Inspection under the Sun


Image: Salvador Dali

Early in the day, the guards announced we should prepare our cells for an inspection. In addition, the warden would update us on new disciplinary measures. We all assumed that the inspection would take place in the morning. To our surprise however it began at 11:25 am in the scorching hot sun and with no shade. They grouped us all together and the second in command, Major Landis, took the microphone.

He began by saying that, because we were the biggest section of the prison, this was the only time that would work for the inspection. There they go, further punishment for us. Also, he said that as of the 8th of June, prisoners only have access to the telephone from 8 am to 5 pm, and have also prohibited handicrafts, causing of course the number of prison riots to rise.

Immediately I put up my hand to reserve to discuss the new telephone schedule. Scarcely had the major finished speaking, was I called into the warden’s office. Here I explained to him that in a celebrated press conference in the second quarter of 2003, ex foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque proclaimed that every one of the prisoners from the uprising of the 75 were entitled to, on the basis of human rights, 120 minutes per month telephone access. And now this rule was infringing on that right.

Likewise, I took the opportunity to mention to him that in Cuban government reports, on the topic of human rights, or lack thereof, where exposed by the chancellor. The major assured me that as of June 8th, the number of telephones in the prison would be increased and we may be able to use then every day, not every three days as we had up until now. After our little chat, I was returned back to the other two hundred inmates out in the blazing hot sun.

After about an hour, they called my name and I followed the procession of prisoners back to my cell. I was visited by an a very nice official who shook my blanket, looked at the two beds in the cell and checked my uniform, gray with a lateral stripe, to be worn by all the prisoners. That was it. Almost two hours spent dehydrating in the midday sun to announce these unfair rules, check our uniforms and shake my blanket.

It can be said that there is a very fine line between the ridiculous and the sublime. Just as the same can be said of humiliation and torture. The saddest part of the whole story is that when they finally allowed up back inside, the prison populous look exhausted and beaten down. For this I feel a deep sorrow for my fellow sufferers and yet, I feel the same.

They longed to rested and get out of the burning sun. And yet we also noticed we were in the midst of a blackout. Ripples of conversation began and some of them inquired, ‘Politically, something must be going on: with no telephone after 5 pm, no more crafts, but members of the guard walking around with new walkie-talkies, rescheduling visit, something political has to be going on”.

Pablo Pachco: Canaleta Prison


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