UPDATED, July 21, 2010 — Arturo Pérez de Alejo was released in July 2010 under a deal between Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
The year 1980 was an important year for Cuba, with more than 125,000 Cubans getting on boats and leaving the island for the United States in the Mariel boatlift.
It also was a turning point for Arturo Pérez de Alejo Rodríguez. It was the spark that radicalized his politics, lead him down a path toward becoming a leading human rights and political activist — according to Payo Libre, he was a member of the Democratic Action Movement, National Action Party and the Independent Democratic Front — and eventually, during the "black spring" of 2003, a cell in Fidel Castro's gulag.
At the time of his arrest, Pérez de Alejo, who turns 56 on May 23, was president of the Escambray Human Rights Front, which he had founded in December 2001.
Despite being locked away in prison, many miles from his home in Manicaragua, his fellow activists have not forgotten with him. Earlier this month, journalists in the new Escambray Press press agency named Pérez de Alejo their honorary president.
U.S. Rep. Lincon Diaz-Balart in February 2005 paid tribute to Pérez de Alejo from the floor of the U.S. House:
Mr. Pérez de Alejo is the president of the Escambray Human Rights Front. Before he became a pro-freedom advocate in a country oppressed by a totalitarian tyrant, he worked as a farmer. However, after he realized the true nature of Castro's despotic regime, he joined the pro-democracy movement and began to advocate for a free and democratic Cuba.
According to Amnesty International, Mr. Pérez de Alejo was detained in 2003 for handing out copies of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. Despite being detained, and knowing full well the brutal consequences that await those brave men and women that speak the truth under the nightmare that is the Castro regime, he continued to advocate for human rights for the people of Cuba.
Unfortunately, Mr. Pérez de Alejo was arrested on March 18, 2003, as part of Castro's heinous island wide crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy activists. In a sham trial, he was sentenced to 20 years in the totalitarian gulag.
While confined in the inhuman squalor of the gulag, Amnesty International reports that Mr. Pérez de Alejo has not been able either to receive or to send correspondence in the same way as other prisoners. It has also been reported that he is suffering from several debilitating diseases in the totalitarian gulag. Let us be very clear, he is languishing in a hellish dungeon, unable to communicate with the outside world, because he peacefully advocates for liberty.
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.