Thursday, January 17, 2008

They Have Names

This Reuters article has been making the rounds. The gist is that the machinery of repression continues in Cuba. But that's only the lead in, because then we're informed that the number of political prisoners has actually decreased under Raul, a favorite media talking point.

Duh. Like maybe because nowadays, anyone who doesn't toe the party line gets whisked away to thoughtpolice headquarters, is read the riot act complete with the obligatory threats and the occasional beating, and is usually, not always, released. Then again it might be because the combination of brutality, poor nutrition, medical neglect and "suicide" in the gulag don't make for longevity, thereby helping to reduce numbers.

In this case, though, the words get in the way. All those abstractions like civil and human rights insulate us against the reality of what happens to flesh and blood. Reading, I remembered a Cuba Archives research report for 2007, the very same time period covered in the article.

I reproduce it in its entirety for obvious reasons.

Despite persecution, fear of reprisals, and limitations, Cuba’s human rights’ activists and independent journalists manage to issue reports from the island, from which the following information has been taken.

2007: SUMMARY OF REPORTED DEATHS ATTRIBUTED TO THE CUBAN STATE 16 Victims from January 1 to December 24, 2007

9 Presumed Extrajudicial Killings
Lázaro Baró Montalvo (alias 'Pita'), Age 27, died January 8, 2007 at the Combinado del Sur prison in Matanzas province for reasons that remain unexplained.

Jeile Rodríguez Aguilar, Age 19, died on January 25, 2007 of an alleged “suicide” after a beating by prison guards at the Kilo 9 prison, Camagüey province.

Rangel Enrique Pons, Age 34, was shot by police on March 20, 2007 at his home in Cárdenas, Matanzas province, when a policeman tired to blackmail him to take his motorcycle.

Manuel Acosta Larena, Age 47, opposition member, was reported to have committed suicide by hanging on June 24, 2007 at the police station at Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos province. He had been arrested four days earlier for “pre-criminal social dangerousness” for leading a campaign to collect signatures requesting the release of political prisoners.

Cecilio Echevarría Hernández, Age 54, opposition member under investigation, was reported to have committed suicide by hanging on July 22, 2007 at the police station at Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos province. The Chief of Police, Miguel López Santana, was promoted after his death and that of Manuel Acosta Larena the previous month.

Amaury Medina Puig, Carlos Rodríguez Labrada, Age 24, and another prisoner of unknown name, beat to death with metal bars and other objects in July 2007 at the ¨Kilo 8¨ maximum security prison in Camagüey after a prison melee.

Manuel Diende Rosa, common prisoner, was reported to have committed suicide by hanging on September 2, 2007 in his punishment cell at the Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey. He was on a hunger strike to demand his rights.

5 Deaths of Prisoners for Medical Negligence

Manuel Valdés Tamayo, Age 50, died on January 10, 2007. Political prisoner released shortly before his death for health problems exacerbated by prison conditions and denied permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.

Alexis Gómez Pérez, Age 32 años, died on March 28, 2007, at the Ariza prison, province of Cienfuegos, after he was denied medical care.

Jorge Betancourt, Age 52, died on July 30, 2007 of a reported heart attack at a police investigation unit in Havana ten days after his arrest at home for suspected drug trafficking. A week after his arrest, his wife had found him in a much deteriorated physical and emotional condition after being submitted to intense interrogations. The family had requested domiciliary arrest due to his heart condition, but it had been denied.

Norbert Jorrín Ortega, Age 20, died on April 25, 2007, at the “Miguel Enríquez” Hospital after being denied medical care by prison authorities at the Combinado del Este prison of Havana.

Geovany Figueroa Rodríguez, Age 28, died on September 3, 2007 at the Nieves Morejón prison of Sancti Spíritus province after prison authorities refused to give him his medication for high blood pressure for one month.

2 Suicides of a Political Nature

Ricardo Pérez Hernández, a prisoner with HIV/AIDS, reportedly committed suicide on January 25, 2007 at the Santa Clara prison after he was put in a punishment cell despite his precarious mental state.

Luis Ángel Lima Machado, Age 47, committed suicide by hanging on October 23, 2007 in Havana. A member of two peaceful opposition groups, authorities had repeatedly threatened and harassed him despite his precarious emotional state.

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