In 1991, Lamberto Hernandez was sentenced to six months in a Cuban prison for committing a petty crime. He just walked free last weekend – 23 years later.
After landing in jail on a charge of petty theft, Hernandez said he became more politically aware and active. What he calls his acts of defiance, like engaging in over a dozen hunger strikes and advocating prisoner boycotts, added years to his sentence.
In 2003, he broke a prison television as he shouted anti-government slogans during a televised speech by then-president Fidel Castro. That act, he said, extended his sentence by another decade. One word, he said, describes what was done to him over the last 23 years of his life – "unjust.”
Newly free, 45-year-old Hernandez says his only plan is to "keep fighting" and that "no one can stop me." Instead of breaking him, the time he spent in prison gave him the "courage" to continue, he said. "I feel stronger to keep fighting," said Hernandez.
Unlike other freed political prisoners who have left the island to live in countries like Spain or the U.S., Hernandez plans to “remain [in Cuba] because, God willing, I dream that change will happen tomorrow.”
According to the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the island’s jails currently hold some 90 political prisoners, including some held on short term detentions.
On Tuesday, U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who was sentenced to a 15-year prison term in Cuba in 2011, announced that he was going on a hunger strike to protest his treatment.
- Mary Murray