'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political prisoner to run in the 'elections'
For his anti-Government activism José Díaz Silva has received four jail sentences totaling 16 years. He is the leader of various internal dissidence organizations, and frequently ends up in jail. Now he plans to be a candidate to serve as a Poder Popular (national assembly) delegate, running on the #Otro18 independent platform, exercising his right, as stipulated in the Constitution, to elect and to be elected.
Never before had he thought about taking a step of this type. "I do not belong to the CDR, nor did I use to vote. Years back, we wanted to be observers. We went here to the Electoral Board close to here, and they threw us out. I will run here and now because we want to define the difference between their [pro-Government] candidates and ours," he explains. In this way, we will not change the system, but we will act as spokespeople for the community, which complains about its lack of say. We know that they will (...) describe us as delinquents and contrarrevolutionaries. They also claim that we are paid by the Empire. A lie, and they know it," says Díaz Silva.
"I get help from my family in the US: two children (also former political prisoners, for writing 'down with Fidel', as stated in their court records), five siblings, and my mother. My wife has five siblings there. There I have friends there who want to see a free and democratic Cuba. They help human rights organizations and political prisoners. They send food," he explains.
Díaz Silva is the president ofOpositores por una Nueva República,a national delegate of the Movimiento Democracia, a national coordinator of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Frente de Resistencia y Desobediencia Civil, and one of the coordinators of the Democratic Action Unity Bureau (MUAD).
"The way you entered through, I clear it with a mower I brought from the United States. Where is the money assigned for that? It is robbed by Áreas Verdes, Comunales, the municipal government. They report that the highway is kept clean. But it is cleaned by a human rights activist," he explains.
"We want to know where the budget assigned to each municipality goes, which comes from taxes," he affirms.
He is already suffering retaliation for his intention to run for office in his district.
"They have threatened us, telling us that they could easily tie us up in the courts, which would prevent us from exercising our right. Manuel Velásquez Licea and Eduardo Herrera Hernández, also candidates, have been incarcerated for the past six months", he explains.
"On Tuesday, 28 March, at 4:35 a.m., they knocked on my door. They came to conduct a search. The paper indicated 'electronic equipment and others.' To make it legal, they have to look for something specific. The witnesses were people they have used before to carry out acts of rejection, brought from Santiago de las Vegas. This is a violation, as the witnesses must be from the community," he complains.
"I told them to wait, as I was going to get cleaned up. They kicked the door in. They injured my hand and fingers, throwing me against the wall. My head was swollen, but it subsided. I bled from my nose. They handcuffed me. They burned our brochures. They took books, legal documents (like sentences), two laptops, a mini laptop belonging to my daughter, and another to my granddaughter, a disk drive, CDs; money, mine and my daughter's; two chains worth some 1,200 CUC, my pressure gauging device, two little short-wave radios, a printer, a television set antenna, a large television set that my son bought and that entered legally, through Customs. They left the one in the living room. They broke the door to my daughter's room, to which I do not have a key. She came when the neighbors told her, and they wouldn't let her in. From the refrigerator they took a tin of Spam, packages of noodles, six or seven bars of chocolate, and two of peanut butter, sent for the prisoners," he explains.
"The police officers' ID numbers were 29140 and 29113, two captains. And lieutenant 29156. There was an official from the MININT who, while the search was carried out, lit up a cigarette. I told him that he was showing a lack of respect, that in my house nobody smoked. He went outside to smoke, very annoyed, and when he returned he said to me: ‘you people, for us, you are animals, dogs, and we are going to do away with you.’ I asked why he didn't say that on television, so that the people could know their position. He responded: 'that's just what you'd like.'"
Díaz Silva says that he was taken to Santiago de las Vegas. The authorities, he indicates, made eight copies of what they took from his house, but did not give him one.
State Security agents Bruno and Raymo, who had threatened him before, said to him: 'Have you seen how what we said is happening?'" the activist recalls.
"The police fined me for handling stolen goods. They let me go the next day, a 6:00 in the afternoon. Here there are no laws. They could kill us and nothing would happen."
Do you think any members of your community will dare to nominate or vote for you?
A family told me that they were going to nominate me. But it remains to be seen, as they can take measures against the family… but residents told me that I can count on their votes, and I think that they will dare to follow through. When the Police entered my house, some neighbors expressed their indignation to me. It was they who alerted my daughter. And they are not dissenters.
Many presidents of the CDR and women with the Federation (FMC) approach us, as dissidents, to tell us that we have their votes." There are even police who tell us to "continue fighting, because you are right. They see that what the regime says, that we are delinquents, is a lie.
How did Fidel and Raúl deal with this? With force. They killed. They killed police heads, informers. It is in the documentaries that they broadcast. We don't do those things. We are pursuing what Fidel Castro claimed he wanted in History will Acquit Me: a state based on the rule of law.
Traditional delegates, many eager to work, face barriers, like the lack of resources. Will a dissident be able to do more for the community?
We don't promise anything, and we don't have conditions. After all, the system is our enemy. But we will take the voice of the voter wherever it is necessary. The community's vote will give us the right us to demand solutions to problems before bodies. In this way we have an advantage, because we are not scared, and we know the laws a little better.
In spite of your intention to run, you say that the way to remove the Castros' Communist regime from power is with people in the streets.
They will always look for mechanisms to thwart anything that we do. We have the example of Oswaldo Payá. It was necessary to change the law, because he presented the signatures. I was a promoter of the Varela Project. When it reached [the National Assembly], they said that the Cuban socialist system was irrevocable, and the Constitution said so. They mocked what they themselves had written, because they wrote that Constitution and Penal Code. Now they will do the same thing, but this is a way to tell the people that we have the right to change this through peaceful channels.