The Cuban regime has placed an anti-communist, pro-American protester in one of the nation’s most notorious mental institutions following his interruption of the annual May Day parade, where he ran down the parade route waving an American flag.
According to Cuban journalist Serafín Morán, dissident Daniel Llorente Miranda is being kept against his will in the Boyeros Psychiatric Hospital, known colloquially as Mazorra. There, Llorente says the government has attempted to force him to take prescription medications he does not need. Llorente is facing criminal charges of “public disorder and resistance,” and it is unclear whether he will face trial for those charges or be labeled mentally unable to stand trial:
Morán notes that authorities have not specified what sort of mental condition they claim Llorente has. The journalist posted audio of his conversation with Llorente at the hospital online, where Llorente sounds clear of mind and repeatedly asserts he is proud of having defied the Cuban regime. Morán himself, according to the Spain-based Diario de Cuba, states he does not believe Llorente is mentally ill and accuses the government of using alleged insanity to keep him detained without having to add him to the growing list of political prisoners on the island.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), an NGO that tracks politically motivated arrests nationwide, issued a statement this month expressing concern about the “internment of Llorente Miranda in a mental health facility in Havana that is directly controlled by political secret police.” The group added that there is “reason to believe he is being exposed to psychiatric abuse.”
Llorente’s son Eliécer told Miami’s Martí Noticias that his father is being held in a mental health facility because he has publicly expressed faith in God. “They say that since he believes in God and is always talking about that … they say that is a disorder,” he said. “And that is a lie. He told me to talk to journalists from the first day I visited him because he signed himself out of the institution and has not been let out.”
Eliécer Llorente added, “They want to give him a pill, but he says he won’t take it.”
The Cuban state remains a communist, atheist one. While Havana’s oppressors have permitted the presence of religious figures who do not question their rampant violations of international human rights norms–most notably, Pope Francis–Cuban police routinely repress attempts at religious, particularly Christian, assemblies. While evangelical Christians often suffer the most public repression, Catholic dissidents like the Ladies in White are routinely beaten in public for attempting to participate in the Mass ritual.
The elder Llorente told Morán, the journalist, that he has no regrets. “I felt proud. I felt that I did what I had to do, I did it exactly the way I should have,” he said. “It is about time that the world know that the First of May march, like all Cuban events, is designed by the Castro dictatorship” and not a representation of the feelings of the Cuban people.
That day, Llorente made headlines by dashing towards the front of the parade waving an American flag. Plain-clothed Cuban police rapidly apprehended and viciously beat him on video:
“It was a highly violent action,” he told Morán of his arrest. “I saw their intention to kill me. They told me, ‘you have to die.'”
“They picked me up and tossed me in the back of an ambulance. There, one of them slammed my head on the floor, squeezing it to strangle me. … I started yelling ‘you are asphyxiating me’ and they said ‘that is what we want to happen, we want to strangle you, we want you to die,'” Llorente recalled.
Llorente tells Morán he sends “a special greeting, respectfully, to all around the world who support me, to President Donald Trump, to all TV stations, everyone with a sense of patriotism and human love who has defended my cause.”
Llorente had previously faced arrest for greeting the Adonia cruise ship, the first U.S. ship to land in Havana following the 1959 Revolution, waving an American flag and chanting “Yes we can.” At the time, Llorente said, “I use whatever flag I want because I am free. I am not a hypocrite, not like all the Cubans marching yesterday [the 2016 May Day march] — all those Cubans are hypocrites.”
Llorente does not belong to any Cuban dissident organizations and those around him say he organized his acts of rebellion alone.