Dr. JOSÉ LUIS GARCÍA PANEQUE: Prisoner of Conscience
UPDATED, July 13, 2010 — García was released under deal between Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
The Cuban American National Foundation today published a report updating the medical condition and detailing the recent maltreatment of Dr. José Luis García Panque, 40, one the more than 20 Cuban journalists imprisoned in Fidel Castro's gulag.
(The report is actually the work of the Coalition of Cuban-American Women in the United States /
LAIDA CARRO. Tel: 305-662-5947 Fax: 305-740-7323 / Email: Joseito76@aol.com.)
Specifically, according to the report:
— García is in a prison hospital in Bayamo, suffering from chronic bloody diarrhea and persistent ulcerative colitis, symptoms of an intestinal disorder he has developed while in prison. (Numerous Cuabn political prisoners suffer from similar ailments.) His wife reports that he weighs about 110 pounds, and that his diarrhea has worsened because of the spoiled food he has received in prison.
"My husband has not seen the sun for months and he is forced to endure extreme psychological pressure," said Yamilet Llanes Labrada.
— A common prisoner threatened to kill García after several arguments. In one instance, the prisoner threw Garcia's clothes into a latrine full of excrement. Prison officials told García's wife they were not aware of the incidents.
— The state-sanctioned abuse extends to García's four children.
"Dr. Garcia Paneque's four children are psychologically affected by their father's imprisonment and by the constant harassment they must sustain," the CANF report states. "Three times a week, groups of elderly Cubans cry out governmental slogans just two houses away from Garcia Paneque's home. Sheila, the eldest child,15 years old, is barred from studying computer technology in spite of her high school grades, and she is being pressured to sign up with the Union of Communist Youth, an organization she refuses to join."
Llanes has requested that her husband be released on a medical parole, similar to how a handful of other political prisoners have been released, but so far, there has been no response from the government.
García, a former surgeon, was arrested March 18, 2003, during the "black spring" roundup of 75 journalists, human rights activists and other dissidents. After he was convicted at trial on April 4, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison, even though prosecutors had asked for an 18-year sentence.
García had been active in the opposition since at least 1997, when he was fired from his position at the Ernesto "Ché" Guevara Hospital in Las Tunas because of his activities.
The next year, he started the Libertad news agency.
He also was a member of the Manuel Marquez Sterling Journalists’ Association and ran the Carlos J. Finlay independent library in Las Tunas, according to Reporters Without Borders.
For more on Uncommon Sense's March 18 Project, including profiles of other independent journalists, in and out of prison, read here.
To see pictures of most of the imprisoned journalists, go here.
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Reporters Without Borders has an ongoing petition drive asking Fidel 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, see the Cuban American National Foundation's Web site.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is find and read the work of Cuba’s independent journalists. A place to find their articles, in Spanish, English and French, is CubaNet. You can also find their stories at Cuba Verdad.
And yes, this is the same Cuba that on May 9, 2006, was elected to a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.