By Julian Pecquet
A Cuban dissident who testified before Congress last week via video about repression by the island's communist regime has been arrested and "brutally beaten," according to reports from the U.S.-based Cuban exile community.
Pro-democracy leader Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" was "arrested on Saturday afternoon, brutally beaten, doused with pepper spray until unconscious and violently removed from his cell by the authorities that evening," his wife told Miami-based Radio Republica, according to the website Capitol Hill Cubans. Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera reportedly has not heard from him since.
Antúnez was one of three Cuban dissidents who testified from Cuba before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week. The hearing was called by the Senate's two Cuban-American members, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), who object to the Obama administration's policy of freer travel to Cuba.
"Antunez is a courageous human rights activist," Rubio said in an e-mail. "It is clear that he has been jailed and savagely beaten by criminals working for the Castro regime because he testified before the Senate last week.
"The regime's thugs will eventually be held accountable for these crimes. History will not wipe away the blood they have on their hands. Antunez should be released immediately, and all threats and acts of violence against him and his family must stop, as they should with any Cubans who are simply demanding their God-given rights.
"Furthermore, we should reexamine the unintended yet negative consequences of this administration's loosened travel and remittance policies. The naïve people-to-people exchanges that have been abused provides Raul Castro's regime the hard currency it requires to pay thugs to jail, brutalize and even murder innocent Cuban people."
The policy hit a nerve last month following reports that the State Department had issued visas to Cuban government officials, including Mariela Castro, the daughter of President Raul Castro and niece of Fidel Castro.