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    On Cuban Political Prisoners

    On Cuban Political Prisoners / 14ymedio, Martha Beatriz Roque
    Posted on July 14, 2015

    14ymedio, Martha Beatriz Roque, Havana, 11 July 2015 — What classifies
    as a political prisoner is a cause for disagreement among the Cuban
    opposition. There are varying opinions about who has been jailed for
    political reasons or not, despite the criteria established by the United
    Nations and other organizations that concern themselves with these matters.

    There are several lists of political prisoners compiled by various
    organizations circulating in and outside of Cuba. Said lists do not come
    from any specific dissident groups, but rather from individuals who
    publicize them. I unsuccessfully tried for all parties to agree on one
    list. Unfortunately, some individuals who have control over the names of
    political prisoners refuse to even listen to what others who made their
    own lists have to say.

    Then we also have several groups of lawyers who do not actively
    contribute to lists of political prisoners, and who do not endorse the
    ones we have now either.

    When the Cuban government wants a dissident off the streets, it accuses
    him or her of any crime. Moreover, when an officer of the law beats an
    opposition figure, the victim ends up accused of assault. Nevertheless,
    there have been cases in which opposition members were considered
    political prisoners when their incarcerations have had nothing to do
    with their political activities.

    Twice in recent months, Jaime Cardinal Ortega y Alamino has stated that
    there are no political prisoners in Cuba. However, he later asked for
    lists of names of those who might now be incarcerated for political
    reasons to be forwarded to him. Due to the lack of consensus among the
    opposition, by now Cardinal Ortega must have several lists, including
    some containing names of individuals who have committed crimes not even
    remotely linked to the internal opposition movement, nor whose objective
    has been the nonviolent democratization of the country.

    Several people have spent too many years in jail, and should be freed.
    Others have been given excessive sentences forbidding them from earning
    any privileges during their incarceration. These individuals should be
    classified separately from political prisoners, although we should still
    advocate for them. We should also continue speaking up for those on the
    list of prisoners with shorter sentences, namely those unjustly jailed
    for supposedly having a “special proclivity to commit crimes,” or

    The Cuban government has never wanted to accept the existence of
    political prisoners in the country. It wants dissidents to be perceived
    as common criminals, mercenaries, terrorists, or anything else that
    would discredit both them and their oppositional activities. Its
    objective is to multiply political prisoners by zero.

    In order to demonstrate how vitally important it is to come to an
    agreement on the lists of political prisoners and draw up only one that
    would have the approval of all the opposition, several inquiries have
    been conducted. We have contacted leaders of organizations, relatives,
    dissidents, and even some of the individuals whose names appear on the
    lists. Regardless of all the hard work, we have not always gotten the
    necessary responses nor reached any real conclusions due to a lack of
    understanding. Therefore, a commission should be created to analyze each
    case individually by evaluating the testimonies of witnesses and relatives.

    The objective of the information below is not meant to disparage the
    work of any organization, and much less to belittle any prisoner. Only
    when we finally understand the importance of collective analysis, can we
    then reach an appropriate conclusion. I am sure that after each case is
    closely examined, we will all realize how important it is for us to work

    It cannot be ruled out that there are no other prisoners jailed for
    political crimes just because they do not appear on any lists we
    examined. Cuba’s authorities do not allow access to prison statistics.

    I wish to thank the support of the members of the Cuban Network of
    Community Correspondents (Red Cubana de Comunicadores Comunitarios),
    without whom it would have been impossible to gather the following data.
    I would also like to thank in particular Arnaldo Ramos Laururique,
    member of the Group of 75 and prisoner of conscience.

    List of Political Prisoners Gathered from Several Different Organizations:

    Coalition of the Opposition of Central Cuba (Damarys Moya Portieles,

    – Léster Castillo Rodríguez, sentenced on August 24, 2015 to one year
    for “dangerousness.”
    – Deibis Sardiñas Moya, sentenced on June 26, 2014 to three years for

    United Anti-Totalitarian Front (Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas, president)

    – Joel Bencomo Rodríguez (not Díaz, as he appears on another list),
    sentenced on October 1, 2014 to two years for the crime of “disrespect.”
    The police have tried transferring him to a forced labor camp, but Mr.
    Bencomo refuses to budge.
    Justo Miguel Fariñas Quey, sentenced on May 8, 2014 to six months in
    jail plus six months house arrest for his role in thwarting José Alberto
    Botel Cárdenas’ attempt on Guillermo Fariñas’ life. His sentence was
    made public before the last list was completed on June 19th. Still, his
    sentence was not noted.
    Librado Linares, president of the Cuban Reflection Movement, and member
    of the Group of 75.
    – Yoelsi Llorente Bermúdez, Óscar Luis Santana López, and Miguel Ernesto
    Armenteros Hernández have been incarcerated since May 16th, waiting
    trial for “attempting against the State and resisting authority.” After
    these four individuals were expelled by the police from a discothèque in
    the town of Santa Isabel de las Lajas, about a hundred people gathered
    in the town’s main park for a spontaneous protest. All were arrested. Of
    the hundred, forty were given summonses ranging from thirty to fifty
    Cuban pesos.
    – There are five prisoners in the Cienfuegos Province’s Ariza Prison.
    – Vladimir Morera Bacallao was transferred to Havana’s National Hospital
    after ending his hunger strike. He was arrested during the April 2015
    municipal elections for putting a sign in front of his home that read “I
    vote for freedom!” Mr. Morera’s trial is still pending.

    The Opposition Movement for a New Republic [MONR]

    – José Díaz Silva, the organization’s president, expressed to Jorge
    Bello Domínguez from the Cuban Network of Community Correspondents that
    the person who appears on the list as a political prisoner from his
    organization, Job Lemus Fonseca, no longer belongs to his group. Mr.
    Lemus had been ousted from the MONR, and the crime he is accused of is

    Patriotic Union of Cuba [UNPACU] (José Daniel Ferrer, president)

    There are fourteen discrepancies in the lists of prisoners associated
    with UNPACU:

    – Edilberto Arzuaga Alcalá, was sentenced to one year on February 15,
    2015. He had been fined five thousand Cuban pesos for drawing graffiti
    in the town of Santa Cruz del Sur, Camagüey Province. Arzuaga refused to
    pay the fine. After protesting in front of Santa Cruz del Sur’s Poder
    Popular*, [People’s Power] Mr. Arzuaga was arrested.
    Ariel Eugenio Arzuaga Peña, was sentenced to six years for “attempting
    against the State.” UNPACU did not exist at that time, so it would be
    ianccurate to classify him as a prisoner of this organization. At the
    time of Arzuaga’s imprisonment on March 17, 2011, UNPACU’s president
    José Daniel Ferrer was also incarcerated. Therefore, Mr. Ferrer does not
    have any personal knowledge of the charges brought against Mr. Arzuaga,
    although he does have testimonies from the group “Factors for Change,”
    and other sources. Mr. Arzuaga is currently held at the San Blas forced
    labor camp in Granma Province. San Blas is what the government calls a
    “plan confianza,” or “confidence-building strategy.”**
    – María del Carmen Calá Aguilera was arrested on April 24, 2015 in
    Holguín Province. Ms. Calá was accused of “attempting against the State”
    after insulting the doctor responsible for the death of her son, a
    non-political prisoner who died in jail from negligence.
    – Darián Ernesto Dufó Preval, Ricardo Pelier Frómeta and Yoelkis Rosabal
    Flores, were detained on May 15, 2014, in the town of Caimanera,
    Guantánamo Province, accused of “conspiracy to commit murder” after
    staging a sit-in demanding the release of Johane Arce. Some lists
    incorrectly state “they are still pending trial,” but these four men
    have already been tried and convicted for “incessant disorderly
    conduct.” Mr. Dufó was sentenced to two years of incarceration, Mr.
    Pelier to three, and Mr. Rasabal to four.
    – Yuselín Ferrera Espinosa was arrested on September 24, 2014, and
    sentenced to one year of incarceration for “causing injury to another
    person.” As Mr. Ferrera was enjoying a recording of the hip-hop duo Los
    Aldeanos, a member of the Communist Party ripped the cables off his
    sound system. There were no injuries, nor any medical documentation
    stating the contrary.
    – Mario Ronaide Figueroa Diéguez incorrectly appears on a list as having
    been arrested on December 2, 2012. According to UNPACU president José
    Daniel Ferrer, the exact day of Mr. Figueroa’s detention –along with ten
    other activists– was November 27, 2012. The political police told them
    that if they left UNPACU they would be released. Mr. Figueroa accepted
    the offer, yet was rearrested at the beginning of December of 2014. The
    rest of the group appeared on the list of 53 prisoners that was shown to
    the government of the United States.
    – Aracelio Ribeaux Noa was arrested in the town of Playa de Aguadores,
    Santiago de Cuba Province, accused of “physically assaulting prison
    guards.” According to the list, Mr. Ribeaux has been jailed since
    November 27, 2012. However, he had been freed on January 8, 2015 along
    with the rest of the group of 53 announced by the Cuban government. Mr.
    Ribeaux was an UNPACU member when guards of the Vigilance and Protection
    Corps caught him drawing graffiti. He refused to leave with them, but a
    few days later, a retired major from the Ministry of the Interior
    bayoneted Mr. Ribeaux, injuring his hand. He was taken to the hospital,
    where a few days later the political police sent him a message ordering
    Mr. Ribeaux not to press charges against the retired major, but he
    responded that he had already done so. He was then arrested in May. The
    authorities told Mr. Ribeaux that if he abandoned UNPACU and dropped the
    charges against the former Interior Ministry official, he would be
    freed. There are no official documents charging Mr. Ribeaux with any crime.
    – Emilio Serrano Rodríguez, incarcerated since February 7, 2015, is
    accused of “illegal commercial transactions” (he is not an “independent
    salesman” as the list says), and is still awaiting trial. An UNPACU
    member, Mr. Serrano had come to the defense of two Havana women who were
    licensed street merchants as the police were harassing them. These
    women, Sonia de la Caridad Mejías and Melkis Faure Echavarría, were at
    that time members of UNPACU.
    – Carlos Manuel Veranes Heredia, from the town of Caimanera, Guantánamo
    Province, was sentenced to one year incarceration on May 17, 2015. He is
    still being held at the provincial jail. Mr. Veranes was first informed
    he had no charges pending, yet one year later was arrested, given a
    summary trial with no defense lawyer, and convicted for the crime of
    – Amado Verdecia Díaz, has been imprisoned since October 20, 2014. The
    police began harassing him in August 2013 by informing him that his
    driver’s license had expired. When Mr. Verdecia proved them wrong, the
    police told him that his problem was his poor driving skills. He was
    then arrested during a protest in the city of Palma Soriano, Santiago de
    Cuba Province, but was later released thanks to the pressure of UNPACU
    activists. Ten months later, Mr. Verdecia was arrested, tried, and
    sentenced to five years for “attempting against the State.” According to
    UNPACU’s José Daniel Ferrer, Mr. Verdecia’s crime was volunteering his
    car for the organization’s needs.
    – Santiago Cisneros Castellanos, a peasant and member of UNPACU, went to
    a store on July 21, 2014 to buy the bread ration allotted to him. When
    he arrived he was informed that all the bread was gone, and he responded
    that he was going to file an official complaint. His local delegate to
    the “Poder Popular” accused Mr. Cisneros of being a
    counter-revolutionary and told him that bread was meant only for
    revolutionaries. When he arrived to file his complaint at the offices of
    citizens’ services in the town of Cruce de los Baños, Santiago de Cuba
    Province, Mr. Cisneros was arrested and accused of the “attempted
    murder” of his local “Poder Popular” delegate, and for “possessing a
    firearm.” His trial took place on June 15,, 2015, and his sentencing is
    still pending. Mr. Cisneros does not appear on any list because those
    who have compiled them do not believe his crime is political in nature.
    – Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros has been incarcerated in Camagüey
    Province’s Cerámica Roja Prison since January 8, 2015, the same day as
    the group of 53 was released. Mr. Arostegui is accused of “attempting
    against the State” and “menacing.” Although he has a history of being
    treated for psychiatric disorders, Mr. Arostegui owns a horse and a cart
    he used to distribute UNPACU leaflets. The authorities organized an act
    of repudiation in front of his home, pelting it with excrement. As is
    the case with Santiago Cisneros Castellanos, Mr. Arostegui does not
    appear on any list.
    – Eglis Heredia Rodríguez was returned to prison to complete a sentence
    of eight years and six months, with the right to occasional supervised
    visits home. According to UNPACU president José Daniel Ferrer, Mr.
    Eredia’s sentence is not related to his role in the opposition, as is
    stated on a list. Mr. Eredia is not a political prisoner, but he did
    join UNPACU upon being released from jail. He was serving a sentence for
    burglary with forced entry.

    Democratic Alliance of Eastern Cuba (Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, president)

    – Yeris Curbelo Aguilera was incarcerated for three years for
    “disrespect and disobedience.” He has been serving his sentence in
    Guantánamo Province’s Combinado Prison since February 19, 2015.

    The Juan Wilfredo Soto García Human Rights Movement

    – René Rouco Machín, the organization’s president, appears on one list
    as serving a sentence for “disrespect” since August 4, 2014, and on
    another as serving four years for “attempting against the State.”
    Independent journalist Daniel González Oliva reports that Mr. Rouco is
    serving both sentences. On December 17, 2014, two officials from State
    Security paid him a visit at the Escalona Forced Labor Camp. Mr. Rouco
    refused to speak with them, still he was forced to meet with the
    officials, where they proceeded to beat him and break his arm. Mr. Rouco
    was subsequently accused of “attempting against the State,” and
    sentenced to four more years.

    The José Martí Current

    – Rolando Joaquín Guerra Pérez is an opposition member and leader of The
    José Martí Current. According to one of the lists, while attempting to
    leave Cuba on a flimsy vessel, he was intercepted by the United States
    Coast Guard on November 6, 2012, and then repatriated. Mr. Guerra was
    awaiting trial for larceny, but escaped from the Canasí forced labor
    camp where he was being held. A few months ago, and without even
    informing his relatives, Mr. Guerra was tried, found guilty of several
    offenses, and sentenced to six years. He is currently housed in in the
    prison of the town of Melena del Sur, Mayabeque Province.

    Other Cases

    – Juana Castillo Acosta, her husband Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta, and her
    son Osvaldo Rodríguez Castillo were found guilty of “attempting against
    the State,” although some lists accuse them of “attempting to murder
    police.” Mrs. Castillo was originally given five years. She was
    mistakenly listed as serving her sentence under house arrest. Mrs.
    Castillo’s sentence was actually commuted to a forced labor facility she
    can commute to from home. Her husband, Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta was
    sentenced to nine years, and her son Osvaldo Rodríguez Castillo to
    seven. Currently, the son is being allowed occasional supervised visits
    – Ricardo Hernández Ruiz belongs –according to one list– to an
    organization that no longer exists, Camagüey Unity. Virgilio Mantilla,
    who was the organization’s president, says he has no connection with the
    prisoner, who also does not belong to any opposition group. José Luis S.
    Varona, a dissident nicknamed “Pescao” (Fish), stated that Mr. Hernández
    is being held in a forced labor camp in Camagüey Province. According to
    Daysa Durán Galano of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement of Camagüey, Mr.
    Hernández tried to leave the country illegally through Guantánamo
    Province in order to reach the U.S. Naval Base. Five people who are now
    free accompanied him.
    – Yosvani Melchor Rodríguez is a young man who returned to Cuba
    illegally after having lived in the United States for one year. He was
    sentenced to twelve years of incarceration for human trafficking. Mr.
    Rodríguez’s codefendent, Jorge Luis Sánchez Carcassés from Santiago de
    Cuba, is now free. Mr. Melchor’s mother, Rosa María Rodriguez reported
    that her son is mentally retarded and is not a member of the Christian
    Liberation Movement. He is currently incarcerated in the Toledo 1
    Prison, has been allowed to return home twice on supervised visits, and
    is waiting to be paroled.
    – Mauricio Noa Maceo has been incarcerated since August 6, 2010 for
    “‘ideological diversionism (divisionism),’ illegal economic activity,
    and accepting stolen property,” according to the information on one of
    the lists. Mr. Noa was tried on December 9, 2014 and was sentenced to
    three years imprisonment after having served more than four years. He is
    supposedly waiting for his appeals trial, but the deadline has passed. A
    prisoner only has a few days after a trial to appeal, and the bench has
    45 days to respond.
    Santiago Roberto Montes de Oca Rodríguez appears on several lists. Mr.
    Montes de Oca is simply classified as an “activist” without specifying
    to what organization he belongs.
    – Ángel Santiesteban Prats, a writer, does not appear on all the lists,
    although he is certain he submitted all his documentation, and that on
    February 26, 2013 –two days before reporting to prison– Amnesty
    International contacted him to confirm that he was indeed a prisoner of
    conscience. Currently there are those who doubt that Mr. Santiesteban is
    a political prisoner. He was sentenced to five years of incarceration
    for trespassing and causing bodily harm.
    There are other persons who should appear on the lists since their legal
    status have yet to be clarified. For instance, take the case of
    – Egberto Ángel Escobedo Morales. He was imprisoned on July 11, 1995 to
    a term of twenty years for “espionage, enemy propaganda, and stealing
    secret military counterintelligence documents.” Mr. Morales was released
    on December 29, 2010, after a 75-day hunger strike. First he was
    informed he had been pardoned, but then was told that due his improper
    behavior, he was just being paroled. He has yet to receive an official
    document signed off by a judge.

    Translator’s Notes:
    *Literally, “The People’s Power.” The local Communist Party government
    ** A “reeducation” forced labor camp.

    Translated by José Badué

    Source: On Cuban Political Prisoners / 14ymedio, Martha Beatriz Roque |
    Translating Cuba –

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