Monday, October 19, 2015

An open letter to Katy Perry asking for help

An appeal to save two lives

Dear Katy Perry,

I have enjoyed your music over the years and your commitment to human rights issues. Especially the time you spent curating the Art for Freedom Project in January of 2014, an initiative that promotes art and free speech as a means to address persecution and injustice around the world. I also saw in the news that you've visited Cuba twice over the past week and met with Mariela Castro, dictator Raul Castro's daughter, while you were there.

Cuban human rights defenders need your help and with your access to the upper echelons of power in the Castro regime perhaps you are in a position to save the life of a human rights defender, and free an imprisoned artist. This dictatorship has had a track record of responding to requests by high profile visitors that in the past has resulted in the freeing of political prisoners and human rights defenders who are deathly ill.

The human rights situation in Cuba is deteriorating. The level of violence against human rights defenders has escalated in recent years on the island, along with the extrajudicial killings of national human rights figures. A dramatic example of this took place on on July 22, 2012 when state security killed Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante.

Presently there is an environment of impunity in Cuba that could be impacted upon by your good offices. There are two urgent cases you could raise with the individuals you met in Cuba that would make a difference and most likely save two lives and favorably affect many more.

First, there is the case of a government reformer turned opposition activist whose life hangs in the balance. On May 24, 2015 human rights defender, Sirley Ávila León, was the victim of a brutal machete attack suffering deep cuts to her neck and knees, losing her left hand, and could still lose her right arm. The man who attacked her with the machete appears to have done it on the orders of Cuban state security, and although arrested and tried in a judicial process (controlled by the dictatorship) the attacker was sentenced to six years in prison but granted a pass to leave the prison when he likes. She is in desperate need of adequate medical treatment to make a recovery.

Second, Danilo Maldonado, a Cuban artist whose art work is an exercise in free speech addressing persecution and injustice in Cuba has been jailed since December 25, 2014 without a trial. Earlier this month following 22 days on hunger strike Danilo was told by state security that he would be freed on October 15th thus ending his fast. The date came and went and Danilo remains in prison and has resumed his hunger strike.  Amnesty International has recognized him as a prisoner of conscience and expressed its disappointment at the failure of the Castro regime to free this artist. The Danish human rights group, Free Muse has also called for his release.

Please speak up for Sirley and Danilo and help save their lives. The Talmud teaches, "whoever saves a life, it is considered as if they saved an entire world." Help to save two worlds.


John Suarez
Human Rights Activist

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