Rafael Alejandro Hernández Real, a 24 year old Cuban university student (one of the ones who publicly questioned communist functionary Ricardo Alarcon in 2008) recently offered some declarations to “Radio Republica” about the harassment he has faced at the hands of state police and other officials for deciding to publicly oppose the communist system and join the civic opposition, participating in groups such as the Eastern Democratic Alliance. His message (published in Spanish above) is directed not only to young Cubans, but also to university students around the world. It is the expression of a young man who wants to work and who wants to contribute to constructing a plural and inclusive Cuba, where people are not punished for saying what they think.
Below is my transcription and translation of his powerful message:
Rafael Alejandro Hernandez, 24 years old, Baracoa
“This is a message for all the youth, especially for university students of the world who are listening:
I’d like Cuban university students who respect their way of thinking and acting in life, and who understand that a person who is truly free is someone who does not betray their ideology, who does not betray their way of seeing things, I’d like them to take what I say into consideration.
I do not need to sugarcoat any of the truths I am speaking. I do not need to be a great speaker to explain everything that I’ve suffered in a way that all young Cubans who hear this will understand, because they also live here in our island, our country, this beautiful Cuba which sadly is not a free Cuba . They, more than anyone, will understand what is happening to me.
I, Rafael Alejandro Hernandez, am studying my 6th year towards my Law Degree. I have been harassed various times by State Security officials since I have studied in the University of Science and Technology in 2008, when I publicly questioned Ricardo Alarcon. From that moment on my life has been under constant threats by State Security officials, university professors who listen to everything I say, or who take notes on how I express myself, who have evaluated and tried to control my ideology, my political inclinations, my way of seeing things. In these very moments, during my 6th year of Law School and just 5 months away from finishing my Degree, I was warned on two occasions during the month of December by Alfredo Olivero, the official who tends to the Confrontation Unit, or in other words, who is directly in charge of the opposition in this municipality of Baracoa , Guantanamo province. Olivero came up to me and told me he was aware of my situation, that he knew that when I graduated from Law I was going to become a threat, a lawyer who would be in the opposition and that it would go against them. In many occasions I have seen him visit the university where I have been studying.
This morning, the director of the Municipal University Center- Professor Gomez as we call him- told me that I would not be allowed to take the last two exams which are the last two I need in order to graduate. He told me I could not do so because I had two absences, one of them on September 3rd 2012, when I was detained in the municipality of Imias for carrying a sign demanding freedom of expression, along with two other young friends- the microbiology major Raday Matos Matos and my wife Evelyn Montoya Suarez. This occurred during the morning and they took us to Baracoa. After being interrogated by many State Security officials, they told us we could not leave the municipality.
On the morning of December 1st, I was on my way to the University because I had a class at 9:30 AM, and the same official which I mentioned before, Alfredo Olivero, detained me and took me aboard a motorcycle and told me, “Tell me, how are you doing in school?”. I told him “Studying to see if I can graduate this year, if they allow me to, that is”. He told me, “Well, today you don’t have to go to school; I’ll wait for you in the Ministry of the Interior section”.
What I want to do is graduate, just like Jose Marti did in 1876 in the University of Zaragoza , in Spain . No one kept him from doing so, even while he confronted the Metropolis and defended our island, which was a colony at the time. He had already been imprisoned and no one kept him from graduating.
I want to graduate like Fidel Castro did, as he came down the steps of the University of Havana in 1950 with his Law Doctorate and he had already confronted the dictatorship of Batista and also that of Machado. He had already participated in the “Bogotazo” in Colombia .
And that’s what I want, what I aspire to do, and it is what they are refusing me at this very moment. I’m asking for the solidarity of all young people who absolutely do not have to call me to demonstrate their sympathy with this struggle. I just want to say that, in my situation, they can see what may happen to them in the future for defending a way of thinking, a way of seeing things, an ideology that is different than the one which they have been trying to impose on us for more than 50 years.
The director of the Municipal University Center told me this morning that those two detentions- the one from September 3rdand December 1st- were not excused. He mentioned a supposed law (#10) of the Ministry of Superior Education where article 7 states that the only excusable absences are those which have to do with sickness, accidents, international missions, military mobilizations, etc. In other words, in this last example we see how much irony there is, and how much hypocrisy. They are saying that if someone is sent abroad in the military, then yes, it’s okay. They are justified so that they can get ready to kill, to prepare oneself in the military against those enemies which, according to them, have been trying to attack us for so many years and invade our national territory. It is yet more proof that when they arrest us, it is an injustice. At the top of my lungs, as I am doing now, I ask the world:
What will become of me? What will happen to me for expressing what I feel? How can say what I am thinking?
I do not want anyone to think the same way as I do, I do not care for that. I do not want to be a dictator like they are. I want to be respected. “Respect for the opinions of others contributes to peace”… I think that’s the first thing we should keep in mind. That’s why I am sending out this message, so that, in the future, young people won’t find themselves in a similar situation and that they won’t have to awaken because of a personal experience. Instead, that they see my situation. I have one of the best academic records in the Municipal University of Law in Baracoa . I’ve completed two years in one- the second and third semester. They are keeping me from graduating simply because I go to school with shirts that say “I want the truth”, “Our currency is a violation” and “University Students Without Borders”. I have not even spoken of politics in school and they have reduced my grade in subjects like Marti Thought, which is a new subject dedicated to teaching the thoughts of Marti, but in their own fashion. When I have spoken of the concepts spoken by Marti about democracy, the people, government, and dictators, then they lower my grades but I know a lot about what Marti believed. In fact, more than some of the students who have excellent grades in this subject and who receive applauses from the professors.
That’s what I’m asking for now. I’m demanding justice for a young university student who will not, under any circumstance, betray his way of thinking. I am a young university student who perhaps should even be giving this interview to express myself this way but I will do so now:
Down with the dictatorship! Democracy now! Democracy now! Let the World hear me: there is no democracy in Cuba !