A physician by profession, García Paneque, 43, joined the independent news agency Libertad in 1998 after being fired from his job at a hospital in eastern Las Tunas because of his political views. In April 2003, a Cuban court sentenced him to 24 years in prison after he was convicted of acting “against the independence or the territorial integrity of the state” under Article 91 of the Cuban penal code.
García Paneque was being held at Las Mangas Prison in Granma province, according to his wife, Yamilé Llánez Labrada. Although general prison conditions improved in 2009, she said, the reporter still shared a small cell with several other inmates and complained of difficulty sleeping. García Paneque’s parents visited him every 45 days, his wife told CPJ; she and her children, who moved to Texas in 2007, talked to him on the phone monthly.
García Paneque’s health has significantly deteriorated in prison. He has been diagnosed with a kidney tumor, internal bleeding, chronic malnutrition, and pneumonia. Llánez Labrada told CPJ that her husband continued to have digestive problems and suffered from malnutrition.