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.
Freedom is very sacred to me.
It is so basic and so important that it is difficult to explain its significance. Freedom is precisely this: a society where all people fit in. It is where jail and exile cease to be common destinations for those in the opposition. Freedom is the inclusion of all segments in a society.
It is where all have full exercise of their rights. Freedom does not penalize. It is respect for the feelings that belong to us for the mere reason of having been born.
Freedom is being able to say and do what one believes, not what a system dictates to us.
Freedom is being able to live in a country where the state works for the people and not the other way around.
Freedom is no longer being objects of a regime and being treated as human beings. Freedom is when the [government] respects people and their dignity.
Jose Marti, the Cuban national hero, said something very important, “Man loves freedom even if he does not know that he loves it, and he is compelled by it and flees from where it is not found.” That says it all. Those of us who were not born into freedom and have not known it, the sole fact of wanting it and fighting for it without knowing it says a lot about what it means. Besides being a word, it is a longing, an objective, a goal, and a desire of humanity.
[Jose Marti (1853 – 1895) is recognized as Cuba’s national hero. Marti was a writer and essayist who advocated for Cuban independence from Spain.]
[Freedom] has had many martyrs and it has many heroes. The enemies of freedom deserve humanity’s rejection and those who fight for freedom deserve respect and support.