REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF
ANALYSIS OF CERTAIN INDIVIDUAL CASES SUBMITTED TO THE IACHR
The Commission has received a number of denunciations alleging violations
of human rights in Cuba that especially affect individuals who had been detained
for political reasons.1
Some of those denunciations are analyzed in this chapter; they concern
the right to freedom of expression, freedom to leave the country, and penalties
for being in a postcriminal, socially harmful condition.
A communication dated May 9, 1977, denounced the violation of the human
rights of Cuban poet Angel Cuadra Landrove, in the following terms:
Angel Cuadra was born in Havana on August 29, 1931, and received a degree
in Law and Dramatic Arts from the Universidad de La Habana. He published his
first book of poems (Peldaño) in 1959, some months after the triumph of
Castro's Revolution; later these were translated into Russian and included in a
number of anthologies. In 1960 he attended and was a member of the Roundtable of
Poets, Writers and Artists, organized by the deceased Rolando Escardó and held
in the Province of Camagüey. But in 1964 he was not allowed to travel to Spain,
where he had been invited as a poet by the Instituto de Cultura Hispánica. At
the end of April of 1967, he was imprisoned under charges of being “an enemy
of and spreading propaganda against the People's Government—charges that could
not be proved--, for which he was condemned to fifteen-years imprisonment
instead of the death penalty, which the Prosecuting Attorney himself said he
would have deserved had some proof been found against him. He spent eight years
in various political prisons on the Island, and was tortured and harassed; then
he spent two more years in labor camps for prisoners.
During his years of confinement, interest in his work grew among those
studying Cuban literature and among poets from various countries.
Amnesty International included his case among those of other dissident
poets in Communist countries. Recently some of his poems were translated into
German and what he has written in prison is beginning to be compiled for
publication abroad, where it has gone, bit by bit, through relatives and
Recently, the publishing house Solar de Washington published
Cuadra's poems, Impromptus, written entirely in prison. (...) I address
this Commission, on behalf of his entire family and all his friends, in order to
request that his case be denounced. I do so because Angel Cuadra, who was
released on December 17, 1976, was imprisoned again in mid-March 1977 in Havana
and was not given an opportunity to defend himself or the guarantees; the only
reason or his only crime has been his poetry.
On March 11, 1977, during his brief period of freedom, Angel Cuadra wrote
a letter (to the published of his poetry abroad) which was submitted to the
Commission and which sheds light on his motive:
You call this type of testimonial a document full of life and how happy I
am that you find it so. When in prison, I always wanted to write something that
would go beyond what others under such circumstances had written; as a rule they
feel compelled to give an account, describe a struggle, curse, or express some
hope, but always within the limits of the immediate. But I wanted all of that to
settle, leaving only that which had filtered through. True, that kind of peace
is necessary; the kind of peace the soul is left with after experiencing deep
pain and that blossoms there like magic so that everything that was for so long
nebulous and detached, might appear from deep within, with that clarity that you
point out. And you discover me. Now I understand, because of you. I remember
that González Martínez once said: “Poetry is like wine: It withstands the
test of time and it is time that lends it clarity.” You place me alongside two
of my favorite poets: Vallejo and Miguel Hernández. I am unworthy. But if that
helps to point to some other poetic possibility, another possible realm, and if
it helps you to find it, then... then I am most humbly satisfied.
On July 18, 1977, the claimant again wrote to the Commission and
transmitted the following additional information on the second arrest and
subsequent detention of Angel Cuadra.
Angel disappeared abruptly from his place of work on March 24, 1977. No
one knew of his whereabouts until three weeks later, during an exhaustive search
of house conducted by the police. They said that he was at G2 (the headquarters
of the regime's political police), while they conducted a thorough survey of his
writings and correspondence. They made the following comment: “Too many
letters from the United States.”
During one of the few and very brief visits allowed, he appeared to be
extremely thin, in a pathetic state of physical and emotional depression. Then
he was taken to a forced labor camp near Havana, a camp for making crushed
All letters from his parents and brothers and sisters (who live in the
United States) were withheld from him, as well as any opportunity to defend
himself. The alarming news that reaches Havana seems to indicate that they
intend to involve him, along with other poets and writers, in a death penalty
case for publication of some of his works abroad.
According to the most recent news, received some five days ago from
Havana, he is in a “recovery” camp. We would like to point out that Angel
Cuadra was in good health before he spent those three weeks in isolation at the
Angel Cuadra, condemned to 15 years imprisonment in 1967, without any
evidence of having committed any crime against the state, was released under
conditional freedom nine years later, following a lengthy and difficult appeal.
Four months later he was again imprisoned, without retrial and without being
given the opportunity to have legal defense. Now (November 1979) Cuadra is in
Boniato Prison, where he was taken with Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and other
“intransigent” political prisoners from Combinado del Este.
The Commission also received a denunciation to the effect that “a
considerable number of members of the religious sect 'Jehovah's Witnesses',
prisoners solely by virtue of their religious belief, have been confined in
various prisons and concentration camps, classified as common criminals and
forced to live alongside and work with common criminals.” At the “Nuevo
Amanecer” women's prison, in La Habana Province, estimates are that there are
around fifty women prisoners who are members of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The case of Feliciano Miguel Sales is illustrative of the problems
of those members of the generation subsequent to the Revolution, who wished to
leave the country.
Born on January 24, 1951, he managed to leave Cuba by swimming the
stretch that separates Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from the U.S. Naval base. He did
this because of pressure being brought to bear against him by Cuban authorities,
to force him to adopt the country's political system. He reached the United
States on July 1, 1974; but because he had had to leave his wife and little
daughter in Cuba, he decided to take advantage of an opportunity: two friends,
24 and 25 years of age, respectively, planned to go to Cuba in a small boat, in
order to bring their families to the United States. He decided to make the
journey with them so as to be reunited with his wife and daughter. They were
taken by the authorities and condemned to 25 years in prison.
When Miguel claimed that the sentence imposed was excessive, the
prosecuting attorney said before the court, the accused and their relatives,
that the authorities had proven that the accused had gone to find their
families, but because these were three young men that had gone to the United
States to sell themselves to imperialism, they were condemned to 25 years; with
Miguel protesting, they were removed from the court room by force. Months later,
when it was learned in Cuba that Miguel's poetry had received an award from the
New York Circle of Ibero-American Writers and Poets, they punished him by
suspending his visits for a period of two months.2
As for legal assistance, during the trial conducted before the
Revolutionary Tribunal in La Cabaña, he was not allowed to have an attorney.
His wife requested the services of an attorney and the attorney replied that to
collaborate on the Sales case would be to risk imprisonment.
After two and a half years in La Cabaña prison, Miguel Sales was removed
to Combinado del Este, where after two and a half years he was released
unexpectedly on September 28, 1978. At the present time he lives with his wife
and daughter in the United States, in Florida.
In 1977, a Cuban fisherman, Roger Regino Pérez Rojas, was tried
and condemned to five years imprisonment for a crime “against the integrity
and stability of the Nation.” The crime was that the fisherman in question
wished to remain in Mexico after having been rescued, along with two other
companions, from a Cuban fishing vessel which had run out of fuel in Mexican
waters. Consular authorities at Puerto Progreso, Mexico, took him to the Cuban
vessel “Júcaro”, and he was then taken to Cuba, tried and sentenced.
With the 1973 Law on Organization of the Judicial System (replaced in
1977 by another Law of the same title), the Revolutionary Tribunals set up in
1959 to take cognizance of an pass judgment on counterrevolutionary crimes, were
abolished. The new system set up a People's Supreme Court and three levels of
subordinate courts: People's Provincial Courts, People's Municipal Courts, and
The Chamber for Crimes Against the Security of the State of the People's
Provincial Courts (whose judgments can be appealed before the Chamber for Crimes
Against the Security of State of the People's Supreme Court) has jurisdiction
over crimes classified as such under the Penal Code. The claimant for the Pérez
Rojas case obtained a copy of the sentence handed down in the trial conducted by
the Chamber for Crimes Against the Security of the State and sent it to the
Commission. Pérez Rojas was pardoned, along with 499 other prisoners, in July
Various claimants have requested the Commission's assistance for
relatives who wish to leave Cuba. One of these was presented on behalf of Clara
Abrahante Boitel, the mother of Pedro Luis Boitel,3
who died in Boniato prison after a long hunger strike in 1972. Mrs. Abrahante
Boitel “has taken a number of steps to receive permission to leave the Island,
but has been unsuccessful thus far.”
In an interview with the Secretariat of the Commission, the case of Siro
del Castillo was denounced; because the individual in question opposed the
regime of President Fidel Castro and was a militant member of the Student
Revolutionary Council. In 1961, when he was 17 years old, he was sentenced for a
crime “against the powers of the State.” In 1964 he was released when he
reached 21 years of age.
In 1964 he requested permission to leave the country together with his
family, but the request was rejected as he was old enough to be drafted, despite
the fact that he had been exempted for a disability—blindness in one eye, with
no possibility of recovery. On May 15, 1970, he turned 27, the age at which one
is no longer obligated to perform military service. But on May 1, 1970, the
regime ceased to grant requests to leave the country.
In order to leave the country the requirements were as follows: to resign
from one's job; after the resignation, the Labor Bureau confirmed the
resignation so that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs might deliver the passport.
Castillo took all the necessary steps in 1965 and received a passport to
leave with his family.
Even though the Government was not authorizing exits, and since Castillo
tried to leave the country for political reasons, he resigned from his job and
thus became an out-of-work “intransigent.”4
Subject to the 1971 Vagrancy Law and to the provisions of Article 77 (f) of the
Penal Code, which prohibits any able-bodied individual from being unemployed,
and because of his “precriminal state,” he was confined, without trial, in a
work camp. He had to spend the maximum time—six months—in the work camp. His
blindness in one eye qualified him for partial disability and he had to return
to his home to wait for them to send him to another place for individuals so
classified. He could not leave his house because at that time the authorities
checked the work identification cards; he did not have one because he did not
have a job. Today, said Castillo, the Government imposes a fine of 25 pesos if
someone does not have his identification papers with him. On page 22 of the
identification papers of former prisoners, there is a triangle with the acronym
CIRP in the center, which means “Carnet de Identidad de Registro de Población”
(Population Records Identification Card.) Former prisoners maintain that their
identification cards are the only ones marked with this triangle, which serves
to identify them, and results in their being subjected to various forms of
discrimination on jobs, education, and so on.
Every six months Castillo refused to be placed by the Ministry of Labor
in a normal job, preferring to continue in the camp for the partially disabled.
Nevertheless, the work was hard and no concessions were made for disabilities.
The farm housed around 800 individuals—both men and women--, 70 percent of
whom were seeking to emigrate. Castillo left for the United States in 1973.
Of the 26 such cases acknowledged by the Cuban Government in 1977, the
case of Servando Infante Jiménez was denounced to the Commission. On
August 16, 1977, political prisoner Servando Infante Jiménez, confined in
Combinado del Este, was retried. He was accused of throwing a plate of food
against a wall, of causing a scandal, of insulting Dr. Fidel Castro and Lenin,
and of exhibiting a poster that mentioned Pedro Luis Boitel, a student who died
on May 25, 1972, while on a hunger strike. The prosecuting attorney asked for
another 10 years imprisonment in addition to the 12-year sentence he was already
serving under an earlier sentencing.
The claimant for this case obtained a copy of the prosecuting attorney's
Tomás Fernández Travieso was a Cuban student who was detained in
Havana on March 29, 1961, together with his friends Alberto Tapia Ruano and
Virgilio Campanería Angel, accused of committing crimes against the powers of
the State. These three Cuban students were tried on April 18, 1961, by
Revolutionary Tribunal Nº 1. Alberto Tapia Ruano and Virgilio Campanería were
given the death penalty by firing squad. They died, murdered that same morning
at the La Cabaña fortress. Because he was not of age at the time, Tomás Fernández
Travieso was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.
During the 18 long years he spent in prison, Tomás Fernández Travieso
developed his early literary stirrings in the form of stories, poetry and a
play, most of which have not been published. Prometeo, a play with a
message of love and forgiveness, was staged for the first and only time on May
20 and 21, 1976, by the Miami Drama Group—Dade Community College, in the city
of Miami. The performance was typical of one given by an educational center and
not an eminently political act.
However, a number of months later, its author, Tomás Fernández Travieso,
who was on his way to being released after having served more than half of his
30 year sentence under the so-called “progressive plan,” was transferred
again to a maximum security prison—Combinado del Este in Havana--; he was
brought to trial again and the charge this time was that his play had been
staged, for which he was not and is not responsible. Even though he was not
tried, since in this case a postcriminal penalty did not have to be applied
against him, Fernández Travieso has been kept in that prison since that time,
under the worst of all possible conditions.
Now Tomás Travieso has become an “intransigent” prisoner. In
September of last year, when representatives of the Cuban community in exile met
with President Fidel Castro in Havana, they explained to him that Travieso was
not to blame that his play had been staged. Dr. Fidel Castro replied that if
those responsible wrote him, Travieso would be restored to his earlier position
under the “progressive plan”. Those responsible wrote, but Fernández
Travieso was not reincorporated.
Fernández Travieso was released in October of 1979.
The sole purpose of the individual cases listed below is to point out
that certain individuals were resentenced before the expiration of their
sentences, while others, who have served their sentences, continue to remain in
prison, presumably in application of a postcriminal security measure. The
Commission cannot have knowledge of all cases, nor can it determine whether
individual in question did something to warrant an extension of his sentence.
What does concern the Commission is the juridical system in force, which makes
it possible to extend a sentence, without the due process that would allow the
individual to defend himself in accordance with basic guarantees.
Presented below is a table that lists cases of individuals who have been
the Commission's approval of the Fifth Report on the Situation of Human
Rights in Cuba, on June 1, 1976, 22 denunciations have been received on
alleged violations of human rights in that country.
Sales also wrote poems the first time he was in prison, when he was barely
17 years old. At that time, he served four years in prison for having
attempted to leave the island clandestinely.
number 1604 was considered by the Commission in the second and fifth reports
on the situation of human rights in Cuba.
is a self-devised label that refers to the fact that like the
“intransigents” in prison, he refused to work because of his political
convictions, and was awaiting his exit permit, during which time he could
extension of imprisonment after the sentence has been served.