On March 19, 2003, police searched the home of journalist Manuel Vázquez Portal and arrested him. In early April, Vázquez Portal was summarily tried and given an 18-year prison sentence. Twenty-seven other journalists were also convicted and sentenced to between 14 and 27 years in prison during the government's massive crackdown on dissidents that started on March 18.
A writer and poet, Vázquez Portal was born in the city of Morón, in the central province of Ciego de Ávila, in 1951. He has been a high school teacher, a literary adviser to Cuba's Ministry of Culture, and a journalist for several state-owned media outlets. But in 1995, Vázquez Portal began working for the independent news agency Cuba Press. In September 1998, he helped establish the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, where he worked until his arrest in March 2003. His articles, mostly opinion pieces published on the Miami-based news Web site CubaNet, offer insightful criticisms of the Cuban electoral system, as well as commentary about the disillusion of many Cubans during the 12-year economic and social crisis that has rocked their country.
Since Vázquez Portal's incarceration, his wife has smuggled his personal diary out of prison. In June 2003, excerpts from his journal were printed in several publications outside Cuba. "I have thought about the reprisals when these pages are published," Vázquez Portal wrote. "I am prepared. If for the simple act of working as a journalist I was given an 18-year prison sentence, nothing else can be more unjust or excessive."
Links to Spanish-language Vázquez Portal articles in CubaNet
(a Miami-based Web site dedicated to independent Cuban journalism)
Letters written in prison:
Articles written while in prison:
Articles written before his imprisonment: