Notes from a Liberating Passage / Luis Felipe Rojas

The sun was burning like never before over Eastern Cuba. It was September 10th when we immersed ourselves in the hills of Baracoa, we had to hide for two days so they wouldn’t notice us. The National ‘Boitel and Zapata Live’ March for Cuba’s Freedom on the 13th of this month consisted of the presence of 36 human rights activists from the Eastern Democratic Alliance. The Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front invited me to cover the event.

The Eastern retinue kicked off the March from Duaba Beach, where Maceo and Flor Crombet (Cuban independence fighters) disembarked in 1895. The opening remarks made by Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina highlighted the purpose of this civic action. We were not to respond to the offenses of either civilians or soldiers, nor to the same physical blows usually employed against us, we would not resist arrests and we would not shout slogans or display written ones, and those of us who could were to dress in white. We would be as peaceful as possible, as we ended up doing. When we were just about 20 meters from the police cordon we began to sing the national anthem and turned ourselves in to our captors. That was it, a total of 36 detainees between the 13 of us who participated and those who were jailed before arriving at our meeting spot.

The Arrest

Eliecer Palma, Jose Triguero Mulet, and I were taken on a Jeep to the Operation Unit towards Moa. We spent nine hours in that unit, sitting on a concrete bench waiting for the supposed decision of the Holguin G2 about our destiny, just for them to later decide to send us to the filthy cells of that center of horror.

As we waited to be locked away there, activists Annie Carrion Romero, Milagros Leyva Ramirez, and Lewis Fajardo showed up to check on us and they were quickly detained. After keeping them for a few hours, the women were sent off to Mayari and the man dropped off in Cueto.

The food was more of the same: an acid and foul smelling ground beef, a transparent water with some noodles floating in it, rice with rocks and other pieces of trash, and a piece of a viand.

Among the detainees that I was sharing a cell with, there were two young men accused of killing and selling a cow. Those in another cell nearby mine had been caught in the illegal game of ‘lottery’, known as ‘La Bolita’, and I saw others who had been stripped of their conditional freedom for not working- they owed fines they could not afford or had bought some item of suspicious origin.

The chief of that Unit, Major Claudio Zaldivar Matos, a thug who is well known in Moa for his aggressiveness towards detainees and even his proper men, put on a show of ‘toughness’ so that I would get off the bunk bed and get in the line of prisoners who were to be inspected on that morning. The intervention of another police official kept him from beating me as he had promised, though we were able to exchange a few words: he stated that he did not care that I was a peaceful dissident and I assured him that they were all violators and that I did not follow orders, much less from soldiers.

I found out that he (Zaldivar) had paralyzed a man after a supposed accident in the municipality of Sagua de Tanamo. At 2 pm sharp, they released us without charges, contradicting the farce of the previous day when they tried to sign a document which stated we were carrying out acts of Public Disorder. They did not confiscate anything from us, and at that time others who had joined us in the march were already in the warmth of their homes savoring a cup of coffee. We left behind the squalor of that place, though I can still feel the pestilence of that dungeon on my skin, which is nothing more than an instrument frequently used by the regime in an attempt to impede what is inevitable, although many may doubt it because of distance, blindness, or a paralyzing fear.

Translated by Raul G.

September 30, 2011