Hunger strike in Cuba
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    IAPA 2006 Report on Cuba

    62nd General Assembly
    Mexico City, Mexico
    September 29 to October 3, 2006
    Camino Real Hotel

    Reports and Resolutions

    CUBA

    Journalism is at an unprecedented crossroads in contemporary history. For
    the first time after 47 years of absolute control, Fidel Castro is not the
    nominal leader of Cuba.

    The temporary transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother, Gen. Raul
    Castro, because of an acute health crisis, so far as brought no sign of
    change in journalism and freedom of . Acts of against
    independent journalists, mistreatment of jailed reporters and very strict
    government surveillance limiting the people's access to alternative sources
    of information are continuing,

    Government propaganda has escalated wildly to unheard of levels of
    triumphalism and censorship, and the number of journalists in jail has
    risen
    to 26. Coercion against the movement of independent journalists has not
    ended, from police warnings, temporary detentions, searches on the streets,
    evictions and seizures of personal possessions to flagrant violations of
    the
    right to information and orchestrated government against
    clandestine access to foreign television stations, especially from the
    United States.

    The independent journalists who are in for exercising their right to
    press freedom are: Ricardo González Alfonso, Víctor Rolando Arroyo,
    Normando Hernández González, Julio César Gálvez, Adolfo Fernández Sainz,
    Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Mijaíl Barzaga Lugo, Pedro
    Argüelles Morán, Pablo Pacheco Ávila, Alejandro González Raga, Alfredo
    Pulido López, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Iván Hernández Carrillo, José Luis
    García Paneque, Juan Carlos Herrera, Miguel Galván Gutiérrez, José Ubaldo
    Izquierdo, Omar Ruiz Hernández, José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, Lester Luis
    González Pentón, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, Armando Betancourt, Alberto Gil
    Triay, Odelín Alfonso and Oscar Mario González.

    After being sentenced to seven months in prison, Lamasiel Gutiérrez Romero,
    37, the only female journalist who remained behind bars was released just
    hours after the IAPA meeting in March. She was freed on condition that she
    would give up her profession, but she is still sending reports.

    Santiago Du Bouchet, director of Habana Press agency was also freed
    August 5
    after serving one year and seven days in jail for the alleged crime of
    resistance.

    The situation of journalist Oscar Mario González is alarming. He has
    been in
    jail since July 22, 2005 in a Havana prison without being formally charged
    and without bail. González, 62, was arrested near his house on suspicion
    that he was going to an anti-government protest in front of a French
    diplomatic site. He could be accused of violating the 1999 Law for the
    Protection of Cuba's National Security and Economy () which was used
    to sentence dissidents and journalists to long prison terms in the
    spring of
    2003. The authorities rejected an appeal for him to be released last week,
    despite his health problems.

    On June 5, Armando Betancourt of the Nueva Prensa Cubana agency was
    arrested
    and he is still being held on charges of disorderly conduct. Betancourt was
    intercepted by the Camagüey police when he was reporting on an eviction.

    On September 16, the political police arrested Odelín Alfonso, contributor
    to the Cubanet agency at his home in Havana. Allfonso had been detained
    last
    May and he was warned that he would be charged if he did not stop acting as
    a reporter.

    The government is still calling for intimidation of the journalists of the
    so-called Cause of the 75 who have been given special release from jail for
    health reasons. Special release is a clause based on Decree Law 62 of 1987
    which allows for a sentence to be completed under house arrest. It does not
    provide for the sentence to be expunged and leaves open the possibility
    that
    the person benefiting from it may return to jail if the authorities decide
    that he or she is not complying with the rules of "good conduct."
    Among those granted special release, Jorge Olivera, sentenced to 18
    years in
    jail, and , sentenced to 20, have refugee visas to
    go to
    the United States with their families, but the government had not given
    them
    exit permits. Two other members of this group, Carmelo Díaz Fernández and
    Edel José García also have U.S. visa and are waiting for permission to
    travel. They all suffer from various ailments, and most are elderly.

    Not only do the authorities summon them to the courts to give them
    "rules of
    social conduct" and restrictions on travel outside their localities, but
    they are also harassed with searches and threats by pro-government
    organizations in their neighborhoods.

    On September 27, police inspectors made a through search of the home of
    Díaz
    Fernández on the pretext of finding a parabolic antenna to receive foreign
    television transmissions. The search was conducted without a warrant.

    The journalist and psychologist Guillermo Fariñas decided to end his hunger
    strike to demand free access to the on August 31, exactly seven
    months after beginning the protest. It sparked international interest
    because of the government's prohibitions concerning the Internet. Fariñas
    was fed intravenously, and was diagnosed in critical condition during
    several months of the fast. He is recuperating from kidney and heart
    problems in the city of Santa Clara, Villaclara, and has promised to
    continue his demands using other peaceful methods.

    Use of the Internet is limited to central government agencies, educational
    and cultural institutions and foreigners who subscribe to the service in
    hard currency. No Cuban can get free access to the Web, even paying in hard
    currency. The government admits that if has "Internet regulations" and that
    it blocks pages that it says "harm the country's sovereignty" because they
    belong to "counterrevolutionary, subversive and terrorist organizations."
    The government blames the United States for blocking the connection to an
    underwater fiber optic cable which would increase broadband connections
    possible and reduce the cost of access to the Internet on the island.

    The journalists who are still in jail serving terms of up to 27 years
    endure
    inhuman conditions. Eighteen have serious health problems, such as chronic
    ailments and illnesses contracted in jail. The Cuban government has refused
    to grant them special release. There is also one handicapped man, Miguel
    Galván Gutiérrez serving a 26-year term.

    On August 29, journalist Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, who has held several
    hunger strikes in prison, was attacked by two guards at Kilo 8 jail in
    Camagüey. Herrera Acosta, sentenced to 20 years in the Cause of 75, was
    injured in an eye during the beating and later was dragged through the
    corridors of the prison. He had protested and demanded his right to family
    telephone calls, which have routinely been denied.

    On September 13, journalist Alberto Gil Triay began a hunger strike in the
    Valle Grande jail west of Havana. Gil Triay, who was arrested last
    November,
    has suffered several heart attacks while detained. He was tried on June 22
    on charges of "subversive propaganda," and could be sentenced to seven
    years
    in prison.

    The drive to prevent the spread of clandestine satellite television
    signals,mainly in Havana, was ratcheted up several notches. Raids on neighborhoods
    to find signal redistribution sites, dismantle the networks and destroy the
    antennas are more and more frequent

    On August 10, the official press issued harsh warnings against the black
    market in parabolic antennas on the island. The newspaper Granma stressed
    that receiving satellite signals without authorization is not just a
    violation of national and international laws, but it offers "fertile
    terrain
    for those who would destroy the spirit of the revolution."

    The official warning came after TV Marti, a U:S. government radio station
    directed at a Cuban audience, decided to expand its broadcasts to six
    days a
    week. They are transmitted from an airplane equipped with special
    technology
    to prevent the jamming of the signal from the island.

    TV Martí is not yet received regularly in Cuba. However, it is estimated
    that about 30,000 Cubans pay for clandestine satellite service as an
    alternative to state television for information and entertainment. The
    government television is characterized by a heavy load of political
    propaganda promoting the so-called Battle of Ideas. Satellite and cable
    television is restricted to hotels and foreign residents.

    Government control over information has clearly intensified since Fidel
    Castro's illness and transfer of power. The leader's condition has been
    officially declared a "state secret," and authorities have rejected
    hundreds
    of requests from foreign journalists to travel to Cuba when they heard the
    news. Several foreign journalists who had entered the country with tourist
    visas were expelled.

    On May 23, Armando Betancourt Reina, correspondent of Nueva Prensa Cubana
    agency, was detained in a neighborhood in Camagüey where residents had
    invited him to cover a violent police raid and eviction. It began on May
    21,
    and residents of the area were arrested. Betancourt was transferred to the
    State Security headquarters in Camagüey, more than 500 kilometers east of
    Havana and he was charged with disorderly conduct.

    On April 23, Roberto Santana Rodríguez, an independent contributor to
    Cubanet, was visited at his home by the police chief, a member of the
    Communist Party, the local coordinator of the Committee for the Defense of
    the Revolution and a member of the Veterans Association. On that day the
    journalist had planned to participate in a teleconference at the U.S.
    Interests Section. State Security agents had approached Santana on February
    13 and April 7. They told him that if he did not to give up his
    journalistic
    activity they would charge him under Law 88 with a possible sentence of up
    to 20 years in prison. They have also conducted a campaign to discredit him.

    On August 18, journalist Carlos Serpa Maceira, director of the bureau of
    Prensa Puente Informativo Cuba Miami and of Agencia Lux Info Press, was
    approached by officers of the National Police who searched his work
    briefcase and identification, took him to the Marianao station in Havana
    and
    held him for seven hours saying that he did not have the documents required
    to move about the capital. Serpa said he had been warned and
    interrogated by
    two State Security officers one of whom warned him that he would be fined
    3,000 pesos for violating decree law 217 of the Council of State because he
    was in the capital city without an official residence permit.

    Serpa Maceria had reported in May that his family living in Isla de Pinos,
    where he is from, had been subjected to reprisals by the government because
    of his work as a journalist. He said that for several weeks electricity has
    been cut off in their house early in the morning but not at other houses.

    In the middle of August, Diana Daniels, president of IAPA, and Gonzalo
    Marroquín, president of the Committee on Freedom of Press and Information,
    asked members of the organization to participate in an editorial
    campaign to
    demand the release of independent journalists imprisoned in Cuba for crimes
    of conscience.

    In August the news of the temporary handover of power from Fidel Castro to
    his brother, Defense Minister Raul Castro, sparked interest in the
    international press. But the lack of information about it was obvious, and
    it was even worse for the independent press in the country. On August 2,
    Cuban authorities refused to allow six foreign journalists to enter the
    country and made it more difficult to obtain a press visa. The journalists
    were interrogated by agents of the Interior Ministry and required to turn
    back. They were told that they did not have the work visa needed to
    practice
    journalism in Cuba. International organizations and media outlets asked
    Cuban authorities for unrestricted access for foreign journalists to report
    on the situation.

    On September 4, Mirta Wong, wife of jailed Oscar
    Mario González, said that when she visited him in prison she observed that
    his health had declined and prison authorities had not done anything.
    González has been plagued with a cough for six months and has hypertension,
    cervical arthritis, chronic arthritis and a urinary tract infection.

    On September 9, representatives of the Communist Party and leaders of the
    Committees for the Defense of the Revolution visited some of the Ladies in
    White to warn them not to hold political activities during the meeting in
    Havana of the XIV Summit of the Nonaligned Movement. Among those who were
    "alerted" are Miriam Leiva, journalist and wife of journalist Oscar
    Espinosa
    Chepe; Laura Pollán, wife of Héctor Maseda; and Julia Núñez, wife of Adolfo
    Fernández Sainz, the last two of whom are in jail.

    On September 15, Ahmed Rodríguez Albacia, a reporter for the agency Jóvenes
    sin , was detained for two days in Havana. The 21-year-old was
    released on September 17 after being behind bars for two days at the police
    unit of Dragones in Old Havana. His mother, Margarita Albacia, said the
    chief of the police unit refused to let her see her son and said he was
    detained because he was being investigated. She added that since the
    morning
    he was arrested, their house was under surveillance by a large police
    operation and a rapid response brigade that shouted threatening insults.

    On September 27, journalist Abel Escobar Ramírez was detained for six hours
    at the Morón police station in Ciego de Ávila province. Two policemen
    arrested him while he was talking to a friend. The police took three
    notebooks with addresses and telephone numbers, personal information and
    other possessions. An official told him he had been detained for
    disobedience without giving any more details. Escobar Ramírez, 50, is a
    reporter for Cubanet and the magazine Carta de Cuba.

    The most recent example of censorship and government disdain for the news
    needs of the population is the curtain of silence over a massive
    epidemic of
    hemorrhagic dengue. Despite massive fumigations that the government calls
    the "anti-vector battle against the Aedes Aegypti mosquito," and the
    hundreds of people who have been hospitalized throughout the country, the
    official press has not yet admitted the existence of the epidemic. The
    number of cases has been growing for at least two months. Only the
    independent press has reported the presence of this infectious disease in
    the country's cities and municipalities.

    http://www.sipiapa.com/pulications/informe_cuba2006o.cfm

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