To understand the toll the Castro gulag takes on its captives, consider that the man in the photo above — Ariel Sigler Amaya, a political activist and former heavyweight boxer imprisoned since the "black spring" of 2003 — is the same man in the wheelchair, in this photograph taken earlier this month at his mother's funeral:
The photos were frightening. It was, as Ariel's brother described, like seeing a corpse.
You might surmise that the Castro dictatorship, which is terrified of men like Sigler, has broken Sigler, that he has given up his struggle for liberty as he has languished in a Havana hospital for more than a year with a variety of ailments that have left him an invalid. That tyranny has prevailed.
But as a new letter from Ariel Sigler indicates, the boxer is still up and fighting.
In the letter, Sigler said he has no intention of committing suicide, and that anything bad that happens to him, including his death, will by the responsibility of the dictatorship.
"I have infinite desires to continue to live and recover in order to keep fighting for my country," Sigler wrote. "I love life and will fight to keep living."
Sigler's family said his body has been ravaged by several ailments: polyneuropathy; kidney and gallbladder disease; osteoporosis; arthritis; pneumonia; emphysema; gastritis; severe pain in muscles, bones and joints; hypotension; and circulatory problems; and more.
Despite more than a year in a hospital, the "wonders" of Cuban health care have done Sigler little good. In fact, as Sigler describes, the dictatorship uses the denial of adequate medical care as another way to torture political prisoners.
"The same ones who yesterday repressed and imprisoned me are the same ones who have brought me to the verge of death, who have transformed me into a small pile of bones and skin," Sigler wrote.
"Everyone is well aware of cases like mine, of robust people, physically strong and in excellent health, who because of the monstrous methods of state security have died in prisons, hospitals and psychiatric centers."
Sigler concludes: "If I die, I point out the culprit: Cuban State Security, the executioner arm of the Castro dictatorship."