Jailed Cuban Writer, Extremely Ill, Hospitalized; May Be Freed
By Jeremy Gerard
Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) — In the early morning hours of Sept. 14, jailed
Cuban journalist Normando Hernandez Gonzalez was transferred across the
island nation from Kilo 7, a prison in Camaguey, to Carlos J. Finlay
military hospital in Havana.
The move of the critically ill writer came after several months of
growing international protests on his behalf. It was confirmed yesterday
by Hernandez Gonzalez's mother, Blanca Gonzalez, and wife, Yarai Reyes,
speaking with representatives of the PEN American Center, which has been
monitoring the case.
“Yarai says they are treating him very well and that he is finally
receiving medications, though we don't know what medications,'' Larry
Siems, director of PEN's international programs, said yesterday in an
Reyes is expected to visit her husband at the hospital tomorrow afternoon.
News of the transfer quickly made the rounds of Cuban exile and
expatriate Web sites over the weekend, including Payolibre, a news site
based in Miami. Human-rights groups yesterday cautiously expressed hope
that the transfer is an early sign of his release. In July, Cuban
officials released another journalist, Armando Betancourt, after 15
months in prison. Calls yesterday to the Cuban Interests Section, which
represents the Cuban government in the U.S., weren't returned.
Hernandez Gonzalez is one of 59 writers still imprisoned following a
2003 crackdown on dissidents. At the time, 75 writers were arrested,
tried and convicted of “endangering the state's independence or
The youngest of those originally arrested, Hernandez Gonzalez, now 39,
suffers from tuberculosis and several other life-threatening diseases.
All of them were contracted in jail.
“We've been deeply concerned about Normando's health for more than a
year,'' Siems said, adding that other groups had also taken up his
cause. “We're extremely relieved and urge the Cubans to continue
treating him. We reiterate our calls for his release.''
Hernandez Gonzalez's sudden transfer came a day after Costa Rican
legislator Jose Manuel Echandi Meza filed a petition with the UN High
Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. The petition is the
latest attempt by Costa Rican legislators to have Hernandez Gonzalez
treated, released and turned over to them. Previous attempts, which
included offering him an exit visa, were rebuffed.
The Costa Rican complaint argues that Cuban authorities' denying
Hernandez Gonzalez proper medical treatment constitutes torture, said
Adriana Nunez Artile, press director for Echandi, in a telephone
interview. The protocol against torture, Nunez said, is the only one of
the Geneva sections to which Cuba subscribes.
“We decided that the time had come to deliver the petition for
Normando, who is at the top of our list,'' she said.
(Jeremy Gerard is an editor for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed
are his own.)
To contact the writer on this story: Jeremy Gerard in New York at
Last Updated: September 18, 2007 00:03 EDT