Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press 1999: Cuba

President Fidel Castro Ruz's government did its best to stamp out independent journalism in Cuba this year, promulgating a bill that virtually outlaws free expression and perfecting preemptive repression.

The Cuban constitution grants the Communist Party the right to control the press; it recognizes "freedom of speech and the press in accordance with the goals of the socialist society." Official news is disseminated through television, radio, or the Communist Party newspaper, Granma.


Since 1995, when the first independent press agencies appeared, a small number of independent journalists have functioned on the margins of Cuban society. There are currently about 20 independent agencies operating in Cuba. Journalists dictate stories over the phone to colleagues outside the country, who are often Cubans in exile. The stories are circulated on the Internet, published in newspapers in Miami and in Europe, and broadcast into Cuba by Radio Martí, the controversial station set up by the U.S. government in 1983. In the past two years, the Cuban government has stepped up efforts to jam these broadcasts.

The Castro regime makes life as difficult as possible for independent journalists. State security agents do not allow them to own a fax machine, let alone a computer. They habitually detain and interrogate them. They harass them with threats of eviction. And they monitor their telephone conversations, regularly interrupting their service.

This year, with social tensions rising and political dissent becoming more widespread and visible, the government redoubled its efforts to dam the flow of information from Cuba. One particularly effective legal weapon is Article 72 of the penal code, which states, "Any person shall be deemed dangerous if he or she has shown a proclivity to commit crimes demonstrated by conduct that is in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality." "Dangerousness" carries a penalty of up to four years in prison.

While Article 72 has been on the books for some years, CPJ had not documented any cases of journalists being prosecuted under this law since 1995. But in January, Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández, executive director of the Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes (CAPI), was convicted of "dangerousness" and sentenced to four years in prison. On November 23, CPJ awarded Díaz Hernández its 1999 International Press Freedom Award in absentia. (Read more about this award.) At year's end, three other Cuban journalists were in prison for another offense: "disrespect" for president Castro.

On February 16, Parliament passed the Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy (also known as Law 88). The new law establishes prison terms of up to 20 years for anyone deemed guilty of "supporting, facilitating, or collaborating with the objectives of the Helms-Burton law, the embargo, and the economic war against our people, with the goal of ruining internal order, destabilizing the country and liquidating the socialist state and Cuba's independence." The law sanctions those who, directly or indirectly, pass on information to the U.S. government; collaborate with foreign media; or possess, reproduce, or spread "subversive" documents. (Foreign reporters are specifically exempted from the law's provisions.)

Raúl Rivero, Cuba's leading independent journalist, described the law as marking an attempt by Castro to "put a fence around Cuban reality." At year's end the law had not yet been applied, although state security agents used it routinely to threaten independent journalists with long prison terms. Despite the threats, the independent press was tenacious in covering trials of dissidents, public protests, and religious activities. In response, the government continued to shift its media-control tactics from punishment to prevention.

For example, telephone communications with Cuba were exceedingly difficult. In February, the state telephone company limited its service to the United States after Cuban exiles in Miami went to court in an attempt to garnish the company's foreign earnings. While CPJ's telephone conversations with sources in Cuba were frequently cut off in past years, this year the majority of CPJ's calls to Cuba did not go through. One Cuban journalist who tried to make a collect call to CPJ was told that the number was restricted.

State security agents routinely harassed independent journalists by putting them under house arrest or by prohibiting provincial journalists from traveling to Havana to cover stories. Many independent Cuban reporters reported that their movements were severely restricted in the weeks preceding the Ninth Ibero-American Summit, which took place in Havana on November 15 and 16.

In the end, this annual gathering of heads of state from throughout the Ibero-American world proved a turning point for Cuba's independent press. On November 1, President Castro launched a televised attack on dissidents and independent journalists that lasted into the early hours of November 2. In his speech, Castro mocked independent journalists and accused them of trying to destabilize the summit. But Spanish prime minister José María Aznar and other foreign dignitaries gave several dissidents and independent journalists international recognition by meeting with them before the summit started.

Having lost face at the summit, the Castro regime again clamped down on the independent press at the end of the year. Most of the repression was nonviolent, with some notable exceptions. On December 10, for example, CubaPress journalist María Margarita Miranda Cordova was beaten by a prison guard while in detention to prevent her from covering a political rally.

Constant harassment forced around 10 journalists into exile during 1999, bringing the total of exiled journalists to around 40. But despite the government's best efforts, there were more than a hundred independent journalists working in Cuba at year's end. Their growing numbers raised concerns about the quality of local reporting, and members of the old guard, such as Rivero, proposed the formation of an independent press association charged with upholding professional standards.



January 6
Lázaro Rodríguez Torres, Habana Press HARASSED
María del Carmen Carro Gómez Habana Press HARASSED
Jorge Olivera, Habana Press HARASSED

Sate security officers detained Habana Press correspondents Rodríguez Torres and Carro Gómez, and Habana Press director Olivera. All three were threatened with beatings.

The officers gave their names as Kevin, Arturo, and Vladimir (like many Cuban security officials, they identified themselves only by their first names). They raided the Havana home of Estrella García Rodríguez, which serves as the headquarters of Habana Press, and detained the three journalists along with García, local writer Jesús Díaz Loyola, and political dissident Javier Troncoso. The detainees were taken to the Second Unit of the Revolutionary National Police in central Havana.

The officers told the journalists that they were being detained to prevent them from covering the appellate hearing of Lázaro Constantín Durán, a political dissident who was convicted of "dangerousness" in December 1998 and sentenced to four years in prison. Constantín appealed his conviction; the hearing was set for January 7, 1999.

Olivera and Carro Gómez were released after several hours, along with García and Troncoso. After their release, state security officers prevented all four from leaving their homes until Constantín's hearing was over.

Rodríguez Torres and Díaz Loyola were transferred to the headquarters of the Technical Department of Investigations. They were put in cells with common criminals and were interrogated separately in the middle of the night. Both Rodríguez and Díaz Loyola were released in the afternoon of January 7.


January 13
Odalys Ivette Curbelo Sánchez, CubaPress HARASSED

At 6 p.m., two state security officers who identified themselves as Capt. Oscar and Capt. Alfredo arrested Curbelo Sánchez, a reporter with the independent news agency CubaPress, at her home in the Rancho Boyeros neighborhood of Havana. The two officers took Curbelo Sánchez to the Tenth Unit of the Revolutionary National Police and threatened to send her back to the provinces if she continued to cover public demonstrations. They released her at 7:45 p.m.

Formerly a mathematics professor, Curbelo Sánchez began her work for CubaPress as the Pinar del Río provincial correspondent on June 16, 1997. She moved to Havana to replace CubaPress's Ana Luisa López Baeza, who went into exile in October 1998.

In a February 3 letter to President Fidel Castro Ruz, CPJ protested the Cuban government's ban on journalists covering street protests.


January 15
Pedro ArgŸelles Morán, CubaPress HARASSED

ArgŸelles Morán, Ciego de Avila correspondent for the independent news agency CubaPress, was summoned to appear before the local chief of the Revolutionary National Police. He received a warning for "dangerousness" because he did not work for a state company and lacked a steady income. Under Article 72 of Cuba's penal code, anyone can be sentenced to four years in prison for "dangerousness" if he or she shows a "special proclivity for committing a crime."

In a February 3 letter to President Fidel Castro Ruz, CPJ condemned Article 72 as a flagrant violation of international law.


January 18
Hirán González González, CubaPress HARASSED

González González, CubaPress correspondent in Cienfuegos Province, was ordered to appear at the headquarters of the Revolutionary National Police in the town of Aguada de Pasajeros. State security officer Vladimir Castillo told González González, "I'm going to put you in prison if you keep on reporting news to Radio Martí." Castillo also threatened to prosecute the journalist for "dangerousness."

In a February 3 letter to President Fidel Castro Ruz, CPJ condemned the law against "dangerousness" as a flagrant violation of international law.


January 18
Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández, Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes IMPRISONED

Officers of the Revolutionary National Police arrested Díaz Hernández, executive director of the independent news service Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes (CAPI), at his home in the town of Morón, in Ciego de Avila Province. Díaz Hernández started a hunger strike shortly after he was detained. On January 19, the Morón Municipal Court convicted Díaz Hernández of "dangerousness" and sentenced him to four years in prison.

Díaz Hernández appealed the conviction. In a summary session on January 22, a court in Ciego de Avila confirmed Díaz Hernández's sentence. His attorney was not allowed to attend the session (Díaz Hernández was represented by a state-appointed lawyer). On January 28, Díaz Hernández ended his hunger strike.

At year's end Díaz Hernández was being held in the Ciego de Avila provincial prison, known as "Canaleta," in Morón. His colleagues report that state security officials routinely confiscate his writing materials, preventing him from working in prison. He is allowed to receive only a limited number of visitors.

Díaz Hernández's conviction was based on the fact that he had previously received six warnings for "dangerousness" under Article 72 of the penal code, which states that a person is considered "dangerous" if he or she is likely to commit crimes, a propensity demonstrated by conduct that is in "clear contradiction with the norms of socialist morality." According to Article 75-1, the police authorities may issue a warning for "dangerousness."

In 1996, Díaz Hernández was fired from his government job after the Vigilance and Protection System, a vigilante group tied to the Communist Party, organized a public rally against him. Such rallies are known as "acts of repudiation" (actos de repudio). He then started working for the independent news agency Patria and subsequently founded CAPI.

In a February 3 letter to President Fidel Castro Ruz, CPJ condemned the incarceration of Díaz Hernández and demanded his unconditional release.

In July, Díaz Hernández started another hunger strike, this one lasting 17 days. He continued to report on prison life, causing state security officers to threaten him with prosecution under the Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy, which imposes jail terms of up to 20 years. Relatives who visited him were frisked and interrogated. In September, after spending eight months in solitary confinement, Díaz Hernández was transferred to a section of the prison where other inmates convicted of "dangerousness" are also held.

In November, CPJ honored Díaz Hernández with an International Press Freedom Award. Guests at the November 23 awards ceremony in New York City signed 312 postcards urging President Castro to release the journalist immediately. And in a January 13, 2000, letter to President Castro, CPJ requested information about the legal status of Díaz Hernández and the three other journalists who were then imprisoned in Cuba.


January 24
Nancy Sotolongo León, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes
IMPRISONED
Santiago Martínez Trujillo, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes IMPRISONED
María de los Angeles González Amaro, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes IMPRISONED

As part of a wide-ranging state crackdown on the independent Cuban press, three independent journalists were detained over a three-day period to prevent them from covering a protest march commemorating the one-year anniversary of the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba on January 25, 1998.

Sotolongo León, a correspondent for the press agency Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes (UPECI), was detained on January 24 and brought to the Department of Technical Investigations (DTI).

On January 25, plainclothes state security officers detained Martínez Trujillo, a UPECI photographer, along with dissident Milagro Cruz Cano, as the two were leaving the headquarters of the independent news agency Habana Press. They were also taken to DTI headquarters.

That same day, two state security officers who identified themselves as Oscar and Jesús visited the home of González Amaro, UPECI's director, and threatened to detain her if she took part in the protest march.

At 1 p.m. on January 26, three plainclothes state security agents in a Revolutionary National Police patrol car arrived at González Amaro's home in the Havana district of Santa Amalia, accompanied by the president of the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a Communist Party block association. The officers searched González Amaro's home and confiscat-ed a tape recorder, cassette tapes, and documents. They detained her and took her to the DTI.

Sotolongo León, Martínez Trujillo, and González Amaro were all released on January 29. In a February 3 letter to President Fidel Castro Ruz, CPJ condemned the harassment, arrest, and detention of independent journalists in Cuba.


January 28
Ramón Alberto Cruz Lima, Patria HARASSED

State security officers put Cruz Lima, director of the independent news agency Patria, under house arrest to prevent him from covering a public event celebrating the 146th anniversary of the birth of Cuban national hero José Martí. Cruz Lima was not allowed to leave his Ciego de Avila home until 11 p.m.

In a February 3 letter to President Fidel Castro Ruz, CPJ protested the government's efforts to prevent Cuban journalists from covering street protests.


February 4
Marvin Hernández Monzón, CubaPress HARASSED

Three state security officers, who gave their names, respectively, as Capt. Oscar, Aramís, and Luis Mariano, detained Hernández Monzón, deputy director of the independent news service CubaPress.

Hernández Monzón was waiting for the bus in Buena Vista, in Playa Municipality, when the three agents pulled up in a private car and detained her. They drove her to a state security facility on the outskirts of Havana.

Hernández Monzón said the officers interrogated her for more than two hours. They argued that independent journalists are easily manipulated and never provide positive coverage of the government. They also asked how CubaPress was financed. After the interrogation, the agents dropped her off in downtown Havana.


February 16
María del Carmen Carro Gómez, Habana Press HARASSED
Lázaro Rodríguez Torres, Habana Press HARASSED

A state security officer detained Habana Press agency reporters Carro Gómez and Rodríguez Torres to prevent them from covering a press conference organized by the Episcopal Latin American Council (CELAM).

As Carro Gómez and Rodríguez Torres were leaving the Habana Press headquarters at 9 a.m. to attend the CELAM press conference in Playa Municipality, a state security officer who gave his name as Oscar detained them and took them to a car, where a state security major was waiting. The two officers drove the journalists to the Second Unit of the Revolutionary National Police in central Havana, where they interrogated them about their education and their journalistic work. The officers confiscated a draft article by Carro Gómez, as well as her professional credentials and a membership card from the Christian Democrat Party (PDC). The officers also confiscated both journalists' tape recorders, along with Rodríguez Torres' camera.

The officers returned the two tape recorders after listening to Carro Gómez's recordings. The journalists were freed at 2 p.m., two hours after the CELAM press conference began.


February 26
Efrén Martínez Pulgarón, CubaPress IMPRISONED

Martínez Pulgarón, a Havana-based reporter for the independent news agency CubaPress, was detained on February 26 to prevent him from covering the March 1 sedition trial of Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, and René Gómez Manzano.

Two state security officers intercepted Martínez Pulgarón in Vedado, Havana, and took him to the Technical Department of Investigations. He was released on March 2.


February 27
Marvin Hernández Monzón, CubaPress IMPRISONED

State security officers and members of the Revolutionary National Police (PNR) detained Hernández Monzón, deputy director of the independent news agency CubaPress, from February 27 until March 2, to prevent her from covering the sedition trial of Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, and René Gómez Manzano. The trial took place in Havana on March 1.

At around 5 p.m. on February 27, a PNR officer arrived at Hernández Monzón's home in Palmira Municipality, in Cienfuegos Province, and ordered her to accompany him to a police station. The journalist refused to go unless he produced an arrest warrant.

Twenty minutes later, four state security agents and the local police chief arrived at Hernández Monzón's home. She again asked to see an arrest warrant, but the officers replied that they only wanted to talk to her. They took her to the police station in the town of Cienfuegos, 10 miles from Palmira. Once there, they filed a case against her for "illicit enrichment," based on supposed irregularities in the construction of her house, which actually belongs to her brother.

Subsequently, Hernández Monzón was put in solitary confinement in a windowless cell. She refused to eat until the next day, February 28. That night, she was placed in a cell with windows. On March 1, a police captain accused Hernández Monzón of "economic crimes" relating to the construction of her house. She was told she would be informed within 20 days if the police decided to press charges, but she received no further notice. Hernández Monzón was released on March 2.


March 1
All journalists HARASSED

Uniformed officers of the Revolutionary National Police and plainclothes state security agents ordered reporters to leave the area in front of the Municipal Court in the Marianao district of Havana, where Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, and René Gómez Manzano were on trial for sedition.


March 1
Tania Quintero, CubaPress HARASSED
Raúl Rivero, CubaPress HARASSED
Odalys Ivette Curbelo Sánchez, CubaPress HARASSED
Juan Antonio Sánchez, CubaPress HARASSED
Orlando Bordón Gálvez, CubaPress HARASSED
Héctor González Cruz, CubaPress HARASSED

State security officers detained CubaPress director Rivero and CubaPress reporters Quintero, Curbelo Sánchez, Sánchez, Bordón Gálvez, and González Cruz to prevent them from covering the March 1 sedition trial of Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, and René Gómez Manzano.

All six journalists were released on March 2. They all signed certificates acknowledging that they had been charged with "association to commit a crime." The journalists said that if covering the March 1 trial constituted such an association, then they were guilty as charged.


March 3
Raúl Rivero, CubaPress THREATENED

Two state security officers threatened Rivero, director of the independent news agency CubaPress, with imprisonment.

The officers, who identified themselves as Luis Mariano and Oscar, telephoned Rivero at the home of CubaPress reporter Ricardo González Alfonso and told him they wanted to talk with him. They picked him up and drove him to a house just outside Havana. In the course of a three-hour interrogation, the officers said that CubaPress reporters would be prosecuted under the Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy, which was to take effect on March 15. Passed on February 16, the law imposes jail terms of up to 20 years for people convicted of advancing U.S. policy interests. The officers then warned Rivero that they would not tolerate independent journalism in Cuba.

One of Cuba's most prominent independent journalists, Rivero has endured sustained government harassment since he left the state-controlled press in 1988. His movements have been restricted, and he has been repeatedly threatened, interrogated, and detained.


March 9
Raúl Rivero, CubaPress HARASSED

Two state security officers abducted Rivero, director of the independent news agency CubaPress, from his Havana home and took him to a local hotel, where he was interrogated for two hours.

Rivero told CPJ that state security officers, who gave their names as Luis Mariano and Oscar, began trying to locate him at around 3 p.m. At 4 p.m., they found Rivero at his home and asked him to present himself at the police station for a "dialogue." Rivero replied that if the officers wanted to talk to him, they would have to place him under arrest.

At 4:45 p.m., Luis Mariano and Oscar detained Rivero at his home in central Havana. They drove Rivero to the Hotel Riviera, where they took him to a conference room. Luis Mariano, Oscar, and a state security officer who identified himself as Aramís then threatened to jail Rivero under the Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Interest and Economy, which had been passed on February 16 and was due to take effect on March 15. Aramís added that Rivero would receive a 20-year prison term, the maximum sentence allowable under the law. They told Rivero to give up journalism and accused him of communicating with U.S. citizens. He was released three hours later.

May 7
Lorenzo Páez Núñez, Agencia Nueva Prensa THREATENED

District Attorney Iris Leydis summoned Páez, Artemisa correspondent for the independent news service Agencia Nueva Prensa, to appear before her on May 7. She warned him that he risked imprisonment if he continued to work as an independent journalist. Páez reportedly replied that he was determined to keep working as a journalist.

Páez formerly worked for the independent news service Buró de Prensa Independiente de Cuba. On January 4, he completed an 18-month prison sentence for defamation, based on charges that he had published false information about the national police.


June 15
Luis López Prendes, Buró de Prensa Independiente de Cuba HARASSED, THREATENED

State security agents accosted López, a correspondent with the independent news service Buró de Prensa Independiente de Cuba, at Havana International Airport. The journalist was on his way to Miami via Cancún, Mexico, for a visit.

The two agents interrogated López, threatened to impede his travel plans, and demanded bribes. After López reached Miami, authorities placed three threatening calls to his home in Cuba, warning that he would be subject to other coercive measures if he continued to work as an independent journalist.

June 17
Juan Francisco Monzón Oviedo, Lux Info-Press HARASSED, THREATENED

Three men, who identified themselves as Col. Santurio, Capt. Marcos, and Lt. Liván of the Mariel state security department, threatened Monzón, a correspondent for the Pinar del Río-based independent news agency Lux Info-Press, at his home. Colonel Santurio warned Monzón to quit independent journalism unless he wished to face charges under the new Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy, which had taken effect on March 15.

Monzón was extensively harassed in 1999. On January 8, for example, local officials visited Monzón's home and threatened to arrest him. Two of them returned the next day and threatened him again. On February 27, Monzón was arrested on a charge of "illicit economic activity" and held until March 2. Prior to the arrest, security agents had been keeping Monzón's home under 24-hour surveillance.


August 12
Oswaldo de Céspedes, Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes THREATENED, HARASSED

De Céspedes, a member of the news agency Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes, was detained by state security agents. He was questioned by an unidentified colonel, who warned him that he would be charged under the new Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy if he continued to work as a journalist.

De Céspedes was released after five hours in detention. He believes that officials sought to deter him from covering a series of conferences on civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance that were being held that week in the town of Párraga.


August 13
Fabio Prieto Llorente, Habana Press THREATENED, HARASSED

A state security section chief summoned Habana Press agency correspondent Prieto to the local police station in Nueva Gerona, capital of the island of Juventud. Prieto was then interrogated by state security officers, who identified themselves as Frank Landa, Ahmed, and Richard.

The three officers asked Prieto to read two paragraphs from the Law for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy and told him he would go to jail if he continued his involvement with Habana Press. He was subsequently released.

August 23
Berta Mexidor Vázquez, Agencia de Prensa Libertad HARASSED

Government authorities forcibly evicted Mexidor, director of the independent Agencia de Prensa Libertad news agency, from her home in the Santos neighborhood of Buenavista, in Las Tunas Province.

Also evicted were her husband, Humberto Colás, his mother, and the couple's two children. The family was taken to a crowded homeless shelter approximately 40 miles away. When they arrived, Mexidor's 73-year-old mother-in-law refused to get out of the car, whereupon the vice president of the local legislature threatened to drag her out.


September 23
Raúl Rivero, CubaPress LEGAL ACTION

Rivero, director of the independent news agency CubaPress, told CPJ that Cuban authorities had denied him a permit to travel to Columbia University to receive a special citation from the Graduate School of Journalism for "independent reporting in the face of harassment, arrests, and threats from the government."

He was scheduled to receive the citation at a September 29 ceremony honoring winners of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for excellence in reporting about Latin America. Rivero applied for an exit and reentry permit from the Interior Ministry after he received the invitation from Columbia University in June. In early August, the university filed a formal invitation with the Cuba Interests Section in Washington, D.C.

On September 23, the fourth anniversary of the founding of CubaPress, Maj. Lázaro of the Interior Ministry (who, like many Cuban security officials, did not provide his full name) informed Rivero that his application had been denied. On September 27, CPJ circulated a news alert protesting the Cuban government's harassment of Rivero.

Officials have repeatedly told Rivero that he may leave Cuba if he agrees not to return. But Rivero has always been determined to pursue his profession at home. As a result, his exit and reentry permit applications have consistently been denied.


October 1
Jesús Zúñiga, Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes IMPRISONED, THREATENED

State security officers Oscar and Jesús (identified only by their first names, like many Cuban security officials) arrested Zúñiga, a reporter for the independent press agency Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes, en route to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

Zúñiga was taken to two different police stations and then to a house on the outskirts of Havana where Cuban authorities interrogate political prisoners. He was held there for 48 hours. During the interrogation, officials tried to link Zúñiga to the Miami-based Agenda Cuba, an anti-Castro organization founded by Cuban exiles.

Zúñiga denied any involvement with the group, but the police told him that one of its members had been apprehended on a recent visit to Havana. This person apparently carried Zúñiga's name as a potential contact. Police released Zúñiga on October 4, after warning him that he might be arrested again in the future.


October 8
Mario Viera González, Cuba Verdad HARASSED

Cuban emigration authorities blocked Viera, director of the independent press agency Cuba Verdad, from leaving Cuba. Viera currently faces trial on perjury charges stemming from a 1998 Cuba Verdad article in which he criticized Foreign Minister José Pereza Chapeau.

The United States granted Viera refugee status in July. Emigration authorities delivered his travel documents two months later. On October 4, state security officers Jesús and Angel (who, like many Cuban security officials, identified themselves only by their first names) visited Viera to inquire about his travel plans. During the visit, the two officers brought up Viera's pending trial.

On October 8, Viera was summoned to the emigration office. There, an employee named Sofía informed him that his emigration clearance had been withdrawn but that his wife could still travel.


November 7
Hirán González González, CubaPress HARASSED

González González, CubaPress correspondent for the province of Cienfuegos, was expelled from Ariza, a maximum-security prison in Cienfuegos, when he asked to meet with independent journalist Bernardo Rogelio Arévalo Padrón, who is currently serving a six-year sentence for "disrespect" toward President Fidel Castro Ruz and Vice President Carlos Lage.

González González was accompanied by Cuban human-rights activist Iranso Montano González. The two men were initially admitted to the prison. But when they asked to meet with Arévalo Padrón, state security officers expelled them. They also warned González González, who often reports on prison conditions for CubaPress, not to come back.


November 8
Luis Alberto Lazo Barrego, Agencia Nueva Prensa THREATENED

State security agents detained Barrego, chief correspondent for the independent news agency Agencia Nueva Prensa, in the town of Artemisa. He was taken to a detention center on the outskirts of Artemisa and held there for three hours.

The agents warned Barrego against traveling to Havana or associating with groups of people. It is likely that they wanted to prevent him from covering the Ninth Ibero-American Summit, a gathering of heads of state from throughout the Ibero-American world that took place in Havana on November 15 and 16.


November 9
María del Carmen Carro Gómez, Habana Press HARASSED

Three men, who identified themselves only as Heriberto, Jesús, and Marcos, detained Habana Press reporter Carro Gómez and took her to a state security facility on the outskirts of Havana. There, officers interrogated her regarding her work with Habana Press, particularly her recent interview with opposition leaders Clara Morales and José Aguilar Hernández.

According to Carro Gómez, the purpose of the interrogation was to discourage her from conducting any further interviews with Morales. Officers subsequently transferred Carro Gómez to the local police precinct in the town of Guanabacoa, where she was held overnight. She was released the following day, but armed guards remained stationed outside her home until later that afternoon.


November 10
Angel Pablo Polanco, Noticuba IMPRISONED

Polanco, formerly a member of the press agency Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes, and now director of the newly-founded press agency Noticuba, was arrested outside his home in Havana on his way to cover a protest march organized by 11 Cuban human-rights organizations in anticipation of the Ninth Ibero-American Summit conference, which Cuba hosted on November 15 and 16 in Havana.

State security officers stationed themselves outside Polanco's home before sunrise on November 10. When the journalist left his home later that morning and informed the guards that he intended to cover the march as a news event, he was arrested and taken to a detention center in Havana. He was held there "pending investigation" and confined to a dark cell.

Officials denied Polanco access to an attorney. His family was not informed of his arrest, even though he required daily medication to treat his glaucoma. Polanco is also physically handicapped owing to a childhood bout with polio.

Three days after his arrest, Polanco fell ill and was taken to the Carlos J. Finlay Municipal Hospital, where he remained under guard until his release on November 17. He was told that he would certainly be arrested again if he continued working as an independent journalist.


November 11
Víctor Rolando Arroyo, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes IMPRISONED

State security agents arrested Arroyo, a journalist, author, and member of the Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes, a Cuban writers' association, while he was on his way to cover a meeting of independent farmers in the Matanzas town of Perico. Cuban independent farmers raise crops for private sale, and it appears that the Communist regime did not want their meeting to be covered.

According to his mother, Arroyo was held in a prison in Pinar del Río. He was released on November 16.


November 14
Rodolfo Santiago Santana Rodríguez, Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental HARASSED

Police officer Armando Saboreaux and three other officers arrested Santana, director of the independent press service Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental, and took him to the local police station in the José Martí district of Santiago de Cuba. He was held there "under investigation" until his release, shortly after the Ninth Ibero-American Summit ended on November 16. The detention was apparently intended to prevent Santana from covering the summit.

Cuban officials had been harassing Santana all year. In June, police arrested the journalist at the home of his in-laws and took him to the Department of Intelligence in Vista Alegre, where he was held briefly and then released. On September 26, police detained Santana for three hours and confiscated his tape recorder and camera. The police demanded that he produce ownership papers for the equipment. Santana explained that the recorder and camera were gifts from foreign colleagues and that he did not have proof of ownership. On November 11, he was arrested and held overnight.


November 14
María Margarita Miranda Córdova, CubaPress HARASSED

Two state security officers detained Miranda, a correspondent for the independent news agency CubaPress, on her way home from covering a vigil to protest the plight of political prisoners in Cuba. The officers, who identified themselves as Guillermo and Alberto, intercepted Miranda and forced her into their car, where she was interrogated for two hours and then released.

The officers confiscated an audiotape that Miranda had made of the vigil. They also made thinly veiled threats against her children. Miranda later told CPJ that the officers wanted her "to abandon journalism that is free of government control."


December 16
Juan González Febles, Agencia Nueva Prensa IMPRISONED
Adela Soto Alvarez, Agencia Nueva Prensa IMPRISONED
María del Carmen Carro Gómez, Habana Press IMPRIONED
Santiago Martínez Trujillo, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes IMPRISONED
Meri Miranda, CubaPress HARASSED
Osvaldo de Céspedes, CubaPress HARASSED
Ricardo González Alfonso, CubaPress HARASSED
Alida Viso Bello, CubaPress HARASSED
María de los Angeles González Amaro, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes HARASSED
Amarylis Cortina, Cuba Verdad HARASSED

In an apparent attempt to block press coverage of an anti-government demonstration scheduled to take place in Havana on December 17, state security officers arrested four journalists in the afternoon of December 16 and placed six more under house arrest the following morning.

Sources in Cuba reported that reporters González Febles and Soto Alvarez of the independent news agency Agencia Nueva Prensa, reporter Carro Gómez of Habana Press, and photographer Martínez Trujillo of the Unión de Periodistas y Escritores Cubanos Independientes (UPECI), were all taken into custody at approximately 4 p.m. Six other journalists--Miranda, De Céspedes, González Alfonso, and Viso of CubaPress, González Amaro of UPECI, and Cortina of the independent news agency Cuba Verdad--were placed under house arrest on the morning of December 17.

Cuban authorities apparently wished to block press coverage of a peaceful protest march scheduled to coincide with the celebration of San Lázaro, a holiday honoring a Catholic saint who is reputed to heal the sick and answer the prayers of the desperate. In a typical Cuban government move, journalists were rounded up ahead of time to prevent them from covering the event.

CPJ released news alerts about the case on December 17 and when the four detained journalists were released, on December 21. The other six journalists were confined to their homes until after the end of the festival.


December 23
The Miami Herald LEGAL ACTION
National Conference of Editorial Writers LEGAL ACTION

The Cuban government denied representatives of The Miami Herald visas to visit Cuba with a delegation from the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW), scheduled for the last week of January 2000.

The Herald had submitted a visa application for Susana Barciela, a Cuban-American member of the paper's editorial board, and had offered editorial-page editor Tom Fiedler as an alternate. But on December 23, the NCEW informed Fiedler that both visa requests had been rejected.

A December 28 Herald editorial called the rejection "another example of the Castro regime's determination to try to control the flow of information from the island by selecting who can report it." Cuba has denied visas to Herald journalists for years; the paper was also denied permission to cover the Ninth Ibero-American Summit, which took place on November 15 and 16.

On January 6, the NCEW announced that Cuba had decided to deny visas to all 38 members of the NCEW delegation. The Castro government gave three reasons for this decision: the Herald's effort to join the trip; a statement by a NCEW representative to a Herald reporter expressing disappointment that the paper had been denied a visa; and concern that NCEW members were making "parallel" reporting arrangements, with assistance from the U.S. State Department, separate from the official briefings arranged by the Cuban government.

Published

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