Friday, August 23, 2013

The Forgotten Prisoner

The Forgotten Prisoner / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on August 22, 2013

Havana, Cuba, August 2013, Armando Sosa Fortuny has
turned 71 in the prison known as Kilo 9, in Camaguey province.

In the photo, which was secretly taken by a member of the Committee for
the Liberation of Political Prisoners (CPLPP) who visited him this past
January, you can see that he looks like someone's grandfather.

He has been in prison for 18 years. He was sentenced on April 25, 1996,
to 30 years in prison on charges of "infiltration", "illegal entry into
Cuba" and "other acts against the security of the state."

He is a man from another time, from a time when armed struggle was
presumed to be an acceptable alternative for overthrowing dictatorships.
So he seems left behind, obsolete in this age when civic struggle and
nonviolent resistance garners greater sympathy.

Recently, in a telephone interview from prison, he told this reporter:
"It was a different era. If I were in the streets now I would be
struggling for recognition of the civil and political rights of the
Cuban people."

His diabetes is being controlled with insulin. Ironically the poor
prison food keeps his blood-sugar levels stable. After having gone from
bad to worse for years, he says candidly:

"The food is OK."

A sister who used to visit him died in Miami. Now only the members of
the CBLPP come to see him, once a month. They bring him a box with the
food that they are allowed to bring in, and talk with him for a few hours.

As he tells it, early last month, July, he was taken to an office where
an immigration officer was waiting to tell him that he and his
comrades-in-arms were included in the Cuban government's
immediate-release program, on the condition that they left the country
at once.

"That's what I want. It's been many years," he said.

Then, State Security came to visit him later that month, two weeks after
the first visit, to tell him signs were appearing, written in crayon,
saying "Free Fortuny!", or "Castro, free Fortuny!" on the walls in some
parts of the city of Camaguey. Paradoxically they told him that this was
not much of a problem, because it was a simple matter for the CDR to
cover over the posters.

Sosa Fortuny interpreted both visits as "a psychological game, maybe
because they wanted me to tell the boys not to put up any more posters."

Other causes from the early Castro years

This is not the first case for which Sosa Fortuny has spent prison time.
In 1960 he was tried on similar charges for having come with 25 men to
fight in the mountains against the recently-established dictatorship.
Many of those convicted on that occasion were immediately executed by
firing squad.

That first case ended with his release in 1978, as part of an amnesty
that benefited over three thousand political prisoners, accomplished
through international pressure in the face of human rights violations in

He only spent 15 years in freedom in the United States, returning on
October 15, 1994, when he decided, in his words, "to create an Eastern
Front to overthrow tyranny."

But the night of the landing, a member of the infiltration team fired a
shot that killed the Party Secretary of Villa Clara Province, and that
provoked a firefight in which he and some of his companions were wounded.

"We saw the car coming from the causeway and our intention was to get
the occupants out so we could go down the Yaguajay road to Escambray.
But as Humberto motioned at them to get out of the car, it was so dark
that when I passed between them the noise startled Humberto, who fired
the shot accidentally," says Sosa Fortuny.

Regardless of the responsibility that they blamed him and his companions
for, the punishments — imprisonment of up to 30 years, and a sentence of
death by firing squad for Humberto Real Suárez — were excessive.

Until 2012, when they commuted Real Suárez's death sentence to 30 years
in prison, he suffered for 17 years the torture of attending the mock
firing squads of those who came back shouting anti-government slogans,
as related by former political prisoners who shared a cell with him.

In the Cuban prisons there are many testimonies of cruel, inhuman, and
degrading treatment to which the prison population is subjected.
Everything indicates that the guards are given carte blanche to carry
out beatings and abuse that have come to infuriate many.

Sosa Fortuny and his companions have not accepted the government's
political-ideological re-education:

"In Kilo 7 we've had to scream a lot against beatings of other
prisoners. They abandoned a boy in a wheelchair. There you have to take
a stand, and cause a problem. That cost us punishment cells, but I'm not
sorry. I always express my ideas, wherever," he added.

Finally, Sosa Fortuny hopes to convey a message to Cubans inside and
outside the island:

"That I send a hug. On my wounds I bore the pain of the Cuban people."

He also says he is awaiting a decision by the Cuban government to
release him.

Others who are still prisoners from Sosa Fortuny's case are Miguel Díaz
Bauzá, age 70, and Humberto Real Suárez, 42. We will be updating them in
the next few days.

From Cubanet

Translated by Tomás A.

22 August 2013

Source: "The Forgotten Prisoner / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating Cuba" -

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