It is with deep sorrow that the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation marks the passing of Dr. Darsi Ferret Ramírez, a Cuban dissident and former director of the Juan Bruno Zayas Health and Human Rights Center.
Ferret’s vocal opposition to the Castro regime began in the early 2000s, at the same time Cuba began its Black Spring crackdown on human rights activists and dissidents. Fidel Castro still ruled the island with an iron fist and those who spoke out against him were subject to harassment, imprisonment, and even outright assassination.
Nevertheless, even amid this climate of repression and terror, some international celebrities and pro-Castro apologists still found much to admire in the communist Cuban regime. In 2007, Michael Moore released his documentary film Sicko, decrying the inadequacy of the United States healthcare system compared to the socialized medicine of other nations—including Cuba.
Though much has been made by regime propagandists of Cuba’s vaunted healthcare system, Darsi Ferret—himself a Cuban-trained doctor—worked to dispel these mistaken notions. He videotaped the conditions inside Havana’s public hospitals, not the ones depicted in Moore’s film (used to treat foreigners who come to Cuba). Ferrer’s footage was smuggled out of Cuba and shown on Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes and ABC News’ 20/20 with John Stossel as proof that Moore was distorting the truth about the nature of the healthcare available to real Cubans. “If you’re a tourist in Cuba, yes, you’re going to get healthcare, because that’s one of the things Castro uses as propaganda to create goodwill around the world,” said United States Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to the Miami Herald. “But that is completely different from the kind of care everyday citizens get. To hold that up as something the US should emulate is ludicrous.”
Inside Cuba, Ferret was renowned for organizing an annual march and protest in Havana on December 10—World Human Rights Day. The marchers would gather at the Parque Gandhi in front of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) offices. When his activism became too much of an irritant to the regime in July 2009, state security forces arrested and imprisoned Ferret (officially, he was charged with illegally procuring building materials to repair his home). Human rights organizations such as Reporters Without Borders and the Committee of Concerned Scientists called for his release; Amnesty International labeled Ferret a prisoner of conscience. Delegations from several European countries and the European Union visited his wife during Ferret’s captivity. He was released in July 2010, roughly a year later.
In 2012, Ferret left Cuba. “I left my fatherland, friends and a people that suffers much,” declared Ferret when he arrived in the United States, “but I keep alive the hope that Cuba will be free because the Cuban people are more and more determined to [attain] that liberty.” His latest venture was the launch of a Spanish-language news channel called DarTV to be carried locally in Palm Beach by Comcast.
Through his work as an activist, a journalist, a producer, and an organizer, Ferret spread the truth about the Castro regime both inside and outside of Cuba, and his work stands as a monument to the tireless persistence of human beings who desire to be free.