Cuba: Ten years later, two men remain shackled in a Castro gulag for the crime of seeking freedom
"They take them to their visits shackled by the hands and feet, with a German Shepherd dog at their side."
Sick and in solitary confinement, two men who were condemned to life in prison in April 2003 for hijacking a ferry to leave the island that left no casualties and which resulted in the execution by firing squad of three of their friends.
Harold Alcala and Maikel Delgado Aramburo are cousins who share a small confinement cell and various diseases at Havana's Combinado del Este Prison. Over ten years ago, they were sentenced to life-in-prison for participating in the hijacking of a ferry to try to leave the island.
Although the incident resulted in no casualties, the regime of Fidel Castro decided to make an example of them. The main organizers - Copeyo Lorenzo Enrique Castillo , Barbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac were executed pursuant to a summary trial in April 2003, just days after the imprisonment of 75 leading dissidents.
Ten years later and despite international condemnations, the regime continues wanting to make an example of Harold Alcala, now 34, Maikel Delgado, 40, and the others sanctioned for the hijacking. In January 2012, the Cuban government rejected a petition, brought by their relatives, to review the case. Meanwhile, the prisoners acquire diseases resulting from the horrible prison conditions.
Harold "has respiratory failure, chronic giardiasis, erythematous gastritis, dermatitis and needs medication for heart conditions," his mother, Julia Estrellea Aramburo, a member of The Ladies in White, told Diario de Cuba.
"My nephew Maikel has a chronic venous insufficiency. His veins are clotting, he has a thrombosis in one leg and may end up disabled," she added.
The prison authorities "do not give him the medicines he needs. He needs elastic bandages and they won't give him any," she denounced.
The cell they share is located in Area 47 of the Combinado del Este Prison, reserved for those facing the death penalty and in punishment cells.
"They do not have a chair to sit on when they eat," said the member of The Ladies in White. "Their only contact with other prisoners is by screaming from cell to cell, they do not see anyone (...) it has been months since they have been in the sun ( ... ) They see the television by standing at the door of their cell."
"They take them to their visits shackled by the hands and feet, with a German Shepherd dog at their side," said the woman, 55, who can see her son every two months and who has assumed the defense of her nephew after her sister's death.
"My sister couldn't take it anymore," she said.
She described as "inhumane" the conditions of the cell that the two men share.
"There is an outbreak of cholera at this time at Combinado and they are quarantined, but the rats walk around inside the water pipes and that is the water they have to drink," she lamented.
"They are surrounded by rats and roaches. They defecate in a hole, above which there is a little hose that is used to drink water," she said.
She also denounced several episodes of harassment against the prisoners .
The head of Area 47, Major Denis, has "threatened to kill them," she said. "He said he was going to take them to commit suicide, and if any of them remained alive, he would take a gun and kill them."
"I complained to the warden and State Security, because this guard would even threaten them with a scalpel. Since my complaint, the threats have improved a little," she said .
According to The Ladies in White member, more than five months ago, the authorities determined that Harold Alcala and Maikel Delgado should be moved to less severe cells. "However, they remain under the same conditions."
Julia Estrella Aramburo said the prisoners had "planted" ("plantado") themselves recently in protest over the prison conditions and she held a hunger strike to demand medical care for her son.
Harold Alcala was taken to the National Hospital and then returned to prison after a few days.
In addition to the cousins??, in April 2003, Yoanni Henry Gonzalez and Ramon Thomas Grillo were sentenced to life-in-prison, while Ledea Wilmer Perez was sentenced to 30-years in prison.
Three women were also tried in the same case and sentenced to between two and five years in prison.
Pictured below: Copeyo Lorenzo Enrique Castillo , Barbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, who were executed by firing squad in April 2003.