Daniel Llorente, a dissident in Cuba arrested last May 1 for waving an American flag in front of the communist nation’s May Day procession, remains institutionalized at a mental ward despite not being treated for any disease or charged with a crime.
Llorente’s son, Eliécer, checked in with the Cuban-American news outlet Martí Noticias on Thursday, nearly a year since his father was violently beaten before the May Day Parade crowd. His father was arrested then moved to the Havana Psychiatric Hospital, a notorious facility known commonly as “Mazorra” that studies have indicated the government has used for decades to house political prisoners. The younger Llorente said he has heard rumors that his father will soon be free, but no concrete details regarding his status.
“They were saying over there that they wanted to let him go after May 1,” Eliécer said. “Let’s see if it’s true … the nurses and doctors are remarking on it.”
Llorente said that his father was not currently being medicated. During the first few months of his stay at Mazorra, Llorente was reportedly forced to take unspecified sedatives to keep him from protesting within the cell by shouting pro-democracy slogans or demanding his freedom. Eliécer told Martí in August that medical staff at the hospital told him his father needed psychiatric treatment because “he believes in God and is always talking about that.”
Martí notes in its report this week that Llorente has not been diagnosed with any mental illness and the hospital has not offered him any subsequent explanation for why he remains involuntarily committed.
Eliécer used his conversation with Martí to appeal to Cuba’s new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, to help free his father. “Tell the new president of the country to free the political prisoners, in this case my father, I don’t see any reason for him to stay in there any longer,” he said.
Díaz-Canel replaces dictator Raúl Castro as the president of the country, which allows him to preside over the nation’s legislative body, the National Assembly. It is a largely ceremonial role compared to the offices of Communist Party leader and commander-in-chief, both of which Castro still controls. During his inauguration speech on Thursday, Díaz-Canel repeatedly emphasized that Castro would remain “at the forefront” of the ruling of the nation.
Llorente is an independent dissident – an opponent of communism and the Castro regime without being a member of any dissident organization – and has repeatedly protested against his government by displaying an American flag in public. Support for the “empire,” the United States, is tantamount to “counterrevolutionary,” and thus criminal, activity in Cuba. Llorente was arrested in May 2016 for a short period after welcoming the first American cruise ship to sail to Havana since the Revolution with a U.S. flag and shouts of “yes we can,” the campaign slogan of then-President Barack Obama. At the time, Llorente said he waved the American flag because “I use whatever flag I want because I am free.”
Llorente followed up that display by running in front of the 2017 May Day parade waving an American flag, a sign of gross disrespect to the Revolution. May Day is also known as the Marxist holiday International Workers’ Day. His public beating and arrest was caught on video.