They write letters . . . : Ricardo Bofill fought for human rights in Cuba

Ricardo Bofill

A letter to the editors of The Miami Herald by the Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba, John Suarez:

Ricardo Bofill, the founder of the human-rights movement in Cuba, passed away in Miami on July 12. Friends of freedom owe him a debt of gratitude. On Jan. 28, 1976, a new type of struggle for freedom was initiated when Bofill founded the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.

The committee began to document human-rights cases and send them to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International and other organizations at a time that executions were taking place.

These reports led to a visit by the U.N. Human Rights Commission to Cuba in 1988. Bofill was able to reach Cubans on the island in large numbers through Radio Martí, informing them they had a right to meet with the visiting delegation.

Many victims of repression met with the commission. This led to a more than 400-page report on systematic human-rights violations in Cuba.

I had the honor of meeting Bofill while a student at Florida International University in the early 1990s, as I was beginning the journey to learn about the freedom struggle in Cuba.

I visited him in his humble home in the Shenandoah neighborhood where I met his devoted wife, Yolanda, who cared for him through all these years. I video-interviewed him and asked him about the origins of the Committee.

Hours before his death, while testifying before a Congressional hearing, I was asked about the importance of Radio Martí.

I referred to Bofill’s observation that the station marked a before-and-after in the Cuban freedom movement: Cubans were able to listen to voices of Cuban human-rights defenders transmitted to the island. One of those voices was Ricardo Bofill’s.

John Suarez,
executive director,
Center for a Free Cuba
Falls Church, VA


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