Juan Wilfredo Soto García, “The Student,” October 13, 2010
May 5th was the fourth anniversary of the brutal beating of activist Juan Wilfredo Soto García, which resulted in his death two days later. It was followed bythe deaths of noted leaders Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, in which many also acknowledge the presence of the criminal hand. The effectiveness of extrajudicial execution, verified in the case of Juan Wilfredo Soto and amply proven by other governments, is also beyond doubt in Cuba.
The regime that began with firing squads no longer needs them. The moratorium on the death penalty since 2003 is possible because those in power have perfected their method of eliminating political opponents, paying for it at the lowest possible price. North Korea, which “judicially” exterminates without ceremony, as demonstrated again a few days ago, should take lessons from its more sophisticated Cuban allies, the best students of Machiavelli.
The common denominator in the three cases cited above is the lack of impartial investigations, which would most benefit murder suspects who were truly innocent. Four years after his death, what has happened in Juan Wilfredo’s case?
– His closest relatives, his two children, well aware of the criminality of the regime, opted for safety and emigrated through the Refugee Program of the United States.
– The impartial investigation requested of the Attorney General’s Office has not provided any conclusion.
– Not a single witness from the list that I gave to the Provincial Prosecutor of Villa Clara was called to testify. When I recently went to Prosecutor Osmel Fleites Cárdenas seeking information, he listened to my statement, reviewed the file, and confirmed that there is sufficient evidence to open a case, but then explained to me that he “no longer has anything to do with the matter because the investigation has been handed over to the Military Prosecutor.”
– It has been impossible to contact the family of Alexis Herrera Rodriguez, then a neighbor at 204 5th Street in the Camacho subdivision of Santa Clara. He was one of the three soldiers who participated in the fatal beating of Soto, the investigation of which was handled with total security by officers of the Political Police. Several witnesses placed him at the scene of the beating that fatal morning. He committed suicide by gunshot on Sunday May 8, 2011, Mother’s Day (the day we buried Soto), but survived some five days and was ultimately buried with a ceremony surrounded by heavy security on Friday May 13.
– It has also proved impossible to locate the other two police officers who participated in the beating—a man and a woman, twenty-year-olds, like Alexis—although it is rumored that both are now out of the military, at least from outward appearances, and that one is probably interned in a psychiatric hospital.
We live our lives aware of the dangers we face in denouncing the reality that extra-judicial executions are carried out with impunity in Cuba. We are supported in this every day in different ways, but we have no alternative if we truly want to represent the God of Justice whom we say we serve and to whose protection we entrust ourselves.
And in the case of Juan Wilfredo, having exhausted the meager options of the rigged Cuba legal system, we have no recourse but to appeal to the established international mechanisms, for which we have the support of the Commission on Human Rights, headed by Elizardo Sanchez, and of the beleaguered organization Cubalex.
6 May 2015