Cubans who defy Castro regime face intimidation and psychological torture

Juan Tamayo in The Miami Herald:
Man accuses Cuban agents of insidious, ‘psychological’ intimidation

A man who threw a party for a friend in a punk-rock band that has been critical of Fidel Castro says that he has been the target of a ‘psychological’ campaign of intimidation.

Oscar Casanella, a 35-year old cancer researcher in Havana, says he just wanted to have a party for Ciro Díaz, a close friend who plays in a punk-rock band.

Problem is, Díaz is lead guitarist for Porno Para Ricardo, a band whose expletive-filled lyrics include attacks on Cuba’s former ruler, Fidel Castro: “The Comandante wants me to applaud after he’s spoken his delirious s—.”

So Casanella’s party turned into an example of how Cuba’s communist system tries to grind down the citizens it finds objectionable, starting out with low-level threats and ratcheting up the pressure if the targets refuse to change their behavior.

Cuban police and State Security agents can beat dissidents, arrest them for brief periods to harass or intimidate them, search their homes, seize their phones and computers, listen in on their conversations, and throw them out of school.

“But they also have psychological pressures, like anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night, a car that comes too close, an agent who stands there just to make sure you know he’s watching you,” dissident Guillermo Fariñas told a Miami audience last year.

Casanella said Díaz, a friend since high school, called him at the end of a trip to Europe to say that he was returning to Havana on Dec. 6, 2013, a Friday. Casanella promised him a welcome-back party at his own home that Saturday.

“That’s where the Kafka-esque machinery started,” wrote Lilian Ruiz, who first reported the case July 4 on Cubanet, a Miami-based portal for news on Cuba.

On the Thursday before the party, four elderly men and women he did not know approached him as he left his home in the Plaza neighborhood of Havana and threatened him, Casanella told el Nuevo Herald on Thursday.

“They said, ‘You cannot have any activities or parties these days,’ that other people could harm me, and they also could harm me,” he said. He asked what right they had to threaten him, but they refused to identify themselves and walked away.

Casanella said he presumed the four knew about the party from State Security monitors of Diaz’s telephone calls or perhaps his own. He has attended meetings of the dissident group Estado de SATS but said he does not consider himself to be a dissident.

He phoned police the same night to report the incident but got nowhere, he said. When he went to his nearest police station Saturday, officers refused to write down his complaint. But they called in one of the men who had threatened him “and in front of me told him to stop and treated him like a little child.”

Neighbors later told him the four were former officials of his neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, a pro-government watchdog organization, who were operating as a sort of auxiliary to State Security, said Casanella.

He walked out of the police station thinking the harassment would stop. But as he arrived home, two men in civilian clothes identified themselves as State Security agents and asked to talk to him inside the house — but refused to show any IDs.

“They looked more like delinquents than officers, and I said no,” Casanella said. The men then turned up the threats. “They said they could mess up my life, mess up my family, put me in jail, that I could think whatever I wanted, but not say it.”

The party nevertheless went on that Saturday, the researcher said, with about 50 people dancing and drinking plus four men in civilian clothes watching the front and back of the house and a neighbor writing down the license plates of all the cars parked outside.

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