February 11, 1997 in The Miami Herald.
The G2, Cuba's political police, stormed my - uncle's home in early 1965 to arrest and brutally rush me to their headquarters in ''Villa Marista," once a school and retreat for Marist brothers. - As part of the Cuban communist regime's effort to eliminate families, it had determined that children '`belonged" to the government and was sending them to camps or socialist countries overseas. My crime was to help establish Operation Peter Pan, the exodus of 14,000 children and eventually their relatives, a total of more than 50,000 people in five years.
For three months G2 officers tortured me with one objective: They wanted a signed confession of what they imagined had happened (and of things they knew had not happened) and for me to name and formally accuse the people involved (as well as some not involved) in the Peter Pan exodus. My confession would send those whom I named to the firing squad, strengthening the regime's rule of terror.
One day guards stormed my cell, beat me, and hustled me to a patio. "You have been making fun of us, and now you are going to the Black Prince," a young lieutenant yelled.
They opened a trap door and rushed me down 12 feet of stairs underground. We crossed a corridor with three cells on the right, passed through an iron door to a smaller corridor, with a bath at the end and an iron door on the right. They pulled a lever to open the door, and tossed me into the Black Prince.
It was in a six-foot-square cell, a tomb 12 feet underground with a concrete beam running across the ceiling that housed an air-conditioning duct. The height of the beam prevented me from walking erect or stretching to alleviate stress. The walls and the ceiling were painted in black with spots of hallucinating color. The concrete walls had a rough finish which tore the skin on contact and prevented rest. There were many microphones and speakers and a single light bulb behind a metal grid
All I had was a small metal cup for water, a Persian-linen handkerchief, and the underwear that I had been wearing for three months.
I sat against the door, put my cup down next to me, and covered it with my handkerchief.
The light and the air conditioning were abruptly and randomly cut on and off, which resulted in shocks of painful cold or heat, total darkness or unbearable brightness. Moaning sounds occasionally came through the speakers, but there were long periods of terrifying silence which magnified the feeling of being alive in a grave. Roaches and fleas used my body for exercise and food. A big rat ate part of my handkerchief. From time to time the lock and lever would screech, and a metal plate with corn meal would be tossed in from the dark and water would be poured into my cup.
One day a piece of bread with mayonnaise came flying in. The mayonnaise caused me to hallucinate. I grabbed the metal grid of the bulb and pulled myself up. Pleasant views of Varadero beach flashed through my mind, and I began to sing opera. That provided my first sight and sound of humans in months as the guards rushed in.
Barely holding their nausea at the stench of my body, they took me to the lieutenant. Hearing me sing, my only noise ever, the G2 worried that I had become insane. The lieutenant demanded my confession. I asked him to return me to the hole, a request that he quickly granted.
I lost track of time before guards again opened that iron door and took me to the shower, where I found a thin film of soap. On a mirror nailed to the wall I also saw the reflection of what looked to be an 80-year-old man with a beard down to the waist. I was not even 40.
The upstairs cell looked like a palace. The doctor turned his face at me, terrified by the sores, pus, and swellings over my body.
The G2 gave up on me. They got no confession. They "graduated me" -- from the Black Prince I went on to face trial and a death sentence that was commuted to 23 years in prison.
c. Copyright, The Miami Herald. 1997