Reports from Cuba: They direct the machinery of harassment against a cancer researcher
HAVANA, Cuba. — Someone must have heard the telephone conversations of Oscar Casanella. Those days he was organizing a party with his friends to welcome back Ciro, the guitarist for the punk rock band “Porno for Ricardo,” who had returned from abroad.
Unexpectedly, on Thursday December 5, 2013, at 9:15 pm, just across from his house (at 634 La Roas between Boyeros and Ermita, Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana), four unknown people, two men and two women about 60 years old, blocked his path to tell him: “Oscar, you cannot do anything these days and if you do, you are going to suffer serious consequences. People unknown to you can harm you, and even we can hurt you a lot.”
This was the preamble to a Kafkaesque story:
Some neighbors told him later that among those who had threatened him was one named Gari Silegas, and that the four were members of the communist party, which met in something known as the “Zonal Nucleus,” a group of militants retired from various “Committees in Defense of the Revolution” (CDR).
The next Saturday, the day of the party, Oscar went to the Police Station at Zapata and C to make a complaint. But there they referred him to the Sector Chief, named Eusebio, who operates in the streets surrounding his house; which meant that Eusebio, the police and Silegas, the communist, knew each other and even worked together. Let’s remember that in Cuba that work group is known as “neighborhood factors.”
“They asked Gary Silegas not to threaten me again. It was all a prophylactic work, they told me. I tried to make a complaint but they dismissed it,” explains Oscar.
That same day there appeared a Suzuki motorcycle with a blue (i.e. state-owned) plate. The intimidation increased in tone. Two individuals dressed in civilian clothese refused to show him their identification but presented themselves to him as agents of State Security. Oscar narrates:
“They threatened to put me in jail. They told me that I could think whatever I want but I could not say it to anyone, and I could not meet my friends at my house. They also told me that I should leave the country and that they were going to ’fuck up my life and my family.’ Having committed no crime or infraction that harms anyone, I feel threatened. They mentioned also my attendance, as a spectator, at Estado de SATS, which is held in Playa township at the home of Antonio Rodiles. Witnesses to those events were practically all the neighbors.”
That night the party took place. Oscar’s neighbors, active CDR members, to give him more “flavor” of the process, dedicated themselves to copying the plates of cars that were parked in the street without it mattering if their owners attended. There were more than fifty invitees, the majority young graduates of the University of Havana. Oscar played records by Juan Luis Guerra and the 440 and Ciro’s punk music, but everyone spoke the same language and spent the night dancing and having fun.
The reaction was swift
On December 9, a surprise was waiting for Oscar at his workplace, the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (Cancer Hospital), where he works as a researcher. His doctorate thesis is about sporadic colon cancer. He also works as an adjuct professor at the Biology School without receiving any salary for this latter work.
A colleague of his, Pedro Wilfredo Fernandez Cabezas, was waiting to tell him that by continuing to attend activities with counter-revolutionary groups, “mercenaries, annexationists and neo-liberals” — a cocktail of amazing accusations — he could suffer negative consequences in his work.
Oscar answered him that he has friends who express themselves against the government but they are not mercenaries or annexationists*. Calmly, he explained to him that he did not believe that they were of a neo-liberal tendency, although he thought that if that were so, it did not justify any action against them.
We return to the starting point
“Wednesday December 11, 2013, I tried again to make a complaint about these threats at the PNR Station at Zapata and C. The first lieutenant Abad refused to write the complaint because, according to him, the threat is registered and attended to only when it is a death threat, not when they threaten to hit me or put me in prison or take my job,” continues Oscar in this absurd saga.
And last April an official from the National Revolutionary Police left a citation at his home for him to appear the next day at the Zapata and C Unit. The reason? An interview with Captain Jose A. Blasco.
“But when I presented myself at the Unit, Captain Jose A. Blasco directs me to an office and immediately withdraws. There was never an interview with the said captain. Three men younger than I were there, dressed in civilian clothes, only one of whom identified himself as Marcos, although the others said they were from State Security.
In short, they told me that they were going to take me out of my job, where I have worked for 10 years without any work problem, and put me to work in a less important center or in a polyclinic. They told me they could hurt me and my family even more, because State Security says that I cannot keep communicating with some friends, like Ciro, the one from Porno para Ricardo, whom I have known since before the university,” continued Oscar.
The young researcher wrote letters to everyone. He gathered signatures from many of his friends and students. He took them to all possible institutions and delivered minted copies to each of those who supported him.
The Kafkaesque machinery seemed to stop at one point, but in reality it continues. All this has stolen many hours of research from him. He has had to dedicate them also to studying the law and trying to understand why a regime dedicates itself to interrupting the people and discouraging the talents themselves of people that interest it, above all, providing knowledge. Oscar still is not a dissident.
Lilianne Ruiz, July 4, 2014, Cubanet
*Translator’s note: “Annexationist” is an accusation made against opponents to the regime which implies that they want the United States to annex Cuba.
Translated by mlk