Cuba violates human rights, we demand an end to repression!

Cuba violates human rights, we demand an end to repression!

Washington D.C., March 26, 2024. – On March 17 and 18, 2024, the social networks of international and civil society organizations that monitor the social, political and economic crisis in Cuba were flooded with images of the island, showing people from the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma and Matanzas, shouting: “Current and food”, “homeland and life”, “freedom”, “no to violence”, “down with Diaz-Canel”, among other phrases.

The demonstrations originated in response to blackouts, lack of food and, in general, to the complex situation in the country. As a result of these events, 10 people were arbitrarily detained, according to the organization Justicia 11J, which also documented Internet outages, and cases of violence and repression exercised by Cuban authorities against the people who came out to protest.

One week after these peaceful protests took place, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) reiterates that the Cuban government systematically violates the human rights of those who reside on the island.

After the massive demonstrations of July 11 and 12, 2021, also known as 11J, in which thousands of people took to the streets and were arbitrarily detained (and more than 700 are still deprived of their freedom, according to Justicia 11J), other protests have taken place, such as the one in August 2022 in Nuevitas, in the province of Camagüey, which left 14 men and women in prison; or the one in Caimanera, in Guantánamo, which left six people in jail.

“During the protests of 11J, in those of Nuevitas, Caimanera and now in those of March 17 and 18, 2024, the Cuban people have demanded the same things: full respect for civil rights, restoration of electricity, food and, in general, improvement of the political, social and economic situation in Cuba. However, Cuban authorities punish protesters with imprisonment, repress activists, artists and independent journalists, and limit the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association. We demand an end to violence against those calling for change in Cuba,” says Christina Fetterhoff, director of Race and Equality Programs.  

From the Institute we call on the Cuban authorities to recognize the human rights of those who participate in peaceful protests. We demand that the repression cease, and we ask the international community to follow up and continue to denounce the violations of rights that occur daily in this country.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Living Instrument Guiding the Defense and Protection of Human Rights in the Americas

Washington DC, December 8, 2023.– What are human rights? How can human rights be fully enjoyed? Who has the obligation to ensure respect for and fulfilment of human rights? The answers to these questions are as obvious as they are complex. Despite the fact that human rights are inherent to all people, the enjoyment of these rights is determined by a diversity of factors that every day, in every corner of the world, bring people closer or further away from the goal of living in freedom, justice, and peace.

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wants to assert the relevance of the UDHR to the work of defending and protecting human rights carried out every day by civil society organizations and activists in the Americas. Although human rights violations persist and worsen in the region, we believe that the Declaration is the tool that pushes and strengthens the struggle for human rights.

“In these 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is important to look back and recognize all that has been achieved since its adoption. Thanks to the Declaration, the world, and the Latin American region in particular, today has a solid mechanism for the protection of the rights of all people. From civil society we know that there is a lot of work to be done to achieve full guarantees, especially at the level of the obligations of States, but we see the Declaration as a living instrument that guides our work,” says Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

A Bit of History

Following the atrocities committed during World War II and the creation of the United Nations, the international community set out to create a road map to ensure the rights of all people everywhere and at all times. Thus, on December 10, 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But how did they get there? The UN General Assembly considered an initial document at its first session in 1946 and then forwarded it to the Economic and Social Council for consideration by the Commission on Human Rights, which was entrusted with the task of drafting what they initially called the “international bill of human rights”.

At its first session in early 1947, the Commission on Human Rights directed its members to formulate a preliminary draft of the charter, which was later taken up by a Drafting Committee composed of representatives of eight countries, which were chosen on the basis of geographical distribution. Eleanor Roosevelt, the widow of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, chaired the UDHR Drafting Committee.

The first draft of the Declaration was proposed in September 1948 and more than 50 Member States participated in the final draft. In its resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December 1948, the General Assembly, meeting in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Eight nations abstained from voting, but none voted against.

Did you know?

Delegates from several countries played a key role in ensuring that women’s rights were included in the Declaration. Hansa Mehta of India is widely credited with changing the phrase “All men are born free and equal” to “All human beings are born free and equal” in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 Learn more.

75 Years Later

That document, which was formulated under the common ideal that all people live in freedom, justice, and peace, has paved the way for the adoption of more than seventy human rights treaties, which are now permanently applied at the global and regional levels. Race and Equality, in its work to defend and protect the rights of Afro-descendant and indigenous populations, LGBTI+ people, and other vulnerable groups, recognizes and champions international human rights law.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a permanent foundation for our work in documentation, capacity building, advocacy, and strategic litigation. To cite one example, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has been a key tool for strengthening allied organizations in their advocacy processes before States and the Inter-American and Universal Human Rights Systems on the rights of persons of African descent.

Meanwhile, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has been a fundamental piece in documentation and advocacy processes with partner organizations in the defense and protection of Afro-descendant, indigenous, and LBTI+ women. In 2022, Race and Equality supported and accompanied a collective of Peruvian feminist organizations in their participation in the review of the CEDAW Committee in Peru, achieving that it included recommendations to the State based on the demands of lesbian women for the first time.

In these 75 years of the UDHR, Race and Equality recalls that the application of human rights must be governed by the principles of universality, interdependence, indivisibility, and progressivity. We believe that the recognition and respect of the following are imperative: (a) that all persons are entitled to all human rights; (b) that human rights are linked to each other and, therefore, the recognition and exercise of one of them implies respect for and protection of many others; (c) that human rights must be recognized, protected and guaranteed in their entirety, that they cannot be fragmented; and d) that it is the obligation of States to ensure progress in the constructive development of human rights, and that any kind of regression is completely prohibited.

In addition, as a way of honoring these 75 years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we have produced an illustration that recognizes the diversity of people in the Americas—and, therefore, the diversity of circumstances that affect them—and symbolically places at the center the Declaration that, in the days of its drafting, Eleanor Roosevelt envisioned it as a document of support, guidance, and inspiration, noting, “this is the first step in an evolutionary process.”

We also recall and put again as a point of reflection an excerpt from the speech “Where do human rights begin?” that Eleanor Roosevelt gave in 1958 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the UDHR:

“Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home. So close and so small that they cannot be located on any world map: each person’s environment, the neighborhood in which they live, the school or university they attend; the farm, factory, or office where you work. These are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity, without discrimination. If these rights don’t mean anything there, they don’t mean anything anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to assert these rights close to home, we seek progress on a larger scale in vain.

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.

LGBTI+ Rights in Brazil: Impressions After the Visit of Roberta Clarke, IACHR Rapporteur

Brazil, October 9th, 2023 – In a promotional visit to Brazil facilitated by the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), Roberta Clarke, Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI People of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), had the opportunity to dialogue with civil society organizations and LGBTI+ activists from Brasília, Fortaleza, and Rio de Janeiro. During the visit, which took place from September 18th to 22nd, the IACHR Rapporteur was able to closely monitor the reality of the Brazilian LGBTI+ population, which, between advances and setbacks, remains united as a social movement and in the struggle for the preservation of the rights achieved thus far.

The trajectory of Roberta Clarke’s visit beyond the Rio-São Paulo axis was a strategy adopted by Race and Equality after several hearings with civil society, which constantly demanded attention to the different realities of the LGBTI+ population in other parts of the country. Thus, together with the support of the Ministry of Human Rights, through the National Secretary for the Rights of LGBTQIA+ People, Symmy Larrat, the city of Brasília was crucial for meetings with ministerial offices and meetings with the LGBTI+ movement in the Federal District. It is worth mentioning that the state of Ceará, with one of the highest rates of murders of LGBTI+ people, especially trans people, according to the dossier released by the National Association of Travestis and Transgenders (ANTRA), was also part of the script for active listening with activists from the northeast region, and for having the ‘Sister Imelda Lima Pontes Prison Unit’,  aimed exclusively at the LGBTI+ prison population.

Acknowledging that it is still too early to draw opinions and conclusions on the LGBTI+ Rapporteur’s visit to the country, Race and Equality brings to its audience an overview of the impressions shared by Roberta Clarke after talking to more than 15 organizations of the LGBTI+ movement in the visited cities. The Rapporteur’s impressions about the LGBTI+ population in the country were also reported during the public event held in Rio de Janeiro; “Building Bridges: LGBTI+ People’s Rights in an Intersectional Perspective”, hosted by Race and Equality.

During the week in which the Commissioner was in Brazil, two issues concerning LGBTI+ rights – which have already been achieved – were under discussion at the national level. One of them refers to equal civil marriage, which, due to the advance of extreme right-wing politicians in the Brazilian Congress, has once again been questioned as to its validity. Since 2011 and 2013, the Supreme Court (STF) and the National Council of Justice (CNJ) have equalized same-sex civil unions with heterosexual civil unions; however, Bill No. 5,167/2009 aims to annul this right. Although it has been postponed twice due to pressure from LGBTI+ deputies, and the vote remains suspended, it may return to the agenda in Congress. The other agenda that was under discussion refers to a manipulation also orchestrated by the growing anti-trans ideology that created a movement to attack the use of unisex bathrooms. The fomentation of intolerance on the part of conservative political actors has created a false idea that this was an urgent agenda item to be voted on.

These facts, for the Commissioner, reflected another Brazilian reality, since among the countries in the region, Brazil stands out among those that have made the most progress on LGBTI+ rights. In this regard, Roberta Clarke expressed concern about what is happening in the country and, particularly, about the issue of gender-based political violence, a topic that has been repeatedly denounced before the IACHR. For her, the spread of hate speech and the growth of the anti-trans movement has led to the need for reflection and the need to work together between social movements and LGBTI+ leaders. That is, to organize strategically to understand when it is worth expending efforts to the attacks of conservatives who aim only to spread fake news to dismantle civil society and interrupt the progress of the LGBTI+ political agenda.

In the face of these setbacks, the Commissioner demonstrated her solidarity and highlighted that the opportunity of having experienced different perspectives from across the country made her understand, in an intersectional way, the various types of violence that differentially affect the LGBTI+ community. While acknowledging the progress achieved through the historic struggle for visibility and rights, listening carefully to activists revealed that there is still much to be done. The country’s current situation has shown that there is strong pressure from the far right to destroy the progress made through gender equality policies and the recognition of LGBTI+ rights, and how through the spread of hate speech, trans people feel increasingly threatened and forced to live without access to basic rights.

Thus, Roberta affirmed the IACHR’s commitment to pay close attention to what happens in the country in the coming months, given that Brazil is a country of continental dimension and what happens in its territory has political influence on the entire region.

In her dialogue with the LGBTI+ social movement, the Rapporteur expressed concern about the difficulties reported in the documentation required for the process of civil rectification of name and gender; the various forms of violence against lesbian women; and the gap in the provision of public policies that meet their specificities, from the lack of data collection to the absence of health policies. In addition, lesbian women strongly emphasized the social exclusion they experience when they show affection in public, corrective rape practices, and conversion therapies, in addition to being expelled from their homes when they openly embrace their sexual orientation.

From the conversation with transmasculine people, the Commissioner was able to perceive how the violence they face is crossed mainly by issues of race, class, and territory, especially with regard to police violence. In Ceará, the theme of education was a major motto among LGBTI+ activists, highlighting the need for school inclusion policies since many LGBTI+ students abandon their educational institutions, either due to LGBTIphobia, bullying, disrespect for gender identity, among other forms of discrimination, and some do not even complete elementary school. In this context, on September 19th, the National Council for the Rights of the LGBTQIA+ Population published a resolution establishing guidelines to ensure inclusion and respect for gender identity in educational institutions.

In Brasilia, in addition to meetings with ministerial offices, Roberta Clarke met with the board of directors of the National LGBTQIA+ Council and had the opportunity to learn about the current demands of the LGBTI+ political agenda, in view of the democratic resumption in the country. The meeting with activists from the region took place in the Drag District with a round table that discussed topics such as the need for social assistance policies for the LGBTI+ population, such as the promotion of shelters and access to healthcare for the trans population.

During her visit to Rio de Janeiro, the Commissioner received a report from the Brazilian Lesbian Articulation (ABL) about lesbian women in the country; and received the ‘Dossier on Lesbocide’, after talking to one of the authors. In addition, she was given the dossiers on murder and violence against Brazilian travestis and transgender people in 2022; and the ‘Trans Brasil’ dossier, on their situation in the prison system, both documents being produced by ANTRA.

Finally, Race and Equality is deeply grateful to the Brazilian LGBTI+ movement that mobilized activists from different regions of the country so that they could convey to the IACHR Rapporteur their life experiences and their trajectories of struggles for rights in a country where being and existing as an LGBTI+ person is an act of courage. We also thank the IACHR for accepting our invitation and engaging in dialogue with the Brazilian LGBTI+ civil society movement. In view of our mission, encouraging visits by rapporteurs and experts from international mechanisms is another step in ensuring visibility, non-discrimination, and the full realization of human rights. Therefore, we ask the IACHR to consider the following recommendations for the Brazilian State:

1 – Creation of a National Council to confront hate speech and the dissemination of fake news with an intersectional perspective, in view of the violence and attacks suffered by the LGBTI+ population in the country.

2 – Establishment of policies and bills that constitutionally guarantee same-sex equal marriage, in addition to guaranteeing the safety of trans people in public bathrooms according to their gender identities and the plurality of unisex bathrooms.

3 – Collection of disaggregated data regarding the LGBTI+ population, either through the National Census or through surveys that foster the creation of specific public policies for this population.

4 – Training and education policies aimed at public security forces so that they can ensure the safety of Brazilian LGBTI+ people.

5 – Construction of a policy to confront gender-based political violence, with the provision of measures to protect LGBTI+ members of Congress.

 

Race and Equality Revamps Its Website, Broadening the Scope of Its Work in Defense and Protection of Human Rights in Latin America and the Caribbean

Washington DC, August 24, 2023 – With updated information, a new design and the integration of advanced content search tools, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) is relaunching its website, www.raceandequality.org, this week. The site is fully available in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. In this way, the organization reinforces its commitment to documentation, training and advocacy in the defense and protection of human rights of historically marginalized and persecuted populations in different countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

“It’s extremely important for Race and Equality to have a modern, up-to-date website that showcases the work that we do because it strengthens our advocacy work. We want all the information that is available on our website to be a resource for activists and human rights defenders across the region,” added Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

About the New Resource Center

One of the new features is the “Resource Center” section, where an advanced search tool provides a more organized and effective way to access all the content found on the website, such as reports, statements, and press releases. The search can be carried out by keywords, topics, country, and year.

Another important change is that now all the content is available in Portuguese, meaning that people can navigate and find information in the Portuguese version as they do in the Spanish and English versions. “When we decided to revamp the website, this (having the website in Portuguese) was a priority because we were aware of the lack of information available in Portuguese on the previous site, and because our work in Brazil has grown exponentially,” said Rodnei Jericó da Silva, Brazil Program Director at Race and Equality. 

Navigating Race and Equality’s New Site

The new website offers a broader and more detailed look at Race and Equality’s work in eight countries in Latin America, as well as with the Organization of American States (OAS), the United Nations (UN), and the European Union (EU), all in partnership with civil society organizations. In order to delve deeper into the purpose and scope of our work, the “Where We Work” section provides a summary of the context, actions, and achievements in each country and organization. 

In the same vein, the “Who We Are” section maintains the pages on Race and Equality’s mission and vision, its team, and partners, but contains new pages on the focus of the organization’s work, the impact achieved, and job opportunities available. Meanwhile, the “What We Do” section describes the lines of work in strategic litigation, capacity building, and documentation in greater detail.

The section “Who We Fight For” was created to outline our focus on actions in favor of marginalized populations, including Afro-descendants, the LGBTI+ community, indigenous peoples and women. These pages will house key information about the situation of these populations and our work carried out for the defense and protection of their human rights. 

This new website is another step in strengthening Race and Equality’s work of documentation, capacity-building and advocacy for the protection and defense of human rights. We especially invite activists, independent journalists, human rights defenders, and policy-makers to visit our website www.raceandequality.org, to keep abreast of its advocacy actions, reports, the monitoring of human rights situations, and the production of pedagogical content.

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