UPDATED, Feb. 4, 2011 — Guido Sigler was released from prison on Feb. 4, 2011, under a deal arranged between the Catholic Church, Spain and the Castro dictatorship.
With his arrival in Miami last week, former Cuban political prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya became the face of the Castro gulag, his broken body revealing for the world the cruelties that the Cuban dictatorship inflicts in its prisons, and his spirit demonstrating the resolve of one current-day Cuba's great families, the Siglers of Pedro Betancourt in Matanzas province.
As inspiring as Ariel has been since his arrival in the United States to receive much needed medical care, I imagine his heart is heavy because his brother Guido Sigler Amaya — like Ariel and a third brother, former political prisoner Miguel, arrested during the "black spring" of 2003 — remains in jail.
This is what I wrote about the family in a 2007 profile of Ariel and Guido:
During the "black spring" of 2003, three brothers — Ariel, Guido and Miguel Sigler Amaya — were arrested. Miguel, now 45, was released after serving a 26-month jail sentence. But his brothers, Ariel, 45, and Guido, 53, are still in the gulag, serving sentences of 25 and 20 years, respectively, because of their opposition to the dictatorship. After his release, Miguel was able to move to the United States. Another brother, Juan Francisco, was almost killed last year as he rode his bike to work by motorists who more than made their intentions clear.
Cuba Archive has more about the family, from a 2006 report:
The Sigler Amaya family, founders of the dissident group Movimiento Independiente Opción Alternativa, has been subjected to violent attacks, reprisals, and harassment for years. Just last week, the family home was subject to a massive act of repudiation organized by the government and Juan Francisco faced an act of repudiation, with physical violence, at his workplace, were he labors in agriculture. He declares: “My life has become a living hell. Our situation — mine and my family’s — is extremely dangerous. But, I will not leave the country, they know it, and for that reason I hold them responsible for anything that happens to me or my family.”
This has been an epochal year in the history of the struggle for Cuban freedom, filled with events — the death of Orlando Zapata, Guillermo Fariñas' hunger strike, etc. — that have drawn new attention to that fight and revealed for anyone paying attention the character and commitment of those Cubans — like the Sigler brothers — who are on the front lines.
The first such event was the death of Gloria Amaya, the Sigler family matriarch from whom undoubtedly the brothers drew their strength and their resolve.
I wrote last week about the significance of her wake, which was attended by Ariel and Guido, albeit seperately, after they received furloughs from prison:
We had read and heard reports about the poor health suffered by (Ariel) Sigler and other political prisoners, but from that sad and solemn event came some of the first photographic proof what many of them were suffering right then in the Castro gulag. The images were horrifying.
As Ariel was led back to prison, those at Sra. Amaya's wake broke out with chants of protest, demanding the freedom that has been the family's clarion call for many years.
Until Guido is freed, and all the Sigler brothers are reunited, Sra. Amaya, and all of Cuba, will not rest in peace.
(H/T for the photos to Baracutey Cubano.)