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“Don’t allow them to kill us.” This plea was delivered over the phone by Cuban dissident Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (better known as Antunez) several weeks ago. Antunez had placed the call after regaining consciousness on a street corner next to a police car. Government agents had just raided his home and arrested his wife, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera. Antunez was engaged in a hunger strike protesting continued harassment by Cuban authorities. Evidently, this made the regime uncomfortable as Antunez and his wife were subjected to more home invasions, beatings, arrests and intense surveillance. This type of treatment is standard practice in Cuba.
Antunez, a long time freedom advocate and former political prisoner, shared his personal story with the Freedom Collection during a visit to the United States in October 2013. As if portending his most recent struggles, he offered accounts of everyday repression in Cuba:
“In Cuba, there is no rule of law. Who will you complain to? That is one of the most important questions. All over the world human rights are violated. All over the world there are cowards who, shielded by their uniform or post, violate human rights. The difference being that in democracies there are channels, institutions, and bodies to which you can bring grievances.”
After waking up on a street corner this past February, Antunez believed his only recourse was to call a friend, pleading that someone prevent the government from killing him and his wife. Certainly, no one in the government would hear his grievance or protect his rights.
“When we speak of repression, it is good to know because there are those who have no idea about the magnitude of repression in Cuba, for example, a declaration such as the one I am making here today would result in punishment: a beating or years of imprisonment.”
The regime’s brutality isn’t limited to punishing people for speaking their mind, however. Cuban authorities believed Antunez’s hunger strike also warranted physical abuse and harassment.
Christopher Walsh is the Program Coordinator for Human Freedom. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisJamesWalsh.
Christopher Walsh serves as a Manager for the Human Freedom Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
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