“I am not being arrested for being a criminal, a drug dealer or a murderer! I am a peaceful man, a defender of the Cuban people human rights that Fidel violates! Long live Human Rights! Freedom for the political prisoners! Down with the dictatorship!”
Ángel Moya Acosta, Alamar, Havana, Cuba
March 19th, 2003
It was 4:40 pm on a breeze afternoon in the Eastern point of Alamar, the worker’s suburban neighborhood filled with Eastern-Germany block style buildings, East of Havana. Right in front of the ocean, it is during this month when the coldest temperatures are felt in the Caribbean’s island.
Luis Angel, 7, is coming home from the nearby school where he is in second grade, to the modest 1.5 bedroom apartment on the 3rd floor. As usual, Angel is waiting for the rambunctious kid to get home before heading to the old street near the shoreline for his daily jog, while the boy takes care of going to buy the daily ration of bread.
Berta Soler, Angel’s wife for 28 years, stays at home tackling the daily struggle of fixing dinner for the family of five. Angel and Bertica share the small apartment with their two children, Luis Angel and Lienys Caridad, 19.Maria Elena, Bertica’s sister, also lives with them.
Ten minutes later, Bertica sees Angel coming back from his jog. Too soon, she thought. And he is not alone; he is being escorted by five agents of the government’s state security.
“When I asked what was going on, another four agents entered the house like if it was their own, hauling huge video cameras and recording everything they wanted,” remembers Bertica. I asked again what was going on and they told me they have a search order and that they were coming with two witnesses from the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).
“I asked what they were looking for”, she says, “and they replied ‘subversive materials.’”
Walking down the hill from the supermarket, with his family ration of bread, the seven year old boy sees a crowd gathering in the corner of his building. Quickly, a couple of neighbors stopped him, preventing him from getting closer to the scene. They convinced him to stay with them, sitting, in the water tank of the building right across from his, where he could see from the distance…
“From that distance [my son] couldn’t realized what was happening and all of the sudden, the only thing he sees is how is father is being arrested, handcuffed and dragged down the stairs by the state security agents, while shouting to the top of his lungs ‘I am not being arrested for being a criminal, a drug dealer or a murderer! I am a peaceful man, a defender of the Cuban people human rights that Fidel violates! Long live Human Rights! Freedom for the political prisoners! Down with the dictatorship!’”
Bertica remembers that Angel was taken away immediately, that he was not present while their house was being searched. “They told me to shut up because they had other two police cars ready and waiting for me,” she says, “and I told them that we had to scream and shout because there were near 300 people outside watching and they needed to know that all that was not related to drugs.”
Around those months of what is now called the Black Spring of 2003, Cuban authorities were also conducting anti drug operatives to halt the increasing drug traffic in Havana.
“We don’t want any confusion and I want them to know who (Angel) is. Besides, I am not afraid of you, if you want to arrest me, go ahead, but will have to take me away with my children.”
The search process in the tiny apartment started at 5:45 pm and ended at 1:45 am. They took a radio, a charger, books, manuscripts and a tape with some sort of war movie.
They left everything all messed up. They even searched the garbage cans. The children ate dinner that night thanks to some neighbors that fed them. They were allowed to enter the house again at 2 am, took quick bath and went to sleep some before getting ready for school in matter of hours. Then, Bertica started the long journey of being the wife of a political prisoner in Cuba, by trying to find out where Angel was jailed, to bring him some basic items.
It was the holiday’s season, December 1992, in Pedro Betancourt, a small town in the Matanzas province, East of Havana, Cuba. Berta Soler Fernandez, 19, was a Microbiology technician when she met Angel Moya Acosta, 18, at a popular party in their hometown. Angel was a cadet starting in the Armed Revolutionary Forces (FAR).
After six years on a long distance relationship (Berta got a job in Havana and had to move to the capital, while Angel was still stationed in Matanzas) they got married on October 16th, 1988. Angel was being sent on a mission to the war in Angola. They wanted to formalize their relationship before his deployment.
“Our relationship was like that since the beginning, long distance,” says Berta. “But it was the distance what gave us the strength to keep going and our love grew more each day we were apart.”
She remembers his family was very “communist” and blindly supporters of the regime. “I was the one that was always teasing him and making him uncomfortable criticizing the government while he was trying to justify it.”
That changed when Angel was deployed to Angola, fulfilled his mission and came back home. “He came back completely changed. He was not replying to my comments the same thing he used to say before. Angola changed his life.”
The couple bore two children, Lienys Caridad, born in 1991, and Luis Angel, born in 1995. A couple of years after Lienys was born, Angel was discharged from the military, (his sworn commitment was for five years) and got a job at a welding facility in his hometown, in the Matanzas province.
According to his wife, when Angel returned from his military mission in Angola, he started to meet people involved with the human rights movement in the island. . By 1995, he started visiting churches and develops relationships with members of a movement called “Pedro Luis Boitel”. Later on, Angel created the movement “Alternative Option” / Opcion Alternativa, filling the duties as hair of the movement in 1997. By then, he is a human rights activist and a supporter of civil and human rights for all Cubans.
“It was June 1999 when he first told me about what he has been doing,” says Berta. “He knew what was coming after him was not gonna be easy and he decided to tell me.”
She confesses she didn’t have the best of the reactions to the news. “I told him: ‘don’t get in trouble with the government, they have all the power and you are not going to solve the problems of the Cuban’s people.” “It was a shock for me. I told him he didn’t ask for my opinion before the fact and that now, our entire family would suffer the consequences.”
“To do this, I don’t need anybody’s permission,” said Angel. “My decision and my determination are important, and [I’m doing it also] thinking in my family. I am doing this for the well being of all of us, for the freedom of my people and that’s why I am telling you.”
He told her he wouldn’t pressure her to support him, nor did he ask her to continue to be married to him. “I love you and I love my children, but your [position] is not going to change my decision to fight…”
Berta says her love for him was so strong that she was able to overcome that initial shock and their relationship continue like it was since the first day they met. “I was not directly involved with any activity, but at least I was mentally prepared for whatever could come after us.”
“I remember Angel as a decent and quiet man, sometimes borderline shy. Tall, athletic and with bright ebony skin, he didn’t talk much, but was always smiling. He and I would stomp into each other at the local gym, or jogging by the coastline. I would have never ever imagined he was having such courage…” --Cubanita, writer on this site and former neighbor of Angel and Berta.
“He used to tell me all Cubans sufferings were being caused by a horrible government that didn’t care about its people,” says Berta.
His wife describes him as a quiet man, respectful, who enjoys working out, reading, writing and someone who has never allowed anybody to violate his rights. “Even in the middle of the Special Period, he never complained in public places where he could cause trouble to bystanders. He protested in his workplace, in the face of the big bosses and where any government official could hear him.”
She said as a father, he is very good and caring. “A little strict, I would add, but he is the best father.” When Lienys was born, he was afraid to even hold her, but little by little he started to lose his fears and when the baby was five months old and Bertha had to return to work, he basically became a stay-at-home Dad. “When the boy was born, he was already a pro.”
“My children had suffered the separation from their father, but thanks God, they have not been traumatized [by these circumstances]. I talk to them a lot, so in the future, they can be good woman and man, and thanks to this suffering, they won’t be easily fooled.”
"Our Mom has been a Lady in White since the government jailed our Dad, when they decided to get together and walk the streets to ask the government to release their relatives. Little by little, the people have learned about the Ladies in White and our classmates and their parents are starting to show more respect towards them. They say ‘that’s a right they have to protest’ and they congratulate us for standing up for our father. We’re not saying they are better off, but they are indeed more recognized and respected." "We are both very proud of having the mother and the father we have, with the courage to raise their voices against the injustices this government is doing against our people." --Luis Angel & Lienys, Angel Moya Acosta and Berta Soler Fernandez's children.
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Angel Moya Acosta is jailed in the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, serving a 20 years sentence. He was arrested on March 19th, 2003 –during the Black Spring where the Cuban government arrested and jailed 75 peaceful dissidents, independent journalists, librarians and human rights activists. He has served 7 years and 8 months of his sentence, enjoying a relative good health, considering the conditions where the government keeps political prisoners.
He is one of the 11 prisoners of conscience who didn’t accept the government’s offer to be released if they accepted exile in Spain, which they consider a deportation scam. According to his wife, Lady in White Berta Soler Fernandez, Angel says he respects other political prisoner’s decision to accept the government’s deal, in order to have every body else respecting his. “He says no one can force him to leave his homeland and if he decides to do at some point in the future, it will be on his own terms, and to the country of his choice.”
PS-This interview, originally in Spanish, was obtained, electronically, from a direct conversation between the blogger an Berta Soler Fernandez.