Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cuba's 2003 Black Spring 14 years later

"They are in prison only for defending human rights, which in any country are recognized as fundamental..." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, March 16, 2007

Catholic nun lays flowers before photos of the prisoners of conscience of the Black Spring
 It began 14 years ago today, the massive roundup of dissidents by the Castro regime's secret police. Their crimes? Some had organized a petition drive, legally recognized within the existing constitution; others were independent journalists or human rights activists. Over a 100 were rounded up but 75 would be subjected to political show trials and sentenced to lengthy prison terms ranging up to 28 years in prison. Amnesty International recognized them all as prisoners of conscience. The Cuban dictatorship thought it had crushed the Cuban democratic opposition, but they were wrong.

In the midst of the crackdown emerged a new and formidable force: The Ladies in White. The mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the 74 men imprisoned organized into this movement that began to march through the streets of Cuba following mass on Sundays, organizing literary teas, and strategizing how to nonviolently free their loved ones. One woman was condemned to prison in the 2003 Black Spring and she was sentenced to 20 years.

Despite the slanders, death threats, beatings, and broken bones by 2011 all of the 75 political prisoners, who became known as the "group of the 75" where out of prison. Most were sent into exile but 12 who held out to the end remain in the island and today continue the struggle and the others now outside, who still live, press on for a democratic transition in Cuba.

Looking back fourteen years ago there is a documentary The Black Spring La Primavera Negra filmed in Cuba before and after the crackdown that captures that moment in time. Filmed by Czech - Chilean journalist Carlos Gonzalez.

List of prisoners of the Black Cuban Spring
Name of the prisoner of conscience, age at the time of his arrest, and prison sentence (Source: Amnesty, 2003)

1. Nelson Alberto Aguiar Ramírez, age 57, 13 year prison sentence 
2. Osvaldo Alfonso Valdés , age 38, 18 year prison sentence.  
3. Pedro Pablo Alvarez Ramos, age 55, 25 year prison sentence 
4. Pedro Argüelles Morán, age 55, 20 year prison sentence 
5. Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, age 52, 26 year prison sentence
6. Mijail Barzaga Lugo, age 35, 15 year prison sentence

7. Oscar Elías Biscet González, age 41, 25 year prison sentence
8. Margarito Broche Espinosa, age 45, 25 year prison sentence
9. Marcelo Cano Rodríguez , age 38, 18 year prison sentence 
10. Juan Roberto de Miranda Hernández, age 57, 20 year prison sentence
11. Carmelo Agustín Díaz Fernández, age 65,16 year prison sentence
12. Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, age 51, 21 year prison sentence.
13. Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez, age 40, 20 year prison sentence
14. Alfredo Rodolfo Domínguez Batista, age 41, 14 year prison sentence
15. Oscar Manuel Espinosa Chepe, age 62, 20 year prison sentence.
16. Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, age 53 26 year prison sentence.
17. Efrén Fernández Fernández, age 54, 12 year prison sentence
18. Juan Adolfo Fernández Sainz, age 54, 15 year prison sentence
19. José Daniel Ferrer García, age 32,  25 year prison sentence. (prosecution requested the death penalty)
20. Luis Enrique Ferrer García, age 27, 28 prison sentence
21. Orlando Fundora Alvarez, age 47, 18 year prison sentence

22. Próspero Gaínza Agüero (age not given), 25 year prison sentence
23. Miguel Galván Gutierrez, age 38, 26 year prison sentence
24. Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, age 58, 15 year prison sentence
25. Edel José García Díaz, age 57, 15 year prison sentence.
26. José Luis García Paneque, age 38, 24 year prison sentence
27. Ricardo Severino Gonzales Alfonso, age 53, 20 year prison sentence

28. Diosdado González Marrero age 40,  20 year prison sentence
29. Léster González Pentón, age 26, 20 year prison sentence
30. Alejandro González Raga age 45, 14 year prison sentence
31. Jorge Luis González Tanquero, age 32, 20 year prison sentence
32. Leonel Grave de Peralta Almenares age 27, 20 year prison sentence
33. Iván Hernández Carrillo age 32, 25 year prison sentence
34. Normando Hernández González, age 32,
25 year prison sentence
35. Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, age 36, 20 year prison sentence
36. Regis Iglesias Ramírez, age 33, 18 year prison sentence
37. José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, age 37,  16 year prison sentence
38. Reinaldo Miguel Labrada Peña, age 40, six year prison sentence
39. Librado Ricardo Linares García, age 42,
20 year prison sentence 
40. Marcelo Manuel López Bañobre, age 39, 15 year prison sentence
41. Héctor Fernando Maseda Gutierrez, age 60, 20 years prison sentence

42. José Miguel Martínez Hernández, age 39, 13 years prison sentence
43. Mario Enrique Mayo Hernández, age 38, 20 year prison sentence 

44. Luis Milán Fernández, age 33, 13 year prison sentence
45. Nelson Moliné Espino, age 38, 20 year prison sentence
46. Angel Juan Moya Acosta, age 38, 20 year prison sentence

47. Jesús Miguel Mustafa Felipe, age 58, 25 year prison sentence
48. Félix Navarro Rodríguez, age 49, 25 year prison sentence
49. Jorge Olivera Castillo, age 41, 18 year prison sentence
50. Pablo Pacheco Avila, age 31, 20 year prison sentence
51. Héctor Palacios Ruiz, age 61, 25 year prison sentence

52. Arturo Pérez de Alejo Rodríguez, age 52, 20 year prison sentence.
53. Omar Pernet Hernández, age 57, 25 year prison sentence

54. Horacio Julio Piña Borrego, age 36, 20 year prison sentence  

55. Fabio Prieto Llorente, age 40, 20 year prison sentence
56. Alfredo Manuel Pulido López, age 42, 14 year prison sentence
57. José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, [not available] 20 year prison sentence
58. Arnaldo Ramos Lauzerique, age 60, 18 year prison sentence
59. Blas Giraldo Reyes Rodríguez, age 46, 25 year prison sentence.
60. Raúl Rivero Castañeda, age 57, 20 year prison sentence
61. Alexis Rodríguez Fernández, age 33, 15 year prison sentence
62. Omar Rodríguez Saludes, age 37, 27 year prison sentence
63. Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, age 57,
20 year prison sentence

64. Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández, age 56, 18 year prison sentence
65. Claro Sánchez Altarriba, age 49, 15 year prison sentence
Ariel Sigler Amaya, age 39, 20 year prison sentence
67. Guido Sigler Amaya, age 46, 20 year prison sentence
68. Ricardo Silva Gual, age 30, 10 year prison sentence
69. Fidel Suárez Cruz, age 33, 20 year prison sentence.
70. Manuel Ubals González, age 34, 20 year prison sentence
71. Julio Antonio Valdés Guevara, age 52, 20 year prison sentence
72. Miguel Valdés Tamayo, age 46, 15 year prison sentence
73. Héctor Raúl Valle Hernández, age 35, 12 year prison sentence
74. Manuel Vázquez Portal, age 51, 18 year prison sentence
75. Antonio Augusto Villareal Acosta, age 52, 15 year prison sentence

Amnesty International in their 2003 report "Essential Measures" also expressed concern over the following additional arrests:

A number of additional dissidents were reportedly arrested during or around the time of the crackdown. The organisation is currently gathering information on their activities, the circumstances of their arrest and their current legal status, in order to determine if they too should be considered prisoners of conscience. They include Rafael Ernesto Avila Pérez, Javier García Pérez, Félix Jaime González Martínez, Rolando Jimenes Posada, Rafael Millet Leyva, Miguel Sigler Amaya, Pablo Solis Cubilla and Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Fourteen years later and the founder of the Ladies in White died under suspicious circumstances in 2011 and  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who many asked at the time why he was not jailed in 2003, was killed in what appears to have been a state security engineered "accident." In two days the individual who was elected to head the Christian Liberation Movement, Eduardo Cardet, who has been jailed since November 30, 2016 is expected to have his three year prison sentence confirmed by the Castro regime.

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