The Story of Roberto Bahamonde

One morning at the beginning of March 1989, the engineer Roberto Bahamonde woke up very early. While he was having breakfast with his wife and his three children, an idea occurred to him. He thought he might do something for his nation.

He didn’t wait for the next day and went straight away to talk to people living in his neighbourhood about his idea, which was to stand as ​​a candidate in the elections held by the government. He came up with a ten-point program made of dreams cherished by many Cubans – a very simple one, putting emphasis on restoration of democracy and respect for human rights.

Letter from Roberto Bahamonde
Letter from Roberto Bahamonde

Willing to lead a peaceful fight, Roberto talked his idea over with some of his neighbours and managed to gain their support and solidarity. They promised to vote for him in the meeting announced by the Castro government.

Under the law, all candidates allowed to stand as future delegates of the National Assembly of Peoples’ Power had to be members of the Communist Party. Roberto Bahamonde wasn’t. In spite of that and to the surprise of many, he managed to gain the number of votes he needed to succeed. “Let’s see how the dictator will react,” Roberto’s friend commented on his excitement, but the engineer Bahamonde only grinned, happy that a large number of his neighbours didn’t let him down. “You should be very careful,” the friend added.

As a matter of fact, a few days later, Roberto Bahamonde was almost unexpectedly arrested out in the street by agents of the Ministry of Interior after he had just finished taking some photos at a child’s birthday party. He was put on trial for an alleged crime of illegal work. The fact is that he wasn’t able to find work in his field, i.e. in civil engineering, because he was a dissident and for this reason he was earning his living with his old camera, taking photos at birthday parties and weddings.

After the arrest, he spent a long holiday in the Combinado del Sur prison in the Matanzas province. He was locked in windowless cells for over a year, hardly being able to receive visits from his family, which was left completely helpless in Havana.

Time passed by and Roberto Bahamonde disappeared into an exile along with hundreds of thousands of opponents, as if the earth had swallowed him.

It’s been 25 years now and he may be already dead. If he’s not, he will have turned 80, reliving all his memories somewhere abroad, in a free country. However, his Cuban Human Rights Party membership card (the party which he founded in 1988) will remain in the archives of the State Security. The membership card holds all details of this courageous man’s life journey – the life journey of a Cuban who once woke up with a dream of freedom and did something unprecedented in the history of the Human Rights Movement in Cuba.

TaniaDiazCastroReciente

Tania Díaz Castro (*1939) is co-founder of National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. For over two decades she was reporter for official magazines. In 1980's she spent 18 months in jail for joining Human Rights Party.