Weeks before Yusniel Pupo Carralero was detained, members of the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, retired officers of the Armed Forces and militants of the Communist Party tried to discredit his candidacy. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2017 — The independent candidate Yusniel Pupo Carralero denounced on Wednesday that he had been detained by State Security to prevent him from participating in the People’s Power Nominating Assembly for his district in the municipality of San Juan y Martinez in Pinar del Río.

Once communications were restored in his town after Hurricane Irma, the 34-year-old activist explained by phone to 14ymedio that two officers with the rank of captain, known as Orestes Ayala and Juan Perez, intercepted him while he was walking from his house to the area outside La Estrella bodega, where he was planning to go to the meeting, last Wednesday at 8 PM.

“I was kidnapped in a green car with a private plates,” he says. The vehicle “circled for about two hours and after that time I was released about 8 miles from town, on the road to Punta de Carta,” he says.

A few months ago, Pupo Carralero was motivated by the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign for independent candidates to represent their communities. In the event that he was elected as a delegate, he proposed to “act in the interests of the people and to try to find solutions.”

Even before aspiring to that position, many in his district nicknamed him Delegate because when there is a problem the neighbors come to him. “They know that I am the counterpart of the Delegate [of People’s Power], that I am always on him, demanding that he perform,” he says.

In the weeks prior to his detention, the activist learned that Captain Ayala met with several members of the local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, retired officers of the Armed Forces and members of the Communist Party of the Celia Sánchez neighborhood to discredit his candidacy.

The participants in that meeting with the State Security were warned that Pupo Carralero, a tobacco grower, has also been the president of the peasant committee of the Independent and Democratic Cuba opposition organization for five years.

The same situation has been experienced by other independent candidates, who in a recent declaration denounced “the discrediting campaigns” coming from the authorities that aim to prevent them from becoming nominated as delegates in the municipal elections.

In the Assembly, while Pupo Carralero was being held by State Security, a resident named Rodolfo Pérez Mena “started talking to other voters to encourage them” to propose him as a candidate, but the police sector chief, Lieutenant Brito, “intimidated him by telling him to shut up,” he told this newspaper.

Since that incident several residents have avoided greeting the activist when they see him on the street. “Even my family feels afraid,” he reflects. “Sometimes life becomes a little complicated in the neighborhood in the face of so much harassment, but we have to keep fighting.”

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, the main promoter of the #Otro18 platform, believes that events of this nature are “complete violations of the Electoral Law.” The government “seems determined to prevent citizens, polls and ballots from being the ones who choose the representatives,” he denounces to 14ymedio.

Cuesta Morúa warned that “in all cases where the government tries to prevent the presentation of independent candidates, the result will be the establishment of municipal assemblies tainted by lack of legitimacy.”