Security Officials Threatened Free Yorubas, Said the Only God is Fidel Castro
Alexandria, Virginia – On March 11, the Association of Free Yorubas of Cuba (Asociación de Yorubas Libres de Cuba, or “Free Yorubas”) was again targeted by Cuban State Security. During the past few months, the Global Liberty Alliance has noticed an intimidation uptick aimed at the Free Yorubas.
The husband and wife team, Ms. Donaida Pérez Paseiro and Mr. Loreto Hernández García, Executive Secretary and Vice President of the Free Yorubas, were detained in Placetas. In two hours of interrogation, State Security threatened the coupled in a variety of ways including the desecration of ceremonial objects and imprisonment for alleged visits to the home of a known dissident to recruit for the Association.
Dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, reports that the Free Yorubas’ Executive Board has issued an alert to international faith organizations. They state: “we ask for close monitoring of the physical well-being of this husband and wife, members of the Association’s Executive Board, who are only trying to act on their beliefs and are victims of persecution.”
During the interrogation Ms. Pérez alleges, regime officials mocked all faiths, professing that “there is only one god, Fidel Castro,” and saying something unprintable, because of its vulgarity, about what the Communist Party would do to God, the saints, and orishas.
“If you swear allegiance to the atheist Communist Party, no problem. The moment you profess a different point of view or, worse, as the Free Yorubas do, challenge the system to live free of the party control, you’re in trouble,” said Jason Poblete of the Global Liberty Alliance.
Free Yorubas leader Ms. Eliaisys Almeida Pavón was also detained on February 24. The association was founded in 2012 by Yorubas who disagreed with the Yoruba Cultural Association of Cuba, controlled by the government watchdog Office of Religious Affairs (ORA). Free Yorubas have been subject to arbitrary detentions and beatings, destruction of ceremonial objects, police monitoring, and ransackings without probable cause.
In early February 2020, the Free Yorubas challenged Ms. Caridad Diego, head of the ORA, to a public debate on freedom of conscience. The request was ignored, but state hostility appears to have escalated since. A group of human rights defenders including the Global Liberty Alliance has asked the U.S. government to sanction officials engaged in religious persecution such as persons working with the Office of Religious Affairs.
The Global Liberty Alliance is committed to defending fundamental rights and the rule of law, including the fundamental right to worship freely and follow his or her personal belief about faith or conscience matters. You can find more information about the work that GLA is doing for people of different faith traditions on our blog, our Facebook page, or our Twitter account. You can watch the below Declaration by Ms. Pérez Paseiro (in Spanish). This press release will also be posted in Spanish.