March 17 2009

Imprisoned journalist feels at times he’s dying

HAVANA, Cuba, March 17 (Tania Maceda / - Independent journalist Normando Hernández, serving a 25-year prison sentence for his anti-government writing, says his health is deteriorating and at times he feels he’s about to die.

Hernández was returned to the Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey at the end of February after spending a month at the Carlos J. Finlay Hospital in Havana. He said none of the promised tests were carried out there.

“I feel so bad that at times I think I’m going to die,” he said in a telephone call March 8. “They didn’t do anything for me and now they’re not even giving me my medicine.

Hernández, 39, suffers from hypertension, intestinal parasites and chronic diarrhea, among other things.

He was among 75 dissidents arrested and sentenced in 2003. He has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Sentenced to four years for prostitution

HAVANA, Cuba, March 17 (Iván Sañudo, Agencia Libre Asociada / - Yomara Rodríguez, 23, was sentenced last week to four years in prison for “harassing tourists” and prostitution.

She was arrested by two police agents last month in the lobby of Capri Hotel in Vedado after being summoned from the hotel’s night club.

Her arrest and sentencing was the latest in a government campaign against prostitution in Cuba.

Rodríguez confessed to prostitution after being questioned at a police station. She will serve sentence at the Red Flag prison camp in Havana province.

Independent journalist detained after videoconference

HAVANA, Cuba, March 17 (Roberto de Jesús Guerra / – Independent journalist Reinier Vera was detained by State Security agents last week as he left the U.S. Interests Section after attending a videoconference workshop given by Florida International University.

José Manuel Albares, who also attended the weekly journalism workshop, witnessed the March 11 incident. “Since the new course started they detain someone after the videoconference,” he said. “Last week it was Carlos Ríos.”

Prisoners denied World Baseball Classic TV

ISLA DE LA JUVENTUD, Cuba, March 17 (Lamasiel Gutiérrrez, Isla Press / – lieut. Osmany Chacón, the director of the Guayabo Prison on the Isle of Youth, has forbidden telecasts of the World Baseball Classic, much to the displeasure of the 500 inmates.

Rolando Jiménez, serving a 12-year sentence, said he was placed in solitary confinement for protesting the lack of coverage. “You can’t get the channel that’s transmitting the games,” he said during a family visit.

“This abusive measure has bothered the prisoners who are fed up with the political manipulation to which they submitted on a daily basis,” he said.

Jiménez said the director and other prison officials say the baseball coverage would entertain the prisoners and detract from the “battle of ideas” in classes they have to attend.