CUBA BRIEF: Administration considers placing Cuba back on terrorist list? Cuban prisoners doubles. Cuban activist expelled.

CUBABRIEF:  Assistant  Secretary of State  Francisco Palmieri said on Wednesday, May 10, 2017 that “As we move forward with [the review of Cuba policy]  there will be important differences in how this government plans to address the situation in Cuba (as compared to the previous administration).” Palmieri, who added, “One of the areas that is going to be a great priority will be to ensure that Cuba makes more substantive progress towards greater respect for human rights within the country. That is certainly an area where we will see greater emphasis when the review is completed.”  The PanamPost (5/10/17)reported Palmieri’s statement, adding that [T]he Trump administration is reviewing the process of normalizing relations between the United States and Cuba, as well as Obama’s decision to remove the island from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, which involves sanctions against the governments within it.

Also in this CUBA BRIEF: “Number of Cuban prisoners doubles” and “Cuban activist expelled from university.”

PanamPost, May 9, 2017

Number of Political Prisoners in Cuba Doubles as Castro Dictatorship Ramps Up Repression

By: Karina Martín – May 9, 2017

The number of political prisoners in Cuba has doubled since last year, and shows no sign of declining.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation released a report that revealed the island’s government has increased its number of political prisoners to twice of what it had the previous year.

According to the report, there are now at least 140 people who have been convicted due to political motivation or to political conditions. Of those, 54 are members of the Cuban Patriotic Union dissident group.

Members of the Commission said those numbers don’t include the “thousands and thousands of innocent people” who remain in the island’s nearly 200 prisons, labor camps and settlements, “many of them engaged in the production of charcoal for export.”

The Commission also said 475 arbitrary arrests have been made — an increase of 43 arrests compared to the previous month. [More]

Christian Solidarity Worldwide, May 10, 2017

Cuban activist expelled from university

10 May 2017

Fếlix Yuniel Llerena López, a 20 year-old religious freedom defender, has been expelled from the Enrique José Varona Pedagogical University in Havana, following an advocacy visit to the United States.

On 8 May, Llerena López was informed by his head of year that he would not be able to continue studying history in the humanities department at the university.

He was told that the expulsion was due to excessive absences from classes within the last month, however, Llerena López states that he had not registered the number of absences which would justify such action and that the real reason behind his expulsion is his human rights activism. He has been told that he will receive an official document regarding the conditions of the expulsion in the coming weeks.

Llerena López was interrogated and threatened by security agents on 27 April in Abel Santamaria International Airport in Santa Clarafollowing a visit to the US which included advocacy meetings arranged by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) in Washington, DC to raise concerns about ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief in Cuba. Llerena López was part of a delegation from the Patmos Institute, an independent civil society organisation in Cuba which defends freedom of religion or belief and promotes inter-religious dialogue.

Llerena López’s expulsion comes alongside wave of expulsions from the Marta Abreu University of Las Villas of teachers and students who are linked to independent civil society organisations, including the daughter of another Patmos Institute leader.

CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “We are increasingly concerned by the treatment of Fếlix Yuniel Llerena López since his return to Cuba on 27 April. Cuba regularly touts its education system as an example of the success of the Revolution, but uses that same education system as way to punish those, like Fếlix Yuniel who think differently, denying their right to continue in their studies. CSW calls on the Cuban Government to immediately allow Fếlix Yuniel to resume his studies and to begin addressing its ongoing violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency. We also urge the international community to continue closely monitor this situation and raise concern with the Cuban government.”