Journalist Mario Enrique Mayo Hernández of the Félix Varela independent news agency, who was jailed along with 26 other journalists in a crackdown in the spring of 2003 and who was finally released on medical grounds on 1 December, has described to Reporters Without Borders his difficult time in prison and the psychological ordeal it became:
“The prison universe is the absolute opposite of my own moral universe and my own way of looking at life. Prison is full of dangers. You have to be on constant alert against mistreatment by guards, fights among detainees, theft and humiliation. It is psychologically traumatizing, a permanent source of stress for someone like me who defends his ideas.
The sudden transfer [he was transferred five times] aggravated the trauma because it made any adaptation impossible. I was initially held in Holguín (in the east), then in two prisons in Santiago de Cuba (in the southeast). From the outset, I refused to accept that I was a prisoner. I believe the transfers were part of the reprisals for this. I even staged several hunger strikes. That is why I was admitted to the military hospital in Havana’s Combinado del Este prison. Time went by before I was given treatment. The wait was another torture.
The prison authorities finally agreed to move me closer to my family by sending to Camagüey’s Kilo 7 prison. The time spent in jail became harder and harder to bear. The director of the psychiatric hospital in Camagüey helped me to hold on, but I wanted to leave this world rather than continue living in such conditions. It was a question of conscience.
I never thought I would be released so soon. Two prison monitoring officials came to see me. They told me the director of Kilo 7 wanted to see me and they took me to his office. There was a state security agent there. I was very excited to learn that I was to be given medical parole. I was so excited that when they called my mother to tell her, I was unable to find the words to talk to her.
I think it was thanks to poetry that I managed to hold out. I wrote poems in prison, especially about my wife, my mother and my town. After getting out, I learned that thanks to my wife I had won poetry prize at a meeting of dissidents in Puerto Rico. For the time being, I now need to rest and to write for myself. I am still being treated for depression, even if the drug dosage will be steadily cut back.”