Cuban journalist Mary Karla Ares Gonzalez is being held in pretrial detention under house arrest for alleged public disorder and resistance. Police arrested Ares on April 30, 2021, while she was covering a protest, and held her in prison until May 29, when she was released to house arrest.
Ares is a Havana-based reporter for the community newspaper Amanecer Habanero, one of seven newspapers produced by the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), a local press freedom organization, according to Normando Hernández, ICLEP’s general manager, who spoke with CPJ via messaging app. Ares started working for Amanecer Habanero in February 2021, and reported on community issues in Central Havana and Old Havana. She also wrote opinion pieces on topics including poverty, natural disasters, and alleged racism by government officials.
Agents with the Cuban Revolutionary Police and the political police arrested Ares in Old Havana while she was covering police breaking up a demonstration in support of Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who had been on hunger strike to protest authorities’ confiscation of his artwork and the lack of free expression in the country, according to news reports, a report by ICLEP, and video by the journalist.
At the time of her arrest, Ares was reporting live and streaming video on her personal Facebook account, where she frequently posts reporting and commentary about political issues in Cuba, and has about 2,800 followers. Five other people were arrested in connection with the protest, and are all under investigation along with Ares, she told CPJ via messaging app.
Ares was detained in a police facility in Havana until May 26, when she was transferred to the Western Women’s Prison in the La Lisa municipality of Havana, according to a report by ICLEP. During her detention, she was deprived of food and medication, and repeatedly questioned about her work and political opinions, including during night-time interrogations that resulted in sleep deprivation, she told CPJ.
On May 29, Ares was released to house arrest, according to a notification from the Ministry of the Interior to Ares, which CPJ reviewed.
She is under investigation for criminal public disorder and resistance, according to that ICLEP report. If charged and convicted she could face up to eight years in prison, according to Cuba’s penal code.
Under the terms of her house arrest, Ares is barred from leaving her home in Eastern Havana except to visit a doctor or for any health-related reason, or to go to her job teaching English; otherwise, she must request permission from security agents in order to leave her home, she told CPJ.
On November 13, two days before antigovernment protests were scheduled in Cuba, a state security agent in plainclothes visited Ares’ home and told her to stay home on November 15, and warned her that any actions on her part could have negative effects on her legal process, she told CPJ via messaging app.
The agent remained stationed outside her home for the remainder of that day, as seen in a picture Ares posted to Twitter. On November 15, Ares told CPJ her internet access and cellular service were suspended. She has since been allowed to leave home on several occasions without restriction, but says the house arrest order remains in force.
No trial date has been set as of late 2021, the journalist told CPJ.
Ares has an inflammatory condition known as iatrogenic alogenosis, which causes painful cysts on her body. She suffered several episodes while in police detention, resulting from sitting or resting on hard surfaces, and was denied access to her usual medication, she told CPJ. She said the symptoms had subsided following her release.
CPJ emailed the National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior for comment, but did not receive any responses.