On Wednesday morning, exiled Cuban journalist Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández took his own life, according to reports in the Cuban exiled media. He was the last of more than 20 Cuban journalists to be released from prison and sent to Spain following July 2010 talks between the government of Cuban President Raúl Castro and the Catholic Church. Du Bouchet Hernández, who reported opposition political news, endured inhumanity at home and, ultimately, suffered hardship in exile.
Du Bouchet Hernández was the director of the Havana-based independent news agency Havana Press. He was jailed twice, in 2005 and 2009, on “disrespect” charges. According to CPJ research, he drew the ire of Cuban authorities after reporting on an unprecedented gathering of hundreds of Cuban opposition activists in 2005. Like most political prisoners, Du Bouchet Hernández was jailed in inhumane conditions that included rotting food and overflowing wastewater.
I spoke to him many times between prison stints. He was determined, and continued working after his initial release. But it was clear from our conversations that he was also deeply affected by the continuous repression he faced from Cuban authorities.
Du Bouchet Hernández was released the second time in April 2011. He initially settled in Madrid with his former wife and son, but then moved to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, where he died. News of his death was first reported by the exiled reporter Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta on Facebook. Herrera Acosta said he did not know precisely what motivated his friend but knew that he had been in pain.
Like most journalists released from Cuban prisons to Spain, Du Bouchet Hernández had a very difficult time adjusting. Economic woes and bureaucratic problems made the transition extremely difficult for many, as my colleague Borja Bergareche reported for CPJ in 2011. At the time, many said Spain would only be a temporary stop. Since then, at least seven journalists, including Herrera Acosta, have moved to the United States by CPJ’s count.