Interviewed November 2011
Normando Hernández is an independent journalist who has dedicated his career to providing alternative sources of news and information in Cuba. In 1999, he co-founded the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, and in 2000, he established the Camaguey Association of Journalists, the first independent organization in Camaguey province since 1959. Declared a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty International following Cuba’s “Black Spring” (2003–2010), during which dozens of dissidents and journalists were imprisoned for their activism, Mr. Hernández was exiled to Spain in 2010 and has since resettled in the United States.
The author of numerous articles and publications, including the book El Arte de la Tortura: Memorias de un Ex Prisionero de Conciencia Cubano (The Art of Torture: Memories of a Former Cuban Prisoner of Conscience, 2010), he has received several journalism and human rights awards, including the Norwegian Writers Association’s Freedom of Expression Award (2009), the PEN American Center’s PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award (2007), and a special mention by the Inter-American Press Association for excellence in journalism (2003). Mr. Hernández is currently a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy, where he is examining the Cuban communications monopoly and considering strategies by which independent journalists may combat totalitarianism.
There have always been public figures who have inspired me. One of these figures is a man from this country: Martin Luther King, Jr. I also have a dream like Martin Luther King, Jr. I have a dream that these atrocities that occurred in my country, that I just mentioned would end. I dream of freedom of the press and of thoughts. For the freedom of speech for my people. I dream of the freedom of assembly enjoyed in this country and other countries of the world can exist inside of Cuba. To establish their companies, their businesses.
I dream of the massive elimination of distinctions based on political, ideological, and economic motives and of any other form of discrimination that exists in my country. I dream of justice for those thousands of people executed inside of Cuba, to the thousands of people who have been unjustly imprisoned. For the thousands of people who have been exiled. I dream for justice for Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Laura Pollan. I dream of liberty, plurality, diversity, and democracy for my Cuba.
Cuba, a country of 11.4 million people in the northern Caribbean, is governed by a totalitarian state led by Raul Castro who serves as chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. Fidel Castro, who ruled the country for 49 years before formally relinquishing power to his brother in 2008, remains the First Secretary of the Communist Party, which is recognized by the Cuban constitution as the only legal political party and “the superior leading force of society and of the state.”
The Cuban government denies or severely constrains the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association, movement, and religion. The government and the Communist Party control all news media, and the government routinely harasses and detains its critics, particularly those who advocate democracy and respect for human rights. Government action against dissidents often takes the form of “spontaneous” attacks by regime-organized mobs. Prison conditions are harsh and often life threatening, and the courts operate as instruments of the Communist Party rather than conducting fair trials.