Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

21 de Enero del 2000


Editor's note: To help protect the physical and moral integrity of Cuba Free Press correspondent Jose Orlando Gonzalez Bridon and his family, Cuba Free Press publishes in Bridon's own words the details of his interrogation by agents of the Office of State Security (OSS) on Jan. 20, at the Cuban Department of State Security in Havana. At the time he was detained, agents implied it was because of his writings. The greater part of the first interrogation was about his journalistic endeavors, particularly in connection with the Cuban child, Elian Gonzalez. The correspondent discusses it as follows as transcribed by telephone in Miami, with explanatory additions by the editor in parentheses:

The articles that I sent (to Miami) regarding Elian and other pieces that mentioned baby food and other items came from an interview of me by a journalist at Finca Baragua (Baragua Farm). The statement about Elian was painful, as when I compared him with the children from the remolcador (tugboat sunk by Cuban coast guardsmen) who are now at the bottom of the ocean. Discussing this, the agents became livid. They were most upset about the articles referring to Elian.

They first came to detain me at my residence. I was taken to the headquarters of the DTI at 100 and Aldabo streets. I was not interviewed by those who came there but by two other officers I had never seen before - whose names I don't know - and by a gray-haired gentleman dressed in civilian clothes including a guayabera. This gentleman was most attentive to my expressions whenever someone would ask me about Elian. He appeared to be a psychologist. I don't know if they believed that I'm not the one writing these articles.

They wanted to know who my sources were. They accused me of being crazy and said I belong at Mazorra, the famous psychiatric hospital (in Havana).

They said they were going to charge me with violating Law 88 because I was libeling the Cuban government. They said I was calling the government a murderer. I don't know if they got this information from the Internet or from taped telephone conversations.

They also told me that I was inciting the people to demand their civil rights and self-determination and that this amounted to inciting a riot; that is, I was inciting the people to take to the streets. The officials made it very clear to me that they would not allow me to do any of these things and said I had been doing what I pleased.

I explained that I am a journalist. I report the news. I am doing nothing criminal and we have here 40,000 agencies. But it seems that Elian's story and the report about the baby food was too much of a headache for them. It seems the Commandant (himself!) is following these two stories very closely. It seems they are monitoring the Internet and that is why I was detained. They are red faced - livid.

They told me that everything I was saying consisted of lies, that I was deceiving the people in Miami, that they would not permit me to continue to do this and that I would pay dearly for my activities. And they uttered other threats. I was on the defensive, waiting quietly to see what this was all about...

That little note I passed on "to Elian" - it seems that they got that from the Internet and I know many people read it because they (in Miami) talked about it on the radio...

Here, talking about Elian is prohibited. They ordered me, in no uncertain terms, not to speak about Elian. They were charging me with violating Law 88 and told me that I was no journalist.

I told them that I am a communicator; I transmit my opinions about the news and I report the information given to me by other people so that I may describe and inform. One agent said those were not my opinions but the opinions of "someone who was influencing me," as if someone were paying or manipulating me in Cuba.

I told him that those words came from my soul and I wrote them and that's that. You cannot take my words back because they - what I said and wrote - are everywhere.

They insisted that I continue to speak to them about Elian, repeating that they will charge me with violating Law 88 - known as the "Muzzle Law." (They said) when I wrote about the Remolcador, I was libeling the Cuban state. They told me that in this article I was directly accusing the government of murder when the men sank the boat. They told me there are 11 million Cubans. I told them, yes, I too am part of those 11 million. In short, it was a discussion of all these points.

I think the important thing here is the intimidation tactics being used and the abusive use of authority, if you will, and that if I continue to write and expose what the government is doing, they will charge me with (violating) Law 88. They also played the tape for me of what I said to a journalist at Finca Baragua.

The gentleman wearing the guayabera - the possible psychologist - who did not say much, whose job apparently was only to observe, told me that he had studied me. He had even gone to the university to look into my file and he had being studying it and that I was brilliant.

I told him I write what I see, what people tell me, what I question, what I think is news. He accused me of fomenting a different opinion about Cuba in Miami, an opinion that is very different from what Cuba really is doing and said I was libeling the fatherland, that I would be judged, etc.

This interrogation took place from 12 noon until five p.m. We went over and over the same things - the two officials dressed in green and the gentleman sporting the guayabera. All this was done with the intent to keep me from speaking, to forbid me to write. I cannot stop doing this. If I stop, I die.

The story of Elian will continue to be the same. This is news in this country. So I don't understand why they don't want journalists to talk about it; why they don't allow journalists with views differing from the official view on the subject to speak out. I can't talk about anything else; Elian is our reality. This is what's happening now. Everything is about Elian. Even last night when I arrived home, I saw a round table discussion (about it). It seems that finally they admitted that the child says that he does not want to return. I saw (Congressman) Burton, Basulto, two individuals who have never been shown on our media.

They showed Elian's relatives, statements made by Judge King who has been insulted here, being accused of being "part of the Mafia, etc." It seems then that this a dangerous theme now and nothing else can be said about it.

The problem is that everyone has his own truth. For example, about the remolcador, which they also do not want us to speak about. The official version is that the (Cuban) people who sunk the boat were feeling so indignant that they shoved the boat down; it was a crime of passion. But the facts are that no investigation of this ever took place. Therefore, this is news, not libel. In one of my articles to you I asked how come the children's bodies were not retrieved from the bottom of the ocean? This comment angered them very much.

The journalist who interviewed me at the Finca Baragua told me he wanted to write a book. I believe he is from the agency called "Cuba, Truth or Fatherland." He is from here; but the truth is I'm not sure. He takes part in many activities here.

I want to tell you, as my agency, that this is all part of the intimidation process of trying to "fill you with fear." Since the country is living the Elian process, they are rabid. Do publish what I say. I am being threatened because I am exercising my right to write, speak, expose the truth, express my opinions. I am part of the public opinion in this country.

It is important to remember that the famous Muzzle Law states people who threaten "the dignity, economy of the country, etc." can be sentenced for up to 20 years. They hinted that this is the law they would charge me with violating. This law can be applied to any citizen - not only journalists - who speaks and expresses opinions.

I am 47 years old. I am a sick man. I will continue to participate until the end. They not only threatened me but my children and family. But my children have seen for the last eight years, ever since I became part of the independent union and before I dedicated myself wholly to writing, they have seen how I've been treated: The smothering, the repression, the searches. They are now 18 and 14 years old. The boy has been expelled from school. They jailed him for a week. He was on trial. Mr. Brown, the person from the Human Rights Commission is aware of this because he was here at the time of the trial.

They reminded me that I am a sick man, that more than three days in their jail could kill me, that they would force me to cut sugar cane, in essence, they are trying to get me to leave my (journalism) job. They told me to stop informing and expressing my opinions. Now they are after my wife and mother-in-law. They accuse them of being violent! In other words, when they are being interrogated, they don't stay quiet.

However, I will continue to send my articles. It seems I pressed a wrong button with my latest articles. I have been reviewing these articles since I came back from my interrogation and to be honest with you, I don't know what in them made the agents so mad. I write and report what I feel, what I see. I can't stop from doing this. (End of statement by Jose Orlando Gonzalez Bridon.)

Editor's note: Cuba Free Press asks that all organizations that seek to protect the integrity of journalists and freedom of speech and every journalist and journalistic medium in the world to show an interest in this case and take appropriate actions so as to protect the physical and moral integrity of our correspondent and his family.

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