Independent journalist and political prisoner Víctor Rolando Arroyo is
serving a 26-year prison sentence in the Guantánamo Provincial Prison,
600 miles from home.
Guantánamo Provincial Prison, February - Contrary to water elsewhere,
the water at Guantánamo Prison has color, odor, and taste. None of them
agreeable. In any case, it only flows sporadically. We collect it in
buckets and cans when it does.
The light is uniformly dim if the inmates provide the few light bulbs
there are. Prison authorities tell us they have no light bulbs, the way
they tell us they have no cleaning supplies. We have to make do.
The “we” refers to over 200 men, confined in a four-story building.
My cell, a space about 11 feet by 34, sleeps 18, in three-tiered bunks
along the walls, each about 6 feet by 28 inches. Sometimes, more men
are assigned to the cell; they sleep on the floor, with or without
Then, having a bunk is no guarantee; some have no mattress and their
occupants sleep on the wood slats laid over the metal framework.
The mattresses are usually nylon bags, stuffed with foam, sponges,
vegetable fibers, or old cotton ticking. In winter, authorities distribute
blankets we understand have been donated by foreign countries, and
collect them again when the weather warms up.
The cockroaches live among the bed slats. We tolerate them; word among
the inmates is they keep the bed bug and flea populations down. The
rats nest in the holes dug under the bunks to be used as hiding places by
There are no furnishings on the cell, no seats or benches which could
presumably be used in a brawl, no lockers for personal items or dining
utensils; those are kept on the floor, in bags or what-have-you.
The bathroom, approximately 9 by 11 feet, consists of a latrine, a
cement tub, and a wash-up area. No doors, no curtains, just a spigot; they
turn on the water at certain times. The only ventilation is through
slots where the walls meet the ceiling.
We each get two bars of soap a month and a small tube of toothpaste
every two months. But sometimes supplies don’t come in, and in any case,
both products are of the poorest quality.
There is no reading program, no entertainment, save for that brought in
by an inmate’s family. They turn the TV on at 6 p.m. There are two sets
in the whole building. We sit on upended buckets, on cans, or on the
floor, to watch.