Enough of the Hate!

Photo taken from http://www.cubaencuentro.com

I have tried, time and time again, writing about a great Cuban, but I just can’t accept the fact that Orlando Zapata Tamayo is no longer with us. Last week, I wrote an article in which I was trying to bring to light the fear I was feeling of this patriot suffering a fatal outcome. Later, I spoke with Yarai Reyes, the wife of prisoner of conscience Normando Hernandez Gonzalez. Like always, she thoroughly explained the details to me and everything that she heard through Radio Marti about the funeral. When I heard the statements that Reina Tamayo told the press, I felt a very strange emotion that is difficult for me to explain. Another Cuban mother who loses her son in the jails of this country, made more difficult by his condition as a prisoner of conscience, a title given to him by Amnesty International.

They also informed me about the declarations made by Cuba’s president, General Raul Castro Ruz. I do not trust him, the same way I do not trust the sincerity of his words in lamenting the loss of one human life. The brother of the revolution’s leader has not even moved a finger in favor of those of us who love Cuba from a perspective different than that of communism. Additionally, while being denied our freedom, some of us suffer from chronic diseases that were contracted in prison. There exist some of us who are in danger of death also. I am a loyal researcher of my countrie’s history and I do not remember an instance under the cruel dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in which a similar case to that of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s occurred. It is possible that those who are responsible for the physical disappearance of the dissident will not find tranquility when it is their time to rest. I can’t imagine how they can now stare at the faces of their children and grandchildren. It is a responsibility far too strong for the human conscience.

Today, I must acknowledge the gesture of the Catholic Church to accompany, in his last moments, this brother in struggle. The maximum authority of the country had no compassion towards this man. I want to ask those responsible: What have they won; perhaps it is sufficient for you all to hold on to power by paying an extremely unecessary price? Today, the country of Jose Marti is in mourning- hate and intolerance have amputated the life of a person who was only 42 years of age. Forgive them, God, they have lost their notion of responsibility. The international community has criticized the act, I assure you that its not enough. It is unpredictable how far those who hold on to absolute power will go.

We know what has happened to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and we honor him in each one of our hearts, with the conviction that Tamayo lives on. His legacy is an inspiration for the new generations and a grand shame for those who could have done something for him but chose not to. We have reached the moment where we must scream, for silence is the accomplice of injustice. Enough of the hate, enough of the resentment, and enough of intolerance and harm! Let us love, and that way we will honor Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an undisputable symbol of a democratic, independent, and free Cuba.

Pablo Pacheco Avila.


Orlando Zapata Tamayo Died Today

More information and links will be posted here as the evening goes on.

Please click here for more information about the life of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Note: Normally, we the translators and people who help post this blog stay in the background.  However, with this extraordinarily tragic event, and given the long delay in getting word from the prisoners to this page, we are stepping outside our background role just this one time.  The main translator and helper on this blog has prepared the following statement in Spanish and English.

Hoy murio Orlando Zapata Tamayo.  Nosotros, los voluntarios que manejamos este blog, Voces Tras Las Rejas, para alguno de los presos politicos en Cuba, quizieramos mostrar nuestras sinceras condolencias para la familia de Zapata Tamayo, en especial a su madre, Reina Luisa Tamayo. La noticia de hoy ha sido devastante, y nada mas comprueba que el regimen de los Castros solo oprime a su pueblo. Se han hecho los ciegos y  han dejado a este hombre morir.  Pero ni su vida, ni su lucha, fueron en vano.  La vida de Orlando Zapata Tamayo ha sido agregada a una lista muy larga y dolorosa de nombres de mujeres y hombres valientes que han dado todo sus vidas para lograr una Cuba libre. Su lucha continuara, sus ideas se manteneran firmes atraves de todo el pueblo Cubano y tambien por todos, aunque no sean Cubanos, que crean en la libertad, justicia, y los derechos humanos.  Nuestras oraciones estan con Orlando Zapata Tamayo, con su familia, y con todos los Cubanos que riesgan lo poco que tienen para luchar por lo justo.  Hoy, aunque sentiremos mucho dolor, toda la comunidad Cubana, en el exilio y dentro de la isla, tambien sentimos un gran orgullo en poder decir que Orlando Zapata Tamayo, era uno de los nuestros.  Que dios te guarde, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a ti y a todos los tuyos.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo died today.  We, the volunteers who manage this blog, Voices Behind the Bars, for some of the political prisoners in Cuba, would like to demonstrate our sincerest condolences for the family of Zapata Tamayo, especially his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo.  Today’s news has been devastating and only proves that the Castro regime only oppresses its people.  They have pretended to be blind, looked the other way, and have left this man to die.  But neither his life, or his struggle, were in vain.  The life of Orlando Zapata Tamayo has been added to a very long and painful list of names of brave men and women who have given all of their lives in order to achieve a Free Cuba.  His struggle will continue, his ideas will be firmly maintained through all of the Cuban people and also by everyone else who, even if you are not Cuban, believe in freedom, justice, and human rights.  Our prayers are with Orlando Zapata Tamayo, with his family, and with all the Cubans who risk the little that they have to fight for what’s right.  Today, although we may feel a great deal of pain, all of the Cuban community, in exile and within the island, also feel a great sense of pride because we are able to say that Orlando Zapata Tamayo was one of ours.  May God keep you, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, you and all of yours.

The Agony of Zapata Tamayo

Flight: by Noel del Rosal Ortiz

The subject which I am writing about today is not a matter of affinity for one ideology or another; after all, men die and ideas endure.  But it is indispensable to get to the human root of those who hold the power and responsibility to determine the outcome of the future of one man.  For several weeks now, the political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo has taken part in a hunger strike that could have unpredictable results on the fate of his health.  It is about one man, considered a modest person by those who know him, who is courageous and capable of facing even the ultimate consequences for the respect of others and in defense of the fundamental rights of a human being.  In this very moment, Zapata Tamayo resides in a hospital ward in the prison known as Combinando East, according to my friend.

This terrible story began back in the Black Spring of 2003 when, although he should have been considered one of the political prisoners arrested in the group of 75, Zapata Tamayo was not given the “privilege” of being part of this “selective circle” because of astute maneuvers by the Cuban political police.  Now he finds himself between life and death; he is simply asking for decent and humane treatment.  The blame for the consequences of an ill-fated outcome will be on the consciences of the men who, hiding behind military uniforms, punish, torture, and beat fellow human beings already deprived of their freedom.

In the midst of the crisis which Cuba is living through — one of the most severe of its history — it has become common practice to go out of one’s way to use accumulated hate against convicts, especially against those who are political prisoners.  I demand, I scream, for someone to explain to me who granted those guards the right to hit this man who is peaceful by nature.  Perhaps they think they govern in the jungle?

This situation with Zapata Tamayo should serve as a call for reflection and a demand to the authorities in Havana to cease the hostilities against the peaceful dissidence.  On the other hand, infinite recognition should be given to those who remained, day and night, in the periphery of Amalia Simone Hospital, keeping vigil over the progression of the health of their brother in struggle, despite the extreme amount of vigilance by the Cuban Secret Intelligence Service.  It must be pointed out that we five political prisoners of conscience who find ourselves in the Canaleta prison in Ciego de Avila, are showing solidarity with Orlando Zapata and his family.  Those who are in power on this island still have time to respond positively to the demands of this sick dissident.  Hopefully tomorrow will not be too late.

From my point of view I see two options that respond to simple, but necessary, words during these moments: respect and tolerance.  Zapata Tamayo should live, for there is still a great deal that he can do for Cuba.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

Save Orlando Zapata Tamayo

The following entry is an open letter written by the mother of political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, together with other figures from Cuba’s dissidence. It is directed to US president Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former Polish president Lech Walesa.

It is taken from the web site, Uncommon Sense.


Save Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Open Letter from the Alternative Republican Movement


Barack H. Obama
President of the United States of America

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State

Lech Walesa
Former President of Poland

February 13th, 2010

On April of 1959 the newly established dictator, Fidel Castro, visited various universities of the country and when students asked him what political system will reign in Cuba, he responded with: “neither capitalism nor socialism, in Cuba humanism will reign”. Today, after more than half a century in power, the world knows the true history: Hunger, misery, executions, political prisoners, and exile.

In these very moments, the life of the prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, is in a very serious state of danger. This distinguished black activist has been on hunger strike for than two months in demand for better prison conditions. He has been condemned to 56 years and 6 months of prison through rigged military trials, without any guarantees, lawyers, or even the presence of any family members- all of this for the simple act of defending the rights and freedoms that are denied to his people, and for his non-conformist posture in the face of the arbitrary and viscous actions carried out by the penal authorities and the political police.

Since 2003, Orlando Zapata Tamayo has been in various prisons of the country, from Pinar del Rio to Holguin. He has taken part in various hunger strikes, the longest being in the provincial prison of Holguin for 47 days, in which he lost 63 pounds. In all of these prisons he has received continuous beatings. We should also point out that in 7 years of prison, he has only been allowed 506 hours of sunlight.

The brutal beatings from which he has been victim of have left him grave consequences. On March 23rd, 2009 he was operated from a serious bruise on his head which was product of a beating given to him a year prior in March of 2008, seeing that he had already been denied medical assistance. The last three physical aggressions were due to the fact that he had a book titled “Voces Tras Las Rejas”.

Through such websites like PayoLibre.com, Miscelanesdecuba.net, Cubademocraciayvida.org, Martinoticias.com, and others, the independent press gave coverage to the civic protests carried out by Zapato Tamayo, vice president of our organization. Also, we want to signal out that during the hunger strike started on September 24th, in which he demanded his right to 25 minutes of telephone calls directed by those who run Castro’s gulags, Zapata spent 6 days without drinking water. The henchmen of the regime told him not to ask for water because they would give him water mixed with detergent. But it doesn’t end here.

In the third strike, October 26th 2009, they gave him a wound on his head without having any consideration for his recent surgery. This time, demonstrating their despicable nature, the regime’s henchmen told him: “We’re gonna finish with this nigger”. This demonstrates the level of discrimination in Cuba, which is intensified if it is an opposer of the system.

After a tremendous amount of beatings, this titan of the times was taken to the prison of maximum severity known as Kilo 8 in the province of Camaguey, where the current hunger strike began. Due to his state of health he was taken to the provincial hospital of Camaguey. The latest news received from Cuba, through the Ladies in White, informs us that he is currently in the Intensive Care unit of that hospital.

We also observe, with worry, the viciousness against the political prisoner Juan Ramon Rivero Despaigne, member of our movement as well, sentenced under the cause of the 146 of 2009 for a supposed crimed of disrespect. This time he shall be subdued to a new trial for causing an attempt when in reality, it was him trying to defend himself from a beating by his own jailers after he demanded medical attention. Prior to this he had served 2 years in prison. His position as an opposer of the system is the true reason for all these condemnations.

This is the humanism that they promised the Cuban people.

On the 27th of January of this year, democracy was consolidated in Honduras within a matter of only 7 months of crisis. On the other hand, Cuba bears 613 months of tyranny without having unanimous and blunt voices going against it, which is how it ironically happened when it dealt against the rights of the republic of Honduras in respecting its laws and constitution. The celebrated meeting in Nicaragua in favor of the destituted president, which counted on the presence of the Cuban ruler Raul Castro, constituted the most hypocritical and insolent act in modern history, demonstrating the international conspiracy that exists and persists with the Castro-communist dictatorship and has lasted so many years, much to the disgrace of the Cuban people.

We, the undersigned, are making a calling to solidarity to unite your voices in an international campaign to save the life of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, defender of human rights and freedom, for the freedom of all the political prisoners, and for the return of democracy to Cuba.

Awaiting your responses.
Wishing you success and sincerely gratifying beforehand.

Signing are members of the Alternative Republican Movement.

Enri Saumell
Ex-political prisoner
President; Founder

Humberto Montoya Portuondo
Founding member

Reina Tamayo Danger
Lady in White
Mother of Orlando Zapata

Yadira Garcia
Ex-political prisoner
Founding member

Ricardo Rodriguez Borrero
Ex-political prisoner
Member of the directory

Daniel Escalona Martinez
Ex-political prisoner

Jose Antonio Sanchez Santoyo
President of functions-Cuba

Carlos Agustin Martinez Chaviano
Ex-political prisoner

Victor Valbuena
Venezuelan citizen

Isnel Basulto Verdecia

Difficult Day

Difficult Day

During the past few years of my life in captivity, I have had some difficult days…very difficult, I would say, but none like the one this past January 4th.

During the morning hours, the educator from Detachment 3, where I have been living for a year now, told me to get ready to do an X-ray of my thorax. I should point out that this kind of radiography is done within this very prison of Canaleta in Ciego de Avila, and that the doctor, Gisel, whom offers medical assistance to the five men of Offensive number 2 (or in other words, of the cause of the 75 of the Black Spring), had scheduled this test for me ever since the past first day of the month, but for X or Y reason it had not happened yet.

I don’t know why I could foresee a catastrophic outcome waiting for me. It turns out that upon arriving to the penal warehouse the chief of the Detachment, with extreme decency, asked me to put my hands against my back in order to put on the shackles. With some sort of supernatural impulse I responded with a flat-out NO. I am not against putting on the handcuffs, up to now I’ve done so without difficulty; it just so happens that by going downstairs, a simple trip or stumble could disfigure my entire body. Having my hands tied to my back would prevent me from protecting myself from such a fall.

The soldier previously mentioned returned me to the 43rd Galley. I tried to communicate with the doctor, who supposedly responds to our health issues, but such a communication was impossible. Now everything depends on destiny and on my anatomy, for I have been in a severe flue-like state for more than 12 days… I have endured a fever.

What didn’t go through my mind, though, was that the worst was still to come. While the soap operas were playing, I went to look for my mp4 that I had for the purpose of playing mental skill games, listening to some music, and to finish the night delighting myself with pictures of my wife and son, which I jealously treasured within the efficient memory. I was shocked upon noticing the absence of my device when I looked inside my pillow. I searched for it with the help of nearly all the men in the galley, and I don’t doubt that amongst all the helpers may be the malevolent thief.

My sentiments towards such an act are impossible to describe. They have robbed me from photography, which is what I miss the most. In the morning, those who care for me came to the galley and made a calling for the mp4 to be given back to me.

Before finishing this chronicle I want to mention that, although I’m not sure of it I don’t deny that the robbery was orchestrated by the political police- in fact, some of my fellow recluses have suggested this possibility. I cannot deny that whichever guard, for the sake of accumulating points with the intelligence service or to simply comply doing whatever this penal establishment feels like doing, could have lent themselves to carry out such a coarse action. From now on I should be more distrustful. I’ll have to suffer every night upon knowing that I cannot count on the images of my family.

To understand the repression of Cuban prison centers it must be noted that the maximum direction of the country prohibits any of the following items to be entered into jail cells: radios, memory drives, video and photographic cameras, cell phones, DVDs, and anything else that could possibly provide an alternative source to national TV. There is a rule that exists that they know: Information is power. This is the real reason for so many prohibitions. Who knows, maybe that’s also the cause for the robbery of my mp4.

Pablo Pacheco

Young Prisoner Ends His Life

During the early morning hours of this past 28th of January, the common prisoner, Raudel Gonzalez Prieto, passed away in the provincial prison of Canaleta in Ciego de Avila. According to various sources, because of his blindness, Gonzalez Prieto was residing at the 23rd Galley of Detachment 4 where prisoners with chronic diseases live side by side.

The sources confirm that Gonzalez Prieto cut the veins on both his arms and when the functionary of the Order of the Interior, Lumbrado Alieski, arrived to take him to the hospital, he was already dying. In the same manner, it was made known that Gonzalez Prieto had been asking for days to speak with the board of penal directors, and at the moment of the self-infliction there was only one guard for Detachments 4 and 5.

In conclusion, the true motives for why this young man took his own life are still unknown. On the other hand, it was known that Gonzalez Prieto had been benefited with extra-penal liberty, but the tribunal revoked it on charges from a supposed bicycle robbery. They added five years to his prison sentence.

His residence is located in the municipality of Bolivia in the Avila province.

Pablo Pacheco, political prisoner in the provincial prison of Canaleta in Ciego de Avila, Cuba.

Suicidal Solidarity

In order to survive in prison, it is necessary to be talented.  Any jail cell of maximum strictness is truly a time bomb.  This past 26th of January, the penal director of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila ordered to relocate the common recluses Reinier Dickerson Martinez, Pedro Jesus Matamoros Cerguera, and Josbel Orama Soto to different detachments.

They had all previously been in Detachment 3 due their label of “Half Severe”.  The interesting thing of this story is that neither of them had committed any indisciplinary actions, so they did not understand the actions against them.  They also did not want to end up in the section where the “Severe” phase recluses reside. 

After 30 minutes of receiving the news through word of mouth from the educator Joel Prado Cervantes, the second chief of Interior Order, Omar Laudinot Malleta, appeared with the intention of completing the order given to him by the superiors of his military grade and directive charge.  And then the odyssey began.  According to eyewitness sources, Reinier Dickerson decided to go to an isolation cell but Jesus Matamoros was taken to Detachment 9 and upon opening the steel door, he began to furiously beat it along with the first man he saw infront of his path.

Josbel Orama did something similar in number 10.  A soldier with the last name Tejeda would give Orama Soto a beating with the stick carried by the functionaries of the Order of the Interior.  After the incident, both young men were taken to the punishment cell.

For whoever is imprisoned in Cuba, such an event is normal.  Those who rule within the Order of Interior do and undo whatever they feel like and are not met with any consequences.  I remember that it used to affect me when Eduardo Martinez Rodriguez, friend of the unfortunates, tied a plastic glove on his right hand and sliced his veins.  So much blood dripped from his arm that I even got goosebumps.  5  minutes after Michel Torres Gomez followed his example.

Sometimes I try to understand the soul of some of these soldiers.  It does not fit in my head that Marayobles preferred to continue giving lunch to Detachments 4 and 5 than to persuade Eduardo Martinez to not cut himself.  In fact, many prisoners here would scream at the top of their lungs and yet he remained static, unyielding.

I should point out that Martinez Rodriguez has the weight of an adolescent, barely 48 kg.  While I write these lines I get chills.  After spilling all the blood that he possibly could, while he held on with all his strength, Martinez Rodriguez fell to the ground like an agonized animal suffering from a mortal wound.  The inmates that were in the hallway helped move him to the penal hospital.

The identical situation occurred with Michel Torres Gomez.  The hallway looked like a place where they sacrificed animals; the blood was all over the place.  The most sinister part of all this was that Reinier, Pedro Jesus, and Josbel were all removed from Detachment 3 because, according to incoming information, they practice games that are prohibited and are bullies.

Within three hours of the events I went to speak to the three protagonists of the narration.  They informed me that upon reaching their cell, they were forced to strip naked and stand with their backs towards the soldiers; They were forced to squat down in the nude.  The humiliation had to be one of a kind.  From what I have understood, the re-educator of Detachment 9, Eugenio de la Cruz Canto, attempted to beat Pedro Jesus when he held the shackles in his hands; A very brave attitude on behalf of an official of re-education.

I really don’t know if it is a coincidence or just an idea of mine, but the three of these affected men are black and very loved by their infortunate companions.  I have understood that Reinier Dickerson was taken to Detachment 2 but that Jesus Matamoros is residing in number 4 and Josbel Oramas in the 5th.  Even though, according to them, the police promised them that they would investigate in depth all the information given to them by a very astute snitch who, thanks to his tongue, lives in this prison of Canaleta like a privilged sir, without reminding himself that his time is nearly here.

During the hours of the night, the lieutenant Colonel Reinerio Diaz Betancourt, the unit’s second chief Orlando Fernandez Fernandez, and an official of the superior guard all showed up in Detachment 3.  All of them were investiagating what had happened on that same afternoon. 


Pablo Pacheco, political prisoner in Canaleta Prison in Ciego de Avila, Cuba.