Cuban prisoners' minds still free
/ Raul Rivero
Raul Rivero. Posted on Thu, Nov. 07, 2002 in The Miami Herald.
'An officer sat on my chest, wrapped my head in my sweater
and asked me if I knew him.
"I said No, and he immediately hit me on the forehead with
a blunt instrument, giving me a five-stitch wound.''
This is the story told -- against a background of creaking
hinges -- by blind lawyer Juan Carlos González Leiva in the operations unit of
State Security in Holguín, Cuba.
It's an unpleasant account, an episode that the American
and European Left covers up and avoids and that some media outlets put aside,
using instead a string of slogans from native functionaries or a hurried
interview with an official writer.
The truth is that that level of suffering -- and that
González Leiva and nine other members of a human-rights foundation from Ciego
de Avila are still in prison, awaiting trial after seven months -- do not
advance the deal that U.S. merchants propose to make with the administrators
of this island prison.
No matter. Cuba's trade comrades have the high duty to
valiantly work to achieve socialism's new victories, and they won't be
deterred by the agony of a few people kept locked up by the patriotic forces
for God-knows-what grave crimes.
For similar reasons -- comrades must have concluded --
there's no need to mention the cases of 26 other Cuban dissidents, detained in
Havana last February, who just have ended a hunger strike that lasted more
than 40 days. The strikers demanded to be released because, "We have not
committed any crime and, during eight months of confinement, have been unable
to talk to a lawyer; and we have not been brought before any court of
These prisoners have no resources. They are ghosts behind
bars that render them even more invisible:
• There lies journalist Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, ill and
surrounded by criminals, imprisoned since 1997 in Ariza, in Cuba's
• Farther away, until his release last week, was Dr. Oscar
Elías Biscet, clinging to God and poetry, a guest under duress in an Holguín
• Imprisoned in the far-eastern region is young Néstor
Rodríguez Lobaina, a student leader who has been assaulted and beaten in his
• Somewhere in mid-island is José Luis Pérez Antúnez, who
has appeared since 1992 on every list of Cuban political prisoners. Nothing
has eased his via crucis, and his case is so old that some might think it's
part of the letterhead used for the annual reports.
• Suffering in Havana is Francisco Chaviano, a 15-year
sentence on his shoulders. He's another folk figure in the documents that
demand freedom for those men who, inside Cuba, claimed independence of
Although all came from the most legitimate and modest areas
of society, the machinery of government and its henchmen converted them into
enemies of the people.
They have nothing material to offer, none of their
treasures are tangible. All they have are feelings, ideas, dreams -- elements
with no value for dogmas and intolerance, and mere mist in terms of money.
Their pain should not resound in echoes because they're neither powerful nor
slaves of the powerful.
Lying in their filthy corners, longing for freedom, they
suffer by themselves, not seeing themselves as spokesmen for the working
class. As forgotten men, their torment might as well stay within their
families. Because the beaches, the land, the rivers and mountains of their
country -- what little is left -- are in the hands of their jailers, pragmatic
and cheerful people who are open to commerce and democracy.