The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported this week that by its count, there are currently at least 114 political prisoners in Cuban jails, up from 102 at the end of 2013. (Read the list of prisoners here.)
Today and on each of the next 100 days or so I'm going to try to honor these brave Cubans by sharing their names and little about their respective stories. Ever since I started this blog, I have felt it vital to remember their names, names the regime would rather have the world never know. That is the only way to fully grasp the injustices they are suffering.
Today's prisoner is Ariel Arzuaga Peña.
Arzuaga's arrest on March 17, 2011, culminated a series of conflicts he had with Cuban police and other goons that started when they broke into his home during an "act of repudiation." As is often the case in Cuba when the regime targets its opponents, it fabricates an incident in which it attacks and then blames the victim, up to and including charging them with a crime and throwing them in jail
That's what happened with Arzuaga, as independent journalist Luis Felipe Rojas, now in exile in the United States, wrote in 2011:
Ariel Arzuaga’s suffering began on February 23rd of this year, 2011, when he was on his way to pay tribute to the memory of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
“We had a funeral garland in the house, but the political police agents Julio Cesar and Abel violently barged in. They tore down the door and told us that we were not allowed to leave our house. That’s when Ariel went out to the street and told them what they were doing was a violation because there was a child in the house that had to go to school and they were stripping that right from us”.
“I ended up taking my son to school and they took me to prison. Ariel stayed at home taking care of our 2-year-old daughter and they started to accuse him. They were saying that he wanted to kill our girl, which is a huge lie. The Special Brigade entered our home through the bathroom window and seized Ariel. They twisted his arms in a lock position, they grabbed his neck, and then dragged him to the MININT Delegation located on the road to Santiago de Cuba. At midday, they moved him to the Instructional Police unit where he was kept until March 11th, where he declared himself on hunger strike from March 9th”.
“On March 14th, while he was out on the street again, he tells me that around 5 pm he was verbally and physically attacked by a paramilitary officer who had also been present during the February 23rd demonstration when he was detained. This man really attacked him and screamed at him: ‘Worm! Counter-Revolutionary!’ and other obscene words. Ariel, according to what they tell me, simply got off his bicycle and that’s all. He was later detained on March 17th and has been behind the bars to this day, which is soon going to be a month exactly.
Later, Arzuaga was tried on a charge of "assault," convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison.