14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 31 May 2019 — It’s been almost 15 days since Daniel Llorente, known as “the man with the flag,” arrived in Guyana pushed out by the Cuban authorities, who even took him to buy the ticket and accompanied him all the way to the stairs of the plane to make sure he left the island.
“It wasn’t forced,” clarifies the activist speaking to 14ymedio from Guyana. Thus he quashes the controversy generated after independent media published that he was forced. However, he also makes clear that the decision was not taken freely and that he faced the dilemma of being imprisoned or, at least, harassed, or leaving Cuba.
Llorente Miranda, who was locked up in a psychiatric hospital after running with the US flag in the May Day parade in 2017, was recently arrested and interrogated by the State Security after leaving a tribute at the Museum of Dissidence, in the neighborhood of San Isidro, in Old Havana, where he had gone with his son Eliezer.
The agents warned him of the possible consequences of continuing his activism: leave the country or go to jail.
On Wednesday, May 15th, an officer went to his house, asked for his passport and summoned him to a travel agency specializing in the sale of tickets to Aruba. He told him that if he refused to leave, he would inform his superiors and “he could be sure that, in a short time, he would be imprisoned.”
“I did not resist. They arranged the ticket, they bought it, the lady who sold them the ticket explained that at four-thirty in the morning I had to be at the airport. They picked me up at my house and accompanied me to the stairs of the plane. Before I went up they said to me: ’Daniel, the advice we give you is that you do not come back, you say that the Americans are your friends, go and tell them to help you, do not come back, if they do not help you, continue with your life there, because if you come back you’ll regret it’.”
The threats and pressures convinced Daniel Llorente to make this difficult decision, but he is grateful to have found people who helped him from the first moment.
“When I arrived in Guyana I was asking where there were Cubans but I did not find any at first, then a Cuban-American took me to the hotel where he was staying and I spent the first night there,” he recalls.
Now he has managed to minimally stabilize his situation and is being hosted for free in the apartment of another Cuban who aspires to go to the United States and, meanwhile, helping those who arrive and need information.
“I went to the US embassy and gave them the evidence of what I am doing and a letter requesting political asylum, and they told me that, after an interview with me in the Guyana press, they were committed to my case. In addition, they asked for my address to be able to find me. I hope that some solution results from this,” says the activist about his future plans.
Llorente spent more than a year in the Comandante Dr. Bernabé Ordaz Ducungé Psychiatric Hospital, in Havana. Born in 1963, he became popular for his activism after the diplomatic thaw between Havana and Washington. A few yards from the platform where then president Raul Castro was, and in front of the accredited press on the island that covered the event, Llorente shouted for freedom for Cuba.
With a degree in engineering in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), he ended up making a living working as a bricklayer, electrician, plumber and private taxi driver. In June of 2017 he asked to be expatriated to the United States.
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