Who Will Rule Cuba in the Future? / Pablo Pacheco

Photo from the Internet

Photo from the Internet

Life has shown me that the future is unpredictable and what lies ahead in Cuba is difficult to predict.

The regime in Havana tries to oxygenate itself any way it can. Raul Castro is more pragmatic than his older brother, he knows that system they built is unsustainable and that any moment it could collapse under its own weight.

The elite in power announces more access to the “Internet,” (which will really be an Intranet), controls politics in Venezuela, allows dissidents to leave a return to the island, calls for more foreign investment and under the table tries to approach its eternal enemy, the USA.

Three years outside the island have helped me to mature politically, professionally, and above all, to learn to live as a human being.

From my point of view, those who will rule on Cuba’s future will not be those who have been persecuted, abused, imprisoned and beaten for years. Perhaps one will come to fill an important position in a democratic government, perhaps.

I don’t doubt that some exiled could manage to take the reins of the Cuban nation and that is legitimate, because one never ceases to be Cuban. Also, the exiles have the greatest advantage because in freedom they can study and prepare, unlike those still on the island.

The children, grandchildren and other descendants of those in power in Cuba have studied abroad and that’s not by choice. But the topics studied by a peaceful opponent are the prison bars, hunger and repression, a great deal of repression.

In the Cuba of the future there must be room for the whole world, but if we rest on our laurels, tomorrow our island will be governed by those who today are encroaching upon the rights of Cubans, ordered the beatings, spying on opponents and other atrocities. Those who are pushing for change will be swallowed up by history, not for the first time, I see it coming.

Five decades of repression is a long time to implant fear and erode the values of a people, five decades change the mindset of people and destroy their own capacity to govern. Hopefully, hopefully, I am wrong.

Pablo Pacheco Avila

30 May 2013

Hypocrisy and Lies Go Hand in Hand / Pablo Pacheco

Photo from the internet

Photo from the internet

Recently in Havana it was announced that foreign and domestic journalists would visit “some prisons.” Something is being plotted or planned those in power on the island.

It’s normal that the regime’s spokesmen defend the indefensible, this is what they live for; having wedded themselves to the lie, it is impossible to divorce her. If the Nomenklatura of power ordered them to say it, all is well, they say: everything is perfect.

The incredible thing about the news or the government farce is that foreign agencies join in on the lie.

Could EFE or another foreign agency EFE freely visit Castro’s prisons? Or interview a prisoner chosen randomly?

The worst thing about this theatrical work is that it insults the intelligence and the pain of a people; I dare to predict that over 50% of Cuban families have had a family member arrested and I am being cautious with the figure; each affected family knows the inhuman conditions of Cuban prisons.

The beatings, overcrowding, lack of medical care, self-harm to demand rights, violence, the company of rodents and insects in the cells, the prisoners’ lack of rights of and the jailers’ impunity are the stark reality of what the Cuban military wants to hide. Now with the support of foreign news agencies and the complicity of the national press.

In a survey we did in early 2010 of the political prisoners in Canaletas Prison in Ciego de Avila, 85% of inmates were repeat offenders in prison and a great number assured that the penitentiary was a university for criminal behavior.

To talk about food in Cuban prisons is synonymous with pain. God and the criminals know the food eaten in these places and the amount is so ephemeral that most prisoners are weakened.

Health care is a topic for another paper, but to cite just one example, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, a former political prisoner of the Group of 75, was always told by the doctors that he was fine despite his ailments; when he was finally exiled abroad he was diagnosed with cancer. I should note that to destroy the political prisoners is a goal in each prison carried out in cahoots with the political police.

Today I read on the skewed news about Cuban prison system, and I remember with sadness the day Reineiro Diaz Betancourt told a common inmate 19 years old, who had committed a minor indiscipline in Cell Block 43 Detachment 3: “Today we can not beat you up because they’re going to accuse at the United Nations of being counterrevolutionaries.” I looked at him and said. “Guard, you should be ashamed of your words, to be an abuser is an option but not the only option.”

12 April 2013

A Hug in Miami / Pablo Pacheco

abrazo

Pablo Pacheco, prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring now in exile, meets Yoani Sanchez for the first time. Yoani and friends in Cuba and abroad managed to publish a blog for Pablo and other Black Spring prisoners, “From Behind the Bars,” while they were still in prison in Cuba.

I remember one of my last telephone calls from the National Hospital for prisoners in the Cuban capital when I was about to head to Spain. I spoke on the phone with Yoani Sanchez two hours before my exile to Spain. She was at Jose Marti airport to meet me in person and say goodbye, but she wasn’t allowed to do it: in the capital of hatred and intolerance this hug was postponed.

Yesterday the Radio Marti reporter Jose Luis Ramos asked me to call him early in the morning: he knew of the missed meeting. “If you come right now to the station you will see Yoani,” he told me. I left immediately. While the blogger gave an interview, I greeted several friends at the station.

Half an hour after my arrival at Radio Marti, Yoani appeared, accompanied by reporters and Jose Luis himself, who introduced me. The hug was like a tattoo in the mind, repeated over and over. We recalled our work together; she and her husband were always ready to record every one of my articles, which I read over the phone from prison. They made it a priority and other colleagues also helped me.

riendoYoani at first glance isn’t impressive, but two minutes of conversation are enough to see the intelligence and bravery of this girl. She offers arguments, not attacks on others, and does not vary her discourse in an attempt to please. We planned a later meeting, more private and working.

I think Yoani Sanchez still doesn’t understand the weight that destiny has put in her path and it’s better this way, it helps her not to waver. I was happy and excited, we shared that embrace that was delayed for so many years by bars and distance; a distance that hurts more if you are an exile.

microfono

3 April 2013

Jose Contreras: Idol or Traitor / Pablo Pacheco Avila

Jose Contreras returns to Cuba - photo from Internet

Jose Contreras returns to Cuba – photo from Internet

Time has two unique conditions, is irreversible and unstoppable. Time is perfect as it is capable of putting everything in its place.

For over 50 years Cubans have suffered a cruel and ruthless dictatorship. Those who have experienced it know that hate and human misery are limitless. But if something has helped prolong our pain for so long it is the travel and immigration policy regime imposed on us.

Not being able to travel freely and know reality beyond our island has been, more than punishment, a crime and our dead who were trying to reach freedom are examples of what I write.

Today I remember the defection of José Ariel Contreras, the best pitcher in the country at the time. The national press wore itself out with vituperative epithets against the strong brown man and the miserable fanatics who preferred playing ball over the dictatorship. Contreras was banned and vilified. We, the faithful, who admire the sport of balls and strikes, wished Contreras well in the best baseball in the world.

I do not think Jose Ariel defected for political reasons, he just wanted to better himself and he succeeded. Victory in the Major Leagues, although personally I expected more from this pitcher.

Ten years after his departure from Cuba, Contreras connectedhis media Home Run: He returned to his homeland to see his ailing mother.

They questioned him on your team Pinar del Rio Cuba or the team for abandoning him today enjoy a baseball game or the pleasure of walking through Central Park in the Cuban capital, the fans that were faithful and others who were not, now hail him dearly.

I would like to see the regime spokesmen write a few lines about this idol of Sandino. It doesn’t matter if they write for or against, just that they write.

Once again, time shows me that, in a dictatorship, the idols can become villains overnight and he villains into heros, although I can’t stop wondering how an ideology can be capable of so much misery and deceit.

From now on, the new immigration and travel law can be a double-edged sword for Havana. Cubans who travel abroad will come to know a very different reality from that they have lived all their lives, they will know that the lie has short legs and Contreras’s mates would notice, if they are the least bit smart, that in capitalism the limit is the human being.

February 2 2013

We Can All Travel! / Pablo Pacheco Avila #Cuba

images (1)

Photo from Internet

By Pablo Pacheco Avila

Raul inherited from his brother Fidel Castro absolute power in Cuba and with time he has managed to perfect the mass entertainment syndrome. The latest play to entertain is the new “Migratory Law.”

I recognize that from outside one looks with another perspective on what happens in Cuba; we realize that we lived in a bubble of lies, fraud and political manipulation. I also believe that the  complicity of Cubans goes hand in hand with the fear and double standards. That’s why we have ended up ruined morally, economically and losing many values.

The press has played a key role in the interests of Raul Castro in this latest political machination. I note with amazement the headlines, but one causes more pain than happiness: “Cuban doctors will be able to travel.”

Where can Cuban physicians travel to?

Well, actually most of the doctors in Cuba can not visit Varadero, Cayo Coco or some other tourist resort in the country because the average salary does not reach $ 25 a month, so I imagine they can not get on a plane and visit other nations.

Let’s suppose that some family member overseas can pay the costs for these professionals and help them to overcome the obstacles of the visa. Will the Cuban regime let them travel with the documents that prove they are health professionals, their certification, their courses and their medical degree? I think not and Havana knows by heart that most doctors want to travel abroad with a one-way ticket without thinking of the return.

The frustration, uncertainty and despair of every Cuban professional is notable in more private dialogue.

In any event, this Migratory Law may be the fissure that lets many Cubans squeeze through the gap to freedom, and that pleases me. Although in all honesty I don’t believe the story: “We can all travel!”

January 10 2013

Hypocrisy, Fear…Both Things

I walk for the freedom of Cuba. Cuba Democracy NOW!

I have lost count of the times I have heard the phrase “I am not interested in politics”. Often, it is young Cubans who say it.

It’s legitimate that we may not be interested in politics, especially if one has lived most of their life under a totalitarian system where even the flight of a pigeon is linked to politics.

Those of us who were born after 1959 were practically converted into robots. Our capacity of thought was reduced to “Pioneers for communism, we will be like Che” or “Country or Death, we will Win”. In sum, it was a bunch of slogans which bordered dementia.

I respect young Cubans who come from the island and are not interested in politics, it is their right.

But, I feel that it is something completely hypocritical to see those same people who are not interested in politics form a scandal when some US congressman or woman proposes a law to restrict something that has to do with Cuba, or when they want to modify the discredited “Cuban Adjustment Act”, a law which so many Hispanics and people of other ethnic groups long for.

The majority of those who take shelter in the “Cuban Adjustment Act” leave the island because of economic problems and not because they stood up against the ruthless regime which enslaves the country. In fact, upon obtaining US residency, one of the first things many Cubans think of is in returning to their homeland to take a look over the shoulders of their own country. Those who act in such a manner are the oddest political refugees which humanity has ever seen.

In the last 9 months, Cuba has lost two important figures of the peaceful opposition. Their deaths have left lots of doubts up in the air. They were both recipients of the “Sakharov” Award. First Laura Pollan, leader of the Ladies in White, in a case of “dengue” and a few weeks ago the president of Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, after a suspicious “car accident”.

Those who have confronted the dictatorship know of what those who are at the service of the intelligence apparatus are capable of doing when any person who wants change for Cuba and who wants to destroy their totalitarian power stands in their way.

I feel shame when I hear Cubans who live in freedom say: “I am not interested in politics”, and it is not even because of the phrase itself, really, but instead it is because of the hypocrisy which hangs on those words. It is true that many are not interested in talking bad about the regime, about condemning its crimes, denouncing every violent act against the people, yet they do say things about the politicians of the country which has given us refuge whenever they try to pass some law against the dictatorship and, in one way or another, affect their interests.

It is possible that Cuba will change very soon. It is also possible that everything will continue the same, or worse, especially for those who confront the power of the Communist machinery from the inside. But every Cuban has the responsibility of taking action for the destiny of our nation.

There is no such thing as good or bad hypocrisy, just like there is no such thing as good or bad fear. It has been proven: every country which has chosen hypocrisy and fear as their shield has ended in ruins or in shackles. It is time to put an end to harmful fear and subtle hypocrisy.

Translated by Raul G.

19 September 2012

The Path Depends on Ourselves / Pablo Pacheco Avila

Me with my wife and son

The most important month of the calendar for me is July.  Firstly, it is when my only son was born and second, it was the month that I left Cuba.

Life, without one choosing, imposes change on us.  Many times, these changes are too rough to handle, like crosses hanging over our backs, but human willpower is limitless.

Just a few hours ago, it was the second anniversary of my arrival to Spain, and the first of arriving to the United States.  I remember that I told my family after talking on the phone with Cardinal Jaime Ortega in the provincial prison of Ciego de Avila, “We have to pack our bags, without even thinking of returning, at least as long as the same ones who are forcing me to leave are in power”.

Fifteen or twenty minutes before boarding the plane with my wife and son in a semi-empty terminal of the “Jose Marti” Havana Airport, I felt the strongest of emotions I had ever felt.  I found some of my partners in cause and their families.  A nightmare of more than 7 years was ending, but most of all, it was the illusion of discovering a path with lots and lots of expectations of living in a foreign land.

Time flies.  It goes by so fast that sometimes we do not even notice.  Yesterday, I was being consumed in a prison cell of high severity in Cuba, and today, right now, I enjoy freedom in this country which has always lent a helping hand to Cubans.

Now, I look back at the past and I laugh, although with a mixture of pain- it is inevitable after everything we lived- but I thank God for all the good and bad things he has given me.

Many of my brothers have found the path, while for others it has been more difficult, but I am certain that each one of them will find that route of happiness and prosperity.

Those who are no longer with us will always be remembered with love and respect, especially Orlando Zapata Tamayo, our martyr.  Zapata was the climax which opened up the iron bars which, during years, kept us in inhumane conditions for simply thinking differently.  His sacrifice caught the attention of the free world, that world which sometimes, because of complicity and other times because of ingenuity, was on the side of those who oppress, on the side of those who have ruined an entire nation.  Of course, the political and economic interests have surpassed human rights, the rights of a people to live in freedom, prosperity, and of living like human beings.

Those who decided to continue the struggle from the inside and said no to exile deserve an outstanding position in the history of Cuba.  Not all of us have the valor of living with the Sword of Damocles hanging over heads.  Supporting them from here is more than a duty, it’s an obligation.

Right now, I dry my eyes off and do so with a bittersweet emotion.  I live free, alongside my lovely wife and my rebel son.  I can see my mother everyday and my two brothers frequently.  That, for me, is more than enough to be happy.  However, pain does invade my heart each night.  Cuba is still a slave.  Those in power continue ruining it, and whats hurts me the most is seeing how people decide to take refuge in fear and double-standards to just end up enslaved.

I look back again and I thank God and all those who have lent me a hand.  I have to look towards the future, for in the past one cannot dwell, and the future is unpredictable, while the present is magnificent for me, for I have what I have dreamed of in life.

Translated by Raul G.

17 July 2012

The Storm Has Passed but the Calm Has Not Arrived / Pablo Pacheco Avila

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba left a storm of arrests, blocked phone lines, and beatings against non-violent dissidents.  The most visible of these cases has been the measures taken against the individual who screamed “freedom” in the Pope’s Mass in Santiago de Cuba.  The worst part of this specific case is that the oppressor used a symbol of the Red Cross to attack the victim.

For me, what has been most lamentable about the Papal visit has been the exclusion of a sector of the Cuban population.  It is unbelievable that His Holiness dedicated half an hour to Fidel Castro, the main henchman of the Cuban Catholic Church, and refused to meet with the Ladies in White and/or other peaceful dissidents, even if for just a minute.

On this trip to the island by the Vicar of Christ, there was no truce on behalf of the oppressors against the dissidents.  Actually, I see the Catholic Church of Cuba as the winner of this story, as well as the peaceful Cuban opposition.  The decadent dictatorship has lost.

The Cuban Catholic Church was persecuted, insulted, and decimated during the first years of the dictatorship.  Their convents and schools were closed, countless priests were exiled, etc.  But they never lost Faith and continued preaching the Gospel.  Something similar happened to those who believed in freedom, those who confronted the regime and who would die in the execution wall screaming “Long Live Christ the King“.

The dictatorship loses, because they lose spaces and the tiny openings become cracks.

Raul Castro, one of the executioners of such cruelty, looked tired, humiliated and worn out on television when the Bishop of Santiago de Cuba refused to shake his hand.  Who was to say that the atheist soldier, 52 years after persecuting the religious would witness another Papal Mass.  God forced him, for God has power over men.

I agree with the words of Benedict XVI: “Cuba should be the home of all and for all Cubans, where justice and freedom may thrive in an atmosphere of serene brotherhood“.  But I should also point out that the only ones who do not allow this to happen are the sames ones who His Holiness shook hands with.

Evidently, there will not be reconciliation between the blade and the wound.  The wound is carried by those who slept in dungeons while the Pope visited Cuba, those who are not allowed to travel to their own country, those who have died for defending the freedom of their land, the oppressed, those who were excluded by Benedict XVI.  And the blade is carried by all those who oppress their people, who beat people, especially women who carry flowers in their hands.  They are the sharp blades, ready to stab the victims.

Translated by Raul G.

12 April 2012

I Felt Shame, Much Shame / Pablo Pacheco

Last Sunday ended the Catholic Social Week of the Miami Archdiocese, and luckily, I was able to participate in two of the events.

In one of the programs, Cuban American businessman Carlos Saladrigas held a conference on the business future of Cuba.

Saladrigas allowed the public to present written questions. According to the moderator, not all were answered due to the financier’s lack of time. A group of participants in which I found myself offered a retort to some of the answers given by Saladrigas. This gentleman compared our retorts to an act of repudiation.

Personally, my concerns are for the members of the peaceful opposition who risk their well being and even their lives for the rights of all Cubans to participate in the country’s economy. Those who demand peaceful changes and are repressed by the Cuban political police.

I have a premonition that the thesis presented by Saladrigas regarding the economic future of our country will serve the rich businessmen in exile, like Saladrigas. Those who today demand liberty for Cuba from inside will not have many options; they lack capital and business experience.

According to Saladrigas, an opposition member may be within the actual ranks of the Cuban Communist Party.

What is curious here is that Carlos Lage, Abel Prieto, Esteban Lazo, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura or any other can be an anonymous member of the opposition according to his hypothesis. These individuals can possess large amounts of capital obtained through theft and the suffering of the Cuban people. Those who confront the regime hardly have enough to put food on the table and feed their children.

Nevertheless, I respect the beliefs of Saladrigas, it is his right and I will not deprive him of it. It is also my right not to believe in his theory and my duty to remind him that the most vulnerable sector in Cuba are the members of the peaceful opposition in Cuba who the regime prohibits from investing in the country’s economy.

What caught my attention the most at this conference with Carlos Saladrigas were the words of Father Jose Conrado in response to the replies to Saladrigas. According to the pastor, he saw in this conference the same thing he sees daily in Cuba and he felt shame because of this.

Shame is what I felt, and much of it, after hearing these words from a man whom I admire. To offer a retort is a right provided by freedom of expression. The opposite would be true if they had not invited those who disagree with Saladrigas’ theory. What happens in our country can only be compared with fascist hordes or totalitarian communist regimes like the one in Havana. It has nothing to do with what took place at this conference held by Saladrigas.

Today I felt like throwing in the towel, forgetting everything, but I cannot. Cuba is above everything and everyone. I hope my wife and son will understand because I have involved them in something that is very personal; the liberty of Cuba.

Translated by Alberto de la Cruz

4 April 2012

Writing What my Conscience Dictates (II and Final) / Pablo Pacheco

I arrived at the Matanzas prison known as ‘Aguica’ on April 29th.  I was kept there in solitary confinement for 17 months.  The Head of Penitentiaries applied a special regiment on us: family visits were only allowed every 3 months and could only last 2 hours, they only allowed 2 relatives and their underage children, the bag with food which was intended to keep us somewhat healthy had a limit of 30 pounds.  Conjugal meetings were only allowed every 5 months and could not exceed 3 hours.

My time in ‘Aguica’ was always in The Polish Cell, located in the most rigorous of sections and which aimed to hold prisoners who were punished for disobedience, those who were sentenced to death, or those with life sentences.  There were other members of the group of the 75 there.  In ‘Aguica’, I lived the hardest days of my life, but I was also blessed because I met Miguel Galban, Alexis Rodriguez, Manuel Ulvas, and Roberto de Miranda, also victims of the crackdown of 2003.

In a matter of 7 years and 4 months, I learned of the dark side of humans, the misery of the heart always corrodes the conscience.  The impunity and low level of education of the soldiers would always start quarrels between guards and prisoners.  The soldiers would always win, while the latter suffered unimaginable punishments.  With my own eyes, I saw men amputate their ears, cut their veins, pinch their eyes and go blind, cut of their hands and legs, swallow barbed wire, throw themselves from a third floor, and all with the intent of avoiding a beating by the guards.

The sad part of this story is that, in the majority of these self-inflictions, the ones suffering are demanding that their fundamental rights, which had been violated for years, be respected.  Others grew sick in the nerves due to the rigorous conditions of captivity, while some would hurt themselves to end up in a hospital, where they could eat at least a little better.

Putting us together with common prisoners was a perverse tactic by the authorities.  Fortunately, during those years I was able to shatter the plans of the ruling elite.  Without intending it, the prisoners saw me as a shield to confront their oppressors and, with time, they [the common prisoners] ended up respecting our cause, with very few exceptions.  In fact, there were even some  policemen of lower ranking which defended political prisoners of conscience.

On the day which Cardinal Jaime Ortega informed me through the phone that I would be allowed to travel to Spain, I was shocked and it was difficult for me to speak.  It was the end of a terrible nightmare which consumed me for years.

Now that the storm faded, I believe that if it had not been for my faith in God, the love of my country and love of my family, I could have not withstood such torture.  I appreciate all that Spain and its people did, offering human warmth to me, despite the difficult financial crisis that country is going through.  They lent me their hand, and I will never forget that, just like I will never forget my days behind bars.

To live in exile is difficult, and because of this, I admire the Cuban diaspora very much.  Despite the hardships they may live on a daily basis, they never forget the political prisoners and they offer help to those who now arrive with nothing.

Cuba is physically missing from us, but it is still in the mind of this exile.  What is true always lasts, and because of this, my cause does not fade, for it is the cause of those who aspire to achieve a better world.

4 April 2012

Writing What my Conscience Dictates (I) / Pablo Pacheco Avila

Writing what one’s conscience dictates in a totalitarian system represents a grand risk for those who break the barriers of silence which the soldiers impose.  Generally speaking, those who are brave end up in prison, exiled, and in the worst of cases in a cemetery.  Despite this, continuing to write without censoring our thoughts means to strengthen that free soul which we all carry inside.

Luckily for Cuba, while the State-run media assumes the role of the submissive spokesperson of the longest dictatorship of the Western hemisphere, others decided to describe the cruel reality in which Cubans live.  If the crackdown of March 2003 was the reflection of hate and intolerance of a regime, the brutal deportation of various dissidents to Spain is proof that nothing has change on the island.  It is just a cosmetic sign of “open-ness” which is far too absurd.

On March 19th, 2003, as I was taking an afternoon nap with my son, a large number of State Security agents knocked on my door.  I was arrested and taken to a cell of the political police in the province of Ciego de Avila.

One week later, I was able to see my wife again and she told me that the soldiers forced my son Jimmy to wake up so that they could search the mattress in search of proof to incriminate me.  At that moment, I did not imagine that I would spend 87 months behind bars.  One day before my 33rd birthday, I met for the first time with my lawyer and she was the one who told me the trial would be held on April 4th.  A fiscal petition of 26 years imprisonment weighed over my head.  The trial was nothing more than a Roman Circus.  The Communist Party members and the soldiers played the role of Cesar, while the fiscals and judges represented  the lions, and the defense lawyers were just spectators.  Pedro Arguelles and I were the slaves being sacrificed.  After various hours in that judicial parody, we were both sentenced to 20 years of prison.

Oleivys was left in the mercy of the goodwill of a few friends which followed their human instincts and tore apart their ideological indoctrination, in addition to the hostility of the authorities  from the Ministry of Health for which she worked.  To this they added an additional punishment of forcing her to travel 360 kilometers with our 4 year old son in order to see me.  Oleivys, with her strong and optimistic character, stood back up again.  The separation forced her to be a mother, a father, a sister, a friend, and confident of Jimmy.  He was the one who least understood what was happening.  Day after day, he would ask his mother when his father was going to return.  My other half, finding strength somewhere inside of her, would respond with pain: when he finishes studying.

“Every night, I would submerge myself in a sea of tears”, Oleivys now tells me, after she surpassed the storm.

Translated by Raul G.

14 March 2012

Notes from Captivity XVII / Pablo Pacheco

“Violation of Correspondence”
by Pablo Pacheco Avila

The communication between those of us prisoners in “The Polish” jail and the functionaries of the interior was deteriorating daily.  The guards had a low cultural level and engaged in despotism and intolerance. The prisoners, on the other hand, were rebellious, energetic, and desired freedom, which conflicted with the aspirations of the political police which wanted to make us crack through the guards which kept strict vigilance over us.

One afternoon, the chief of the Punishment Cells Section, subtenant Yosbany Gainza, showed up to our dungeons with letters from our families.  To the surpise of all, including the common prisoners, the letters had all been opened, which according to the guard had been done on orders from the Direction of National Prisons.  The verbal protests did not take long to begin, and to top it off, Gainza assured us that as of that moment all letters from relatives and friends which we turned in or received had to be opened.

Our citations of article 57 of the Cuban Constitution and Chapter 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were futile.  The guard did not want to accept our rights, once again proving that the Cuban regime violates its own laws and international pacts which it has signed.

Two days later, a few common prisoners informed us that this measure had also been applied to Blas Giraldo Reyes and Fidel Suarez Cruz whom were locked away in the isolation cells of  “La Tercera”.

After trying just about all we could do and seeing that no positive results were coming out of our attempts, we decided to go on hunger strike.

The deep totalitarian rule went beyond our “Polish” prison walls and even attacked common prisoners.  We had two options.  First, to get these suffered men, victims of the communist prison system, to join our hunger strike or, second, they would accuse us of arbitrary measures taken by the jailers.

Alexis Rodriguez, Miguel Galban, Manuel Ubals, and I decided to send a letter to our partners in struggle located in that same section about or decision to start  the protest over the violation of our correspondence as well as other arbitrary measures against those of us in the “Polish Cell”.  Much to our surprise, the note went from hand to hand and only one convict didn’t have access to it due to the lack of trust he had for the others.

On the next morning the guard of that section, last name Garvey, was shocked upon our refusal to accept the breakfast he was serving.  But what most caused an impression on him was the solidarity of the common prisoners, and that the information of the hunger strike did not reach him.

The situation just grew more tense and we could not imagine what the outcome of our protest would be, but we were willing to assume the consequences, while the support of those who suffered with us gave us the extra strength we needed.

Of the 16 men who were imprisoned in “The Polish”, 15 joined the protest.  The prisoner who accepted the piece of bread and cereal was the first one taken by the police to be interviewed, but he did not know what was going on.  Soldiers from diverse ranks began to show up throughout the prison, not asking anything, just walking into our dungeons.  It was the beginning of a psychological battle between them and us.

Translated by Raul G.

30 September 2011