CubaBrief: Cuban national denied the right to return to her homeland by the Castro regime. IACHR is concerned about Cuban protesters sentenced to up to 20 years.

On February 16, 2022, Anamely Ramos González, with her documents in order and plane ticket in hand, was told by a representative of American Airlines she could not board the flight home on instructions from the Cuban government. Anamely Ramos is an artist and nonviolent Cuban dissident who resides in Cuba.

She traveled abroad in January 2021 to pursue a Ph.D. in Anthropology at the Universidad Iberoamericana de México. Today, 13 months later, she was denied entry into Cuba by American Airlines personnel on the instructions of Cuban government officials.

“‘Right now I have no country, nowhere to return to, no residence in any other country in the world, no visa to anywhere and here I am,’ said [ Anamely Ramos González ] in an interview with the Miami Herald outside Versailles restaurant in Little Havana,” reported Nora Gámez Torres.

This is not the first time a Cuban national has been denied the right to return by the Castro dictatorship.

Cuban national Karla Pérez González not allowed by the Castro regime to return to Cuba in 2021.

Karla Pérez González, an independent Cuban journalist and recent college graduate, was stranded in Panama the week of March 19, 2021 after being notified by Havana that she had been banned from returning Cuba.

In April 2017 when she was an 18-year-old college student in Cuba, Karla was “accused of having contacts with the Somos+ Movement and publishing on digital sites critical of the government.” This was the grounds claimed for her expulsion from school because according to the Federation of University Students (FEU), “[i]n our universities professionals must be trained who are ever more competent and committed to the Revolution.”

Education is not free in Cuba, but subordinated to the demands of a 63 year old dictatorship.

She was able to start an internship in Costa Rica in May 2017, and eventually resume her studies in journalism at the Universidad Latina in San Jose, Costa Rica. She completed her studies and graduated in December 2020. Cuban officials allowed her to obtain a valid passport, and pay all the fees to be able to return home with the proper documents. She boarded her flight, and all appeared fine until her layover in Panama, when Cuban officials informed her that she had been “regulated” and could not return to Cuba.

Cuban spy calls for prosecution of 22 year old journalist and recent college graduate for her writings

Mr. Rene Gonzalez (no relation), a Cuban spy jailed in the US for 13 years for taking part in “active measures” on U.S. soil. He was part of a spy network linked to a terrorist action that killed four, argued on his Facebook page on March 20, 2021 that she should be allowed to return to Cuba, but then put on trial for her writings.

Regis Iglesias, a former prisoner of conscience and member of the Christian Liberation Movement, who was banished to Spain in 2010, was denied the right to return to Cuba on January 1, 2020 to spend time with his family and friends, despite having his passport and travel documents in order. Furthermore Regis denounced the “complicit practice of American Airlines as a direct executor of such violations of individual law, by abiding by and enforcing the arbitrary, illegitimate and illegal abuses of a dictatorship against its nationals that only seek the exercise of their inalienable right to return to the land that saw them born.”

Regis Iglesias denied the right to return to Cuba in 2020.

On December 31, 2019 Claudia Márquez Linares, a former independent journalist and founding member of the Ladies in White, flew from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Panama where she had a connecting flight to Havana, Cuba but was told that the Cuban government would not allow her to enter Cuba. She left Cuba with her husband in 2005, and has not seen her mother since then, and was trying to visit her.

Claudia Márquez Linares denied the right to see her mom in 2019.

(Claudia founded the Ladies in White together with seven other women when her husband, Osvaldo Alfonso, was condemned to 18 years in prison during what became known as the Black Spring of Cuba in 2003. Seventy four other human rights defenders, independent journalists and pro-democracy activists were sentenced to long prison terms during that crackdown. They were all recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.)

On January 2, 2019 Maikel Chang, a Cuban soccer player who stayed in the United States in 2012,  was barred from entering Cuba to visit his family. Worse yet, the Cuban Embassy had given all indications that he would be able to return, and his family expected to see him, but permission was denied at the last moment.

Maikel Chang was not able to visit his family in Cuba in 2019

On October 26, 2017, Ofelia Acevedo, a Cuban citizen and widow of Oswaldo Paya, opposition leader, and Sakharov Prize laureate was forced by the Cuban emigration service to board a plane bound for Miami after being informed that she was forbidden to enter her country.

Ofelia returned to Havana for the first time after the attack that ended her husband’s life in 2012. She was accompanied by her daughter Rosa María Payá, who resides on the island. “I return to visit the tomb of my husband murdered by the regime and to legally demand the report that the Cuban government has arbitrarily denied us for more than five years,” said Ofelia Acevedo before leaving for Havana.

Upon landing in Havana, emigration services informed mother and daughter that only Rosa María could enter the country because she was a resident of the island but that the Cuban State prohibited Cuban citizen Ofelia Acevedo from entering.

Ofelia Acevedo Maura denied entry to Cuba in 2017.

On June 28, 2016 Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito, who was born in Sancti Spíritus, Cuba and immigrated to the United States in March of 2012, was forced to return at 10:00am that morning after having arrived the day before at 2:00pm at José Martí International Airport. She had traveled to Cuba to see her mother who was extremely ill and near death.

Cubanet reached her brother, Pablo Perdigón who had gone to pick up his sister only to find as he told the Cubanet reporter: “A colonel from the airport told me that she is turned around, that I could not see her. I had to return to Sancti Spiritus, because we rented a car to go get her.” Her brother added that the soldier who met with him told him “some glass was broken and she was injured.” This was the second time she had tried to travel to Cuba, the first being in March of 2015 when she and her daughter were taken off the plane while it was still in Miami and told that she was not permitted to enter.

Ana Margarita Perdigón Brito denied entry to see ailing mother in 2016

Blanca Reyes, a member of the Ladies in White left to Spain with her husband, prisoner of conscience Raul Rivero in November 2004. She requested to return to Cuba in July 2013 to visit her ailing 93 year old father but was denied. He passed away in October 2013.

Blanca Reyes denied right to visit her dying father in 2013

Cuban music icon Celia Cruz learned her mother was ill and tried to return to see her in 1962, but was barred from entering the country by the Castro regime. When her mother died Celia was again blocked by the dictatorship from attending her funeral. This was punishment due to the Cuban singer not being an active supporter of the communist regime, her music was also banned in Cuba.

Celia Cruz barred from entering Cuba in 1962 to visit her dying mother, and attending her funeral

These are not isolated cases.

Estimates range between 70,000 to 300,000 Cubans banned by the Cuban government from returning to their homeland reported The Miami Herald on August 15, 2011 in the article titled “Many Cuban expatriates can’t go home again”. Despite claims made by both Havana and Washington in 2013 that the Cuban government had liberalized travel to the island, the cases of cruel family separations remained a constant.

223 Cubans have been identified that have been either denied the right to leave or enter Cuba. There are many more, but many are afraid to defy the dictatorship and suffer further reprisals by going public.

The policy of the Castro regime to divide families has a long history, and an ideological foundation. Carlos Eire, a professor at Yale University, a Cuban exile, and former Pedro Pan child in Babalu Blog on January 2, 2020 wrote how he “once had the opportunity of asking one of Fidel’s closest associates, Carlos Franqui, why the top brass of the Castro regime intentionally prevented thousands of Cuban parents from reuniting with their Pedro Pan children in the U.S.. Franqui, who served as a propaganda minister to Fidel before being purged, responded to my question with a huge smile on his face: ‘We did it because anything that would destroy the bourgeois family was good for us.'”

This is a violation of a fundamental human right. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

The Cuban government has systematically violated this universal human right over 60 years. Until 2013, Cubans who stayed abroad over 11 months lost their right to return. In 2013 Cuban law increased the amount of time Cubans could spend overseas without losing their residency rights from 11 months to two years, but in the case of Anamely Ramos she is being denied her right to return. She has been out of the country for 13 months.

Denying Anamely Ramos her right to return to her homeland is not only a violation of Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but violates existing Cuban law, demonstrating the tyrannical nature of the Cuban government, and the decades long internal blockade erected against the Cuban people by the Castro regime. There is a petition underway calling American Airlines to account for its relationship with the Cuban dictatorship, and complicity in denying her human right to return home to her country that is found under Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Over the past sixty years the international community has become accustomed to the systemic injustices perpetrated by the Castro dictatorship. During these past six decades there have been prisoners of conscience and political prisoners in Cuba. Between 1959 and 1988 no international organizations were allowed to visit prisons in Cuba. This included the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Reagan Administration’s hardline on Cuba both diplomatically, and through an effective sanctions regime delivered results on the human rights front.

On March 11, 1988 Havana invited the United Nations Human Rights Commission to investigate human rights in Cuba. Over the course of the next year not only the UN Human Rights Commission, but also the International Committee of the Red Cross, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were able to enter Cuba and document the human rights violations in the island.

This was the first and last time these organizations were allowed into Cuba to visit Castro’s prisons. The lack of outrage turned into a permanent acceptance of injustice in Cuba.

Over thirty years have passed since the last time the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was able to visit Cuban prisons. Meanwhile the ICRC has visited the U.S. Guantanamo detention facility over 100 times since 2001.

This takes on a new urgency in the aftermath of the 11J protests in Cuba. Political show trials have been underway since last year jailing scores of Cubans who protested in July of 2021. The Guardian reported on February 15, 2022:

“Cuban courts have handed out sentences of up to 20 years in prison to a group of people accused of taking part in protests that swept across the island in July. The 20 defendants sentenced in the eastern province of Holguín were convicted after trials last month on charges of sedition. Hundreds of other people await verdicts following trials elsewhere”.

On February 16, 2022 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a press release expressing “concern over ongoing detention and prosecution of people who took part in protests in Cuba” that includes this introductory statement:

“Seven months after the mass protests in Cuba, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over the ongoing deprivation of freedom and prosecution of individuals who took part in these demonstrations, including adolescents.

As of February 7, more than 700 people remain imprisoned in Cuba because they took part in the July 2021 protests, according to information from civil society. The conditions in which these people are being held include high levels of overcrowding, lack of access to drinking water and adequate food, substandard medical care, and the use of isolation measures.”

This lack of transparency is why the Center for a Free Cuba is circulating a petition calling on the Cuban government to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners.

  • Immediately restore uncensored Internet and all forms of communications.

  • Eliminate restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian aid from international organizations and from Cubans in the diaspora to Cubans in need on the island;

  • Permit visits of the International Committee of the Red Cross to Cuba’s prisons.

  • Permit visits of international human rights organizations to the island.

This is also why the Center is holding a vigil on February 23, 2022 at 6:00pm outside of the Cuban embassy on the 12th anniversary of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and to call for the release of all Cuban political prisoners. This will be a silent candlelight vigil with posters of political prisoners, and victims of Castroism.

Miami Herald, February 17, 2022

Cuban activist stranded in Miami after she was denied boarding an AA flight to Havana

By Nora Gámez Torres, Miami Herald

The Cuban government denied Anamely Ramos entry into the country, the activist explained in an interview outside the Versailles restaurant in Miami on Feb. 16, 2022. Alexia Fodere for The Miami Herald

At the request of the Cuban government, American Airlines did not allow Cuban activist Anamely Ramos to board a flight at Miami International Airport bound for Havana on Wednesday.

Ramos, an art professor and member of the opposition group San Isidro Movement, was trying to return to Havana from Miami, where she was visiting, when airline employees prevented her from boarding, telling her that the island’s authorities were denying her entry into the country.

The Cuban government has frequently denied entry to opponents and activists, but usually after they’ve already arrived on the island. Ramos is one of the voices most critical of the government within the group of artists and academics that make up the San Isidro Movement.

“Right now I have no country, nowhere to return to, no residence in any other country in the world, no visa to anywhere and here I am,” she said in an interview with the Miami Herald outside Versailles restaurant in Little Havana.

Full article ]

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article258474098.html

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, February 16, 2022

IACHR Expresses Concern Over Ongoing Detention and Prosecution of People Who Took Part in Protests in Cuba

February 16, 2022

Washington, D.C. — Seven months after the mass protests in Cuba, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its concern over the ongoing deprivation of freedom and prosecution of individuals who took part in these demonstrations, including adolescents.

As of February 7, more than 700 people remain imprisoned in Cuba because they took part in the July 2021 protests, according to information from civil society. The conditions in which these people are being held include high levels of overcrowding, lack of access to drinking water and adequate food, substandard medical care, and the use of isolation measures.

In reference to the legal proceedings that resulted from the protests of July 11, the Attorney General’s Office acknowledged that a total of 790 people are accused of “acts of vandalism, which constituted a crime against the authorities, people, and property, as well as serious disturbances of public order,” according to official information released on January 24. It also pointed out that the sanctions to be imposed—prison sentences of up to 30 years—befit the seriousness of the events in question.

According to the information available, most of these detainees are reportedly being held in pretrial detention, which runs counter to the international principles for how this should be applied. Furthermore, the individuals in question are allegedly being tried for unspecified crimes and on unfounded and disproportionate criminal charges. Similarly, information has been provided on violations of due process, such as the restriction of access to criminal records or copies of sentences and the absence of appropriate technical defense and contact with legal representatives.

On the specific matter of the adolescents being held, the Cuban Attorney General’s Office reported that 55 of the detainees are between 16 and 18 years old and were accused of criminal activity during the protests. Of these, 28 are being held in pretrial detention, while 18 have had the severity of their sentences reduced. In response, civil society organizations reported that these adolescents have been deprived of their freedom and subjected to judicial proceedings without respect for the standards governing the juvenile criminal justice system, especially with regard to the presence of their parents during the process. They have also noted that the adolescents are facing criminal charges that include severe sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

The IACHR received complaints about ongoing acts of intimidation, harassment, and violence by State security forces and government supporters targeting the relatives of the accused, journalists, and activists. This harassment is allegedly a response to their demonstrating against the trials and the severe sentences that are being handed down to those who took part in the protests. On this point, the IACHR noted with concern the report concerning 11 persons who were detained on January 31 outside the Diez de Octubre Municipal Court in Havana for protesting against the prosecution of July 11 demonstrators.

The IACHR urged the Cuban State to release all people being deprived of their freedom for participating in the protests, including both adolescents and adults, and to cease the practice of harassment and arrests in response to social protest or other related rights. Likewise, it noted that the State must guarantee due process for all people who are detained and accused of criminal activity, as per inter-American standards.

Finally, the IACHR reiterated that adolescents should only be detained in exceptional circumstances as a measure of last resort, and for the shortest possible period. Consequently, the State must adopt the necessary measures to minimize their contact with the criminal justice systems.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 031/22

10:30 AM

https://www.oas.org/en/IACHR/jsForm/?File=/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2022/031.asp

The Guardian, February 15, 2022

Cuba protesters sentenced to up to 20 years as hundreds more await verdicts

Courts sentenced 20 people in eastern Holguín province for sedition after last July’s anti-government protests

AP in Havana

Tue 15 Feb 2022 15.19 EST

Riot police walk the streets after a demonstration against the government in Arroyo Naranjo municipality, Havana, last July. Photograph: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images

Cuban courts have handed out sentences of up to 20 years in prison to a group of people accused of taking part in protests that swept across the island in July.

The 20 defendants sentenced in the eastern province of Holguín were convicted after trials last month on charges of sedition. Hundreds of other people await verdicts following trials elsewhere.

Thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Cuba on 11 and 12 July — the largest such protests in decades on the island – many frustrated with shortages, low salaries and power outages, as well as with the socialist government.

“This was terrible … People have been crying, inconsolable there,” said Mailyn Rodríguez, who said by telephone that her husband Yosvany Rosell García had been sentenced to 20 years after prosecutors had sought a 30-year sentence.

“The prosecution requests were too high and the sentences horrific,” she said from Holguín, some 800km (480 miles) east of Havana.

She said relatives of the 20 were summoned to the court on Monday to hear the verdict, which followed a trial in early January.

García, a 33-year-old welder, had denied accusations he threw stones during the protests, his wife said. She said he would appeal.

Similar trials also took place last month in the provinces of Santa Clara and Mayabeque and in Havana, though no verdicts have yet been announced there.

While most of the protesters were peaceful, some vandalized or looted vehicles and shops and some threw stones at police. One person died in Havana.

An activist group that follows the cases, Justice 11J, distributed copies of the sentences. It said the shortest penalties handed out involved five years of limited liberty, but not jail, for five youths aged 16 to 17.

Cuban authorities have never reported the total number of arrests during the protests, though Justice 11J and other groups have reported about 1,300 arrests.

In August, officials reported 23 trials of 67 defendants on relatively minor charges.

In January, they announced the trials of 790 people on more serious charges such as sedition, violent attacks, theft and vandalism.

The attorney general’s office said last month that the sedition charges related ″to the level of violence demonstrated”.

Human rights groups say the crackdown shows how Cuba’s judicial system is routinely used to snuff out dissent. Cuba, in turn, alleges US-based opposition groups are trying to instigate unrest through social media campaigns.

After the protests, Cuban leaders acknowledged some complaints were justified and said they would seek to alleviate distress through social and economic programs. The government blames a US economic embargo, rather than its state-centered policies, for its problems.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/15/cuba-protesters-sentenced-20-years-anti-government-july