The Strategies Employed by Cuba’s Authoritarian Regime to Restrict Mobility and Silence Dissident Voices

The Strategies Employed by Cuba’s Authoritarian Regime to Restrict Mobility and Silence Dissident Voices

Washington, DC, October 11, 2023 – In 2019, five activists out of the six interviewed for this article were banned from leaving the island by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. The coordinator of the Red de Líderes y Lideresas de Cuba (RELLIC), María Elena Mir Marrero, was prevented from boarding a plane under the argument that she was regulated. The vice-president of the Consejo para la Transición Democrática en Cuba, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, was also prevented from flying to Belgium that same year. Osvaldo Navarro, member of the Comité Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial (CIR), was informed, before his flight date, that he was regulated. Marthadela Tamayo, also a member of CIR, was not allowed to board, being told that she had been fined and had to pay up before traveling abroad. And the National Coordinator of the CIR, Juan Antonio Madrazo, was not allowed to leave Cuba at that time either, because he was one of the regulated persons. They were trying to leave the country to denounce the serious social, political, economic, and rights crisis in this country, which has worsened in recent years.

But that has not been the only time that María Elena, Manuel, Osvaldo, Marthadela, and Juan Antonio have tried to travel outside the island to participate in academic spaces, assemblies, and dialogues, where human rights violations recorded in this country are addressed. After 2019 they have tried again and have been detained inside their homes or upon arrival at the airport. All with the aim of preventing them from boarding their flights. They have also been repeatedly told that they are regulated and are prohibited from traveling to another country, unless they want to leave and never return to the island.

In July of this year, the coordinator of the Centro de Estudio, Liderazgo y Desarrollo (Celide), Fernando Palacio, tried to travel to Trinidad and Tobago, and while inside the airport the Cuban authorities informed him that he was not regulated, but he could not leave the country because the commemoration of the Assault on the Moncada Barracks, an armed action carried out on July 26, 1953 by a group of young people led by Fidel Castro, to overthrow Fulgencio Batista, was approaching. Fernando is the other human rights defender interviewed for this article.

“The term regulation is a euphemism that the regime uses to prevent activists from leaving the country,” says Marthadela, who also maintains that it is an arbitrary measure. “As a human being you feel powerless, you feel fragile before a state that has all the power to decide when you leave, when you enter, when they put you in prison, when they take you out of prison…”, reflects Osvaldo. That, he says, is what he has felt every time he is notified that he is regulated.

A report released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which reveals that more than 220 people and 25 organizations around the world suffered reprisals for cooperating with the United Nations, mentions the human rights violations suffered by Juan Antonio and Marthadela. The document points out that in the last year Cuban authorities prevented the two from leaving the country, and this has hindered their engagement with the UN, “including the current preparations for the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba, scheduled to take place in November 2023,” the report states.

From One Province to Another

The six human rights defenders who were consulted also say that state authorities have prohibited them from moving from one province to another. In 2008, Fernando was banned for two years from visiting Holguín. He was notified of the measure after being detained and held incommunicado for almost a week. Marthadela cannot go to that same region, even though she is a native of that part of the country. María Elena and Juan Antonio have been arbitrarily detained every time they go to Santiago de Cuba, while the authorities do not allow Manuel to travel to Villa Clara.

The Cuban state has restricted the mobility of this group of activists, who were also expelled from their jobs for being dissident voices against Cuba’s political system. All in order to silence them and prohibit them from continuing their struggle for a “free country”.

“I dream of a real Cuba, where we as mothers can raise our children, see them grow and develop. I dream of a Cuba full of freedoms, where the population is not oppressed, where each and every one of the laws that the country itself regulates is complied with. I dream of a free Cuba”, says María Elena, who has not seen her son for more than a year, nor her grandson or daughter-in-law. All three left the country because of the serious situation on the island.  

From the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we reject the strategies of unjustified restrictions on mobility implemented by the Cuban State, whose sole purpose is to silence activists, human rights defenders, artists, independent journalists, jurists, and, in general, all dissident voices. We also urge the international community to follow up on the denunciations of Cubans who have suffered repression and harassment on the island, and to condemn these tactics carried out by the authoritarian regime of Cuba.

Principle Conclusions on the Situation of the Afro-Venezuelan Population in Migratory Contexts in Colombia

  • Race and Equality and the USAID INTEGRA Project present aninvestigation on the situation of the Afro-Venezuela population in migratory contexts in Colombia.
  • The research shows that Afro-descendant and migrant women suffer disproportionately from lack of access to services, mainly sexual and reproductive health services, due to a combination of discriminatory factors from a structural point of view, such as socioeconomic vulnerability, racial discrimination in medical settings, and lack of information and confidence in the mechanisms for access to justice to guarantee the fulfillment of their reproductive rights.
  • The report finds that, from an intersectional perspective, Afro-descendant women in migratory contexts have greater vulnerability and profound barriers to accessing their rights.
  • There is a close connection between racism, gender-based discrimination, and xenophobia. This means that migrant women of African descent are often victims of gender-based violence in their workplaces, formal and informal, and in accessing the health system. This violence is based on the reproduction of racial, gender-based, and xenophobic stereotypes. For example, due to hypersexualization and fetishization of Afro-descendent bodies constructed around the vulnerability of migrant women, in work spaces both formal and informal, the report identified cases of sexual assault, comments, and hypersexual insinuations.
  • The research findings highlight the need to integrate multiple approaches in sociodemographic and socioeconomic characterization procedures and to ensure the interoperability of information systems at the national level regarding the conditions of Afro-descendant individuals in migratory settings.


Colombia, September 29, 2023. The Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), in the framework of the work carried out with USAID’s INTEGRA Project, presents the report: Situation of the Afro-Venezuelan population in migratory contexts in Colombia: Analysis and recommendations for the application of the ethnic-racial approach, product of the research conducted by Race and Equality, whose purpose is to generate recommendations for the inclusion of the ethnic-racial approach in the institutions of the migratory system and to promote the guarantee of their rights.

The investigation employed a methodology of life stories to analyze how gender, ethnic-racial belonging, and sexuality influence migratory trajectories. This came together in a qualitative investigation that identified sociodemographic and socioeconomic information, and life experiences of the Afro-descendant Venezuelan population residing in Bogotá, Cúcuta, Cali, Riohacha, and Medellín.


The lack of information and consideration of the differentiated experiences of Venezuelan Afro-descendants from a rights perspective and an intersectional approach cannot continue in a region historically and structurally marked by ethno-racial inequalities. In order to advance in the recognition of the rights of Afro-descendant people and to break down the matrix of racial and gender inequality in migratory contexts from a differential approach, it is necessary to recognize the existence and persistence of racial discrimination and racism. The current situation of Afro-descendant women interviewed in the framework of this research reflects that, although the notions of ethnic-racial self-recognition are different in the process of Venezuelan identity construction, the dynamics of inequality based on structural racism are reproduced in everyday life and condition the life experiences of these women. Furthermore, the lack of specific information about their experiences reinforces practices of institutional racism by not recognizing and characterizing this population in the same way as the rest of society.

In the workplace, research shows that there is a close relationship between racism, gender discrimination, and xenophobia. As a result, migrant women of African descent often experience gender-based violence in their workplaces, whether formal or informal, based on the reproduction of racial, gender, and xenophobic stereotypes.  Afro-descendant women tend to have access to jobs related to low-paid domestic work and mainly assume care duties in their homes, which acts as a barrier to their insertion into the labor market. Challenges were also recognized in accessing health, education, and justice mechanisms.   Therefore, it is urgent to advance in the construction of information from a differential perspective that recognizes these experiences, characterizes the population and their needs, and based on this, builds policies, programs, and projects to guarantee their rights.  Although socioeconomic indicators show that Afro-descendant women face greater economic vulnerability, this is not a “natural place”, but rather is the result of the inequalities among Afro-descendant women. It is the result of historical inequalities and power relations that condition and limit women’s lives.


According to the results of the research, Race and Equality recommends promoting the participation of all institutions that generate statistical information on people in migratory contexts to produce specific data on Afro-descendant people from Venezuela. The creation of variables on the socio-demographic and socioeconomic conditions of Afro-descendant people in migratory contexts should be guaranteed, incorporating variables from the approach of ethnic-racial self-recognition and heterorecognition. In this way, the identification of the population can be facilitated by understanding the Venezuelan socio-political and socio-cultural context and its diffuse relationship with ethnic-racial categories.

Likewise, it is important to guarantee the implementation of the ethnic-racial approach in the Comprehensive Migration Policy, recognizing the cultural and social contexts of migrants. It is recommended that characterization processes be carried out to collect relevant information. In addition, it is essential to promote and apply international standards against racial discrimination and migration, such as the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), to develop policies and programs that benefit Afro-descendent migrants.

It is suggested that civil society organizations implement training processes with an ethnic-racial approach to the rights of Afro-descendant people in migratory contexts in Venezuela. Likewise, it is recommended to promote political advocacy processes to guarantee the rights of Afro-descendant Venezuelan people in migratory contexts in Colombia, establishing spaces for dialogue with state institutions. It is also important to stimulate knowledge management and training processes on the ethnic-racial categories in Colombia, as well as the normative opportunities that exist for the Afro-descendant migrant population.


Consult and Download the report: Situación de la población afrovenezolana en contextos migratorios en Colombia: Análisis y recomendaciones para la aplicación del enfoque étnico-racial



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Victor Madrigal meets with more than 30 LGBTI+ people from Mexico with the support of Race and Equality

In Mexico, the United Nations Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, met with local authorities, leaders, and LGBTI+ organizations of two Mexican states to promote his mandate.

From July 17th to the 22nd, the United Nations Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (UNIESOGI), Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, held a promotional visit to two Mexican states –Oaxaca and Mexico City—, which were conducted in alliance with the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), represented by the Senior LGBTI Program Officer, Zuleika Rivera. Likewise, the United Nations Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was present, represented by Niza Castañeda, Human Rights Officer.

During his visit, he met with more than 30 LGBTI+ people of different organizations, leaders of civil society, and local authorities dedicated to the protection and promotion of LGBTI+ rights, with the goal of learning more about the situation of LGBTI+ people in Mexico and to provide information to participants on the functions of the mandate and the various forms of participation for civil society. Additionally, the Independent Expert and Race and Equality participated in the 6th Conference of LGBTI Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean, where Madrigal-Borloz was invited to participate as a panelist.

Dialogue with the muxhe community

On July 18th, the “Dialogue of authorities and the muxhe/trans community of the region of Istmo with the Independent Expert” was held in Istmo de Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, which was convened by the Technical Institute of the Isthmus, the Proyecto Transformándome, Mexfam and other civil society organizations. “In Oaxaca there exists a narrative and language of inclusion and respect for the communities of the Isthmus, lessons that are beneficial for the world. Indigenous peoples, African people, and Asian civilizations have known sexual and gender diversity as phenomenon that are part of the richness of society,” expressed the Independent Expert at the meeting.

The dialogue was attended by authorities such as Mariano Rosado López, Secretary of the Municipality of Juchitán de Zaragoza, and Juan José Rementeria Orozco, Director of the Technical Institute of the Isthmus (TecNM), who expressed his wishes for an inclusive education for the muxhe community and LGBTI+ people. Also in attendance was the first muxhe municipal representative, Carisia Cabrera, who described the challenge of reaching the governorship and the constant struggle to be representative, as sexism and racism have always existed.

The meeting was also attended by leaders, local groups, and secular actors, and had the purpose of establishing a link with the muxhe community and other sexual diverse communities, allowing listening and articulation of needs in health, security, justice, work, and social inclusion. In this regard, Jenni Natalia Santiago, from Ellas Deciden, a network of lesbian, bisexual and gender-diverse women, pointed out that colonial processes keep ancestral gender identities silent and that it is necessary for the Mexican State to recognize their existence and the barriers they face in accessing opportunities.

United Nations Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, Víctor Madrigal-Borloz, at the “Dialogue with authorities and the muxhe/trans community of the region of Itsmo” at the Technical Institute of the Isthmus of Mexico.

Meetings with civil society

Over two days, the Independent Expert on SOGI, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, met with Mexican civil society organizations in three thematic roundtables, where they addressed issues such as migration, human mobility and its impact on LGBTI+ persons, disappearances, hate speech and hate crimes, and the rights of LGBTI+ persons deprived of liberty, LGBTI+ indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples, and trans youth.

Mexico has one of the borders with the highest migratory flows and, in the last year, the number of LGBTI+ people in migration has increased, including youth and adolescents. In addition, extreme violence at home and on the streets and lack of opportunities due to sexual orientation and gender identity are the main causes of expulsion from their places of origin. In the country, there is no specific migration policy for LGBTI+ people, neither in the national migration law nor in the federal asylum law, so there are no mechanisms of care; in addition, hypersexualization and racial profiling is very common.

On the other hand, civil organizations have a constant struggle for truth, justice, reparation, and for the memory of the victims of disappearance and hate crimes. The country has not been able to build an official registry of LGBTI+ persons and the Missing Persons Search Commissions and Prosecutor’s Offices in Mexico do not recognize diverse families’ ability to initiate the search processes for LGBTI+ missing persons. In addition, there is a lack of training in forensic anthropology to correctly treat the bodies of trans persons.

Likewise, it is necessary to recognize and respect the rights of LGBTI+ persons in detention centers in Mexico. LGBTI+ people deprived of their liberty are often victims of systematic violations of their rights and cruel and inhumane acts, with trans people facing these acts with greater severity. Likewise, hate speech and the presumption of criminality reinforce discrimination against indigenous populations, LGBTI+ Afro-Mexicans, and trans youth and children.

Víctor Madrigal-Borloz in thematic meetings with Mexican LGBTI+ civil society organizations.

Víctor Madrigal-Borloz in thematic meetings with Mexican LGBTI+ civil society organizations.

LGBTI+ Political Leaders

The Independent Expert and Race and Equality participated in the 6th Conference of LGBTI+ Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean, the largest event that brings together openly LGBTI+ leaders, public servants, and allies, where Víctor Madrigal-Borloz was invited to participate in the panel “Betting on democracies, bursting with color”. During his portion of the panel, the Independent Expert reflected on how the creation of the mandate is a sign of the fight for political spaces, 30 years ago it was unthinkable that sexual orientation and gender identity would be discussed at the United Nations.

The main objective of the 6th Conference, in which around 500 people participated, was to provide a space for dialogue, capacity building and networking and exchange of experiences in the field of citizen and political participation to move towards equality. Something important to highlight is that, during the meeting, the first LGBTI+ caucus in Brazil was created to combat the systematic attack on LGBTI+ rights promoted by the extreme right. This delegation is composed of more than 23 political authorities, members of the government and social organizations, among them federal deputy Erika Hilton, Duda Salabert and state deputy Linda Brasil.

Part of the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights work is to support the promotional visits of the mandates of the United Nations and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) for the rights of LGBTI+ people. In this regard, Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to accompany their efforts to ensure the equality and dignity of LGBTI+ people.

Miguel Ángel Alanis (Race and Equality), Niza Castañeda (OHCHR), Alex Leal (UNIESOGI), Zuleika Rivera (Race and Equality) at the 6th Conference of LGBTI+ Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean. In the second photo: Victor Madrigal-Borloz participating in the panel "Betting on democracies, bursting with color".

Victor Madrigal-Borloz participating in the panel “Betting on democracies, bursting with color”. In the second photo: Miguel Ángel Alanis (Race and Equality), Niza Castañeda (OHCHR), Alex Leal (UNIESOGI), Zuleika Rivera (Race and Equality) at the 6th Conference of LGBTI+ Political Leaders of the Americas and the Caribbean.

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