For more than five months now, Felix Navarro, a 58-year-old former teacher, has been imprisoned again in Matanzas, more than 100 kilometers east of Havana. Navarro did not participate in the massive protests occurred in the island on July 11, instead he was arrested and is currently prosecuted for inquiring about arrested members of the political party he presides “Pedro Luis Botiel” in a police station in Matanzas, the day after the events, on July 12.

Felix Navarro in the face of communist repression

One of the main leaders of the peaceful Cuban opposition has been imprisoned again by the Castro regime

Havana/December 15, 2021 – The fate of prominent Cuban opposition leader Felix Navarro Rodriguez is once again at the forefront of the international democratic press. For more than five months now, Felix, a 58-year-old former teacher, has been imprisoned once again in his native province of Matanzas, more than 100 kilometers east of Havana.

As it is known, this confinement represents nothing new in the life of the combative fighter against communist totalitarianism. In 2003, on direct orders from Fidel Castro, 75 peaceful opponents, independent journalists and human rights defenders were arrested in just a few hours and subjected in a matter of days to shameful kangaroo trials. This is what is known as the “Black Spring”. One of those Cubans was Felix Navarro.

In his specific case, because he was the leader of the Movement for Democracy “Pedro Luis Boitel”, he was sentenced in his first trial to a whopping twenty-five years in prison! He was recognized as a prisoner of conscience. Despite this trial being prior to the episode known as “Black Spring”, due to his stance of not accepting his release in exchange for going into exile, he was one of the last prisoners of that “Black Spring” to be released. This was in March 2011.

Subsequently, and notwithstanding the fact that he had yet to serve 17 years of unjust sentence after the “Black Spring”, Felix continued his peaceful pro-democracy activity. He was recognized as one of the most prominent anti-communist leaders in all of Cuba, along with personalities such as José Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Guillermo (“Coco”) Fariñas Hernández and others.

The arrest that led to his current imprisonment occurred as a result of the Great National Anticommunist Uprising of July 11. This began as a protest in the small village of San Antonio de los Baños, about fifty miles southwest of the capital. As citizens from all over Cuba found out what was happening thanks to social media networks, more and more places where the popular discontent broke out, until it reached fifty places (sometimes several of them belonging to the same city, as it happened in the capital of the island).

One of those points was the town of Perico, a municipal capital located some 140 kilometers east of Havana, where Felix Navarro and his family live. But the arrest of the opposition leader did not take place on the same day of the uprising, but the following day: July 12. The pretext for this was the mere fact of going to the local police station to inquire about the fate of several members of his organization who had been arrested the day before.

Since then, the independent Cuban press (not the official press, of course, which is completely silent on the matter!) has been reporting on the harsh repression suffered by Felix in the Agüica prison where he is being held. It is a penitentiary center that the author of these lines knows well, since he was imprisoned there for years during his first political imprisonment. It is, to tell the truth, a true branch of terror.

The cruelty suffered there by Navarro was so great that he was forced to go on hunger strike from August 23 to September 21, in protest against the very fact of his imprisonment and the terrible conditions in which he was being held. Last Friday, August 10, the emblematic prisoner of conscience received a visit from his wife and daughter. Both ladies were able to see that the prisoner of conscience was somewhat recovered from the effects of the hunger strike, although he was still very thin and weak.

It is necessary for international public opinion to pronounce itself on the situation faced by exemplary men such as Felix Navarro himself or the aforementioned Jose Daniel Ferrer. Or others who are younger and who (precisely as a result of their young age) have less seniority in the pro-democracy struggles. This is the case of artists Luis Manuel Otero and Maykel Castillo (“Osorbo”).
Unlike other recent exiles (who have chosen to make use of what is their undoubted right: the right to travel to a foreign country), those mentioned in the preceding paragraph have chosen not to do so. And this despite the fact that the communist regime keeps them imprisoned in a totally arbitrary and cruel manner.

The current “president of the Republic”, Miguel Díaz-Canel, pays no attention to any claim made by his fellow citizens. For that reason, the only hope for the four mentioned above and for all the other hundreds of Cuban political prisoners is the pressure that can be legitimately exerted from abroad.
This represents a real possibility. The catastrophic economic policies adopted by the communist regime, coupled with the effects of the pandemic, have placed Castroism in a particularly vulnerable position. In such circumstances, any firm stance by foreign countries has the greatest chance of success.

Let us hope that democrats in Europe, Latin America, the United States and other parts of the world become aware of this reality and, within the frameworks provided and recognized by International Law, act accordingly.

René Gómez Manzano
Lawyer and independent journalist

René Gómez Manzano – President of ISHR-Cuba reports on the fate of the civil rights activist Felix Navarro, who is a member of the board of directors of ISHR Cuba.