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Cuban former political prisoner Jorge Luis García Perez Antúnez: I felt death was very close several times

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" (EFE)

Published in "El Mercurio" in Santiago, Chile. May 6, 2007


Despite torture and years in prison, Jorge Luis García maintains his stance. Now that he is free, he will continue his political activism as coordinator of the Pedro Luis Boitel Political Prisoners Movement .


He spent 17 years in different prisons where he survived punishment cells, hunger and being humiliated by communist agents.



He responded to beatings in prison by singing the Cuban national anthem; to injustices, the lack of food, and medical attention, and punishments with prolonged hunger strikes. This rebellious and unbreakable attitude was maintained by Jorge Luis García Pérez, "Antúnez", during the 17 years and 38 days that he was imprisoned in different prisons throughout Cuba.


Although he fulfilled his sentence on March 15th, he was released on April 22nd, making him the political prisoner that has served the most time in prison.


"Antúnez", as he is known by the last name of his stepfather, was detained in Placetas for screaming during a demonstration that communism was “an error and a utopia.” That incident was considered “oral enemy propaganda,” for which he was beaten and detained by State Security agents.


It was March of 1990, he was 25 years old and had a prison sentence of six years, though it World not be his last. His refusal to wear the uniform of common prisoners and to participate in the “communist re-education” program given in jails meant a violent beating, nine months in solitary confinement and more years in prison.


Later he was accused of “attempted sabotage” when he escaped prison to see his sick mother. He was only free for one day and was unable to see her. His mother died one month later, and though he was a mere 20 kilometers from the location, he was not allowed to attend her funeral or burial. That is why the first thing he did when he was released was visit the cemetery, he tells “El Mercurio" through an “accidental” telephone conversation from his home in Placetas, the town where he was born 42 years ago.


"This is part if the censorship, they don’t want the truth to come out,” he said regarding the frequent interference.


He admits that he is not in good health and that he suffers from respiratory problems, but he adds immediately, “My spirit is well, with much desire to continue fighting.”


- Will you continue to stand up for political prisoners?


"I will continue my political activism, and I will be the national coordinator of the Presidio Político Pedro Luis Boitel Movement, which we founded with other brothers in 1995, to denounce the situation within Cuban prisons.”


- In addition to having a combative attitude, you are also black. How has this affected you?


"The authorities in my country have never tolerated that a black person oppose the regime. During the trial, the color of my skin aggravated the situation. Later when I was mistreated in prison by guards, they always referred to me as being black.”


- But you were also nicknamed “the black diamond,” which is how you are known throughout Cuba’s prisons.


"That name was given to me by my friends in the prison out of compassion, out of solidarity with me, they saw in me a fighter who defended their rights. They admired my resistance in the face of the humiliations and abuses.”


- José Martí stated that the pain of the political prisoner is the most cruel and devastating because it leaves scars that can never be erased. Do you agree with him?


"The pain of the political prison system is the crudest of pains. It is a pain that kills intelligence, dries the soul, humiliates and never goes away. It is so certain that today I look at the pain of my brothers that are still in prison. I also see my body with scars from the tortures and beatings. But when one fights for a just cause, for a noble ideal, it is a driving force to continue in the fight.”


- How does one live with those scars?


"I think of my nieces and nephews, of my children if I have them one day. i think of the future generations of Cubans that will feel proud of the many people that have made such a painful sacrifice.”


- In "Boitel Vive" the book that you wrote in prison, you tell about the solitary confinement cells in which you  were held on many occasions and for prolonged periods of time, naked, without food, and surrounded by rats. What does a human being think scout in those circumstances?


"One asks himself can it be possible that the leaders of my country can submit a person to such treatment? Are they so ignorant to think that these tortures, this nudity can break down a person? But, quite the contrary. The more repression intensifies, the more they resort to cruelty, all the more reason to continue in the struggle.”


- Is this how you dealt with it?


"I have been on hunger strike many times. Though I maintain my morale, I have been dehydrated, in the worst condition. I have felt very near death, very near.”


"Cuban society is changing”


After 17 years of imprisonment, "Antúnez" says he notices a change in Cuban society. “Today I find more Cubans in solidarity with the opposition, more open in expressing their discontent with the regime,” eh states to "El Mercurio".


However, despite the transformation that he perceives, he cannot foretell the political future of the island.


"In systems like these, in a totalitarian regime, the future is unpredictable. The conditions are created o that the dictatorship disappears tomorrow, but they are also created so that it is conserved.”


Due to the increased momentum of the opposition and the growing discontent of the Cuban people, “change could be quick. But it could also be delayed because of repression, lack of information, and the indoctrination that every Cuban receives from the cradle to the grave,” assured Jorge Luis García.


"The regime is reluctant to any sort of opening, to all change, that is why Cubans must pressure, in a peaceful and civil way, to demolish this system and achieve a democratic Cuba,” he concludes.


"To be honest, I think that my faith in the ideas for which I fight never ceased and never will cease. I believe that faith in God and in this just cause which I defend is what helped me survive.”


Translated by the Cuban Democratic Directorate

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