14ymedio, Havana, 15 September 2023 — Authorities from the women’s prison in Matanzas, known as La Bellotex, have once again denied a change from a severe regimen to a minimum security for political prisoner and Lady in White, Sissi Abascal, sentenced to six years after the July 11th (11J) protests in 2021. Prison directors, who allege “indisciplines” and “negativity” on the part of the prisoner, will not reconsider a change within the next six months.
In conversations with 14ymedio, Annia Zamora, Abascal’s mother, said that although the judge should provide the final approval for her transfer to the minimum security, the report issued by the prison carries a lot of weight in that decision. “Currently Sissi is in a closed cell and wearing a uniform. She should have already been transferred to the minimum, in another section of the jail, where prisoners wear civilian clothing, with other privileges, and they receive passes to go home each month,” she said.
Regardless, the prison authorities refuse to concede Abascal the change in regimen, alleging supposed indisciplines: “Lieutenant Colonel Marta Cristina, director at La Bellotex, called Sissi to tell her they wouldn’t transfer her to the minimum because of her ’negative attitude’ and because she does not participate in political activities nor does she repeat the slogans.”
“All these measures are taken in coordination with State Security, who manipulate everything related to the Ladies in White and political prisoners. They constantly attack them because they maintain impeccable conduct and are very respectful and educated,” denounces the woman.
Zamora said that her daughter’s refusal to study in jail is considered an “indiscipline” by State Security, in complicity with the jail’s director. “The Criminal Code does not say it is obligatory to study, participate in activities or to work,” says the woman. “If they give her the minimum, she wouldn’t have to do that either. We already consulted a lawyer and know it is not obligatory. They are the ones violating all of her rights and oppressing her like this.”
Last Wednesday, during a visit to the jail, Abascal told her family of the measure and assured them that, after returning from the penitentiary’s offices, she found they had searched her belongings and even confiscated some.
Zamora also said that, in August, during an activity on the anniversary of the founding of the Federation of Cuban Women, Abascal as well as political prisoners and Ladies in White Tania Echevarría and Sayli Navarro, also imprisoned at La Bellotex, they refused to leave their cells or eat during the celebration. “This is what the jail refers to as indisciplines,” she stated.
“Sissi’s friends were afraid to be with her because while she was in the classroom they would come and take her out. She is not going to study now just because they want her to. She is a political prisoner and they do not have to ’educate’ her”
According to Zamora, the prison authorities have also taken as a “contrarian attitude” that Abascal did not want to study during her time in prison although they frequently insist on it. “They want Sissi to study and she does not want to, because when she attempted to study psychology while she was free, they never allowed it,” states her mother who recounts the frequent arrests and threats the young woman endured when she tried to go to university.
“Sissi’s friends were afraid to be with her because while she was in class they would arrive and pull her out. She is not going to study now just because they want her to. She is a political prisoner and there is no need to ’educate’ her. When she gets out of there, has a future, and remakes her life she can decide if she studies or not,” she said.
To top it off, she adds, “the prison conditions are the worst. The water and food are not good and it is very hot. During the search, they took her sleeping clothes, with which she kept cool, because between the mosquitos, bed bugs and the heat, the situation in the jail is unbearable.”
The denial of the change of regimen is turning into a common “punishment” for political prisoners who refuse to bend in penitentiaries. On Friday, Martí Noticias reported the cancellation of change in measures for 13 of the 11J prisoners in the Guanajay prison in Artemisa.
That media, which says it was in contact with one of the prisoners, explained that the Implementation Tribunal denied the measure for the following prisoners: Manuel Díaz Rodríguez, Julián Manuel Mazola Beltrán, Omar Hernández Calzadilla, Ángel María Mesa Beltrán, Livel Hernández Mendoza, Efrén Duany, Víctor Alejandro Painceira Rodríguez, Aleandry Lechuga Junco, Liván Hernández Sosa, Adrián Rodríguez Morera, Lázaro Cecé Gálvez, Lázaro Mendoza Caraza and Denis Hernández. In all these cases, the tribunal alledged indisciplines by the prisoners.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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