Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina

* 1969  

  • "I managed to form the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy on the national level. This was our challenge - prepare the youth and fight for a university reform. Enthusiastic, I travelled all the time and met new people. In Guantanamo, we first got in conflict with the political police. I practically had to go underground. This means that I hadn't had a permanent address. I started dating a girl who then became my wife and the mother of my children - but I had nowhere to live. I had to stay with a colleague one night, in the park the other, in the courtyard yet another. I got used to a fairly rough lifestyle which required a strict discipline but I think I made it hard for the regime. In 2004, I presented the university management a draft reform project. I coordinated the action with several young people. My then-girlfriend and other passed the project on to the school board at Universidad de Oriente in Santiago de Cuba, initiating a debate. It was a coordinated action targeting three main Cuban universities."

  • "They placed me in an interrogation facility in San José in Havana Campo. It was my first time under arrest, I had no experience with that. Suddenly, I found myself in a locked-up cell and lost sense of time. At whichever day or night hour, they brought me for an interrogation and then put me back again. I lost sense of time, plus it was in December and it was very cold. I didn't even know what time it was. They just brought me away, put me in a room where I had to strip and stand on a chair where I was exposed to cold air from an air-conditioning. I had to stand at attention. I didn't resist them. Frankly, I was very much afraid. I was as scared as a rabbit. I was strong in my mind and believed my case but I was scared. An officer in heavy boots put his legs on the table. Whenever I bent my knee to rest a bit, he hit the table with a baton: 'Boom!' I was trembling like a little dog. I had to stand at attention once again. I don't even know how long was I exposed to this torturing practice."

  • "To fight means to buy a bag of something and sell it someplace else. This is the way people managed to survive all those years because the government was unable to supply the market or give the Cuban people a decent salary. That's why people have to 'fight' and they do it this way. In prison, you get to meet lots of good people who are victims of a wilful and tyrannic system. The regime created this situation by its socialist planning and then punished the people for the failure of this experiment. The result were bankrupt young people. Once they ended up in prison, they had a stigma. Whoever gets to prison is exposed to danger. Either of not surviving, or of sticking behind for a number of years. In many cases, people ended up in prison because of some silly thing like stealing a pidgeon or a can of oil. This complicated their lives for years to come."

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If you want to fight, you have to believe in your case

Rolando Rodriquéz Lobaina / Miami / 2017
Rolando Rodriquéz Lobaina / Miami / 2017
photo: Post Bellum

Rolando Rodriguéz Lobaina was born on 3 May 1969 in the city of Baracoa in Guantanamo province in the easternmost tip of Cuba. He was one of seven children. In 1987, he began studying IT at a university in Havana, which is where he got to understand the very essence of the communist regime. After graduation, he started working as an engineer in an aluminium factory where he got less then a dollar for two weeks. In 1994, he and five other people attempted to flee from Cuba. They used a simple boat to sail out towards the US but were captured. Their prosecution was ceased due to an amnesty. However, in 1996 Rolando was sentenced to time in prison for shouting out publicly: “Out with Fidel!” He spent six years in cruel conditions of Cuban prisons. After release, he became active in the dissident movement. He drafted a critical analysis of university education, which was read by thousands of students. In 2006, he was arrested once again, which sparked a wave of protests both in Cuba and abroad thanks to which he was released a month later. He carried on with protesting against the regime, organized civic resistance and travelled all around Cuba. He was being frequently arrested and had to hide. In 2010, he was exposed to public lynching orchestrated by the secret police, known as a so-called “act of repudiation”. In 2011, much of his family including his brother was forced to leave Cuba and move to Spain. Rolando stayed behind and remains active.