratory condition, was revealed. As reported this Thursday by the Madrid-based NGO, Prisoners Defenders, the witness who led to his conviction was Lázaro Julián García Matamoros, who allegedly infiltrated the protests and who “testified as if he were a model citizen.”

Prisoners Defenders argues that García Matamoros was “an old acquaintance expelled from the opposition for infiltrating.” “The most creative thing that the Prosecutor’s Office has done in this case is to provide as evidence the testimony of Lázaro Julián García Matamoros (…), an alleged former activist who was ’convicted’ and released from prison with an agreement with State Security to work for the counterintelligence service as a State agent,” the organization denounced.


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