UPDATED, July 24, 2010 — Antonio Díaz and Ariel Sigler were released from prison in July 2010 and June 2010, respectively, under an agreement between Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
With the Cuban Political Prisoner of the Week profiles, I try each week to put a name and a face to one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of Cubans imprisoned because of their opposition to the Castro dictatorship and their faith in freedom, human rights and their fellow Cuban. By educating readers about these brave men and women, I hope to create empathy for their suffering and sympathy and support for their cause.
This week, I want you to remember their families.
Antonio Díaz Sánchez and Ariel Sigler Amaya were two of some 75 Cuban journalists, librarians, human rights activists and other dissidents rounded up during the "black spring" of March-April 2003. Targeted because of their beliefs, and willingness to act on them, the Group of 75 stands as an example that it is possible to stand up to tyranny.
I have previously profiled Díaz and Sigler, and I usually try to avoid encore designations as Political Prisoner of the Week. Díaz and Sigler, however, this week deserve the honor, not because of anything they did or have had done to them — although it seems as if their jailers have a reserved an especially horrible brand of repression for them.
They deserve the honor because of the courage of their families, and their willingness to testify to what their respective loved ones are suffering. This week, I stand with their families, and so should you.
This past week, the week after Father's Day, Yenysel Díaz Sánchez wrote a letter to the international community, imploring governments and others to intercede on behalf of her father, who is being held in isolation because of his refusal to wear the prison uniform of a common criminal.
A point of full disclosure: I have developed a friendship, if only "virtually," with Sánchez's nephew, Yenysel and Lázara's cousin, who blogs about his uncle here. It's hard to explain, but that has friendship has brought be a level of understanding of what is happening Sánchez that I otherwise might not have. Tony Sánchez is much more than just a name to me.
Ariel Sigler's family, his brother, his cousin and his mother, have gone viral with their pleas for his life, producing and releasing videos in which they beg viewers to do whatever they can to help Ariel, who has been left a cripple by his more than six years in the Castro gulag.
Their respective messages are in Spanish, but even if you don't understand what they are saying, you can hear their pain and their desperation if you just listen.