Center for a Free Cuba Executive Director denounces Havana silencing Black Cuban dissident from addressing Int’l Human Rights hearing

Press Advisory

Center for a Free Cuba Executive Director denounces silencing Black Cuban dissident from addressing the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Washington, DC, August 19, 2021 Contact: John Suarez (612)-367-6845

Manuel Cuesta Morua silenced by dictatorship

Center for a Free Cuba. Washington DC. Today human rights defender and social democrat Manuel Cuesta Morua was supposed to participate in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) audience titled “Human rights situation in the context of protest in Cuba”, but the Cuban government did not allow the activist to participate in the meeting. Officials cut off his internet to prevent his connection and his home is under siege, reported the Swedish based NGO Civil Rights Defenders.

Center for a Free Cuba executive director John Suarez condemned the silencing of black Cuban human rights defender Manuel Cuesta Morua. “The Castro regime has a decades long track record of silencing Black Cuban voices and for 62 years dismantling institutions, and outlawing all independent manifestations of black civil society. Today’s silencing of human rights defender and social democrat Manuel Cuesta Morua, a Black Cuban, from testifying before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an outrage, and we condemn it.”

This is not the first time that Black Cuban voices have been silenced by the Castro dictatorship from speaking before an international human rights body, but is part of a pattern to silence Black voices. One of the activists who was able to speak today Juan Antonio Madrazo, of the human rights movement Comité Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial in 2018, together with Norberto Mesa were detained arbitrarily and banned by Havana from traveling to Geneva, Switzerland to speak before the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UN-CERD) on the question of racism in Cuba.

Castro officials told the UN-CERD that human rights defenders in Cuba face no limitations to exercise their activities. Regime diplomats assured that there had been no reprisals or harassment of activists, which was, and remains untrue today.

On August 16, 2018 Cuban diplomats “categorically denied the existence of racial discrimination in Cuba to the group of independent experts of the United Nations (UN) that form the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) during the review of Cuba under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” reported the non-governmental organization Race and Equality.

At the time, Country Rapporteur, Mr. Albuquerque, denounced at the UN-CERD examination of Cuba the travel ban faced by Juan Antonio Madrazo and Norberto Mesa who had planned to travel to testify before the Committee. Madraso and Mesa were also blocked from raising awareness on racial discrimination in Cuba.

There is a need to draw attention to the killings of Black Cubans by regime officials, and inequities suffered by Black Cubans on the island.

Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García & Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac shot by firing squad in 2003 (L to R)

Three young black men were executed by firing squad in Cuba for hijacking a ferry, and taking hostages in order to flee the island on April 2, 2003. No one was killed in the incident, but officials accused them of terrorism, held a summary trial, and by April 11, 2003 they had been killed. The IACHR called it an “arbitrary deprivation of life.” Their names were Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac.

Orlando Zapata was a human rights defender unjustly imprisoned in the Spring of 2003 and tortured by Cuban prison officials and state security agents over the next six years and ten months. The prisoner of conscience was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. According to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of the Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations. Orlando died on February 23, 2010 following a prolonged hunger strike, aggravated by prison guards refusing him water in an effort to break his spirit.

Hansel Hernández shot in back by police.

On June 24, 2020 in Guanabacoa, Cuba 27 year old unarmed black Cuban, Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano was shot in the back and killed by the police. The official version claims that he was stealing pieces and accessories from a bus stop when he was spotted by two Revolutionary National Police (PNR in Spanish). Upon seeing the police Hansel ran away and the officers pursued him nearly two kilometers. PNR claimed that during the pursuit Hansel threw rocks at the officers. Police fired two warning shots and a third in his back killing him. Hansel’s body was quickly cremated. 

On June 25, 2020 a woman, identifying as the young man’s aunt, posted on Facebook a photo of the dead youth who, she said, had been the victim of the national revolutionary police a day earlier.

Hansel Ernesto Hernández shot in back by Revolutionary Nat’l police

“I feel deep pain for the murder of my nephew Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano committed yesterday morning in La Lima, Guanabacoa (in eastern Havana), by two patrolmen (police),” she wrote. “We, the family members, ask for mercy that this cruel act at the hands of our supposed national security does not go unpunished in any way. Because a police officer, a uniform, does not give the right to murder anyone in such a way.”

On June 28, 2020 independent journalist Jorge Enrique Rodríguez was arrested and charged with “Fake news” for reporting on this police killing. The Committee to Protect Journalists called for Jorge Enrique’s immediate release.

Over social media demonstrations were announced for June 30 to protest the killing of Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano. Other journalists in the lead up to the June 30th planned protests were detained or their homes laid siege  in order to stop them reporting on Hansel’s killing and reactions to his extrajudicial execution. Secret police began shutting off internet connections, cell phones and arbitrarily detaining those they suspected would take part in protests.

The Cuban government launched a #HeroesDeAzul (Heroes of the Blue) campaign, to highlight police in Cuba in a positive light on social media to counter negative opinions surrounding the killing of Hansel.

Heroes of the Blue campaign to provide good image of Cuban police

Cuban dissident Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros died on August 7, 2020 in Cuba while in police custody following a 40 day hunger strike. His body was quickly cremated by the dictatorship. He had been jailed on false charges in the Kilo 8 prison of Camagüey. The family hired an attorney who conducted investigations into his case, but a week before the trial, the attorney mysteriously died in a traffic accident.

Yosvany Arostegui died in regime custody August 2020

Family members and activists held the Castro regime accountable for the death of opposition activist and former political prisoner Pablo Moya Delá, who died on August 26, 2021 at the Clinical Surgical Hospital in Santiago de Cuba. He was jailed on October 23, 2020 for protesting socioeconomic conditions and overall repression. He was beaten, mistreated for months, weakened following a hunger strike and after destroying his health released on probation earlier this month near death.

Cuban dissident Pablo Moya Delá died on August 26, 2021 following mistreatment in prison.

Havana officially recognized one Cuban killed on July 12, 2021 during the protests, Black Cuban Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36). He was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of nationwide protests in Cuba. He was a singer. Video emerged on July 15th allegedly of the aftermath of Diubis being shot in the back and posted over Twitter.

Black Cuban Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) shot in the back by police on July 12, 2021

Today in the IACHR hearing, Mr. Medrazo denounced that Black Cubans in the island are not allowed to dissent, because according to the Castro regime “it was the Revolution that made [Black Cubans] people.”

The reality is far different than the Castro regime’s narrative.

Until 1962 in Cuba, free black people were able to organize in a network called the Central Directory of Societies of Color founded by Black Cuban statesman Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer in 1886 to press for black social, economic and political advancement in Cuba. Cuba throughout these period wrestled with the legacy of slavery, and racism, but it was part of the public discussion.

Political leaders answered to these black societies, provided patronage to them, and with a vibrant free press, and in publishing houses debates on race, and racism, and the need for redress took place in Cuba. The Central Directory of Societies of Color succeeded in lobbying for the 1940 Constitution to address racism in Articles 10, 20, 74, and 102.

Black Cuban agency in the island ended with the communist revolution, and many Black Cuban leaders fled into exile. Cuban Black nationalist Juan René Betancourt in his essay in the NAACP’s publication The Crisis in 1961 spoke plainly.

“Of the 256 Negro societies in Cuba, many have had to close their doors and others are in death agony. One can truthfully say, and this is without the slightest exaggeration, that the Negro movement in Cuba died at the hands of Sr. Fidel Castro.” … “Yet this is the man who had the cynical impudence to visit the United States in 1960 for the purpose of censuring American racial discrimination. Although this evil obviously exists in the United States, Castro is not precisely the man to offer America solutions, nor even to pass judgement,” reported

The Central Directory of Societies of Color was dismantled by Fidel Castro in 1962, and independent Black Cuban organizations, along with the rest of civil society remain illegal to the present day. The inner circle of the Castro regime until the Spring of 2021 was old, white and male without any minority representation.