Posted on Tue, Feb. 19, 2008
A Hobson's choice: Exile or prison
Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, served out his 17-year term, which ended last year (2007). A former sugar-cane cutter, he was sent to prison for standing in a public square and calling for democratic change. Beyond being harassed and beaten, he has been detained eight times since he was freed in April. Although he has arrangements to come to the United States for medical treatment, he insists he will not leave Cuba unless his return is guaranteed by the regime.
The number of political prisoners declines as Cuba tries to improve its image. Yet the repression, like the dictatorship, has not changed.
The international community must continue to press for democratic change in Cuba.
© 2008 Miami Herald Media Company.
Prisoner of Conscience Profile:
Confined to punishment cells. Due to the frequent beatings that he has suffered he has bone fractures, and is suffering from kidney failure caused by hypoglycemia.
Biography: Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez) was born on October 10, 1964. The economic situation of his home and the delicate health of his mother forced him to study at the ESBEC (Basic Secondary Schools in the Fields) and the IPUEC (Pre-university School in the Fields). This is where he first began to question the legitimacy of the dictatorship in Cuba. The process of auto-liberation began when he had the opportunity to read about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
From that moment on he began a process of rejecting all the indoctrination that was taught in the school, and for that reason he was criticized and sanctioned by the school. Because of this, and the desperate need to earn money to alleviate the economic misery his family lived in. Jorge Luis understood that his dream of becoming an attorney was just that a dream. To support his family he worked in jobs that involved heavy manual labor: as a sugar cane cutter, a construction worker and a farm laborer. He was fired from these jobs, simply because he was verbally critical of the dictatorship running his country.
At this point Jorge Luis began to be monitored closely by the Cuban government. After six months working at the Cuban Atomic Plant in Juraguá, Cienfuegos he was fired after being investigated by the Ministry of Labor, which classified him as "disaffected to the revolutionary process" in other words disaffected with the dictatorship.
During the last days of 1983, while chatting with friends at the XX Anniversary Square in the city of Placetas in Cuba Antúnez said that the sole individual responsible for the death of 23 Cubans in combat with the US Army in Grenada was Fidel Castro.
He was immediately beaten down by agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR). He was taken from there to the Department of Instruction of the State Security Police in Santa Clara, where he was released after being issued a "warning. " But the intimidation and repression didn't stop Jorge Luis' will to speak his mind as a free man. On March 15, 1990, nearly seven years later at the same XX Anniversary Square listening to an official radio transmission calling for the IV Congress of the Communist Party, he began to raise his voice and shout that "communism is a utopian error " and "we want and we need reforms like those taking place in Eastern Europe". He was immediately physically assaulted by agents of the PNR and State Security Police, who took him again to the headquarters in Santa Clara, where he was charged for "oral enemy propaganda". He was charged with the "crime" of speaking his mind openly and without fear.
That is how Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez) began his long and courageous fight for freedom as a prisoner of conscience. In June of the same year, already imprisoned in the Provincial Prison of Santa Clara, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison. His response to this unjust sentence was to start a hunger strike that lasted 21 days.
This was the first of many occasions that Jorge Luis appealed to this method of protest against the innumerable brutal beatings, being locked away in punishment cells without access to water or sunlight, and the offenses directed against him for being of African descent. Despite all this the dictatorship has failed to break the spirit of this young prisoner of conscience. On February 19, 1991 Antúnez declared himself a "Preso Plantado", which is a political prisoner who refuses to wear the same uniform as non-political prisoners and rejected "Communist Re-education."
Among Antunez's numerous acts of rebellion and protest one stands out above the others. It was his daring escape from Las Grimas prison, in Placetas, on October 17, 1992. Captured later in the larger prison that is Cuba, and returned to prison. In 1995, held in Kilo 8 Maximum Security Prison, known by the nickname of "Se me perdió la llaves" (I have lost my keys), he founded along with other prisoners of conscience, an organization called Pedro Luis Boitel Political Prisoner's Movement, dedicated to denouncing the situation of political prisoners inside the dictatorship's prisons and to promote civil disobedience in response to the brutality of their jailers.
The life of Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez), has been one of a commitment to freedom and the courage to exercise it and defend it. A young man (actually only 32 years old), of African descent and from modest economic origins has faced hatred both racially and politically motivated directed at him with the full force of a totalitarian dictatorship. His sole defenses have been his humanity, his courage, his commitment to defending his fundamental human rights and liberties. Ironically under the tyranny operating Cuba his defense and exercise of his personal freedom has under the perversion of the law there and the denial of justice been held against him by the dictatorship as his only crime.
At the time of this writing Antúnez's health has been steadily deteriorating due to beatings, hunger strikes, and lack of medical attention that he has suffered over the years of his imprisonment since 1991. In addition to the bone fractures he is having difficulty breathing and has a lung tumor which the prison authorities claim is not malignant, but refuse to allow him to see a cancer specialist as his health deteriorates. To protest this medical neglect Antúnez has been on a hunger strike since the beginning of April below is a translation of the story that appeared in the newspaper on April 25 about his deteriorating condition. Please speak up for him and demand his freedom and at the very least adequate medical care while held in the dictatorship's prison.
Provisional Prison Nieves Morejón,
Located in: Sancti Spiritus.
Case # 4 of 1990
Charge: Oral Enemy Propaganda
Case #5 of 1993
Charge: "Enemy Propaganda and Tentative Sabotage"
Concurring Sanctions: 15 years in prison
Home Mailing Address: Séptima del Sur # 3 entre Paseo de Martí y Primera del Este.
Placetas,Villa Clara CUBA
Telphone: (42) 8-3228
Relative: Berta Antúnez (sister)
Profession: Qualified Worker
We are concerned at reports of Jorge Luis Garcías medical problems and are seeking information on his current state of health from the Cuban government and asking for details of whatever medical treatment he is receiving urging that Jorge Luis García receive all necessary medical care in accordance with provisions set out in the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including being transferred to hospital if his conditions requires medical treatment.
In addition we demand his immediate release from prison since he is a prisoner of conscience.
The Freedom for Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez) petition to Berta Antúnez (sister) (42) 8-3228 was written by Free Cuba Foundation and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.