Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

>March 5, 1999.


"Wow! What a lot of black men," a woman exclaimed after I and my cousin Lidia, who is a sister of one of the four dissidents on trial - Vladimiro Roca Antúnez - got off the bus and turned down 100th Street, one of the principal streets of Marianao.

The woman was correct; from a distance we could see a great number of black men standing on corners, alone or in groups. Many were wearing white T-shirts under their other shirts. As we neared, we could see the words on the undershirts in red letters: "Blas Roca Contingency."

That group is a worker's "collective" created by Fidel Castro after the April 25, 1987 death of Blas Roca Calderío, one of the founders of the Cuban Marxist-Leninist party, . He was also the father of four of my cousins on the side of my mother.

The four cousins are the above-mentioned Lidia, who accompanied me that day and is currently retired; Francisco, a former colonel in the Ministry of the Interior (MININT); Joaquín, a worker in a factory in Luyanó, and Vladimiro, a specialist in International Economic Relations and a well-known pacifist and dissident.

The men and a few women with the red-lettered T-shirts were not mobilized to back up the son of Blas Roca. On the contrary, their job was to ban any Cuban dissident, independent journalist, human rights activist, curious citizen or even relatives of the accused son of Blas Roca who were not chosen by the Office of State Security (OSS) from coming near the courtroom. It is located on 100th Street and 51st Avenue in the Marianao section of Havana.

In all probability they were not all workers and more than one of them hidden under his T-shirt his true profession, such as martial arts expert or member of the "Unique System of Vigilance and Protection." That is a paramilitary unit that on Aug. 5,1994, showed its strength during the disturbances along the sea promenade of Havana.

For those of us who knew Blas Roca well there can be no bigger sacrilege than his name being used for these units. If there ever was a Cuban politician who preached dialogue and tolerance, it was my cousin's father, the man for whom my father worked as a bodyguard for 20 years.

But when I saw the display of men, I kept silent, for it already is hard for my cousin Lidia to fulfill her mother's request that she not abandon her brothers, no matter how difficult the circumstance might be.

At 39th we crossed the street. At 35th there were two white young men whose furtive looks betrayed their true profession: OSS agents, the elite of Cuban repression. We had not walked more than three yards when a policeman stopped us. Two of the secret agents joined them quickly and stood behind us. One of them wore a white T-Shirt but without the Blas Roca logo. Looking at me, he asked, "Tania Quintero?"

"Yes," I answered. "Come with me," he said and pointed to a rather dilapidated blue Lada automobile. They were in a rush, for the most important political trial in ages was starting in 20 minutes.

Everything had to be orderly: The world had to be assured that tranquility >reigns in Cuba, that there is no opposition to the system, that 99 percent of the people back the system and that the streets belong to the revolutionaries, i.e., from now on to the "black revolutionaries."

It has taken them a while to figure it all out. The Cuban government might have--it has--many defects, but nobody can doubt its 'thoughtful'ways of dealing with conflict situations. The officials have been able to make the best out of difficulties even right before the world's incredulous eyes. Especially if the hand of the "Yanqui Imperialists" is involved or if they think it is involved.

It works. It is widely known that there are plenty of "anti-imperialist friends" throughout the world who hate Americans, but are afraid to openly admit it.

By the way, the trial of Abdullah Ocalán, leader of the PKK and a recognized terrorist will take place shortly in Turkey. Key voices in Europe and other areas have spoken out so that that accused one is guaranteed judicial impartiality. This happened less than two months after his arrest.

Why have these same outraged defenders of international law remained silent when it comes to the four Cuban dissidents - a woman and three men - all over 50 years of age, all professional, all pacifists, whose only crime is to have voluntarily joined forces for the betterment of their country?

Beatriz, Vladimiro, Félix and René have been detained for 19 months in maximum-security cells, scattered throughout the island.

As I was climbing into the car, my cousin as a farewell gesture gave me a pack of oatmeal crackers from the meager ration we were carrying in case the trial took longer than expected.

Inside the car, three black men were waiting for me. The youngest was the driver. Although he was dressed casually, he couldn't hide his military bearing. The other two could have been my brothers as they were both in their sixties. They were tense. Maybe it was their first arrest. Or maybe it was because I their age. Or maybe they were disconcerted because I was so calm.

Swiftly, but without calling attention to themselves they drove to one of the OSS centers of operation, the police-training unit at 7th Avenue and 52nd Street in Miramar. I made myself comfortable inside the car and pulled out the newspaper "Workers."

It had a centerfold with the new modifications to the penal code. I did not have time to read them. We had arrived.

I looked at my watch. It was 8:45 a.m. I was ordered to sit on a bench and the driver asked me for my identity card. Minutes later another car arrived and Raúl Rivero got out. He was surprised to see me there. Two hours later in the women's cell I would confirm that six of us from our agency were arrested: Raúl, Odalys Curbelo, Juan Antonio Sánchez, Orlando Bordón, Hector González and I.

Unlike them, I had not been arrested for trying to report on the trial. I had been arrested because I thought I had the right to be there as a close relative of one of the accused.

Shortly thereafter, several of us were accused under article 207 of the penal code: "Association so as to carry out delinquency." Its corresponding penalties can range from a fine to loss of freedom anywhere from three months to three years. Soon the list would grow to 10, as four more dissidents were arrested.

One of them was Dulce María de Quesada, 50, of the Christian Democracy Movement and with whom I was to share a bunk bed made of stone. In a cell meant for six there were eight of us: three political and five common prisoners. The oldest was 31 and the youngest 16.

When I laid my head to rest on my shoes that evening I felt the satisfaction that I did not attend the trial not because of me, but because of my repressors. And in spite of the coldness of the Cuban jails, I felt a warm feeling over my entire body and I was able to endure that bed made of gray cement. Finally, it was dark and quiet.

As the next day was dawning my mind gathered a very real image: The vast majority of those in Cuban jails today are black or of mixed races. Among those being tried that day there was a black man, Félix Bonne, and a man of mixed races, my cousin Vladimiro Roca.

By Tania Quintero.

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