‘A new front’ in the pursuit of justice in Cuba

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.

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“Un nuevo frente” en búsqueda de la justicia en 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.

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One year on from the coup in Myanmar, today must be a turning point

By Benedict Rogers

A year ago today, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar/Burma’s military, ordered his troops to take over government buildings, raid the offices of the governing party, arrest members of Myanmar’s democratically elected government and Parliament, shut down independent media, take control of the state media and seize power in a brutal coup d’etat. His decision turned the clock back by more than a decade, reversing ten years of fragile democratisation in which the country had seen credible elections, an independent media, the release of political prisoners, a vibrant civil society and opening up to the international community.

Of course, that decade of reform was far from perfect – not least because it included the genocide of the Rohingyas, continued conflict in ethnic states, particularly Kachin, Shan and Rakhine, and the rise of extreme religious nationalism leading to increased religious discrimination and persecution. But nevertheless, it allowed some seeds of political liberalisation to grow, and enabled the people of Myanmar to vote freely.

Twice – in 2015 and 2020 – Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming mandate to govern. After years under house arrest, prison, hiding or exile, the NLD – whose mandate from the 1990 elections was never accepted by the military – was now in government.

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A mockery of democracy: The international community must maintain firm pressure on Nicaragua

On 7 November 2021, Daniel Ortega was re-elected President of Nicaragua after months of government repression and violence against protesters. On 10 January 2022 he was inaugurated. This long read on the government’s history of repression against the citizens of Nicaragua was informed by testimonies from several individuals whose names have been withheld for security reasons.

In the first week of June 2021, the political landscape of Nicaragua transformed overnight when police arrested five opposition candidates who were on the ballot for the country’s November 2021 elections. What began as covert government repression of opposition candidates in the election burst into the open as many of them were suddenly detained.

In Nicaragua, the will of a repressive leader is above the law.

The most flawed election in Nicaragua’s history

Since the re-election of Daniel Ortega on 7 November 2021, analysts have contended that the electoral process was one of the most flawed in the country’s history as a democracy, as it was characterised by the arrests of numerous opposition candidates. To many, the scenario for Nicaragua seems hopeless.

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Sudan’s military coup: lessons from Egypt and the wider region

In February 2021, CSW warned that slow progress in ushering a new era for Sudan risked derailing the inclusive national vision that had united so many of its citizens in protest, and which led to the fall of the al-Bashir regime and the creation of a transitional government. Our blog post pointed to the need to learn from neighbouring Egypt’s experiences.

On 25 October 2021, the transitional council was overthrown, and the military seized power in a coup. Once again there are lessons to be drawn from Egypt, and the wider region, in understanding the challenges to democracy in Sudan today.

Both Sudan and Egypt have a complicated history of the involvement of the military in politics. One of the key differences in the two nations’ relationship with the military, however, is one of ideology.

In the immediate post-Mubarak era, the military effectively paved the way for a Muslim Brotherhood electoral victory.  However, when the army intervened in political affairs for the second time, it set out to control the excesses of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, positioning itself as the guardian of the Revolution and assisting in the overthrow of the government following mass protests.  

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