Visiting Julio Ferrer Tamayo in jail
BORIS GONZÁLEZ ARENAS | La Habana | 20 de Enero de 2017 – 06:05 CET.
Cuban misery really stands out when it is cold. In a country without
much of a winter it is not worth spending much on jackets, which are
passed down for decades. On January 15th, I was struck by the manifest
poverty of those waiting for the A-5 bus at its first stop, across from
the Parque de la Fraternidad.
It was chilly, and the group’s threadbare jackets revealed their penury.
But the coats were not the only thing denoting the poverty there. Many
of us were going to visit prison 1580 and, if in the world prisons are,
basically, places to lock up poor people, the people gathered there
revealed that Cuba is no exception to this rule.
Prison 1580 was that chosen by the Cuban regime to illegally lock up
lawyer Julio Ferrer Tamayo by falsifying documents and through the
exertion of paramilitary pressure. In a call to his daughter, Karla
Ferrer, Brigade General Marcos Hernández Alcalá, head of the National
Prison Administration, recognized this. And so have the authorities at
1580, who, against their will, have kept him there. The Inter-American
Human Rights has also acknowledged this, as has the American ambassador
to the UN, Samantha Power, by including the Cuban lawyer in the
#FreeToBeHome campaign, demanding the freedom of political prisoners all
over the world.
Last Saturday I saw Julio for the first time in almost four months. In
addition to the medium-security prison, the area features camps as
ancillary, lower-security facilities, where Julio is located. His
daughter Karla explains that at the section of the prison where he was
first confined, “visits were in windowless chambers, with just a little
vent to provide some air circulation, and nothing else. There were many
tables, and a racket, with only three people allowed to visit each
At the camp, however, the conditions are different. The prisoner
receives his relatives under an open sky, in an enormous clearing dotted
with towering trees, and enclosed by an enormous wall protected with
abutments and half-built watchtowers, where I spotted a very young guard
toting a gun.
Before getting there I had to go through a small door and into a
dimly-lit enclosure where one waited until an official summoned the
prisoner’s relatives by reading his name. The edifice’s walls, featuring
massive, stacked horizontal blocks, featuring visible seams, evoked a
great number of places from my life: those from the country schools, the
army units, the bedrooms at the popular camping facilities we visited
during summer vacations, those of low-cost housing, and rural general
hospitals. In addition to those walls, I was familiar with those
ramshackle windows too, the polished cement floor, the tiled ceiling,
the mediocre lighting, the mural, and the generic corridors that
accompany the “new man” from nursery school to the cells of punishment.
Julio calls out to me, as I make him out among the group of inmates and
their relatives. He later describes to me details that I did not know
with regards to the incident on 23 September, when paramilitary officers
and civil officials raided the headquarters of the Cubalex Legal
Training Centre in the Havana district of El Calvario. He tell me that
the public prosecutor who took the statements from Cubalex’s members had
allowed him to go, but he had remained to support the rest of those
present with his knowledge. At a certain point during the conversation
with her, Julio reported the illegalities related to his previous
incarceration and the new case that was being prepared against him. It
was then that an official who was eavesdropping, after speaking on the
telephone, ordered his arrest, after which he was taken to a police
station, but not before the official gave the police a document
specifying that this was a Counterintelligence case.
It continues to be difficult to understand the use of the term
“Counterintelligence,” the pretentious name used to refer to
paramilitary staff dedicated to hampering the work of civil society.
Castroism has always endeavored to convince people that all those
opposing it are crazy, delinquents, or agents in the service of some
foreign intelligence service, generally American. Hence its psychiatric
hospitals, electroshock and jails, and hence the term
“Counterintelligence,” which they attach to their corps of young and
uneducated recruits, who receive military training, are disciplined in
perverse values, and whose excesses enjoy complete impunity.
Our communication during the visit was constantly interrupted by inmates
asking Julio for information. One came over to introduce him to his
mother. And it was not only the inmates, but also the prison authorities
who asked him for help with the files of the prisoners arriving at the
“The authorities here have recognized that the prosecutor falsified the
documents,” Julio explains to me. “My sanction says that I have been
detained this whole time, without recognizing my departure in September
of 2015, when my sentence ran out. So they are accusing me again. But I
have in my possession the document certifying the expiration of my
sentence on that date, at the Valle Grande prison, and there appears no
other entrance into the prison until November of 2016, when they brought
me for here, to 1580. That is what exposes the court’s fraud.”
Like Julio, Cuban many activists from civil society and politicians been
illegally sentenced to prison terms, through cunning machinations
between official institutions and paramilitary bodies. The artist El
Sexto, for example, currently remains locked up without cause, where he
has been for more than two months, as has Eduardo Cardet, national
coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM), founded
by Oswaldo Payá.
Mario Alberto Hernández Leyva is yet another one of those cases.
Vice-president of the Movement of Dissidents for a New Republic and
Movimiento Democracia, in addition to a coordinator of the Orlando
Zapata Tamayo National Front for Resistance and Civil Disobedience,
since 1 November, 2015, he has been in prison, charged with assault and
contempt. Previously, on 8 January, 2015, he had been released, as a
member of the group of the 53 political prisoners freed at the request
of the US Government and as part of negotiations for the reestablishment
of diplomatic relations.
Hernández Leiva’s last internment began in the Gran Valle prison, from
where he was transferred to the Combinado del Este, both in Havana, the
province in which he resides and where his colleagues at the
organization are located. Then they sent him to El Pre, in Santa Clara,
where physical abuse left him with reduced mobility, from which he is
barely recovering after eight months, now at a new prison: Holguín.
More and more distant from his relatives and friends, the separation of
prisoner Mario Alberto Leyva Hernández from his place of residence is
another ploy by Castroist authorities to break his will and spirit.
If, in a general way, prison is a questionable method for the
containment of crime, and dubious human values are employed to make it
possible, incarceration for reasons other than crime is used to inflict
physical, emotional and spiritual damage, these elements characterizing
something more terrible than the concept of prison: torture.
Source: Visiting Julio Ferrer Tamayo in jail | Diario de Cuba –