Antonio Rodiles Speaks to PenultimosDias.com about his arrest and detention at Oswaldo Payá’s funeral
On July 24th, during Oswaldo Payá’s funeral, Antonio Rodiles, coordinator of the independent project Estado de Sats, was arrested by the police and held for almost 24 hours in the Police Station at Infanta and Manglar, in the Cerro neighborhood. Some twenty bloggers, dissidents and activists remained outside the Station, along with Rodiles’ family, for the better part of the night, until they were assured he would be released the following day as, in fact, happened. This interview, conducted just hours after his release, aims to clarify the circumstances of the arrest and the events that followed.
PenultimosDias.com: What exactly happened?
Antonio Rodiles: The problem begins when the hearse is ready to go to the cemetery. A group of activists wanted to accompany the coffin on foot, alongside the car, because not everyone could fit in the vehicles that were going to the cemetery. The police refused to allow the dissidents to walk alongside the car to the Colón Cemetery, and so there was a confrontation.
Guillermo Fariñas was in the front row. We were behind several cars, waiting to leave, when we saw a group run towards the hearse. From where we were we couldn’t see what was happening and so Ailer [Conzález] got out of the car to look. He was delayed in returning and when I was about to leave, the cortege started off following the cars.
We go to the Avenue, but I stop the car to get out and look for Ailer. Once I’m in the street I’m aware of the violence of State Security and the police, and I return to the car to leave my wallet. I’m looking for Ailer and find Julio Aleago, who I ask for help to find him amid this mass of people. I walk down one side of the sidewalk, Aleaga down the other, and suddenly one agent says to another, “There goes Aleago Pesant, let’s arrest him.”
On hearing this, I turn and go over to them; they come up and I am questioning them and trying to avoid their grabbing him. One of them shouts at me, I respond, and then I feel several of them grab me violently. I defend myself and start to also throw punches and kicks.
About six or seven of them descend and take me to the police car where we have more wrestling to prevent them forcing me in it. Finally they get me in and one of them sits on me, pushing his head against the roof of the car, and another trying to grab my feet. We head off this way until by common agreement we decide to stop the struggle. The air was completely rarefied within the backseat of the car.
When we arrived at the station there is again physical violence. One of them tells me I’m going in the cells and I tell him I’m will not go in. They threaten me and I tell them to save their threats, I am not going in. He and his partner pull me up and the fighting and punching starts again until a person from the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) intervenes. Those in the PNR try everything to calm things down, the State Security agents left the area and a Lieutenant colonel came to talk to me.
Meanwhile, Aleaga remained on the bench at the entrance to the cells. The lieutenant Colonel assured me we would not be put in the cells and would remain in a small room at the entrance to the dungeon, and that’s what happened.
Security didn’t stop pressuring them to put us in the cells, but the people of the PNR left us permanently in that little room. The interrogation was more of a conversation with the lieutenant colonel from State Security, in which I mostly talked. My conclusion is that they no longer have much to say or to argue, faced with the disaster.
PD: What did the police accuse you of and what were the details of the arrest?
AR: They didn’t accuse me of anything, in the record of the arrest it just says, “Matter of SE [State Security].”
PD: Did the solidarity of the activists, families and friends who were outside the station help you?
AR: I believe it was fundamental. I have no way to give thanks for the total support my family received, two elderly and sick people. It’s very important to send a clear message of determination and support. It’s importation that this kind of response be part of the action of civil society.
PD: What are your plans, for Rodiles and for Estado de Sats, now that you have been a victim of direct physical repression?
AR: Sadly, these barriers have become a part of the proofs of the defeat of this system. My plan is to continue working, now with a clearer view of all the effort we must put into a peaceful and democratic transition in our land. What does seem very clear to me is that we are on a one-way road, no one can doubt that totalitarianism will be dismantled.
26 July 2012