Torture in Cuba
April 2013
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Jorge Olivera: The History of the Cuban Dissidence is Long / Ivan Garcia

Posted on April 12, 2013

For someone from Havana, the best thing is to walk the streets in

spring. These March days, Jorge Olivera Castillo, 52, poet and

, is delighted by the green of the trees, the salty aroma, and

the gentle sun.

On any weekday morning, he traces his own journey. Aimlessly wandering

through a maze of alleyways crammed with the facades of propped up

tenements: in these sites reside in the subjects of his stories and

poems. He likes to walk the streets of Central Havana, and places not on

the postcards.

It was in another spring, that of 2003, when the State wanted to break a

handful of peaceful men and women, making arbitrary use of its absolute

power. And sentences were handed out to Cubans, like Jorge Olivera, who

disagreed and disagree with a regime that confuses a nation with a farm,

and democracy with loyalty to a commander.

Olivera was one of 75 prisoners of the Black Spring. Ten years later,

without drama, he recalls those days. "About two o'clock in the

afternoon of March 18, 2003 I was arrested. I had returned from the

hospital, to be seen for a gastrointestinal problem, when a troop of

about twenty violent soldiers appeared. At that time I was director of

Havana Press, an independent press agency. They conducted a thorough

search of every piece of paper I had. They seized books of literature

and my stories and articles. An old Remington typewriter. Family photos,

letters from friends, electric bills and even my phone bill. A clean

sweep. Everything was confiscated by state decree."

When a government says that a man who writes must be prosecuted,

something is wrong with this society. The weapons of free journalists

like Jorge Olivera, Ricardo Gonzalez, Raul Rivero and other reporters

sentenced to 24 years in prison, were the words, typewriters and

landline telephones through which once a week they read the news and

their texts about the other Cuba the regime tries to ignore.

In April 2003, a Summary Court sentenced him to 18 years' imprisonment.

"The trial was a circus. Without legal guarantees. The defense attorneys

were more afraid than we were. The definitive evidence showing that I

was a public threat were my scattered writings and recordings

of my participation in programs of Radio Martí," says Jorge.

He slept 36 nights in Villa Marista, headquarters of the secret police,

a former religious transformed into custody for opponents.

Located in the Sevillano neighborhood, in the 10 October municipality,

Villa Marists is a left over from the Cold War. A Caribbean imitation of

Moscow's Lubyanka Prison from the Communist period. In March 1991, He

was there thirteen days, accused of 'enemy propaganda'. When you enter

the two-story building, with walls painted bright green, a watch officer

sitting behind glass receives you.

They use techniques of intimidation and psychological torture. You're

not a human being. You become an object. A property of special services.

Before a gray dress uniform they undress and humiliate you in front of

several officers. They force you to do squats and open your anus. As in

Abub Ghraib or imprisonment in Guantanamo Naval Base. But in Cuba it has

been applied much earlier.

"They were terrible days. In the cells minimum of four people were

boarded. The beds were a zinc plate fixed to the wall with a chain. The

are placed on a ledge outside the cell. You are called by a

number. I was not Jorge, but the 666. You sleep with two light

bulbs that never go off. At any time of day or night you can be called

for lengthy interrogations. They lead you through long and gloomy

passageways of packed cells where you do not see any other detainee.

It's like being in the mouth of the wolf," says Olivera.

Some dictators often have a macabre sense of humor. After extensive

tortures, Stalin used trials and self-incriminations as a spectacle.

Sometimes there was no show. They put your back to a wall and gave you

one shot to the temple. If they wanted to prolong the agony and break as

a human being, they sent you to a Gulag.

In Cuba, the agents of the State Security have modeled these methods.

Except the shot to the temple. One of those strokes of ridicule that the

repressive apparatus of the Castro likes, Olivera keeps fresh in his

memory. The condemned of the Black Spring were spread out among the

island's prisons in comfortable air-conditioned coaches, the same ones

used for tourists.

"The height of cynicism. We traveled that day watching movies and they

gave us good . We were treated like royalty as we deposited in

prisons hundreds of miles from our homes. I was detained in Guantanamo

Provincial Combined, six hundred miles from where my wife and my

children live," he recalls.

The worst experience Jorge Olivera lived through was the prison. "The

food was a mess. Officers beating common prisoners in common. Inmates

self-mutilate. Or commit suicide. Poetry saved me from madness." It was

in prison where Olivera began writing poems. In 2004, due to a string of

illnesses, he was granted a parole.

Technically he is still not a free man. If the government decides, the

Black Spring prisoners remaining in the island can go back behind bars.

Of the 27 independent journalists imprisoned in March 2003, Jorge

Olivera is the only one left in Cuba. Abroad he has published four books

of poetry and two of short stories.

Right now he gives shapes to his latest poems. "Systole and Diastole"is

the working title. He writes for Cubanet and Digital Spring, a weekly

where for six years the best independent journalists have performed.

Along with fellow journalist Víctor Manuel Domínguez, he leads a writers

club. He is an honorable member of the Pen Club of the Czech Republic

and the United States. If people could receive a grade for the human

condition, I wouldn't hesitate to shake his hand to give a ten to Jorge

Olivera. His priorities remain information, describing the reality of

his neighbors in Central Havana, the crisis of values, prostitution and

official corruption.

The author of "Surviving in the Mouth of the Wolf" rejects the 'amnesia'

of newly minted dissidents. "You can not forget history. The rebellious

generation that dominates the new technologies is welcome. But they

should be honest and admit that before them, we were there. Looking at

news on hot news and under constant police harassment. We did not have

Twitter or Facebook, we wrote with pens on the back of recycled paper.

But we never stopped reporting on the precarious life and lack of a

future for the people in Cuba. That can not be relegated or forgotten.

The history of dissent is very long. And before us, were those who were

sentenced to death in La Cabaña. If we forget these stages, mutilate or

distort an important part of the peaceful struggle against the Castro

regime," says Jorge Olivera.

His dream is to do radio, be healthy and live in a democracy. He hopes

the day is not too far off when he can reunite with Raul Rivero and

Tania Quintero, two fellow exiles. Not in Switzerland or Spain, but

walking the streets of Havana in the spring.

Iván García

31 March 2013

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