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Posted May 03, 2006 by Cubana in Castro's Cuba

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May 3, 2006)

In the spring of 2003, journalist Raul Rivero was arrested along with 28 of his colleagues and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment. He was released from prison on medical parole in November 2004. Poet, journalist and co-founder of the independent news agency CubaPress, Rivero’s career in journalism spans over three decades. Today the journalist resides in Madrid, where he works as a columnist for El Mundo newspaper and editorial adviser for the magazine Encuentro. Rivero wrote this article for the World Association of Newspapers.

Waking up in a prison cell every morning is an experience that weakens the will to live. Breakfasting on a slice of dirty, mouldy bread with sugar-sweetened water, while waiting for a few spoonfuls of rice and herbs for lunch, and the same menu for dinner is an antidote against any glimmer of hope.

If you have to wait three months to see your family for two hours in a cell with stone benches under the watchful gaze of prison guards, you cannot really be restless in anticipation at the prospect of seeing and being with your loved ones.

That was my life for two years. Just as today, on this beautiful spring day in the year 2006, it is the life of Víctor Rolando Arroyo, a journalist with the independent news agency Unión de Periodistas y Escritores de Cuba Independientes (UPECI), in Commander Fidel Castro’s prison in Guantánamo, a human warehouse that has been operating for over 30 years.

The dozens of journalists suffering from hunger, disease and maltreatment in the jails on the island of Cuba are hostages of a group of cronies who took over the power by force and have stayed in power by force for almost half a century, on a throne upheld by the police and propaganda.

The young reporter Pablo Pacheco is undergoing horrendous treatment in the prison of Canaleta, together with his colleagues Pedro Argüelles and Adolfo Fernández Sainz and the young photojournalist Omar Rodríguez Saludes. They were all sentenced to 28 years in 2003 for photographing and filming aspects of Cuban society that the dictatorial regime wants to keep under wraps.

Yet another victim is Normando Hernández, a journalist who launched a small homespun magazine in the city of Camaguey. He only succeeded in publishing the first issue. The revolutionary courts immediately demanded life imprisonment for Hernández, though the sentence was later graciously commuted to 25 years.

Hernández, as many others like him, has also suffered from various inadequately treated ailments due to the lack of medication and overcrowded prisons. In cells originally designed for 20 inmates, there are often 35 or 40, forced to sleep on the floor and to share a single sanitary facility and a rationed water supply.

This exactly is how the poet and journalist Ricardo González Alfonso is living at present in the Combinado del Este penitentiary in Havana. His state is aggravated by the fact that he has undergone two operations in dubious prison operating theatres and that his initial wound, which dates back to November 2004, keeps festering and never seems to heal.

And in much the same way, Fabio Prieto Lorente, a young correspondent confined in a prison on the Isla de Pinos, 120 kilometres south of Havana, sees his youth slowly slip away because he reported on the reality of a land where brutality is freely exercised for lack of diplomatic representation and journalists who can record the abuses.

Meanwhile, in Guanajay detention centre, just a few kilometres from the Cuban capital, military doctors have finally come around to admitting that the ailing journalist José Ubaldo Izquierdo, in jail since March 2003, would never get well in such harsh living conditions. The 40-year-old Izquierdo, who worked as a columnist for an independent Cuban press agency, is currently serving a 16-year sentence.

We know that in Cuba, World Press Freedom Day can only be celebrated with dignity in the cells of the 300 prisons scattered across the map of the small Caribbean isle. The prisoners are locked away in dark cells where they have been sent for wanting to be free in a country where freedom is no more than a hollow, meaningless word in the mouths of scribes, a word that lands free men in jail if they dare utter it.

But only there, in those cells where hope still subsists, one can legitimately and honestly toast to this day—even if only in a dirty aluminum cup filled with murky, tepid water from the subterranean streams of Cuba.


For more information about World Press Freedom Day see http://www.worldpressfreedomday.org

  1. Follow up post #1 added on May 04, 2006 by Ralph

    Everyone who knows what freedom of speech under castrism is all about,Has
    to agree with Rivero,b/c it isn’t,sadly, a tall tale,but a truly one.On according to
    “reporters without borders” Cuba is nowadays the Biggest Predator of Free-
      Press,and other international human whatchdogs agree with that.I can’t
      disagree either.Can somebody disagree?

  2. Follow up post #2 added on May 04, 2006 by Curt Bender

    Who speaks for the Cuban 5 who are unjustly imprisoned in the u.S under vile conditions, simply for trying to protect their country from terrorists like Luis Posada-Carrilles?

  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 12, 2006 by Ralph

    Who can stand for to hundreds of dissidentes unjustly imprisoned in the
    very though cuban jails? Who can in Cuba talk openly about the badly
    daily survival for the vast majority of cuban people?Who can,just uphold
    the virile stance of Fariñas who is dying day after day just for demanding
    free access to Internet?For instance,anybody who writes what i have been
    written here,in Cuba, has to serve 3 years or more…So,Rivero is right in his
    paper,Cuba government is a big predator of the free-media.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on May 16, 2006 by MiamiCuban

    A couple hundred dissidents is not a big number in a country of 11 million people, but these few could cause much harm for a small island nation that has been struggling for decades against an economic embargo and perpetual psychological warfare.  Noam Chomsky says that Cuba holds the record for receiving the most terrorist attacks.  So, is it any wonder the Cubans might be a little paranoid about what the dissidents may be up to?  Especially when terrorist groups in Miami work through them?  Things need to be taken into perspective.  As for the Cuban 5, like Curt Bender said, they were working to avoid terrorism, and it got them in jail.  Where is the justice in that?

    In the U.S. we proclaim to have freedom of speech, yet after one incident of a terrorist attack, look where we’re at now:  there is wire-tapping and illegal surveillance of millions of average American citizens, and protesters are being sent to jail.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on May 18, 2006 by Ralph

    ‘A couple of hundreds of dissidents is not a big number in a country of 11 million
    of…” it is a to me like a defilement and bring to me the smell of a pure castro
    made perfume…..

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