Héctor Luis Valdéz Cocho

* 1991

  • “They [the regime] are afraid. They are afraid, because for the first time in history, more than 500 young people gathered on the outskirts of a state institution, an institution of the Cuban regime, to demand our voices to be heard. I think that San Isidro became a flame. It became a spark from which spread a flame. That outrage that the entire artistic, intellectual, journalistic community and civil society in general felt was so huge, we felt that outrage for such a level of aggression against 13 young people who were protesting peacefully, demanding the freedom of a friend, and the closing of the Freely Convertible Currency [MLC] stores, which are absolutely inaccessible for the Cuban worker, for the Cuban who searches from sunrise to sunset for his dairy needs... There was so much outrage that this what happens now, has been sowed. The concentration of 500 young people came, all intellectuals, all artists, all journalists, there was not a single delinquent, there was not a single murderer, we were all intellectuals, artists or activists or journalists, demanding that government institution to, please, listen to us. To listen to us, we had to talk. Something was breaking down and we had to fix it. So, in a peaceful way we created chaos, we created a nerve, a fear of the Cuban regime, and that is what has brought with it after that November 27 [2020] all that wave of repression and aggression towards those 30 boys who entered the dialogue, regardless if they had or not anything in common with the San Isidro Movement.”

  • “I feel free. I don't feel like part of that hijacking of identity. It hurts me. It hurts me that they have kidnapped my flag, they have kidnapped my shield, my land, my palm, my tocororo bird, my butterfly. In other words, it hurts me that they have outraged me all my symbols, and they don't give me the chance to love and adore them for the simple fact of thinking differently.”

  • “The Cuban youth are making a total rejection of Castroism. The Cuban youth are rejecting the communist system. The Cuban youth and the majority of the Cuban people do not want a communist system for Cuba because over 60 years only what it has brought is misery to the Cuban society. In other words, even if they don't say it openly, even though there are few of us who raise our voices every day, whose voice goes out into the air and into the public eye to say 'enough', there are people who do, in silence from their homes, who do wish the end of communism.”

  • “From independent journalism to official journalism, the one who does a real job as a journalist is the independent journalist. Despite the censorship given by the Government to these independent newscasts, we are talking about the case of ‘14 y medio’, ‘Cubanet’ or ‘Diario de Cuba’, which are the agencies that are censored by the Cuban Government. But in neither of them there is a freedom of expression. Neither in official journalism, nor in the tabloid press, nor in independent journalism. In neither of them, there is a freedom of expression. Why? Independent journalism, being a journalism, logically, independent, which is not governed by any party, which simply does journalism without censorship, without covering this to put that… The independent journalism tells the news as they are. And for that reason, they censor and harass the independent journalism, depriving it of all kinds of rights. The official journalism also suffers from freedom of expression. Why? Because they have to become a spokesperson for the only party, which is the Communist Party, we are talking about the journalism of the Granma newspaper. The newspaper Granma says it itself: official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba. In other words, you are not a press, you are an official organ of a party. The press shall be free. You should be able to create any article just because you are a journalist. Journalism is impartial, it is not biased. And we are seeing it in the case of official journalists like Humberto López or Rafael Serrano, they follow a script placed on a table, and they have to say what their bosses tell them. In other words, you are not a journalist, you are simply a spokesperson for something the regime asked to be said. In other words, on both sides - in official journalism, and in independent journalism, they both suffer from freedom of expression.”

  • “I am a continuity of an underground that occurred before 1959. I am an underground in the 21st century, now in 2020. And indeed, I am the historical continuity of the open eyes of the University of Havana. I think that the University of Havana opened the eyes of the dictator Fidel Castro, it opened the eyes of thousands of young people who were at that moment at the University. And it opened my eyes and the eyes of many young people who are now clandestine in our own country.”

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    Cuba, 15.12.2020

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“It hurts me that they have kidnapped my Martí. But today, tomorrow, and always, we will be here for a free Cuba.”

Héctor Luis Valdéz Cocho
Héctor Luis Valdéz Cocho
photo: archivo del testigo

Héctor Luis Valdéz Cocho is a Cuban independent journalist born on January 20, 1991, in Havana. At the age of 29, when this interview was conducted, he was already considered one of the five most influential independent journalists on the island of Cuba by the European Parliament. His father left the country in 1994, and Héctor, still in his childhood, went to live with his grandmother to avoid further clashes with his mother. During the “Special Period” of the 1990s, Héctor experienced the reality of living and studying in a communist country with its official propaganda and field schools. After entering university at the Faculty of Social Communication at the University of Havana, his doubts about the system increased. He published critical articles on his blog ‘Alza tu voz, Cuba’ [Raise your voice, Cuba] anonymously during his studies. When State Security discovered his authorship, he was interrogated at Villamarista, harassed and humiliated, and experienced rejection and acts of repudiation, events that have shaped his personality as a freelance journalist. He continues to live in Havana with his partner Raúl.