Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

26 de Junio del 2000


Whether held for political or common crimes, inmates endure severe hardships in Cuba''s prisons. Most prisoners face malnourishment on the prison diet and suffer in overcrowded cells without sufficient medical attention. Prison authorities insist that all detainees participate in politically oriented reeducation sessions, such as chanting "Long live Fidel" or "Socialism or Death," or face punitive measures including beatings and solitary confinement.

Prison guards in men's facilities rely on "prisoners' councils" (consejos de reclusos) to maintain internal discipline with beatings and control over the meager food rations. Prison authorities restrict inmates' access to receiving religious guidance, in some cases with interrogations about their religious beliefs. In some prisons, pre-trial detainees are held together with convicts and minors with adults. Minors also risk indefinite detention in juvenile facilities.

Cuba''s confinement of nonviolent political prisoners with prisoners convicted of violent crimes is degrading and dangerous. Guards impose undue restrictions on political prisoners' visits with family members. Prison authorities have also punished political prisoners who denounced prison abuses or failed to participate in political reeducation or wear prison uniforms.

Many Cuban political prisoners have spent excessive periods in pretrial detention, often in isolation cells. Following conviction, they have faced additional punitive periods in solitary confinement. Police or prison guards often heightened the punitive nature of solitary confinement with additional sensory deprivation, by darkening cells, removing clothing, or restricting food and water. The punitive and intimidatory measures against political prisoners that caused severe pain and suffering and the retaliations against those who denounced abuses violated Cuba's obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which it ratified in 1995.

In early 1998, Guantánamo Provincial Prison authorities reportedly ordered beatings of political prisoners who denounced prison conditions, including Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, Jorge Luis García Pérez (also known as Antúnez), Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, and Orosman Betancourt Dexidor. On April 11, 1998, Capt. Hermés Hernández and Lt. René Orlando allegedly beat severely Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, a journalist serving a six-year sentence for contempt for authority at the Ariza prison in Cienfuegos. In a positive step, Cuban military prosecutors accused both officers of wrongdoing in early May, but as of October 1998, it remained unclear whether the two had been arrested or tried. On April 5, 1998, common prisoners at the Canaleta Prison in Matanzas beat Jorge Luis Cruz Arancibia. Prison authorities reportedly refused to provide Cruz Arancibia with medical care for his injuries.

Cuba maintained its extensive system of prison agricultural camps and ran clothing assembly, construction, furniture, and other factories at its prisons. Cuba's insistence that some political prisoners participate in work programs and its inappropriate pressuring of inmates to work without pay in inhuman conditions violated international labor and prison rights standards. The Cuban government bars regular access to its prisons by domestic and international human rights and humanitarian monitors.

The government last permitted the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), which visits prisoners in custody for political and security offenses, to conduct prison visits in Cuba in 1989. The Cuban government has not allowed Human Rights Watch to return to Cuba since 1995. Cuba never allowed the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cuba to enter the country.

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