Daniel Llorente, an independent Cuban dissident who has repeatedly protested the communist regime by waving a U.S. flag in public, told the Cuban-American news outlet Radio Martí this weekend that police forcibly expelled him to Guyana in the dead of night, threatening to “disappear” him if he ever returned.
Llorente, a dissident who does not belong to any opposition groups on the island, spent a year in a psychiatric facility after interrupting the communists’ 2017 May Day parade by running ahead of it waving an American flag. Llorente’s son Eliécer told international media following the incident that state doctors told him his father was mentally disturbed for affirming a belief in God and subjected him to electroshock torture.
Prior to his abrupt abduction and expulsion from the country, Llorente had posted on Facebook that he was planning a new wave of protests with a shirt reading “no more dictatorship.”
Martí did not update on the status of 18-year-old Eliécer Llorente. The younger Llorente was most recently arrested in April after accompanying his father to Havana’s UNICEF headquarters to demand aid for Cuban children suffering poverty and malnutrition under the corrupt Castro regime.
Daniel Llorente – speaking from Georgetown, Guyana – told Martí Friday that police had confiscated his passport last week before waking him at 4 a.m. and forcing him on a flight to Guyana. They denied him time to pack or say goodbye to friends and family, he said, adding that he only managed to call Martí because of the generosity of a Cuban-American he met in Georgetown attempting to bring his relatives to the United States.
“On Wednesday, the 15th, they got to my house in the afternoon and said ‘Daniel, where is your passport? We want to verify that your passport is ok.’ They took it away. Then at 4 a.m. on Thursday, they knocked on my door. ‘You have to come with us.’ Directly to the airport,” Llorente said.
“All I have is the clothes I’m wearing and my bookbag with a Bible in it,” he told Martí.
The dissident said that Cuban police warned him that he would “disappear” if he ever resurfaced on the island.
“This is what we are going to do with you,” Llorente quoted the agents as saying. “You are going to get on this plane. You will find out where you are going once you are on the plane. Since you talk about the Americans so much, when you get to the country where you are going, tell them to help you there.”
“Pray to God you don’t return to Cuba, because if you return to Cuba, this time we will disappear you. This is a last chance we are giving you,” Llorente said the agents warned him.
As of Monday morning, Llorente’s whereabouts and immigration status are unknown. Neither Guyanese nor Cuban officials answered Martí’s request for comment and Llorente has not posted any updates of his location on social media.
The Castro regime has similarly used arbitrary arrest and forced expulsion – violations of the U.N. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory – in the recent past to silence critics on the island. In February, Eliecer Góngora, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) dissident group, also surfaced in Guyana against his will.
The government of Guyana agreed to host the U.S. State Department’s primary processing center for Cuban refugees seeking to enter the country in March 2018. The State Department under President Barack Obama reopened the U.S. embassy in Havana, leading to reports of dozens of American diplomats and their families suffering unspecified brain damage after what American investigators deemed attacks of an unknown origin, first believed to be caused by sonic waves but later theorized to be the product of a microwave weapon. President Donald Trump thus withdrew non-essential personnel from the Havana embassy to protect them from more attacks, leaving Bogotá, Colombia – and later Georgetown – as the new centers for processing Cuban refugees.
Llorente will likely now have to make the case for political asylum in the United States. He has an extensive record of dissidence in Cuba and ample evidence of threats against him. His best-known act of dissidence – interrupting the 2017 May Day parade – was caught on video, as was the beating he received at the hands of plain-clothed Cuban regime agents before being hauled away and forced into a mental hospital. The Castro regime has used Havana’s top mental hospital, known commonly as “Mazorra,” to imprison and torture political dissidents for decades. Llorente spent over a year in Mazorra without a diagnosis and was never charged with a crime.
Following his release in May 2018, Llorente vowed to continue his political activism, particularly his public embrace of American values. It took little time for police to arrest him again.
In February, Llorente was arrested in Havana following a deadly tornado. Llorente traveled to the Regla neighborhood – where angry tornado victims had recently forced Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel to evacuate – to help the victims demand food and humanitarian supplies, which the regime had been charging them money for. Llorente was again detained in mid-April along with son Eliécer, this time allegedly forced to take a nationwide tour of “historical site of the Revolution” to indoctrinate them both against protest. During this arrest, Llorente said he was first threatened with a one-way flight to Guyana.
Llorente did not stop protesting, however, wearing the U.S. flag in public, which is not a crime in Cuba. Two weekends ago, Cuban police again arrested Llorente for waving a U.S. flag in public; he posted on Facebook that authorities arrested him believing he was en route to participate in an illegal LGBT pride parade that had attracted over 300 people, but Llorente said he had no such plans.
Llorente had posted to Facebook on May 13 that he had new plans to protest, publishing images of a t-shirt he said he had printed to wear as “a uniform.”
“Cuban wake up now! No more hypocrisy, no more dictatorship,” read one side of the shirt, while the other featured a quote by Cuban founding father José Martí – “Freedom is the right that all men have to be honorable, to think and speak without hypocrisy” – and the phrase “God bless the sincere friendship the U.S. has and wants with the people of Cuba.”