No matter where I live, I will keep working for the freedom of Cuba
“No matter where I live, I will keep working for the freedom of Cuba”
REINALDO ESCOBAR, La Habana | Marzo 19, 2015
Twelve years after the Black Spring, 14ymedio chats with some of the
former political prisoners currently living on the Island. Two questions
have been posed to those activists condemned in March 2003: one about
their decision to stay in Cuba, and the other about how they see the
Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello
I left prison in late 2004, paroled by the regime for reasons of health.
They never offered me the chance to go abroad, but it wouldn’t have
occurred to me. My closest family, and most distant as well, live
abroad, but I never had plans to abandon the Island. I am a Spanish
citizen because my family did the paperwork, I visited the embassy of
that country the day they told me to fill out the forms and then got a
passport, about four years ago.
This is no longer the same country it was in the spring of 2003. The
government has been forced to return certain rights to the citizens,
regardless of the fact that we can’t make use of them. At that time, for
example, a Cuban was not permitted to say in the hotels. Now it’s not
prohibited, but the economy doesn’t allow the ordinary citizen to
exercise that right. Who, other than “papá’s kids” [the Castro
offspring] has the money to pay for a room? Another thing is the ability
to travel abroad. Those of us who are on parole are not allowed to
travel, or we know that if we do it we will not be allowed to return.
I remember Cardinal Ortega, in a statement published by the newspaper
Granma, said that all of us would be set free, but they only freed those
who chose to go into exile. That is a way of punishing us for not
accepting deportation, it is a whim of the commander in chief and a
mockery of Spain and of the Church. On 31 October last year we made a
formal demand for a document of freedom, but we never got an answer. We
only have an identity card.
I got out of prison because of the efforts made by the Government of
Spain and the Catholic Church with the Government of Cuba, but
especially thanks to the internal pressures, which came from the actions
of the Ladies in White, the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and
Guillermo Fariña’s hunger strike. No one ever pressured me to leave
Cuba. The Cardinal called me and proposed it and I said no. My decision
was to stay and continue to fight for the freedom of Cuba and I’ve never
regretted that. It was very important that I had the support of my wife,
Berta Soler, who has always agreed with our staying.
The country has not evolved at all in terms of human rights. Just look
at the lists of arbitrary detentions issued monthly by the Human Rights
Committee and Hablemos Press. The methods used by the State Security
include beatings and abuses of all kinds. The repression has intensified
to prevent the population from joining the activism. It is true that
they have not been making the same mistake of the Black Spring, because
that was a failure that cost the government dearly, but they continue to
imprison people for political reasons and still refuse to ratify the
international covenants on human rights.
Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique
I left prison in November 2010. Just before, Cardinal Ortega called me
and told me he was preparing for the prisoners of our cause to leave the
country. I told him I wasn’t interested. It was a decision I’ve thought
about a lot since that time, but I wouldn’t take it back. If I wanted to
leave Cuba now it would have to be forever, but I’m not going to accept
this blackmail. On leaving prison they gave us a little piece of paper
to get an ID card, but I never managed to get anything legal. My family
shares this decision and when your family supports you, the decision is
The opposition still hasn’t been able to consolidate itself. The
constant emigration of people with experience does a lot of damage to
us, these exits don’t allow us to consolidate. Of course the regime was
forced to take some actions, but it was done out of pure pragmatism.
They have no interest in changing. In this similar situation of
restoring relations with the United States I can’t see clearly what
their real interests are. Maduro from Venezuela is an influence in this,
because he isn’t happy to see there is a possibility of coming to an
arrangement with Cuba.
Diosdado González Marrero
Right now, almost four years after thye released us, I continue to see
it as a question of principles to have made the decision not to give in
to the Government’s pressure and accept exile as a condition for leaving
prison. I saw it then and I continue to see it the same way now. In
about a week I’m going to join my family abroad. I am leaving the
Island, but I will stay in Cuba. I tried to leave like a normal visit,
but it’s not allowed. My wife and I even went to the cardinal to
intercede, but it wasn’t possible to resolve our request. I am leaving
for two reasons: my desire to reunite with my children and
grandchildren, and because we Cubans have to live in democracy. I have
done my best for the unity of the opposition, but it’s very difficult,
there are too many individual interests in each organization. No matter
where I live, I will continue working for the freedom of Cuba.
Having spent eight years in those places that don’t even deserve to be
called prisons, and coming back out to the street, I saw that everything
was worse. After you get acclimated again, you can get used to anything.
Now we see changes. There are things that Cubans have the right to, that
they couldn’t do before. Get a cellphone, connect to the Internet,
travel, those were goals that seemed impossible, likewise with the
development of private businesses or land leasing, but politically,
nothing. After Fidel Castro got sick and handed over power to his
brother, they started to eliminate prohibitions and now, with the
conversations between the Cuban regime and the American government,
things will get better still, especially with the flow of tourists from
the United States.
Eduardo Diaz Fleitas
They released me just a few days before I served eight years in prison.
Cardinal Jaime Ortega called me to suggest that I accept leaving for
Spain in order to be released. I told him I wasn’t interested in leaving
Cuba. Having stayed on the Island has been very important because my
commitment is to fight for the changes we need. I never regret having
stayed here, and I don’t think I will leave under any circumstances.
The biggest change the country has suffered in the last 12 years that I
see is the greater deterioration. There is no respect for human dignity
nor any kind of improvement in any order of life. Now we need the regime
to decide to accept real changes and seek peace for the progress of the
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