Category Archives: Cuban Dissidents

Mary Anastasia O’Grady: Cuba’s Democrats Need U.S. Support

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal

Obama has helped the dictatorship but ignored the dissidents.


Cuban dissident leader Antonio Rodiles has been harassed, beaten, imprisoned and may have been injected with a foreign substance—more on that in a minute—by Castro goons. Yet he is calm and unwavering: “They are not going to stop us,” Mr. Rodiles recently told me over lunch here with his wife,  Ailer González.

Soviet-style Cuban intelligence is trained to crush the spirit of the nonconformist. Yet the cerebral Mr. Rodiles was cool and analytical as he described the challenges faced by the opposition since President Obama, with support from  Pope Francis, announced a U.S. rapprochement with Castro’s military dictatorship in December 2014.

One of the “worst aspects of the new agenda,” Mr. Rodiles told me matter-of-factly, “is that it sends a signal that the regime is the legitimate political actor” for the country’s future. Foreigners “read that it is better to have a good relationship with the regime—and not with the opposition—because those are the people that are going to have the power—political and economic.”

The Cuban opposition is treated as superfluous in this new reality. U.S. politicians visiting the island used to meet with dissidents. Now, Mr. Rodiles says, “contact is almost zero.” When the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana last year it refused to invite important dissidents like Mr. Rodiles or even  Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, to the ceremony.

Mr. Rodiles said the mission of pro-democratic Cubans is critical and urgent: “We need to change the message,” making it clear that the regime is “not the future of Cuba.” And this, he says, is the defining moment.

If the Castros hope to transfer power to the next generation—be it to Raúl’s son Alejandro or a Cuban  Tom Hagen—as Russia’s KGB forced  Boris Yeltsin to yield to KGB veteran  Vladimir Putin, they need to do it soon.

Yet at the same time, Mr. Rodiles says, “if they give the country to their families in the condition it is in right now, it will be like handing them a time bomb” about to go off. That’s why, he tells me, this is a unique opportunity for freedom to emerge: The odds of successfully passing the baton in the current economic meltdown are low.

Or at least they would be if Mr. Obama were not offering the regime legitimacy and U.S. greenbacks while refusing to officially recognize the opposition.

Mr. Rodiles has a master’s degree in physics from Mexico’s Autonomous National University and a master’s degree in mathematics from Florida State University. The 43-year-old returned to Cuba in 2010 and is a founder of Estado de SATS, a project to “create a space for open debate and pluralism of thought.”

The police state views this as dangerous and has come down hard on the couple. Amnesty International was among those that called for his release when he was jailed in 2012 for 19 days. In July a state-security agent punched him in the face while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

On Jan. 10 he and Ms. González, along with other government critics, were again attacked by a rent-a-mob on the streets of Havana. This time they were left with what looks like identical needle marks on their skin.

Those wounds are worrisome. More than once the former leader of the Ladies in White,  Laura Pollán, was left with open wounds after being clawed and scratched by plainclothes government enforcers. After one such incident in 2011 she mysteriously fell ill and died in the hospital. The government immediately cremated her body and the dissident community has long suspected that she was intentionally infected with a fatal virus by the regime.

Under normal circumstances, the Castro family would have reason to fear the future. Totalitarian regimes collapse, Mr. Rodiles reminds me, “when the people inside the system, not just the elite, but the people who are in the middle, the ones who sustain the system, start to go and look for another possibility.” They do this because they recognize the future is elsewhere so they “move or at least they no longer cooperate.”

Today young Cubans are looking for that alternative. The regime’s promise to Mr. Obama of economic opportunity and growth through small-business startups is a farce because the Castro family operates like a mafia, “and always has,” says Mr. Rodiles. To do well in the current environment the young have to join the system, or else they flee.

Those who join are not ideological but only seek power. “If we can show that we are the ones with the power to transform the country, then these people for sure are going to prefer to be with us.”

Failure is unthinkable for Mr. Rodiles. “We cannot allow the transfer of power because if they transfer the power, we can have these people for the next 20 or 30 years.”

Political Repression Increase in Cuba Criticized by Opposition Group


Latin Post

A known opposition group in Cuba, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, recently released its latest report on the increased political repression happening in the communist government.

In light of the recent actions by Washington and Havana diplomatic reconciliation, according to AFP, which freed five dissidents, the group urged that the government has sustained the political repression last 2015.

According to the report of the opposition group, which is known to be outlawed but tolerated in Cuba, they clarified that the five of the 53 listed prisoners, as part of the reestablishment of the Cuban-U.S. diplomatic relations, were freed but were previously “confined in high-security prisons in the second half of 2015.”

The group also stressed that the five prisoners — Wilfredo Parada Milian, Jorge Ramirez Calderon, Carlos Manuel Figueroa, Aracelio Ribeaux Noa and Vladimir Morera — were jailed “as a result of rigged trials and without due process.”

Furthermore, Morera was in a hunger strike for the past few months starting Oct. 9, 2015 and just started eating again on Dec. 31, 2015.

“All I know is that he is eating again, and that he is speaking incoherently because the doctors say he was very weak,” Morera’s son said as quoted by the news agency.

And while the Cuban government remains silent on the matter, the commission reports that in January 2015, there have been 178 cases of political arrests. Meanwhile, throughout the past year until December 2015, the commission reported 930 arrests for political reasons, which is considered the third highest number of the year, EFE reports.

The group further clarified that the repressive acts include “acts of vandalism and the extrajudicial confiscation of toys for distribution to poor children, plus the seizing of cash, computers, cell phones and other legally acquired work devices from detained opposition members.”

The commission revealed that the country has encountered an increasing amount of “poverty and despair” because of such political repressive actions and that the people have been illegally migrating to other places away from Cuba to escape the troubled situation.

According to the news agency, the Cuban government has considered the commission as the most dissident since the U.S. funded mercenaries. The most current news from the dissident group revealed that “political repression” continued in 2015 “despite the well-known expectations awakened by the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations” between Havana and Washington, AFP reports.

No further statements have been released from the Cuban government.

Political Prisoner ‘Freed’ by Cuba Deal on Day 81 of Prison Hunger Strike


Vladimir Morera Bacallao, a Cuban dissident allegedly freed as part of President Obama’s deal with Cuba but sentenced to four years in prison shortly after being released, is currently on his 81st day of a hunger strike that has left him in critical condition.

“He does not recognize us,” his wife told the U.S.-based Martí noticias, and is in extremely grave condition in a hospital in Villa Clara. He reportedly weighs 93 pounds, and relatives expressed little hope for his survival. “He is very grave… [but] they say he is a prisoner so we are not allowed to see him,” Morera’s sister told AFP.

Morera was arrested in April for hanging a sign on his window condemning the communist Castro dictatorship. The sign read “I vote for my freedom, and not in one of those elections where I can’t even choose a president.” The sign was mocking Cuba’s legislative elections, in which only Communist Party officials are allowed to compete. After his second arrest, family members described the incident, noting that his children and wife were also beaten by state police.

Morera had been freed in January from prison, where he was serving an eight-year sentence for defending a fellow dissident from a violent communist mob, as part of President Obama’s “normalization” deal with Cuba. International supporters of the Cuban government and human rights groups that oppose isolating the Castro regime celebrated the liberation of 53 political prisoners that months as a sign that President Obama’s attempt to make concessions to the regime would help dissidents. Most of those dissidents, however, have been rearrested for crimes similar to Morera’s act of disobedience.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner issued a statement saying the United States is “profoundly concerned” for Morera’s health.

In the year since President Obama announced that the United States would make a series of concessions to dictator Raúl Castro, including removing Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, in exchange for, in the words of Castro, “nothing at all,” the situation for political dissidents has deteriorated significantly. In addition to the re-arrests of dozens of prisoners of conscience, leaders of dissident groups such as the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) are arrested on an almost weekly basis, most for attending Sunday Catholic Mass. Political arrests increased by 70 percent between January and March 2015 in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. The announcement also triggered a flood of Cuban refugees attempting to flee to Central America, fearing that the Obama administration would repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows the federal government to treat all Cubans as political refugees. About 8,000 Cuban nationals are currently stranded in Costa Rica after relying on a human trafficking ring shut down by the Costa Rican government.

Morera previously survived a 68-day hunger strike in April 2014, which he was forced to end after doctors found a tumor in his stomach.

Dissidents using Twitter have reported that a congregation of anti-communist activists that had gathered in front of the hospital currently treating Morera have been violently arrested.

Cuban Activist Freed in Obama Deal, Then Arrested Again, Now in Grave Condition


PJ Media

The Obama administration is calling on the Cuban government to free a political prisoner — one of the dozens released from prison a year ago as a rapprochement gesture, only to be re-arrested a few months later.

Vladimir Morera Bacallao, 53, is reportedly near death due to the hunger strike he started behind bars in October.

Morera Bacallao, a labor activist, was arrested in April in the run-up to the regime’s sham municipal elections for posting a sign outside his home stating: “I vote for my freedom and not in an election where I cannot choose my president.”

A month ago, he was sentenced to four and a half years behind bars.

Around the same time, another one of the political prisoners whose release was hailed by the Obama administration as a grand gesture of the Castro regime toward human rights was sentenced to another prison term. Jorge Ramirez Calderon received two and a half years behind bars for “joining a peaceful protest asking for improved sanitary conditions and water in his community,” the State Department acknowledged at the time.

“Respect for human rights is a cornerstone of our foreign policy, and we call on the Cuban government to respect its citizens’ rights to free expression and peaceful protest,” the State Department said Nov. 24.

Morera Bacallao was transferred from his prison cell to an intensive care unit last week. At today’s State Department briefing, spokesman Mark Toner told reporters the activist is in “very serious condition.”

“The United States is deeply concerned about the deteriorating physical condition of Vladimir Morera Bacallao, who has been on a hunger strike since October to protest his imprisonment for peacefully expressing political dissent,” Toner said. “Mr. Morera Bacallao was one of 53 prisoners of concern released shortly after the December 2014 announcement of the president’s new policy direction on Cuba, but detained again in April of 2015 for hanging a sign outside his home in protest of municipal elections.”

“…The United States urgently calls on the Cuban government to release Mr. Morera Bacallao.”

Amnesty International noted on Dec. 10 that 1,477 arbitrary politically motivated arrests by Cuban officials in November — “the highest monthly total in many years.”

“For weeks on end, the Cuban authorities have used a spike in arrests and harassment to prevent human rights activists and dissidents from protesting peacefully,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) noted that during President Obama’s time in office “activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza died under uncannily similar circumstances” as hunger-striking Morera Bacallao. “Activists Laura Pollan and Oswaldo Paya also perished at the hands of Castros’ thugs during this administration.”

“Morera Bacallao has risked everything for the basic right to have a voice in his government. His unjustifiable imprisonment and mistreatment are further indictments of the brutal malevolence of the Castro regime, and the utter failure of Obama’s appeasement of Cuba’s dictators,” Diaz-Balart wrote on his Facebook page. “I urge human rights organizations and the Obama administration to bring attention to the urgent case of Vladimir Morera Bacallao, and to demand that he receive immediate medical attention. We must not remain silent while another courageous activist hovers on the brink of death.”

A warning to America from a Cuban dissident


Washington Post Editorial

When President Obama began the opening to Cuba a year ago, one of the arguments the White House advanced was that a full-fledged embassy in Havana would give U.S. diplomats more freedom to roam the island than was the case with the constricted “interests section” that existed earlier. The administration emphasized that expanded “people-to-people” contacts, including with Cuban dissidents and human rights activists, would be an important outcome of the thaw.

Antonio G. Rodiles, one of many Cubans who have suffered harassment, arrest and beatings for speaking out, heard those promises, but, in an interview at The Post this week, he expressed deep disappointment that it has not happened. Rather than more contact, he said, he has seen U.S. diplomats less than before and suggested the reason: The United States has made Raúl Castro and the Cuban regime its chief interlocutor. Concern about human rights, long a mainstay of U.S. policy toward Cuba, has been “sidelined,” he lamented. Cuba’s fractious opposition feels left out in the cold.

In the same week that Mr. Rodiles described this situation, Mr. Obama suggested in an interview with Yahoo News that he would go to Cuba before he leaves office only if he could “talk to everybody.” He added, “I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.” That’s a nice gesture, but it does not change the reality for most Cubans who live under Castro’s dictatorship.

Mr. Obama has counseled that change in Cuba will take time, and “normalization will be a long journey.” Certainly, both Raúl and Fidel Castro, who have ruled the island for a half-century, are in their twilight years. But Mr. Rodiles made the sobering argument that the Castro brothers are girding themselves against embarking upon Mr. Obama’s journey. They are preparing to perpetuate the regime by passing the baton of power to Raúl Castro’s son and son-in-law; they show no sign that their henchmen will stop using violence and coercion to repress free speech; and they keep a tight grip on the economy and society as a whole.

As it has before, Mr. Rodiles pointed out, the regime is also trying to play games with emigration, allowing a surge in order to put pressure on the United States. Mr. Rodiles said that the White House fails to understand the complexity of a power structure determined to exploit the gains from Mr. Obama’s opening for its own survival rather than acquiesce to changes that would loosen its grip.

Barriers are falling — the latest being a bilateral agreement announced Thursday for scheduled air service between the United States and Cuba — but these incremental steps should not be mistaken for the arrival of freedom in Cuba. The Castros will not give an inch if they can avoid it. The real challenge for Mr. Obama is to cause change, and not just enrich and empower those who would stymie it.

Cuba’s police state remains intact

The Miami Herald Editorial


One year after the half-century diplomatic estrangement between Cuba and the United States came to a well-deserved end, the unremitting harshness of the dynastic police state run by Raúl Castro remains very much in place. Progress has been made on some issues, but Cuba’s people remain victims of an unbending regime.

For decades, the Cuban government used hostility with the United States as a pretext to deny the populacw basic political freedoms. Anyone demanding political reform was conveniently branded a yanqui agent, an enemy of the state.

What’s the excuse now? After U.S. and Cuban foreign ministers traded handshakes and beaming smiles as the flags of their countries were hoisted at reopened embassies in Havana and Washington, D.C., both sides expressed the belief that better relations were in the offing.

So the question must be asked: If the United States is no longer the enemy, why are ordinary Cubans still denied the right to peaceful protest, to a free press, to a public airing of their many grievances? What is the pretext now, when U.S. tourists are flooding the island?

No one expected an overnight change in the way Cuba treats fearless citizens who challenge the power of the almighty state. Inexcusably, though, there has not been one inch of give. Public protests are forcefully disrupted. Political prisoners remain behind bars. Dissidents face daily harassment. Dozens were arrested, with chilling irony, in the days before International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.

Nor has there been a moderation of the message emitted by the state-controlled news media, which isn’t much to ask for. The barrage of propaganda coming out of Havana fails to reflect the business-like atmosphere of the public diplomacy. Cuban spy Gerardo Hernández, who was returned to the island as part of the normalization deal, is being paraded around the island as a great hero of the revolution. There are unconfirmed rumors that he may become a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee.

The tone of all this is triumphalist — akin to Charlie Sheen’s delusional “Winning!” while on a self-destructive rampage. Let’s be clear: Cuba’s old guard is not winning anything. The octogenarian leaders are marking time. Soon, they’ll all be gone from the scene. Until then, the new U.S. policy is paving the way for ordinary Cubans to discover that Americans are not the enemy. The pretext for a police state is a transparent lie.

Reaching out to Cuba was the right thing to do. It spelled the end of the United States’ diplomatic isolation in Latin America. The recent setbacks to left-wing, populist governments in Venezuela and Argentina are not directly attributable to the normalization process in Cuba, but they’re part of the context. Taken together, these events put the United States in a far better position throughout the region.

Meanwhile, there has been incremental progress on a number of bilateral issues that would have been impossible under the old rules. The two countries struck a deal last week to re-establish direct mail service, which was cut in 1963. A commercial airline agreement may be next and, last week, Cuba turned over a wanted U.S. fugitive to federal marshals in a rare (though not unprecedented) extradition. And talks have begun on the outstanding property claims between the two countries.

The obdurate nature of the Cuban regime threatens to discredit the entire normalization process, however. If Cuba wants to see progress — and persuade the U.S. Congress to end the trade embargo — it must allow the Cuban people to enjoy political freedom.

“In Cuba, We Haven’t Voted for a President in 60 Years”



Cuban Dissident Reflects on Argentina’s Historic Election

Mario Félix Lleonart Barroso is a Cuban dissident, activist, and blogger, not to mention a Baptist preacher. The Cuban pastor spent 20 days in Argentina as a guest of the Liberty Foundation, observing the presidential campaign and elections that took place on November 22.

The Baptist preacher expects that Cuban police authorities will be awaiting his arrival at airport (Alina Tamayo)

The Baptist preacher expects that Cuban police will be awaiting his arrival at airport. (Alina Tamayo)

It was the first time that Barroso, age 40, witnessed a presidential election.

Excited by the day’s events, Barroso wrote on his blog: “If the flitting of a butterfly in Hong Kong can cause a storm in New York, what kind of impact will Argentina’s elections have on Venezuela on December 6 and on Cuba the following year?”

The PanAm Post recently sat down with the Cuban activist in a café in Buenos Aires to talk about his experience as an election observer.

What does it mean for you to come to a country where a presidential debate is taking place?

Imagine this: I came to Argentina for an internship. The folks at Liberty Foundation who invited me spent months organizing the trip. I have a lot of important responsibilities in Cuba, however the timing (of the internship) worked out great and I was able to participate at the end of the year.

Yet, what nobody planned was that I would land on November 15, just as the first presidential debate in the history of Argentina was taking place.

I’ll be frank with you and admit my ignorance. I didn’t know the debate was happening in Argentina — that shows how isolated we are in Cuba. I found out about the debate listening to it on the radio during my taxi ride from the airport. That gave me perspective. The story captivated me.

I arrived at my hotel room, and the debate just ended. I couldn’t sleep. I waited until 1 a.m. to watch the repeat of the debate, despite being exhausted from my flight. And from that moment, I haven’t stopped.

On election day, the following Sunday (November 22), I was able to get involved on the ground in Rosario, thanks to one of the officials for the Let’s Change coalition (of president-elect Mauricio Macri). I went to various schools to see how the elections were transpiring. The official managed to get me into one of the rooms where they counted the votes. It was so emotional for me that I tweeted what I saw.
Continue reading “In Cuba, We Haven’t Voted for a President in 60 Years”

Visa protest sign of new boldness in Cuba


BBC News

As Europe’s winter approaches and many hundreds of thousands of immigrants across the continent face an uncertain future, in Havana rare street protests have been held in recent days over a separate, very different kind of immigrant crisis that’s taking place in Latin America.

It is a journey which begins in Cuba, but takes in Ecuador in the Andes and Central American nations such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

It involves political allegiances between long-standing allies and new relationships between former Cold War foes.

And, of course, it involves the immigration policies of the migrants’ ultimate destination, the US.

Late on Thursday, Ecuador’s foreign ministry announced that from 1 December Cubans would require a visa to enter the country.

For many Cubans, the news was a blow.

In fact, Ecuador was reimposing a measure it had lifted on its socialist ally in April 2014.

For 18 months, Cubans had enjoyed the freedom to travel to the South American nation without restriction.

Ecuador quickly became a popular destination for Cubans as it presented them with two important opportunities.

First, the rare chance to travel abroad to a comparatively affordable holiday destination – one where they could load up on much-needed goods and electrical items, often with the intention of reselling them on the black market back in Cuba.

Second, for thousands of Cuban immigrants it became the first step on a 5,500 km trip north to the US.

Ecuador’s decision came as around 3,000 Cubans sit stranded in Costa Rica amid a stand-off with Nicaragua.

Costa Rica is urging its Central American neighbours to grant safe passage to the Cubans, to allow a kind of “humanitarian corridor'” so they can reach the US.

But Nicaragua, led by Raul Castro’s old ally, President Daniel Ortega, is refusing to let them in and is taking what appears to be a harder line on Cubans passing through their territory on the route north.

Cuba has said the immigrants can return home but it is clear that they have no intention of abandoning their trip.

Instead, they are left in limbo on Costa Rica’s northern border.

Ecuador announced its plan to require a visa for Cubans following an emergency meeting in El Salvador – seemingly echoing Nicaragua’s tougher stance.

The Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry said they still welcomed Cubans to the country, but were committed to “efforts by the Latin American community to prevent migration without authorisation”.

Meanwhile, those Cubans who had already bought plane tickets for Ecuador were caught by surprise by the news and without visas face losing their flights and their money.

But significantly, their reaction was one not often seen in Cuba.

Anger on the streets

Rather than meekly accept the decision of the authorities, they took to the streets outside the Ecuadorean embassy to demand their visas be issued immediately.

Protests that aren’t government organised are very rare in Cuba and in this instance, police cordoned off several streets around the embassy building.

Ecuadorean diplomats used loudspeakers to address the crowd, who had started to chant for visas, insisting that they would have to apply for them online.

Given how little internet access there is in Cuba, and how difficult and expensive it is for people to get online, that was never going to placate the crowd.

At the same time, there were also queues forming outside the offices of the Copa and Avianca airline companies, as frustrated customers demanded refunds on their tickets.

Some were desperate, having spent up to $800 (£531) on their tickets, a huge sum for most Cubans.

Others were visibly angry – both at the Ecuadorean Government for taking the measure, thereby cutting off one of their few routes out of Cuba, and at the Cuban Government of Raul Castro, at whose behest they believe Quito is acting.

By Saturday, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, said that those Cubans who had bought tickets before the announcement would be issued visas for travel.

But even that wasn’t enough to send home some in the crowd, who resolutely stayed put until their individual cases were resolved.

US embargo

The US broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro and his brother Raul led a revolution toppling US-backed President Fulgencio Batista. The Castros established a revolutionary socialist state with close ties to the Soviet Union.

The following year, the US imposed a trade embargo covering nearly all exports to Cuba. This was expanded by President Kennedy into a full economic embargo that included stringent travel restrictions.

The embargo is estimated to have cost the Cuban economy more than $1.1tn and the US economy $1.2bn a year.

In September, the US announced eased restrictions on business and travel with Cuba, the latest move by President Barack Obama to improve relations with the country.

US businesses will now be allowed to open up locations in Cuba.

For its part, the Cuban government has consistently blamed the situation on the US and its immigration policies that favour Cubans.

Specifically the Cuban Adjustment Act and the famed “wet foot, dry foot” policy, which give Cubans who reach US soil automatic legal residency and the right to apply for citizenship.

This, the Castro Government says, is the carrot in Washington’s policy towards Cuba (the trade embargo on the island being the stick).

In fact, the number of Cubans making the vast trip from the Andes up to the US-Mexico border has risen significantly since the detente between the US and Cuba was announced on 17 December last year.

Many Cubans fear the days of their special privileges in the US are numbered and those who want to get to the US to claim residency now see it as a race against time.

With Ecuador closing one loophole and Nicaragua posting troops to its border with Costa Rica in the continuing impasse over the stranded immigrants, it certainly seems that Cuba’s allies intend to make that journey even harder.

Nearly 300 Cuban Dissidents Arrested on Sunday


Via Capitol Hill Cubans

The human rights situation in Cuba is going from bad to worse under Obama’s blank check for the Castro regime.

For the 31st Sunday in a row, nearly 300 Cuban dissidents were arrested as they tried to attend Mass, then peacefully demonstrate as part of the #TodosMarchamos (#WeAllMarch) campaign.

In Havana, nearly 100 members of The Ladies in White — the renowned group composed of the wives, daughters, mothers and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners — were arrested.

Among those arrested was its leader, Berta Soler, who on Friday was threatened by Castro’s secret police that “her time in the opposition had come to an end.”

In the provinces, 98 activists from the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were arrested in the eastern city of Santiago; 51 in Camaguey; 9 in Las Tunas; 9 in Guantanamo; and 12 in Holguin.

Among those arrested was Cuban labor leader and former prisoner of conscience, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, who also received death threats from Castro’s secret police.

It’s “what change looks like” in Obama’s Cuba.

1,403 Arbitrary Arrests in Cuba under US Embassy Watch



Regime Escalates Repression following Normalization of Relations

While President Barack Obama reviews options to ease the trade and financial embargo on Cuba, the Cuban police are busy arresting dissidents for political reasons almost daily.

Since August 14, when the US flag was raised over the Havana embassy once again, Cuban security forces have conducted 1,403 “arbitrary arrests,” according to the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) at the University of Miami.

The ICCAS report released on November 6 claims that Cuban authorities made 647 political arrests in July, 768 in August, and 882 in September.

Police detained these activists for various reasons, including holding pro-freedom events on Fidel Castro’s birthday, protesting the opening of the US embassy, attending mass, and calling for human rights with messages written on a bed sheet.

The report, which draws on monthly data from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), identifies the city where each arrest took place, the names of the arrested activists, the alleged crime, and the name of the source.

The Targeted

Among the thousands targeted, the document claims that police harassed Wilberto Parada Milán of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) on August 14, and warned him not to leave his house in Havana to protest against the opening of the US embassy.

It further alleges that Cuban intelligence agents, dressed up as civilians, beat up Marcelino Abreu Bonora of the Civic Action Front, and told him they had orders to do it again if he approached Plaza Ernesto Guevara.

Others included independent journalists Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca and Yasel Rivero Boni, who spent five hours in jail for taking pictures of a fallen wall. Police also detained Javier Joss Varona of the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) for two days, because they suspected he could “illegally” travel out of the country.

The report lists other reasons activists were arrested, including trying to attend Pope Francis’s mass, denouncing the living conditions of a mother of three at the Communist Party’s provincial office, and being married to a dissident woman.

Torture Center for Dissidents

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White dissident group, tells the PanAm Post that Cuban police can detain citizens for hours for almost any reason.

“In Cuba, you can get arrested if they catch you talking about human rights with someone, or if they see you handing out anti-government flyers,” she says.

The Ladies in White group was among several other dissident organizations that Cuban police prevented from attending the pope’s mass in late September.

Soler spends time in jail almost every Sunday, along with her fellow Ladies in White, for taking part in the We All March campaign, calling for an end to arbitrary detentions, the release of all political prisoners, and free and plural elections.

The dissident leader has no doubt that the state’s repression of activists has escalated since the United States and Cuba reestablished diplomatic relations last December: “In September, there were hundreds of dissidents arrested who wanted to attend the pope’s mass.”
Continue reading 1,403 Arbitrary Arrests in Cuba under US Embassy Watch