`Each Cuban has a built-in policeman'
FROM A CUBAN PRISON -- To describe how one spends the day in this penitentiary is easy: Everything becomes routine. A change in the schedule is practically an event. Each of the women prisoners (about 700) constantly asks herself: How long will I be here?
Only 15 days ago I was transferred to the wing for hardened criminals, although it would have been logical to have kept me in the preventive-detention wing.
The answer to my question ``Why the change?'' was simple: ``You're closer to the infirmary; these are people who behave (i.e., on good behavior); and it's an order.''
I'm supposed to go to the
infirmary to get magnetotherapy for my breasts, but the truth is that they don't take me, even though I've complained to everyone willing to listen. The doctor recommended 20 sessions -- I've had only nine, and it has been a hassle.
I'm a political prisoner, but because that status is not acknowledged here, I'm called a ``CR'' -- a counterrevolutionary. My cell sisters are common prisoners, five in all: three are serving time for murder (25, 18, and 15 years, respectively), one for attempted murder and battery (14 years), and another for fraud (five years, four months).
A simple analysis of their situation would lead you to think that they'd do anything to shorten their long term of imprisonment or gain some sort of benefit. For example, as a reward for their recent participation in a political meeting about the Pope's visit to Cuba, they got an additional family visit.
Compare this with people on the outside who -- to hold on to their jobs -- cling to their membership in organizations for the masses, careful to maintain their political participation and to submit to the slogans and goals set by the government. Only doing this will they be rewarded with a job that gives access to hard currency, a bag of toiletries, or just any job.
Those who don't live in Cuba find it difficult to understand that the system maintains its political control principally through self-repression. Each Cuban has a built-in policeman. This complex mechanism whereby one assumes the conscience of a hunted person has been developed and perfected for almost 40 years. To those who see it from afar, it's almost imperceptible.
I had never been in prison before, but the past eight months have given me access to this small world and to firsthand knowledge of the violation of human rights and legality. If this document finds its way out of this prison, it will be proof that there are those here who dissent.
The re-educator assigned to me -- a woman officer with the rank of major, age 50, brown-skinned, with a face that proclaims her humble, peasant origin -- warned me that I was forbidden to talk about political subjects, that my ideas had to remain in my head, as confined as I am. You oppositionists are just five or six, she said, as opposed to 11 million Cubans who don't want to change their flag, an allusion to the yanquis who can't stop reaching out to those who want democratic transformation in this country. The end of her speech was devoted to a suggestion that we leave the island: ``What you need to do is go away and not waste your life in prison.''
If that is so, a question arises: If we mean nothing to the political stability of the system, why then are we repressed? Why are we jailed? Why should we emigrate if we're so outnumbered by the people? Why is it necessary to imprison our ideas?
After the daily schedule -- prisoner count, inspection, breakfast (tea or cereal), unsavory meals, sitting in the sun, and girl-inmate talk -- we have ``free'' time for reflection.
I can't write every day. The few times that I have written, there have been unpleasant consequences not only for me, who chose the path of struggle, but also for my family, my closest collaborators, and even my defense attorney.
Today is a day like any other. Yet, inside my cell, my independent thought accompanies me. It matters not that they shut it in, that they repress it. As long as it can be infused onto paper, it will try to find an exit, even if the spaces of time are lengthened.
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald