This past 18th of January, it was the 7th year and 10th month anniversary since we 8 members from the group of the 75 were kidnapped by the communist political police. During this entire time, we’ve been hostages of the totalitarian Cuban regime. Two days later, at around 7pm, they took me to the office of the chief director of Canaleta Prison, the penitentiary where I am jailed. The chief was there along with a gorgeous psychologist from the Interior Ministry. They both tried to convince me that, given my age and state of health, the best option for me would be to depart from the island and into exile.
A few days ago, a doctor casually performed a medical check-up on me, informing me that my liver was inflamed and that I could not participate in hunger strikes. I told her that I have no interest in leaving my homeland, for I was born here and I wish to die here. At some point during the exchange of opinions the prison chief informed me that he had contacted me so that I could speak on the phone with Cardinal Jaime Ortega. Ortega, who is also the archbishop of Havana, wanted to speak to me. I made it clear that I didn’t have anything to talk to his Eminence about. During July 10th of last year I already made it clear to him when I spoke to him on the phone that I was not going to leave my country.
The psychologist told me that people change opinions and, in turn, their decisions. I replied to her that yes, she was correct, and that in fact, in the year 1961 (when I was only 13 years old) I joined the Conrado Benitez Brigade in order to work on the literacy campaign. I was also a militiaman, for I had enlisted in the army, as I pretended to be older than I really was. I belonged to the Association of Young Rebels and I considered myself a full-fledged “Country or Death” revolutionary. Today, however, I am anti-Castro and anti-communist, and I am deeply convinced and committed to the honorable civil struggle in order to achieve that democratic transition which we so long for.
The good-looking psychological professional emphasized that the opportunity I was turning down was an opportunity that others were desperately crying out to have. I flat out told her that I was the one who was going to desperately cry out if I were exiled from the largest of the Antilles. In sum, I told the chief of Canaleta that I was going back to my cell and that if Cardinal Ortega called for me, to tell him, on my behalf, that “I do not want to leave my country.” This is a decision I have developed over time and with much conscience ever since 1993, when I actually took part in an attempt to leave the country illegally via Havana. I learned that, amid all the processes against me, my destiny was to remain in my country and to peacefully struggle for the human rights and freedoms which are inherent to human dignity. And this is a decision I will maintain until the very last consequences because my life choice is to continue onward and to uphold the philosophy of Marti, which states, “the duty of a man is to reside where he is most useful.” Amen.
Pedro Arguelles Moran
Prisoner of Conscience
Provincial Prison of Canaleta, Ciego de Avila