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Themes Cuba's Black Spring » Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antúnez

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Jorge Luis García Pérez (better known as “Antúnez”) was born in Placetas, Cuba in 1964. He is the leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front. The Front is a Cuban civil society organization named for a political prisoner who died while on a hunger strike in 2010.

As an Afro-Cuban, Antúnez experienced the regime’s discrimination against minorities in restricting both educational and career opportunities. Such treatment, along with severe political repression, contributed to his disenchantment with the regime.

Antúnez, inspired by freedom movements in Eastern Europe, became active in the Cuban opposition. In March 1990, he was arrested for publically denouncing the Castro regime and sentenced to five years in prison. Despite his incarceration, Antúnez remained defiant by refusing to wear a prisoner’s uniform and rejecting the government’s re-education programs.

Antúnez also created the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners group in honor of the famous prisoner of conscience who died during a hunger strike in 1972. Through this organization, the prisoners drew inspiration and encouragement to continue their struggle. As a result, Antúnez was subject to solitary confinement, torture, and an extension of his five year sentence. He endured 17 years of prison before being released in 2007.

Antúnez continues advocating for freedom and democracy in Cuba with his wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, leader of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights. His work involves supporting Cuban political prisoners, and expanding political freedoms and civil liberties. 

Twitter: @antunezcuba 

Repression in Cuba is 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The principal example of repression in Cuba and the lack of freedom is the existence of a regime that has been in power for over 50 years contrary to the popular will.

That alone is the main proof of freedom’s absence in Cuba. When we speak of repression, it is good to know because there are those who have no idea about the magnitude of repression in Cuba, for example, a declaration such as the one I am making here today would result in punishment: a beating or years of imprisonment.

In Cuba, repression means being punished when there is a gathering [of people] outside the regime’s control. In Cuba any gathering of four or five people who question the regime is an act punishable by beatings or years of imprisonment. In 2001, while I was in Morejon Nieves Prison, I witnessed a phenomenon that would be funny if it weren’t so perverse.

There were three prisoners who, either to ingratiate themselves to the regime or perhaps because of their affinity for it, went on a hunger strike in support of five Cuban spies imprisoned in the United States. The three were punished. Their family and conjugal visits, as well as their families’ food package deliveries were suspended. They were told that protests, even in support of the revolution, must have permission from the authorities. In Cuba there is not even freedom to support the regime.

[In 2001, five Cuban intelligence officers who had infiltrated the United States were convicted in Miami of conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, acting as agents of a foreign government, and other illegal activities.]

In Cuba, there is no unionizing except for the CTC [Workers' Central Union of Cuba], a union that is a tool of the regime. In Cuba there is no judicial independence. When you go to court, if you have been accused of a crime against the state, you are legally defenseless. The lawyer, prosecutor and judge are all compromised. There is no independence.

In Cuba, there is no rule of law. Who will you complain to? That is one of the most important questions. All over the world human rights are violated. All over the world there are cowards who, shielded by their uniform or post, violate human rights. The difference being that in democracies there are channels, institutions, and bodies to which you can bring grievances.

In Cuba the primary vehicle for racial discrimination is the silencing of the race issue. According to [the regime], there is no racial discrimination [in Cuba] but it cannot be debated politically, it cannot be questioned, and it cannot be discussed. Cuba is an environment of constant repression. There are crimes within the penal code that are legal aberrations and have no basis in international laws.

For instance, for the law “breach of the duty to condemn,” what is the crime? Nothing. It’s an incitement to betray or to accuse. If you know that a person commits an alleged crime you are obligated to turn them in. If not, you are involved in the crime.

In Cuba there is a “crime” called “social hazard” which states, having no basis in international law, a person can go to prison, not for a crime he commits, but for a crime he might commit. This law is a sword of Damocles in the hands of a corrupt military that can imprison you on a whim.

In Cuba there are crimes for which you could go to prison such as “spoken or written enemy propaganda,” which is any public or written criticism of the regime. There is also an umbrella crime, “other acts against state security.” It means you can go to jail for anything you do against the regime that is not legally categorized.

When [the regime] attacked civil society during the [Black Spring] of March 2003, it wasn’t just against the opposition, but to send a message to the people as to the consequences of joining the opposition’s ranks.

There has been much fear. I feel fear. All of us feel fear, but the most important thing that is happening in Cuba is the loss of fear. Often we bury ourselves in emphasizing the repression because it pains us that our brothers are beaten or punished. It pains us that they do the same to us, but in Cuba, repression is not the most important thing that is happening. It is actually the loss of fear. 

Cuba, an island nation of 11.4 million people in the northern Caribbean Sea, is a totalitarian state.

Fidel Castro led the 1959 Cuban Revolution and ruled the country for 49 years before formally relinquishing power to his younger brother Raul in 2008. Raul Castro is the current head of state and 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.” Raul Castro has said that he will step down from power at the age of 86 in 2018.

Cuba was a territory of Spain until the Spanish-American War. The United States assumed control of the island until 1902, when the Republic of Cuba became formally independent. A fledgling democracy was established, with the U.S. continuing to play a strong role in Cuban affairs.

In 1952, facing an impending electoral loss, former president Fulgencio Batista staged a successful military coup and overthrew the existing government. While his first term as elected president in the 1940s largely honored progressive politics, universal freedoms, and the Cuban Constitution of 1940, Batista’s return to power in the 1950s was a dictatorship marked by corruption, organized crime and gambling. He held power until 1959 when he was ousted by Fidel Castro’s rebel July 26th Movement.

While promising free elections and democracy, Castro moved quickly to consolidate power. By 1961, Castro had declared Cuba to be a communist nation.

Castro’s communist government nationalized private businesses, lashed out at political opponents, and banned independent civil society. As Cuba aligned itself with the Soviet Union, Cuban-American relations soured, including a U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba. In the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union came close to war, after the Soviets installed nuclear missiles in Cuba, prompting a U.S. naval embargo.

Since the revolution, Cuba has remained a one-party state. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the evaporation of Soviet economic support, Cuba loosened some economic policies, became more open to foreign investment, and legalized use of the U.S. dollar. By the late 1990s, Venezuela had become Cuba’s chief patron, thanks to the close relationship between the Castro brothers and Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez.

The regime continues to exercise authoritarian political control, clamping down on political dissent and mounting defamation campaigns against dissidents, portraying them as malignant U.S. agents. In a massive crackdown in 2003 known as the Black Spring, the government imprisoned 75 of Cuba’s best-known nonviolent dissidents.

The Cuban government does not respect 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 of human rights. Frequent government actions against dissidents often take the form of 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.

Cuba relaxed its travel laws in 2013, allowing some prominent dissidents to leave and return to the country. It continues to experiment with modest economic reforms but remains committed to communist economic orthodoxy.

In Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report, Cuba was designated as “not free” and is grouped near the bottom of the world’s nations, with severely restricted civil rights and political liberties.


More on this theme from Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antúnez

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez: Repression in Cuba “In Cuba, there is not even freedom to support the regime.”

Other videos from Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antúnez

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez: Being a Prisoner of Conscience “You have two options: give up or resist.” Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez: Why I Became a Dissident “I will always hold the Castro dictatorship responsible for the death of my mother.” Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez: What is Freedom “Freedom is no longer being objects of a regime and being treated as human beings.” More + Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez: Torture Recalling incidents of torture. More +