Political prisoners suffer abuses in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua

Man wrapping arms around another man and pulling him backward (© Ramon Espinosa/AP Images)
Police detain an anti-government protester in Havana July 11, 2021. (© Ramon Espinosa/AP Images)

Political prisoners in the Western Hemisphere continue to be treated inhumanely.

“Governments are locking up more critics at home,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on April 12 in announcing the State Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. “Today, more than a million political prisoners are being held in over 65 countries.”

Nicaragua’s Ortega-Murillo regime currently holds more than 220 political prisoners, including former government officials, journalists, students, human rights defenders, clergy and opposition presidential candidates. The lawyers for two of the prisoners say they are subject to “the worst kinds of human rights abuses,” according to Reuters.

Félix Maradiaga surrounded by reporters holding microphones and cell phones (© Carlos Herrera/Reuters)
Félix Maradiaga of the opposition group National Blue and White Unity (UNAB) talks to reporters after being summoned by authorities in Managua, Nicaragua, June 8, 2021. He is now a political prisoner. (© Carlos Herrera/Reuters)

According to nongovernmental organizations in Cuba, the government has more than 1,000 political prisoners — 700 of whom were involved in the July 11, 2021, protests. Many, including some who were minors at the time of the protests, have been sentenced to as many as 25 years in prison for “crimes” such as sabotage, sedition and public disorder.

In Venezuela, the Maduro regime has more than 240 political prisoners locked away in the infamous El Helicoide, where Human Rights Watch says political prisoners “have experienced horrendous torture, including electric shocks, waterboarding, and sexual violence.”

Maduro regime officials arrested one human rights and labor union activist, Gabriel Blanco, under terrorism charges for his work in Venezuela.

According to El Nacional, an arrest warrant signed by pro-Maduro judge José Márquez García in Caracas accuses Blanco of terrorism and criminal association.

People holding signs with photographs in urban area (© Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of political prisoners carry signs with photographs during a protest in front of El Helicoide in Caracas, Venezuela, November 3, 2021. (© Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

Advocating for political prisoners around the world

To help free political prisoners, the United States:

  • Holds regimes accountable by imposing sanctions and visa restrictions on government officials and other individuals and entities responsible for — or participating in — undermining democracy.
  • Collaborates with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the U.N. Human Rights Council and other multilateral institutions to pressure regimes to immediately and unconditionally free the political prisoners.
  • Stands with the people of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela as they continue to show their commitment to a better future.

“People of every nationality, race, gender, disability, and age are entitled to [human] rights no matter what they believe, whom they love, or any other characteristics,” said Secretary Blinken.