Mario Alberto Pérez Aguilera

Placetas, July 2, 2010

Though held at Nieves Morejón prison since 1999, he began his activism within the ranks of the Pedro Luis Boitel Political Prisoners and suffered severe repercussions for his steadfastness in prisons, taking part in numerous hunger strikes to the point of risking his life. The repressive and harassing practices against Mario Alberto have raged from late July 2004, when his body protected me from police brutality in the dark Cienfuegos prison of Ariza. It was during a family visit to which he came, along with my sister Bertha, my wife Yris, and two small children: Mariangel, age 2, Bertha’s granddaughter,  and Yris’s son Yediel, age 9. The family meeting was interrupted by a fierce punch in my face followed by a brutal beating from which only Mariangel, asleep on a table, escaped.</p>

Lying on the ground bleeding from my face and neck, two handcuffs pulled my arms in opposite directions with the clear purpose of butchering me. A wooden bench had hit my face and only the timely and courageous intervention of Mario Alberto, who threw himself on me, protected me from receiving a hard blow against my back. They had to justify the abuse, especially the kick they gave little Yediel, so they arrested Mario, accusing him of attacking authority and he was only able to leave the cells of the Cienfuegos police station, to which they had taken him, due to the firm decision of Bertha and Yris to stay outside until he was released. But the police didn’t release him without threats: “We’re going to let you go now, but don’t forget, you’ll pay dearly for this.”

Less than a year later, and in the presence of his young son Cristian, a Macarot revolver in the hands of a soldier discharged its fury of lead against his body. Mario, after being jailed in another murky criminal proceeding, had been acquitted on proving his innocence and, and above all because of a 50 day hunger strike, but the repression persisted; they returned to punish him for the same event, and after exhausting every avenue of appeal he chose evasion, ending up captured, shot and beaten nearly to death. In those moments, barely having recovered from serious kidney, liver and cardiovascular problems, he was hovering between life and death in Agüica prison. He did not ask to be released, no. Mario asked for a basic right assumed in any civilized country. He demanded that the authorities give him prompt and specialized medical attention and that they put an end to the inhumane maximum security and punishment that he’d suffered for more than four years, in clear violation of the country’s own penitentiary regulations.

He is dying, his sister Yris knows, everyone feels it, even though the Agüica jailers hide his condition. Will the same thing that happened to Zapata happen to him? Only God knows, and the criminals, far from responding to his just demands, confine him nearly dead in the dark cells of Agüica prison. The death of Mario is very possible if one takes into account the systematic brutality applied against him and the difficulty with which he has recovered from a previous hunger strike. Meanwhile the regime and the Cardinal continue calling for calm and are sowing expectations on all sides, with little or no basis in reality, given the complete lack of goodwill on the part of the government.