Blind Opposition Leader in Peril

Monday, January 25, 2010
Cuban opposition leader Juan Carlos González Leiva, Executive Secretary of the Cuban Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs ("the Council"), has made an appeal for protection to the international community. An alarming wave of repression has taken place this week and several leaders of Cuba's pro-democracy movement have been beaten and arrested.

The Council is a coalition of over 500 human rights monitors representing approximately 70 groups, as well as political prisoners in 50 prisons (of over 250 believed to be in existence). It reports the most egregious violations against citizens and human rights advocates throughout Cuba.

On Wednesday, January 20th, the Castro regime attempted to forcibly transplant González Leiva, a blind lawyer, and his wife, independent journalist Tania Maceda, from Havana to the province of Ciego de Avila, claiming he is in the capital illegally. González Leiva and Maceda resisted, bunkered themselves inside their home and are relying on friends and supporters to bring them food. They vowed to continue working on the Council's 2009 Annual Report of human rights abuses.

In mid-2007, González Leiva had switched his residence to the Havana home of a blind friend, Sergio Díaz Larrastegui, in accordance with laws allowing those assisting the handicapped to live in their homes. Having endured imprisonment, beatings, threats, harassment and abuses by the government for years, González Leiva sought access to Internet from diplomatic missions, greater protection from international journalists stationed in the capital, and greater organizational capacity for the Council. By banishing González Leiva and Maceda to the far-away province, the regime seeks to ostracize them and prevent the Council's reports from being broadcast abroad. Council members throughout the island have been subject to constant harassment, threats, and detentions, their email accounts blocked and tape recorders confiscated.

For more information on the Council, please visit Cuba Archive's "Documenting Inside Cuba."