Cuba: “Police Brutality” or “Natural Causes” in Dissident's Death?”

UPDATE: Wednesday, May 11, 2011 – 9:15 a.m.: Babalu links to a medical report [ES] which leads him to surmise that:

Several months ago, Soto Garcia was examined by doctors and of the many ailments suffered by the activist and documented in their report, pancreatitis was not one of them. The pancreatitis that afflicted and ultimately killed Soto Garcia came suddenly, and most likely from the brutal and violent blows he was subjected to by Castro State Security agents.

The blogger also notes that “members of the opposition and dissidence in Cuba are calling for an international investigation into the murder of opposition member Juan Wilfredo Soto”, while Pedazos de la Isla observes:

After the assassination of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, which occurred this past May 8th, those who wield power in Cuba have unleashed another wave of repression against dissidents on the island.


Cuban bloggers continue their outcry over the death of dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto, especially in light of an official statement which suggests that Soto, popularly known by his nickname “The Student”, died “of natural causes”.

On hearing the position of the Cuban government, Uncommon Sense quips:

That could be true, of course, because in Cuba under Castro, the police beating a dissident is as natural as it comes.

Then his tone becomes serious, saying:

But the party line has been undermined by witnesses who have stepped forward to tell what they know about Soto's death. The party line is being undermined by the truth.

For instance, there is Mario Lleonart Barroso who says he spoke to Soto after he was beaten and before he was readmitted to a hospital in severe pain.

The blogger also speaks of “other witnesses ready to testify not to what they saw but ready to risk their own lives to ensure that justice prevails in Soto's death” as well as “numerous dissidents ready to go on hunger strike if by July 26, 2011, the dictatorship does not properly investigate what happened to Soto.” One dissident has reportedly already begun [es] his hunger strike.

The two accounts of Soto's death could not be more contradictory, with local dissidents insisting that he had been beaten by police and officials maintaining that his “acute pancreatitis…led to multiple organ failure” and calling the allegations of police brutality a “‘smear campaign’ aimed at weakening the Cuban revolution.”

Babalu does not accept the official line, saying:

Apparently, a vicious and brutal beating by State Security is considered a natural cause of death in Cuba.

The blog also takes issue with this post, saying:

Once again we have a ‘Cuba Expert’ blaming the victim instead of the assailant. Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia is dead not because Cuban security agents beat him to death, but because Soto Garcia ‘resisted their entreaties to leave the area.’

Meanwhile, Pedazos de la Isla spares a thought for Soto's mother, who “must accept the harsh reality of no longer being able to see her son just because chose to defend human rights in a country where all that is just is considered illegal.” The blogger goes on to question the position of the Cuban government:

The only thing that is clear is that they have responded with fear, quickly asserting that it was all a lie. Now we must wait and see if the international media will repeat the absurd fallacies created by the Castro government, as many did with Orlando Zapata.

Octavo Cerco offers a more personal perspective on the situation:

The last image I have of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia is at my side running around under the Santa Clara’s relentless sun. We tried to get permission from the Bishop so that Padre Dominico–who had come halfway around the world to get to Cuba–could go see Guillermo Fariñas in Intensive Care at the scheduled visiting hours.

Now I look at the photo in Penultimos Dias of the Student and I don’t recognize him. It must be that I refuse to accept that they beat him to death. It must be that I can’t admit that this time of horror has come to this Island. And I ask myself–is it the obvious uncertainty of rationalism–how many Wilfredos have there already been and how many are still to come? While sitting in a park, an incomprehensible crime, the massive weight of half a century of police impunity falling on his body.

Finally, the blogger goes on to say of the Cuban police, whom she calls “anonymous faces in blue”:

For a long time people have feared them more than the thieves, scammers and criminals. “Call the police” has become the last card in the deck. Because justice does not come with them. Because they are not here to protect us, but to control us at any price.

The thumbnail image used in this post is by Flickr user quinn.anya and is used under a Creative Commons License Deed Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0). Visit quinn.anya's flickr photostream.


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