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May 6, 2022

Cubans Testify in Human Rights Case against State

Today, the case of the seven Cubans who are on remand and waiting to hear their fate was called to order before Supreme Court Justice Lisa Shoman. The Cubans all entered Belize illegally in February and were fined as well as issued a removal order to leave the country. But out of fear of being prosecuted and imprisoned, they did not want to return to Cuba. News Five’s Marion Ali was at court this morning and filed this report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

The seven Cubans testified today. Yenicen del Toro Perez told the court that she left Cuba legally by plane en route to Nicaragua with her two young daughters. Somewhere along the way they met up with her pregnant friend, Niurisleidys Garcia, and the four travelled by road through Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico illegally. Del Toro and Garcia told the court that while they were in Mexico, they were kidnapped and robbed and then dropped off at an unknown location. They said they later learned they were in Belize and when law enforcement authorities apprehended them, they were never properly informed that they had committed an offence that would result in a criminal charge and that they would be taken before a judge. The others, Yeleni Gonzalez, Giselle Mendoza, Manuel Fandino, Ibrain Fortes, Jorge Tobodo were picked up around the same date in Ranchito Village.


The Cubans admitted in court that although they have paid the one thousand-dollar fine imposed upon them, they have resisted deportation back to Cuba. They were part of protests that occurred in July of last year after Cuba agreed to dispatch medical brigades to other countries in the height of the COVID pandemic. At the time, the protestors were of the view that Cuba was not adequately looking after its own people who were falling ill with the virus.

They have applied for amnesty on grounds that they fear for their well being and safety in Cuba. They have also alleged that during their detention in Belize, they were not afforded a translator to properly inform them of what they were facing. For that, and their claim that they were not allowed to file for asylum, nor a phone call before their arraignment, they believe that their human rights had been violated. In the case of Niurisleidys Garcia, the pregnant Cuban, upon her detention in Belize, she tested positive for COVID and the medication she was given made it difficult for her pregnancy. Aside from that, she said, she was denied the medication that she needed that was in her bag.


The Cubans’ case is being presented by lead human rights attorney, Leo Bradley Junior and his deputy, Cynthia Pitts, while attorneys for the Crown are Samantha Matute-Tucker and Agassi Finnegan.

On Monday, the immigration officers who the state claims did adequately attend to the Cubans, will take the witness stand.


Marion Ali for News Five.

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