Jorge Luis García Pérez, better known as Antúnez, signing his debut post on babalublog.com from Placetas, in the center of Cuba, on August 19, defines himself as “an ex-political prisoner who will not be silenced, and who will not leave Cuba.”
Arrested for the first time in 1983 at the age of 19, Antúnez was beaten in the public square of his native Placetas for criticizing the government, taken to a police station, beaten again, and then set free with a warning.
In March 1990, again in Placetas’ main square, where he and a number of Cubans were listening to a radio address by Raúl Castro, Antúnez said to those nearby: “We don’t want Communism.” He added: “Communism is a mistake and a utopia. We want and need reforms such as those in Eastern Europe.” He was brutally beaten despite the protests of the onlookers, arrested and charged with “verbal enemy propaganda”. For this crime – dissent is a crime under Cuban law – Antúnez was sentenced to 5 years.
Thus began a saga of beatings in prison for “spending the day talking about human rights,” in the words of the captain in charge; confinement in a cell with known psychopaths, this time for refusing to wear the uniform issued to common criminals; solitary confinement for 9 months in a dark cell: no sun, no medical assistance of any kind, as punishment for his hunger strikes protesting his treatment.
In December 1992 Antúnez went on a hunger strike again, this time together with other political prisoners, demanding an end to repression and the freedom of all political prisoners. Shortly thereafter he was charged with “enemy propaganda” and “attempted sabotage” and sentenced to15 years. He was moved several times from prison to prison, each one worse than the last. He met every abuse, to himself and to others, with his only weapons: the hunger strike and his indomitable will.
In April 2007 Antúnez was finally set free. He had served 17 years, at the end of his ordeal suffering from severe lung and kidney ailments. The onetime “machetero” (sugarcane cutter), construction worker and farmer, who had to forgo his dream of becoming a lawyer in order to support his family, did not give up in prison, and does not give up now in the huge prison that is the island of Cuba for those who share his belief in human rights.
In his post on Babalu Blog, titled “A False and Fabricated Image of Cuba,” Antúnez draws the contrast between a falsehood: the Castro regime “engaging in dialogue in order to better the human rights situation in Cuba” and the reality: young activists who on August 16 “stood at the steps of the University of Havana and called on the Cuban people to take to the streets and demand liberty, democracy, and respect for human rights.” These young people have disappeared and Antúnez writes that he fears for their safety and their lives. He restates his faith in the eventual liberation of Cuba, which will come about “as the result of actions like the protest on the steps of the University of Havana.”
The words of this man deserve to be heard by all who share the convictions for which he was imprisoned, beaten, and broken in body. His spirit unbowed, his faith in the Cuban people unflagging, Antúnez continues to fight, an example to the free, a beacon of hope to the enslaved, in Cuba and everywhere.