Open letter in solidarity with Cuban biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola (PhD)

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Cuba and the world, may 14th 2018


  • State council of the Republic of Cuba
  • Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba
  • National headquarters of the service of park rangers of Cuba
  • National Center for Protected Areas of Cuba
  • Attorney General’s office of the Republic of Cuba
  • Ministry of Agriculture of Cuba
  • Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment of Cuba
  • Representation of the FAO in Cuba.

Those who subscribe to this letter are Cubans from inside and outside Cuba, as well as citizens from all over the world. Hereby we wish to express our profound concern by the injustice perpetrated by local authorities of the region of Viñales (Cuba), on May 12, 2018, against the Cuban citizen, PhD in Biological Sciences from University of Havana, Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, unjustly imprisoned.

Ariel and his family run an agricultural domain in the province of Pinar del Rio, under the usufruct rights, legally granted to him by the competent authorities. This domain represents the ultimate life project of this biologist, after he was terminated, both as a researcher in the Center of Marine Research (CIM) and as a professor at the Faculty of Biology from his alma mater, the University of Havana; due to reasons not clearly established and unproved by labor authorities involved in the case. In this domain, Ariel, his sister, his mother and a number of colleagues and friends, have developed, with their own resources and a great deal of effort and sacrifice, an agroecological project, which values the local and national biological patrimony and its natural resources, in full compliance with all applicable national laws and regulations. This project aims at the management and preservation of such resources, in coherence with local and national regulations, as well as the international regulations on environmental management and sustainable production of which Cuba is a signatory. This project has the approval of the Agroforest company “La Palma” and that of the municipality of Viñales’ local representation of the Ministry of Agriculture. The activities of crop planting and clearing the domain,were recently evaluated by both institutions as meeting the necessary criteria.Moreover, Ariel has was duly sanctioned by the secretary of the University of Havana’s section of the Cuban Communist Party, who also certified in writing that Ariel had all necessary skills to undertake agricultural research and land working activities, given his academic education, background and experience.

Ariel and his family’s project and its results has a substantial impact, not only from an environmental point of view, but also economically and socially wise. The goal of this project is to put in place an economically viable and environmentally friendly agricultural production project, capable of supplying the state food distribution system,with agricultural products, based on the believe that this activity is of paramount importance both to the country and its people, as well as to the creation and preservation of a genetic material bank, based on Cuban forest patrimony, which will allow the repopulation of regions formerly dedicated to growing timber species of economical value for the country.

In spite ofall this, this family has had to face, besides all sorts of bureaucratic obstacles, a great deal of local resistance to the implementation of environmentally viable initiatives. This exhausting resistance has taken the shape of a continuous harassment, including in several occasions, local farmers trespassing and undertaking a whole lot of violent activities within the area for which Ariel has the legal usufruct, operating under the protection of some local authorities. After having made attempts to respond to these acts of violence via the appropriate legal channels, Ariel and his family have only found that the perpetrators benefit from the protection of local authorities, which in turn have systematically treated them (Ariel and his family) as socially reprehensible.

In this context, Ariel and his family have denounced the existing network of corruption in the management of the environment of this Cuban protected area.

In recent days, and after having suffered this continued harassment, after some alleged officials showed up having an inappropriate behavior towards Ariel, he compared them to the infamous “rural guard” from the pre-revolutionary Cuban regime, as a response to the alleged representatives from the park ranger’s corps, refusing to show any identification as any person acting in an official capacity is legally bound to do. This simple act resulted in Ariel being trialed for “contempt” charges and sentenced to the maximum possible sentence: one-year imprisonment.

We believe that every person, regardless of his political beliefs, has the right to express himself freely and is entitled to be treated with dignity as much as he is entitled to an unbiassed trial for his actions, in agreement of all appropriate legal provisions. This is furthermore in full agreement with what national authorities have expressed in this respect. Nevertheless, a certain number of these legal provisions have been violated in this case. As a result, we demand the immediate release of Ariel and an immediate thorough review of this case by the highest level’s authorities of the institutions involved in this blatant injustice. We believe the measures taken upon Ariel, disproportionate, unjustified and irrational, in a context where the complains filed by the family (for trespassing, verbal threats and other violent acts), have all been treated lightly and dismissed, in a clear violation of the appropriate legal procedures in place. The delicate health condition of Ariel’s sister is an aggravating circumstance, as she has been a cancer patient for years and Dr. Ruiz Urquiola has taken upon him her treatment after having realized a number of irregularities associated to this treatment. Moreover, Ariel’s elderly mother is also going through a very difficult emotional situation as a result of all this context.

Several generations of Cuban Science and Biology professionals, amongst other professionals from other countries’ world-level prestigious Universities, have had the opportunity to have Ariel as a colleague and to admire his qualities as a scientist and as a human being. And we are many to see him as an outstanding moral example of sacrifice for the study and preservation of Cuban nature, a person with the highest level of integrity, always faithful to the truth and expecting the highest level of excellence from others, but above all, accepting nothing other than the highest level of excellence from himself. This affection and great respect we have for Ariel, based on his exemplary life, and as a result, the total certainty that he’s being the victim of a scheme fabricated by the local authorities of the region of Viñales, are the reasons supporting our decision to appeal to you.

Moreover, the recent sentence of one (1) year in prison for Ariel, appears to be aimed at keeping him away from his land for a period longer that six (6) months, which will automatically result in the extinction of his usufruct rights over the land surrounding his house where he develops his eco-agricultural project. In spite of the fact that his sister regularly takes all necessary responsibilities related to the work and management of this land during Ariel’s academic stays in Universities outside Cuba, and her firm decision not to give up this project she is, and has been since the beginning, a very active part of.

An appeal has already been presented by the defense, which argues “Non-conformity with the FACTS the court takes as proven, taken into consideration that significance and criminal repercussion is given to thelanguage used (…), whereas the typical elements of the offense of contempt are not present*.”

We believe that the possible consequences of this case should be assessed by the highest levels’ authorities of the institutions involved, in a realistic manner and within a proper timeframe, to avoid an irrevocable loss of credibility before the Cuban people and the world. We know that Ariel will be faithful to the truth and will stand up for his rights, no matter what the consequences may be. We wish to prevent further consequences for him and for everyone else. From this point on, there will be no further excuse for the disproportionate abuse of power exerted on Dr. Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, crushing his most elemental rights, to provoke unforeseeable consequences.

*Taken from a copy of the Appeal

Yours sincerely,

  1. Dr. Ángel Vale González
  2. Lic. Isbel Díaz Torres
  3. Dr. Armando Urquiola Cabrera
  4. Dr. Danny Rojas Martín
  5. Dra. Susana Tobenas Borrón
  6. MSc. Carlos Alberto Martínez Muñoz
  7. MSc. Alejandro Rosales Trinchet
  8. Dr. Armando Chaguaceda Noriega
  9. Dr. Arq. Yasser Farrés Delgado
  10. MSc. Alain Parada Isada
  11. MSc. Romina Alzugaray Martínez
  12. Lic. Ariel Portal
  13. Dra. Wendy González
  14. Antonio J. Fernández
  15. Viviana Fernández-Silverman
  16. Dr. Francisco P. Chávez
  17. MSc. Alejandro González González
  18. Lic. Jimmy Roque Martínez
  19. Lic. María José Machicote García
  20. MSc. Alejandro Alvarez Paneque
  21. Prof. Titular Fernando Ojeda Copete
  22. Dr. Rafael Borges da Silva Valadares
  23. Dra. María Jesús García Pereira
  24. Dr. David Posada
  25. Dra. Lourdes Alemán
  26. Dr. José A. Alemán
  27. Dr. Orlando B. Alonso
  28. Ing. Eduardo Caballero
  29. MSc. Corinne Gonzalez
  30. Dr. Erwin Portoundo Campa
  31. Dr. Amaury Caballero
  32. Karen Caballero
  33. Irina Echarry
  34. Luis Dener Hernández González
  35. MSc. Dmitri Prieto Samsónov
  36. Lic. Mónica Baró Sánchez
  37. Lic. Marta María Ramírez
  38. Msc. Sandra Abd´Allah-Alvarez Ramírez
  39. Lic. Yibril Massip
  40. Luis Leonel León
  41. Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez
  42. Dr. Karel Olavarria Gamez
  43. Alain Jesús salcido
  44. Ing. René Cruz Gómez
  45. Lic. Arq. Amed Aroche Hernández
  46. Ariel Agüero Martinez
  47. Viviana J. Rivero Ortega
  48. MSc. Hector Malagon Nuñez
  49. Dr. Mauricio Alberto Quimbaya Gomez
  50. Lic. Julio Antonio Beltrán Rodríguez
  51. Iván Hernández Carrillo
  52. MSc. Michel Zamora Arocha
  53. Lic. Santiago Lambert
  54. Omar Gutierrez Arenas
  55. Dr. Armando Hernández García
  56. Lic. José Luis León Pérez
  57. Máximo Omar Ruiz Matoses
  58. MSc. Jose Carlos Urra Llanusa
  59. Dra. Leticia Pizzul
  60. MSc. Alejandro Homs Puron
  61. MSc. Maylin Chiong Guzman
  62. Ing. Javier Puig Santos
  63. MSc. Rosa Muñoz Kiel
  64. Dr. Pablo Simo
  65. Michel Pol
  66. Floréal Melgar
  67. Ing. Rodney Farach
  68. MSc. Danny Roque Gavilla
  69. Lic. Carlos Alberto Leyva Cruz
  70. Sandra Bajana
  71. MSc. Michel Pila Falcon
  72. Lic. Andres R Rodriguez
  73. Hamed Oriol Toledo Torres
  74. Lic. Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint- Blancard
  75. Lic. Lourdes A. Ricardo
  76. Lic. Efren Vega Hernandez
  77. Dr. Reinaldo García García
  78. Ing. Julio Cesar Garcia-Lopez
  79. Lic. Fernando Almeyda Rodríguez
  80. Lic. Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez
  81. Gerardo Reyes Torres
  82. Dra. Arelys Sotillo Enriquez
  83. Dr. David Quesada
  84. MSc. Hilda del Carmen Landrove Torres
  85. Lic. Yamian Quintero
  86. Lic. Ciro Javier Diaz Penedo
  87. Lic. Osmany Oscar de la Paz Trujillo
  88. Lic. David Alejandro Otero Rodríguez
  89. Lic. Eduardo Antonio Fernandez Díaz
  90. Osmany Santos Macías
  91. Lic. Severinbo Rivero Alfonso
  92. MSc. Claudio Ricardo Martins dos Reis
  93. Lic. Augusto Cesar San Martín Albistur
  94. Marilyn Gomez Dueñas
  95. Dr. Yorcelis Cruz Velasquez
  96. MSc. Leila Iñigo de la Cruz
  97. Dr. Yamil Simón-Manso
  98. MSc. Javier Jas García
  99. Roberto Ramos Mori
  100. Pedro Manuel González Reinoso
  101. Ing. Orlando Trujillo
  102. Dr. Eduardo Cuervo Reyes
  103. MSc. María del Carmen Lopez
  104. Estelle Barraud
  105. MSc. Pedro Alcolado-Prieto
  106. MSc. Janet Cazanas
  107. Lic. Ariel Arias Perez
  108. Dr. Lester Josue Perez
  109. Dr. Emir Pérez Bermúdez
  110. Lic. Leonardo Soler Pérez
  111. Verónica Pérez Vega
  112. Luz Escobar
  113. María de los Ángeles Matienzo Puerto
  114. Dr. Enrique Del Risco Rodriguez
  115. Dra. Yannet Interian Fernández
  116. MSc. Mario G. Castillo Santana
  117. Lic. Marcos Perille Seoane
  118. Dra. Elvira Sahuquillo Balbuena
  119. MSc. Yania Suárez Calleyro
  120. MSc. Miguel Arencibia Daupés
  121. Lic. Óscar Martínez Troncoso
  122. Alejandro Marrero Acosta
  123. Lic. Yanelys Nuñez Leyva
  124. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara
  125. Fernando Ginarte Mora
  126. Adonis Milán
  127. Lic. Julio Batista Rodríguez
  128. MSc. Yaima Pardo
  129. Lic. Boris González Arena
  130. MSc. Yenisel Rodríguez Pérez
  131. Yanet Morejón Hernández
  132. Lic. Mirella Clapes Hernandez
  133. Lic. Mónica Rivero Cabrera
  134. Dr. Henry Eric Hernández
  135. Dr Calixto Dominguez
  136. Yolvik Chacón Valero
  137. Dr. Desislava Dávila Rodríguez
  138. MSc. Esther María Hernández
  139. Néstor Díaz de Villegas
  140. Alain Rafael Dueñas Estevez
  141. Dr. Fausto Cristiano
  142. Dra. Tania Bruguera
  143. Deborah Bruguera
  144. Dra. Gemma Medina Estupiñán
  145. MSc. Harol Torres Menéndez
  146. Lic. María A. Bonet
  147. Lia Villares
  148. MSc. Alejandro Ramos Ramos
  149. Lic. Claudia Loiz Leiva
  150. MsC. Julio César Rodríguez García
  151. Luis Tornés Aguililla
  152. Dr. Hans Carrillo Guach
  153. Lic. Baltasar Palicio Maestre
  154. Mickey Garrote
  155. Dr. Mauricio Alvarez Arce
  156. Sonmy Díaz Ulloa
  157. Dr. Esther Ullrich-Lüter
  158. Dra. Neivys García Delgado
  159. Dr. Yusvel Sierra Gómez
  160. Dr. Ricardo Grau Crespo
  161. DI. Temis Acuña
  162. Dr. Jorge Gonzalez
  163. Lic. Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez
  164. Lic. Erasmo Calzadilla Rodríguez
  165. Lic. Lidia M Romero Moreno
  166. MSc. Hanoy Carmenate Germán
  167. Dra. Sara Rodrigues Passos Rocha
  168. Msc. Francisco Alejandro López Núñez


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