CubaBrief: Cuban-Canadian files request with Canada’s Department of Global Affairs to slap sanctions on officials in Cuba for repression against Cuban demonstrators in July 2021

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) was shot in the back and killed by dictatorship’s agents on July 12, 2022. He was unarmed.

Democratic Spaces, founded and directed by Michael Lima, a Cuban-Canadian, is filing a request with the Department of Global Affairs’ sanctions policy and operations co-ordination division on Monday morning [ for Canada to slap sanctions on officials in Cuba for Havana’s repression of demonstrators in July 2021]. Mr. Lima is a human-rights activist and researcher,” reported Globe And Mail.

This application is backed by Cuba Decide,  a citizen initiative founded by Cuban activist Rosa Maria Paya that works to change Cuba’s political system and restore the rule of law. Her father, Oswaldo Paya, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, was killed by Castro’s secret police in 2012 in a regime engineered car accident. Also killed on that day was the movement’s youth leader, Harold Cepero.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante killed on July 22, 2012 by the Castro dictatorship.

There is an effort to raise awareness on Cuba in Canada, and for the Canadian government to hold Havana accountable for its crimes against the Cuban people.

On June 13, 2022 in the Toronto Star, Orlando Gutierrez of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance published an OpEd that called Canadian tourists to task for subsidizing repression in Cuba through their visits to the Caribbean island.

Over a thousand prisoners of conscience in Cuba taken during the 11J protests. Photo by YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

The Center circulated a petition earlier this year, of which Cuba Decide was a signatory, calling for democracies, including Canada, to take action for the Cuban people, and against the dictatorship in Cuba as follows.

  • Denounce the crackdown on pro-democracy activists, and advise Cuban officials of further sanctions due to ongoing repression.

  • Call on the UN Security Council to respond to the situation by sending a delegation to Cuba, and by establishing a humanitarian corridor for direct emergency assistance to needy Cubans without regime participation, and a referral of the situation in Cuba to the International Criminal Court.

  • Establish a global arms embargo on Cuba.

  • Suspend economic and military cooperation agreements with the Cuban dictatorship, such as the EU-Cuba cooperation agreement.

  • Apply Magnitsky Sanctions to regime repressors.

  • Carry out a public diplomacy campaign on the internal blockade officials impose on Cubans, which results in hunger and suffering in Cuba and the imprisonment of Cuban farmers who dare to sell their chicken and vegetables directly to the population.

A copy of this petition was sent to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office, and a reply was received from Avery Oldford, the Executive Correspondence Officer for Prime Minister Trudeau, in which she indicated that the petition had also been shared with the Honourable Mélanie Joly, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs. The petition is still open and accepting signatures at Change.org.

Request made to democracies in September 2021 to apply Magnitsky Sanctions against Diaz-Canel.

There is a strong case to apply Magnitsky Sanctions against Cuban president Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermúdez, and the Center for a Free Cuba and Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation provided a partial summary making the case, and delivered it to several democracies, including Canada on September 23, 2021.

Globe And Mail, November 14, 2022

Canada asked to hit Cuba with sanctions for repressing thousands after major protests

Steven Chase
Senior parliamentary reporter

A Cuban-Canadian rights group is formally requesting that Ottawa slap sanctions on officials in Cuba for Havana’s repression of demonstrators at a July, 2021, protest.

Democratic Spaces, founded and directed by Michael Lima, a Cuban-Canadian, is filing a request with the Department of Global Affairs’ sanctions policy and operations co-ordination division on Monday morning. Mr. Lima is a human-rights activist and researcher.

“Levels of repression in Cuba today are the highest in two decades,” Mr. Lima said.

This application is supported by Cuba Decide, a group founded by Cuban activist Rosa Maria Paya that seeks a plebiscite on the future of Cuba, a single-party authoritarian state. Her father, famous Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, died in 2012 in a car accident.

On July 11, 2021, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in dozens of cities, from Havana to Santiago, calling for President Miguel Diaz-Canel to step down, in what international media called the biggest anti-government demonstrations on the Communist-run island in decades.

The protests erupted amid Cuba’s worst economic crisis since the fall of the Soviet Union, its old ally, and a record surge in coronavirus infections, with people voicing anger over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties and the authorities’ handling of the pandemic.

The government’s reaction was “brutal, systematic repression and censorship,” according to Human Rights Watch, an international rights group. What followed, it said, constituted “human-rights violations against well-known government critics and ordinary citizens,” as well as “harassment, arbitrary detention, abuse-ridden prosecutions, beatings, and other cases of ill-treatment that in some cases constitute torture.”

Cuban authorities “routinely subjected many of those detained to brutal abuses, including gender-based violence, in detention, and prosecuted dozens in trials that violated basic due process guarantee,” Human Rights Watch said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who once praised former Cuban authoritarian leader Fidel Castro as “remarkable” and a “larger than life leader who served his people,” nevertheless publicly criticized Havana in July, 2021. He said Canada was “deeply concerned by the violent crackdown on protests by the Cuban regime” and condemned “the arrests and repression by the authorities of peaceful demonstrators.”

Canada did not follow up with sanctions, however.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly’s office offered no explanation Sunday after being asked why Canada has not imposed sanctions on Cuban officials.

Spokesman James Emmanuel Wanki only noted that Canada has expressed “deep concerns over the violent crackdown on protests in Cuba,” and said Ottawa stands “with the people of Cuba in their aspiration for democracy.”

Mr. Wanki said of particular concern are Havana’s “repressive measures against peaceful protesters, journalists and activists, and arbitrary detention.” He said Canada also condemns Cuba’s “harsh sentencing” of protesters.

Madrid-based Prisoners Defenders, a rights group, has estimated that between 2,000 and 8,000 Cubans were detained by authorities after the protests.

It also said that as of Oct. 31, 1,027 persons, including 34 minors, are still missing or detained since the July 11 protests.

Mr. Lima and Sarah Teich, one of the lawyers assisting with this application, note that Canada has followed tough criticism of other authoritarian governments with sanctions.

They point out that Canada has imposed “numerous targeted sanctions on Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan officials in response to their commission of gross human-rights violations” in those respective countries.

“Sanctions often follow condemnation when it’s meaningful condemnation,” Ms. Teich said. She’s working with human-rights lawyer David Matas on the application.

The request to Global Affairs asks Canada to apply targeted sanctions on 10 Cuban government officials, including Mr. Diaz-Canel, who it alleges are “responsible for gross violations of human rights, particularly in the aftermath of the July 11, 2021, protests.”

Others it suggests are Alvaro Lopez Miera, a Cuban army corps general and Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, and Lazaro Alberto Alvarez Casas, the division general of the minister of the interior. The United States has applied sanctions on nine of these 10 people. It has not slapped sanctions on Cuba’s President.

The complainants also ask Canada to place sanctions on two entities: the Black Berets brigade of Cuba’s Interior Ministry, which Human Rights Watch named in its reporting on the crackdown, as well as the Red Berets, also called Prevention Troops, of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces. The United States has slapped sanctions on both groups.

“The United States has used its Magnitsky legislation to impose a variety of targeted sanctions on Cuban officials and entities with responsibility for the human-rights violations in the aftermath of the July 11 protests. Canada should do the same and impose targeted sanctions,” Mr. Lima and his colleagues said in the letter.

Human Rights Watch said its research indicates that the July, 2021, demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful. “Many protesters chanted ‘Liberty!’ or ‘Motherland and life,’ referencing a song performed by Cuban artists that repurposes the Cuban government’s old slogan, ‘Motherland or death,’ and criticizes repression in the country,” the group said.

With a report from Reuters

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-cuba-sanctions-protests/

Toronto Star, June 15, 2022

Canadians care for Cuba, but in a careless way

Your tourism dollars and many of your corporations are supporting tyranny, injustice, and human rights abuses in Cuba. And things are getting worse.

By Orlando Gutierrez Boronat Contributor Wed., June 15, 2022

Seduction is a powerful force in our world. It has always been this way. The cunning, the beautiful, but especially the strong, when ill-intentioned, lure their prey into submission through it and then use a threatening show of force and lies to keep their prey subservient and subjugated.

Bienvenidos to the world of Cuba, land of the romantic getaway, “worker’s paradise” and a country where everyone is “educated,” but among the poorest of the poor, and where misinformation is common currency.

Do Canadians know the real Cuba? Savvy as Canadians are in worldly affairs, and notwithstanding the halo around your international humanitarian aid record, it pains me to break it to you — most Canadians are careless when it comes to Cuba. Your tourism dollars, and too many of your corporations, are supporting tyranny, injustice, and human rights abuses on our island. And things are getting worse.

For more than 60 long years, Cuba has been ruled by an abusive, undemocratic, and fearful military government regime. The vast majority of Cubans have been waiting patiently for free elections, their rights to be restored, and a more effective decentralized economy that encourages entrepreneurship, creation of wealth, and innovation.

Instead, they’ve endured continual abuse and repression at the hands of the one-party socialist system that sucks away wealth, stifles innovation, and only succeeds at making everyone equally poor — with the exception of the military ruling class.

To make things worse, Cubans must endure the endless barrage of tourists who unwittingly fall into the trap set for them by the Communist Party of Cuba — the only party allowed to think and act on the island. The travelers come with cash, romanticized images of revolutionary fighters, and occasional goody bags for my people. Unbeknownst to them, the main beneficiary of their travels and good intentions is the illegitimate, criminal government that rules with an iron fist.

In Cuba, more than 70 per cent of the hotels and all of the economy are controlled by the government. Research reveals that, for every dollar expended into the Cuban economy, 80 cents find its way directly into the coffers of the military. This is the same group that sentenced more than 400 demonstrators last July with jail terms of up to 30 years after a peaceful protest involving tens of thousands of ordinary Cubans who called for greater freedoms.

In fact, over the past three years, under the cover of COVID and, more recently, war on Ukraine, the Cuban government has ratcheted up its repression. Though painful, it has galvanized groups around the world to slowly awake from their slumber to express solidarity toward the Cuban people.

In Argentina, for example, two NGOs recently set up stands with books by banned Cuban authors at the 2022 Book Fair to encourage their citizens to consider human rights issues on the island. In Spain, several political parties linked arms in public marches to call for an end to Cuban repression. Yet still many Canadians remain oblivious to the realities of life in Cuba.

In 2022, the World Bank established that the threshold for poverty in Latin America is a salary of approximately $2.15 per day or less. After decades of full socialism imposed by force and supported by ignorance or indifference from other nations, the average income of a worker in Cuba is between $20 and $25 per month. Is this a country worth supporting with your travel dollars? More apropos: is this not a situation worth denouncing and resisting?

At first glance, Canadians seem committed to human rights and freedoms, democracy, and peacekeeping. Over the years, while focusing our efforts on the United States, we’ve forgotten that Canadians play one of the biggest roles in supporting our oppressors.

I’m happy you care. Now let’s do something that can actually help our people for real and for good.

Dr. Orlando Gutierrez Boronat is a member of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance. He was born in Havana in 1965 and lives in Miami.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2022/06/15/canadians-care-for-cuba-but-in-a-careless-way.html

Center for a Free Cuba, January 2, 2022

Appeal for end to repression in Cuba and release of all Cuban political prisoners

Since 1989 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been permitted to inspect conditions in Cuban prisons, although between 2002 and the present the ICRC visited detainees over 100 times at the United States Guantanamo Naval Base prison in eastern Cuba. Cuba is the only country in the Americas that Amnesty International, and other independent human rights monitors, cannot visit, and where independent human rights groups are considered illegal.

This reality takes on a new urgency following the July 11, 2021 national non-violent protests, and the intensification of the crackdown on November 15, 2021 that marks a worsening period of repression.  Father José Castor Alvarez Devesa, a Cuban Catholic priest, who was present at the 11J protests to bear witness was beaten up, detained, and after international press attention was brought to his plight, released. Father Castor is facing criminal charges and has been banned from traveling pending his trial.

On July 16, 2021 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stated, “I am very concerned at the alleged use of excessive force against demonstrators in Cuba and the arrest of a large number of people, including several journalists.” … “It is particularly worrying that these include individuals allegedly held incommunicado and people whose whereabouts are unknown. All those detained for exercising their rights must be promptly released.” … “I deeply regret the death of one protester in the context of protests in Havana – it is important that there be an independent, transparent, effective investigation, and that those responsible are held accountable.” … “I urge the Government to address the protesters’ grievances through dialogue, and to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to peaceful assembly and to freedom of opinion and expression.”

Cuba’s response has been to worsen the conditions of the prisoners. Over 5,000 were detained during and after the July 11th protests. Only 1,227 detained Cubans, related to the protests that began on July 11th, have been identified, and another 80 detained around the November 15th Civic March. Twenty-one of the detainees are minors. The majority remain jailed with trials underway that fall far short of international norms; for example, peaceful protestors are being given prison terms in excess of 20 years.

In August 2021 Decree Law 35 was passed further censoring speech on the internet, and threatening fines and imprisonment for speaking critically of the Cuban government in social media and on cyber networks.

The situation today requires your urgent attention.

Prisoners of conscience such as Maykel Castillo Pérez, Franco Benítez, Esteban Rodríguez, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Yandier García Labrada, José Daniel Ferrer García, Felix Navarro Rodriguez, Virgilio Mantilla Arango, Roberto Pérez Fonseca, Eloy Bárbaro Cardoso Pedroso, are in a precarious condition in facilities where COVID-19, Hepatitis, and other diseases run rampant with zero outside oversight.  

Cuban officials have provided their supporters with clubs and assault weapons and urged them to show up in Cuban public spaces to conduct acts of intimidation. The government published over social media explicit threats of violence heading up to the November 15th civic marches. Officials claim Archipelago, which advocates non-violence is linked to “subversive organizations” with the “open intention of changing the political system in Cuba.”

A group of Catholic priests released a public letter calling on the regime to not  repress the nonviolent protests and to Cubans “not to raise your hand against another Cuban.” Cuban bishops also issued a statement calling for a national dialogue, the release of those still detained for the events of this past summer, and a rejection of violence.

We reaffirm our support of human rights in Cuba and call on democracies to stand together to condemn the regime’s attempt to suppress and oppress civil society in order to perpetuate its rule, and prevent a rebirth of democracy. Inaction is not an option.

We call on the Cuban dictatorship 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.

In addition, we urge that democracies:

  • Denounce the crackdown on pro-democracy activists, and advise Cuban officials of further sanctions due to ongoing repression.

  • Call on the UN Security Council to respond to the situation by sending a delegation to Cuba, and by establishing a humanitarian corridor for direct emergency assistance to needy Cubans without regime participation, and a referral of the situation in Cuba to the International Criminal Court.

  • Establish a global arms embargo on Cuba.

  • Suspend economic and military cooperation agreements with the Cuban dictatorship, such as the EU-Cuba cooperation agreement.

  • Apply Magnitsky Sanctions to regime repressors.

  • Carry out a public diplomacy campaign on the internal blockade officials impose on Cubans, which results in hunger and suffering in Cuba and the imprisonment of Cuban farmers who dare to sell their chicken and vegetables directly to the population.

Finally, we call on Catholic bishops across the world to:

  • Issue statements backing their Cuban counterparts’ call for the release of Cubans jailed for the events of July 2021 and before, and a rejection of violence by the regime.

  • Include the freedom of Cuba’s political prisoners, justice for the victims of repression, and national reconciliation for Cuba in prayers said at Mass.

We hope that in this critical time democracies will implement the above recommended measures, and side with the Cuban people rather than the dictatorship that oppresses them.

We would be remiss if at a time when the Summit of Democracy is being held we did not also call on democracies to also do everything possible to help victims of repression in North Korea, Burma (Myanmar), China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Russia, and Belarus.

Partial list of signatories,

Guillermo Marmol, businessman and Chairman, Center for a Free Cuba

Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Paquito D’Rivera, Grammy-winning musician and composer

Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis, Member of Parliament, Lithuania

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

Aaron Rhodes, President of the Forum for Religious Freedom-Europe and former director, International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights

Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman, Movimiento Cristiano Liberación.

Jorge Olivera Castillo, journalist, poet, and dissident.

Mary Curtis Horowitz, Chair, Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy

Martin Lessenthin, Spokesman of the Board, ISHR – International Society for Human Rights German Section

Ambassador Everett Ellis Briggs, Cuba-born, member of the U.S. Foreign Service, retired

Carlos Eire, Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University

Amalia Dache, Professor, Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Yang Jianli, President, Citizen Power Initiatives for China

Sebastián Arcos, human rights activist, assistant director, Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute

Carlos Ponce, Senior Fellow and Director of Latin American Programs, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Sirley Ávila León, human rights activist and and victim of regime orchestrated machete attack in 2015.

Rosa María Payá, founder and director, CubaDecide and Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana

Dr. Eduardo Zayas-Bazán, Professor Emeritus East Tennessee State University

Reverend Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, presbyter, founder and coordinator, Patmos Institute

Anna Lee Stangl, CSW Head of Advocacy

Ileana Fuentes, author, translator, feminist, human rights and democracy advocate

Roland A. Alum, Anthropologist

Achy Obejas, novelist, journalist

Frank Calzón, political scientist, human rights advocate, and author

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Cuban writer, PhD at Washington University in Saint Louis, MO.

Victor J. Pujals, Engineer

Josefina Vento, DDS, dentist

Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist

John Suarez, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba

To sign this petition visit here: https://chng.it/Pq5hG9fc

https://www.cubacenter.org/petitions/2022/1/2/appeal-for-end-to-repression-in-cuba-and-release-of-all-cuban-political-prisoners