A Cuban Evangelical pastor sentenced to two years in prison for homeschooling his children says his family has endured “psychological pressure and a war on behalf of authorities” for refusing to allow the Castro regime to indoctrinate his children into communist ideology.
His remarks form part of a petition to the Organization of American States (OAS) for a precautionary measure protecting Rigal and his wife, Ayda Expósito – who was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for the same crime of “acts contrary to the normal development of a minor.” Homeschooling is illegal in Cuba and legal schools are of notoriously low quality, prioritizing the development of submissive citizens over life and professional skills.
A precautionary measure prompts the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to act rapidly to prevent “imminent risk of irreparable harm to persons or groups of persons in the 35 OAS member states.” Cuba remains an OAS member despite violating the organization’s requirement that all members be democracies for over half a century.
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a nonprofit advocacy group defending the right to home school, and the Global Liberty Alliance, a legal defense fund dedicated to defending the defenders and advancing justice in places such as Communist Cuba, filed the petition for a precautionary measure on behalf of the Rigal family.
“The persecution of homeschooling parents is an assault the family and parental rights. These young Christian families, and the independent lawyers in Cuba who make a valiant effort to defend them, are at the tip of the spear in defense of religious liberty and fundamental individual rights,” Jason Poblete, an attorney in Virginia with the Global Liberty Alliance, told Breitbart News. “If you’re interested in helping, share this story with your friends and in your social media networks. The HSLDA will soon provide additional tools to help get the word out to policymakers to help support these families in Cuba.”
In the petition, obtained by Breitbart News, Rigal details the government persecution against him in a statement dated April 29, just days after the regime handed down his sentence.
“In these past two years, our family – my two children, my wife, and I – have suffered psychological pressure and a war on behalf of authorities, in education – that is to say, teachers – and personnel that lead in education, policy, prosecutors, social workers, and others tied to our case,” Rigal said. “This is about sending two parents to prison, mother and father, and taking our children away and sending them to a place to receive education imposed by a government, first of all violating divine law … violating natural rights like the rights of parents over their children.”
“It was such a strange thing to see this brutal injustice under our very noses and not be able to do anything about it, or saying anything, in a country that peacocks its achievements and its justice and boasts of the achievements of the Revolution,” Rigal’s statement continues. “Only the grace and power of God has given us the strength to withstand this pressure.”
The petition for a precautionary measure states that intervention on behalf of the regional body is “urgent and necessary to prevent irreparable damage and preserve the physical and psychological integrity of the members of the Rigal Expósito family.” It asks the OAS to demand the immediate liberation of the parents and return of the children to their custody.
“There are no guarantees of due process or a state of rights in Cuba and, therefore, there are no legal or other avenues that allow for denouncing [crimes] … because the courts, as well as the police and all other authorities are under the control of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC),” the application reads.
It notes that the Rigal Expósito case has not only resulted in harm to the family, but in those interested in the case. Attorney and journalist Robert de Jesús Quiñones Haces attempted to attend the sentencing to both represent the family and write abut his experience for the independent outlet Cubanet. Police gave him a “brutal beating,” according to the petition, and imprisoned him arbitrarily, offering no evidence that he had violated any crimes.
Quiñones Haces later wrote about his ordeal for Cubanet, publishing a video showing a deep purple bruise under his eyes a week after the assault. Quiñones has continued to report on the Rigal family case, last week observing the couple’s first month in prison. As of the publishing of Quiñones’ report, the couple’s two children, Ruth and Joel, have been forced to matriculate at their local government school in Guantánamo, taking placement tests to evaluate what grade they should join.
Cuba, a nominally Marxist atheist state, has consistently moved to repress the religious rights of its citizens. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which publishes an annual global report on religious persecution, Cubans regularly face “harassment campaigns targeting religious leaders and activists who advocated for stronger religious freedom protections.”
“While it is difficult to track these cases, one organization reported that 194 individuals were imprisoned or detained because of their religious beliefs and activities between July 2017 and April 2018,” its annual report for 2019 read. “Even when not charged, religious leaders are frequently threatened with criminal proceedings through the use of pre-arrest warrants (actas de advertencia) that are used to justify arrests and more severe penalties for future alleged crimes.”