Chronicles of a Cuban Prison

“Galley 43 has exploited, and in the area of recycling”, a common prisoner told us. “It is hell to work with meat and not even being able to eat a steak,” answered Charon. Even if it may not seem that way, the common prisoners come together in solidarity whenever a crime is committed against one of us. Such chronicles may seem funny but the reality is quite the opposite.

The authorities of this penitentiary chose a large group of prisoners last year to work in a factory adjacent to the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila. Everything is indicating that the cruel realities of this jail (and what goes on in those factories) will be masked and hidden before the eyes of any high ranking international personnel , especially if it is someone from the United Nations. The mentioned factory specializes in numerous things like carpentry, construction, plastic jar making, and the recycling of clothes.

On other occasions I have written about the anomalies in the salaries of the prisoners, but today I am specifically referring to those who work in recycling, and according to them have received 300 pesos in national currency- 12 CUC a month. During this time, the men who have worked in recycling have been caught stealing brand name clothes. They then go on to be astonished prisoners and are removed from their positions. A prisoner is a prisoner.

In many occasions I have heard stories about the recycling sector. Civil workers and soldiers have been known to steal on the side. They get caught, are surprised, but then everything continues. That is where the gist of the problem lies. I don’t think that it will be difficult to sell some of those items, which they themselves took, to the prisoners and later sell them to stores. The captive should be encouraged and be able to buy clothes that go from hand to hand with their modest salary. “It is very, very difficult to work with shit and not get stained with it,” one recluse said.

Although recycling is not the only place where this occurs, one of the most lamentable cases occurred on June 14th when Henry Veitia Valdivia lost one of his legs when he suffered an accident with the mechanical cementer machine, thanks to the very minimal security measures emphasized by the authorities. This young man was in and out life and death and we currently do not know about his state of health. Well, just like a Ruben Blades song so perfectly says, “With the salary that I am paid, I will not risk the life that God has given me”.

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia