Life or Death of a Political Prisoner – Instructions in a Sealed Envelope
Life or Death of a Political Prisoner: Instructions in a Sealed Envelope
/ Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on July 18, 2013
HAVANA, Cuba, July 2013, www.cubanet.org.
In Combinado del Este Prison, in the presence of a lieutenant from the
Ministry of the Interior, a common prisoner threatened political
prisoner Ernesto Borges with death.
This past June, the common prisoner, who was appointed by the prison
authorities as “Head of the Council of Prisoners” despite being a
convicted murderer and drug addict with a reputation for violence, told
“I’m going to stab you here (pointing to Ernesto’s liver), and leave you
to die. They’ll have to bury you in the United States.” The political
prisoner described the threat to this reporter during a private visit.
The visiting area is a dining hall. No Cuban independent journalist or
foreign news agencies not serving the propaganda interests of the Cuban
socialist state, nor the rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council of the
UN, have had access to the inside of the Cuban prison system.
After receiving the threat, Pérez Borges warned the inmate that he would
make a formal complaint, and would use as his witness Lt. Javier (known
as the “re-educator,” because he was in charge of the political
indoctrination of common-prisoners), who had been present for the
altercation. But the officer replied:
“I won’t be your witness. I wasn’t here.”
Pérez Borges believes that such a response is a green light to a violent
convict to assault a political prisoner.
“In general,” he says, “the prison population respects political
prisoners unless State Security intervenes.” He adds: “Every month
officers meet in an office with the common prisoner they designate as
Head (whom everyone else calls “The Enforcer”) and give him precise
instructions on how to deal with political ones.”
Death Sentence Commuted
Borges Pérez was sentenced to 30 years in prison by the Military Court
of the Cuban Western Army, on January 14, 1999, for the crime of
espionage, in case No. 2 of that year. The sentence of death by firing
squad was commuted.
He was tried for the crime of having collected the records of 26 “bait
agents” of the Cuban secret services, for later disclosure. He was
arrested for this action on July 17, 1998.
The prosecutor told the family, at the conclusion of the trial that he
would have to serve only one-third of the sentence, ten years, and would
then be paroled, because he had been a career soldier with no previous
But Borges Pérez has not backed down ideologically. He has continued to
work in exposing human rights violations against the prison population,
and has provided written testimony against the 1996 case against Robert
Vesco, in which he served as senior analyst of Department 1 of the
General Directorate of Counterintelligence, during the interrogations.
Fifteen years after the events that resulted in his imprisonment, Borges
Pérez recalls his reasons for moving from officialdom to the opposition:
“There were a number of factors,” he says: “Perestroika, the corruption
I saw within Security of State, the influence peddling, the realization
that the only priority of the system is to perpetuate the Castro clan in
power, the insensitivity of the State and Party to the misery of the
population during the years of the Special Period, in order to maintain
political and economic control of the country.”
“Cuban State Security,” he adds, “is a bloated and corrupt apparatus,
because it has an excess of resources that have no relation to the
non-violent resistance that exists on the island, and a culture of
violence shielded by the ideology of the Castro regime. After the end of
the Civil War, which ran from 1961 to 1966, and with the arrival of the
1970s, the opposition in Cuba has focused on defending human rights and
peacefully struggling against the institutionalized violations by the
system. But State Security maintains its structure of repression
identical to that used during the Civil War. Being oversized in
personnel and resources, its counterintelligence operatives create
networks of informants in all segments of society, and thus the Police
State is born.”
In 2012, Borges Perez went on two hunger strikes. The first lasted 9
days, during which he demanded the right to make phone calls regularly,
especially to talk with his daughter who lives abroad, as well as the
return of his drugs, prescribed for chronic ailments, including
bronchial asthma, and access to specialized medical services. He ended
the strike when Lieutenant Colonel Vargas, at that time Chief of Prisons
Havana, promised that they would meet his demands.
But the authorities did not comply. Less than a month after he suspended
the first hunger strike, he began a second, demanding to be released on
On February 28, 2012, after 18 days of starvation, Cardinal Jaime Ortega
came to his cell and promised to discuss his freedom with the
General-President of Cuba. “For seven days I valued this promise of the
Cardinal and abandoned the strike for 25 days,” he says.
A ministerial committee visited him after a month: “They reviewed my
prison record for the first time, and said they had recommended my
probation to the court my probation, but it’s been 14 months since that
“When a political prisoner starts a hunger strike,” said Borges Pérez,
“they establish a Command Post, which has to report daily to the top
chief of the Interior Ministry. Creating a command post means more
gasoline for cars, coffee, cigarettes, special food allotments, vacation
homes on the beach, certificates of appreciation, promotion. It is a
repressive bureaucratic inertia. They live off that. “
After this latest death threat that he denounced by phone, prison
authorities made the decision to change the whole makeup of the floor,
keeping only Borges and his cellmate and bringing in a new group of
prisoners. Also, Javier the re-educator was transferred.
But on June 29 he was led, handcuffed, to an office in Combinado del
Este where a colonel, who introduced himself as a Vice Director General
of Jails and Prisons. The threat was repeated: in the event that
democratic changes in Cuba begin, said the colonel, “we are prepared,
and you also have to prepare. We have precise instructions in sealed
envelopes, on how to deal with you.” (He understood this to mean
This colonel also said that once again his right to make phone calls
would be suspended.
On July 5, an officer with the rank of Major officially told him that
his telephone calls would occur, from now on, in an office, and he would
only be entitled to a 10 minute call per week, at no pre-set specific
time, and monitored by Javier the re-educator.
“By doing this, the prison authorities are violating not only
internationally established law on the treatment of prisoners, but are
also in breach of the agreement reached after the cessation of my hunger
strike in 2012,” says Borges Pérez.
July 12, 2013
Source: “Life or Death of a Political Prisoner: Instructions in a Sealed
Envelope / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating Cuba” –