While scores of activists - most of them cyber-activists in one way or another - have been temporarily detained and released (as is the new Raulista strategy), one man remains in jail.
Remember that name.
The last time I was in Cuba in April 2011 I interviewed the Havana Times blogger Alfredo Fernández. At the end of our interview, he invited me to an upcoming session of something he called "Estado de SATS."
I responded, "Estado de WHAT?"
(So you'll be forgiven if you've never heard of it.)
It turned out that I was too busy over the next few days chasing down bloggers and getting grilled by State Security to go to Estado de SATS, and boy do I now regret it!
"Estado de SATS" (State of SATS) was started by the Cuban Physicist! Antonio Rodiles upon his return to Cuba in 2010 after having lived, studied, and worked as a professor in Mexico and the United States. Rodiles even got a degree and worked as an adjunct for a time at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
(Café Fuerte has a brief bio of him here - go here for an English translation of the bio - written by his sister, Gladys Rodiles-Haney, who lives in the U.S. You can also check out this brief news clip from Martí Noticias on Rodiles.)
State of SATS is an independent physical space (convened in Rodiles' family home) as well as a digital television program that is distributed via the Internet abroad and – given the dismal web access in Cuba – from hand-to-hand, flash drive-to-flash drive on the island.
The program is one of the only spaces in Cuba where vital social and political topics are addressed freely, openly, and respectfully, without discrimination or fear, and where no one is excluded for how they think.
Think of it as the Cuban version of the now famous TED Talks. It was explained to me that the term refers to the feeling of anticipation you get when you are just about to go on stage or when something big is going to happen.
Something BIG is happening indeed.
Antonio Rodiles was arbitrarily detained a week ago by unidentified state security agents. Reports are that upon arrest he was badly beaten and held incommunicado for a week in part to hide his injuries from the public.
Today, Wednesday, November 14, 2012, he was brought up on trumped up charges of “resisting arrest” and now – if convicted – faces between three months and one year in prison.
Antonio was not arrested for resisting arrest, however.
(Logically, of course, you can't be arrested ONLY for resisting arrest since there has to be another previous cause for the initial arrest attempt!)
He was arrested because he – together with scores of other Cubans – put in motion a demand that the government of Cuba ratify and put into practice the pacts that it signed four years and nine months ago at the United Nations for the wellbeing and prosperity of all Cubans and the respect for their civil and human rights.
This is the “Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba.” You can also add your name to the 1,197 others already there.
(You can go here to read and sign the English version of the text, which currently has 744 signatures, and see here for some background on the petition from Yoani Sánchez.)
Antonio and a group of fellow activists in Cuba describe their project in the following video [SP].
Antonio’s mother describes his arrest and the current situation her son is in on this radio clip.
As I say above, after living and studying abroad in both Mexico and the United States, and working as a college professor in Florida, Antonio returned to Cuba in 2010 and launched the “State of SATS” project.
However, Havana's authorities refuse to recognize that there is no law in Cuba against the free exercise of one’s civil rights. Because of this, the police must invent arbitrary charges and treat acts of civil resistance such as the "Citizens' Demand for Another Cuba" and "Estado de SATS" as common crimes.
I call on all people of conscience to put pressure on the Cuban government and on its diplomatic missions and personnel around the world so that they will free Rodiles and comply with the international agreements they have already signed.
Thank you very much for your support.
This video features a declaration by Antonio's main supporters in Cuba and is read by blogger Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo. An English translation of the declaration follows below.
Declaration No. 2, November 11, 2012
On Wednesday, November 7, a group of citizens was arrested outside the so-called Section 21 of State Security, at 31st Avenue and 110th Street, in the municipality of Marianao. The group of about ten people was there to inquire about the legal status and whereabouts of the attorney Yaremis Flores, who was arrested without due process hours earlier.
This was the first of a series of illegal arrests that extended into the next day, when several friends and supporters went to the Acosta Station, between 2nd and 3rd, in the Diez de Octubre municipality, to inquire about the causes of what happened. Other solidarity groups took to the streets in the interior of the country, also victims of arrests and repression. These arrests were accompanies, in the majority of cases, by the cutting off of telephones with the complicity of the companies CUBACEL and ETECSA. Among those arrested were many activists related to the Citizen’s Demand for Another Cuba, which has been developing, in recent months, a campaign which aims to make the Cuban government ratify the International Covenants on Human Rights that Cuba signed in 2008.
Today, 72 hours after the violent arrest of Antonio Rodiles, the principal coordinator of the State of SATS project, and 48 hours after the equally violent detention of the writer Angel Santiesteban, both remain behind bars, on hunger strike, without seeing the sun, without their right to make the telephone call as required, and without communications with their closest family members. We assume that the main reason for the delay in their release is to hide any traces of the severe beatings to which they were subjected at the time of their arrest. So far, it is unknown precisely what the situation is with regards to their physical condition, and the future evolution of both intellectuals.
Police harassment, arbitrary arrests for political reasons, the abuse, and the imputation of crimes not committed, are procedures that are completely outside Cuban law and that were, in fact, being denounced recently by the lawyers Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent (of the independent law firm CubaLex), directing their complaints to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions, in a detailed register of persons who are at risk. Governance in Cuba has become pure repressive praxis, far beyond any supposed ideological sign.
We hold Cuban State Security responsible for their actions with regards to the life and health of Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, and any other detainee whose arrest we are not yet aware of. The national police should refrain from carrying out arbitrary directions and illegal orders and psychological pressure as ordered by State Security. It should ensure the strict compliance with the laws, in favor of the rights of citizens and their safety. It should stand with the State and not with a government whose legitimacy has expired; for the Cuban nation and not for the so-called Revolution.
We demand the immediate release without charges of Antonio Rodiles and Ángel Santiesteban.
We demand a full accounting by those among the paramilitary groups and the officials involved in these events, which are completely outside the laws of our country.
This is the legitimate demand of a civil society that will not be restrained by any coercion nor driven to violence by those in power, nor will it relinquish a single one of the spaces it has won.
We thank the international community for the interest it has shown toward our struggle. We urge all Cubans, wherever they are, to continue in solidarity with the aspirations of justice and freedom in our society at this definitive historical juncture.
Havana, November 11, 2012
Boris González Arenas
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Alfredo Fernández Rodríguez
Ailer González Mena
Camilo Ernesto Olivera
Walfrido López R.
Claudio Enrique Fuentes Madan
Luis Eligio de Omni
Kizzy de Omni
Gladys Fernández Vera
Manolo Rodríguez Planas