UPDATED, Aug. 17, 2010 — Efren Fernández Fernández was released from prison in August 2010 under a deal reached between Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
This post will remain at the top of the page through Friday, events allowing.
Efren Fernández Fernández only wanted Cubans to have a choice, to have the right to decide how they should be governed. And he was willing to play by the communists' rules, joining with others in the Varela Project, which was ostensibly allowed by the Cuban constitution.
But the dictatorship had a different interpretation, and as part of the "black spring" crackdown of 2003, rounded up Fernández and other organizers of the Varela Project and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms.
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., paid tribute to Fernández last December during a speech on the House floor:
Mr. Fernández is a member of the Christian Liberation Movement and an opponent of the tyranny in Havana. In March of 2003, Mr. Fernández was arrested as part of an abhorrent island-wide crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy activists who were calling for the most basic of human rights for Cuba. His participation in a collection of signatures in support of a call for some elemental rights for Cubans was all that the communist regime needed to incarcerate him.
In a sham trial, Mr. Fernández was sentenced to 12 years in the totalitarian gulag. He has endured numerous prison transfers and solitary confinements based only on his captors' whims and arbitrary reasons. Since his "sentencing'', he has managed to survive against all odds in the most deplorable of human conditions. Mr. Fernández' bravery and commitment to freedom has not wavered even though since his unjust incarceration he has lost more than thirty pounds and suffers from frequent fits of vomiting and chronic intestinal problems.
According to Carta de Cuba, on September 7, 2006, Mr. Fernández was administered antibiotics intravenously for an unidentified bacterial infection affecting his kidneys. Immediately following that treatment, Mr. Fernández fainted and complained of experiencing severe heart palpitations and arterial tension.
Let me be very clear, Mr. Fernández is languishing in the totalitarian gulag simply for believing that every Cuban citizen has the fundamental right to live in freedom with the most basic of human rights and protections of their individual liberties. He suffers the consequences, no matter how brutal or at what risk to his health, and continues his dignified struggle for freedom on that oppressed island.
It is unconscionable that a mere ninety miles from our shores, men and women are suffering in the darkness of totalitarian repression. Mr. Speaker, this constitutes a crime against humanity. Mr. Fernández's only crime is to demand that basic human rights be restored to the people of Cuba.
It is incumbent on all of us who serve in this great democratic body to recognize and remember the terrible plight of those brave men and women like Mr. Fernández who suffer the living nightmare of despotic totalitarianism. Let us all join in demanding the immediate release of Efrén Fernández Fernández and all political prisoners in Cuba.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of more than 300 political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the left sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail.
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.