Crackdown in Cuba

Dozens of Latin American writers join CPJ in urging Castro to release jailed colleagues

March 16, 2005

Fidel Castro Ruz
President of the Councils of State and Ministers
Republic of Cuba
c/o Cuban Interests Section in the United States of America
2630 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009

Via facsimile: (202) 797-8521

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists, together with the following 107 Latin American journalists and writers, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all imprisoned Cuban journalists. We further demand that the sentences of six journalists released on medical parole be annulled.

With 23 imprisoned journalists, Cuba remains one of the world’s leading jailers of journalists, second only to China. The journalists have been jailed since March 2003, when the Cuban government arrested them as the world’s attention was focused on the war in Iraq. Two weeks after their detentions, the journalists were tried summarily–their trials lasted one day–behind closed doors, and they were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years.

Although the Cuban government has labeled them “mercenaries,” an analysis of trial documents shows that the journalists’ work was within the parameters of the legitimate exercise of free expression established under international human rights standards.

The imprisoned journalists have reported unsanitary prison conditions and inadequate medical care. They have also complained of receiving rotten food. Unlike the general prison population, most journalists are only allowed family visits every three months and marital visits every four months. Their relatives have been harassed for talking to the foreign press, protesting the journalists’ incarceration, and gathering signatures calling for their release.

Those journalists who were ill before being jailed have seen their health worsen in prison and have been transferred to hospitals or prison infirmaries, while others have developed new illnesses. Some journalists went on hunger strikes during 2004 to protest their conditions. Because prison authorities refused to allow outside contact with the strikers or to disclose information about them, their families were unable to monitor their health.

Between June and December 2004, Cuban authorities released six journalists on medical parole. One released journalist, Carmelo Díaz Fernández, was warned that he would be sent back to prison if he recovered from his illnesses–or if he did not maintain “good behavior.”

In late 2004, the remaining jailed journalists were transferred to prison hospitals in Havana, ostensibly for medical checkups. The transfers came as Cuba resumed formal diplomatic contacts with Spain in a possible precursor to normalizing relations with the European Union. The circumstances fueled speculation that additional releases were imminent, but all 23 were returned to their prisons.

Most jailed journalists are far from their homes, adding to the heavy burden on their families. The imprisonment of these journalists in reprisal for their independent reporting violates the most basic norms of international law, including Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees everyone “the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

As writers and journalists in Latin America, we earn our livelihoods by gathering and disseminating information and, in some cases, expressing our opinions. We believe that our activities benefit the societies in which we live and that our right to freedom of expression is protected by international law. For the Cuban government to arbitrarily abrogate this right is an affront to human dignity. We urge the Cuban government to respect international law by allowing journalists to work freely, without fear of reprisal.

Ann Cooper
Executive Director

List of journalists and writers who have joined CPJ’s letter to the Cuban government

Lista de periodistas y escritores que han adherido a la carta del CPJ al gobierno cubano

Tomás Eloy Martínez
Andew Graham-Yooll
Roberto Guareschi
Mabel Moralejo
Joaquín Morales Solá
Mario Diament
Nelson Castro
Alfredo Leuco
Daniel Santoro
Magdalena Ruiz Guiñazú
Jorge Elías
Fernando Ruiz
James Neilson
Mónica Gutiérrez
Miguel Wiñazki
José Ignacio López
Daniel Muchnik
Santiago O’Donnell
Gabriel Michi
Ana Barón
Sergio Carreras
Darío Gallo

Jorge Canelas
Raúl Peñaranda Undurraga
Juan Carlos Rocha


Geraldinho Vieira
Lúcio Flávio Pinto
Rosental Calmon Alves


Faride Zerán
Abraham Santibáñez
Alejandra Matus
Mónica González
Juan Pablo Cárdenas Squella
Claudia Lagos
María Olivia Mönckeberg
Patricia Verdugo
Alberto Luengo
Patricio Fernández

María Jimena Duzán
Antonio Caballero
Ignacio Gómez
Germán Rey
Marta Ruiz
Heriberto Fiorillo
Juliana Cano
Antonio Melo
Darío Fernando Patiño
Nora Sanín
Juan Manuel Ruiz
Guillermo Puyana
Jorge Cardona
Jaime Abello Banfi
Javier Darío Restrepo
María Teresa Ronderos
María Isabel Cerón
Fernando Alonso
Alvaro Sierra

Costa Rica
Eduardo Ulibarri
Armando González
Mauricio Herrera

Dominican Republic
Fausto Rosario Adames

Miguel Rivadaneira

El Salvador

Jaime López


José Rubén Zamora


Michele Montas
Jean Roland Chery


Thelma Mejía

Carlos Fuentes
Elena Poniatowska
Jorge Zepeda Patterson
Rossana Fuentes
J. Jesús Blancornelas
Angeles Mastretta
Homero Aridjis
Francisco Martín Moreno
Ernesto Villanueva
Pedro Armendares
Federico Reyes Heroles
Laura Esquivel
Carlos Monsiváis
Gerardo Albarrán

Carlos F. Chamorro
Sergio Ramírez


Miguel Antonio Bernal
Marcos Castillo
Rolando Rodríguez
Guillermo Sánchez Borbón
Brittmarie Janson Pérez

Benjamín Fernández Bogado


Ricardo Uceda
Gustavo Gorriti
Enrique Zileri
Mirko Lauer
Kela León
Cecilia Valenzuela
Edmundo Cruz
Guido Lombardi
Santiago Pedraglio


Claudio Paolillo
Nelson Fernández
Tomás Linn
Mónica Bottero
Alfonso Lessa
Alvaro Giz


Teodoro Petkoff
Andrés Cañizalez
Ewald Scharfenberg