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Cuba22 September 2003

Manuel Vázquez Portal ends hunger-strike

Manuel Vázquez Portal told his wife, Yolanda Huerga Cedeño, by telephone on 7 September that he was calling off his hunger strike because his condition of detention had improved. She was able to visit him three days later. During this visit, a state security officer put pressure on her to encourage her husband to respect prison discipline. He also urged her not to say anything to the press as this would "hurt" her husband. During the 15 minutes she was allowed to spend with her husband, he confirmed he had obtained an improvement in his conditions. He can now watch TV for four hours a day and can leave his cell without manacles on his wrists and ankles. He also has healthier food and a bigger cell. He is still being held in Aguadores prison, but the authorities have promised to return him to Boniato prison.


Yaraí Reyes Marín said her husband, Normando Hernández González, has been transferred to Kilo 5 1/2 prison in Piñar del Río province where, according to the prison authorities, he is in solitary confinement and is forbidden from making telephone calls and receiving family visits until he calls off his hunger strike.

Carlos Herrera Acosta, for his part, has reportedly been transferred to a prison in the eastern province of Camagüey.


Manuel Vázquez Portal has been sent to Aguadores prison, in Santiago de Cuba, according to his wife and sister, who were told by state security police and prison officials at Aguadores. The families of the two others transferred, Normando Hernández González and Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, have heard nothing.


Reporters Without Borders expressed great concern today about a hunger-strike begun by three independent Cuban journalists - Manuel Vázquez Portal, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta and Normando Hernández González - in Boniatico prison, in the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba, to protest against their conditions of detention. Since they started the protest on 31 August, they have been transferred to another prison in an unknown location.

"This is the second hunger-strike in the space of a month by journalists jailed in Cuba," the press freedom organisation said. "They are being held in very bad conditions. Most have been sent to prisons hundreds of kilometres from their families, sanitary conditions are dreadful, food inadequate and medical care for ailing prisoners is minimal."

It called on the authorities to immediately tell the families where they had been transferred to and to allow them to visit as soon as possible.

Vázquez Portal, of the Grupo de Trabajo Decoro news agency, Hernández González, of the CPIC agency, and Herrera Acosta, of the APLO agency, as well as three political prisoners, began the hunger-strike to protest against what they called "unfair" and "inhuman" treatment in Boniatico prison, including solitary confinement, no access to TV or the press, their distance from their families, dirty conditions and bad food.

Yaraí Reyes, wife of Hernández González, said the food was often rotten, they had no electricity in their cells and were being refused any medical care. Herrera Acosta’s wife, Ileana Danger Hardy, said the journalists were also protesting against the disciplining of one of them.

The three journalists, along with one of the political prisoners, were taken to the new prison on 1 September. Reyes said the aim was to separate them from other prisoners and force them to end the hunger-strike. She said she was "extremely worried" that reprisals might be taken against them.

Three other jailed independent journalists - Mario Enrique Mayo, Adolfo Fernández Sainz and Ivan Hernández Carrillo - began a hunger-strike on 15 August to demand the right for chronically ill prisoners to receive proper medical treatment and suitable food. They ended the protest on 25 August when the authorities agreed to give Enrique Mayo a proper diet. Fernández Sainz reportedly lost 15 kg.

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