Cuban dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (left) was buried this Sunday, but there is controversy over what lead to his death. Some believe it was the result after being "savagely beaten" by Cuban state security agents, while others attribute his death to unrelated health complications that occurred after his arrest.
Juan Wilfredo was arrested during a protest last Thursday in Santa Clara where, according to some witnesses, he was beaten by security agents. One witness, dissident Guillermo Fariñas, told Radio/TV Marti that Juan Wilfredo was "savagely beaten" while in handcuffs. Supposedly, Juan Wilfredo was then taken to a hospital where he stayed until his death Sunday morning. But, events that happened after his arrest have produced conflicting reports.
According to this report on the El Nuevo Herald website, but attributed to an AFP copy, Juan Wilfredo "was taken by the [state security] agents" to the hospital after his arrest. The original AFP story doesn't include this specific information about how Juan Wilfredo arrived at the hospital. Other news outlets (such as CNN and BBC) have also assumed that Juan Wilfredo was so badly beaten that he was sent to the hospital after the protest due to injuries, and therefore have not reported that Juan Wilfredo was actually taken to the hospital for other reasons.
According this Radio/TV Marti report, Juan Wilfredo was arrested by state agents on Thursday and then "taken home instead of being taken to a jail cell." That information comes from Cuban dissident Idania Yanez Contreras. But, Idania is much more specific in her audio comments linked to the report. She says that Juan Wilfredo was arrested, taken to the hospital by the police because of his already known poor health, and then released home.
Marc Frank for Reuters similarly reports that Juan Wilfredo "was quickly released [by state security agents] but then checked into the Arnaldo Milian Hospital," but Frank doesn't specify by whom. According to Idania, after being taken home Juan Wilfredo's family, concerned over his worsening health, checked him into the hospital on Saturday. Juan Wilfredo was complaining of pain around his kidneys.
Several reports have mentioned Juan Wilfredo's already poor health, stricken with diabetes and hypertension, but Radio/TV Marti also includes "renal insufficiency" among his ailments. According to Marc Frank, "various bloggers close to the government quoted Dr. Ruben Aneiro Medina of the hospital as saying [Juan Wilfredo] Soto died of pancreatitis and kidney failure and there were no signs of physical violence."
But, Radio/TV Marti insists that Juan Wilfredo was a "victim of respiratory failure, caused by the beating ... of police agents." And, several Cuban dissidents have taken a similar position in blaming the Cuban security agents, or the Castro's themselves.
In local news, Telemundo51 has produced a report that constructs a more sinister plot against Juan Wilfredo Soto. According to Telemundo, Juan Wilfredo was already targeted by the Cuban government since July of last year (!) when he was threatened by a security agent who told him: "look out for the consequences that can happen to you." The threat came after Juan Wilfredo showed his solidarity with another Cuban dissident on a hunger strike.
At the conclusion of the Telemundo report, online comments posted on their website are reproduced for viewers alleging that the Cuban government was behind the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto. Undoubtedly, this conspiratorial allegation of murder will be repeated by the most militant in Miami for the next few days.
[Also note that no reports so far have interviewed the family of Juan Wilfredo Soto, and instead have relied on Cuban dissidents.]
- [UPDATE: The family of Juan Wilfredo Soto said that when they took him to the hospital he never mentioned the police beating, nor show signs of having been beaten.]
- [Amnesty International: "The Cuban authorities need to immediately establish an independent inquiry into the causes of Juan Wilfredo Soto's death. If he ultimately died as a result of a police beating in Park Vidal, those responsible must face justice."]