Some background on Miguel Diaz-Canel who is invited to speak at the UN General Assembly in NYC.

Negotiations of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin with the President of the Republic of Cuba Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez (October 29, 2019).

Given that Cuban President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez will be attending the United Nations General Assembly next month in New York City, it is important to examine his record as a repressive element of the Cuban dictatorship and an ally of Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s illegal war in Ukraine.

War in Ukraine

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel on May 19, 2023 declared to  Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Chernishenko, “Cuba’s unconditional support for the Russian Federation in its confrontation with the West.” CubaBrief has examined since February 24, 202 how Havana has backed Moscow’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on the diplomatic and propaganda front at first, and now on the military front.

On May 18, 2023 a high ranking Belarusian military official Valery Revenka, Head of the Department of International Military Cooperation – Assistant to the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Belarus for International Military Cooperation, revealed that Cuban military personnel will carry out military training in the Republic of Belarus.  

Repression and criminality in 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 officially made him the maximum authority in the country. President Díaz-Canel, and members of his regime have engaged in serious and systemic human rights violations during his tenure in office..

Raul Castro and Miguel Diaz-Canel in 2017

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, and Amnesty International)

With the implementation of Decree Law 370 in July 2019, Díaz-Canel prohibited Cubans from storing their information on foreign servers, further restricting Cuba’s outlawed independent press, and criminalized the circulation of “information contrary to the social interest, morals, good customs, and integrity of the people.” (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)

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 up 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.