Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Re: Our War on Cuba: Trade, Travel, and Baseball (1/12)


Intolerably hot and cramped cells. Contaminated water and food. Rats, bugs and medical neglect. Is this the notorious 1850s French penal colony on Devil's Island? No, it is what some 100,000 prisoners in Cuba live every day.

This extraordinarily high number, documented by a new study, suggests that Cuba has one of the world's highest rates, if not the highest rate, of imprisonment: some 900 inmates for every 100,000 people.

This alone is reason for the international community to condemn Cuba's barbaric prison conditions and press for access and improvement. When he visits Cuba this week, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva should take up this cause and lobby for the release of the political prisoners.


The numbers aren't surprising. Cuba's Stalinist police state treats all 11.3 million Cubans as prisoners in their own country -- all except regime elites. Thus leaving the island without the government's blessing is a criminal offense. Practically anything else can be considered a crime under Cuba's vaguely worded and broadly enforced penal code.

Consider: Cubans are locked up for trying to buy or sell anything privately, starting their own business or having any item that may have been purchased on the black market -- among other ''offenses.'' This year the regime targeted for arrest people who illegally owned satellite dishes or ran home-based video-rental businesses.

Those who criticize the regime are charged with ''disrespecting'' authority, ''dangerousness'' or ''acts against state security,'' which can mean anything that the repressive authorities deem criminal.

The prisoner study comes from the nongovernmental Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation. The commission painstakingly collected information from former inmates to calculate the capacity of Cuba's 200 prisons and labor camps. Given the reports of overcrowding, 100,000 likely is a conservative number.


Among the imprisoned, the commission counts more than 300 political prisoners. That includes 75 dissidents sentenced to terms of more than 20 years on charges ranging from sedition to espionage. Of particular concern is the inadequate medical attention for those seriously ill, among them Oscar Elías Biscet, Leonardo Miguel Bruzón, Oscar Espinosa Chepe and Martha Beatriz Roque.

And what of the common prisoners? Specifics are hard to come by because Cuba doesn't allow the International Red Cross or other outside monitors to observe prison conditions. The world community and all who support human rights should pressure the regime to open its jails to monitors -- or face international condemnation.

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