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The Call from Bayamo

By Claudia Cadelo


Photo by Alina.

The phone wakes me up and, confused, I read the caller ID with an unfamiliar 21 in the number. I sleepily pick it up and hear a voice with an accent from the eastern provinces say,

“Please, I need to talk with Claudia, I need to give her some information.
“That’s me, what’s going on?”

The person on the other end of the phone was nervous and in telling me the news omits the “where and who.” I’m half asleep and I don’t understand a thing.

“Where are you?”
“In the provincial prison in Bayamo.”
“Are you a journalist?”
“No, I’m a common inmate, but this other prisoner is very bad and no one is looking after him, so I called.”

I panicked a little at first, who had given them my number? I asked and he gave me a list of strangers. The man was worried and I felt ashamed of my own mistrust.

“Is there a problem?” he asked.
“No, nothing, tell me what’s going on and I’ll see what I can do.”

What he told me was this: The prisoner Alexandre de Quesada Martínez, condemned in 1989 for assault, was very sick with kidney disease and they were denying him medical attention. Six days ago he had sewn his mouth shut and stopped eating; the prison staff hadn’t paid the slightest attention, and his physical deterioration is quite evident.

His friend was very upset and asked me for help. How desperate can a prisoner be to call a stranger on the other side of the country and ask her for help?

“Tell him to stop the strike, please, the government doesn’t care if he dies,” I couldn’t ask him to also tear open his mouth, it was too horrible.

I wonder what I can do for him, I think also of Yamil Ramos Domínguez, imprisoned in Combinado d’Este and also on a hunger strike, and of Marleny Gonzalez, his wife and my friend, desperate. How many are there, in reality? What does it add up to across the whole island, these exhausted men, sentenced not to prison but to hell?

4 comments to The Call from Bayamo

  • Rayarena

    The worst thing about Cuba is that what we know about what goes on is the tip of the iceberg. There are just so many undocumented horror stories that it boggles the mind. A friend of mine was in an UMAP Concentration camp many years ago. He told me that a fellow inmate of his couldn't take the horrid conditions any longer so he committed suicide by slashing himself on his neck, wrists, arms, etc.... He was literally squirting blood all over the place! The other inmates were trying to save him with blankets, shirts, etc.. etc.. They couldn't stop the bleeding, so they started screaming to the guards for help and the response of the guards were:


    These are undocumented horror stories. Just like the one that you learned about by that phone call.

    One wonders how many people quietly die as a result of a hunger strike or lack of medical attention in a prison?

    Cuba has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. How many die because they can't take the persecution of their neighborhood Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, or some other gov't instigated repression?

  • Honey

    Disgusting. Horrible.
    Send this to Michael Moore on some public website as a public letter. Send it everywhere.

  • La Conchita

    It is horribly depressing and utterly enraging to follow daily the Cuba saga. Every day, more of the same. Repression, torture and thuggery with impunity, as has gone on now for more than 50 years! That is ..."50 FUCKING YEARS", people!

    I pray daily for those with the unbelievable courage to publicly stand up to this nightmare in Cuba. But, it's going to take more than ladies with gladiolas to bring down these vermin!

  • And yet, bleeding heart liberals still believe that ending the embargo will make life better for the Cuban people. Daily, I am stunned by that utter stupidity. As if these murderous tyrants will allow anything that threatens their power.