Reports from Cuba: ‘I’m not afraid, I will not stop asking for my brother’s freedom’

Luz Escobar reports in 14yMedio from Havana via Translating Cuba:

‘I Am Not Afraid, I Will Not Stop Asking for My Brother’s Freedom’

Landy Fernández Elizástegui, brother of Luis Robles Elizástegui who has been jailed for holding a sign calling for the release of rapper Denis Solís.

While Luis Robles Elizástegui was being arrested last December 4th on San Rafael Boulevard for holding a sign that read “Freedom. No more repression. #Free-Denis [Solís]”, his brother Landy spent a working day like any other in the private workshop where he was employed.

Since that day, Landy Fernández Elizástegui’s life has taken a 180 degree turn and he has had no rest in seeking legal help for Luis.

The young man, 26, tells 14ymedio that 48 hours before the protest in San Rafael, on December 2nd, he went to visit his brother for his birthday. Luis, who “has always thought differently about the regime,” says his brother, did not talk to him about the idea of going out to demonstrate despite the fact that, he says, they have “very good communication”. He defends his decision, in any case. “Luis simply got tired, said enough and wanted to protest peacefully. For me, those seem to be his reasons”.

Landy Fernández was seen by the investigator who was handling his brother’s case several days after his arrest in Villa Marista, the State Security operations center in the Cuban capital.

The official explained that Robles was fined 1,000 pesos, but that even he did not understand why, he insists. From that moment, Fernández tried to get the file number and the case of the judicial process, which he managed to obtain a week later.

When reviewing the documents, he realized that his brother was accused of “other acts against State Security”, although this changed later.

During that time, he also filed a habeas corpus petition that was denied, and after receiving many rejections from lawyers to take up the case, he was able to get one, who asked him not to make his name public.

Luz Escobar. What does your brother say about his stay in jail?

Landy Fernández. Due to the COVID issue, I have not been able to see him, not even when he was in Villa Marista (the central prison of State Security in Cuba). As soon as he arrived at the Combinado del Este prison, in the first days of January, we were able to speak on the phone and he began to tell me about the experiences he was having there, of the mistreatment, the threats, the repression.

One day they beat him, stripped him, got him wet and moved him every two hours from one cell to another. At the time of that call, I was at the Prison Directorate’s office at 15th and K Streets with my mother, who came from Guantánamo to see if she could do something which I, as his brother, could not. We were meeting with a ‘population service’ employee and when Luis confirmed these tortures, I had the opportunity to speak with that woman and put my brother’s call through with his complaint so that she could hear it directly in his own voice.

She told me that they were going to order an investigation to find out if it was true, but that never went anywhere. I went to the Attorney General’s Office, they told me to write a letter making the complaint and that they would give me an answer in 60 days, but that date has already passed and I have not received a response yet.

The last time they put him in the punishment cell was when Humberto López said on the news that they had called a demonstration for March 12th in the Plaza de la Revolución. From there Luis came out with all his skin in shreds due to an allergic reaction. Liquid was oozing from the entire surface of his skin.

Luz Escobar. How has all this impacted your life?

Landy Fernández. On the day of the supposed demonstration, March 12th, my house was also under surveillance by State Security officers, who did not allow me to go anywhere. My internet service also gets cut off. Recently two agents came to ask me to stop my publications on the networks because the same thing that happened to my brother could happen to me, a direct threat. But I do not care because I am not afraid, I will not stop asking for freedom for my brother. My father called me from Guantánamo to try to stop me, but I told him that these are different times, that in his time he did what seemed convenient and that I am now going to do what I should.

Everything became complicated at work too, they began to visit the owner of the workshop, my other brother, and we thought that the best thing to do was for me to leave and stop working until everything about Luis was resolved.

Luz Escobar. What has the lawyer explained to you about where the case of your brother stands?

Landy Fernández. Luis’s investigative file has already closed, that is where the prosecution accuses him of “enemy propaganda” and “resistance” and asks for a six-year sentence. The lawyer advised me to stop the process now until he can meet with my brother again and prepare a proper defense, including the testimony of everyone about the mistreatment that he has received in prison. I agreed, because otherwise he would go straight out of the Combinado prison to a court trial without us knowing well what they are accusing him of. He has partial knowledge, thanks to my conversations with some of his colleagues, but, since April, I have not been able to speak with him again and he does not know all the details.

Luz Escobar. How has the call system in prison been up to now?

Landy Fernández. I imagine that they interrupt his calls to punish him. He has told me that he has seen a lot of abuse by the officers against the prisoners, that they are handcuffed and beaten until they cry. These are 40- and 50-year-olds crying like little children from the blows they are given. He also tells me that, in the beginning, the other prisoners took things from him as if to provoke him, but he told me that he had no interest in responding to those provocations, that he wanted to be calm. After he called me and asked me to make public that State Security wanted to recruit him in exchange for parole, I lost all communication with him.

Fine of 1,000 pesos imposed on Luis Robles Elizástegui.

Another prisoner has called me to tell me that Luis is fine and wants to know how we are, how his son is, how his mother is, but others have also called me and told me that they have not seen my brother for days or in the yard. Since I don’t know any of them, I don’t know if they are calling me from a street corner or if they are lying.

I told the Directorate of Prisons that I needed to regain communication with my brother and they told me that Luis had done something and his calls had been suspended as punishment. They did not tell me what he did wrong but I think it was because of that call: I published the audio where he says that State Security wanted to recruit him, that he is not willing to negotiate his principles in exchange for anything, and that he will be imprisoned for whatever time is necessary.

The lawyer has done a very good job so far, he instills faith in me, especially in the way he talks to me. He tells me that he is going to try to use all the legal tools in favor of Luis and I’d like to believe him because my brother has not committed any crime. Peacefully holding a poster in public is not a crime anywhere in the world.

Translated by Norma Whiting