Torture in Cuba
March 2010
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Posted on Sunday, 03.14.10
Unconscionable imprisonment

Some days ago, the official daily Granma argued why the Cuban
authorities should allow the death of Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas,
who's on a hunger strike to push the regime to free two dozen imprisoned
dissidents said to be critically ill.

The island's iron-fisted government does not think it proper to
force-feed him. “There are bioethical principles that obligate the
physician to respect the decision of a person who has decided to
initiate a hunger strike,'' it said. As always, the regime lashed out at
the United States, remarking that it is the American authorities who
violate the rights of hunger strikers held in the prisons in Guantánamo,
Abu Ghraib and Bagram when they force them to ingest food.

They forget one detail. To begin with, Guillermo Fariñas is not in
prison and he's exercising his right to strike from his own home.

The Granma journalist fails to mention that Fariñas is doing that in
homage to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who took 83 days to die because he was
demanding prison conditions proper for his status as a human being.

These are not conditions that we in the free world consider standard
treatment — even for prisoners deprived of freedom. No, no. According
to Omar Pernet, a former fellow inmate at the Gunajay Prison, one of the
“treatments'' he and Orlando suffered was to walk down a corridor from
their cell to another section of the prison.

Along the entire corridor stood 14 soldiers, who punched the inmates on
the head, the stomach, the legs and the back as they walked. Blows from
everywhere, struck by 14 pairs of arms holding weapons. Systematic
beatings, a daily torture made more odious and vicious by the fact that
the inmates expected them every day.

A torture foretold. In the hands of your own compatriots, in defense of
whose freedom and rights you are there, imprisoned. It is hard to
imagine, but it is one of the usual practices in Cuba's ideological prisons.

To say the least, there is a basic difference between Cuba and many
other countries and it is that on the island nothing protects the
individual against the State. No institution defends a human being
against the political machine that could crush it at any moment. A civil
lawyer is an obeisant scribe who almost always is more scared than the

That is why it is all the more surprising that the Cuban authorities
know and handle the American judicial system to perfection, in all
instances. That is demonstrated by the legal war they waged in a Florida
courtroom (and won) in the case of Elián Gonzalez. The photographs of
the child, terrified by the police forces around him, were seen worldwide.

The five spies who went to prison after the 14 original Wasp Network
arrests have used up all legal recourses and their case has reached the
Supreme Court. Should the court accept the five Cubans' plea, it would
be the first time in decades that the Supreme Court accepts a case
involving the parameters that should be followed to decide a change of
venue in criminal cases.

The Cuban regime's knowledge of working the U.S. legal system is not
limited to civil or federal cases, because it also extends to the
financial-legal system. How much did the Swiss bank UBS pay as
punishment for rerouting more than $3 billion to the island? A $100
million fine.

Cuba, which deals in minute detail with U.S. law and defends with
ferocity its spies, the boy rafter, and its own multimillion-dollar
fortune, justifies itself frivolously when it concedes to its people the
right to starve themselves to death.

But isn't this the way we Cubans have lived for more than half a century?

God willing, the voices of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Guillermo Fariñas and
now Félix Bonne will weigh on the collective consciousness of the
regime's accomplices as a recurrent nightmare.

Alina Fernández Revuelta is the author of Castro's Daughter: an Exile's
Memoir of Cuba and radio talk show host at 9 p.m. Monday-Friday on 1140-AM.

Unconscionable imprisonment – Other Views – (14 March 2010)

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