UPDATED, March 22, 2011 — The Catholic Church announced today that José Ferrer would be released and allowed to remain in Cuba.
José Daniel Ferrer García
Pardon my language, but I mean it as a sign of admiration and respect for the man: Cuban political prisoner José Daniel Ferrer García is a badass!
Other political prisoners in the Castro gulag are probably deserving of the moniker, for their toughness and intransigence in the face of adversity, and their commitment to their cause. But every time I read about Ferrer, and look at that photograph above, I am grateful that he and I are on the same side of the fight to defeat the Castro dictatorship.
To hear what I mean, listen to this recording of a telephone call Ferrer made from prison to another activist, especially the part when he tells a guard he will have to kill him to take the phone away:
Ferrer was an organizer of the Christian Liberation Movement's Varela Project when during the "black spring" crackdown of 2003, he was arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison because of his opposition to the communist system. (His brother Luís was sentenced to 28 years, the longest prison term handed down during the crackdown.)
In prison, José Ferrer has also assumed the role of independent journalist, reporting on the abuses he has witnessed behind bars and the courage of other prisoners of conscience in continuing to oppose the Castro regime. He also hasn't stopped denouncing the system that has imprisoned him.
I have written about Ferrer numerous times, and profiled him as part of the "March 18 Project," a series of reports I prepared about imprisoned journalists in Cuba that evolved into the Prisoner of the Week. I have chosen to feature his case this week because it seems the dictatorship has against singled Ferrer out for especially cruel treatment.
Apparently tired of his protests after his family was blocked from visiting him in jail, prison officials recently transferred Ferrer from El Típico prison in Las Tunas to a punishment cell at the Pótosis prison in the same province.
"The MCL calls on everyone to defend José Daniel Ferrer, who is in deplorable physical condition and whose life is in danger," the Christian Liberation Movement said in a statement last week.
Prison officials may have thrown Ferrer into a hole, but he is not forgotten, not here and not by his fellow Cuban freedom fighters. Prominent independent journalist Roberto de Jésus Guerra wrote about his case; Guerra reported that the transfer amounted to an exchange of a sort, since another political prisoner, Aurelio Antonio Morales, was at the same time moved from Pótosis to El Típico.)
José Daniel Ferrer García will never be forgotten, by his family and his friends — and by the bastards, like that guard who tried to get him off the phone, who know full well how tough a badass he really is.
Read my "March 18 Project" profile of Ferrer, here.