The Real Guantanamo Prison

By Mauricio Claver-Carone

Let's talk about Guantanamo in the eastern tip of the island of Cuba.

There is a brutal prison in Guantanamo where physical and psychological torture are the norm and inmates spend years in solitary confinement, are routinely deprived of food, light and medical care, and no one is held accountable for inmate deaths.

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Detainees are confined three to four to a cell measuring six by four feet. Extreme heat and humidity; mosquitoes, scorpions, flies, ants and lizards plague them. The single bucket of water delivered for drinking, bathing, and flushing the hole in the cell floor is often contaminated with feces and visible parasites. It is a prison secluded from the world, and neither the International Committee for the Red Cross nor other international human-rights monitors have been allowed to visit.

This describes Combinado de Guantanamo prison in the Castros' Cuba where some inmates resort to hunger strikes, self-mutilation, stab themselves, swallow wires, small spoons, ingest harmful fluids to protest conditions and force a transfer to a medical facility or prison closer to family.

Unfortunately, little attention is paid to this prison. The world's attention is riveted on the military prison in the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, where for eight years the United States has held suspected terrorists.

Yet peaceful pro-democracy and human-rights activists who gather in parks, petition the government for change, print and distribute copies of the International Declaration of Human Rights, send independent accounts of what's happening in Cuba to foreign publications are prominent among Cuba's political prisoners. The catchall charge is "dangerousness." Others are imprisoned for "illegally" attempting to leave the island.

Amongst these prisoners in Combinado de Guantanamo are:

Ernesto Lucas Corral Cabrera, sentenced to four years.
Andry Frómeta Cuenca, sentenced to 27 years.
Ricardo Galván Casals, sentenced to three years.
Yordis García Fournier, serving an "indefinite" sentence.
Ardelay Guerra Blanco, six years.
Miguel Angel López Herrera, three years.
Julián Antonio Monés Borrero, three years.
Félix Navarro Rodríguez, 25 years.
Jorge Osorio Vázquez, five years.
Joel Pérez Osorio, five years.
Isael Poveda Silva, one year and four months.
Claro Sánchez Altarriba, 18 years.
José Angel Simón Rodríguez, five years.

One might think those advocating closing the military prison at the U.S. Naval Base and even turning over the entire facility to the regime of Fidel and Raul Castro, would first want to investigate the state of the criminal justice system in Cuba and the inhumane conditions at Cuba's Guantanamo Prison.

It would be tragic for the United States to hand the Cuban regime another prison to fill with dissidents. It would be inexcusable to hand the prison to Raul Castro, who as Minister of Defense had long commanded Cuba's Border Guards. For five decades under Raul's orders, those guards have been shooting at and killing Cubans trying to swim the bay or crawl through the minefield to reach the U.S. Naval Base and claim asylum.

President Barack Obama has eased restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba and sending money to relatives, gestures intended to help reconnect the Cuban people to the outside world. In return, Obama has asked the Cuban regime to show reciprocal goodwill. He is absolutely right to expect reciprocity.

As the Obama Administration closes the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, we must hope that the Castro regime's advocates here and in the international community will also reciprocate by turning their focus to the Castro brothers' political prisoners and conditions in Cuba's Combinado de Guantanamo and 300 other prisons.

Mauricio Claver-Carone is a Director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC and Founding Editor of CapitolHillCubans.com in Washington, D.C. He is an attorney who formerly served with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and has served on the full-time faculty of The Catholic University of America's School of Law and adjunct faculty of The George Washington University's National Law Center.

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