Cuban political dissident to receive 2024 International Women of Courage award by US government

Cuban political dissident to receive 2024 International Women of Courage award by US government

HAVANA– Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, a veteran Cuban dissident who never left the island despite being twice imprisoned and accused of being a US agent, will receive the 2024 International Women of Courage Award, the US State Department said Friday.

Roque, 78, who has protested her country’s one-party model for decades, said she will not be able to receive the award in person because she has been “regulated” since 2018, meaning she is not allowed to leave the island and cannot obtain permission get a passport.


“I am very happy with this award. I am grateful to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba that submitted this proposal,” Roque recently told The Associated Press at the home of a U.S. official on the island. “At least it’s a way to say, ‘You worked for Cuban democracy for 35 years.’”

The IWOC Award, now in its 18th year, recognizes women from around the world who have “shown exceptional courage, strength and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality and equality,” according to the U.S. Department of Foreign Affairs.

An economist by profession, Roque worked for the Cuban government before a political rift that attracted international attention in 1997, when she and three other Cubans – Félix Bonne, René Gómez Manzano and Vladimiro Roca – founded the Internal Dissidence Working Group and signed an agreement signed. declaration entitled “The Homeland Belongs to Everyone”, calling for political and economic openness.

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The so-called “Group of Four” ended up in court and Roque was sentenced to three and a half years in prison on charges of attacking state security and sedition. She was released in May 2000, but continued her activism and founded The Assembly to Promote Civil Society in 2002.

In March 2003, Roque was the only woman arrested – among 75 people – during a roundup of dissidents accused by the government of accepting funding from the US government and interest groups.

She received a 20-year prison sentence in a trial in which the strongest witness against her was her own assistant, Aleida Godínez, who subsequently identified herself as a government security agent. In July 2004, Roque was released on medical grounds but not acquitted.

The European Union and organizations such as Amnesty International pushed for the release of the 75 prisoners who were eventually freed – the last in 2011 – under an agreement brokered by the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government. Many went into exile with their families.

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Today, out of public view, Roque says she regrets that the island’s record migration is preventing the creation of a real opposition, saying her legacy as a veteran dissident is precisely staying in the country.

“As part of the old opposition, we are going to leave an example because not everyone (the dissidents) left, but almost everyone went to prison,” she said.

Roque also expressed regret over some of the radical comments she made during her life as a dissident, such as saying she did not care if the US invaded Cuba to overthrow the government.

“I am not the person I was 15 or 20 years ago … and my experience would prevent me from saying things I said in the past,” Roque told the AP. “I am convinced that the solution for the Cuban people lies here, in their own country, just as other countries have come to solve their dictatorial problem.”


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