Letter From Prison: What Juan Luis Rodriguez Desdin (Akiro) Has to Say / Luis Felipe Rojas

Due to the privileged angle of information which the political prisoner Akiro has been able to count on, every once in a while we can shed more light on what prison life is like. Here, I quote him:

“On October 14th, half a hundred of us prisoners witnessed how other prisoners who work in Holguin’s Provincial Prison’s pantry would distribute rice. This rice was taken from the casseroles which are supposed to be for us, and it was given to the functionaries of Interior Order so that they could feed their swine. I have seen bags of up to ten pounds of rice or ground beef and vegetables ending up in the hands of the functionaries from the chief group called Polanco (the same one which authorized and carried out the last brutal beating of Orlando Zapata before taking him to Kilo 8 in Camaguey). They would take such products to the guardian of the keys, who goes by the name of ‘El Pinto’. Bags, plastic small containers, and other packages filled with all sorts of goods (which could easily feed the prisoners or be used in the cafeteria) are taken out of the jails. From there, they end up in the homes of the guards, so that they could fatten their pigs.

“According to what I have understood, the henchman Polanco directly suggests that there be a reduction of how much food is given out. And we barely ever hear about this in all the condemnations that are made. People in the street who are used to the hunger somehow think that this is not a violation of human rights”.

On this occasion, it’s not a beating, or the refusal of medical attention for sick prisoners behind bars. Akiro has focused on an issue which, due to its generalization and frequency, we already think of as a given.

The same thing occurs in businesses, restaurants, and playgrounds. Just a few years ago a friend of mine, who worked in the “Delta Las Brisas” hotel located in the tourist zone of Gualdalava, would frequently cry because she was prohibited by the night guard from taking any left over ice cream to her children. Nor could she hide it anywhere to freeze because the scent-sniffing dog could find absolutely anything. Then, that Cuban ingenuity inside of her led her to bag the ice cream in nylon bags, and then to put it, hermetically sealed, inside the bags which were destined for the pigs. Later, when they were already outside the control area, they would pick them up and take them home. They couldn’t do this every day, only once a week. But later the same game and method was applied to olive oil, olives, and sausages.

Now, I doubt that these soldiers are doing this out of necessity. Instead, I think they are acting like an inverse version of Robin Hood, lacking any morals and ethics while they rob from those who are in need.

Translated by Raul G.

October 25, 2010