HAVANA – An opposition member died over the weekend at a hospital in the city of Santa Clara after supposedly having been beaten by police agents at a park in that central Cuban city, representatives of dissident groups said.
Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia died around midnight Saturday.
The 46-year-old Soto Garcia, who was a former political prisoner belonging to the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum, was known among dissidents as “El Estudiante” (The Student) for having been jailed for the first time at age 16, according to members of the opposition who knew him.
Soto Garcia died at Arnaldo Milian Castro Hospital in Santa Clara, located some 300 kilometers (185 miles) east of Havana, at midnight this Saturday, hospital officials told Efe, without providing any further details on the case.
The medical certificate they showed family members, according to dissidents consulted by Efe, said that Soto Garcia “died of pancreatitis.”
Dissident journalist Guillermo Fariñas told Efe that he spoke with Soto Garcia before he died, and the latter told him that last Thursday he was sitting downtown in Vidal Park when he was “approached by uniformed cops who asked for his ID card, and after showing it to them, they told him to ‘move along.’”
Soto Garcia, according to the independent journalist’s account, answered the agents by saying “he was a free man and so he could stay where he was, after which the police handcuffed him and beat him and at the same time he began yelling anti-government slogans.”
After the beating, Soto Garcia was taken to the “3rd Police Unit and from there to the hospital,” Fariñas, who belongs to the same group as the deceased dissident, said.
Soto Garcia suffered from a number of pathologies such as high blood pressure, heart failure, circulatory disorders and diabetes, Fariñas said.
Doctors who treated Soto Garcia at the hospital said that “he had a decompensation” and finally “suffered a heart attack,” Fariñas said.
“The medical certificate shown to family members said he died of pancreatitis,” Fariñas said.
“We say his death was caused by the ‘carte blanche’ given by (Cuban President) Raul Castro to his supporters and to police agents, because he told them they can act with impunity” against the opposition and “that’s why they killed him,” Fariñas said.
“We want to give him a Christian burial and afterwards we will take measures so that such crimes will no longer go unpunished,” Fariñas, recipient of the European Parliament’s 2010 Sakharov Prize for human rights, said. EFE