CUBA

Cuban arrivals from Bahamas allege beatings and sexual abuses

 

jtamayo@ElNuevoHerald.com

The first Cubans to arrive in Miami from a notorious migrant detention center in Bahamas this month alleged Friday that guards regularly beat some of the male inmates and sexually abused some of the women.

One of the women repatriated from the center to Cuba earlier this month arrived pregnant by a guard, according to the Democracy Movement, a Miami group that has been helping the undocumented migrants detained in Nassau.

The movement led a string of protests against the Bahamas government this summer after detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre smuggled out cell phone images of inmates sewing their lips together in protest and an alleged guard kicking prisoners.

Randy Rodriguez, 31, his wife Misleidy Olivera, 30, and their two children were the first detainees to speak in person to journalists about conditions at the center after they arrived in Miami on a flight from Nassau.

“That video is real, and after the video came the beatings” by guards as punishment for the negative publicity, said Rodriguez.

Bahamas Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell has said the video is a fake, though Bahamas news media reports this week indicate it is real. He said recently that the allegations are under investigation.

“I wish to say that no one from the Bahamas government has admitted that there was any abuse of detainees by the Bahamas government,” he said in an Aug. 18 statement.

Detainee Alexander Vásquez said he suffered a punctured lung from two broken ribs and his brother suffered a cut on his head that required 17 stitches in a hospital. Rodriguez said he still has a lump on his forehead, from a kick, that refuses to go away.

One night the guards tear gassed the wards to force everyone outside despite a heavy rain and then kept them, face down on the ground and lined up should-to-shoulder, from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m., he said.

One hefty guard then counted the inmates, twice, by walking on their backs, each step counting one prisoner, he added.

Rodriguez said he took part in a 17-day hunger strike that never became public, and after the video incident was taken to Fox Hill maximum security prison and imprisoned put in a cell with a cop killer, a rapist and an apparently deranged man.

Food was delivered to the Carmichael Road center only once every three days, he added, and the Cuban men usually saved their meager rations of bottled water for their female relatives and children in a separate ward.

He weighted about 232 pounds when he was sent to the detention center and now weighs 183 pounds, he said.

His wife said she was not sexually abused by guards during their stay because she stayed with their children, but added in a low voice that, “It is true that the women, to get water or food, have to sell their bodies.”

Democracy Movement chief Ramón Saúl Sánchez, who greeted the family on their arrival, said a 24-year-old woman repatriated from Nassau to Havana last week had reported that she was six months pregnant by a guard at the detention center.

Rodriguez’s son Landy, 12, speaking briefly at a news conference just hours after the family’s arrival in Miami, said that conditions at the detention center had been “very bad” while his 4-year-old brother Leandy dozed on his father’s lap.

“I don’t know what the guards had against us,” the father said. “We were treated barbarically, and I don’t know why.”

Rodriguez said his group of 10 relatives and friends from the north central town of Caibarien set off of in a 19-foot boat hand-made with bits of lumber and metal sheeting and headed for Florida but were intercepted Aug. 12, 2012 by the U.S. Coast Guard. They were taken to Nassau, apparently because they were in Bahamian waters.

He was later approved for U.S. asylum, he said, because he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for taking his children out of the island without permission and because of help from Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican.

Bahamas repatriated 24 Cubans to Havana on Aug. 16 and another eight on the 21st, including several of the alleged victims of beatings and sexual abuse in what Sánchez has complained is an attempt to silence their reports of abuses.

Another 18 undocumented Cubans detained in the Bahamas will be allowed to fly to Panama, which has agreed to issue them “territorial asylum” while they try to arrange onward trips to the United States.

Joining Sánchez in a news conference was MarleineBastien, executive director for Haitian Women of Miami, who said that Haitians also have been complaining about the treatment at the Carmichael Road center “for many years.”

Read more Cuba stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
This is the raft on which 16 Cubans sailed from Cuba to Alligator Reef Light off Upper Matecumbe Key this week.

    THE KEYS

    Cuban migrants found suffering from dehydration off the Keys

    Sixteen Cuban migrants were intercepted off the Upper Keys on Wednesday afternoon, and seven of them needed medical attention after suffering from extreme dehydration.

  •  
Sixteen migrants are found crammed in this tiny boat around Alligator Lighthouse, which is about four miles offshore of Islamorada in the FLorida Keys.

    IMMIGRATION

    More than a dozen Cuban migrants rescued at sea in Keys; several taken to hospital

    A small blue homemade boat with a blue-and-white sail was discovered floating near Alligator Reef Lighthouse, about four miles offshore of Islamorada, on Wednesday. Crammed inside the motorless vessel were 16 Cuban migrants lying down, suffering from dehydration, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

  •  
Elsa Lopez looks at her clothes and shoes she wore when she left Cuba with her parents at the age of two at the time. Her items are among several donated by Exiles on display at the VIP opening and presentation of the The Exile Experience: Journey to Freedom, at the Freedom Tower. The exhibit is a pictorial account of the struggles that the Cuban exile community has endured since Fidel Castro's rise to power, and the successes they have achieved in the United States, organized and curated by the Miami Dade College and The Miami Herald, on Wednesday September 10, 2014.

    MIAMI

    Exhibition chronicles Cuban exiles story

    More than 1,000 people crammed into the Freedom Tower Wednesday night for a peek at an exhibition that honors one of the city’s oldest buildings – and captures the tales of hundreds of thousands of Cubans who fled the island and made Miami their new home.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category