Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – On November 10th, it had been a whole year since the appalling experience I was forced to have, which not only attacked me directly but also freedom of speech in Cuba, adding one more page to an already ample file of violations against citizens.
According to State Security in Mayari, they were just following provincial orders and carried out a dramatic search of my home, registering everything, taking many documents, books, a Laptop computer, hard drives, the USB stick with the cartoons my young daughter watches, music DVDs and my cellphone.
They took me down to the police station (even though I was supposedly not being arrested) “to sign a document about what had been seized,” they told me. But, that was a lie and I was held prisoner for three days. Fifteen hours in a cell at the main police station in Mayari and the rest of the time at the Pedernales State Security facility, in Holguin. People know it as the jail where “everyone sings”, because it is a dreadful place which isn’t even fit for wild animals. They keep suspects there for months on end, trying to pressure them into confessing.
There is a similar facility in every province, which is the equivalent of US detention centers for alleged terrorists at the Guantanamo Naval Base, but with worse hygienic conditions. A place where laws don’t exist and the life of a man isn’t worth anything, without human rights and due process. It was a terrible experience and I was only there a little over two days. There were people there who had been arrested for two months, without any evidence against them, being pressured to make a confession so they could be brought before a court. This is just a glimpse of what the Socialist Rule of Law is that they are trying to sell us with the new constitution.
A year has passed and I have been “regulated” ever since, that is to say, I can’t travel outside the country. State Security is demanding that a sign a document stating that I won’t be involved in political activism against the Cuban State and that I would be filmed doing this, with witnesses, in order to get this human right of mine (which should be inalienable) back. I didn’t and won’t accept such an improper proposal, of course.
They haven’t returned what they seized from me either. I know that this is common practice as State Security doesn’t give anything it seizes back because it is above the law, even the most unjust laws that have us defenseless for so long. It is assumed that if we did have Law and order in Cuba, they couldn’t seize what they did without a court order and without a crime that has been proven and tried. I am also apparently innocent until proven otherwise and so my belongings are legal until proof of the crime has been presented before a court.
But, that’s not how things work here in Cuba. I filed a complaint with the Attorney-General’s Office, without hope really but with the feeling that that was what I should do and the right thing to do. I have already written about this in my previous article: “The “Empty” Response I Received from the District Attorney’s Office,” but it’s worth repeating… It was shameful! They didn’t dare to give me a written response because it was all completely illegal, full of the Attorney-General Office’s subjugation to State Security and clearly dictated by them. Using that typical, orthodox language of the ‘80s, without a trace of due process.
“Nothing would be returned to me because of the nature of the crime; because my activities in the media are counter-revolutionary.” But, what crime if there still aren’t any charges?
According to the two district attorneys who read out that illegitimate response, “the Attorney-General’s Office is obliged to answer all complaints, but it can do so orally in exceptional cases.” I asked for it to be put in writing, but they refused. They clearly didn’t want to give me to have tangible evidence of this crime, of their errors in practicing due process and of not abiding their own laws.
And anyone with a single working brain cell would know that if State Security were to go over the cost-benefit of their actions, they would think that it was a “mistake” to have detained me because it is very foul and clumsy to lock up a human being for writing what they think. Even more so when they know how to write and have firm beliefs, as I do, which has had an acceptable response on different media platforms, by the way.
However, sometimes we overestimate Cuban State Security forces. Their logic is years old, from the 1930s more or less when J. Stalin founded his school of repression which did away with millions “for the population’s overall good”, which is the guide today for Cuban Communists using slogans like “the Revolution has a right to defend itself.” That’s why, against all odds, I was foully and cruelly arrested once again on June 19th.
Even though this coincided with an even more shameful arrest, that of my colleague, the biologist Ariel Urquiola, which took up most of the independent media’s attention, news of my arrest was also spread. I even found a video on YouTube by a Florida TV station reporting my arrest. That day, I was threatened with being held prisoner for 72 hours every time I wrote an article and with them compiling a file for a future trial (God knows what made-up crime they would invent). How much rage they have for an independent journalist!
However, I haven’t stopped writing and I won’t in the future. Out of principle rather than courage. I haven’t been arrested again luckily, like they claimed they would. However, the threat is always hanging over my head like the sword of Damocles, and they can arrest me or anyone when they feel like it. In spite of this danger, I will continue to write and denounce to the world every human rights violation against myself or anyone else.
If I had any doubts before (like many Cubans still do), I don’t anymore. My family, friends and I have all had a taste of the dirty and criminal side of the system, which they try to keep hidden behind a curtain. This is why many people think that we “exaggerate” when we talk about our painful experiences. They have already bared their teeth and clawed at me for being an independent journalist and promoting democracy.
Now, I know that there aren’t any sheep in the Communist flock: just wolves in disguise. The best testament to this is that Cubans still fear politics even when they live abroad. A year ago, the Communist system took me “by force” for the first time (like an angry 19th century slave owner) for daring to raise my dissident voice, even when I am still a socialist.
And nothing will improve with this new Constitution that is being debated as it is just a more comprehensive version of the former in terms of democracy and human rights. Plus, our new president has made it clear that his mission is “continuity”. Unfortunately, everything seems to indicate that the dangers of repression will only increase in this reformed extremist landscape…