Threatened For Learning

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Interview with Lazaro Prieto Alvarez y Manuel Amado Reyes Fonseca, members of the Commission for the Assistance of Political Prisoners and their Relatives, after being repressed by State Security because of their attendance at seminars on human rights and Cuban law.

How do you see your personal situation before and after having attended the seminars?

Lazaro: After the fourth class, since the State Security didn’t permit the fifth class to be given, my behavior before the police during the last two citations was totally different. I learned how to defend myself thanks to the course and the study or the laws and the Constitution of the Republic.

Manuel: I used to go around like a blind person, but now, my eyes are open, I learned how to face the police. I also learned to defend the rights I have as a human being, which are violated in this country.

In your opinion, how can these types of courses be beneficial for the civil society?

Lazaro: They can be very beneficial, because the civil rights of the Cuban society are violated by the police. In these courses you learn how to defend yourself and also what to expect from the police.

My home, for example, has been searched by the police and they have never given me a document stating what has been confiscated. They were looking for something and they took whatever they wanted. My home was looted, they asked me for the documents for the different equipment, which they were not supposed to do if they were looking for something and they had found it.

We also studied some parts of the Constitution. In “History Will Absolve Me” Fidel Castro asks how can a man be condemned because he studied the Constitution. At that time it was the 1940 Constitution (http://pdba.georgetown.edu/constitutions/cuba/cuba1940.html), not the actual one, written in 1976 and amended in 1992 (http;://www.cervantesvirltual.com/servlet/SirveObras/01371529011274821870035/p0000001.html), which compared with the 1940 Constitution is completely imperfect.

Manuel: In my opinion, these classes are of great benefit for the civil society, because when people learn to know and respect the laws, they also will know to defend their rights, based on these same laws.

And they begin to retreat, as the lawyer said in the seminar, that in a given moment you have them cornered and they have to negotiate, or at least, change their modus operandi with the people, stop violating their rights, stop mistreating people as they are doing now. This is something the people don’t understand.

The course is beginning to show results. I believe these courses are necessary, because in the short time since they have been given, they have already demonstrated their usefulness. Why, then, have we been summoned by the political police, and this type of activity prohibited?

In your opinion are there some topics which should be included in the courses?

Manuel: The course couldn’t be completed, there was one more class to be given. In the topics that we studied we learned the most essential, what we need is to be able to receive the last class.

Lazaro: As we moved forward in the course, everybody was getting more interested in what we were learning. Unfortunately we were not allowed to receive the fifth class. I don’t know what is the topic in that lecture that we were not allowed to hear.

After the courses, were you summoned to the political police more frequently?

Lazaro: Before we attended the courses, I would receive a citation every three or four months, sometimes I would receive the unpleasant visit of the State Security (political police) up to three times during a month. These many citations are because of the courses, for studying the laws and the Constitution of the Republic.

Manuel: In my case, in less than four days, I have been summoned twice to the same place. These have been unofficial citations because they do not comply with the existing laws. I have attended because I have been advised to do so, otherwise I would have not gone.

(Manuel Amado Reyes Fonseca has been threatened with jail if keeps attending the lectures, under the accusation of “illicit association”.)

Laritza Diversent

Foto: Lidia Efimova, Flickr

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