Friday, May 24, 2013

Prison Diary XX. With his mouth sewn shut and smeared with excrement, a young man demands his rights

Prison Diary XX. With his mouth sewn shut and smeared with excrement, a
young man demands his rights
Posted on May 24, 2013

I found myself, like most of the time, writing on my bed when I heard
the call, "Political, Political"; and they came to me in haste. Outside,
they told me, there was a man who sewed his mouth shut with wire, come.

Really, to think about the scene makes me bitter. "I'm not a
maxillofacial doctor, why, then, my presence?" I said, trying to avoid
it. It was he who was calling, they told me, "He wants to talk with
you." Then, I couldn't stay away. As I approached I heard his desperate
voice, calling me, between lips barely open.

To describe the horror in a way that someone who hasn't seen it can
imagine it, is not possible: he stopped in front of the patio door that
leads to my hut, his body smeared with fecal waste, holding a pail of
dung with the aim of evading the guards who didn't dare to force him
back to his cell. The worst were his lips sewn with wire. The first
question I asked myself was what level of desperation, helplessness and
sadness could have forced him to commit such a folly, because by his
aspect he doesn't seem to be mentally ill.

With difficulty I could understand that he was desperate because the
guards did not want to hear his being right. They just threatened and
beat him every time he demanded his rights, and this had led him to take
that step. Several times he assured me he wasn't crazy: he tells me that
if the Rapporteurs of the Commission of Human Rights come to see me,
don't be afraid to tell the truth.

I nodded my head in agreement, I'm always overwhelmed by the anxiety of
my powerlessness to help. I wouldn't have minded touching and cleaning
those lips that were beginning to show signs of infection, a reason for
their taking him to the nurse in those conditions.

I swore that within my humble means, I would inform international public
opinion, and if the Rapporteurs came to Cuba, I would talk to them about

Before he left I tried to convince him that he had accomplished his
purpose; the prison and its leadership felt the guilt of not having
listened, the other inmates as well, so I asked if it made sense to
continue in such conditions, to the point of putting his life in danger.
He said, "Yes, Political, don't think that I came to you without knowing
who you are, in the cell told me how they force-fed you, if you weren't
there or in the hospital."

I could only ask God to protect him.

Finally he responded to the constant order of the guards to continue to
his cell.

"Don't forget me, Political," he said, and I couldn't stop my eyes from
tearing up. In those few minutes we had shared between us a solidarity
and brotherhood which rose above the difficult situation in which we live.

"I embrace you," he said. "I you, as well," I responded and he walked
proudly to the dirty and dark recesses of the punishment cells.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
Prison 1580. May 2013

22 May 2013

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