Resisting Authoritarianism with Damaris Moya Portieles

Damaris Moya Portieles | Front Line Defenders

Cuban democracy leader and rights activist Damaris Moya Portieles addresses the 6th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see below for full prepared remarks.


Full Remarks


Danaris Moya Portieles: First of all, I would like to thank UN Watch and the organisers and the sponsors of this Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, for inviting me.

My name is Damaris Moya Portieles. I am the President of the Central Oppositional Coalition, a leader of the Orlando Sabato Tamayo National Front, and a member of the Rosa Parks Feminine Movement. All of these are human rights defenders in Cuba, that the regime of Raul Castro does not recognise nor will grant legal status to.

I live in Cuba, in the city of Santa Clara, and it’s the first time that I’ve been able to leave my country. Because in Cuba, citizens do not have the right to travel freely and return to their country without restrictions.

Due to my activism, for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba, I have been beaten by repressive forces. I have been left unconscious. I have had death threats on many occasions. I have been issued threats that my small daughter would be raped. I was beaten when I was pregnant. I was denied medical assistance, as well as my family members. I was refused medical care for my grandmother, who was 72 years-old, and who ended up dying because of this on December 8th when she was refused admission to the Provincial Hospital of Santa Clara for [a] blood transfusion. My house was levelled on many occasions. My small children had been beaten by the police. And on more than one occasion, my children who today are seven and three years old, were arrested together with me. On one occasion, female agents of the state security forces introduced the tip of a dirty shoe into me and the tip of a pencil in my vagina, while they held me down. But my case is not an isolated one in Cuba.

Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, the President of the Rosa Park Feminist Movement was placed under house arrest in Placetas on January 24, 2014, a few days before the summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States was held in Cuba. She cannot leave her home. She cannot buy food and no one can go to her. She was beaten; she was left unconscious. She has been placed in closed bags under arbitrary arrest and she was almost suffocated. She has received death threats and threats of rape.

Many other women advocates of human rights suffer from the same loathsome abuse. When we go out into the streets in peaceful marches, male police agents of the state security forces hound women, they beat us mercilessly. The 50 year-old activist, Dulce Maria Castillo Gaea, was beaten, arbitrarily arrested [and] dumped in a deserted place, although she had been operated on for intermedial cancer and suffers from hypoglycemia. 

This is what is done to activist womens in punishment for defending human rights in Cuba. 

The activist, Maria del Carmen Martinez Lopez of Santa Clara, has been threatened with having her young children’s faces slashed. [Inaudible name] has been beaten on many occasions during arbitrary arrest, and suffered such a brutal beating that her coccyx was fractured.

There are many other cases of violence against women who were advocates of human rights in Cuba, not only within the Rosa Parks movement, but also within the group of Ladies in White. They attack us with sharp objects, they beat our heads on many occasions. They have used cars to threaten us, attack us and even kill us. This is what happened with the activist and political prisoner, De La Vera Ortiz. She was run over by a car sent by the State Security forces in Cardenas Matanzas, in January,2 011. Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, leader of the Ladies in White, died in unclarified circumstances in October of 2011 under the control of high officials of State Security in Havana.

That is why when the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, went to Cuba at the end of January of this year, we thought that he was going to ask to meet up with human rights advocates. Our women’s organisation had sent a report on the attacks on Cuban women, who were human rights defenders. And this report was taken into account during the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba, in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, and it was published in the council. They cannot say that they’re unaware of how human rights are being violated in Cuba, especially against black women. But strangely, the Secretary General chose only to meet with the government. And in one of his statements, he said, and I quote, “as violence against women is rooted in discrimination, impunity and complacency, we must change attitudes and behaviour, and we need to change laws and be sure that these laws are being implemented, as you are doing in Cuba.” It is untrue that in Cuba, laws are being enacted and implemented against violence against women, because the first violator of human rights of women is the state. Those who beat us and who assault us are the police, sent to oppress us by the state. In Cuba, there are no laws that protect women, not only women advocates of human rights, but women in general in Cuba.

Men’s violence against women is a very great social problem in Cuba. The cases of death due to beating, knifing and other attacks are myriad. But, the regime is not publishing the statistics. Young girls ages 12 and 13 years old, who should be studying at school, are prostituting themselves in the streets to survive. The Cuban government itself promotes prostitution of Cuban women, creating Internet pages to sell sexual favours to foreigners and receive money from these transactions.

It is ironic that the governmental organisation, the Federation of Cuban Women, which is not a true NGO, and whose members have repressed us, have organised acts that are called acts of repudiation in front of our homes, and have beaten us with blunt objects. And this organisation has thrown eggs and excrement on our homes and it is ironic this organisation is recognised by ECOSOC at the UN.

I have come here to denounce the falsehoods and lies of this military and totalitarian regime of the Castro brothers. I am a victim, my family is a victim, but I will not remain silent nor leave my country. Before I came to Geneva, my house was surrounded. The State Security Forces and the revolutionary National Police set-up camp. I was arrested twice while I prepared my trip. I was threatened by Lieutenant Colonel Enrique in the Penal Institute in Santa Clara. He told me that I had better be very careful of what I was going to say here, because it could have consequences. They threatened me with reprisals upon my return. 

The opposing leader, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunes, was the first person invited to this event, and he is now under house arrest. His documents and all his belongings have been confiscated. His home was levelled four times in eight days. This is the truth. This is the reality of harassment and repression that exists in Cuba.

I would like to say that we are grateful to the people, institutions and sometimes, some countries that have shown solidarity with our struggle. We are eternally grateful to them. But, we’d like to say that we need other people to follow this example.

I am wondering how many Cubans and how many peace-loving human rights advocates will continue dying at the hands of the regime of the Castro brothers, whilst this same regime is reelected as a member of the Council of Human Rights at the United Nations. I wonder if the victims testimony of repression in Cuba will not be enough for the world to hear the clamour of a people that has endured 55 years of bloody dictatorship and permanent violation of their rights. I’m asking for solidarity with the Cuban people. 

The lives of those of us in Cuba, who are fighting for the respect of human rights are hanging in the balance. While the regime buys legitimacy with the visits of the Secretary General of the UN, or the Secretary General of the OAS, while they gain legitimacy, while democracies in the world remain silent, as does the membership of the Human Rights Council, we are being beaten and harassed. We are being threatened and killed in total impunity. We are fighting for liberty, for our rights. We’re not asking you to fight in our stead, we’re asking you to show solidarity with our cause. Thank you.

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