Press Advisory: Appeal to world leaders to address Cuban government urgently with both words and actions to free Cuban political prisoners, and end forced exile

Press Advisory

Appeal to world leaders to address Cuban government urgently with both words and actions to free Cuban political prisoners, and end forced exile

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Pérez “El Osorbo” are jailed in Cuba.

Contacts: John Suarez (612)-367-6845/ Janisset Rivero (786) 208-6056

Center for a Free Cuba, July 13, 2022, Washington, DC. Human rights advocates, writers, artists, intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, former diplomats and academicians appeal to world civic, religious and political leaders imploring them “to address the Cuban government urgently” to free all Cuban political prisoners, cease its systematic repression of San Isidro Movement activists, release  Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Maykel Castillo (Osorbo), and permit Anamely Ramos González, Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola and other stranded Cubans to return home.”

The appeal requests that statements be backed up with actions to obtain changes in the Cuban government’s behavior.

“We fear that statements condemning the actions of the dictatorship, without specific actions by the international community will not end the ongoing repression .

At a bare minimum, diplomatic ties should be conditioned to allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross into Cuban prisons.

The United States ought to review its permits for airlines to travel to Cuba to make sure that passengers are not discriminated against in violation of both American and international law.”

This appeal was sent on July 10, 2022 and again on July 13, 2022 to democratic presidents, international organizations, Catholic bishops and other world figures, including the heads of state of the United States, Canada, Uruguay, Sweden, Slovakia, New Zealand, Botswana, as well as to the Secretary of State of the United States, Senators, Congressmen, and leaders of international organizations such as Luis Almagro, and Michelle Bachelet, among others.

The document specifically mentions the cases of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Pérez “El Osorbo”, both members of the San Isidro Movement, who remain in conditions of confinement and in the case of Otero Alcántara carrying out a hunger strike.

“As the anniversary of the July 11, 2021 peaceful protests in Cuba nears, we urge you to call upon the government of General Raul Castro and President Miguel Diaz Canel to cease its  repression of  the Cuban people and to address some especially grievous cases involving members of the San Isidro Movement, a home-grown group of artists and street musicians.,” the document requests in its first paragraph.

The publication of the appeal was made on July 13, 2022, the 28th anniversary of the sinking of the “13 de marzo” tugboat, sunk by Havana’s agents where 37 Cubans were killed, including 11 children.

Among the signatories are Guillermo Marmol, businessman and Chairman, Center for a Free Cuba, Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, Ambassador Everett Briggs, former U.S. ambassador to Portugal and Panama; Women’s Centrist Democrat International president Anna Maria Cervone, Carlos Ponce, Senior Fellow and Director of Latin American Programs, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and Ambassador Otto J. Reich, former U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela and currently president of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Also, among those signing, are: Carl Gershman, founding President of the National Endowment for Democracy, Cuban feminist, author and human rights activist Ileana Fuentes, and Sebastián Arcos Cazabon, human rights activist, assistant director, Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute.

“Signers of this appeal are extremely concerned about the situation of political prisoners, as well as the regime’s refusal to allow Anamely Ramos and Omara Ruiz Urquiola, both Cuban citizens and residents on the island to return home to Cuba for their activism in the San Isidro Movement. Due to this action against his sister Omara, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola is currently on a hunger and thirst strike in Geneva, Switzerland asking for an official statement from the rapporteurs of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights ”, explained John Suárez, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

Below is the full text of the document:

URGENT APPEAL LIVES AT RISK

As the anniversary of the July 11, 2021 peaceful protests in Cuba nears, we urge you to call upon the government of General Raul Castro and President Miguel Diaz Canel to cease its  repression of  the Cuban people and to address some especially grievous cases involving members of the San Isidro Movement, a home-grown group of artists and street musicians.

A year ago, tens of thousands of Cubans peacefully marched in over 50 cities and towns in the island.  They were met with threats, mass arrests, and deadly force from agents of the regime. Sporadic protests have continued across Cuba.President Miguel Diaz-Canel in a public address on July 11, 2021 declared,  “The order of combat is given!  Revolutionaries, take to the streets!” and  threatened: “[protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything.”

And as it turned out, they were.

Videos emerged of Cuban officials firing on fleeing, unarmed protesters and where the bullets entered their bodies. 

Family members of those killed were threatened to remain silent, but not all did. 

  •  Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) was shot in the back by regime agents.

  •  Christian Díaz, age 24, disappeared after joining the  protests. Police first told his father that Christian was jailed in Matanzas, but later said he’d drowned at sea and was buried in a mass grave. His family is convinced he was beaten to death

Thousands were detained by regime agents. Over 550 Cubans have been sentenced to over 4,000 collective years in prison. But not all were protesters.

  • Dayron Martín Rodríguez was sentenced to 30 years in prison for simply video-recording the protests.

In the succeeding months, repression by the regime  has not only continued, but increased.
Consider the following:On August 18, 2021, Decree-Law 35 came into force restricting and punishing the transmission or publication of information that portrays the dictatorship in a negative light.

A new penal code on May 15, 2022 provides for “penalties of 10 to 30 years – in extreme cases even death, for “those who give information to international organizations, associations, or … people who have not been authorized by the government.”

Members of the San Isidro Movement, who raised the conscience of many Cubans with their nonviolent responses to regime repression — and whose song Patria y Vida [ Homeland and Life ], a play on the official motto Patria o Muerte [Homeland or Death], became a rallying cry nationwide —  have been singled out for specially harsh treatment.

As things stand now, most of these young Cubans – poets, journalists, visual artists, musicians and even a scientist- have been forced into exile. Those who have sought to return — their right under Article 13 of the UN Human Rights Declaration — have been barred from doing so by the regime.  

  • Anamely Ramos González, art curator and former professor at the University of the Arts, on February 16, 2022 with her documents in order and plane ticket in hand, was told by a representative of American Airlines in Miami that she could not board the flight home on instructions of the Cuban government.

  • University professor, human rights activist, and cancer patient Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola, on June 25, 2022, with her documents in order, and plane ticket in hand, was told by a representative of Southwest Airlines in Fort Lauderdale she could not board the flight home, also on instructions of the Cuban government.

Both Anamely and Omara are Cuban citizens, not residents of the United States.

Two high-profile members of the San Isidro Movement who remain on the island are being held in prison under terrible conditions. Both have been recognized by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience.

  • Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, jailed since July 11, 2021 and Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo Pérez “Osorbo,” detained since May 18, 2021, were subjected to political show trials on May 30-31, 2022. They received sentences of five and nine years. Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara started a hunger and thirst strike on July 4, 2022 demanding.his immediate release and without conditions. Maykel Castillo is in poor health, and has been denied medical treatment.

The targeting of Anamely, Luis Manuel, Omara, and Maykel is not a coincidence.  All four appear in the music video Patria y Vida that went viral in Cuba and has been banned by the dictatorship. The song received two Latin Grammy awards.

These are only some examples. There are hundreds of other compelling stories of abuse of innocent civilians by a brutal regime. 

We fear that statements condemning the actions of the dictatorship, without specific actions by the international community will not end the ongoing repression .

At a bare minimum, diplomatic ties should be conditioned to allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross into Cuban prisons.

The United States ought to review its permits for airlines to travel to Cuba to make sure that passengers are not discriminated against in violation of both American and international law.

We implore you, and Cuba’s bishops, to address the Cuban government urgently to free all these political prisoners, cease its systematic repression of San Isidro Movement activists, release Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Maykel Castillo (Osorbo), and permit Anamely Ramos González, Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola and other stranded Cubans to return home.

Gratefully and respectfully,

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

Ambassador Andrew Bremberg, President, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Carl Gershman, Founding President of the National Endowment for Democracy

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

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

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

Carlos Eire, Professor of History and Religious Studies, Yale University

Jaime Suchlicki, Director, Cuban Studies Institute,

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

Joaquin P Pujol, International Economist

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

Sebastián Arcos Cazabon, human rights activist, assistant director, Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute

Dr. Anna María Cervone, presidente, Internazionale Femminile Democratica di Centro (IFDC).

Raúl Masvidal, business, entrepreneur, civic leader

Frank Calzon, former executive director Center for a Free Cuba, former Washington representative Freedom House

Victor J. Pujals, Engineer

Viviana Mendiola, Esq., Attorney

Jorge Sosa, Esq., Attorney

Daniel I. Pedreira, PhD, political scientist and author

Erik Suarez, Venezuelan Freedom Activist

Miguel Sales Figueroa, escritor

Giulia Pace, student

Charles Donate, Faculty Administrator, Florida International University

John Suarez, executive director, Center for a Free Cuba