Prisoner in Canaletas on Hunger Strike

For an audio recording of Pedro’s phone call dictating this post, CLICK HERE

The 43-year-old prisoner Rene Valle Ibarra, also known as “El Bimbo”, who is from Zero Street number 2355 between 4th and Lindero, Luyano Moderno, in the municipality of San Miguel del Padron, declared himself on hunger strike this past February 22nd, demanding his right — according to the regulations set by the Director of Penitentiary Establishments of the Ministry of the Interior within the jail system — to progress to being considered a minimum severity prisoner and to be able to enter work camps and to enjoy furloughs.  However, the penal leadership from this Ciego de Avila prison alleges that he cannot be considered minimum severity because he has yet to serve 5 years to achieve conditional freedom.  Valle Ibarra has responded to this by displaying a list of various prisoners who are in the same exact conditions as his and are already taking part in the work camp. So then, why yes for some but not for him?  Perhaps it has to do with the fact that Rene Valle Ibarra, “El Bimbo”, is black and poor.

Pedro Arguelles Moran
Group of the 75
Provincial Prison of Canaletas, Ciego de Avila

Zapata Forever


For the members of the 2003 Black Spring Group of 75 who still remain as hostages of the Cuban totalitarian regime, this February 18 will mark 7 years and 11 months since their having been kidnapped by Castro’s political police. Five days later I will turn 63, and the same day will be the first anniversary of the infamous murder or the martyr of democracy, our beloved brother of ideas and civil struggle Orlando Zapata Tamayo, left to die on his heroic hunger strike to reclaim the rights and freedoms inherent in the dignity of the human person. But Zapata lives and will live forever in every man and woman who peacefully fights for respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to achieve the long-awaited democratic transition toward a new Cuba where the ideals of Marti and Christianity reign: Truth, Freedom, Justice and Love. Amen!

Pedro Arguelles Moran
Prisoner of Conscience

Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Ávila

Decisions

This past 18th of January, it was the 7th year and 10th month anniversary since we 8 members from the group of the 75 were kidnapped by the communist political police.  During this entire time, we’ve been hostages of the totalitarian Cuban regime.  Two days later, at around 7pm,  they took me to the office of the chief director of Canaleta Prison, the penitentiary where I am jailed.  The chief was there along with a gorgeous psychologist from the Interior Ministry.  They both tried to convince me that, given my age and state of health, the best option for me would be to depart from the island and into exile.
A few days ago, a doctor casually performed a medical check-up on me, informing me that my liver was inflamed and that I could not participate in hunger strikes.  I told her that I have no interest in leaving my homeland, for I was born here and I wish to die here.  At some point during the exchange of opinions the prison chief informed me that he had contacted me so that I could speak on the phone with Cardinal Jaime Ortega.  Ortega, who is also the archbishop of Havana, wanted to speak to me.  I made it clear that I didn’t have anything to talk to his Eminence about.  During July 10th of last year I already made it clear to him when I spoke to him on the phone that I was not going to leave my country.
The psychologist told me that people change opinions and, in turn, their decisions.  I replied to her that yes, she was correct, and that in fact, in the year 1961 (when I was only 13 years old) I joined the Conrado Benitez Brigade in order to work on the literacy campaign.  I was also a militiaman, for I had enlisted in the army, as I pretended to be older than I really was.  I belonged to the Association of Young Rebels and I considered myself a full-fledged “Country or Death” revolutionary.  Today, however, I am anti-Castro and anti-communist, and I am deeply convinced and committed to the honorable civil struggle in order to achieve that democratic transition which we so long for.
The good-looking psychological professional emphasized that the opportunity I was turning down was an opportunity that others were desperately crying out to have.  I flat out told her that I was the one who was going to desperately cry out if I were exiled from the largest of the Antilles.  In sum, I told the chief of Canaleta that I was going back to my cell and that if Cardinal Ortega called for me, to tell him, on my behalf, that “I do not want to leave my country.”  This is a decision I have developed over time and with much conscience ever since 1993, when I actually took part in an attempt to leave the country illegally via Havana.  I learned that, amid all the processes against me, my destiny was to remain in my country and to peacefully struggle for the human rights and freedoms which are inherent to human dignity.  And this is a decision I will maintain until the very last consequences because my life choice is to continue onward and to uphold the philosophy of Marti, which states, “the duty of a man is to reside where he is most useful.”  Amen.
Pedro Arguelles Moran
Prisoner of Conscience
Provincial Prison of Canaleta, Ciego de Avila

Half a Year

Six months have passed since I turned down the opportunity to go into exile. During all that time, the communist Cuban regime has been breaking its own promises of releasing us—the members of the group of the 75 who have decided not to abandon our homeland. On numerous occasions during this half year they have moved away from shattering the infamous gates that separate us from our family and social environment. Clearly, the totalitarian Castro regime does not have the least will to free us and they intend to banish us at whatever cost. There is simply no possible justification to hold us hostage as prisoners. There is no pressure that can possibly force me to abandon my country, and much less to abandon the exalted and dignified civil struggle for the respect of human rights and freedoms inherent to the dignity of all human beings. In a very stubborn way, these rights and freedoms are being systematically and institutionally violated, from the very moment the government seized power by force of arms, intimidation, and terror in 1959.We will continue working peacefully to achieve the so yearned and suffered democratic transition to a state where rule of law, civil society, and social justice all thrive.

Pedro Arguelles Moran
Prisoner of conscience, Canaleta provincial prison in Ciego de Avila.

Arguelles: “The Habit of Lying”


“Looped Chain”- by Scott Geyer

Once again, the totalitarian Castro regime has not kept its promises- because lies, demagogy, populism, hypocrisy, and cynicism all compose its very essence and nature. Recently, the regime’s Minister of Exterior Lies declared, somewhere in New York at the United Nations, that the members of the group of the 75 who still remain kidnapped as hostages, would be released under extra-penal licenses before the 26th of October. Of course, that was just another lie.

Now, this past November 7 was the four-month deadline for our release, according to a press release issued by the archbishop of Havana which was published in the official communist newspaper, Granma, this past July 8, and which the Latin Press also reported. That was yet another lie. From the group of the 75, there are still 13 of us who remain behind the bars. We are the ones who do not accept abandoning our country, but everything seems to indicate that the Cuban communist regime is bent on banishing as many dissidents as possible from the country, while more than one million of its this worker’s “Eden” current slaves are going to be thrown into the street. Personally, I do not have the least bit of interest of leaving to any other country. I only wish to continue here in my country, as a peaceful fighter for the rights and freedoms inherent to the dignity of the human person.

Pedro Arguelles Moran
Group of the 75
Provincial Prison of Canaletas, Ciego de Avila

Miguel Galban Gutiérrez: Gratitude for Freedom of Expression Award 2011

The blog, “Voices Behind the Bars” would like to welcome Miguel Galban Gutierrez, one of the independent journalists imprisoned during the Black Spring 2003, and who is now exiled in Spain.

Miguel Galban has written the following entry as an appreciation for being granted the “Freedom of Expression Award 2011″.
___________________________________________________________

Covadonga Porrúa,

I would like to communicate through you, who I spoke to upon arriving to Madrid, that I was extremely joyful for being prized with this award from the Association which you preside over- the Freedom of Expression Award 2011.

The award is not mine alone; it also belongs to those people locked away in the jails who kept a confrontational posture towards the Cuban regime and all the violation of human rights they commit in those cemeteries of living men, known as prisons.

On the same note, I should point out that I can now enjoy freedom (but while I reside far from my homeland) as a product of various recent political events which have occurred in my country and which have spawned from the prolonged hunger strike from the political prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who simply demanded better living conditions in the jail cell which he was carrying out his unjust sentence. Afterwards, we also witnessed the 135 day hunger strike of the psychologist and independent journalist Guillermo Farinas Hernandez. Farinas, on more than once occasion, was on the border with death while he demanded the authorities of the island to free the 26 prisoners of conscience who were in grave states of health and that could easily suffer further illness or death at any given moment as long as they remained in the regime’s prison cells.

Furthermore, we must also mention the brave and dignified Ladies in White, the group of women which would be present at mass weekly in the Santa Rita church, every Sunday. They suffered beatings and harassments carried out by thugs and paramilitary groups sent out by the Castro brothers with the intent of frightening them and keeping them from publicly demanding that their loved ones- husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers- be freed. But they strongly resisted.
The success of the negotiations put into effect after May 19th, between the Cuban Catholic Church and the authorities of the island, was greatly attributed to the international campaign for our release, which went underway from the very moment of our arrests. Democratic governments, international organizations, and people of goodwill throughout the world all contributed. We must also mention the perseverance of this religious institution which has wisely and patiently tried to implement understanding.

In social processes, it is very difficult to predict the future and much less to establish frameworks, but it is very clear that the social and economic situation of my country is very serious and could easily further deteriorate within the next couple of months if the government does not implement any democratic changes. Everything points out that we are in the final phase of the Castro-brother dictatorship- we only have to determine when and where this will occur.

I am taking up the project of continuing to write about the Cuban reality, even if at this very moment I don’t have the necessary resources to continue doing so.

Salutations and hugs for all of you,
Miguel Galban Gutierrez

Sakharov for Fariñas: Acknowledgment of Cuban Democrats

Generally, awards give rise to controversies, and that is normal. Only totalitarian regimes are bent on wanting everyone to think and act the same way. But, despite some voices who disagree (most of which come straight from those who defend the regime), the most popular and prestigious awards handed out throughout the world during the last couple of years have favored the struggle for democracy.

First, the Norwegian Academy prized the Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo, with the Nobel Peace Prize. Days later, the journalist and peaceful Cuban dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, has been awarded the Sakharov prize. Both of these fighters share a common characteristic: Liu and Fariñas both defend human rights, and have both suffered political imprisonment for promoting civilized changes in their respective countries. Most likely, neither of these two men will be able to accept such awards, which were achieved after much effort, willpower, and courage, in person.

The Cuban authorities have systematically violated the rights of Cubans to exit and return to their countries freely. And this is the third occasion that one of our very own has won the Sakharov prize – a fact that I am beyond proud of. The first recipient was Osvaldo Paya Sardinas, the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (2002). In 2005, the Ladies in White were distinguished with the award, and now it has been Fariñas’ turn. But the authorities of Havana did not authorize the representatives of this group of women to pack their bags to assist the ceremony being held at the European Parliament to receive the award. And, if Paya was able to take that trip in 2002, it was solely accredited to the pressures of the international community.

The process of the liberation of Cuban political prisoners, which went underway this past summer, and of which I benefited from, was made possible to various factors. The unfortunate death of the political prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, was what put the whole process in motion. Later, we must signal out the bravery displayed by the Ladies in White, the firm attitude kept by those who were imprisoned due to reasons of conscience, and the final straw was the hunger strike undertaken by Fariñas, which had the purpose of demanding freedom for the gravest of the 75 political prisoners of the Black Spring. All of this was further backed up by a strong wave of international pressure.

This is why I cannot help but congratulate (and appreciate) Fariñas for his Sakharov Prize, which he has dedicated to the Cuban people. His recognition of all democratic Cubans leaves it very clear that he will continue fighting for democracy in Cuba.

- Pablo Pacheco

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