CubaBrief: Maykel Castillo marks year in prison. Children jailed in Cuba, and a father jailed for speaking out. A penal code to silence Cubans seeking change. CFC statement on Biden Cuba policy.

The Center for a Free Cuba issued a formal statement on the new Biden Cuba policy announced on May 16, 2022 and concluded that “family reunification policy will help some Cubans, but funding the dictatorship through travel and remittances to “independent Cuban entrepreneurs” who will be chosen by Havana will not free Cuba’s political prisoners or improve human rights on the island. This is a proposal that sounds progressive to naïve ears, but it will only further enhance the regime’s authority.”

Cuban artist Maykel Castillo Pérez Osorbo marks one year unjustly imprisoned.

More importantly, Anamely Ramos González today reminded us over Twitter of a horrific anniversary. “Exactly one year ago today, this was the news: Luis [ Manuel Otero Alcántara] kidnapped in the hospital, Esteban [ Rodríguez ] imprisoned and Maykel [ Castillo Pérez Osorbo ] detained. It has been a year since they took Maykel away and both he and Luis are still in prison and sick. 1,000 political prisoners. + than 100,000 fleeing. Enough!”

Maykel Castillo Pérez Osorbo is an artist, husband, father, and an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who has spent one year in prison for exercising his fundamental rights. Imagine for a moment spending 12 months behind bars, 365 days unjustly imprisoned and not provided adequate healthcare, and 8,760 hours to reflect on this outrage. Please engage in an exercise in empathy. Take out your watch or cell phone and sit in silence for one minute as time passes, and imagine that minute multiplied 525,600 times that covers one year jailed.

Below is a protest music video that is part of the reason the dictatorship is targeting Maykel.

On May 3, 2022 the OAS General Secretariat expressed its concern about the health of Cuban political prisoners, and highlighted what is being done to Cuban children that are legally minors.

“To date 26 minors have been sentenced to prison or house arrest and face sentences of up to 19 years. Thirteen of them have been convicted of sedition. At least 14 minors are in prison and six are still awaiting trial. Among the 14, it is worth highlighting the cases of some who have been convicted of sedition, including Kendry Miranda Cárdenas, sentenced to 19 years; Rowland Jesús Castillo Castro, sentenced to 18 years; Lázaro Noel Urgelles Fajardo, sentenced to 14 years; Brandon David Becerra Curbelo, sentenced to 13 years; Emiyoslan Román Rodríguez, sentenced to 7 years; and Jonathan Torres Farrat, who is still awaiting trial for an 8-year sentence. Meanwhile, the Cuban regime has threatened the mothers of underage political prisoners so that they do not report, even with possible charges of sedition.”

Speaking up for your child is punished in Cuba. Rolando Castillo, father of Rowland Jesús Castillo Castro, mentioned above and serving an 18 year prison sentence for protesting on July 11, 2021, was arrested and subjected today to an “express trial” without an attorney and sentenced to two years in prison, with less than two hours notice of the trial. His son, Rowland was arrested at age 17, and turned 18 in prison and is now serving a prison sentence equal to his age.

Father and Son: Rowland Jesús Castillo Castro and his father Rolando Castillo

The OAS General Secretariat also alerted on the plight of Maykel Castillo Pérez, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and Lady in White Aymara Nieto who have been denied critical medical assistance.

“In this context, the OAS General Secretariat underlines that the health situation of Cuban political prisoners continues to be quite precarious, without access to crucial medicines and specialized assistance, and highlights the cases of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who has suffered paralysis in a part of his body; of Maykel Castillo Pérez, who still does not have a trial date; and Aymara Nieto, a member of the Damas de Blanco, who has been imprisoned since 2018. Political prisoners, including minors, have been denied medical assistance. Several of them have contracted scabies, dengue, hepatitis and Covid-19. Two minors with chronic illnesses have been denied necessary treatment. The denial of medical assistance to political prisoners seriously violates the most basic human rights. The OAS General Secretariat demands that the Cuban government urgently provide medication and treatment to political prisoners.”

On Sunday, May 15, 2022 the Cuban dictatorship ratified its new penal code that will come into full force after going to a drafting commission and then being published in the official gazette.

ABC News published on May 16, 2022 an article by the Associated Press titled “Rights groups say new Cuba penal code tougher on dissent” and reported that “[u]nder the new law, penalties of 10 to 30 years — in extreme cases even death — can be imposed on those who give information to international organizations, associations or even people who have not been authorized by the government.”

Cuban independent journalist and blogger Yoani Sanchez in her May 17th column “Cuba: A Penal Code to Bind Us All” highlights the significance of those targeted by the dictatorship for additional repression.

“When reading between the lines of the new regulations, and separating what it inherits from the previous Code in terms of penalizing common crimes, the great panics that keep Cuban leaders awake at night emerge. The independent press, activism, popular protests in the style of the one that occurred on July 11 (11J), and the possibility that individuals unite in initiatives to revoke the economic political system, these are at the center of the tremors that run through the Plaza of the Revolution.”

These outrages have not gone unnoticed. Over 1,000 human rights advocates, religious leaders, writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, former diplomats and academicians are appealing to UN General Assembly members to expel Cuba from the UN Human Rights Council, the list is growing and the petition is available for your signature.

Center for a Free Cuba, May 17, 2022

Center for a Free Cuba statement on new Biden Administration “measures to support the Cuban people”

The Biden Administration has announced what they described as “new measures to support the Cuban people.” One day earlier, the Cuban dictatorship approved a new penal code that further clamps down on independent journalists and human rights defenders with “penalties of 10 to 30 years—in extreme cases, even death” for giving “information to international organizations, associations, or even people who have not been authorized by the government.” Is this the proper moment to make one-sided concessions, yet again, to a military dictatorship?

The State Department released a fact sheet that claims they are “taking a series of measures” to increase support for Cubans in line with U.S. national security interests, but some of the specific actions empower the dictatorship and may endanger Americans. 

The Center welcomes the reunification of Cuban families, but the other elements of the measures outlined  raise concerns. Furthermore we lament that these measures do not address the fundamental root cause of the island’s humanitarian crisis: the internal blockade imposed by the dictatorship on Cubans, which reflects the totalitarian nature of the regime.

As we have seen, engagement with the communist dictatorship of China over the past 40 years, in a bipartisan consensus, has been costly both in terms of American lives, and in abandoning Chinese democrats. This pattern was repeated on a smaller scale during the 2009 – 2017 detente with Cuba.  Repression skyrocketed, opposition leaders were killed, jailed, or exiled, and U.S. diplomats were victims of health attacks in Havana, with many of the victims suffering brain damage.  The proposed new measures would increase the probability of such actions on the part of the regime.

Such measures do not address the need for a humanitarian corridor to directly assist Cubans.  The Cuban military through its conglomerate, the Grupo de Administración Empresarial S.A. (GAESA), and its sub-entity Gaviota, the military’s tourism arm, will profit from the expansion of authorized travel.  Expansion of travel does not support the oppressed Cuban people, but their oppressor.

With regards to U.S. national security, the educational exchanges have been used by Havana to recruit spies, blackmail Americans, and insert intelligence officials in academic conferences to  act as agents of influence and to spy. Why would we want to expand opportunities for these activities?

The family reunification policy will help some Cubans, but funding the dictatorship through travel and remittances to “independent Cuban entrepreneurs” who will be chosen by Havana will not free Cuba’s political prisoners or improve human rights on the island. This is a proposal that sounds progressive to naïve ears, but it will only further enhance the regime’s authority.

The Center is concerned that the timing of these measures gives a green light to the Castro regime to continue ratcheting up its repression against the Cuban people, will provide the military and secret police more resources to carry it out, and negatively impact U.S national security. This is not the time for us to embrace a regime that has opposed US diplomatic efforts in other venues, including most recently Ukraine.  Consistency is important.

https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2022/5/17/center-for-a-free-cuba-statement-on-new-biden-administration-measures-to-support-the-cuban-people

14ymedio, May 17, 2022

Cuba: A Penal Code to Bind Us All

​ Under the new Constitution, journalism not controlled by the Cuban Communist Party faces a demonizing of the access to funds from international organizations. (14ymedio

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 May 2022 — The new Cuban Penal Code, recently approved by the National Assembly and which will enter into force in the coming days, is a detailed compendium of the main fears of the ruling party. Like any authoritarian model, the island’s regime is forced to break down each prohibition and enumerate all the punishments, trying to anticipate even the new forms of confrontation and rejection that may arise from the citizenry.

When reading between the lines of the new regulations, and separating what it inherits from the previous Code in terms of penalizing common crimes, the great panics that keep Cuban leaders awake at night emerge. The independent press, activism, popular protests in the style of the one that occurred on July 11 (11J), and the possibility that individuals unite in initiatives to revoke the economic political system, these are at the center of the tremors that run through the Plaza of the Revolution.

Journalism not controlled by the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) bears one of the worst parts of this new legislation, which further demonizes the access of the independent press to funds and resources from international organizations and foundations. In a country where a group of men uses the public coffers at will to support their media of ideological propaganda, those same individuals try to cut off any financial oxygen that allows the existence of newspapers or magazines that annoy power. Only the PCC can carry out the exercise of content dissemination, under supervision and with censorship’s scissors ready to cut everything that does not benefit the Party.

However, the current twist already had its antecedents in the Gag Law for which 75 dissidents went to jail in the Black Spring of 2003 and which has never been repealed. So it can be interpreted more as an update to the new realities than the beginning of an unprecedented raid against the free flow of news. The growing popularity of information portals managed by independent journalists has put in check a dictatorship that, for decades, ruled from secrecy and absolute control of information dissemination.

Something similar occurs with article 120.1 of the new Code, which penalizes anyone who “arbitrarily exercises any right or freedom recognized in the Constitution of the Republic and endangers the constitutional order.” As in the Constitution the PCC is considered the superior force and leader of society; trying to change that and erect another alternative will result in a serious, very serious crime. However, a similar straitjacket already existed with the popularly called “constitutional mummification” which, without meeting the requirements of a referendum where voters were asked their position in favor or against the proposal, was imposed in 2002.

In short, if much of what is penalized in this legislation was already prohibited, in one way or another, in decrees, regulations and resolutions, it is worth asking the reasons for reinforcing this veto and expanding the punishments in the new Code. Everything indicates that it is a victory for the forces of immobility; we are facing the image of those bridges, the ones dynamited by the most retrograde to prevent democratic change from coming from within the Island, from springing up from ordinary people. This is, in reality, a glossary of the terrors of Castroism and its desperate attempts to stop what will come no matter what.

The Penal Code designed to bind us all points to the fact that it has been drafted by a system sunk in mistrust of society and in fear of the future.

________________________

Editorial Note: This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

https://translatingcuba.com/cuba-a-penal-code-to-bind-us-all/

ABC News, May 16, 2022

Rights groups say new Cuba penal code tougher on dissent

Cuba’s parliament has approved a new penal code that officials say modernizes the country’s laws but that human rights groups warn tightens already strict limits on dissent

B y The Associated Press

May 16, 2022, 5:31 PM

HAVANA — Cuba’s parliament has approved a new penal code that officials say modernizes the country’s laws but that human rights groups warn tightens already strict limits on dissent.

The law approved Sunday tightly controls unauthorized contacts with foreign organizations and individuals and explicitly bans foreign financing.

Supreme Court President Rubén Remigio Ferro called it “a modern, very inclusive code,” telling state television that it favors “prevention and education before repression” while imposing “sanctions with sufficient rigor” against crimes that affect “social peace and the stability of our nation.”

It will take effect after going to a drafting commission and then being published in the official gazette.

Cuban authorities have never had trouble punishing dissent they see as dangerous. Hundreds of people were arrested for taking part in July 2021 protests across the island and some were sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges such as sedition: Independent journalists have sometimes been jailed on various charges, often choosing eventually to leave the island.

Under the new law, penalties of 10 to 30 years — in extreme cases even death — can be imposed on those who give information to international organizations, associations or even people who have not been authorized by the government.

It eliminates the vague, widely offense of “precriminal dangerousness” that was sometimes used against dissidents, but creates new categories of crimes.

Those who insult or attack officials or civilians who are doing their “citizens’ duty” can be imprisoned for up to five years. A similar punishment can be imposed on those who “incite” against socialist order — and 10 years for those who use communications media to do so.

Among the most questioned clauses is the ban on any unauthorized financing from international or domestic sources that contributes to the commission of a crime. That section does not affect remittances from Cubans living abroad.

“With the new penal code, Cuban authorities continue to build an intricate and perverse legal regime of censorship and deal a devastating blow to independent journalists and outlets,” said Ana Cristina Núñez, the senior researcher for Latin American and the Caribbean for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

The new code reinforces penalties for corruption, speculation and hoarding.

Despite some complaints, it maintains a potential death penalty for 23 crimes — though that has not been applied since 2003 — and adds to sentences when crimes involve gender violence or crimes against minors and disabled people.

The age of criminal responsibility remains at 16.

This law “is a more direct way for the government to armor itself against civil society, against political dissidence,” said Saily González, an activist prominent in monitoring response to the 2021 protests.

The lawmakers declined to include a measure backed by Mariela Castro, daughter of former President Raúl Castro, to make femicide an explicit crime. Another deputy, Teresa Amarelle, leader of the Federation of Cuban Women said that wasn’t needed because of newly toughened punishment against gender violence.

https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/rights-groups-cuba-penal-code-tougher-dissent-84761547

Committee to Protect Journalists, May 16, 2022

CPJ condemns Cuba’s new penal code as a threat to independent media

May 16, 2022 1:25 PM EDT

Miami, May 16, 2022 – In response to news reports that on Sunday, May 15, the Cuban National Assembly passed an amendment to the penal code that could severely damage independent journalism, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement expressing alarm:

“We are alarmed by the passage of Cuba’s new penal code, which further criminalizes the work of independent journalists on the island by banning foreign funding and puts their existence and sustainability at dire risk,” said Ana Cristina Núñez, CPJ’s Latin American and the Caribbean senior researcher. “With the new penal code, Cuban authorities continue to build an intricate and perverse legal regime of censorship and deal a devastating blow to independent journalists and outlets.”

The amendment, originally proposed on January 20 by Cuba’s Supreme Tribunal, prohibits Cuban citizens from receiving foreign funds and could be used to silence independent journalists and outlets who rely on this type of funding to operate, as CPJ documented. The new code will take effect within 90 days, according to the same media reports.

https://cpj.org/2022/05/cpj-condemns-cubas-new-penal-code-as-a-threat-to-independent-media/

Center for a Free Cuba, May 16, 2022

Over 1,000 appeal to expel Cuba from the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington DC. May 16, 2022. Over 1,000 human rights advocates, religious leaders, writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, former diplomats and academicians appeal to members of the UN General Assembly to expel Cuba from the UN Human Rights Council.

Among the signatories are Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman of the Christian Liberation Movement, a prisoner of conscience who spent seven years in a Cuban prison; Paquito D’Rivera, Grammy-winning musician and composer; Hillel Neuer, Executive Director, UN Watch;  Dr. Jianli 建利 Yang 杨, President, Citizen Power Initiatives for China; Mary Curtis Horowitz, Chair, Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy; Guillermo Marmol, businessman and Chairman, Center for a Free Cuba; Dmytro Potekhin, Ukrainian civic activist and blogger; and Ambassador Everett Briggs, former U.S. ambassador to Portugal and Panama.

Also, among those signing, are: Rosa María Payá, founder and director, CubaDecide and Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana; Carlos Eire, author, and professor at Yale University; Ileana Fuentes, author, translator, feminist, human rights and democracy advocate; Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist and author; Sirley Ávila León, human rights activist and victim of regime orchestrated machete attack in 2015, and Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist.

Signers urge that the UN General Assembly invoke Article 8 of the Council’s founding resolution and remove Cuba’s Castro regime on account of its gross and systematic violations of human rights. More than ever, the world has to stand with the victims in Cuba, and not with the wrongdoer.

This appeal was sent to democratic governments, human rights organizations, and international figures on May 16, 2022 including eighteen listed below:

President of the United States of America Joe Biden

Prime Minister of Sweden Magdalena Andersson

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern

President of Slovakia Zuzana Čaputová

President of the Republic of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi

President of the Republic of Lithuania Gitanas Nausėda

President of Uruguay Luis Lacalle Pou,

President of the Republic of China Tsai Ing-wen

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet,

Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Petr Fiala, 

Chancellor of Germany Olaf Scholz

Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky

Prime Minister of Estonia Kaja Kallas

Prime Minister of Finland Sanna Marin

Prime Minister of Australia the Hon Scott Morrison MP

President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro

The Center for a Free Cuba (CFC) over the past three weeks has reported on the cases of Cuban political prisoners Eldris Gonzalez Pozo and Enrique Mustelier Sosa. Each demonstrates the dictatorship’s pattern of repression: denial of medical attention as punishment and judicial trials without due process. CFC also denounced the disappearance of Enrique Mustelier Sosa’s father, Enrique Mustelier Turro, while under custody of prison authorities. These are only two examples of the massive and systemic violations of human rights against Cubans

The petition remains open and available for signature on Change.org at https://chng.it/BzrY4Nyp. We will continue to update the list of signatories and expand the list of world leaders, and human rights defenders receiving the petition. 

https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2022/5/15/press-advisory-over-1000-appeal-to-expel-cuba-from-the-united-nations-human-rights-council

Organization of American States, May 3, 2022

OAS General Secretariat Expresses Concern over Health of Political Prisoners in Cuba

May 3, 2022

The General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) expresses its serious concern about the condition of underage political prisoners of the Cuban regime. The OAS General Secretariat continues to monitor the political and social situation in Cuba.

The OAS General Secretariat strongly condemns the persecution of youth and their leaders and expresses its deep concern over the cases of underage political prisoners. As of the date of this release, the arrest of at least 56 minors for participating in the demonstrations on July 11, 2021, has been documented by the Cuban organizations Justicia 11J and Cubalex.

To date, 26 minors have been sentenced to prison or house arrest and face sentences of up to 19 years. Thirteen of them have been convicted of sedition. At least 14 minors are in prison and six are still awaiting trial. Among the 14, it is worth highlighting the cases of some who have been convicted of sedition, including Kendry Miranda Cárdenas, sentenced to 19 years; Rowland Jesús Castillo Castro, sentenced to 18 years; Lázaro Noel Urgelles Fajardo, sentenced to 14 years; Brandon David Becerra Curbelo, sentenced to 13 years; Emiyoslan Román Rodríguez, sentenced to 7 years; and Jonathan Torres Farrat, who is still awaiting trial for an 8-year sentence. Meanwhile, the Cuban regime has threatened the mothers of underage political prisoners so that they do not report, even with possible charges of sedition.

In this context, the OAS General Secretariat underlines that the health situation of Cuban political prisoners continues to be quite precarious, without access to crucial medicines and specialized assistance, and highlights the cases of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who has suffered paralysis in a part of his body; of Maykel Castillo Pérez, who still does not have a trial date; and Aymara Nieto, a member of the Damas de Blanco, who has been imprisoned since 2018. Political prisoners, including minors, have been denied medical assistance. Several of them have contracted scabies, dengue, hepatitis and Covid-19. Two minors with chronic illnesses have been denied necessary treatment. The denial of medical assistance to political prisoners seriously violates the most basic human rights. The OAS General Secretariat demands that the Cuban government urgently provide medication and treatment to political prisoners.

The General Secretariat of the OAS denounces the generalized repression of the Cuban regime and the continuation of human rights violations. Specifically with respect to the denial of documentation to Cuban men and women who have been forced to leave their country, this violates their freedom of movement. The deprivation of legal documentation to those who are considered to be in opposition to the regime indicates a violation of the right to recognition of their legal personality.

For this reason, the OAS General Secretariat demands once again the immediate release of all political prisoners who are arbitrarily incarcerated, while stressing that it is essential to remain vigilant to the evolution of their health and physical integrity conditions.

Reference: E-024/22

https://www.oas.org/en/media_center/press_release.asp?sCodigo=E-024/22