Prison Diary XXI: I Accuse: If something happens to me it is NOT an accident

Last Friday, May 17, I was led to the punishment cell.

In the morning I was visited by the prison director, Lieutenant Colonel Villarrueta Reinaldo Vargas, Chief Interior, Major Erasmus, and First Lieutenant, serving as Duty Officer.

They took me out of the cell and I was told that my belongings would be searched. What they were looking for was nothing more than my writings, letters, in short, they wanted the complaints, the future posts.

Faced with my silence, they dug through, with exquisite interest, paper after paper. Power allows them to abuse. They read my personal letters from my family and friends sending me strength.

Some letters  were seized, one from my daughter, my sister, a mason, all of Antonio Rodiles’s and some others from inmates who wrote to me from other barracks in Prison 1580.

“A lot of inmates write to you!” the Director commented.

“People don’t know how to relieve their pain,” I responded.

They continued digging, slowly reading even what a girl of 15 told me about her life, about her excellent grades and her assurances that she is very proud of me.

“I’ve read your complaints, that there is torture here,” the Director said, turning back to me.

“Of course,” I said, “there are brutal beatings here, I have seen ten guards beat a handcuffed man, the living conditions in here are torture, the lack of general hygiene, bed bugs everywhere, bad food, badly prepared, and lack of vital medicines for the mental stability of inmates who need psychiatric drugs, and who, from not taking them, are altered and are punished in cells with charges of indiscipline filed against them.”

But he wasn’t listening to me, he continued to look for information, trying to prevent the world from knowing about the excesses committed in Cuban prisons, which disprove the version of Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, who mocked the Human Rights Council, based in Geneva.

The Director found an old manuscript, a draft of some post already published.

“This already came out,” he said, and tossed it.

At that same time, the inmates of my barracks went out for a reward visit and were searched physically in a way they never experienced in all their lives as prisoners. They were stripped, ordered to squat, spread their buttocks, lift their scrotum, armpits, mouth, show the soles of the feet. All to prevent their collaborating with the cause and sending out my writings.

On Friday, the 24th, will be the regular visit.  They showed me the card where I wrote the names of those who would come to see me. And I found they denied permission to nine of the thirteen people I requested. Each name had a signature and a NO, including Antonio Rodiles and Ailer González, and of course, the mother of my daughter and my friends.

So it goes in the prison, the struggle, the censorship and the grim power of the Castro brothers.

An officer I’ve never seen before assured me that I will not get out of this alive, and that after a lot of scandal, nothing will happen; “Accidents are accidents,” he tells me laughing.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Prison 1580. May 2013

27 May 2013

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