|Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham (1931 - 1972)|
The ninth entry focuses on a student leader, who fought by Fidel Castro's side to bring an end to the Batista dictatorship and restore Cuban democracy. However as Castro came to impose a communist regime on Cuba and to achieve that the University could no longer be a bastion of academic freedom and independent student activism. This led to this young man opposing the regime and being sent to prison for 11 years in 1961. He served his sentence, but the dictatorship refused to free him. This drove him to start a hunger strike that ended in his death in 1972.
Previous entries in this series were about Cubans trying to change the system nonviolently. The first entry concerned Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a humble bricklayer turned courageous human rights defender who paid the ultimate price in 2010 for speaking truth to power. The second entry focused on Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, a Catholic lay activist, nonviolence icon, husband, father of three and the founder of a Cuban opposition movement that shook up the Castro regime with a petition drive demanding that human rights be respected and recognized in Cuba. This action and speaking truth to power led to his extrajudicial killing in 2012. The third entry focused on one of the great crimes of the Castro regime that has been well documented by international human rights organizations and reported on ABC News Nightline that claimed the lives of 37 men, women, and children. They were trying to flee the despotism in Cuba to live in freedom and were extrajudicially executed. In the fourth focused on an act of state terrorism when two planes were shot down on a Saturday afternoon at 3:21 and 3:27 on February 24, 1996 over international airspace while engaged in a search and rescue flight for Cuban rafters killing four humanitarians. Their planes were destroyed by air-to-air missiles fired by a Cuban MiG-29 aircraft on the orders of Raul and Fidel Castro.
In the fifth focused on Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Wilman Villar Mendoza who died on hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment on January 19, 2012 at the age of 31 left behind two little girls, a young wife and grieving mother. The sixth entry focused on one of the many non-Cuban victims of Cuban communism. Joachim Løvschall was studying Spanish in Havana in the spring of 1997. He was gunned down by a soldier of the Castro regime in Havana, Cuba twenty years ago. The identity of the soldier was never revealed to Joachim's family. No one was ever brought to justice. The seventh entry focused on a young woman, Yunisledy Lopez Rodriguez, who tried to warn a friend who was being targeted by the secret police for a violent end. They went to the authorities to make a formal complaint, but nothing happened. Four months later she was murdered in front of her two children stabbed 18 times. Eight months later her friend was the victim of a brutal machete attack and nearly killed. Yunisledy was just 23 years old. The eighth entry focused on Yuriniesky Martínez Reina, a young men shot in the back and killed by a state security agent in 2015. His "crime"? Building a boat with other friends to flee the Castro dictatorship and live in freedom.
|Pedro Luis Boitel at the CMQ radio station|
Once Batista left for exile and Fidel Castro took control the anti-communist members of the July 26 movement became an obstacle to absolute power. Following the revolution, Boitel returned to University were his fellow students nominated to run for the presidency of the Federation of University Students in 1960. Fidel Castro personally intervened to remove him from the presidency. Pedro Luis Boitel's threat to the emerging communist regime was that he refused to betray the Federation of University Students and sought to maintain academic freedom and autonomy.
As time went on and the dictatorial nature of the Castro regime became more apparent, the student leader became an opponent to Fidel Castro. Condemned to a decade in prison in 1961 he served the cruel and unjust sentence but as the date of his release came and went prison officials refused to free him. In response to the years of cruelty, torture and now denial of his freedom he went on hunger strike on April 3, 1972. Pedro Luis Boitel died forty five years ago on May 25, 1972 after 53 days on hunger strike in Havana in the Castillo del Principe. Academic freedom and autonomy ended in 1960 replaced with fear, repression, and ideological litmus tests to attend university. It has still not been restored today.