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Cuba27 April 2006

Cubanet contributor threatened under Law 88 and told he cannot leave home

Roberto Santana Rodríguez, a contributor to the Miami-based website Cubanet, has been harassed by State Security agents since February and ordered to stop writing, Reporters Without Borders said today, reiterating its criticism of the use of Law 88 (about Cuba’s independence and economy) to threaten dissidents with heavy prison sentences.

“We condemn the insidious methods used by State Security to silence the independent press,” the press freedom organisation said. “Summonses, threats of imprisonment and unexpected visits from State Security agents are all part of what dissident journalists have to endure these days. But brandishing the spectre of Law 88 is the most outrageous of all these practices, as if the existence of an independent press could threaten a country’s integrity.”

Santana received a surprise visit at his home in Santiago de las Vegas (on the outskirts of Havana) on 25 April from the local police chief, the local secretary of the Communist Party, the local coordinator of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution and a member of the Veterans Association. They told him was henceforth banned from leaving home, under pain of reprisals.

Santana described the visit as an act of intimidation orchestrated by State Security with the aim of preventing him from taking part in a teleconference due to take place later that day at the US Interests Section in Havana (which functions as an embassy in the absence of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba).

Santana has had other recent run-ins with the political police. He was summoned by the local police chief on 7 April and questioned by two State Security officers, who again told him he should stop working as a journalist or risk being sentenced to 20 years in prison under Law 88. They also mentioned his mother’s frail health.

The State Security also tried to discredit him in the eyes of his neighbours and asked them not to greet him any more. Despite this harassment, Santana said he was determined to continue reporting and writing.

He was previously summoned and interrogated on 13 February by two State Security officers, Lt. Col. Iván and Maj. Moisés Leonardo. Iván (whose surname is not known) showed Santana a bundle of articles he had written as well as recordings of calls he had made to Miami-based Radio Martí, and threatened him with imprisonment if he did not stop.

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