LATIN AMERICA & THE CARIBBEAN

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why it matters

Some countries in the region have cracked down on civil society and have increased arrests of civil society activists. Civil society activists in Cuba and Venezuela in particular are facing increased pressure and arbitrary arrests. In Venezuela, the country is facing serious challenges.  With extremely high inflation and increasing citizen insecurity in recent years, tensions between the authorities and reform-minded citizens keep rising.  In February and March 2014, police arrested hundreds of people who were protesting soaring prices, shortages of basic products, and consistent abuse by security forces.  Although the Cuban government has appeared to bow to international community’s demands of ending civil society intimidation, the Cuban government has maintained tight control over public space. While long-term sentences for political prisoners have lessened to some extent, the government still uses short-term arbitrary arrests, harassment, and threat to stifle fundamental freedoms. Today, Cuba still has more than 70 political prisoners according to independent civil society groups on the island.

Wilmer Azuaje

VENEZUELA

Detained May 3, 2017

Wilmer Azuaje is a member of the legislative council in Venezuela’s Barinas state who was detained and sentenced for attending protests, despite parliamentary immunity. While detained, Wilmer was held incommunicado for 70 days. We spoke with his wife to learn more about his unjust imprisonment and what their family’s life was like without him.

Gregory Sanabria

VENEZUELA

Detained October 27, 2014

Gregory Sanabria is a student activist who was arbitrarily detained for almost four years for participating in 2014 demonstrations. While in prison, Gregory was tortured with beatings, electric shocks, and by being dunked in cold water. We spoke with his sister to learn more about his unjust imprisonment and the sacrifices her family made for Gregory to have access food, water, and sunlight while imprisoned.

Gilber Caro

VENEZUELA

Detained January 11, 2017

Gilber Caro is a former parliamentarian with the Venezuela National Assembly who was detained for over a year and a half. In prison, Gilber was tortured and lost over 40 pounds. His sister tells us more about the devastating impact his imprisonment has had on his family, and implores the international community to speak out on behalf of political prisoners in Venezuela.

The Cuban Patriotic Union

CUBA

Detentions Ongoing

The Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) is a non-violent pro-democracy group whose members have been subject to arbitrary short-term detentions, physical violence, and other forms of harassment since the organization’s formation in 2011. As of April 1, 2019, there are 56 UNPACU members currently detained—accounting for over half of Cuba’s political prisoners.

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Braulio Jatar

Venezuela

House Arrest since May 24, 2017

UPDATE: On July 8, 2019, the Venezuelan authorities released Braulio from house arrest. However, he is banned from leaving his home state of Nueva Esparta and is required to present himself in court once every 15 days. 

Braulio Jatar is a Chilean-Venezuelan lawyer and journalist. He was arrested on September 3, 2016, while on his way to host his regular morning radio show.

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Daniel Ceballos

Venezuela

Released on June 1, 2018

UPDATE: Daniel Ceballos was released from the Helicoide—an infamous Venezuelan detention center—on June 1, 2018, after being detained for more than four years. However, he is required to appear in court every 30 days and is prohibited from leaving the country.

Daniel Ceballos is a prominent Venezuelan activist and lawmaker. He is the former mayor of San Cristobal in Tachira, Venezuela, and a former leader of the political party Voluntad Popular. He was arrested on March 19, 2014.

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Gilberto Sojo

Venezuela

Released December 13, 2016

UPDATE: Gilberto Sojo was released in December 2016 after two years of imprisonment. However, he is banned from leaving Venezuela and must appear before court once a month.

Gilberto Sojo is a Venezuelan legislator and activist. He is an elected representative to the Venezuelan National Assembly and a community leader for the political party Voluntad Popular (“Popular Will”) in his hometown of San Agustin, Caracas, Venezuela. He was arrested on November 26, 2014.

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Irlanda Jerez

NICARAGUA

Released June 11, 2019

UPDATE: On June 11, 2019, Irlanda Jerez was released along with 56 other political prisoners. The release follows the Nicaragua National Assembly's recent approval of a new law granting amnesty to all protesters and police involved in the 2018 uprising against President Daniel Ortega.

Irlanda Jerez is a dentist and civil society organizer, imprisoned for leading a civil disobedience campaign in the country’s largest market, Mercado Oriental, in protest of the government's disregard for human rights. She was sentenced to five years on charges of “fraud” and “swindling.”

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Miguel Mora Barberena

NICARAGUA

Released June 11, 2019

UPDATE: On June 11, 2019, Miguel Mora was released along with 56 other political prisoners. The release follows the Nicaragua National Assembly's recent approval of a new law granting amnesty to all protesters and police involved in the 2018 uprising against President Daniel Ortega.

Miguel Mora is a well-respected journalist and the director of news outlet 100% Noticias. He was detained by paramilitary forces in a raid of his offices and charged with “promoting and inciting hatred, violence and death.”

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Lucia Pineda Ubau

NICARAGUA

Released June 11, 2019

UPDATE: On June 11, 2019, Lucia Pineda Ubau was released along with 56 other political prisoners. The release follows the Nicaragua National Assembly's recent approval of a new law granting amnesty to all protesters and police involved in the 2018 uprising against President Daniel Ortega.

Lucia Pineda Ubau is a prolific Nicaraguan journalist and the news director at 100% Noticias. She was charged with “fomenting, planning and conspiring to commit terrorist acts” for the outlet’s coverage of protests against the government.

 

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Amaya Coppens

NICARAGUA

Released June 11, 2019

UPDATE: On June 11, 2019, Amaya Coppens was released along with 56 other political prisoners. The release follows the Nicaragua National Assembly's recent approval of a new law granting amnesty to all protesters and police involved in the 2018 uprising against President Daniel Ortega.

Amaya Coppens is a medical student and youth leader detained on charges of kidnapping, illegal possession of firearms, and terrorism. Coppens was “a key figure in the student movement, attending to the injured and bringing food to protesters amid a violent clampdown.”

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Renzo Prieto

VENEZUELA

Released June 2, 2018

UPDATE:Renzo Prieto was released on June 2, 2018 among a larger spate of releases by the Venezuelan government. He served four years in prison. Directly after his release, Renzo was sworn into the National Assembly. Renzo holds the record for longest politically-motivated imprisonment among all Venezuelan elected officials.

Renzo Prieto is a Venezuelan lawmaker and activist. He was arrested on May 10, 2014 in front of the Mall El Tolon in Caracas by 30 officials of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.

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Delson Guarate

Venezuela

Exiled since December 17, 2017

 UPDATE: On November 3, 2017, Delson was released from prison, but with restrictions on speech and movement. On December 17, 2017, he was forced to flee Venezuela after officials attempted to take him back into custody. Delson is now residing in exile in Colombia.

Delson Guarate is the former mayor of the municipality Mario Briceno Iragorry in Aragua State. Delson was arrested on September 2, 2016 by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.

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Yon Goicoechea

Venezuela

Released November 3, 2017

UPDATE: On November 3, 2017, Yon Goicoechea was released from prison with restrictions on speech and movement after more than a year in detention. He continues his political activism in Venezuela today.

Yon Goicoechea is a Venezuelan activist, lawyer, and member of the political party Voluntad Popular (“Popular Will”). On August 29, 2016, Yon was kidnapped when eight armed men intercepted his vehicle at the La Trinidad tunnel.

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Rosmit Mantilla

Venezuela

Exiled since July 2017

UPDATE: Rosmit Mantilla was released from prison on November 18, 2016, after spending two and a half years in prison. He applied for asylum in France in July 2017 and now resides in exile.

Rosmit Mantilla is a Venezuelan activist and politician, as well as the first openly gay politician to be elected to the National Assembly. He was arrested on May 2, 2014.

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Yeimi Varela

Venezuela

Released December 31, 2016

 UPDATE: Yeimi Varela was released in December 2016 together with other political prisoners in Venezuela. He spent two and a half years in prison.

Yeimi Varela was the security guard for the headquarters of two Venezuelan human rights organizations. He was arrested on May 1, 2014 when SEBIN officials conducted a raid on the organizations' headquarters.

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Ronny Navarro

Venezuela

Released December 2017

UPDATE: In December 2017, Ronny was released from the Helicoide—an infamous Venezuelan detention center—along with twelve other prisoners following a recommendation for the release of 80 political prisoners by the National Assembly. He was detained for three years and seven months.

Ronny Navarro is a Venezuelan activist and member of the political party Alianza Brava Pueblo. He was arrested on May 10, 2014 for organizing a peaceful youth protest.

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Gerardo Carrero

Venezuela

Released on December 31, 2016

UPDATE: Gerardo was released on December 31, 2016, along with several other student activists, after spending two and a half years in prison. He continues his political advocacy by campaigning for the closure of SEBIN detention center La Tumba.

Gerardo Carrero is a Venezuelan activist who serves as the coordinator of the Venezuelan Youth Organization. He was arrested on May 8, 2014, for organizing peaceful protests under the movement "National Conscience."

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Antonio Ledezma

Venezuela

Exiled since November 17, 2017

UPDATE: On November 17, 2017, Antonio escaped from house arrest and fled to Spain. He now advocates for the release of Venezuela’s political prisoners from outside the country.

Antonio Ledezma is the former mayor of Caracas and founder of the political party Alianza Brava Pueblo. He was arrested on February 19, 2015, but released on house arrest in April 2017.

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Leopoldo Lopez

Venezuela

Released April 30, 2019

UPDATE: Leopoldo Lopez was released from house arrest on April 30, 2019, by the very soldiers who were assigned to guard his house. He is now in hiding at the Spanish embassy in Venezuela due to an active warrant for his arrest.

Leopoldo Lopez is a prominent Venezuelan activist and lawmaker. He served as mayor of the Chacao district in Caracas, Venezuela for eight years and founded the political party Voluntad Popular. He was arrested on February 18, 2014, when he turned himself into the Venezuelan National Guard in front of a crowd of protesters.

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