Source: The Freedom Collection www.freedomcollection.org /
Jorge Luis García Pérez (better known as “Antúnez”) was born in Placetas, Cuba in 1964. He is the leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front. The Front is a Cuban civil society organization named for a political prisoner who died while on a hunger strike in 2010.
As an Afro-Cuban, Antúnez experienced the regime’s discrimination against minorities in restricting both educational and career opportunities. Such treatment, along with severe political repression, contributed to his disenchantment with the regime.
Antúnez, inspired by freedom movements in Eastern Europe, became active in the Cuban opposition. In March 1990, he was arrested for publically denouncing the Castro regime and sentenced to five years in prison. Despite his incarceration, Antúnez remained defiant by refusing to wear a prisoner’s uniform and rejecting the government’s re-education programs.
Antúnez also created the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners group in honor of the famous prisoner of conscience who died during a hunger strike in 1972. Through this organization, the prisoners drew inspiration and encouragement to continue their struggle. As a result, Antúnez was subject to solitary confinement, torture, and an extension of his five year sentence. He endured 17 years of prison before being released in 2007.
Antúnez continues advocating for freedom and democracy in Cuba with his wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, leader of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights. His work involves supporting Cuban political prisoners, and expanding political freedoms and civil liberties.
Pedro Luis Boitel is a Cuban student leader who prominently participated in the insurrection against Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship. When the [communist] revolution triumphed, Boitel, consistent with his vision and democratic ideology, opposed the totalitarian, communist course taken by [Fidel] Castro’s revolution. He was imprisoned and died in there after a 53-day hunger strike. He is a symbol and a model of struggle and resistance.
[Pedro Luis Boitel (1931 – 1971) was a Cuban poet and dissident who opposed the regimes of Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro. He was a political prisoner under Castro and died during a hunger strike. Fulgencio Batista (1901 – 1973) served as the president of Cuba from 1940-1944. In 1952, he returned to power via a bloodless coup and ruled the island through a military dictatorship until being overthrown by Fidel Castro in 1959. Fidel Castro (1926 – ) led the Cuban Revolution and seized power in 1959. He established a communist dictatorship in Cuba and led the country until 2008.]
He is a symbol not only because he died during a hunger strike, but also because he had the courage to confront two dictatorships: on the left and the right. Boitel signifies perseverance, principles, and the essence of being a Cuban.
Other figures are Jan Palach, the Czech who sacrificed himself in the square, Vaclav Havel, and Orlando Zapata Tamayo. There are many. There is Oscar Elias Biscet who fortunately still lives and will hopefully live for many years. They have inspired me in this struggle for freedom and democracy.
[Jan Palach (1948 – 1969) was a Czech student who committed suicide through self-immolation in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to protest the Soviet Union’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. 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. Orlando Zapata Tamayo (1967 – 2010) was a Cuban dissident and prisoner of conscience. He died while on a hunger strike.
Oscar Elias Biscet (1961 – ) is a physician, former prisoner of conscience and a prominent advocate for freedom and democracy in Cuba. He was one of 75 nonviolent dissidents arrested during the March 2003 crackdown known as the Black Spring.]
They are people who, under the circumstances in which they lived, have been defined by transparency, honesty, patriotism, and consistency. I differentiate between two things: I prefer to admire a person’s human conditions rather than their political conditions. He who is a good human being must be an excellent patriot.
These are not the only people. There are many who have died and many who still live who have been inspirational. I was educated in prison while hearing about them. I entered prison at a time when the human rights movement was practically nonexistent. I heard much from these people that inspired me. To me, Orlando Zapata Tamayo is the martyr of the Cuban people because he achieved, through 80 plus days of a hunger strike and martyrdom, what other organizations inside and outside Cuba weren’t able to achieve: focusing attention on the Cuban reality.