Normando Hernández González
UPDATED, July 14, 2010 — Normando Hernández was released from prison in July 2010, under a deal between Spain, the Catholic Church and the Castro dictatorship.
Last week, on Wednesday, Oct. 21, in a cell somewhere in the Castro gulag, Cuban political prisoner Normando Hernández González marked his 40th birthday. It was seventh birthday that Hernández, an independent journalist sentenced to 25 years in prison during the "black spring" of 2003, had spent behind bars.
If I could, my gift to my fellow journalist and to my fellow Cuban would be his liberation from Castro's dungeons. The next best thing, I guess, is to use this space to again inform the world about this hero of Cuban liberty, and to again implore the international community to demand his immediate release, and that of other Cuban political prisoners.
One of the best online profiles of Hernández is maintained by the PEN American Center:
Normando Hernández’s health situation is grim. In December of 2006, he was rushed in critical condition to the Amalia Simoni Provincial Hospital in Camagüey after suffering from fainting spells. During his hospital stay, he experienced nausea, diarrhea, fainting spells, fatigue and fever. Nonetheless, he was kept in a room without a bed, table or chair for an entire week. His food was thrown under the door on a tray and he spent all day sitting on a bucket.
On December 27, State Security soldiers removed Hernández from the Amalia Simoni Provincial Hospital and took him back to Kilo 7 prison. Doctors claimed that the hospital was lacking in the resources needed to treat Hernández’s delicate condition.
Back at Kilo 7 prison, Normando Hernández’s health deteriorated further due to a chronic gastro-intestinal disorder, which causes constant diarrhea, headaches and intermittent fever. Furthermore, he suffers from poor gastro-intestinal absorption and has lost at least 35 pounds.
In April 2007, at the urging of Hernández’s mother, Costa Rican legislators granted Hernández a humanitarian visa. In June, Cuban officials refused to honor the visa. On September 10, 2007, Costa Rican legislator Jose Manuel Echandi Meza presented a formal complaint to the UN about Cuba's denial of an exit permit to Normando Hernández González. The Costa Ricans say Cuba is violating Normando's "right to health and freedom."
On September 14, 2007, Hernández was moved from Kilo 7 Prison in Camagüey to the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital in Havana. Since being admitted, he has been diagnosed with several diseases of the digestive system, including lesions in his stomach and tumors in his gallbladder. Hernández had been diagnosed with tuberculosis in early 2007, but it is unclear whether he received treatment for this or not.
On May 7, 2008, Hernández was removed from a hospital where he was receiving essential medical treatments and returned to Kilo 7 Prison in Camagüey, Cuba.
On January 8, 2009, Hernández was transferred to a Havana prison hospital after developing an abnormal growth on his Adam’s apple. After spending six weeks in the hospital, Hernández was returned to Kilo 7. In a phone interview, Hernández’s wife confirmed that his stay in the hospital left him even sicker than when he arrived. He reportedly received little to no actual treatment during the six weeks and lost five pounds, bringing his total weight to 114 lbs. He is reportedly now being held in complete isolation in life-threatening conditions.
It is not normal for a 40-year-old man to suffer the health problems experienced by Hernández. For that, there is no one to blame but the dictatorship that unjustly imprisons him and thousands of other opponents.
Read my original profile of Hernández, here.