Cuba: Inside Castro's Prisons

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Food is a mockery. Rotten beans—"a special treat"—caused gagging, bloody vomiting and dysentery among 95% of the prisoners on the Isle of Pines. Those who fall sick are usually left to cure themselves, or die. A former Isle of Pines inmate described a typical case: "A man named Yáñez had an attack of epilepsy and fell from the second floor. He remained some ten or twelve hours without attention ... A few hours after he was taken out of there, he died."

Arbitrary executions, carried out by laughing, wisecracking militiamen deliberately within earshot of the crowded cells, are a favorite instrument of terror. Three firing-squad walls at La Cabaña are in use at peak periods, and, according to an ex-soldier, "the executions were done practically pursuing the condemned man with shots . . . Many times, one wounded in a leg would try to escape. Then he would have to be killed like an animal. That's the way it was at La Cabaña."

Madness & Suicide. The commission calculated that "several thousand" women are also being held as political prisoners, under much the same conditions as the men. They are beaten with rifle butts, tumbled about by streams from fire hoses, locked up with Lesbians and prostitutes, stripped and abused by male guards. One girl tried to commit suicide with a belt; eventually set free, she was by then so deranged that she killed herself at home "by setting fire to her clothing."

In the course of its investigation, the OAS commission sent nearly 50 messages to Castro's government requesting information, asking permission to travel to Cuba, and recommending "progressive measures in favor of human rights." It got twelve answers, charging that the testimony was malicious propaganda, and demanding that the commission investigate human rights' violations in "socalled representative democracies." When he was asked by the commission to respect the rights of the Bay of Pigs prisoners, Cuban Foreign Minister Raúl Roa denied the commission's right to recommend anything or even to suggest the application of "alien norms to matters in the internal jurisdiction of Cuba."

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