Interviews with Relatives of the Convicts (‘Dissidents’)

26 March 2004

After the propaganda alleging that the 76 paid U.S. agents caught and convicted in Cuba were “dissidents,” comes charges that they are being mistreated in prison. The following interviews with their relatives (courtesy of the Cuban UN Mission) speak for themselves. The furloughs to leave jail and the conjugal visits referred to – beyond imagination in the U.S.– are normal features of the Cuban correctional system, rather than special treatment for these particular convicts.

Interview with Teresa López Bañobre, sister of convict Marcelo López Bañobre

Interviewer – Well, how is your brother? When did you see him last?

Sister – I saw my brother last around 15 days ago, at the most. He was here at home. He was brought in by the people who are taking care of him and he came on a furlough, because my dad is in very bad health and I myself asked if it was possible to consider, I don’t know…He was brought in. He was here an hour and a half approximately.

Interviewer – Here in the house?

Sister – Here in the house. He was with us.

He’s doing very well; he’s doing very well; he’s put on more pounds than ever in his life.
My brother was always a very slim person and he’s now weighing 60 kilos, right? He’s weighing 60 kilos; he used to weigh 48 or 49; that’s the most weight he’s had. He’s got good care, good treatment; he acknowledges that much.

I’ve got letters from him in which he says that he’s not been offended, vexed or debased; that he has been treated with respect. And regardless of what he says, one can sense that because his peace of mind tells you so, right? He’s actually in jail, because he’s deprived of the freedom to move; he’s not doing badly; not doing badly; he’s not…

Interviewer – Do you see him often? That is, how often can you see visit with him in jail?

Sister – Look, the frequency of the visits, in this case, is every three months, right? The visit is every three months, three hours approximately; sometimes they give you some extra time.

What happens? In his case, he’s been able, for various reasons, to see us almost every month; we’ve had to go on account of a legal problem, a subpoena. My mom went and she was allowed a few minutes to talk to him. On his birthday, my mother went there to take him cigarettes and she was also allowed to spend some time with him. And he knows that, because he has kept track of it. Between the conjugal visits and our visits, my brother has had a visit every month.

Interviewer – Does he have conjugal visits too? Does he have that facility?

Sister – Yes, yes, he’s allowed conjugal visits.

He had a CAT scan and a neurological study. In his own words, the CAT scan went normal, as he said here the week before last when he was here, but a recommendation was made for the neurological studies to continue.

I think that my brother would concede to anyone that he has not been harassed, vexed, beaten. My brother has not been abandoned; my brother has been treated with respect, with commiseration, and we’ve been treated with respect and commiseration.

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Interview with Mireya Pentón Orozco, mother of Léster González Pentón

Interviewer – Mireya, I’ve come to see you to know how your son is doing, how his health is doing, how he’s being treated.

Mireya Pentón Orozco – Well, he’s in very fine health because he’s young and, so far, he hasn’t had any ailments. He’s fine.

He’s been taken care of; I can’t say he hasn’t been taken care of; he has – and lately, he has even been taken out on a furlough. He’s been taken to a medical check-up. His mouth problem was dealt with. He had a few bad teeth pulled out to have his dentures in place.

Now, he told me that he just got some infection; but, well, he’s under a treatment with oxacillin and we hope that he’ll get over it. He’s got to wait 25 days, I think, to have his dentures made.

He’s been holding up pretty well there and his health has been all right up to now.

Interviewer – Do you write each other letters often?

Mireya Pentón Orozco – Well, we do, although the letters sometimes take a while, back and forth.

Well, I’ve been told that sometimes it’s also a post office problem, I don’t know what – because, well, when I have a situation I go to the prison headquarters and get an explanation, and I demand that an explanation be given to me because I deserve it as a mother – and then, what I’ve been told so far is that there are some mailing problems.

Interviewer – How are you treated when you go to the prison authorities? How’s your relationship with them?

Mireya Pentón Orozco – No, I haven’t had any problems in that respect. I’m going to tell the truth: I’ve always been treated pretty well. I’ve always gone there and get an explanation on the situation I have.

Interviewer – Has he received the benefit of conjugal visits?

Mireya Pentón Orozco – Yes, conjugal visits are every five months for three hours. Three hours every five months.

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Interview with Dulce María Amador, wife of Carmelo Agustín Díaz Fernández

Interviewer – Dulce María, have you been able to visit Carmelo?

Dulce María Amador – Yes. He was detained on 19 March 2003. I used to go to Villamarista (the detention center) every Wednesday, where I was given an hour. I saw him there, we chatted and I gave him food for lunch at that moment: coffee, juice, that sort of stuff.

The trial was on 4 April and he was transferred to Guanajay Penitentiary on 23 April. As soon as we found out, we went to Guanajay the following day. Carmelo’s daughter, who is a doctor, and myself. And we were allowed to see him right away, the following day, without any prior notice or anything. And we spent an hour talking to him on that cleanup visit, which is a prison regulation.

Interviewer – Did you take him anything?

Dulce María Amador – Yes, indeed, I took him lunch, juice and some toiletries.

Interviewer – Were you allowed to take that in without any hassle?

Dulce María Amador – Everything was passed on to him. I’ve never had any problems in Guanajay trying to pass anything in.

Afterwards, I’ve kept going there to visit him every three months. Conjugal visits in Guanajay have been every four months, not like in other penitentiaries where the regulation is every five; I’ve had conjugal visits in Guanajay every four months and the regular visits every three.

Interviewer – Dulce, about the medical treatment he’s received, what does Carmelo say about that?

Dulce María Amador – Well, Carmelo told me that he’s got no complaints. On this last visit, on 4 April, we spent two hours together and he told me: “Dulce, I’m not feeling bad, I’m doing very well because the hospital facilities are very good.” And Carmelo’s daughter went to the hospital. I stayed on the visit with the son-in-law and with him talking about things and she went to see the hospital. Later on, she told me that the place was very clean, very organized, very neat and that the care is good. And he told me that he’s doing fine, with his ailments, of course, because he’s got them; but, well, he’s feeling all right; he’s being very well taken care of.

Interviewer – Has he been allowed to have his Bible?

Dulce María Amador – Yes, he’s got a Bible.

Interviewer – What else?

Dulce María Amador – He’s got the Bible since he was in Villa (the detention center). I took it to him the first week I went, the first Wednesday. It was my turn to go every Wednesday. I took him the The New Word, a magazine published by the Catholic Church; those little leaflets handed out every week at all services. I go to his church (Cristo de Limpia, in Corrales, between Egido and Monserrate). That’s his church. I go there every Sunday and then take him all the religious literature – and I haven’t had a problem with that so far. Besides, he asks me to do it.

Interviewer – Books, other magazines?

Dulce María Amador – Books, magazines. I generally take him regular books, some historical, because he doesn’t like to read garbage; yes, I do take him a lot of literature to keep him amused, particularly historical stuff. That’s the literature he likes.

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Interview with Gisela Delgado, wife of Héctor Palacios

Interviewer – Gisela, have you been able to see your husband recently?

Gisela Delgado – I saw him yesterday. He’s hospitalized at Pinar del Río provincial facility, in the detention area, because he had a gallbladder operation on 19 February.

Interviewer – And, for example, he was operated on and received medical care.

Gisela Delgado – Well, I think that was the very right thing to do; it was only human for him to receive medical care.

Interviewer – And how was that medical care?

Gisela Delgado – I can’t complain, because they were civilian doctors, although we know that the hospital was taken over by the police; they call it special troops. Security agents were present; there were many officers inside the operating room and also outside.

Interviewer – But you told me, indeed, that you had no complaints about the medical care.

Gisela Delgado – The medical care was good, I think, because of what I saw the doctors doing. I was able to talk to them, not because the police made it possible; it really wasn’t that way. I arrived in Pinar del Río and had to locate the doctor’s house because I couldn’t reach him at the hospital. And I was able to talk to the doctor before he was operated on.

Interviewer – And what did you talk to the doctor about?

Gisela Delgado – I mainly asked him about his health. We are not people to compromise others with our ideas. I mean, our ideas are ours. If you ask me, I tell you. It’s not that I come up with something every now and then. And I asked him about his health, mainly, if he could take the operation and what the odds were.

Interviewer – And what did the doctor tell you?

Gisela Delgado – He told me that he didn’t think that Héctor was an exception in these cases; that his gallbladder was full of stones and that the operation was imminent because he had many small stones that could come out of the bile duct, out of the gallbladder and into any duct. The way my husband and I see it, we’ve been well taken care of by the orderlies, the nurses, the doctors.

Interviewer – Did you make any special request to that doctor when you talked to him?

Gisela Delgado – We know that here in Cuba that minimum access operation exists, that it was being performed in the province. The doctor in charge of the prison, Doctor Pozo, told me that it was being done in the province, that there was no need to transfer him to the City of Havana, that it was being done there and that they were going to try minimum access and refrain from the conventional operation in which the abdomen is cut up.

Interviewer – That is, the doctors agreed to use the minimum access technique.

Gisela Delgado – Yes, yes, there was a minimum access specialist. Doctor Dopico and Doctor Montes de Oca. I talked to them when they came out of the operating room. They told me that nothing had gone wrong, that the operation had taken an hour, that they had made it, that this posed no other serious risk to the internal organs, that what they saw as surgeons was that everything had gone well.

Interviewer – But the truth is that he’s received good medical care and that you and your husband are grateful for that care. You were saying so a while ago.

Gisela Delgado – I guess I can’t say the opposite because, above all, these people worked very well both humanely and professionally. It all seems that Héctor’s recovery is very good.

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Interview with Margarita Borges, wife of Edel José García Díaz

Interviewer – María Margarita, how many times have you visited Edel?

María Margarita Borges – Well, five visits as such.

Interviewer – Have you been allowed conjugal visits?

María Margarita Borges – Yes, conjugal visits are every five months and the visits every three months. Conjugal visits are every five months for three hours and the visits for two hours.

Interviewer – Do you take him anything to eat? Do they let you take it in? What can you take?

María Margarita Borges – Well, yes, so far I’ve had no problems with the things that I’ve been able to take to him.

Interviewer – And what’s his medical care like now?

María Margarita Borges – Well, the medical care he’s had has always been good; he’s never complained of the treatment given by the doctors.

Interviewer – And what about the doctors’ treatment towards you? Have they given you any explanations at all?

María Margarita Borges – Yes, so far the doctors have explained everything to me that relates to him. I even met with the psychiatrist that sees him in Santiago and she told me all about his situation. So far, the treatment that he’s had from the doctors and stuff has been good.

Interviewer – What else have you been allowed to give or pass to him?

María Margarita Borges – The food and the toiletries. I’ve passed everything on to him. No problems there.

Interviewer – And what has he said to you? What has he told you about the treatment inside? Has he ever complained of abuse?

María Margarita Borges – Well, he’s never complained of any abuse – and the treatment to him and to myself so far has been respectful. He’s never told me of any disrespectful treatment or anything. And, well, yes, it’s only logical that he feels bad there, though the treatment is good, because, well, he’s in jail – and one of the reasons that I understand is that he shouldn’t be in jail; that’s what I think about this, right? But, well, so far the treatment has been good. There hasn’t been any problem even when I’ve gone to see the head of the unit over any situation. The treatment has been good.

Interviewer – Hey, María Margarita, and, for example, when he has needed some medication, have they asked you for it, have they told you to buy it yourself?

María Margarita Borges – No, so far all medications he’s needed have been supplied there.

Interviewer – Free of charge?

María Margarita Borges – Yes, free of charge. I’ve also taken some medications to him that they have allowed me to take through to him.

Interviewer – Do you know of any other health treatments or medical check-ups?

María Margarita Borges – Yes, as he’s told me, they’re constantly taking blood samples, weighing him, taking his blood pressure; he’s been taken to the dentist, have had some teeth filled; so far that’s what he’s told me.

Interviewer – Well, how have you been treated when you’ve gone to see him in prison, when you’ve requested to see him?

María Margarita Borges – Well, I’ve never made any request to see him because so far I’ve made my visits every three months and, well, the treatment has been good. I’ve even had my doubts about something and I’ve called the head of the unit and told him and, well, so far they’ve respected me and I treat them with the same respect that I get from them.

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Interview with Ileana Marrero Jova, wife of Omar Rodríguez

Interviewer – How’s your husband? Have you been able to see him recently?

Ileana Marrero Jova – Yes, recently, I saw him on 14 February and he’s in good health, considering the circumstances; his mood is all right, but, well, he’s still detained there.

Interviewer – How often can you see him?

Ileana Marrero Jova – Every three months.

Interviewer – How are the officers taking care of him in prison?

Ileana Marrero Jova – His mood and health are fine. Well, they treat him well, with respect; so far, nothing major has happened; I don’t know, they treat him well; for the time being, they’re taking good care of him.

Interviewer – I want to know if you’ve found your husband tortured or physically injured.

Ileana Marrero Jova – No, I haven’t found him physically injured, of course not.

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Interview with Beatriz del Carmen Pedroso León, wife of convict Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez

Interviewer – How’s your husband, Beatriz?

Beatriz del Carmen Pedroso León – My husband is fine, I see him fine. He had a gallbladder operation to remove a stone and I see him fine.

Interviewer – Has he been recovering all right?

Beatriz del Carmen Pedroso León – He’s been recovering all right; he was operated on more than 48 hours ago and I see him all right, recovered, with good food and in a good mood; his high blood pressure has abated; he’s sedated.

Interviewer – Have you been able to see him systematically all this time he’s been in detention?

Beatriz del Carmen Pedroso León – Yes, I have, I’ve been able to see him; I’ve been allowed some visits and I’ve been able to see him and talk to him; the visits have been very fruitful because we’ve been able to share and exchange views and opinions – and he’s said no, even this time that I came I didn’t have to bring him food; I brought him juice and stuff, but he had everything he needed. He had good food and that.

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