Hail, Coco! / Mario Lleonart

El Coco - Guillermo Fariñas -  during his hunger strike.
El Coco – Guillermo Fariñas – during his hunger strike. From: www.bitacoracubana.info

To walk together as two good friends breathing freedom through the quiet streets of Warsaw just a few days ago; to happily chat with the man who today is receiving the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in Strasbourg, this seemed like an impossible dream just four years ago.

Then, I could barely greet him through the glass window of the intensive therapy room of the Arnaldo Milián Castro Hospital on one of those days when I went to Santa Clara to serve as a chaplain commissioned by my own vocation in the face of an exclusively divine calling.

The prayer I issued forth on those evenings, which added up to one hundred and thirty-five, could be summarized by: “Lord, save this man, and free the prisoners who have decided to die.” I had to endure the advice of many who in vain tried to make me desist from this authentic adventure of faith: Stop going to that hospital – they would tell me – that man is going to die and none of these prisoners will be released.

And when it seemed that Guillermo Fariñas Hernández was indeed dying, and already even the newspaper Granma was preparing for the scenario that friends and foes considered most likely, July 2010 arrived along with his first sip of water, which followed the announcement, published in their own Official Organ of the Central Committee of Communist Party of Cuba (Granma), of the liberation of the fifty-six prisoners that remained from the Group of 75 imprisoned in the Black Spring in 2003.

And time, which does not stop, arrived at June 2013 to lead us to walk together through these magical streets of Warsaw, the striker and the pastor, whose co-belligerence few understood and many considered destined to failure. And finally there has arrived another July in this escalation of triumphs, and today El Coco, as those of us who love him call him, sits in the chair that ceases to be empty, in order to receive, at last, in a special ceremony in the European Parliament, that prize that it offers for the freedom of all Cuba.

And the best thing of all is, that I know that all of this is nothing, “compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” [Romans 8:18]

3 July 2013