The story of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo will be told for decades.
Habaneros call a certain spot in Central Park the “Hot Corner”: It’s where heated discussions about baseball take place. Some people think it’s the only space for free discussion that still survives on the island, where ardent polemicists don’t stop talking about sports.
This was the spot were they picked up Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a member of the Alternative Republican Movement (a small dissident group, with a peaceful orientation, founded in 2002), for complaining about “the thing that was bad.” The same day, December 6, 2002, two agents from the political police detained him and some hours later charged him with disrespect, public disorder and disobedience.
Zapata Tamayo was confined for several months in the maximum security prison of Guanajay, on the outskirts of Havana, from which he was released on conditional liberty March 7, 2003.
Not even his dissident associates can explain how, with his legal status, this modest brick-layer and plumber, of black race, found the bravery to participate that same month in a fast, together with Martha Beatriz Roque and four activists, to denounce the situation of Oscar Elías Biscet and other political prisoners. He could have refused to participate in the fast using his legal status as an excuse. But he acted by conviction, and the so-called Black Spring thus claimed a new victim.
Zapata was charged on May 18, 2004, and condemned to three years in prison. He then began a long ordeal, a story that I would like to have the luxury of telling in detail, and which would read like an exciting film (of the “prison” sub-genre), if it weren’t for the fact that Hollywood almost always prefers scripts with a happy ending.
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