Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cuban inmates complain of poor conditions, food in video smuggled from Havana prison

View video here.

Ten videos smuggled out of Cuba’s biggest and reputedly worst prison, in an unusually daring operation by a dissident, show grotesquely dirty toilets, grimy walls, leaking sewage and food described as worse than “animal feed.”
“Show this video to the international community, how this miserable dictatorship commits cruelties against humanity,” says the videos’ main narrator, an India citizen serving a 30-year sentence in Havana’s high security Combinado del Este prison.
Havana dissident journalist Dania Virgen García, who writes the blog “Cuba por Dentro” — Inside Cuba — said the videos were shot in late January with a digital camera smuggled into the prison “so that everyone can see Cuba’s reality.” They were provided exclusively to El Nuevo Herald.
The videos — which also showed several inmates, including a U.S. citizen complaining about prison conditions — appeared to be the first ever smuggled out of Cuba’s 200-plus prisons. Their views of prison buildings matched those of the Combinado del Este prison.
Human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz said the prison is “one of the worst in sanitation” in a system marked by “inhuman and degrading conditions” that is one of Latin America’s worst because Cuba is the only nation in the region that does not allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to inspect its prisons.
Built by prisoners in 1975 with deficient construction materials, Cuba’s largest prison at an estimated 5,000 inmates has many broken pipes that spew raw sewage, said Sánchez Santa Cruz, who spent nearly three years in Combinado del Este.
The videos show a string of almost unimaginably filthy toilets, little more than holes on the floor of prisoners’ cells, many of them with walls so moldy from the humidity of the leaking sewage and water that they were nearly black.
One inmate used a blue plastic 55-gallon drum in his cell to capture the leaking water and use it to flush the toilet and bathe. He also had rigged an electrical wire to heat up a five-gallon bucket of water for his bath.
Also shown were a couple of empty six-man punishment cells known as tapiadas, or sealed, because their doors are solid steel rather than bars and they have no windows, just a row of slits about two inches wide and two feet high.
Several clips show a prison yard described as “dirtier than a chicken house floor” and dotted with pieces of masonry that fell from the surrounding cells. One narrator says inmates are allowed outside for only one hour Monday through Friday.
The prison hospital, shown only from the outside, has no medicines at all and is known as “the slaughter house,” says Dalvinder Singh Jagpal, who appears to have been the main videographer and narrator.
Singh describes Fidel and Raúl Castro in several clips as “worse than al-Qaida” and adds, “They are anti-human. They are monsters.”
The videos also showed several prisoners, including a dreadlocked inmate who talks to himself incessantly. “This man is completely crazy,” says the narrator. “He came in healthy, and this miserable dictatorship ruined the life of this man.”
A U.S. citizen who identifies himself only as Douglas Moore and said he was jailed since 2003 on a drug conviction, is seen walking slowly with a cane, showing bruises on his left leg and calling prison conditions “subhuman” and the food “unfit for humans.”

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