News and Facts about Cuba

The unlikely chance of a serious human rights debate in Cuba

The unlikely chance of a serious debate in Cuba
19 October 2015, 13:08 UTC

Nearly a month since Pope Francis ended his historic visit to Cuba, any
hope that authorities would loosen control on free in the
country is fading as fast as the chants that welcomed him.

At the start of his tour, Pope Francis said Cuba had an opportunity to
“open itself to the world”. He urged young people in the country to have
open minds and hearts, and to be willing to engage in a dialogue with
those who “think differently”.

Cubans listened, but the government didn’t.

Instead, the Cuban authorities continued to prevent human rights
activists from expressing their dissenting views.

According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation, an independent organization, in 2014 there was an
average of 741 arbitrary detentions each month.

Last September, during the month of the Pope´s visit, the number
increased even further, with 882 arbitrary detentions registered.

“Last September, during the month of the Pope´s visit, there were 882
arbitrary detentions registered.”
Louise Tillotson, Cuba researcher at Amnesty International

Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, Ismael Bonet Rene and María Josefa Acón
Sardinas, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de
Cuba, UNPACU), a group, are three of the activists detained.
They were on 20th September after they crossed a security line
in Havana as they attempted to talk to the Pope and have been held in
since then.

They are believed to be charged with contempt (“desacato”), resistance
(“resistencia”) violence or intimidation against a state official
(“atentado”), and public disorder (“disorden publico”). If convicted,
they face prison sentences of between three and eight years.

The crackdown seems to have escalated since the Pope left the country.

On Sunday 11 October, hundreds of human rights activists and dissidents,
including members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and of the group Ladies
in White () were arbitrarily arrested and detained on
their way to peaceful protests organized across the country calling for
the release of the activists and prisoners of conscience.
The Patriotic Union of Cuba is one of the organizations reporting the
highest number of detentions.

One activist recently told me how a carrying him and 29 other people
was stopped on the way to the city of Santiago de Cuba by 40
officers.

“They took us off the bus one by one and threatened us with blows and
imprisonment. I was taken in a jeep and left somewhere remote and had to
walk for various miles to get home,” he said.

“They took us off the bus one by one and threatened us with blows and
imprisonment. I was taken in a jeep and left somewhere remote and had to
walk for various miles to get home”
Cuban activist

According to José Daniel Ferrer, General Secretary of UNPACU, four homes
of social leaders were recently robbed or vandalized.

Another activist said he was hit after being arrested: “An official told
us we all had to shut up or the police could take out our teeth if it
was necessary,” he said. He said the police only stopped hitting him
when they saw lots of blood.

Also on Sunday 11 October, in Havana, 60 Ladies in White were arrested.
Some said they had been beaten, and detained for hours after a peaceful
march that lasted less than 10 minutes. “The march started at 1.30pm and
was stopped at 1.40pm,” Berta Solar, leader of the group told me.

The mother and grandmother of of conscience Danilo Maldonado
Machado, a graffiti artist known as “El Sexto”, also joined the Ladies
in White. Danilo´s mother said: “There were lots of police, who picked
up the Ladies in White in buses. They picked them up so no one would see
them protest. It left me traumatized to see how they dragged the women.”

For many, Pope Francis´ visit to Cuba was a sign of hope for of
expression in the country. But the recent crackdown on those who think
differently shows that the same old tactics of repression are still
being used to stifle dissent.

“For many, Pope Francis´ visit to Cuba was a sign of hope for freedom of
expression in the country. But the recent crackdown on those who think
differently shows that the same old tactics of repression are still
being used to stifle dissent.”
Louise Tillotson

Cuba is undoubtedly at a crossroads when it comes to the protection of
human rights. The Cuban government has long said it promotes the rights
to , healthcare and that it has made some advancements for the
rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people. But
it is impossible to comprehensively assess the wider human rights
situation in Cuba when the fundamental right to peacefully express a
view is tightly controlled and independent monitors are unable to enter.

As long as Cubans are only allowed to disagree in spaces controlled by
the government, but not on the streets, and while the right to protest
is severely restricted, a wider discussion on human rights remains an
unlikely reality.

This oped was originally published by IPS

Source: The unlikely chance of a serious human rights debate in Cuba |
Amnesty International | Amnesty International –
www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/10/the-unlikely-chance-of-a-serious-human-rights-debate-in-cuba/

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