For years Cuba has reacted to outside pressure to release political prisoners. European presidents, members of the U.S. Congress, famous writers have all interceded on behalf of political prisoners, such as Armando Valladares, Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez, and Angel Cuadra, who were brought to their attention by campaigns orchestrated by a handful of human rights activists. Still, it took decades to free most of them.
That was pre-Internet. Pánfilo is a different story. He may have been both doomed and saved by the Internet. His YouTube video was seen by more than half a million. But so was the news of his sentence and imprisonment and, more important, a quick thinking campaign that incorporated the best that technology has to offer.
It took days to collect more than 3,000 signatures on his behalf. Back in the '60s and '70s and even the '80s, when activists like Frank Calzon, now with the Center for a Free Cuba, were campaigning to free political prisoners, communication between Cuba and Washington could take months.
``First we had to hear about the case from someone who brought it to our attention,'' said Calzon. ``Pánfilo was known to the world before he was imprisoned.''
He was also the perfect victim. Pánfilo was not a human-rights activist, a dissident or an intellectual. He is, simply, a man. A black man who is hungry and drinks too much. Therein lie his power and his weakness.
The government has always been intolerant of dissent, but it is particularly vicious when the dissenter is black. The most recent victims of execution in Cuba were three young black men attempting to steal a vessel to escape the island six years ago.
Pánfilo has escaped that fate. He's never said he wants to leave Cuba. What he wants is food. What he needs is food, rehab and freedom. But when he walks out of rehab, Pánfilo will still lack food. And freedom.
lunes, 21 de septiembre de 2009
Pánfilo y el internet
La escritora y periodista Mirta Ojito estrenó columna ayer en The Miami Herald dedicándole un artículo a Pánfilo y cómo el Internet le ha dado un vuelco al tema de la defensa de los derechos humanos: