NEW YORK — Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the arbitrary arrest of activists Oscar Luis Milian and Yoandrys Gutiérrez, members of the Cuba-based youth movement Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana.
Both activists were detained for six hours last week at José Martí Airport in Havana when returning to the country after taking part in meetings with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro. The meetings — organized by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy within the framework of the 46th General Assembly of the OAS in Santo Domingo — brought together human rights and democracy activists from all over the hemisphere.
“Bringing notepads and pens with slogans in favor of democracy and human rights into Cuba has always been considered a ‘subversive’ activity by Cuba’s 57-year-old dictatorship,” said Javier El-Hage, HRF’s chief legal officer. “Oscar and Yoandrys join an endless list of brave activists who are treated like criminals for daring to bring information from the outside world to ordinary citizens in Cuba. If Raúl Castro really wants to show tolerance and openness, he should begin by dismantling the regime’s repressive structure that prohibits people to think for themselves,” added El-Hage.
Milian and Gutiérrez were released six hours after their arrival in the Cuban capital and were never informed of the reason for their arrest. The activists brought promotional materials for the Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana, which included items such as pens and notebooks with the organization’s logo. Customs officers at the airport confiscated everything. The leaders of the organization, Kirenia Yalitz and José Rolando Casares, told HRF over the phone that confiscating items is common, especially when they belong to activists and members of the opposition.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.