Combinado del Este Prison

Nine in the morning outside Combinado del Este, the largest prison in Cuba. Dozens of families are gathered to listen to an stern guard shouting out the names of the prisoners. Immediately, they order us down a narrow stretch to the sentry box where they search our bags and run a metal detector over our bodies. They also inspect the sacks of food the families have been filling for weeks with crackers, sugar, powdered soft drinks, cigarettes and powdered milk. They are the result of the unselfish efforts of the families who deprive themselves of these foods to bring them to the prisoners.

One woman cries because the guard won’t let her bring in the ripe mangoes she brought for her son. People hang along the fence around the entrance without any protection, all those not allowed to enter. There is a bag with a mobile phone, a young woman’s wallet, some deodorant that the official says could be made into moonshine within those walls. Me, they search the magazines I carry, give a pull on the zipper of my jacket, and run their fingers through my hair. Ahead of me there is someone trying to bring in a cake for a birthday that surely happened months ago. A young man grips his pants because they won’t allow his belt inside. It would appear we are plunging into hell and–in some ways–it’s true.

The place where we spend the visit smells of sweat, sweat and enclosure. The two Italian prisoners in front of me desperately put words one after the other. They have been arrested for the murder of a minor in Bayamo, but assure me that they hadn’t been on the Island on the days of the crime. They’ve spent more than a year in prison without trial and I try to reconstruct, journalistically, the course of the case. One of them Simone Pini, talks to me about police irregularities and and I agree to investigate. “I can’t do much,” I tell him, “nor do I have access to the investigation record, but I will find out.” I haven’t finished my sentence when a guard shouts my name through the bars of the room. And leads me to the other side of Combinado del Este. To the immaculate, air-conditioned and wood-paneled office where the Chief sits, located in a different part of the same horror. Meanwhile, a lieutenant colonel warns me that they will never ever let me enter this prison again. When I try to leave, I note that the door has a lock with four combinations. “So much fear…” I think to myself. They escort me to the exit and I see a line of family members for the next visit that starts at noon. They carry sacks scrawled with names, and someone groans because they won’t let him bring in a present. I discover in this moment that something sad has established itself in me, like the weight of the bars which, since then, I carry everywhere.

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84 thoughts on “Combinado del Este Prison

  1. Post 71, the video has been debunked so many times, only a die-hard delusional fanatic can still continue to believe in it, and the lies presented.

    Post 72 has identified 78 countries in the world where such incidents ocur regularly. My wife’s cousin lives in Australia and her husband a bout a year ago had exactly the same type of problem, when stopped by police in Melbourne. In broad daylight too. And an inspector in Sydney raped an aboriginal man some two year ago after stopping him for a “routine” check in a troubled and dangerous suburb called Redfern, which is best known for the highest break and enter in Australia, and one of the highest in the world.

    Try again, you may get a better luck if you (as always) steal a line or two from Iranian newspapers and present them as “Cuban story”.

  2. Humberto,

    Enough with the UPPER CASE ! I respect what she does. But speaking as a former journalist, I am aware of the limits of the blog form. This Italian story is not simple, and a couple of paragraphs doesn’t cut it in my book. As one of the guy’s brother said, the defendant is not a “stinco di Santo,” which is hard to translate. But he is definitely no angel.

  3. The regime provides very little information on child prostitution, and block human right organizations from finding out about human rights abuses. The regime doesn’t acknowledge that child sex trafficking exist. The regime economy profits from sex tourism in order to prop up the worker’s paradise. It is ironic that the regime, because its economic problems and the revenue the sex trade generates, allow it to attracts more tourists. As Yoani Sanchez says, “the cycle of sex for money comes full circle.” What a shame.

  4. Trudeau! I get an IMPRESSIONISTIC PICTURE that you are trying to DEFAME our FLACA!!! Dude! She has a LOT of BROTHERS and SISTERS here!! JUST SAYING! AND I GOT GOOGLE SEARCH!!

  5. Sandokan — Thanks for that. It’s not untypical. Clearly Yoani doesn’t want to go into it too much. She prefers the short, impressionist kind of piece.

  6. The trafficking of Cuban children for commercial sex, are encourage by their families to obtain food or money. Hotel workers, taxi drivers and the security personnel involved in the tourist industry, facilitate the commercial sexual exploitation of women and children by tourists, meanwhile the corrupt regime authorities look the other way.

  7. Trudeau! I gave you the link and you can take it from there! Im not a slave to you like the CUBAN PEOPLE ARE TO THE CASTROFASCITS!

  8. YOUTUBE : Cuba: Bono de U2 have homenaje a Oscar Elias Biscet en concierto Miami (Cuba: Bono from U2 pays homage to dissident Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in Miami concert)

    MIAMI HERALD BLOG: The Bono-Diaz Balart connection: a free Cuba, Dr. Biscet
    At last night’s U2 concert, surrounded by Amnesty International candles, Bono told the crowd of the struggles of Dr. Oscar Biscet, doing 25 years time in a Cuban prison for human-rights work. Background here. Bono has been personally lobbied on the Biscet’s cause by Miami Rep. Mario Diaz Balart, who met with the rock star last week and last year to raise awareness of human-rights issues, Biscet and Orlando Zapata, another jailed activist who died in 2010 after staging a hunger strike on the island. Diaz-Balart’s brother, former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, has also met with Bono (who paid a visit last week to Sen. Marco Rubio in D.C.).

    After the shoutout, Republican fundraiser Ana Navarro told Rep. Diaz-Balart about it via email.

    Navarro says Bono didn’t limit his song to Cuban political prisoners. He also highlighted the plight of Myanmar’s jailed moral leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

    “He also dedicated, It’s Beautiful Day to Gabby Giffords and featured a video from Mark Kelly which was recorded when he was on space shuttle, some weeks ago, where he sent a message of optimism to the world and a special message of love to his wife. It was quite moving,” Navarro said in an email.

    Giffords is one of the few survivors in the Tucson shooting rampage earlier this year.

  9. Humberto,

    I don’t mind if you cut and paste, but could you give it to me in the original Italian, which I read ? These computer translations are useless.

    Love Cuba — This kind of petty theft by the police in Cuba is not unusual. You will also find it on places like Mexico and Colombia, only cubed.

  10. TRACEY IS DOING GREAT WORK IN CUBA! MY HAT/SOMBRERO OFF TO HIM!

    Tracey Eaton is one of the few American journalists who has worked full-time in Cuba. He was Havana bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News from 2000 to early 2005. A journalist since 1983, Eaton has wide experience in Latin America. He has also reported stories and taken photographs from such spots as Afghanistan, Haiti and the Middle East. He was metropolitan editor for the Houston Chronicle before joining Flagler College as an instructor in September 2007.

    http://alongthemalecon.blogspot.com/

  11. Tracey Eaton is one of the few American journalists who has worked full-time in Cuba. He was Havana bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News from 2000 to early 2005. A journalist since 1983, Eaton has wide experience in Latin America. He has also reported stories and taken photographs from such spots as Afghanistan, Haiti and the Middle East. He was metropolitan editor for the Houston Chronicle before joining Flagler College as an instructor in September 2007.

    Cuba Money Project- This channel features discussions and interviews about the pro-democracy movement in Cuba, and U.S.-financed democracy programs.
    The non-profit Pulitzer Center in Washington, D.C., provided a grant that helped finance the reporting and information-gathering in Cuba.

    http://vimeo.com/channels/194733

  12. Humberto, I will tell you one story which illustrates life in Cuba. It is so common that I don’t risk identifying anybody.

    I have a poor Cuban friend. He was travelling with his sole possession (which I won’t identify here) that he borrowed from a friend. The police stopped him and asked him if the gadget was his. He said no, it was a friend’s. But the friend lived close by and he could prove it. The police said no, “you have no proof of ownership so you stole it”. “Give it to us and we’ll find the owner”. My friend said no. The police threw him in prison. While in prison, they kept telling my friend that if he gave up his friend’s gadget, he could go free. My friend refused. Eventually, they let him out of jail. As he was leaving he explained to the sargent (or whatever title he had), who looked like a decent man, what happened. The sargent said that filing a complaint wouldn’t do any good, except cause my friend more trouble from the crooked police officers. He suggested my lucky friend go home and forget the incident.

    How many millions of times has stuff like this happened on the streets of Cuba? I know of countless cases, so the number must be astronomical.

  13. YOUTUBE: La Prostitución de Menores en Cuba. Una denuncia 1 (Child prostitution in Cuba. An Expose) Part 1 of 4 (in Spanish only)

  14. EL MUNDO: Cuba calls for 15 years in prison for an article- 05/08/11

    “I’m desperate, took 10 months in jail and still do not know why I am here. The consulate has left me and I’m about to succumb. Do not take it anymore.” Those were the words of despair and cry for help raised by Ferraté Sebastián Martínez, a former television journalist, when contacted with the world from the Cuban prison of La Condesa.

    Ferraté Martinez had worked as a journalist in several television producers, including Mandarin and EL MUNDO TV, and in 2008 traveled to Havana to do a story on child prostitution in Cuba, which was later broadcast on Telecinco.

    Following these reports on child prostitution and other, Sebastian Martinez left broadcast journalism and went to work as managing director of the tourism enterprise Marina Mallorca Hotels. And the July 11, 2010, landed at Havana airport to conduct a series of business related to his new post. Former television journalist was immediately arrested by Cuban authorities and detained in the prison of La Condesa, which is located about 70 kilometers from the capital.

    CLICK LINK FOR ENTIRE ARTICLE (Spanish only)

    http://www.elmundo.es/america/2011/05/08/cuba/1304884183.html

  15. MORE FOR YOU TRUDEAU!

    CAPITOL HILL CUBANS: Death of a Cuban Child Prostitute -Wednesday, January 12, 2011
    On May 14, 2010, a 12 year-old Cuban prostitute was found dead — of a supposed drug overdose — following a “party” in a hotel room in the eastern city of Bayamo.

    Three Italian tourists have been quietly held by the Castro regime — for the last six months — in connection with her death.

    Let me stress — for the last six months.

    Sound newsworthy?

    You better believe it — not to mention tragic.

    So why are we just finding out now through regional newspapers in Italy?

    Note how the Castro regime has been able to hide this tragic, high-profile news for over half a year. Just imagine how it hides the repression, imprisonment, torture and abuse of political prisoners and democracy activists throughout Cuba. It’s no wonder the regime doesn’t allow the International Committee on the Red Cross or the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on Torture to enter Cuba.

    And where are the foreign news bureaus in Havana? They report on every senseless “Reflection” by Cuba’s dictators, but not a peep about a dead 12 year-old child prostitute allegedly murdered by foreign tourists.

    Meanwhile, one of the Italians in prison, Simone Pini, says he was in Italy during the time of the crime and swears that he was tortured into signing a confession. He claims to have been set up by certain “enemies.”

    But of course, in true Castro fashion, the defense attorney assigned to Pini is not allowed access to any files, evidence, accusers, etc.

    Many lessons to be learned here. Amongst them:

    Child prostitution is a tragic reality in Cuba; the regime’s dangerous veil of secrecy; the cluelessness of foreign news bureaus in Havana; the utter lack of transparency in Castro’s judicial system; and — finally — foreign tourists don’t spread democracy.

    http://www.capitolhillcubans.com/2011/01/death-of-cuban-child-prostitute.html

  16. TRUDEAU! HERE YOU GO! I CAN GIVE YOU A CRASH COURSE ON CUT AND PASTE IF YOU LIKE!

    “That day I was having dinner Here in Florence with two friends ” -Simon’s desperate appeal in his letters from prison: “I was in Cuba I can bear witness”
    Florence, January 12, 2011 – There is a couple of friends, with whom Simon Pini would spend the days of his return to Italy, in late March, and also that on the evening of May 14 when, in Cuba, a young girl dies during a party based on sex and drugs. Even the two of them could offer proof of 43-year old Florence estrangement which he is accused of the crime for which prison is six months in a prison in Havana. Simon asks almost obsessively, in his letters to his older brother and father.

    WITH A COUPLE of friends, also residing in Florence, Pini says he made ​​the return trip, with them, March 30, arrival day, stopped in Rome where I spent to fix the Cuban embassy practices, always with them, the prisoner writes, “I was in the days of the charge for dinner and Osmannoro to buy clothing, and they gave me 800 euros for his family in Cuba more than a letter on May 24.” Between March 30 and May 24, also with a friend, “the police stopped us at the DMV of fields: whether there is evidence of that control them in the car.”

    In the almost two months that he spent in Italy Pines in Bayamo was consumed while the crime he is accused, moreover, the 43-year old would be charged at the counter of his Via Bartolini PostePay card and passed an eye examination at Careggi. “I had an appointment on April 28 but I went to visit Rome and I forgot – he says – I called the phone and I was given an appointment on 12 or May 13.” The acquisition of phone records of users of Pines – a fixed and two mobile phones – could permit the investigation of these claims and allow other intersections. But so far his brother Alexis, alone, without the help of a lawyer hired than that in Cuba, ran into many obstacles that have allowed him to experience what is required by Simone. That to have value as evidence, however, should be certified notarial acts, translated into Spanish and sent to Cuba “Break the silence, you have to ask for help because there is hard to do everything,” implores the 43-year old also suggesting “a collection signatures in the district where all I have seen in May and in those days. ”

    WHEN it is in Cuba, where he had invented a sort of import-export, Simon lives in the way of the Suspension Bridge. A “character” in its environment. Pini, class ’68, he attended the gymnasium of Bronzino in via XXV Aprile, played some exhibitions in costume after the football coach, to keep her in shape ‘fisicone’, with the Reds is the Santa Maria Novella with Bianchi San Frediano.

    And then there are the friends of the curve Fiesole, where Simon spent his youth. Despite the desperation of those long months spent in prison, far from suffering, in his writings do not forget the football team: “I wish I had lots of news on Fiorentina. My love for the purple shirt and Florence is always so, do not you imagine how much I miss … ”

    STEFANO Brogioni

    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=it&u=http://www.lanazione.it/firenze/cronaca/2011/01/12/441342-quel_giorno_cena.shtml&ei=e8ALTpmcG5LSiAK47P3SAQ&sa=X&oi=translate&ct=result&resnum=7&ved=0CEgQ7gEwBg&prev=/search%3Fq%3DSimone%2BPini%2BCUBA%26hl%3Den%26client%3Dfirefox-a%26hs%3DKXQ%26rls%3Dorg.mozilla:en-US:official%26prmd%3Divnso

  17. MAYBE FIDEL CASTRO WILL MAKE A CAMEO APPEARANCE IN THIS FILM? ONLY IF IT TOOK PLACE IN EGYPT AND HE COULD PLAY A “MUMMY”!

    VARIETY : ‘Il Postino’ director finds ‘Daughter’-Michael Radford to helm Cuban historical drama-By Dave McNary

    Brit director Michael Radford (“Il Postino”) will helm Mankind Entertainment’s historical drama “Castro’s Daughter.”
    “Daughter” is being produced by Mankind’s John Torres Martinez and Joe Lamy. The screenplay was written by Bobby Moresco (“Crash”) and centers on Alina Fernandez, exiled daughter of Fidel Castro.

    She fled Cuba in 1993 disguised as a Spanish tourist and later wrote her memoir “Castro’s Daughter: An Exile’s Memoir of Cuba.” Fernandez lectures at colleges and appears as a commentator on news shows.

    Radford’s credits include his adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984.”

    Filming is expected to take place in Puerto Rico. Casting will begin in the coming months.

    Mankind Entertainment is an Austin-based specialty film company founded by Martinez and Lamy. Martinez previously managed a Texas based entertainment law firm and Lamy develops commercial real estate in the Austin area.

    Mankind Entertainment is also developing Nilo Cruz’s Broadway play “Anna in the Tropics.” Lee Daniels, who directed “‘Precious,” is developing the screenplay with Cruz.

    The company’s two films are set up at William Morris Endeavor’s Global Finance and Distribution unit for packaging, financing and sales.

    Radford’s attachment was put together by Mankind and Sue Rodgers at Independent Talent in London.

    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118039307

  18. I’d love to hear about the 2 Italians also Trudeau. Perhaps we’ll hear more in the future. In addition to only having 3 paragraphs to work with, Yoani could endanger sources by sharing important information with the public.

  19. The USA is unique in the world, in that it has the most diverse and largest groups of immigrants from all over the world. NO COUNTRY in the world has this SOCIAL EXPERIMENT. It is COMMON TACTIC, HERE in this blog and other CUBA RELATED BLOGS and COMMENT SECTIONS of newspaper articles to shift the focus of the conversation to THE BOOGIEMAN = USA to DIVERT ATTENTION from CUBA and CUBAN ISSUES!

  20. Actually, the winner is Cuba, with a prison population of 11 million plus.

  21. trudeau
    This is not a newspaper; this is blog with Yoani’s posts and done with a lot of limitations.
    Considering the restrictions imposed by the regime in the little jail visited by her, and in the big jail where all Cubans live, it is really commendable to be able just to give a hint of what is happening.
    It is unfair to call it “weakness of the blog form “.

  22. Anonimo,

    The answer, of course, is the US, with the largest prison population in the world (30 percent of the total world prison population, and the highest incarceration rate at 760 people per 100,000. Cuba is high –around 500.There has been a lot of work done in this area, by international organisations, and even the UK Home Office. Also Cuba is the only country in the Americas not to allow the International Red Cross to visit its jails. This particular post by Yoani showed the weakness of the blog form — I would liked to have had much more information about the two jailed Italians she was visiting and how she learned about them.

  23. The Yugoslavian Damir says @#54:
    “Insults are the best admission of defeat and stupidity. When you run out of arguments, and that is the easiest thing if you are supporter of the team “yoani”, the only thing left to say is insults and swearing…”
    Really?
    Who comes to this blog, insulting as he calls it the “team Yoani”?
    Answer: the Yugoslavian Damir.
    Who run out of arguments, when asked about the reasons he has to post unfounded arguments about Cuba and dissidents, when he never has visited Cuba, never talked to any political prisoner, never talked to any Cuban suffering from Castro atrocities?
    Answer: the Yugoslavian Damir
    Who offends Yoani and people that posts violation of human rights in Cuba?
    Answer: the Yugoslavian Damir.
    Who knows nothing about the reality in Cuba, however keeps supporting the criminal tyrant Castro and his regime?
    Answer: the Yugoslavian Damir
    Clearly there is only one offender here: The Yugoslavian Damir.
    Being an ignorant regarding Cuba, is the only merit.
    Nobody calls the Yugoslavian Damir to this blog.

  24. It could be Cuba, since we cannot get an accurate reporting from communist countries.

  25. To get a sense of proportion here, which country in the world has both the highest rate of incarceration, and the largest prison population ?

  26. Interesting, I changed one five letter word that begins with “m” to “fool” and my post is no longer waiting moderation. The first post with that m-word will show up later, sorry about the double post.

  27. Damir says: “… before he [Hitler] started extermination of everyone, he first started killing socialists and communists in Germany.”

    Actually, he first started by recruiting socialists and communists, which is why he named his party socialist in the first place, to appeal to every fool on the “left” as well as the “right”. Only the ones that didn’t come over to his side did he kill. Then the communists helped him get to power by waging war against the social democrats and other moderate forces in Germany. Then later, in 1939-1941, the socialists in the West, under Stalin’s orders, sabotaged the war effort against Hitler.

    See, Damir, lots of socialists are fools, and lots of socialists spend time killing each other. Times haven’t changed, Fidel also has a great track record of supporting proud fascist despots from Argentina to Iran. But that shouldn’t bother proud socialist fools, unless they end up in a prison of one of Fidel’s buddies.

    Hate-spewing fanatics have much in common, whatever the call themselves.

  28. Damir says: “… before he [Hitler] started extermination of everyone, he first started killing socialists and communists in Germany.”

    Actually, he first started by recruiting socialists and communists, which is why he named his party socialist in the first place, to appeal to every moron on the “left” as well as the “right”. Only the ones that didn’t come over to his side did he kill. Then the communists helped him get to power by waging war against the social democrats and other moderate forces in Germany. Then later, in 1939-1941, the socialists in the West, under Stalin’s orders, sabotaged the war effort against Hitler.

    See, Damir, lots of socialists are morons, and lots of socialists spend time killing each other. Times haven’t changed, Fidel also has a great track record of supporting proud fascist despots from Argentina to Iran. But that shouldn’t bother proud socialist morons, unless they end up in a prison of one of Fidel’s buddies.

    Hate-spewing fanatics have much in common, whatever the call themselves.

  29. Comrade Komar
    Junio 29th, 2011 at 01:15
    I’m collecting screen-shots of my removed posts.

    Your posts are being removed because you are violating the rules. Get a clue.

  30. Insults are the best admission of defeat and stupidity. When you run out of arguments, and that is the easiest thing if you are supporter of the team “yoani”, the only thing left to say is insults and swearing.

    Then you, Damir, are the most defeated and the stupidest poster on this blog.

  31. I am honoured every time someone confuses me with other people who seem to have more common sense in their brains than all the primitive and rude supporters of the team “yoani”.

    Insults are the best admission of defeat and stupidity. When you run out of arguments, and that is the easiest thing if you are supporter of the team “yoani”, the only thing left to say is insults and swearing.

    The only thing pre-neandertals, supporting the team “yoani”, can do.

    And while I have your attention, isn’t this another confirmation of ignorance, stupidity and brainwash:

    “Auschwitz was a vast forced labor complex, as well as extermination camp. I’ve talked to survivors as well as read about it. And the guys who ran the camps called themselves “SOCIALISTS”.”

    Hitler named his party “national-sozialist”, but before he started extermination of everyone, he first started killing socialists and communists in Germany.

    He, just as every other “some kind of pragmatic capitalist”, was a hypocrite and a criminal (forrest bush, reagan, nixon, the team “yoani”, the list is long).

  32. For the foreign news bureaus in the island in order to keep a bureau, they need to walk a fine line with the regime. This means to be quite selective and careful of how they cover the news. They can’t report stories that, in a certain way, upset or endanger the regime. In other words, reporting the truth without fear of retaliation. They are willing to prostitute their talent in violation of their principles, to toe the party line in order to keep their bureaus in the island.

  33. Comrade Komar! NOT ONLY IS IT A BAD DYING SCENE BUT IS GETTING WORSE! NOW YOU ARE TRYING TO PULL SOME GUILT TRIP? HATE TO TELL YOU BUT SOME OF MY COMMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN POSTED EITHER, SOME RELATED TO OUR BANTER! YOUR MOVIE IS TOO SAPPY AND MANIPULATIVE FOR MY TASTE!

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