30 August 2004


Wife of imprisoned journalist Raúl Rivero expresses concern about prison authorities' treatment of her husband

Incident details

Raúl Rivero, Jorge Olivera Castillo, Fabio Prieto Llorente, Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes

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(RSF/IFEX) - Blanca Reyes, the wife of jailed journalist and poet Raúl Rivero, has voiced her anxiety about a "change in attitude" towards her husband on the part of the prison authorities.

Wife of imprisoned journalist Raúl Rivero expresses concern about prison authorities' treatment of her husband

"They are trying to humiliate him in order to break him," she said in a telephone conversation with RSF, after he was deprived of visits and medication.

"I do not understand, Raúl is a man of peace. In prison he is often the one to intervene with the other political prisoners to calm things down. I don't want to believe the government is behind all this," Reyes said.

Rivero was arrested on 20 March 2003 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for his writings. He is being held in Canaleta prison near Ciego de Avila (430 kilometres from Havana).

"Journalists in Cuba suffer a double injustice: that of being jailed for doing their jobs and of being held in appalling conditions, subjected to constant harassment," said RSF.

"The authorities use annoyances and humiliation to destroy those whose only fault is to think differently," said the organisation, which is calling for the immediate release of all 26 journalists imprisoned in Cuba.

With 26 journalists in its jails, Cuba is the second largest prison for the profession in the world, after China with 27. Twenty-five journalists were arrested at the same time as around 50 dissidents in March 2003 during Cuba's "black spring". They were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 14 to 27 years. RSF has placed President Fidel Castro on its list of 38 press freedom "predators" worldwide.

Rivero told his wife on the phone on 26 August 2004 that he had recently had angry exchanges about prison conditions with a prison guard, whom he referred to as "Alexei." The prison authorities told the journalist that he would be put in solitary confinement for five days before changing the punishment to loss of his next conjugal visit, set for 11 September.

Reyes said that on her last visit on 19 August, for the first time she was kept waiting for four hours before she could see her husband. The prison's chief medical officer, Dr. Asdrubal, also told her that her husband would not be given the medication that she had brought for him. Rivero suffers from blood circulation problems and emphysema. For several months, the authorities have also refused to hand over to him a pair of sunglasses that he needs, since the strong light in the cell has caused his eyesight to deteriorate.

Reyes said the change of attitude towards Rivero started in May. On 1 July, she described how the guard named "Alexei" was harassing her husband. "[The guard] incites the other prisoners to shun me and threatens them with punishment if they don't," her husband told her. A week later, Rivero told his wife the harassment had stopped but he was still not allowed to exchange letters with her.

The latest information obtained by RSF shows that the majority of the 26 jailed journalists are also suffering harassment and their state of health is precarious and in some cases serious. On 24 August, Nancy Alfaya said that her husband, Jorge Olivera Castillo, had been moved from Guantanamo hospital to the prison infirmary at Aguica, Matanzas province, which has neither doctors nor medicine. He is set to be sent to Colón hospital that, according to Alfaya, has a very bad reputation. Her husband suffers from gastric and sight problems.

On 19 August, journalist Fabio Prieto Llorente's sister said that he had been on a hunger strike for eight days to protest against being moved into a cell with common criminals. Prison authorities routinely offer the inmates privileges if they harass political prisoners.

Journalist Omar Moisés Ruiz Hernández's relatives were prevented from giving him medication, letters or magazines when they visited him on 13 August. They said he was being denied the treatment he needed for his high blood pressure. On the same day, Normando Hernández González's wife was not allowed to visit him. Without providing an explanation, the prison authorities decided that visits had been suspended until further notice.

On 11 August, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta ended a hunger strike he had started on 26 July to protest against his prison conditions. The same day, he was moved from "Kilo 7" to "Kilo 8" prison in Camaguëy. His mother said the guards beat him as soon as he arrived at the new prison.

At the beginning of August, Alfredo Felipe Fuentes's wife said he had lost 10 kilos and that she was worried about his isolation, poor nutrition and the state of his cell. The journalist is only allowed outside for one hour a day. He suffers from high blood pressure and back pain.


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