Press Advisory: CFC condemns Havana’s forced expulsion of two Cuban journalists for their work as reporters, in order to escalate repression with impunity.

Press Advisory

CFC condemns the Castro regime’s forced expulsion of two independent Cuban journalists from their homeland for their work as reporters, in order to escalate repression with impunity.

Héctor Valdés and Esteban Rodríguez now forcibly exiled in El Salvador

Washington, DC, January 5, 2022

Contact: John Suárez (612) -367-6845

Center for a Free Cuba (CFC). Washington, DC. January 5, 2022. The Center for a Free Cuba executive director condemns the Castro regime’s forced expulsion of two independent Cuban journalists from their homeland for their work as reporters and points to a long-term pattern of targeting and silencing both journalists and human rights defenders in order to eliminate any independent oversight and accountability of Cuban government officials.

On January 4th, at 5:20 a.m., Castro regime officials forcibly expelled independent Cuban journalists Esteban Lázaro Rodrguez López and Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho from Cuba. Esteban, who had been arbitrarily detained since April 30, 2021 for being present at a peaceful protest, was taken from prison to the airport, where he was able to briefly see his mother, but was unable to see his wife or daughters before being forcibly exiled. Héctor Valdés was told that he would have to leave with Esteban, or his friend and colleague would remain in prison, according to an interview with CiberCuba.

“The Castro regime is seeking to end the minimal oversight it is subjected to by independent journalists and human rights defenders. The forced expulsion of Héctor Valdés and Esteban Rodríguez is a crime and an outrage in its own right, but even more so when one considers that the objective is to create an environment where the Cuban dictatorship monopolizes information provided to both Cubans and the international community and is able to operate with complete impunity. Cubans are being subjected to a wave of political terror. and Havana does not want any independent voices reporting on it. This cannot be normalized and needs to be widely condemned,” said John Suarez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba. 

“Thanks to Cuba’s independent journalists, human rights defenders, and citizen reporters, this past summer the world saw images of Cuban policemen and paramilitaries firing on unarmed protesters, and images of severe injury and death caused by the Castro regime were documented and reported. Officials in expelling and jailing anyone who documents their crimes want to continue the bloodshed without any images or reporting on what they are doing,” concluded Suarez.

The dictatorship wants to make sure that no one considers filming anything that could put the regime in a bad light. German tourist and dual citizen, Luis Frómeta Compte, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on December 23, 2021 for spontaneously filming a demonstration in Havana for private purposes with his smartphone while visiting relatives and was subsequently arrested.

Jorge Bello Domínguez Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported on December 31, 2021 that there were six journalists imprisoned in the Latin American region, with half (three) jailed in Cuba. The Castro regime has a history of rounding up, jailing journalists, and forcibly exiling journalists. Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López was deported from Cuba, but independent journalists Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, and Jorge Bello Domínguez remain jailed in Cuba today for their willingness to report the facts.

In April 2017 Karla Pérez González (then age 18), a Cuban national, was expelled from her university for publishing opinions on sites with critical views of the Castro regime. However, she was able to complete her studies in journalism in Costa Rica, but when she graduated and tried to return home to Cuba in March 2021, she was banned from entering the island by Cuban communist officials.

Karla Pérez González: forcible exiled in 2019

In 2003, the Committee to Protect Journalists identified the Cuban government as “the world’s second leading jailer of journalists—behind only China—and those behind bars represent[ed] a third of the nation’s independent press corps.” Twenty-nine independent Cuban journalists were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms, and five years later, 20 remained jailed, plus two more jailed after the crackdown.

This had a chilling effect at the time, and the dictatorship literally got away with murder in the years that followed. This pattern of impunity must be broken and requires international attention and solidarity.