UPDATED, Feb. 2, 2010 - José Benito Menéndez del Valle was released from prison on Jan. 23, 2010.
The particular "crimes" of Cuba's political prisoners may differ, but they are all bound by a shared goal: Liberty for themselves, for their fellow Cubans and for their country. Some, like José Benito Menéndez del Valle, even have been willing to sacrifice the freedom they have found in the United States or elsewhere to return to the island to fight. That might be considered a fool's mission, but it is still worthy of respect and recognition.
I could find the circumstances of Menéndez's case discussed only Web sites run as part of the dictatorship's propaganda operation: Menéndez and another man were arrested after they were caught trying to infiltrate the island at Villa Clara province.
Menéndez has spent most of his time in the gulag under a special punishment regime, but that has not prevented him from telling the world about the hell he witnesses each day. For instance, in July he reported to a Cuban independent journalist that several prisoners at the Quivicán prison had fallen ill after drinking contaminated water.
And this past week, Menéndez complained to another journalist that prison officials continue to deny him the most basic human rights.
The food is bad. Guards degrade their captives. There is not even basic health care. And in Menéndez's case, guards will not let him call on the telephone his children and other family in the United States.
"This is hell," Menéndez said.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the right sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail at email@example.com
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.