There are times when the only words available to describe an event are woefully inadequate and fall short of expressing true reality. Although their literal meanings may be accurate, there are certain events and situations where they fail to truly illustrate what has taken place. A perfect example of this inadequacy is the headlines announcing the news that jailed Cuban journalist, Oscar Sánchez Madan, has been “freed” from a Cuban prison by the Castro regime.
The word “freed,” along with “released,” are really the only words available to communicate the actual event of this political prisoner’s exit from prison. Yet both words do an awful job of conveying the fact that that although Oscar Sánchez Madan was allowed to leave a prison, he is not truly free. The regime did not free him out of goodwill, but only because he fulfilled the illegal prison sentence imposed upon him by a corrupt and vile dictatorship to their satisfaction. He may have been allowed to exit the walls of the institution where he was physically and psychologically tortured and beaten for three years, but only to enter the larger island-wide prison where his captors will continue to physically and psychologically beat and torture him in different and more subtle ways.
Oscar Sánchez Madan may have been “freed” from the Combinado del Sur prison in Matanzas, but he is still a prisoner of the Castro gulag. It is not the same type of prison he suffered three years in–instead of bars there is an ocean keeping the prisoners in; instead of having only one toilet that does not flush, he now has the pick of thousands of other toilets that do not flush; instead of being beaten by guards and cellmates paid by the guards, he will be beaten by the police and neighbors paid by the police. In prison, at least, his tormentors were obvious and he knew what to expect and could prepare himself as best he could. In the larger prison known as Cuba, however, it is not so easy.
A former Cuban political prisoner here in exile who spent 7 years of his life in various prisons for passing out pamphlets printed with the UN Declaration of Human Rights once told me that the only time he ever felt free in Cuba was when he was in prison. It was the only place in Cuba, he explained, where he could express himself freely since the beatings and tortures would come regardless of whether he expressed himself or not. That sensation of being free, of being able to say whatever he wanted to the guards, he told me, is what kept him sane and alive during his long years of incarceration.
It is true that Oscar Sánchez Madan was literally “freed” from a Cuban prison, but somehow, the only words available to chronicle this event just do not seem right.