The association was founded in 2012 by Yorubas who disagreed with the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, which is controlled by the government watchdog Office of Religious Affairs (ORA). Free Yorubas have been subject to arbitrary detentions and beatings, destruction of ceremonial objects, police monitoring, and searches-and-seizures without probable cause. State hostility towards the Free Yorubas seems to have escalated since early February 2020, when they challenged Ms. Caridad Diego, head of the ORA, to a public debate on freedom of conscience.
Free Yorubas Public Relations head Ms. Eliaisys Almeida Pavón was detained in Placetas, Villa Clara, on February 24, 2020. Executive Secretary and Vice President and married couple Ms. Donaida Pérez Paseiro and Mr. Loreto Hernández García were detained and threatened on March 11, 2020. Ms. Pérez alleges in her statement, the officials mocked all faiths, professing that “there is only one god, Fidel Castro,” and stating an obscenity about God, the saints, and orishas. On August 3, 2020, three members of the Free Yorubas were separately summoned to the Placetas, Villa Clara police station and threatened. On September 30, 2020, two Free Yorubas leaders were held overnight and beaten; one of the women left police custody with a broken arm. On July 19, 2021, several members of the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba were charged as a result of participation in peaceful protests that broke out in provinces all across the island on July 11. Many of them are being detained in provisional prisons until trials are held as a precautionary measure.
The regime regularly uses police citations to harass and intimidate Free Yorubas and other believers independent of the state. The Global Liberty Alliance continues to monitor the Cuban regime’s treatment of the Free Yorubas and will fight for their freedom of belief.
The following members of the Free Yorubas of Cuba have been added to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) database as victims of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) violations:
- Donaida Pérez Paseiro
- Loreto Hernández García
- Lisdani Rodríguez Isaac
- Lisdiani Rodriguez Isaac
- Elizabeth Cintra García
Additional USCIRF Reports on Religious Freedom in Cuba:
- September 20, 2021 – USCIRF Factsheet on Protests in Cuba and Religious Freedom
- April 21, 2021 – USCIRF 2021 Annual Report
- February 22, 2021 - USCIRF Factsheet: Santería in Cuba
- April 28, 2020 – USCIRF 2020 Annual Report
U.S. State Department Reports on International Religious Freedom (Cuba):
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