Feb. 17 2009

Police searches and checks increase in Pinar del Río

PINAR DEL RÍO, Cuba, February (Rafael Ferro Salas , - Residents say police have stepped up operations in Pinar del Río over the past two weeks, stopping cars on the highway and searching people in neighborhoods.

“One is obliged to stay at home like a prisoner, but it’s better to be prisoner at home with the family than being detained by the police,” said one resident while shopping at the local market. “They’ll arrest you for any reason and seize what you’re carrying.”

Some residents say they no longer visit friends and relatives in other places for fear of being stopped on the way.

No explanation was given for the increase police activity.

Four deaths in maximum security prison reported

HAVANA, Cuba, February 17 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / – Four prisoners have died in the Boniatico maximum security prison in Santiago de Cuba so far this year, according to political prisoner Raumel Vinajera.

Vinajera said the last prisoner was Guillermo Collazo, who suffered a fatal heart attack on January 31 and died in a cell in the prison hospital.

Vinajera, who’s serving a five year sentence, also reported by telephone that a prisoner named Joel Basulto, who was serving a life sentence, hanged himself on February 6.

Prisoner stabbed to death during crap game

HAVANA, Cuba, February 17 (Juan Carlos González Leiva / – Common prisoner Alexis Pupo was stabbed to death last week in the Las Tunas municipal prison for failing to honor a debt from a dice game, according to a political prisoner.

José Daniel Ferrer, a member of the Group of 75 dissidents imprisoned in 2003, said Pupo, 36, owed three packets of cigarettes to Richard Ramos, 26, and a fight ensued.

“A few days ago there were two other bloody incidents in this jail that resulted in injuries but no deaths,” Ferrer said.

Human rights activist José Orta Acosta dead at 84

HAVANA, Cuba, February 17 (Oscar Espinosa Chepe / -José Orta Acosta, a human rights activist who initially supported the 1959 revolution, died last week of a heart attack at age 84.

His death February 9 was reported by the Mayabequino Pro Human Rights Committee. He was buried the following day in the San José de Las Lajas Cemetery.

Orta was a member of the Cuban People’s Party (Partido del Pueblo Cubano) in 1948 that opposed President Machado.

He opposed President Batista but soon broke with Fidel Castro when the revolution turned totalitarian.

Rural community left without a doctor

SANTA CLARA, Cuba, February 17 (Yoel Espinosa / – Residents of the rural community of El Jiquí in the province of Villa Clara have been without a doctor ever since the last one left for service overseas three months ago.

“They comment on radio and television every day about the presence of Cuban doctors in remote places in other countries, but they don’t talk about the hundreds of towns on the island where there are vacant clinics because the doctors are in Venezuela, Bolivia and who knows where else,” said María Pérez, a resident of this community of 200.

Pérez said the nearest functioning medical post is 10 miles away and can only be reached on foot, bicycle or pedicab as there is no available motorized transportation.