Exile Over “fidel’s Kidney”

Here’s a choice for you. Receive a kidney transplant, courtesy of the Cuban government, or risk your health by leaving the country.

For dissident Julio Antonio Valdes Guevara, the choice was easy.

“(The surgery) was a blackmail so that I would live with a permanent debt of gratitude”, Valdés Guevara declared yesterday after arriving in Miami with his family. “And I don’t want to live thanking fidel castro for a kidney.”

Valdes Guevara was one of the Group of 75 who were incarcerated in March 2003 during the wave of repression that swept Cuba during that “Black Spring”.

Wilfredo Cancio Isla of El Nuevo Herald writes on the dissident’s arrival in Miami, and gives us some interesting comments from Valdes Guevara regarding the situation in Cuba and of the dissident community.

Below the fold is the full article translated by yours truly.


Cuban Dissident Arrives in Miami in Fragile State

By Wilfredo Cancio Isla, El Nuevo Herald

Although Cuban medical services offered to submit him to a kidney transplant, dissident Julio Antonio Valdés Guevara opted for the exile route without having to thank the fidel castro regime for his survival.

“It was a blackmail so that I would live with a permanent debt of gratitude”, Valdés Guevara declared yesterday after arriving in Miami with his family. “And I don’t want to live thanking fidel castro for a kidney.”

Sick and fragile, but smiling, Valdés Guevara arrived yesterday at Miami International Airport (MIA) from Havana, via Cancún. Accompanying him were his wife Cruz Delia Aguilar, member of the Ladies in White movement, and their 7-year-old son Julio Antonio.

After remaining held by two years without receiving exit visas, the Cuban government finally authorized them to travel in response to a humanitarian request by the Catholic Church. The family resided in the city of Manzanillo, in the extreme eastern end of the island.

He is the second dissident of the “Group of 75” that has arrived in the United States as a political refugee after receiving a extrapenal license for health reasons. The journalist and poet Manuel Vázquez Portal preceded him in June of last year.

The case of 54-year-old Valdés Guevara was the subject of an intense international campaign to obtain his release from prison and later his exit from the island. The activist was sentenced to 20 years in jail during the big repressive wave of March 2003, but his worsening health forced his release only a year later.

His conditional freedom marked a significant precedent for the subsequent release of 14 other prisoners in successive months.

Put under hemodialisis treatments three times per week, Valdés Guevara experienced a rapid deterioration in his physical conditions while waiting for the permission to leave the country. He refused to receive a transplant on several occasions, particularly after Cuba’s Attorney General, Juan Escalona, referred to his health in contemptuous terms.

“One of these 75 ingrates received a kidney transplant, paid for by the Cuban state”, stated Escalona to the press during a Latin American meeting of public prosecutors in Paraguay in November 2004.

The dissident publically denied this, and preferred to come to exile without having the surgery performed.

“I know that life here is uncertain for me, but I prefer it to being a hostage of the regime”, he confessed.

Valdés Guevara described to the present situation in Cuba as “dramatic” and “immovable” after power was transfered from fidel castro to his brother Raul on July 31st.

“The transfer of power has not caused anything in the population: people have accepted it like a family inheritance because they prefers to escape rather than rebel, he related. “The people live under double standards and terror due to the worsening repression”.

He added that he is saddened by the fact that “hundreds of youths from Manzanillo and other parts are clandestinely making boats in order to leave the country”.

“The people don’t have a life, but they don’t want to do anything to promote change”, said Valdés Guevara, who is in favor of the economic embargo against Cuba.

“The embargo must be maintained, to lift it is to give oxygen to the dictador”, he asserted.

Asked about the status of the internal dissident movement, he recognized that “it has not been able to recover from the Black Spring of 2003”. “The Varela Project [ promoted by Oswaldo Payá in 2002 ] was a formidable shot to the regime, but it unleashed a fury of repression and it left to the opposition without the ability to mobilize nor space to act”, observed the dissident.

Exile activists and representatives of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) welcomed him in the concourse at MIA.

“He was a brave and tenacious opponent within Cuba, and most important thing now is that the exile community lend him a hand and help him to recuperate his health”, expressed Vázquez Portal who participated in the welcoming party.

2 thoughts on “Exile Over “fidel’s Kidney””

  1. Terrific. Now this fucking foreigner will probably move to the front of the line and some tax-paying American will die, while this foreigner gets the kidney and gets to live and bad-mouth Fidel…yay!

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