Center for a Free Cuba and Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation petition governments to apply Magnitsky Sanctions Against Diaz-Canel

Press Advisory

Center for a Free Cuba and Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation petition governments to apply Magnitsky Sanctions Against Diaz-Canel



September 23, 2021                                                                                                 

Contacts: John Suarez (CFC) 612-367-6845 Carlos Ponce (VOC) 202-629-9500

Washington, DC. September 23, 2021. The Center for a Free Cuba and Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation published today a petition to apply Magnitsky sanctions against Cuban head of state Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermudez.

Countries and regional bodies with Magnitsky laws can impose economic sanctions and deny entry into their countries to any foreign person identified as engaging in human rights abuse or corruption.

“This petition documents how since beginning his presidency in 2018, Miguel Diaz-Canel has increased repressive measures and actions against Cubans from Decree Law 349 in 2018, Decree Laws 370 and 389 in 2019 and Decree Law 35 in 2021 to silence Cubans to avoid scrutiny for beating, arresting, torturing, disappearing, and killing those who nonviolently protest, especially since the July 11, 2021 uprising,” stated John Suarez, CFC Executive Director.

The Global Magnitsky Act is based on a prior Russia-focused law, the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012. Sergei Magnitsky, a tax lawyer and auditor in Russia, documented rampant tax fraud and other corruption by individuals associated with the Russian government. Magnitsky was arrested in November 2008, reportedly for tax evasion, and denied medical care, family visits, and due legal process. While in custody, he was reportedly beaten and possibly tortured. He died in prison in November 2009.

“We are petitioning governments with Magnitsky laws in place and the European Union to sanction Cuba’s Head of State, Miguel Diaz-Canel, because these human rights abuses committed on his orders by Cuba’s repressive machinery must end. It is time that those issuing and carrying out these illegal orders be held accountable. Since July 11th there have been many statements condemning the actions of the Cuban government, but now is the time for action,” added Carlos Ponce, Latin America Director and Senior Fellow at Victims of Communism. Memorial Foundation (VOC).

CFC’s and VOC’s petition was sent to governments and international institutions. Below is the full text of the petition.

Petition to apply Global Magnitsky Sanctions to Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Cuban president and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba

Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez on April 19, 2018 was named president of Cuba, and on April 19, 2021 became First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba. This formally made him the maximum authority in the country. During his time in office, President Díaz-Canel, and members of his government have engaged in serious and systemic human rights abuses.

One day after being named president, Diaz-Canel on April 20, 2018 presided over the issuing of Decree 349, that further restricted artistic expression by mandating the Ministry of Culture’s approval of both public and private cultural events and banned the use of “unpatriotic symbols”. (Sources: PEN, Freedom House, Amnesty International)

In July 2019, Díaz-Canel prohibited Cubans from storing their information on foreign servers, a further restriction on Cuba’s outlawed independent press, and criminalized the circulation of “information contrary to the social interest, morals, good customs, and integrity of people,” with Decree Law 370 going into effect. (Sources: ISHRHuman Rights WatchFreedom House)

Decree Law 389, brought into force on November 18, 2019 allows for “investigators to engage in electronic surveillance without prior judicial approval and use the resulting information as evidence in criminal cases. Anonymity and encryption technologies are legally prohibited.” (Sources: Freedom HouseNew Generation Foundation )

President and First Secretary Díaz-Canel has been (and is) directly responsible for serious and ongoing human rights abuses in Cuba and Venezuela.

On May 11, 2019 gay rights activists were beaten down, and arrested for carrying out the annual Gay Pride march in Havana after the government unilaterally cancelled it. (Source: Freedom House )

Since the activation of Decree Law 370 there has been “a wave of interrogations of independent journalists that include threats against their families as well as pressure to delete and discontinue their critical coverage of the government on social media.”(Source: Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, CPJ ). This worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. State Department’s “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba” reported that Cuban intelligence agents were training Venezuelan and Nicaraguan counterparts on the “use of repressive tactics and human rights abuses and sometimes participated in the abuses directly.” (Sources: State Department, CASLA). UN reports accused Venezuela’s Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence “(DGCIM) of torture, and many former Venezuelan prisoners said that Cubans, identified by their distinctive accents, supervised while DGCIM personnel tortured prisoners.”(Sources: United Nations, State Department, CASLA)

The U.S. State Department also included Cuba again in tier 3 of the 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report due to continued sex trafficking and labor trafficking in benefit of the corrupt government: “During the reporting period, there was a government policy or government pattern to profit from labor export programs with strong indications of forced labor, particularly its foreign medical missions program”. There is a high correlation of human trafficking with corruption in Cuba using hard currency from the medical brigades to benefit members of the government instead of providing adequate health care services in the country.

On July 11, 2021 tens of thousands of Cubans across the island in over 50 cities and towns took part in large non-violent demonstrations chanting “freedom”, “yes, we can”, “we are not afraid. Protests, despite the harsh government response, would continue until July 13th.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel appeared on national Cuban television on July 11, 2021 declaring: “They [protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything.” (Source: ) … “We are calling on all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to take place today from now on, and in all these days and face it decisively, firmly, with courage.” (Source: ) The Cuban president concluded his address stating “the order of combat is given, revolutionaries take to the streets.” (Source: ). This combat order was an incitement to violence by government security forces against civilians. (Source: Freedom House, RSF).

Protesters and journalists reported beatings of protesters and multiple cases of arbitrary detentions. (Source: Human Rights Watch ) Amnesty International received reports on July 12, 2021 of “internet outages, arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, including police firing on protesters, and allegations that there are a long list of missing people. ” (Source: Amnesty International).

On July 12, 2021 Rosa María Payá reported that a source in Santiago de Cuba said “Five dead… more than 20 people arrived at the provincial hospital with severe injuries… an old man who had his brains knocked out with a stick.” (Source: CubaDecide).

Videos emerged of National Revolutionary Police firing on protesters, riot police dressed in black firing on protesters, and Cuban civilians with gunshot wounds, including one fatally shot. Other videos showed security forces violently assaulting nonviolent protesters, and bussing in and arming supporters to attack protesters. ( Source: Center for a Free Cuba )

The Cuban government officially recognized one Cuban killed on July 12th during the protests, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36). He was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of nationwide protests in Cuba in a suburb of Havana. (Source: European Parliament, Proyecto Inventario, CubaDecide). NGOs placed the number at five, but the total number remains unknown. Received anecdotal reports that family members of others killed have been threatened to remain silent.

Hundreds of Cubans were (and are) being subjected to summary trials in express courts without defense attorneys. (Sources: ISHR, Havana Times)

These threats also extend to non-family members.

Cuban human rights defenders attempting to document the situation on the island face threats not only against themselves, but against their families. On August 23, 2021 it was also demonstrated that living in the diaspora does not protect you from these threats. State Security visited the mother of exiled human rights defender and Cubalex executive director Laritza Diversent and told her “that she could end paying for her daughter’s work.” Apparently inspired by the May 23, 2021 “intercept” by Belarusian authorities of independent journalist Roman Protasevich, and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega who were on board a plane forced down by a MiG 29, the state security agents said that they would “intercept Laritza Diversent in the United States or another country” to “take her to Cuba” and try her. (Source: Center for a Free Cuba, Cubalex )

Decree-Law 35 issued by the dictatorship entered into force on August 18, 2021. The new law penalizes “ethical and social” harm done “or incidents of aggression”, “or defamations that harm “the prestige of the country” on social media, reported 14ymedio. The text entering into force was approved on April 13, 2021. This law expands restrictions on publishing online. (Source: PEN, Freedom House, HRW)

Havana does not release information on arrests, prison population size, and officials lie about it when asked, but other sources provide partial estimates along with concrete data. 14ymedio, the press outfit founded by Yoani Sanchez, estimates more than 5,000 detained. Cubalex, a human rights NGO, identified 1,079 detained or missing Cubans, related to the protests that began on July 11th, in their database as of September 22, 2021.

Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez is not only responsible because he is the head of state, but he has also been directly engaging violent supporters and his security forces to attack nonviolent demonstrators and he has been directly coordinating repression in Cuba. He is responsible for massive human rights violations, persecutions, and corruption in Cuba.

This is a partial summary, but it should be sufficient to apply Global Magnitsky sanctions to Cuban president Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.

Perpetrator Information

Full Legal Name of Perpetrator:
Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez
Country: Cuba
Title or Position: Presidente de la República de Cuba
Date of Birth:April 20, 1960
Other Known Personal Identifiers:
Miguel Díaz Canel
President of the Republic of Cuba
Hidalgo, Esquina 6. Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, CP 10400, Cuba
Facebook: @PresidenciadeCuba

Petition signers:

John Suarez

Executive Director

Center for a Free Cuba

Phone: 612-367-6845


Address: 417 West Broad St., Suite 204 Falls Church, VA 22046

Carlos Ponce

Senior Fellow & Director of Latin American Programs 
Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Phone: (202) 629-9500


Address: 300 New Jersey Avenue NW, Suite 900 Washington, D.C. 20001