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Yoe Suarez. Credit: Angel Del Castillo


CSW calls on the Cuban authorities to lift travel ban against independent journalist

5 Feb 2021

Today marks one year since Cuban independent journalist Yoe Suárez was put under a government-imposed international travel ban. Over the past year, Mr Suárez, who frequently writes about human rights issues, including freedom of religion or belief (FoRB), has been repeatedly summoned and threatened by the police and Cuban State security.

On 26 January Mr Suárez received an official summons to appear at the Siboney Police station in Havana at 10am. He complied with the order and was isolated in a cell where he was frisked by a police officer before being interrogated by three state security agents, who questioned him about his activities as a journalist and on social media. The agents warned that they were “concerned” about Mr Suárez’s ’s activity on social networks, which they described as “confrontational.”

The officers asked Mr Suárez about his journalism for independent news site Diario de Cuba (Cuba Daily), where he has written about his experiences of state-orchestrated harassment and other human rights violations in Cuba. An officer called Johnathan threatened Mr Suárez, saying that as long as he continued to write for Diario de Cuba, he would not leave the country.
At the end of the interrogation, Mr Suárez was warned that he faces a 10–20-year prison sentence or the death penalty under the Cuban Penal Code. The officer also stated that these “interviews” were a “prophylactic measure,” effectively confirming that their actions are aimed at discouraging and impeding Mr Suárez’s work.

Throughout 2020, Mr Suárez received six police summons, including four issued during a national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On one occasion, he was blindfolded and taken to an unknown location where he was detained and interrogated by two officers for an hour.

Mr Suárez’s family has also been threatened. During an interrogation in April 2020, a state security agent called Captain Jorge informed him that he could lose custody of his infant son due to his political beliefs.  In addition, Mr Suárez’s mother was summoned three times in 2020 and has been interrogated by state security agents on two occasions.

Mr Suárez told CSW that the fact that he has no current travel plans does not justify the government’s removal of his right to travel and added: “The reason for my travel ban is related to my work as a journalist covering societal issues, culture, conscience and religion – these last two subjects are poorly understood and badly covered in the Cuban press. On 5 February 2021, it will have been a year since I have been ‘regulado’ [under an international travel ban] by the Cuban socialist regime. Every metre of our coast is now behind bars, and the island has become 109,884 square kilometre prison. As sad as it might be, this is not limited to me alone: there are 250 Cuban citizens who are prohibited from leaving the country’s borders because of their political ideas. In short, this the most widespread discrimination in Cuba: politics.”

CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said: “Yoe Suárez has dedicated himself to reporting on the realities experienced by Cubans, including those who have been subjected to severe violations of freedom of religion or belief. As a result of this brave and important work, he and his family have borne the brunt of heavy-handed and consistent pressure by the authorities. We call for the immediate lifting of the travel ban on Mr Suárez, and the many others like him, without condition. We further call on the Cuban authorities to cease all harassment of Mr Suárez and his family, and to ensure that the right to freedom of expression, freedom of religion or belief and other fundamental human rights are fully upheld and respected.”

Note to Editors:

  1. Mr Suárez, 30, has worked with non-state media outlets in Cuba since 2014 and has written extensively about human rights and freedom of religion or belief issues. In 2016, he was expelled from the Latin American News Agency, Cuba’s official state news agency for working with non-state media news outlets. Since then, Suárez has been repeatedly harassed and targeted by the Cuban authorities, culminating in his ‘regulado’ status which bans him from travel outside of Cuba. In recent years, the Cuban government has increasingly used travel bans to silence critical voices, including human rights defenders and members of independent civil society, including some religious leaders.
  2. Reporters without Borders considers Cuba to be the worst in Latin America for violations of freedom of the press.



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