Prison Diary XVI. May Day in Prison 1580 / Angel Santiesteban

 What Else the Commission Didn’t See of Cuban Injustice

The sun rising over Prison 1580 was a violent awakening of the “re-educators” offensive because the inmates cannot stay in their beds and not watch TV to see “the march of the valiant people.”

They entered the barracks shouting insults and dirty words, threatening that they would take the names of those who were not in front of the television and later they would be disciplined.

For committing that “indiscipline” the entire barracks was denied a visit and the conjugal pavilion. In the end most of the prisoners were punished and remained staring the economic waste suffered by the country; and they came to the conclusion that after being awakened, offended and punished, the “re-educators” went to their office where there wasn’t a television. They could hear their voices and their laughter, surely mocking their slaves.

And I say slaves because that same May 1st Cuba declared to the Human Rights Commission in Geneva and the TV news relayed the speech of Chancellor Bruno Rodríguez’s speech and the prisoner enjoyed his humorous lies. Most of them laughed as if they were being tickled.

When he said that Cuban prisoners were paid a salary equal what is paid in civilian life, they laughed and cursed him; the majority of prisoners do not earn a salary, and the few who earn something, after working a month, including every Saturday and some Sundays more than 8 hours a day and with the worse food, on payday receive 103 pesos, that is some 4 CUC, which isn’t enough to buy two jars of oil or five lousy soaps.

In the same speech the Chancellor swore that there is no drug trafficking in Cuba. And in my barracks more than half the population, around forty, are drug users and there are exactly seventeen convicted to drug trafficking.

Hopefully the Commission will investigate in-depth all the constant lies of the Cuban government. They have been hiding these truths for many years that are so painful, especially for their suffering victims who have nothing to do, from the inside of hell, with how these officials lie to international public opinion, as in this case to the United Nations.

When the Chancellor assured that in Cuba there is no torture, the prisoners — as if he could see them — stood in front of the TV and showed their scars, their missing teeth, the lost vision in their eyes from beatings, fractured nasal septums and arms and broken fingers… and all the signs of humiliation and abuse printed on their bodies, all of which suffered under a legal neglect.

When a prisoner is abused and there are injuries, they hide them in the punishment cells so that the rest of the prison doesn’t see it, and they stay there until the swelling and bruising disappear.

Then the prisoner always receives the same threat: if he informs the international press or tells his family what happened, he will be sent to distance province far from home, so then his family will have to travel several days and spend a lot of money to visit him.

This is the life of a Cuban prisoner and nothing distinguishes it from that the official propaganda says happens on Guantanamo Base with all the abuses committed there, because I repeat, in my case as in so many we are forced to swallow disgusting food when we decide to start a hunger strike.

I myself, realized in the end that I had to get out of the punishment cell in which they’d confined me so that I could fulfill my condition as a blogger, because in that silence and non-communication I was doing them a favor.

Since they took me out of that cell I have not swallowed the disgusting food that they distribute to the prisoners. I survive on crackers, sugar and milk provided by my family, and above all, on my ideas of freedom and my work as a blogger and writer.

With this I possess more than the dictatorship.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison 1580. San Miguel del Padrón. May 2013

4 May 2013