Llorente, a self-proclaimed dissident who isn’t affiliated with any opposition party, yelled, “Freedom for the Cuban people!” as he ran down the plaza waving a U.S. flag to a stunned audience of hundreds of thousands that included foreign journalists. He managed to run for a few seconds before he was tackled by security and removed from the plaza. It is not yet known whether he has acquired the services of an attorney.
Llorente was carried out of the plaza and is being held at a detention center in Havana. His son, Eliezer Llorente Pérez, told The Miami Herald that his father assured him that he “was not beaten,” but he has been charged with resisting arrest and public disorder. He is going to remain in jail until his trial, but a date has not yet been scheduled. It is not immediately clear how he resisted arrest.
“Why did he protest with a U.S. flag? Because he says that’s where there is a true sense of patriotism and family, things that have been lost in Cuba, that all human values have been lost in Cuba,” Eliezer said.
This wasn’t Llorente’s first protest—he also waved the American flag to protest the government when Carnival’s cruise ship Adonia made its historic landing in Havana last year, and when President Obama visited Havana in March 2016. He was arrested both times.
Llorente believed in Obama’s policy for the island.
“This system has not done anything to benefit the people,” he reportedly told a Mexican TV channel during Obama’s historic visit to the island last year. “The people are afraid . . . although many Cubans are afraid to do it, here you do have one who’s decided to do it because I trust Obama’s plans for the Cuban people”
The Cuban dissident movement has been ongoing since Fidel Castro’s authoritarian regime rose to power in the 1960s. Several opposition parties and dissident groups that have been formed since 1959. To discourage protests, the government gives a three-month to one-year sentence to anyone who “publicly defames, denigrates, or scorns” the island nation’s institutions.
In a departure from its traditional silence on anti-government protests, the government-run newspaper Granma accused Llorente, without mentioning his name, of being a convicted criminal protesting to improve his odds of gaining political asylum in the U.S.
Llorente’s former wife, Yudiza Pérez, told The Miami Herald that she does believe what Granma wrote about him. “It’s true that he was in prison, but it was for a crime he did not commit. Everything they said in the newspaper is pure lies,” she said.
Eliezer says his father does not want to leave the island. “His biggest hope is for a change in the government system . . . he always tells me that he wants to live in Cuba, but in a free Cuba, with opportunities for all.”