AFTER THE ARBITRARY DETENTION OF U.S. PRESIDENT MEDAL OF FREEDOM RECIPIENT, DR. OSCAR ELIAS BISCET, GLA URGES THE U.S. MOVE SWIFTLY AN IMPOSE SANCTIONS ON CUBA’S RELIGION POLICE
Washington, DC – Early today 7 Cuban State Security officers entered the home in Havana, Cuba of U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet and his wife, Elsa Morejón. Dr. Biscet was released late this afternoon, after paying a fine of 500 CUP.
“Dr. Biscet is no stranger to the regime’s brutal tactics. And regrettably, this is not an isolated incident. It’s part of the systematic targeting of civil society in the last two years of anyone who seeks to exercise their fundamental rights. The U.S. government should, among other things, sanction Cuba’s Religion Police and anyone involved in the arbitrary detention of dissidents and civil society leaders,” said Jason Poblete, Attorney, Global Liberty Alliance.
According to Elsa Morejón’s Tweets, some of which have since been deleted, regime officials confiscated computers, cellular phones, a camera, documents, and Internet cables. Cuban police records state that they did this on suspicion that objects were acquired illicitly.
Dr. Biscet, who was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 2007, was featured in a video on religious persecution at the National Prayer Breakfast on February 6, as was reported on our website earlier. He served over twelve years in prison on two different sentences for promoting human rights in Cuba, is currently on parole for the rest of his 25-year sentence, and has been denied the ability to leave the country for several years.
On August 19, 2019, the GLA and two other NGOs urged the Trump administration to impose economic sanctions and restrict U.S. visas to officials of Cuba’s Office of Religious Affairs. You can find the letter and release on the GLA website here.
by Veronica Mayer
Washington, D.C.) On Friday, February 14, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States advised the Global Liberty Alliance that it has granted Precautionary Measures in support of several members of a Cuban political opposition party, the Patriotic Union of Cuba better known by its Spanish acronym, UNPACU. These are: Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU President, Fernando Gonzalez Valliant, and Jose Pupo Chaveco y Roilan.
(Washington, D.C.) On February 6, 2020, Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet, Cuban human rights advocate and recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, was featured at the National Prayer Breakfast. This annual celebration of faith, hosted by Members of the U.S. Congress and attended by U.S. Presidents since 1953, had over 4,000 people in attendance this year from all U.S. states and many nations, of varied cultures and faiths.
This year Dr. Biscet was highlighted in a video on religious persecution shown during the Breakfast, as one of 11 international religious leaders suffering for their strongly-held beliefs. Imprisoned for over 25 years for his support of religious liberty and human rights in Cuba, Dr. Biscet was prevented from leaving the country in order to attend the Breakfast.
As he was unable to attend in person, Dr. Biscet conveyed his deep gratitude and thanks in a written letter to U.S. Congressman John Moolenar, U.S. Congressman Thomas Suozzi, and former Virginia Congressman Frank Wolff who recommended Dr. Biscet’s plight be highlighted at the 2020 breakfast. Among other things, Dr. Biscet said:
“Today, in my country, we are experiencing an escalation of persecution at the hands of the Cuban government against those people from many walks of life, including pro-democracy activists, and religious institutions, who have become more adamant in their defense of human rights and seek a change toward freedom and democracy.” Biscet recognized the United States’s defense of religious liberty as a blessing, adding that he gave “thanks to Almighty God whose hand can be seen defending and protecting religious liberty in your country, the United States of America.”
As President Trump notes in the video, around 80% of the world’s population suffer from religious persecution, and it is important to remember those repressed by their governments, as Speaker Pelosi observes in her remarks. You can see the video segment on religious liberty on cable network C-SPAN’s live broadcast of the event here.
Global Liberty Alliance and Legal Defense Fund (“the Global Liberty Alliance”) attorneys, public policy professionals, and academics in the United States and in other nations collaborate on matters to help advance the public interest, defend fundamental rights and liberty. To learn more about Dr. Biscet’s six-point plan for liberty in Cuba, visit the Project Emilia website.
(Washington, D.C.) El 6 de febrero de 2020, el doctor Óscar Elías Biscet, defensor cubano de los derechos humanos y galardonado de la Medalla Presidencial de la Libertad de los EE.UU., tuvo un papel destacado en el Desayuno Nacional de Oración. Esta celebración anual de la fe, patrocinada por los Miembros del Congreso de los Estados Unidos a la que los Presidentes de los Estados Unidos han acudido desde 1953, acogió a más de 4.000 asistentes este año de todos los Estados y de muchas naciones, quienes representan a varias culturas y creencias religiosas. Se destacó al Dr. Biscet en un vídeo sobre la persecución religiosa presentado al Desayuno como uno de 11 líderes religiosos que sufren por sus firmes convicciones.
Este año se destacó al Dr. Biscet en un vídeo sobre la persecución religiosa que se presentó en el Desayuno, como uno de 11 líderes religiosos que sufren a causa de sus firmes convicciones. Al Dr. Biscet, quien ha sido encarcelado por más de 25 años por apoyar la libertad de culto y los derechos humanos en Cuba, no lo permitieron salir de su país para asistir al Desayuno.
Como no pudo asistir en persona, el Dr. Biscet comunicó su profundo aprecio y agradecimiento en una carta dirigida al congresista estadounidense John Moolenar, al congresista Thomas Suozzi y al antiguo representante de Virginia Frank Wolff, quienes brindaron su apoyo a que se destacara el aprieto del doctor en el Desayuno de 2020. Entre otras cosas, dijo:
«Hoy, en el país, estamos en una escalada creciente de persecuciones por parte del gobierno cubano contra la población, los activistas prodemocráticos e instituciones religiosas, que se han vuelto más firmes en la defensa de los derechos humanos y desean un cambio hacia la libertad y la democracia.» Biscet también reconoció la bendición de la defensa de la libertad religiosa en los Estados Unidos: «Doy gracias al Dios Bíblico que en su país, EEUU, está dando muestra en la práctica de la defensa y protección de la libertad religiosa.»
Como nota el Presidente Trump en el vídeo, hacia 80% de la población mundial padece la persecución religiosa, y cabe recordar a los que han sido reprimidos por sus gobiernos, como observa la Presidenta de la Cámara de Representantes Pelosi en sus comentarios. Se puede ver el vídeo sobre la libertad de culto en la transmisión en directo de la cadena de cable C-SPAN, aquí.
La Alianza para la Libertad Global y Fondo para la Defensa Legal (“La Alianza para la Libertad Global”) se compone de abogados, especialistas en políticas públicas y académicos de los Estados Unidos y de otros países, quienes colaboran en los asuntos para ayudar a promover el interés público y defender los derechos fundamentales y la libertad.
The Cuban regime is one of the worst offenders of religious liberty in the Western Hemisphere. Two months ago, the Global Liberty Alliance (GLA) received disturbing reports about a series of anti-Semitic attacks against a Sephardic Jewish family in Camagüey, Cuba. After Havana, Camagüey is Cuba’s third-largest city and is located in the central part of the island.
Working with independent lawyers in lawyers, in December 2019 the GLA started supporting and advising the Tejada family. Based on preliminary reports from the independent lawyers and the family, it appears that what started as an apparent schoolyard bullying incident over the kippah, may have been part of a coordinated intimidation anti-semitic campaign. The matter took on a more serious tone a few weeks ago when a Rapid Response Brigade appears to have been mobilized against the parents.
At this juncture, Mr. Olainis Tejeda Beltrán’s eldest son, Liusdán Martínez Lescaille, has been instructed by Cuba’s Ministry of Education that he must stop wearing a kippah to school. If the Tejada family fails to comply with the government’s latest orders, Liusdán’s parents have been told by Communist Party apparatchiks that they could face fines and prison times. This case is similar to the pattern of attack used against the Rigal family in Guantanamo. Christians, the parents are currently in prison for homeschooling their children. You can learn more about the Rigal matter here and here.
“Religious liberty is incompatible with socialist thinking. The regime’s puppet lawyers and officials use legal technicalities and regulations to repress religious liberty. Mr. Tejeda and his family are being put through the system to teach them a lesson; however, independent lawyers and civil society leaders have, and will, come to their defense. We will have their backs,” said Jason Poblete, GLA Chief Counsel.
The GLA has been in contact with U.S. government officials and policymakers about the Tejada matter along with other religious persecution cases. In the near future, the GLA will release more details about how Cuba’s religious police – the Office of Religious Affairs – is supporting Communist Party efforts to repressing religious freedom on the island. We will also provide an update on the Tejada matter. In the meantime, you can learn more about the Tejada’s case by reading this story in the Jerusalem Post.
LIBERTY COALITION URGES THE U.S. GOVERNMENT TO STEP UP MEASURES TO COMBAT CUBAN HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN HEALTHCARE WORKERS
Alexandria, Virginia – A coalition of organizations including Cuba Archive, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and the Global Liberty Alliance sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week urging the administration to step up efforts to hold Cuba to account for human trafficking in healthcare workers. The letter is embedded at the end of this post.
“The Cuban regime uses medical missions to gain economic and political benefits and, in the process, to undermine U.S. interests throughout the region and beyond,” says the letter. “In Venezuela, Cuba’s medical “collaborators” have long been used as political weapons to export Cuban communism. Cuba’s medical missions have been expelled from Brazil, El Salvador, and, most recently, Ecuador and Bolivia owing to security and human rights issues.”
The Cuba Archive, the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, and the Global Liberty Alliance have teamed to help raise awareness of Cuba’s human trafficking in healthcare workers. Among other action items, during the next few months, the coalition will publish evidence of healthcare human trafficking and also hold traffickers to account in a variety of ways.
The coalition recommends the “U.S. government expand its use of economic sanctions and deny U.S. visas to foreign government officials or private sector stakeholders who are known to have been or are implicated in, or responsible for, the exploitation of Cuban medical workers.”
“Human trafficking in health workers by Cuba impacts well beyond the island gulag, hurting U.S. national security and foreign policy interests in the Western Hemisphere and beyond,” Jason Poblete, GLA Chief Counsel said. “We look forward to working with the Cuba Archive and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation to expose this network and hold lawbreakers to account,” added Poblete.
Alexandria, Virginia – The U.S. Department of State announced this weekend that the U.S. government had imposed economic sanctions and visa restrictions on a high-ranking Cuban intelligence official and his family for gross violations of fundamental rights in Cuba and Venezuela.
“This is a good development and builds upon President Trump’s reorientation of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere. For decades the Communist Party, as well as senior Cuban government officials, have been given free pass by U.S. policymakers and allies in the region,” said Jason Poblete of the Global Liberty Alliance. “Access to the U.S. market is a privilege, not a right. Anyone who engages or facilitates gross violations of fundamental rights should be held to account. This designation is part of that process,” added Poblete.
The State Department November 16 notice states Mr. Julio Cesar Gandarilla Bermejo, Cuba’s Minister of Cuba’s Ministry of the Interior (MININT), had been publicly designated under Section 7031(c) of the FY 2019 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, due to his involvement, by command responsibility, in gross violations of human rights. The designation can be done publicly or privately. In this case, it was done publicly, likely to send a message to senior Cuban regime officials.
Pursuant to U.S. laws, the Secretary of State can make these designations where the Secretary has credible information that foreign government officials have been involved in significant corruption or a gross violation of human rights (GVHR). When these individuals and their immediate family members are designated, they are deemed ineligible for entry into the United States. In addition to the public designation of Julio Cesar Gandarilla Bermejo, Secretary of State Pompeo publicly designated his children, Julio Cesar Gandarilla Sarmiento, and Alejandro Gandarilla Sarmiento.
The Global Liberty Alliance, in conjunction with several other human rights advocacy groups, urged the Trump administration earlier this year to publicly designate and impose economic sanctions on Cuba’s Office of Religious Affairs. You can read more about it here. In addition, for several years the Global Liberty Alliance has also recommended other designations of senior officials of the Communist Party and the Cuban government.
“Other governments in the Americas and beyond should support the Trump administration’s efforts to hold gross violators of fundamental rights to account. Spain, Canada, the European Union, indeed, any nation with close relations with Cuba should impose economic sanctions and deny visas to senior regime officials and their family members,” added Poblete.
Alexandria, Virginia – For several weeks, the Communist government of Cuba and the party apparatus have ruthlessly targeted Cuban opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (“UNPACU”). Unlawfully detained on October 1, 2019, Mr. Ferrer has since been subjected to all forms of torture.
With the support of Mr. Ferrer’s family and a coalition that represents a large cross-section of Cuba’s opposition movement, the Global Liberty Alliance (“GLA”) requested that the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights of the Organization of American States press the Cuban government to adopt precautionary measures to protect the lives of Mr. Ferrer and his other UNPACU colleagues who have been unlawfully detained in Cuba for weeks.
Attached is the complete press release with supporting documentation.
In a letter to Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin this week, House Western Hemisphere Subcommittee Chairman Albio Sires (D- New Jersey) urged the Trump administration to hold Nicaraguan officials accountable for acts of corruption and serious violations of human rights.
“The repression carried out against peaceful protestors in 2018 by security forces and affiliated groups under the direction of President Daniel Ortega resulted in over 300 deaths and 800 arbitrary detentions,” Chairman Sires said. Sires added that “[w]hile I appreciate the actions that your department has already taken, including designations of three officials that were announced today, I urge you to fully utilize the tools available under U.S. law,” and impose additional sanctions on other Nicaraguan officials.
For several years the Global Liberty Alliance has been tracking gross violations of fundamental rights in Nicaragua. The GLA has also met or talked with civil society leaders from Nicaragua, including family members and representatives of American citizens who have been targeted by the Ortega-Murillo regime. The GLA has also been urging U.S. policymakers to impose tougher sanctions, visa restrictions, and otherwise hold violators of fundamental rights to account for what they have done, and continue to do, to undermine regional security and U.S. national interests.
Since 2008 several Americans have been killed and/or tortured by agents of the Cuba-backed Ortega-Murillo regime.
Embedded in this post is a copy of Chairman Sires’s letter to Secretary Mnunuchin. Nic Letter 11-7-19 on Scribd:
Open Letter from Nizar Zakka, Former Iran Hostage, On the Fourth Anniversary of his Abduction
On this day four years ago, kidnappers decided to make September 18, 2015, a turning point in my life. The only motivation was to make me a pawn in their campaign against the emerging spirit of openness in their country, a process which was heading toward the nuclear deal.
On this day, four years ago, I was forced to begin a journey of the harshest bitterness, pain and sorrow. My only fault was that, on that day, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, on my way back from Tehran to Beirut, concluding an official working visit at the invitation of the Iranian Presidency.
This has been a crushing ordeal for me and my family. You can’t imagine the suffering this causes until you’ve lived it. This ordeal has changed me, permanently. I can’t rest; I can’t sleep. My waking hours are filled with pain. During my fitful hours of sleep, these dreams torture my soul. My priorities have changed. The wound is brutal and painful. I had not imagined that its impact could be so horrific, a horror I live with every day. Family is my one comfort, especially my three brave sons who risked so much to bring about my release.
Today I spent the fourth anniversary of my detention alone in the presence of God, in silent isolation. I wanted to be away from anyone, even from my family. I try to forgive, to overcome injustice and pain. I strive to gather the broken pieces of my life and emerge from my distress, in order to regain the rest of my life that the kidnappers so brutally tried to take from me. They unjustly and oppressively robbed from me 4 years, which I feel was more like 4 decades. My life was turned upside down. My family was scattered, and my three children were denied parental care at the most critical and delicate times in their lives. I lost my job and everything I struggled for over the past 30 years.
It is no secret that my priorities have changed, and that my view of life and of people has changed. I want to spend the rest of my life ensuring that no one suffers what I endured, an innocent oppressed in the face of my executioner. This is my message and the message left to my conscience by all those who contributed to my victory, my rescue and my liberation, including my family, the Lebanese people, the U.S. Congress, the international community, and many many others. This is my message towards those who are still suffering in Evin and in any other prison around the world, waiting for their moment of freedom.
will make sure that my great pain gets invested in the service of peace, and I will strive every day to bring more attention to the issues of hostages and forcibly detained people, so that the forces of evil will not find a single shrine to declare a delusional victory over right and good.
For all this, I am in a hurry to heal, fully aware of the difficulty of the process of liberation from Evin’s pain and thick wounds.
I take the sad moment of the fourth anniversary of my detainment to ask the Secretary-General of the United Nations to take all possible measures to secure the release of the hostages in any detention facility, particularly in Iran. I ask the Secretary-General to explore every possible path in order to prevent innocent people rotting away in dehumanizing prisons, and used as blackmail and bargaining in the game of nations.
I ask you, Mr. Secretary-General, to stop, once and for all, this great injustice that will only bring about more injustice, and the hatred that will only produce further hatred.
ADN CUBA: U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE POMPEO URGED TO SANCTION CUBAN OFFICIALS FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM CRACKDOWN
Por ADN Cuba el 02 Sep 2019 – 7:20pm
Philanthropists, evangelists and lawyers concerned about individual liberty in Cuba recently urged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to issue new sanctions against regime officials whose job it is to suppress religious freedom on the Communist island.
The August 19 letter, signed by NGO officials Anna Lee B. Stangl of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Dr. Teo Babun, of “Scope of Aid to the Americas” and Jason Poblete of the Global Liberty Alliance formally asked Sec. Pompeo “to impose economic sanctions and restrict U.S. visas to persons who work for the ORA [Office of Religious Affairs] and the 1 2 Cuban Ministry of Justice.”
The authors also asked to “extend such economic sanctions to any individual or organization, no matter where they are located, who supports the ORA and the Cuban Ministry of Justice”.
As part of their request to take further action, the signatory NGO officials recognized Sec. Pompeo for his past efforts in “leading the defense of people of faith throughout the world,” and for being aware of the plight Cuban people have faced when openly trying to practice their religion.
In an interview with Diario de Cuba, Sec. Pompeo referenced a recent case of several religious leaders who were prevented by the Cuban regime from traveling to Washington, D.C.
“We are worried about the arrest of Roberto Quiñones (independent journalist and Catholic layman),” Sec. Pompeo told the Madrid based news organization. TheDiario de Cuba journalist who previously practiced law, and who currently lives in Cuba was summoned to trial the day after the newspaper published Sec. Pompeo’s comments.
“I am very surprised that after Mr. Pompeo made these statements I was summoned to trial,” Quiñones told ADNCUBA shortly before the trial which resulted in a one year prison sentence.
“The religious police of the Communist Party or the Office of Religious Affairs (ORA) is responsible for making it difficult for people of faith to exercise their fundamental rights,” the NGO letter insisted. “They use tactics that have already been used by other repressive systems, such as Stasi in East Germany. For years, the ORA has committed systematic, constant and heinous violations against the freedom of religion of people of faith.”
The letter also asks the US government to consider sanctions against officials who run and administer the Office of Religious Affairs, specifically making mention of Caridad del Rosario Diego, Sonia García and Rober Noa.
The letter also affirms that the Office “restricts the rights of prisoners to practice religion freely,” adding that the Cuban government “harasses or detains members of religious groups advocating for greater religious and political freedom.”
“We respectfully ask the US government (…) to investigate the entry into the United States of people who may have been affiliated with these Cuban entities that operate with impunity in Cuba”
Apostolic groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are ultimately denied entry into the official registry of Cuban churches because the ORA does not respond to registration requests to worship, the letter says.
Citing specific examples of religious repression, the letter refers to the cases of Pastors Ramón Rigal and Ayda Expósito, both tried and jailed for educating their children at home (homeschooling), and reference the ban on Catholic lay leaders from attending the funerals of Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega.
“We respectfully ask the US government (…) to investigate the entry into the United States of people who may have been affiliated with these Cuban entities that operate with impunity in Cuba,” the letter closes.
The NGO officials reminded Sec. Pompeo, that the U.S. State Department has, in the past recognized that the Castro regime “continues to control all aspects of religious life” through its institutions under the control of the Communist Party.”
“Under the direction of the Office of Religious Affairs, the government has continued to restrict national and international travel, stopping and, if necessary, using violence against religious leaders and their followers,” the authors argued.
In its final closing, the leaders also acknowledged that the ORA’s efforts to suppress religious freedom have transcended the island borders of Cuba and into other Communist states such as Nicaragua and Venezuela.