Frankfurt am Main / Havana, January 6, 2020 – While many people around the world start the new year full of confidence, regime critics in Cuba are suffering from the regime’s diverse reprisals. The Frankfurt-based International Society for Human Rights (IGFM) is currently monitoring the condition of Xiomara Cruz Miranda, a member of the civil rights organization “Ladies in White”, which has been awarded the Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament. The 58-year-old was infected with tuberculosis in prison and receives insufficient medical care.
Two other “Ladies in White”, Martha Sánchez and Aymara Nieto Muñoz, are currently in custody. A wide variety of criminal offenses are assumed. “In truth, however, they were sentenced to four years in prison for their peaceful protests. This is a signal to the world that Cuba will be far from being a free country in 2020, where human rights apply. A total of 126 political prisoners are detained on the island”, said Martin Lessenthin, Speaker of the Board of the ISHR.
Disastrous housing situation
Xiomara Cruz Miranda, born in Havana in August 1961, had long been a thorn in the side of the Cuban regime as a member of the “Ladies in White” and the democracy movement UNPACU. The starting point of her commitment to changes in her home country was the disastrous housing situation in Cuba. Part of her apartment collapsed in 2005, the wall almost killed her seven-year-old grandson at the time. While he was in the hospital for three months, the authorities told Xiomara that they had no other living space for them. Although the family had been waiting for housing for 30 years, the officials gave them little hope.
However, Xiomara did not let herself be brushed off and stayed at the housing authority together with her daughter and the plastered grandson. Finally, they received a two-room apartment in the Guanabacoa district, in a building that was contaminated with asbestos. At the time, she first came into contact with other Cuban human rights defenders and was involved with them for a better Cuba. A neighbor introduced her to the “Ladies in White” in 2013.
Xiomara Cruz Miranda quickly noticed that the “Ladies in White” are under special observation by the Cuban regime and are repeatedly victims of assaults. For example, in April 2016 she demonstrated together with other fellow campaigners in Fraternity Park and was therefore arrested. Because she refused to pay the fine, she was detained in the Guatao Women’s Prison. She waited a year and eight months for her trial and was finally released on parole after almost two years. Despite these hardships, she continued her commitment to the release of political prisoners. The day after a Castro supporter threw stones on the roof of her house, she was arrested on September 12, 2018, for threatening this woman. Without legal counsel, she was sentenced to one year and four months in prison.
Diagnosis of tuberculosis
Xiomara Cruz Miranda got sick while in Ciego de Ávila prison. The symptoms started between March and April 2019 – she got blisters all over her body and was diagnosed with an acute inflammatory skin disease. She was then transferred to the prison infirmary and finally to the Ciego de Ávila provincial hospital in July. According to her daughter Clara Iznaga, Xiomara had often deliberately not received the medication she needed. In August 2019, Xiomara Cruz Miranda was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Salvador Allende hospital with high fever, and later to that of the La Benéfica hospital in Havana, when she almost had a breathing arrest. Eventually she was released from prison due to her poor health to her home with the diagnosis of tuberculosis.
Critical health requires a US humanitarian visa
Berta Soler, the spokeswoman for the “Ladies in White” describes Xiomara’s state of health: In addition to shortness of breath, water in the lungs and loss of appetite, the civil rights activist also has to deal with incontinence and bowel problems. Another member of the “Ladies in White”, Yamilé Bargés, denounces the poor medical care that Xiomara saw during a visit to the hospital. “In addition to the founder and chairman of the democracy movement UNPACU Daniel Ferrer, who is a political prisoner since October 1st without legal aid and official charge and who is in poor health, the case of Xiomara Cruz Miranda again documents how the Cuban regime continues to harass, imprison under inhumane conditions and even risks the death of be inconvenient civil rights activists”, criticizes the ISHR.
The Ladies in White
The “Ladies in White” (“Damas de Blanco”) are the internationally best known civil rights movement in Cuba. They were founded in 2003 when 75 civil rights activists and independent journalists were arbitrarily arrested in the so-called Cuban “black spring”. Since then, the wives, sisters and mothers of political prisoners have been peacefully campaigning for the release of all political prisoners in Cuba. Dressed in white, they regularly visit Sunday masses in numerous Cuban cities and then walk silently through the streets. They hold a gladiolus in one hand and a photo of a detained family member in the other. The European Parliament awarded the “Ladies in White” in December 2005 the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for their courageous commitment to human rights. Although they have been subjected to violence and reprisals since the beginning, women refuse to give up their struggle for human rights and freedom in Cuba. They are regularly attacked by groups of thugs loyal to the regime and prevented from peaceful expression of their opinion by state authorities. Her leader Laura Pollán died suddenly on October 14, 2011 at the age of 63 – officially reported from a heart attack. The members of the “Ladies in White” and other regime critics assume, however, that the hospital management had something to do with the death of the rigid human rights activist.