Why is the regime being so harsh on Eduardo Cardet? The situation of this opposition doctor, a leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), has deteriorated ever since he was violently arrested in front of his home in the town of Velasco, Holguín, on November 30, 2016, five days after the death of Fidel Castro.
Initially his arrest was attributed to statements related to the deceased dictator, but reprisals against other activists and citizens who refused to comply with the official mourning period, or criticized Castro, have ceased, while Cardet continues to languish in jail, suffer beatings, and his family receives threats and abuse.
The doctor was sentenced to three years in prison "for the alleged crime of an attack," with the Provincial Court of Holguin ratifying the sentence in May of 2017. Months ago the organization for the defense of human rights, Amnesty International (AI), declared him a "prisoner of conscience" and called for urgent action towards his "immediate and unconditional release."
DIARIO DE CUBA talked to activists, relatives and people who know Cardet, to trace a profile of this activist.
Regis Iglesias, MCL spokeswoman: At the end of 2016 Eduardo was visiting Miami. We were together in meetings with other leaders of the movement, and several Cuban-American political figures. While he was here, his wife was told that when he returned he would be sentenced to 15 years (in prison).
It is often said that he was arrested after some statements he made after Fidel Castro's death, but he was being threatened with imprisonment before that. Obviously, his imprisonment was not for what he said after the death, but rather the work he was doing on the island with ''One Cuban, One Vote", and also for his activities abroad. We had been with the mayor of Miami, Tomás Regalado, and had gone to the office of Senator Marco Rubio, and Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart, among other figures.
The "One Cuban, One Vote" initiative was presented to the National Assembly of Popular Power, and this demand was placed in the hands of each representative. It seems that they began to fear this campaign, which demands a new electoral law that recognizes free elections, in which all Cubans can vote and be elected.
Yaimaris Vecino, Eduardo Cardet's wife: I cannot explain this. Eduardo has not committed any crime but freethinking and acting in accord with his thoughts. It is the only thing my husband has done, his political activism, because he does not know how to live any other way. Those are the principles on which he bases his existence. There are few people who base their existences on their convictions. Maybe that's why they have been so harsh on him.
Rosa Escalona, Lady in White: His imprisonment is part of the regime's repeated attacks on all those who defend human rights. They want to get rid of us. We are exposed to aggression, incarceration and, even death threats. They do not want these groups to develop or for there to be any opposition or activists. So they send us to jail.
Dámaso Fernández Canales, a patient of Cardet's and an independent unionist: he has been imprisoned for expressing what he thought at that time (after the death of Fidel Castro), and that is not a crime. He had already been sanctioned at his workplace other times. They sent him to work in Guabasiabo.
He is being punished because he is a potential danger to the system, for expressing what he thinks, for being an example for the community, and for being a voice that people listen to.
Miriam Cardet Concepción, Eduardo's sister: they must see him as a figure, I would say, of importance, of value, because he is a man of integrity. I do not know how to explain this imprisonment of an upright person. Their illegal and unjust conduct cannot be justified, from my point of view. Under no circumstances can anyone be treated like this.
Who is Eduardo Cardet?
Yaimaris Vecino: Eduardo is a doctor of humble origins. He was born into a rural family. It was a struggle for him to graduate. He is a magnificent man, as a father, and as a husband. I have no complaints about him. He is a man of integrity and honesty, and accepts the consequences of being so.
And he is a wonderful doctor. In the town they consider him a very good man. He is irreproachable in the exercise of his profession, very upright. He passed many courses, and he knows how to do many things that transcend his classification, which is that of a general practitioner, a family doctor. He knows how to conduct different types of ultrasounds and, in addition, has taken several courses, such as one on practical electrocardiography. In general, he is a doctor with more than 20 years of work.
As a father he is very devoted in the upbringing of his children, very aware of their needs. He had ably balanced his work, his activism and his duties as a father, until he was locked up. And he had always done it very well.
Miriam Cardet Concepción, sister: My brother is a responsible, serious, and very intelligent man, in every area. He is a dignified man, decent, and capable in his profession.
Since childhood, I have always been aware of his virtues. He was always very measured, mature. His primary school teachers asked my parents how he could ask so many astonishing questions.
Dámaso Fernández Canales: He treated me and my mother very well. As a doctor, I think he is very good. He takes great interest in his patients. In general, he is a good doctor, a good person, and a good politician. He is a dissident who is suffering an unjustly imposed punishment. Prisoners like him are unfairly prosecuted, under draconian laws.
Regis Iglesias: Eduardo is my friend, firstly. Above all, he is the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement in Cuba. He is a decent, honorable and upright person, who was elected as coordinator of the MCL two years after the assassination of Oswaldo Payá. He is a good father, a good husband, a good friend, and a man serving the people of his community as a doctor.
What consequences has this arrest had for the family?
Yaimaris Vecino: We have two children, 12 and 14 years old. The arrest has affected their performance at school. They are psychologically affected, especially our eldest.
In primary school stage he was an excellent student, with very high marks, but since this problem his grades have gone into a tailspin. He is distracted, aggressive at times, and really feels helplessness about everything he witnessed (the day of the arrest). Above all, he is affected by what he has been deprived of: his father's company.
Everything has affected him a lot. He has symptoms of depression. It has become difficult because the boy does not want to see a psychologist. I cannot convince him, no matter what I do. His father tries to do what he can by phone, to support him, but it is not like having him here. In this very difficult stage of adolescence, they are both going through an ordeal without their dad.
In terms of family stability, from the emotional and economic point of view, she has been affected. We live very apprehensive about what might happen to him where he is being held.
His parents (she is 72 and he is 76) are sick, and have had a hard time of it, as they live quite secluded in the countryside, and he was the person who always looked after them, assisting them with their health and their finances.
My parents-in-law are also in charge of three grandchildren (aged 14, 15 and 19), the children of Eduardo's sister, who died delivering the last child. It has been very hard for everyone.
Miriam Cardet: It is sad what we are going through now as a family. With him gone, we lack something important: the person in charge of the family, and also the family doctor. It has been terrible and painful. Our first-born sister died 14 years ago and he is the second, the oldest of us three (me and my other brother, who lives outside of Cuba).
Everything they have done to him is unfair, and it hurts a lot to see him where he is, and to see his integrity questioned. In spite of everything, his strength shines through. He has not done anything wrong or hurt anyone.
To me, as a sister, I am worried that he might have contracted some kind of infection due to the wounds he suffered in his abdomen (on December 19, when he was attacked by three prisoners). Everyone recognizes his integrity. He had just arrived at the prison, and they should not have done that to him.
Is the international coverage of his case sufficient?
Regis Iglesias: I don't think it has had the desired impact, because we are talking about a person who they even tried to murder a few weeks ago, and his would-be killers not only go unpunished, but they are left near Eduardo.
Amnesty International has declared him a prisoner of conscience, and is carrying out a worldwide campaign for his freedom.
Spain's Peace and Cooperation Foundation has also released a manifesto signed by at least three ex-presidents of the European Parliament and several other figures, along with former Cuban political prisoners, musicians, writers, and artists.
In this regard we are heartened by the reactions of people who love freedom, but we believe that the world should be made more aware of Eduardo's case, as he is a person who is doing important work in Cuba on behalf of those who yearn to be free.
Yaimaris Vecino: I don't know if my husband's case has made an impact, because there are few movements that communicate with the family. International has done a lot.
Although we don't hear much, or have much access to the Internet, I think that the case has been covered. I know because of the little we see on the networks when we connect, and friends abroad who tell us.
Miriam Cardet: At the international level, from my point of view, I think that he could be given more support. As a Cuban, and as a citizen of the world, we should all help people.
In my country we have tried to speak out, but we have not achieved anything. Thus, I would appreciate any help from people of good will around the world who can support us.
My father himself asked the Church for help, and even tried to turn to the Pope. I do not know to what extent we could receive international help.
How would you assess Cardet's work as a dissident?
Regis Iglesias: Eduardo joined the MCL after the arrests of 2013, during the "Black Spring". He continued to lead the Movement at that time, which was very difficult. He worked on the Varela Project. He began to gather around him a group of activists from Velasco and other Holguín localities, and his work immediately had an impact, not only on the Varela project, but also because the people recognized him as a leader in his town.
For us, at the national level, he also began to be one of the leaders that stood, and stands, as a role model.
He has suffered many reprisals for his work. The repressive bodies have arrested him countless times, and hit him. His house has even been raided, and he has been attacked inside.
They tried to drive him from his job as a family doctor in his locality. His neighbors and his patients protested and demanded that the health authorities reinstate him, and they succeeded.
After Oswaldo's murder we went two years without a national coordinator, because of the aftermath of that crime. In 2014 we conducted elections at a meeting that we were able to hold in Miami, with around 20 leaders of the movement, and Cardet was elected there. It is a position that he held showing integrity and real leadership, especially within Cuba
Rosa Escalona: I spent several years in the Christian Liberation Movement, at his side. He did a very good job, he was a strong and well-respected leader. During my time at the MCL, I never had complaints about him.
Eduardo Cardet is a good friend, a good person. He has ended up in prison, an ordeal many of us have already been through and that others, unfortunately, have to endure as part of our struggle. I wish we could free him, and all the political prisoners, as demanded by the Ladies in White.
Eduardo Cardet Today
In September the leader's family complained that Cardet should have been transferred to an open center, in accord with his sentence." More recently, in October, it expressed concern that he would be transferred to an even harsher facility, which is what ultimately happened.
Miriam Cardet, on behalf of the family, has complained to the municipal, provincial and national authorities.
The dissident's sister recently filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic, from which she is awaiting a response.
"I am complaining about the arrest, about the trial, which was biased, and about the errors. They will conduct a review of the case at the national level, about which I am awaiting an answer from the Supreme Court and the General Prosecutor's Office."