Yesterday, on June 25, 2020, evangelical Pastor Ramón Rigal Rodríguez, of Guantánamo, Cuba, was released after over a year of unlawful imprisonment. Pastor Rigal and his wife, Adya Expósito, were sentenced in May 2019 to two and one-and-a-half years of prison for homeschooling their children.
In close collaboration with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in Purcellville, Virginia, and with Cuban religious leaders, the Global Liberty Alliance (GLA) has been advocating for the release of the Rigal parents since their trial. In late April 2019, the GLA and the HSLDA petitioned the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for precautionary measures to protect the Rigal family and press Cuba to release them.
While the Rigal family is finally reunited, as Radio Televisión Martí has said, the reporter who covered their trial, GLA client Roberto Quiñones, is still unjustly imprisoned. You can find more information about GLA’s advocacy for the Rigal-Expósito family here. GLA is committed to defending fundamental rights, such as freedom of religion and of belief.
You can learn more about GLA’s work on our Facebook page or our Twitter account.
The Global Liberty Alliance has received disturbing new information from the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba (Asociación de Yorubas Libres de Cuba) documenting numerous violations of fundamental rights on the island. The GLA is closely reviewing the material and is collaborating with the Free Yorubas to hold Cuban regime officials to account.
On April 29, 2020, the GLA urged the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to grant Precautionary Measures on behalf of Dr. Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces (see cover letter below). An independent journalist and former practicing attorney, Dr. Quiñones has been unlawfully imprisoned in Cuba since September 11, 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded Dr. Quiñones’s health status.
Dr. Quiñones is serving a year’s prison sentence for covering the show trial of homeschooler parents Pastors Ramón Rigal and Adya Expósito. On April 26, his son, who resides in Virginia, U.S.A., expressed concern for his father in a statement: “My father’s health condition is rapidly deteriorating under the terrible conditions to which he is subject in the Cuban jail. I want to ask the Cuban government to release my father again, especially now with this terrible situation with the virus, on the island and around the world.”
A “precautionary measure” is ruling by an international tribunal such as the IACHR directing a state, in this case Cuba, to take (or refrain from taking) certain measures in order to prevent or stop human rights violations in serious and urgent situations where the life and safety of the person are at stake.
Trump administration officials have repeatedly advocated for Dr. Quiñones. You can learn more about Dr. Quiñones’s case, including the U.S. government response, on the GLA Case Work page.
América TV featured GLA's action; you can see the video here. ADNCuba covered the story, as well, here.
On April 16, the Global Liberty Alliance (GLA) called for the Cuban government to free Roberto Quiñones, imprisoned journalist, poet, and lawyer, to the custody of his family. GLA issued this statement in support of Mr. Quiñones's family, who are no longer be able to visit him in prison because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and are concerned for his health.
¿Cómo me van a hacer romper la cuarentena para algo que no es tan urgente, y que no es nada de vida o muerte?
- Rev. Alain Toledano (en la foto)
La Alianza por la Libertad Global expresa su solidaridad con los líderes religiosos que han sido censurados y perseguidos por el régimen comunista de Cuba.
El régimen no sólo los ha “controlado”, no sólo los ha detenido incontables veces, no sólo les ha prohibido aparecer en la televisión junto a los líderes religiosos oficialistas. Tenemos entendido que al menos dos pastores evangélicos, en provincias distintas, han sido acusados de propagar el coronavirus, a pesar de no haber salido de sus casas en más de 20 días. A cada uno le ocurrió algo parecido: lo sacaron de su casa en plena cuarentena, lo detuvieron y lo situaron junto a otros donde podía contraer la enfermedad.
La táctica pertenece a una larga guerra de atrición que han librado el Partido Comunista de Cuba y su Oficina de Asuntos Religiosos, la “policía de religión” en Cuba. Esta táctica ya se ha visto en la pandemia con periodistas y otros disidentes. Muchos más, como el Pastor Ramón Rigal, siguen encarcelados por actuar de acuerdo a sus creencias. El desprecio de la Seguridad del Estado de Cuba por la salud y bienestar de sus ciudadanos en la pandemia COVID-19 es reprensible. GLA seguirá ayudándoles a resistir esta represión indebida, resaltando estos abusos y pidiendo cuentas a los violadores de derechos.
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How can they make me break quarantine for something that’s not that urgent, not a life-or-death situation?
- Rev. Alain Toledano (pictured)
The Global Liberty Alliance (GLA) expresses our solidarity with the religious leaders who have been censored and persecuted by the Cuban Communist regime.
The regime not only has them “controlled,” detained them countless times, blocked them from appearing on TV alongside state-sanctioned religious organizations. We have heard heard that at least two evangelical pastors, in different provinces, were accused of spreading the coronavirus, even though they’d not left their homes in over 20 days. Each one experienced something similar: he was taken from his home during full-blown quarantine, was detained, and was placed with others, where he could catch the illness.
These cruel tactics are part of a long-standing war of attrition waged by the Communist Party and its Office of Religious Affairs, Cuba’s religious police. These tactics have already been used during the pandemic against journalists and other dissidents. Many others, such as Pastor Ramón Rigal, are languishing in prison for acting in accordance with their beliefs. The indifference of Cuba’s State Security for the health and well-being of its people in the COVID-19 pandemic is reprehensible. GLA will continue to help them fight back against this undue repression by holding these people to account.
Days After Cuba Closes Schools, Mother Serves Out Sentence for Homeschooling
Today, March 27, 2020, Ayda Expósito Leyva, a Guantánamo pastor, wife of Pastor Ramón Rigal Rodríguez, and mother of two, was released from a yearlong prison sentence for having home-schooled her children. Her husband remains in prison until 2021. GLA is fighting against Cuba’s weak rule of law on behalf of the Rigal family; read our press release on the matter below.
MADRE QUE EDUCA EN EL HOGAR SALE DE LA CÁRCEL
Escuelas cubanas cerradas, la madre completó sanción por educar en casa
Al día de hoy, el 27 de marzo de 2020, Ayda Expósito Leyva, pastora protestante de Guantánamo, esposa del Pastor Ramón Rigal Rodríguez y madre de dos hijos, fue liberada, tras 11 meses de cárcel por haber educado a sus hijos en el hogar. Su esposo se queda en prisión hasta el 2021. GLA sigue luchando contra el flojo imperio de la ley en Cuba por la familia Rigal; lea nuestro comunicado de prensa sobre el asunto a continuación.
U.S. COMMISSION NAMES CUBA AS TIER 2 RELIGIOUS FREEDOM ABUSER / CUBA NOMBRADA COMO VIOLADORA NIVEL 2 DE LIBERTAD RELIGIOSA
On March 10, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) named Cuba as a Tier 2 violator of religious freedoms in its 2019 Annual Report. This Report enumerates regular serious violations of freedom of conscience on the island, spearheaded by its Office of Religious Affairs and State Security. GLA joins its voice to the USCIRF’s recommendations of sanctions so that for the U.S. government protect freedom of worship in Cuba: 1) deny visas to religious freedom abusers, especially Religious Affairs Head, Caridad Diego; 2) facilitate the U.S. visa application process for Cuban religious leaders, whether they are officially recognized or not; 3) encourage other countries to bring up Cuba’s freedom of worship violations in every discussion with or about Cuba.
See press release below for more information. Spanish below press release.
El 10 del presente, la Comisión de Estados Unidos para la Libertad Religiosa Internacional (“USCIRF” por su nombre en inglés) nombró a Cuba como infractor de Nivel 2 contra la libertad religiosa en su Informe Anual de 2019. Este Informe delinea una serie de violaciones graves y regulares de la libertad de conciencia en la isla, encabezadas por la Oficina de Asuntos Religiosos (OAR) y la Seguridad del Estado. GLA se une a la USCIRF en importunar al gobierno de los EE.UU. a defender la libertad del culto en Cuba con unas sanciones: 1) denieguen visas a infractores contra la libertad religiosa, en particular Caridad Diego, jefa de la OAR; 2) faciliten la solicitud de visas americanas para líderes religiosos cubanos oficiales o extraoficiales; 3) animen a otros países a tratar las violaciones de libertad de culto en toda discusión con o sobre Cuba.
Véase el comunicado de prensa a continuación:
On March 11, The Global Liberty Alliance urged the Trump administration to consider reassessing travel warnings and protocols for travel to and from Cuba. Read the letter to Secretary of State Pompeo:
On March 16, Miami-Dade County Commission drafted a resolution to restrict travel to and from Cuba given the country’s susceptibility to COVID-19. See the PDF below:
CUBA’S STATE SECURITY CONTINUES TO TARGET CUBAN YORUBAS: SECURITY OFFICIALS THREATENED FREE YORUBAS, SAID THE ONLY GOD IS FIDEL CASTRO
Alexandria, Virginia – On March 11, the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba (Asociación de Yorubas Libres de Cuba, or “Free Yorubas”) was again targeted by Cuban State Security. During the past few months, the Global Liberty Alliance has noticed an intimidation uptick aimed at the Free Yorubas.
The husband and wife team, Ms. Donaida Pérez Paseiro and Mr. Loreto Hernández García, Executive Secretary and Vice President of the Free Yorubas, were detained in Placetas. In two hours of interrogation, State Security threatened the coupled in a variety of ways including the desecration of ceremonial objects and imprisonment for alleged visits to the home of a known dissident to recruit for the Association.
Dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, reports that the Free Yorubas’ Executive Board has issued an alert to international faith organizations. They state: “we ask for close monitoring of the physical well-being of this husband and wife, members of the Association’s Executive Board, who are only trying to act on their beliefs and are victims of persecution.”
During the interrogation Ms. Pérez alleges, regime officials mocked all faiths, professing that “there is only one god, Fidel Castro,” and saying something unprintable, because of its vulgarity, about what the Communist Party would do to God, the saints, and orishas.
“If you swear allegiance to the atheist Communist Party, no problem. The moment you profess a different point of view or, worse, as the Free Yorubas do, challenge the system to live free of the party control, you’re in trouble,” said Jason Poblete of the Global Liberty Alliance.
Free Yorubas leader Ms. Eliaisys Almeida Pavón was also detained on February 24. The association was founded in 2012 by Yorubas who disagreed with the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, 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 ransackings without probable cause.
In early February 2020, the Free Yorubas challenged Ms. Caridad Diego, head of the ORA, to a public debate on freedom of conscience. The request was ignored, but state hostility appears to have escalated since. A group of human rights defenders including the Global Liberty Alliance has asked the U.S. government to sanction officials engaged in religious persecution such as persons working with the Office of Religious Affairs.
The Global Liberty Alliance is committed to defending fundamental rights and the rule of law, including the fundamental right to worship freely and follow his or her personal belief about faith or conscience matters. You can find more information about the work that GLA is doing for people of different faith traditions on our blog, our Facebook page, or our Twitter account. You can watch the below Declaration by Ms. Pérez Paseiro (in Spanish). This press release will also be posted in Spanish.
CUBA’S RELIGIOUS POLICE CONTINUES HARASSING AND INTIMIDATING THE ASSOCIATION OF FREE YORUBAS OF CUBA
by Veronica Mayer
GLA Urges the United States to Impose Economic Sanctions on the Office of Religious Affairs
(Washington, D.C.) On February 24, under the color of law, Cuban security services harassed Ms. Eliaisys Almeida Pavón, Head of Public Relations of the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba (Asociación de Yorubas Libres de Cuba, or “Free Yorubas”), for allegedly frequenting the home of a known Cuban dissident. Using police citations to harass people of faith is consistent with the regime’s ongoing campaign of intimidation against the Free Yorubas and other belief traditions that are independent of the state. (See the attached August 19, 2019 letter to Secretary Pompeo on this matter.)