January 29th, 2014 marked the end of the 2nd “Community of Latin American and Caribbean States” CELAC Summit hosted in Havana, Cuba. Amongst CELAC’s founding principles are the following:
“Determined to build a common space in order to deepen political, economic, social and cultural integration of our region commitments and establish effective joint action to promote sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean in a framework of unity, democracy, full respect for human rights, solidarity, cooperation, complementarity and political cooperation…”
The following are excerpts from an official report by the CUBAN COMMISSION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS AND NATIONAL RECONCILIATION (CCDHRN) on what occurred inside of Cuba in the days before this year’s CELAC summit:
1. The Cuban government has unleashed a true political crackdown against peaceful dissidents, mainly from 23rd to 26th of January, with an end to silence opposition organizations so that they could not raise their voices during the forthcoming CELAC Summit.
2. …at least 40 persons have been arbitrarily arrested by the powerful secret political police; 18 were the victims of threats, warnings, and other forms of harassment, and at least 5 remain under house arrest “until the end of the Summit.”
3. Among the most disturbing arrests are those of Jose Daniel Ferrer and Yusmila Reina Ferrera, leaders of Cuba’s Patriotic Union (UNPACU), who were abducted in a Street of Havana around 3 pm last Friday 24th of January, and remained in unknown whereabouts for 48 hours, until they were released in Santiago de Cuba.
4. The government representatives alleged that such measures were aimed at preventing expressions or meetings that could tarnish the image of the CELAC Summit.
5. According to our investigations, a score of pro-democracy activists were intending to take part in two small parallel, behind-closed-doors forums to discuss the fulfillment by the Cuban government of the principles and values that serve as a foundation of CELAC, such as can be recognized in its founding documents and as approved in its first Summit. Due to the aforementioned repression, both forums have been aborted militarily.
On Friday, January 24th, Berta Soler Fernandez, leader of the Ladies in White Movement “Laura Pollan,”, released a letter addressed to all visiting “First Ladies” who were to be present at CELAC. Below are some excerpts from the letter:
To you, who represent in your respective countries, the preservation of the most precious values including marriage, family, social and humanitarian, we hope that we will be granted your valuable attention and effective care.
In the coming days you will visit Cuba on the occasion of the CELAC Summit to be held in Havana between the 28th and 30th of January as representatives of governments who have been democratically elected, the opposite of what happens here. That is to say: you are legitimate representatives of your people, the Cuban government is not.
Simultaneously with this Summit, members of the Cuban opposition and civil society are holding the second Democratic Forum on International Relations and Human Rights, at which will participate, among others, the Ladies in White movement.
On behalf of our movement, it is an honor to invite you to meet with us so that we may accompany you to peer into her landscape of Cuban society.
Please accept our warmest welcome…”
On, Monday January 27, 2014 at 5:38 pm the following report was given to FHRC staff by members of the CCDHRN:
Cuesta Morua – Whereabouts unknown for more than 24 hours.
Veizant Boloy husband of Yaremis Flores – Has been chased since the morning, and is currently incommunicado.
Livio Luis Fernandez
Jose Diaz Silva – From the Opposition Movement for a New Republic, is being held in Havana. a
Antunes, Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas, Ivan Hernández Carillo, Felix Navarro, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Raul Luis Perez Cliff, Eduardo via Fleitas – Cannot leave their homes: 28, 29, 30, 31 of Jan.
Hector Palacio – cannot have meetings in his home.
Andres Suarez Perez – Commission Supporting Political Prisoners is at home and under threat.
Fernanado Palace Mogar- Under house arrest.
Juan Antonio Madrazo – Under threat and house arrest.
Angel Moya & Berta Soler – Incommunicado – cell phones disconnected
The following phone calls were recorded with local activists, Leonardo Calvo and Juan Governa, regarding the repression surrounding CELAC:
Leonardo Calvo – https://soundcloud.com/libertadsinfin/pt-1-detenciones-y-amenazas-en
Juan Governa (Cuban Commission of Human Rights) – https://soundcloud.com/libertadsinfin/detenciones-y-amenazas-en-cuba
Various “tweets” by activist and blogger Yoani Sánchez revealed the story of “Operation Clean-up” by Cuban State Security to rid Havana streets of any visible signs of activism, civic protests or large scale community gatherings, as well as blocking cell phones of the activists during the Summit.
Below are translations of some of those tweets:
@YoaniSanchez: #Cuba the police and #CubaCel cordon off and censor telephones of activists. #OperationCleanup #CELACSummit.
@YoaniSanchez: #Cuba activists phones are partially cut, SMS texts just reached their recipients and international calls do not enter.
@YoaniSanchez: #Cuba police #OperationCleanup enters new phase: remove from streets #beggars and #prostitutes and now #dissidents #CELACSummit.
@YoaniSanchez: Is the #Chancellor of #Cuba aware of visits made by State Security to threaten activists during #CELACSummit?
@YoaniSanchez: Does #Chancellor #Cuba know that our house like other Cubans have been visited by “men in gray” to warn of “zero tolerance?” #CELACSummit
@YoaniSanchez: #Cuba @maritovoz a Baptist pastor was taken away in handcuffs in front of his own daughters by #OperatinCleanup #CELACSummit
Amnesty International released a statement “Cuba steps up repression on the eve of the CELAC summit” in which the international Human Rights group said:
“The Cuban authorities must halt their campaign of repression against opponents and dissidents and allow peaceful activities to take place during the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Amnesty International said today.”
Full Amnesty International Press Release: http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/cuba-steps-repression-eve-celac-summit-2014-01-27
According to A Miami Herald article, Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the Human Rights Watch advocacy group said the following:
“While the Cuban government took some steps to ease restrictions on travel abroad in 2013, “its abusive practices remain largely unchanged. It’s hard to imagine another government in the region preemptively detaining dissenters to prevent them from voicing their opinions during a regional conference.”
In spite of the government repression, the work of nonviolent activists in Cuba did have an effect in the international media, and their message was heard.
According to Marti News:
“The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reports that on Wednesday, a meeting was held with Costa Rican diplomats in Havana for the CELAC Summit. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the Embassy of Costa Rica in Cuba with Ingrid Picado Monge, Ceremonial Head of State, and Ambassador Don Hubert Mendez Acosta. The CCDHRN was represented by Kirenia Yalit Núñez and Elizardo Sánchez. They were heard by both officers in a very friendly and attentive manner, who also took case notes and said they would inform the President of Costa Rica’s delegation to the summit of CELAC.”
At the end of the Summit, Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White managed to meet with Chilean President Sebastian Piñera. During the encounter, which lasted approximately 25 minutes, Berta Soler was able to speak with not only the President, but also members of his delegation.
According to Bio Bio Chile:
“There was no immediate reaction from the authorities in Cuba at that meeting, where all opposition is illegal…”
Piñera was the only foreign President to meet with a Cuban dissident during the CELAC conference, other than the reception given to the CCDHRN by Costa Rica.