Fabio Prieto Llorente, one of 21 independent journalists
jailed in Cuba,
has been outspoken in describing the inhumane and unsanitary conditions in which
he and others have been held. On Wednesday, he began a hunger strike to call attention
to the situation at El Guayabo Prison in the western Isla de la Juventud
province, the Miami-based news Web site Payolibre reported today.
Prieto Llorente, 45, at left, has been actively protesting prison
conditions for several weeks. In a January 7 letter to Raúl Castro Ruz, which
was reviewed by CPJ, Prieto Llorente strongly criticized the Cuban president's December
proposal to exchange jailed political dissidents for five Cuban citizens
imprisoned in the United
States on espionage charges. In the letter, Prieto
Llorente detailed "subhuman" conditions in El Guayabo, where meals consist of "animal
products" that are spoiled and burned. His current cell is just 3 meters by 2 meters,
although he's had even smaller ones before. Prison authorities open his letters
for fear that he will give the outside world details about his incarceration, Prieto
Llorente said, and his phone privileges have been revoked for more than four
months. According to the letter, Prieto Llorente is allowed to see two family
members only once every two months.
The reporter acknowledges that the outspoken criticism probably
makes matters worse for him in prison. He seems undaunted. Referring to the
start of career as an independent reporter, Prieto Llorente wrote in the letter,
"For over 10 years, my family and I have survived an inhumane persecution,
aggravated by my arrest, and all this because I decided to not to keep quiet
about the excesses of this dictatorship."
Prieto Llorente has continued to report from prison. Two
articles with his byline appeared today on the Miami news Web site Cubanet..
One details the punishment
inflicted on prison guards at El
Guayabo after a September 2008 prison break. The other describes the "slave-like" work
that authorities impose on prisoners.
The reporter's sister, Clara Lourdes Prieto Llorente tried to
contact El Guayabo Prison authorities today, but was unable to get through, said
Laura Pollán, a human rights activist and the wife of imprisoned independent
journalist Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez.
Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and
other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, said last week that
he was planning to visit Cuba
this year following an invitation by the Castro administration, the Spanish
news agency EFE reported. Nowak, who did not specify a date for his visit, said
he would visit prisoners and their families without the presence of Cuban
Prieto Llorente, a freelancer, was arrested in March 2003
during a massive crackdown on Cuban dissidents and independent journalists. Most
of the 29 reporters and editors jailed almost six years ago remain behind bars.
Cuba is one
of the world's leading jailer of journalists, second only to China.