An Urgent Call for Independent Journalism in Cuba
If you are an independent reporter in Cuba—that is, if you are an illegal reporter in Cuba, since the media on the island are all the private property of brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro‘s Communist Party—you may end up being expelled from your place of study or work, sentenced to long periods in jail, or forced to go into exile for the rest of your days. In the worst case, you may just end up dead.
On June 13, Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, an independent reporter in the Cuban capital, lodged a public complaint with the “representatives of the Inter-American Press Association of Reporters Without Borders” for the “indiscriminate repression of activists, peaceful protesters, reporters, bloggers, photojournalists and independent spokespeople involved in the struggle for citizenship, political participation and human rights” in Revolutionary Cuba, where the Communist Party has now held power for more than 56 despotic years.
Valle Roca’s open letter not only tells his own story, but draws attention to the plight of his colleagues Vladimir Turró Páez and Enrique Díaz, collaborators on the Misceláneas de Cuba (Cuban Miscellany) and Primavera Digital (Digital Spring) websites; Juan González Febles, director of Primavera Digital; Agustín López Canino and Liván Serafín Morán, independent bloggers and reporters; and Antonio Rodiles, director of the audiovisual debate project Estado de SATS. In recent weeks, all have fallen victim to regular random arrests and police torture practices, their families have suffered harassment, and some have even received death threats.
In many cases, these illegal detentions are not backed up by any official charges and last for “several days, with no reports being filed to document our detention or the seizure of our belongings.” The latter has included the confiscation, or more accurately the theft, of their “cell phones, cameras, and USB sticks.” These reporters and media activists have been “beaten in detention centers” by the Castroist State Security forces (the DSE) and the National Revolutionary Police (the PNR). They have been held “for hours in the sun in locked police vehicles,” such that several of them “have lost consciousness, presenting with symptoms of hypoglycemia.”
In Valle Roca’s case, on the night of Saturday May 9 an unmarked car attempted to ram into him on Avenida 26 de Nuevo Vedado, very close to his home. Coincidentally, the street where the attack took place is just a stone’s throw away from the emblematic Plaza de la Revolución, that symbolic monument revered by Latin Americans who have no idea what is going on in Cuba, as well as by so many complicit academics in US universities.
But then on the morning of Sunday June 7, Valle Roca underwent another horrifying experience that should shock all defenders of justice and liberty to the core. While out walking peacefully through the Miramar neighborhood, Valle Roca was arrested on a street corner and taken to the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior’s State Security Services, located miles away in the 10 de Octubre municipality.
After being interrogated and threatened, he was handcuffed and driven in another vehicle to a deserted location in the vicinity of the town of Santa Cruz del Norte, dozens of miles from Havana. There, an agent forced him to his knees and held him at gunpoint with a Browning. “Now you have been warned what could happen to you,” proclaimed the executioner in the olive-green uniform to Valle Roca. In his letter to the world, the reporter makes clear that he “holds Raúl Castro’s government responsible for whatever may happen to me and my colleagues in the days ahead.”
I would extend this list of those to blame for Cuban impunity to include the cynical smile of United States President Barack Obama, as well as the wicked, feminine sneer of Cuban Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino. Both men have supported the democratic legitimization of Raúl Castro’s repressive regime, which has cost the Cuban people dearly in tragedy and scuppered hopes for a real life under a democratic system.
Please, share this urgent call to action with your friends, and keep sending Valle Roca and his Cuban colleagues your moral and material support. His email address is email@example.com. Your solidarity is the only weapon that these reporters can use to defend themselves.