The following interview is a joint exclusive with Kaieteur News.
Daniel Llorente, a Cuban dissident who became famous after receiving a public beating for waving an American flag in Cuba’s Marxist May Day Parade, tells Breitbart News the communist regime forced him on a one-way flight to Guyana to keep him from continuing his pro-American activism.
Llorente asserted that, now in Guyana, he aspires to request political asylum in the United States, citing the “15 to 20” times Cuban police have arrested him for public statements against communism and threats from Cuban police that, if he ever sets foot in Cuba again, “we will disappear you.”
He is currently wandering the streets of the Guyanese capital, Georgetown, possessing only the clothing he is wearing and a bookbag containing a Bible, a copy of the U.S. Constitution, and a book on American history. He grabbed the bookbag when police arrived at his home at 4:00 a.m. Havana time on May 16, thinking he was going to merely be arrested.
He has no mobile phone or other means of communication in Georgetown. He is surviving thanks to the charity of Cubans and Cuban-Americans in Guyana who recognized him and paid for his stay at a local inn, he told Breitbart News, but he is seeking employment and a legal avenue into the United States.
Llorente spoke to Breitbart News in an exclusive interview in conjunction with journalist Leonard Gildarie of Kaieteur News, a Guyanese newspaper.
Upon arriving in Guyana, Llorente contacted the American government outlet Martí News, which operates to inform the Cuban public about the realities of their communist government. Breitbart News translated the story Martí published and sought information on Llorente’s whereabouts. Neither the Guyanese government, the U.S. embassy, nor the airline Llorente told Martí he took, Aruba Airlines, could provide proof that Llorente left Cuba this week. Yet, through Breitbart News, Martí communicated to Llorente that Kaieteur News, whose offices are in Georgetown, was interested in meeting him.
When Gildarie arrived in his office on Thursday afternoon, a man claiming to be Llorente was there, carrying his small bookbag and wearing a shirt reading “I love” and depicting the American flag, the Western Hemisphere, and President Donald Trump.
Llorente provided his Cuban passport, government identification, and airplane ticket stub as proof of his identity. The tattoos visible on his arm matched photos and videos of the activist repeatedly detained in Havana.
His passport has stamps from Cuba’s José Martí Airport and the Guyanese government, the latter signed by an agent named “Archer.” The Guyanese stamp raises questions as to how the Guyanese government claimed to have no proof that anyone named Daniel Llorente Miranda, the dissident’s full name, ever entered the country.
Breitbart News interviewed Llorente jointly from the United States via Whatsapp, translating from Spanish for the Kaieteur News reporter.
Llorente’s journey, he says, began in 2002, when he was arrested after exhibiting signs of displeasure with the regime.
“They kept me nine years in prison because they accused me of crimes I did not commit. One was drug trafficking and the other obstruction of justice – which is to say, there was no evidence,” he told Breitbart News. He said they charged him, essentially, for the crime of no evidence existing that he had committed a crime, then for the crime they had no evidence to prove. “They monitor people. When they see anyone who expresses opinions against the regime, they send you to jail.”
“They took nine years away from me of watching my son grow up. I vowed that when I got out I would declare myself publically against the dictatorship,” he said.
Llorente, a fervent Christian who rattles off Bible quotes at lightning speed, said he learned to love the United States watching American television shows in prison.
“In Cuba, since you are little, for six generations, they teach you that the Americans are bad. When I gained my [social] consciousness, I was put in jail, I started watching a channel on TV that showed American social programming,” he noted. “And I saw that the Americans raised their children very, very differently from society in Cuba and I learned that they loved God. Instead of hating them, I grew to love them more.”
“Since they [the shows] taught me to love the United States, I learned that this was the Castros’ strategy of uniting Cubans against a common enemy and distracting them with that. The real bad guys and dictators and murderers are them,” he said.
He laid low following his release until 2016, when he made a splash outside of the island by attempting to greet the Carnival Cruises ship Adonia, the first cruise ship to travel from the United States to Havana since the Cuban Revolution in 1959. It was another era, and the administration of former President Barack Obama was enacting policies that allowed corporations like Carnival to enrich themselves by working with the Castro regime. Llorente did not address any of that in his protest, simply waving an American flag at the ship, shouting “yes we can!” in Spanish.
It took little time for the government to organize an acto de repudio – a mob of state actors meant to humiliate dissidents. They called him a “clown” and made racist hand signals. He replied, “I use whatever flag I want because I am free. I am not a hypocrite, not like all the Cubans marching yesterday — all those Cubans are hypocrites.”
The date was May 2, 2016.
The next year – May 1, 2017 – would be a date that would change Llorente’s life forever. He decided once again to wave his American flag. This time, he would do it in the face of the “hypocrites” at the May Day Parade. He ran in front of the head of the parade, before a gigantic communist sign reading “unity is strength.”
He ran about five seconds with the American flag in hand before Cuban state security agents knocked him to the ground and beat him on camera.
The protest was too public to disappear him or throw him in prison, as the Castro regime has done with thousands of dissidents since 1959. Instead, Cuban doctors declared him mentally ill. They placed him in Boyeros Psychiatric Hospital, known colloquially as Mazorra, an institution known for using electroshock torture on patients.
“They say that since he believes in God and is always talking about that … they say that is a disorder,” his son Eliezer Llorente, then 17 years old, told Martí News at the time.
Llorente was never charged with a crime or diagnosed with a medical condition. He was released in early May 2018, spending over a year, he said at the time, subjected to forced drugging. Police made sure to delay his release so he would not be free for May Day.
Llorente continued his activism almost immediately upon being released.
“Here in this country, there is no freedom of expression,” he said in an interview with the Cuban independent outlet 14 y medio shortly after his release. “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.”
He told Breitbart News on Thursday that he has been arrested “15 to 20 times” for public statements against the regime. This year alone he was arrested for trying to advocate for victims of February’s tornado in Havana and trying to petition UNICEF to help Cuban children escape communism.
In March, Llorente said, he was arrested for being involved “in an event honoring me.” Breitbart News believes this is the event “Se USA,” an art performance and race around Havana organized by dissidents in April. The event consisted of dissidents running around the streets of Havana waving an American flag, an unauthorized art performance taking place simultaneously with a regime-sponsored art event. The event organizer, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, spent four days in jail for it.
During that arrest, Llorente told Breitbart News, Cuban police gave him a choice.
“I had two options on the table, they were either going to arrest me or kick me out of the country so I would stop bothering them. If I returned, I would go to jail,” he said.
He did not stop, but even when he was not actively protesting, the government did all it could to keep him quiet. He told Breitbart News that, 20 days before the May Day parade, police abducted him and his son and forced them on a bus tour around the large island to teach him the glorious history of the Cuban Revolution – and to keep him from ruining the parade. They appeared to grant him access to the internet while on tour, because he posted photos from Santiago de Cuba two weeks ago, over 500 miles from home. The only spot he appeared excited about visiting was a memorial for American soldiers killed fighting alongside Cubans in the 1902 war of independence.
Shortly after returning, Llorente began posting photos of a t-shirt design against the regime on Facebook. The shirt implored Cubans to “wake up – no more dictatorship!”
“I announced a new t-shirt on Facebook … it seems like they saw that and said ‘this guy is coming out with another shirt?! Let’s get him out of here,'” he told Breitbart News. “If they imprison me, they realized I was good with media and that would have been too high a political cost for them. They assumed the most practical thing with me was to kick me out, they [the media] would report on me for a few days and then the media would forget about it.”
“On midday May 15, a state security agent came to my house and told me to go to [a local travel agency],” Llorente narrated from Georgetown. They took his passport, he says, and he was aware they were buying him a ticket to Guyana – or, at least, they claimed to be. “I didn’t have life in Cuba. It was constant – at any street corner they came out, they detained me for anything … I thought the whole thing about kicking me out of the country was another form of threat or to pressure me. I said, ‘do whatever you guys want.'”
He went home as he was told and continued on with his life until the next morning. At 4 a.m. on May 16, he said, police knocked on his door.
“We’re going to set you free in Guyana. Since you’re friends with the Americans, tell them to help you,” Llorente quoted the police as saying. “If you keep at it, we’re throwing you in jail. We don’t care about public opinion.”
“I always have this bag with the Bible, a book on the history of the U.S., and the Constitution of the United States. Since I always get arrested, and it bothers them to have this around, I always take it with me when I get arrested,” he said. So he took the bag, expecting to go to the police station. “When we were in the car, they told me I was going to the airport and heading to Guyana.”
He also put on a shirt he says his nephew made him for $6 – $3 for the shirt and $3 for the design. It is the only shirt he now has.
“I love the continent, all the Americans, and I consider that God lifted the United States as a nation to govern the world. And currently, the head is Donald Trump,” he told Breitbart News, explaining his shirt. “This means Donald Trump will free America of dictatorships. The dictatorships in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba are all leaving this year. They will be exterminated through the United States because the only thing that is eternal is God.”
The Castro agents gave him 50 Cuban convertible pesos, the equivalent of $50, and walked him to the gate.
He resigned himself to the life of an exile, praying that God had something better waiting for him on the other side of the flight.
“I didn’t want to stay and lose more years without my son. The only family I have are my nephew and my son. They would put me in prison and make my son and nephew’s life hard, having to send me things in prison. It would be a waste of years of life for a cause that – I know God will end that [the dictatorship],” he said, reflecting on the option of exile. “I consider that I have done a lot. I have proven to the people of Cuba that, if you unite, you can do it, because that dictatorship is propped up by the fact that the Cuban people don’t do anything, they just want freedom to show up. And I can’t take this on all on my own because Cuba isn’t mine, it is of all Cubans.”
His main concern, he adds, is that the regime will use his 19-year-old son Eliezer as a hostage to try to silence him now that he is free.
“I would like to get him out because now, indisputably, state security, I fear, will play a dirty trick on him … His mother does not agree that he should be doing this with me, so something that made me feel more indifferent about leaving was that I had already lost the support of the mother since they had arrested her son like three times with me,” he told Breitbart News. “I was alone with God and with my son, but he was between a rock and a hard place – between state security, his mother, and me. I preferred to abandon and continue the struggle alone.”
“But I am worried they will do something to him, give him a job and entrap him, I don’t know, to pressure me to be silent. I don’t know! You can expect anything from these people,” he lamented.
Llorente does not speak English, and the language barrier became a problem immediately. On the flight, he was told to fill out a customs form in English. He said he tried to the best of his ability, which was, he admits, not much. He does not recall answering questions that would have alerted the Guyanese authorities to his forced expulsion, such as “What is the reason for your visit?” These questions are typically mandatory for anyone entering the country, Kaieteur News reported.
“They didn’t ask me anything, I just went through,” he said. “Since I don’t speak English, I handed over my passport … they didn’t ask me anything, and I walked out.”
Someone clearly stamped the passport he possesses, but Guyanese immigration authorities told Kaieteur News that they have no record of him. Nor is there any evidence that the Guyanese government has a public agreement with Cuba to aid the forced displacement of political dissidents, a question that Gildarie noted raises “questions about that country’s respect for Guyana’s sovereignty.” The Castro regime has not answered requests for comment from Martí News or Kaieteur.
“I don’t understand why the Guyanese government is making friends with a dictatorship that oppresses its people,” Llorente said. “From what I can see here, I see that the people [here] have abundances. In Cuba, there are a lot of shortages because of the government, but then I see that the Guyanese government makes friends with them. Cuba is a country that rejects God. I see here in this country people recognize God, and that is great, good because it brings with it happiness, peace, prosperity.”
Llorente credits Jesus Christ – and fellow Cubans – for his survival in Georgetown.
“In the Bible, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about money because God cares for His children, and I am a child of God, I don’t worry about that. It’s curious, ever since I got here, I have been spending $25 a day. In Cuba, I didn’t even spend $5 a day,” he said.
He long ago spent the money the Castro regime gave him, but two different Cubans, one a Cuban-American, stepped in to help. One paid for his taxi to an inn where he could stay. Another, who he says recognized him from media coverage of his protests and gave him a hug, left him enough money for food and lodging for ten days.
He has spent his days trying to get processed at the American embassy in Guyana and the Red Cross, as well as looking for work. He told Breitbart News that he found a gig unloading copper off a truck. He was offered $6,000 to do the work, but only received $3,000.
He then got word that a journalist in Guyana was looking for him and went to his office as soon as he could.
He does not want to stay in Guyana, but he asked “for the opportunity, if possible, to work because I don’t want to live on the charity of others.”
Llorente told Breitbart News his immediate plans are to return to the U.S. embassy and find work. At press time, he is believed to be doing both in Georgetown. Neither the Guyanese nor Cuban governments have issued statements of explanation for Llorente’s situation.
Llorente has faith that, no matter his fate, the Castro regime will fall soon, and only then will he return home: “When they put me on the plane like that, I decided I am not coming back until Cuba is free.”