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Freedom Collection

Interviews with Fidel Suarez Cruz

Interviewed December 10, 2023

Life in prison is hell. I entered the Agüica prison in the Matanzas Province on May 17, 2003. The first two days I was in a cell with a similar design to a No. 5 – with a double row of bars and completely dark. The halls and corridors were about this width. Guards have to enter sideways. Similar to No. 5. General Calderín, chief of jails and prisons in those years, came on the third day. He said: “Look, Fidel, you messed with the ‘Crown‘ and you know that to mess with it will cost you dearly. You´ll be in prison for 20 years and you will remember what you have done.

On the third day I was transferred to cell block 2 on the prison’s third floor with those serving life sentences and death penalties. Being a country boy from the north, I had been inside caves. That cell was more inhospitable than a cave. First, because in the cave you are free. You couldn’t tell whether or not that cell was painted. You did not know if the floors and walls had mold or dirt or what it was. If it was angled or flat. The walls were splattered cement, made by grabbing cement and throwing it against the wall resulting in balls so that you could not lean against them.

There was no bed, only a hard, prefabricated concrete bench. The cell was constructed with double rooftop. When it rained, the water that collected fell. During the rainy season I sat in this position on a bucket, a container used to store paint. Sitting with my feet hooked on the top for months. Because when it rained so much water accumulated it took months for the water to filter down. The cell floor would fill with water. Where was I to sleep? I was seated.

That´s how I lived for so long. It was sealed up. Dark. For a toilet, there was what we called a “Turkish bath,” just a hole in the floor, where there were parasites or black colored worms constantly moving and crawling out. I would lose consciousness because of dehydration, starvation. Hunger was terrible. Then came a time that I no longer felt hunger. I felt like I was dying, that I had no stomach.

Another thing that was very painful for me: within one month and nine days I was tortured 19 times. Nineteen beatings. They damaged my hearing. I have 1 percent capacity in my right ear and 38 percent in the left. They damaged my right knee. They dislocated my knee and my leg. I was subjected to torture in what is called the “seat” in Pinar del Rio and “the chain” in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. They chained you from behind and by the feet and then they pull you with an extension cord and you are kept that way. Four soldiers would lift me and throw me to the floor.

For one month and nine days I was subjected to that torture. I spent nearly three years in Agüica and saw sunlight every 3, 6 or 9 months when my family came. I felt like vomiting, I foamed at the mouth. I had tremors. I cried. I had headaches. I felt an unbearable weight on me, as if I was being crushing by tons. Because I was taken out of the third floor to the garrison where my family was. It was the only time I got sunlight and could see the damage. My skin was white. You could see my veins. I was extremely thin. I was there for nearly three years.

I was transferred on November 13, 2005, on my birthday, to the 5 ½ Prison in Pinar del Rio. There I was received with 30 days of punishment in a cell that may be more inhuman than Agüica. It is on the ground floor but almost in the ground. The rats were so big and so accustomed to seeing men there that they coexisted. There were thousands of “santanillas” – a type of ant that stings a lot. Your head touches the roof of the cell so you had to be hunched over. It is a torture cell.

I was there for 30 days because I was asked if I accepted the prison system and I told them that I was a plantado. That I did not accept a master or prison rules, just as I did not accept Cuban laws. That was why I was tried. [A plantado, meaning “an immovable one,” is how Cubans describe prisoners who would not cooperate with the authorities. They were singled out for harsh treatment.]