Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell is sponsoring a resolution demanding the Cuban government release Silverio Portal Contreras from prison.
His imprisonment has garnered international attention, with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recognizing Portal Contreras has been mistreated by the Cuban government. Amnesty International has designated Portal Contreras as a “prisoner of conscience.”
Portal Contreras was prosecuted in 2018 for protesting and sentenced to four years in prison. The 56-year-old has reportedly seen his health decline since.
Mucarsel-Powell’s resolution explains that Portal Contreras “was prosecuted by authorities for ‘contempt’, a charge that is frequently used to criminalize criticism of public officials in Cuba, and for ‘public disorder.'”
According to the resolution, Portal Contreras suffered a seizure while in custody and was denied medical attention for hours. His health has “severely deteriorated” as he continues to petition the Cuban government for his release.
His wife says she has not been able to contact Portal Contreras since June.
The resolution ends by calling for his “immediate and unconditional release.” It further “condemns the politically motivated imprisonment of dissidents in Cuba and calls for the release of all those who have been arbitrarily detained due to their advocacy for human rights and democracy” and also “urges the lifting of all legal restrictions that impose limitations on the exercise of freedom of expression and association in Cuba.”
Republican Reps. Brian Mast and Ted Yoho joined Mucarsel-Powell to cosponsor the resolution. Democratic Reps. Charlie Crist, Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Al Lawson, Stephanie Murphy, Donna Shalala, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson are also cosponsoring the measure.
“Silverio Portal Contreras was imprisoned for nothing more than speaking out against the Castro regime for cruel human rights violations,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a statement announcing the resolution.
“Silverio needs urgent medical attention, and my bipartisan colleagues and I are calling on the Cuban authorities to immediately release him. The Cuban regime must end its egregious politically-motivated arrests of its citizens who advocate for human rights and democracy; they must allow the free expression of thought and speech among its people.”
The bipartisan effort condemning the socialist Cuban regime comes as Republicans have repeatedly attempted to frame Democrats this cycle as “socialists.” Mucarsel-Powell introduced the measure Thursday. It will likely move through the committee process before heading to a full House vote, though no hearings have yet been scheduled.