The Cuban Regime Prevents Martha Beatriz Roque From Receiving an Award in the United States

Cuban dissident Martha Beatriz Roque in an archive image / 14ymedio

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14ymedio, Havana, 1 March 2024 — Cuban dissident  Martha Beatriz Roque, director of the Cuban Center for Human Rights (CCDH) and former prisoner of the Black Spring, has been one of the winners of the 2024 International Prize for Women of Courage, awarded by the United States Government . But she will not be able to go to the awards ceremony next Monday.

In conversation this Friday with 14ymedio, the historic dissident says that the news was communicated to her last January. “They told me that the prize consisted of 15 days of vacation in Los Angeles, 15 days in Washington and then the awarding of the prize.” Roque, who is regulated — the regime’s euphemism for not being allowed to travel — went to the Emigration offices in Havana, where State Security agents were waiting for her.

There they told her to return in 15 days to resolve her case. She hoped that, as has happened recently with other opponents, such as Julio Ferrer and María Cristina Labrada, the ban on leaving the country would be lifted. However, when she returned two weeks later, the response was blunt: “You are still regulated, period.” That time, she says, “the treatment was completely different, I can say that they treated me badly.”

“I think ‘they’ prefer the empty chair to my words. So, well, there will be my empty chair. The hatred they have for me is terrible”

And she says: “I imagine that the United States Embassy, ​​at the request of the Government, has asked to let me travel, but I think ‘they’ prefer the empty chair to my words. So, well, there will be my empty chair. The hatred they have for me is terrible.”

Roque’s case has been similar to that of Yoani Sánchez, director of this newspaper, who was prevented by the regime from leaving the Island when she was also awarded the Women of Courage Award, in her case in 2011.

This year, in its eighteenth edition, the prize awarded to the Cuban opposition figure is shared with the Ecuadorian Fátima Corozo, a high school teacher, community leader and youth defender in Esmeraldas, the most violent city in her country.

Similarly, the nine women who were part of the group of 222 Nicaraguan political prisoners who were released from prison and exiled to the United States last year, for their part, have been honored with the Madeleine Albright Honorary Group Award.

The award ceremony will take place at the White House in the presence of the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden, and the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.

The prize awarded to the Cuban opposition member is shared with the Ecuadorian Fátima Corozo, a high school teacher and community activist

According to the US State Department in a statement collected by the Efe agency, this award, which is in its eighteenth edition, recognizes “women from around the world who have demonstrated exceptional courage, strength and leadership in promoting peace, justice, human rights, equality and empowerment.”

In 1997, Martha Beatriz Roque signed, together with Félix Bonne Carcassés, René Gómez Manzano and Vladimiro Roca, the document* La patria es de todos, The Homeland Belongs to Us All*, which criticized the management of the Castro regime and called for an opening. The four were sentenced to sentences of between three and five years in prison for the alleged crimes of “actions against the national security of the Cuban State” and “sedition.” Amnesty International considered them prisoners of conscience, and Roque was released in May 2000.

The dissident was arrested again in 2003, during the so-called Black Spring, in which 75 opponents and independent journalists were arrested and prosecuted. On that occasion she received a sentence of 20 years in prison. After receiving an extra-penal license releasing her for health reasons, Roque is still subject to a travel ban outside the country and surveillance by State Security.

*See here for an English version on this site


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