Cuba has a great problem but a small leader


UPDATE: Today, July 21, 2010, Juan Juan Almeida was taken prisoner from his house for protesting yesterday his right to leave Cuba so that he can receive medical treatment for a rare, degenerative form of arthritis.

From Spanish Newspaper, El Mundo (translated by me)

Fidel Castro announced his birth during one of his speeches; Raul Castro was like a father to him and during his childhood and youth he enjoyed things that everyone else could not, but one day the luck of Juan Juan Almeida, the son of the then-number three of the Cuban Revolution–commander and vice president, Juan Almeida–changed. He was expelled from paradise and began his descent into hell.

I lived 28 years of my life deceiving myself, he confessed just a year ago en “Memories of an unknown guerilla”. Now, his desperation has brought him to a hunger strike, which began this past 16th of June, although he acknowledges that “he has always disagreed with this type of extreme measure”.

He only wants to leave the country to receive treatment for a degenarative illness that he has suffered from for years now and to embrace his loved ones–his daughter and wife who live in Miami. Afterwards, he is willing to “return”. “I am not brave, nor do I pretend to be a hero”, he explained in an interview with EL MUNDO

“I have been left with no other alternative. I’ve met with an infinite number of people, wrote a mountain of letters to institutions and personalities, I tried to obtain it(departure) through the legal channels, I went to the street with signs, I begged, I implored, I prayed, I complained, I demanded”, he confesses, but did not get anything.

“I cannot accept that”, he added indignantly.

From his house in Havana, suffering from excruciating pain, he has recorded a video that has been uploaded to Youtube, in which he makes his decision unequivocally: “If something happens to me, I do not want to be brought to the doctor, because something that I am demanding is  to go to the doctor, I do not want hypocrisies with that”, he said assuredly.

His Political Problems

His problems with the Cuban regime began some time in the past, but it was not until 2004 that he was prohibited from leaving the country. Almeida had ended his military career–he had been studying in the superior school of the KGB in Moscow when he was diagnosed with a rare form of degenerative arthritis and he was working in an airport services business located in Cancun, Mexico.

His life was passing happily by, despite his illness, until one day he was detained and accused of belonging to a network that gave illegal passports and visas to Cubans so that they could enter Mexico, accusing him in of being an agent of the Spanish secret services.

Thus began his ordeal: “my father was admitted premeditatedly to a hospital in which was impassible, we were separated, and we lost all communication and thus began an out of control circus; in which Raul Castro personally accused me of being at the service of the Spanish secret services. Interrogation, the threats, the tortures. It was a complete aberration.  [Raul Castro] chose arrogance and trampled on the constitution, the Ministry of Health and Interior and the national assembly, he explains

“An atrocious injustice”, that he still has not been able to understand. “that man was my hero, my father, my uncle. In my childhood, I looked at him and wanted to be like him”, he writes in his memories. Desperate, he tries every means to meet with people who had access to the Cuban leader. “All of them turned there back on me”, he commented.

He then chose to write letters explaining his situation. “I didn’t get a response that way either”. “Without a place to go and to complain, persecuted and taken hostage like an animal, they pushed me to the option more lethal and illegal: the sea”.

In May of 2009 he was detained when he tried to leave the country. Now, he has taken another step in going on a hunger strike. The treatment that they offer him for his illness in Cuba is “too invasive”. “It’s like you ask for aspirin and they offer you a pistol”.

A long way to go.

Juan Juan Almeida notes with satisfaction the news these days on the liberation of the political prisoners, but considers that the Island’s problems are far from being resolved as long as Raul Castro maintains the fate of the Cubans. “We have a big problem and a small president”, he stated.

The subject of the political prisoners and the sad notorious Black Spring are all part of the ignominious conduct of this Government. That freeing of the prisoners is a small advance that I applaud, but there is still much to overcome”, he added.

Despite his support to the Women in White(Damas de Blanco), and his friendship with the dissidents Orlando Zapata and Guillermo Farinas, he does not consider himself to be one of them, only a “normal type”, that accepts everyone for who they are, “with exception to the dictators”, he clarified.

Almeida does not believe that Cuba must wait for the death of Fidel and Raul Castro in order to turn the page in history and considers that the change to the island has already arrived. “Recently, change has been about. It is coming day by day, minute by minute. The majority are no longer terrorized and are losing the fear”, he assured, although he admittted that an authentic democracy “is still far from arriving”.


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