Foreword to 'Boitel Vive'
The case presented in this book, with the testimony of Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez", is the case of a young man who has been sentenced to prison by Castro's Justice for "acquiring a large quantity of paper that would be used to incite against the social order, international solidarity or the socialist State through written propaganda, which he would distribute throughout the city of Placetas in Villa Clara". This act of spreading ideas peacefully and expressing political dissidence to the Cuban government is considered by Fidel Castro's dictatorship as one of the "acts against principles and the revolution that jeopardize internal integrity". Because of this, "Antúnez" is serving a long, cruel and unjust sentence.
However, it is worth noting that, after more than four decades of repression, there has been hardly any international condemnation of the Cuban regime, and both the toleration of and admiration for this dictatorship is repulsive from a democratic standpoint. Seeing that in Fidel Castro's Cuba, people like "Antúnez" can be arrested, sentenced without due process and sent to prison to serve long terms for trying to exercise internationally-recognized human rights (such as freedom of speech, association and assembly), its is unbelievable that politicians, intellectuals, diplomats and artists who consider themselves "democratic" show off their picture with today's most long-lived dictator as if it were a trophy.
It is also worth noting because the Castro regime's violation of human rights is registered from its beginning and remains a constant to date. How long have we been hearing news about the "release of dissidents" in Cuba? How can the claim for the democratic opening of Cuba be considered "politically incorrect"? This is why it is necessary to publish this book, to offer a voice to those who serve an unjust sentence and to provide new evidence of the lack of freedom on the island.
It is true that there are many books on the Cuban political imprisonment, such as "Contra toda esperanza" (Against all Hope) by Armando Valladares; "Rehenes de Castro" (Castro's Hostages) by Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez; "Cómo llegó la noche" (How Night Fell) by Húber Matos; and "Cuba: Mito y Realidad" (Cuba: Myth and Reality) by Juan Clark and Angel de Fana, to name a few. But unlike the aforementioned books, the author of "Boitel Vive" is currently in jail and the publication of his testimony explains why he is still imprisoned in Cuba and exposes the methods that Castro's regime continues to apply inside its prisons.
Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez", a brave and emblematic figure of current Cuban political prisoners and founder of the Pedro Luis Boitel Organization of Political Prisoners, offers his personal story in this autobiography. Later, he also gives testimony of the life in Castro's prisons today, were Cuban political prisoners keep alive Pedro Boitel's characteristic spirit of struggle against injustice and integrity. This is why this book named after him, because Boitel's example is a guide for those who do not surrender to repression, even when in jail.
Pedro Luis Boitel Abraham was a Cuban student leader who actively participated in the efforts to overthrow Fulgencio Batista's military dictatorship. He was the leader of the youth branch of the 26 de Julio Movement, headed by Fidel Castro. Boitel came from a humble family and studied at the University of Havana and also worked as a radio technician. He was persecuted by the Batista regime and forced into exile in Venezuela where he collaborated with Rómulo Betancourt in his efforts to overthrow Marcos Pérez Jiménez's military government by setting up a clandestine radio station in that country. Boitel returned to Cuba after Batista had been ousted and resumed his studies at the University of Havana where he stood out due to his leadership skills, democratic convictions and independence of thought.
In 1960, Boitel ran for president of the University Students' Federation (Federación Estudiantil Universitaria - FEU) at the University of Havana and was backed by the 26 de Julio Movement. Even though Castro headed this movement during Batista's dictatorship, Fidel Castro and the other revolutionary leaders removed their support for Boitel precisely due to his independence of thought and democratic convictions. Castro himself personally intervened in the student elections at the University of Havana to remove Boitel from the FEU presidency. This event and other repressive measures that were carried out by Castro against Boitel led him to begin to conspire against the recently-established totalitarian regime in Cuba.
After being arrested and imprisoned, Pedro Luis Boitel became a pioneer of civic resistance in Castro's prisons. He was condemned to 10 years in prison in 1961 but was not released upon serving his sentence. After going on a hunger strike for fifty three days without receiving medical assistance, Boitel was cruelly abandoned and isolated in punishment cells, tortured by guards in the "El Príncipe" prison in Havana, and died on May 25, 1972. His lifeless body was not even seen by his mother, Clara Abraham de Boitel. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Cólon cemetery in Havana.
"Antúnez" and over three hundred political prisoners who are currently serving time in Cuba stand firm in their commendable struggle for freedom in their country, and pay tribute to the memory of Pedro Luis Boitel with their brave example.
The democratic Cuba of the future will no doubt remember Boitel as one of its great heroes and Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" will be a testimony of life in the struggle against oppression.
Buenos Aires, December 10, 2004.
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