Cuban Dissident Calls New US-Cuba Relations a Fraud - NBC Southern California

Cuban Dissident Calls New US-Cuba Relations a Fraud

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Cuban Dissident: "Oppression Is on the Rise"

    Jorge Luis Pérez Antunez, called the "Nelseon Mandela of Cuba," says the new state of U.S.-Cuban relations is a fraud. (Published Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015)

    He's been called the "Nelson Mandela of Cuba," and he takes that title and uses it to promote an agenda he says is the truth about what's happening in Cuba.

    Jorge Luis Pérez Antunez, known on the island simply as "Antunez," spent 17 years and 38 days in a Cuban prison for what he says was his basic human right to have an opinion.

    Antunez says in 1990, at age 25, he stood in a public plaza in Havana, listening to Communist propaganda over a loud speaker and chose to speak louder.

    "I yelled as loud as I could that Communism was a mistake and Cuba needed reforms," he says.

    He would not see his family again for nearly two decades.

    Released in 2007, Antunez says he will not stop speaking out, knowing it could land him back behind bars at any moment. He claims the Cuban government routinely visits his home to ransack the house and has left a large hole in his front door for the purpose of being able to keep an eye on him.

    On Feb. 2, Orange County Congressman Edward Royce, R-CA, who heads up the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, invited Antunez and his wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, to Washington to testify in a hearing called "Human Rights in Cuba: A Squandered Opportunity."

    While in D.C., Antunez met with outspoken Congressman (and son of Cuban immigrants) Marco Rubio as well.

    Antunez says Cuba is not the romantic island so many foreigners believe it to be and he says the crimes of the Cuban government continue even after Obama's Dec. 17 executive order.

    "We feel abandoned," Antunez says of the renewed relations, believing Obama has green-lighted the Castro regime's violations of human rights.

    "The regime is stronger now," he says since the announcement, "and oppression is on the rise."

    On the topic of the 50-year embargo against the island, Antunez says Obama is wrong that it's a failed policy.

    Instead, Antunez says the embargo is the only proof that the U.S. backs those he calls the "true people of Cuba."

    Antunez's wife calls the renewed talks a "farce," pointing to the lack of food and things as commonplace in the U.S. as soap and laundry detergent. But that's exactly the Obama Administration's argument for easing sanctions - that the Cuba government has blamed the U.S. embargo for the island's economic woes.

    Antunez spent the morning admiring a statue at LA's Echo Park. The statue was placed there in the 1970s, the area once home to a growing number of Cuban refugees after the 1960s exodus.

    It is a bust of Cuban Revolutionary Hero, Jose Martí. Antunez says seeing it gives him hope.

    "So far from Cuba in a place like Los Angeles," he says. "It shows us the cause is not lost."

    Antunez returns to Miami next week and to Cuba in March, where he says he believes the Cuban government may arrest him for having spoken out while in the U.S., but he says he's ready.

    "I will not be silenced and I will not leave my Cuba," he says.

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