Hamlet Lavastida has been released in exchange for our exile.
If this moment has arrived and you are reading this note, it is because Hamlet Lavastida and I have just stepped into the Schengen zone. We have taken the precaution of making our situation public at this point out of concern for our personal safety. Cuban State Security imposed exile on both of us as the only option for Hamlet’s release.
Since the beginning of his unusual detention, and during the 90 days that he was deprived of his liberty because of an investigation without grounds I, Katherine Bisquet, writer, and activist, have been the target of harassment, coercion, illegal deprivation of liberty (house arrest for 65 days), psychological torture, illegal detentions and threats of prosecution by Cuban State Security. Above all, I have been a victim of blackmail through which the authorities let me know that every day that passed without my obtaining a visa represented one more day in jail for Hamlet. My leaving the country was the bargaining chip for his release. I should also add that several people close to Hamlet, both family and friends, were subjected to the same blackmail.
Hamlet Lavastida was taken directly to the José Martí airport by State Security in the afternoon of September 25. He was moved from a protocol house where he had been held alone since September 20, the location of which is unknown. He was transported there with his head between his legs. I have also been transported by State Security to the José Martí airport from my apartment in Centro Habana, without allowing my father and family to see me off. In the same way, during this last week, I was taken by members of the repressive apparatus to finalize all my migratory procedures. They oversaw the expediting the process, immediately extending our passports, and providing the PCR tests required to be able to travel.
There is no justification here that can even minimally disguise the macabre plan that the state has exercised over our lives. This plan was called “political rationality”. On several occasions I heard more than one agent say that it was not convenient for them to have Hamlet imprisoned and that, due to this “political rationale”, they decided to release him under the condition that both of us would leave the country. In other words, they were not only referring to the departure of Hamlet, who always had the right to leave Cuba legally because he has a visa for Europe as the father of a Polish citizen. That “rationale” had to do with my departure, it was the bait thrown in due to our romantic relationship.
Something has been achieved by State Security. The reduced, uncivilized, and precarious space in which we are forced to coexist, causes us to naturalize and assimilate our repression. We do not do this passively, but consciously without of sense of it being strange, making the machinery of government more efficient and enduring. And this is precisely the cancer that has taken hold of Cubans for decades, the cancer that grows inside our souls. We have been violated, we have been expatriated, we have been murdered, we have been imprisoned, we have been censored, and it has all been done quietly, up close, in our own backyard, in our own homes.
The second time I saw Hamlet while imprisoned was during the PCR testing procedure on September 23. I didn’t know if I was happy or almost devastated. I remember asking Lieutenant Colonel Mario for one more hour to continue sitting next to Hamlet in what was the first Villa Marista and it today is the Museum of the Denunciation. Surely, we were just another piece of that museum for them. If Mario had given me one more hour, perhaps they would have succeeded in petrifying us. But his refusal suddenly brought me back to reality, to the need to keep moving, to keep articulating my words and my body. I must go on, I thought, I must go on. And I left that place with the desire to tear down every last brick. We will not be anyone’s pawns; we will not be the relics of a power that boasts of the control they have over the lives of so many Cubans. We have many things to do, many things to build. And that is why there can be no room for paralysis, for idleness, for defeat.
In the last few months something has changed. The people have expressed the will to change things. Today those Cubans are saving me and saving themselves. Today there are more than 800 people imprisoned or disappeared for demonstrating. Today my friends Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Maykel Osorbo and Esteban Rodriguez are imprisoned in maximum security jails for expressing themselves freely. Today I must resort to exile. Today the people are alive. And in all that there is hope. There is a strength to grow. A strength that accumulates in us.
Throughout this tortuous process I have been accompanied and supported by many friends and international organizations in charge of the protection of artists at risk and human rights defenders. To all of them our eternal gratitude. Very soon, and after a brief recovery, we will be giving our testimonies. Nothing will go unpunished. Every act of repression and every humiliation against our lives will be translated into an important part of my literature. Every detail, every word, every gesture, every body.
And as I said one day, with the strength I had left, at the doors of a Ministry, “may love and poetry be what unites the people”.