Diplomat builds replica of
Cuban jail cell.
The top U.S. diplomat in Cuba has escalated criticism of human rights
abuses on the island by building a replica of a solitary confinement
prison cell in which a leading dissident was held for two months.
The replica of the cramped cell with one ventilation slot and no light
bulb was exhibited at a diplomatic reception attended by Cuban
dissidents on Wednesday night at the residence of James Cason, head of
the U.S. Interests Section.
"This is how political prisoners are treated in Cuba," said Cason, who
had the iron and wood cell built at his residence.
The 6-1/2 foot-long (two-metre), 6-1/2 foot-high (two-metre) and 3
foot-wide (one-metre) model was based on details sent from jail by
physician Oscar Elias Biscet, who has spent more than four years in
Cuban prisons for opposing President Fidel Castro's communist-run
The cell had a drain hole for a toilet and an opening at the bottom of
the iron door to receive food. The replica had a plate of rice and
beans, and a plastic rat and cockroaches that Biscet's wife, Elsa
Morejon, said entered the cell from the drain.
"The reality of punishment cells is even harsher. You have to add the
heat, the humidity and the mosquitoes," said human rights activist
Elizardo Sanchez. "To keep people in such conditions is physical
Families of jailed dissidents said their relatives have been confined to
similar cells and held in subhuman conditions, with rotten food and poor
medical attention, in prisons far from their homes.
The Cuban government denies holding political prisoners and maintains
that dissidents are "counterrevolutionaries" working for its arch-enemy,
the United States.
Amnesty International reported in January that there were 84 "prisoners
of conscience" in Cuba.
Castro last year ordered the arrest of 75 opponents who were sentenced
to prison terms of up to 28 years for plotting with the United States.
Seven have since been released on health grounds.
The crackdown on dissent caused an outburst of international criticism
and a diplomatic freeze with the European Union.
Human rights groups have criticized the United States for the detention
and mistreatment of hundreds of prisoners from the Afghan war at its
naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Cuban government has charged
Washington with running a concentration camp at Guantanamo, which is
leased from Cuba.
Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Havana and imposed
sanctions on Cuba after Castro's 1959 revolution. The Bush
administration has stepped up support for Cuban dissidents among efforts
to undermine Castro's government.
Source: Havana Reuters
José F. Sánchez
La Nueva Cuba
Septiembre 10, 2004