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Cuban political prisoner Rafael Ibarra Roque

Cuban political prisoner Rafael Ibarra Roque

 

Cuban political prisoner Lazaro Alejandro García Farah

Cuban political prisoner Lazaro Alejandro García Farah

 

Spanish Post 

Armando Sosa Fortuny, “Sosita” as he is affectionately called by his friends in the struggle, is an old man in prison, being 70 years old, and has been condemned to death, if we take into account his 30-year sentence. He suffers from chronic diabetes and cardiovascular problems. 

Almost no one in Cuba speaks about this situation, and to top it off, his name is not on the famous list of the 26 most ill political prisoners compiled by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation led by Mr. Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz. Furthermore, important groups and organizations in Cuba who claim to represent Cuban civil society, and even the forum of the Alternative Parliament, have not made any pronouncement about him. 

As I write these lines, I try in vain to recall some internal opposition organization asking the democratic authorities who visit the country to secure his release. 

It seems that the fact of not being one of Amnesty International’s seventy-odd prisoners of conscience conspires against the recognition of this courageous Cuban patriot, a comrade of Pedro Luis Boitel and Roberto Martin Perez in hunger strikes, beatings, punishment cells and forced labor during his long and difficult plantado* political imprisonment. 

Sosa Fortuny had left political imprisonment in 1979 after serving 17 years as a plantado. He went into exile, and returned in 1994 to join the struggle for the freedom of his country, having recourse to the strategy he still believed in at that time: armed struggle. As soon as he stepped onto the Cuban coast he was again arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison, which he is serving with the same or more resolve, as he did his previous sentence. 

I cannot understand the reason for this unjust insensitivity against someone who more than once risked his life for the freedom of the homeland. 

It is painful for me me when I hear and see the campaigns conducted on behalf of Cuban political prisoners, out of concern for the state of their health: not just for “Sosita” but for other sexagenarians like Cecilio Reinoso Sanchez, Miguel Díaz Bauzá, and José Benito Menéndez del Valle, those whose age and conditions of captivity are synonymous with infirmity. Or also the cases of Rafael Ibarra Roque, Alejandro García Farah, Alexander García Lima – their names are conspicuously absent from lists and campaigns for release, even though those who put them together had prior knowledge of their situation due to the many years they have been imprisoned. Or the cases of Juan Luís Rodríguez Desdín and Ernesto Mederos Arozarena; these last two are prisoners of conscience involved in absurd ordinary criminal proceedings in retaliation for their democratic activism. 

When I write of this situation my admiration and sympathy for exceptional men like Librado Linares García, Diosdado González Marrero and Normando Hernández González cannot but increase, whose membership of a prestigious group of prisoners does not deter them in the least from doing everything in their power to respect, recognize, and equally support each and every one of the political prisoners in Cuba without regard to absurd categorizations or selective criteria. 

Although I admire the important work of monitoring of political prisoners and their situations that Cuba-based organizations do, I would be remiss in my honesty and above all in the respect I feel for the brothers I left behind bars if I were not to categorize the message that some organizations send abroad from Cuba on such a sacred and serious subject as political prisoners as elitist, discriminatory and selective. 

José Marti said ” Truth is meant to be told, not obscured, and it will set you free.” That is why I put mine forward here; to omit it would be to betray not only to my imprisoned brothers, but myself. 

* “Plantado” describes uncompromising prisoners, unwilling to accept the terms or deals of their jailers. 

Translated by: Tomás A.

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Caption: The time when the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police) and State Security agents dragged me to violently arrest me in Santa Clara. January 2008.

Spanish Post

Arrests and more arrests. Imagine yourself, dear reader, always having to go out with your cell phone primed to send a text message with the word “arrested.” But not only that. Imagine not being able to go out today wearing these clothes or those shoes, for fear of their loss or that those arresting you will ruin them.

It’s aggravating to be violently arrested for the great crime of being in a market buying beans or cooking oil. Or, as on another occasion, while buying a pair of eyeglasses at an optician’s. And worse yet, not being able to attend the birth of a godchild because a security operation set up at both corners of the house will block your way.

The same cars, the same Suzuki motorcycles, and the same faces during every trip, every stop; identical same faces, even on the buses we ride.

When we go to the home of a friend, or a brother in the struggle, or even people who have nothing to do with the opposition, they tell us when we arrive “we felt that you were nearby because of the security operation deployed here hours ago.”

Gladis, my wife’s mother, a physically-impaired elderly woman, will watch for the arrival of her daughter whenever she notices that this out-of-the-way place known as Tuinuicú has been practically overrun by members of the political police.

The house where the people generously give us shelter when we visit the capital has been raided on countless early mornings by Villa Marista* agents to get us out of the place.

The few times we have been able visit the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, the only place where we can browse the Web or send and receive emails, the activists who are there tell us of their concern and fear over the excessive monitoring and surveillance against us.

Recently in the town of Palma Soriano in Santiago de Cuba, the police, in their zeal to deport us, failed to respect the plight of the dying father of Raudel Avila by raiding his home to arrest me and my wife when we had gone there to show our solidarity with the ailing man.

We know the climate of repression and arrests across the island against dissenting voices, but what is unheard of and unique in our case is that they openly tell us that each and every time we go there, we will be arrested. It does not matter if we go to visit a sick person, or if our trips are for purposes unrelated to the opposition. It does not matter that for each arrest the political police have to burn up gasoline to bring us back. “You cannot travel” – they tell us. Those are the orders.

“With you,” they tell us, “who come to foment activities in the streets (meaning civic resistance and civil disobedience) it is a different matter.”

This situation, whether due to orders from political police headquarters at Villa Marista, or even to a disinformation campaign by some informer, demonstrates the obvious fear those who enjoy the power of brute force but who are ignorant of reason have of peaceful defenders of human rights.

If this is not political persecution, and a sign of the regime’s weakness, someone please explain to me why not.

If these circumstances are duplicated in any country in the world, I also hope you will notify me.

*State Security headquarters in Havana. Formerly a Catholic boys’ school, today home of the Communist regime’s secret police.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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Ana Belkis Ferrer García during the funeral of Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Spanish Post

The terrible and painful death of the political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo was not an isolated incident, nor something beyond the control of the regime, as some have said. Zapata’s death was something that was decided at the highest levels of Castroist power, in coordination with Villa Marista headquarters.

“Let’s get rid of this black man and his hunger strikes like we did with Pedro Luis Boitel. Let’s teach the activist cells and the Miami Mafia a lesson and then see what happens. And if we let this black man die what’s sure to happen is that the opposition activists will be frightened, and hold back a little, and stop using hunger strikes as an alternative form of protest,” his murderers must have calculated.

Sometimes certain media focus on this event in a somewhat simplistic and incomplete manner – “Prisoner Dies on Hunger Strike!” To those who do not live in Cuba, or do not know what it means to be in a Cuban prison and to carry out a hunger strike, it may seem that the strikers only suffer the effects of food deprivation, a conclusion very far from reality.

To declare a hunger strike in a Castro prison means facing, from the outset, a range of torture such as isolation from everything and everyone, extreme solitary confinement in a punishment cell without water, electric light, and in most cases without bedding, always without the possibility of covering up, and without access to anything or anyone.

“We do not give in to displays of force.” With these words they confront the hunger-striker with a demonstration of strength and power. It’s like saying: if you want your concern to be taken care of and for us to give you what you’re asking for, first you have to humble yourself before us, discontinue the hunger strike, and then we, under our own conditions, will decide how, when, and what we will do.

To receive any kind of medical care they also impose the same conditions. And that is why Zapata died, because just like Boitel, he did not yield in his position, he did not allow them to humiliate him, resisting for 18 days during which they denied him water. Resolutely facing the cold temperatures with his naked body, spending his nights on the ground. Zapata chose to sacrifice himself, in accordance with his manhood, his principles. As his compatriot expressed at the close of Zapata’s funeral, “He made the leap to immortality.” But Zapata was not killed just by totalitarian criminals, no. Zapata was also killed by the indifference and the complicit silence of those who should have advocated or interceded for his life. Zapata was killed by certain of the accredited foreign media in Havana, who though accurately and systematically informed about his case, lacked the courage and the human sensitivity to provide coverage, and were deaf to the cries and suffering of his mother Reina Luisa who so often called for public support. Orlando Zapata Tamayo was also killed by those who, in violation of their social, ethical, and humane obligations, refused to intercede with the government for his life. I refer to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Cuba, in the person of Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino, who was asked to intervene by the Rosa Parks Women’s Movement for Civil Rights and other independent civil rights organizations in Cuba.

It is true that Cuba lost Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an irreparable loss that has shocked us all, but the Castro government lost the wider battle. The political cost is irreparable and irretrievable. At last, the world has turned to our suffering country and to those who fight for it. The example, sacrifice, and memory of the martyr endures and is multiplied every day in thousands and thousands of Cubans who continue his legacy, heroism and endurance. A moral blow to his murderers and the accomplices to the crime.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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