Scene from the Cuban crackdown

By

Claudia Márquez Linares, an independent Cuban journalist, wrote a version of this article for CUBANET.ORG on March 20, two days after a roundup of dissidents began. Her husband, Osvaldo Alfonso Valdés, president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, was one of 75 journalists and activists sentenced to prison for their pro-democracy work last week. Mr. Valdes showed repentance and was given an 18-year term.

An authoritative fist knocked on our apartment door.It was State Security with a search warrant to look for what they called, "material proofs of an offense."

The head of the search, who said his name was Pepe, came in at 4:10 p.m., ignoring the fact that I was in my underwear. He stayed watching me, and I had to throw him out of my room to dress. He told me to be quick because he had a search warrant.

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For 10 hours, 12 officers, two of them armed, searched our home. The fruits of their literary looting, now in a crammed warehouse of the Cuban government, were: hundreds of newspaper articles, journalism manuals, 150 books (politics, law, economy, social sciences), more than 50 envelopes containing Internet printouts, a video camera, a digital camera, an old laptop, 36 diskettes with the testimonies of victims of the legal whims of the Cuban government, and six compact disks, some containing the underground journal "De Cuba" published by our independent journalists' association, others containing the Encyclopedia of the European Union for Young People.

Even as these officials were going through my drawers and family photos, state television was broadcasting its daily "Round Table" talking-heads show, a chorus of denunciation of us as "traitors."

Over the course of the evening, these officers listened to the audiocassettes of my German lessons, and they took away all the bulletins of the Liberal International, an umbrella organization for all the liberal parties of the world, including my husband's.

They read the love letters that my husband, Osvaldo Alfonso Valdes wrote to me eight years ago; then they took him away from me like a trophy to the cells of the State Security in Havana, in Villa Marista.

It is true that anyone involved in civil society was always branded as "mercenary" and "counterrevolutionary" by the Cuban authorities - and 18 defenders of human rights have been held in custody without trial for over a year.

But what came as a surprise this week was that they would come and get so many of us. Was it because we reported on electricity shortages, on prostitution, on illegal detentions? Was it because we held a workshop on ethics in journalism, exercising our freedom of assembly? Or because we discussed with foreign visitors the political situation in Cuba? Because we dared to have an opinion and took the liberty of expressing it?

What are they afraid of? I ask myself this while in my conscience - and in the consciences of the many journalists and leaders of organizations that were also victim of confiscations and arbitrary arrest - the hope remains for a free and democratic Cuba, where to read Vargas Llosa and Milan Kundera will not be "material proof of an offense."

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