The Bloody Combinado del Este Prison Riot / Jose Antonio Fornaris

Cells, some for 15 inmates, others for three. Photo: EFE

It happened in 2005. The prisoners were killed while guards remained impassive. A witness recounts the events.

HAVANA, Cuba – A riot that caused several deaths and dozens of injuries occurred on April 5, 2005, at the the maximum security Havana prison, Combinado del Este. Yoslan Diaz Quinones, recently released from prison after serving more than ten years in the prison, witnessed these events and agreed to describe them for Cubanet’s readers.

“The riot began because the inmate José Antonio Pavón Bonilla, one of the leading members of the cult called ’Just as I Am’ was notified that he would be transferred to a prison in Villa Clara. He claimed he could not go to that place because he had several enemies there. Furthermore, also in that prison, years ago, José had organized a riot.

“His reasons were useless. They told him the decision was made and there would be no reversing it.Then, at the first opportunity, he called the jailer who had keys to several of the cell blocks. He managed to tie him up, get the keys off him, and started to let everyone out.

“There were about 200 prisoners in each block. The only cell that Bonilla didn’t open was that of Abnoli, the Bakun Kere. He is a dangerous murderer. Abnoli screamed obscenity and said if he didn’t open the bars he would kill him. Meanwhile, others who were with him asked him not to release the Devil. But one of them called Chiqui, grabbed the keys and let him out.

“From there everything changes. They said everyone went to the dining room with their mats and protested José’s transfer, but they also immediately started to protest against Lt. Col. Carlos Alberto Quintana, then head of the prison, and yelling things against Fidel and Raul Castro. continue reading

“There were a few that did not agree with the riot. They were told that if they did not cooperate they’d burn them up. And so it happened. They set fire to the mattresses and closed the doors of the dining room.

“José Antonio Pavón Bonilla did not want to push things to such extremes, and told Abnoli he had to open the doors because there were people burning and choking, but Abnoli said that he didn’t care because they weren’t his family. Then someone, I don’t know who, gave the order to collect all the knives,the shivs, and every kind of weapon they had.

“After this they decided to open the doors. But there was another order: those who were leading the riot had to put themselves at the front and mercilessly stab everyone who came out. Neither the authorities nor anyone tried to control that frenzy.

“After three hours the riot squad appeared, they said it was Raul Castro’s Command One, and using rubber bullets and other weapons they were able to stop it.”

According to the testimony of Yoslan Díaz Quiñones, there were five dead in the revolt and some 80 wounded, 29 of them seriously.

Editorial Note:

These images of prisoners in the Combinado del Este prison were taken by the EFE and AFP agencies during a visit allowed by the government in April 2013. The photo report, published ihere, said there is no overcrowding and fighting among inmates is rare.

The head of prison health, Kervin Morales, said that knife crime among prisoners is rare (“we almost never have emergencies”) and there are no HIV infections in prisons. However, he admitted that from time to time there are hunger strikes.

It is also said in the report that prisoners work in an area outside the double fence, where there is a workshop for crashed cars, whose parts are sold . In this work, EFE said, outside mechanics and inmates work together, earning the ‘results.’ Some get between 2,000 pesos and 3,000 Cuban pesos per month (83 to 125 U.S. dollars), three to five times the national average salary.

They saw the face of Combinado del Este that the govenment wants to show, and some of the media bought it.

Cubanet , March 5, 2014, Jose Antonio Fornaris

Bad Seed / Jose Antonio Fornaris

Ads for food in the Revolution newspaper of 16 Nov. 1959. Photo by Jose Fornaris
Ads for food in the Revolution newspaper of 16 Nov. 1959. Photo by Jose Fornaris

HAVANA, Cuba , September, – It is not possible to find antecedents —  apparently they don’t exist — or any  other moments in history when Cuban agricultural production fell as deeply and as long as in recent decades.

As long ago as 1960, Fidel Castro assured that there was a plan to supply poultry meat to the internal markets as of January of the following year. And he added, “Starting in 1962 the food supply will be fully resolved.”

A little later he affirmed, “It is in agriculture where we have immediate possibilities. It is in agriculture where the fruits are going to be seen most quickly… The development of livestock goes hand in hand with the development of sugar. Meat is red gold.”

Castro’s last attempt (there were many) in the agricultural sector, was the so-called “Food Plan.” The only thing that materialized from it was the image of a farmer carrying a bunch of bananas which is on the back of the 20 peso note.

Fidel’s brother, General Raul Castro, is following in his footsteps in this matter. Since taking power, he has been looking for the magic wand to make the earth bear fruit, even moderately.

The latest effort in this direction was the National Meeting of the Agricultural Sector Producers, which ended on 14 September at the Lázaro Peña theater in Havana.

Raul Castro sent a message to the event; in one paragraphs it reads, “In recent years, various measures have been adopted, in accordance with the Guidelines approved by the Sixth Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, to eliminate the obstacles that hinder development of this sector. However, there still remains much to be done to make the contribution of agriculture to the national economy greater, without which we can not move the country forward in a sustainable way.”

In the early years of the Fidelistas coming to power, the contribution of agriculture was still outstanding. And that could be appreciated in the markets. But in 1962, the regime was forced to establish rationing for essential goods.

From that moment, the shelves of retail stores began to be emptied and the lack of food began to worsen, until today, when food prices are infinitely greater than they were at that time.

Why, for centuries, was the land of this Island able to provide different types of provisions and, instead, for more than half a century now, it is insufficient? The answer is obvious.

Jose Antonio Fornaris,

Note: Photo is of food ads published in the Revolution newspaper on November 16, 1959.

From Cubanet

26 September 2013