UPDATED, July 13, 2010 — Pacheco was released under deal between Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
"The enemies of freedom could have strength but not reason, they could have laws but not justice. They could have media but not truth. They could manipulate man's thoughts but not his conscience. They could imprison the body but not the spirit."
Pablo Pacheco, from prison, November 2003
Whether young or old, many of Cuba's political prisoners suffer from poor health in Fidel Castro's gulag. It seems that every week, family members or other contacts report on the poor health of a particular prisoner of consicence, and how little their jailers are doing for them.
Last week, CubaNet reported that imprisoned journalist Pablo Pacheco Avila, 36, was in a hospital in Ciego de Ávila suffering from a variety of ailments, including gastritis and problems with his spine and kidneys.
Publicity about the prisoners' poor health is vital since international pressure has succeeded in helping with the release of other dissidents on medical parole.
Pacheco was well familiar with Castro's repressive ways before he was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003.
In 1998, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison for "enemy propaganda," according to Payolibre.
Reporters Without Borders has more.
He was detained three times in 2002 for "unlawful association" but was released each time after a few hours. His phone line was often cut when something happened in Ciego de Ávila to prevent him from contributing a report to Radio Martí, the US government radio station that beams programmes to Cuba.
Pacheco maintained that he was not the target of systematic harassment, but his family was the victim of bureaucratic reprisals. His wife, a doctor in a clinic, was overburdened with work but their four-year-old boy was denied a place in the day-care centre. His elderly mother, who lives in the United States, was subject to extensive and humiliating searches at the airport on both arrival and departure when she made a visit in August 2002.
Pacheco, a contributor to the Ciego de Ávila Independent Journalists Cooperative (CAPI), was arrested March 18, 2003, as part of the "black spring" roundup of 75 journalists, librarians, human rights activists and other dissidents.
On April 4 — his 33rd birthday — Pacheco was convicted and sentenced to 20 years' in prison under Law 88 which provides lengthy prison terms for those found guilty of supporting United States policy on Cuba aimed at "disrupting internal order, destabilising the country and destroying the Socialist State and the independence of Cuba," according to Amnesty International.
Amnesty International continues:
It is believed that Pablo Pacheco’s arrest and sentencing were politically motivated, relating to his legitimate journalistic activities and peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and association, and Amnesty International therefore considers Pablo Pacheco to be a prisoner of conscience.
For more on Uncommon Sense's March 18 Project, including profiles of other independent journalists, in and out of prison, read here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Amnesty International has information on whom in the Cuban government you can contact to urge the release of Pacheco and other prisoners of conscience in Cuba.
Also, Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing petition drive asking Castro to release independent journalists in prison. You can sign the petition here. (A technical note: Reporters Without Borders is based in Paris, so the confirmation e-mail you will receive after signing the petition will be in French. Just in case you don't read French, the confirmation e-mail asks you click on the link to complete the petition signature process. Castro won't receive your message until you click on the link.)
For more on the Cuban dissidents, including a chance to "adopt a dissident," see the Cuban American National Foundation's Web site.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is find and read the work of independent journalists still on the island. A place to find their articles, in Spanish, English and French, is CubaNet.