Efrén Fernández Fernández, Cuban prisoner of conscience
April 13th, 2010
Guanajay Prison, Havana, Cuba via www.PayoLibre.com

I was brought here in May, 2004. I remember the stories that common prisoners told me when I arrived about the beatings to Orlando Zapata Tamayo perpetrated by the authorities in the penitentiary.

Every day I could see from my window the window of his cell, which is 30 meters away from the place where I am still kept captive. We used to speak to each other through shouts and we even exchanged correspondence with the help of common prisoners who were able to avoid the close vigilance from the prison guards. This is how Zapata himself told me, in very detailed account, what “the commons” had already told me: “when I was brought to this prison in 2003, I was placed in bunker #6, where First Lieutenant Emilio Guilarte Ramírez and Sub-Officer Leonel Torres Reñí beat me savagely, causing me heavy bruising.”

And that was just the beginning of the long story of abuses against Zapata. Many times I saw his jailers take him out handcuffed and shirtless, throw him on the floor, and drag him by his feet on all 200 meters of rough concrete to the military area. This inhumane trip passed even through a graveled basketball court that would break his skin.

By the end of 2003, during a requisition, the prison guards chained Zapata, and threw him on the floor so that First Lieutenant Quintana could give him a huge kick to the head. Right after that, a swarm of guards fell on him beating with all their hatred and sadism. Around that same time, several guards handcuffed him again, and the prison warden, Lieutenant Colonel Wilfredo Velásquez Domínguez, punched him in the mouth and made him bleed while his subordinates savagely clubbed Zapata.

Our late brother was the victim of many assaults and beatings in this Prison of Guanajay. They were so widespread that even female Captain Delia, Chief Comptroller, slapped him. He was also assaulted by officer Felito, and sub-officers Alejandro, Orestes, Pileta y Reinier, among many others.

During one of the darkest nights in the Taco-Taco prison in 2006, they tortured Zapata in the punishment cell for shouting slogans and conducting a hunger strike against the mistreatment, the horrible sanitary conditions and for the respect of the prisoners’ rights. They applied the torture technique known as “la sillita”, the little chair. After beating him, they shackled his feet, pushed his arms behind his back and cuffed him, and then used another pair of cuffs to link both the handcuffs and the shackle. With his body arched in that extreme position, they left him lying on the floor for several days. He, however, did not surrender, and continued shouting: “Down with Fidel! Down with the dictatorship! Long live our human rights!”

The swarm of mosquitos and bugs, and the rats made his torture even worse, so bad that common inmates Ramón Acosta Moreno, Michel Jáuregui Pérez, Enrique González Silva, Michel Rodríguez Roldán y Jesús, aka Monín, who inhabited the surrounding punishment cells, asked the military personnel to stop it. Major Orlando, penal comptroller, promised them that he would take their request to the provincial level since, as he stated, the order to punish Zapata had come from his superiors.

Hours passed, and Major Orlando did not come back, so the inmates started shouting and making noises by beating empty plastic containers against the floor, forcing the guards to return. The prisoners threatened with joining Zapata’s hunger strike. For this reason, the guards took Zapata’s cuffs off, but that night, while everyone else slept, they surrounded his cell with guard dogs while an entire platoon of guards gave him another beating.

Nevertheless, the Cuban government was never able to silence the human rights defender, Orlando Zapata Tamayo who never faltered in his peaceful struggle for the freedom of Cuba. Even today, within this blood spattered walls, his strong voice echoes and seems to rise every day against the regime’s abuses and to defend the right of common inmates to be treated as human beings.

Efrén Fernández Fernández, 47, is a member of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (Cristian Movement “Liberation”). He was condemned to 12 years of imprisonment during Cuba’s Black Spring in 2003. His family lives in Calle Clavel #582 e/ Tulipán y Concepción, Cerro, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba.

This testimony was recorded by phone and transcribed by Tania Maceda Guerra, with the Center of Information for the Human Rights Relators Council of Cuba. It was told by Fernández on March 1st, 2010 from the maximum security prison of Guanajay.

for the freedom of all cuban political prisoners
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