Take Care of Yourselves

The Long Road- Chad Elliott

Politics is the art of the possible. This is the reason for which I decided to support the dialogue between General Raul Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino from the very beginning. The cardinal appealed to our good will and intelligence, interceding for the Ladies in White and the political prisoners and the prisoners of conscience. The archbishop of Havana has ignored the criticisms from abroad or from within the island that have been made against his gesture. In honor of the truth, it must be said that any such attacks against this initiative could end in sterile results without the liberation of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and Jaime Ortega knows that very well.

His compromise with Cuba is an order from God and also hails from a calling from his own conscience. I sympathize with the cardinal, I don’t deny it. I fully trust Ortega Alamino. If I am criticized for this, then so be it. If I turn out to be mistaken, then I will acknowledge it. Besides, this opinion is my right and I will not trade it in to satisfy anyone. I’ve always believed that I should first be in accord with my own conscience and later with that of my fellow colleagues. Of course, this is without damaging my own values. In politics, sometimes it seems as if we are very far from reaching a desired objective when, in truth, the solution lies right before our noses. It is also true that during such fragile and tense moments we just may be very close to achieving the goals which we dream of.

But the transfer of Antonio Diaz Sanchez first and later Adolfo Fernandez Sainz and Felix Navarro have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Despite the ferrous control held over us, we political prisoners and prisoners of conscience manage to maintain a system of communication, evading the blockade of the government. Now, it is just Pedro Arguelles Moran and I. Our fates are uncertain, but whatever they may be it will be a very difficult process to once again form a group like that one which we formed here in this provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila. I do not doubt that in other prisons the same thing occurs, but our fellowship allowed us to survive and protect ourselves.

These men have been my friends during these long seven years. Tony, rebellious and incomparable when it comes to seeking solutions. Felix Navarro, unique for his intelligence and fairness, impossible to compare due to his tolerance of any idea. Adolfo Fernandez Sainz, owner of his own thoughts and a man of important of ideas at the time of making group choices. Pedro, rebel by nature but noble at heart, and an avid reader despite his limited vision- this due to a disease in his eyes. Nobody can imagine the influence that each one of these men has had on me upon sharing their wise advice with me.

It is possible that tomorrow anything could happen, but as long as their remains even one political prisoner or prisoner of conscience there will be nothing- absolutely nothing- to celebrate. Besides, if we guide ourselves by the laws which are in force then these prisoners should be in minimum security prisons or in freedom. But none of that. Sounds like conformity to me. I don’t doubt that the Cuban authorities still hold the final card under their sleeve. Perhaps it is the golden Ace. However, at this point in the game, I highly doubt that any of this will help them win.

Today, I value the wise words of Adolfo and Felix, “patience Pablito, patience, but always remain firm before the tyranny, for this will always give us power”. I do not know when I will once again be able to see these excellent and dignified men, but I do know that each of them left very important traces of their wisdom in my heart. I hope they also remember my favorite phrase- “Take care of yourselves, for we still have lots more that we owe and should do for Cuba”.

Pablo Pacheco



The Storm- Greg Chappell

On June 5th, doctors and lab experts from the provincial prison of Canaletas have carried out tests for about 140 prisoners to detect if they have tuberculosis, according to yours truly- a captive reporter. Other sources added that the inquiry was due to the case of the common prisoner Orlando Rivero Rodriguez from galley 44 in detachment 3 whom was diagnosed with the pulmonary disease. The sources also added that Rivero Rodriguez was immediately isolated upon discovering that he suffered from the common prison disease. The sources conclude their explanation by assuring that every time such a case is diagnosed such tests are carried out in order to prevent the spread of this disease and of engaging in contact with Tuberculosis, the cause of many ills and deaths of hundreds of people mainly in developing countries.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

With what Right

Painting by Anne Rosenvald

It is late, very late in the night. Only two of my companions in strife remain awake here in galley 43 of detachment 3 in the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila where the authorities of this country which I love have held me captive for reasons of conscience.

Tonight, I find it impossible to be able to sleep without writing these lines first. They reflect my perception of life and is related to Cuba and all Cubans. When I speak in this manner, I renounce the hollow words or the intolerant rhetoric which is spoken by some of us who believe we hold the absolute truth both here in Havana or in Florida. To dissent is a right, and so too is to criticize. But neither one or the other is synonymous for attacking. I have never denied the fact that my compatriots found outside in the diaspora make up an insoluble part of Cuba. We are divided by a system and a piece of ocean, but I do not doubt that, soon, we will be united by a bridge that goes far beyond automobile transportation. I am talking about the union of cultures that are one and different at the same time. They are products of lifestyles of the exile and of us here, but we are all Cuban nonetheless.

As the result of the good will, which I applaud, of the cardinal and archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega Alamino, towards the Ladies in White and the political prisoners and of conscience, there has been a rise of many divergent criticisms which up to a certain point I consider normal. It is expected considering our natural characteristics of being Cuban, for we have lots of diversity within our culture. Very well, where I see the sacrilege occurring is in relation to the more than thirty women related to men of the cause of the 75 whom are asking, with all their right, the also brave Ladies of Support to cease marching alongside the Ladies in White for a few weeks.

I would hope that nobody, with the most minimal dose of reason, starts attacking the choice of these women whom simply disagree with the main leaders of the group of women who dress in white and are driven by peace- acts which we political prisoners of conscience respect and admire. Swimming out of the water is as easy as drinking a cold coca-cola in either Varadero or Miami Beach. Perhaps the 90 months (over 2,700 days) of captivity do not mean anything for the brave defenders of freedom behind a microphone on any radio station whether it be in Florida or Havana. Yes, we must respect the work, pain, and suffering, amongst other things, of our families. And if they do not think the same, do not consider them enemies. Adding to this are the almost extraterrestrial testimonies made by political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

We have reached a point from which we cannot turn back for the sake of the future of this country. Granting a vote of confidence to Jaime Ortega Alamino, in the name of the Cuban Catholic Church, is a display of intelligence, tolerance, and overall signifies the hope of those who carry the major cross, with lots of pride and dignity.

There is an important and latent detail that emerges at the time of being objective. Never before during these 50 years has the government turned to Catholics to publicize the necessity of banishing an internal conflict within the island. And it has occurred now with the prisoners and the Ladies in White which has been reached thanks to criticisms by the national and international communities, even though the first still harbors a fear that is common for many Cubans to carry within.

I am in favor of dialogue in and out of my country but if this implies attacks, hate, and slander it is better to not further waste time, for I prefer having deaf ears towards the garbage which they have us forced upon us for more than five decades.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

On the Floor

At least 9 prisoners sleep on the floor in detachment 3 of the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila, according to this reporter. Multiple interns assure us that this phenomenon is common in this jail and in the majority of the detachments there are many prisoners who spend the night on the floor. In galleys 41 and 42 of detachment 3 there are 8 out of 100 convicts that do not have beds. It’s also important to note that in the mentioned detachment there is capacity for 36 men in 12 beds which hold 3 tiers, in a space measuring less than 12 meters in length by 5 in width, including the baths and tubs for showering, cleaning, and having to do all the physical necessities. Canaleta has capacity for 1,200 interns.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

Thank You, New York!

Bravo! Extraordinary, I would say. The welcome which New Yorkers gave to the Cuban artists Alicia Alonso and Silvio Rodriguez, almost simultaneously, once again proved that the relations between both nations could positively advance and that the conflict which exists today could be improved by history. I am not the least bit dumb and I am aware of the “back and forth” that has been spawned by a negative relationship between both countries, especially during the last 50 years. Those of us who are almost at that age ourselves do not have the fault. I am referring to both, those who are over there, as well as those that are here. Without a doubt the reestablishment of the relations between Cuba and its Northern neighbor is another subject which Cubans dream of and fight for.

I have the feeling that the statements made by Alicia Alonso in the state press reflect that the tribute paid to her in New York surpassed any that have been given to her here. Alicia, I admire you despite the fact that I’m a bit ignorant when it comes to ballet. I still highly value that dance which you carry with you and which distinguishes you as a famous figure within and beyond our frontiers. If you have, at any point, attacked what I believe in and vilified the cause which led me to prison, forget about it. I also respect and accept that, for it is a right which I would be foolish to rob from you. Thank you, Madam! I will always be proud of having your art spread throughout this island and throughout the stages of the world.

We have also been keeping up to date in regards to the tour of Silvio Rodriguez. I hope no one thinks that just because this troubadour identifies himself with the Cuban government I have disregarded him. I’m sure many would coincide with me in acknowledging his artistic value and his undeniable talent as a composer. The people from the city that never sleeps demonstrated to Silvio that, for them, culture and politics is a double edged sword. If it were used without honesty it could end up being used against any benign intentions. They applauded him, praised him, sang alongside him, and even respected the tune which he dedicated to the 5 jailed men in the US which he considers to be heroes.

Silvio, I can’t help but point out that, despite being a fan of your songs in which you sometimes say a lot or nothing at all, although I understand you and follow your musical career, on the 25th of January 2008 I was refused the chance of attending the concert which you offered, together with other artists, in the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila. You know why, Silvio? For being a political prisoner and a prisoner of conscience. The authorities of this place did not let me step out of my cell to listen to your music. I don’t want to keep that from you. I value your talent and admire your poetic creations. In fact, I am even aware that you said that the letter “r” must be removed from revolution. Do the passing years intend to convert you into someone who is inconsistent? Or perhaps a go-getter who did nothing in regards to where the current dragged him to.

As for the people of New York, thank you very much for your kindness with Alicia and Silvio. Today I can shed tears of joy, not of sorrow like I did during that fateful September 11th in which the twin towers were dismantled in a terrible terrorist attack in which hate, fanaticism, and wrong-doing curtailed the lives of many compatriots. From the most profound reaches of my heart: Thank you for your kindness with these two Cubans.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

My Trust

The conversations between Cardinal Jaime Ortega and the president of the republic, Raul Castro, have already begun to produce its first fruits. It’s possible that this opinion of mine may unleash a wave of criticisms both in and out of the island. In truth, though, this is not something that will rob me of my sleep. The same way that the twenty years of deprivation of freedom imposed upon me on my 33rd birthday by the Ciego de Avila tribunal has not either. In fact, I continue writing about the horrors that are committed in each one of these jail cells as I always try to portray what my conscience dictates. I will not make an exception with the issue of the negotiations between the church and the Cuban government.

According to trustworthy sources, the authorities assured the Cuban Catholic Church that they will put an end to the terrible acts of condemnation- those acts of of intolerance that have no place in today’s civilized world and which gave rise to a national and international campaign in favor of the brave and peaceful Ladies in White. The press reported that some political prisoners and prisoners of conscience- whom have been kept away from their homes in acts of hate and intolerance which have been solely intended punish their family members- were moved closer to their provinces of origin. This situation has been going on for 7 years and 3 months. The distance from their loved ones has been used as a tool by the regime to try to make these men give in and give up (a fruitless attempt) and to try to shatter the stability of their families.

On June 1st 6 prisoners from the cause of the 75 were transported closer to their provinces of residence to penitentiaries of lesser or higher severity. The transfers of some of my colleagues-in-cause makes me happy, but I also know that now we are treading down some very delicate grounds in which any misstep may affect the outcomes. I give all of my trust to the Cuban Catholic Church. It would be ideal if other organizations of our society would follow the example of this institution.

I can’t finish this without mentioning the prisoners of conscience that are currently in worse states of health and that, as a minimum, have acquired certain illnesses during their captivity. I am of the thought that the release of all of the members of the cause of the 75 should be unconditional. For us, prison has not only been unjust but has also consolidated our own political principals. We have learned to be much more human behind these bars.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

The Inevitable

The inevitable has occurred. The Cuban Catholic Church agreed to act as a mediator between the fierce wolf and the serene Ladies in White, according to trusty sources, none of which are coming officially from the government. We know that there is nothing new about the usual subtle silence on behalf of the authorities in Havana.

The cardinal, and maximum Vatican representative in Cuba, Jaime Ortega Alamino met with a group of Ladies in White. Such names like Berta Soler, Laura Pollan, Julia Nunez, Laura Labrada, and Alejandria Garcia de la Riva stood out at the conference.

It’s no secret that these ladies have gained lots of credibility, for neither hate, intolerance, or brutal viciousness have made them give up on their cause. In fact, they risked the destinies of their very own lives just so they could demand freedom for their captive loved ones who have been separated from them for more than 7 years due to acts of conscience.

Analyzing the situation from different perspectives, one can see the most obvious point is that a group of peaceful women have delivered a powerful blow to the owners of absolute power in the island. In my opinion I think that the Catholic Church deserves applauds and recognition from those of us who love this country, prisoners of conscience, independent journalists, and the opposition in general, as well as the diaspora and even those who are faithful to the regime.

As of right now, whatever path the nation follows is unpredictable. I am confident in the good-will of Catholics, and I will not rule out the possibility that they will play a very important role when it comes time for national reconciliation. Cuba is not the first country which has had the Catholic Church mediate in its problems. We must recall the communist governments of Eastern Europe, specifically Poland, during a time when the pope was Polish. John Paul II became the main symbol of change. It’s also true that dissidents in communist countries have a great power. In that same light, the idiosyncrasy and mentality of the old continent influenced a great amount in terms of the fundamental human freedoms.

I don’t doubt that small sectors in and out of Cuba will use aggressive language in regards to the church. It’s normal, they have the right to their opinions. I do not ignore the silent role played by the Catholics, but I am aware of the true purpose of religions, avoiding confrontations with the government which would eventually lead to sterile consequences.

Today I will sleep a bit more peacefully. The Ladies in White will march down 5th Avenue without the macabre and fanatic mobs chasing them down. It has been proven that the government had been calling forth those rabid groups which were full of hate and harm, and used them against their own daughters, rejecting thoughts proposed by Jose Marti, like his belief that the country belonged to everyone.

Pablo Pacheco Ávila, prisionero de conciencia.