For background on this interview read: The Spy Who Never Wanted to Be One
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 3 May 2016 — Last week the United States Department of State chose Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres to lead off the campaign for International Press Freedom Day, this May 3rd. The initiative denounces the crimes and abuse against information workers in several countries. The reporter was sentenced in 2011 to 14 years in prison for the crime of espionage, and this week spoke from prison by phone with 14ymedio.
Yoani Sanchez: Did you know that your name was included on the list of journalists who have suffered an attack on freedom of the press?
Jose Antonio Torres: I did not know, but I know now. I want to thank those who have made this effort to help me here in prison, where I have spent five years and two months. The inclusion of my name in this campaign is proof that the Cuban press, especially the critical press [i.e. non-Party], is doing everything possible about the injustices, to resolve them and to resolve them immediately I am very grateful, as a journalist and as a human being, because what has happened to me and my family is inhumane.
YS. Does a gesture of this nature from the US government benefit you or complicate your situation?
JAT. I can’t be any more complicated that I already am. Being a journalist with the leading newspaper in the country, with work considered excellent and even being congratulated by Raul Castro himself, what happened to me makes no sense. Having a contrary opinion in this country is, at times, very difficult, but there has to be space for all opinions. In Cuba we have to resolve our differences.
YS. Have you experienced difficult moments in prison?
JAT. I never should have been in prison with people who have nothing to do with my conduct, with kleptomaniacs, traffickers, assasins and murderers. I should never be with those people, because I have not committed any crime.
YS. What prison are you in at the moment?
JAT. I’m in the so – called “trusted program” in Santiago de Cuba, which is on the road to Mar Verde. It is called Mar Verde Trusted Work-Study Center Work – Study Center.
YS. What is your prison regimen today?
JAT. It is a regimen of low severity and I stay here for two months, between 45 and 60 days, then I have a pass for 72 hours to spend at home. I have been held under these conditions since April of last year, when Barack Obama and Raul Castro spoke at the Summit of the Americas [in Panama].
YS. Do you harbor hopes for a reduction in the sentence?
JAT. A reduction in the sentence is very difficult, I do not think they will do it. Only international pressure will bring me out of jail. It is precisely the press, my colleagues, who so far have been silent, those who could do it, those who hold the key against intolerance.
YS. Are you still maintaining your innocence?
JAT. Absolutely. Here they have said many times that there are no political prisoners. But if there are no political prisoners in Cuba, what am I doing as a prisoner here?
YS. Have you kept doing journalism?
JAT. I have a long article titled The Weight Of Hope that I would like to send to the American press. Also other texts from prison on various topics such as the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba, from the perspective of a journalist who is captive.
YS. Do you still consider yourself a man faithful to the Cuban government?
JAT. I consider myself loyal to my country. Cubans have been talking in Miami, Washington, Madrid and France because they do not let us discuss the issues we have to discuss in Santiago, Santa Clara, Camagüey and Havana. To the Government I have nothing to say, there is a phrase: decent people can not accept a government that ignores them.
YS. What journalistic media would you like to work in in the future?
JAT. (laughs) Maybe 14ymedio would be a good space. Anyway I have an additional sanction that says I can not practice journalism… at least in the official press. I would like to work as a correspondent for a foreign press, I have no other choice. To publish in The New York Times, El Nuevo Herald or Spain’s El País, that is among my aspirations.
YS. Do you plan to leave Cuba once they release you?
JAT. Where we have to live our life is here in Cuba. I have a lot of pressure on me, but I will do everything possible because it is right here in Cuba where one can put up a fight.