For the latest updates on Antonio Díaz, check in with Marielito's blog.
Some of Fidel Castro's top targets during the "black spring" crackdown of March-April 2003, were the organizers of the Varela Project, a grassroots campaign to institute liberal political reforms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free elections, etc. — in Cuba.
More than 10,000 Cubans signed Varela Project petitions, making those behind the effort, in the mind of the bearded bastard, mortal threats to the dictatorship. Castro responded up by rounding up dozens of organizers of the effort.
Among them, Antonio Díaz Sánchez.
I could not find a lot of information about Díaz on the Internet. Like other Varela Project organizers, Díaz, 44, an electrician by profession, is a member of the Christian Liberation Movement.
And like many other Cuban political prisoners, he has continuted his activism while in jail. For example, in 2003, he went on a hunger strike to protest how another prisoner was being treated.
However, the paucity of information about Díaz does not mean he has been forgotten. His wife, Gisela Sanchez Verdecia, is active in the Damas de Blanco, and he has at least one very good friend in Europe.
Last month, Peter Šťastný, a Slovak member of the European Parliament, wrote the Cuban ambassador to Slovakia, demanding that Díaz be released from prison.
According to a press release:
Peter Šťastný had requested adequate health care for Mr Díaz Sánchez back in October 2005, when he sent a letter to the former Ambassador of the Cuban Republic in Slovakia, Caridad Yamira Cueto Milán, who he also met in person. "Again, I am asking you to appeal to the Cuban authorities for a fair investigation of this case (of this political prisoner), condemned to twenty years of prison for his activities in favour of the democratisation in Cuba," Šťastný states in the letter.
The MEP expresses his concern and indignation over the fact that the Cuban regime is not only imprisoning many people for their political opinions and conviction, but at the same time political prisoners are suffering mentally as well as physically under inhumane treatment in prison.
Two other MEPs added their signatures to the letter, Zita Pleštinska and Milan Gaľa, who together with Peter Šťastný have regularly supported the family of Antonio Díaz Sánchez since 2005.
In the 2005 letter, Šťastný told Cuban authorities he had heard that Díaz was not getting the medical care he needed while in prison:
"For some time now, I have been monitoring the situation of Mr Antonio Díaz Sánchez, who has been imprisoned in Cuba since March 2003 for his activities with the pacifist opposition, which has fought for the establishment of conditions to improve the quality of life of all Cuban citizens. I was disturbed to learn from his wife, Ms Gisela Sánchez Verdecia, that Mr Díaz Sánchez was transferred to a remote prison 700 km away from his home where he is suffering from serious illnesses related to his heart, hearing, prostate, and digestive system as a result of inhumane treatment. While the local hospital diagnosed him with health problems following a physical examination, Mr Díaz Sánchez was not given adequate medical care."
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart this past Monday spoke on behalf of Antonio Díaz on the floor of the House of Representatives. Read his remarks below the fold.
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.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak about Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez, a prisoner of conscience in totalitarian Cuba.
Mr. Díaz Sánchez, an electrician by profession, is a member of the Christian Liberation Movement and a peaceful pro-democracy activist who desires to exercise his basic human rights and who supports freedom, democracy and the Rule of Law for the people of Cuba. Unfortunately, the nightmare that is the totalitarian regime continues to oppress the men and women of Cuba, especially those who work to shed light on the vicious crimes committed against the Cuban people by the tyrant.
In March 2003, as part of the tyrant's condemnable crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy activists, Mr. Díaz Sánchez was arrested simply for expressing his opinions. Mr. Díaz Sánchez was subjected to a sham trial where he was ``sentenced'' to 20 years of confinement in the infernal totalitarian dungeons of the brutal regime.
Mr. Díaz Sánchez has continued to advocate for freedom and justice while locked in the hellish squalor of the dictatorship's gulag. He has participated in various hunger strikes to draw attention to the horrific conditions that political prisoners are subjected to in the gulag. He is routinely denied medical treatment although he currently suffers from painful colitis and has been denied a biopsy for a rapidly growing tumor on his prostrate.
According to Mr. Díaz Sánchez's nephew, NGOs have offered Mr. Díaz anti-inflammatory medications to relieve his symptoms but as of yet neither he nor his family have received any such medications to relieve his symptoms. The burden of the cruel treatment he has received and the physical strain of the subhuman conditions in which Mr. Díaz Sánchez is forced to live have completely drained him of his desire to nourish himself. He survives on barely on a few spoonfuls of putrid food each day.
In the face of such horrific mistreatment, the regime's henchmen refuse to provide Mr. Díaz or his family with medical diagnoses. Madam Speaker, let me be very clear, Mr. Díaz Sánchez is suffering at the whim of a monstrous regime just 90 miles from our shore, although he has done nothing other than desire that his children and the long-suffering people of Cuba live in freedom with fundamental human rights and dignity.
Madam Speaker, Mr. Díaz Sánchez has courageously risked his life in order to bring a semblance of humane treatment to those confined in the nightmare that is the totalitarian gulag. His example shines a light of courage on the abominable disregard for human rights in that oppressed island. My Colleagues, we must demand the immediate and unconditional release of Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez and every political prisoner in totalitarian Cuba.