Open Letter to Barack Obama, President of the United States

Image: “Day of the Flowers” by Diego Rivera

Mr. President,

The Swedish Academy has wisely awarded you the Nobel Peace Prize, an award that exalts and dignifies the human condition. I think the Swedes honored you with such a high distinction in support of your extending a hand not only to friends but also to adversaries, and for inviting them to resolve differences at the negotiation table through dialogue and consensus, as the path to peace should be straightened out in a civilized manner; and for your tremendous responsibility, not just to your own country, but to all of humanity.

Mr. Obama: humanity needs peace, but without justice there cannot be peace, nor freedom; nor can truth prevail and much less love. Christian social doctrine proposes that “It’s human beings that must be saved; it’s human society that must be renewed”, and if we do not assume the moral and social responsibility of encouraging peace for human society and of dedicating all our necessary and useful efforts and sacrifices, then all the evils that afflict humanity will not be resolved, and neither peace nor fraternity, solidarity, common good, nor the state of having rights will prevail.

Mr. President, please, do not forget the political prisoners and those of conscience who are rotting their lives away in the many dungeons, those who are accused and persecuted because of their ideas and democratic principles, those who live poorly, weighed down by tremendous material and spiritual misery, denied the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as is the case, among others, in Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan; those who are held hostage by the narco-terrorists of the inaccurately-named Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and also the Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who suffers from bad health and for years now has been subjected to house arrest in Rangoon, Burma.

Mr. Obama, I modestly congratulate you and wholeheartedly wish that God may bless, guide, and enlighten you so you can achieve all the outcomes you have proposed to accomplish during your administration both on a national level and on a very important international level. I am of mixed race like you, and I have been jailed for being a social communicator in favor of the human rights and liberties that are inherent in the dignity of all human beings.

Pedro Argüelles Morán. Group of the 75. Provincial Prison of Canaleta. Ciego de Avila, Cuba.


Voices Behind the Bars

Image: “Moon and Sun” by Rufino Tamayo

NOTE from the editors of “Voice Behind the Bars”: We have decided to offer the readers of this blog the actual audio conversations over the phone with the political prisoners that write in this blog.


(Transcription of Pablo Pacheco’s audio, courtesy of Yami777)

Love Your Enemy

Today, more than ever, I understood the points of coincidence between the South Africa of Nelson Mandela and the Cuba of Jose Marti.

John Carlin’s book, “The Human Factor”, amply demonstrated this to me.

I am among those who think that not only does racial apartheid exist, but so too does political apartheid, which is as inhumane as what Nelson Mandela confronted and conquered along with the African National Congress.

I had read about this universal man even though his autobiography has not yet come into my hands. Today there was born within me a new-found respect for Nelson Mandela that went beyond my own awareness.

Now I find myself in prison for reasons of conscience. Never have I raised a fist against any compatriot for thinking differently from me, and yet my prison sentence is twenty years.

But Nelson Mandela has just shown me that firmness can give us incalculable results. I harbor Nelson Mandela’s same dream.

Cuba needs to erase the negative symbols in order to establish new messsages that are constructive and based on the principles of love and reconciliation of all Cubans.

We who are in prison and you who keep us here must transform hate and fear into generosity and love, the same way Mandela did.

I recognize that among my brothers exist men like Justice De Quebeque, whose memory of so much ignominy would not let him forgive his people.

Only the astuteness and political talent of Nelson Mandela made him change his mind. He ended up like his people, loving his enemies.

There exists a worse death than a shot to the head. Avoid it, those of you who can. I suggest to those who have held onto power for more than fifty years that they read this brilliant and liberating book by John Carlin. It gave me goose bumps, and on more than one occasion brought tears to my eyes.

From today on I have learned the most essential lesson for my future: to love my enemies. I assure that, before God, during these 6 years and 7 months of forced captivity which has included the separation from my family, especially from my wife who has had to raise our only son, now 11 years old, on her own, I have not had the nerve to hate those who consider me their enemy.

Thank you Nelson Mandela for your extraordinary political strength, and thank you John Carlin for your marvelous narrative.

Questions and Answers

In an unprecedented event within contemporary Cuban journalism, a president of the United States has responded to various questions coming from the blogger Yoani Sanchez. The questionnaire aimed at Barack Obama is interesting and very intelligent, coming from this young woman who has paid for the price of glory with composure and dignity, and also with physical blows and scratches- something inevitable for those who decide to not accept prison chains wrapped around their thoughts.

She doesn’t even consider herself an opponent of the regime in Havana. She has manifested this more than once. Perhaps her political innocence does not allow her to see that the tentacles of totalitarianism could not care less about her condition of being a woman. Many of my colleagues have read me the responses of Obama. In reality, they are at the height of the president of the most powerful nation on the planet. They prove that the use of force towards Cuba on behalf of the US only persists in the brains of the rulers of this economically worn-out country, which has no energy for any other wars, especially after the one we involved ourselves with – decades ago- in Africa.

It is possible that this could be the most appropriate moment for a rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. It is a fallacy that these two countries are historic enemies; their cultural and family ties more accurately demonstrate their closeness. We cannot forget that the majority of our own diaspora resides in the state of Florida, where they have triumphed economically and politically, helping with an extraordinary shipment of goods to us Cubans on the island.

Obama, upon responding to Yoani, proposes a dialogue with the acting president Raul Castro, without ignoring the exile community and of course taking into consideration those who suffer from imprisonment, persecution, and those of us who represent the emerging civil society. It is not the first time that Obama suggests a dialogue. To my understanding, he always receives the same rhetoric for an answer. I must point out that the philosophical thinking of Bismarck states that “politics is the art of the possible”. I do not call such a reflection into questioning, but it has been fifty years.

Just like that Yoani also touches upon an issue that provokes both contradiction and division between those Cubans who are here and those who are over there- the embargo. As famous as the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a universally unique case, or maybe that is how I think of it after hearing the same phrase time and time again. But it is very certain that bitter enemies of the US in the past have been able to reestablish relations with that world power- and that does not mean that both parties act like brothers but that they are not fighting to have each other’s heads anymore. In one occasion I read something written by Mother Theresa of Calcutta- “Justice without love is difficult, and intelligence without love is cruel.”

Lastly- with extraordinary acuteness- Yoani questions Barack Obama about a possible visit to the island. He, neither short nor sluggish, supports the equal rights of all Cubans, as he states for his future visit. Congratulations, President, out of the seven questions, to me this one has been the most effective one that was asked.

It’s true that this world is crazy- nobody read me the demands that Yoani Sanchez also made of the Cuban president Raul Castro, who has not yet responded. Surely, he won’t either.

Pablo Pacheco, prisoner of conscience, Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Avila, Cuba.


We, the members of the group of the 75, as well as the many other political prisoners and prisoners of conscience have relied on the extraordinary stimulus and incentive that is solidarity, whether it be material or spiritual, coming from individuals and institutions on different points of the planet.

And on behalf of all of them and myself, I want to communicate our sincere gratitude and pray that God bless and protect them. We are jailed for being social communicators and civil fighters, who have assumed the noble and dignified role of fighting peacefully for the respect of the rights and liberties that are inherent to all human beings. The totalitarian Castro regime systematically and intentionally violates each and every one of the 30 articles found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We would like to let you all know that despite our suffering, we, along with our relatives, will continue onward, because we are convinced and committed to the just cause of Fundamental Rights and Liberties. Signs of solidarity and support for those of us who are rotting in jail because of our principles and ideals are gestures that exalt and dignify the human condition.

Pedro Arguelles Morán. Prisoner of Conscience from the Group of the 75. Jailed in Canaleta.

Open Letter of Solidarity with the Bloggers

We political prisoners of conscience from the group of the 75 who are in the Provincial Prison of Canaleta in Ciego de Ávila energetically denounce the events that occurred on the afternoon of Friday, November 6, 2009, out in the open on G Street in the capital of Cuba . Three bloggers were violently detained while they were on their way to a non-violent demonstration.

We are calling on the national and international communities to intercede with the authorities of Havana to protect the security and physical integrity of these people, especially the blogger Yoani Sánchez Cordero, who is currently recuperating from the blows she received from agents of the political police.

Enough of the hate and ignominy! Cubans need love, peace, and reconciliation.

Felix Navarro
Pedro Arguelles Morán
Pablo Pacheco Ávila

Note: We are not including the signature of Antonio Díaz, because he is confined to a punishment cell.

Cured of H1N1

Image: The Garden, by Joan MIró

It is undeniable that human beings are unpredictable; we adapt to the environment in which we live, and despite the difficult conditions of prison, I desperately missed the 43rd barracks. For five days I was recovering from the H1N1 pandemic (which plagues countries and mainly overpopulated places like prisons) in the Provincial Antonio Luaces Iraola Hospital in the capital of Ávila.

The case is that my happiness multiplied when my doctor, Arias, approved my release from the hospital. I imagined myself with my companions in misfortune telling stories of such things, along with offering friendly advice to any of these men eager to understand.

I was waiting since ten in the morning for the lock-up car that would take me back to the prison. The functionary of the prisoner ward made numerous telephone calls to the Canaleta prison explaining to the military guards that because I was being released from the hospital, they would not give me medication or food; they promised to come pick me up as soon as possible.

To describe my desperation about the delay is impossible. It wasn’t until five in the afternoon that the head driver arrived. He was a soldier, and as a product of my despair, I did not notice his rank. I know that his last name was Tejeda. What is interesting is that he came in a hurry, but I was already cured of fear, and I did not pay much attention to him.

To top it off, six people got into the hospital elevator, which is about three meters in length by one and a half in width, along with my belongings and a hospital bed containing a deceased person. I felt sorry for the lady that mourned the loss of her loved one and I still don’t understand the lack of tact on the part of Tejeda to not wait a couple of minutes for another elevator, where we would be more comfortable and without any dead body. Also, we would have avoided the reproaches made by the suffering woman.

On the way back to the prison, the driver, whom they call Machete, drove into every pothole that existed on the road, as if the wagon were a magnet for them.

Upon entering the prison I could feel the affection that many prisoners have for me, especially for being a political prisoner of conscience. I was also delighted with a sincere hug from my companion in cause, Pedro Arguelles Morán, who was overjoyed to see me recuperated. Furthermore, thanks to my daring, I was able to greet the political prisoner of conscience (also from the group of the 75), Adolfo Fernández Sainz. Upon entering the barracks, everyone hugged me, full of euphoria, and I felt like the happiest man on earth: I felt loved.

I cannot finish without saying that some irresponsible person did not cook my necessary diet and I had to make do with an omelet sandwich that one of the cooks made for me, and a drink that I prepared myself. Now, once more in the 43rd barracks, I can do what I most enjoy: write what I feel and what I can. H1N1 is history for me.

Pablo Pacheco, Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Ávila