Frankfurt am Main/Havana, 14 September 2020 – Sunflowers against dictatorship: Peacefully dressed in yellow and with sunflowers in their hands, Cuban civil rights activists protested on 8 September 2020 for human rights and the release of all political prisoners in Cuba. As the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) has learned, a total of 84 people were arrested in the course of the protest, including the well-known leader of the democracy movement UNPACU, José Daniel Ferrer, and the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler. Twenty civil rights activists are still in custody or missing.
“The Sunflower Revolution is not an attempt at violent overthrow, but a peaceful call for freedom, human rights and democracy in Cuba. However, the arbitrary arrests and the harsh actions of the State Security show that the regime feels threatened by this and hopes to intimidate the movement by arresting the organisers and prominent civil rights activists such as José Daniel Ferrer,” the ISHR said.
Arrested together with family
José Daniel Ferrer was arrested together with his wife Nelva Ortega and his son José Daniel Ferrer Cantillo when they were leaving their home in Santiago de Cuba. Several officers had previously been monitoring the house, as well as the houses of other civil rights activists and UNPACU headquarters. Ferrer and his family were released later that day, according to the ISHR, which has a section in Cuba. The founder and president of the Cuban opposition movement UNPACU had only been released from political imprisonment into a four-and-a-half-year house arrest on 3 April 2020.
Communist Party instrumentalises patron saint
In Cuba the colour yellow and sunflowers are traditionally associated with the Merciful Virgin of Cobre, the country’s patron saint. In her honour, devout Cubans dress in yellow and wear sunflowers on 8 September. In a commentary on Twitter, Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro, thanked the Merciful Virgin for protecting the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro. This instrumentalisation of the patron saint for the propaganda of the communist party annoyed numerous users, who discharged their displeasure in critical comments.
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