Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July 2014, 17:47 GMT

Annual Prison Census 2009: Cuba

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date 8 December 2009
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Annual Prison Census 2009: Cuba, 8 December 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b220ca2c.html [accessed 1 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Journalists in prison as of December 1, 2009

Cuba: 22

Pedro Argüelles Morán, Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

Argüelles Morán was convicted in April 2003 of violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy, which punishes anyone who commits acts "aiming at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system." He was given a 20-year prison sentence.

Argüelles Morán, a cartographer who, in 2003, was working as director of the independent news agency Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes in the central province of Ciego de Ávila, was being held at the Canaleta Prison in his home province, his wife, Yolanda Vera Nerey, told CPJ. The 62-year-old was allowed visits every three months, she said.

Vera Nerey told CPJ that her husband was diagnosed with bone and respiratory ailments, and had cataracts in both eyes.

Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores de Cuba Independientes
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

Arroyo Carmona, a journalist for the independent news agency Unión de Periodistas y Escritores de Cuba Independientes in his home province of Pinar del Río, was handed a 26-year prison sentence for acting "against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state" under Article 91 of the penal code in April 2003.

Arroyo Carmona was being held at the Kilo 5½ Prison, his wife, Elsa González Padrón, told CPJ. The journalist, who was housed in a hall with at least 130 prisoners, waged a hunger strike in May to protest prison conditions, news reports said. Arroyo Carmona – who had been diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and pulmonary emphysema – protested a lack of medical attention, unsanitary cell conditions, cruel treatment, and obstruction of his efforts to practice religion. At least three other political prisoners joined the reporter in his protest.

Miguel Galván Gutiérrez, Havana Press
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

Galván Gutiérrez, a journalist for the independent news agency Havana Press, was tried in April 2003 under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code for acting against "the independence or the territorial integrity of the state." He was sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Galván Gutiérrez, 44, was being held in Guanajay Prison, in the western province of Havana, near his home, his sister, Teresa Galván Gutiérrez, told CPJ. Though prison conditions were harsh, she said, they were better than at the maximum-security Agüica Prison, where the journalist was imprisoned until June 2007.

Galván Gutiérrez was housed alone in a cell in which, he told his sister, he could read and study, although he said books were hard to come by. The journalist suffered severe joint and back pain, she said.

Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, freelance
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

For 24 years, Gálvez Rodríguez worked for government media. But in March 2003, as he was working as a freelance reporter in Havana, state security agents arrested him as part of the massive crackdown. He was summarily tried that April under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy and given a 14-year prison sentence. The People's Supreme Tribunal, Cuba's highest court, upheld the decision a month later.

In 2009, Gálvez Rodríguez, 65, was being held in solitary confinement at Havana's Combinado del Este Prison, his partner, Irene Viera Silloy, told CPJ. She said the journalist was allowed one family visit every two months. Gálvez Rodríguez suffered from high cholesterol, hypertension, and respiratory problems, according to CPJ research. Viera Silloy said he was also diagnosed with pneumonia.

Gálvez Rodríguez continued to write from prison, Viera Silloy told CPJ. She said prison authorities briefly revoked the journalist's phone privileges in September after he refused to wear a prison uniform.

José Luis García Paneque, Libertad
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

A physician by profession, García Paneque, 43, joined the independent news agency Libertad in 1998 after being fired from his job at a hospital in eastern Las Tunas because of his political views. In April 2003, a Cuban court sentenced him to 24 years in prison after he was convicted of acting "against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state" under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code.

García Paneque was being held at Las Mangas Prison in Granma province, according to his wife, Yamilé Llánez Labrada. Although general prison conditions improved in 2009, she said, the reporter still shared a small cell with several other inmates and complained of difficulty sleeping. García Paneque's parents visited him every 45 days, his wife told CPJ; she and her children, who moved to Texas in 2007, talked to him on the phone monthly.

García Paneque's health has significantly deteriorated in prison. He has been diagnosed with a kidney tumor, internal bleeding, chronic malnutrition, and pneumonia. Llánez Labrada told CPJ that her husband continued to have digestive problems and had lost all the hair on his body due to malnutrition.

Ricardo González Alfonso, freelance
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

González Alfonso, a poet and screenwriter, began reporting for Cuba's independent press in 1995. He founded the award-winning newsmagazine De Cuba and a Havana-based association of journalists, and then worked as a freelance reporter and Cuba correspondent for the Paris-based press freedom group Reporters Without Borders. He was taken into custody on March 18, 2003. In April, the Havana Provincial Tribunal found him guilty of violating Article 91 of the Cuban penal code for "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state," and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. That June, the People's Supreme Tribunal Court upheld his conviction.

González Alfonso, 59, was being held at Havana's Combinado del Este Prison, a two-hour car ride from his family home in the capital, his sister, Graciela González-Degard, told CPJ. The reporter's small, windowless cell, she said, was hot and humid, and the prison food was poor. As punishment for his refusal to wear a prison uniform, officials denied him religious assistance, barred his family from bringing him clean clothes, and cut family visitation to once every two months.

González-Degard, who lives in New York but visited her brother in August, told CPJ that he was in good health and spirits, though he suffered from hypertension, arthritis, severe allergies to humidity and dust, chronic bronchitis, and several digestive and circulatory problems. During her three-week visit to Havana, she was followed and harassed by state security agents, she said. She also told CPJ that González Alfonso's two teenage sons had lost employment opportunities as a result of his imprisonment.

Léster Luis González Pentón, freelance
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

A court in the central province of Villa Clara sentenced independent freelance reporter González Pentón in April 2003 to 20 years in prison under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code for acting against "the independence or the territorial integrity of the state."

The youngest of the imprisoned Cuban journalists, González Pentón, 32, was being held in 2009 at La Pendiente Prison in the northern city of Santa Clara, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. González Pentón suffered from stomach problems, according to Laura Pollán Toledo, a human rights activist and wife of imprisoned journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez. He was allowed occasional visits to his home for good behavior, she said.

Iván Hernández Carrillo, Patria
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

Hernández Carrillo, a reporter for the independent news agency Patria in the western city of Colón, was sentenced in April 2003 to 25 years in prison under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy. In 1992, he had been given a two-year prison sentence for allegedly "distributing enemy propaganda and disrespecting Fidel Castro."

Hernández Carrillo, 38, was being held at Guamajal Prison in Santa Clara province in 2009. He suffered from hypertension and gastritis.

On April 14, Hernández Carrillo went on a 10-day hunger strike to protest the conditions of his imprisonment, his mother, Asunción Carrillo, said. Prison authorities encouraged other inmates to harass and attack him, he told his mother.

Alfredo Pulido López, El Mayor
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

Cuban authorities arrested Pulido López, director of the independent news agency El Mayor in Camagüey, in March 2003. A month later, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison under Article 91 of the penal code, accused of acting "against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state."

In 2009, the journalist was being held at Kilo 7 Prison in his home province along with more than 100 hardened criminals, his wife, Rebecca Rodríguez Souto, told CPJ. The cell's ventilation was poor, and he shared the restroom facilities with the other inmates, she said. She told CPJ that she was able to visit him once a month and take food and medicine to him.

Pulido López, 49, suffered from chronic bronchitis, gastritis, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. In 2009, his respiratory ailments worsened significantly from the high humidity and poor ventilation, his wife said. She told CPJ that her husband was receiving medical treatment for his respiratory condition only.

Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Nueva Prensa Cubana
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003

Rodríguez Saludes, director of the Havana-based independent news agency Nueva Prensa Cubana, was arrested in March 2003 and summarily tried in April under Article 91 of Cuba's penal code for "acting against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state." Cuban authorities handed him a 27-year prison sentence.

Rodríguez Saludes, 44, was a well-known photographer who also reported and wrote. He was being held at Toledo Prison in Havana, where he was allowed just one visit every month, according to Laura Pollán Toledo, a human rights activist and wife of imprisoned journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez.

According to his wife, Ileana Marrero Joa, the journalist had been diagnosed with gastrointestinal problems and hypertension.

Mijaíl Barzaga Lugo, Agencia Noticiosa Cubana
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Barzaga Lugo, a reporter for the independent news agency Agencia Noticiosa Cubana, was arrested in March 2003 and accused the following month of violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy. Cuban authorities handed him a 15-year prison sentence.

Barzaga Lugo was being held at 1580 Prison in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón, according to Laura Pollán Toledo, a human rights activist and wife of imprisoned journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez. She said the reporter suffered from skin ailments made acute by prison conditions; he did not receive medical treatment for the problem.

Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Patria
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

In March 2003, Cuban state security agents raided the Havana home of Fernández Saínz, correspondent for the independent news agency Patria, and then arrested the journalist. He was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy in April. In June of that year, Cuba's highest court, the People's Supreme Tribunal, upheld his conviction and his 15-year prison sentence.

Fernández Saínz, 60, was being held at Canaleta Prison in central Ciego de Ávila province, 250 miles (400 kilometers) from his home, CPJ research shows. Prison authorities allowed him family visits once every two months. His wife, Julia Núñez Pacheco, told CPJ that traveling to the prison was difficult and very expensive. A one-way bus ticket cost 85 Cuban pesos (US$3.75), a large portion of the average Cuban monthly salary of 480 Cuban pesos (US$21).

Conditions in Canaleta Prison were very poor, Núñez Pacheco told CPJ. Her husband was housed in a barracks with roughly 40 other inmates with almost no air circulation and bad hygiene. Food was inadequate and often inedible, she said. He suffered from chronic hypertension, emphysema, osteoporosis, prostate ailments, and four kidney cysts, and received scant medical attention.

Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, freelance
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Fuentes, an economist by training, began working for the Cuban independent press in 1991. On March 19, 2003, he was arrested after a raid on his home in the city of Artemisa. The next month, the freelance reporter was convicted of violating Article 91 of the Cuban penal code, which imposes harsh penalties for acting against "the independence or the territorial integrity of the state." A judge in western Havana province handed him a 26-year prison sentence.

The 60-year-old journalist was being held at the maximum-security Guanajay Prison, his wife, Loyda Valdés González, told CPJ. Valdés González, who is allowed to visit her husband only once every 45 days, said conditions at Guanajay were better than those at other prisons where he had been held. Due to his severe back problems, the reporter did not share a cell with other prisoners. Valdés González said her husband suffered from chronic gastritis that caused him to lose significant amounts of weight.

Valdés González told CPJ that in December 2007, her husband presented an appeal to Cuba's Supreme Tribunal Court. Because Cuban authorities denied Fuentes access to a lawyer, he did so without benefit of counsel. After two years, the court had still not responded to him, Valdés González told CPJ.

Normando Hernández González, Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Hernández González was arrested in March 2003 as part of the massive crackdown on Cuba's dissidents and independent press. The director of the news agency Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey was sentenced the following month to 25 years in prison under Article 91 of the penal code.

Hernández González was held in an isolation cell at the maximum-security Kilo 7 Prison in his home province of Camagüey for much of the year, his mother, Blanca González, told CPJ. He spent all but two hours a week alone, and received family visits only once every 45 days, she said. The journalist was diagnosed with intestinal ailments, and has suffered from pneumonia and knee problems so severe that even standing was difficult, his mother said. In November, doctors also diagnosed Hernández González with several cardiovascular ailments.

Hernández González was moved to the hospital at Combinado del Este Prison in late October, said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a formerly jailed journalist. His wife, Yaraí Reyes Marín, told CPJ that she requested medical parole for her husband in July 2006, but Cuban authorities did not respond.

Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

In March 2003, Herrera Acosta was arrested during the massive crackdown on Cuba's dissidents and independent press. A Cuban court sentenced him a month later to 20 years in prison under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy.

Herrera Acosta, Guantánamo correspondent for the independent news agency Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental, was being held at the eastern Holguín Provincial Prison in 2009, independent Cuban journalist Miriam Leyva told CPJ. She also said that the reporter was diagnosed with diabetes. His wife, Ileana Danger Hardy, told CPJ that he suffered from psychological ailments. According to Leyva, those problems became more acute over the course of 2009.

José Ubaldo Izquierdo Hernández, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Izquierdo Hernández, a reporter in western Havana for the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, was sentenced in April 2003 to 16 years in prison for acting "against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state" under Article 91 of the penal code. Following an appeal the next month, the People's Supreme Tribunal Court upheld his conviction. In 2009, he was being held at the Guanajay Prison in his home province.

Izquierdo Hernández was diagnosed with severe depression, digestive ailments, circulatory problems, emphysema, and asthma, according to Laura Pollán Toledo, wife of fellow imprisoned journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez.

Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Several state security agents raided Maseda Gutiérrez's home on the second day of the March 2003 crackdown on Cuba's dissidents and independent press. Following a closed-door summary trial the following month, the reporter was charged under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code for acting "against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state" and Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In June of that year, Cuba's highest court, the People's Supreme Tribunal, dismissed his appeal.

An engineer with a graduate degree in nuclear physics, Maseda Gutiérrez began working as an independent journalist in 1995, according to his wife, Laura Pollán Toledo. Maseda Gutiérrez was a founding member of the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro.

In 2009, the reporter was being held at the maximum-security Agüica Prison in western Matanzas province, Pollán Toledo said. She said Maseda Gutiérrez was allowed family visits once every 45 days. CPJ research found that he continued to report on jail conditions and human rights violations from prison. In 2008, Maseda Gutiérrez was awarded CPJ's International Press Freedom Award.

The 66-year-old reporter, the oldest of the imprisoned Cuban journalists, suffered from high blood pressure and a skin condition, his wife said. The skin problems worsened over 2009, but Maseda Gutiérrez did not receive medical treatment, she said.

Pablo Pacheco Ávila, Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

On March 19, 2003, state security agents raided the home of Pacheco Ávila, a reporter for the local independent news agency Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes, in central Ciego de Ávila. He was convicted in April under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's Independence and Economy for committing acts "aiming at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system," and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Pacheco Ávila, 39, was being held at Canaleta Prison in his home province, his wife, Oleyvis García Echemendía, told CPJ. She said her husband was in generally good health despite having been diagnosed last year with high blood pressure, acute gastritis, and kidney problems. He was housed in a barracks with at least 30 other prisoners.

On March 20, the sixth anniversary of Pacheco Ávila's arrest, prison authorities granted him a 24-hour home furlough for good behavior. In an interview with U.S.-based Radio Martí, Pacheco Ávila said that while at home, he was able to see his wife and 10-year-old son, and speak by phone with other jailed reporters and family members in other parts of Cuba and abroad.

Fabio Prieto Llorente, freelance
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Prieto Llorente, a freelance reporter in western Isla de la Juventud, was arrested in March 2003 during the massive crackdown on the Cuban independent press. In April of that year, a local court sentenced him to 20 years in prison for violating Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba's National Independence and Economy.

Prieto Llorente was being held in solitary confinement at El Guayabo Prison in his home province, his sister, Clara Lourdes Prieto Llorente, told CPJ. In a January 7 letter to Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz, the reporter said his cell measured just 10 feet (three meters) by six and a half feet (two meters), and his meals consisted of spoiled and burned "animal products." According to his sister, the journalist has been diagnosed with allergies, emphysema, back problems, high blood pressure, and depression. He was allowed visits from two family members every two months, his sister told CPJ.

In 2009, Prieto Llorente actively reported on and protested prison conditions. His stories, published on overseas news Web sites, detailed such issues as the brutal punishment inflicted on other inmates by prison guards, and the "slave-like" work that authorities imposed on prisoners. In February, he waged a hunger strike to call attention to the situation at El Guayabo, the Miami-based news Web site Payolibre reported.

Omar Ruiz Hernández, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003

Ruiz Hernández, a reporter for the Havana-based independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro in the province of Villa Clara, was arrested on March 19, 2003, during the massive crackdown on the island's dissidents and independent press. He was sentenced in April to 18 years in prison for acting "against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state" under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code.

The reporter, 62, was being held in Nieves Morejón Prison in the central province of Sancti Spíritus, 40 miles (65 kilometers) from his home, his wife, Bárbara Maritza Rojo Arias, told CPJ. He shared quarters with 11 prisoners in a small barracks, she said. The quarters, which he was rarely permitted to leave, had no ventilation and poor lighting. Rojo Arias said other living conditions – including his meals – improved at the prison over the course of 2009. He was allowed a family visit of two hours every two months, his wife told CPJ.

Ruiz Hernández suffered from depression and loss of eyesight. He was also diagnosed with high blood pressure, circulatory problems, and chronic gastrointestinal ailments. Rojo Arias told CPJ that her husband was being treated by prison doctors and that she was allowed to provide him with additional medication.

Oscar Sánchez Madan, freelance
Imprisoned: April 13, 2007

In early 2007, Sánchez Madan was detained twice and warned to stop working for the independent press after he covered a local corruption scandal and social problems in western Matanzas province, where he lived. He was arrested in April 2007 and, after a one-day trial, Cuban authorities convicted him of "social dangerousness," a vague charge contained in Article 72 of the penal code. The reporter was handed the maximum prison sentence of four years.

In 2009, the reporter was being held at the maximum-security Combinado del Sur Prison, outside the provincial capital of Matanzas, according to CPJ research. His neighbor, Juan Francisco Sigler, told CPJ that prison conditions were very poor. The reporter's mother was allowed to visit once every 45 days, CPJ research shows.

Sánchez Madan continued to report on human rights violations from prison, Sigler said. Prison authorities threatened retaliation, saying they would do everything in their power to keep him jailed if he continued to write, Sigler told CPJ. On at least one occasion, inmates beat the journalist severely at the encouragement of authorities. As further retaliation, the reporter was sent to solitary confinement for weeks at a time, according to Sigler.

Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, Havana Press
Imprisoned: April 18, 2009

Police arrested Du Bouchet Hernández, director of the Havana-based independent news agency Habana Press, while he was visiting relatives outside Havana. Officers alleged that the journalist was shouting antigovernment slogans in the street.

In May, Du Bouchet Hernández was convicted in a summary trial on charges of "disrespect" and distribution of enemy propaganda, and sentenced to three years in prison. Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz, president of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation in Havana, told CPJ that the journalist was not allowed a defense lawyer. Miriam Herrera, an independent journalist based in Havana, told CPJ that Du Bouchet Hernández had reported on social issues, which could have upset local authorities.

In 2005, Du Bouchet Hernández had been jailed on "disrespect" charges and sentenced to one year in prison after he enraged authorities with his coverage of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society. The two-day gathering, unprecedented in Cuba, brought together 200 opposition activists and guests in May 2005 to discuss ways to create democracy in Cuba. Du Bouchet Hernández was released in August 2006 after completing his sentence.

Copyright notice: © Committee to Protect Journalists. All rights reserved. Articles may be reproduced only with permission from CPJ.

Search Refworld

Countries