Friday, January 11, 2008

Tony is not in hunger strike after all (it seems)

I have to admit that I am bit confused with all the conflicting messages I am getting, so I will simply stick to the facts as they have been reported to me. Not wishing to contradict anyone in particular, I will report everything.

There are reports out there claiming that Tony is on the hunger strike (see my last post). Aside from the MCL newsletter, Osvaldo Payá's blog is reporting it as well.
On the other hand, my aunt Gisela tells me that Tony is not on a hunger strike. He threatens to stop taking his medication to protest his lack of adequate medical attention, but, according to Gisela, he is not on a hunger strike (and she spoke to him last night). His condition hasn't improved in the slightest because the medication he has been prescribed is not intended to cure his intestinal disease. In fact, his ulcers have gotten so bad that Tony now experiences a great deal of discomfort when sitting down.

Confinement with the common criminal population is nothing new. While this practice opens a new chapter in the long and sad history of political prisoners in Castro's Cuba, it is not a new development in Tony's case. He has always been mingled with common criminals and, to date, has not suffered any physical abuse as a consequence. While he is very much concerned that some of his cell mates are in the pay of the security services (and are probably reporting his every move), he has not been physically harmed by them in any way. Of course, this is all subject to change at a moment's notice, but there is no immediate reason for concern.

As time elapses, Tony has grown more irritable and both Gisela and my mother fear that his confinement is beginning to impair his judgment and blunt his jovial personality. I will attempt to speak with him on Monday to lift his deflated spirits. Not being in his shoes, I have no idea what is going through this mind, but I can imagine that the feeling of despair can be overwhelming.

On the advocacy front, Gisela continues to petition the Cuban government. She wrote a letter to the Minister of the Interior to plea for conditional release and/or transfer to adequate medical facilities. It has been over 60 days since she delivered the letter and has received no reply. Gisela has also reached out to the Spanish Consulate. While the Spanish seem to be willing to help, they require documentation to back up their discussions with the Cuban government. Unfortunately, Tony's lawyer is basically unreachable. Every time Gisela contacts him, he claims to be in court (through his secretary). In light of his courageous performance during Tony's trial, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and must assume that he is being coerced by the authorities to misrepresent Tony (which is basically what unresponsiveness amounts to in this case). As I have stated earlier, this type of behavior would get him reprimanded in the States (if not disbarred). The Consulate is aware of Gisela's difficulties with the paperwork and is still willing to work with her.

That's all I have for now.

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