October 19, 2021

Freedom Denied: Cuba’s Black Spring Continues

Freedom Denied: Cuba's Black Spring Continues

This post originally appeared on the Freedom Collection. Sign up to receive regular updates on freedom and democracy issues here.

Yesterday, the Freedom Collection released a new documentary film examining the ongoing repression of human freedom in Cuba.

Freedom Denied:  Cuba’s Black Spring Continues recounts the events of the 2003 crackdown, when 75 of Cuba’s most prominent nonviolent dissidents were rounded up, arrested, and imprisoned by the Castro government.  Civil society leaders, independent journalists and librarians were convicted in summary judgments to sentences as long as 28 years.  Banished to Cuba’s notorious prisons, many of the Group of 75 were subjected to physical and mental abuse.

Narrated by former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who emigrated from Cuba to the United States as a boy, the film tells the stories of some of the most prominent members of the Group of 75 and their families.

Freedom Denied includes interviews with 9 Cuban freedom advocates – Oscar Elias Biscet, Alejandrina Garcia de la Riva,  Jose Luis Garcia Paneque,  Normando HernandezRegis Iglesias Ramirez,  Pablo Pacheco Avila, Ariel Sigler Amaya, Berta Soler, and  Fidel Suarez Cruz.

Despite some recent cosmetic reforms, these Cuban dissidents agree that nothing has really changed on the island.  The detention and harassment of dissidents during last week’s Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit in Havana was yet another reminder that Cuba continues to crush human freedom.  As Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet notes in the film, “Freedom of expression can only be exercised when there is freedom of the press, of speech, freedom to speak on television, freedom to give classes in private and public schools, and freedom of religion. It does not exist in Cuba because there is no real freedom.”

The film also explores the creation of Cuba’s Ladies in White movement, established by the female relatives of the 75 prisoners of conscience.  After years of protests, the Ladies in White successfully pressured the regime to release their loved ones.  They continue to advocate for human freedom to this day.  As Berta Soler said, “The government thought that by releasing the 75 that they would leave the country and do away with the Ladies in White. It was wrong. We have gained strength and have grown more.”

Despite the ongoing repression of freedom in Cuba, these dissidents are confident that change and reform will inevitably come to their homeland.  In the words of journalist and Bush Institute Fellow in Human Freedom Normando Hernandez, “One should never lose hope. While the night is becoming darker, the day is approaching soon.”

Lindsay Lloyd is the Program Director, Freedom Collection.