Tuesday, June 30, 2020

#JusticeForHanselErnesto and #FreeKende: Do Black Lives Matter in Cuba for the International Community?

 Official version: Shot in the back while running away from the police and throwing rocks.

Hansel E. Hernández shot in the back by police in Cuba on June 24, 2020
This Tuesday non-violent demonstrations in Cuba have been called for through social networks to ask for justice and to protest the death of the young black Cuban Hansel E. Hernández. On June 24, 2020 in Havana, Cuba Hansel was shot in the back and killed by the police while allegedly trying to flee.  One protest gathering site has been identified as the movie theater Yara in Havana, Cuba.

It took three days for the authorities to report the killing, despite repeated requests for clarity on what had happened.

Hours later, the authorities released a statement indicating that the 27-year-old had been caught by a
National Revolutionary Police patrol when, according to the Cuban Ministry of the Interior (MININT), "he was stealing pieces and accessories from a bus stop", then fleeing. 

During the chase "on the run for almost two kilometers, over uneven terrain", the young man, to avoid being arrested, "attacked one of the policemen throwing several stones, one of which hit the policeman in the crotch, another in the side of the torso and a third dislocated his shoulder and threw him to the floor," indicates the statement posted on social networks on June 27th.

In response to Hansel Hernández's throwing stones, “the soldier fired two warning shots. Immediately afterwards and due to the danger to his life due to the magnitude of the aggression, the policeman riposted from the ground, firing a shot with his regulation weapon that impacts the individual and causes him to die," continues the official version.

Family held open casket service for Hansel.
Hernández's case has caused controversy in the interior of Cuba, where it has been compared with the death of George Floyd, the  Black American who died last May in Minneapolis (United States) during his arrest for a suffocation maneuver made by a white police officer.  

His death sparked protests and riots across the United States, protests that spread to other major cities around the world. He also encouraged in other countries (France, Mexico) to unearth similar cases of suspected deaths at the hands of the police.

On June 18, 2020 The Progressive published an article titled "Foreign Correspondent: Police Lessons From Cuba" by Reese Erlich that claims "Contrary to the image of brutal and repressive communists, police in Cuba offer an instructive example for activists in the United States."

If the United States adopted the Cuban approach recommended by  Mr. Erlich any person recording a police officer, then sharing that image on a digital platform would be violating their right to privacy, and if what they record the police officer doing, whether his or her actions were right or wrong, they would be fined and if they did not pay the fine would be subject to prison.

A law, patterned after Cuba's, would require those who record police on or off the job to get the approval of the police officer recorded before sharing the video with any digital platforms. Thankfully, the First Amendment prohibits such restrictions in the United States, and also runs afoul of international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Cuba is a signatory, even though the document is censored in the island.
El Kende de Cayo Hueso
Now we have learned that 17 year old social influencer El Kende de Cayo Hueso was first fined then jailed for recording video from the rooftop of his home of a long line in the street. He is being held with adult criminals. Four days have passed since his arrest.
According to a January 13, 2020 report in The New York Times a former high-ranking judge in Cuba provided documents which "showed that approximately 92 percent of those accused in the more than 32,000 cases that go to trial in Cuba every year are found guilty. Nearly 4,000 people every year are accused of being “antisocial” or “dangerous,” terms the Cuban government uses to jail people who pose a risk to the status quo, without having committed a crime." Furthermore, the article says that "records show that Cuba’s prison system holds more than 90,000 prisoners. The Cuban government has only publicly released the figure once, in 2012, when it claimed that 57,000 people were jailed."

Based on the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, according to the January 13, 2020 article by EuropaPress, Cuba today has the largest per capita prison population in the world.
Hansel E. Hernández was just 27 years old when he was killed. 
Hansel was shot and killed for throwing rocks.  On Friday, June 5, 2020 news broke that a police station had been assaulted and two policemen killed and a third seriously injured allegedly by Yusniel Tirado Aldama an assailant that had a grievance with the police over poor treatment when making a complaint and harassment. The shooter was caught alive, unlike Hansel, the suspect was white.

Yusniel Tirado Aldama (Photo: Courtesy)
Today at 11:00am on June 30, 2020 protests have been called in a country where the freedom to assembly and to speak is outlawed. Please monitor along with us what is happening via the hashtag:
#JusticiaParaHanselErnesto and #FreeKende.

Media sources for report below: ABC, MartiNoticias, 14ymedio and Diario de Cuba

Monday, June 29, 2020

Remembering Non-violent moments in a time of turmoil: Brothers to the Rescue, the March for Humanity, and a call for truth and justice.

Remembering a non-violent ripple.

Coretta Scott King and Jose Basulto of Brothers to the Rescue
On April 9, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia on the fiftieth anniversary of the funeral procession for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I took part in the March For Humanity. Over the previous week numerous events were held to mark the 50 years since a sniper's bullet took his life. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., like Mohandas Gandhi before him twenty years earlier, was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis Tennessee at 6:01pm.

We are in the midst of a moment of great turmoil with a pandemic, mass protests for racial justice, and riots organized by radicals with other objectives, some are Marxist Leninists, others Maoists,  others are Neo-Nazis, Klu Klux Klan and a long etcetera,   

These have also been years of great political polarization, and the danger arises of not looking at the person we disagree with as a fellow human being.

This was why the March for Humanity was and remains important.  It is also why activists of all political stripes working for the common good need to hang on to non-violence, respect for the rule of law, and where a law is unjust then challenge it with civil disobedience as a last resort, and when possible democratic norms and procedures. 

This is not passivity but creative resistance that, unlike violence, preserves our humanity, and it leaves unlikely but positive ripples always.

In the struggle against dictatorship in Cuba it was the internal opposition that first took up nonviolence as a method to resist injustice without becoming unjust. It was the nonviolent opposition that confronted a regime rooted in hatred without hating but were followed by other organizations, including one that engaged with The King Center.

Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate) is a grassroots movement founded in May 1991 in response to the death of a fifteen year old named Gregorio Pérez Ricardo who had died fleeing Cuba on a raft only to die of exposure and dehydration. The movement was funded by the community through donations in order to carry out a nonviolent constructive program saving the lives of Cuban rafters before they died of dehydration or starvation on the high seas in normal rafts.

Brothers to the Rescue actively collaborated with both The King Center in Atlanta, Georgia and Gene Sharp of the Albert Einstein Institution. They conducted nonviolent trainings in South Florida and invited members of the Cuban Exile community. I took part in those trainings, and they made a great impact on me.

The non-violent group conducted more than  2,400 aerial search missions.  These resulted in the rescue of more than 4,200 men, women and children ranging in age from a five day old infant to a man 79 years of age.

Sadly, Brothers to the Rescue was dealt a terrible blow on February 24, 1996 when two of its planes were blow to bits in the Florida Straits by Cuban MiGs while searching for rafters killing four humanitarians.

Glamour and glitz versus the cold hard reality.
A spy network sent by Havana had gathered information on the organization that contributed to the killings of Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales.

Now a film production seeks to twist this history in the service of Cuban communist propaganda, and the spouse of Jose Basulto, Rita Basulto, is asking for help over Facebook and the request is reproduced below. Brothers to the Rescue in Spanish is Hermanos al Rescate (HAR) and this is the acronym she uses for the organization in the message below.
 "Dear FB family and friends,
Since the movie The Wasp Network started showing on Netflix, we have received numerous calls and comments. The movie is a propaganda vehicle for the Cuban government, full of lies and misrepresentations. Among the lies, my husband Jose Basulto never introduced Roque to Mas Canosa who wasn’t even present at the party for the wedding as shown in the movie. Roque never flew as a pilot for HAR. Rene Gonzalez was separated from HAR by Basulto after it was reported to him that someone had seen Rene (who was flying with another organization) lying face down by agents of DEA.
The movie wants to portray HAR as a terrorist group when nothing is further from the truth since it was promoting and organizing seminars about bringing changes in Cuba thru Non-Violence.
It is disrespectful to, not only to HAR, but to the entire exile community, the pilots of 19 different nationalities who flew with Hermanos (and who were volunteers-never paid- like the movie says), to the observers who flew many missions, to the members of the press who flew with HAR (never charged).
The Cuban government and its allies have been very good at promoting its lies for years. WE, need to promote our TRUTH.
Please sign the petition from Change.org requesting the removal of the movie from Netflix and share it with others. https://www.change.org/p/netflix-brasil-queremos-que-netflix-elimine-de-su-cartelera-la-pel%C3%ADcula-la-red-avispa-por-da%C3%B1os-y-perj
 Please share this information with others to set the record straight, and to sign the petition. Let us also remember the humanity of our adversaries while we pursue truth and justice.

In Defense of the Emancipation Memorial: The Freedman Statue paid for by former slaves and unveiled on April 14, 1876 by Frederick Douglass

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead." - G.K. Chesterton

Why do I care so much about a statue paid for by former black slaves and inaugurated by Frederick Douglas on April 14, 1876? Because black lives matter yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  This is why I signed a petition to keep The Emancipation Memorial also known as the Freedman Statue at the same location that it has been for the past 144 years and prevent the destruction of a piece of black history.
It both outrages me and saddens me that a mob in the present, who claim outrage over slavery and Jim Crow in the United States that disregarded the humanity and agency of black people, would ignore the choices made by blacks because they can no longer speak for themselves.

The lives of black slaves matter too, and we must remember them and their voices. Not erase them or the monuments they erected to suit the fashions of today.

Archer Alexander

The black man who was the model for the slave rising up from his chains and becoming free in the emancipation statue was Archer Alexander.  While still a slave in 1863 he had learned that a bridge had been sabotaged to kill Union soldiers, and he was able to warn them, but fell under suspicion when the plot failed and fled for his life. Muhammad Ali was a descendant of Archer Alexander a  third great-grandson. In the picture below is Betsy Jane Alexander daughter of Wesley Alexander and the granddaughter of Archer Alexander. She is being assisted by her great grandson's Muhammad Ali and Rahaman Ali.

Muhammad Ali, Betsy Jane Alexander, and Rahaman Ali
The scenes of young people shouting down their black elders trying to educate them on the historical import of the Emancipation Memorial at Lincoln Park were straight out of the Chinese cultural revolution in the 1960s.  

Back then young Chinese attacked their elders and tore down ancient Chinese relics. They desecrated, looted and destroyed the graves of Confucius and his descendants. This was done on the orders of Mao Zedong to erase history. 

We must embrace the best of our history both black and white. Our true history of national liberation that began in 1776 was called forth in an imperfect fashion in 1781 made stronger but still suffered the fatal flaw of slavery in 1787 but strengthened by the Bill of Rights. 

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln met in life.
Slavery was routed after a long and bloody war that begin in 1861 and ended with the Union consolidated in 1865, and President Lincoln assassinated on the evening of April 14, 1865. And over the next 12 years we saw the Constitution amended, slavery outlawed, and blacks made full citizens of the United States, but then a corrupt bargain ended this spring of freedom and the Dream was deferred 80 years. 

Full program booklet available via Internet Archive
 However, on April 14, 1876, with the betrayal yet a year away, the Emancipation Memorial was unveiled before an audience of over 25,000 including President Ulysses S. Grant and members of the House and Senate in attendance. Freed slaves had raised the funds for the statue. Charlotte Scott, a former slave, used her first five dollars earned in freedom to launch the fundraising drive.  Frederick Douglass gave the keynote address and President Grant unveiled the statue. There it has stood to the present day.
Charlotte Scott
Eighty years of Jim Crow segregation, lynchings, the destruction of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, and it’s rebuilding. Despite best efforts to destroy blacks in America this community survived and grew. Black culture came to dominate in the USA & its influence felt around the world.  

Thurgood Marshall and other black lawyers with the NAACP successfully challenged Jim Crow in the Courts and brought the system of legal institutional racism down in a series of cases that reached the Supreme Court in the 1950s and early 60s. 

Between 1955 and April 1968 Martin Luther King Jr and the civil rights movement that he led through a series of nonviolent actions first made real what the Supreme Court had affirmed ending segregation and pushing for voting rights in legislation that was signed by Eisenhower & Johnson.  

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 and that same month in his memory the 1968 Fair Housing Act was made law. The riots celebrated and promoted by the Black Power Movement engulfed the United States afterwards led to the election of Richard Nixon in 1968.

This is black history, and it is also American history, and in the current environment where the history of the United States is being systematically destroyed by revolutionary mobs, even black history is not exempt.

Therefore we people of good will must stand up and say no to the mob, and defend this monument erected by former black slaves to celebrate their emancipation. 

Please join me and take a stand by signing this petition and being counted.

Friday, June 26, 2020

International Day Against Torture and Cuba: Why was Ariel Ruiz Urquiola on a hunger and thirst strike outside of the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights?

International Day Against Torture

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola suspended hunger and thirst strike today in Geneva
Today we learned the good news that Ariel Ruiz Urquiola stopped his hunger and thirst strike five days after he had started it. He had been trying to draw the attention of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to speak to him.

 He sat there just a short distance from the Wilson Palace, all day and all night in the street, waiting. What would drive a sane man to such extreme and desperate action? Ariel has a PhD in biology. He is an environmentalist, but because of his independent spirit he was banned from teaching and became a farmer. His sister, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, was also targeted, and in her case life saving treatment was compromised to punish her.

Omara Ruiz Urquiola with her brother Ariel
In May 2018, Ariel was arbitrarily detained, sentenced and jailed from early May to early July 2018. He was subjected to cruel and unusual punishment during his imprisonment. For example, according to him and the Frankfurt based International Society for Human rights, that has examined Ariel's claims, there is convincing evidence that he was infected with HIV by Cuban officials during his time in prison. 

Today, June 26th is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture and sadly there are many in Cuba who are torture victims. 

The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984), defines "torture" as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."  

What allegedly has been done to Ariel Ruiz Urquiola and his sister rises to the level of torture, but they are not alone. There is a history in Cuba of prisoners and dissidents being denied health care as punishment or being purposefully misdiagnosed.

Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda less than a year in a Cuban prison.
Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz was arrested on April 16, 2016 for speaking out during a human rights demonstration in Havana's Central park. She was placed on parole in January of 2018. She was re-arrested in mid-September 2018 under the charge of being "threatening." On September 19, 2018 she was tried and sentenced to one year and four months in prison. She was sent to a prison 400 kilometers from her home. This was an added hardship for her family to visit her, and keep an eye on her well being.

Xiomara was sent to a punishment cell for at least 10 days for speaking to her daughter over the phone.

Over the course of one year in custody of the Castro regime her health radically declined. Rashes that appeared on her body in June 2019 that Cuban medical doctors in Ciego de Ávila claimed to be unable to diagnose.  She was able to finally obtain medical care in the United States in January 2020 when she was near death, and has remained months in intensive care.

Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz in December 2019
Dr. Alfredo Melgar, a specialist in Internal Medicine and lead doctor treating Xiomara Cruz Miranda, in a May 2020 interview, believes that she was exposed while in the Cuban prison to "various chemicals." Cuban doctors in the island, at varying times, told her she was either suffering from Tuberculosis or lung cancer as her condition continued to worsen. Dr. Melgar affirms that these substances had possibly caused irreversible lung damage.

Sirley Avila Leon: Before and after the attack.
 Sirley Ávila León was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba from June 2005, for the rural area of Limones until 2012 when the regime gerrymandered her district out of existence. Cuban officials removed her from her position because she had fought to reopen a school in her district, but been ignored by official channels and had reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had an 18 year distinguished career in the Cuban military was forced out when he refused to declare his mother insane and have her committed to a psychiatric facility.

Sirley joined the ranks of the democratic opposition and repression against her increased dramatically. On May 24, 2015 she was the victim of a brutal machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand, right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her crippled. 

This attack, she believes, was done on the orders of the secret police. Following it she did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country.

Sirley Avila Leon in 2016 shortly after arriving in the USA unable to bend her knees
On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began a course of treatments over the next six months during which she was able to walk once again although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 only to find her home occupied by strangers and her attacker free and bragging that he would finish the job. She moved in with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set up across from her mother's home on a post. 

Sirley Avila Leon in Washington DC in 2019
Threats against Sirley's life intensified leading her to flee Cuba to the United States and request political asylum on October 28, 2016. 

Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience Omar Pernet Hernández passed away in Louisville, Kentucky on October 7, 2017. Beginning in 1965 at age 18 he was imprisoned for the first time in Cuba for political reasons. 

Omar Pernet Hernández August 15, 1945 - October 7, 2017
Years later in an interview he would sum up his life in Cuba: "I was tortured in Castros' jails in four processes since 1965, when I was going to turn 19 years old."

During his last imprisonment he described how doctors engaged in malpractice against him following a car accident while he was being transferred from one prison to another that left him crippled.

Omar Pernet: Look, the meaning of this, is that this type of boot that you see here....I will show it to you again. This boot was fitted for me in Cuba and it began to damage my hips because one, the left, is longer than the right. Then, one hip went like this 0:30 (shows the way hip is going up). Then, here in Spain, they said I couldn't go on wearing those boots, and they asked me to cut them down, and told me to make the ones I'm wearing. These I'm wearing now are stabilizing my hips.
INT: "How is it possible, since the Cuban doctors are so excellent normally, at least that's what the Cubans say, and promote throughout the world. That they should be so wrong? And hurt you so much? How many months did you stay that way in Cuba?"
OP: Well, in 2005, on the 5th of April, I began to wear these boots until the 17-18. I stayed like that until the 3rd of March of 2008 using those boots. These I'm wearing now are different, from Spain. " Stands up, 2:06, shows. "The only thing they did was to slap a cast on. They had me on a cast from the tips of my toes up to my neck for 18 months. The doctors here [in Spain] say they don't find any logic to it. That it was intolerable, the amount of time I spent in those conditions. The cast was removed twice, and each time it was to break my leg again." 
Omar Pernet Hernández was 72 years old when he passed away, a victim of cancer. He had spent 22 years in Castro's prisons for defying the communist regime and lived in forced exile for the final nine years of his life. He had been jailed in four different instances beginning with being sent to a forced labor camp for refusing military service, then jailed for trying to first leave Cuba, then jailed again for "enemy propaganda" when he denounced prison conditions, and finally sentenced to 25 years in prison for gathering signatures for Project Varela, a petition drive to reform Cuban laws to bring it in line with international human rights standards.

Cuban torture survivor Amado Rodriguez
These practices began in the first years of the Castro regime. The case of Amado Rodriguez who was born in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba in 1943 illustrates this. At 13, he joined the 26th of July Movement against the Batista regime and was later sent into exile to save his life. At the height of the revolution, he returned and became an activist against the Castro regime.

He was arrested and spent a total of 23 years as a political prisoner during two different terms. He was 18 years old when he was first arrested in 1961 and sentenced to 30 years, of which he served 18. Four years later, Amado was arrested and sentenced to 15 years. He was released in 1989 and sent directly to the United States after serving five years, four of which he spent in solitary confinement.
Amado Rodriguez was considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations. His release was the result of personal visits and petitions to the Cuban government from representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Red Cross International, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a US Senator.
Amado described how by June of 1985 he was the only "plantado" prisoner at Boniato prison in jail cell #2 a small sealed punishment cell. He was only in underwear isolated without knowing whether it was day or night. Nine months later he was moved to a sealed cell within the Boniato prison were prison officials placed him on a new minimal caloric consumption diet but by October of 1986 since he refused to break he was subjected to the use of handcuffs and placed in stress positions.

Physical and psychological torture and the denial of medical care or even water as punishment has proven fatal in the past.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo: Victim of prolonged torture
Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after years of torture, and a prolonged water only hunger strike.Prison authorities, in an effort to break him, denied him water over the course of more than two weeks on and off
On the day Orlando Zapata died, Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a heartfelt message explained the circumstances surrounding the Cuban human rights defender's untimely death: 

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died on this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana's Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison.
He was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. Where according to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations.

Reina Luisa Tamayo with her son's blood stained shirt
Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating it was published in April of 2004:

My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to... 
There have been other cases were medical treatment was denied as punishment with fatal results.

Sebastián Arcos Bergnes in front of his home on May 31, 1995 following his release
In 1992 Sebastian Arcos Bergnes was charged with "enemy propaganda" and "inciting rebellion," he was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. Sebastian was transferred to Ariza Prison in  Cienfuegos Province,  more than 130 miles from Havana, where he was imprisoned alongside dangerous criminals and systematically denied medical attention. In 1993 the regime offered Sebastian a deal: He would be released immediately if he only agreed to leave the island for good. Sebastian rejected the deal, choosing prison in Cuba over freedom in exile.

After a prolonged international campaign Sebastian Arcos was released in 1995. A few weeks after his release, Arcos was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in the rectum, for which he had previously been denied medical care in prison. After a Cuban doctor was fired from his post for diagnosing Arcos, he traveled to Miami for further care. In 1996, Sebastián Arcos Bergnes testified before the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland:

My name is Sebastián Arcos Bergnes, and I am the Vice-president of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights, a non-governmental organization founded in Cuba in 1976 to observe the respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the island.
On the 15 of January 1992 I was arrested in my home by the Cuban political police; the second time in ten years. On October of that year I was sentenced to 4 years and eight months in prison for the sole crime of reporting to this Commission the violations of human rights committed by the government of my country. The labor of those volunteers of this Commission inside of Cuba are considered by the government as "enemy propaganda."
I will not enter into the details concerning the multiple irregularities of the judicial process always against me, nor about the conditions that I had to tolerate for more than three years. I will refer solely to one aspect of this my last experience in Cuban prisons.
When I was arrested in January of 1992, I enjoyed excellent general health for a man my age, 60 years then. I weighed around 170 pounds, and ran 5 to 6 kilometers every morning. Eight months later, when after a campaign of denunciations of my family I was transferred finally to a military hospital, I'd lost over 30 pounds and suffered from multiple ailments.
My stay in the hospital was not long. In December of 1992 I was transferred to the Prison of Ariza in the Province of Cienfuegos, over 300 km from my home and my relatives. All of the medical treatments indicated by specialists of the military hospital were immediately suspended. During the next 30 months that I spent in Ariza my state of health worsened considerably, and I was systematically denied access to the medications that my family sent me.

During those 30 months only occasionally did I see inexperienced doctors that gave me incomplete medical exams and additionally lacked the medication to prescribe me. I have in my possession a detailed chronology of my repeated denunciations concerning the abandonment of my health by the Cuban authorities.

In February of 1994, in an attempt to refute my denunciations, the Cuban government presented before this Commission a strip of video filmed without my knowledge, in which I appeared to be undergoing a medical exam. That was the second and last time that I was taken to the hospital, that time for a cardiological exam which had been ordered with urgency on three previous occasions.

In mid - 1994 I commenced to suffer pains in my left leg, which later spread to the rest of my extremities. After a rapid examination, a doctor in the prison determined that I suffered from polineutritis -a deficiency illness very common in the Cuban jails, and he prescribed treatment with vitamins. The pain continued with me for nearly a year later when I was liberated as a result of a gesture of the humanitarian organization France Liberte.
A few days after being liberated the pain worsened suddenly. Many weeks later I had to be urgently admitted to the hospital, were a doctor (friend) discovered that I had a malignant tumor in the rectum. Finally I had to leave Cuba to receive medical treatment in Miami, where my children live. The medical team which examined me in Mercy Hospital diagnosed a rectal tumor of 8 cm of diameter, with more than a year and a half of growth, with metastasis in the bones of the pelvis. At only 4 cm from the anal sphincter, the tumor could have been easily detectable with a simple feel of the area which is included in a basic medical exam for any man over 50 years old. Attached here are medical diagnosis which confirm what I've been saying.
These conclusions put the Cuban government in a difficult juncture. Or the Cuban government didn't know of the existence of the tumor, and in that case they recognize that they did not give me adequate medical assistance; or I'm lying and the Cuban government did know about the tumor and hid that knowledge for more than a year.Or the Cuban government recognizes itself guilty of criminal negligence in my case, or it recognizes itself guilty of an attempted premeditated homicide against my person.
Mr. President:
Before I finish, I would like to make clear that mine is not an isolated case, but only an example of the regular practice of Cuban authorities in their treatment of prisoners of conscience. Out of the group of 6 political prisoners liberated by the Cuban government after the requests of France Liberte, only two enjoyed good health. In addition to my own case, Reinaldo Figueredo has cancer in his vocal chords, Luis Enrique Gonzalez Ogra has pancreatic cancer, and Ismael Salvia Ricardo is nearly blind. Terrible nutrition, crowded and unsanitary cells, housing with common violent criminals, violent repression, and reluctant medical assistance - if any- are the norm and not the exception in Cuban prisons.
Because of all this, Mr. President, it is urgent that this Commission demand of the Cuban government that it permit without restriction the International Red Cross to all the Cuban prisons, and that Cuba comply with the international statutes about prisoners and the treatment of prisoners. This is the least we can do in the short run to avoid that cases like mine be repeated, in which medical assistance came-tragically-when it was already far too late.
 Sebastián Arcos Bergnes died in Miami surrounded by relatives on December 22, 1997.
 The International Center for Transitional Justice explains on its website that "truth can help victims to find closure by revealing the details of the events they suffered, such as the fate of forcibly disappeared loved ones or why certain people were targeted for abuse. Moreover, knowing the truth about past events enables proper mourning practices, essential to most cultures, helping to achieve personal and communal healing."

Most Cuban victims of torture remain unknown, but there are high profile cases that are the tip of the iceberg. Above is a partial sampling of some of those cases. Others are mentioned in the 1987 documentary Nobody Listened (Nadie Escuchaba) that covered the first three decades of the current regime.

Below, in Spanish are a series of interviews of torture victims in Cuba in 2020. The Castro regime has remained constant in the use of sophisticated methods of torture to maintain power through fear.