First Steps…

Malaga, our new home of freedom

Hunger Strike

The prisoner Luis Alberto Rodriguez Camejo declared himself on hunger strike this past July 20th in the detachment known as Pending Trial No. 6, in cell 14 of the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila.  Rodriguez Camejo is 43 years old and is a resident of 1st street on No. 75 South,  between Honorato del Castillo and Paseo (in the central city neighborhood of Ciego de Avila).  He finds himself rejecting any foods as a form of protest against his alleged conviction of armed robbery in a plastic arts warehouse.  The actual thief, however, confessed to the crime and yet he is out in the street under a fee and owes 6 years of conditional freedom.  He also has 9 other armed robberies under his belt that can be confirmed.  It seems that the thief was released from accusations because his skin color is white while Rodirguez Camejo’s is black.

According to Luis Alberto Rodriguez Camejo, he only did him the favor of watching over the frames without even knowing that they were robbed.  He actually has witnesses that have told stories that benefit him.  The wife of Rodriguez Camejo finds herself in City of Havana trying to help with her husband’s situation but they have only sent her from the General Prosecutors  of the Republic to the State Council. 

This report is by:  Pedro Arguelles Moran from the group of the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003 .  Provincial Prison Cell in Canaletas, Ciego de Avila.

The Great Dream Fulfilled


After being released on parole and hustled off to Spain with a dozen political prisoners of conscience from the cause of the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003, along with their families, and to my right and left Oleivys and Jimmy, my wife and son, I am finally writing my first lines for the blog, “Voices Behind the Bars.” I have reiterated to the press and to my friends that this blog is healthier than ever.

Today, God has allowed me to fulfill my long overdue dream, held during seven long, hard years of captivity as a result of the hatred and intolerance of a system of government that curtails, day after day, the rights of all Cubans, crushing without pity the slightest vestige of disobedience. I am writing these lines from the modest premises of the Spanish Red Cross in hospitable Málaga, using the same method as always, a pen and a notebook — accessories of my conscience — as it is still too soon to be able to count on a computer.  I look at the horizon and repeatedly ask myself in silence: Is this a dream or reality?

A tear runs slowly down my face remembering that two days ago I was able, on his 12th birthday, to give my only son the first look, the first kiss, the hug denied for seven years. Happy Birthday my son, I love you so much! “Thank you Papa, I love you too, a lot a lot a lot,” he answered. Seconds later, the most important person in our lives joined us in a familial embrace. Oleivys was crying too.

The day could not have ended better. I chatted with my colleague and compatriot Mabel Fajardo Roig, living here in Spain and working as a correspondent for WQBA. Unconsciously glancing at my watch, I realized it was past midnight. Listening to Willy Chirino on my MP4 player I fell fast asleep hugging Jimmie. Before, I asked God may no other human being ever have to live a story like mine. But this is something very hard to avoid.

Pablo Pacheco Ávila
Former political prisoner of the cause of the 75


A Common Prisoner Dies

During the night hours of this past June 26th the common prisoner Roberto Rodriguez Ramos died of a heart attack in the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila.  The functionaries of the Order of the Interior of the jail took Rodriguez Ramos to the provincial hospital Antonio Luaces Iraola after the prisons doctor checked him, according to the source which prefers to remain annonymous due to fear of reprisals. 

The source added that the prisoner, 54 years of age, died in the clinic mentioned above.  Roberto Rodriguez Ramos was a resident of the Cuban capital.  In addition to this now deceased prisoner, there is a group of over 100  Havana residents that find themselves in this province under the indication of the National Direction of Penitentiary Establishments which goes directly against the will of the prisoners themselves and their family members.  Roberto Rodriguez Ramos was jailed in “Tarea Confianza”, the prison adjacent to Canaletas. 

We must also remember that in a matter of 20 months, 5 men have comitted suicide.  Among the victims are the blind Rautel Fernandez Prieto.  The source concludes this leak of information by stating that this very jail has one of the highest rates of suicide and self-affliction in the entire country.  They add that this very well could be the reason why Colonel Reinerio Diaz Betancourt, the ex-director of Canaletas, was removed from his position. 

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia

Chronicles of a Cuban Prison

“Galley 43 has exploited, and in the area of recycling”, a common prisoner told us.  “It is hell to work with meat and not even being able to eat a steak,” answered Charon.  Even if it may not seem that way, the common prisoners come together  in solidarity whenever a crime is committed against one of us.  Such chronicles may seem funny but the reality is quite the opposite.

The authorities of this penitentiary chose a large group of prisoners last year to work in a factory adjacent to the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila.  Everything is indicating that the cruel realities of this jail (and what goes on in those factories) will be masked and hidden before the eyes of any high ranking international personnel , especially if it is someone from the United Nations.  The mentioned factory specializes in numerous things like carpentry, construction, plastic jar making, and the recycling of clothes.

On other occasions I have written about the anomalies in the salaries of the prisoners, but today I am specifically referring to those who work in recycling, and according to them have received 300 pesos in national currency- 12 CUC a month.  During this time, the men who have worked in recycling have been caught stealing brand name clothes.  They then go on to be astonished prisoners and are removed from their positions.  A prisoner is a prisoner.

In many occasions I have heard stories about the recycling sector.  Civil workers and soldiers have been known to steal on the side.  They get caught, are surprised, but then everything continues.  That is where the gist of the problem lies.  I don’t think that it will be difficult to sell some of those items, which they themselves took, to the prisoners and later sell them to stores.  The captive should be encouraged and be able to buy clothes that go from hand to hand with their modest salary.  “It is very, very difficult to work with shit and not get stained with it,” one recluse said.

Although recycling is not the only place where this occurs, one of the most lamentable cases occurred on June 14th when Henry Veitia Valdivia lost one of his legs when he suffered an accident with the mechanical cementer machine, thanks to the very minimal security measures emphasized by the authorities.  This young man was in and out life and death and we currently do not know about his state of health.  Well, just like a Ruben Blades song so perfectly says, “With the salary that I am paid, I will not risk the life that God has given me”.

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia

Cuba as Vicepresident of the UN Human Rights Council


Samuel Bak- “Luna”

Upon receiving the news that Cuba has been elected Vice-president of the UN’s Human Rights Council for the next period of the international organization’s sessions, all of us who defend human rights in whatever part of this planet called Earth have been left astonished, I would say.

I acknowledge the governments that make up this council, which is the same as the now defunct UN Human Rights Committee, which time and time again condemned the authorities of Havana with resolutions that the regime ignored each time, playing the role of the innocent one, just like a 7 year old kid that carries out acts of mischief behind his parents back. But, now, should the United Nations eliminate this dependency, or should they just give up the true purpose of an organization of unified countries? This question will be up to the countries that make up the UN to answer.

It is truly an insult to the intelligence of even the most mediocre of men. It is true that many other countries step over individual rights, including the right to life which God has granted us. I do not refer only to the classic violators, but also to the United States and the civilized Europe. The prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, along with others, that the George W. Bush administration, and currently Barack Obama, have continued to maintain open for supposed Talibans for an undefined period of time. It is funny, I remember that the Taliban regime was not considered as perverse as it is now when it used to confront communist soviet expansion.

As for the old continent, we receive daily news that are targeted against immigrants. In sum, there is lots of dirt to uncover. But people, it’s not the same to live in a country where human rights are violated.  Those responsible of such absurd determinations forgot, in the midst of their desire to contradict the West, that here, in this country, a group of peaceful women who simply demand freedom for their jailed loved ones (due to reasons of conscience) were dragged and beaten out in the open street in the Cuban capital by soldiers and mobs which were directly ordered by the offices of the Political Police.

Despite the attempts by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, archbishop of Havana and whom I unconditionally support, we political prisoners and prisoners of conscience still remain under harsh conditions- most of us with severe diseases which we have acquired in prison.  In fact, the only one from the group of the 75 that was released as a product of the negotiations has been Ariel Sigley Amaya, on June 22nd, and I am immensely happy about this.  The entire world, through the eyes of the foreign media, along with his friends and family members, have been shocked to see the frail rag of a man that has been made of him.  Of course, I am referring to physical deterioration but his ideas are still going strong and firm.

The colleague which I chatted with about this subject (Cuba and the UN), believes, and I wouldn’t disregard it, that this may turn out to be a double-edged sword for the government of Raul Castro Ruz.  Holding the vice presidency of the UN Human Rights Council usually means a compromise to uphold our natural human rights.  In honor of the truth, I openly express my doubts in respect to such interpretations, for I think the government of Havana will fulfill no such thing, and I also doubt the confidence that other member countries have granted Cuba with.  What fulfillment?  I am still waiting for a fulfillment.  I am still waiting for the official publication of the social, economic, and political accords which the governmental authorities signed more than 2 years ago.  Time is and will be the best witness of all these outcomes.

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia

From an MP4 to Silence

Today could be a special day, and in fact, it is. In addition to the marital pavilion meeting, my unrivaled wife handed me an emotional letter from Sebastian Lebriel, a Dutch television host. I will respond to this letter soon through my blog, Voices Behind the Bars.

Too good to be true, I thought. Thirty minutes after I returned from the pavilion, the functionary from the Order of the Interior of Detachment 3 informed me that I had to accompany him to the room at the entrance of the prison. Something must be wrong, I thought. I completely forgot about the dialogues between the Cuban Catholic church and the government in favor of the Cuban political prisoners. Perhaps these 7 years of captivity and of suffering from the darkest part of humanity activated my intuition. The sense of smell that I have been using these days for the World Cup did not fail me. I was lead to the room of lawyers and was being questioned by none other than the State Security Chief- Agustin- who is in charge of the prisons of Ciego de Avila province. Also present was the infamous Lieutenant Jose Marino, chief of Political Police Operations and main culprit for the pompous searches of my home and the home of Pedro Arguelles Moran on the 18th and 19th of March 2003.

If I say that I was not afraid, I’d be a flat out liar. Just like if I say that I did not foresee something negative coming, I’d be lying to myself. The State Security officials told me that thanks to a diverse range of sources, they knew that I had a digital memory device and that these technologies were strictly prohibited in Cuban jails. They told me that I had to turn it in and that they would be responsible to hand it back to Oleidis. I acceded without a fight, though I must say that such ridiculousness gave rise to an uncontrollable and ironic laughter in me. This apparently surprised the main henchmen.

It is an incredible fact that the international community must know that in the jails of this island video and photo cameras, radios, DVDs, recorders, fans, cell phones, and phones in service for prisoners are all either restricted or constantly monitored. Flash drives, Ipods, MP3s, and MP4s are all prohibited as well.

What is interesting about this story is that I simply use my 4 GB MP4 to listen to music, to play mind challenge games, and to stare at pictures of my beloved family. From today on I will have to do without staring at the one thing that I long for the most from within this wretched place. Such an insignificant thing is capable of worrying the informants of the Investigative Technical Department, Interior Order, Internal Control, and State Security of this detachment B of the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila, especially in galley 43.

It’s quite possible that the culprit of so much denunciations has been observing me for days on end, to inform his employers as they violate basic rights. Perhaps while I record this story the architect of passing on so much valuable information will hear this and applaud it. Their lack of human value leaves a lot of things unanswered. Even so, I’d still help him with whatever I can, but please, I won’t accept that someone will manipulate my intelligence. I am solidary by nature and if I have learned something during these 87 months of captivity it has been to forgive my fellow human beings. Even if so much human misery makes it seem absurd. We must keep in mind that such kinds of men are only pawns of the government and their political game. This is very common in Cuban prisons.

Sebastian Lebriel is right when he says in his letter that it is very terrible that one must live through such an injust struggle in this lifetime. But, my friend, if it is not me, it will be someone else. As long as evil exists in this world there will be men and women determined to fight against it. I do not doubt that one bit.

In addition to being prohibited from freedom, I am also prohibited from entertainment, from listening to music, and from seeing the pictures of my Odeilis and my only son, Jimmy. But it doesn’t matter, this means that I will only have more time now to continue what I dedicate myself to in prison: writing down what my conscience dictates and denouncing the constant violations of human rights in Cuba.

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.