Given to putting rhymes to reality and signing to the rhythm of rap’s social protest, Angel Yunier Remon, “El Critico,” just got out of prison where he spent the last two years due to his activism. In March of 2013, Remon, who also coordinated the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Bayamo, was arrested for painting “Down with the dictatorship!” on a wall in front of his house. He was sentenced to six years for assault.
During the time he has been in prison, El Critico has suffered from cholera, and carried out several hunger strikes. The campaign for his release gained intensity on social networks, generated solidarity among many other musicians in the world, and led to demand for his release by numerous international organizations.
Less than 72 hours after his release, 14ymedio held a telephone conversation with El Critico, already at home in Bayamo.
Question: Prison is hard for anyone. What did you experience in your time behind bars?
Answer: As you know, I’ve been out three days and now I’m trying to reintegrate myself into my family after spending one year, ten months and fifteen days in prison. I want you to know that I was subjected to physical and psychological torture there, meant to punish me for my ideals, which are in sync with those held today by the majority of the Cuban population. They are the same as the dreams of this people, which has suffered sophism for more than 56 years and spent decades asking for changes and justice.
Q: What is the situation of the other activists who are in the same prison?
A: I was in Las Mangas provincial prison, four miles from Bayamo. With me, among other activists, were Rubisney Villavicencio Figueredo and Alexander Otero Rodríguez, who are also home now.
Q: Can you tell us about the day you were released and give us some details about your current legal situation?
A: They never explained to me that I was being released. I’d spent a month in a punishment cell because of the disobedience I maintained. I was in my underwear, because they had taken everything. Then the guards came and returned the clothes they’d taken and ordered me to collect my things. Everything indicated I was being transferred, but they didn’t tell me anything. I left prison in a paddy wagon, accompanied by several guards and other State Security personnel. When we were outside they let me out, gave me a paper and left. On this paper there was a stamp and a signature saying that I was on parole.
Q: Your case prompted a lot of solidarity around the world. Do you want to say something to the people have demanded your release all this time?
A: I don’t know how to thank so much goodness and I want to at least offer a fraternal embrace. Undoubtedly, these are people who sided with the truth, whether from exile or from here. this shows that when voices are raised, as they should be, they can make themselves heard. This we must also do for a free Cuba, which is what so many of us want.
Q: What are you thinking of doing now? What are your plans?
A: I have a musical project I’ve fought hard for, so I am going to go out and see the youth of my city, where there is a lot of talent. This project is called “The children nobody wanted.*” So now I want to dedicate myself to making music and rescuing the talent of all these young people who want to be heard. For my part, I can assure you that El Critico will continue writing what comes from my heart.
Q: How were you received in your neighborhood?
A: Here, right now, there is tremendous confusion, but great joy. One by one almost all the neighbors have come by the house to offer their support and their joy that I’m out. These are people who were witnesses to the injustices committed in this neighborhood. Now they come to embrace me and it is as if they had all been released along with me.
Q: Were you able to write any new songs while you were in prison?
A: I have documented everything that happened. They are experiences acquired in a difficult situation and I want to reveal them in my songs, because they are things that should be known.
*Translator’s note: Taken from the title of a novel (and also a blog) by Angel Santiesteban, who remains in prison.
12 January 2015