The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported this week that by its count, there are currently at least 114 political prisoners in Cuban jails, up from 102 at the end of 2013. (Read the list of prisoners here.)
Today and on each of the next 100 days or so I'm going to try to honor these brave Cubans by sharing their names and little about their respective stories. Ever since I started this blog, I have felt it vital to remember their names, names the regime would rather have the world never know. That is the only way to fully grasp the injustices they are suffering.
Today's prisoners are Harold Alcala Aramburo and Maikel Delgado Aramburo.
The cousins are serving life prison sentences handed down in April 2003, after they tried and failed to hijack a passenger ferry Baragua to the United States. Other hijackers were summarily executed.
Translated from Diario de Cuba:
Harold Alcala and Maikel Delgado Aramburo are cousins who share a small confinement cell and various diseases at Havana's Combinado del Este Prison. Over ten years ago, they were sentenced to life-in-prison for participating in the hijacking of a ferry to try to leave the island.
Although the incident resulted in no casualties, the regime of Fidel Castro decided to make an example of them. The main organizers - Copeyo Lorenzo Enrique Castillo , Barbaro Leodán Sevilla García and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac were executed pursuant to a summary trial in April 2003, just days after the imprisonment of 75 leading dissidents.
Ten years later and despite international condemnations, the regime continues wanting to make an example of Harold Alcala, now 34, Maikel Delgado, 40, and the others sanctioned for the hijacking. In January 2012, the Cuban government rejected a petition, brought by their relatives, to review the case. Meanwhile, the prisoners acquire diseases resulting from the horrible prison conditions.
Harold "has respiratory failure, chronic giardiasis, erythematous gastritis, dermatitis and needs medication for heart conditions," his mother, Julia Estrellea Aramburo, a member of The Ladies in White, told Diario de Cuba.
"My nephew Maikel has a chronic venous insufficiency. His veins are clotting, he has a thrombosis in one leg and may end up disabled," she added.
The prison authorities "do not give him the medicines he needs. He needs elastic bandages and they won't give him any," she denounced.
The cell they share is located in Area 47 of the Combinado del Este Prison, reserved for those facing the death penalty and in punishment cells.
"They do not have a chair to sit on when they eat," said the member ofThe Ladies in White. "Their only contact with other prisoners is by screaming from cell to cell, they do not see anyone (...) it has been months since they have been in the sun ( ... ) They see the television by standing at the door of their cell."
"They take them to their visits shackled by the hands and feet, with a German Shepherd dog at their side," said the woman, 55, who can see her son every two months and who has assumed the defense of her nephew after her sister's death.
"My sister couldn't take it anymore," she said.