It is no wonder Leonel Morejon Almagro sits in a Cuban prison cell. He is one of the most dangerous men living inside Cuba today.
He is not jailed for murder or assault or robbery. His crime is more troublesome to state security than any act of terrorism.
He is not there because he wants to leave Cuba on a raft, as are many of his compatriots who are caught trying to escape the island. He doesn't want to leave.
Morejon is the democratically elected head of Concilio Cubano, the island's diverse and sprawling dissident coalition.
For the last few months, he has been harassed, detained, jailed, interrogated, threatened, and pressured to leave his homeland. His wife, a member of the Cuban Communist party, has been harassed and told she must choose between her marriage and the party. His allies and loyalists have been repressed, jailed, threatened with physical violence.
His crime, as is the crime of all Concilio members, is to advocate free elections, free speech, peaceful democratic change, amnesty for political prisoners, legal reform, respect for human rights.
For those beliefs, he was hurled into the shadows of Cuban justice. In some ways, he remains in those shadows, for few people outside Cuba know much about this 31-year-old prisoner. But his peaceful convictions have brought him the glow of international attention.
Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience and called for his unconditional release.
And just days ago, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart led a drive in Congress to nominate Morejon for a Nobel Peace Prize. He gathered a diverse collection of signatures, including Indiana Republican Dan Burton, Arizona Democrat Bill Richardson, Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Democrat Carrie Meek.
A new voice
What do we know about Morejon?
We know he is a lawyer, a nationalist, an environmentalist. We know that as a lawyer he has represented political prisoners and Cubans who have sought asylum at foreign embassies. These cases cost him his position in the national lawyers union and his job.
This year, five days after he was elected national coordinator of Concilio in February, he was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison for "resisting authority." When he appealed his sentence, he was slapped with nine additional months.
"He represents an entire new generation of Cubans which is fighting from within the totalitarian nation to achieve freedom and the re-establishment of democracy," the members of Congress wrote to the Nobel committee.
Concilio was formed last year by 131 dissident groups reflecting a vast political spectrum. The coalition has taken the brunt of the regime's wrath during Congress' hardening line on Cuba. Its brief history is pocked with countless jail visits.
In fact, it was the imprisonment of key members that forced Concilio to cancel a national conference in Havana in February. The conference would have taken place the same weekend Cuban MiGs shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing four people. It is a movement without caudillos, for it projects itself as a national wave, an anonymous blur. Which is fine. Cuba doesn't need anymore all-powerful protagonists. Cuba doesn't need anymore untouchable idols.
But perhaps Cuba does need the light of a Nobel Prize, if only to protect the lives of its most dangerous men and women.
© 1996 The Miami Herald.