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Cuba1 September 2004

Wife of jailed journalist criticises "humiliating" prison conditions and appeals for international support

Blanca Reyes, wife of imprisoned Cuban journalist Raúl Rivero, urged "all writers, artists, journalists, scientists and politicians" on 30 August to join a campaign to free him. She deplored the "psychological torture and humiliation" he was being subjected to in prison.

27.08.2004 - Raúl Rivero’s wife criticises "humiliating" prison conditions

Blanca Reyes, the wife of jailed journalist and poet Raúl Rivero, has voiced her anxiety about a "change in attitude" towards her husband on the part of the prison authorities.

"They are trying to humiliate him in order to break him," she charged in a telephone conversation with Reporters Without Borders, after he was deprived of visits and medication.

"I do not understand, Raúl is a man of peace. In prison he is often the one to intervene with the other political prisoners to calm things down. I don’t want to believe the government is behind all this," she said.

Rivero was arrested on 20 March 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his writing. He is being held in Canaleta prison near Ciego de Avila (430 kilometres from Havana).

"Journalists in Cuba suffer a double injustice: that of being jailed for doing their jobs and of being held in appalling conditions, subjected to constant harassment" said Reporters Without Borders.

"The authorities use annoyances and humiliation to destroy those whose only fault is to think differently," said the international press freedom organisation which is calling for the immediate release of all 26 journalists imprisoned in Cuba.

With 26 journalists in its jails, Cuba is the second largest prison for the profession in the world, after China with 27. Twenty-five of them were arrested at the same time as around 50 dissidents in March 2003 during Cuba’s "black spring". They were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 14 to 27 years. Reporters Without Borders has President Fidel Castro on its list of 38 press freedom "predators" worldwide.

Raúl Rivero, denied visits and medication. Rivero told his wife on the phone on 26 August that he had recently had angry exchanges about prison conditions with a prison guard, whom he named as "Alexei". The prison authorities told the journalist that he would be put in solitary confinement for five days before changing the punishment to loss of his next conjugal visit fixed for 11 September.

Blanca Reyes said that on her latest visit on 19 August, she was for the first time kept waiting four hours before she could see her husband. The prison’s chief medical officer, Dr. Asdrubal, also told her that her husband would not be given the medication that she had brought for him.

Rivero suffers from blood circulation problems and emphysema. The authorities have also for several months refused to hand over to him a pair of sunglasses that he needs, since the strong light in the cell had caused his eyesight to deteriorate.

Blanca Reyes said the change of attitude towards him had started in May this year. She had on 1 July described the harassment of her husband by the guard ’Alexei’. "He incites the common-law prisoners to shun me and threatens them with punishment if they don’t", her husband told her. A week later he told her the harassment had stopped but that he was still not allowed to exchange letters with his wife.

Constant harassment Latest information obtained by Reporters Without Borders shows that the majority of the 26 jailed journalists are also suffering harassment and their state of health is precarious and in some cases serious.

Nancy Alfaya said on 24 August that her husband, Jorge Olivera Castillo, had been moved from Guantanamo hospital to the prison infirmary at Aguica, Matanzas province that had neither doctors nor medicine. He is set to be sent to Colón hospital that she said has a very bad reputation. Her husband suffers from gastric and sight problems.

The sister of Fabio Prieto Llorente said on 19 August that the journalist had been on hunger strike for eight days to protest against being moved into a cell with common-law inmates. Prison authorities routinely offer them privileges if they harass political prisoners.

Relatives of Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández were prevented from giving him medication, letters or magazines when they made a three-monthly visit on 13 August. They said he was being denied the treatment he needed for his high blood pressure. On the same day it was learned that the wife of Normando Hernández González had not been allowed to visit him. The prison authorities ruled without explanation that visits were had been suspended until further notice.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta on 11 August ended a hunger strike he had started on 26 July to protest against his prison conditions. The same day he was moved from "Kilo 7" to "Kilo 8" prison in Camaguëy. His mother said the guards beat him as soon as he arrived at the new prison.

At the beginning of August the wife of Alfredo Felipe Fuentes said he had lost 10 kilos and that she was worried about the poor nutrition, isolation and the state of his cell. The journalist is only allowed outside for one hour a day. He is suffering from high blood pressure and back pain.

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in the annual report
Cuba - Annual Report 2008
Cuba - Annual report 2007
Cuba - Annual report 2006

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Americas press releases
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Sign the petitions
Miguel Galván Gutiérrez
Fabio Prieto Llorente
United States
Chauncey Bailey
A petition to Raúl Castro