I Plead to Human Rights Organizations on Behalf of the Slave Labor in Cuban Prisons / Angel Santiesteban

The exploitation of man by the State

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 17 May 2015 — If there were an indictment against Cuban government and its socialist process,among many other things, most of which are coincidentally human rights violations, would be charges of slavery in which they keep their nationals.

Slave labor in the Castro regime’s prisons

It is known that although the dictatorship signs lucrative contracts (in the millions) with various countries, for sending them Cuban professionals — including doctors, medical technicians and university professors — it pays these professionals a tiny percentage of what the State charges for their services.

Besides that, for the most part, these professionals join these adventures not from altruism, “internationalism” or any convenient adjective by which they are labeled by the totalitarian regime, but out of mere survival instincts; to help their families and get them out of the totally precarious conditions in which they live.

It is not misleading to point out that those two years of family separation have a crisis impact that results in a higher rate of divorces, in some cases in families with children; another common consequence is that many infidelities are forgiven by one or both spouses.

As far as I am concerned, I have witnessed, besides physical and psychological abuses committed against the inmates, who have all of their rights violated, including their schedules. Prisoners are sent to work in the hardest trades, from dawn and with a lousy breakfast, and are returned to their facilities after twelve hours or more.

Even I have sometimes seen that on their arrival, they have been forced to unload a few tons of cement bags — on their shoulders — or unload trucks of rebar and then receive a miserable salary that does not even guarantee them a minimum support for their minor children.

Report from within “Combinado del Este” prison.

That slave work is done in the worst abusive conditions, with torn boots, tattered clothes, starvation, humiliation from correctional officers who guard them. This is a real slavery that has nothing to envy to the one practiced by the first settlers on their arrival on the island of Cuba.

The prisoners work seven days a week

This past May 1st, some prisoners decided to take the day off to wash their clothes, a task they usually do on their return from the daily work. And that attitude was taken by Major Aliet as an act of rebellion, and as punishment he kept them out of work for several days, which prevents them from receiving that puny wage, and, above all, prevents them from leaving the severity of the prison that drives them mad after several days cloistered. Any reaction to the abuse is sanctioned or they get additional charges to add more time to their sentences.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats, Military Prison, Jaimanitas, Havana Cuba.

 

In the Border Patrol military facility of where I am — besides taking them out to work today, Sunday May 17th — they were denied the corresponding break time by the order of officer Parra, head of the prison logistics.

Then you have to listen to the Castro family trying to defend its dictatorship, its iron-dictatorship, its humiliating-dictatorship, its unbearable-dictatorship that rules us for over half a century, about which one can only feel ashamed for them.

We plead that international bodies accept this letter about these violations letter that lacerate Human Rights.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

May 17, 2015.

Border Patrol Prison, Havana, Cuba

Translated by: Rafael

Another Stripe for the Tiger / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 17 May 2015 — The latest report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, confirmed the permanence of Cuba and Venezuela in the “black list” because of violations of those rights “has not changed”.

This violation situation has remained in Cuba for decades without any particular interest shown in resolving it, because to do so would mean respect for freedom, a matter that goes in the opposite direction to its totalitarian process, therefore they will continue to ignore the “blacklist “and as many penalties of that nature as are issued.

Instead, the regime does not want to stay on the US government list of terrorist countries or countries that support terrorism, and in this particular case, Raul Castro struggles and shows a remarkable interest in Cuba being removed from that category. But such aspiration it is not because of a sudden shame, but because it was indispensable to ensure his permanence and that of his heirs in power, as only by Cuba being removed from the list, and through trading with the United States in order to get the hard currency needed for the ailing national economy and thus ensure that continuity. Continue reading

Repressors Salaries Have Been Doubled / Angel Santiesteban

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, 6 June 2015 — In essence, the President of a country should not serve another function but, first of all, manage the assets of people with ethics, fairness and the highest honesty, and never, ever should he believe that the state treasury can be used in his own benefit, directly or indirectly.

And I think that here lies, as we all know, the lousy management of the Castro brothers, especially Fidel, who once he “left” power, handed — in terminal phase and in countdown, even though with an “IV serum in vein” from Venezuela — to his brother Raul, the current dictator.

Recently I learned that in the Interior Ministry (do not know if in the Armed Forces as well), an effort has begun to double the salaries of the soldiers who have the merits that apply to such a reward, called Order 19th. It strikes me that, specifically, the repressive forces are being rewarded, and makes me think they are buying the “loyalty” of their members. Continue reading

Major League Stars in Havana / Ivan Garcia

Ken-Griffey-Jr-en-La-Habana-620x330

Ken Griffey Jr, with young ballplayers in Havana

Monday night, February the 10th, two Cuban journalists were invited to the welcoming reception Mr. John Caulfield–head of the USA Interest Section in Cuba–offered in his residence to three major league baseball players, Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin y Joe Logan.

The journalists who had opportunity to talk with these three legends of  American baseball  were Daniel Palacios Almarales, former sports writer for Juventud Rebelde (Rebellious Youth) and collaborator on the website Café Fuerte, and me, who started in independent journalism in 1995 writing about sports. In addition to journalists we are bloggers. Palacios has a blog, Visor Cubano, and I have two, From Havana and The blog of Iván García and his friends.

Among the guests there were also grand old names from Cuban sports, such as Tony Gonzalez, a shortstop of great scope who in the 60s played with the Industriales team.

For two and a half hours, in a free-flowing environment, those present not only could greet Griffey, Larkin and Logan, but also take advantage of the fact that they were signing balls and books. And, certainly, to leave with graphic witness of an unrepeatable occasion. By request of my colleague Palacios, I shot a couple of photos of him next to Larkin and Griffey.

Thanks to an official from the Interest Section, I was able chat brief with Ken Griffey Jr., the most enjoyed of the night for his amiability and simplicity. And for his elegance, in spite of being dressed in a simple long sleeved white shirt and black trousers.

Griffey was satisfied with his trip to Havana. He enjoyed everything: the spontaneous meeting with dozens of fans at Central Park; talking baseball with people and participating in the training of a group of baseball playing kids in Liberty City, and in the Havana municipality of Marianao.

With regards to the Cuban players in the Big Leagues, he said when he played a season with the Chicago White Sox, he met the shortstop Alexia Ramirez, “and excellent person and a great professional, very meticulous in his training.”

The former stars of the Big Leagues, return to the United States on Thursday,  13 February. Before leaving, they will probably be received by Antonio Castro.

Apart from being a son of his father, Tony Castro, as he is called, is the vice-president of the Cuban Federation of Baseball and principal strategist of the new government policy of authorizing Cuban athletes to play in professional clubs of different countries and continents.

Though the topic was not mentioned in the conversation, both Griffey Jr. and I are aware that in these moments, due to  the United States embargo on Cuba, players living on the island cannot be signed by Major League teams in the U.S.

Maybe the diplomacy of the baseball will contribute to a political thaw, an inheritance of the Cold War, which for over more than five decades has maintained tense and at times aggressive relations between Cuba and the United States.

Iván García

Video: Ken Griffey Jr during with a group of children, in Liberty City, Marianao, Havana. Taken by Cubadebate.

Translated by: Rafael

15 February 2014

S.O.S. Another Brave Man is Dying / Angel Santiesteban

Alcibíades Guerra Marín is in a hunger strike after being sentenced to a year in prison for demonstrating in public against totalitarianism. He was charged with the supposed crime of “CONTEMPT”. His wife, who is also a Lady in White approached the place where they have me imprisoned, asking me for help, and asking me to fight for his rights.

“For me it is an honor to cry out for the Cuban patriots, it is my duty.”

She told me, his family was waiting for him at home, his only son. After the sixteenth day (on strike), she was allowed to see him, along with another Lady in White accompanying her. Alcibíades could not feel his legs anymore. He had to be carried over from his solitary cell to the visitors area.

He assured that he will continue his hunger strike until his civil rights be restored. The dictatorship expects his health to worsen in order to move him to a hospital inside Combinado Del Este Prison; in the meanwhile, he remains in a dark and stinky hole where authorities try to break his spirit.

Every Cuban is an accomplice in his suffering if he remains in silence.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison Settlement of Lawton, March 2004

The activist Alcibiades Guerra remains on hunger strike

5 March 2014

By Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez / Hablemos Press.

HAVANA, 5 March 2014. Political prisoner Alexis Osmany Palmero, incarcerated in Valle Grande Jail, reports activist Alcibíades Guerra Marín is on hunger strike because of his unfair sentencing.

Marín was detained on February 27th while protesting his wife’s arrest, the activist Melkis Faure Echevarría.

The activist was sentenced on the 28th to a year in jail accused of Contempt for the figure of Fidel Castro, after he cried out ¡Abajo Fidel!  (Down with Fidel).

He began the strike in the holding area of Valle Grande Prison, located in La Lisa municipality, Havana, where he was transferred on the 28th, right after the trial.

Follow this link to sign the petition for Amnesty International to declare Angel a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by: Rafael

19 March 2014

No Rush… and No Results

In 1953, in his self defense statement [as he appeared at his trial for the Moncada Barracks attack] History will absolve me, Fidel Castro addressed some key issues pending in our country: land reform for instance. He announced on that opportunity, as a priority in his program, giving productive land to those in possession of five or less acres; a nationalistic and democratic project that had its first episode in October, 1958, when, in the middle of the guerrilla war a bill of law was issued from La Sierra Maestra. Once he took power, actual laws were passed–on May 1959 and October 1963–in which property titles were issued to 100 thousand farmers, but 70% of productive land remained in government hands.

The new monopoly of the land and the elimination of the institutions of the civil society related to the agricultural (farming) activity generated a progressive decrease of the agricultural efficiency, while about 40% of the productive land of the country became idle; a regression that was continued until Cuba lost the subsidies from the former Soviet Union. Since then, the government had spent millions of dollars to buy food supplies that otherwise could had been produced locally.

With such an obvious deficiency of the agricultural production, just five months after taking over the presidency of the State council and of the Cabinet, General Raúl Castro, conscious of the deplorable condition of economy, expressed emphatically: We have to focus on the land! We have to get it to produce! And he added, that sooner than later laws and regulations will be passed to (once again) lease idle lands to farmers on the condition they make them productive as soon as possible.

One week after his speech, the Official Gazette of Cuba published the Decree Law 259 on that regard. This measure, could not solve such a serious problem on its own, might have been valid if this law had been conceived as the first step in a long way to go, for which a strong political will is need to face the historical problem of private property in Cuba, worsened during the Revolutionary government which promoted large state farms (collectivism). Continue reading

Hospitals, “You Are on Your Own” / Julio Cesar Alvarez

About 50,000 patients get some kind of infections annually. Lack of running water in bathrooms, clean linens, surgical gloves and even lack of brooms are among the causes.

HAVANA, Cuba. -Approximately 50,000 patients get some kind of infections in Cuban hospitals; 16,500 could die from that cause. Being admitted in a hospital is considered “more dangerous than an airline flight,” according to the World Health Organization.

More than 8 millions patients die because of a severe infections every year around the world associated to medical attention, meaning one person dies every four seconds. In the USA 1.7 million infections are reported in hospitals, causing 100 thousand deaths. In Europe, 4.7 million are also reported in hospitals with a 37 thousand death toll, according to World Health Organization.

Every year government officials in Cuba report low child mortality rates, data that  makes the Cuban Health System look great. However the numbers of infections, or deaths caused by hospital infections are not published, that could be a good indicator to measure health services quality in the island.

A hospital that has a high rate of infections among patients admitted, is not considered efficient. Even with no official data available, Dr. Rafael Nodarse Hernandez– a Microbiologist Specialist Grade 2 who works for the Dr. Luis Diaz Soto Military Hospital–confirmed in Havana that 50,000 people catch infections  every year in Cuban hospitals, as he stated to a Cuban Military Medicine magazine.

That statement was validated in a study issued by Masters in Science Luis Eugenio Valdez Garcia and Tania Leyva Miranda, from the local Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology Center in Santiago de Cuba.

In an article titled “Endurance of infections associated with health services in Santiago de Cuba local hospitals,” published by the digital site Infomed, Masters Valdez Garcia and Leyva Miranda stated: “Santiago de Cuba province has an average of 2,500 to 3,000 people  that get infections in the very hospitals they are admitted to. As of 2011, reports show 2,717 events documented, meaning 2.4 cases per 100 patients released from hospitals”.

Bathroom

Bathroom at Freyre de Andrade Hospital. Photo: Julio Cesar Alvarez

Taking as reference the 33% mortality caused by hospital infections according to Master in Science Epidemiologyst Ileana Frometa Suarez, from Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospitals, mortality would be 16,500 deaths a year.

Some doctors consulted consider this rate of infections quite high, but confess they have no idea of the number of deaths caused by hospital infections, nor the exact number of people that got infected in the hospitals they work for.

Hygiene

The key element in hospital infections spreading is the environment. Hygiene is the Achilles heel of Cuban Hospitals, not only regarding surgical instruments and medical staff, but the actual hospital buildings in which patients are admitted, especially those recovering from surgery or accident victims, and those recuperating from burns.

Hygiene has declined dearly in those institutions not frequented by the government elite or tourists. Running water is not available very often in such hospitals. Patients’ relatives must collect fresh water from tanks available in the building.

That is the way they flush toilets, bathe or clean their sick relatives. Often the rooms are cleaned by relatives of patients admitted because of lack of cleaning staff or neglectful employees. Cleaning products, clean bed linen, medical gloves and cleaning equipment are very scarce in hospitals.

In addition to the poor hygiene in all institutions, infections spread mainly through health personnel; they transmit the germs when they come into contact with patients. Relatives are a source of infections as well, when acting as improvised nurses due to inefficient health services.

According to a report issued in 2010 by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) and the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), chances of washing hands are higher in a public restroom than in a hospital. According to the World Health Organization, 60% of health professionals do not comply with the requirement to wash their hands so it is easy to get the picture on how many patients’ relatives do not comply, either because of lack of publicity or because of a non-existent hygiene culture in that regard.

With such negative picture of Hygiene in our hospitals, it is not overstated that hospital infections are one of the biggest challenges for Cuban Health System, even if government officials do not talk about it or publish actual statistics.

Calixto Garcia Hospital ER. Havana.

Cubanet, March 5th, 2014,

Translated by: Rafael