Thursday, November 22, 2012

For my brother, Antonio, on the occasion of Thanksgiving - Gladys Rodiles-Haney

Thanksgiving should be celebrated among family. Since I was a child I realized that my family was just my parents and my brother Antonio Rodiles; there are more than enough reasons for me to come to this conclusion but I will keep those private (for now).

That is why I’m not surprised to see my elderly parents all alone (in terms of family support) fighting this nightmare.

However, this sad chapter in our small family history has also seen a powerful outpouring of hope because while facing the horrible situation of my brother's arrest and imprisonment my family has been magically multiplied.

My family - and in particular my brother - is receiving the support of thousands of people around the world who are adding their voices to the demand that he be freed and that all charges against him be dismissed.

I'd like to remind my readers just how easy it is for the Cuban government - which has a monopoly over the domestic media - to manipulate information, pictures, and videos in order to defame its opponents and savage their reputations, leaving them no opportunity to defend themselves.

For example, an article has appeared with photos showing my brother going to the U.S. Interest Section, as if that were a crime or somehow proved that he has been working as some kind of mercenary for the CIA.

It pains me to hear these kinds of allegations because during the early years of the revolution a cousin of my mother, the lawyer Alberto Fernández Medrano, was executed in Camagüey by a firing squad for supposedly being a CIA agent, a charge that was never proven in a court of law.

While it is true that my brother Antonio did visit the USIS - and in fact did so several times - he did so for a very simple reason: to assist my elderly mother in applying for a visa to visit me where I live in the U.S. because I was expecting a baby.

They tried many times but like all everyday Cubans (they have no special privileges), they weren't able to get an interview right away. Actually, my son was born January 4, 2012 and my mother was not able to be with me at the time. She didn't arrive until 4 months later.

During those months and with my son newly born, my husband was diagnosed with cancer placing me in a desperate need of help. Because of this, my brother continued to try his best from Cuba to get my mother a visa to be able to visit me.

Knowing all this, I’m now getting used to see how the Cuban state media manipulates the the truth and says things like: "Rodiles checking in at the USIS."

Here's what I have to say to them:

Antonio Rodiles is authentic, honest, valiant, and respectful.  He knows how to make a serious argument without using violence or mounting false scenarios that rely on the bald manipulation of information, videos, and photos.

The practice of silencing one's opponents instead of debating them openly and rationally is truly shameful and only reveals fear and an utter lack of principle.

On the other hand, the illegitimate effort to silence my brother has only resulted in the growth of my extended family with over 4,200 people signing the "Petition to Free Antonio Rodiles" at Change.org.

And this enlarged family of mine will not stop or give up in the face of fabrications and lies, because quite simply my brother has nothing to hide. It is just this kind of man that they most fear in the fight for justice in Cuba.

Gladys Rodiles-Haney

The sister of Antonio Rodiles, who shared this testimony with me and asked that I share it here as a part of the celebration of Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., where she lives with her family. The testimony is also available in Spanish at CaféFuerte.

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