Criticism of Cuba’s Persecution of Human Rights Activists and Journalists            

On March 17,   the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a statement expressing “its concern at the increased harassment and criminalization of journalists, artists, human rights defenders and opponents in Cuba.” It also condemned “the [arbitrary] arrests and the opening of processes to silence those who exercise the right to freedom of expression.” Therefore, it demanded that Cuba “immediately release all those detained for exercising journalism, their rights of opinion, expression and other political rights in Cuba.” [1]

Comments on Current Cases

The statement also commented on the following five current cases on the island:

  1. José Daniel Ferrer and other activists arrested on October 1, 2019. Commissioner Stuardo Ralón Orellana, rapporteur for Cuba, said,”In Cuba we observe a pattern of manipulation of criminal law to impede the exercise of political rights, in a context of lack of judicial independence. This case is of particular concern to us.” [2]
  2. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. He “was arrested on March 1, when he was going to a protest called ‘public kissing’ in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television, against the censorship of a gay kiss in a movie broadcast on the Cuban television. The artist had been harassed multiple times in recent years, including 21 arrests linked to his public protests. On this occasion, Otero was accused of crimes of outrage against the national symbols and damage to property due to the performance of an artistic performance in which he appears photographed with the flag of Cuba in different situations; the prosecution would have requested a sentence of between two and five years in prison.” [3]
  3. Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces. In August 2019, this “office condemned the imposition of one year in prison on [this] journalist, of the Cubanet media, for the alleged crime of “resistance and disobedience.” Said condemnatory sentence would be directly related to the coverage of a judicial process of public interest. Quiñones has been held in the Guantánamo prison since September 11, 2019, and his family members denounced that his health condition had deteriorated due to the hygiene conditions of the place. Likewise, he has been subjected to a disciplinary process for having published an article from prison on October 1, 2019.” [4]

“In this regard, the offices of the IACHR and the UN Special Rapporteurs for Freedom of Expression . . . sent the Cuban State a letter requesting information, pursuant to resolutions 34/18, 42/22, 34/5 of the Human Rights Council, and article 18 of the IACHR Statute, to gather information on the sanction imposed on Quiñones Haces, in which they also consult on the lack of due process by the Cuban State and the motivation of the condemnatory sentence of the independent journalist.”

Cuba responding to this joint communication, “denied these allegations . . .[and] stated that the ‘true causes’ of the arrest and subsequent prosecution were ‘the disobedience, disrespect and resistance shown to the police authorities on April 22, 2019,’ when he intended to enter to cover a trial.”

4. Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina. This “independent journalist was detained on January 29 for five days at [Havana’s] José Martí International Airport, as he was preparing to travel to the United States to participate in a human rights even. . . . [As a result, he was] prevented from leaving the country [and] stated that this happened as a result of the allegations of human rights violations in Cuba [from] the Palenque Vision agency, of which he is director.”

5. Luz Escobar. A “journalist for the independent digital newspaper 14yMedio, [she] has been harassed on multiple occasions for her journalistic work, preventing her from leaving her home and denying her leaving the country. In addition, she was reportedly cited by the Ministry of the Interior on February 26 by State Security agents who questioned her work as a journalist, accusing her of usurping the journalist’s legal capacity and threatening to harm her family.”

More General Comments

“Regarding freedom of artistic expression, this Office had also expressed its concern regarding the sanction of [Cuba’s] decree 349/018, which regulates cultural policy and the provision of artistic services, [and] which introduced greater restrictions on cultural and artistic expressions in Cuba. . The decree requires [the Ministry of Culture] to grant prior approval of any public presentation or exhibition and created an inspection mechanism with powers to close an event, if it determines that these are not in accordance with the cultural policy of the Revolution”

“The Office of the Special Rapporteur reminds the State that the use of criminal law as a mechanism to prosecute those who express opinions, information, or criticism of government authorities or policies, as well as on issues of public interest, generates a intimidating effect that limits freedom of expression.”

“In the Joint Declaration on the freedom of expression of the UN rapporteurs, OSCE, IACHR and CADHP on the independence and diversity of the media (2018) they expressed their concern about the actions of officials to curtail the independence of the media. , thereby limiting opportunities for people to access credible and reliable news sources that offer a variety of viewpoints. ‘States have a positive obligation to promote a safe working environment for journalists; guarantee respect for the independence of the media and respect the freedom of movement of journalists, both local and foreign,’ recalled the Rapporteur for Freedom. of Expression Edison Lanza.”

“The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur have indicated in their recent Special Report on the Situation of Freedom of Expression in Cuba that state agents are the main source of threats and attacks against the press in the country, a practice that must be dismantled and sanctioned. The report recommended that the State of Cuba put an end to the harassment, including summons, arrests of any length, and judicial harassment of any person for causes related to the exercise of their freedom of expression, freedom of association, assembly or other related matters.”

“Both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, signed by Cuba on February 28, 2008, protect journalistic, artistic and the defense of human rights. In such a way that those who express themselves should not be under pressure when carrying out their work, covering and / or spreading the facts of public interest.”

“The Office of the Special Rapporteur and the IACHR have warned on various occasions about the use of vague and ambiguous criminal figures who do not comply with the requirements of international law to criminalize journalistic work, the defense of human rights and expressions of criticism through social networks. Likewise, the IACHR in its Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression established that prison terms for sanctioning expressions on public officials or issues of public interest are contrary to the inter-American legal framework.”

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[1] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Office of the Special Rapporteur Condemns Increased Criminalization and Harassment of Journalists, Activists, and Artists Who Exercise Freedom of Expression in Cuba (Mar. 17, 2020); The IACHR expresses its concern about the harassment of opponents in Cuba, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 18, 2020). The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in order to stimulate the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in consolidation and development. of the democratic system.

[2] Cuba and U.S. Debate Cuba’s Treatment of José Daniel Ferrer, dwkcommentaries.com (Mar. 19, 2020).

[3] Cuba Presses Charges Against Dissident Artist, dwkcommentaries.com (Mar. 16, 2020); Comment: Protests Against Cuban Charges Against Alcántara (Mar. 18, 2020).

[4] U.S.-Cuba Conflict Over Cuban Journalist, dwkcommentaries.com (Aug. 23, 2019).

Cuba and U.S. Debate Cuba’s Treatment of José Daniel Ferrer

On March 11, the U.S. State Department released its latest annual report on human rights around the world. A previous post discussed some of the details of that criticism while another post looked at the limited positive comments in that report. Now we examine the report’s criticism of Cuba’s treatment of José Daniel Ferrer after a review of what previous posts have set forth on that subject followed by a review of more recent events.

Previous Posts’ Discussion of Ferrer[1]

As the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), which has criticized the Cuban government for a long time, Ferrer has had many conflicts with the Cuban government. The most recent started on October 1, 2019, with his arrest and detention for allegedly kidnapping and beating a fellow Cuban (Sergio Garcia) and with an October 17th rejection of Ferrer’s plea for a writ of habeas corpus.

On October 18, 2019, the State Department publicly condemned this arrest and detention as part of an escalating “wave of repression against freedoms of speech, expression, and religion” and demanded his immediate release from detention.

On November 20, 2019, an editorial in Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, alleged that Ferrer was in detention because he was “a salaried agent of the United States, with a long history of provocative actions, disruption of public order, and violations of the law” and that the U.S. Embassy in Havana and Chargé d’ Affaires Mara Tekach had been “the fundamental . . . [instrument  for the] orientation, and financing of . . . Ferrer’s conduct, clearly interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs, openly inciting violence, promoting the disruption of order and contempt for the law by this citizen. . . .”[2]

That same day, UNPACU said this editorial was “a complete manipulation of the judicial process against” Ferrer by asserting “two fundamental lies, first, it locates the process of searching for freedom and universal rights of the Cuban people under the authorship of the United States Government, and, second, it states that . . .Ferrer is a salaried agent of the service of United States, with a violent trajectory.” [3]Instead, UNPACU stated the following:

  • The “demonstrations of popular discontent against the Cuban regime, which we can see daily thanks to the internet’s social networks, are a direct consequence of 60 years of communist government of the single party that deprives them of fundamental rights and freedoms to Cuban citizens. What translates into a permanent state of material and spiritual crisis, which from time to time reaches critical levels like the current one. It is worth asking the Cuban regime if the two 2.5 million citizens that they recognized who did not agree with the new constitution [and voted against it in the referendum], were also cared for, guided and financed by the United States Embassy in Cuba. The Chargé d’Affaires of the United States Embassy, ​​Mara Teckach.”
  • “Our organization receives help without imposition from various foreign institutions that promote values ​​such as democracy, freedom, the rule of law and the division between the powers of the State, without which it is impossible for a Government to guarantee and respect human rights. With the help we receive, we do not buy weapons, bombs, or terrorism. With that help we buy printers and sheets to print thousands of copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and distribute them among the population.”
  • “With regard to the slander against José Daniel Ferrer, we can say that in his case and in that of the Patriotic Union of Cuba there is no record of activism during these years of activism against any member of the repressive bodies of the Cuban State.”
  • “During this time [60 days of unjust imprisonment of Ferrer and three of his colleagues] we have published several testimonies of people who demonstrate the pressure exerted by members of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) against activists and neighbors of the community of Mármol, where the main headquarters of UNPACU is located, to raise false charges against him. We have even alerted the use by the State Security of agents that we have expelled from our ranks for being at their service, to make false accusations.”
  • “Other evidence of the political police maneuvers in the case is that the wife of the alleged accuser declared through a phone call that we made public, that her husband suffered a traffic accident and that the police were pressing him very insistently to who said that the injuries contracted in the accident had been caused by . . . [Ferrer].. Also, the sister of Roilán Zárraga Ferrer, one of the activists detained with José Daniel, publicly stated that his brother communicated to him on a recent visit to the Center for Criminal Instruction in Santiago de Cuba, where he is being held, that they are pressuring him to sign a false statement against José Daniel.”
  • “Among the serious violations that occurred in this case, the conditions of confinement of the detainees are of great concern, as well as the torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment to which . . .Ferrer is being subjected, as confirmed by his wife on a recent visit to the Aguadores prison in Santiago de Cuba, after 34 days of being kept missing.”

The U.S. State Department on November 22 vehemently denied the Cuban government’s charges and said “these baseless accusations . . . [were] an attempt to distract the international community from its abysmal treatment of the Cuban people, especially the ongoing arbitrary detention of  . . Ferrer.”

Cuba, however, on November 26, returned to this attack on the U.S. and Ferrer in an open letter from Cuba’s Ambassador to the EU to the latter’s Parliament asserting that the U.S. and its diplomatic mission in Cuba have been “guiding, instigating and financing the violent and destabilizing behavior of Ferrer” while intending “to fabricate the image of [him as] a persecuted and mistreated” political dissident. The Cuban Ambassador also denied allegations of subsequent Cuban jail mistreatment of Ferrer as “lies . . . deliberately conceived and guided by the United States Government and its Embassy in Havana.”

The next day (November 27) on Cuban national television the Cuban government alleged that Ferrer that year had received $50,000 form the U.S. Government via the Miami-based Cuban-American National Foundation and showed a video of him banging his head against a metal table.

These Cuban allegations, however, did not persuade the EU Parliament, which on November 28 adopted a resolution condemning Ferrer’s arbitrary detention and torture and demanding his immediate release.

On January 30, 2020, Ferrer’s wife and children were permitted to visit him in prison, when he appeared to be very thin and told his wife that he had not been receiving any medical attention. In addition, the prison did not allow him to eat food and take medicines brought by his wife.

On February 24, Secretary Pompeo sent an open letter to Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Edwardo Rodriguez Parrilla demanding the immediate release of Ferrer. This letter stated the following:

  • “Cuban human rights defender Jose Daniel Ferrer has endured more than 100 days of unjust imprisonment and repeatedly has been dragged, chained, beaten, and burned at the hands of the regime, which you represent.  The United States government joins a chorus of international voices demanding Ferrer’s immediate release.  The European Parliament, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, Amnesty International, and journalists and human rights organizations from countries across the globe have condemned your regime’s treatment of Ferrer and other human rights defenders like him.”
  • “This is not the first time your regime has targeted Ferrer.  He was imprisoned from 2003 until 2011 for advocating for democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba.”
  • “The current spurious charges against Ferrer follow a familiar pattern of harassment, violence, and arbitrary arrests against Cubans who seek only to advocate for democracy and the political and economic freedoms that would enable the Cuban people to create prosperity in Cuba.  It cannot be a crime to criticize policies that have set Cuba’s development tumbling backwards for the past 61 years.”
  • “The United States will never forget the brave Cubans who put their lives on the line for the sake of a free Cuba.  Until there is democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba and all political prisoners are freed, the United States will continue to hold the regime accountable for its abuses.  For the sake of the Cuban people and for the betterment of your nation, we urge you to free Jose Daniel Ferrer immediately.”
  • On February 26, 2020, Ferrer was put on trial in Santiago de Cuba for the alleged crimes of injury, deprivation of liberty to third parties and attack. According to the Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD), the court did not permit any of the witnesses at this 12-hour trial to utter the words “opponents, dissidents, political police, State Security, headquarters, UNPACU, regime, dictatorship, dictators and illegal.”

Secretary Pompeo’s Comments About the New U.S. Human Rights Report                 and Ferrer[4]

The Secretary’s comments upon the release of the report included the following:  “The name Jose Daniel Ferrer appears 17 times in this report.  He’s one of thousands of political prisoners who, over the years, have been dragged, chained, and beaten at the hands of the [Cuban] regime. Tomorrow (March 12) he will be sentenced by a Cuban court.” (Emphasis added.)

The New Report’s Discussion of Ferrer[5]

The Executive Summary of the report on Cuba stated the following:

  • “On February 24, the country adopted a new constitution in a coerced referendum marred by violent government repression against those that opposed the proposed constitution. On February 12, for example, 200 police and security agents raided the homes of leaders of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) [which is headed by José Daniel Ferrer] for openly campaigning against the draft constitution, detaining and reportedly beating UNPACU members. Other opponents reported that the government had blocked their email and texts to keep them from disseminating opposition campaign materials. Article 5 of the constitution enshrines one-party rule by the CCP, disallowing for additional political expression outside of that structure. Although the new constitution adds explicit protections of freedom and human rights, including habeas corpus, authorities did not respect them, nor did the courts enforce them.” (Emphases added.)

In addition, the report had the following references to the persecution of José Daniel Ferrer:

  • Authorities “detained UNPACU leader Jose Daniel Ferrer several times during the year. He was often held for several days at a time incommunicado or without being charged in court. Although uniformed security officials were present for his arrest, authorities denied having him in their custody (see also sections 1.d. and 2.d.). On October 1, police detained him for almost six weeks before allowing his family to see him and did not announce charges against him until November 15, 45 days after his disappearance. In the interim, authorities rejected writs of habeas corpus filed by his wife. As of December, Jose Daniel Ferrer remained in custody.” (Section 1.B) (Emphases added.)
  • “When authorities did allow Nelva Ismarays Ortega Tamayo, the wife of Jose Daniel Ferrer . . ., to visit him in prison, she found him emaciated with signs of repeated physical torture. He was reportedly unable to lift his arms and recounted daily psychological trauma inflicted at the instruction of his jailers.” (Section 1.C) (Emphasis added.)
  • “On August 27, authorities detained UNPACU leader Jose Daniel Ferrer in connection with a fabricated murder case from 2018. He was previously detained in August 2018 in Santiago de Cuba for 12 days and charged with attempted murder following a car accident in which he hit and injured an official in Palmarito del Cauto. There were reports the official intentionally jumped in front of the vehicle Ferrer was driving, resulting in minor injuries to the official. Despite reported coercion of witnesses, police could not obtain corroborating evidence against Ferrer, and the prosecution was forced eventually to release him. Police, however, continued to use the case as justification for detaining him.” (Emphases added.) Prison officials refused to consider pleas from Ferrer’s wife to consider his failing health or accept medicine she brought to the prison for him, and they banned her from further visits to the facility. On November 15, the government provided her a copy of the charges filed against Ferrer on October 7. As of December 3, Ferrer still had not received access to a lawyer, and a trial date had not been set. (Section 1.D) (Emphases added.)
  • “In connection with a planned march on September 8, several UNPACU activists were arbitrarily detained on September 7. On September 8, immediately after leaving his house with several supporters, Ferrer and other supporters were arrested (see section 2.b. for more information). On October 1, he was arrested again, this time on different charges that he was involved in a physical assault of an UNPACU member. The charges were likely fabricated, due to testimony from multiple individuals that the alleged victim left UNPACU headquarters unharmed and testimony from the alleged victim’s wife that the injuries were sustained in a motorcycle accident. A separate activist said she was threatened with prison if she did not sign a false statement implicating Ferrer in the alleged crime. (Section 1.D) (Emphases added.)
  • Ferrer was held incommunicado for 72 hours before authorities acknowledged he was in custody, and they denied his wife access to him. Several days later, she was finally allowed access to him and received permission to send him a change of clothes, but not medication to tend to his chronic medical condition. On October 18, after not seeing him for more than two weeks, she filed a writ of habeas corpus stating Ferrer’s family did not know his whereabouts or if he was still alive, and that they had not been informed of charges filed against him or been given the opportunity to provide a lawyer to represent him. The court ruled against the petition, claiming that charges were brought on October 3 and formally filed October 7, without stating his location or the charges against him.” (Section 1.D) (Emphases added.)
  • “On October 25, still without access to her husband for herself or her lawyers, and still without knowing the public charges, Ferrer’s wife and his three minor children demonstrated against her husband’s mistreatment in a public park in Santiago de Cuba; security officials arrested all individuals. On November 7, she was allowed a five-minute supervised visit with him–the first proof she had received in more than one month that Ferrer was still alive. He described extremely punishing treatment he received at the hands of his jailers, who chained him hand and feet, offered him only spoiled food and foul water, and held him with a known violent criminal who said he was offered privileges in exchange for beating Ferrer (which he did regularly).” (Section 1.D) (Emphases added.)
  • “Prison officials refused to consider pleas from Ferrer’s wife to consider his failing health or accept medicine she brought to the prison for him, and they banned her from further visits to the facility. On November 15, the government provided her a copy of the charges filed against Ferrer on October 7. As of December 3, Ferrer still had not received access to a lawyer, and a trial date had not been set.” (Section 1.D.) (Emphases added.)
  • On “September 6-7, the internet access of several UNPACU members was suspended ahead of a planned march, and on October 3, the government suspended the internet access of UNPACU national committee member Katherine Mojena Hernandez after she repeatedly tweeted about a government crackdown on the group. (Section 2.D) (Emphases added.)

Subsequent Developments[6]

Although, as Secretary Pompeo stated, Ferrer’s sentencing was scheduled for March 12, it did not happen, but was postponed to March 14. This delay prompted UNPACU to release the following statement on social media:

  • “The sentence against José Daniel Ferrer will not be issued by an impartial Court, but by the Cuban regime, which probably already has his sentence from the moment of his unjust arrest more than five months ago.”
  • “If there were in Cuba a system with guarantees for its citizens, both José Daniel Ferrer and the other three activists would have been acquitted on the day of the manipulated trial of which they were victims, because with evidence it was shown that all the accusations were part of an orchestrated theater by the political police. “
  • “The UNPACU dismisses the sentence that will be delivered, because it is the product of a perverse dictatorship that for fear and hatred represses and imprisons those who courageously oppose them peacefully, such as José Daniel Ferrer García.”

On March 14, there was still no sentencing. Thus, on March 17,  Ferrer’s teenage son went to the court to demand an explanation for the delay in the sentencing, but was told that the court would not receive anyone. Now it is March 19, and there still is no announcement of the sentencing, which, whenever it comes, will be the subject of a future post.

Conclusion

Given the hostile rhetoric and actions of the Trump Administration against Cuba, it seems exceedingly unlikely that the two parties could peaceably negotiate an end to this dispute over the charges against Ferrer. If there were some country or person who had the trust of both sides, perhaps that country or person could act as a mediator to try to resolve the conflict. Or the two countries could arbitrate this (along with many other) disputes before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in the Netherlands.[7] Otherwise, this dispute just adds to the stack of such disputes.

An independent U.S. source (Cuba Money Project) quotes the previously mentioned UNPACU acknowledgement of receiving support from “various foreign institutions that promote values such as democracy, freedom, the rule of law and the separation of powers of state, without which it is impossible for a government to guarantee and respect human rights.” The Project then states that the Cuban American National Foundation on a 2016 U.S. federal tax form reported that it gave $99,431 to UNPACU.

In addition, this Project recently reported the following two other U.S.-financed efforts to promote democracy in Cuba:

  • First, the U.S. government-financed National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 2019 managed Cuba projects worth $5,411,535.50 for organizations other than UNPACU and another $565,964.50 going to undisclosed organizations.[8]
  • Second, the U.S. Embassy in Havana has announced plans to award grants to Cuban NGOs, institutions and individuals to strengthen Cuba’s independent civil society’s “professional ties” with the U.S. Although there was no announcement of the total amount of such grants or the number of such grants, it did say that they would be at least $10,000 each.[9]

These U.S. programs that were uncovered by the Cuba Money Project provide support for the previously mentioned allegations of Granma’s November 2019 editorial. While the purpose of these U.S. programs sounds good to the ears of U.S. citizens, it is easy to understand why that is not so for the Cuban government.

Ideally the two governments should discuss, negotiate and agree on the details of any such programs. We were headed in that direction during the last 25 months of the Obama Administration.

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[1] Among the many posts about Ferrer, see these posts in dwkcommentaries.com: Secretary Pompeo Demands Release of Cuban Dissident  (Feb. 27, 2020)(and previous posts and comments cited in footnote 2); José Daniel Ferrer Tried for Common Crime in Cuba (Feb. 28, 2020).

[2] Cuba Accuses U.S. of Using Ferrer Case To Try to Discredit Cuba, dwkcommentareis.com (Nov. 21, 2019).

[3] Response of the Patriotic Union of Cuba to the article in the Granma newspaper about José Daniel Ferrer, unpacu.org/en (Nov. 20, 2019).

[4] State Dep’t, Secretary Michael R. Pompeo on the Release of the 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (Mar. 11, 2020); Jakes, Critics Hear Political Tone as Pompeo Calls Out Diplomatic Rivals Over Human Rights, N.Y. Times (Mar. 11, 2020).

[5] State Dep’t, 2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba (Mar. 11, 2020).

[6] The regime postpones the sentence against José Daniel Ferrer, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 12, 2020); The authorities still do not reveal the sentence against José Daniel Ferrer, Diario de Cuba (Mar. 17, 2020).

[7] See Proposed Resolution of U.S.-Cuba Issues, dwkcommentaries.com (Jan. 31, 2019).

[8] Eaton, Dissident’s arrest triggers debate over funding, Cuba Money Project (Dec. 7, 2019); Eaton, NED kept secret more than a half million dollars in Cuba projects, Cuba Money Project (Jan. 2, 2020). The Cuba Money Project was started and is operated by Tracey Eaton, a U.S. journalist and former Havana bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News; it aims to report stories about U.S. government programs and projects related to Cuba.

[9] Eaton, Public diplomacy or interference?, Cuba Money Project (Feb. 1, 2020); U.S. Embassy in Cuba, Education & Culture: Annual Program Statement. (undated).

 

José Danial Ferrer Tried for Common Crime in Cuba

As reported in a prior post, on February 24, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo demanded that Cuba release José Daniel Ferrer, a political dissident.

Instead, on February 26, he was put on trial in Santiago de Cuba for the alleged crimes of injury, deprivation of liberty to third parties and attack. “However, according to the European External Action Service (EEAS), he was tried for the peaceful expression of his opinions.” The court did not allow that Service or an independent Cuban newspaper (Diario de Cuba) to attend.

Afterwords the information available on his case suggests that Mr. Ferrer had been tried for the peaceful expression of his views,” the EEAS said. 

According to the the Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD), the court did not permit any of the witnesses at this trial to utter the words “opponents, dissidents, political police, State Security, headquarters, UNPACU, regime, dictatorship, dictators and illegal.” Ever since the arrest, the court and the regime have tried to present Ferrer as a “common criminal”, who was accused of alleged crimes of injury, deprivation of liberty to third parties and attack.

CPDPD noted other irregularities in the process, including the omission of evidence relevant to the defense, the short period of time the defendant had to prepare his defense and the role of the judge favoring the prosecutor.

The trial lasted It lasted more than 12 hours with the prosecutors asking for a nine-year prison sentence with the court to issue its decision on March 12.

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The European Union tried to access Ferrer’s trial, but the Cuban government opposed, Diario de Cuba (Feb. 27, 2020); The words prohibited in the trial against José Daniel Ferrer, Diario de Cuba (Feb. 27, 2020); The trial against Ferrer unmasks that the case has a ‘only political background,’  Diario de Cuba (Feb. 27, 2020); A reporter from DIARIO DE CUBA, intercepted and prevented from attending the trial of José Daniel Ferrer, Diario de Cuba (Feb. 26, 2020); Cuba: Statement by the Spokesperson on the case of José Daniel Ferrer, European Union External Action (Feb. 27, 2020); Reuters, Cuba to Deliver Verdict in Closely Eyed Dissident Case Next Month, N.Y. Times (Feb. 27, 2020). 

Secretary Pompeo Demands Release of Cuban Dissident 

On February 24, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo sent an open letter to Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Edwardo Rodriguez Parrilla demanding the immediate release of Jose Daniel Ferrer, a Cuban dissident. [1] 

The Pompeo Letter

“Cuban human rights defender Jose Daniel Ferrer has endured more than 100 days of unjust imprisonment and repeatedly has been dragged, chained, beaten, and burned at the hands of the regime, which you represent.  The United States government joins a chorus of international voices demanding Ferrer’s immediate release.  The European Parliament, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, Amnesty International, and journalists and human rights organizations from countries across the globe have condemned your regime’s treatment of Ferrer and other human rights defenders like him.”

“This is not the first time your regime has targeted Ferrer.  He was imprisoned from 2003 until 2011 for advocating for democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba.”

“The current spurious charges against Ferrer follow a familiar pattern of harassment, violence, and arbitrary arrests against Cubans who seek only to advocate for democracy and the political and economic freedoms that would enable the Cuban people to create prosperity in Cuba.  It cannot be a crime to criticize policies that have set Cuba’s development tumbling backwards for the past 61 years.”

“The United States will never forget the brave Cubans who put their lives on the line for the sake of a free Cuba.  Until there is democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba and all political prisoners are freed, the United States will continue to hold the regime accountable for its abuses.  For the sake of the Cuban people and for the betterment of your nation, we urge you to free Jose Daniel Ferrer immediately.” 

Background for Latest Detention of Ferrer [2]

Ferrer is the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU whose latest arrest occurred on October 1, 2019, for which he still is imprisoned.

In November 2019 Cuba alleged that Ferrer had been arrested because he was a salaried U.S. agent to foment dissent on the island; the U.S. vehemently denied these claims. The European Union, Amnesty International and others also have complained about this detention, and members of his family have reported about his poor treatment and condition in the prison.

Other Ferrer Incidents [3]

This detention is not the first time that Ferrer has appeared in the news. For example, in August 2015, after attending  a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry at the official Havana residence of the U.S. charge d’affaires, Ferrer said the Secretary’s comments were “good and clear. Many of us are grateful for his remarks, including that the situation in Cuba would improve if we had a genuine democracy.” After Presdient Obama’s speech in Havana in February 2016, Ferrer met with Obama and said it was “the speech we and millions of Cubans yearned to hear. It was light in the dark.” In February 2019 he along with other members of UNPACU were arrested for advocating negative votes in the then upcoming referendum.

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[1] State Dep’t, An Open Letter to the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Cuba (Feb. 24, 2020).

[2] See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Cuba and Denounces Cuba’s Detention of a Dissident (Oct. 19, 2019); Comment: Cuban Court Denies Habeas Corpus for Ferrer (Oct. 21, 2019); Comment: Ferrer’s Family Released from Detention (Oct. 26, 2019); Cuba Accuses U.S. of Using Ferrer Case To Try To Discredit Cuba (Nov. 21, 2019); U.S. Responds to Cuba’s Allegations about U.S. and José Daniel Ferrer (Nov. 22, 2019); Cuba Tells European Union That Ferrer Is Not a Political Detainee (Nov. 26, 2019) Comment: Update on Ferrer Status (Nov. 28, 2019); Comment: Current Status of José Daniel Ferrer (Feb. 1, 2020).

[3] See these posts to dwkcommentaries.com: Kerry’s Meeting with Cuban Dissidents Gets Rave Reviews (Aug. 24, 2015); Reactions to President Obama’s Speech in Cuba (Mar. 26, 2016); Cuba Arrests Opponents of New Constitution (Feb. 14, 2019).

Cuba Tells European Union That Ferrer Is Not a Political Detainee 

On November 26, 2019, Norma Goicochea, Cuba’s Ambassador to the European Union (EU), released an open letter to the European Parliament asserting that José Daniel Ferrer is not a political detainee on the island.[1] The following alleged grounds were provided for that conclusion:

  • On October 1 Ferrer was arrested “in response to the complaint filed by his countryman Sergio García, who accused him and three other individuals of kidnapping him for a whole night,” severely beating him and leaving him in hospital admission.
  • Ferrer now is awaiting trial on charges from that incident.
  • The U.S. and its diplomatic mission in Cuba have been “guiding, instigating and financing the violent and destabilizing behavior of Ferrer while intending “to fabricate the image of [him as] a persecuted and mistreated” political dissident.
  • Moreover, “the US embassy in Havana [has concentrated] in recent months on the failed purpose of recruiting mercenaries, of promoting division and confusion in [Cuba], of identifying the areas of the [Cuban] economy against which [to] direct coercive measures, and [of] trying to slander and discredit the management of the Cuban Government and the Revolution. ”
  • In Cuba, “as in many countries where the rule of law prevails, it is the law that establishes the procedures and circumstances that warrant detention; as well as the terms [for holding a] detainee . . . subject to precautionary measures, [and when a] criminal proceeding must be initiated or [dismissed.]”
  • “Ferrer has received a visit from his wife and children and received proper medical attention.” In addition, he “performs regular physical exercises and, upon request, religious assistance is provided. I can assure you that all references to [his] physical disappearance, alleged physical abuse, torture or receiving insufficient food are false. These lies are deliberately conceived and guided by the United States Government and its Embassy in Havana.”

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[1] Cuba points to the European Union that José Daniel Ferrer is not a political detainee, Cubadebate (Nov. 26, 2019).  Earlier blog posts have discussed recent events regarding Ferrer.

 

 

Cuba Accuses U.S. of Using Ferrer Case To Try to Discredit Cuba

Since mid-October this blog has commented on Cuba’s arrest and detention of José Daniel Ferrer, the leader of Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). [1]

The Cuban Government had no official response to the many issues raised by this arrest and detention until November 20, when Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, published a lengthy statement alleging that Ferrer was acting as an agent of the U.S. [2]

The Granma Article

“The United States government has been conducting a new slander campaign to discredit Cuba, as part of its policy of increased hostility toward our country. Given the resistance of the Cuban people, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the capital [Havana] with optimism, a media effort is being mounted to distract attention from failed U.S. attempts to force the Cuban people to surrender by reinforcing the blockade and depriving us of fuel.”

The pretext for this U.S.media campaign “is the arrest of counter-revolutionary José Daniel Ferrer, a salaried agent of the United States, with a long history of provocative actions, disruption of public order, and violations of the law.”

The U.S. embassy in Cuba led by its chargé d’affaires “has been the fundamental . . . [instrument  for the] orientation, and financing of . . . Ferrer’s conduct, clearly interfering in Cuba’s internal affairs, openly inciting violence, promoting the disruption of order and contempt for the law by this citizen. . . .” [3]

“It is well known that, far from devoting its efforts to promoting bilateral ties, protecting the interests of the U.S. people and their government, and the development of peaceful relations between states, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba, and particularly its chargé d’affaires, have in recent months focused on a failed effort to recruit mercenaries, promoting division and confusion among our people, identifying areas of the economy to attack with coercive measures, and attempting to slander and discredit the work of our government and the Revolution.”

“As usual, the [U.S.] practice of government officials repeating lies, over and over again, is a fundamental ingredient of the campaign.”

“Ferrer was arrested by the police on October 1, in response to a complaint filed by a Cuban citizen, accusing Ferrer and three other individuals of abducting him for an entire night, and giving him such a severe beating that his subsequent hospitalization was required.”

“Ferrer is awaiting trial. He has received a visit from his wife and children, as appropriate in accordance with Cuban regulations.. . . All references to his physical disappearance, to alleged physical abuse, to torture, or insufficient food, are absolutely false, lies deliberately conceived and disseminated by the United States government and its embassy in Havana. He has received proper medical assistance, performs regular physical exercises and, upon request, is provided religious attention.”

“For the record, it must be known, given his activity in the service of the United States government, that  . . . Ferrer has a criminal history of violent behavior, totally unrelated to political motivations. He has recorded violations of the law dating back to 1993. These include attacks with physical violence on other citizens, including women, and public disorder, behaviors that have increased in recent years.”

“It is nothing new for the U.S. government to use people with these characteristics to conduct its subversive activities in Cuba, including slander campaigns with unscrupulous support from the corporate media.”

Comments

The Cuban organization led by Ferrer, Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), denounced the Cuban government’s statement about him. [4] It said, “The one who does have a long history of murder, brutal beatings, torture, robbery, threats, slander and forced expatriations against his people, and more incisively against dissidents, is the Cuban regime.” The UNPACU statement added the following:

  • “The manifestations of popular discontent against the Cuban regime, which today thanks to the social networks of the Internet we can appreciate on a daily basis, are a direct consequence of 60 years of communist government of a single party that deprives Cuban citizens of fundamental rights and freedoms. which translates into a permanent state of material and spiritual crisis, which from time to time reaches critical levels like the current one.”
  • “In the name of ‘international revolutionary solidarity, the Cuban State trained and armed citizens of other nations on the Island to form guerrillas in their respective countries. Our organization receives unimpeded help from various foreign institutions that promote values ​​such as democracy, freedom, the rule of law and the division between the powers of the state, without which it is impossible for a government to guarantee and respect the human rights of its people.”
  • “With the help we receive, weapons, bombs and terrorism are not bought. With that help we buy printers and sheets to print thousands of copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and distribute them to the population.”
  • “Regarding the slander against José Daniel Ferrer, we can say that in his case and in that of the Patriotic Union of Cuba there is no aggression against any member of the repressive bodies of the Cuban State during these years of activism.”
  • “UNPACU expressed concern about the “conditions of confinement of detainees, as well as the torture, cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment to which José Daniel Ferrer is being subjected, as his wife confirmed in a recent visit to the Aguadores prison in Santiago from Cuba, after 34 days of being kept missing. “
  • The organization held the Cuban regime responsible for the life of José Daniel Ferrer and his companions, and demanded his “immediate and unconditional freedom.”

The Miami Herald’s article about Cuba’s allegation that Ferrer was an U.S. agent added, “The Cuban prosecutor’s office charged Ferrer and three activists with causing ‘serious injuries’ to a person identified as Sergio García González at the UNPACU headquarters on Sept. 20. According to Granma, González accused them of ‘having kidnapped him for a whole night and beat him up, so he had to be admitted to a hospital.’” However, his wife, “Maribel Cabreja, [has said] that her husband told her the injuries were due to an accident on a motorcycle.” She “also confirmed that state security agents were pressing García González to blame Ferrer.” [5]

So far the U.S. has not responded to these allegations. When it does, they will added as a comment to this post or as a new post.

It is difficult for this non-Cuban blogger to reach a definitive conclusion on these issues. There is abundant evidence that the Cuban regime is hostile towards Cuban dissidents, for which the regime deserves criticism. On the other hand, the U.S. for many years has provided financing and support for what it now calls Cuba’s “Journey to Self-Reliance,” the total for which for FY2015 was stated to be $6.25 million.  It, therefore, is understandable that the Cuban government is suspicious of at least some Cuban dissidents, especially when the Trump Administration has adopted and implemented so many policies that are expressly hostile towards Cuba and when the U.S. is so much wealthier and stronger in military power.

Therefore, this blogger believes that Cuba should invite an U.N. organization or investigator to come to Cuba with unfettered access to Ferrer to assess his medical condition and issue a public report on the findings. In addition, Cuba should allow Ferrer to have an attorney and submit the claims against Ferrer to an independent international court or arbitrator to determine whether he is guilty or innocent. Finally, the U.S. should be compelled to submit a public report to that international court or arbitrator on whether the U.S. has provided any financial or other assistance to Ferrer and UNPACU.

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[1] U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Cuba and Denounces Cuba’s Detention of Dissident, dwkcommentaries.com (Oct. 19, 2019)  In addition, these comments have been added to that post: Cuban Court Denies Habeas Corpus for Ferrer (Oct. 21, 2019); Ferrer’s Family Released from Detention (Oct. 26, 2019); More Pressure for Release of Ferrer (Oct. 31, 2019); Cuban Attorneys Say Cuban Regime Frequently Forcibly Disappears Its Citizens (Nov. 2, 2019); No Cuban Government Report on Status of Ferrer (Nov. 2, 2019); Washington Post Editorial Calls for Cuba To Release Ferrer (Nov. 9, 2019); Cuba Allegedly Using Venezuelan Torture Technique on Ferrer (Nov. 11. 2019). See also Amnesty International Reiterates Demand for Release of Ferrer, dwkcommentaries.com (Nov. 13, 2019).

[2] New US slander campaign UU. against Cuba, Granma (Nov. 21, 2019)(English edition); ‘A criminal with violent behavior,’ this is how the regime presents José Daniel Ferrer, Diario de Cuba (Nov. 20, 2019); Assoc. Press, Cuba accuses US diplomat of supporting illegal actions, Wash. Post (Nov. 20, 2019); Reuters, Cuba Accuses U.S. Embassy of Abetting Country’s Leading Dissident, N.Y. Times (Nov. 20, 2019).

[3] The previously cited Reuters article said, “The U.S. embassy in Havana last week posted on Twitter a video of its top diplomat Mara Tekach with Nelva Ismarays Ortega, partner of Ferrer” and “together they pled for his release.” Ortega added, “He has lost half his weight, he has lost a lot of his sight and voice. He has been beaten up and left without medicine, they haven’t let a doctor see him.”

[4] UNPACU: The Cuban regime [that] has a ‘long history’ of violence against the opposition, Diario de Cuba (Nov. 21, 2019).

[5] Gamez Torres, The Cuban government attacks its most notable political prisoner in unusual editorial, Miami Herald (Nov. 20, 2019).

U.S. Imposes New Sanctions on Cuba and Denounces Cuba’s Detention of Dissident   

On October 18, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) imposed new sanctions against Cuba while the State Department denounced Cuba’s detention of dissident Jose Daniel Ferrer.

New Sanctions[1]

The BIS revoked “existing licenses for aircraft leases to Cuban state-owned airlines, and will deny future applications for aircraft leases.” This was based upon the Department’s assertion that  “the Cuban regime is resorting to transporting tourists on leased aircraft subject to BIS jurisdiction.”

Additionally, “BIS is expanding Cuba sanctions to include more foreign goods containing U.S. content, and is imposing additional restrictions on exports to the Cuban regime.” According to a regulation set for October 21 publication, the Export Administration Regulations will be amended so that goods with as little as 10% U.S. content will be subject to U.S. jurisdiction and, thus, require a license from the U.S. Department of Commerce for export or reexport to Cuba. Previously, the policy only applied to goods with 25% or greater U.S. content. In addition, the amendment will, prohibit certain donations to the Cuban government and communist party  and clarify the scope of telecommunications items that the Cuban government may receive without a license.

This action, says the Department, “supports the Administration’s earlier decision to hold the Cuban regime accountable for repressing its own people as well as continuing to provide support to the illegitimate Maduro regime which has terrorized the Venezuelan population and wantonly destroyed the once-prosperous economy relied on by millions.”

The Department’s Secretary, Wilbur Ross, said, “This action . . . sends another clear message to the Cuban regime – that they must immediately cease their destructive behavior at home and abroad. The Trump Administration will continue to act against the Cuban regime for its misdeeds, while continuing to support the Cuban people and their aspirations for freedom and prosperity.”

Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel in a tweet said these new sanctions were “an expression of impotence, moral degradation and imperial contempt. It is an inhuman, cruel, unjust and genocidal act that we strongly reject. We will not give up. and we will give sovereign answer.”

A similar tweet came from Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez: these are “additional acts of economic blockade, representative of a moral bankruptcy policy, internationally isolated and promoted by a corrupt government. The Cuban people will continue to give due and sovereign response.”

Denouncing Cuban Detention of Dissident[2]

The Cuban dissident who has been detained is Jose Daniel Ferrer, the founder of  the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

According to the State Department, “On October 1, “Castro regime officials detained Mr. Ferrer and several other human rights defenders in Santiago de Cuba.  Mr. Ferrer reportedly has still not been informed of any charges against him, and has been denied access to a lawyer and to medical care.  Mr. Ferrer’s family has not been permitted contact with him since October 4.”  In addition, other “UNPACU activists Roilan Zarraga Ferrer, José Pupo Chaveco, and Fernando González Vailant also remain in custody.”

“Ferrer’s case is one more example of the Castro regime’s continuous and flagrant violation of human rights, which has recently escalated into a wave of repression against freedoms of speech, expression, and religion.  The United States will not allow these abuses against the Cuban people to go unnoticed or unanswered.  We will continue to increase sanctions and trade restrictions to diminish the resources available to the Cuban regime, which uses its income to suppress its own citizens and to prop up other regimes with shameful human rights records, including the former Maduro regime in Venezuela.”

Therefore, the U.S. “strongly condemns the Cuban regime’s unconscionable detainment of . . . [Senor] Ferrer, founder of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).  We call on the Castro regime to immediately disclose Mr. Ferrer’s location and condition, to treat him humanely, and to release him from detention without condition.”

Similar protests of this detention have been registered by UNPACU, Cuba’s Legal Information Center (CUBALEX), Cuban Prisoners Defenders, Freedom House and Amnesty International.

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[1] Commerce Dep’t, U.S. Department of Commerce Further Tightens Cuba Sanctions (Oct. 18, 2019); Reuters, U.S. Hits Cuba With New Sanctions Over Human Rights, Venezuela, N.Y. Times (Oct. 18, 2019); Assoc. Press, U.S. slaps new sanctions on Cuba over human rights, Venezuela, Wash. Post (Oct. 18, 2019);Center for Democracy in Americas,  U.S. restricts additional exports and re-exports to Cuba, U.S.-Cuba News Brief: 10/18/2019.

[2] State Dep’t, Detention of Cuban Human Rights Defender José Daniel Ferrer (Oct. 18, 2019); The arrest of José Daniel Ferrer is ‘a mechanism of repression against all civil society,’ Diario de Cuba (Oct. 17, 2019); Cuban Prisoners Defenders denounces the Cuban regime in Geneva for the case of José Ferrer, Diario de Cuba (Oct. 17, 2019).