Next week the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Federica Mogherini will be visiting Cuba. According to the Council of the EU website, "the EU-Cuba Joint Council will meet for the second time on 9 September 2019 in Havana, Cuba. It will discuss maintaining momentum on the implementation of the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement, which has been provisionally applied since November 2017." If the promotion of the respect for human rights is part of this political dialogue then one could hardly describe it as having gained, much less, maintained momentum.
These representatives of the European Union will not be meeting with Cuba's democrats, human rights defenders, or members of independent civil society. In a normal country meeting with the political opposition is common practice, but not with the regime in Havana. They have confused a dictatorship with a people.
Repression and human rights violations on the island have not improved, but worsened. This led the Patriotic Union of Cuba and Cuba Decide to call for a nationwide protest on Sunday, September 8, 2019 at 10:00am describing it as their "response to the increased repression of the regime against peaceful opposition and citizenship on the occasion of the celebration of the Joint Council between the Dictatorship and the European Union in Cuba."
This reaction by members of the opposition and civil society should be placed within the existing human rights context both on and off the island. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced on August 20th that it is drafting a "Country Report Concerning the Situation of Human Rights in Cuba." The last such report was in 1983, and demonstrates concern over the human rights situation on the island. They are requesting that civil society submit information and "will continue to accept this information for a month, counted from August 20."
International observers should also look at the position taken by Sweden. The Swedish government on June 17, 2019 withdrew a proposal that would have ratified a landmark EU-Cuba deal covering trade and political dialogue because two of Sweden's political parties, the Liberals and Christian Democrats, said they would vote against it if it was taken to parliament because "they would not back the agreement until there are significant changes in the Cuban regime's stance on human rights."
There have not been significant changes, and prisoners of conscience continue to exist in Cuba. On August 26, 2019 Amnesty International identified five new prisoners of conscience in the island. According to the Spanish based NGO, Prisoners Defenders, they have identified 125 imprisoned opposition activists. Independent journalists in Cuba continue to be beaten up and jailed for practicing their profession and attempting to report on government abuses.
The One Free Press Coalition launched their seventh monthly "10 Most Urgent" list (ranked in order of urgency) on September 3, 2019, calling attention to the most pressing cases of journalists under attack for pursuing the truth in the world. Number one on the list is Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered by agents of Saudi Arabia. Sixth on the list is independent Cuban journalist Roberto Jesús Quiñones. He is presently at home waiting for the political police to take him to prison.
Earlier today in an interview published by Cubanet, the independent journalist explained, "I am waiting for them, at any moment they will come to confine me." Roberto Jesús also described his pessimism with the upcoming visit of Federica Mogherini to Cuba next week on September 8-9. He basis this on her past statements, including when Mogherini declared Cuba a "one party democracy." He also observes that "the position of the European Union in these past few years has been very weak and complicit."
From the One Free Press Coalition website: On April 22 Cuban police beat and detained Roberto Jesús Quiñones while he was covering a trial as a contributor for CubaNet. Upon his release five days later, Cuban authorities alleged his conduct during detention constituted “resistance” and “disobedience,” for which they imposed charges and a fine. On August 7, a municipal court of the Cuban city of Guantánamo sentenced him to one year in prison for refusal to pay the fine. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Cuba’s “flagrant disregard for legal norms.”
Cubans are not free to travel outside of Cuba and many are arbitrarily denied that right by the dictatorship. This led Guillermo del Sol Pérez to initiate a hunger strike on August 15, 2019 after his son was denied the right to travel. He has lost 42 pounds and his health is worsening.
These are some of the reasons why on September 8th brave souls will be protesting in Cuba to reject repression and to demonstrate their solidarity with the Ladies in White, who are regularly assaulted for peacefully assembling on Sundays. It is also why the secret police are working over time to shutdown the protests before they start with preemptive arrests.
Our response to the increased repression of the regime against peaceful opposition and citizenship on the occasion of the celebration of the Joint Council between the Dictatorship and the European Union in Cuba.
Members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and promoters of Cuba Decide, after a thorough analysis of the notable increase in repression for political reasons and violations of the rights of the Cuban people, have decided to summon Cubans to demonstrate publicly next Sunday, September 8, at 10 am. Let’s go to parks and other public places in our country, to express:
Our solidarity with the brave Ladies in White , repressed week after week by the dictatorship; journalists and independent artists; defenders of religious freedoms and LGBTIactivists who suffer persecution; and all the peaceful people and organizations that promote respect for human rights and the change of system towards democracy in Cuba.
Our rejection of repression against the Independent Civil Society and the people in general:
-No more political prisoners.
-No more police abuse against defenseless citizens.
-No more Cubans victims of violations of their right to leave and return to their country.
-No more beatings and torture in prisons.
-No more assaults and robberies in the homes of dissidents.
-No more violent detentions, harassment and persecution against peaceful human rights defenders.
Our repudiation of the implementation of a Political Dialogue, Cooperation and Trade Agreement (PDCA) between the European Union and the Castro-communist regime that has not been conditioned to concrete changes in the country’s political-economic system that guarantee the cessation of repression and Respect for the basic freedoms of citizens, in open contradiction with the principles practiced by European nations.
Our request to the European Union to demand the participation of civil society and the opposition in any negotiation process with the dictatorship; and slow down the implementation of the PDCA until the specific reforms required by the regime are clarified. Reforms that should include:
The release of all political prisoners and the total harassment and violence of State Security and the police against human rights defenders and citizens.
The recognition of the civil, political, economic and cultural rights of Cubans , including the right to change the country’s political system into a binding referendum to allow citizens to participate in free, fair and plural elections for the first time in more than 60 years.
We appeal to the solidarity of the international community to curb the impunity of the tyranny that intends to lash out at our coordinators and activists with new assaults, robberies, violent detentions and imprisonment, as they have done in the past in the face of the silence of European negotiators. We hope that this time the voice of Europe will be raised in the person of its High Representative to support those who defend the same democratic values that the European Union professes.
To a greater repression of tyranny, greater firmness and solidarity of those who fight for a free, democratic, fair and prosperous Cuba.
Members of the UNPACU and promoters of Cuba Decide.