Saturday, September 24, 2011
U.N./ Former Cuban prisoner of conscience delivers testimony
Testimony given by former Cuban prisoner of conscience, Fidel Suárez Cruz, before U.N. parallel summit in New York, on September 21, 2011:
"Good afternoon. I would like to thank UN Watch and the coalition of non-governmental organizations for the invitation which has made possible my presence here today. My name is Fidel Suárez Cruz. I am Cuban. I was condemned to 20 years of prison. I was kept in solitary confinement for seven years and seven months.
I was put under the cellular system which consists of living in a solitary cell without human contact. For two years and eight months I was kept in a walled-in or “tapiada” cell. Tapiada cells have a double-layered steel door instead of bars. The other walls are made of cement, without windows. This results in no ventilation.
According to the Regulations of Interior Order of Jails and Prisons in Cuba , a prisoner has a right to a daily hour of sunlight. During the time which I was confined to a walled-in “tapiada” cell, I was also denied sunlight and artificial illumination. The cell was dark at all times, and my family was prevented from bringing me a light-bulb or lamp to illuminate the cell.
In addition to this treatment, I also received terrible beatings for refusing to use the common prisoner uniform, as I was a prisoner of conscience. I was also brutally beaten for refusing to shave and stand up to salute the soldiers in the prison who would do the prisoner recount twice a day. In a time period of one month and nine days, I was beaten for these reasons 19 times while at Agüica prison in the province of Matanzas , between January and February 2005. This prison is located 525 kilometers from my house, in the town of Cayuco , province of Pinar del Río .
These beatings consisted of a group of military men entering my cell. Four of them would lift me up and throw me against the floor. Other times they would use tonfas, canes made of rubber on the outside with a steel rod on the inside. With these, they would beat my knees or lower extremities to force me to stand up and dress in the common prisoners clothing. They would punch me in the abdomen, ribs. They would kick me. They would beat my head, leaving me deaf from my right ear and almost deaf from the left. These continued beatings dislocated my right knee and affected my fifth lumbar vertebrae and first cervical vertebrae.
This beating was carried out in a special cell which has architecture that resembles a number five. It is a system of cells in which, upon entering, you have to pass three very narrow hallways and two barred doors. No one can hear or know anything of what happens there. I was kept in punishment for a month and nine days. The official who personally directed these beatings is the Captain who calls himself Emilio Cruz; these were ordered by the official of the political police who in charge of this prison who calls himself Peñate, who receives orders from Section 21 of the Council of State.
On July 27th of the same year, 2005, in the same prison, for continuing to refuse to shave, I was newly beaten by two prison officials who call themselves Dioval Gainza and Yusley alias “el jabao”. They punched me throughout my body and on my head, causing me multiple bruises. They did not beat me directly on my face, so as not to leave visible marks.
While confined in Kilo 8 Prison in Pinar del Río, I received other beatings. During one of these beatings, for protesting to demand medical attention for an inmate, I was violently dragged from the third floor of the prison down the stairs to the first floor, and later transferred to area #2 of the punishment cells in the bordering Kilo 5 ½ Prison. I was in this punishment cell for a period of 21 days. As a result of this treatment, they dislocated my right leg, which left me with one leg longer than the other.
In another beating for carrying out a peaceful protest because authorities denied giving me the hour of sunlight, they put the handcuffs on me in such a manner that they dug into my wrists, cutting my skin and circulation in my hands. On this occasion, they once again dragged me from the third floor to the first, as a habitual form of punishment.
The characteristics of the 21 days punishment cells in area #2 of Kilo 5 ½ are the following: one sleeps on the floor or in a cement slab that protrudes from the wall; without illumination; the rats, cockroaches, ants are the only company a prisoner has; in the summer months, the heat is asphyxiating to the point that the cell rather seems like an oven. One cannot sleep because of the discomfort and dehydration produced by these conditions.
The food, if it can be called food, was brought to my cell by a guard. This consisted of a small ration of badly prepared rice, potato, or sweet potato, on numerous occasions, accompanied by worms and weevils, which meant this food was in the process of putrefaction. Ninety percent of the diet was of these small quantities of carbohydrates and rarely an egg, or some sort of entrails.
It can be said that the sanitation and hygienic conditions of all the prisons where I was taken are nonexistent. First, the prisoner does not have a place to sit, only on the floor. To carry out physiological needs, there is a hole in the ground inside the cell. The spigot for drinking and bathwater can be found approximately 10 to 15 cm from this hole, where the remains of fecal matter linger. The so-called beds are constructed of corrugated steel bars, full of rust, and welded to the floor of the cell. In Agüica Prison, instead of corrugated steel, it is a cement bed.
All personal hygiene items must be brought by family members to the prisoner; that is when they are able to gain access to these products which ordinary Cubans lack.
For a prisoner of conscience like myself, who also refused any so-called reeducation plan, which is nothing more than a political indoctrination plan for the prisoner to regret defending the cause of defending human rights, family visits were every three months under normal conditions. This is to say, when I was not in a punishment cell or having problems with the prison authorities, I could see only 2 adults (during each visit and they could only be members of my immediate family) and minors. My family members had to travel approximately 525 kilometers in order to visit me. Taking into account the difficult conditions for travel in Cuba , this was a problem for my family, although they always went to visit me despite much hardship and difficulties.
At the moment, the current situation in Cuba is quite worrisome. On the one hand, there are many ordinary Cubans who are identifying with the internal resistance and their struggle for the human rights of the Cuban people, and on the other hand the opposition is protesting on the streets demanding freedom. What does the tyranny do? As methods of terror, they are repressing with beatings, detentions, tear gas. They are also using a strategy of detaining human rights defenders and releasing them after various hours.
In Cuba , all of the rights contemplated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are violated, despite Cuba being a signatory. In regards to article 13 of this declaration, in Cuba , one cannot enter and leave the country freely, nor can one move freely within the national territory. Cubans who are allowed to leave the country need the White Card, a document emitted by the Ministry of the Interior, without which one cannot leave the country. Also, to enter the country, any Cuban citizen or person born within the country, needs to solicit an entry permit or visa from Cuban authorities which is also granted by the Ministry of the Interior, and depends on his/her political behavior abroad in regards to the dictatorship.
In Cuba , parents do not have the right to choose the education their children with receive. Education is controlled and directed by the regime, and children are indoctrinated with communist ideology, to form men and women who will respond to the regime’s interests. This violates section 3 of article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Freedom of speech does not exist in Cuba . The mass media is in the hands of the tyranny. In other words, a human rights activist cannot have access to these means. If a person publicly expresses an opinion related to politics or economics, contrary to that of the regime, they can be processed for “enemy propaganda”, a criminal offense according to the current Cuban Penal Code.
There are also other offenses considered criminal in Cuba , such as “pre-criminal social dangerousness”, which has been used to imprison people who are opposed to the dictatorship, or people who are unemployed and are considered dangerous by the regime.
There is a growing number of youth and blacks imprisoned under “dangerousness”. Ninety percent of the Cuban prison population is black and young, this is how the tyranny controls any social explosions, using coercive methods.
I consider that at this moment, the revolutions in the Middle East have had an impact in Cuba , despite censorship. This is why the dictatorship on the Island has increased repression. The result of these revolutions will continue to impact and encourage the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.
I speak of censorship because for example, in Cuba there is no free-uncensored access to the Internet. Only regime elite, governmental institutions, and tourist centers have official access. Internet access is practically impossible in Cuba ’s provinces, it is only in Havana where it is possible with effort and restrictions. When I entered the prison in 2003, the existence of bloggers in Cuba was unthinkable, and even more so, Internet access.
The only alternative media which is currently functioning is twitter, which can be used through text messaging. However, this is too expensive for Cubans because you need to use a cellular phone. In addition to this, cellular phones and phone lines are hacked by the regime, as it controls the communications network on the Island . The dictatorship even uses the cellular phones of opposition activists to send death threats to fellow activists. This is done to generate division and paranoia between those who oppose the system.
The international community is not doing enough with respect to the subject of Cuba . Many governments remain silent in regards to the human rights violations in Cuba . Some international news media have also been accomplices of this silence. I consider that the tyranny should be accused in all International forums as a violator of the human rights of Cubans, as this is the essence of the tyranny.
A one party system, such as that which exists in Cuba , must murder, repress, torture, exile, and incarcerate its people to remain in and consolidate power for 52 years.
I would like Cuba not to be forgotten. I would like freedom and democracy for Cuba . I dream of a country where all Cubans can enjoy the freedom for which so many have died. I would like Cubans to be able to travel in and out of their country without having to ask for permission. I would like Cubans to have a political model which will allow them to develop their intellectual capacity and in this way help in the country’s progress.
In conclusion, I ask the international community for support for the internal resistance and the Cuban people in order to be able to obtain freedom.
Thank you very much.
Testimony of former Cuban prisoner of conscience, Fidel Suárez Cruz presented on September 21, 2011, at the global summit of democracy activists, human rights defenders and non- governmental organizations, about human rights violations in Cuba. Suarez Cruz called for greater support for the island’s pro-democracy resistance movement. The Summit is taking place in New York on September 21-22, 2011 parallel to the U.N. General Assembly, and the 10th anniversary commemoration of the UN’s Durban conference on racism. Fidel Suarez Cruz addressed the Summit during a panel entitled "Dictatorship to Democracy: Dissidents Speak", which also feature democracy activists from Burma, Tibet, and North Korea.
FURTHER INFORMATION: Asamblea de la Resistencia Cubana/