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    Jorge Olivera: The History of the Cuban Dissidence is Long

    Jorge Olivera: The History of the Cuban Dissidence is Long / Ivan Garcia

    Posted on April 12, 2013

    For someone from Havana, the best thing is to walk the streets in

    spring. These March days, Jorge Olivera Castillo, 52, poet and

    journalist, is delighted by the green of the trees, the salty aroma, and

    the gentle sun.

    On any weekday morning, he traces his own journey. Aimlessly wandering

    through a maze of alleyways crammed with the facades of propped up

    tenements: in these sites reside in the subjects of his stories and

    poems. He likes to walk the streets of Central Havana, and places not on

    the tourist postcards.

    It was in another spring, that of 2003, when the State wanted to break a

    handful of peaceful men and women, making arbitrary use of its absolute

    power. And sentences were handed out to Cubans, like Jorge Olivera, who

    disagreed and disagree with a regime that confuses a nation with a farm,

    and democracy with loyalty to a commander.

    Olivera was one of 75 prisoners of the Black Spring. Ten years later,

    without drama, he recalls those days. "About two o'clock in the

    afternoon of March 18, 2003 I was arrested. I had returned from the

    hospital, to be seen for a gastrointestinal problem, when a troop of

    about twenty violent soldiers appeared. At that time I was director of

    Havana Press, an independent press agency. They conducted a thorough

    search of every piece of paper I had. They seized books of literature

    and my stories and articles. An old Remington typewriter. Family photos,

    letters from friends, electric bills and even my phone bill. A clean

    sweep. Everything was confiscated by state decree."

    When a government says that a man who writes must be prosecuted,

    something is wrong with this society. The weapons of free journalists

    like Jorge Olivera, Ricardo Gonzalez, Raul Rivero and other reporters

    sentenced to 24 years in prison, were the words, typewriters and

    landline telephones through which once a week they read the news and

    their texts about the other Cuba the regime tries to ignore.

    In April 2003, a Summary Court sentenced him to 18 years' imprisonment.

    "The trial was a circus. Without legal guarantees. The defense attorneys

    were more afraid than we were. The definitive evidence showing that I

    was a public threat were my scattered internet writings and recordings

    of my participation in programs of Radio Martí," says Jorge.

    He slept 36 nights in Villa Marista, headquarters of the secret police,

    a former religious school transformed into custody for opponents.

    Located in the Sevillano neighborhood, in the 10 October municipality,

    Villa Marists is a left over from the Cold War. A Caribbean imitation of

    Moscow's Lubyanka Prison from the Communist period. In March 1991, He

    was there thirteen days, accused of 'enemy propaganda'. When you enter

    the two-story building, with walls painted bright green, a watch officer

    sitting behind glass receives you.

    They use techniques of intimidation and psychological torture. You're

    not a human being. You become an object. A property of special services.

    Before a gray dress uniform they undress and humiliate you in front of

    several officers. They force you to do squats and open your anus. As in

    Abub Ghraib or imprisonment in Guantanamo Naval Base. But in Cuba it has

    been applied much earlier.

    "They were terrible days. In the cells minimum of four people were

    boarded. The beds were a zinc plate fixed to the wall with a chain. The

    medicines are placed on a ledge outside the cell. You are called by a

    number. I was not Jorge, but the prisoner 666. You sleep with two light

    bulbs that never go off. At any time of day or night you can be called

    for lengthy interrogations. They lead you through long and gloomy

    passageways of packed cells where you do not see any other detainee.

    It's like being in the mouth of the wolf," says Olivera.

    Some dictators often have a macabre sense of humor. After extensive

    tortures, Stalin used trials and self-incriminations as a spectacle.

    Sometimes there was no show. They put your back to a wall and gave you

    one shot to the temple. If they wanted to prolong the agony and break as

    a human being, they sent you to a Gulag.

    In Cuba, the agents of the State Security have modeled these methods.

    Except the shot to the temple. One of those strokes of ridicule that the

    repressive apparatus of the Castro likes, Olivera keeps fresh in his

    memory. The condemned of the Black Spring were spread out among the

    island's prisons in comfortable air-conditioned coaches, the same ones

    used for tourists.

    "The height of cynicism. We traveled that day watching movies and they

    gave us good food. We were treated like royalty as we deposited in

    prisons hundreds of miles from our homes. I was detained in Guantanamo

    Provincial Combined, six hundred miles from where my wife and my

    children live," he recalls.

    The worst experience Jorge Olivera lived through was the prison. "The

    food was a mess. Officers beating common prisoners in common. Inmates

    self-mutilate. Or commit suicide. Poetry saved me from madness." It was

    in prison where Olivera began writing poems. In 2004, due to a string of

    illnesses, he was granted a parole.

    Technically he is still not a free man. If the government decides, the

    Black Spring prisoners remaining in the island can go back behind bars.

    Of the 27 independent journalists imprisoned in March 2003, Jorge

    Olivera is the only one left in Cuba. Abroad he has published four books

    of poetry and two of short stories.

    Right now he gives shapes to his latest poems. "Systole and Diastole"is

    the working title. He writes for Cubanet and Digital Spring, a weekly

    where for six years the best independent journalists have performed.

    Along with fellow journalist Víctor Manuel Domínguez, he leads a writers

    club. He is an honorable member of the Pen Club of the Czech Republic

    and the United States. If people could receive a grade for the human

    condition, I wouldn't hesitate to shake his hand to give a ten to Jorge

    Olivera. His priorities remain information, describing the reality of

    his neighbors in Central Havana, the crisis of values, prostitution and

    official corruption.

    The author of "Surviving in the Mouth of the Wolf" rejects the 'amnesia'

    of newly minted dissidents. "You can not forget history. The rebellious

    generation that dominates the new technologies is welcome. But they

    should be honest and admit that before them, we were there. Looking at

    news on hot news and under constant police harassment. We did not have

    Twitter or Facebook, we wrote with pens on the back of recycled paper.

    But we never stopped reporting on the precarious life and lack of a

    future for the people in Cuba. That can not be relegated or forgotten.

    The history of dissent is very long. And before us, were those who were

    sentenced to death in La Cabaña. If we forget these stages, mutilate or

    distort an important part of the peaceful struggle against the Castro

    regime," says Jorge Olivera.

    His dream is to do radio, be healthy and live in a democracy. He hopes

    the day is not too far off when he can reunite with Raul Rivero and

    Tania Quintero, two fellow exiles. Not in Switzerland or Spain, but

    walking the streets of Havana in the spring.

    Iván García

    31 March 2013

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