For Cuban dissidents, prison is the only destination

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta arrives in Spain in August. (AFP)

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta/CPJ Guest Blogger
Babalu blog

I was born beneath the yoke of a tyranny, now more than 50 years old, in which prison is the only destination for its deterrents. I first came across this destination in 1997, when I was sentenced to five years in prison for the alleged crime of committing an outrage “against state security.” In Cuba, besides being a journalist, I was the coordinator of the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement, an organization that defends the many truncated rights within higher learning institutions, such as a university’s autonomy. The answer to our demands? Prison.

I spent four years, seven months, and 27 days in total isolation from the world, in addition to the sad record of 43 sutures on my body, resulting from the beast-like nature of my jailers.

Later, in 2003, one of many miserable springs took place. The Castro regime put 75 opposition members, librarians, and independent journalists behind bars. I was among them. Immediately after a summary trial, a judge sentenced me to life in prison. The funniest thing was that, on the same day, one minute before that (farcical) court hearing began, I met my state-appointed defense attorney for the first time.

I was sent to Kilo 8, a prison nicknamed “I lost the key” after the never-ending detentions endured by the highly dangerous prisoners housed there. Before long I learned that hope is what’s really lost there.

We journalists and other prisoners of conscience were put with highly dangerous criminals–murderers, drug traffickers–and there were even informers to keep an eye on us. We were surrounded by well-nourished colonies of mosquitoes, cockroaches, and rodents. They kept us on a diet devoid of proteins and calories. There was no governmental entity to turn to when confronted with the horror of that place; neither the International Red Cross nor the High Commissioner for Human Rights have access.

I sewed my mouth shut, literally, as an act of shame and honor at the same time…

The article continues at Babalu blog.

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