Dr. Óscar Elías Biscet, regarded by many as Cuba’s foremost democracy activist, is a symbol of the general resistance to the Castro dictatorship. For this, Dr. Biscet was imprisoned essentially for 12 years for “dangerousness,” a common charge that means the individual in question will not submit meekly to dictatorial rule, writes Jay Nordlinger in National Review in April 2011.
In 1997, Biscet established the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights (“Lawton” being the name of the Havana neighborhood in which he lived). The organization, of course, is banned. In 1998, he spoke out strongly against abortion, particularly late-term abortion: In his work as a doctor, he saw ghastly things. The authorities responded harshly to his protest.
After being detained repeatedly — 26 times — Biscet was arrested in 1999 and thrown in prison for three years. He was released on October 31, 2002, and had 36 days outside of prison. During this time, he worked on his “Democratic Principles for Cuba” and a civic project called “Club for Friends of Human Rights.” He was again arrested on December 6, 2002, and underwent his ordeal until last March (2011).
He says that his immediate task is to “recover psychologically and physically” from his twelve years in darkness and hell. “I hope to be in the best possible condition,” to do the work he finds it unavoidable to do. Does he expect to be rearrested? “Anything is possible,” but he will work without fear. He believes that the island’s democrats are basically united, although “we do live under a totalitarian dictatorship that uses all of its resources to attempt to destroy us, which makes it difficult to progress as quickly as we would like.”
Dr. Biscet was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday at the George W. Bush Institute. Here are a few comments from Dr. Biscet:
For more than 57 years, we Cubans have lived in a Cuba under the oppression of a communist dictatorship. The most basic rights, such as freedom of speech, of assembly and association, of religion and a free press, are intensely limited by the Castro regime.
Cruel and inhuman punishments, torture, the imprisonments and shootings for dissenters are the instruments of state terror that are used to keep the Cuban people subjugated. This is a Cold War state where my people still live and that we do not accept.