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

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.

25J: Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women in Spaces for the Protection and Defense of the Rights of the Afro-descendant Population

Washington D.C., July 25, 2023- The creation of new international mechanisms for the protection and promotion of the rights of people of African descent marks a key and historic opportunity to overcome the racism and discrimination faced by this population. Therefore, this International Day of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, from the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) we call for the gender and intersectional perspectives to be taken into account in these spaces, so that they mark the work of monitoring the situation and making recommendations to the States.

July 25 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

July 25 was established as International Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women’s Day during the First Meeting of Afro-Latina, Afro-Caribbean, and Diaspora Women, which was held on a day like today, but in 1992, in Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), in recognition of the work of women of African descent in the fight against racial discrimination, sexism, poverty, and marginalization.

In our line of work on racial equality, we have been incorporating gender and intersectional approaches in all the actions we carry out (strategic litigation, capacity building, and documentation), as we believe that through these perspectives, we can guarantee the inclusion of women and all those with diverse sexual orientation and gender identity.

Likewise, in view of the creation of international mechanisms on Afro-descendant populations, we have supported the participation of Afro-descendant women in new spaces such as the International Mechanism of Independent Experts to Promote Racial Justice and Equality in the Context of Law Enforcement (EMLER) and the Permanent Forum on People of African Descent (PFPAD), as well as in other long-standing spaces such as the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Afro-descendant Women Setting the Agenda in New Mechanisms

At the second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, which took place from May 30 to June 2 in New York, Afro-descendant women’s organizations from Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic formed a Racial Justice Delegation to denounce racial and gender-based violence in Latin America. With the support of Race and Equality and the Black Alliance to End Violence (Fundo Elas), the delegation also raised the need to build agendas and projects to combat, through an intersectional perspective, the different ways in which racist violence affects the lives of women in the region.

“The important thing about being present in this space was that I was able to bring the voices of several silenced women. Grada Kilomba, a black artist, writer, and intellectual says that the white man is at the top of the social pyramid, then comes the white woman, then the black man, and the black woman is invisible at the bottom of the pyramid. And we want to change that,” says Monique Damas, lawyer and Executive Director of Selo Juristas Negras, one of the organizations that made up the delegation.

Erlendy Cuero, Vice-President of the Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES) and who was also part of the Racial Justice Delegation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-descendants, believes that guaranteeing a gender perspective in these spaces is essential due to the persistence of racist and discriminatory actions aimed at harming their integrity not only because they are women, but also because they are Afro-descendant women.

“We are the ones who suffer the disproportionate impact of the armed conflict, when our bodies continue to be sexually abused as strategies for banishment and uprooting from our territories, when we cannot access education, employment, decent housing, health, etc.,” she says.

Regarding what is expected with the participation of Afro-descendant women in these new mechanisms, as well as in others that have been in operation for several decades such as CERD and the CEDAW Committee, Cecilia Ramirez, Executive Director of the Center for the Development of Peruvian Black Women (CEDEMUNEP), says: “More just, egalitarian, and equitable societies guarantee the autonomy of Afro-descendant women; also, increase the capacities of young Afro-descendant women and provide them with the necessary opportunities to develop their full potential”.

“We hope that our states can generate affirmative actions and public policies with budgets that guarantee the closing of the inequality gaps that we face not only because of our gender condition but also because of our ethnicity,” adds Ramírez. It is worth noting that during the review of the CEDAW Committee in Peru in 2022, Afro-Peruvian activists participated for the first time, through CEDEMUNEP with the support of Race and Equality.

From Cuba, Marthadela Tamayo, from the Citizens’ Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), highlights the gender approach and intersectionality as key tools in spaces on the Afro-descendant population. “Because they are necessary spaces for these populations to explain or narrate the realities they live from all the intersections they go through in their daily lives in their neighborhoods or communities,” she says.

“In addition, these spaces can be very positive scenarios for women to articulate, develop, and participate in the political and public life of a country,” she adds.

Race and Equality will continue to promote the participation of Afro-descendant women in existing regional and international mechanisms for the protection and promotion of the rights of Afro-descendant people. It is essential that the gender and intersectional perspective be taken into account in data collection, situation analysis, and the formulation of recommendations to the States.

Transcendent Voices: Art and Culture as Forms of Resistance and Pride

Washington D.C., June 28, 2023 – On International LGBTI+ Pride Day, the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to dedicate this article to recognize, celebrate, and highlight the presence of LGBTI+ persons in the region in the field of art and culture, which have always been forms of resistance, survival, and pride for LGBTI+ persons. Their disruptive forms of artistic expression have revolutionized this sector, not only enriching it but also challenging and transforming the dominant narratives of cisheteronormativity.

From a human rights perspective, the A/HRC/14/36 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights states that cultural rights are essential for the recognition and respect of human dignity in many aspects. Through these rights, the development and expression of diverse worldviews – both individual and collective – are protected, encompassing important freedoms related to issues of identity.[1]

In this sense, the representation and dignified visibility of historically marginalized groups, such as the LGBTI+ population, are crucial to reclaim their bodies and identities and promote their human rights. “Combat stigma and discrimination. Positive representation in culture contributes to challenging the negative stereotypes and prejudices surrounding sexual and gender diversity,” mentions Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua, who points out that this also applies to oneself when characters and narratives reflect personal experiences that contribute to developing greater confidence and accepting one’s gender identity or sexual orientation without shame or guilt.

“Diverse artistic expression makes things visible, exposes, portrays, and enriches. Being able to enjoy art created by sexual and gender diverse individuals provides a different perspective to the audience, humanizing and making their expressions their own,” says Fhran Medina, lawyer and LGBTI+ rights activist from Fraternidad Trans Masculina Perú.

From the perspective of the meaning of art and culture, Guillermo Valdizán states in his book Creación Heroica that “forms of cultural production are intimately linked to processes of social transformation.”[2] In other words, cultural production does not exist outside of a specific social, political, and economic context and has been present throughout the history of societies; therefore, it is part of the social process and not just a tool. As Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia, says, there is an appropriation of the more visible cultural sphere by LGBTI+ persons, which produces new representations and reflections on sexuality and gender, fostering cultural transformations.

Next, Race and Equality’s counterparts recommend some notable examples of cultural productions that have contributed to the visibility of LGBTI+ people:

Yunior Pino, Cuban photographer and activist: “We are courageous individuals endowed with talents and gifts; we educate to eradicate the taboos that have caused a lot of harm and discrimination for generations. I recommend the Cuban film titled Fátima because it portrays the harsh reality experienced by the majority of the LGBTI+ community in Cuba, facing a macho and discriminatory society and a system that forces family separation and prostitution.”

Sol Ámbar Sánchez Latorre, Advocacy Director at the GAAT Foundation in Colombia: “I would like the work of Kia sonorica, a Paraguayan trans artist, to be more widely known. She is also an anti-colonial historian and has a deep understanding of art history; and now she is one of the pioneering Latin American artists using artificial intelligence to create artistic works.”

Fhran Medina, Peruvian lawyer and activist: “Antay is my favorite Peruvian singer-songwriter, not only because he is a great singer, but also because of the work and immense heart he puts into each song and performance. His lyrics are filled with tenderness and artistry. As a trans singer-songwriter, he carries many stories and experiences of the trans population. The music video for the song “Júrame” is something that everyone should watch, and you can find more of his productions on Spotify and YouTube.”

Articulación Brasileña de Lésbicas – Rede ABL: “We recommend the work of Bia Ferreira in music because she is a black woman and ‘sapatão’* who brings true ‘gospels’ of liberation in her songs. It is important for other people to know her work because she explains the cause and solutions to various social issues in a didactic way.”

Alex Aguirre, Human Rights Researcher at the Institute for Peace and Development (Ipades) in Nicaragua: “I recommend the artist Ru Paul, an iconic Drag Queen and host of the show RuPaul’s Drag Race. Ru Paul has been an important figure in LGBTI+ culture and has promoted acceptance and celebration of diversity.”

In conclusion, the visibility of LGBTI+ persons in the field of art and culture is a powerful indicator of progress in human rights. Through cinema, music, dance, theater, visual art, and more, a space has been conquered where these transcendent voices can be heard, and their experiences can be authentically represented. Race and Equality reaffirms its commitment to promoting the visibility and representation of LGBTI+ individuals in all areas of life and wishes them a Pride Month filled with music, art, and culture. All people deserve to live in a society free of violence, more just, and without discrimination. Human rights always!

*’Sapatão’ is a word of pride that refers to lesbian women in Brazil. It is similar to how the trans movement has embraced the word ‘travesti’.

 

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[1] Report of the independent expert in the field of cultural rights, Ms. Farida Shaheed, submitted pursuant to resolution 10/23 of the Human Rights Council. Available at https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G10/124/40/PDF/G1012440.pdf?OpenElement

[2] Valdizán, Guillermo (2021). Creación Heroica: Neoliberalismo, políticas culturales y estrategia comunitaria en el Perú del siglo XXI. Lima: RGC Ediciones

Afro-Descendant Activists from Latin America and the Caribbean take over New York and Washington D.C.

Washington D.C., May 31, 2023 – In light of the second session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants (PFPAD), which will take place from May 30 to June 2 in New York City, organizations representing Afro-descendant women from Brazil, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic have formed a Delegation for Racial Justice to denounce racial and gender violence in Latin America. With the support of the International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and the Black Alliance to End Violence (Fundo Elas), the Delegation for Racial Justice aims to highlight the experiences of Afro-descendant women and the urgent need for international support in building agendas and projects to combat the various forms of racist violence affecting the lives of Latin American women from an intersectional perspective.

Additionally, Race and Equality, together with the Open Society Foundation, is promoting the participation of 15 other organizations, predominantly composed of Afro-descendant women from Latin America and the Caribbean, in the Permanent Forum of Afro-Descendants. With this collaboration, the Delegation for Racial Justice will comprise approximately 30 organizations, united in their call for international cooperation to end racial and gender violence in the Americas. The objective of this delegation is also to prepare a report with recommendations and insights on the first and second sessions of the Permanent Forum, to be presented during the third session scheduled to take place in Brazil in 2023.

The United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants was established in 2021 by General Assembly Resolution 75/314, serving as a consultative mechanism to contribute to the fight against racism and the promotion of the rights of the Afro-descendant population. The forum collaborates with the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms. The first meeting took place in December 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland, and in addition to the upcoming session in New York, the forum is scheduled to convene in Brazil in December of the same year. The Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants is part of the implementation activities of the International Decade for People of African Descent and is chaired by Epsy Campbell Barr, the former Vice President of Costa Rica.

Parallel Event: Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America

On Thursday, June 1, at 1:15 p.m. (New York time), the event ‘Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America‘ will be held at the Church Center of the United Nations. The event will call upon political actors present in New York to listen to the realities of Black and LBTI Latin American women. With panels on ‘Women’s Rights and Intersectionality’ and ‘Civil Society’s Vision in the Fight Against Gender Violence in Latin America.’ This space, organized within the framework of the Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants, aims to facilitate dialogue among Latin American women leaders, discussing the different contexts in which they live, where the brutality of structural racism manifests in terms of discrimination and violence.

Moreover, the urgency to address racial and gender violence is supported by data indicating that Latin America is one of the most violent regions in the global south, with the Black population being disproportionately affected due to the absence of specific policies. Therefore, this delegation aims to contribute to the development of the agenda and declaration of the Permanent Forum with a focus on combating racial and gender violence in Latin America. Furthermore, it seeks to establish appropriate channels for obtaining disaggregated data to better implement and propose public policies tailored to the realities of Afro-descendant individuals, particularly Afro-descendant women.

Political Advocacy Week in Washington D.C.

To strengthen and continue the work carried out during the Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants, the delegation will travel to Washington D.C. from June 5th-7th. With the support of organizations such as the Washington Brazil Office (WBO) and Black Women Radicals, they will meet with representatives from the Department of State and Afro-North American organizations, including the Black Caucus. They will also hold meetings with missions from the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Additionally, the Delegation for Racial Justice will strategically work towards the implementation and strengthening of bilateral international treaties among their countries, such as the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination, and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), the Joint Action Plan for the Elimination of Racial and Ethnic Discrimination and the Promotion of Equality (JAPER), which has recently been reactivated between Brazil and the United States, and the Action Plan between the United States and Colombia for Racial and Ethnic Equality (CAPREE).

“For this delegation, it is crucial that Afro-descendant women directly present their realities and recommendations for positive change because they play a key role in defending their communities. Moreover, the context of racial justice in the Americas is an important point of exchange between Afro-Latin American and Afro-North American organizations,” explains Elvia Duque, Race and Ethnicity Officer at Race and Equality.

To conclude the week of political advocacy, the ‘Black Women’s Movement in Washington D.C.‘ event will take place on June 7, starting at 11 a.m. (Washington D.C. time), at the meeting center for Afro-descendant women, ÌPÀDÉ. The panel discussion on communication and mobilization strategies against racism and racial violence in the Americas will feature the leaders who make up the delegation.

Agenda

 Delegation for Racial Justice of Afro-Descendant Women from Latin America and the Caribbean

United Nations Permanent Forum on Afro-Descendants – May 30th to June 2nd in New York

Parallel Event: Racial and Gender Violence in Latin America

Thursday, June 1, 1:15 p.m. (New York time)

Venue: UN Church Center – 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017. 8th floor. Located a two-minute walk from the UN headquarters.

Political Advocacy Week in Washington D.C. – June 5th to June 7th

Event: Black Women’s Movement in Washington D.C.

Wednesday, June 7, 11 a.m. (Washington D.C. time)

Venue: ÌPÀDÉ – 1734 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

 

 

Two Homelands Documentary: A Film on Human Rights Violations in Cuba

Washington D.C., April 4, 2023 – “I have two homelands: Cuba and the night, or are they one and the same?” With this excerpt from one of Cuban politician José Martí’s best-known poems, begins the documentary: Dos Patrias, a production of the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) and La Tiorba Productions, which reflects on human rights violations in Cuba.

The 70-minute film was presented publicly in mid-March at Florida International University (FIU), in the city of Miami (USA), and reveals images and testimonies of people who have suffered repression by Cuban authorities.

“The documentary ‘Two Homelands’ deals with the experiences of three activists: Eduardo Cardet, Xiomara Cruz and Aymara Nieto, who is serving a five-year prison sentence for her critical stance against the Cuban government. Their struggles reflect the struggles of many people on the island who have been and are being harassed and their rights violated for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and peaceful protest,” says Carlos Quesada, Executive Director of Race and Equality.

The film, which will be presented at the end of April in Brussels, Belgium, details how these three people have lost their freedom for demanding that Cuba be free, which for the director and producer of Dos Patrias, Hilda Hidalgo Xirinachs, “is an irresolvable paradox”.

“During the research for this production I discovered that Xiomara was in prison 1215 days, Eduardo 1095, and Aymara has been in jail for more than 1600 days. This, and in general the whole process of making this documentary was stark for me,” says Hidalgo, a Costa Rican who also studied film on the island.

With the documentary Dos Patrias, Race and Equality denounces that Cuban authorities ignore the fundamental rights of people living on the island, and shows that activists, human rights defenders, artists, and independent journalists are victims of state repression. We demand that the government of this country cease all forms of violence against critical and dissident voices, and that those deprived of their liberty for political reasons be released immediately.

In Europe, Cuban Activists Denounce Human Rights Violations on the Island

Washington D.C., March 30, 2023 – Three activists from Cuba: Alain Espinosa, lawyer of the organization Cubalex; Frisia Batista, coordinator of the Women’s Network of Cuba; and Darcy Borrero, member of the working group Justice 11J, were from March 16 to 21 in the cities of Geneva, Switzerland, and Brussels, Belgium, denouncing the human rights violations registered on the Island, especially after the peaceful protests of July 2021, also known as 11J.

With the support of the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality), Alain, Frisia and Darcy met with representatives of the United Nations, the European Union and civil society organizations in Europe, with whom they discussed the increase in cases of femicide, the lack of a comprehensive law against gender violence, the recommendations of the 2018 Universal Periodic Review that were not complied with by the Cuban State, the migratory crisis, food shortages, internet cuts, repression of human rights defenders, short-term forced disappearances, and persons deprived of liberty for political reasons on the Island.

“Making the human rights situation visible before these bodies is of crucial importance in the search for effective mechanisms to demand compliance with the obligations of the Cuban government, and to guarantee respect for the individual freedoms of its citizens,” Espinosa affirms.

The Coordinator of the Cuban Women’s Network, for her part, assures that the organization she represents made a request for recommendations to the international community at the United Nations and the European Parliament, so that the Cuban State approves soon a Law against gender violence. “This rank of law would create the basis to implement an integral system of prevention and attention that is really effective for the citizenship”, adds Batista.

During the meetings held in both cities, the activists also referred to the more than 1,800 people who have been detained since the 11J protests. Of this number, according to Barrero, more than 600 Cubans are still in prison. “It is important that in Europe and in any other part of the world it is known that there are human rights defenders who are aware of the situation of political prisoners in Cuba, and that this reality is put on the agenda,” says the member of the Justice 11J working group.

With the denunciations made in Europe, we call on the international community to demand that the State of Cuba recognize the fundamental rights of each and every person residing on the island, regardless of their political position, religious beliefs, skin color, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Race and Equality will continue to promote actions to denounce human rights violations on the island and to improve the living conditions of Cubans.

31M Trans Visibility: What Happens to Trans People in the Context of Political Crises and Authoritarian Regimes?

Washington D.C., March 31, 2023 – Marking International Day of Transgender Visibility, The International Institute on Race, Equality, and Human Rights (Race and Equality) highlights and recognizes that within the region political and social crises, including authoritarian regimes generate differential impacts on vulnerable groups of people. For trans people and people of diverse genders, the impact is even greater when considering factors like socioeconomic status, race, migratory status, and age.

LGBTI+ people, and specifically trans people, systematically suffer human rights violations in different aspects of their lives. Moreover, in authoritarian regimes or in complex political and social contexts, their situation is aggravated by legislative setbacks and legal gaps, and it is therefore more difficult to guarantee respect for and compliance with international human rights obligations. In addition, the level of impunity for hate crimes are increasing and violence and discrimination are often perpetrated by public officials.

In Brazil, during Jair Bolsonaro’s administration, there was an increase in hate speech against the LGBTI+ population, which specifically affected the trans population. The rise of the extreme right, linked to conservative religious groups, strengthened the anti-trans agenda which became institutionalized and gained space in official government speeches. The anti-rights fundamentalist groups that persecute and lie about gender diversity, calling it “gender ideology,” have constructed a violent discourse which targets trans people as enemies and prevents the construction of public policies aimed at improving the human rights of this population. “In addition, they attack rights that have been conquered, such as respect for social names and a self-declared gender in public and private establishments, as well as the use of the bathroom according to your gender,” explains Gab Van, Representative of the João W. Nery Transmasculina League.

In 2022, Brazil maintained its 14th consecutive year as the top of the ranking for murders of trans people. According to the National Association of Transvestites and Transsexuals (ANTRA), 131 trans people were murdered in Brazil in 2022 (130 trans women and 1 trans masculine person). At least 76 percent of the victims were black.[1]

In Peru, the country is currently experiencing a serious institutional, political, and social crisis. After the attempted coup d’état against Congress by President Pedro Castillo in December 2022 and Dina Boluarte assuming presidency, various sectors of society are unaware of the government of Dina Boluarte and the Congress of the Republic. This has generated a series of nationwide protests causing 67 deaths, with 1,335 people injured,[2] along with arbitrary arrests, arbitrary searches, and a series of human rights violations by the government, the police, and military forces. Within this context, the situation of the trans population worsened and was relegated, not to mention the increase of impunity for hate crimes. In the first month and a half alone of this year, eight murders of trans women were reported,[3] which were classified as violent deaths. “As long as there is no gender identity law, this system will continue to oppress us because it does not recognize us as women and we cannot exercise full and responsible citizenship,” said Alejandra Fang, member of Trans Feminist Organization for the Human Rights of Trans People.

To date, there is no official record of violence and hate crimes against trans and gender-diverse people. The little information known so far is obtained through the media and trans civil society organizations who make great efforts for such documentation. Similarly, political studies, analyses, and reports on human rights violations make no reference to the situation, and the differentiated impact on the current institutional crisis, and the lives of trans and gender diverse people.

In the case of Nicaragua, the context of socio-political and human rights crises, where censorship and impunity prevail for the serious violations and abuses of human rights are perpetrated by the State and parastatal agents, there is no access to official figures on cases of violence against trans people; however,  according to testimonies gathered by the Expert Group on Human Rights on Nicaragua (GHREN), feminist leaders, women-led organizations, and groups (in all its diversity) have collectively been targets of attack.[4]

The authoritarian regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, held at least 4 trans women incarcerated in penitentiaries for men, denying them access to hormonal therapy and exposing them to differentiated risks based on their gender. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in Opinion 12/2021, ruled on the case of a trans activist who was arbitrarily arrested on the second anniversary of the socio-political crisis, forced to be held in a men’s penitentiary and sentenced for 13 years and 2 months for “aggravated kidnapping” and “aggravated obstruction of duty.” “His status as a trans person was ignored as a form of humiliation against him,” concluded the Working Group. Finally, the activist was released in 2021, but the State never reported on the lifting of the charges against her, nor on the guarantees of reparation for the damages committed.

Similarly in Cuba, the arrest of Brenda Díaz, a 28-year-old trans woman who remains incarcerated in a male prison, reveals the serious situation faced by people with diverse gender identities on the Island. She was arrested for participating in the peaceful marches in July 2021 because, according to Cuban authorities, she “dressed as a woman to infiltrate” public demonstrations.[5] Victims face all kinds of discrimination and violence within this prison, Brenda is serving a 14-year prison sentence.

In Cuba, people with diverse gender identities can change the gender marker on official identity documents only if the applicant has undergone gender affirmation surgery, according to the database of the organization Ilga Mundo.[6] ILGA World also compiles other measures adopted by the Cuban government to protect this population, but according to trans people, they are not applied and remain a commitment on paper only. In the same way, women’s organizations affirm that a gender law against gender violence is needed to prevent gender-based violence.

In the case of Colombia, within the framework of the 2019-2020 National Strike, Colombia Diversa has documented that the majority of the victims of police violence, threats and homicides were trans women.[7] According to Caribe Afirmativo, as of 2019 most of the victims in 2020 were registered in Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, and Bogotá. In Valle del Cauca, for example, threats and repression by the police and impediments to demonstrations in public spaces were reported.[8] In addition, the Minister of Defense at the time, Diego Molano, criminalized the social leaders of LGBTI+ people in Cauca, establishing them as members of criminal organizations and offering a million-dollar reward to anyone who provided information about them.

Bicky Bohorquez, member of Somos Identidad, spoke about the importance of the personal security of trans people in demonstrations. “To promote the participation and visibility of trans people in spaces of social vindication, such as social protest, we must take into account that these must be safe spaces for us as trans people. Strategies such as listening and learning from our experiences, awareness, and education cannot be left out.”

Trans people in the region are exposed to more dangerous and vulnerable situations when their countries are in critical political and social contexts. Not only because their living conditions become more acute, but because their participation as political actors can place their physical and mental integrity at risk, especially in protest and emergency situations.

In view of these matters, Race and Equality wishes to submit recommendations to the States, many of which were presented by the IACHR in the Report on Trans and Gender Diverse Persons and their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights (2020):

  • Adopt gender identity laws that recognize the rights of trans and gender diverse people to rectify their name and sex and or gender component on their birth certificates, identity documents, and other legal documents. This is based on Advisory Opinion 24/2017 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).
  • Eliminate any form of criminalization in laws and public policies, direct or indirect, of the conduct of people in the exercise of their gender identity or expression.
  • Include protections against discrimination based on gender identity in public and private spheres.
  • Develop and implement policies and programs to promote respect for the rights of trans and gender diverse people and their acceptance and social inclusion. These must be comprehensive, transversal, and based on the human rights approach, including the gender perspective.
  • Develop and implement information campaigns to raise awareness in public and private media about bodily and sexual diversity and the gender approach.
  • Promote information campaigns for trans and gender diverse people about their human rights and existing protection mechanisms.

[1] ANTRA (2022). Expediente Asesinatos y violencia contra travestis y transexuales brasileños. Disponible en https://antrabrasil.files.wordpress.com/2023/01/dossieantra2023.pdf

[2] Defensoría del Pueblo (2023) Crisis Política y Protesta Social. Reporte Diario. Disponible en https://www.defensoria.gob.pe/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/ReporteDiario2332023_17-horas.pdf

[3] Presentes (2023). Perú: Por primera vez miles de personas marcharon en Lima contra los transfemicidios. Disponible en https://agenciapresentes.org/2023/02/23/peru-por-primera-vez-miles-de-personas-marcharon-en-lima-contra-los-crimenes-de-transodio/

[4] Consejo de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas (2023). Conclusiones detalladas del Grupo de Expertos en Derechos Humanos sobre Nicaragua. Disponible en https://informenicaragua.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/A_HRC_52_CRP5_Spanish.pdf

[5] Race and Equality (2022). Cuatro historias de personas detenidas por reclamar cambios en Cuba. Disponible en http://oldrace.wp/es/cuba-es/cuatro-historias-de-personas-detenidas-por-reclamar-cambios-en-cuba/

[6] Ilga Mundo database: https://database.ilga.org/cuba-lgbti-es

[7] Colombia Diversa (2020). 2020, el año con la cifra más alta de violencia policial, asesinatos y amenazas contra personas LGBT. Disponible em https://colombiadiversa.org/blogs/2020-el-ano-con-la-cifra-mas-alta-de-violencia-policial-asesinatos-y-amenazas-contra-personas-lgbt/

[8]Caribe Afirmativo (2021). Violencias contra personas LGBT a 20 días de Paro Nacional. Disponible en https://caribeafirmativo.lgbt/violencias-contra-personas-lgbt-a-20-dias-de-paro-nacional/

Combating racism and racial discrimination, a permanent and growing task of Race and Equality

Washington D.C., March 21, 2023.- The fight against racism and racial discrimination must be formulated and executed at the level of the manifestations and impacts of these human rights violations. On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality) wishes to highlight the work we have been doing to promote and protect the rights of Afro-descendant and indigenous populations in the region.

In order to carry out this work, we understand that to the extent that the different factors that expose a person or a population to racism and racial discrimination are recognized, comprehensive protection and reparation measures can be applied. For this reason, intersectionality is a constant feature in the projects we formulate and implement together with partner organizations in Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Mexico.

It is appropriate that this year, 2023, the United Nations dedicates this date to the urgency of combating racism and racial discrimination. This urgency is supported by events ranging from the police response in 1960 that left 69 people dead for demonstrating against apartheid in Sharpeville, South Africa – which is why the United Nations proclaimed March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – to the police killings of people of African descent such as George Floyd (2020) and Tyre Nichols (2023), and the precarious situation of the indigenous Yanomami population in Brazil.

The consolidation of Race and Equality’s work on racial justice has been driven by the adoption – both at the level of the Universal and Inter-American Human Rights Systems – of special protection mechanisms, such as the International Mechanism of Independent Experts to Promote Racial Justice and Equality in the Context of Law Enforcement (EMLER), and the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (CIRDI), which, despite having been adopted almost a decade ago, represents a key and effective tool in this area.

Adequate Statistical Data Collection, a Key Step

Race and Equality has positioned itself as a reference partner organization for the inclusion of the Afro-descendant self-recognition question in national censuses. Together with local counterparts and through work that includes awareness-raising and training of key actors and the development of educational campaigns, post-census results show an increase in the Afro-descendant data collected. For example, in Peru, it increased from 1% (ENAHO – 2000) to 3.6% (CPV – 2017) and in Mexico, it increased from 1.2% (EIC – 2015) to 2% (CPV – 2020).

Race and Equality is the only regional campaign promoting the signature, ratification and effective implementation of the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance. In this process, we have raised awareness of the potential of this Convention and its importance among ethnic populations, providing technical support to civil society organizations and States. Through this campaign, we have brought authorities and representatives of ethnic groups in the region to the table to contribute to the generation of strategies in favor of Afro-descendant, indigenous and Rrom (also known as Roma or Gypsy) populations, allowing for the exchange of experiences and efforts for the common good.

Litigating before the Inter-American System

In 2022 alone, at the request of Race and Equality, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted three precautionary measures to Afro-descendants, in whose cases the respective States were requested to implement them with an ethnic-racial and gender focus. Of these precautionary measures, two correspond to Colombia (in favor of Silvia Gelen Rodríguez and her nuclear family, and in favor of A.A.V.B. and her nuclear family), and one to Brazil (Benny Briolly and others).

Together with Colombian and regional organizations that litigate before the Inter-American Human Rights System, we were able to get the IACHR to grant a hearing on the implementation of precautionary measures in Colombia, in which we made a presentation on the lack of implementation of precautionary measures with an ethnic-racial and gender focus, and made requests on the need for a protocol for the implementation of the measures that guarantees the incorporation of such a focus.

We were also able to document and present to the IACHR two petitions denouncing the State of Colombia. One concerning the murder of an Afro-Colombian leader after his protection measures were withdrawn by the National Protection Unit (UNP); and another for the Colombian State’s refusal to provide reparations and protection to an organization of Afro-Colombian women displaced by the armed conflict and who continue to live at latent risk.

In Alliance

Within the framework of the Latin American Human Rights Consortium, Race and Equality has four partners in Brazil that develop programs aimed at documenting the closure of spaces for participation with a racial perspective. Through agreements with CRIOLA and GELEDES, the closing of spaces has been documented and actions and advocacy have been developed to draw attention to the discrimination and lack of spaces for black, cis and trans women to participate in the political space. With the Marielle Franco Institute, actions are being developed to monitor the impact of the legal framework on racial equality. Finally, through the work with the Institute for Indigenous Research and Training (IEPE), actions are being developed to strengthen the knowledge of indigenous leaders on the universal and regional mechanisms for the protection of human rights.

In Nicaragua, the Consortium works with organizations that promote the defense and protection of indigenous communities whose livelihoods have been threatened as a result of land usurpation and depredation of their natural resources. The work, which focuses on the northern Caribbean coast, seeks to strengthen capacity building for women and young women defenders who are part of 15 communities.

In this country, in 2022, we accompanied several indigenous organizations and defenders of indigenous peoples and Afro-descendants rights of the southern Caribbean Coast to present information to CERD. Representatives of these organizations participated in an advocacy tour in Geneva last August during the review of the State of Nicaragua, which was absent. In its concluding observations, the Committee expressed concern about racial discrimination in the country and recommended, inter alia, that appropriate measures be taken to combat racial prejudice, as well as to advance the process of demarcation and titling of communal lands.

We would also like to highlight our commitment to the Haitian and Haitian-Dominican population in the Dominican Republic, where we have been accompanying our counterparts, the Socio-Cultural Movement for Haitian Workers (MOSCTHA) and the Jacques View Network, in different thematic hearings, including in their March 2022 hearing, contributing to visualize the reality faced by this population in this country.

A Pillar in Brazil

In Brazil, racial justice is a pillar of all our projects. In the last year, we developed national and international advocacy activities, as well as strategic projects and litigation to promote democracy and protect human rights in the country. Among these actions we can highlight the promotional visit of Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, IACHR Rapporteur on People of African Descent and against Racial Discrimination, who in 2022 was in Brazil to address issues such as political violence, LGBT rights, police violence and religious racism.

In terms of international advocacy, we worked intensively in the pre-sessions of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), where we promoted a series of meetings, in July and August, between civil society organizations working on the issue of race, gender and sexual orientation in Brazil, with Embassies in Brasilia and their respective Permanent Missions in Geneva, Switzerland. We also developed the Afro-Latina Advocacy Week in which we took human rights organizations from Brazil and Colombia to Washington, DC to promote the rights of black and LGBTI+ people with congressmen, state departments and international organizations. It is worth mentioning that we participated in the 108th review session of Brazil’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), where we technically supported 10 of the 15 reports submitted, and all recommendations made by our partners were included in the final CERD report.

In Cuba

The fight against discrimination based on race has been one of the main lines of work in Cuba due to the persistent institutional racism on the island. One of the central objectives has been to highlight this reality before the international human rights protection bodies. To this end, we have promoted advocacy meetings with the special procedures and treaty bodies of the United Nations, with the European Union, and with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

In addition, we have provided legal assistance and representation to victims of human rights violations, specifically we have sent a petition and requests for precautionary measures highlighting how being Afro-Cuban has differentially affected the victims. We have also submitted a letter of allegation on behalf of a leader of a religion of African origin in Cuba, and his wife, who are arbitrarily deprived of their liberty.

We have also shared information with the United Nations system in response to requests for information in connection with the study conducted by the Human Rights Council at its 54th session on systematic, structural and institutional racism and racial justice. We also provide training and ongoing technical assistance to counterparts on human rights, equality and non-discrimination issues, and we are following up on the issue of the census in Cuba.

As part of this assistance, we have supported the preparation of advocacy reports that have analyzed the situation of Afro-descendants and the exercise of their human rights in Cuba; we have also guided the preparation of alternative reports for the IV cycle of the UPR, highlighting the outstanding debt that Cuba has with Afro-Cubans.

On the New Mechanisms

We have participated in requests for inputs for the preparation of the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights under Human Rights Council Resolution 47/21; of the International Mechanism of Independent Experts to promote racial justice and equality in the context of law enforcement; and the follow-up questionnaire within the framework of the June 2021 IACHR Visit to Colombia in the context of the National Strike. We also participated in person in the first consultation in South America held in Chile of the Expert Mechanism and in the OHCHR Follow-up Session on civic space and the situation of Afro-descendant human rights defenders in South America.

Based on these new tools at the international level, we have taken on the task of sensitizing and training counterparts to include them in their institutional agendas as essential issues to raise their demands and recommendations for the fight against racism and racial discrimination.

Racial justice in Mexico

In Mexico, we promote various processes of professionalization and accompaniment of Afro-descendant, indigenous, migrant, and human rights organizations that contribute to advocacy and advocacy actions with governmental institutions and international organizations. We also promote comprehensive strategies in the fight against structural racism, racial discrimination, and related forms of intolerance, which continue to be naturalized in Mexican society.

We are currently implementing the project “Promotion of an Anti-Racist Agenda to Strengthen the Work of CSOs in the Fight against Racism and Racial Discrimination in Mexico”. The activity is part of a comprehensive strategy focused on improving and promoting actions against structural racism and the promotion of international tools such as the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and Related Forms of Intolerance (CIRDI), with our partners and educational institutions.

Latest Documentation

Evidence gathering is a key focus of Race and Equality’s work. In this sense, we published the reports “Traces of Racism: Voices of Excluded People and Structural Violence Inside and Outside the Social Unrest in Cali” and “Silence and Impunity: Systemic Racism and Police Violence Against Afro-descendants in Colombia”, which we developed with allied organizations.

In this way, Race and Equality hopes to contribute to a more just and equitable society, especially in terms of combating the racism and racial discrimination that generate so much violence and inequality in the region. At the same time that we listen to the needs of Afro-descendant, indigenous and Roma populations, we advocate with the States so that, in accordance with their international obligations, they guarantee the rights of these people. For this reason, our international litigation work is a key element, which we continue to strengthen.

On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we raise our voices for those who are defenseless and call on States to urgently take up the fight against racism and racial discrimination. The evidence and the tools are there.

“I miss everything about Cuba”: Activists forced into exile

Washington D.C., 13 February 2023 – During 2022, more that 270,000 Cubans arrived by land and sea to the United States, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Coast Guard.[1] Around seventy Cuban migrants died or disappeared in the Caribbean, a large majority due to poor weather conditions that made navigation difficult and the use of boats that were not apt for navigating in the high sea, according to the Missing Migrants Project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).[2]

The statistics of people who left the island in 2022 surpassed previous migratory waves: the first which occurred after the triumph of the Castro Revolution between 1959 and 1962, in which 250,000 citizens were expatriated; the departure that began in 1980 at the port of Mariel, where 125,000 Cubans left the island; and the Balsero crisis in 1994, in which more than 30,000 people abandoned the country.[3]

Most Cubans have left the island due to the serious economic crisis, the shortages of goods and medicine, unemployment, and the difficult political and social situation, which has worsened since the historic citizens protests in July 2021, also known as 11J. However, there also exists a group of Cubans who migrated because they were exiled from the island. Activists, human rights defenders, independent journalists, artists, jurists, and critics of the government have been forced to abandon the island in the last several years,[4] in exchange for not being prosecuted and imprisoned, especially since the new Criminal Code, which intensifies the criminalization of individuals and organizations that fight for the recognition of human rights in the country, entered into effect in December.[5]

These exiled Cubans, who are not able to return to Cuba, have found themselves in the United States and other countries with the purpose of beginning a life where they are free and can live without fear.

With Psychological Attention in Argentina

The writer and independent journalist, María Matienzo; and her partner, the activist Kirenia Núñez, arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the 22nd of August of last year. There they were settled after fleeing the repression and constant threats they suffered due to their denunciations against the Cuban government. “We were detained on many occasions in Havana, and if we group all of the time in detention, we would have almost a year of deprivation of liberty,” says Matienzo, who remains in the country thanks to the support of the Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL), an organization that also has helped her receive psychological attention.

“I have not succeeded in enjoying (Buenos Aires) like I have wanted. I have spent much time recuperating, and it is not as easy as people think. In fact, in the first days when I arrived here there were many police in the street, that hardly looked at us. But still we were not able to shake the nervous feelings,” admitted María.

Waiting for Political Asylum in Germany

The story of María and Kirenia is very similar to the activist Jancel Moreno and his partner Wilfredo Carmenate, who had to leave the island on the 13th of September of 2022. With only the backpacks on their backs they arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, where they have requested political asylum and have had to demonstrate that the Cuban government threatened Jancel with jail time, and stopped supplying Wilfredo with the medications he takes to treat osteoarthritis of the hip, which has afflicted him for several years.

Between July and September last year, Jancel was threatened approximately three times by State Security. They told him that if he did not publicly renounce activism and leave Cuba, he would be accused of crimes of “engaging in mercenary activity, inciting criminality, usurpation of functions, and enemy propaganda.” All of this occurred while they also threatened his partner with the crime of “illicit economic activity.”

Jancel and Wilfredo remain in a camp for migrants in the city of Zirndorf. They are waiting on the German government to give them a response to the political asylum request, that should be known after a year; meanwhile, they learn the language of the European country and wait to be transferred to another zone in Germany.

Surviving in the United States

The independent journalists Orelvys Cabrera and his partner Yunior Pino were also forced to abandon the island. “On the 19th of December 2021, I left Cuba because I was threatened since they told me I would be accused of a series of crimes that would result in thirty years of jail time. They gave me an ultimatum: if you are here after the 5th of January 2022, you will be arrested. My partner and I then sold everything, and we went to Moscow,” says Orelvys.

They stayed in the Russian capital for three months, until Orelvys was threatened again, this time for denouncing the violations of human rights suffered by Cuban migrants in the Eurasian country. From there they went to Egypt, where an international organization informed them that the Parliament of the Czech Republic had granted them political asylum, so they traveled there. But after a time, they noted it was very difficult to learn Czech (the official language of the country), and therefore find a job; thus, they decided to leave for Mexico, and from there they crossed the border with the United States and surrendered to U.S. authorities on the 28th of March last year.

Orelvys and his partner found themselves in Miami protected by form I-220A, that prevented deportation or being taken to prison. Both are waiting for a migration judge to grant them political asylum.

A Beneficiary of the Cuban Adjustment Act

The art historian Claudia Genlui is another activist that was forced into exile. She left Cuba on the 1st of November 2021, four months after the peaceful protests of 11J. She arrived in Miami, United States, after constant besiegement by State Security, who surveilled and threatened her for her denouncements of human rights violations experienced on the island, and for being a member of the Movimiento San Isidro, a collective of Cuban artists founded by her partner, performance artist and activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who has been in prison for five years for demanding the fulfilment of human rights.

“Thinking of Cuba is an open wound that is always right there. I still have not succeeded in stepping up to the plate on that, it is extremely painful for me, above all because I never wanted to leave… I miss everything about Cuba,” says Genlui, who also assured that it was difficult to leave Luis Manuel, and her family in general, especially her grandmother, a woman of more that 80 years who lived with her before her departure.

Claudia is a beneficiary of the Cuban Adjustment Act, a federal law that permits her to request U.S. residency after being in the country for a year and a day. She is waiting on a response from the government, while also studying English.

The stories of María, Kirenia, Jancel, Wilfredo, Orelvys, Junior, and Claudia represent hundreds of activists, human rights defenders, independent journalists, and critics of the Cuban government who have been forced to flee Cuba. They have been forced to leave their families for countries with different languages, cultures, and traditions.

From the International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights we demand that the Cuban State cease the use of forced exile as a strategy of repression, and that it recognize and guarantee the human rights of every person that resides in its territory. We reiterate our call to the government of the island to comply with the dispositions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and we urge the international community to guarantee the protection of Cuban migrants, independent of their migratory status.

***

[1] Cuba: 4 razones que explican el histórico éxodo desde la isla a EE.UU. en 2022. Enero 3 de 2023. Disponible: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-64104551

[2] En 2022, cifra récord de migrantes desaparecidos en el Caribe. Enero 24 de 2023. Disponible: https://www.iom.int/es/news/en-2022-cifra-record-de-migrantes-desaparecidos-en-el-caribe

[3] Cuba: 4 razones que explican el histórico éxodo desde la isla a EE.UU. en 2022. Enero 3 de 2023. Disponible: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-64104551

[4] Cuba: Crisis migratoria y prácticas represivas en el contexto de la movilidad humana. Octubre 27 de 2022. Disponible: http://oldrace.wp/es/cuba-es/cuba-crisis-migratoria-y-practicas-represivas-en-el-contexto-de-la-movilidad-humana/

[5] Raza e Igualdad alerta sobre nuevo Código Penal que recrudece la criminalización del ejercicio de derechos fundamentales. Junio 14 de 2022. Disponible: http://oldrace.wp/es/cuba-es/raza-e-igualdad-alerta-sobre-nuevo-codigo-penal-que-recrudece-la-criminalizacion-del-ejercicio-de-derechos-fundamentales/

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