Violence in Cuban Prisons Worsens with Russian Support

Violence in Cuban Prisons Worsens with Russian Support

By Julieta Pelcastre / Diálogo
January 30, 2020

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More than 90,000 people are imprisoned in Cuba, the country with the largest prison population per capita in the world, with 794 inmates for every 100,000 inhabitants. One out of every three Cubans has been imprisoned at least once, says Prison Insider, a French nongovernmental organization (NGO) that advocates for political prisoners.

In November 2019, Cuba asked Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service to train their jailers on “practices and methodologies,” Valeri Maximenko, the institution’s deputy director, told the press.

“Now, Havana violates human rights with a genuine Russian-style penitentiary system, characterized by inhumane treatment,” Jorge Serrano, a security expert at the Center for Higher National Studies in Peru, told Diálogo. “These are governments that are experts in using torture, terror, and subhuman conditions as methods to enforce social control in prisons, where Russian and Cuban dissidents end up.”

“Security staff will reinforce their repressive methods for inmate control,” Luis Enrique Ferrer, overseas representative for the Cuban Patriotic Union, the largest Cuban opposition group in the world, who is in exile in the United States, told Diálogo. “This is why the dictatorship doesn’t ask for help from free nations or from Latin American countries that have a democracy.”

“There is physical and psychological torture in the island’s prisons, especially for those who criticize, even in subtle ways, the Cuban economic and political model,” said Luis Enrique Ferrer. “Beating, solitary confinement, poor diet, and lack of medical assistance, together with questionable charges, long waits before trials, and unfair rulings are part of the hell that inmates go through on the island.”

José Daniel Ferrer, Luis Enrique Ferrer’s brother, was arrested without any formal charges on October 1, 2019, and remains in solitary confinement at Aguadores Correctional Center, Santiago de Cuba province. “Ferrer’s case is shocking, but like his, there are hundreds of political prisoners and thousands of non-criminal prisoners on the island,” said Leopoldo López Gil, coordinator of the European Parliament subcommittee on Human Rights.

The NGO Human Rights Watch says that detainees are not separated from convicted prisoners in many Cuban jails, nor are youth prisoners separated from adult inmates. The system doesn’t recognize the different status of political prisoners, and punishes them if they refuse to undergo doctrinal re-education or report human rights violations.

“Our Cuban colleagues care about doing their job in a fairer and better way to help those who end up in these institutions due to the will of fate,” said Russian Army General Anatoly Rudy, first deputy director of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service, during his visit to a Cuban penitentiary facility in August 2019. “Work that breaks the will of thousands of prisoners and destroys their spirit,” Luis Enrique said.