Statement on the Current Situation in CubaPublished: Jul 13, 2021 Reading time: 5 minutes
Independent media and organisations call on the Cuban government to respect the right to demonstrate and freedom of expression and to halt violence against demonstrators.
The undersigned organisations condemn the Cuban government's repression of the citizen protests registered since 11 July 2021 and which continue to date. We also make an urgent call to the administration presided over by Miguel Díaz-Canel, to stop all acts of violence and violations of the human rights of citizens through the use of force, police repression, and the call for confrontation between Cubans.
Cuba is going through a profound health, economic and political crisis. During Sunday and Monday, protesters took to the streets with complaints against the government as a result of the lack of individual freedoms, the insufficient medical services to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the havoc wreaked on the economic situation for families by the monetary order, food shortages, power cuts, and the recurrent violence by the security forces against any expression of discontent by the citizenry. Mass mobilizations occurred in at least 58 different locations.
In response to the demonstrations, arbitrary detentions and physical attacks against peaceful protesters, including university students, were carried out by The National Revolutionary Police, the Riot Squads, and the Department of State Security. Likewise, independent journalists and activists, namely Héctor Valdés Cocho, Luz Escobar, Tania Bruguera, Kirenia Yalit Nuñez, denounced security patrols around their homes to prohibit them from going out onto the streets; a practice that the Cuban authorities have previously adopted as a tactic of intimidation. It is important to mention that international civil society organisations, activists, and journalists present at demonstrations or following them remotely, reported outages in internet service and social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and instant messaging applications were also reported down on 12 July.
For his part, President Miguel Díaz-Canel called on supporters of the ruling party to take to the streets to confront the protesters, a clear incitement to violence: "That is why we are calling on all revolutionaries in our country, all communists, to take to the streets in any of the places where these provocations are going to take place today, from now on and throughout these days".
Following the message, pro-Cuban government groups came out to attack and beat the demonstrators.
Among the violations registered by human rights organisations, the following stand out: acts against the physical and psychological integrity of persons, legal security, the right to assembly, freedom of expression, access to information, personal freedom, and the right to defend human rights. To date, several of the signatory organisations have registered dozens of people detained and/or disappeared at the hands of the National Revolutionary Police and State Security agents, including minors, among the hundreds of detentions that we estimate occurred. A definite figure has not been determined due to the internet service outages in the country, meaning that in a number of areas those who have faced violations have not been able to communicate this.
It is important to note that journalists covering the demonstration were assaulted, including the Associated Press (AP) photojournalist Ramón Espinosa (see photo). Others, whose information is being documented, have not been located, such as the director of Hora de Cuba, Henry Constantín, Iris Mariño García, Neife Rigau and Orelvys Cabrera Sotolongo, Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Niober García or were detained, including the director of Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero. In addition, the arbitrary detention of journalist Camila Acosta, who is the Cuban correspondent of the Spanish daily ABC and contributes to Cubanet News, was also registered yesterday.
The undersigned organisations have registered the growing social unrest that the lack of openness to dialogue, the punitive spirit of the Cuban authorities in their interaction with citizens, and the constant harassment of civil society and independent media have provoked. In this context, the Cuban government has accused activists and journalists of being part of a destabilization plan, aimed at undermining the legitimacy of the demands expressed in the various protests both today and in years gone by.
We, therefore, call on the Cuban government, headed by Miguel Díaz Canel, to refrain from further violating the rights of critics, inciting confrontation and violence with those whose positions differ from the official one, and to guarantee the integrity of people who are legitimately exercising their right to demonstrate.
Likewise, we once again call on the international community, especially the embassies of the European Union and the special rapporteurs of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the United Nations (UN), as well as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, to speak out in favour of the rights of Cuban citizens, and to call for democratisation through genuine dialogue as the only way to bring about change in the country.