Reflections from a recently released prisoner of conscience

For many years we have asked ourselves why the Cuban government acts one way or another. In the end, no one has been able to supply a correct answer. In everything is done Fidel Castro’s way, which means that the regime always acts in favor of his interests; to maintain the revolution and the socialism, the same things that keep him in power.

Now, many are asking us the reasons why we were freed, only the Cuban government could really answer this question, it could well be that it was done as a concession to the Spanish government, which has made so many good gestures toward them. The Spanish authorities have the best of intentions with regard to the fight of Cubans for democracy, and because in there might be a true democratic and free society established. But this alone does not suffice as a rationale, though it is necessary to maintain contacts and the dialogue with the regime, the Cuban people also must be included, which in this case represents the opposition inside the country. This dialogue with the Cuban authorities should be critical and non-obliging, since one must keep in mind that more than 200 political prisoners still remain in the jails under extremely precarious conditions and living together with common prisoners. The state continues to violate Cubans’ human rights with impunity, while denying access to free and independent organizations.

The economic changes that are apparently coming into affect are necessary, but so are changes in the laws necessary that guarantee the fundamental liberties that govern in free and democratic society. It is necessary for the Cuban people to be able to express their ideas freely without requiring a president telling them that they can speak without fear of retaliations.

We are very grateful to the Spanish people government for everything that they have done for our release. Spain is starting a new phase in its relations with Cuba, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s socialist government will know to design a more effective strategy than could make the authorities on the island understand that the changes are necessary and they must adjust to the new democratic requests that govern in the world today, so that the Cuban nation can take the road of a free development and democracy.

In , the workers lack unions that can defend their rights, because the independent trade unionism is prohibited by an official mandate. In our case, we have been accused of being stateless mercenaries for trying to defend Cuban laborers. The Unified Counsel of Cuban Workers (CUTC) was founded on July 14, 1995, when we filed a request for legalization before the Justice Department, under the protection of Cuban legislation, but since then the repression against our activities have only intensified. On many occasions we had suffered arrests, registrations and imprisonment – for instance I had been arrested in the final days of January 2001, but on March 18, 2003 we were seized and nine union members of the CUTC condemned, along with 66 other countrymen, to high miseries of jail. Our organization was deeply affected by this and from that moment the Unified Counsel’s leaders and activists began suffering all types of harassment, threats of imprisonment and intimidating actions with the intent of destroying the organization. Yet, they have failed, since they have maintained all of their members. It is certain that the Cuban government fears losing control of the workers that it maintains through the central Cuban Office for Workers (CTC). Independent trade unionism of the sort that we are advocating for would impede to the current leadership of the country from doing whatever it pleased, since freely organized workers would be able to have more power over their future decisions.
This action of the Cuban government has generated a solidarity movement and international support for our cause everywhere, international union organizations like the World Confederation of Work, the International Confederation of Free Union Organizations, the Latin-American Confederation of Workers, the Pan-American Regional Worker’s Organization, the International Union Confederation, the National Confederation of Christian Unions of Holland (CNVINTERNATIONAL), the Syndicated Laborers Union of Spain, the Solidarity of Cuban Workers and other humanitarian and human rights organizations. Also, I have to express a special bit of gratitude to the representative of the Union of the People of Navarre, Carlos Savior Armendáriz, who’s proposal for a Non-Law Proposition, which called for the immediate liberation for me and the remainder of my countrymen, was successfully approved by the Spanish Congress by a majority with only two abstentions, the UI-ICV and the Mixed Group.

In addition to the congratulations for our liberation, we have received the firm resolution of the majority of these organizations to continue requiring the release of all the prisoners that continue imprisoned in the island for having different political ideas than the Cuban state.

Our release out of the country to was conditional, there was no other option – you either go now or remain in prison and serve the rest of your sentence, this and only this was the condition. For a 60-year-old man to comply with 20 more years more in jail is a serious risk, though it was not easy for me to say yes, but it was more difficult for me to say no, since in a way it meant abandoning the fight and the sacrifices that I shared with my brothers as one for the liberty of our country. This was very hard. I think about this a lot and I feel remorse, though many advised me by saying that I could be more useful in the exile, denouncing the reality of political gulags to the world, and here we are complying with just that task.

Exile is a new experience for me that I have not yet adapted to, nevertheless, my commitment remains with the liberty of my country and to those who are still prisoners in . They are making me design a new setting for the fight, so that from I can continue being useful to the fight of my companions in . Now I am the one who obeys – like our apostle of independence José Martí said: “ is the one that gives the orders.” This and only this will be my only purpose, to fulfill the orders of my companions from the island.

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