Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cuban arrivals from Bahamas allege beatings and sexual abuses

Posted on Saturday, 08.31.13

Cuban arrivals from Bahamas allege beatings and sexual abuses

The first Cubans to arrive in Miami from a notorious migrant detention
center in Bahamas this month alleged Friday that guards regularly beat
some of the male inmates and sexually abused some of the women.

One of the women repatriated from the center to Cuba earlier this month
arrived pregnant by a guard, according to the Democracy Movement, a
Miami group that has been helping the undocumented migrants detained in

The movement led a string of protests against the Bahamas government
this summer after detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre
smuggled out cell phone images of inmates sewing their lips together in
protest and an alleged guard kicking prisoners.

Randy Rodriguez, 31, his wife Misleidy Olivera, 30, and their two
children were the first detainees to speak in person to journalists
about conditions at the center after they arrived in Miami on a flight
from Nassau.

"That video is real, and after the video came the beatings" by guards as
punishment for the negative publicity, said Rodriguez.

Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell has said the video is a fake,
though Bahamas news media reports this week indicate it is real. He said
recently that the allegations are under investigation.

"I wish to say that no one from the Bahamas government has admitted that
there was any abuse of detainees by the Bahamas government," he said in
an Aug. 18 statement.

Detainee Alexander Vásquez said he suffered a punctured lung from two
broken ribs and his brother suffered a cut on his head that required 17
stitches in a hospital. Rodriguez said he still has a lump on his
forehead, from a kick, that refuses to go away.

One night the guards tear gassed the wards to force everyone outside
despite a heavy rain and then kept them, face down on the ground and
lined up should-to-shoulder, from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., he said.

One hefty guard then counted the inmates, twice, by walking on their
backs, each step counting one prisoner, he added.

Rodriguez said he took part in a 17-day hunger strike that never became
public, and after the video incident was taken to Fox Hill maximum
security prison and imprisoned put in a cell with a cop killer, a rapist
and an apparently deranged man.

Food was delivered to the Carmichael Road center only once every three
days, he added, and the Cuban men usually saved their meager rations of
bottled water for their female relatives and children in a separate ward.

He weighted about 232 pounds when he was sent to the detention center
and now weighs 183 pounds, he said.

His wife said she was not sexually abused by guards during their stay
because she stayed with their children, but added in a low voice that,
"It is true that the women, to get water or food, have to sell their

Democracy Movement chief Ramón Saúl Sánchez, who greeted the family on
their arrival, said a 24-year-old woman repatriated from Nassau to
Havana last week had reported that she was six months pregnant by a
guard at the detention center.

Rodriguez's son Landy, 12, speaking briefly at a news conference just
hours after the family's arrival in Miami, said that conditions at the
detention center had been "very bad" while his 4-year-old brother Leandy
dozed on his father's lap.

"I don't know what the guards had against us," the father said. "We were
treated barbarically, and I don't know why."

Rodriguez said his group of 10 relatives and friends from the north
central town of Caibarien set off of in a 19-foot boat hand-made with
bits of lumber and metal sheeting and headed for Florida but were
intercepted Aug. 12, 2012 by the U.S. Coast Guard. They were taken to
Nassau, apparently because they were in Bahamian waters.

He was later approved for U.S. asylum, he said, because he could be
sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for taking his children out of the
island without permission and because of help from Rep. Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican.

Bahamas repatriated 24 Cubans to Havana on Aug. 16 and another eight on
the 21st, including several of the alleged victims of beatings and
sexual abuse in what Sánchez has complained is an attempt to silence
their reports of abuses.

Another 18 undocumented Cubans detained in the Bahamas will be allowed
to fly to Panama, which has agreed to issue them "territorial asylum"
while they try to arrange onward trips to the United States.

Joining Sánchez in a news conference was MarleineBastien, executive
director for Haitian Women of Miami, who said that Haitians also have
been complaining about the treatment at the Carmichael Road center "for
many years."

Source: "Cuban arrivals from Bahamas allege beatings and sexual abuses -
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