Cuban prison officials last week launched an investigation of political prisoner Ernest Durán Rodríguez, and transferred him to another prison, after guards allegedly found a telephone in his cell, according to a report by independent journalist Belinda Salas Tapanes.
It was the latest in a long history of harassment and other brutalities the dictatorship has inflicted on Durán, since he was convicted of "illegal exit" and sentenced to 20 years in prison, in 1995.
While in prison, Durán has only intensified his dissidence, and his opposition to the Castro regime. Each time, the dictatorship has responded with its worst cruelties.
For example, in July 2002, Durán and another political prisoner Humberto Real Suárez, were punished after they commemorated the 8th anniversary of the sinking by Cuban forces of the "13 de marzo" tugboat, killing scores of civilians.
The next month, according to U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, guards beat Durán and threw him into a punishment cell. A couple of weeks later, he was accused of "disrespecting" Fidel Castro, and had two years added to his sentence.
This past October, Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., paid tribute to Durán from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. It is one of the few English-language profiles of the prisoner:
Mr. Duran Rodriguez is a pro-democracy activist currently imprisoned in a dungeon for his peaceful work to liberate Cuba from the grasp of the terrorist totalitarian regime. His insistence on freedom, fundamental human rights and speaking openly about the plight of the Cuban people under the tyranny's machinery of repression has made him a target of the totalitarian regime.
Mr. Duran Rodriguez has been repeatedly harassed and detained by regime thugs since 1995, when he was "evasion'' and attempting to exit the country without "proper permission''. Let me be very clear, Mr. Duran Rodriguez has been thrown in the gulag for daring to dream of and working on behalf of a democratic Cuba.
On August 8, 2002, Mr. Duran Rodriguez and another political prisoner, Leoncio Rodriguez Ponce were brutally beaten by regime thugs and thrown into the wretched squalor of punishment cells. On August 28
of that year, both men were tried on trumped-up charges that they had "disrespected'' the demented tyrant. Both men were denied the right to a defense, and although the exact motive for their second trial is
unknown, the so-called "court" found "sufficient cause'' to increase their prison terms by two years.
While incarcerated in the squalor of the heinous gulag, Mr. Duran Rodriguez has suffered beatings, lack of medical treatment and being persistently denied the opportunity to communicate with his family. On
January 29, 2006, prison thugs without warning entered his cell during the early morning hours and placed him in shackles on mere suspicion that he might have circulated leaflets in the prison. With his movement
constricted, they proceeded to ransack his cell, stealing what few documents he kept and leaving his few precious personal effects thrown throughout his cell.
Mr. Duran Rodriguez is one of the many heroes of the Cuban pro-democracy movement who are locked in the dungeons of an oppressive totalitarian dictatorship for their beliefs. These men and women are symbols of freedom and democracy who will always be remembered when freedom returns to Cuba. Mr. Duran Rodriguez's courage in defiance of tyranny serves as an inspiring reminder that the tyranny's gulags are
full men and women who represent the best of the Cuban nation.
Madam Speaker, it is absolutely unacceptable that peaceful pro-democracy activists are languishing in the heinous and depraved prisons of tyrants. My Colleagues, we must demand the immediate and unconditional release of Ernesto Duran Rodriguez and every prisoner of conscience in totalitarian Cuba.
You can read Diaz-Balart's comments in Spanish, here.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the right 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.