UPDATED, Sept. 10, 2010 — Alexis Rodríguez was released from prison in September 2010 under a deal reached by Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
The evidence that Cuba's dictatorship is one of the worst in history is evident in so many ways.
Its iron grip on the media.
Its jailing of human rights and democracy activists and other dissidents.
Its control of all economic, political and social activity.
But one of the surests proofs of the complete awfulness of Fidel Castro's regime is that no one gets to leave without Fidel Castro's permission.
You may be one of the 20,000 Cubans each year fortunate to win a U.S. visa, but it's just a piece of paper until you get a piece of paper to leave the island.
In 1994, when so many Cubans took to the seas to get away from Castro, merchant marine engineer Alexis Rodríguez Fernández got tired of waiting. Along with a couple of friends, he tried to leave Cuba through the U.S. Naval Base at Guántanamo Bay. He was captured — by the Cubans — and sentenced to 3 years in prison.
After his release, he worked a variety of jobs, and at some point, joined the Christian Liberation Movement (MLC), one of Cuba's leading dissident organizations — and during the "black spring" of 2003, one of Castro's prime targets.
Like many other MLC members, all of whom were leaders of the Varela Project, Rodríguez was arrested. After a sham trial, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Rodríguez's opposition to Castro's dictatorship, and his solidarity with fellow dissidents has only gotten strongere while in prison. For example, in May 2005, Rodríguez, now 37, and other prisoner went on a hunger strike to show their support for another political prisoner, Luis Enrique Ferrer García, after Ferrer was placed in a punishment cell.
In a common story for Cuba's political prisoners, Rodríguez is a very sick man. He was recently diagnosed with general neuropathy and severe optical neuritis. But, as his wife complained, Rodríguez has been denied both a transfer to a hospital and a diet that would help restore his health.
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.