14ymedio, Havana, 11 June 2022 — Daniel Llorente’s life has changed in the last 48 hours. At least a little, and enough. An American who read the story about him in the Tampa Bay Times has offered him a roof where he can stay for a while, at least while he sells the house he has offered to the “man with the flag,” with whom he spoke this Wednesday 14ymedio.
“Right now I’m having difficulty paying rent. In the US, gasoline has risen incredibly and with it rent, products, everything,” explains Llorente, by telephone, from Tampa. The Cuban managed to work a series of informal jobs when he had been in the United States for a month and, as soon as he had some savings, he agreed with a friend, also from the Island, to buy half a car. “In this country you really need a car to get around. I thought that having one would give me the opportunity to have a job, while rent would not, so with this friend of mine we thought we would buy it together.”
The vehicle cost $12,000 that they could pay off in two years, but his friend backed out due to family reasons. “They asked him to send money to Cuba and he no longer wanted to take responsibility.” Now, Llorente spends all his money to pay off that loan.
With his car he went to the Good Samaritan Inn, the guest house where he hoped to be able to sleep with other tenants for $130 a week, as he told the Florida newspaper. The place is run by a Cuban-American, explains Llorente to 14ymedio, so, although it was full when he arrived, the man was sensitive to his situation and offered him to let him sleep as long as he needed in an armchair in the lobby that is used occasionally in those cases.
“I was there three nights, but on the fourth, one of the workers tells me I have to go.” Explanations were useless and the employee, according to Llorente, refused to talk to his boss. In addition, he suddenly received the rejection of other lodgers who until that day had not been bothered by his presence in the common space. “That’s why I sleep in the car now,” he says, still in the present. The Wednesday night was the first in his “new house.”
Daniel Llorente left Cuba in May 2019, two years after he stormed the Plaza de la Revolución during the May Day parade carrying an American flag and shouting “freedom.” His career earned him an arrest that kept him in prison for a month and a year in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, known as Mazorra. However, he confesses to 14ymedio that he does not regret that “performance” at all — as he describes the action — and whose objective was, he says, that the United States Government “pay attention to God’s message.”
After those events, State Security harassed him until they managed to get him to leave the island. “They told me that I had two options: I would leave Cuba or they would send me to prison. I told them that they should make the decision, and a week later they went to look for me at my house so that I would accompany them, because they were going to send me out of the country, and that’s what happened.”
Llorente left with his son from Guyana on May 2, 2020 and on his journey, he says, he had incidents in three countries. The first arose in Venezuela, where they were stranded for ten days, although it was, unexpectedly, the easiest to resolve. On one occasion, the Police stopped them and took 100 dollars from them, and then they had another run-in, this time with State Security. “I have to admit that they did not treat us badly, neither me nor my son and another Cuban with whom we were traveling, they treated us with great respect, even more so knowing that it was the Venezuelan State Security, which we know is linked to the from Cuba.” According to his version, the officer told him that Maduro himself had asked that they be treated well.
The Darién jungle, between Colombia and Panama, was the worst part of the road. “We stayed two days. The boat that transports the migrants normally follows a route that does not include the crossing of the strait through which they passed us. But that day they risked it. Then we were attacked by the Colombian coast guard, who fired a shot and everything and broke the engine. They didn’t hit anyone, but it was crazy,” he adds.
The last inconvenience came in Mexico, where the Police detained them twice and asked them for money under threat of deportation. Llorente says that he explained to them who he was, that he had been expelled from Cuba and that they could not do that. Finally, everything turned out to be a big scare and he was able to fulfill his goal of reaching the United States, where he has been waiting for the resolution of his asylum request for a year.
Llorente, a man of very strong religious beliefs, believes that faith is what will bring down the regime. “In the future I see a free Cuba, but Cubans need to have faith. It is important to understand that there is a saying that says that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it, and we Cubans have to learn it.”
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