On the night of 28 February, Cuban police and State Security agents carried out a raid, capturing a man who they had been searching for 44 days. He was taken to an interrogation center and given an ultimatum: leave the country within the week or spend the next 30 years in a maximum-security prison. In early March, the man said good-bye to his wife and baby daughter and boarded a plane to Europe. Eighteen hours later, he submitted a formal request for asylum in Switzerland.
The man had committed no act of violence, nor had he stolen anything. He is a pastor. His only crime was to have extended his pastoral work to reach out to and pray with the families of political prisoners.
The Cuban government has long been fearful of any link between religious groups and political dissidents and has, for decades, gone to great effort to keep both as separate as possible. This is in part a general strategy to socially isolate all those it considers to be dissidents, including political activists, human rights defenders and independent journalists, in order to weaken and ultimately neutralise them. However, it is also, whether any of the Cuban Communist Party leadership would admit it or not, a recognition of the power in the combination of spirituality with the fight for justice and freedom.
Continue reading “‘A new front’ in the pursuit of justice in Cuba” →
En la noche del 28 de febrero, la policía cubana y agentes de la Seguridad del Estado realizaron un allanamiento, apresando a un hombre al que buscaban desde hacía 44 días. Lo llevaron a un centro de interrogatorios y le dieron un ultimátum: Abandonar el país en una semana o pasar los próximos 30 años en una prisión de máxima seguridad. A principios de marzo, el hombre se despidió de su esposa y de su pequeña hija y abordó un avión rumbo a Europa. Dieciocho horas después, presentó una solicitud formal de asilo en Suiza.
El hombre no había cometido ningún acto de violencia, ni había robado nada. Él es un pastor. Su único delito fue haber extendido su labor pastoral para alcanzar y orar con las familias de los presos políticos.
El gobierno cubano ha temido durante mucho tiempo cualquier vínculo entre grupos religiosos y disidentes políticos y, durante décadas, ha hecho un gran esfuerzo para mantener a ambos lo más separados posible. Esta es en parte, una estrategia general para aislar socialmente a todos aquellos que considera disidentes, incluidos activistas políticos, defensores de los derechos humanos y periodistas independientes, con el fin de debilitarlos y, en última instancia, neutralizarlos. Sin embargo, es también, lo admita o no alguna dirigencia del Partido Comunista de Cuba, un reconocimiento del poder que se produce por la combinación de la espiritualidad con la lucha por la justicia y la libertad.
Continue reading ““Un nuevo frente” en búsqueda de la justicia en Cuba” →
The Ladies in White are a Cuban peaceful protest movement comprising the wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents. Last year CSW interviewed their leader, Berta Soler, about her experiences, and the challenges facing Cuba:
“My activism really got started in 2003 when the government took [imprisoned] 75 men and one woman just because they defended the Declaration of Human Rights.
I and the other Ladies in White are women who are prepared, very well prepared, and aware that we are in a struggle for the freedom of political prisoners and for respect for human rights in my country. And we, the Ladies in White and I, are very conscious that in my country we need freedom and rights, especially for the men and women who are in prison just for demanding this and promoting and defending the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Continue reading “FoRB on the Frontlines: Fighting for freedom as long as it’s necessary” →
The Cuban government has a long-standing policy of targeting the children and other family members of church leaders and activists who it deems to be a problem; one of many tactics designed to ratchet up the pressure on them.
Religious leaders are increasingly standing up to government pressure and becoming bold in their efforts to defend religious freedom in the country, as the Cuban government’s Office for Religious Affairs (ORA) cracks down on unregistered religious groups and other groups that it perceives to be unsupportive of the government.
CSW’s latest report on freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Cuba reveals that the death of Fidel Castro in November 2016 failed to mark any significant improvements to FoRB in Cuba; instead, the arbitrary detention, harassment, restriction and surveillance of religious leaders and adherents has continued throughout the first half of 2017, as has the confiscation of church properties. In addition, several cases of family members of church leaders and activists singled out for harassment and discrimination have been brought to CSW’s attention in recent months.
Continue reading “Guilty by Association: Increased Targeting of Family Members in Cuba” →
Every Sunday Cuba’s Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco, in Spanish) have been forcibly and often violently prevented from attending Sunday morning services. Every Sunday since the group was formed in 2003, the women attend (or at least attempt to attend) Sunday Mass dressed in white to symbolise peace and walk through the streets in silent protest afterwards.
The Ladies in White movement was formed in response to the Black Spring in 2003 – a mass crackdown by the Cuban government on dissidents and journalists. Since 2010, all of the Black Spring prisoners have now been released. However, political prisoners remain in Cuba and the Ladies in White, a movement largely comprised of wives and other female relatives of former and current political prisoners remain active.
As the world marks International Women’s Day on 8 March, CSW commends their courage and peaceful protest, which saw them awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2005.
Continue reading “The Courage of Cuba’s Ladies in White” →