Campaign for Political Prisoners in Cuba-Venezuela-Nicaragua

July 11, 2021 Protests

Campaign for Political Prisoners in Cuba-Venezuela-Nicaragua

15 / abril / 2024

A group of human rights organizations from Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua presented on April 11, 2024, the regional campaign “It’s happening again,” which highlights the situation of political prisoners in the three Latin American countries in the face of the rise of totalitarianism.

The goal of the initiative is to raise awareness and demand an end to imprisonment for political reasons amid the increasing repression in the region. The campaign reminds us that political imprisonment is not only an “act of illegal detention” but also an oppressive tool.

“People imprisoned for political reasons in our countries deserve immediate freedom, reparations, and guarantees of a dignified life, in freedom and without fear of harassment or repression,” states the emerging initiative on its website.

The campaign is driven by Cubalex, the Cuban Youth Dialogue Table, Prisoners Defenders (PD), the Association of Nicaraguan Political Prisoners, the Reflection Group of Ex-political prisoners, the Legal Defense Unit, Defend Venezuela, and Voices of Memory.

“It’s happening again” does not aim to lobby, but to communicate what people deprived of liberty for political reasons are experiencing, the spokespersons of the participating organizations stated at a press conference.

Víctor Navarro, a journalist and former Venezuelan political prisoner, recalled that visibility campaigns are highly valuable in authoritarian contexts. “Let’s not underestimate the power of a tweet and the impact of social networks; many have been released thanks to these practices,” he said.

The reporter argued that the visibility of individual cases of the incarcerated can help open negotiation spaces for their release.

Javier Larrondo, president of Prisoners Defenders, said one of the campaign’s objectives is to seek solidarity from countries including Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Spain.

“(…) We see how totalitarian dictatorships do not stagnate, but there is an expansion (…) and therefore it is very important to raise awareness, especially now,” Larrondo emphasized.

“It’s happening again” also promotes the signing of a petition to create the International Day against Political Imprisonment. People over 18 years old can sign. “[The] day will represent a permanent demand for change under authoritarian regimes that prioritize power over the rights of the population. It will be a constant reminder to the international community not to falter in the struggle for justice and freedom. Additionally, it will be a permanent message of support for political prisoners, who have been victims of persecution, torture, and unjustified imprisonment,” the request states.

What’s happening with political prisoners in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela?

As of April 11, 2024, there were at least 1,482 political prisoners in the three countries — Cuba (1,092), Venezuela (269), and Nicaragua (121)—.

During the creation of the campaign, organizers discovered similar torture patterns in the three nations. In the case of Cuba, several former political prisoners have denounced the inhumane conditions of the island’s prisons and the degrading treatment they have received for opposing the Government.

In March 2024, the Cuban Prison Documentation Center recorded 190 complaints from prisons, mostly related to repression, poor medical care, and food.

The 190 incidents were recorded in 45 penitentiary centers in the country. Havana, Camagüey, and Mayabeque were the provinces with the highest number of reported incidents.

Lawyer Alain Espinosa stated that Cuban prisons are detrimental to inmates and wear them down physically and emotionally. The prisoners “often are in overcrowded conditions, have to sleep on the floor or in beds for three. But people who are there for political reasons also suffer prolonged isolation and (their jailers) use other violent methods against them,” he pointed out.

Artist and prisoner of conscience Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara described the Guanajay prison, in Artemisa, as a “cathedral of evil,” in an interview with El Estornudo.

In Venezuela, there is a policy of “revolving door” whereby they release and parole people all the time, Navarro said. A similar situation is experienced in Nicaragua, communicated activist Yaritzha Mairena. “There are no words to describe the human suffering that tortured political prisoners receive. Every day is suffering for the political prisoner and their family,” recounted Mairena, also a former political prisoner.

Yaritzha Mairena mentioned that political prisoners of the Ortega-Murillo regime are beaten and placed in unsanitary conditions, receive poor nutrition, and, in many cases, suffer sexual violence. “These regimes repeat patterns regarding the persecution of political leaders, candidates, and their followers, as has happened in Nicaragua and Venezuela or in Bolivia where participation in politics is directly pursued and criminalized”.

Regarding the use of sanctions against the dictatorships in the region, Larrondo emphasized the need for international consensus to apply multinational measures that pressure both the oppressors and governments so that the political cost of repression is higher.

The panelists stressed the need for individual sanctions against those who order repression in the three countries.

This article was translated into English from the original in Spanish.

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