|Sirley Ávila León testifying before Congress on July 13, 2016|
Because of my work and my demands in favor of reopening the school, I began to be accused of being a leader, and the families of the farmers in my area began to receive threats that their school-aged children would be taken away from them. I was threatened and repeatedly repressed by government officials, and in Havana I was even expelled from the Council of State and threatened with being accused of threatening State Security. All this is what led me, on September 8, 2012, to denounce the regime’s human rights violations against the farmers and the people in general from the island itself, by means of the broadcaster Radio Martí. From that moment onwards, I was a victim of several attempts on my life, attempts to eliminate me physically, and other acts of vandalism against my farm, my animals and my property, all organized by the regime and its political police as part of its attempt to get rid of me. A young woman, Yudisleidy López Rodríguez, alerted me to the fact that the political police had offered highly dangerous common criminals rewards for murdering me. She was killed on September 26, 2014 for publicly decrying an attack on me in which my bed was set on fire during the early morning. Her murder was covered up as a crime of passion.
On May 24, 2015, I was attacked in my home by Osmani Carrión, who was sent by State Security to kill me. I am sure he was sent by the political police because I later discovered that he was a highly dangerous common prisoner who had been granted parole only days before attacking me. He attacked me with a machete, severing my left hand and mutilating my right arm and both knees. He did not cut off my head thanks to the presence of a child at the scene of the events and thanks to God who protected my life so that I could be here today and offer my testimony. In the days before the attack the regime had started a rumor that I had sold the farm and had left the area so that the neighbors would not be concerned about my physical disappearance.
Today before this Subcommittee of Foreign Affairs of the United States Congress, I want to ask two questions. Taking into account the US government’s new relations with the dictatorship of Cuba, I wonder:
Why has the situation of systematic human rights violations in Cuba not been a fundamental point in negotiations with a regime that has been in power for 57 years?
How is it possible that the US government has made so many concessions to the government of Cuba without demanding respect for human rights on the island and justice for the many attacks on the civil and political rights of the Cuban people? I am a direct witness of the workings of the legal system, in which citizens are not guaranteed any procedural safeguards.I am very grateful that over the years other victims of repression in Cuba have had the chance to come forward in this very space in order to denounce and publicize the realities of life in Cuba. And I thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate here today. I ask only that the government of the United States, international human rights organizations, and the governments of the free world not abandon the people of Cuba in their struggle for freedom. Do not allow yourselves to be confused by the regime’s propaganda campaign presenting Cuba as a country in transition. Cuba remains a military dictatorship. In Cuba human rights continue to be violated. And the people of Cuba are now more alone than ever behind the curtain of foreign investors and North American tourists.
I ask you not to abandon Cuba and to denounce the harsh reality we live.
Thank you very much.
Text taken from Victims of Communism Foundation blog.