Cuban Human Rights Defender Raided by the Police
On Saturday 16 April, the Cuban human rights defender María Elena Mir Marrero sent out a distress signal through the Natalia Project alarm. The emergency signal indicated that she felt threatened, visited at her house by undercover state security agents. María Elena Mir Marrero is a prominent activist who has been working for freedom of expression and association for many years. We are now working actively and in close cooperation with local organisations in order to ensure the safety of María Elena Mir Marrero.
Civil Rights Defenders received the alarm on Saturday through our global security programme Natalia Project and immediately made contact attempts and alerted her closest colleagues, who confirmed that the state security had invaded her home. Eight people, five women and three men, came to her home, presented as people from the community. Some of them are known as undercover state security agents. They spend an hour at her house saying they don’t like what she is doing and reminding her that they know she has a sick mother, a son and a grandson, who live within them, stressing that her seven years old grandson has to study in a revolutionary school. They urged to stop her activism and take care of them, so they won’t get hurt. They also explained that from now she would remain under siege, unable to leave her house until further notice. If she tries to leave her home. she will be detained.
On Friday, the Cuban Communist party initiated its eight party congress in Havana. The congress is held every five years. This year Raúl Castro will step down as first secretary, and a new head of the party will be appointed. The Congress is held in the middle of the worst economic crisis in the country since the early 90s, with severe shortages of all basic products as food, medicine and cleaning products. The government has also used the pandemic to increase repression against the independent civil society as well as citizens in general, with arbitrary detentions, threats, fines and smear campaigns in national media.
Protest have been planned in Havanna and other parts of the country. The threats against Maria Elena Mir Marrero and her colleague Manuel Cuesta Morúa, who has also been visited by State Security Department agents and is held under siege since Thursday, are clearly aimed at stopping the citizens assembly they are organising the coming days.
María Elena Mir Marrero has been fighting for freedom of expression and association for many years. She works with independent trade unions in Cuba and is also the Executive Director of the Muad (Mesa de Unidad para la Accion Democratica), the coordinator of Rellic (Red de Lideres y Lideresas Comunitarios) and a member of the Feminist Network of Cuba.
In her work, she focuses on identifying community leaders, guiding and empowering them, as well as strengthening their capacities to identify social issues and find possible solutions. María Elena is also actively involved in the work around the new Constitution where she is assisting in analysing it from human rights and gender-based approach. In addition to this, she is leading two radio programmes on independent channels where she talks about politics, the social and cultural situation in Cuba and the human rights abuses happening every day in the country.
Throughout her entire life, she has worked peacefully to change the political system in Cuba. She has been subjected to oppression and repression, both physically and mentally. In addition to the systematic harassment, which includes detentions, interceptions of her telecommunications, and physical and mental violence, and being banned from leaving the country, the police broke into her home and seized all her valuables in 2019. Based on the attacks against her in January 2020, the Interamerican Commission of Human Rights granted her a precautionary measure that remains in force to this date.
Natalia Project Response
One of our primary methods to strengthen human rights globally is to partner with human rights defenders and communities that are under constant threat of attacks. The aim is to make sure that they can continue their important work without having to fear for their lives. Since 2019, María Elena Mir Marrero is part of our global security programme Natalia Project. The alarm is designed for individuals at high risk of being targeted because of their work. In case of an attack, the alarm is activated and a distress signal with a geographical position goes off. Civil Rights Defenders and a network of human rights defenders can immediately start investigating the situation.
Links and Information
Read more about María Elena Mir Marrero:
- Cuba Detained Human Rights Defender in “Urgent Situation”
- The Country Where Time Stands Still – María Elena Mir Marrero
Find more information about Natalia Project here.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or +46 (0)76 576 24 62 for more information on María Elena Mir Marrero.