At Repression's Ground Zero / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on April 23, 2014
The first time I set foot in that scary place called Villa Marista,
similar to Lubyanka Prison in the now fortunately disappeared Soviet
Union, it was by my own will. I accompanied Manuel Cuesta Morúa to see
Investigator Yurisan Almenares, in charge of Case No. 5, 2014, against
Cuesta Morúa, after he was arbitrarily arrested on 26 January of this
year to keep him from participating as an organizer of the 2nd
Alternative Forum to the CELAC (Community of Latin American and
Caribbean States) Forum, held in Havana.
His detention ended 4 days later with the notification of a
precautionary measure that was never delivered, but that obliged him to
go to a Police Station every Tuesday and sign the document, for the
supposed crime of Diffusion of False News Against International Peace.
But the precautionary measure was only shown to the eyes of the person
it concerned once: on 30 January when he was released. In practice,
Cuesta Morua was signing an unofficial paper. Imprecision characterized
the situation from the beginning. The reasons for the arrest and the
case they sought to bring against him had no direct relationship, which
shows that the old school mafia of the Castro regime still rules in
Cuba: studying the penal code in order to destroy their adversaries,
manipulating the law until the punishment proves your guilt.
In Villa Marista I wanted to see the face of someone working there
inflicting pain on other human beings. Punishing them, not for violating
universal law, which could not exceed the measure of punishment, but for
not expressing loyalty to the Castro regime.
For some reason I connected with the mother of Pedro Luis Boitel, who I
saw in a documentary titled "No One Listens." She said that her son,
having been persecuted in the Batista era, always found a door to knock
on, an opportunity to save himself from death. But in the times of Fidel
Castro is wasn't like that, and Boitel died after a hunger strike,
imprisoned in the cruelest and most degrading conditions, in La Cabaña
Those were the times when the International Left granted the Cuban
government impunity so that it could improvise a vast record of human
rights violations. And Cuban society, terrorized, also looked the other
way: escaping to the United States, while "going crazy" to step foot on
the land of liberty. It's not very different today.
Villa Marista is a closed facility. It can't be visited by an inspector
from the Human Rights Council, nor from representatives of civil society
organizations–dissident and persecuted–to ensure that they are not
practicing any kind of torture against the prisoners and are respecting
all their rights. The government has signed some protocols and declares
itself against torture, but we don't believe in the government and those
who have passed through Villa Marista's cells bear witness that they do
torture them there to the point of madness in order to destroy the
And if someone accuses me of not having evidence, I tell them that's the
point, that it is precisely for this that the Cuban government opens its
jails to the press, not controlled by them, and to the international
inspectors and Independent Civil Society, because what the Castros
present is fabricated by the regime itself.
Not only the dissidents are tortured. Nor do we know if it's only with
"soft torture" which is still torture. Also there are workers who make a
mistake and are accused of sabotage, without being able to demand their
inalienable rights or defend themselves against such accusations.
It made me want to open doors, to be very strong and kick them all down.
To find a legal resource for the Cuban people to investigate–and the
right to presumption of innocence–all those who work there. Even the
cooks, responsible for having served cabbage with pieces of cockroach to
a friend's relative, a simple worker, who was kept there for long
unforgettable days, who was interrogated like in the inquisition to
extract a false confession from him. They didn't even let him sleep.
But I have gone only into the reception area: polished floors, plastic
flowers, kitsch expression to hide the sordidness of the jailers
instructed by the Interior Ministry; the misery reaching into the bones
of the prisoners down those shiny floors. Villa Marista is one thing
outside and another inside, as the common refrain says.
Investigator Yurisan Almenares didn't show his face. Perhaps he wasn't
ready for the persecuted to find him. He had no answers because those
guys can't improvise. They have to consult their superiors, not the law
or their own conscience.
A smiling captain took us into a little room and explained, almost
embarrassed, that the Investigator wasn't there and she would make a
note of what Manuel was demanding. So I watched as she carefully traced
the words he was pronouncing.
We wanted to get notification of the dismissal of the case. There was no
precautionary measure; ergo there should be no case pending. This not to
say that the presumed case was unsustainable without the precautionary
measure. Living in Cuba it's impossible to escape the reality of power,
however absurd and Kafkaesque it may be, like kicking the locked cell
doors of Villa Marista.
Remember, the crime has a name as bizarre as Diffusion of False News
Against International Peace. And the supposed false news deals with the
issue of racism in Cuba, where the government teaches discrimination for
political reasons in the schools, and talks about the issue of racial
rights, not inborn rights, but as a concession emanating from the State
dictatorship; and administered so that it can later be used for
But racism is still here, rooted in society like a database error that
manifests itself in daily phenomena that shock the whole world. Growing,
along with other forms of discrimination and masked under the cynical
grin of power.
Manuel Cuesta Morua knows this because he has dedicated his life to
record this phenomenon in Cuba, historically and in the present. Thus,
he has written about it on countless occasions and takes responsibility
for every one of his words.
We went there without getting answers. My mind filled with the memory of
these people I don't know who are imprisoned there, half forgotten by
the whole world, their own attorneys in a panic.
One thing we can promise Villa Marista's gendarmes and its top leaders,
wherever they hide themselves: some day we will open all those doors,
and after judging, with guarantees of due process, those who oppress us,
the place will become a part of the popular proverbs turning Cuba into a
nation jealous of the freedom of its citizens.
22 April 2014
Source: At Repression's Ground Zero / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating Cuba -