Vázquez Portal, a writer and journalist with the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, is one of 29 independent Cuban journalists who were detained in March in a massive government crackdown on the independent media and political opposition.
His one-day summary trial was held in early April behind closed doors. He was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the Nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” On April 7, the Havana Provincial Tribunal announced he had been sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The journalist remained imprisoned in the Havana headquarters of the State Security Department until April 24, when he was sent to Boniato Prison in eastern Santiago de Cuba Province, hundreds of miles from his home.
In May, Vázquez Portal wrote a prison diary, which was later smuggled out of prison, describing the harsh conditions in Boniato Prison. In recognition of the efforts by Cuban independent journalists to disseminate news in a climate of harsh government repression, CPJ honored Vázquez Portal with one of its International Press Freedom Awards in November.
On August 31, Vázquez Portal joined imprisoned journalist Normando Hernández González and other jailed dissidents at Boniato Prison in a hunger strike that lasted one week. As punishment for his involvement in the strike, Vázquez Portal was transferred to Aguadores Prison.
From November 9 to November 16, Vázquez Portal held another hunger strike to support other jailed journalists and dissidents who in October began a hunger strike at Holguín Provincial Prison.