Twelve Men in Brief

By Yoani Sanchez:

Twelve Men in Brief

Image taken from Diario de Cuba gallery

As a child whenever I heard the name of Perico*, a town in Matanzas Province, I ended up with a pain in my stomach from laughing so hard. Until I learned that a part of my father’s family was from that area and the joke didn’t seem so funny to me any more. Last Saturday I was invited to go back and see its dusty embankment and dilapidated train station once again, but the departure of my sister left me paralyzed here on the fourteenth floor, not wanting to go anywhere. I very much regret not going, because twelve of the ex-prisoners of the Black Spring were waiting for us there, hosted by a good-natured hard-working peasant named Diosdado Gonzalez, who offered his home and his table for this important meeting.

Initially it was to be a get together to strengthen friendships, meet each others’ families, share of piece of that more than seven years the Cuban government had seized from them. However, Guillermo Fariñas’ decision to begin a hunger strike, totally changed the tenor of the day. The idea of relaxation was transformed into concern and the stools that were meant to support the festivities bore, instead, the weight of their worries. In brief and between sips of coffee–refilled from time to time by Alejandrina–the reunion became a civic staff council, where rather than maneuver plastic soldiers on a war map, they rearranged ideas on an historic statement.

Afterward, Pedro Argüelles read over the phone to me the approved text of that day, and once again I regretted not having been there. Among their demands, the signatories called for a serious investigation into the cause of death of Juan Wilfredo Soto. Also they call for avoiding the death of Fariñas and–in my judgment the most difficult to achieve–the cessation of repression and acts of repudiation against opposition activists. But this time the ears of power seem more reluctant to listen than they were a year ago. My fear, also, is that the body of the Sakharov 2010 Prize winner will not survive another prolonged fast. Hopefully life will surprise me and something will be done, and Perico will cease to be a village with a delightful name and become the place where words, civic conscience, and unity won over a stubborn and long-standing authoritarianism.

El Roque, Perico, Matanzas
Saturday, June 4, 2011


Given the high centralization of power and decisions in our country, we hold the Cuban president, Army General Raul Castro Ruz, responsible for meeting the three related demands as follows:

1. To allow an international multidisciplinary team, immediately, to exhume and examine the corpse of peaceful activist Wilfredo Soto Juan Garcia and impartially rule on the actual causes of death. This would help all parties.

2. To prevent the imminent death of the peaceful activist and Nobel Andrei Sakharov prize winner, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, from the hunger strike he is undertaking.

3. To cease the repression, beatings, acts of repudiation and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment against peaceful pro-democracy and Cuban society activists.

In expectation of an appropriate response, according to current circumstances, the undersigned endorse this document:

Pedro Argüelles Morán
Eduardo Díaz Fleitas
Iván Hernández Carrillo
Librado Linares García
Angel J. Moya Acosta
Guido Sigler Amaya
Oscar Elías Bicet González
Diosdado González Marrero
Arnaldo Ramos Lausurique
Hector M. Maceda Gutiérrez
Félix Navarro Rodríguez
José Daniel Ferrer García

The original of this document was delivered to the Ministry of Justice of Cuba on June 6, 2011.

*Translator’s note: “Perico” means “parakeet” but is also a slang for people who are very humorous and tell a lot of jokes.