Monday, November 30, 2015

The New York Times editorial board gives the Castro regime advice on how to lobby Congress

 Technology is neutral, and repressive regimes with the help of Western companies have used it to hang on to power.

The New York Times editorial board today is at it again providing advice to the dictatorship in Cuba on how to prolong its existence this time by achieving its long term political goal of lifting the embargo through partnering with a technology firm to overwhelm congressional opposition:
"Partnering with Google, which has enormous lobbying clout in Washington, could advance Havana’s goal of building enough political support in Congress to repeal the embargo and would make it harder for a future president to dial back the restoration of diplomatic ties that Mr. Obama set in motion last year."
 As has occurred before The New York Times omits and distorts key facts such as the circumstances surrounding Cuba plugging into the global cable network in 2013 enabling high-speed connections that have not reached the average Cuban. First it was President Obama who on April 13, 2009 directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to:
  • Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
  • License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
  • License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
  • License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
  • Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
Despite this unilateral liberalization by the Obama administration, tt was the Castro regime that showed no interest in a fiber-optic cable linking the United States and Cuba from Key West in 2009 not the Cuban embargo. Instead the Cuban dictatorship went with a fiber-optic cable linking Cuba and Venezuela that required a much longer distance of cable to link the two countries. This was completed in 2013, but high speed internet access has not reached the average Cuban in 2015.

The regime may now have to abandon the its chief strategy of denying Cubans access to internet in order to pursue opportunities to enrich the dictatorship. However the Cuban government still has at least nine other tactics used by other repressive regimes to limit the internet's liberating potential: web blocking, precision censorship, infrastructure control, cyber attacks on exile run sites, malware attacks, internet kill switches, detaining bloggers, violence against online journalists, and criminalizing uncensored access to internet.

 Unfortunately, US technology firms such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Sun Micro Systems and others have shown in markets such as mainland China a willingness to cooperate with totalitarian regimes and use technology to modernize their repressive system. It is up to human rights defenders and democrats to hold them accountable and expose them when they do wrong while at the same time encouraging them to pursue approaches that live up to the liberating potential of the internet.

Sadly, the visit of a Google executive to Cuba in 2014 did not inspire much confidence. Executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt already had past associations with Sun Microsystems, the company that played an important role in erecting the Great Firewall in China that the Google executive now condemns and also Google's own past assistance of Chinese censorship both of which were condemned by Amnesty International.

Even more disturbing was the Google executive's reflections on his Cuba visit that made clear the Cubans had been effective at selling their Potemkin Village fiction as fact with such passages:
The two most successful parts of the Revolution, as they call it, is the universal health care free for all citizens with very good doctors, and the clear majority of women in the executive and managerial ranks in the country.  Almost all the leaders we met with were female, and one joked with us that the Revolution promised equality, the macho men didn’t like it but “they got used to it”, with a broad smile.
First the health care system in Cuba during the years of massive Soviet subsidies may have been something else, but the present one is a disaster. Even the public health infrastructure is a mess as the ongoing cholera outbreak is but one high profile example.

For a more complete overview that places the island's current reality into a historical context Schmidt would be well served to read Health, Politics, and Revolution in Cuba Since 1898 by Katherine Hirschfeld, an anthropologist who spent a lot of time in Cuba that describes how her idealistic preconceptions were dashed by 'discrepancies between rhetoric and reality,' she observed a repressive, bureaucratized and secretive system, long on 'militarization' and short on patients' rights.

However, that was not as shocking as Schmidt's second claim that another "successful" part of the Revolution is that: "Women are in the executive and managerial ranks." Mr Schmidt should take a closer look at the history of violence visited upon women who dissent and speak their minds in Cuba.

On May 24, 2015 Sirley Ávila León was the victim of a machete attack
The New York Times has not reported on the plight of reformer turned opposition figure Sirley Ávila León, an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly (Poder Popular) of Majibacoa who joined the democratic opposition after efforts to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored Sirley's requests and when she went to the international media she was removed from office. Following escalating acts of repression by state security the mother of two, Sirley Ávila León, age 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 at 3:00pm by Osmany Carrión who had been "sent by state security thugs" and that the aggression "was politically motivated." She suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand and remains completely incapacitated.

Remaining silent before these ongoing atrocities while engaging in "happy talk" on how a Stalinist regime can collaborate with U.S. technology firms to overcome economic sanctions which limit its ability to make mischief will not assist a democratic transition in Cuba, but do just the opposite - prolong the life of a totalitarian dictatorship.

This has been seen elsewhere, and apparently The New York Times would like to repeat it in Cuba. Technology is neutral, and repressive regimes have contracted Western companies to place draconian controls on the internet that are used to target activists. Amnesty International identified "Cisco Systems, Microsoft, Nortel Networks, Websense and Sun Microsystems" as having "provided technology used to censor and control the use of the Internet in China." These repressive applications of new technologies have been transferred to other dictatorships and now with the help of the The New York Times editorial board arriving in Cuba.

This should not be surprising considering the history of The New York Times with regards to left wing totalitarian regimes and propaganda role that assisted in empowering Fidel Castro in the 1950s and presently using a former Cuban intelligence agent, who remains an apologist for the Castro regime as a source. However it is important to highlight the facts and confront the omissions, and inaccuracies of what is supposed to be the newspaper of record.

OAS Secretary General open letter on upcoming elections in Venezuela

On December 6, 2015 parliamentary elections will be held in Venezuela, but in the days leading up to them there has been an escalation in violence and threats against the democratic opposition by the Maduro regime and its allies. Below is an open letter from OAS president Luis Almagro on the situation in Venezuela.

Plane Lilian Tintori's team was traveling on caught fire on landing when brakes suspiciously failed
Venezuela: Open letter from the OAS Secretary General regarding Pre-Electoral Climate

November 28, 2015

Today, one week before the December 6 elections, I reiterate my call for peace and an end to the violence in Venezuela. The insults and impunity, whatever their source, cannot be an answer to the national and international clamor for equal rights and electoral justice.

It does not make one 'garbage,' Mister President Nicolas Maduro, to condemn the killing of a politician and call for an end to the ongoing violence in the country, or to say that "the violent death of any person is a heinous act that we cannot accept. The killing of a political activist, moreover, leaves us all more vulnerable, and signals that we are all real victims, not just potential victims." 'Garbage' would be to say anything else.

In addition, it is not 'garbage' to say that "the killing of a political leader is a deadly wound to democracy and a succession of violent acts in an electoral process can be a mortal blow to nearly any kind of democracy."

Similarly, it is not 'garbage' to refer to "other attacks against other opposition political leaders in a strategy to intimidate the opposition," and to note that "the entire society is affected by fear and it has shaken the entire international community."

Insecurity and Fear Cannot Dominate the Campaign

And if the fear and insecurity of the opposition is not enough, Mister President of all Venezuelans, you should listen to them so they can tell you directly.

I only ask that every activist and every student - from any political affiliation - be able to express themselves peacefully, and be sure that they can return to their homes in peace; that any politician, from the best to the worst, be protected, be safe from any attack whatever the motive. To be 'garbage' would be to ask for anything else.

It is not 'garbage' to ask that "the government act now," to call for "an end to all violence;" to ask that "the electoral process be transformed into a celebration and not an exercise of force, violence and fear;" and to call for "the most absolute guarantees for everyone." It would be 'garbage' not to demand these rights.

Disarmament of civilian groups, a civic imperative

It is not 'garbage' to urge the immediate reestablishment of a climate of peace and respect for the law, nor to urge an end to "speeches filled with threats and dark forecasts and for the disarmament of any armed civilian group, in particular those that depend on the government or the party of the government." And my request refers specifically to these, because I suppose and I hope that you have influence and power in these cases, Mister President. In any case it would be good for the country to put aside the politics of weapons and crime.

It is not 'garbage' to say that "there should not be one more death, one more threat," and that it is "time to put an end to the fear," and that "every death in Venezuela today hurts everyone in the Americas."

It would be 'garbage' to allow violent death, threats, and the logic of fear; it would be 'garbage' if the deaths in Venezuela did not cause us pain. Every death should hurt us, whether the name is Eleazar Hernández or Pablo Sussoni, Génesis Arguisone or past cases such as those of Robert Serra and his partner or Eliezer Otaiza, or more recently, Luis Manuel Diaz, who died during a campaign event.

Principles Must Not Divide Us

Regarding the case of Luis Manuel Diaz it is urgent - due to the nature of the political crime - to carry out an investigation of the killing and that the investigation result in irrefutable conclusions, just as it is necessary to investigate and resolve the pending cases of the 43 people killed in past demonstrations and other still unresolved cases. This would bring security.

I hope these principles, Mister President, do not divide us and put myself on one side and yourself on the other. And I do not make this response today to keep myself safe from insults, but because I prefer to hear arguments.

I care about the happiness and the peace of your country. And I want the Venezuelan people to achieve their happiness during your mandate, because the happiness of the people, "does not allow for the slightest delay," nor do its causes, in the initial meaning of the words of General José Gervasio Artigas.

Luis Almagro,
Secretary General of the OAS

Reference: E-345/15

Spanish version (En castellano)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why the Embargo on Cuba and the Cuban Adjustment Act are still needed

"La 'crisis' no es en Costa Rica, alli son 4000 que ya escaparon de la tirania. La 'crisis' es en Cuba, donde son millones queriendo escapar del comunismo." Tony Diaz Sanchez, November 27, 2015

Cubans at the Ecuadorian embassy in Havana, Cuba (Photo: 14yMedio)
International news today is reporting on the manufactured Cuban migrant crisis in Central America while ignoring the underlying crisis in Cuba. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that this has happened and those familiar with the situation in Cuba understand the real crisis. Exiled Cuban opposition leader Tony Diaz Sanchez, of the Christian Liberation movement and a former prisoner of conscience explained it well above in Spanish: "The 'crisis is not in Costa Rica, there are 4,000 who have already escaped the tyranny. The 'crisis' is in Cuba where there are millions wanting to escape communism."

It seems that many in the media are confusing the effects with the underlying cause and it is not only with the question of Cuban migration, but also with the sanctions placed on the Cuban dictatorship by the United States. The reason for the poor relations between the Castro regime and the United States is not because of the embargo but just the opposite. The reason for the embargo on the Castro regime is to safeguard U.S. taxpayers and not have them subsidize a dictatorship hostile to U.S. interests.

The Cuban embargo was first imposed on the Castro regime on  January 3, 1961 by President Eisenhower in response to the confiscation of U.S. properties and toughened by President Kennedy a short time later. The logic for economic sanctions was to raise the cost for the Castro regime to engage in subversion in the hemisphere. Unfortunately, the reason for the embargo still endures.

Cubans were fleeing the Castro regime prior to and following the embargo. However in 1965 the Lyndon Johnson Administration was faced with the Camarioca Boatlift, an migration crisis provoked by the Castro regime. Kelly M. Greenhill in her February 2002 paper, Engineered Migration as a Coercive Instrument, gave an analysis of what the Castro regime did and how the Johnson Administration responded that can be briefly summed up as follows:
In September 1965, Castro announced that any Cuban who had relatives living in the US could leave the island via the port of Camarioca, located on Cuba’s northern shore. Castro also invited exiles to come by sea to pick up family members who had been stranded on the island, following the suspension of commercial flights between the two countries during the Cuban Missile Crisis three years earlier. Two days later he began offering two flights daily from Havana to Miami. ... By unleashing his “demographic bomb,” Castro demonstrated to the US government he could disrupt its immigration policy and the opening of the port at Camarioca carried with it a “lightly-veiled” threat, namely that Havana, not Washington, controlled Florida’s borders.  Almost overnight, and with little warning, the Castro regime had presented the US with a major refugee crisis. President Johnson initially responded with contempt to Castro’s move, making a speech before the Statue of Liberty in October 1965, in which he proclaimed that the US would continue to welcome Cubans seeking freedom “with the thought that in another day, they can return to their homeland to find it cleansed of terror and free from fear.” However, after the numbers of those leaving the island began to escalate, Johnson quickly changed tack and began a series of secret negotiations with Castro. The result, announced the following month, was a “Memorandum of Understanding,” a formal agreement that established procedures and means for the movement of Cuban refugees to the US.
 All the above took place before the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA) even existed.  The CAA was brought into existence on November 2, 1966 due to the humanitarian crisis spurred by the communist dictatorship in Cuba when hundreds of thousands of Cubans found themselves in a legal limbo that necessitated the creation of the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Cubans historically have not been the only people to enjoy this special privilege but others such as the Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, Vietnamese and others have benefited from similar measures although for shorter periods. They did not come to the United States pursuing the American dream but fleeing the communist nightmare in their own homelands.

The common denominator was not economic sanctions but that these regime's systematically denied the human rights of their nationals under communist dictatorships, including the right to enter and exit their own country.

Sadly, Cuba today remains a communist regime with first generation leadership firmly in charge. No other people who suffered under this type of regime was able to overthrow first generation leaders due to their will to hang on to power with extreme brutality.

The Castro regime for decades has sought the elimination of both the Cuban Adjustment Act and economic sanctions on the dictatorship. However both continue to be needed the Cuban Adjustment Act to protect fleeing Cubans from a repressive communist regime and the Embargo on Cuba to defend American taxpayers from the predation the Castro regime has visited on many other countries to the tune of billions of dollars.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cuba and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

"When our revolution is judged in future years, one of the matters on which we will be judged is the manner in which our society and our homeland solved the problems of women." ~ Fidel Castro, November 30, 1974

November 25th has been set aside as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Castro regime is attempting to use the date to white wash its dismal record and ongoing institutionalized violence against women in Cuba. Unfortunately some international organizations and non governmental organizations have looked the other way and given the Cuban government a pass on its systematic and regular violence against women. Below is a partial listing of documented instances where agents of the Cuban dictatorship have engaged in violence against Cuban women arranged by the most recent dates on top with a focus on cases where they were trying to exercise their fundamental rights.
Lady in White Daisy Cuello Basulto denounced that her 21 year old daughter was arrested, violently stripped and forced to urinate in front of police officers in a police station in Cotorro. The 21 year old was arrested along with her mom and other family on September 27, 2015 while on their way to attend the Sunday march of the Ladies in White. In the police station "she was humiliated," although she refused to urinate in front of the agents, who constantly jeered at her, explained her mother in an interview with Radio República. The young woman was locked in a cell with a strong smell of hydrochloric acid and now suffers from a sore throat. "She has a fever and feels very bad," reported her mother.
On May 24, 2015 Sirley Ávila León was the victim of a machete attack
Sirley Ávila León, an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly (Poder Popular) of Majibacoa who joined the democratic opposition after trying to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored her requests and when she went to the international media she was removed from office. Following escalating acts of repression by state security the mother of two, Sirley Ávila León, age 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 at 3:00pm by Osmany Carrión who had been "sent by state security thugs" and that the aggression "was politically motivated." She suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand and could still lose her right arm.

Yris Pérez Aguilera shows cyst result of state security beatings. (Photo: Yoani Sanchez)
On September 20, 2013 human rights defender Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera briefly described the abuse she had been subjected to by agents of Cuban state security earlier that same year to the 24th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva:
I have been the victim of several acts of aggression on the part of the Cuban authorities, especially by the agents Yuniel Monteagudo Reina and Eric Aquino Yera. They have beaten me into unconsciousness in the pavement, as took place most recently this past March 7 in Santa Clara. The hits to the head, neck, and back have caused me serious health problems that I have not been able to recover from. In addition to beating me, they have threatened me with death on various occasions, these agents have told me that they are going to rape me, and have shown their genitals during arbitrary arrests. 
On Sunday, July 21, 2013 Sonia Álvarez Campillo was brutally beaten by agents of the Cuban government for her dissent and suffered lasting physical damage.  Over twitter the aftermath of the attack was posted by her daughter Sayli Navarro who tweeted: "My mom Sonia Álvarez Campillo, shows x-rays and arm fractured by her repressors on Sunday" and independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo tweeted: "This is the Lady in White Sonia Álvarez Campillo after today's first act of repudiation against Ladies in White."

Sonia Álvarez Campillo's arm fractured by regime repressors July 21, 2013
There for everyone to see, a woman with a her left arm in a cast holding up her x-ray showing where the breaks are following a savage attack on Sunday by regime agents. This is not an isolated case but a disturbing pattern of increasing violence against nonviolent activists that is primarily but not only targeting women.

Marina Montes Piñón age 60 beaten by regime agents. Needed 30 stitches
Marina Montes Piñón, a 60 year old woman and long time opposition activist, was beaten with a blunt object by regime agents on December 15, 2012 in Cuba. The end result, three deep wounds in the skull and a hematoma in the right eye. She needed nearly thirty stitches to patch up the wounds. 

Berenice Héctor González mutilated for verbally defending Ladies in White
Berenice Héctor González, a 15-year old young woman, suffered a knife attack on November 4, 2012 for supporting the women's human rights movement, The Ladies in White. News of the attack only emerged a month later because State Security had threatened the mother that her daughter would suffer the consequences if she made the assault public.

Laura Pollán repeatedly beaten and died under suspicious circumstances
Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, one of the founders of the Ladies in White in March of 2003 and its chief spokeswoman was widely admired inside of Cuba and internationally. She fell suddenly ill and died within a week on October 14, 2011 under suspicious circumstances that a Cuban medical doctor described as "painful, tragic and unnecessary." This took place within days of the Ladies in White declaring themselves a human rights organization dedicated to the freedom of all political prisoners, not just their loved ones.

Maria Elena Cruz Varela around time of 1991 attack

On November 19, 1991 the Cuban poet Mariela Elena Cruz Varela, who peacefully dissented asking for nonviolent change, was assaulted by a mob organized by the dictatorship who tried to force feed the poet her own words. She wrote about the assault in her book, Dios en las cárceles cubanas (God in the Cuban jails):

"They broke my mouth trying to make me swallow the leaflets that members of my group had distributed throughout Havana. Afterwards I spent three days brutally besieged, imprisoned in my own home with my two children, with no water, no electricity, no food, no cigarettes. We heard what the huge speakers never stopped amplifying, allegorical songs to the country, the necessary punishment of traitors, and anyone who wanted to could shout at me, organized, of course, the slogans they pleased: Comrade worm, we are going to execute you by firing squad!"

On February 26, 1961, Cuban state security agents arrested 23-year-old medical student Ana Lazara Rodriguez she had been distributing literature and speaking out against Fidel Castro as he assumed dictatorial powers in Cuba. She spent 19 years in the women's prison at Guanajay, located in Eastern Cuba, and was exiled to the United States on February 26, 1980. She was subjected to beatings, starvation, threats, hard labor, and solitary confinement for months at a time. Ana described in a 2007 interview with the Hudson Reporter how: "The men constantly beat us with their bayonets, and they would cram the cells so that we couldn't all fit," ... We used to take turns standing and sitting. Many women became ill because the conditions were so confined and there was a lack of oxygen. We were treated like animals." 

Cuban attorneys Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent in their 2013 report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) touch on the institutional nature of the violence upon women in Cuba by the Castro regime:
"The brutality of the police and state security agents, including women members of these bodies, against women dissidents, is supported by the state, which exemplifies the institutionalized violence as a means to repress women opposition activists. Arbitrary detention is one of the methods to prevent them from exercising their rights to speak, associate and demonstrate. In detention centers agents use violence, sexual assault and insults as means of repression. The cells enclosed in unsanitary and sometimes sanitary services have no privacy or are not appropriate for women, even having them share prison cells with men. In some cases, they forced to strip naked or forcibly stripped, obliging them to squat to see if they have items in their genitals and claims that have been reported that they have introduced a pen into the vagina, under the justification of seeking recording objects."
   This is a partial and incomplete summary. The plight of women in Cuba over the past 56 years would fill a library, but it is important to recall that the above violence is promoted, coordinated and carried out by agents of the Castro regime.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

In Solidarity with Mohammed Al-Maskati: Appeal for his freedom and personal safety

"Solidarity is no longer a question of altruism but of survival." - Rosa María Payá Acevedo

Human rights defender Mohammed Al-Maskati (Frontline Defenders)
Yesterday, received a shock while looking for a report on Cuban human rights defenders on the website Frontline Defenders a familiar face appeared on their website. It said that Mohammed Al-Maskati was facing an upcoming verdict on December 22, 2015 for illegal assembly.

 I'd met Mohammed, then President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, in Egypt during the parliamentary elections back in January of 2012 and recorded two statements: one in solidarity with free Cubans and another outlining the situation in Bahrain at the time. Frontline Defenders provided the following background information on Mohammed's current plight:
Mohammed Al-Maskati has been repeatedly subjected to harassment and intimidation in relation to his human rights activism and Front Line Defenders has previously issued a number of urgent appeals on behalf of him. The human rights defender received death threats in 2011 and 2012. On 22 October 2013, the Ministry of Interior accused him of “inciting hatred against the regime” in relation to a speech he made on 8 September 2013 in the city of Jidhafs in which he discussed human rights and international legal mechanisms. He was released on the condition that he sign a declaration stating that he will present himself before the public prosecutor at any time.
In his message to Cubans Mohammed expressed his solidarity for Cubans and a revolution that would do away with the Castros and usher in democracy, freedom and justice.

Below he described the situation in Bahrain which included that the regime was killing and torturing the opposition and he made a call for concrete action by people of good will around the world.

Recalling Jan Patočka's observation that "the solidarity of the shaken can say ‘no’ to the measures of mobilization that make the state of war permanent" I strongly condemning the upcoming sentencing of Mohammed Al-Maskati, whose conviction is solely in retaliation to his nonviolent human rights activism and defense of human rights in Bahrain. and expresses its deep concerns at the systematic intimidation and harassment against human rights defenders in Bahrain. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

International Human Rights Organization Frontline Defenders calls attention to arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment in Cuba

Text below taken from Irish human rights NGO Frontline Defenders:
18 November 2015
Cuba: Ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco amidst arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment of peaceful demonstrators
Mr Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been arbitrarily detained since 25 October 2015 and is now facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in peaceful demonstrations in Cuba. Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza are also currently under detention following their arbitrary arrest on 5 November 2015 and a summary trial on 6 November 2015 in which they were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.
Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco
This is an example of several cases of arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment against defenders in Cuba in the past months. Amongst them, the case of human rights defenders Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both of whom were arrested on 11 November 2015 and released the following day.
Geovanys Izaguirre and Laudelino Rodriguez
Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez, Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza and Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" are members of Frente de Acción CívicaOrlando Zapata Tamayo(Civic Action Front Orlando Zapata Tamayo- FACOZT). FACOZT is an organisation that fights for the release of political prisoners in Cuba and reports human rights abuses committed by police forces against peaceful demonstrators in the country. Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera is the president of Movimiento por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement), which is a feminist movement fighting to end the repression against human rights defenders and for the release of political prisoners. 

Human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been detained since 25 October 2015 when he was arrested while on his way to participate in the demonstration “Todas Marchamos” (We all March), organised by the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement. He is being detained at the Fifth Unit of the Municipality Playa (Quinta Unidad del Municipio Playa), in Havana. The human rights defender is facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in a demonstration at the premises of the Attorney General's office on 22 October 2015 demanding that all human rights defenders detained during the Pope's visit to Cuba should be released.

Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza were arrested on 5 November 2015 and taken to the police station in the city of Palma Soriano. In the morning of 6 November 2015 both human rights defenders were subjected to a summary judgement and sentenced to six months imprisonment. They were both convicted of failing to pay a fine of $15,000.00 (Cuban pesos) for allegedly making anti-government graffiti in the city of Palma Soriano. The graffitti read "Queremos Cambios" (We want change), "No más hambre" (No more hunger), "No más desempleo" (no more unemployment).
On 11 November 2015, at approximately 7am, members of the regime’s special brigade broke into the home of Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” in Camaguey and arrested him along with his wife and fellow human rights defender Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera. The arrests happened one day after Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” launched the campaign “No, no and no” (“No, no y no”) asking the government to free Messrs Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza. Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera were released the following day, but their home was seized by the police and their computer was taken along with some documents.
Front Line Defenders has received recurrent reports on arbitrary detentions conducted against human rights defenders in Cuba. The human rights organisation Information Centre “Let's Talk” Press (Centro de Información Hablemos Press - CIHPRESS) has recently issued a document reporting 1021 arbitrary and politically motivated arrests in Cuba in the month of October 2015 alone. The alarming number of arbitrary detentions in Cuba shows that human rights defenders who speak out against the regime continue to be targets of systematic repression. In this context, one of the most vulnerable group of human rights defenders are the women from Damas de Blanco since they are frequently subject to harassment during their weekly protests in Havana and other Cuban cities. This group of women has seen an increased pattern of arbitrary detention against them, where the government detain them for a few hours and re-arrest them the following week.
Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned at the arbitrary arrests and detentions of human rights defenders in Cuba, intended to silence all dissenting voices. Further concern is expressed at the continuous acts of violence and human rights violations committed against those who fight for the implementation of human rights in the country.
Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Cuba to:
  1. Immediately and unconditionally release Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, and drop all charges against him, as Front Line Defenders believes that he is being held solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;
  2. Immediately and unconditionally quash the sentence of Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza and ensure their release from detention, as Front Line Defenders believes that their summary trial did not allow them to exercise their right to defence and that they have been sentenced solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful human rights work as radio journalists; 
  3. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza;
  4. Return the computer of Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera confiscated during the raid, as they are manifestly not linked to any criminal activity;
  1. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of members of Damas de Blanco and their right to carry out peaceful demonstrations without fear of reprisals; 
  2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Cuba are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
En castellano.