Friday, September 30, 2011

Notes from a Liberating Passage / Luis Felipe Rojas

Notes from a Liberating Passage / Luis Felipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

The sun was burning like never before over Eastern Cuba. It was
September 10th when we immersed ourselves in the hills of Baracoa, we
had to hide for two days so they wouldn't notice us. The National
'Boitel and Zapata Live' March for Cuba's Freedom on the 13th of this
month consisted of the presence of 36 human rights activists from the
Eastern Democratic Alliance. The Orlando Zapata Tamayo National
Resistance Front invited me to cover the event.

The Eastern retinue kicked off the March from Duaba Beach, where Maceo
and Flor Crombet (Cuban independence fighters) disembarked in 1895. The
opening remarks made by Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina highlighted the
purpose of this civic action. We were not to respond to the offenses of
either civilians or soldiers, nor to the same physical blows usually
employed against us, we would not resist arrests and we would not shout
slogans or display written ones, and those of us who could were to dress
in white. We would be as peaceful as possible, as we ended up doing.
When we were just about 20 meters from the police cordon we began to
sing the national anthem and turned ourselves in to our captors. That
was it, a total of 36 detainees between the 13 of us who participated
and those who were jailed before arriving at our meeting spot.

The Arrest

Eliecer Palma, Jose Triguero Mulet, and I were taken on a Jeep to the
Operation Unit towards Moa. We spent nine hours in that unit, sitting on
a concrete bench waiting for the supposed decision of the Holguin G2
about our destiny, just for them to later decide to send us to the
filthy cells of that center of horror.

As we waited to be locked away there, activists Annie Carrion Romero,
Milagros Leyva Ramirez, and Lewis Fajardo showed up to check on us and
they were quickly detained. After keeping them for a few hours, the
women were sent off to Mayari and the man dropped off in Cueto.

The food was more of the same: an acid and foul smelling ground beef, a
transparent water with some noodles floating in it, rice with rocks and
other pieces of trash, and a piece of a viand.

Among the detainees that I was sharing a cell with, there were two young
men accused of killing and selling a cow. Those in another cell nearby
mine had been caught in the illegal game of 'lottery', known as 'La
Bolita', and I saw others who had been stripped of their conditional
freedom for not working- they owed fines they could not afford or had
bought some item of suspicious origin.

The chief of that Unit, Major Claudio Zaldivar Matos, a thug who is well
known in Moa for his aggressiveness towards detainees and even his
proper men, put on a show of 'toughness' so that I would get off the
bunk bed and get in the line of prisoners who were to be inspected on
that morning. The intervention of another police official kept him from
beating me as he had promised, though we were able to exchange a few
words: he stated that he did not care that I was a peaceful dissident
and I assured him that they were all violators and that I did not follow
orders, much less from soldiers.

I found out that he (Zaldivar) had paralyzed a man after a supposed
accident in the municipality of Sagua de Tanamo. At 2 pm sharp, they
released us without charges, contradicting the farce of the previous day
when they tried to sign a document which stated we were carrying out
acts of Public Disorder. They did not confiscate anything from us, and
at that time others who had joined us in the march were already in the
warmth of their homes savoring a cup of coffee. We left behind the
squalor of that place, though I can still feel the pestilence of that
dungeon on my skin, which is nothing more than an instrument frequently
used by the regime in an attempt to impede what is inevitable, although
many may doubt it because of distance, blindness, or a paralyzing fear.

Translated by Raul G.

September 30, 2011

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