14ymedio, Havana, 6 August 2023 — “I feel as if I had taken off old clothes, as if I had left my skin there, like leaving a prison.” The recognizable voice of Yunior Morales, which can still be heard in numerous Cuban Television commercials, speaks those words in an audio message. In it, this Friday, he informed 14ymedio that he had left the island for a destination that, for now, he prefers not to reveal.
“When you manage to get on the plane, and you leave and arrive at another place, you say ‘Noooo, I left’. I noticed that I had shortness of breath at home and now I don’t have shortness of breath here. I feel much better, like I freed myself from something very ugly, horrible,” explains the presenter, famous for hosting the three news programs on Cuban Television and having been a presenter on stations such as Radio Ciudad del Mar, as well as on various entertainment programs, such as 4×4 and El Complotazo.
At the beginning of July, Morales published several posts on Facebook where he hinted at his departure from the country. “I was so positioned that I removed myself,” he wrote alongside photos of his former colleagues in the Cuban information system, “wonderful people with whom I shared dreams and fulfilled them.”
Among those photographed was the presenter Mariuska Díaz, dismissed from her position in the “primetime” broadcast of the Cuban Television News for insisting on saying “good morning” to viewers after the death of Fidel Castro, in 2016. In addition, Morales congratulated his followers on the 4th of July, Independence Day in the United States.
14ymedio: At what point did you think of leaving the Island? That moment when you said “I had it up to here.”
Junior Morales: When my mother was left to die in a hospital, in July 2021, mainly due to the lack of medical attention. They did not give her the medicines or the necessary oxygen. The penultimate day before my mother died, I found her in the housecoat from the first day she was admitted, despite the fact that certain people knew what we were going through. I decided to leave to reunite with a part of my family and even meet the great-grandchildren that my mother could not hug.
14medio: You have spent the last few years without working in front of the camera, despite being one of the most beloved faces on national television. When did the harassment start at your job, how did it develop?
Junior Morales: The reprisals against me began on September 11, 2020, when I asked for respect for the Cuban people and that they not make a joke of giving them tons of guts and decrepit chickens without explaining where so much meat [the rest of the chicken] goes and I affirmed that the government will eat the rest. In the Roundtable [program] that day, a promotion had even come out in my voice, I was the official voice of the space in almost all the identifying messages. The next day they removed me from it and with it all the political content, but that did not affect me, and I am still very satisfied. They never allowed me to report live again, and in recent times I was recording two musical programs and ads from home.
14ymedio: Where were you and what did you do on 11J [11 July 2021]?
Junior Morales: That day my mother was sick. She suffered from arthritis, osteoarthritis, diabetes. I cared for her wounds. She was very scared and she wouldn’t even let me go get bread; I was also afraid of my [online] postings, which became more intense against the repression and acts of repudiation. I have not stopped asking for the freedom of political prisoners, and that includes the brothers on that glorious 11 July 2021, when I saw trucks pass by with soldiers dressed in civilian clothes with sticks to attack the people. My mamá passed away a few days later.
14medio: You have not been silent in publications on social networks. What consequences did these publications have? In a direct one, a few months ago, you ironically called the CIA to come and fix a leak in front of your house and then Aguas de La Habana arrived to fix the break. It must not always have had such kind consequences…
Junior Morales: I have looked for various alternatives to express myself on the basis of respect and taking care that the message is real. The same through humor, with my appearances, or with very daring directs. Those last ones about the malfunctioning of the ATMs bothered me a lot and called to me on my to show my emotions, he he. I showed garbage cans in the streets and ironically called them “still life.”
14medio: Have you received pressure, direct or indirect, to leave the Island?
Junior Morales: We had some “encounters,” and in the first one a colonel threatened me with taking possible measures and accusing me of contempt according to the infamous Penal Code. I kept wondering if I would give it visibility, until I published about the threat and it became more evident, with attacks by phone that I had been able to record and publish. Then, they made up a chat with an alleged conversation of mine that I easily dismantled. Debasement through cyberbullying. Among the questions, there was no shortage of asking whether I was planning to travel and I said yes. The idea of leaving the country was cast in messages from fake profiles.
14medio: What was the worst thing about living in Cuba?
Junior Morales: The worst thing about living in Cuba is the bad government. Without those corrupt businessmen in power, I could travel but I would never leave Cuba. I am like all those passionate who dream of seeing their land free, prosperous and happier.
14medio: What will you miss?
Junior Morales: I will miss going by my mother’s grave and leaving her a white butterfly or a rose. I will miss my family in the countryside and the city, I will miss that Yunior Morales who was killed in Cuba.
14medio: Do you plan to return?
Junior Morales: I have to go back to remove mami’s remains and do something nice for her with the family.
14medio: What are your plans from now on?
Junior Morales: My plans? There’s so much I don’t know. But I am clear about my desire that all political prisoners be released and that the pain of mothers and all families cease. Yunior wishes to see Cuba free for the good of all his children.
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