Source: The Freedom Collection www.freedomcollection.org /
Fidel Suarez Cruz was born in 1970 in the small village of Manuel Lazo in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio Province. As a young man, he began to question the policies of Cuba’s communist government. In 1994, Fidel became active in the nonviolent opposition, including the Máximo Gómez Human Rights Front and the Human Rights Front Affiliated with the Andrei Sakharov Foundation. He also established and ran an independent library in his hometown. Fidel was detained on numerous occasions and was branded a violent criminal by the state.
On March 19, 2003, Fidel was arrested, along with 74 other nonviolent opposition activists (the Group of 75) in the crackdown known as the Black Spring. In a summary judicial proceeding, he was sentenced to twenty years in prison. He served time with common criminals in maximum security prisons in Matanzas and Pinar del Río. Like other prisoners of conscience, he suffered brutal treatment and was physically and psychologically tortured, including long periods of solitary confinement. In 2005, he was subjected to nineteen beatings within a four month period, causing him many permanent health problems.
Fidel’s family also suffered during his imprisonment. The regime sent many of the Group of 75 to prisons that were distant from their hometowns and families. Fidel’s relatives would travel hundreds of kilometers to visit him in prison, but were sometimes denied permission to see him. When Fidel was first imprisoned his son was only fourteen days old. Fidel’s wife joined other female relatives of the Group of 75 prisoners of conscience in establishing the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), conducting vigils and other activities to raise awareness of the Group of 75 and press for their release.
After more than seven years in prison, Fidel Suarez and the other Group of 75 prisoners were released in an agreement negotiated between the Roman Catholic Church and the governments of Cuba and Spain. On October 6, 2010, Fidel was released from prison and exiled to Spain with his son Jeferson (named for the American president), his mother Candelaria Cruz, and his wife Aniley Puentes, a member of the Ladies in White movement.
In 2011, he moved to the United States, where he and his family live in the city of Hialeah, Florida. He currently works in landscaping and remains active in the movement for Cuban freedom.
The first lesson that I have about nonviolent struggle comes not so much from the experience of other countries’ [struggles], but from Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. That is where my consciousness to face the Cuban regime began. [Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi (1869 – 1948) led India to independence from Great Britain and was a pioneer of nonviolent civil disobedience. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) was an American clergyman and civil rights leader. King used nonviolent civil disobedience to press for civil rights for African-Americans.]
Then the Eastern European movements: changes in East Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Communist Bloc, the fight against Mao Zedong in China. Gandhi’s India and the English colonization, etc. [Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) was a Chinese communist leader. He led the Chinese Revolution that seized power in 1948 and was the primary leader of the country until his death.] Martin Luther King’s fight for the rights of black people in the United States was very important for me.
Lech Walesa is a great inspiration as is Vaclav Havel. The Power of the Powerless is a very popular book in Cuba. It is very good for the opposition. It helps to open the mind and show the way how to deal with totalitarian regimes. [Lech Walesa (1943 – ) was the leader of Poland’s Solidarity movement that brought down the communist regime. He served as President of Poland from 1990 to 1995. Vaclav Havel (1936 – 2011) was a Czech writer and dissident. He served as the last President of Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 and the first President of the Czech Republic from 1993 to 2003. His 1978 essay, The Power of the Powerless, discusses the nature of communist tyranny and how dissidents can work together for change.]
There is also the issue that Fidel Castro has the tools to deal with the opposition, which has come from knowledge of the opposition in those countries. [Fidel Castro (1926 – ) led the Cuban Revolution and seized power in 1959. He established a brutal communist dictatorship in Cuba and led the country until 2008.] It is always a war and a bloody fight. They are no fools. They are a repressive machine. When they want to repress, there is nothing like it. They have all this knowledge in their hands. When they want to act peacefully, concealed, they do it better than anyone.
They do [repression] very well so it does not appear on the television, during repressive detentions. They detain more peacefully than any police the world.