Notes from Captivity XVII
“Violation of Correspondence”
by Pablo Pacheco Avila
The communication between those of us prisoners in “The Polish” jail and the functionaries of the interior was deteriorating daily. The guards had a low cultural level and engaged in despotism and intolerance. The prisoners, on the other hand, were rebellious, energetic, and desired freedom, which conflicted with the aspirations of the political police which wanted to make us crack through the guards which kept strict vigilance over us.
One afternoon, the chief of the Punishment Cells Section, subtenant Yosbany Gainza, showed up to our dungeons with letters from our families. To the surpise of all, including the common prisoners, the letters had all been opened, which according to the guard had been done on orders from the Direction of National Prisons. The verbal protests did not take long to begin, and to top it off, Gainza assured us that as of that moment all letters from relatives and friends which we turned in or received had to be opened.
Our citations of article 57 of the Cuban Constitution and Chapter 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were futile. The guard did not want to accept our rights, once again proving that the Cuban regime violates its own laws and international pacts which it has signed.
Two days later, a few common prisoners informed us that this measure had also been applied to Blas Giraldo Reyes and Fidel Suarez Cruz whom were locked away in the isolation cells of “La Tercera”.
After trying just about all we could do and seeing that no positive results were coming out of our attempts, we decided to go on hunger strike.
The deep totalitarian rule went beyond our “Polish” prison walls and even attacked common prisoners. We had two options. First, to get these suffered men, victims of the communist prison system, to join our hunger strike or, second, they would accuse us of arbitrary measures taken by the jailers.
Alexis Rodriguez, Miguel Galban, Manuel Ubals, and I decided to send a letter to our partners in struggle located in that same section about or decision to start the protest over the violation of our correspondence as well as other arbitrary measures against those of us in the “Polish Cell”. Much to our surprise, the note went from hand to hand and only one convict didn’t have access to it due to the lack of trust he had for the others.
On the next morning the guard of that section, last name Garvey, was shocked upon our refusal to accept the breakfast he was serving. But what most caused an impression on him was the solidarity of the common prisoners, and that the information of the hunger strike did not reach him.
The situation just grew more tense and we could not imagine what the outcome of our protest would be, but we were willing to assume the consequences, while the support of those who suffered with us gave us the extra strength we needed.
Of the 16 men who were imprisoned in “The Polish”, 15 joined the protest. The prisoner who accepted the piece of bread and cereal was the first one taken by the police to be interviewed, but he did not know what was going on. Soldiers from diverse ranks began to show up throughout the prison, not asking anything, just walking into our dungeons. It was the beginning of a psychological battle between them and us.