CubaBrief: A triumph of nonviolent resistance in Cuba, two continuing cases to focuse on, and petition for President Biden to prioritize human rights in new Cuba policy

Yesterday we issued a CubaBrief marking 20 days of hunger strike by UNPACU protesters, and today welcomed the news that Havana had withdrawn the police who had been surrounding the UNPACU headquarters over 26 days, and after 21 days of hunger strikers protesting this action, reported Cuba Decide. Amidst this good news, many challenges remain, and we wish to highlight a couple, of the many that concern the Center.

Yandier García Labrada, Christian Liberation Movement jailed six months

Yandier García Labrada, Christian Liberation Movement jailed six months

Yandier García Labrada, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement, was arbitrarily detained on October 7, 2020 for complaining about poor service at a grocery in the town of Manatí, Cuba where he lives. On January 7, 2021, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted a precautionary measure for Yandier that they consider is “in a serious and urgent situation, given that his rights to life and personal integrity are at risk of irreparable harm.” On April 7, 2021 Yandier García Labrada marked six months behind bars without formal charges from the prosecutor, but is being threatened with four to seven years in prison.

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Self-employed activist from Santiago de Cuba Eldris González Pozos will be tried on April 12, 2021 under the alleged and politically motivated charges of “Assault”, “Contempt” and “Disobedience” in a case created by State Security agents in August 2020 and for which they ask for a penalty of 3 years in prison. On April 1, 2021 Eldris initiated a hunger strike, demanding the annulment of the sham judicial process.

“On August 20, 2020, an inspector arrived at the home of Eldris González Pozo, who is self-employed and has a legal stand for household goods at his home, and began taking photos. Eldris closed the door on her and a few minutes later two captains of the National Revolutionary Police arrived saying that there was a complaint against her for pushing the inspector. At that time, the PNR refuses to listen to the eyewitnesses who claim that Eldris did not push the inspector. After several investigations and in two instances of the police it is recognized that the case had to be annulled. However, as of January of this year and after posters and protests that occurred in the city of Santiago de Cuba in March, the case against the self-employed activist was reactivated,” explained Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina from Cuba in a document sent to the Center for a Free Cuba .

Sirley Avila Leon signed petition to President Biden for a human rights focused US - Cuba policy

Sirley Avila Leon signed petition to President Biden for a human rights focused US – Cuba policy

This is why it is so important to continue the nonviolent struggle for a free Cuba where human rights are respected. Nonviolent scholar Gene Sharp identified and listed 198 different non-violent actions that are available to examine online. Hunger strikes, for example, fall under the category of psychological intervention, and group or mass petitions fall into the category of “formal statements” and the subcategory of “group or mass petitions.” One can do more than one at the same time. For example for the past 20 days Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia was on a water only hunger strike, and at the same time signed a petition to President Joe Biden circulated by activists in Exile that called for the White House to “prioritize human rights of Cubans when considering a new US-Cuba policy.” The petition is still circulating and open for signature, including yours. Other signers of the petition thus far include: Paquito D’Rivera, Humberto Calzada, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Kristina Arriaga, Sirley Avila Leon, Father José Conrado Rodríguez, Ambassador Armando Valladares, and Frank Calzon.

Cuba Decide, April 9, 2021

Nonviolent efforts achieve end to police barricade

International solidarity and peaceful mobilization of Cubans force the withdrawal of the police who have been surrounding the UNPACU headquarters on the 21st day of the hunger strike.

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“On the morning of April 9, two high-ranking officials of the Ministry of the Interior and the so-called Governor of the province, Beatriz Johnson, appeared in our neighborhood and lifted the barricade that they have maintained for 26 days against our National Headquarters. Several activists have already entered the facility without difficulty. If confirmed that this is not just a temporary order, this is a clear VICTORY against the perverseness of tyranny.” announced José Daniel Ferrer, today in joint transmission from the UNPACU and Cuba Decide digital platforms.

“The activists that put their lives on the line are the true heroes of our days. This is a victory of solidarity over repression; the non-violent mobilization of Cubans on the island and in the diaspora, coupled with international solidarity, forced the apparent withdrawal of repressive forces. Cuban dictators have shown that they disrespect the lives of citizens and that they shamelessly lie in their international dialogues. But today it was also shown that the Cuban dictatorship reacts to pressure. We are very concerned about the health of all the strikers, who are the true heroes and are still in danger. The repression on the island continues, but we must continue to push forward,” noted Rosa María Payá.

“The path forward — international actions of solidarity in conjunction with the mobilization of Cubans seeking a change of the system. We are deeply grateful to all Cubans who have taken action; to the Catholic and Protestant churches that stood in solidarity; to all opposition organizations on the island and in exile; and more than 75 human rights organizations and members of the media in the world, who kept in touch and demonstrated their solidarity. Thank you for the urgent proclamations of support from the OAS Secretary General, the European Parliament, the United States Department of State, doctors in the diaspora, and government officials from Latin America, the United States, and Europe. We encourage everyone to continue mobilizing. The state terrorism exercised by the Cuban regime will not end until we achieve the end of the Communist dictatorship and the transition towards democracy begins,” concluded Payá, from the Cuba Decide initiative.

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba clarified that: “In the face of this situation, we have decided to put an end to the hunger strike that has now reached its 21st day. We have asked those with most delicate health conditions to suspend the prolonged fasting. Those of us who are still strong will be attentive to the projection of the regime’s repressive forces, and once we can confirm that our activists and the people seeking our help can enter and leave without being victims of repression, the strike will conclude for all. Thank you to all the supporters and friends who have shown their solidarity during these difficult times.”
https://cubadecide.org/2021/04/09/nonviolent-efforts-achieve-end-to-police-barricade/?lang=en

Change.org Petition launched on April 8, 2021

Prioritize human rights of Cubans when considering a new US-Cuba policy

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We are very grateful about the preoccupation you have expressed about human rights, and are very aware of your present considerations-in-progress vis a vis U.S. policy toward Cuba. In that context, we wish to request, with utmost respect and from our deepest convictions, that you condition your administration’s Cuba policy to the following requirements:
 
1.    That the Cuban government issue a general amnesty for all political prisoners, much like the one a young Fidel Castro received in 1955 when he was a political prisoner of the Batista government;

2.    That the Cuban government eliminate restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian aid from international organizations and from Cuban Americans to needy Cubans in the island;

3.    That the Cuban government withdraw its troops and military leadership from Venezuela;

4.    That the Cuban government return fugitives of justice and terrorists who are responsible for the deaths of American citizens to whom it has given shelter in the island, that they may be brought to justice in the U.S.; and

5.    That the Cuban government allow remittances sent by Cuban Americans to their relatives to be received in U.S. dollars, that they may acquire goods and services as they see fit.
 
Mr. President: we trust that your personal concerns for the welfare of the Cuban people amidst repression, economic crisis and the pandemic, will prevent further harm and suffering to our people. May God bless you, your family and the American people.
 
Most respectfully,

Iván M. Acosta, playwright, filmmaker, composer
Julia Alemán, democracy and human rights advocate
Elías Amor, economist and journalist
Sebastián Arcos, human rights activist, assistant director, Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute
Kristina Arriaga, former Vice Chair, United States Commission on International Religious Freedom
Reverend Demetrio Asprón Morales, Missionary Church of Cuba
Sirley Ávila León, human rights activist and former political prisoner
Daniel Avilés, Chaplain
Ariadna Barrenechea Martín, Cuban human rights activist
José Gabriel Barrenechea Chávez, Cuban writer and political activist
Raúl Ciriaco Borges Álvarez, United Christian Democratic Party of Cuba
Ambassador Everett Ellis Briggs, Cuba-born, member of the U.S. Foreign Service, retired
Humberto Calzada, visual artist
Frank Calzón, political scientist, human rights advocate, and author
Juan Manuel Cao, journalist, author and former political prisoner
Laida Carro, human rights activist
Olga Connor, former university professor, journalist and author
Luis Cruz Azaceta, visual artist
Belkis Cuza Malé, poet, journalist, founder and editor, Linden Lane Magazine
Erich de la Fuente, Adjunct Professor, Florida International University
Octavio Delasuareé, Professor Emeritus, William Paterson University, NJ
Sergio Díaz Briquets, international consultant and author
Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez, former political prisoner (served 22 years) and poet
Paquito D’Rivera, Grammy-winning musician and composer
Paul Echániz, engineer and businessman, retired
Vicente Echerri, author, opinion columnist
José Daniel Ferrer, former political prisoner, opposition leader, founder UNPACU
Silvia Font, writer, journalist
Ileana Fuentes, cultural consultant, author, feminist, independent journalist
Reverend Raudel Garcia-Bringas, Christian theologian
Nicolás Gutiérrez, Secretary, Cuban Exile History Museum
Basilio Guzmán, former political prisoner (served 22 years)
Aida Tomás Levitan, Ph.D., business leader, philanthropist, community activist
Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, presbyter, founder and coordinator, Patmos Institute
Eduardo Lolo, Permanent Member, Royal Academy of the Spanish Language; Academia de Historia de Cuba en Exilio
Yoaxis Marcheco Suárez, Baptist missionary and author
Guillermo Mármol, businessman and Chairman, Center for a Free Cuba
Raúl Masvidal, business, entrepreneur, civic leader
Pablo Medina
, poet, novelist, translator
Adriana Méndez Rodena, author and university professor
Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist and author
Elena Montes de Oca, human rights activist, poet and educator
Vicente Morín Aguado, journalist
Ana Olema, artist, pro-democracy advocate
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, author, Ph.D. candidate at Washington U., St. Louis, MO
Rosa María Payá, founder and director, CubaDecide and Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana
Daniel I. Pedreira, political scientist, author and historian
Yuri Pérez, human rights activist, Victims of Communism Foundation
Julio C. Pita, MD, cardiologist 
Joaquín Pujol, international civil servant, formerly with the International Monetary Fund
Ambassador Otto J. Reich, former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela; President, Center for a Free Cuba
Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist
Seth Mateo Rock, college student, Colgate University
Father José Conrado Rodríguez, vicar, San Francisco de Paula Parish, Trinidad, Cuba
Pedro V. Roig, attorney
Perla Rosencvaig, author and retired university professor
Miguel Sales, former political prisoner, author; Unión Liberal Cubana
Araceli R. San Román, former political prisoner (served 15 years)
Jorge Sanguinetty, economist, founder and Chairman of DevTech Systems, Inc.
John Suárez, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba
Niovel Tamayo Formen, Cuban Association for the Preaching of Islam, Cuba
Olaine Tejeda Beltrán, Sephardic Jewish Community Bnei Anusim, Cuba
Reverend Mario Jorge Travieso Medina, “Viento Recio” Apostolic Movement, Cuba
Armando Valladares, former political prisoner (served 22 years), author, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission
Felipe Valls Sr., civic leader and business entrepreneur
A. Omar Vento, MD, physician
Josefina Vento, DDS, dentist
Camilo Vila, filmmaker
Eduardo Zayas Bazán, Professor Emeritus, East Tennessee State University, TN 
Lourdes Zayas Bazán, President, National Association of Cuban American Educators

Petition source: https://www.change.org/p/president-joseph-biden-prioritize-human-rights-of-cubans-when-considering-a-new-us-cuba-policy