Friday, October 27, 2006

Man Sews his Mouth Shut

Havana, October 24, 2006- It is 5:45 p.m. today, Tuesday, October 24th. At this moment my telephone conversation has just finished with the prisoner Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, a Varela Project organizer who is serving 20 years of unjust imprisonment in the dreary kilo 8 prison in Camagüey province. He told me that the second in command of the State Security in this Province had allowed him to call me, which is extraordinary, considering that yesterday he was released from a punishment cell in which he had been confined for 21 days.

Juan Carlos had been dragged through the floor, beaten and locked up in the punishment cell living side by side with rats in the most inhumane conditions that one can imagine. Why? Because he had protested when they had prohibited him from speaking on the phone. The State Security and the prison authorities, the protagonists of these tortures, prohibited his use of the phone because he would denounce the abuses and inhumane conditions to which the political and common prisoners are subjected to. Juan Carlos states: "if there were no mistreatment and abuse I would not have to denounce them."

But the solution of the State Security is to punish him further and to isolate him. Now they have warned Juan Carlos that they will inspect his mail, something that they always do and that they never warn about. They have also warned him that he cannot speak about any political topics, nor about the inhumane abuses in this prison, nor issue denunciations, because if he does they will block his communication and he will be prohibited from speaking. Today he spoke with me to tell me that from this moment on he would sew his mouth. I have asked him not to do it- I am not ashamed to say that I begged it of him- telling him that it is us who still have the opportunity to speak out, that it is us who have to defend the dignity and the rights of those who are reduced to total disadvantage under truly perverse treatment. On other occasions, Juan Carlos has sewed his mouth- we do not want him to do it again. Let's not allow this to happen.

His sealed mouth will not only be a denunciation against his jailers, but also a shame upon those who in Cuba and around the world remain silent in the face of the cruel and degrading treatment in Cuban prisons. God willing he will not do it, but he has done it before, and he sews his mouth with a wire that he passes between his lips. I warned him that I was not going to support that, that this decision is against the will of all his brothers and that he does not have to go to such extremes, since we would denounce the violations that he and many other prisoners are suffering.

But he has already done it once. God willing he will not do it again. I also said to him: “we are not your judges, but your brothers.” That is why, all those who read this denunciation, before questioning Juan Carlos psychologically, before daring to judge him, should ask themselves: “What have I done in the face of this horror that so many human beings live through day to day in Cuban jails?”

Juan Carlos, you do not have to sew your mouth closed, but rather the hearts of your jailers should open so that some humanity can enter them. It is not your mouth which needs to sewed, but rather those whom human prudence advised towards silence should free their ears and remove their gags.

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas
Christian Liberation Movement
October 24, 2006

For more information or to obtain a copy of the press release,
please contact:
Francisco De Armas, International Representative,
Christian Liberation Movement, (305) 285-7970,

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