CUBA

Former Cuban political prisoner Antonio Augusto Villareal dies at 63

 

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jtamayo@elNuevoHerald.com

Cuban dissident Antonio Augusto Villarreal Acosta, who began suffering from psychiatric problems during his seven years in island prisons, has died in Miami.

Miami police said they found Villareal’s body Saturday in his Little Havana apartment but declined to comment on the cause of death.

Villarreal was one of the 75 democracy activists swept up in a harsh crackdown in 2003 known as Cuba’s Black Spring. He was freed in 2010 and went directly from prison to Havana’s airport for a flight to exile in Spain. He moved to Miami months later.

The 63-year-old economist and activist in the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM) founded by the late Oswaldo Payá told Spain’s La Razón newspaper in 2010 that he was under psychiatric care for the “inhuman treatment” he received in prison.

“The years of isolation have left their mark on all of us,” he said. “When my wounds have healed, someone should pay for what I have suffered.”

Several other dissidents have reported Villarreal began suffering from psychiatric problems in 2003 after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his activism in the CLM and its Varela Project, which requested a national referendum on human-rights issues.

Dissident Tania Quintero reported in 2010 that he spent the first 15 months in an isolation cell in Boniato prison in eastern Cuba, without electricity and with a solid steel door that allowed no view of the outside.

He underwent hernia surgery in 2005, Quintero added, and his wife, Silvia Aguado, said after a prison visit that year that she had found Villarreal to be deeply depressed. He told her, “I am innocent. I don’t deserve to be here,” according to Aguado.

His son Tony reported in 2007 that Villarreal had dropped from 182 pounds to 77 pounds, according to the Quintero report.

Villarreal was one of the more than 110 political prisoners to be freed in 2010 and 2011, after Cuban ruler Raúl Castro agreed to release the last of the 75 dissidents rounded up in 2003 following talks with Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

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