Torture in Cuba
May 2009
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Posted on Friday, 05.29.09
Juan Juan Almeida's letter, translated by The Miami Herald
30 June 2006

My dear Loisi. Pardon me, Lieut. Col. Loisi:

I have an odd mania to not proofread my letters and to send them out
just the way I write them; but you must understand that when I wrote
''dear'' I was very far from expressing any kind of mockery or irony. It
was simply that, exactly what I was feeling, because even if not I, or
you, or anybody else believes it, I appreciate you a great deal and
retain bad but interesting memories about you that would be difficult
for me to describe now.

Someone told me that what I feel toward you is nothing more than a
syndrome called the Sebastopol, or Stockholm, or Liverpool syndrome, I
don't know where from. I only remember that it was the name of a
European city and is defined as the feeling kidnapped people develop for
their kidnappers once they involuntarily cease to see their bad aspects,
and fear leads them to discover the good and human side of their captors.

But you know what? I don't believe it, and I don't believe it because
that theory is much too complex for my taste and my personality. The
part about the fear, well, I always think and it will be very difficult
for me, if not impossible, to change my opinion. I do not fear you. I
trusted you all, then I feared you all. Now, (please forgive me) now I
am terrified by you because I know what you all are capable of. As you
can imagine, I don't feel comfortable at all being hunted as if I were
an animal, constantly besieged, hounded and harassed by a surveillance
that never goes away.

Some strange character tells me that I shouldn't provoke you folks, that
I should let you do your job, that I should stay quiet for a while, that
the people in the KJ [Translator's Note: the State Security section in
charge of physically tailing suspects] are there simply to protect me
and to make sure I don't skip from Cuba. He says that every time I see
you — which of course is every day, because I already know some of your
cars, some of your faces, some of your names, some of your reactions,
where you park and (I believe) where you watch me from — that every
time I ''disrespect'' you, you report it and that makes it worse for me.

Don't you consider that a stupid form of prophylaxis? Damn, let's be
realistic. For a moment, get off your chair, step in my shoes and then
— aren't you the ones who provoke me with that bizarre and stubborn
persecution complex, looking for the CIA, Special Services, opposition
groups, etc., etc., etc.? Aren't you the ones who disrespect me by
deliberately invading my privacy and even my dreams? Aren't you the ones
who forced me […] to do any of the acts that any cornered animal will
do in desperation?

I would like to pose another question, to which, of course, I expect no
answer. Needless to say, I've thought about it a lot, but well, were I
to become desperate by your constant messages to stifle or destabilize
me, and were I to run into some embassy and ask for asylum, how would
you view me? As someone who simply couldn't resist the unsufferable
repressive machine that willy-nilly you have unleashed, without any
limitation of resources, upon my person? As a dissident (which I'm not)?
As a conspirator (which I'm not)? Damn, fella, and when somebody turns
against you, and it's all your fault because of your shoddy or
ill-intentioned work, what does he become? Don't think that he becomes
an enemy, because I'm not.

Someone said to me, perhaps to console me, referring to those who shadow
me, that I should let them do their job. That photographing them,
defending myself, or any reaction other than submission is taken as lack
of respect and an act of aggression. That seems to me fine, except that
you forget one thing. Let them do their job, yes, but they should do
their job well, because, if not, it is simply psychological and social

I don't want to be aware of them, and neither should any of the people
who constantly come to tell me: “Hey, there's a red, silver or blue
Mitsubishi, or a blue, green or gray Peugeot, or a Whatever car at that
corner and it arrived two minutes behind you. Hey, two guys got off and
are sitting under that tree. Hey, pardon me, I don't know you, but
yesterday, as you walked through the woods, two guys were following you,
signaling to each other. They were following because later I watched
them. Hey, I'm not your friend, but that apartment is occupied by some
oddball people who watch you.''

“Hey, at So-and-so's office they say that what they're doing to you is
far too much, that they should just let you go. Hey, Juan Juan, I know
how you must feel because — though you may not believe this — I, too,
was in hot water. Hey, bro, if it were up to me, I would disconnect the
KT [T.N.: telephone wiretapping] but the orders for you come from way
up. Hey, pal, if the people who follow you wore Mexican hats and carried
photographic cameras they might pass for tourists. Hey, guy, they're
measuring you, and it isn't for a suit. Hey, J.J., So-and-So, who is a
relative of the police chief in such-and-such a place, asked him about
you and the chief says your police record is yea big, says you're a born
counter-revolutionary, arrogant, conceited, a snob, but as soon as your
father dies and you no longer can hide behind him, you'll see.''

Although I omitted and will omit people and many other opinions, the
interpretation this whole thing has is absolutely disturbing. I believe
that the dissimilar people who come to tell me these things are, well,
enemies of the revolution, I might say. But that would be only a lie to
please them. They are ordinary people who often don't even know me; they
do it as a way to expose themselves, to shout, to protest against
something that can almost always be solved.

Gentlemen, repression, prohibition, and the fear of opinions lead
nowhere. You are adopting the exact same positions that our fathers
criticized. And it is sad to see that so many people are turning away
from you for some small foolishness — even some who, like me, benefited
(if I can use that word) somehow by your actions.

Many others lead dual lives. I am horrified when I realize that no home
that I have ever visited has been free from discontent. I speak about
revolutionary homes. Moreover, in all of them, at least one person in
the family talks about wishing to leave the country. Maybe you'd like to
downplay, even ignore this phenomenon, but, whether you like it or not,
it exists and it's growing.

Let me confess something to you. Every day, every second, I get up with
the desire to get close to you. But you crush me and leave me only three
ways out: to flee, to hang myself, prison or suicide.

In either case, I shall publish my books — quite different from the
ones you took from me. They will be changed for the better, because time
has passed and my wounds are healing without rancor or hatred, even if
you insist on keeping them open.

Forgive me for not telling you that, before you seized [my books], I had
sent them to a safe place. Since 2004, they've been copyrighted in some
other country in the world. In one book, the epilogue is missing; and in
another, the prostitute ends up reforming and commits suicide while in
exile, befuddled by a discourse different from ours and, above all,
because she abandoned her country, he
r people and her friends.

But okay, let's put all this aside. I won't tell you what I'm up to,
because with so many people tailing me I imagine you know that I go to
the Tocororo [T.N.: a restaurant in the Miramar district of Havana]. You
should go there. And I would really like to invite the black guywho
interrogated me last time. Pardon me, the ''black'' part is just an
affectionate way to call someone whose name I don't remember and who
impressed me very favorably because of the way he respects his
institution. I never saw anyone with such transparent eyes or
well-shined shoes.

I hope you can go [to Tocororo] some Thursday or Saturday night. It is a
very different place; nobody talks about problems, they only go to sing.
Some neighbors apparently complained that a new bourgeois class gathers
there, or what-not. No, but there might be some truth to it. One of the
neighbors who wrote a complaint did it because he objects to the noise.
And what about the bourgeois or the privileged people? No, the people
who go there are the same I've known since I was born.

As a boy, I saw them in the barrio; later, in Varadero, in the various
schools where I studied. Some went to Angola, others to God-knows-where.
Later, I met them again in the stands at Carnaval time, or every July 26
dancing on 32nd Street in the Vedado. […] Time went by, and I saw them
again, going from nightclub to nightclub, trying to feel the ass of some
currently popular dancer, and so on, in the same places I frequented and
doing the same things we did. Those same people and their children, plus
some night owls, visit the [Tocororo] frequently.

How much is spent? Simple. Because the people in question know each
other, one of them pays for the drinks one day and another pays for them
another day. Or we simply stick to one another. The idea is to sing, to
get together, to enjoy being alive and to forget all our problems for
just one second.

It may seem silly, but it's just good therapy. Visit [the Tocororo]
someday and you will see. As a good policeman, don't let crooked people
poison your intelligence. The people your age who visit that place
immediately come together because of their intelligence or
recollections. You will sing and remember the days when, as a young man,
you scratched your boots or rolled up your pant legs on the cane field,
or when you let your hair grow but concealed it from the teacher by
tamping it down with brilliantine (and even lard), or when you marched
in military school in Baracoa, or when you went to Girón, or when you
joined a literacy campaign. That's all it is: a place where you can
remember and begin anew.

Pardon the palaver, but you know that I like to write, and because the
way to look after me is to tail me, not to ask me how I am, what I do
for a living, or simply what am I thinking, I choose to write to you.
Oh, if something I wrote displeases you, please understand that it
wasn't my intention, not at all. Another thing, if you can, and if your
superiors don't order you to, don't call me in for an interview. Every
time you do, you kill me a little more.

You see, I didn't ask you for the computers or the exit permit, though I
really need them. But I don't want you to lie to me, much less avoid me
because someone else doesn't deign to give an answer. But don't you
worry, because I know that THAT someone is a crook who doesn't want to
let my wife leave and I'd like to know why. If allegedly I am the worst
man in Cuba, what does she have to do with it all?

Or is this another form of torture and she also must feel the punishment
of family separation you created between you and the Americans? Please,
don't you think this kind of practice is a bit fascist and outdated? Why
not give a little in every direction? Understand that you are not such
exemplary educators or reformers and that I am not such a bad pupil.
We're playing a cat-and-mouse game. You don't let me leave and harass
me, while I, desperately looking for an exit, keep running into your
''legal'' mazes, looking for the cheese. […]

Does this seem logical to you? Who do you protect with this? You don't
want to give in. Sure, the powerful cannot give in, but for one second
let us make a very simple equation. If you don't let me go, I shall
continue to desperately seek a way out and shall end up in prison. If
that's the case, better you should slap me in prison now and save the
time and resources.

Besides, I could cooperate so that — without much noise or prejudicial
comments — you could imprison me without any trial and that way nobody
finds out. I would go along with any alternative, believe me. What do
you think? That could be a solution.

The other solution is that you let me go and leave me in peace once and
for all. In that case, there would be some loose ends. Maybe I'll leave
and later return. I'd like that, because it would be a big slap in the
face of a lot of people; besides, I believe the wounds would heal with
time and gratefulness. Maybe I won't return and that would be a
disappointment for many others, I mean friends and people I love.

In that eventuality, two things might happen. One, I'd behave like my
sister, making no comments against this system or its leaders. Two, I
would start talking in every program, newspaper and public place,
denouncing and criticizing everything and everyone, without holding back.

In this case — and forgive me if I repeat the word ''case'' too much —
my behavior would affect only two people: me and my father, which, as
you can imagine, I would never do. But understand that you are not
protecting him as much as I've heard people boast, because I don't
believe there's any person in the world who prays more for me than my
father. On the occasions I have seen him, he has said nothing to me, but
I see in his eyes that he is suffering immensely because of my
situation. So, who is affecting him more? You, your bosses or me?

Well, I bid you good-bye, sincerely wishing you exceeding success in
your life and hoping with all my heart that you will answer this letter.

Very respectfully,

Juan Juan

Juan Juan Almeida's letter, translated by The Miami Herald (29 May 2009)

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