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Interviewed March 2011

Ariel Sigler Amaya was a teacher and an accomplished amateur boxer in his native Cuba. After he began speaking out in favor of democratic reforms, he became one of the 75 dissidents arrested in the Black Spring of 2003 and was convicted of having acted “against the independence or territorial integrity of the state.” In prison he suffered torture and other forms of ill treatment.

By the time of his release in 2010, Sigler’s weight had gone down from 205 to 117 pounds. Once in excellent physical shape, he suffered from a variety of medical conditions resulting from his treatment in prison and his friends and family members feared he was near death. After arriving in the United States, he gradually began regaining his strength and began walking with a cane instead of using a wheelchair.

Sigler remains a vigorous advocate of freedom and democracy, not only for his fellow Cubans but also for others living in countries with totalitarian and highly authoritarian governments around the world. 

The situation in Cuba is unique because unfortunately any person outside of Cuba knows more about Cuba than the Cuban themselves who live on the island. The constitution of the Republic of Cuba, that piece of paper written by Jose Martí, that constitution that is completely anti-democratic- liberticide is stipulated in Article 53 where it defines very clearly an information monopoly. It states that only those who conform to the socialist ideas have permission to write and publish. To conform to the ideas of socialism and communism.

Anyone who opposes this does not have the freedom to write and publish. If the Cuban population recognizes these leaders, it is because these leaders have been able to represent a section of their society. Or by means of communicating to the masses controlled by the state like a roundtable or the news. These forms of media with their very unique ways to lie to the people were recognized by Fidel Castro in a statement he made at the Assembly of Latin American Sociologists in 2003. And how did I know about this? Through the Cuban media.

They see them as mercenaries, as corrupt people, as people with their own agenda. As a person who is not interested in the Cuban population. They are against everything. They are fighting so that the Cuban people do not live in misery anymore, to live based on need and they live more exploited than before. Unfortunately that's how it is. But that is why the Cuban people need more information. There has to be a way to create media in an independent form, an alternative form of information without the daily censorship in Cuba. And by means of this media, these leaders who are respected people can be known to the Cuban people. They would be able to give their discourses, programs, political and ideological thoughts so that the people can begin to follow them.

Practically, there is a state of silence in Cuba. The leaders do not allow people to leave their houses. Jose Luis García Pérez practically lives as a recluse in his house. He cannot leave, cannot even go to the front porch of his house because the police will come quickly, enter his house, and put him back inside. He is to stay in the house or be arrested. And that's how a lot of the resistance leaders live in Cuba. That's the reality of those who live and grow up in Cuba. A lot of people who listen to Radio Martí are sympathizers. 100% of them although I do not know them personally but I have heard them speak. 

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Ariel Sigler Amaya: Horrors of a Cuban Prison Describes the conditions in Cuban prisons. Ariel Sigler Amaya: Physical Toll of Prison How he lost half his weight and became a paraplegic while in prison. Ariel Sigler Amaya: Thought Crimes in Cuba Talks about his arrest during the Cuban “Black Spring” of 2003. More + Ariel Sigler Amaya: Freedom Around the Corner “For all those countries under dictatorships . . . . You are not alone.” More +