Up to 10:30am (EST) this morning I could find no mention in the online versions of mainstream media outlets of the detention of Dr. Dariel “Darsi” Ferrer Ramírez and the attempted gassing of his young son by Cuban authorities on September 1, 2006. The incident has been reported, however, on independent news resources like Net for Cuba and Payolibre.com, as well as on several blogs.
According to Texas-based blogger Marc Masferrer, Ferrer, a Cuban dissident and head of the Centre for Health and Human Rights “Juan Bruno Zayas” in Havana, “has a considerable public profile, in part because of his use of e-mail access provided by the U.S. Interests Section to transmit the work of dissident journalists, and his own writings” (Internet access in Cuba is reported to be restricted to a privileged few). Ferrer's writings are distributed via e-mail as well as published on portals like cubamatinal.com, which lists Ferrer as a columnist. Ferrer also appears on this list of indepedent journalists in Cuba.
Masferrer links to a perhaps slightly histrionic Wall Street Journal profile from March 2006, which describes Ferrer as “an Afro-Cuban medical professional who, noting the country's abysmal state of health care, established an independent health and human rights clinic. . . . a faceless soul behind the Tropical Iron Curtain, with a family to care for and living on practically nothing. . . .” whose “race also works against him. Independent thinking is heresy for any Cuban but Afro-Cubans are taught to be especially grateful for — and obedient to — the Revolution. They are supposed to signal to the world that though they may appear poor, malnourished and oppressed, they are actually living contentedly on Master Fidel's plantation. . . .” The article also says that while Ferrer “has been regularly harassed and terrorized by the government's infamous ‘repudiation squads,’ organized mob violence unleashed against non-conformers,” a raid by uniformed Cuban police on November 29, 2005 “was the first time the regime sent uniformed agents to his home.”
The main source of information on Dr. Ferrer's latest encounter with the Cuban authorities seems to be a message from his wife Yusnaimy Jorge Soca which has been widely republished, paraphrased and quoted in the blogosphere. Cubamatinal.com (ES) appended a disclaimer to the message saying that attempts had been made to contact Ferrer's wife and other Cuban activists to verify the message's authenticity. An editorial note (ES) appended to Jorge Soca's message at news portal payolibre.com, however, states that the information had been corroborated by both the president and public relations secretary of the Cuban Liberal Movement, both of whom were reportedly with Ferrer at the time of his arrest. Dr. Eloy González, a Cuban doctor based in Fort Worth, Texas, writes on his blog that he received Jorge Sosa's message via email, and offers this translation:
Yesterday in the early hours, 2.30 am, Dr. Darsi Ferrer Ramirez, was arrested arbitrarily by about 50 members of the Political Police, dressed as policemen, without shields, in 12 police cars.
With guns drawn, they loudly knocked on the door. He was immediately handcuffed and takes, without pants, shoes or a shirt, who knows where. They left our 5-year-old son alone in the house, because I was with my mother, who was feeling ill, at her house
Darsi told them that our son was alone and asked that he be allowed to take him (son) with them. They paid no attention to him. But, before leaving, they turned on the gas and closed the door. Thanks to the help of some neighbors, who quickly went to find me, we were able to break a window, enter, and rescue the child still alive.
The whereabouts of Darsi were unknown until 6:11am, when an official from the Ministry of Interior arrive to tell me where (in which unit) he was detained. At approximately 8 am he was released.
At this moment, around 1:00 pm,Dr.Darsi Ferrer Ramirez was arbitrarily arrested again on the corner of the Interests Office, which he was about to enter. Giving no explanation, he was taken away again. I am now going to look for him and hope to find him in a unit and not in another place. I’m sending this message to inform you that I, Yusnaimy Jorge Sosa, hold responsible and accuse the government, the National Security and everyone who was involved in this attempt to murder my son, Dariel Ferrer Jorge, who is only 5 years old, and my husband, Darsi Ferrer Ramirez.
Jorge Soca's message was republished as well at the prominent anti-Castrol blog Babalú and also mentioned at Publius Pundit, which links to a statement (ES) from Pedro Leonel Ordoñez, president of the Cuban Liberal Movement elaborating on the reported attempt by the authorities to gas Ferrer's young son and on Ferrer's seizure by agents in front of the U.S. Interests Section (Ordoñez was with Ferrer at the time of the arrest).
Marc Masferrer, who says he has been receiving Ferrer's e-mails since “earlier this summer”, offers his own theories as to why this latest incident may have taken place:
— Ferrer has a considerable public profile, in part because of his use of e-mail access provided by the U.S. Interests Section to transmit the work of dissident journalists, and his own writings.
— In his latest message, which I received last month, Ferrer demanded the government hold a plebiscite on whether Raúl Castro should succeed his brother as dictator.
“The hereditary succession to another old, sick military man to govern the destiny of Cuba is considered by many to perpetuate an unnatural, undemocratic and irrational dynasty,” Ferrer wrote.
And thus, in charge of silencing critics like Darsi Ferrer.
This morning, Masferrer posted information for those who wish to help bring about Ferrer's release.