Regis Iglesias Ramirez: Why I Became A Dissident

Source:  The Freedom Collection /

Regis Iglesias Ramirez is a Cuban political and civil society activist and a former prisoner of conscience. He was born in Havana in 1969.

He became a member of a dissident group, the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), in 1989. The MCL was founded by the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died under mysterious circumstances in a car accident in 2012. Regis Iglesias Ramirez became the MCL’s spokesman and a member of its Coordination Council in 1996. He was nominated as a candidate to the Cuban Parliament in 1997, but his candidacy, along with those of colleagues from the MCL, was rejected by the regime’s electoral authorities.

He is a member of the National Executive of the Citizens Committee of the Varela Project, a civil society initiative advocating for free elections and improved human rights in Cuba. The Varela Project gathered signatures from Cuban citizens in favor of a plebiscite, as permitted by the Cuban constitution. The communist government refused to call the plebiscite.

In 2003, Regis Iglesias Ramirez was among 75 nonviolent dissidents and activists arrested by the Cuban regime in what became known as the Black Spring. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison for crimes against the state. In 2010, he was released in a deal brokered by the Roman Catholic Church and was sent into exile in Spain, where he remains as a political refugee.

Regis Iglesias Ramirez has published several books of poetry and contributed to various literary anthologies. His articles have appeared in various publications in Spain and elsewhere. Since the mid-1990s, he has been associated with the Independent Press Bureau of Cuba, the New Cuban Press Agency and the Manuel Marquez Sterling Society of Independent Journalists in Cuba.

In my case, I was fortunate to have grown up in a family that had very diverse political preferences. Some of my grandparents were linked to Fulgencio Batista’s regime, and others were sympathizers of The Orthodoxy, the political group where Fidel Castro got his start, so they had identified themselves as belonging to the revolutionary process since its very beginnings. So at a certain point, between my exiled family and my family that had incorporated itself into the process, into the poorly named revolution, I gained a dual vision or a wider perspective of what life could be like.

This allowed me to arrive at my own conclusions at an early age, and I reacted like any teenager would, through rebellion. I then started to associate myself with people from the church, because in my neighborhood parish we had the privilege of having one of the heroes of the freedom cause in Cuba, Father Miguel Angel Loredo, who was imprisoned for ten years. Father Miguel Angel Loredo opened his doors to the youth group so as to grant us some sort of sanctuary, a concept a little outdated both in Cuba and worldwide, but it literally was a sanctuary because when we went to the parish, we could listen to some south Florida FM radio stations through a little radio that we had.

We could listen to the music that we liked without any fear of repression from the Regime, and it was all thanks to Father Miguel Angel Loredo and the other priests who continued his work once Loredo was forced into exile.// There came a time when as teenagers, amidst all our street clashes against a repressive police force who restricted our freedom to listen to the music of our choosing and who alienated us from society, amidst this environment and our visits to the parish, we suddenly realized that we could be interested not only in Jimmy Hendrix, Mick Jagger, or ZZ Top, but we were also starting to be impressed by what little information we could find on people like John Paul II, Lech Walesa, Václav Havel, or the Dalai Lama, and we told ourselves this is not all there is.

We have young people nearby, who are Catholics and Cubans just like us, who live just like us and who have a group in El Cerro where they’re talking about freedom, and it may be worthwhile going over there to listen to their proposals. Their message captivated us immediately because it was a message of freedom and reconciliation, a message for the future. It was a message of hope, and that was what we were wanting, that was what we as a generation needed to align ourselves with and commit ourselves to; the defense of our rights and the rights of all Cubans.

The Vaclav Havel Center