CubaBrief: Manuel Vázquez Portal of the “Group of the 75” presents his book “Marked Letters” tomorrow night in Miami. Cuban Spring at 20. Updates on three Cuban prisoners of conscience.

Marked Letters “Cartas marcadas“, a new book written by poet, journalist, and former prisoner of conscience Manuel Vázquez Portal during his imprisonment in Cuba, will be presented at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora tomorrow Friday, June 9, 2023 at 7:30pm at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora (1200 Coral Way, Miami, Fl 33145) , as part of the Gathering: “The other corner of words”.  The book is a compilation of letters written to his wife and son from Cuba’s eastern prisons of Aguadores and Boniato. The book was compiled and edited by the Berlin-based publishing house Iliad, and presents a testimony of the price of exercising freedom of expression in totalitarian Cuba under Castroism.

The event will be held in Spanish, and the Center for a Free Cuba is promoting it.  The book, Marked LettersCartas marcadas“, is available online at Amazon.com.

“These letters are the expression of human rebellion against injustice through that gift of divinity that God gave us: love,” explains Berta Medina in the book’s prologue. Manuel Vázquez Portal was jailed in March 2003 during a crackdown on dissidents in Cuba known as the Black Cuban Spring that ended with 75 Cubans imprisoned for thinking differently from the official creed of Castorism.  The names of the prisoner of conscience, their age at the time of arrest, and prison sentences are available online. (Source: Amnesty, 2003). Manuel Vázquez was released on June 23, 2004 due to a strong international campaign for his release. 

It is also important to recall that the “Black Cuban Spring” of March 18, 2003 does not encompass the totality of the Cuban Spring that preceded it. The Center for a Free Cuba on March 18, 2023 hosted the panel discussion “End of the Cuban Spring?  Conversation with Antonio Diaz Sanchez, José Miguel Martínez Hernández, and Regis Iglesias Ramírez of the Christian Liberation Movement.”  The discussion in Spanish was moderated by Sebastián Arcos Cazabon, and is available online.

For English speakers, there is a documentary that stands out from that period, The Spring of Cuba La Primavera de Cuba, filmed on the island before and after the crackdown that captures that moment in time filmed by Czech – Chilean journalist Carlos Gonzalez with English subtitles.

Twenty years after the crackdown, two of the dissidents jailed in 2003 were jailed again during the July 11, 2021 protests in Cuba. José Daniel Ferrer García and Félix Navarro Rodríguez, two members of the “group of the 75,” are currently serving unjust prison sentences alongside over a thousand other Cubans. Worse yet, Felix Navarro is jailed together with his daughter Sayli Navarro (age 35), who became a Lady in White, together with her mom campaigning for her dad’s release following his 2003 arrest.

Daughter and father jailed for their defense of human rights.

Felix Navarro is a member of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) board of directors. He has been arbitrarily jailed since July 12, 2021.

Sayli was also detained on July 12th, but was released hours later, and had been staying with her mother, who is in poor health. She has also spoken out against her father’s arbitrary imprisonment. Sayli was taken, with her hands and feet chained, to prison on April 18, 2022.

On March 2, 2022 the Cuban dictatorship confirmed the prison sentences against these two Cuban human rights defenders. Félix Navarro Rodríguez, (age 68), condemned to nine years in prison, and his daughter, Sayli Navarro (age 35), condemned to eight years in prison.

On March 18, 2023, a recording was released of Sayli Navarro stating that state security is pressuring her to go into exile in order to get out of prison, and that she rejected their offer.

Three months later, and the plight of the other jailed member of the “group of the 75” raises concerns in the international community.

Nelva Ortega has not heard from her husband prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer in 82 days

On June 7, 2023  Amnistía Internacional Américas (Amnesty International Americas) reported over Twitter that his family has not heard from prisoner of conscience  José Daniel Ferrer in 82 days, and that they are not allowed to visit him in prison. Amnesty concluded their message asking: “Where is  José Daniel? Free him now!” and presented a powerful video to accompany it.

A day later on June 8th, Amnesty International issued an urgent action which is reproduced below.

Amnesty International, June 8, 2023

José Daniel Ferrer García is an activist and the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, an unofficial political opposition group. He was detained on July 11, 2021, in the context of the protests that took place across the island and has been in prison ever since.

On July 11, 2021, José Daniel was planning to attend the demonstrations, which, like the rest of the country, were being held in Santiago de Cuba. After leaving his house, José Daniel Ferrer García and his son were detained together, and from the beginning of his detention, the authorities repeatedly denied his family the opportunity to see him or communicate with him for long periods of time.

José Daniel Ferrer García was charged with “disturbance of public order”; however, he remains without being tried and in prison. In 2020, following another trial tainted by irregularities, José Daniel was sentenced to four and a half years of house arrest. According to documents accessed by Amnesty International, considering the new charge of
“disturbance of public order,” the Provincial Court of Santiago revoked his house arrest sentence in August 202 and ordered him to serve that sentence in jail.

On June 4, 2022, the Provincial Court of Santiago dismissed the habeas corpus petition filed by his family. On July 7, 2022, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances communicated to the NGO Prisoners Defenders that it had written to Cuba urging the state to provide detailed information to the Committee about its communication with
the outside world.

In July 2022, Amnesty International expressed concern over reports indicating that José Daniel Ferrer García was being held incommunicado. In October 2022, an Urgent Action was launched, alerting to the risks of his prolonged solitary confinement and the incommunicado regime in which he was currently held. Authorities finally allowed a
visit on November 8, 2022.

José Daniel Ferrer García has long communicated that he suffers from health problems related to his prolonged previous incarcerations, including severe gastric problems and chronic headaches. The latest health information received by José Daniel’s family in March 2023 confirms that he experienced ringing in the ears, skin problems,
tooth pain, and progressive vision loss. José Daniel also experiences cramps and momentary paralysis in his hands. His family notes that he has not received adequate dental care or medication in Mar Verde prison in Santiago de Cuba, where he is being held.

Urgent Action

CUBA: JOSÉ DANIEL FERRER GARCÍA HELD INCOMMUNICADO FOR MONTHS

José Daniel Ferrer García, leader of “Patriotic Union of Cuba”, was detained on July 11, 2021, in the context of widespread protests throughout the island. According to his family, he has been held in solitary confinement since August 14, 2021. Since March 17, 2023, he has been incommunicado, and prior to this date, he was in poor health. He is a prisoner of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally. 

TAKE ACTION: WRITE AN APPEAL IN YOUR OWN WORDS OR USE THIS MODEL LETTER

Miguel Díaz-Canel, President of Cuba

Hidalgo Esq. 6, Plaza de la Revolución, CP 10400, La Habana, Cuba

Email: despacho@presidencia.gob.cu

Dear President,

I am writing to demand information regarding José Daniel Ferrer García, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, who, according to his family, has been held incommunicado for more than eighty-two days, without access to the outside world. The latest information received by his family in March 2023 indicated that he is suffering from serious health problems and is not receiving adequate medical attention.

The last time he was able to communicate with his family by phone was on March 6, and the last conjugal visit, according to his family, took place on March 14. Additionally, on March 17, José Daniel received a visit from the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba. Since then, family visits, conjugal visits, and phone calls have been denied. Prior to that, his family had already informed Amnesty International that he has been held in a separate cell from other prisoners since August 14, 2021.

Detention without access to the outside world—being held incommunicado—facilitates torture and other ill-treatment and forced disappearances. In certain circumstances, it can itself constitute a form of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Similarly, solitary confinement should only be used in exceptional circumstances, and if sustained for prolonged periods, it can also violate the prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment.

On May 18, 2023, Amnesty International sent you an open letter informing you of this situation, José Daniel’s deteriorating health, and demanding his immediate release. To date, no response to this letter has been received.

José Daniel Ferrer García, who was detained on July 11, 2021—before he could join the massive protests that took place across the island—is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his human rights.

I urge you to release José Daniel immediately and unconditionally and, pending his release, end his isolation and allow his family to communicate with him without delay.

Sincerely,

Additional information

José Daniel Ferrer García is an activist and the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, an unofficial political opposition group. He was detained on July 11, 2021, in the context of the protests that took place across the island and has been in prison ever since.

On July 11, 2021, José Daniel was planning to attend the demonstrations, which, like the rest of the country, were being held in Santiago de Cuba. After leaving his house, José Daniel Ferrer García and his son were detained together, and from the beginning of his detention, the authorities repeatedly denied his family the opportunity to see him or communicate with him for long periods of time.

José Daniel Ferrer García was charged with “disturbance of public order”; however, he remains without being tried and in prison. In 2020, following another trial tainted by irregularities, José Daniel was sentenced to four and a half years of house arrest. According to documents accessed by Amnesty International, considering the new charge of “disturbance of public order,” the Provincial Court of Santiago revoked his house arrest sentence in August 2021 and ordered him to serve that sentence in jail.

On June 4, 2022, the Provincial Court of Santiago dismissed the habeas corpus petition filed by his family. On July 7, 2022, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances communicated to the NGO Prisoners Defenders that it had written to Cuba urging the state to provide detailed information to the Committee about its communication with the outside world.

In July 2022, Amnesty International expressed concern over reports indicating that José Daniel Ferrer García was being held incommunicado. In October 2022, an Urgent Action was launched, alerting to the risks of his prolonged solitary confinement and the incommunicado regime in which he was currently held. Authorities finally allowed a visit on November 8, 2022.

José Daniel Ferrer García has long communicated that he suffers from health problems related to his prolonged previous incarcerations, including severe gastric problems and chronic headaches. The latest health information received by José Daniel’s family in March 2023 confirms that he experienced ringing in the ears, skin problems, tooth pain, and progressive vision loss. José Daniel also experiences cramps and momentary paralysis in his hands. His family notes that he has not received adequate dental care or medication in Mar Verde prison in Santiago de Cuba, where he is being held.

PREFERRED LANGUAGE TO ADDRESS TARGET: Spanish or English

PLEASE TAKE ACTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AND NO LATER THAN: August 1, 2023 

NAME: José Daniel Ferrer García (male)

LINK TO PREVIOUS UA: N/A

Additional TARGET

Mrs Barbara Elena Montalvo Alvarez   

Embassy of the Republic of Cuba

167 High Holborn WC1V 6PA

Fax 020 7836 2602

secembajador@uk.embacuba.cu

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/urgent-actions/cuba-jose-daniel-ferrer-garcia-held-incommunicado-months