Appeal to world civic, religious and political leaders to help peaceful Cuban dissidents and oppose Cuban government violence targeting them.

Appeal to world civic, religious and political leaders to help peaceful Cuban dissidents and oppose Cuban government violence targeting them.

We want to express our profound concern regarding the current situation in Cuba. Since 1989 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has not been permitted to inspect conditions in Cuban prisons. Cuba is the only country in the Americas that Amnesty International, and other independent human rights monitors, cannot visit, and where independent local human rights groups are illegal. This reality takes on a new urgency following the July 11, 2021 national non-violent protests in Cuba, and the subsequent and ongoing crackdown that marks a worsening period of repression.  Father José Castor Alvarez Devesa, a Cuban Catholic priest, who was present at the protests to bear witness was beaten up, detained by regime officials, and after international press attention was brought to his plight, released.

On July 16, 2021 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated concern at the use of excessive force against demonstrators in Cuba and the arrest of a large number of people, including several journalists.  The High Commissioner expressed worry that individuals were held incommunicado, and deep regret for the death of one identified protester. She urged the Cuban 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, and that all those detained for exercising their rights be promptly released.

The Cuban government’s response to this statement has been to worsen the conditions of the prisoners. Over 5,000 Cubans 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. 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 for taking part in the demonstrations.

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 in Cuba requires your attention and action.

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

Members of the dissident group Archipelago requested permission, citing Article 56 of the 2019 Cuban Constitution, to hold civic marches in their respective communities to exercise their civil rights, and call for the release of all political prisoners.

The regime’s response was to repeatedly and arbitrarily detain organizers for short periods of time and threaten that if they proceeded with the Civic March on November 15th there would be legal consequences.

Cuban officials have provided their supporters with clubs and assault weapons and urged they show up in Cuban public spaces in an act of intimidation. They published over social media explicit threats of violence heading up to the November 15th civic marches. Officials claim Archipelago is linked to “subversive organizations” with the “open intention of changing the political system in Cuba.”

Regime harassment of dissidents has escalated, such as by a dead bird with its blood and feathers spread across Yunior Garcia Aguilera’s apartment entrance in the middle of the night. His home has been the target of government organized acts of repudiation and shouting trying to silence him to curtail his activism. Edited personal phone calls have been broadcast over Cuban state TV in an effort to vilify Yunior Garcia, and falsely claim he is linked to terrorists.

In light of escalating threats of violence, on November 10th a group of Catholic priests released a public letter calling on regime officials to not to repress the nonviolent protests planned for November 15th. A day later, Cuban bishops 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 the international community to stand together to condemn the regime’s attempt to suppress and oppress civil society and undermine democracy. Inaction is not an option.

We call on the Cuban dictatorship to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners.

  • Immediately restore the 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 to examine the human rights situation in Cuba.

In addition, we request that members of the international community to:

  • Issue joint statements on the current situation in Cuba and denounce the crackdown on pro-democracy activists perpetrated by the Castro regime, and advise Cuban officials of further sanctions depending on November 15th 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, 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.

  • Support civil society in Cuba and the implementation of reforms that respect international human rights norms.

  • Apply Magnitsky Sanctions to regime repressors.

  • Carry out a public diplomacy campaign on the internal blockade officials impose on Cubans.

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

  • Issue statements backing their Cuban counterpart’s call for a national dialogue, the release of Cubans jailed for the events of July 2021, and a rejection of violence by regime officials.

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

On March 6, 1991 when the U.N. Commission on Human Rights approved a resolution creating the post of a U.N. special representative to examine the human rights situation in Cuba. The Cuban government’s record was carefully scrutinized and held accountable. This practice ended as part of a Faustian bargain to bring the UN Human Rights Council into existence in 2006, which also eliminated the special representative examining the human rights situation in Belarus.

This abandonment of human rights monitoring of Cuba roughly coincided with the beginning of an ongoing 15-year decline in global freedom that is leading to a deepening democratic recession widely felt throughout the world, including in the world’s long-established democracies. This failure of solidarity with Cuba proves Martin Luther King Jr.’s aphorism: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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

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

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

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

Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman, Movimiento Cristiano Liberación.

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

Paquito D’Rivera, Grammy-winning musician and composer

Mary Curtis Horowitz Chair, Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy

Carlos Alberto Montaner, journalist and author

Manuel E. Iglesias Esq., entrepreneur

Carlos Eire, Yale University

Victor J. Pujals, Engineer

Jorge Sanguinetty, economist, founder and Chairman of DevTech Systems, Inc

Laida A. Carro, Coalition of Cuban-American Women

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

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

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

Alexander Guerrero, JD, PhD Professor of Philosophy Rutgers University – New Brunswick

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

Daniel I. Pedreira, political scientist, author and historian

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

Joaquin P Pujol, international civil servant, formerly with the International Monetary Fund

Sergio Diaz-Briquets, International Independent Consultant

Pablo Medina, poet, novelist, translator

Raul Masvidal, entrepreneur, civic leader, Managing Partner, Masvidal Partners

Janisset Rivero, writer and human rights activist

Anna Lee Stangl, CSW Head of Advocacy

John Suarez, Executive Director, Center for a Free Cuba