In Fidel Castro's Cuba, speaking unpleasant truths about the regime — for instance, that it is lead by a band of murdering thugs — is never tolerated. Defying the dictatorship by reminding Cubans, and the world, of the crimes committed by Castro and his cronies, is dealt with swiftly and harshly.
Lázaro Miguel Rodriguez Capote and other dissidents learned that in February 2002, when they tried to publicly commemorate the murder of four people — including three American citizens — in the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown on Feb. 24, 1996.
In November 2002, Amnesty International reported:
Emilio Leyva Pérez and Lázaro Miguel Rodríguez Capote are leaders of the unofficial Partido Pro Derechos Humanos de Cuba, the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party. The two were reportedly arrested on 22 February 2002. Like several others, it was believed that they were taken into custody to prevent them from participating in activities to commemorate the 24 February 1996 downing of two planes belonging to a Cuban exile group by the Cuban airforce.
Family members have been told unofficially that charges may include "resistencia," resistance; "desacato," disrespect; and "desorden público," public disorder. However they apparently have yet to be officially charged, and Amnesty International is not aware that any trial date has been set.
At end August, both men joined a hunger strike of other detainees to protest at six months’ detention without trial, Emilio Leyva in Quivicán prison with Leonardo Bruzón and Lázaro Rodríguez in Valle Grande prison with Carlos Alberto Domínguez. Family members and friends of both men have reportedly expressed grave concern at the state of their health. Both have reportedly ended their hunger strike
Among other activities, over the last year Emilio Leyva and Lázaro Rodríguez were reported to be active members of the Proyecto Varela campaign for a referendum on constitutional human rights reforms in Cuba. Numerous activists involved in the petition drive have been harassed and detained. Both men were reportedly held in custody for several hours in early February following a prayer service on behalf of political prisoners, in which Leonardo Bruzón was also said to have taken part.
More than 5 years later, Rodríguez, now 38, still has not had his day in court.
U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., in April paid tribute to Rodríguez, from the floor of the U.S. House:
Mr. Rodríguez Capote is a member of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party and a peaceful pro-democracy activist in totalitarian Cuba. As an opponent of the tyrannical regime in Havana, he has worked for basic human rights for the people of Cuba despite constant harassment and repression because he believes the Cuban people are entitled to basic human rights and democracy; in other words, freedom from tyranny.
On February 24, 1996, three U.S. citizens and a resident of Florida were assassinated when two civilian Brothers to the Rescue aircraft, on a humanitarian mission, were destroyed in international airspace by Cuban MiGs on the direct order of the Cuban dictator. The downing of the Brothers to the Rescue airplanes over international waters by the tyranny left an indelible impression on the consciences of Cuban pro-democracy activists and in countless millions throughout the world.
Mr. Rodríguez Capote was one of the many human rights activists in totalitarian Cuba who sought to commemorate the tragic deaths of these men but who was prohibited from demonstrating by the tyranny. Although Mr. Rodríguez Capote was threatened by state security thugs prior to his participation in peaceful demonstrations, he refused to allow his voice to be silenced. Consequently, he was wrongfully arrested on February 22, 2002 on trumped-up charges of "espionage and enemy propaganda."
Mr. Rodríguez Capote was summarily incarcerated and to this day languishes in grotesque subhuman conditions without having even been tried for a single crime. He is being held indefinitely in a totalitarian dungeon, suffering abhorrent conditions because he refuses to accept the reality inflicted upon Cuba by the tyranny. Since his incarceration he has held several hunger strikes to attract attention to the plight of Cuban political prisoners.
Mr. Rodríguez Capote is one of the many heroes of the peaceful Cuban democratic movement who are locked in the dungeons of the dictatorship for their beliefs. These men and women are symbols of freedom and democracy, who will always be remembered when freedom reigns again in Cuba.
Madam Speaker, let me be very clear, the brutal repression practiced by the tyranny in Havana is incompatible with the democratic values and the international law of our hemisphere. Mr. Rodríguez Capote is suffering in a dungeon because he believes in freedom, democracy and human rights. My Colleagues, we must demand the immediate and unconditional release of L ázaro Miguel Rodr íguez Capote and every prisoner of conscience in totalitarian Cuba.
(Editor's note: Several Varela Project activists were arrested and sentenced to long prison terms during the "black spring" of March-April 2003. Also, Emilio Leyva was released in July 2004, but arrested again in July 2005, for trying to commemorate the the "13th of March" tugboat massacre in July 1994. This past February, he was tried and sentenced to two years in prison. His release was expected last month, but I could not find information on whether he had been paroled.)
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.