One More Time / Rafael León Rodríguez

Another tragic event focused again on the eastern Cuban provinces started the year. Wilman Villar Mendoza, sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, died after conducting a hunger strike, which has rocked the Cuban dissidence and international public opinion which follows events of the island. The rapidity with which these events developed surprised everyone. In October of last year, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer, Wilman had joined the opposition organization, the Cuban Patriotic Union. In November he was arrested and tried on charges of contempt, assault and resistance, and began serving his sentence on the 25th of that month. On January 13, he was admitted to the emergency room of Saturnino Lora Provincial Hospital; seven days later, at eight in the evening, he was buried in Contramaestre, in the province of Santiago de Cuba, a town where he had lived with his wife and two small daughters.

The authoritarian authorities have traditionally handled the issues of prisoners and prisons under a cloak of strict information secrecy. Thus there is reasonable doubt and suspicion involving all matters relating to these areas of Cuban society. But these are no longer the first years of the dictatorship, rather it seems they are the final years, and the information flow from all directions and the truth is emerging. However it occurred, the sad result is another preventable death.

When last Friday twenty of us went to the headquarters of the Ladies in White, located in the house where Laura Pollan lived, to sign a condolence book that was opened in memory of Wilman, we noted the operation mounted by the political police at the corners of the surrounding streets. Similarly, in Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo and surrounding areas, people seeking to attend the funeral were intercepted by the same police force. It is outrageous that they prevented demonstrations of solidarity with the relatives of the deceased. And if we who are outraged are on the ethically correct side, that of the victim, on the other side can only be those outrageous people who provoked and continue to provoke these detestable events one more time.

24 January 2012