Condition of hunger striker Ivan Fernandez Depestre worsens, dissidents fear for the worst

Several Cuban opposition activists are calling on the international community as well as their fellow compatriots to denounce the situation of political prisoner Ivan Fernandez Depestre, who has been on hunger strike for more than 27 days and whose health has drastically worsened, placing him in a state very “near death”, according to a press release by the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Fernandez Depestre was abruptly and violently jailed on July 30th after he participated in a peaceful demonstration in honor of Frank Pais, a Cuban martyr who stood up against totalitarianism on the island many years ago.  Two days later, on August 2nd, Fernandez was sentenced to 3 years of prison under the Law of Social Pre-Dangerousness which orders time behind bars for citizens who look “dangerous” of committing “crimes” in the future.  The activist has been on hunger strike since.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front, a coalition which Ivan is part of, has been frequently denouncing the situation and taking to his Twitter account to let the world know what is going on.  In an audio published on his YouTube channel, Antunez expressed that Ivan is “agonizing in a protest that has lasted longer than 20 days” and that his health is “very critical”.

Antunez, who is currently in the city of Miami as part of an international tour to denounce the Cuban reality, has been in contact with dissidents on the island who have carried out several protests demanding the release of Fernandez and called on the international community and all human rights organizations to end their silence in regards to this case.

On August 26th, it was confirmed that Ivan was in the hospital of the penitentiary known as Guamajal, but on morning hours of the 27th, he was transferred back to El Pre Prison, in the city of Santa Clara, Villa Clara.  Activists have expressed worry that his life may end there due to the fact that he has been submitted to constant aggressions and very poor medical assistance.

On Friday, August 23rd, Damaris Moya, president of the Central Opposition Coalition, called on dissidents across the island to carry out protests in favor of Ivan’s freedom.  A number of activities were documented, but so too was a brutal and repressive response on behalf of Cuba’s political police.  Dissidents were beat, arrested, and deported, while many homes were raided and surrounded with police officials.

Antunez tweeted (@antunezcuba) this Tuesday that opposition members have not rested in their demands, saying that protests have taken place in municipalities and cities such as “Placetas, Santa Clara, Sagua la Grande, Holguin, Havana, etc”.

Ivan Fernandez Depestre is on hunger strike to demand his immediate release.

Antunez and Yris Tamara Perez arrive to Miami “to denounce the Cuban reality” (Images)

Antunez and Yris Perez reunite with relatives in Miami. Photo: @pedazosdelaisla

In an emotional re-encounter with relatives and brothers in struggle, Jorge Luis Garcia ‘Antunez’ and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera arrived to Miami, the capital of the Cuban exile, on the night of Sunday, August 4th 2013 as part of a tour to “denounce the Cuban reality”.

Antunez spoke those words to the different media outlets that were present in the Airport of Miami.  From the moment he walked through the door of Cuba arrivals, the renown dissident and former political prisoner began to speak about the situation of Cuba, highlighting the cases of political prisoners such as Ivan Fernandez Depestre and Armando Sosa Fortuny, denouncing the wave of arrests which occurred before his departure from the island and assured that his visit has only one purpose, to let the world know that in Cuba there have not been real reforms and that human rights violations continue against the people.

Antunez, leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, also assured that pro-freedom demonstrations on the streets of Cuba are increasing.

On her part, Yris Perez, who heads the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, said she was very emotional and stood by the declarations made by her husband.  Yris has been victim of constant beatings, actions which have caused her serious health complications.  Regardless, she continues carrying out public opposition to the dictatorship.

Before offering their final remarks to the media, Antunez and Perez Aguilera reiterated that “they will not shut up or [permanently] leave Cuba“.

Yris Perez (center) reunites with sisters in struggle, Bertha Antunez and Idania Yanez. Photo: @pedazosdelaisla
Antunez speaks to journalist Juan Manuel Cao & other media outlets in Miami. Photo: @pedazosdelaisla

More images to come.

New political prisoner in Cuba: Ivan Fernandez Depestre

Meet one of the newest political prisoners in Cuba, Ivan Fernandez Depestre (pictured above).

Ivan, who is approximately 40 years of age, recently joined the public opposition on the island, specifically the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance Front and the group Awakened Youth.  He was arrested by the political police on July 30th when he participated in a protest march in the city of Placetas, Villa Clara in honor of a fallen patriot, Frank Pais, along with other dissidents.  The authorities kept him detained and quickly sentenced him on August 2nd to a 2 year prison term in the Municipal Tribunal of Placetas.

During the ‘trial’, Fernandez Depestre was accused under the ‘Pre-Social Dangerousness Law’, which could dictate time behind bars for any citizen just because the authorities think that person would be a danger in the future.  The law has  been used to send thousands of Cubans to prison without having had committed crimes, and it is specifically used against dissidents, especially young ones.

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez ‘Antunez’, former political prisoner and leader of the OZT Front, has been reporting about this case and has asked for more solidarity with the jailed activist.

Ivan Fernandez Depestre committed the horrible crime of daring to go out with other pro-freedom activists this past 30th of July in a peaceful march, dressed with their clothes backwards, paying tribute to Frank Pais on the anniversary of his death“, declared Antunez in an audio published on his YouTube account.

The dissident leader added that the only detainee that day was Fernandez Depestre, explaining that the activist does not have family support and that his sentence was a method used by State Security to try and make him give up on his recently begun struggle.

Fernandez Depestre has been participating in numerous pro-freedom demonstrations in the city of Placetas during the months of June and July.  He has been detained and beat by the political police on various occasions.

I am calling on the international community to join in solidarity with this activist“, expressed Antunez.  He also added that in light of Ivan’s sentence, there would be a campaign in and out of Cuba with the aim to demand his freedom through civic actions out on the streets.

Listen to the audios by Antunez in regards to this situation: Click here and here.  

Meanwhile, Antunez and his wife Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, leader of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, will carry out a trip abroad this August 4th to tell the world about Cuba’s reality and the political police has unleashed an operation of arrests and beatings against dissidents who have tried to say goodbye to the dissident couple.

More details on the Twitter account of Antunez: @Antunezcuba