An earlier version of this post appeared last week.
In a totalitarian society like Cuba's, obtaining accurate information about what the totalitarians are doing is never easy. Add the rural, impoverished nature of most of the island, and it can be doubly difficult to determine what is really happening.
There were reports last week that Villareal would be the first political prisoner to benefit under an arrangement reached between the dictator Raúl Castro and top Catholic Church officials to improve conditions for at least some political prisoners. Villareal, so went some of the reports, had already been transferred from a prison to a sanitarium for treatment of psychiatric ailments brought on by his more than seven years in the Castro gulag.
The I Accuse the Cuban Government blog is now reporting that Villareal is, in fact, still at the prison, that he remains held hostage to the whims of his captors:
Our campaign has learned, from opposition activists in Cuba, who are close to the Ladies in White, that the previously announced transfer to a mental health facility of political prisoner Antonio Villarreal has not happened.
Last Thursday, penal authorities at the facility where Villarreal is currently being held told his wife that he would be transferred soon, apparently in terms that made it sound imminent. This information was then relayed to members of the Ladies in White, and other opposition activists.
The family of Villarreal lives in a remote village in the central province of Villa Clara, and communication with them is sporadic and difficult. They can only be reached by phone at a communal telephone in the village, and only yesterday was it possible for Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz to contact Silvia Aguado, Villarreal’s wife. She told him that despite what the penal authorities told her last Thursday, she found him on Sunday at the same minimum-security facility or labor camp where he was on 20 May.
We will continue to monitor as closely as possible, and inform on developments in the situation of political prisoners in Cuba. More importantly, we continue to demand the liberation of all Cuban political prisoner.
In fact, 10 days after the meeting between Castro and Cardinal Jaime Ortega, there has not been a report of a single sick prisoner being transferred to a hospital. That is disappointing but not surprising.
Villareal, an economist and librarian, was arrested during the "black spring" of 2003 because of his involvement with the Varela Project and other opposition activities and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
He was first profiled here in January 2007. You can read that report, here.