The profiles that evolved into Uncommon Sense Political Prisoner of the Week started with a recurring series of posts about imprisoned Cuban journalists, which I dubbed the "March 18 Project." These journalists, many of whom were arrested during the "black spring" crackdown of March-April 2003, are in jail because they dared to adhere to the fundamental precept of journalism: Speaking truth to power. Many of them have never received formal training as reporters and editors, but unlike the mouthpieces and transcriptionists that slave away for the communist-run media, they are not afraid to take a story wherever it takes them. As journalists and as Cubans, they are my heroes.
I don't know what "crime" this week's prisoner, Juan Ruperto Becerra Alfonso, committed. But a quick Internet search shows that Becerra has assumed from behind bars the role of journalist, of storyteller, breaking the blockade that his captors try to put on what is happening in the Cuban gulag. For example, in March, Becerra, a member of the Pedro Luís Boitel Political Prisoner organization described for independent journalist Félix Reyes Gutiérrez how several prisoners at the Ariza prison in Cienfuegos province protested the dictatorship by tossing from their cells signs declaring "Down with Fidel" and "Down with Raul."
Maybe Becerra is more of a great source than an actual journalist, but it makes no difference to his captors, who have moved aggressively to silence him. Reyes reported last week that guards had ordered another prisoner to assault Becerra — a common tactic used against political prisoners.
This past Tuesday, the prison goon squad upped the ante by transferring Becerra to an unknown location to block him from contacting journalists, according to a report by Reyes. As of his writing, April 10, Reyes said Becerra's whereabouts remained unknown.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of several hundred 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.