“They Accused Me Of Being A Mercenary In Front Of My Neighbors”

Aimara Peña, a spiritual activist who will stand as a candidate for the elections. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 6 October 2017 – Last Tuesday was the day Aimara Peña had been working for more than a year, but nothing went as planned. The young activist was detained and threatened by State Security to prevent her being nominated as a delegate in Las Tozas, Sancti Spíritus. In addition, she was accused in front of the assembly of being a “mercenary,” who “does not represent the people of Cuba, but rather of the United States.”

Peña, 27, was arrested Tuesday afternoon as she walked home. “I was taken to the provincial unit of the Interior Ministry in the city of Sancti Spiritus,” she tells 14ymedio. During the arrest, three individuals – one in uniform and the other two in civilian clothes – warned her of the negative consequences if she persisted in her candidacy.

The young woman was informed by the three men that they would accuse her in front of her neighbors of “being in the service of an enemy plan,” threats that ended up being fulfilled.

In a recent interview with this newspaper, Peña spoke about her affiliation with the Network of Electoral Facilitators, formed by activists from different organizations whose main objective is to manage to get citizens with the intention of representing the interests of the population to occupy positions in the base structures of the Popular Power.

The tension around Peña grew as October 3rd approached, the date planned for the nomination assembly for candidates to be delegates to the People’s Power in district 34 of the municipality of Espirituano, scheduled for 8:00 in the evening. The presidents of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) took care of calling the voters to the meeting but never knocked on her door.

The announcement of the meeting was made only one day in advance and only verbally, hence the attendance at the Assembly ended up being poor: only 57 people out of the 150 with voting rights showed up. The meeting was attended by about twenty “guests” who interacted with the Communist Party (PCC) militants in the area and looked at Peña as if she were “a dangerous enemy,” she reports.

The young woman had dreamed for months of “helping to see the role of the constituency delegate as something truly important” because “at the present time, its functions are very limited.” In that interview, Peña had no doubt that her name would make it to the ballot. “All that I have worked for will bear fruit,” she confided.

Instead of her dreams, starting hours before the assembly met police were stationed at several points of Las Tozas and two patrol cars blocked the entrance to the community. The atmosphere was oppressive and “the comings and goings of strangers in the streets was threatening,” Peña says. However, the activist decided to go ahead, although two neighbors who supported her candidacy were visited by State Security who threatened them, telling them not to attend the meeting.

The assembly began with an audio of Fidel Castro’s voice describing his concept of Revolution, and the organizers referred to a “political scenario in which the current elections for the Popular Power should be taken as a “revolutionary commitment.”

Before the small quorum, the name of Aimara Peña was the third of the five proposed when the nomination process was opened. Immediately after being mentioned, a PCC activist argued that the young woman could not be nominated because she was a “mercenary,” who “represents not the people of Cuba, but rather of the United States.”

Several PCC militants, including an uncle of the young woman, demanded a show of hands to decide if Peña could exercise her right to be voted on by the district’s voters. This action violated the Electoral Law, which does not contemplate submitting the right to be nominated to a vote.

Eight neighbors refused to raise their hand for that aberration, but the rest seconded the proposal of the militants in complicity with the violation of the electoral rules.

The act did not even record Peña’s proposal as a candidate. At the end someone shouted Viva Fidel! and the secretary who prepared the record refused to give her a copy.