Cuba: Bloggers say there are more like “Antunez”-Global Voices

June 24, 2012

Janine Mendes-Franco

Global Voices: June 14, 2012



Diaspora bloggers still have their attention focused on Cuban dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antunez), who was reportedly beaten and detained following his testimony at a United States Senate sub-committee hearing concerned with infringements on the human rights of Cuban citizens.

Uncommon Sense reported that the human rights activist “faces a charge of ‘assault’“:

Charging its political opponents with crimes like “assault,” is a common tactic by a Castro regime always trying to legitimize its repression.

But in most instances, such as what is currently happening to Antunez, the dictatorship’s true intent is clear.

With his testimony before the Senate, which was delivered from Cuba via teleconference, Antunez obviously struck a nerve in the halls of Havana. And obviously was decided that his testimony would not go unanswered.

In response, U.S. senators and others must maintain the pressure to force Antunez’s immediate release.

Late yesterday, Marc Masferrer, the blogger at Uncommon Sense, as well as other members of the Cuban diaspora, noted that:

Cuban dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’ was released from jail Wednesday, four days after he was arrested in obvious retaliation before his testimony last week to a U.S. Senate committee.

He went on to explain:

Two factors that contributed to Antunez’s release, namely:

His own reputation as a tireless advocate for freedom and human rights in Cuba, earned through years of activism and uncomprising resistance against the Castro dictatorship. Antunez is one of Cuba’s best-known dissidents, a reputation earned during the many protests he has lead and the many arrests he has suffered.

And the immediate response of other activists and supporters of Cuban freedom, led by two U.S. senators, to demand Antunez’s immediate release. They raised a stink — we all raised a stink — on television and on the Internet to show the dictatorship that its exercise of raw, brutal repression would not go unanswered.

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter agreed:

Thanks to internal and external acts of solidarity, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’ was released this morning after being held incomunicado since June 9, 2012. At the same time the Castro regime’s response during this episode illustrates a number of important points. First, it sought to provoke a violent response from “Antunez” by beating both him and his wife down. Secondly, when it failed to accomplish that it manufactured the claim of bombs and devices in an effort to link nonviolent activists. Third, it sought to shut down all cell phone communications in order to isolate opposition activists.

Thanks to international attention placed on this particular case by US Senators protesting the imprisonment of a witness who testified before their committee and international press attention. Bloggers spread the word through the internet. The regime was pressured into releasing the activist.

Detentions and harassment of activists continue as does the need for international solidarity.

Bloggers were unified in their belief that agitation from the U.S. Senate and the resulting attention to the case from both new and mainstream media (although babalu felt that some media houses responded too slowly) helped with Antunez’ release. Both babalu and Capitol Hill Cubans later reposted a video of U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio, who had spoken with Antunez after his release. In the clip, they summarized what that conversation was like.

With the dissident free, netizens began to concentrate on another aspect of the case: the Castro official who was present at the Senate hearing. Both babalu and Capitol Hill Cubans linked to the tweet by Senator Marco Rubio which revealed his identity by posting his name and photo. babalu’s response was:

World, meet Rodney Gonzalez. Rodney Gonzalez, meet the world.
Now we all know who you are.

Capitol Hill Cubans, meanwhile, thought that:

The State Department should expel this agent of repression.

To put the entire incident in context, Capitol Hill Cubans published (in English) Antunez’ full testimony, saying:

It’s fascinating how the Castro regime has no problem allowing Cuban ‘academics’ and ‘artists’ to visit U.S. universities and think-tanks to discuss easing sanctions, rapprochement and cosmetic reforms.

It even allows certain Cuban-Americans to give conferences on the island about ‘unconditional reconciliation.’

But when a pro-democracy leader speaks truth to power, without cowering to fear and intimidation, then it reacts with violence and force.

Uncommon Sense concluded:

Thousands of other Cubans without the public stature of Antunez remain in jail because of their opposition to the Castros. Unfortunately, we will never know most of their stories.

But Antunez’s release is a small victory in the struggle against the dictatorship for it demonstrates that if we make sure to challenge the regime when it moves against its opponents like it did against Antunez, freedom will prevail.

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