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Posted June 10, 2003 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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From Boniato prison | [url=http://www.cubanet.org]http://www.cubanet.org[/url]

March 19: House search and arrest.

April 4: Summary proceedings. Haven’t met or talked to my defense attorney.

April 24: Depart Villa Marista [Department of State Security headquarters in Havana] for Boniato prison.

April 25: (Before dawn) Arrive at Boniato prison. Put in isolation cells. Cell No. 30. Latrine backed up. No running water. Dirty mattress on the floor.

April 25: (Afternoon) Transfer to Cell No. 31. There’s a latrine and running water. The cell floods daily with residual water from the hallway. High blood pressure. I’m taken to the hospital, chained hand and foot. Stuffed mattress is dirty, torn, old and hard.

April 27: Strong rain. The roof leaks. Plenty.

April 28: Alone in isolation cell. They cut off my hair and beard. Later I shave. Food, as in other days, indescribable. They take us out to take the Sun together (Normando Hernández, Prospero Gaínza, and myself). They fingerprinted us. [Hernández is a journalist; Gaínza a dissident.]

April 30: Visit. Yoly, Xiomy. [Wife and sister.] 30 minutes. We are not allowed any privacy.

May 5: Today my son Gabriel goes in for surgery. The days go by slowly. I read a lot.

May 8: I witness something terrible; on top of a 25-foot wall, the brothers Agustín and Jorge Cervantes near-riot, shouting slogans against the government. The guards are not able to bring them down. They send inmates who knock them off by force. They must have hit hard. I couldn’t learn anything else about this.

May 12: Photographs, fingerprints, again.

May 14: The warden, along with the chief of Re-education [political rehabilitation] and the chief of our cell block, came by to tell us that, by mandate of the State, we will be kept in maximum security (first phase). We were given the calendar of visits, packages from home, and
nuptial visits, as follows: Visits May 31, August 30, November 29. Packages June 30, October 30. Nuptial visits June 18, November 17.

May 15: HIV blood test. No disposable syringe.

May 15: (Afternoon) A visit from a State Security headquarters lieutenant colonel, accompanied by a State Security major from Santiago de Cuba, and by Arrate, who “looks after us” on behalf of State Security in the prison. An ugly argument. They complain about my wife and try to threaten me. The lieutenant colonel called me a liar. I answered that I
don’t work for Granma [the official Communist Party newspaper].

May 16: High blood pressure, 100/150. They injected me with a drug known as “furosemida.” Still no access to newspapers. No access to TV. The food is still hellish. They haven’t changed my mattress notwithstanding that I have asked every chief several times. They have installed
magnetic card phones in our cell block.

May 17: We are still in isolation cells in maximum security. Weekends we get no yard privileges. Blood pressure normal.

May 19: Three times I have spoken with the chiefs so they’ll let me telephone to learn about my son Gabriel’s operation. They haven’t allowed me to call even though they all promised. I did not accept the evening meal.

They took us out to the yard separately. Normando with a lifer; Edel and Juan Carlos; Villareal and Nelson; Prospero and myself. They say it’s an order from above. [Normando Hernández, journalist; Edel Jose García, journalist; Juan Carlos Herrera, journalist; Antonio A. Villareal, dissident; Nelson Aguiar, dissident; Prospero Gaínza, dissident.]

May 20: (101 anniversary of Cuban independence) [Holiday not recognized by the present Cuban government]  I did not accept the breakfast I was given. I went out on the yard. I told my mates about the call to my family. I did not accept the medications (Vitamins C and E). I did not accept lunch.

Immediately, re-educator Sabino called me to his office. He told me he had spoken to my sister Xiomara and that the child’s operation had been postponed to June. I don’t know why. Then, we talked, supposedly about politics, for two-and-a-half hours. It’s too bad about his
indoctrination. He doesn’t seem a bad sort.

At about five in the afternoon a nice, placid, silvery rain shower fell (the first one of the month here in Boniato; I stuck my hands out through the bars to get wet). It was as if Nature were saluting the 101 anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic and at the same time were
crying for its imprisonment during 44 years.

I recalled my wife’s grandfather’s hardware store, taken over by Castro’s government. It was called The 20th of May. Normando gave me some candies. I thought of writing some chronicles from jail, but the diary is better.

May 21: I feel more at ease. Knowing that Gabriel and the rest of the family are all right comforts me. I managed to hold back the flooding from the hallway. I rolled up two plastic bags and stuffed them between the floor and the lower bars of the door. A little water comes in
occasionally. During the rainshower yesterday, I had some leaks. They haven’t changed my mattress. I hurt all over. I can only sleep a little. But I’m not going to complain. When I finally take a decision it will be definitive. The food remains hellish.

Today a psychologist interviewed us. The poor thing is the type that believes in manuals and somewhat presumptuous. A provincial! She put us through a very elementary test. She asked me to draw a person of each sex. I drew some childish scrawls. She wanted to do a personality profile with phrases that I should associate with the first thing that came to
mind. I had a lot of fun. I made up sentences that sounded like philosophical proverbs (pseudo-philosophical, I mean to say) and, even though I was sincere, I was also making fun of the whole situation. They are going to have to bring back Sigmund Freud, or at least Pavlov.

She is also one of the Interior Ministry’s little robots, a lieutenant. If they don’t know how to think with their own heads, I don’t know that they are going to be able to know, or find out, about others’.

Their thinking is static, on account of indoctrination and fear. They are incapable of any analysis that deviates from whatever they believe to be unmoveable and that’s upheld by the pitiful power that protects them.

I’m going to have a lot of fun in the future. Making fun of them is my only weapon. I have discovered their weak spot; they want to appear cultured when they talk to me.

I have little in the way of news; we have no access to newspapers, radio, or TV. Nothing. I’m getting used to it. I read all day, although it’s impossible at night; there is no light in the cell. I still think “War and Peace” is a monumental novel. I liked “Bomarzo” again. I read “Perfume” and thought it was all right. I laughed with “Games for Mortals” and “The Heart of the Serpent.”  They are science fiction stories from when the Soviets believed the fiction of the globalization of Communism. I haven’t read anything funnier in my life. History demolished those writers. Poor things! Who knew it would happen so suddenly?

I read the Bible a lot, one in very poor condition that someone lent me. I’m reading “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” It’s a shame that I’ve already seen the movies. I also read a very interesting book about the Christian vision of the origin of the universe and of man, “There Is a Creator that Is Concerned about Us.” Although it’s directed to Jehova’s Witnesses, I found it interesting. I learned things that are also good for a Catholic. I have read other things, but I’m not taking inventory.

Afternoons, before I bathe, I exercise. In spite of the poor diet, I’m keeping in shape. I have tanned from the Sun. For almost a week they have been taking me out on the yard at noon. Between the UV and the infrared, they are going to give me skin cancer.

Thank God my family brought milk, otherwise I would have died of hunger. My family also had to bring sheets, a blanket, a towel, toothpaste, a mosquito net, etc. Inmates here are only supplied with a pair of shorts and a sleeveless, collarless shirt.

But it’s not all bad. At night I see the stars through the bars on the window, although in the daytime I also see stars. I recall Cesar Vallejo, when he wrote “Trilce” in a jail in Perú. Best of all, when our jailers let us borrow the Sun for an hour and we see birds in flight. I refused the food. Pshew! The pigs would throw up!

May 22: Very interesting; today they took me out to the yard with Edel García. I have become his personal psychotherapist. I refused lunch. Pshew! Again. Normando Hernández gets a bout of diarrhea before he can shake the previous one. Prospero Gaínza and Antonio Villareal remain strong. I have not been able to speak with Nelson Aguiar. We haven’t been to the yard at the same time as Juan Carlos Herrera, the Guantanamero. If Joseíto Fernández [the composer of Guantanamera] met him he would write a song about him. I have only been able to talk to him through the bars that look over the yard. He is a fun type. I wonder how are the
other 68 who are spread throughout Cuban prisons? I’ll know something when next I have a family visit. The other inmates, even though we have no contact with them, have expressed solidarity and attack the system more than we do. We have chosen to let the world defend us. Under pressure in prison, almost anything is impossible, although there’ll always be something one can do. The guards remain respectful. They are poor devils who take orders and I sense they are scared.

I discovered a way to suffocate the stench coming out of the latrine, with a plastic bottle that used to contain oil. I filled it with water and stuffed it into the smelly hole; the diameter of the bottle matches that of the hole. What relief! Let the nose rest some, although at certain times, not even my improvised stopper can stem the sickening vapors. What would the lustrious “colleagues” of the Round Tables [nightly TV programs with heavy propaganda content] if they discovered a prison in the U. S. with similar magnificent sanitary conditions? We must not forget this prison was built more than 60 years ago. Fidel Castro, Yndamiro Restano, and myself have slept here. It’s a miracle it hasn’t sunk in the Puerto Boniato valley without leaving a trace.

I refused the evening meal. Double pshew! I ran out of books. At least I have the Bible somebody lent me and the latrine stopper keeps rats out of my cell.

May 23: I went out to the yard. I took my vitamins. Normando again gave me some candies. Captain Vázquez??? is worried because I refuse food. I told him it’s very poor. He said I should make an effort. I told him that I find it nauseating, that he should speak to someone to improve it. He tried to explain the situation the country is in. I told him I am in
prison precisely because I wanted to improve the situation the country is in. The food??? problem could become more serious between him and me. I am not willing, nor is my stomach prepared, for such slop. I refused lunch. Must not forget my previous description of what they call food. Then again, it’s no wonder; if out in the streets, supposedly enjoying freedom, the food is horrible, what can we expect in here?

In the evening they “reinforced” the meal. I accepted the bread, already described, and a small piece of chicken. Hallelujah, they provided some cold water! Why wouldn’t they provide it every day and instead make us drink out of the faucet? They also gave us swill they called coffee.

I have thought of the inevitable reprisals when these pages are published. I’m prepared. If for simply doing journalism they sentenced me to 18 years, nothing now can be more unjust or out of proportion.

I wondered at the expulsion of the Cuban “diplomats” from the U. S.  It would seem they don’t want to follow Castro’s example, by jailing opponents and journalists. One would think they have room for those who write with different opinions.

May 24: (Saturday, overcast) Grey, humid day. It rained last night. I finished reading “Till Death Do Us Part” by John Dickson Carr.

Cuban poet and journalist Manuel Vázquez Portal was arrested during the
March-April government crackdown on civil society initiatives. He was
sentenced to 18 years in prison under Law 88, the “Gag” law.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on August 09, 2004 by David Hudson

    A friend and I were commenting last night about the right-wing propaganda about Cuba and we agreed that good medical care and education made up for a host of sins.  From Senor Portal’ brief diary I cannot see how I could be more wrong.  How can I help?

  2. Follow up post #2 added on August 10, 2004 by William Swetcharnik

    Thank you for making this journal available.  Bless you.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on September 15, 2004 by David Corkill

    my prayers go to these brave men & women who are suffering as a result of such vulgar laws. please ... any way i can help…contact me.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on October 10, 2004 by J. O.

    Thank you for the education.

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