Daniel Llorente, a Cuban dissident who spent a year in a psychiatric ward as punishment for flying an American flag in front of the 2017 Marxist May Day Parade, denounced communist authorities this week for threatening him to remove the flag from his business card.
Llorente is an independent dissident who has made the American flag the symbol of his beliefs, repeatedly insisting that the flag represents individual freedom, democracy, and values that he wishes to publicly celebrate under Cuba’s repressive communist system.
Before his arrests, he worked as an independent cab driver and sought out odd jobs. He admitted in an interview to the independent outlet Cubanet that he is now introducing himself to people in his neighborhood with a business card on which he refers to himself as “the flag man” and appears draped in an American flag. This, he says, is the reason state police have established a post in front of his home, establishing around the clock surveillance and pressured him to dispose of the card.
“An agent of state security has positioned himself in [front of] my house, he came and said that he became aware that I am distributing my business card and suggested that I should change the format of the card or no longer distribute it,” Llorente told Cubanet, showing the card on screen. “I told him that I didn’t see any crime or ill intentions in distributing a card with an American flag on it because it is the flag that I have been defending because I see in her a spirit of freedom and democracy.”
The agent, he noted, then told him ominously that he was obligated to tell his superiors that Llorente would not budge on the matter of the business card.
“This visit left me worried because you never know what state security’s real intention is with me or any of the other dissidents,” Llorente told Cubanet. “Harassment against me continues always.”
Llorente described the police presence in front of his house as “permanent vigilance” intended to make him “feel fearful, which I do not, and to have evidence against me so whenever they want to put me in jail, they can do it.”
Llorente insisted that he would not stop using the American flag and advocating for a free Cuba.
Until there is no real democracy in Cuba, a real social system that helps the Cubans, I will be against the system we are currently living in.”
Llorente, who does not belong to any dissident organization, first made international headlines in 2016, when he chose to greet the first U.S. cruise ship welcome in Havana since the 1959 revolution by waving the American flag.
Llorente’s display triggered the formation of a government-organized mob, which hurled racial epithets and political attacks at him alike. Llorente appears on video waving the American flag and telling the mob, “I use whatever flag I want because I am free,” calling the Cubans who march in communist-organized events “hypocrites.”
Llorente also tells the camera that he was inspired by the words of President Barack Obama during his visit to Havana that “if the people want freedom, they have to take it.”
State police can be seen beating Llorente in public before dragging him away. He was released shortly after this incident.
A year later, Llorente brought his American flag to the May Day parade, one of the nation’s largest mandatory government parades to celebrate communism. Before the people organized at the front of the parade began marching, Llorente ran in front of them, waving an American flag. Plain-clothes police officers can then be seen beating him severely and carrying him away by the feet.
Cuban police did not charge Llorente with a crime. Instead, his family was told that because Llorente had expressed a belief in God, he was considered psychologically unstable and moved to a psychiatric hospital commonly known as “Mazorra,” which that Castro regime has used for decades to torture dissidents.
According to Llorente’s account, as detailed by the Victims of Communism Memorial Fund, he was subject to “electroshock, radiation, isolation, forced labor, psychotropic drugs, and periodic beatings” during the year that he was kept in Mazorra. No doctor ever diagnosed him with a mental health problem.
Llorente was released in May 2018, a few days after the May Day parade. Police also arrested his 18-year-old son Eliécer shortly before the parade to prevent him from staging a repeat of his father’s civil disobedience. The younger Llorente was never charged with a crime or givien an explanation for his detention.
Following his release, Llorente said in an interview that his first priority was to retrieve his American flag from Cuban police, who he insisted had confiscated it illegally. He also vowed to continued challenging the regime, though has repeatedly stated he has no interest in joining a dissident group out of fear that the regime has infiltrated them.