In March 2003, Cuban state security agents raided the Havana home of Fernández Saínz, correspondent for the independent news agency Patria, and then arrested the journalist. He was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy in April. In June of that year, Cuba’s highest court, the People’s Supreme Tribunal, upheld his conviction and his 15-year prison sentence.
Fernández Saínz, 60, was being held at Canaleta Prison in central Ciego de Ávila province, 250 miles (400 kilometers) from his home, CPJ research shows. Prison authorities allowed him family visits once every two months. His wife, Julia Núñez Pacheco, told CPJ that traveling to the prison was difficult and very expensive. A one-way bus ticket cost 85 Cuban pesos (US$3.75), a large portion of the average Cuban monthly salary of 480 Cuban pesos (US$21).
Conditions in Canaleta Prison were very poor, Núñez Pacheco told CPJ. Her husband was housed in a barracks with roughly 40 other inmates with almost no air circulation and bad hygiene. Food was inadequate and often inedible, she said. He suffered from chronic hypertension, emphysema, osteoporosis, prostate ailments, and four kidney cysts, and received scant medical attention.