CubaBrief: Urgent Updates on 2 Cuban political prisoners and 2 prisoners of conscience

Over the past sixty one years the international community has become accustomed to the systemic injustices perpetrated by the Castro dictatorship. Throughout all this time there have been prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Cuba. Unlike in the United States where there is a free press and an independent judiciary, Cubans only have a persecuted and outlawed civil society to represent them, and international organizations that have moral force, but can do little, in the way of practical assistance. Young black men are shot in the back by police in Cuba, but few hear of it or seem to care outside of the Cuban diaspora.

The Center for a Free Cuba has highlighted these four cases in the past, but will now provide four urgent updates.

 Keilylli de la Mora Valle

We fear for the life of Keilylli de la Mora Valle. On July 3, 2020 the Center for a Free Cuba sent out an urgent appeal to human rights organizations around the world to intercede on behalf of Keilylli de la Mora Valle, a 27 year old Cuban human rights defender whose life at this moment continues to be in great danger.

Keilylli de la Mora Valle, a 27 year old human rights activist and resident of Cienfuegos, is a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and describes herself as “a free and independent Cuban who is 100% Anti-Castro.”  She is now serving an unjust 18 month prison sentence, and this is her second arbitrary detention for political reasons.  She had already served a ten month prison sentence that was politically motivated, and suffered “cruel and inhuman treatment” during  this first prison sentence according to a statement she made on June 1, 2020.  Keilylli entered prison on June 4, 2020 and managed to record conditions in the prison with a hidden camera which outraged officials and began applying punishments, including a physical beating, and  extending her prison sentence that drove her to start a hunger and thirst strike that lasted 12 days, and led to her hospitalization.

Conditions at the prison are so bad that the young activist tried to hang herself, and is threatening suicide if she is returned to prison. She was returned to prison on Monday, July 13, 2020. We also fear that prison officials could use the suicide threat, as a cover to murder the 27 year old.

Silverio Portal Contreras

Silverio Portal Contreras, former activist with the Ladies in White, is serving a 4-year sentence for “contempt” and “public disorder.” According to a court document, he was arrested on the 20 June 2016 in Old Havana after shouting “Down Fidel Castro, down Raúl…” The document states that “the behavior of the accused is particularly offensive because it took place in a touristic area.” The document further describes the accused as having “bad social and moral behavior” and mentions that he fails to participate in pro-government activities. According to Silverio’s wife, before his arrest he had campaigned against the collapsing of dilapidated buildings in Havana. Silverio was recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International on August 26, 2019. He was beaten by prison officials in mid-May 2020 and lost sight in one eye.

Lucinda Gonzalez Gomez, the wife of the activist, has put out a desperate plea for help after receiving a call from Portales on June 10, 2020. “Silverio called me and put an official on the phone to explain the situation,” said Gonzalez Gomez to CubaNet. The official told her that “he was taken to the ophthalmologist and because of temporary loss of blood flow, he was losing sight in both eyes.”

There is a history of the secret police using medicine as a weapon against prisoners of conscience. We fear that Silverio is not receiving adequate treatment.

Roberto Quiñones

On April 23, 2020 we reproduced an urgent action from Amnesty International that stated, “63-year-old independent journalist Roberto Quiñones Haces, imprisoned on 11 September 2019 for “resistance” and “disobedience”, remains in the Provincial Prison of Guantánamo in concerning sanitary conditions, according to reports. His family stated he has also developed health conditions, which may put him at increased risk in face of COVID-19. We demand Cuban authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and other prisoners of conscience in the country, amid grave fears over the spread of COVID-19 in Cuba’s prisons.”

Germany’s International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) has expressed new concerns for the life and safety of this independent journalist. ISHR on June 20, 2020 reported that “[d]ue to the lack of care in detention, he has severe health problems that make him more susceptible to infection with the virus. This is also pointed out by his family, who recently submitted a parole application for him. The International Red Cross has not had access to Cuban prisons for more than 20 years. However, the ISHR knows from reports from former political prisoners that the detention centers are overcrowded, so that none of the inmates can keep enough distance from fellow inmates to protect themselves from infection. In addition, the supply of food and medical care are poor.”

Ernesto Borges Pérez

Ernesto Borges Pérez was a spy working in the Castro regime’s Ministry of the Interior. He became “contaminated” during his time in Moscow with ideas of Perestroika and Glasnost and returned to Cuba.

He was caught on June 17, 1998 and after a secret military trial sentenced to thirty years in prison. He has served 22 years in prison and is in poor health.

In 2017 Ernesto was diagnosed with cataracts in his eyes and an inguinal hernia. Both conditions require surgery, which was first denied, and then rejected by him it due to the risk of death.

The example of Ernesto Borges Pérez has been used as a warning to all those Cuban military personnel who could minimally disagree with the regime. His case demonstrates the cruelty and persistent effort to murder him slowly.