Monday, September 24, 2007

Transfer to hospital in Havana is imminent

I received a call from my mother about a week ago with very good news. Gisela had contacted her to let her know that Tony's transfer to a medical facility (presumably in Havana) is imminent. I believe the conversation took place on Tuesday evening. My mother added that, this time, Tony's attorney had been notified by the authorities that the transfer would take place; however, the government hadn't been able to arrange the requisite transportation from Ciego de Ávila. It's nearly a week later and we haven't heard any more good news from Cuba. Our family is very glad to hear that Normando Hernández González has been transferred to the Military Hospital in Marianao (my hometown).

Earlier in August, I had the opportunity to speak with Tony. Somehow, Gisela managed to patch me through his incoming call. As my parents had already told me a few days earlier, he appears to be in excellent spirits and still very much in tune with the political realities outside of Cuba. Tony is convinced that his best chance for redress rests with the good offices of those who have been steadfast in supporting the Cuban Revolution. I could hardly keep track of the list of names, but some I managed to jot down included those of Charlie Rangel and José Serrano (both New York Congressmen). Rangel, by the way, visited Cuba back in the late 80s for an exhibition baseball game and refused to meet with local dissident groups. Tony also listed a host of Latin American countries (Brazil, Panama, Uruguay, Mexico, Bolivia, and, of course, Venezuela) that are likely to have Cuba's ear. Finally, he highlighted those organizations supporting the Cuban Five for special attention.

When Tony gets started, it's hard to cut in, but I managed to interject with some questions about his condition. He took the opportunity to tell me about his last trip to the doctor, to which he was transported in the enclosed cargo area of a truck. Tony believes that the temperature must have reached approximately 40 degrees Celsius. When he arrived at the hospital, his guards refused to take off his cuffs during the examination. I can tell you that restraining cooperative prisoners was not standard practice in the time I worked at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Regarding Tony's eyesight, I can only guess that a) it is getting worse under his current living conditions and b) is not being corrected by the authorities because he needs two pairs of eyeglasses to see properly.

On the advocacy front, my wife has made some major breakthroughs. Through her channels, she has succeeded in putting me in contact with a key human rights organization and a Spanish legislator with a keen interest in Cuban affairs. I will leave it at that for now.

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