Cuban authorities arrested Eliécer Llorente, the teenage son of dissident Daniel Llorente, to prevent him from repeating the protest act that his father performed a year ago Tuesday: running ahead of the communist International Workers’ Day parade waving a U.S. flag in front of Raúl Castro.
Castro was the star of Tuesday’s “May Day” parade yet again this year, despite handing down the largely ceremonial title of “President of Cuba” to protege Miguel Díaz-Canel.
Daniel Llorente remains trapped in one of Cuba’s most notorious mental wards, where he was placed shortly after his public beating and arrest. Eliécer told international news outlets at the time that the explanation authorities gave him for why Llorente was moved to a facility for the mentally ill was that he had expressed faith in God. Neither Llorente has been charged with any crime.
Judiza Pérez, Eliécer (sometimes spelled Eliezer) Llorente’s mother, confirmed his arrest to the independent Cuban newspaper 14 y Medio.
“The detained him while he was with independent journalist Vladimir Turro,” she told the newspaper. “He had accompanied [Turro] to an event, but at noon he went home to fetch lunch for his father for their regular Sunday visit.”
Daniel Llorente has begun a hunger strike demanding his son’s release from his current place of detention, the Comandante Doctor Eduardo Bernabé Ordaz Ducungede Mental Hospital (commonly referred to as “Mazorra”). Pérez says Eliécer is also refusing to eat. She herself refuses to leave the police station where he is being held.
“My son is not a dissident, nor is he a delinquent,” she asserted.
Police have not issued any evidence showing that the younger Llorente has joined any dissident groups of committed any acts against the repressive communist state. Daniel Llorente is not a member of any dissident group and describes himself as a “self-employed” (por cuenta propia) dissident. Llorente’s son has consistently updated the outside world on his father’s status, however, often giving interviews to the Cuban-American outlet Martí Noticias, among others, protesting the various punishments and injustices his father has faced in Mazorra.
At the time of his father’s arrest a year ago, Eliécer Llorente was 17, according to Martí.
Pérez says her son was arrested “so that he would not be able to repeat his father’s protest.” He was not the only one preemptively arrested.
According to Cubanet and Martí, at least five members of the dissident group Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) were arrested this week in anticipation of the parades in Havana and Santiago, on the island’s eastern point. Cubanet decribes those detained as “known for their repeated protests.”
Brothers Alberto Antonio and Leonardo Ramírez Odio, and their father Alberto de la Caridad Ramírez Baró, were arrested on July 26 of last year – the anniversary of the Castro brothers’ terrorist attack on the Moncada barracks – for displaying banners reading “the people demand: freedom, justice, democracy” in public view. They, too, were temporarily relegated to a psychiatric facility. Zaqueo Báez was publicly beaten and arrested in front of Pope Francis for shouting the word “freedom” near the pope’s vehicle. Pope Francis denied having knowledge of the incident despite video evidence.
All three were arrested last week to prevent them from challenging the regime publicly. None were charged with any crime.
In Eliécer Llorente’s case, the official reason for his arrest is that he was allegedly found to be in possession of “illegal” beef. It is illegal for individuals not acting on behalf of the Cuban government to sell beef in Cuba. Police have provided no evidence for their accusations.
On May 1, 2017, Daniel Llorente made history, running in front of Havana’s May Day parade before it began while freely waving an American flag. Plain-clothes Cuban government agents surrounded him and beat him publicly before taking him out of the way of the parade.
In May 2016, Llorente was arrested for a similar protest, waving an American flag in greeting to the first U.S. cruise ship allowed in Cuban waters in history following President Barack Obama’s major concessions to the Castro regime at the time. Llorente waved his flag and shouted “yes we can!” in honor of President Obama.
“I use whatever flag I want because I am free,” Llorente said while waving his flag as Castro regime agents hurled racist invective at him. “I am not a hypocrite, not like all the Cubans marching yesterday [the 2016 May Day march] — all those Cubans are hypocrites.”
Of America, Llorente has said it is “the greatest defender of human rights, hope, freedom, justice, brotherhood, and the pursuit of happiness” in the world.
Police initially charged Llorente with causing a public disturbance for his display at the parade last year. The charges were dropped, however, and he was instead transferred to Mazorra. Eliécer Llorente said at the time that the reason doctors gave him for his father’s involuntary commitment was “believing in God.”
There is no evidence Llorente has received any legitimate mental health care, nor is Mazorra known for offering such services. For decades, the Castro regime maintained Mazorra as a makeshift torture facility, according to reports from NGOs such as Amnesty International. “Political prisoners were being sent to psychiatric institutions’ detention pavilions controlled by the State, where they are confined in dangerous conditions with poor hygiene and exposed to ill treatment from personnel and other inmates,” a 1995 report confirmed.
Llorente has continued his protests in prison, facing official retribution for posting signs in his cell reading “down with Raúl Castro’s dictatorship” and quoting the Cuban founding father José Martí, who wrote extensively against authoritarianism.
According to 14 y Medio reporters on the ground, this year’s May Day parade was subdued compared to past years, perhaps due to “a lack of resources or the debut of a new president.” Díaz-Canel kept mostly to the background of the parade, Raúl Castro prominently featured in photos and video of the event by his side.
The theme for this year’s parade was “Unity, Commitment, and Victory.”