DemocracyALERT: Arrest of Civil Society Activists and Citizens in Crackdown on Peaceful Protests in Cuba
The World Movement for Democracy is alarmed by the ongoing crackdown and arrest of activists such as Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, José Daniel Ferrer, and journalist Henry Constantín, among others, in Cuba. The World Movement calls on the Cuban government to immediately release all detained protesters and to respect activists’ rights of freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly. Cubalex, a leading human rights organization, has documented over 500 detentions of protesters, which includes a large number of average citizens. The Cuban government has accelerated its arrests of activists following peaceful protests that began on July 11, 2021. The protestors chanted “freedom” and demanded an end to the over 60-year-old Communist dictatorship on the island.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and others in the San Isidro Movement (MSI), including artist Maykel Osorbo who co-created the song Patria y Vida, have been detained and jailed on account of their activism. Preliminary reports suggest that Luis Manuel could receive the same charges as his MSI colleague Maykel, that of resistance and public disorder. Luis Manuel is being held in a long-term prison and his family has yet to be able to see him. He was just recently released from prison in May 2021, following a previous arrest for exercising internationally recognized freedoms. There is increasing concern, following the arrests of the peaceful protesters, that a crackdown on artists and writers will escalate in Cuba in the weeks following the large-scale protests.
Artists have been at the forefront of freedom movements in Cuba. They have been targeted by the government since Decree 349 was passed in 2018, restricting freedom of expression and the right of artists to produce their works free from government interference. MSI is a collective of artists, formed after the Decree was passed, that continuously promotes the freedoms and rights of Cubans. The World Movement for Democracy honored the MSI on July 8, 2021 with a Democracy Courage Tribute. While accepting the award, Luis Manuel stated: “The art that we make in the MSI demonstrates and assumes the responsibility of art as a driving force that can change the world.”
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights issued a statement on Friday, July 16, 2021 calling for the release of all detained protesters. The High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, called for the reinstatement of internet and social media and urged “the Government to address the protesters’ grievances…and to respect and fully protect the rights of all individuals to peaceful assembly and to freedom of opinion and expression.” In addition, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances has demanded information from the government about the disappeared protestors in Cuba.
The World Movement expresses its solidarity with all those struggling for democracy in Cuba, joins other international voices in condemning the arrests of peaceful protesters and civil society activists, and calls for their immediate release.