Though the former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has died, the tyrannical regime he built is still very much alive. During this period of forced mourning after Castro’s death, Cuban activists, artists, and ordinary citizens are being detained, harassed, and assaulted by the regime’s state security services.
(12/7) 11:37 AM Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado was taken to Valle Grande, a Cuban prison. This update will be the last on this blog post. VOC will be monitoring the status of political detainees in Cuba to the best of our ability and will continue to make this information public via our blog and social media platforms.
(12/6) 11:53 AM Eduardo Pacheco was released early this morning. He is awaiting trial and needs to report to the police station twice a week.
(12/4) 12:49 PM: Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado was just moved to VIVAC, a detention center.
(12/3) 11:40 PM Joanna Colombié was released under the warning not to travel outside of Havana until after December 10th.
(12/3) 5:58 PM Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado has reported that his food in prison in Guanabacoa was drugged with sleeping pills and that this is why he is not eating any prison food.
(12/3) 4:46 PM: Zaqueo Báez, the activist from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who was arrested during the Papal visit for handing Pope Francis a list of prisoners, has been detained. Three other UNPACU activists have also been detained: Yuselín Ferrera Espinosa and Radamés Lozada Sánchez in Santiago and Edel Ruiz Hechavarría in Palma Soriano.
(12/3) 7:34 AM: Joanna Columbié of the group Somos+ has been detained. Her whereabouts are unknown.
(12/2) 4:08 PM: VOC has been made aware that El Sexto has declared a hunger strike until he is freed.
(12/2) 3:22 PM: Leandro Miguel Hernandez Ferreira, a non-activist Cuban, was beaten and arrested for “not mourning.” Because he is not an activist himself, many of his family and friends are concerned he will not have an active network of support to call for his release.
Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist who goes by “El Sexto,” was arrested and badly beaten on Saturday after spraypainting the words “he’s gone” on a wall in Havana. He remains in state custody, and because he is an asthmatic, his fiancée fears for his life. El Sexto became internationally known when he was awarded the Václav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent by the Human Rights Foundation in 2015 for his work supporting the freedoms of speech and conscience in Cuba.
Reinaldo Escobar, the head editor of the independent digital publication 14ymedio, who is also the husband of the blogger Yoani Sánchez, was arrested on Thursday along with a Spanish journalist to whom he was giving an interview. The Spanish embassy lobbied for the pair’s release, and they were released four hours later. When Escobar asked what crime he had committed he was told it had been a “prophylactic” measure.
Eduardo Cardet, the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), was detained and severely beaten by police. According the MCL’s website, state security has said that he “met with people he shouldn’t have during his trip to the United States last week.” He is accused of contempt of public officials and disrespect for Fidel Castro, and is being threatened with 15 years in prison.
Eduardo Pacheco, an activist from Cárdenas, was beaten so severely that he now needs surgery. However, he does not feel safe having the surgery, as the medical system is state run and has been used in the past to harass and injure political dissidents. His wife was told this morning that he will be charged with a crime; the details are as yet unknown.
Cuban citizens without a history of political activism have also been targeted. Leonardo Miguel Hernández Ferreira, for example, was beaten and arrested on Saturday for “not mourning.” Cases such as these may be especially dangerous because non-activist citizens have not built up the networks of support that experienced activists have.
The police have also put heavy pressure on the opposition in Matanzas province and in other parts of the island, with temporary detentions and warnings not to engage in public protests.