CubaBrief: Dictatorship threatens Cubans with prison if they join protests. Cuban EWTN correspondent fined and threatened by Castro regime. Past time to kick Cuba off UN Human Rights Council

Eduardo Berdejo’s article “Cuba Threatens Citizens to Keep Them From Joining Demonstrations” published in the National Catholic Register on October 21, 2022 cites Eduardo Cardet, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), who wrote on the organization’s website that “police are threatening residents of Velasco, Holguín, including Yordan Mariño, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement.” Residents, including Yordan, who have participated in public demonstrations “have been summoned for having participated in the peaceful protest of last October 12.”

Yordan Mariño, MCL

On October 15, 2022 at 2:00 pm, at his home in Velasco, Eduardo Cardet Concepción while talking on the phone long distance with Carlos Alberto Paya Sardiñas, the MCL representative in Spain, two Cuban government officials arrived, who did not identify themselves and told him that he had to accompany them to the city of Holguin.

“Supposedly the arrest was due to my participation in the march on the 12th (for disorderly conduct), they accused me of having instigated it… and threatened me with prison if I participated in something similar again,” Cardet tweeted.

These are not idle threats.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed by State Security on July 22, 2012.

Cardet’s predecessor, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, was killed by State Security on July 22, 2012 together with MCL’s youth leader Harold Cepero.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet, was arrested and beaten in front of his family on November 30, 2016 for providing a critical assessment of Fidel Castro’s legacy, following the dictator’s death on November 25, 2016. He would suffer beatings, stabbings, and arbitrary detention over the next two years and ten months. Amnesty International recognized Dr. Cardet as a prisoner of conscience. He was released from prison in May 2019, but remained under house arrest until September 30, 2019.

Eduardo Cardet, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL)

Show trials and new detentions continued to take place in Cuba. Justicia11J on October 18, 2022 updated the number of Cubans arbitrarily detained since the July 11, 2021 protests that they have been able to document to 1,753. Since Jun 14, 2022 152 Cubans have been jailed for taking part in protests.

The dictatorship in Cuba is systematically denying Cubans their right to peaceful assembly and free expression. They have been repeatedly called out for it by UN special rapporteurs, but continue to remain on the UN Human Rights Council.

Government repressors have been caught on camera beating down women peacefully protesting in Cuba.

Esmeralda Cárdenas Hidalgo knocked down by Castro regime agent.

Esmeralda Cárdenas Hidalgo was knocked to the ground by the force of a blow to the face by a government repressor during protests, in El Vedado, Havana, on October 1, 2022.

Esmeralda was crossing the park near the protest area when she saw a man holding a young woman by the throat. She came to her defense, and asked the man (in the red shirt in the photo) to release her, highlighting the fact that she was underage. Then, the government repressor “turned and slapped me, pushed me (…). That man was angry,” Esmeralda stressed. She still has injuries that have not healed on her hands, elbow, and on the side of her face.

U.S. government sent the wrong signals

The Castro dictatorship issued a new draconian penal code on May 15, 2022 to further clamp down on free expression and free assembly. Regrettably, the next day the Biden Administration announced it was loosening sanctions on Havana. This sent the wrong signal to the Castro regime.

The response is more repression against Cubans in the island combined with more requests to the United States for lifting sanctions, and assistance.

This could provide more resources to the dictatorship to repress, while seeding anti-Americanism among Cubans. It would be bad policy for the United States and the Cuban people, but great for the Castro dictatorship, and other enemies of the United States.

Havana pleads poverty while the Castro family and the military oligarchy that run the country get rich.

Families from La Coloma, the fishing village in Cuba where Hurricane Ian entered the island, had been living in temporary shelters since Hurricane Lili destroyed their homes in 2002.  Twenty years later, and they still have not received the assistance promised by Havana  Over those same two decades, Castro’s military conglomerate GAESA, which had only 10% of the tourism market with less than 4,000 guest rooms in the 1990s, was transformed into the undisputed leader of the hotel sector, with over 100,000 guest rooms. GAESA has become the major investor, wielding such financial power that, contrary to MINTUR’s own entities, it never has to accept the participation of foreign capital in its hotel construction plans.

Tower K going up in Havana with government funding.

Nevertheless, the Castro regime cried poverty, requested help from the United States and continued pushing for U.S. taxpayers to subsidize the dictatorship as their European, and Latin American counterparts have been doing for years.

Draconian measures go online

Decree Law 370 brought into force after the 11J protests has as an objective shutting down independent media and voices from reaching other Cubans and the outside world.

Adrián Martínez Cádiz, EWTN correspondent in Havana, on October 21, 2022 was summoned to the  the Plaza de la Revolución Police Station, interrogated by a lieutenant colonel who threatened him with prison and fined  Adrián “3,000 Cuban pesos (about $125) for having criticized the regime on social media.” According to the Catholic News Agency, “the Territorial Control Office of the Cuban Ministry of Communications issued an official document in which it determined that the journalist violated Decree Law 370 by ‘disseminating, through public data transmission networks, information contrary to the interests of society, morals, good customs, and people’s safety.’”

This dynamic has also been seen at play in Iran in recent years.

Yasmin Green in her article published in Wired, “Iran’s Internet Blackouts Are Part of a Global Menace” touched on how bad state actors Iran and Cuba learn from each other in repressive practices, that include shutting down the internet.

“As we keep our eyes trained on the developing situation in Iran, it is critical to acknowledge that it is not an isolated event. Even since the protests in Iran began, Cuba has cut access to the internet twice in response to protests over the government’s handling of the response to Hurricane Ian. Around the world, a troubling number of nations have severely curtailed internet freedom, including full shutdowns, as their default response to popular protests. The most repressive of these regimes learn from each other, sharing technology and in some cases even personnel to establish an ironclad grip on the web and their citizens.”

What can you do?

What can the international community do? Stop appeasing these dictatorships and hold them accountable. It’s significant that Venezuela recently lost its bid to join the UN Human Rights Council at the UN General Assembly.

Due to Cuba’s awful record on human rights, backing for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and teaching Venezuelan repressors how to torture Venezuelan dissidents, it should be promptly removed from the Council.

Take action and sign the petition to expel Cuba from the UN Human Rights Council.

National Catholic Register, October 21, 2022

Cuba Threatens Citizens to Keep Them From Joining Demonstrations

In September Hurricane Ian left Cuba without electricity for a time, and protests began breaking out in cities such as Holguín, Guanabacoa, and Havana demanding the restoration of power.

(photo: Screenshot / Twitter via CNA)

By Eduardo Berdejo/CNA/Aci Prensa World October 21, 2022

Eduardo Cardet, coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), charged that the residents of Velasco, a town in the Cuban province of Holguín, are being threatened with jail to prevent them from continuing to participate in the demonstrations calling for freedom for the island.

“The Police are threatening residents of Velasco, Holguín, including Yordan Mariño, a member of the Christian Liberation Movement,” Cardet wrote on the MCL website.

Cardet said that Mariño was summoned Oct. 18 by the police “to threaten him with imprisonment if he participated again in any type of public demonstration.”

The national coordinator of the MCL said that during that day “many people from the town of Velasco have been summoned for having participated in the peaceful protest of last October 12.”

“The tone has been similar, threats and official written warnings,” he said.

In the case of Mariño, Cardet said that the activist “refused to sign a written warning incriminating him, among other things, for having instigated the protest.”

Cardet was also detained by the police for a few hours and was threatened with a prison sentence if he again attended the demonstrations that have been taking place in Cuba since the end of September.

“Supposedly the arrest was due to my participation in the march on the 12th (for disorderly conduct), they accused me of having instigated it… and threatened me with prison if I participated in something similar again,” Cardet tweeted.

In March 2017 Cardet was sentenced to three years in prison following a sham trial on trumped up charges of attacking law enforcement, scandal, and disorderly conduct after he had criticized the legacy of Fidel Castro. In May 2019 he was released on parole and completed his sentence.

In September Hurricane Ian left Cuba without electricity for a time, and protests began breaking out in cities such as Holguín, Guanabacoa, and Havana demanding the restoration of power.

The founder of the pro-democracy Cuba Decides initiative, Rosa María Payá Acevedo, tweeted Sept. 30 that agents of the government, dressed in civilian clothes, were cracking down on the protests taking place in Havana for the fourth consecutive night.

The daughter of deceased Catholic pro-democracy leader, Oswaldo Payá, pointed out that “they’re all trained to repress” and that most belong to the Armed Forces or the Ministry of the Interior. “They’re soldiers in disguise,” she charged in a follow up tweet Oct. 2.

“In exchange, the regime gives them a couple of privileges over the widespread misery that exists in Cuba. This morning the repression was brutal,” she said.

Catholic News Agency (CNA), October 21, 2022

Cuban dictatorship fines EWTN correspondent and threatens him during interrogation

Adrián Martínez Cádiz, EWTN correspondent | Credit: EWTN News

By CNA Staff

Denver Newsroom, Oct 21, 2022 / 15:00 pm

On Friday, the police of the dictatorship in Cuba interrogated Adrián Martínez Cádiz, EWTN correspondent in Havana, and later fined him 3,000 Cuban pesos (about $125) for having criticized the regime on social media.

The Territorial Control Office of the Cuban Ministry of Communications issued an official document in which it determined that the journalist violated Decree Law 370 by “disseminating, through public data transmission networks, information contrary to the interests of society, morals, good customs, and people’s safety.”

Therefore, continues the Oct. 21 document, “the competent authority proceeded to impose a fine for a value of 3,000” pesos.

In a statement to EWTN Noticias, Martínez said that he attended the summons at the Plaza de la Revolución Police Station around 10 a.m., where he was interrogated for an hour by a lieutenant colonel.

“He treated me very badly, he raised his voice at me in a very bad way, he told me to shut up the times I wanted to explain something,” Martínez lamented.

Martínez said that the officer “threatened several times to put me in jail for my posts on social media. … They allege that I create ‘memes’ against the president, which isn’t true.”

Before being fined, the officer began to fill out an official written warning in order for the journalist to make a commitment to the Cuban State.

“He told me that he was officially warning me that I could be criminally prosecuted if I continue to publish,” the journalist said.

According to the Cuban Penal Code, any police officer can issue a “official warning document” against a person if he perceives that he is in a “dangerous pre-criminal state” or if he has ties to “potentially dangerous people.”

The EWTN correspondent refused to “commit” and sign the document. The officer then allowed him to leave.

“I’m at peace. I’m happy to have left the station and find myself with a great family: four priests who were able to come along (and wait outside). I feel that I have received all the prayers and that the Lord has been with me at this time,” he concluded.

In April 2021, Martínez, who also serves as executive secretary of youth ministry in Havana, reported on social media that he received death threats from a supporter of the Castro regime, who accused him of being too critical of the dictatorship.

The individual, who passed by Martínez on a motorcycle, threatened him with “getting stabbed twice.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Human Rights Watch, October 13, 2022

Venezuela Denied a Seat at the UN Human Rights Council

Published in: infobae

By Tamara Taraciuk Broner Deputy Director, Americas Division

Martina Rapido Ragozzino Research Assistant, Americas Division

The name plate at Venezuela’s desk at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. Venezuela was denied another term on the council on October 11, 2022. © 2017 REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

On October 11, 193 UN member states cast their secret ballots at the UN General Assembly to select members for the UN’s top rights body, the Human Rights Council. Venezuela was kicked out from the council.

Seventeen countries ran for 14 spots on the 47-nation council for 2023-2025. Venezuela — a country where UN independent experts found evidence that high- level authorities are implicated in crimes against humanity — was one of three candidates for two seats for the Latin America and Caribbean group, running against Chile and Costa Rica.

Most other regional groups did not offer competition on their slates. Noncompetitive regional slates — in which the number of candidates is the same as seats to be filled — hand candidates seats on the council whether or not they deserve them.

In the Latin America and the Caribbean region, UN member states had the chance to choose, and they chose wisely. Chile was elected with 144 votes and Costa Rica with 134, while Venezuela got only 88 of the minimum 97 votes required for a seat.

With China, Eritrea, and Cuba already on the council, and other states with abysmal records elected for new positions, including Bangladesh and Vietnam, the UN rights body will benefit from having one less member that is a walking advertisement for torture and other abuses, and impunity. 

Venezuela is a blatant example of governments that do not deserve a seat at the table. 

The Nicolás Maduro government is continuing its crackdown on dissent. The country had 244 political prisoners as of September, according to the Venezuelan organization Foro Penal, many in detention centers run by the intelligence services, to which the UN rights office no longer has access. Detainees have faced electric shocks, waterboarding, sexual violence, and other torture. 

Security forces killed at least 19,000 people between 2016-2019 in incidents largely officially recorded as “resistance to authorities,” a designation that in practice includes extrajudicial killings. The repression, and the ongoing humanitarian emergency, have forced  over 7.1 million Venezuelans to flee their country – the largest migration crisis in the region and one of the most serious globally. 

Since 2020, the UN Fact-Finding Mission to Venezuela has found evidence of serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity, including evidence that prosecutors and judges played a direct role in the  repression. In November 2021, the International Criminal Court’s Office of the Prosecutor opened its first investigation in Latin America to examine allegations of international crimes committed in Venezuela. In September, the Fact-Finding Mission published a report detailing that the chain of command in the commission of these crimes by the intelligence services implicates Maduro himself.  

The Human Rights Council renewed the mission’s mandate on October 7, so it can continue documenting ongoing abuses and ensure accountability. The Venezuelan government’s representative shamefully intervened at the council during the vote attempting — unsuccessfully— to disrupt states expressing their support and calling for council member-states to vote in favor of the resolution. The representative threatened that the resolution would undermine cooperation with the UN high commissioner and possible political negotiations for a transition to democracy. It went wrong.

In 2019, Venezuela narrowly won a seat at the council. During its tenure, Venezuela voted against a council resolution to establish a group of human rights experts on Nicaragua, despite a brutal crackdown on government critics and opponents with arbitrary arrests and prosecutions. In the latest Council session in Geneva, from September 12 to October 7,  Venezuela voted against debating the UN high commissioner for human rights’ report documenting crimes against humanity in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China and  establishing a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Russia.  

UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which created the Human Rights Council requires members to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” at home and abroad and “fully cooperate with the council.” . 

All states sitting at the Council should be willing to be subject to international scrutiny about their human rights records. Venezuelan authorities have undertaken a strategy of apparent, but not genuine, engagement with the Human Rights Council’s procedures and has tried to block any international scrutiny.

Allowing Venezuela’s abusive government to stay on the council for three more years would have undermined the UN’s credibility by rewarding Venezuelan authorities a role in judging other countries’ human rights while they brutalize their population.  

Now, regardless of where they place themselves on the ideological spectrum, governments, particularly Latin American ones, should continue to look for avenues to promote accountability for atrocities in Venezuela. No negotiated solution to transition back to democracy is possible without incentives—and international pressure and accountability, including at the Human Rights Council, are essential to create them.