". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


‘Awakening in the Cuban the Seed of Freedom’: Oscar Elias Biscet and the Opposition Struggle (Part 1)

November 22, 2023

“No unjust law should have the honor of being fulfilled.” This is how Oscar Elías Biscet began his podcast series “Lawton Libre” on Radio Martí on October 20, 2018, when Cuba remembered the 150th anniversary of the Bayamo fire by the mambises, who were determined to deliver ashes to the Spanish army rather than surrender the city standing.

“In Cuba there is a totalitarian dictatorship with a supreme law that defends, above all interests, a group: the Communist Party,” he expressed at another point in the podcast, which usually lasts about 25 minutes.

Biscet’s human rights work has gone from public protest to opinion leadership through journalism, during a long career of resistance for the reinstatement of the Republic. That race began when the Berlin Wall had not yet fallen, and Castroism was generously supported on a military, economic, and political level by the world socialist axis.

At that time, with less access to information than in the 21st century in Cuba, the propaganda-repressive alliance, together with the geographical condition of an island, was even more meritorious and difficult to escape from the Marxist matrix. Biscet, like many other opponents of totalitarianism, was saved by his Baptist faith.

Faith, as a system of values and principles that generate behaviors and a particular worldview, led the doctor to publicly speak out for the right to life, diametrically opposed to the secularist vision, which understands the individual as a cosmic accident and not as a poetic workmanship of God.

Biscet had denounced the communist regime’s lack of payments in the health sector since the 1980s. His journey of the cross made him a symbol of the peaceful struggle against totalitarianism, a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize and a recipient of the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom from the United States.

Biscet, born in 1961, received his General Physician degree at the age of 25, and in 1997 he created the Lawton Biscet Foundation. “We want to make [it] known that there is an opposition [in Cuba] that is willing to go and [fight for] the human rights of the Cuban people,” he said, standing at a press conference to present the non-governmental organization.

On behalf of that platform, Biscet led several public actions in defense of the main human right: the right to life. All in a country that pursues freedom of association and expression.

His wife, Elsa Morejón, remembers the consequences. “Oscar taught civil disobedience classes in a house in Arroyo Naranjo, and the attendance was getting bigger,” she said. One day, agents of the regime waited for him to leave, and they ambushed him and hit him in the face and broke a tooth in his mouth. Oscar crossed his arms behind his body and shouted “Long live human rights!” The political police were filming him from a house in front of the incident. The aggressor was a supposed human rights activist, who emigrated years ago.

Biscet, far from giving in to nihilism, understands that there is no prize without a price, and that the battle is in the heart of the individual who fights the totalitarian evil. He has summarized it this way since the 1990s, when he called for “having the fortitude to suffer and give love.” In an adverse environment, it is not easy.

The regime also used the old intimidating tactic of acts of repudiation. They organized neighborhood mobs that stood in front of the places where Biscet met, or in front of his own home, and from there they threatened and shouted insults at those present. One of the clips of these attacks has become popular among the Cuban opposition, because it reveals the nature of the Cuban State. A man in civilian clothes, mature and with a mustache, shouted at the camera that was filming him: “I s*** on the mother of all those human rights!” Others supported them, shouting “Down with human rights,” “Long live the Revolution,” “This street belongs to Fidel!”

Despite everything, Biscet followed the philosophy of non-violent struggle, and when exemplifying it he did not hesitate to recall biblical stories. Thirty centuries ago, Moses “stood before Pharaoh without a weapon, alongside his brother, and told him that he must give freedom to his people.”

From the Lawton Biscet Foundation, he conducted a 10-month clandestine study on abortion techniques on the island. At that time, Cuba had the highest number of abortions in the Western Hemisphere. He confirmed that abortions were carried out using Rivanol and were sometimes completed by denying life-saving assistance to live babies.

“When I saw those murders, I said, ‘I have to do [the report], I can’t be complicit in them,’” the doctor said in an interview. He sent these complaints to the regime as an academic report, along with a letter to Fidel Castro. Biscet ended up being fired from the hospital system in 1998, and he, his wife, and his son were evicted from their home.

At the Hijas de Galicia Hospital, Communist Party activists and the director of the institution physically attacked Biscet when he went to the hospital with signs that said, “No to abortion.” His wife remembers that the doctor stood at a distance permitted by law, and only because “a group of women from the surrounding area who knew him from the hospital, shouting, ‘Abusers,’ came to his defense and stopped [the abusers from] kicking him and calling him out.”

Instead of giving in to discouragement, Biscet led the best-known political fast of the Cuban 20th century at 34 Tamarindo Street in Havana in 1999. He aligned that fast with a Christian spirit: the walls of the house were filled with biblical references, such as the verse, “Woe to you, when all men speak well of you! For this is what their fathers did to false prophets” (Luke 6:26). A photo of another Baptist and civil liberties advocate, the Rev. Martin Luther King, hung on a wall.

Yoe Suárez is a writer, producer, and journalist, exiled from Cuba due to his investigative reporting about themes like torture, political prisoners, government black lists, cybersurveillance, and freedom of expression and conscience. He is the author of the books “Leviathan: Political Police and Socialist Terror” and “El Soplo del Demonio: Violence and Gangsterism in Havana.