Race and Equality demands respect for freedom of expression in the midst of the campaign for the release of Cuban activist Denis Solís; condemns the Cuban government’s continued repression against independent journalist María Matienzo and activist Kirenia Yalit Nuñez Pérez

Washington, D.C., November 19, 2020.- The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) strongly condemns the continued repression carried out against independent journalist and writer María Matienzo and her partner, activist Kirenia Yalit Nuñez Pérez, at the hands of the National Police and State Security. At least four officials and a police unit remain camped outside Matienzo and Nuñez’ home in Havana since Tuesday, November 17, threatening to arrest them and take them to prison if they attempt to leave the house.

Matienzo communicated to Race and Equality that she attributes the current act of repression to her and Nuñez’ participation in the Movimiento San Isidro’s campaign to demand the release of activist and musician Denis Solís, who was arrested in Havana on November 9 and was sentenced, two days later and in a summary trial, to eight months in prison for the supposed charge of “contempt.”

Matienzo signaled that on the first day, as they attempted to leave the house, officials in the street turned on the police sirens seeking to approach them and arrest them. In addition, her partner was blocked from accessing mobile data for half a day. This recent phenomenon has been attributed to a deliberate action from the Telecommunications company (ETECSA) to commonly suspend access to data services for activists and members of the opposition.

To Matienzo, a journalist for Cuban independent media outlet CubaNet, this type of harassment is a common and recurring practice. “Sometimes they let us leave and they detain us on the road; in March, Kirenia was able to get close to a meeting location before being detained and placed in a police car under direct sunlight and interrogation,” said Matienzo. On October 10, she faced a similar situation – she was arrested while walking towards the Movimiento San Isidro headquarters and was taken to a police station where she was kept for over five hours.

Kirenia, a psychologist and coordinator of the Cuban Youth Round Table (Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana), was also fined 100 pesos in March of this year for being falsely accused of avoiding security mechanisms. In January, she was given a written threat of being arrested and processed for “introducing counter-revolutionary material” to Cuba.

Day of Repression

Matienzo emphasized that she and her partner are not the only victims of this wave of repression and persecution – dozens of other people have been beaten, threatened and arrested since the previous week in response to the Movimiento San Isidro’s series of actions to protest the arbitrary detention of activist Denis Solís and demand his immediate release.

“Denis Solís has a particular racial profile to which the government’s sexist, homophobic and racist approach has intentionally caused more harm. The situation of lack of freedom of expression seen in the island is untenable, but we have chosen to speak out. The people must wake up because this is an evil that affects us all equally,” said the journalist.

In response to the recent wave of repression, at least nine activists from the San Isidro Movement headquarters decided to undergo a hunger strike. According to Matienzo, 14 people remain inside the headquarters, where they held a meeting three days ago to draft poetry in favor of Denis Solís’ liberation. However, a group of around 100 men comprised of plainclothes police and State Security agents arrived at the scene and surrounded the property and prevented the activists from leaving; they also intercepted food deliveries being provided by a neighbor.

Race and Equality strongly condemns these actions, which are clear violations of human rights. We demand that the Cuban government adopt the necessary measures to ensure the safety of María Matienzo and Kirenia Yalit Nuñez Perez. In light of international human rights norms, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, freedom of expression must be guaranteed by all States.

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