Race and Equality denounces harassment against members of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba and demands respect for freedom of expression on the island

Washington, D.C. August 3, 2020.- The International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) denounces the harassment and threats committed this weekend by Cuban State Security against a family that are members of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL, for its initials in Spanish). These threats were intended to silence leaders of this independent civil society organization on the island.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepcion, National Coordinator of the MCL and former political prisoner, denounced that on July 31 and August 2, State Security agents approached different members of his family, who are part of the MCL, to demand that they leave the organization and threatened them with criminal prosecution and fines if they continued participating in actions supporting the MCL or Cardet Concepcion.

The first of these acts occurred on July 31, when a State Security agent who identified himself only as “Elio” arrived at the workplace of Yaimaris Vecino’s father. Vecino is the spouse of Cardet Concepcion. “Elio” told Yaimaris’ father to ask his daughter to leave the MCL or else her husband would return to prison.

This is not the first time that Cuban authorities have taken actions against Vecino. In the past, including the months that Cardet Concepcion was in prison, she was cited and interrogated on various occasions by State Security agents, who have even come to the clinic where she works to interrogate her there.

The second act of repression occurred on Sunday, around 1pm, when two officials from the Political Police came to the home of Yordan Marino Fernandez, Coordinator of the MCL for Holguín and Las Tunas, and Vecino’s cousin. The police forced him to report urgently to the police station in Velasco, the town where he lives. Once there, the activist was interrogated by two State Security agents, who threatened to charge him with a common crime.

According to the report, the agents told Marino Fernandez that they were not going to allow any member of the MCL to leave the country and that they would economically suffocate the organization until it disappeared. They also threatened to fine Marino Fernandez’s spouse and threatened their son. Before allowing him to leave the station, the agents ordered Marino Fernandez to stop his involvement with the MCL and not to support Eduardo Cardet Concepcion, or else both would go to prison.

The threats against Yaimaris Vecino and Marino Fernandez are especially worrisome because they are very similar to the threats that State Security agents made against Eduardo Cardet Concepcion before he was brutally attacked and convicted of a crime he did not commit in November 2016. The National Coordinator of the MCL served a three-year sentence. He served the majority of his sentence in prison in inhumane conditions and was stabbed by other inmates. He was placed under conditional liberty in May 2019, which he was subjected to until October 2019.

The MCL was founded in 1988 and despite their belief in peaceful change, they have been one of the most persecuted organizations by the Cuban state and its security forces. Of the 75 political prisoners during the Black Spring in 2003, 17 were members of the MCL. On July 22, 2012, their founder, Oswaldo Paya, died under unexplained circumstances after his car was hit by a State Security vehicle.

Race and Equality expresses its concern for the security of Yaimaris Vecino, Yordan Marino Fernandez, and all other members of the MCL, and urges the Cuban state to stop harassing them and to allow them to carry out their work as a political party. We also urge the international community to monitor the situation of MCL members and to demand respect and protection for the rights to freedom of expression and assembly on the island.

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