Information from Santa Clara / Miriam Celaya

José Lino Asencio. Photograph courtesy of Ricardo Medina

Since the death of John Wilfredo Soto this past May 8th as a result of beatings received by local police, successive acts of violence, threats and harassment of various kinds have been carried out against dissident groups and individuals in the city of Santa Clara.

My friend and colleague, Carlos Valhuerdi, has informed me by telephone about the hospitalization of Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel (Bebo) on a hunger strike since May 9th to demand justice for Soto. Bebo was admitted to the medical room C, bed 21 (phone (42) 270 450) at the Arnaldo Milián Hospital in the city of Santa Clara.

Witnesses who had contact or were involved in the care of Soto shortly before his death continue to be harassed. Such is José Lino López Asencio’s case, who was beaten earlier last week by some individuals while they shouted revolutionary slogans in an isolated neighborhood near his home. Lino went to the hospital with severe headaches, dizziness and vomiting, where he was treated by a Bolivian student because the doctor had “no time” or “was busy.” The student ordered a head x-ray, which came back negative: Lino showed no fractures. However, they did not order a tomography and much less an MRI or any other additional tests, except an abdominal ultrasound to verify that pancreatic fluid had not leaked into the cavity.

Apparently, the medical authorities at the Santa Clara Provincial Hospital have discovered that dissidents in the region have the tendency to develop rare pancreatic disorders. Finally, at this “consultation” Lino was advised complete rest and prescribed Naproxen to treat inflammation. Later that night, he again returned to the hospital and received an analgesic injection intravenously to relieve the headache. The friend who accompanied him, Sander Reyes Machado, said that, after leaving Lino back at his house and setting out for home, some unknown individuals were waiting for him in that same remote neighborhood, who attempted to beat him with clubs, but ran away because Sander was armed with a machete and showed his intentions to use it to defend himself.

Lino continued with headaches, dizziness and swelling of the face into the next day. Once again he went to the hospital. This time they indicated a tomography and reached a diagnosis of a left sub occipital neuralgia with post traumatic cephalalgia. The neurosurgeon who examined him, Dr. Agustín Arocha García, stated there were no blood clots in Lino’s brain. They continued with the anti-inflammatory treatment.

As if all the troublesome process were not enough, on Saturday, May 21st, Lino was taken to the Third Unit of the Santa Clara Police, so that he could once again relate the assault he was subjected to. Just five days after his initial declaration, Lt. Colonel José Luis Pacheco Ribalta, Head of Province Criminology — who had previously been a police-instructor — conducted an interrogation peppered with threats, and belatedly took photographs, when the Naproxen tablets were already having their effect on the facial swelling. They indicated that they would “investigate” the events and that “they would question him again”.

Carlos Valhuerdi, dissident and independent journalist in Santa Clara is the source of any information expressed herein. As Valhuerdi states, harassment of members of the group linked to William (Coco) Fariñas has gone on since Soto’s death, and there is strong pressure against witnesses of police brutality. A group representing Guillermo Fariñas’s group stood outside the Third Unit, in Lino’s support, while he was being interrogated.

Translated by Norma Whiting

23 May 2011