Well, the conditions of life in prison are bad anywhere in the world. But if we analyze the situation in Cuba, it is even worse. The prisons in Cuba are inhumane because the prisoners, in this case, we dissidents, were living together with ordinary prisoners, that is to say, there was no sort of distinction. It’s not that we were in one place and the ordinary prisoners in another; we were living together with highly dangerous prisoners, prisoners that have murdered, sometimes committed even more than one murder, but it just didn’t matter.
We are not criminals, we have committed no offense, but if you mix us with them, just imagine those people inside of prison, imagine how they live, and we had to pay for that lifestyle too. So well, regarding drinking water, I’ll explain it like this because really, I’ve said it a number of times, and its´ necessary for people to hear about how someone lives in prison. The drinking water comes from a dam. A dam is defined as a large basin where you store water, that is, stagnant water, and that’s where the water we drink in prison comes from.
Basically it has no chemicals, and by chemicals I mean something used to remove the bacteria, viruses or other contaminants. And you drink it from the turco; turco is defined as the place where you relieve yourself, that is: a hole on the floor where you bend down and to relieve yourself. This hole on the ground is only about a foot away from where you drink water. A foot is what separates your bathroom from the little tube on the wall from where you drink your water. I explain this because maybe people think that it is like an ordinary bathroom that has a toilet, no, none of that.
So, you have to get your water from there. You get 5 minutes a day, that are nowhere near 5 minutes, to get your water to drink, to shower and for anything else you might need it for. At the same time this water contaminates even more when it falls into the hole. The water from the pipe is already mixed with mud and is black, full of bacteria and viruses. That is concerning water. Regarding food, if you can call it that, its´ impossible to talk about.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of patipanza, this is what we call the dish. Patipanza is animal waste, what you throw away: the paws and the stomach. That is what’s given to the prisoner and many times, putrefied, with a bad smell. You can’t eat it; you smell it and it’s impossible to eat it. In the morning you receive a piece of round bread and hot water with sugar and that’s all you get from 5 to 11 in the morning.
And if we talk about health it is even worse. Why? Because I was at the place where the doctor received the prisoners. I was lucky to have been able to see this because now I am an eyewitness. With only one syringe, only one needle, they sometimes injected up to 4 or 5 prisoners without sterilizing it, washing it, nothing. I saw that. The doctors that give medical attention in a prison are very young, recently graduated with no experience. In other words, they go there to learn.
It is like going to a rat laboratory to learn. If they kill someone it’s ok, because they are prisoners, they are criminals, it doesn’t matter. If something happened to the prisoners, if they get infected with a disease, it also doesn’t matter. Now an even more important aspect is the repression within prisons. For the prison and people in charge of it there are two types of torture. Physical torture, that is to say, beatings. There is a round bat called tonfa. With that bat they hit you in the back, and they use their boots to knock your teeth out and to hit you in the head. That is the physical abuse.
Then you are taken to a cell until you heal, until the bruises can’t be noticed. You are not taken out to be around other inmates, so they can’t see the beating you were submitted to or see your bruises. The other torture is the psychological one. This is the one they use the most. What does psychological torture consist of? They lock you in a solitary cell where you have no communication of any kind, no communication with inmates, no communication with guards. Months and months go by without any communication. Sometimes with no electricity, no water, no bathroom. The objective is to destabilize you so one way or another so you stop thinking the way you do, so they can break you down. These are the two types of torture that exist within a prison. Some are used more than others.
The system of punishment in a prison is ordered, ordered by the head of the prison and from his point of view. I hit you and nothing happens to me. I beat you up, I hit you, I send you to the hospital and you just fell off the bed. That’s what happens, and the guard doesn’t care. Far from being tried or reprimanded for his excessive use of force, he is commended or promoted, if he is a lieutenant to captain or from captain to major. The living conditions in a Cuban prison, I believe, are probably the worst in the world. Because it is unbelievable, living with bugs; and by bugs I mean cockroaches, ants, rats, and lizards. That is normal in a prison, it is usual. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a Cuban prison. With the little water you get, the cells are filthy and you can’t clean them. They are covered in mud and dirt.
And that’s another aspect: the overcrowding. The overcrowding consists of squishing 10 to 12 people in a cell made for 6, more than double the capacity. And they have to sleep on the floor, one on top of the other. It’s incredible the brawls and fights inside these cells when prisoners want some space and there really isn’t any, because it’s too small. So that’s how days go by in prison -- some days bad, and others worse, because there really aren’t any good days.