STORIES OF ELIAN’S CUBA, PART 2
These individual stories, extracted from information sent from Cuba at great risk by independent Cuban journalists living there, paint a much more accurate picture of Elian’s Cuba than the incomplete and misleading reports of foreign journalists accredited by the Castro regime. All who are acquainted with Castro’s blackmail of the foreign press, know that if they report reality they are immediately expelled from the island and their future requests to enter Cuba will be denied. Therefore, most foreign reporters cooperate. This renders a disservice to the public and to the suffering Cuban people.
(CubaNet, August 13, 1999, by Francisco Garcia) Private farmers in the eastern municipality of Morón owned 100 tractors but 16 were confiscated by Castro’s officials. Another 60 tractors are waiting to be confiscated pending the regime’s review of the farmers’ property papers. Farmers (who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of State Security police (SS) reprisal) said, "The same officials confiscating the tractors were the ones that issued the false documents authorizing the ownership of them that in many instances were gifts, sold or exchanged for great amounts of produce."
These small private farmers, with their tractors and hard labor, believe they are helping to solve the endemic lack of food. They consider the confiscation is "asinine by cutting off a source of much needed produce for the population." Castro’s repression demonstrates again that he is not interested in the well being of his people.
(Cuba Free Press, August 24, 1999, by Ricardo González Alfonso, Cuba Press) In the eastern province of Las Tunas, Ramón Humberto Colás Castillo, 37, member of the illegal Democratic Solidarity Party and an independent journalist was arrested by SS police on the afternoon of August 23. He, his wife, Berta Mexidor Vázquez, 33, director of an independent library project and also a journalist, and their 13 and 9 year old sons were forcibly evicted from their apartment. Castro’s officials said that the Colas-Mexidor family does not have any right to live in their apartment because of their independent-from-the-government activities. At the time the report was filed, the whereabouts of the family was unknown.
(Cuba Free Press, September 16, 1999, by Ricardo González, Cuba Press) In Havana, the president of the illegal Lawton Human Rights Foundation, Dr. Elías Bicet and the pro-democracy activists Marcel Valenzuela Salt, Alejandro Chang Castillo, Marlon Cabrera, Joaquín Rafaél Martinez and the independent journalist Angel Pablo Polanco were apprehended on September 14 by SS police. The arrest was near Butari Park in Lawton as they prepared to conduct a planned class about non-violent civil disobedience. In prior weeks SS police arrested five other pro-democracy activists for trying to conduct similar classes.
(Cuba Free Press, September 27, 1999, by Mary Miranda, Cuba Press) In the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, on September 26, SS police confiscated a camera and tape recorder from the 36-year-old independent journalist Santiago Santana of the Prensa Libre Agency. The journalist was intercepted by various SS agents near Céspedes Park while he was going to the city’s cathedral to cover a mass to honor the Virgin Mercedes, patron saint of prisoners. He was taken to an undisclosed location where his professional tools were confiscated. The SS agents demanded that he show the ownership documents of his tape recorder and camera. But Santana explained that he did not have any papers because the equipment had been donated by visiting foreign reporters. Santana was interrogated for three hours.
Meanwhile in the cathedral, a group of young men were arrested by the SS police just a few minutes before the mass started because they were planning to display blank white signs during the ceremony, symbolizing a petition of freedom for the political prisoners.
(Gerardo Martínez Solanas, September 29, 1999, by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Liberation Christian Movement) On September 23 in the small town of Palmarito in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, three of Castro’s military officers barged into the home of the sister of two members of the Liberation Christian Movement, José Daniel and José Enrique Ferrer. The officers requested that they step outside the house to "talk." As soon as they did, the brothers were handcuffed and taken a few yards from the house where they were brutally beaten in front of their sister. Afterward, the brothers were taken to the police station in the municipality of Palma Soriano.
The Ferrer brothers were previously brutally beaten without reason on September 8. They were at the doorstep of the Virgin Caridad Sanctuary in El Cobre where they were planning to attend the celebration mass of the main patron saint of Cuba crowned by the pope during his 1998 visit. Now, before the Virgin Mercedes celebration they were beaten again for trying to exercise their freedom of religion.
(El Nuevo Herald, September 29, 1999, Pablo Alfonso) Dr. Malvis Labrada, daughter of 60 year-old former Colonel Nilvio Labrada Vincent, veteran of Castro’s war in Angola and of the SS police said he received electroshock treatments at the Mazorra Psychiatry Hospital in Havana for his June 1995 change of heart about Castro’s revolution. (This hospital is under the direction of the infamous Eduardo Bernabé Ordaz, PAHO’s 1997 recipient of their Award for Administration.) On that occasion Labrada Vincent, standing in the doorway of his house, threw his military medals into the street and gave a speech critical of Castro.
In 1995, when he publicly denounced Castro’s regime, he was apprehended and sent to Mazorra insane asylum for six months. There he was subjected to electroshock without dental protection, which destroyed his mouth, burned his temples and gave him drugs to destabilize him emotionally which also made him lose his hair. He weighed just 90 pounds when he left the hospital in a catatonic state in which he was unable to identify his wife. The SS agents Caballero and Montenegro warned her when taking him home not to speak about the incident for her family’s safety.
But in May 1999 her father protested again and has been interned in the Isidro de Armas Clinic, which is part of the SS police, putting his life in danger. The "doctors" at that "clinic" are injecting him with unknown medication and he has lost 30 pounds. He was seen shaking and displaying intoxication and pneumonia symptoms. Dr. Malvis Labrada, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1998, says that she had been remained silent for years for fear of reprisal, but now she fears the worst for her father after his latest arrest.
(Cuba Free Press, October 7, 1999, by Ricardo González Alfonso, Cuba Press) In the southeastern city of Manzanillo, in the province of Granma, the house of independent journalist, Jesús Labrador Arias, was stoned on the night of October. The stones broke the wooden blinds and damaged the living room and his son’s bedroom. Neighbors gathered to defend Labrador Arias’s house and the attackers ran away on their bicycles. This was the third time that Castro sponsored mobsters were attacking the house of the journalist. The prior attacks happened in 1997 and 1998. These attacks are part of a campaign of intimidation designed to make him quit his reporting, but he said, "No matter what they do, I will not abandon my career as a free journalist."
Incidents like the ones described above are daily occurrences in the lives of millions of citizens of Castro’s Cuba. This lack of freedom and human rights, incomprehensible to those who have never lived inside a totalitarian communist country, are the inescapable reality of Cubans.
Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
Mr Blazquez is the Producer/Director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA & CUBA: THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES