Under constant threat

Antunez- Photo Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons, Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos
Antunez- Photo Credit: Flickr, Creative Commons, Comision Interamericana de Derechos Humanos

Antunez, a well-known Cuban activist, was imprisoned for 17 years from 1990 to 2007. His offense? Screaming out during a demonstration in the 90s that communism was a mistake and that Cuba was a dystopia.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who is better known as Antunez and his wife Yris Perez Aguilera were arrested last June, this time over fears that the dissident might represent a threat to the normalization of relations between Cuba and the USA. He was caught disseminating leaflets against this normalization in his home town of Placetas. The cause may have also been his repeated trips to Europe and the US, when he took the opportunity to speak about the current realities of the dissidents in Cuba.

During his last arrest in June, Antunez claimed was severely beaten and tortured. He admitted that he had never received such violent treatment on any of the other occasions when he was arrested. They were both released, but were immediately put under arrest again the next day. His wife and he have been unrightfully arrested; extensively interrogated while in custody and their house was vandalized by the police forces.

Since then, due to international pressure, he was released from house arrest and the charges with “public disorder” against him were dropped, only to be restored shortly after: Antunez is under house arrest again and will face charges in a coming trial.

Recently in Miami, his wife, Yris Pérez Aguilera has spoken out loud about the repression under which the dissidents find themselves on a daily basis. She also stressed the harsh reality that once back in Cuba, she will face again repression for the truths she had spoken in the USA.

We are unfortunately witnessing a rise in the wave of repression by the Cuban government dissidents, such as Antunez and his wife, and independent journalists, like Roberto de Jesus Guerra, Martha Beatriz Roque, have been arrested or beaten by the State Police.

Antunez is a classic example of enduring courage and resilience:

After being discriminated against by the regime’s policy towards minorities, which prevented him from growing professionally and getting the education he wanted, and being inspired by the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, he joined the Cuban opposition in the 90s. He founded Frente Nacional de Resistencia Civica Orlando Zapata Tamayo in memory of the dissident who died during a hunger strike in 2010.

During his long years in prison, Antunez formed a new movement to support his fellow political prisoners, called Pedro  Luiz Boitel after the political prisoner who died of a hunger strike in 1972. Throughout his years of imprisonment he remained firm on his positions – he refused to wear a prisoner’s uniform or to recant his ideas. Due to his defiance of the regime’s authority on several occasions, his five year sentence was extended to seventeen years.

His wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera has also founded a movement, The Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, which has strongly advocated for an end to repression towards peaceful human rights defenders. She has been repeatedly threatened with death and rape, beaten and jailed.

In honor of Antunez’s and Yris Perez’s continued fight for the respecting of human rights and basic freedoms in Cuba, in spite of being well aware of the risks involved, People in Need is appealing to you to share their story and make sure that their worrying situation is known.

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Miranda Fuertes is human rights defender focused on Cuba and based in Prague, Czech Republic