Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias still in prison
Rumours of changes to the iron fisted ‘peoples’ government of Cuba are greatly exaggerated as we learn that a Cuban journalist languishes in prison for (gasp) reporting about cholera and dengue epidemics in Cuba.
Martinez’s ‘mistake’ was that he reported in June 2012 that Manzanillo officials were hiding a cholera epidemic from the public. (Hey… wouldn’t want to hurt the tourist business, would we?)
Every once in a while you think things are improving, but then you are dragged back to reality. The Cuban people must be free: and that doesn’t mean back to being a puppet of the USA or Russia or China. Freedom means: freedom for individuals and freedom for the country to determine their own paths. And for journalists to report on matters of public interest.
Feliz Navidad to Calixto Ramón Martínez Aria. We’ll say a prayer for you and your friend Alexander Roberto Fernández Rico.
Reprinted from wefightcensorship.org. Please go to their website to read the full article Radio Silence on Cholera Epidemic?
Radio Silence on Cholera Epidemic?
Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a journalist who works for Hablemos Press, a Havana-based independent information centre, was arrested on 16 September 2012 after writing about cholera and dengue epidemics in Cuba. Two months later, he managed to call Hablemos Press from Havana’s Combinado del Este prison, defying an order by the prison authorities forbidding him to use the phone. During the call, which Hablemos Press recorded, he talked about the degrading conditions inside the prison. After the call, the Hablemos Press phone line was temporarily disconnected and Martínez was placed in solitary confinement. But the Combinado del Este’s political prisoners have managed to keep the outside world informed about his plight.
WeFightCensorship is posting the articles that prompted Martínez’s arrest and the recordings of the phone calls in which he and another detainee, Alexander Roberto Fernández Rico, described conditions in the prison.
The case began in June 2012, when eastern Cuba was hit by a cholera epidemic. Even after two people had died of cholera and more than 50 had been hospitalized in the eastern city of Manzanillo, the authorities continued to say nothing on the subject although the public clearly needed to be informed.
Mosquito-borne dengue fever appeared in the eastern city of Camagüey in August. Four hundred people were initially hit but the number rose to 3,000 in the Camagüey alone in the space of a few weeks. The epidemic also spread to the rest of the country, infecting up to 90 people a day in Havana. Nonetheless, the authorities said nothing about the number of dead or infected.
Martínez was the first Cuban journalist to write about the cholera and dengue epidemics. His articles reported that health centres were overwhelmed, the authorities were saying nothing, diagnoses were being falsified in the records, and that officials from the Department for State Security (DSE) were everywhere, obstructing access to information.
He was arrested when he went to Havana’s José Martí international airport on 16 September to enquire about damage to a shipment of medicine that had been abandoned after being sent to Cuba by the World Health Organization. During his transfer to Santiago de las Vegas police station in the nearby municipality of Boyeros, the police hit Martínez repeatedly and he responded during the beating by cursing the Cuban regime. The police used this as grounds for detaining him on a charge of “disrespect” for Fidel and Raúl Castro.
TREATED AS A COMMON CRIMINAL
On 10 November, Martínez was transferred to the Combinado del Este prison on the DSE’s orders. Once there, all of his personal effects were taken from him, he was denied the use of a phone, and he was forced to wear the uniform of a convicted common criminal. He began a hunger strike the same day to protest against the mistreatment and to demonstrate his refusal to be treated as a convict while in pre-trial detention.
Martínez managed to phone Hablemos Press three days later and in the ensuing conversation, the recording of which is posted immediately below, he gave the reasons for his hunger strike and described the conditions in the prison. After the call, the Hablemos Press phone line was temporarily disconnected, something that has been happening repeatedly since 23 September. The line goes down five or six times a day, each time for two or three hours. Hablemos Press director Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez’s mobile phone no longer works at all.
Martínez managed to call Hablemos Press again on 17 November, providing details of his physical condition after one week on hunger strike. He said he had a high fever and pains in his joints but was otherwise all right.
SUPPORT FROM FELLOW-INMATES
There was no further news of Martínez until 21 November, when a political prisoner, Alexander Roberto Fernández Rico, managed to reach Hablemos Press. He said Martínez had been transferred the previous day to a punishment cell in “Area 47.” It also known as “Death Row” because, until 2005, inmates under sentence of death were held there pending execution. He said Martínez was naked in a cell on his own and was consuming just a litre of fetid water a day.
Hablemos Press managed to record this call, which is posted below. After the call, its line was disconnected for eight hours.
Fernández, who has been blind and paraplegic since a hunger strike in April 2012, was himself transferred to a punishment cell in Area 47 the next day. Another political prisoner, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz called Hablemos Press the same day and said: “They are cracking down hard on the Combinado del Este’s political prisoners, because we reported what happened to Martínez. Worse still, they are threatening to put other inmates in punishment cells if they don’t identify the political prisoners who are making the phone calls.”
Hablemos Press is waging an all-out campaign for Martínez’s release, circulating the recordings of the phone calls by email and urging NGOs to draw attention to the case.
Martínez has not been in a punishment cell since 6 December. He is continuing his hunger strike.
More at wefightcensorship.org