The Miami Herald and other McClatchy newspapers reproduce today a report by Fabiola Santiago based on the testimonials of the Cuban political prisoners recently deported to Spain. Here are some fragments:

About the food they were given daily for seven years:
A hairy heap of ground pig eyes, cheek, ears, and other unidentifiable parts served as a main course.

The meal, nicknamed patipanza, is one of the typical dishes served in Cuban prisons, according to political prisoners freed and expatriated to the Spanish capital under an agreement negotiated by the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government.

"They didn't even bother to take the hairs off the animal's skin and it stank," says Mijail Bárzaga, 43, who spent seven years in four Cuban prisons.

In the Havana prison El Pitirre, where he spent two years, the food was more edible than in the others, Bárzaga said, but the portions of rice, watery picadillo and pea stew served to the prisoners kept getting smaller and smaller.

"The guards would steal from our portions, they would steal from the prison ministry to feed their families and to sell in the black market," Bárzaga said. "To steal from a man in prison who can't do anything about getting himself nourishment is denigrating -- the lowest point of humanity."

Often there was dirt at the bottom of the boiled concoctions. Other times, worms and bugs in the food.

"Kafka couldn't have written it worse," said Ricardo González Alfonso, an independent journalist sentenced to 20 years after his arrest in the Black Spring of 2003.
The cells in which they were kept:
Small prison cells became filthy with overflowing feces. Rats, cockroaches and scorpions shared their jail cells, Julio César Gálvez said.

Just when the prisoners and their families adjusted to a prison, they were transferred.

"I was constantly moved from prison to prison and my family couldn't visit me," said José Luis García Paneque, a plastic surgeon who was a burly, 190-pound man when he was sent to prison and now weighs 101 pounds.

Paneque takes a reporter's notebook and drew a sketch of one of his prison cells -- a hole on the floor that served as toilet and shower, a sink with a spigot turned on only a few minutes a day, a metal bed with a thin foam mattress.

"The cells are all the same -- tiny, windowless," he said.

The solitary cells, used for punishment, were even worse.
On coexisting with common prisoners:
Being among criminals posed a threat, but the political prisoners said they earned their respect by explaining to them why they were in prison.

"We gave them a political education and they were helpful to us," Bárzaga said.

When he first arrived in a Villa Clara prison, he added, there were no utensils available. The presos comunes -- those in prison for common, rather, than political, crimes -- made him a spoon from a can and a cup from a cut-up water bottle.

Some of the common prisoners helped the political ones smuggle out letters and documents denouncing conditions
Human horror:
The political prisoners also witnessed how common prisoners resorted to drastic measures, making themselves ill -- setting fires to their mattresses and wrapping themselves in them, cutting their eyeballs -- to get a guard's attention to be sent to the infirmary.

"I saw a prisoner inject excrement in his veins. Nobody told me this, I saw it with my own eyes,'' said Omar M. Ruiz Hernández. "They sewed their mouths with wire. They do all this to protest the conditions, to get something they've been denied."
Read it all, share it, spread the word, and help us fight for the freedom of all remaining Cuban political prisoners, and for the respect of human rights and dignity in the archipelago.

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