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HRW calls on Cuba to end harassment

WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Cuban authorities should end their alleged harassment of blind human rights defender Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

In a release issued from Washington, HRW accused Cuba of repeatedly threatening to force Gonzalez Leiva, his wife and fellow rights defender Tania Maceda Guerra to leave Havana and move elsewhere on the island under the provisions of a "draconian" law that restricts freedom of movement.

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"The harassment of Gonzalez Leiva offers further proof that the Raul Castro government is willing to do everything within its power to prevent human rights monitoring, including forcibly displacing the monitors themselves," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch.

HRW said that because of his blindness, Gonzalez Leiva has been able to live in Havana since 2007 under a law known as Decree 217, in which Cubans from outside Havana must obtain government permission before moving to the capital. But in November the government denied his application to renew his temporary residence status.

Vivanco said the government has called Gonzalez Leiva, a leader of the Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs, a "counterrevolutionary" and a "traitor," and has warned he will be forcibly sent back to his native province.

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