Dear Heads of State:
In the final declaration at the last Ibero-American Summit (November 2002 in the Dominican Republic), you stressed your interest in "promoting and protecting human rights".
Since then, 75 journalists, human rights activists, trade unionists, librarians and political activists have been arrested and sentenced to up to 28 years in prison. They had been working to "build democracy and the rule of law," a goal proclaimed in the Summit’s final declaration.
Among them was the journalist and poet Raúl Rivero, who was arrested on 20 March this year and sentenced on 7 April to 20 years in prison after a sham trial at which defence rights were not respected. He was accused of "undermining the country’s independence and territorial integrity." He defended himself by saying: "I don’t plot, I write."
Rivero was accused of publishing his articles outside the country, but only the state-controlled media is allowed in Cuba. He was also accused of meeting US diplomats in Havana. Neither of these actions are crimes in a democracy.
The evidence against him included a Sony radio, a tape recorder, a computer battery charger, a typewriter, a Samsung laptop computer and accessories and several audio and video cassettes allegedly "containing material aimed at destroying Cuba’s economic, political and social system."
Rivero is not the only victim. The Cuban Commisson for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reports that the crackdown of last March increased the number of political prisoners in the country to more than 300.
As a new Ibero-American Summit opens, our committee calls on you to stick to your promises and make human rights your main focus. We know several of you who have suffered under repressive regimes will be especially concerned to do this.
Our committee is alarmed that neither Brazilian President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva or Argentine foreign minister Rafael Bielsa met the families of the jailed dissidents during their recent visits to Havana.
We urge all of you to press Vice-President Carlos Lage, who will represent Cuba at the Summit, for the release of these prisoners. Our committee also calls on you to condemn their imprisonment in the final declaration of the Summit, whose duty is to defend the principles it proclaims.
We trust you will give these requests of ours your very best attention.
Jorge Semprun, writer, president of the Raúl Rivero Support Committee
Robert Ménard, secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders
Jorge Masetti and Ileana de la Guardia, Sin Visa
Join the Raúl Rivero Support Committee