Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

January 24, 1999.

G. SANCHEZ RODRIGUEZ, 28, DIES AFTER MONTH'S HUNGER STRIKE By Marvin Hernández Monzón,Cuba Free Press.

CIENFUEGOS - Gerardo Sanchéz Rodríguez, 28, died Jan. 8, 1999, after more than a month on a hunger strike in Ariza, maximum security penitentiary, in Cienfuegos, the central province in Cuba.

Sanchez Ariza was born in Congojas, the municipality of Rodas. He had been sentenced to 30 years in jail on a murder charge, even though he was receiving psychiatric treatment since before committing the crime. He testified at his trial that he had killed an officer of the Office of State Security (OSS) with whom he had been carrying on some "dirty" business, until he realized the officer was deceiving him.

He said that in 1996 the OSS had arrested him for placing anti-government slogans in Punta Cotica, a neighborhood in Cienfuegos. Gerardo Rodriguez also testified that he was later freed "without penal cause" and was able to finish his studies and graduate as a Physical Educator. He was then recruited by the Cuban political police. That is how he became associated with the officer whom he later killed.

Sánchez Rodriguez started fasting Dec. 6, 1998, while in Cell Five of the punishment hall in Ariza and seeking a transfer to a psychiatric unit to continue the treatment of his mental illness. This ailment, his lawyers argued, relieved him of penal responsibility.

On the fourth day of his fast he was taken to Cell 16 of the security hall. On Dec. 24, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, a political prisoner interned in the penitentiary, alerted the deputy chief of internal order, Osmany F. Cardoso to the weight loss of the hunger striker and his mental condition, showing a need for medical treatment. The officer responded that "surely the prisoner was consuming nourishment, because he did not look too bad."

On Dec. 27, Roca Antunez called "Capt. Tamayo" of the Technical Department of Investigation to point out that Sánchez Rodríguez had started the early processes of autophagia, eating himself.

On Dec. 28 Sanchez Rodriguez received brief medical evaluation and two days later he was transferred to the infirmary. There, as reported by other prisoners, in spite of his being dehydrated, he received no care.

During the winter days of the year's end and the New Year, the authorities provided no covers for the prisoner, who wore only an issued shirt and shorts. His only humanitarian attention was given by the prisoners who worked in the infirmary. They tried to get him to eat small portions of nourishment, in spite of the difficulties Sánchez Rodríguez had in trying to swallow.

Officer Gloria Madelaine Hernández González, a relative of the hunger striker, became aware of the worsening state of the young man and alerted the Ariza authorities. Finally, through the Interior Ministry, she arranged for the transfer of the prisoner to the penal wing of the Provincial Hospital "Gustavo Aldereguía" on Jan. 8.

On that same day Dr. Zulema asked prisoner Adalberto "The Twin" Zamora Cabrera if any one had provided furosemide (a powerful diuretic) to Sánchez Rodríguez, who had died. The pathologist had determined that the cause of death was dehydration.

A note slipped out of the prison from the political prisoners says, "The medical and military authorities in Ariza ask how long did Gerardo go without eating. They are looking for a way out."

Since then, as recommended by the higher authorities, all the functionaries have stated that Gerardo expired because he ingested large amounts of furosemide. In this manner they have silenced any comment which may make them responsible for the young man's death.

The information from the Ariza political prisoners says "the prisoner had no way of obtaining medicines. He was in isolation and he had no strength to look for any kind of medication."

Some physicians in the penitentiary anonymously declared that the striker was not handled appropriately. After a few days without ingesting food, he should have been hydrated with I.V. fluids and then nourished with moderation.

The authorities delegated the responsibility of caring for the prisoner to some other prisoners, who had tried to care for him without knowing details of an adequate medical treatment.

Marvin Hernández Monzón, Cuba Free Press.

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