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    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,

    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
    Borges Pérez:

    “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.”

    Hunger Strike

    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.

    Sealed Envelopes

    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
    political prisoners.)

    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.

    From Cubanet

    July 12, 2013

    Source: “Life or Death of a Political Prisoner: Instructions in a Sealed
    Envelope / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating Cuba” –

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