As students we wish to focus on the arrest of Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, president of the Cuban Movement of Youth for Democracy. Néstor's so-called "crime" is having had the courage to call for the restoration of academic freedom to the Cuban university system. Back in 1996, in Havana, he was arrested, charged with "disrespect" and "resistance" and sentenced to twelve months' of internal exile. The arrest was in connection to a project the Movement had initiated called Universities Without Borders which demands that universities be made autonomous of the government, an old Cuban tradition. In January 1997, Rodríguez Lobaina, Radamés García de la Vega, and 29-year-old Heriberto Leiva Rodríguez, also a vice-president of the Cuban Movement of Youth for Democracy, signed an open letter to Fidel Castro calling for academic freedom in Cuba's universities and an end to professors and students being fired or thrown out of school because of their political beliefs, what they referred to as "ideological apartheid." The letter also protested their previous arrests, death threats, beatings, trials without due process and internal exile. Néstor Rodríguez was again arrested on April 8, 1997, and two days later sentenced to 18 months in prison in the Combinado de Guantanamo prison for "disrespect" and "resistance." On April 8, 1997, Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina's mother and his father, Ramon Rodríguez, were taken to a police station and forced to sign an "official warning," and told they if they continued to defend their son they would be arrested.
On June 16, 1997 the Cuban Movement of Youth for Democracy outlined the case of Nilda Malera Pedraza. Pedraza, a 34-year-old Professor of Music in Guantanamo, was expelled from the Higher Institute of Pedagogy for deviating from official political thought. Her firing was based on her refusal to join government-run organizations such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (regional political vigilante networks), the Federation of Cuban Women, and the Territorial Militias. Her firing no doubt was based on:
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Report on Cuba
http://www.fiu.edu/~fcf/IACHR.html Lets focus in on this law, and its application. When the international media refers to "government supporters" as in the case of the mob that attacked the Cuban dissidents in Parque Dolores it seems to imply that they voluntarily hold their position. This is not true. The "government supporters" have two choices join the organizations and take part in the beatings of fellow Cuban citizens while chanting pro-government slogans, or lose your job and become the target of these mobs if you ever speak your mind in a public venue. Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, a student activist advocating the restoration of academic freedom in Cuban universities has paid a high price for speaking his mind and addressing requests for reform from the Cuban government.
Néstor has suffered both physical and psychological torture in the Combinado de Guantanamo Prison were over 30 prison guards on September 10, 1997, according to Amnesty International, kicked and punched him while he was handcuffed along with two other prisoners. Néstor "was beaten around the face and ribs, as well as being kicked so hard in the stomach that it caused him to defecate." They were beaten again on September 15, 1997. As of mid-October Néstor was being held in a punishment cell in the area of the prison known as "La Sola". These cells are said to be very small with no light and no furniture and just a small hole in the centre for the prisoners to urinate and defecate, and are often infested with rats, mice and cockroaches. The prisoners are usually not permitted to wear any clothing and are not given any bedding. It was also reported that Nestor was being deprived of medical treatment. Nestor was arrested again on the morning of November 10. We pray for his safety and demand his freedom.
What of the students who supposedly support the regime? On March 19, 1997, in the Vedado area of Havana, a handful of students at the Adalberto Gomez Nunez Primary School refused to sign the declaration of support for the Gag Law. School officials reportedly took down their names, called their parents, and warned them that the children's failure to sign could have negative consequences. We cannot sit by silently as men, women, and children risk their futures, their freedom, and their lives for freedom and human dignity.
Free Cuba Foundation
Graham Center 340
Florida International University
Miami, FL. 33199
Following Sources were used for facts outlined in this statement:
CUBA'S REPRESSIVE MACHINERY / HRW
From Ill-Treatment of 3 Political Prisoners in Combinado De Guantanamo
Cuba's Bar on International Human Rights Monitoring http://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/cuba/Cuba996-01.htm