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Yoé Suárez

Cuban evangelicals defend freedom of expression in a public letter

Seven Christian intellectuals ask the state to “respect, guarantee and protect freedom of thought”, and demand “the freedom for Cuban parents to choose their children education”.

FEATURES AUTHOR Yoe Suárez 04 NOVEMBER 2019 11:00 h GMT+1
La Habana Cuba. / Wikimedia.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Raúl Castro, Secretary of the Communist Party:

Cuba requires goodness. There are no opportunities to build a country for all while its children are imprisoned and so many voices are silenced.

Pastor Ramon Rigal and his wife, Ayda Expósito, were detained in April 2019 in the city of Guantanamo for exercising their right (consecrated in Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) to give their children an education in accordance with their principles and values.

In 2017 they were tried and sentenced to house arrest for carrying out education in the home, or homeschooling.

Rigal and Expósito made the decision after their oldest daughter, Ruth, came home from school with pain in her body. She had been kicked in the stomach because of her Christian faith.

In the face of this school bullying, they protected the girl in the way they believed to be right, even at the cost of their own freedom.

For more than two years the couple led a group of nine families who removed their children from state schools and put them in a program that included subjects such as mathematics, grammar and history among others, using the curriculum of the Colegio Hebrón in Guatemala, which specializes in home schooling.

This type of independent initiative on the part of its citizens reflects disagreements and a clear call to diversify the centralized Cuban education system. 

After he finished his first sentence, Rigal said, in a recording provided by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA), that the government blocked his family and him from leaving Cuba even though their flights were already purchased.

On April 19, Ramon Rigal and Ayda Expósito were subjected to a trial that ignored all due process. They didn’t even have time to call a lawyer to defend them in a trial that resulted in two years of a loss of freedom for him and one and a half for her for “acts against the normal development of the child, illicit association and association to commit crimes”.

After a prolonged and fruitless appeals process, Rigal was sent, without any justification, to the maximum security section in the Guantanamo prison where he is now serving his sentence.

WE DEMAND the end of the attacks on the Rigal-Expósito family, the freedom for Cuban parents to choose the education that they want for their children, as well as the decentralization of education in Cuba at all levels.

We recognize the role of the state in monitoring educational institutions, but not as the exclusive owner of education.

This is the right of all people and the responsibility of the family, society and the state in that order, not vice versa. Parents have the obligation to feed their children, to support them in the defense of their legitimate interests and the realization of their legitimate aspirations, to educate them and train them with moral, ethical and civic values, going beyond a supposed relationship with the socialist society.

If the authorities will not respond to the call of seven cuban intellectuals and artists, at least consider the more than 30,000 signatures collected by a request from HSDLA through the platform.

The state must protect family, maternity, paternity and marriage; separating parents from their children is not the best way to fulfill that duty.

While the family in Guantanamo was experiencing their own Calvary, in July 2019, several presidents of Cuban protestant denominations were forbidden to leave the country to attend an event on religious freedom in Washington.

They were “regulated”, a practice that limits the freedom of movement and which has been applied for decades to activists, intellectuals, journalists and a long list of civil society actors that the Communist Party identifies as enemies of the system.

WE DEMAND the lifting of those measures which violate individual liberties on all Cuban citizens to whom it has been applied for political reasons. A list from Patmos Institute observed that in Cuba are more than 200 “regulated” citizens.

Similarly, WE DEMAND the non-criminalization of journalism and social activism outside the aegis of the State, as well as those who hold different visions on the present and future of Cuba compared to those of the status quo.

Attitudes like these sent the reporter and religious rights activist Ricardo Fernández Izaguirre to jail for several days in July. This kind of story has been repeated until now.

The State, not just in letter but in practice, must respect, guarantee and protect freedom of thought, conscience and expression, and recognize freedom of the press when it comes to citizens, non-state institutions and associations.

Cuba requires goodness, and for that it needs freedom for its many people and for itself.

We believe and sign:

Amir Valle

Alberto Garrido

Yaiset Rodríguez

Yoe Suárez

Carlos Jesús (CJ) Martínez

Sacramento José Acebo

Antonio Lorenzo




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