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New on the Freedom Collection: José Luis García Paneque

Article by Lindsay Lloyd February 1, 2013 //   3 minute read

Vea esta entrada de blog en español aquí.Watch the new interview with José Luis García Paneque, a Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience, on the Freedom Collection.  Dr. García Paneque studied and practiced medicine, specializing in plastic surgery.   In 1998, he became active as a dissident, joining the Freedom Press Agency, an alternative journalism project.  In 2000, he became the initiative’s director.  For his activism, he was removed from his position at the hospital where he worked. Dr. García Paneque describes his journey to becoming a dissident:  “I realized that the system under which I lived was a lie.  It was all false.  From that moment on my life started being totally different.  The Berlin Wall came down.  The regime fell into a crisis.  Opposing groups started appearing within the island.  People began to have other ideas and other interests.   And it is really here that my activism began.“ In March 2003, Dr. García Paneque was among the 75 dissidents who were arrested in the crackdown known as the Black Spring.  He was summarily sentenced to 24 years in prison.   He was imprisoned for seven years and four months, two years of which were in solitary confinement.  The harsh conditions in prison caused him to lose half of his body weight, posing life-threatening consequences to his health. He discusses the conditions of his imprisonment:  “I was in a 3 square meter cell with poor ventilation and with water service for only 5 minutes once a day.  I was held in this type of cell for 23 hours per day and I was allowed to go out for one hour to other cells without a roof so that I could see the sunlight.  The rest of the time I was sent again to my cell and I was kept in isolation.  Nobody could talk to me.  I could not communicate with anybody; I simply was there.” In 2010, he was released in negotiations brokered by the Roman Catholic Church.  As a condition of his release, Dr. García Paneque was required to leave Cuba. Since leaving his homeland, Dr. García Paneque has overseen the Freedom Observatory project, which is associated with the Institute of Strategic and International Studies at the Catholic University of Valencia in Spain.  He currently lives in Florida. Watch his interview here. Vea esta entrada de blog en español aquí. This post was written by Lindsay Lloyd, Program Director of the Freedom Collection.  Follow him on Twitter at@WLindsayLloyd.