By Caridad Ramirez Utria
Libertarian Journalism Team – Havana
They gave their 15-year-old son Emilio Lázaro Pérez Valdés to the Juan Manuel Castañeira College Prep School, located in Artemisa, where he was studying in his first year for a career in electronics. On Wednesday, June 30, 2010 at 7:30 AM, a spokesman arrives at the humble home of Lázaro Emilio’s parents and tells the mother the news that her son is missing, along with the students Juan Eloy Ávila Hernández, Yoel San Rocel Yanes, and Dainiel Mango Pérez.
A mysterious death
Raúl Ramírez rushed to get the news out at his workplace, where the disappearance of the minors was published with urgency, and then desperately arrived at his son’s school, where he remained calm but refused to leave.
A call was made to the educational district office of Güines and the transport was requested to search for his son, which was denied because ‘the student Emilio has communicated with the director of the center’.
The police were no longer at the station. At 5:00 am Raúl Ramírez communicates with an administrator, Andrés, who had seen Emilio near the bridge of Jai Manita in the town of Baracoa. Juan Eloy Ávila Hernández, a few of those involved, the father, and the father and the child were also seen there.
The principal puts the student Juan Eloy on the phone to a father imploring the student, begging him to tell him where his son is. Eloy only breaks down and cries, Andrés tells Raúl that it is better that he comes to the school to talk.
6:00 am. There was no other place in Güines for Mayabequé with emergency vehicles, and they urgently asked for something for a transported – again they were denied the help.
10:00 am. He arrived at the school, the principal was not sold on the meeting, and he was cornered into this meeting with a teacher who said his son was found dead in a tank at the cement factory very close to the school. The screams of pain shook the walls of the school. At that moment, the boy’s lifeless body was still in the tank.
The principal informed the parents that the transfer to the Funeral Home of Güines was being made.
A secret funeral at night
2:00 pm. They arrived at the Güines funeral home where the services were to be held.
4:00 pm. The director of the funeral parlor told Emilio’s parents that by order of San Antonio de los Baños criminal center, they were strictly forbidden from viewing him and informed that the casket would be sealed.
8:00 pm. The funeral car arrived. The parents tried to get to the car, but a string of schoolteachers and Interior Ministry agents did not allow them to approach the funeral car where the lifeless body of young Emilio lay. The Interior Ministry ordered again that there would be no viewing, that it was necessary to seal his casket, and that he would be buried immediately.
The parents were escorted to the funeral ceremony, where the casket was buried in a vault of a State Security agent named Maiquel Puy. The priest Father Ernesto Pury finished the funeral and took the parents to their home in Bizarrón, Municipality of Güines.
A blow like that left Raul Ramirez perplexed and full of questions, and convinced that the death of his son was foul play, and that he is not satisfied that the regime could hide a crime behind the death of his son. Therefore, he demanded that his son be exhumed.
The minister of health did not authorize the exhumation. The parents went to the Mariel police where they meet with the chief, who read the statements that they prepared. Something that was not clear after the fact is the criminology headquarters of San Antonio, where Raul met a Lieutenant Yeosvel, where they filed a complaint accusing the agents who carried out the poor excuse for an investigation of Emilio’s death.
The evidence disappeared
Major Ariel Barrios Lorenzo reported that he and Lt. Col. Alexander Manuel Perdomo were the ones in charge of picking up the corpse from the crime scene. The victim’s parents asked for explanations, and the agents refused to answer. So they went to see Major Rafael of the Caimito police where the case was transferred. No matter the distance or fatigue required, the parents only ask for justice, and above all, for a straight answer on the death of their son, because something has been hidden from them. They walked to Caimito in search of Major Rafael, who explained that he went to the cement factory and that the tank was 8 meters deep, that the water was cloudy, and that nobody who doesn’t know how to swim would dare try it.
The director of that factory, who was thankful he wasn’t at work that day, said that the tank has a tube that absorbs water into the machinery and everything passes through it with the liquid cement would never appear because it would be ground up in the machinery.
On July 22 the parents presented their case to the public prosecutor’s office, where they made their first complaint. The prosecutor Viviana told them that the school alone had violated more than 5 articles of the constitution of the republic, as well as other articles that have been violated, judging from the complaints made by the parents that were delivered to the State Council, the National Police, the Minister of Education without violating the corresponding steps. Within 10 days of making the complaint, the parents were visited at home by another prosecutor, “Alina”, and accompanied by three officers of the Interior Ministry, which they were threatened to silence them.
Still they continued to denounce all kinds of outrages, including the threats they received in that visit by those government officials. Waiting for a satisfactory response that never came, he looked for other ways to get help. That’s when the International Press that is located in Miramar, very close to where the Ladies in White are based, talked to him about his complaint, and invited him to recount his story and meet Roberto Serra, freelance journalist and head of the Hablemos Press information center. Hablemos Press reported the case to the United Nations, to the European Union, to the OAS.
Rise of a dissident
It has been 9 years since the death of the child Emilio, and the government has only ever responded to Raul with threats and imprisonment for his protests. That is when he became a dissident and began to fight for justice and learned to demand respect for human rights.
This tragic story began with the loss of his son, and now Raul Ramirez also knows how revolutionaries like the Castros work with false identities and big lies. The parents did not keep quiet. They were summoned to Güines police and to the provincial headquarters of the Interior Ministry, where two gentlemen from the Communist Party (an organization led by Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl) who tried to stop them from denouncing these crimes; telling them that nothing more could be done, but that the government could help them with anything they need. The agents kept reminding the parents that they are the ones in power, and that nothing good would happen if they continued insisting with their complaints, and that they should take care of themselves.
Fast forward to one day in September 2018. At approximately 6:00 am, Raul Ramirez was kidnapped from his home and shoved into a police van, inside of which were State Security agents, plus 5 regular patrol officers from the local police.
While his wife ran to the different police stations in search of her husband’s whereabouts, no one answered her. It was as if the earth swallowed him whole. After the 10th hour of the kidnapping, they released Raul under threats. They kept coming back to interrogate him practically every 5 minutes, to drive him crazy, telling him that he and his family would pay for his ignorance and stupidity. These threats primarily came from a Major Alexander of State Security. Nothing made Raul change his mind or lose his nerve, and he continued on to denounce Major Alexander in Hablemos Press.
State Security very badly wanted the parents to accept that the death of their son was an “accident” and not murder. However, Raul has received much support from the Catholic Church and local residents, including the mother of one of the students involved with the death of his son, Juan Eloy Avila, who gave her condolences and told him to do justice and not to desist in demanding the exhumation of his son, through which many things will be discovered that the Cuban government does not want revealed.
The denunciations continued. Among the criminologists involved in that death, State Security and the Internal Ministry agents continue to hide the crime. Raúl continued his fight and began marching in the streets of Güines with two Ladies in White with placards demanding justice and demanding the exhumation of Emilio. Almost all of Raúl’s family have been jailed, even the teenagers who drove them to the Güines police station. In arresting the minors, the State Security agent Osmiel, who also oversees “justice” in the education system, made it very clear exactly who does and doesn’t get punished for their conduct.
Raúl Ramírez denounces the terror to which his family has subjected for a decade, living constantly under threats and even being beaten in front of his son and his wife. Raúl is strengthened in his spirit and active within the opposition. Recently he began taking a course that trains independent journalists in Cuba.