After the historic July 11 country-wide protests, a total of 673 Cuban political prisoners are still incarcerated for expressing any form of discontent against a repressive six-decade-long regime. Previously, the international community condemned the incarceration of activist Jose Daniel Ferrer and artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara until they were released, yet now with hundreds more incarcerated, official statements from high level stakeholders have died down. Recently, on December 7, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio urged European Union (EU) High Representative, Josep Borrell, to increase pressure on the Cuban government to release these political prisoners. Now more than ever, the international community cannot stay silent and must act as hundreds more Cubans continue to suffer constant, ill-fated violations of basic human rights.
In November, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos, OCDH) registered over 1,130 repressive actions and 197 arbitrary detentions-14 of which were violent- against human rights activists, independent journalists, and artists. Of these registered detentions, Ferrer and Otero Alcantara, two heroes who courageously fought for freedom and democracy in Cuba, continue to suffer physical and psychological torture while being refused medical attention.
Yunior Garcia, artist and co-founder of the “Archipelago movement,” also experienced the regime’s repressive tactics. Garcia garnered over 38,500 members inside and outside Cuba, advocated for freedom from the regime on social media and prepared to “march for a free Cuba” on November 15. This march, however, was squashed by the regime as members were arrested and Garcia declared “enemy No. 1.” Due to continuous threats and harassment, Garcia and his family were forced to covertly escape the island and flee to Madrid, Spain.
Among these repressive acts committed by the Cuban regime, which impeded the opposition to attend the November 15 march, the OCDH also reported 485 sieges of homes, 182 violations and judicial summons, along with 182 threats, 99 cases of harassment, and 25 acts of repudiation by regime officials. This reflects the regime’s continuous tactic to undermine the opposition and weaken their morale while pushing more fear towards the masses, as another key leader and opposition members could no longer take the pressure of the regime’s oppression.
Even with an increased repression and forced exiles, the Cuban regime cannot stifle democratic defenders’ thirst for freedom. Cuban democratic defenders refuse to leave the island and thousands more new leaders and new generations will continue to emerge and defend their human rights, democracy, and freedom in Cuba.
As the regime of six decades continues to crack down hard on democratic defenders, IRI finds it imperative to stand firm with the Cuban people in their mission to win the release of all political prisoners. To continue the fight for freedom and democracy, the international community must keep shedding light on the critical conditions that millions of Cubans face and condemn the tyrannical and dominating acts of repression that has gone on for too long.