Monday, April 26, 2010

The Call from Bayamo

 Photo: Alina

The phone wakes me up and, confused, I read the caller ID with an unfamiliar 21 in the number. I sleepily pick it up and hear a voice with an accent from the eastern provinces say,

“Please, I need to talk with Claudia, I need to give her some information.
“That’s me, what’s going on?”

The person on the other end of the phone was nervous and in telling me the news omits the “where and who.” I’m half asleep and I don’t understand a thing.

“Where are you?”
“In the provincial prison in Bayamo.”
“Are you a journalist?”
“No, I’m a common inmate, but this other prisoner is very bad and no one is looking after him, so I called.”

I  panicked a little at first, who had given them my number? I asked and he gave me a list of strangers. The man was worried and I felt ashamed of my own mistrust.

“Is there a problem?” he asked.
“No, nothing, tell me what’s going on and I’ll see what I can do.”

What he told me was this: The prisoner Alexandre de Quesada Martínez, condemned in 1989 for assault, was very sick with kidney disease and they were denying him medical attention. Six days ago he had sewn his mouth shut and stopped eating; the prison staff hadn’t paid the slightest attention, and his physical deterioration is quite evident.

His friend was very upset and asked me for help. How desperate can a prisoner be to call a stranger on the other side of the country and ask her for help?

“Tell him to stop the strike, please, the government doesn’t care if he dies,” I couldn’t ask him to also tear open his mouth, it was too horrible.

I wonder what I can do for him, I think also of Yamil Ramos Domínguez, imprisoned in Combinado d’Este and also on a hunger strike, and of Marleny Gonzalez, his wife and my friend, desperate.  How many are there, in reality? What does it add up to across the whole island, these exhausted men, sentenced not to prison but to hell?

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