“Let me tell you something… If I had known, when I started writing for Cubanet, what it actually meant to be an independent journalist in Cuba, I would never have accepted it. Because I realize, not only for what they have done to me, but for what they have done to my other colleagues, that from the internal point of view, we are totally unprotected. Yes, we count with international solidarity, but here in Cuba, what we have is a bullet in the head.”
“Look, the food in the prison at that time was never good. But I saw things that I will never forget. I will never forget December 31, 1999, the first December 31 that I spent in prison, where all the prisoners were served rotten chicken. And when I tell you rotten, it was totally green. There was not a single person on that floor who could eat that. It had an unbearable stench. I saw people dying for lack of medical attention, because they didn't pay attention to them. I saw people who lost control and killed themselves because they couldn't stand these conditions. They placed me, together with the rest of the lawyers, on the best floor, at least as they called it, which was the workers' floor. And there were 23 people sanctioned for murder.”
“Well, first of all, I am going to tell you that I am completely convinced that the great factory of dissidents is the Cuban Government. The Cuban Government is the one that creates the dissidents. Let's assume that they commit an injustice with me. But if I go to a court or to a really fair and really independent institution that does not depend on anyone, and it gives me justice, I do not have to become a dissident. If the damage is repaired, if I am not marginalized by the statement I am making, if they give me my justice, I do not have to become a dissident. The person who becomes a dissident assumes this position when he begins to claim a right or justice, and he is being denied that right and that justice. When people begin to declare a right that is universally recognized and that this Government has ratified internationally and in practice, then that is when they become dissidents. I have always considered myself a dissident.”
“On my file, there were some red letters C-R written. Counterrevolutionary. I had been punished for a common crime. Why did they put me a C-R? I have not put a bomb in this country, I have not been a member of an opposition movement, I was just a lawyer who told the truth. But I was already considered a counterrevolutionary. And it may be that I had already had some problems with the State Security, but it was because of my status as a writer. But the truth is that when I entered the prison, I was identified as a counterrevolutionary. The prison was to me a brutal blow. The 49 days I spent in Operations, these I do not wish to any human being in this country or anywhere in the world. The food they give you is awful food. The conditions of these cells... Four men sleeping in a cubicle that barely exceeds the meter and a half wide, in total darkness, defecating in view of the whole world, having to drink water in a nib that is less than three inches from that filthy hole, bathing you when they put the water and sometimes even staying soaped, in a bed that was a piece of iron hanging with chains, full of dirt that when they gave us the opportunity to clean it, we saw all this filth which came out. It was really something terrible there. That was tremendous for me. I honestly never thought that there were such cells in Cuba.”
“And then I became in the first year [of his social service at the Juraguá Electronuclear Central] member of the Committee of the Directorate of Youth [Union of Young Communists]. I don't know if it was because of my education, maybe... I was a bit stiff with these issues, or I believed so much what they had taught me, that I couldn't admit that there was a leader who had a car waiting for him at Juraguá Castle to travel two kilometers, another car waiting for him to ride him to the other side of the bay, and another car in Cienfuegos. Three cars for one person. For me that was inconceivable. And they held parties at the expense of the public, of state money. And all that was publicly known. Because I was a legal advisor and the workers were coming to me to tell me. And in one of those romantic attacks that I have always had, I stood in front of all that Assembly of the Youth Committee and I told them all this. And that was the beginning... I always say that the beginning of my misfortunes is there at the Electronuclear Central. Because if I had been an obedient person, and I would have cared little less what I think, I would be today in the Central Committee of the Party, and I say it with absolute conviction.”
“I can tell you and I tell you without fear - I have been a very revolutionary person. But I've always been a troubled revolutionary. I actually never fitted in because I have not been and will never be a docile person, and I want God to give me strength to remain a docile person. I do not think that the destiny of the human being should be encased by what they say, but to search by your own means, and to discover the answers by yourself. And even today I can tell you that I strongly agree with some things that happen in our society. But I will never agree with the lack of freedom in it.”
“I am totally convinced that the great factory of dissidents is the Cuban Government.”
Roberto Jesús de Quiñones Haces was born on September 20, 1957, in Cienfuegos, Cuba, exactly two weeks after the country rebelled against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista under the leadership of Fidel Castro. His family was politically arbitrary - his father was Revolutionary-oriented, while the maternal part of his family was against the newly established regime. This difference of opinion notably marked Roberto’s childhood and youth. After having desired to become a member of the Young Communist Union, he was expelled in 1986 for ideological diversionism. In 1976 he began studying law at the “Marta Abreu” Central University of Las Villas, located in Santa Clara, Cuba. In 1978 he was voted student president of the Faculty of Law, which displeased the university authorities. In 1981 he graduated from law school and began his social service at the Juraguá Electronuclear Power Plant, from where he was expelled for relations with a Colombian, a foreigner, in 1982. At the Electronuclear Power Plant, his revolutionary character emerged, and his ideology took a significant turn towards dissent. When he returned with his former girlfriend (and current wife), he moved to Guantánamo, where he finished his legal training. However, his opinions often prevented him, or at least complicated, the exercise of his occupation. From 1998-1999, he defended a friend, a notary, accused of participating in an illegal sale of a property. After a series of complaints and letters expressing his disagreement with the treatment of his client, Quiñones himself was also charged in the same legal case and sentenced to eight years of deprivation of liberty and had his file marked with a red acronym of “CR” (“counterrevolutionary”). He served his sentence between 1999-2003 at the “Combinado de Guantánamo,” where he was conditionally released after four years for good behavior. After leaving the prison, he suffered from labor problems and persecution. In 2012, he began working for the independent newspaper, Cubanet. Since June 2013, he has suffered from incessant harassment, threats, and searches of his home. In April 2019, he received a fine for resisting arrest when leaving a court where he was defending his clients. He refused to pay the fine because he felt innocent. For this refusal, he was sentenced to a year of deprivation of liberty. In August 2019, the Court of Appeal again ratified the original sentence for failing to pay the fine, and on September 11, 2019, he was taken to prison to serve his sentence. Roberto Quiñones is also a writer - in 1991, he published his first book of poems, „The escape from heaven“ [“La fuga del cielo”], and has five books of poems published in Cuba and one in Miami. In 2001 he received a prize from Vitral magazine (in Pinar del Río) for his book of poems that he wrote while in prison.