Not Twelve, Seventeen / Miguel Iturria Savón

Since the release of latest political prisoners from the repressive crackdown known as the Black Spring of 2003, foreign correspondents in Cuba cling to a mythical number twelve, referring to those who refused exile and stayed on the island, which is a half truth.

There were 52 remaining of the 75 convicted under the Gag Law, when the regime decided to open the gates to launder its image abroad after the death of striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo and physical deterioration of another striker, independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, icons of civic resistance.

Of the 53 who left earlier, almost all under the euphemism of parole, remaining on the island from 2004 to 2006 were the independent journalists Jorge Olivera Castillo and Oscar Espinosa Chepe, Assemblywoman Martha B. Roque Cabello, the liberal politician Hector Palacios Ruiz and Marcelo Lopez Bañobre.

Among those who marched from the prison to exile in this period are the poets Raúl Rivero and Manuel Vazquez Portal. In 2010 there were 12 who said no to banishment, 12 of 52 prisoners who waited in prison despite the pressure of the regime, the mediating efforts of the Archbishop of Havana and the facilities offered by the Spanish government which was acting as a screen for the Castros before the European Community.

Among the twelve who chose to live at home instead of seeking freedom under another flag are Feliz Navarro, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Oscar Elías Bicet, Eduardo Díaz Freitas, Librado Linares, José D. Ferrer García, Guido Sigler Amaya, whose brother is being medically treated in the United States; Diosdado González Marrero, Pedro Arguelles Morán, Héctor Maceda Gutiérrez and Ángel Moya Acosta.

The admiration unleashed by these twelve heroes of civic resistance is a continuation of the position taken by the five former prisoners released for health reasons between 2004 and 2006. All remain on the island under control of the political police.

Everyone deserves respect and affection as the rest of the 58 who went abroad by choice, family pressure or state pressure. In the Kabbalah and in historical mythology, twelve is a mythical number. Twelve were the original tribes of Israel, the Promised Land of antiquity. Twelve apostles accompanied Jesus at the Last Supper.

Twelve independence fighters remained alive with the Father of the Nation, Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, after the attack on the village of Yara, on October 10, 1868. And twelve expedition members met with Fidel Castro in a hamlet in the Sierra Maestra after the failed landing of the Granma yacht on December 2, 1956.

So twelve is all very well, but please, no more manipulation. There are not twelve but seventeen prisoners released from the Black Spring who remain in Cuba. There are also other fighters in prisons, and in the streets who are serving or served sentences for demanding the freedoms kidnapped by the “liberators of the Fatherland.”

August 22 2011