When dissident Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo, organizer of the “Zapata Lives” cell of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Santiago de Cuba, heard abrupt knocks on his door on the morning of June 28th and noticed that they were coming from agents of the Cuban political police, he knew there were going to be problems, all because of his pro-democracy activism. The agents ordered him to open the door, but since they did not present a search warrant, Barriel refused. Police officials kicked down the door, breaking parts of it and raiding the house.
“Upon entering my home, the 6 agents rushed towards me“, recounted the young dissident, “they started to beat me in front of my wife and my 5 year old son“.
Barriel was aggressively handcuffed (he still has the marks) and he was forcefully taken out of his home while still wearing underwear and shoved into a police vehicle. He was taken to the Operations Unit of Versalles.
The police agents were accusing the activist of having painted messages against the Cuban regime on top of a mural with images of dictators Fidel and Raul Castro. Daniel denies this, not because he is against the gesture, but because he explains that his activism is “public” and he does not have to hide his actions.
“Upon arriving to the unit, they put me into an inhumane cell with only enough room for 2 prisoners which were already there. One of these prisoners was an assassin and the other was a marijuana dealer“, said Barriel, who assures that he was victim of “psychological tortures” at the hands of State Security agents who continuously warned him that they would “disappear” him and that he “would not see the light of day again“.
The Santiago native adds that he was interrogated 2 more times and was then moved to another cell at around 4 in the afternoon, where the threats that he would go to prison continued.
Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of UNPACU, explains that the Versalles Unit is known for the psychological tortures against detainees, as agents “try to break the will-power of the dissident and try to convince them to drop out of the opposition movement“.
In this torture process the detainees are usually kept for various days, weeks or months, but in the case of Daniel Barriel he was released the same day. “All of this is due to the brave response of more than 40 of our activists“, explains Ferrer.
Numerous activists “met at the home of Barriel in the Sueno Neighborhood and publicly declared that they were going to take to the streets to protest“, recounts the former political prisoner.
“Upon seeing the intelligent ad rapid response of the dissidents, the police decided to surround them in the house and brought members of the Rapid Response Brigades (paramilitary group) who tend to attack human rights defenders with weapons such as sticks, rocks, metal objects, etc”. Despite this, the demonstrators remained firm and ready to go out to the street.
The persistence of the activists led the police to release Barriel Sanjurjo.
“Suddenly, a couple of agents visited me and told me that there was a process open against me for the crime of writing over the murals and that they would summon me again to the unit, but that I would be released for the time being“, recounts the activist. At the same time, Barriel’s mother received a phone call from a police agent asking her to please keep the more than 40 activists “calm” because they were going to release her son.
Daniel details that he was taken to his home in a police vehicle. Upon arriving, he noticed the presence of mobs who were carrying out an act of repudiation. He pointed out that the aggressors were all officials or members of paramilitary groups but “none of them were neighbors or everyday people“.
Barriel pointed out that he was still in danger of going to prison, considering that the police told him accusations against him were still open. Regardless, he thanked all dissidents who showed solidarity with him during his arrest and affirmed that he will continue carrying out his work as director of the “Zapata Lives” Cell of UNPACU, which is made up mostly of young activists who define their activism with public activities on the streets, such as marches or the handing out of pro-freedom pamphlets.
This effort of working together and using pressure to achieve the liberation of a detained activist is not an isolated case. This Monday, July 1st, for example, 3 activists were detained in the municipality of Banes, Holguin, among them Rafael Meneses Pupo.
The 3 were released from the National Revolutionary Police Unit when Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, member of the Ladies in White and of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, and her husband Yoandri Naoki Ricardo Mir carried out a protest inside the unit.
Cases such as these “prove that the political police doesn’t feel sure of itself, not even with their own officials“, while everyday citizens and the organized opposition continue gaining space, expresses Jose Daniel Ferrer.
For more information from Cuba, contact:
Daniel Barriel Sanjurjo – Cell Phone: +53-388-130