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

Galban: Testimony before the CSI (International Confederation Union)

Miguel Galban speaks before the International Confederation Union.

First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you for allowing me this opportunity to be here with you today. I will briefly tell you about what happened to me in my country. My name is Miguel Galban Gutierrez, and I was imprisoned during the Black Spring of 2003, being sentenced for 26 years of confinement, and afterwards, I was condemned to a life sentence by the Ministry of the Public Prosecutor. My trial did not consist of any lawful procedures, at all. At the moment of my detainment, I was the sub-director of the National Center for Training Labor Union (CNCSL) and a journalist for the independent newspaper Habana Press. My work simply consisted of denouncing the Cuban reality to the rest of the world, and similarly, in the union, my job was to provide the peaceful opposition and the Cuban workers with efficient information that would further allow them to defend their rights as workers.

I graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and later completed my Masters Degree in Maintenance. I would like to point out that, ever since the year 1998, the Cuban government has denied me the right to perform as a professional just because of my political views and my rebellious attitude. Let’s not forget that in my country the only employer is the government.

I must tell you all that during my unjust confinement, which lasted longer than 7 and a half years, I was tortured both physically and mentally, and I was humiliated and harassed both my prison guards and by officers from State Security.

When I was first thrown into prison, they placed me in a penitentiary that was located nearly 180 Kilometers from my house. This prison was known as the dark and fearful Aguica, a stronghold of torture and horrible treatment, considered by the regime to be at the “forefront” of all those other terrible places which can be found throughout my entire Cuban island. When I arrived at that place, there was a sign hanging at the entrance which foreshadowed the horrors I was about to endure in that living Castro-ite hell. It read: “You have arrived to Aguica. If you don’t fix yourself, we’ll fix you.” And so they would try, with the only two methods that they know- horrible treatment and beatings. I was able to confirm this on many occasions during my stay there for four years in a half, while they kept me confined to that dungeon of torture known as 15 & K, which happens to be the same spot where the headquarters of the National Direction of Established Penitentiaries resides.

The most repressive of the torturers there was captain Emilio Cruz Rodriguez. I recall one occasion when he applied an asphyxiation technique on me, with the help of various henchmen of course. This painful process consisted of him pressuring both of his hands around my neck, pushing down on my carotid artery until I was at the point of nearly passing out. For a few days after that, the area which he pressed down on was deeply bruised. He got permission to do all of this from the director of the prison unit, captain Diosdado More and a State Security official called Porfirio Penate.

This place I am telling you about does not offer the prisoners adequate food or medical care. We lived in subhuman conditions, while we’re all crammed into overcrowded spaces- spaces which are about 24 meters squared, where 24 prisoners must live side by side. There is a lack of ventilation, illumination, and the hygiene is terrible. There is no psychiatric attention available for the prisoners, and therefore, the levels of suicides and self-inflictions are very high in comparison with other jails throughout the country. Furthermore, the prisoners do not have the right to receive any mail, while the few who are actually allowed to receive some have no privacy whatsoever, for guards give them in their letters only when they have read it first and understood it. Only then can a prisoner receive his open envelope.

As for the medical attention I received during my prison years, I can say that it was nearly nonexistent. I waited for more than 5 years to have an endoscopy performed on me because of my gastrointestinal problems. My vision has been strongly affected, as has been my hearing. Many of my teeth have deteriorated while some of them are missing, due to the strong pains which I felt in some of them, leaving me no other choice than to take them out. The stress I suffered from left some serious consequences, as well as lots of damage to my memory. I have undergone some serious misfortunes that will forever mark my life, like the death of my mother, who passed away on October of 2008. Her death was not a product of a biological disease, but instead solely due to all the suffering she went through because of my unjust and cruel imprisonment. In addition, she was not able to visit me, for the distance was very far and she was not able to travel for such long trips. The Cuban authorities only allowed me to see her twice.

The Cuban regime did not just condemn us, but also our families. They were victims of such repressive mechanisms for 7 years and a half. We must keep in mind all the difficulties they confronted just to visit us and take us essential things we needed to survive in those cemeteries of living men. Our families deserve to be acknowledged for all their bravery.

My niece, who was doing very well in her job as an information specialist, was forced to quit after they punished her with slashing her salary by 50%, for the sole reason that the Cuban Intelligence Unit had found out that she received an e-mail from someone abroad who was asking about my condition.

Cuba has not changed, and it violates all international covenants of the International Worker’s Organization (OIT) which it has signed. Cuban workers are continuously denied the right to strikes, to peacefully protest, and to move freely to the capital to find work. Workers on the island are defenseless in the face of such arbitrary measures formulated by their employers, they suffer discrimination at work for political beliefs, and they are forced to affiliate themselves with the CTC which is the official union that is a subordinate of the state and run by the Communist Party. Furthermore, they are required to assist political activities and must be paid according to union quota.
I find myself here today not because I was released as a result of a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the Cuban authorities. Instead, I have been used as a token of trade which had the objective of ending the measures which the European Union has kept towards the Castro regime. My decision to accept such a deportation has been strictly because of family, for they could no longer continue to be victims of the dictatorship. They deserve honorable lives, decent lifestyles, and to live in freedom just like our creator wanted for all people.

We hope we can count on support from all of you so that during the next International Worker’s Conference, which is scheduled to take place on June 2011 in Geneva, the Republic of Cuba will be included in the list of the 25 countries which violate worker’s rights the most. We hope that a mission goes underway that members of the CSI or of OIT could meet with Cuban union members, whether they are official or independent, so that they can see the reality. Independent workers carry out their labor in very dangerous conditions, just like my own case which I testified here before you: they sent us to prison with very long sentences, forcing us to live side by side with actual dangerous criminals charged with elevated rate of dangerousness, molesters, and murderers. In addition, we hope that our case be present in the OIT and in the annual report made by the CSI, because the Castro-brother’s government continues with its inactivity.

May God bless you all,
Thank you very much,
Miguel Galban

Fulfilled What?

My sister in the civil struggle, Marta Beatriz Roque, commented to me that the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, had recently declared in New York that Cuba “had fulfilled” its promise. And now, I ask myself: did the totalitarian Castro-ite regime honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Did Cuba fulfill the observance of international economic, social, and cultural pacts and the civil and political pacts which it signed nearly two years ago but has not yet ratified in the State Council nor put into practice into the Socialist Cuban Constitution? Did the regime in Havana adhere to documents which it signed during the Ibo-American Summit? Did Cuba respect the principles highlighted in the UN charter?

In sum, did it fulfill the implementation of democracy, respect for rights, and social justice in Cuba? And if Mr.Moratinos said this in reference to the exile of the majority of my brothers from the group of the 75 to Spain, then I should remind the chief of Spanish diplomacy that each one of us are all prisoners of conscience, so declared by the prestigious NGO Amnesty International, which means that we should have never been kidnapped as hostages of the communist Cuban regime in the first place. And, much more important than our immediate release, I’d like to remind him that what is necessary is the unblocking of our rights and freedoms which are inherent to all members of Cuban civil society.

Mister Moratinos: We are peaceful fighters and social communicators who, peacefully, try to upheld rights and freedoms to be respected equally for all Cubans. We are not secret agents of foreign countries, and we are not mercenaries at the service of any nation. Our noble and dignified struggle only aims to bring truth, freedom, justice, and love to the largest of the Antilles.

Pedro Arguelles Moran

Hunger Strike

The political prisoner, Lamberto Hernandez Plana, declared himself on hunger strike on September 23rd.

Hernandez Plana is 41 years old and hails from a home on 24th street number 109, between 15th and 17th in Vedado, in the municipal capital of Plaza of the Revolution. He is one of the ones from the group that was transferred from Camaguey in 2007 to Aguica in Matanzas when they went on strike in the prison of Kilo8 in protest of the deaths of various common prisoners caused by guards.

On the 23rd of September they once again transferred him to Camaguey, where those murderous guards reside. According to him, he is transferred so much because they do it in order to avenge themselves and to keep him exiled from his native City of Havana, for he has already been outside of the capital for 18 years.

Lamberto Hernandez Plana has informed me that he will not eat until he is in the City of Havana, while he suffers from ulcers, severe gastritis, duodenitis, a stomach hernia, and also poli-neuropathy, and he does not have any medicines in his reach right now as he finds himself in transit from Canaleta to Camaguey.

Pedro Aguelles Morán
Provincial Prison of Canaleta
Ciego de Ávila