Who Are the 53 Cuban Prisoners?

On December 17, 2014, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said that Cuba “based on its own assessment and the urging of the United States, did release more than 50 political prisoners.” “These were names that were provided by the US government,” Earnest said, later clarifying that some of the prisoners had either already been released or were to be released shortly.

As recently as last week, there was little to no information about these supposed prisoners. Cuban President Raul Castro insisted he would release them in a “unilateral” manner. However, after a spate of critical coverage by the international press, as well as pressure from activists and organizers in Cuba and the United States, the U.S. State Department has publicly released a list with the names of 53 Cuban political prisoners, claiming they have all been let go.

Nevertheless, the New York Times wrote yesterday that the release of the list “was received with skepticism by Cuban opposition figures, who said the government had released fewer prisoners than the numbers suggested.” The Associated Press reported that “Cuba’s leading human rights group said it had not been informed of any prisoner release since Thursday, when the total count stood at 41.”

Another Associated Press report from last week noted that “[r]elatives of Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a U.S. spy released under last month’s agreement [whose name is not on the list of 53], say they are puzzled about why they have yet to hear from him,” though his sister, who lives in Spain, told the AP yesterday that she received a phone call from her Cuban-born brother, who is now apparently residing in the US.

Imprisoned since 1995, Sarraff Trujillo is thought to be the person described by President Obama as “one of the most important intelligence agents that the United States has ever had in Cuba.” Trujillo is widely rumored to be the man Cuba exchanged with the United States in return for the release of the remaining three members of the “Cuban Five” spy ring. The December 2014 prisoner swap also saw USAID subcontractor Alan Gross freed on humanitarian grounds after five years in Cuban prison.

But according to a Miami Herald report from January 9, 2015, “a man who claims he is a former member of Sarraff’s spy ring .. [also says] that Sarraff was a fake, feeding the CIA false or trivial information as part of a Cuban scheme to disrupt U.S. intelligence.”

Nearly all of the people on the recently-released State Department list were named in a list of 74 “recognized political prisoners” that appears in a July 2014 document from the International Society for Human Rights (Internationale Gesellschaft für Menschenrechte, IGFM), a German-headquartered NGO. Many of the 53 reportedly belong to the “Patriotic Union of Cuba” (UNPACU), led by activist José Daniel Ferrer García.

According to an August 2012 press release from Amnesty International, Ferrer García “was among 75 Cuban dissidents arrested during the so-called ‘Black Spring’ crackdown in March 2003…[He] served eight years of a 25-year jail sentence for his political activism before being granted conditional release in March 2011.”

UNPACU was formed in mid-2011 as an umbrella group of Cuban dissident organizations in and around the province of Santiago de Cuba who seek democratic change by non-violent means.

Since its creation, the Cuban authorities have used arbitrary detention and other measures to harass and intimidate its members. One member, Wilman Villar Mendoza – whom Amnesty International named a prisoner of conscience – died last January on a hunger strike to protest his four-year prison sentence after a summary trial.

Many of the people listed below were imprisoned in the past and many have engaged in hunger strikes and other forms of protest to denounce their treatment. Many others Cuban dissidents have been detained temporarily since the December 17 announcement or remain in custody.

This post is part of an attempt to probe a little bit deeper into the history and current statuses of these 53 dissidents.

The full list is below:

1.) Emilio Planas Robert (Emilio Plana Robert):  Amnesty International reports that he was arrested on September 23, 2012, on charges of “dangerousness,” ostensibly for being a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). The IGFM document says he belongs to the “Democracy and Resistance Movement” and was sentenced to a 42 month term on October 6, 2012 on charges of “potential for social dangerousness.”

Blogger Marc Masferrer “was able to find at least one report, dated January 2013, that indicated Plana Robert had been tortured while in prison.”

Amnesty said the Cuban government accused Planas Robert and a man named Rafael Matos Montes de Oca of “putting up posters in Guantánamo city with ‘anti-government’ slogans such as ‘down with Fidel’ (abajo Fidel) and ‘down with hunger’ (abajo la hambre). According to their families, no incriminating material was found at their houses and none was presented at their trials.”

Matos was reportedly released on parole in January 2014, and his name does not appear on the list of 53 nor on IGFM’s list of 74. Reuters reported Plana Robert released on January 8, 2014.

(See also Carlos Manuel Figueroa Alvarez, #32)

2, 3, and 4.) Alexeis Vargas MartinDiango Vargas Martin, and Bianko Vargas Martin: Once again, Amnesty reports that these three brothers, all of them members of UNPACU, were arrested “in response to their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and that it is intended to send a message of intimidation to other government critics, particularly other members of UNPACU.”

The organization says that the brothers had been in pre-trial detention since December 2012 and were “subjected to a summary trial [in June 2013], with none of the witnesses for the defence being allowed to testify.” A statement on UNPACU’s website from June 2014 condemned their detention along with that of other activists.

The IGFM document says that the three brothers were all arrested on November 27, 2012 and that as of the report’s writing, all three were still awaiting sentencing.

The head of Cuba’s Human Rights and Reconciliation Commission, Elizardo Sanchez, told The Associated Press last week that the brothers had been freed. However, no explanation was given for their release.

(See also Aracelio Riviaux Noa#19)

5.) Ivan Fernandez Depestre: An Amnesty report from September 2013 says that “The 40 year-old political activist, was arrested on 30 July in the central province of Villa Clara as he peacefully participated in a public event to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Cuban national hero Frank País.” Frank Pais was one of the leaders of the resistance movement against Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

IGFM ties Fernandez Depestre to the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civil Resistance Front. Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a named a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International. According to the Guardian, he died in February 2010 “after an 85-day hunger strike over alleged beatings and degrading jail conditions…Jailed in 2003 during a political crackdown, he is the first dissident to starve himself to death in almost four decades.”

The German NGO lists the date of Fernandez Depestre’s arrest as July 30, 2013 and the date of his sentencing as August 2, 2013. Like Planas Robert (#1), Depestre was charged with “potential social dangerousness” and sentenced to nearly three years in prison.

He was reported released last week by UNPACU.

(See also Jose Lino Ascencio Lopez, #41)

6, 7, and 8.) Sonia Garra Alfonso (Sonia Garro Alfonso), Ramon Alejandro Munoz (Ramon Alejandro Munoz Gonzalez), and Eugenio Hernandez Hernandez: According a November 2014 article from the Miami Herald, Sonia, her husband Ramon and their neighbor Eugenio were charged with public disorder and attempted murder.

The charges stem from March 18, 2012 when an act of repudiation was staged at the home of Garro and Muñoz by pro-government Cubans trying to prevent the couple from taking part in events commemorating the anniversary of the 2003 Black Spring crackdown against dissidents. Cuba’s public prosecutor claims that Muñoz and Hernández threw objects, including a television, from the roof of the Garro-Muñoz home.

Munoz is identified by the IGFM document as a member of the Independent Afro-Cuban Foundation while Hernandez Hernandez is simply listed as a “dissident.” The Miami Herald and IGFM both claim that Garro Alfonso is a member of the Ladies in White. According to Amnesty:

The Ladies in White were formed in 2003 as the group of female relatives of 75 prisoners of conscience calling for their release. After the release of the prisoners in 2011, the Ladies in White continued campaigning for the release of other political prisoners and for the lifting of restrictions on fundamental civil and political freedoms in Cuba. Members of the organization have been repeatedly prevented from meeting for any purpose, including attendance at mass on Sundays.

The three were reportedly by Amnesty as having been released on December 9, 2014.

9.) Juliet Michelina Diaz: Reporters Without Borders wrote that Michelena, a journalist, was detained in April 2014, “three days before the publication of a by-lined report she wrote for the Miami-based independent news platform Cubanet about a case of ordinary police violence she had witnessed in Havana…Initially accused of ‘threatening a neighbour,’ she [was later] charged with ‘terrorism.'” IGFM reports that she was affiliated with the Red Cubana Comunicadores Comunitarios (Cuban Community Communicators Network).

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that Michelena was released in November 2014 after being cleared of all charges.

10.) Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga (“El Critico”): The Instituto Cubano por la Liberated de Expresión reported that the rapper who founded the hip-hop group Los Hijos Que Nadie Quiso (“The Unwanted Children”) was imprisoned since March 2013 due to his affiliation with UNPACU and his outspoken anti-government stance. Also, El Critico’s wife, Yudisbel Roseyo, is reportedly a member of the Ladies in White.

According to Fox News Latino, “While in prison, the musician has been beaten, denied medical assistance, and even contracted cholera in July.” In September 2014, Misecelaneas de Cuba reported the blind El Critico alleged he had been sprayed in the eyes with pepper spray by prison guards.

The Miami New Times reported Remon was released last week.

(See also Alexander Roberto Fernandez Rico, #18)

* An important a side note: USAID ran a covert program in Cuba during Obama’s first term as president described as “reckless” and “stupid” by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and derided by the Associated Press as “follow[ing] a familiar pattern to other tactics in America’s secret war in Cuba – it was amateurish and profoundly unsuccessful.”

As the AP wrote on December 10, 2014, exactly a week before the historic announcement of plans reestablish diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States:

On at least six occasions, Cuban authorities detained or interrogated people involved in the operation. They also confiscated computer hardware, which in some cases contained information that endangered Cubans who are thought to have had no idea they were caught up in the clandestine programme.

The USAid operation also ended up compromising Cuba’s vibrant hip-hop culture, which has produced some of the hardest-hitting grassroots criticism since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.

Musicians that USAid contractors tried to promote left the country or stopped performing after pressure from the Cuban government, and one of the island’s most popular independent music festivals was taken over after officials linked it to USAid.

Another AP article published the next day read:

The hip-hop operation [which ended in 2012] was conceived by one of USAID’s largest contractors, Creative Associates International, using a team of Serbian music promoters. The Washington-based contractor also led other efforts aimed at undermining Cuba’s communist government, including a secret Cuban Twitter text messaging service and an operation that sent in young inexperienced Latin American “tourists” to recruit a new generation of activists.

11 and 12.) Vladimir Morera Bacallao and Jorge Ramirez Calderon: After more than 100 days on hunger strike, the labor leader Morera Bacallao was reported released by Marti Noticias in September 2014. According to a February 2014 post on Marc Masferrer’s blog,

Cuban independent trade unionist Vladimir Morea Bacallao in November was sentenced to eight years in prison after a court found him guilty of “public disorder,” “assault,” “disrespect” and “injuries,” each a supposed crime the regime regularly uses to add an air of legitimacy of its repression. He had been arrested in February after a Castroite-mob launched an “act of repudiation” outside the home of another trade unionist, Jorge Ramírez Calderón, who also in November was sentenced to four years in prison on similar charges.

The IGFM document seems to contradict some of this information. The organization claims that the arrest of Morera Bacallao and Ramirez Calderon took place on September 4, 2013 and that their sentencing occurred on October 18, 2013. According to Diario de Cuba, Ramírez Calderón was sentenced in the same case as Vladimir Morera Bacallao, but appears to have still been imprisoned as of late November 2014.

Multiple sources reported that Morera Bacallao was paroled in October 2014. Ramrirez Calderon was reported released by UNPACU last week.

13.) Marcelino Abreu Bonora:  According to a June 2014 post on Masferrer’s blog:

Abreu was arrested Aug. 13, 2012 — Fidel Castro’s birthday — after the police caught him distributing anti-government leaflets and shouting anti-Castro slogans.

It wasn’t until more than a year later, on Aug. 29, 2013, that Abreu was tried, convicted of bogus charges of “public disorder” and “disrespecting” Fidel Castro…and sentenced to 4 years in prison.

The IGFM document confirms that the member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front was jailed on August 13, 2012 on charges of and assault and disrespect.

A January 7, 2015 article on the website of the Directorio Democrático Cubano (Cuban Democratic Directorate) reports that “Marcelino Abreu Bonora, who was arbitrarily arrested last December 26 in this city, beaten and taken to a detention center…was released yesterday evening on January 6, 2014 (sic).”

On December 30, 2014, the U.S. State Department released a statement regarding the “latest reports of detentions and arrests by Cuban authorities of peaceful civil society members and activists, including Luis Quintana Rodriguez, Antonio Rodiles, Danilo Maldonado, Reinaldo Escobar, Marcelino Abreu Bonora and Eliecer Avila”

Abreu’s name does not appear on the UNPACU list released last week, but the Instituto Cubano por la Liberated de la Expresión y Prensa (Cuban Institute for Freedom of the Press and Expression) also reported his release on January 7, 2015.

(See also Niorvis Rivera Guerra, #47)

14.) Wilberto Parada Milan: According to UNPACU, Parada Milan and Roberto Hernandez Barrios (#28), both activists affiliated with the group, were arrested in March 2013 after an anti-government protest in Havana and tried on charges of “assault,” “disrespect” and “resistance” in February 2014.

The Spanish news site ABC.es carried a piece dated June 13, 2013 describing a man named Roberto Hernández Barrio as an UPACU member who was violently detained along with Parada Milán, allegedly for shouting “¡Abajo Fidel!” (“Down with Fidel!”) and “¡Abajo, Raúl!”, referring to Cuba’s former president Fidel Castro and his brother and successor Raul Castro.

The Associated Press reported Parada Milan was released on January 8, 2015. UNPACU reported the release of a man named Roberto Hernandez Barrio last week.

(See also Roberto Hernandez Barrio#28)

15.) Alcibiades Guerra Martin: IGFM names him as a “human rights activist” imprisoned for “disrespect to Fidel Castro.” An August 2014 post on Marc Masferrer’s blog says:

On Feb. 28, 2014, Guerra was tried, convicted and sentenced to 1 year in prison, a day after he protested his wife’s detention by shouting, Abajo Fidel, or Down with Castro!. Soon after he started a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

I was unable to find any other confirmation of his release.

16.) Jose Leiva Diaz:  An April 2013 report from the independent watchdog group, El Centro de Información Hablemos Press (CIHPRESS), said he was condemned to two years in prison for “disrespect.” Capital Hill Cubans and IGFM both claim he was a member of the Cuban Reflection Party.

I was also unable to find any other confirmation of his release.

17.) Eider Frometa Allen: IGFM identifies him as affiliated with the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy. According to a February 2014 post from Masferrer’s blog:

Cuban activist and former political prisoner Eider Frometa Allen has been on hunger strike since Feb. 18 after he was arrested under what his brother described as “nebulous” circumstances.

Frometa, an activist with the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, is carrying out his protest in a Cuban State Security jail in Guantanamo province, where he was taken after police raided his home.

Exactly why Frometa, who in 2012 was released from prison after 9 months, was arrested was not clear. Officials who raided his home did not confiscate any books, leaflets or anything else political in nature, said his brother Enyor Diaz Allen, himself a former political prisoner.

Diaz said his brother’s arrest may be connected with a confrontation with a state security official the day before the raid.

Police officers are pushing back hard against Frometa, 23, and his hunger strike. After she was able to visit him in jail, his wife Odalis Rivero reported that guards are refusing him water to drink with the goal of “breaking his will” and forcing him to end his protest.

On January 13, 2015, El Nuevo Herald ran an article quoting UNPAC’s Ferrer Garcia, who said Frometa Allen had served “every minute” of his sentence at the time of his release, which was not specified.

18.) Alexander Roberto Fernandez Rico: IGFM identifies him as an activist with the Neo-Catholic Party of Cuba who was arrested for “disrespect.” According to a March 2014 post on Masferrer’s blog, he “was arrested in April 2012, and sentenced to three years in prison after he started shouting anti-Castro slogans when he witnessed a police officer beating a passenger on a bus.”

Almost immediately after his imprisonment, Fernandez started a hunger strike that left him blind, according to a report posted at PayoLibre.com.

Instead of releasing him, officials at the Combinado del Este prison in Havana transferred him to an infirmary. But on Feb. 2, after Fernandez complained about the quality of care he was receiving, he was ordered removed from the infirmary, according to the report, which was based on information provided by Cuban lawyer Juan Carlos González Leiva.

“At present, the prisoner of conscience does not have the minimum conditions required by someone who is blind. he even has difficulty relieving himself,,” Gonzalez said. “I demand the authorities reconsider their case, and for public opinion to show the solidarity  Fernandez Rico needs.”

A report from around the same time on the website Cubamatinal.es claimed that the blind prisoner had been tortured with “chemical substances.”

CIHPRESS reported his release on January 8, 2015.

(See also Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga, #10)

19.) Aracelio Riviaux Noa (Aracelio Riberi Noa): According to Diario de Cuba, he may have had some connection to the Bianko Vargas case mentioned above. CIHPRESS reports that he was sentenced in the same month as Bianco Vargas Martín (#3), Dianko Vargas Martín (#4), Alexis Vargas Martín (#2), Lázaro Romero Hurtado (#23), Ronaide Mario Figueroa Diéguez, Luis Enrique Fernández Benítez, Miraida Martín Calderín, Adriana Núñez Pascual and Ernesto Roberto Riveri Gascón (#37).

UNPACU recently reported that Riviaux Noa was a member of the group. He was reportedly released along with more than thirty other prisoners between January 7 and 8, 2015.

20.) David Piloto Barcelo: IGFM links him to the island’s Power of Truth Movement and claims he was charged with “continued disregard for and violation of public order.” According to an August 2014 post at Masferrer’s blog:

[Luis Enrique Labrador Diaz (#24)], Piloto and two other men were arrested Jan. 14, 2011, after they went into Revolutionary Square in Havana and tossed into the air leaflets loaded with anti-Castro and anti-communist messages. When police arrived, the men sat down on the ground, an act the prosecutor deemed “a defiant and provocative attitude…that interrupted the traffic flow,” according to Human Rights Watch.

After trials — which family members had been warned by the authorities not to attend — Labrador and Piloto were convicted of “disrespect” and “public disorder” and sentenced to 5 years in prison. The other two activists, Yordanis Martinez and Walfrido Rodriguez were sentenced to 3 years and 5 years, respectively, but they were released as part of a Christmastime mass parole in December 2011.

Cuban human rights activists have called on Amnesty International to recognize Labrador and Pioloto as “prisoners of conscience,” which the organization says includes those people “who have been jailed because of their political, religious or other conscientiously-held beliefs … provided that they have neither used nor advocated violence.”

The Hablemos Press news agency reported this week that Labrador — considered one of the most “rebellious” political prisoners — had recently been transferred to an isolation cell in Aguica prison after he demanded guards allow him at least an hour of sunlight and a telephone so he could call relatives.

Piloto’ has had similar experiences while in prison, according to Hablemos Press.

Both prisoners have suffered beatings and other punishments because they have refused to wear uniforms of common prisoners and participate in programs to “re-educate” them, which might earn them an early release from jail, according to the report.

UNPACU reports Piloto was among the prisoners released last week.

(See also Luis Enrique Labrador Diaz#24)

21.) Enrique Figuerola Miranda: The IGFM document indicates that he was a member of UNPACU who was arrested in July 2012 and tried in August 2013 for assault, resistance and defiance.

According to a January 7 report from EFE, he was released along with the Bianko Vargas brothers (#2, 3, and 4). However, Figuerola Miranda expressed concern that his “conditional” release could be revoked.

22.) Jose Manuel Rodriguez Navarro: UNPACU claims he is affiliated with the Alianza Democrática Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) in Guantanamo province. IGFM confirms this and lists the date of his arrest as October 3, 2013. He was sentenced on October 6, 2013 on charges of social dangerousness.

Amnesty reported him released January 8.

23.) Lazaro Romero Hurtado: According to Reuters, Romero was a member of UNPACU who “was arrested in 2012 and sentenced to four years behind bars on charges including making a public disturbance and threats, apparently during a confrontation with police.”

He was among those reported released by UNPACU last week.

(See also Aracelio Riviaux Noa, #19, Ernesto Roberto Rivery Gascon, #37, and Jose Lino Ascencio Lopez, #41)

24.) Luis Enrique Labrador Diaz: According to the Human Rights Watch World Report 2014:

Luis Enrique Labrador Diaz was one of four people [along with David Piloto Barcelo, #20] detained in January 2011 for distributing leaflets in Havana with slogans such as “Down with the Castros” and was subsequently convicted in May 2011 for contempt and public disorder in a closed, summary trial. He was still in prison at time of writing.

IGFM said that Enrique Labrador was charged with “Continued disregard for and violation of public order.” CIHPRESS reported in August 2014 that Labrador Diaz, “the founder of the Movimiento Opositor la Fuerza de la Verdad [Power of Truth Opposition Movement],” had been placed in solitary confinement.

He was reported released last week by UNPACU.

(See also David Piloto Barcelo#20)

25.) Madeline Lazara Caraballo Betancourt: A 2013 article by Dania Virgen Garcia for Miscelaneas de Cuba said that Lazara Caraballo was subjected to harassment by state security forces and was charged with public disorder, disrespect, instigation to delinquency and resistance.

[My translation:] She was president of the Latin American Federation of Rural Women (FLAMUR) and the Republican Party of Cuba, in the town Habana Vieja, between 2009 and 2010, and secretary of the Cuba Committee. Today she belongs to the Independent Union of Workers (SIT).

Between 2007 and 2010 she marched to demand the release of 75 political prisoners. She faced beatings and acts of repudiation at the headquarters of the Ladies in White.

She was one of the activists who occupied at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, in Centro Habana, on the eve of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

Caraballo Lázara contributes donations of prisoners who collaborate with the independent press from prison, supports the Commission for Political Prisoners and their Families (CAPPF) and other NGOs and participates in activities of this reporter.

She has faced two repudiation rallies, in 2010, where stones and bottles were thrown at her two children under 12, and 3 years old.

According to an article by Virgen García for Cuba por Dentro from October 2012, Caraballo Betancourt suffers from serious medical complications related to AIDS.

The State Department list refers to her as “on probation.” I was unable to find any other confirmation of her release.

26 and 27.) Miguel Alberto Ulloa Ginard (Miguel Alberto Ulloa Ginar) and Reiner Mulet Levis: An April 2013 post on the website of the Cuban Republican Party (PRC) claimed that PRC President Ulloa Ginard and Vice Director Mulet Levis were arrested together. IGFM states that the men, both members of the PRC and collaborators with CIHPRESS, were arrested on April 10, 2013 and charged with “damage to state property.”

In addition to a vague reference to Ulloa Ginard in a September 2012 document, CIHPRESS reported on January 8, 2015 that both men were among the more than thirty activists freed early this year.

28.) Roberto Hernandez Barrios: According to UNPACU, Hernandez Barrios and Wilberto Parada Milan (#14), both activists affiliated with the group, were arrested in March 2013 after an anti-government protest in Havana and tried on charges of “assault,” “disrespect” and “resistance” in February 2014.

The Spanish news site ABC.es carried a piece dated June 13, 2013 describing a man named Roberto Hernández Barrio as an UPACU member who was violently detained along with Wilberto Parada Milán, allegedly for shouting “¡Abajo Fidel!” (“Down with Fidel!”) and “¡Abajo, Raúl!”

The Associated Press reported Parada Milan was released on January 8, 2015. UNPACU reported the release of a man named Roberto Hernandez Barrio last week.

(See also Wilberto Parada Milán, #14)

29.) Alexander Otero Rodriguez: A September 2014 post on Masferrer’s blog claims he “was arrested along with activist/rap singer Angel Yunier Remon Arazuaga. or ‘El Critico,’ on March 26, 2013, in the city of Bayamo. Prosecutors charged Otero with ‘assault,’ and recommended a 7-year prison sentence.

Otero Rodriguez’s release was confirmed by UNPACU leader José Daniel Ferrer to EFE on January 8, 2015.

30.) Angel Figueredo Castellon: From Masferrer’s blog last July:

Haydee Gallardo Salazar (#39), a member of the Damas De Blanco (“Ladies In White”) and Figueredo were arrested May 26, 2014, during a peaceful demonstration to demand the release of actvist José Díaz Silva after his arrest, according to Martinoticias.com.

The report said Gallardo faced a charge of “public disorder,” but the human rights commission said both were facing unspecified charges.

Previously, Figueredo and Salazar, a member of the Damas De Blanco, had been arrested April 20 as they walked to Sunday Mass in Havana. They were advised by authorities then they faced charges of “disrespect.”

The Spanish newspaper El País reported Figuredo Castellon released on January 9, 2015.

(See also Haydee Gallardo Salazar, #39)

31.) Anoy Almeida Perez (Hanoi Almeida Perez): From Masferrer’s blog last June:

Almeidaan activist with the Cuban Reflection Movement, in May 2013 was convicted of “public disorder,” and sentenced to 2 years in prison after organizing a debate, according to the human rights commission.

The Cuban Reflection Movement is led by former Group of 75 prisoner of conscience Librado Linares Garcia, who has tweeted about Almeida @LibradoLinares.

The alleged member of Balseros Cubanos sin Fronteras was reported released by the Directorio Democratico Cubano (Cuban Democratic Directorate) on January 9, 2015.

32.) Carlos Manuel Figueroa Alvarez: IGFM reports that Figueroa Alvarez was arrested on April 15, 2014 and charged with assault. According to Masferrer’s blog in November 2014:

The Hablemos Press news agency/human rights monitor reports that on Oct. 22 in Havana, a court sentenced two activists, Carlos Manuel Figueroa Álvarez and Santiago Roberto Montes de Oca [see Emilio Planas Robert, #1], to prison after they were convicted of charges of “disrespecting” Raul Castro, as if the dictator is deserving of anything more.

The two were originally charged in January During the trial last month, witnesses testfied they saw the defendants carrying signs with anti-Raul messages, including one that caused him the “anti-Christ,” and another that declared: “Where are the political prisoners you have tortured and killed, like Laura Pollan and Oswaldo Paya?”

Figueroa was sentenced to 3 years in prison; and Montes de Oca was sentenced to 2 years.

Also in Havana, and by the same Cuban court, three human rights activists were recently convicted of charges of “public disorder,” “disrespect” and “resistance,” after they were arrested in May during anti-Castro protest. They were carrying signs declaring “Down with Fidel” and “Down with the Castro dictatorship,” according to a report posted at Miscelaneas de Cuba.

Sonia de la Caridad González Mejí was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Rolando Reyes Rabanal [#48] was sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Melkis Faure Echavarría was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

Figueroa Alvarez was also reported released by El País on January 9, 2015.

33.) Cesar Andres Sanchez Perez: UNPACU lists his name on a webpage along with the names of some 350 alleged political prisoners in Cuba, including some of the 53 listed here. The page carries a disclaimer saying that it is under revision and provides no further information about Sanchez Perez’s case. He is one of the few people on the State Department list of 53 whose name does not appear in the IGFM document from July 2014.

The head of the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission, Elizardo Sanchez, told El Nuevo Herald that Sanchez Perez in January 2015 had been released “a year ago.”

34.) Daniel Enrique Qezada Chaveco: A March 28, 2012 post on a blog called “El Cafe Cubano” claimed that UNPACU had received reports that Qezada Chaveco, a minor, had suffered abuses in prison. His name does not appear in the IGFM document.

A January 8, 2015 report from EFE confirmed his release.

35.) David Bustamante Rodriguez: In June 2014, the Washington Blade reported that the UNPACU member and “LGBT rights advocate with HIV remains in jail more than two weeks after authorities reportedly arrested him because he criticized the country’s government.”

Ignacio Estrada Cepero of the Cuban League Against AIDS told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview from Miami on June 6 that David Bustamante Rodríguez, 21, was “savagely beaten” and “arrested in a violent way” on May 26 after he staged what he described as a “peaceful protest” on the roof of his home near the city of Santa Clara.

According to the Blade, David’s mother Sandra Rodríguez de Bustamante, “who is a member of Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White who have staged weekly protests against the Cuban government since a 2003 crackdown on dissidents, claims her son has been targeted because he is gay.”

Bustamante’s arrest took place less than a month after more than 400 LGBT rights advocates from across the world attended the sixth International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for Latin America and the Caribbean Conference in the Cuban beach resort of Varadero.

Mariela Castro Espín, daughter of Cuban President Raúl Castro who is the director of Cuba’s National Center for Sexual Education (CENESEX), was president of the local committee that organized the ILGALAC conference. Her supporters in recent years have applauded her for efforts to lobby her father’s government to begin offering free sex-reassignment surgery to trans Cubans, implementing a condom distribution campaign and sexual education curriculum and speaking out against anti-LGBT discrimination and for marriage rights for same-sex couples in the Communist country.

Estrada, whose wife, Wendy Iriepa Díaz, once worked for CENESEX, has frequently criticized Mariela Castro and her father’s government.

“She does not recognize the work that is done on the part of the independent gay community,” Estrada told the Blade last July while he and Iriepa were in D.C. “She only recognizes the official part.”

In July, Masferrer followed up on David’s situation:

To protest her son’s arrest, [Sandra] Rodriguez started a hunger strike, which she abandoned last week after more than 30 days without a response from the government, according to Martinoticias.com.

I was unable to determine the status of his release.

36.) Eliso Castillo Gonzalez: A November 2012 post from Masferrer’s blog reported that he “was sentenced in Holguin to 2 years in prison, the result of confrontation with police during which officials violently pushed his elderly mother.” IGFM lists his date of arrest as August 30, 2012 and his sentencing on charges of assault on November 7, 2012.

According to Capitol Hill Cubans, Castillo Gonzalez was one of more than 500 Cuban activists to sign on to a June 2014 “appeal to the international community to support democracy activists in Cuba and Venezuela, and to impede efforts to ease sanctions against the Castro regime.”

UNPACU’s Ferrer told El Nuevo Herald on January 13, 2015 that Vazquez Osoria had completed “every minute” of his sentence at the time of his release, which was not specified.

37.) Ernesto Roberto Rivery Gascon (Ernesto Roberto Riveri Gascón): In June 2014, UNPACU reported that Rivery Gascon was sentenced to prison, along with “Miraida Martín Calderín, the Diango brothers, Vianko y Alexeis Vargas Martín [#2,3 and 4] (declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International Amnistía Internacional and the children of Martín Calderín), Lázaro Romero Hurtado [#23], Ernesto Roberto Rivery Gascón, Aracelio Riviaux Noa [#19], Ronaide Mario Figuerola Diéguez, Luis Enrique Fernández Benítez and Adriana Núñez Pascual.”

Diario de Cuba reported at the time:

[My translation:] The court should pronounce its judgment on July 1, 2014. Prosecutors are seeking five years in prison for Alexei Romero Vargas and Lazarus, for “disrupting public order of a continuing nature”; three years for Diango and Bianko Vargas [#3 and 4], for “disrupting public order of a continuing nature”; two and a half years Aracelio Riveaux [#19] for “contempt”; two years for the same alleged offense for Riverí and Luis Ernesto Roberto Enrique Fernández, and two years and four months in prison for Adriana Nunez and Miraida Martin, “public disorder and defamation offense and Institutions, heroes and martyrs,” said UNPACU, which has about 40 activists in prison.

The IGFM document names one Ernesto Roberto Riveri Gascón as a member of UNPACU, supposedly arrested on November 27, 2012 and sentenced on charges of disturbing the public order, disrespect and assault on August 14, 2013.

I was unable to determine the status of his release.

(See also Jose Lino Ascencio Lopez, #41, and Aracelio Riviaux Noa, #19)

38.) Ernesto Tamayo Guerra: According to Masferrer’s blog on August 30, 2014:

Ernesto Tamayo and Miguel Angel Tamayo were among several activists beaten and arrested by police June 13 during a peaceful demonstration in which they demanded the end of hunger and called for higher pay for workers.

The human rights commission says the Guerras, as well as two other activists — Vladimir Ortiz Suarez [#51] and Leonardo Paumier Ramirez [#44]– remain jailed on unspecified charges, however, there is at least one report that at least two of those arrest face charges of “disrespect” and “resistance,” which the regime frequently uses to target its peaceful opposition.

In October 2014, the libertarian website PanAm Post reported that Vladimir Ortiz Suárez and Ernesto Tamayo Guerra were targeted for their membership in the “Anarcho-Capitalist Club of Cuba, the only openly libertarian advocacy organization operating on the island” whose growing popularity “has prompted the Castro regime to identify club members as enemies of the regime, a condemnation that infers virtual expulsion from society.”

An August 2014 PanAm Post interview with the Anarcho-Capitalist Club’s leaders indicated that the group’s membership was no larger than 10. IGFM claims Ernesto Tamayo and Ortiz Suarez are both affiliated with the Frank Pais Foundation.

CIHPRESS reported his release on January 8, 2015.

(See also Vladimir Ortiz Suarez, #51)

39.) Haydee Gallardo Salazar:  From Masferrer’s blog last July:

Gallardo, a member of the Damas De Blanco (“Ladies In White”) and Angel Figueredo Castellon [#30] were arrested May 26, 2014, during a peaceful demonstration to demand the release of actvist José Díaz Silva after his arrest, according to Martinoticias.com.

The report said Gallardo faced a charge of “public disorder,” but the human rights commission said both were facing unspecified charges.

Previously, Figueredo and Salazar, a member of the Damas De Blanco, had been arrested April 20 as they walked to Sunday Mass in Havana. They were advised by authorities then they faced charges of “disrespect.”

I was unable to determine the status of her release.

(See also Angel Figueredo Castellon, #30)

40.) Jorge Cervantes Garcia: According to an April 2012 blog post at El Cubano Cafe:

On April 2, 2012, just a week after the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba, the regime in the island further escalated the brutal repression it had unleashed before and during the Pope’s visit by violently and arbitrarily arresting, and taking to unknown locations, 43 peaceful human rights defenders in Eastern Cuba where at least three homes were raided. These activists are members of the following pro democracy groups in that region: National Front of Civic Resistance Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the Eastern Democratic Alliance, the Ladies in White Laura Pollan, and the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

Most of these human rights defenders were released on Friday, April 6 but among some of those who still remain under arrest are: Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Dani Lopez de Moya, Adriana Nuñez, Santiago Castellanos, Raumel Vinajera, Juan Carlos Vazquez Osoria, and Jorge Cervantes.

Amnesty International released an Urgent Action document on April 4 denouncing the acts of repression as “…a clear attempt to crush the emerging peaceful movement in Eastern Cuba”: http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR25/012/2012/en/58fa0ee4-5a4d-416e-b573-efa139b8a72b/amr250122012en.html , while the Organization Against Torture (OMCT) expressed its concern in a press release of April 5, 2012 about the ongoing violence against Cuban activists

IGFM lists the date of Cervantes arrest as August 22, 2012. Neither the Amnesty report, nor another report sourced to the Directorio Democrático Cubano mention the name Jorge Cervantes Garciabut an extensive post by Masferrer first uploaded in June 2011 generally matches the information from El Cubano Cafe.

I did find a Wikipedia page about Cervantes as well as a single tweet from a self-described UNPACU activist named “Rosa Maria Gonzalez” (@rosaunpacu2014) on January 6, 2015 that read (in Spanish) “Our condolences to Jorge Cervantes Garcia and in exile to Agustín Cervantes for the death of their father Felipe Cervantes #UNPACU”. I was not able to confirm if or when Cervantes the elder passed away.

Diario de Cuba reported in August 2014 that: “Cervantes, the founder and one of the leading activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was released…after serving two years in prison.”

41.) Jose Lino Ascencio Lopez: A January 10, 2015 post at the widely-read Babalu Blog claimed that he was released along with “Jorge Ramírez Calderón [#12], Hanoi Almeida Pérez [#31]” and Ivan Fernandez Depestre [#5] as well as “Bianco and Diango Vargas Martín [#3 and 4], Enrique Figuerola Miranda [#21], Ernesto Roberto Riverías Ton and Lázaro Romero Hurtado [#23].”

According to the Babalu post, UNPACU’s José Daniel Ferrer García expressed concern that the activists’ freedom could be arbitrarily revoked, saying:

“They are being released on parole, in one of those tricks of infamy that they have accustomed us to. They put on the sheet of paper that they were released on condition of good behavior; when they came denying them any kind of benefit because according to the State Security jailers they had behaved very badly by also protesting within the prisons. What is most important remains to be resolved, it is for this that we fight, ending the arbitrary legal order that gives rise to so many innocent people going to prison, the lack of independence of powers of the state of Cuba that is the largest factory of prisoners of conscience.”

(See also Ernesto Roberto Rivery Gascon#37)

42.) Juan Carlos Vasquez Osoria: An article from PayoLibre, found in a Wikileaks document, describes August 7, 2011 as “one of the worst days of political police and paramilitary assaults against peaceful dissidents [as] members of the Cuban population displayed open shows of support for dissidents. Vasquez Osoria was described as being among those injured and taken prisoner that day according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia.”

The IGFM document says the Vasquez Osoria was affiliated with UNPACU and gives the date of his arrest as December 11, 2012. He was apparently sentenced to two and half years in prison on charges of disrespect and resistance just two days later.

UNPACU’s Ferrer told El Nuevo Herald on January 13, 2015 that Vazquez Osoria had completed “every minute” of his sentence at the time of his release, which was not specified.

43.) Julio Cesar Vega Santiesteban: He appears to be affiliated with UNPACU. According to IGFM he was arrested on January 18, 2013 and sentenced on October 14, 2013 for social dangerousness.

An EFE report from January 8, 2015 citing Ferrer confirmed his release along with “Rubislandis Maine Villalón, Julio César Vega Santiesteban [#43], Alexei Vargas Martín [#2], Aracelio Ribeaux Noa [#19] Daniel Enrique Quesada Chaveco [#34]…Emilio Plana Robert [#1], Yohanne Arce Sarmiento [#52], Yordenis Mendoza Cobas [#53], Alexander Otero Rodríguez [#29], Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga [#10], Ariel Eugenio Arzuaga Peña” and José Manuel Rodríguez Navarro [#22] and David Piloto Barceló [#20].

44.) Leonardo Paumier Ramirez: The website of the Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos (Cuban Human Rights Observatory) names him along with “Miguel Ángel Tamayo Frías [#45], Vladimir Ortiz Suarez [#51], Ernesto Tamayo Guerra [#38]” and “Melkis Faure Echevarría y Sonia González Mejías” and claims that they organized a rally where they passed out dissident litature and “unfurled banners demanding respect for human rights while screaming claims as at the time did the islanders today octogenarians dictators.”

He was reported released on January 9, 2015 by 14ymedio.

(See also Carlos Manuel Figueroa Alvarez#32)

45.) Miguel Tamayo Frias: IGFM claims he is affiliated with the Opposition Movement for a New Republic. Masferrer’s blog stated in August 2014:

Ernesto Tamayo and Miguel Angel Tamayo were among several activists beaten and arrested by police June 13 during a peaceful demonstration in which they demanded the end of hunger and called for higher pay for workers.

The human rights commission says the Guerras, as well as two other activists — Vladimir Ortiz Suarez and Leonardo Paumier Ramirez — remain jailed on unspecified charges, however, there is at least one report that at least two of those arrest face charges of “disrespect” and “resistance,” which the regime frequently uses to target its peaceful opposition.

The status of his release is unclear.

(See also Ernesto Tamayo Guerra#38 and Leonardo Paumier Ramirez, #44)

46.) Miguel Guerra Hastie: The Cuban Democratic Directorate wrote in April 2014 that he “was sentenced to two years in prison for painting anti-government posters in Antilla…[H]is son Jesus Manuel Peña Ramirez [was] sentenced to one year of correctional work without internment after being attacked in the street by an agent of the regimen (sic).”

He was also named on the IGFM list, which says he was affiliated with UNPACU and the Eastern Democratic Alliance. The organization gives the date of his arrest as November 16, 2013 and the date of his sentencing on assault charges as April 10, 2014.

EFE reported his release on January 13, 2014.

47.) Niorvis Rivera Guerra: IGFM names him as a member of the Resistance and Democracy Movement and said he was tried on May 9, 2013 for assault and disturbing the public order after remaining in prison since his arrest on March 2, 2012.

A document found on 14ymedio’s website, attributed to the Commission Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliacion Nacional (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), says Rivera Garcia, along with Marcelio Abreu Bonora (#13), was released in October 2014.

(See also Marcelino Abreu Bonora#13)

48.) Rolando Reyes Rabanal: He was allegedly among three human rights activists who were violently arrested during a protest in May 2014. According to Masferrer’s blog:

Melkis Faure Echevarría, Sonia de la Caridad and Rolando Reyes Rabanal were demanding the release of Cuban political prisoners when plainclothes police agents attacked them.

One officer choked Reyes with a nylon sack he was carrying while another beat him, according to the report.

The three activists were taken to a Havana police station.

A report from CIHPRESS also claims Reyes was tortured in prison.

Marti Noticias reported his parole on January 9, 2015.

(See also Carlos Manuel Figueroa Alvarez, #32)

49.) Ruberlandis Mainet Villalon (Roberlandi Maine Villalón): The IGFM document lists one “Roberlandi Maine Villalón” as a member of UNPACU, but does not give a date for his arrest or trial.

CIHPRESS reported the release of Roberlandi Maine Villalón on January 8, 2015

50.) Sandalio Mejias Zulueta (Sandalio Mejia Zulueta): In August 2014, Masferrer wrote:

Mejias, an activist with the Cuban Liberal Party, has been in jail since May after he should “Down with the dictatorship” at a government office in Old Havana. He was found to be a “pre-criminal social danger” — a common designation for the regime’s opponents — and sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Almost immediately after his arrest, Mejias started a hunger strike.

As of mid-July, Mejias remained on hunger strike, albeit in a prison hospital.

Capitol Hill Cubans claims he was arrested in May 2014. Mejias’ name does not appear in the IGFM document.

I was unable to determine the status of his release.

51.) Vladimir Ortiz Suarez (Vladimir Ortis Suarez): An October 2014 post on UNPACU’s website, apparently authored by Ferrer Garcia, claims Ortiz Suarez was arrested that July along with “[Leonardo] Paumier (#44), Miguel Ángel Tamayo Frías (#45), [and] Ernesto Tamayo Guerra (#38)” in connection with a public demonstration.

A post on the website Translating Cuba claims that Ortiz Suarez was among a number of opponents of the Castro regime targeted by during a string of attacks by state agents during late 2013.

14ymedio reported his release on January 9, 2014.

(See also Ivan Fernandez Depestre, #5, and Ernesto Tamayo Guerra, #38)

52.) Yojarnes Arce Sarmiento (Yohanne Arce Sarmientos, Yohannes Arce Sarmiento): IGFM identifies him as a member of UNPACU arrested on May 13, 2014 for assault.

14ymedia reported his release on January 9, 2014.

(See also Julio Cesar Vega Santiesteban, #43)

53.) Yordenis Mendoza Cobas: A post on UNPACU’s website claims Mendoza Cobas was one of the “most active” members of UNPACU in the Guantanamo region. He was reportedly arrested along with 13 other dissidents after an anti-government protest in March 2014.

14ymedio reported his release on January 9, 2014.