A former Cuban political prisoner has released photos exposing the beatings, torture, and horrid conditions in Cuba’s prisons. If living in communist Cuba is hell, imagine life in a Castro prison.
Never before published images of two Cuban prisons: Guanajay and Caimito
A Cuban political prisoner who was released in 2022 sent a collection of photos to our editorial team depicting daily life in the maximum-security prisons of Guanajay and Caimito, both located in the province of Artemisa.
The former convict, who chose to remain anonymous for security reasons, provided statements about his experience in Cuban prisons through WhatsApp. The photos sent to Martí Noticias reveal poor hygienic conditions in the cells, meager food, and other difficulties faced by the prison population.
“The justice system in Cuba doesn’t exist; I knew it from the day I saw with my own eyes how rights and lives were violated with impunity there (in prison). I realized the value of a Cuban life when I witnessed the brutality against handcuffed and defenseless individuals, and then they easily lied to your face… When I saw all the corruption, smuggling of rice and cigarettes from Taco-Taco prison (Artemisa) to Guanajay prison, and realized that corruption is widespread, there was always a soldier willing to be corrupted for a favor, even for a phone recharge from relatives. I saw that, and then I realized it was all a lie,” he mentioned in the audio.
The series of photographs provide a nearly unprecedented opportunity to glimpse into the life of Cuban prisons. Foreign accredited press on the island and official media have rarely been able to document Cuban prisons, and when they have, it’s been in guided and controlled visits by the Ministry of the Interior and the International Press Center.
Regarding Guanajay prison, he recalled: “Upon arrival, they immediately took me to the maximum-security area where Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is. They placed me on the top floor in an isolation cell with a camera in front and a camera behind, two surveillance cameras. No mattress or anything, just a cement bed. I slept in horrible cold with a sleeveless polyester shirt and shorts. There was no water to bathe, only to drink, and they gave it in a bottle. I slept on the cement; the last night, they gave me a mattress that was a horrible thing full of blood and urine stains.”
Otero Alcántara, leader of the San Isidro Movement, was arrested on July 11, 2021, and sentenced to five years in prison for offenses such as disrespect for national symbols, contempt, and public disorder. He serves his sentence in Guanajay maximum-security prison.
The activist Cuban Carlos Ernesto Díaz González, known as Ktivo Disidente, also spent some time in this prison, confirming that the images correspond to Guanajay maximum-security prison.
“What impresses me the most is the reality captured by the person who took these photos. Those are the usual scenes in a prison, the expression of sadness, the suffering of those men behind bars. Those images are seen every day,” said Díaz González after viewing the photographs.
The political prisoner claimed to have experienced physical and psychological torture. “They have evolved a lot, revolutionized their torture mechanisms, which are not only physical but, honestly, the psychological one is worse. I ended up with a condition now certified by a specialist called vagal crisis, panic attacks. I didn’t know it existed, and it started in Ariza prison,” recounted Ktivo Disidente, referring to the maximum-security prison in Cienfuegos, where he was released on parole in June 2023.
Both prisons have been mentioned in reports by the Center for Documentation of Cuban Prisons as places where violations of prisoners’ rights occur.
The report for the closing of 2023, published by this entity, expressed great concern about inmate deaths in Cuban prisons due to lack of medical assistance, poor living conditions, and negligent procedures by prison authorities.
“Information sent by inmates from prisons reported at least eight deaths that occurred or were known during the month of December in six prisons in five provinces of the country,” they revealed in the report.
According to the latest report from the World Prison Brief of Birkbeck College, University of London, documenting the state of prisons worldwide, El Salvador and Cuba have the highest rates of incarcerated population relative to the population index.
In December 2023, the NGO Prisoners Defenders acknowledged the existence of “1,063 political prisoners related to activism or clear public expression of opposition to government policies or in the exercise and/or defense of fundamental human rights.”
See more images HERE.