BY BERTHA ANTUNEZ PERNET
On March 15, 1990, the Cuban regime incarcerated one of the island’s best sons for the sole crime of living in liberty and democracy. It all began when my brother, Jorge Luis ‘‘Antúnez’’ García Perez expressed his ideas in a public plaza. In our country, this constitutes a crime that is punished with prison time—plus ill treatment and abuses committed with equal impunity.
Jorge Luis has since been a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience. This week, he completed 15 years of a 17-year sentence. He has endured beatings, punishment cells, sealed cells, hunger, the lack of medical and religious assistance and being forced to sleep on the cold, humid floor.
During this time in prison, he has been exiled for more than 10 years from his beloved native province.
Jorge Luis had a dream of being an athlete. Instead, he has suffered through beatings that shattered his youthful health. By age 21, he had turned into an adult riddled with chronic illnesses that will accompany him for the rest of his life. He wanted to be a martial artist, and prison guards used him as practice for different martial-arts techniques, even while he was handcuffed.
Jorge Luis dreamt of being a lawyer. Yet while in prison he has been subjected to the most merciless laws and repressive attacks against his individual liberty. In exchange, he learned how a man is treated when he dares to think differently in a totalitarian society. He learned nothing to become a lawyer, only how to develop defensive reflexes.
Jorge Luis had a dream of a free country. But he has had to live these past 15 years in prison, knowing that his family and compatriots, too, are serving their own sentences in a larger prison on the outside. He has traveled the entire island from prison to prison. He has known first hand each method and form of inhuman treatment practiced in each place he has been imprisoned, yet he has always tried to create an atmosphere of internal liberty that is so necessary when external liberty is lacking.
Other prisoners have understood him, cared for him and have chosen him as a leader who provides them the necessary elements for a different way of thinking. Because of all this, prison authorities have continued to beat and relocate him. That’s when he begins anew to demonstrate the real nature of freedom to those who do not know the true essence of what it is to be free.
Jorge Luis has not been able to be a lawyer or an athlete. Little by little, however, he has been able to achieve the foundations of a free country. Through all the places he has passed, he has brought together groups of men of noble ideas who have formed an organization that morally distinguishes itself as the political-prisoners’ Pedro Luis Boitel Association. This is a movement that unites the families of political prisoners, that is present before each injustice committed against a prisoner—wherever it may be, under whatever conditions, political or not, as long as a human-rights violation is being committed.
Jorge Luis’ dream has not been completely snatched despite all the measures used by the regime intent on silencing his voice. The Black Diamond, as my brother is known in the prisons, is there. He maintains his defiance and cannot be silenced. He is recognized by people of goodwill worldwide who have acknowledged his values and have given him international awards for his work defending human rights.
Jorge Luis’ fundamental motto is, “Do more for the prisoners because they need help, otherwise they will have no one to advocate for them, and one day the homeland will be free.’‘
Bertha Antúnez Pernet is sister of Cuban political prisoner and prisoner of conscience Jorge Luis ‘‘Antúnez’’ García Perez.