After 19 days of detention in a police station in Havana, Antonio G. Rodiles returned to freedom convinced that the best path to a better Cuba is through the rejection of violence.
Rodiles was released on Monday afternoon after authorities agreed to the request of his lawyer to withdraw the charges of “resistance.” His violent arrest sparked an intense campaign of international solidarity.
The activist was fined 800 Cuban pesos [approximately $30 U.S.]. He will not go to trial.
CF: What do you take away from this experience?
AR: I say to my friends and others with whom I have spoken, that my main experience is that at this moment in Cuba there are a great many people who understand that the country has to change, and that people thinking differently, that people having different views of things, political, ideological, is not a reason for people to hate them or to not respect them but, sadly, there is a group of people who up to now have demonstrated that they have carte blanche to use violence, who are committed to creating situations like this one and I think, what’s more, they are committed to creating even more critical situations.
I think it’s very important that all national and international public opinion support civil society activists because these people are not the preponderance of the people in this country.
Definitely what they did to me was a vulgar beating and it was planned by them ahead of time.
CF: Your followers and the people who have followed your case insisted that there had been violence especially against you. What precisely happened that day of your arrest?
AR: An official who has become known for beating and abusing people, whose alias is “Camilo,” crossed Avenue 31 [in the Havana municipality of Diez de Octubre] with a group of people, crossed directly to beat me. He says “identificaiton” or “ID card,” something like that, but simply to mention it. No one in uniform came, they didn’t identify themselves, and they immediately pounced on me.
When I put out my hands so they wouldn’t grab me, they rained punches down on me. They grabbed me by the neck, and threw me to the ground, there was a group of between 10 and 15 people — people who were there said it was something like 12. And when they threw me on the ground they began to kick me, to punch me, and at that moment someone punched me in the left eye, thank God their knuckle didn’t go into my eyeball, only the edge, this gave me a strong contusion in the eye which even bled. After they picked me up, they took me to the cop car, and against the car they were still hitting me, in the chest, all my ribs, it was a total beating. Thank God I didn’t have any fractures but I certainly could have.
CF: In the dungeon, what else did they do and how did they treat you?
AR: When they took me to the detention center on Acosta Avenue, which is a center for ordinary crimes of the Police Technical Department of Investigations (DTI), on arriving there, there was still this individual Camilo with two other characters he goes around with, who were also trying to provoke me, manhandling me, trying to provoke an incident.
This individual Camilo recorded me with a video camera, everything that was going on, but there appeared a major from the police station itself and these things were stopped until they took me to the cell. And yes, the next day, the people who had charge of me in that place had a completely different attitude. It was one of total respect, both physically as well as my moral integrity. I had medical attention, the doctor was a very kind person, she checked me over completely, looked at my eye, healed the eye. And the officials there, of the police, they behaved with respect.
It’s also incredible how the prisoners identify with people who come there for political reasons and they always call you “political” and the people are in solidarity with you.