CubaBrief: Some context for the upcoming visit to Cuba of Eamon Gilmore, the special representative of the European Union for Human Rights

Luis Barrios Díaz died last Sunday on November 19th at the age of 37. | SOCIAL NETWORKS

On the eve of the arrival of Eamon Gilmore, the special representative of the European Union for Human Rights, to Cuba it is worth placing his visit in context.

On November 21, 2023 at 4:56pm EST over X (formerly Twitter) the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights called on the State of Cuba “to quickly and impartially investigate the death, on November 19, of Luis Barrios Díaz, who was deprived of liberty after his participation in the protests of July 11, 2021 and whose death would be related to the absence of adequate medical care in prison.”

“Luis Barrios Díaz, a political prisoner in Cuba for participating in the demonstration on July 11, 2021, died at the age of 37 due to a respiratory illness and lack of adequate medical care,” wrote the former Mexican President Felipe Calderón on his social network account on November 20th at 10:20pm.

Cuban independent journalist Yoani Sanchez provided broad brush strokes on the current situation on the island in her column “Eamon Gilmore and the Many Trapos on His Trip to Cuba” that paints a somber portrait.

“The national context in which the official arrives could not be more adverse. In the midst of the most significant mass exodus in recent decades, with more than a thousand political prisoners and a deep economic crisis, the Island will give Josep Borrell’s envoy multiple headaches. The biggest challenge of his trip will be to avoid the daunting agenda that the Havana regime is preparing for him to prevent him from looking towards the most problematic and painful areas of Cuban reality.”

Evangelical Focus Europe reported on November 20h that the Alliance of Christians of Cuba (ACC), which brought together 50 religious leaders from different Christian denominations in Cuba, recently held its third national gathering in Santiago, Cuba where they issued a joint statement asking the Cuban government to 1) Free those “imprisoned for exercising their inherent rights”; 2) that “each religious movement on the island might exercise its right to associate, obtaining legal status and protection under the law”; and 3), that the government “respect the right of each Cuban citizen to exercise all their inherent rights and that they not persecute them for this”.

On November 17, 2023 the adoption of the reports on the review of Cuba contained 361 recommendations, but the Cuban dictatorship’s representative rejected those that he claimed “questioned the country’s constitutional and legal order” or that “interfered in internal affairs.” The regime must respond in writing by March 2024 with regards to which they will accept, and which will be rejected.

Cuba underwent its fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on November 15, 2023, at the UN Human Rights Council, a process Havana repeatedly subverted since 2009 by using front groups to drown out critical human rights reports by established human rights organizations.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez began the UPR session attacking Israel, and went on to blame the Cuban dictatorship’s shortcomings on U.S. sanctions, and turned the review into a politicized circus.

During the review many of the world’s democracies called for the freedom of the over 1,000 political prisoners in Cuba.

New Zealand reflected this trend in its recommendations for Cuba.

  1. Take measures to ensure that all people can exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association;

  2. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly;

  3. Ratify the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol; and

  4. Continue efforts to remove internet access restrictions to guarantee the right to access information.

The United States took a stronger and more holistic position in their recommendations, and called out the Cuban government for raising bilateral issues that were not meant for the UPR.

  1. Cease the practice of arbitrarily detaining journalists, opposition members, human rights defenders, religious actors, and other persons seeking to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

  2. Release the approximately 1000 persons unjustly or arbitrarily detained, including those reportedly imprisoned for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, investigating and reporting on government activities, or expressing dissent. Once released, they must be allowed to travel freely both domestically and internationally.

  3. Adopt a legal framework that ensures judicial independence.

  4. End its one-party system to allow genuinely free and fair elections, involving multiple political parties, that provide citizens with real choices regarding their government.

  5. Comply with international labor standards and cease using coercive practices to manipulate and pressure workers into participating in the labor export program, including medical missions.

On November 14, 2023, the eve of Cuba’s UPR session, the Center for a Free Cuba, Cuba Decide, and UN Watch co-hosted a side event at the United Nations Office at Geneva in which a shadow report was presented by Cuban dissidents, and human rights defenders.

On the eve of Eamon Gilmore’s arrival in Cuba, the Center for a Free Cuba sent an open letter to the EU special representative for human rights highlighting the plight of over a thousand Cuban prisoners of conscience.

In the letter the cases of human rights defenders, and father and daughter, Félix Navarro Rodríguez, Sayli Navarro Álvarez , visiting dual German Cuban national Luis Frómeta Compte are highlighted together with the death of Luis Barrios Díaz all jailed during or in the aftermath of the 11J protests.

The full letter is reproduced below.

Center for a Free Cuba, November 21, 2023


Open Letter to the European Union Special Representative for Human Rights on the eve of his arrival in Cuba

November 21, 2023

Mr. Eamon Gilmore

European Union Special Representative for Human Rights 

Dear Mr. Gilmore,

On the eve of your arrival in Cuba we wish to call attention to the dire human rights situation in the country.

Human rights defenders are not legally recognized, and activists are jailed for exercising their vocation. On March 2, 2022 the Cuban dictatorship confirmed the prison sentences of two Cuban human rights defenders. Félix Navarro Rodríguez, ( age 68 ), condemned to nine years in prison. His daughter, the Lady in White Sayli Navarro (age 35), was condemned to eight years in prison. Both are long time human rights defenders who have reported on systematic human rights violations in Cuba. Their crime was going to the police station to inquire about the plight of detained nonviolent protesters of the July 11, 2021 protests in Cuba.

Witnesses who documented nonviolent protests are also jailed. Luis Frómeta Compte, age 60, has dual Cuban and German citizenship. He had lived in Germany since 1985. He was in Cuba on July 11, 2021, during protests in Havana’s La Guinera area. He was initially sentenced to 25 years in prison, later reduced to 15 years, for sedition despite only filming protests on his cell phone.

Cubans engaged in nonviolent protests have been victims of excessive force leading to permanent injury, and in some cases death. Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, a 36-year-old singer, was shot in the back by the police in Cuba after joining 11J protests in Havana on July 12, 2021. There are others, but the regime has terrorized families into silence.

Over a thousand other Cubans have been justly imprisoned, and are enduring conditions that are inhumane for exercising their fundamental human rights. The death on November 19th of Luis Barrios Díaz, age 37, who was unjustly jailed after his nonviolent participation in the protests of July 11, 2021 reflects regime impunity with its prisoners.. Reports indicate that he died of a respiratory illness and a lack of adequate health care while in prison. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross has not been able to visit Cuban prisons since 1989, despite repeated requests by the ICRC.  Prison conditions in Cuba are terrible, and political prisoners continue to die in custody.

In addition to requesting the release of the over 1,000 political prisoners in Cuba we respectfully ask that you petition the Cuban government to do the following.

LEGALITY AND RESPECT FOR THE LIFE OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS

Given the repressive actions of the Cuban State against human rights defenders and activists, we ask that it be ensured that Cuban human rights defenders can work in a safe environment, particularly that their legality and validity be clearly and publicly recognized. by the Cuban government. Let the continuous attacks and slander campaigns by senior representatives of the Cuban State, its agents of influence, and the political police cease.

CEASE IMPUNITY IN CASES OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

We ask that independent, extensive and expeditious investigations be carried out into all cases of human rights violations, including those responsible and the chains of command for each incident. And that they should be considered crimes against humanity under international law. That those suspected of being responsible for these criminal acts be brought to justice; and ensure that those convicted of these crimes receive punishment commensurate with the seriousness of the offense. The case of pro-democracy leaders Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero murdered by Cuban government agents on July 22, 2012 is a well-documented example.

CESSATION OF THE EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE AND EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS

We ask that the Cuban government ensure that the Cuban police comply with the Basic Principles of the Use of Force and Firearms established by the UN for law enforcement agents when they are carrying out their work, and this includes when protests are held against government policies by the population.

IMPROVEMENT OF PRISON CONDITIONS AND THE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS

We ask that Cuban prisons and other detention centers comply with international rules of respect for human rights, including the Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners established by the UN. We also ask that the International Committee of the Red Cross be allowed to visit all prisons in Cuba.

Cordially,

John Suarez

Executive Director

Center for a Free Cuba

Janisset Rivero

Program Officer

Center for a Free Cuba

https://www.cubacenter.org/publications/2023/11/21/letter

Translating Cuba, November 20, 2023

Eamon Gilmore and the Many Traps on His Trip to Cuba

Eamon Gilmore, special representative of the European Union for Human Right

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 November 2023 — This week, the visit of the special representative of the European Union (EU) for Human Rights, Eamon Gilmore, is expected in Cuba. The national context in which the official arrives could not be more adverse. In the midst of the most significant mass exodus in recent decades, with more than a thousand political prisoners and a deep economic crisis, the Island will give Josep Borrell’s envoy multiple headaches. The biggest challenge of his trip will be to avoid the daunting agenda that the Havana regime is preparing for him to prevent him from looking towards the most problematic and painful areas of Cuban reality.

Unlike other times, when information trickled out of the country, Gilmore has had at his disposal countless reports, testimonies and articles from the independent press that detail the magnitude of the repression we suffered. He has also been able to meet with exiles who have told him, first-hand, about the forced banishment, the travel ban that weighs on several dissidents, the threats against the families of those convicted of the popular protests of 11 July 2021, and the twist of censorship represented by the new Social Communication Law, already approved and which will soon come into force.

However, it is one thing to read all those alarming reports and listen to the stories of emigrants, and another, very different, to hear the voices of the victims within Cuba and include in the program contact with the most silenced and vulnerable part of our society.  On the Island, Gilmore will be another guest at the Plaza de la Revolución and will have to adhere to official protocol, which translates into the need to condemn the US embargo, praise public services — even if they only take him to schools and hospitals carefully ‘made up’ for the occasion — and to proclaim the “solid ties” of collaboration between the European Union and Havana.

But someone who protects Human Rights should go further, escape from the symbolic gestures and red carpets to delve into what ails and frightens a society. If he follows a program in line with his position, Gilmore would not be able to avoid visiting at least one Cuban prison. Immersing himself in this underworld is vital to understanding the total absence of physical and legal guarantees that afflicts the prisoners. Speaking directly with political prisoners and their families would be vital to understanding what is happening on this island.

If the official also used the internet connection offered by the state telecommunications monopoly, Etecsa, during his stay, he could see for himself the dozens of blocked digital sites, especially those that offer national news without complying with the editorial guidelines of the Communist Party. A walk through the Cuban fields, not to the farms decorated for the eyes of international organizations, but to those of farmers who cannot even buy wire for their fences because agricultural inputs are sold only in foreign currency, would add nuances to his conclusions.

His could not miss on his trip the crowded airport hall where hundreds of men, most of them young and with light luggage, are preparing to board a plane to Managua to begin the migratory route. The failure of the model imposed more than six decades ago is summarized in those Cubans who leave seeking economic improvements and freedoms.

To the list of actions, Gilmore could add the surprise arrival at a ration market with its many flies and few products, in addition to the emergence of one of those businesses, which have appeared everywhere, where the price for thirty eggs is equivalent to one monthly salary. To top it off, a walk through a neighborhood on the outskirts of Havana is recommended, full of  people “illegal” in their own country, lacking drinking water service and opportunities.

All this and more would give the special representative of the European Union for Human Rights a complete and realistic vision of what we Cubans are experiencing. But between the traps of the official agenda and the timorous European diplomacy, it is possible to foresee that Gilmore’s visit will remain just one more, without ramifications for our citizens. After all, he is only in office for a brief period and the Cuban regime surpasses him with its 64 years of repressive experience.

________________________

Editor’s Note: This text was originally published in Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

https://translatingcuba.com/eamon-gilmore-and-the-many-traps-on-his-trip-to-cuba/

Evangelical Focus Europe, November 20, 2023

Cuban Christians call on the regime to respect freedom of religion

In its third gathering, the Alliance of Christians of Cuba urged authorities to release political prisoners and respect basic human rights.

Evangelical Focus

CSW, Evangélico Digital · SANTIAGO DE CUBA · 20 NOVEMBER 2023 · 13:35 CET

Santiago de Cuba, Cuba. / Photo: Denys Barabanov, Unsplash CC0

The Alliance of Christians of Cuba (ACC), which brings together around 50 religious leaders from several Christian denominations in the country, recently held its third national gathering in the city of Santiago.

Petitions and commitments

At the end of the event, they issued a joint statement, with three requests to the Cuban government. 

Firstly, “the liberation of all those imprisoned for exercising their inherent rights”.

Secondly, that “each religious movement on the island might exercise its right to associate, obtaining legal status and protection under the law”. 

Thirdly, that the government “respects the right of each Cuban citizen to exercise all their inherent rights and that they do not persecute them for this”.

On their part, the members of ACC committed to “work for the healing of wounds in our damaged nation, divided by a failed social project”, and thus “create an atmosphere of mutual understanding, respect and compassion between Cubans on the island and in the diaspora”.

“We work and will work to advocate for more political, economic, religious and social freedoms so that all Cubans can live in dignity and self-determination”, they added.

All this, from “a basis of faith in the importance of family life, the inherent value of all human beings, the respect for rule of law, appreciation for education, the promotion of social justice, and the help for those in need, which form part of the foundation of Christian humanism”, stressed the ACC.

Moreover, the faith leaders stated that “as Christians and Cuban citizens we bless and honour the nation of Israel and condemn, wholeheartedly, the acts of terrorism committed against that nation”.

International support

Anna Lee Stangl, head of advocacy of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said the group santds with the Alliance of Christians in Cuba and “their call for real reforms to protect and uphold freedom of religion or belief and associated rights and for the release of all political prisoners”.

She underlined the courage the church leaders had to organise such a gathering and publish the declaration despite harassment and threats of the regime.

CSW urgeas the Cuban government to “make the changes that have been called for”, and the international community to “closely monitor and engage with religious leaders, in their efforts to promote democratic values and respect for fundamental human rights”.

Published in: Evangelical Focusworld – Cuban Christians call on the regime to respect freedom of religion


https://evangelicalfocus.com/world/24372/cuban-christians-called-on-the-regime-for-rights-at-their-third-national-gathering


U.S. Mission Geneva, November 15, 2023

U.S. Statement at the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba

UPR, 44th Session

Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor

Thank you, Madam Vice President.

We recommend that Cuba:

  1. Cease the practice of arbitrarily detaining journalists, opposition members, human rights defenders, religious actors, and other persons seeking to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

  2. Release the approximately 1000 persons unjustly or arbitrarily detained, including those reportedly imprisoned for exercising their right to peaceful assembly, investigating and reporting on government activities, or expressing dissent. Once released, they must be allowed to travel freely both domestically and internationally.

  3. Adopt a legal framework that ensures judicial independence.

  4. End its one-party system to allow genuinely free and fair elections, involving multiple political parties, that provide citizens with real choices regarding their government.

  5. Comply with international labor standards and cease using coercive practices to manipulate and pressure workers into participating in the labor export program, including medical missions.

We wish to remind the delegation that this is not a venue for political exchange or bilateral issues. I thank you.

https://geneva.usmission.gov/2023/11/15/u-s-statement-at-the-universal-periodic-review-of-cuba-upr44/

New Zealand Foreign Affairs &Trade, November 15, 2023

Human Rights Council: 44th Session of the Universal Periodic Review, Cuba

Ministry Statements & Speeches: 15 November 2023

Delivered by First Secretary Emma Hodder.

Thank you Madame Vice-President,

New Zealand welcomes the delegation of Cuba.

We commend the legislative changes made to Cuba’s Family Code, including the legalisation of same sex marriage.

New Zealand recommends that Cuba:

1. Take measures to ensure that all people can exercise their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association;

2. Immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression, association or peaceful assembly;

3. Ratify the ICCPR and its Second Optional Protocol; and

4. Continue efforts to remove internet access restrictions to guarantee the right to access information.

We wish Cuba every success in its review.

Thank you Madame Vice-President.

https://www.mfat.govt.nz/en/media-and-resources/human-rights-council-44th-session-of-the-universal-periodic-review-cuba/

Artists at Risk Connection, November 15, 2023

News & Advocacy

Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2023

A focus on Cuba

“No más voces presas.” Image courtesy of Ruber Osoria Santiago.

Since 1981, November 15th has marked the Day of the Imprisoned Writer – observed by PEN International and all PEN centers around the world– to acknowledge the courageous writers who have been imprisoned solely for their artistic expression. In line with ARC and PEN International’s joint ongoing advocacy work on Cuba, we are highlighting Cuban poet and activist Maria Cristina Garrido Rodriguez, who is one of the four imprisoned writers recognized this year by PEN International, alongside Tibetan writer Go Sherab Gyatso, Ukrainian journalist Iryna Danylovych, and Moroccan journalist Soulaiman Raissouni. 

On March 10, 2022, Rodriguez received a seven-year prison sentence on charges such as ‘public disorder’ and ‘resistance’ for her participation in the peaceful protests that swept Cuba on July 11. Currently, she is imprisoned in the Guatao Women’s Prison, where she has been subjected to harsh and inhumane treatment, including solitary confinement, physical assault, deprivation of food and water, and inadequate sanitary conditions. She has also been denied family visits and phone calls on various occasions.

It was not until the 349th day of her detention that Garrido was able to resume writing. In December 2021, from her prison cell, she wrote a letter expressing her pride in participating in the demonstrations on July 11 and spoke out against the horrors faced by those incarcerated in Cuban prisons, writing, “On July 11, we exhibited courage and determination, breaking the silence of years. We demonstrated unity and diversity, as people of all ages and backgrounds took to the streets to voice their support for the overthrow of the dictatorship and for a prosperous, democratic Cuba.” Since 2022, the year of her unjust sentence, ARC has included Rodriguez in its international campaign Voces Presas, aiming to shine a light on imprisoned and harassed Cuban artists. 

Since its inception in 2017, ARC has advocated for Cuban writers, artists, and cultural workers as Cuban authorities have targeted independent art and culture leading to the deterioration of artistic freedom. For four and a half years, ARC and partner organizations have been monitoring the situation on the island, finding a deepening of state violence against artists; the criminalization of freedom of expression and the right to protest; and the misuse of criminal law. Observations also include the increase of unjustified restrictive frameworks that are in opposition to freedom of expression. 

November 15th also marks another important day for Cuban artists and writers: the day of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Cuba. The session will review the Cuban State’s human rights record since the last UPR four years ago.

With a coalition of international and Cuban organizations, ARC has submitted a joint submission to the UPR on Cuba demanding: an end to repressive practices that force artists and cultural professionals into exile; the repeal of censorious legislation; and the release of all persons imprisoned and arbitrarily detained for exercising their freedom of expression.

To learn more about artistic freedom of expression in Cuba, read ARC’s report Método Cuba: Independent Artists’ Testimonies of Forced Exile.

Take Action:

Write to the Cuban authorities, calling on them to:

• Release Garrido immediately and unconditionally, and drop all charges against her;

• Pending her release, ensure that she is allowed regular communication with her family and adequate health care, and that she in not subjected to any form of ill-treatment;

• Release all writers and artists unjustly imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression and artistic expression;

• Abide by their international human rights obligations and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

Send appeals to:

President Sr. Miguel Díaz-Canel:

Email: despacho@presidencia.gob.cu

Twitter: @DiazCanelB

Minister of Justice Oscar Silvera Martínez:

Email: apoblacion@minjus.gob.cu

Twitter: @CubaMinjus

Facebook: @MinisterioJusticiaCuba

Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso Grau:

Twitter: @AlpidioAlonsoG

Facebook: @MinisterioCulturaCuba

Minister of Foreign Affairs (Minrex) Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla:

Email: dm@minrex.gob.cu

Twitter: @BrunoRguezP

Facebook: @CubaMINREX

Please send emails to the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba in your own country.

Send a letter of solidarity to Maria Cristina Garrido Rodriguez:

https://artistsatriskconnection.org/story/day-of-the-imprisoned-writer-2023