Blind Christian Dissident in Cuba Surrounded By Violent Crowds, Trapped in House

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Monday, January 16, 2006
By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife

CIEGO DE AVILA, CUBA (BosNewsLife)-- Cuba's influential blind Christian dissident, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, was facing another tense night Monday, January 16, after government backed crowds, armed with loudspeakers, reportedly threatened to storm his house and kill everyone inside.

Gonzalez Leiva, a lawyer and president of the Cuban Foundation of Human Rights, said the crowds began arriving Thursday, January 12, to carry out "psychological torture" to pressure him "by force to go into exile from Cuba" after his house arrest sentence ends March 4, 2006.

"They prevent me from leaving my house, and I am without food, drinking water, and electricity. We are suffocating from the heat," he said in an e-mail message obtained by BosNewsLife. "Those surrounding my home pound on my windows and my doors, and they have placed loudspeakers outside with blaring music 24 hours a day that prevents us from sleeping or resting," Conzalez Leiva added.

He estimated that up to 400 people "begin these vandalistic acts at dawn and continue until 11:00 at night. At that time, police and State Security agents surround my house. This is repeated daily to the rhythm of deafening music."


Gonzales Leiva said the mobs that surround his home in the city of Ciego de Avila, 460 kilometers (287.5 miles) east of Havana, "range from criminals to university students that are brought [by local military officials and the national government] to shout governmental slogans in aggressive language and obscene words through microphones."

They were allegedly threatening "to enter the house with military tanks, that they are going to burn all of us up, and that we are antisocial persons at the service of imperialism, among other things."

Among others trapped in his house in the city of Ciego de Avila, 460 kilometers (287.5 miles) east of Havana, were Tania Maseda Guerra, an activist of the Cuban Foundation of Human Rights, and Tania Maseda Guerra, an independent journalist, he said.


Several family members and friends trying to enter his home were apparently beaten. Gonzales Leiva accused the Cuban government of keeping his father, Agustin Gonzalez, as a "hostage" as they refuse to let him leave the Communist island although he has a visa to travel to the United States. "This is a tactic used to pressure me so that I leave the country as well," he said.

As the stand-off continued, Gonzalez, a Baptist Christian, said he found strength in his faith. "Jesus Christ is with us. He is accompanying us, and He gives us victory and peace. We are not going to lift a finger against anyone nor are we going to commit any crime," he stressed. "Whatever happens here is the responsibility of State Security, Cuban military officials, and the Cuban government."

The 41-year old dissident has been living under house arrest following his release from prison where he served over two years on what human rights groups described as "trumped up charges" of "disorderly conduct, disrespect for authority, disobedience and resisting arrest."


Gonzales Leiva and nine others were arrested on March 4, 2002, after staging a protest at the Antonio Luaces Iraola provincial hospital, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) east of Havana, where independent journalist Jesus Alvarez Castillo was reportedly being treated for injuries from a confrontation with police.

However "I am not afraid at all. These people threaten that they are going to enter my home, but they will have to take me by force. If I withstood 26 months in prison under daily torture by Cuban military officials, harassed, beaten up, and poisoned by chemical substances from which I still suffer, then I will withstand inside my house for 26 months more," he said.

He thanked international media and human rights groups for having an impact, saying the violence shows that the government of President Fidel Castro was falling apart. Castro has denied the existence of dissidents in his country. He described them as "mercenaries" of the United States who oppose his revolution.

The reported stand-off comes amid fresh concern among human rights groups over reports of persecution of dissidents and Christians, including controversial legislation that effectively restricts house churches and led to the closure of several congregations. (With BosNewsLife Research and BosNewsLife News Center and reports from Cuba).

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