The government of Cuba released Daniel Llorente, an independent dissident, from a notorious mental hospital where he was detained for more than a year after being diagnosed with “believing in God.” Llorente was arrested after interrupting the 2017 May Day parade in Havana, waving an American flag and demanding freedom for Cuba.
Llorente was released shortly after the 2018 May Day parade, celebrating the Marxist International Workers’ Day holiday. His son, Eliecer, was also arrested on May 1 and released an hour after the parade ended to prevent him from organizing a protest similar to the protest his father organized.
Eliecer, 18, was never accused or charged with a crime. Daniel was also never charged for the year-long term he spent in the Havana Psychiatric Hospital known commonly as “Mazorra.”
Following his release, Llorente sat down for interviews with several Cuban dissident and international outlets.
“I am enjoying this freedom, which I always deserved,” the elder Llorente told 14yMedio, an independent Cuban publication, following his release this weekend. He defined his captivity as “a cruel injustice” but dismissed it as common under the Castro regime.
“Taking me to a psychiatric hospital, that is a lack of ethics and respect. That is how the system works, repressing anybody who tells the truth,” he added. He noted once again that he was never charged with a crime, adding that he was also never diagnosed with any mental health condition and was not provided any paperwork explaining his release: “It was all arbitrary.”
He considers his detention an “abduction.”
“Here in this country, there is no freedom of expression,” he asserted. “People have to go to the May Day parade because, otherwise, they get disciplined at work. I want to prove that, in Cuba, there are people with principles who want to tell these people to stop.”
Llorente is not a member of any Cuban dissident organization, instead choosing to organize and execute public acts of peaceful resistance to communism independently. He told 14yMedio that he is not interested in joining any organizations because he fears that undercover Cuban communist police have infiltrated the groups, allowing police to arrest dissidents before they can join planned protests with the intelligence gathered. Speaking to the Miami-based Martí Noticias, Llorente said he was “open” to exchanging ideas with dissident groups but would rather not be a member of any organization in particular.
His first priority following his release, he told the publication, is to find his American flag. “The flag they took from me I expect to recover because it was not confiscated legally,” he explained, noting he will petition the government and send letters to Communist Party newspaper Granma to demand the return of his property.
In an interview with Cubanet, an international Cuban dissident outlet, Llorente reiterated his commitment to God.
“First of all, the one doing all this through me is God,” he told the outlet in a video interview alongside his son. “Even though people say I am crazy, I reiterate once more, and I want people to know: this is God. God lights my way.”
“My feelings, which I see as the feelings of God, are that we must say no to injustice,” he reiterated, quoting Thomas Jefferson. “For I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Llorente also told Cubanet he will fight for the government to return his American flag.
Llorente first made news in 2016 following President Barack Obama’s announcement that American businesses would have limited access to the Cuban market; the Castro regime never passed laws undoing the Cuban embargo on America. Llorente greeted the first American cruise ship to dock in Havana wearing a Cuban flag shirt and waving his American flag, chanting the Obama campaign slogan, “Yes, we can.” After enduring a barrage of racial slurs from a mob convened by government officials to shame him, Llorente was forced out of the marina area, where he had appeared.
A year later, Llorente ran in front of the beginning of the May Day parade, before a host of international news cameras and government broadcasts, waving his U.S. flag. He has said in prior interviews that he views the American flag as a symbol of freedom and respect for humanity and is proud to identify morally with the United States. Such sentiments are a crime in Cuba, where children are taught at a very young age to hate the “imperialist oppressors” 90 miles north.
Yet Llorente was never charged with a crime – not even the common dissident crime of “disrespect.” After spending a short time in prison, he was moved to Mazorra, where he was kept in periods of isolation and endured several hunger strikes. Eliecer was told his father suffered the mental condition of “believing in God.”