14ymedio, Madrid, 7 April 2023 — Professor Alina Bárbara López Hernández, who was detained for several hours after protesting the arrest of the writer Jorge Fernández Era, has announced that she plans to demonstrate peacefully on the 18th of each month in the Freedom Park of Matanzas, where she was approached by State Security yesterday.
She put a long post on Facebook, where she describes in detail what happened to her for exercising “a constitutional right in a country without political rights.”
“I first sat down in the park, but I understood that I had to make the reason for my protest visible,” she says. “I wrote a very simple sign with my terrible hand writing and began to walk around the park.”
The historian says that several people came to read it and asked who Fernández Era was, and she explained it to them briefly. “Two ladies approached me and asked me kindly what I was doing, and when I told them, they introduced themselves as officials of the Provincial Government, which is in the area. They said that if I accompanied them to talk maybe they could call Havana and intercede. At that same moment, Osbel Sánchez, the provincial director of Culture, approached. He was obviously alerted because his headquarters is several blocks away,” her story continues. She accompanied the officials.
At the government office, she asked the dozen people there to introduce themselves. “Most were from the Provincial Bureau of the Party. One was the official in charge of the political-ideological sphere (very poorly prepared for that function, by the way); another was the official who deals with the issue of defense, plus another two from those areas; four were government officials and then the director of Culture, who went in and out constantly, supposedly finding out on the phone about Jorge’s situation, which was my main objective,” she explains.
The teacher realized then that the person she was talking to was “with three agents who were parked outside, who were evidently insisting that she convince me to give up.” Her answer was the same every time: “I will give up when you let Jorge go.”
López Hernández highlighted several anecdotes. When “a government lady, half annoyed, asked why if Jorge had been arrested in Havana I was demonstrating in Matanzas, I replied: ’As far as I know, no one ever objected to Fidel that Batista was in Havana when he decided to attack the barracks in Santiago de Cuba’.”
They asked her what what she was trying to do. “I’m exercising a constitutional right, that of peaceful demonstration,” was her response.
Similarly, she recounts that the officials wanted to know “about the financing” of the magazine La Joven Cuba (LJC), with which the professor had collaborated, but she clarified that she no longer worked there. “The problem with a magazine is not financial support, because everyone needs that to function, from Granma and Cubadebate to LJC. What should not happen, at least ethically, is a conflict of interest when receiving money from US government agencies with funds for regime change, but there were agencies that many times also financed projects of the Cuban Government, and there was not any conflict of interest, since alternative media are necessary, especially in the case of Cuba with its discriminatory political system.”
As usual in this type of case, “the exchange was respectful, sometimes even kind,” a deference that the three agents who were parked outside and who approached her when she left did not have.
This is how López Herndández tells it: “They were rude: ’Alina, come with us’. I categorically refused, I told them that I do not recognize the SE [State Security] as an interlocutor and that, according to the criminal procedure law itself, this was an illegal arrest. They insisted. ’You know you have to come with us’. I told them that they didn’t know me very well.”
Then they tried to take her to the car by force, and her daughter and son-in-law, who were nearby, defended her: “That was a demeaning moment: three trained men trying to force three peaceful people by violence. They used a neck-hold on my son-in-law to immobilize him; with my daughter Cecilia, who is a love of a person, they broke her umbrella and watch, but they did not manage to separate us. Even a dear friend who was there tried to mediate. I yelled for help and I think they were worried, because they stopped grabbing us. They didn’t hit me in the face or body, nor did they hit my daughter, but they pushed us, pulled us, threw us against a wall in the kidnapping attempt, which was what they were trying to do at the end of the day.”
By resisting, López Hernández managed not to be transferred and sat down to “talk” in the same office where she had previously met with the officials. The least aggressive of the police. She narrates: “He said that he had read my last book and noticed that I was even a little ’pro-Fidel’. I clarified that this was not the case, but that I have always recognized that, even founding and directing a system without political rights, Fidel gave great importance to sectors such as Health, Education and Social Assistance, currently abandoned, first by the Government of Raúl Castro and currently by that of DC [Díaz-Canel]. I suggested that he review the budget report to see the huge cuts.”
The teacher reproached them for the way they had treated her and said they violated the law they claimed to defend. The agent’s argument was that the demonstration “could bring problems.” “Well, they should have thought about that before approving a Constitution that grants such rights,” she replied, claiming that they had put this in “to give a certain image internationally,” while within the country “they frightened citizens who didn’t dare to exercise their rights,” which in her opinion was “perverse.”
It was at that moment that they informed López Hernández that Fernández Era was already free, but the teacher could not retire to her home as she wished, since they had sent a patrol of the National Revolutionary Police to take her to the Playa station, in the same city. “They told me that they heard on the radio that there was a public scandal in the park, and I said that indeed, I had resisted an illegal kidnapping and that the scandal had been provoked by three security agents.”
“I asked that they call me a lawyer if they were going to accuse me of something. I was told no, they would only give me a warning. I said that not only would I not sign it but I do not recognize myself ’warned’ because none of them, neither the aggressor agents, nor the President of the Republic, was above the Constitution,” she points out in her text. “Then we entered into an interesting exchange when he explained that the warning was not because I demonstrated, but because other people could try to join in. Answer: If they do, they would also be exercising their rights. He argued then that acts of violence could occur. Answer: That’s what the police would be for, to take care that peaceful protesters do not go overboard, although I clarified that I knew of violent incidents sometimes organized by undercover agents for situations like this.”
When she told the agent that on the 18th of each month she would continue to demonstrate, the conversation ended and they released her. “I didn’t even read the report.”
Once outside, her daughter was waiting for her and said that two agents asked her to convince her mother to give up the protest. The anecdote is revealing: “Not that the man was so friendly. He asked if my mother has ever given me medicine or ten pounds of rice. My daughter’s answer: Oh, so do you defend what you defend because you allow us a box of chicken? They hurried to say no and Ceci told them: Well, you must understand that not everything has a price, that my mother acts out of principles and convictions.”
The professor began to get attention from State Security at the same time as the young artists who took part in The Worst Generation, censored last October. López Hernández was going to write the preface to a book that would have the same title and which the regime also prevented from being published.
She herself denounced the harassment, asserting: “In Cuba, a perverse logic has been enthroned that establishes pressure on people whom there is no reason to prosecute and who are threatened and coerced for political reasons. I won’t lend myself to it. I think it’s necessary to put an end to it.”
López Hernández’s protest did not remain on social networks, because, after receiving several requests from the political police to be interrogated, she presented to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office of Matanzas a “formal complaint and nullification action against the official summons.” She managed, with this, to have the summons canceled.
Three months later, inspired by her action, Jorge Fernández Era filed a similar claim for violation of the Criminal Procedure Law after receiving a summons from the political police, and he did not attend his hearing.
The collaborator of La Joven Cuba said at that time that the officer who addressed him expressly reminded him not to be inspired by the case of Alina Bárbara López Hernández, warning him that “Matanzas is not Havana.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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