The Cuban case has never before experienced such devastating situations. When we received the first reports from Havana in March about the raids on homes, the seizure of work materials and the arrests of a score of independent journalists, we could not begin to calculate the breadth of the current state repression. Following a wave of arrests, 28 representatives of the independent press were charged and immediately put on trial without the minimum procedural guarantees. In most of the trials, the defense lawyers could not even interview their clients until a few hours before the trial. The trials of the journalists and other dissidents were held behind closed doors from April 3 to 7. Only very close relatives were allowed to attend. None of the diplomats accredited in Havana could enter the courtrooms, and police surrounded the courts during the trials. The journalists were tried under Article 91 of the Cuban Criminal Code of 1987 and the Law to Protect Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, the so-called gag law, of 1999. Under these laws, independent journalists can be convicted for committing “acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state,” for seeking information “to be used in the application of the Helms-Burton Act, the blockade and the economic war” against Cuba and for accumulating, reproducing and disseminating “subversive material of the United States government.” With no more evidence than ancient typewriters, tape recorders, tapes, cameras, pamphlets and magazines, a camcorder and no more than 10 computers and “incriminating” address books, the prosecution requested three life sentences and jail sentences between 15 and 30 years for the rest of the accused. To support their charges, the prosecutor’s office offered testimony of 12 State Security agents who had pretended to be dissidents until the last minute. Among them were two well-known members of the independent press, Manuel David Orrio and Néstor A. Baguer, who only days before had organized a workshop on journalistic ethics at the residence of James Cason, chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Ignoring the international outcry, the government imposed prison sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years on the 28 journalists. Seventy-nine nonviolent opponents of the government were sentenced to 1,454 years in prison; the journalists were sentenced to a total of 547 years. One of the harshest sentences was imposed on the prize-winning poet and journalist Raúl Rivero, regional vice president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and board member of the IAPA, who was sentenced to 20 years in jail. The complete list of convicted journalists is as follows: Raúl Rivero Castañeda (Cuba Press, Revista De Cuba), 20 years; Omar Rodríguez Saludes (Nueva Prensa Cubana), 27 years; Víctor Rolando Arroyo (Cuban Journalists and Writers Union), 26 years; Miguel Galván Gutiérrez (Havana Press), 26 years; Normando Hernández González (Independent Journalists’ Colegio of Camagüey), 25 years; Iván Hernández Carrillo (Agencia Patria), 25 years; José Luis García Paneque (Agencia Libertad), 24 years; Ricardo González Alfonso (Manuel Márquez Sterling Journalists’ Society, Revista De Cuba), 20 years; Oscar Espinosa Chepe (independent journalist), 20 years; Pedro Argüelles Morán (Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes), 20 years; Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez (Grupo Decoro), 20 years; Pablo Pacheco Ávila (Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes), 20 years; Mario Enrique Mayo (Agencia Félix Varela), 20 years; José Gabriel Ramón González (Instituto Cultura y Democracia), 20 years; Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta (Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental), 20 years; Fabio Prieto Llorente (independent journalist), 20 years; Léster Luis González Pentón (independent journalist), 20 years; Manuel Vázquez Portal (Grupo Decoro), 18 years; Jorge Olivera Castillo (Havana Press), 18 years; Omar Ruiz Hernández (Grupo Decoro), 18 years; Carmelo Díaz Fernández (Agencia de Prensa Sindical Independiente de Cuba), 16 years; José Ubaldo Izquierdo (Grupo Decoro), 16 years; Edel José García Díaz (Centro Norte Press), 15 years; Adolfo Fernández Sainz (Agencia Patria), 15 years; Julio César Gálvez (independent journalist), 15 years; Mijaíl Bárzaga Lugo (Agencia Noticiosa Cubana), 15 years; Alejandro González Raga (independent journalist), 14 years and Alfredo Pulido López (Agencia El Mayor), 14 years. In addition, five others have been arrested under other pretexts, bringing the total to 33 jailed journalists: Bernardo Arévalo Padrón (Agencia Línea Sur), six years, in prison since November 18, 1997, accused of insulting President Fidel Castro and Vice President Carlos Lage; Carlos Alberto Domínguez (Agencia Cuba Verdad), jailed without trial in Valle Grande prison, Havana, since February 23, 2002; Léster Téllez Castro (Agencia de Prensa Libre Avileña), jailed without trial in Canaleta prison, Ciego de Ávila, since March 4, 2002; Carlos Brizuela Yera (Independent Journalists’ Colegio of Camagüey), jailed without trial in the Provincial Prison of Holguín since March 4, 2002; and José Manuel Caraballo (Agencia de Prensa Libre Avileña), sentenced to three years of labor on September 5, 2003, Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Ávila. The 28 journalists who were summarily convicted are being held in high security jails, which mean they do not have a right to reduced sentences. Most of them were sent to prisons as far as 650 miles from the cities where they lived, far from their homes and families. The most extreme case is that of Víctor Rolando Arroyo, a resident of Pinar del Rio, the westernmost province of the country, who was assigned to Chafarina Prison in Guantánamo at the easternmost part of the country. Being imprisoned far from home is a double punishment that affects wives, mothers, children and other relatives who are forced to make long trips despite the transportation crisis and the shortage of lodging facing the Cuban people. Family visits are allowed every three month and a conjugal visit every five months, depending on the prisoner’s behavior. Jail authorities allow prisoners 100 minutes a month of telephone calls, but in most cases this is an illusion because of the frequent breakdowns, lack of equipment and “interruption” of lines. The conditions of imprisonment could not be worse: terrible food, windowless cells in suffocating temperatures without drinkable water and with inadequate sanitation, where rats and other pests are common. Since 1988, Cuba has refused to allow representatives of the International Red Cross and other oversight groups to enter the prisons. All appeals to the Supreme Court have been denied. Recently, democratic governments, international organizations and human rights groups have appealed through diplomatic channels to the Cuban government to at least ease the conditions of imprisonment and free the prisoners who are ill, some of whom are elderly and in declining health. On September 18, six months after the arrests, a group of 14 independent journalists sent a letter to the Council of State requesting an amnesty for the 28 colleagues serving long terms. For 20 people, including several journalists, who are ill and whose medical condition has become worse, the government would not even have to issue an amnesty decree. It would only have to comply with the existing Criminal Code to grant them “special leave.” The most alarming case among the sick journalists in prison is that of Oscar Espinosa Chepe, 62, who has cirrhosis of the liver. Since he was jailed, his health has declined abruptly. He has lost more than 40 pounds, his legs are swollen and suffers from intestinal bleeding. After strong pressure from relatives and doctors who knew of his condition, he was transferred from the Guantánamo jail to Ambrosio Grillo Hospital in Santiago de Cuba, and then, in an emergency transfer, to the State Security ward in Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital in Havana, where he remains. Other prisoners with serious ailments are Raúl Rivero, 57, with hypertension and liver and circulatory problems; Carmelo Díaz Fernández, the oldest prisoner in the group at 66, who has hypertension, a duodenal ulcer and circulatory disorders; Edel José García, 58, who has no sight in his left eye, problems with his right eye, a stomach ulcer, hemorrhoids and psychiatric disorders; Jorge Olivera, 41, with a hiatal hernia and serious digestive disorders; and Miguel Galván Gutiérrez, 38, who is physically disabled with liver and stomach ailments. On August 15, journalists Mario Enrique Mayor, Adolfo Fernández Saínz and Iván Hernández Carrillo, who are being held in the Holguín Provincial Prison, began a hunger strike that lasted 10 days to protest the lack of medicine and adequate food. On August 31, journalists Manuel Vázquez Portal, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta and Normando Hernández González, along with three other prisoners of conscience in Boniato prison, Santiago de Cuba, also began a hunger strike to ask for better food and hygiene. In response, authorities decided to split up the prisoners and transfer Vázquez Portal to another jail in Santiago de Cuba. On September 25, Miguel Galván Gutiérrez began a fast and is unwilling to accept the prison conditions in Agüica, Matanzas. Independent journalism is represented by about a hundred journalists dispersed in 40 groups without legal standing facing a state machine of 2,175 intelligence officials who work for the 548 existing media outlets, 237 of them with online editions. The violence against independent journalist is part of a government drive that also targeted homemade television antennas, clandestine video rental centers, illegal Internet connections and owners of “unauthorized” computers, among others. Other acts of repression that followed the wave of arrests and convictions were: -At the beginning of April, State Security agents visited a group of wives of jailed journalists and opposition figures to warn them that they could not continue the “silent walk” they held on Sundays at the exit of Santa Rita Church in Havana. After the arrest of their husbands, the women began holding a silent walk along Fifth Avenue in Miramar neighborhood, dressed in white with black scarves. The demonstrators decided to obey the order in an effort to guarantee better treatment for their jailed husbands, although they continue to attend Sunday mass in that church. -On April 23, the government said it had punished 31 people who had used e-mail accounts that did not belong to them and made “improper use” of computer networks. The Supervision and Control Agency, created in 2001, also announced that in the same period it had levied 191 fines for serious violations of radio frequencies and detected 1,128 minor offenses in the work of amateur radio operators. -Dozens of reports from the island indicate that police authorities called in independent journalists who were still free to warn them that if they did not stop their work they would be charged. The telephone service in their homes was frequently cut off and they received threatening calls. -On May 4, authorities detained French journalist Bernard Briancon at Havana international airport and took from him eight videotapes containing interviews. Briancon, owner of the private production company Mediasens, had entered Cuba on a tourist visa to investigate the dissident movement and the human rights situation in the country. -On August 20, immigration authorities denied journalist Oscar Mario González of Grupo Decoro temporary permission to leave the country to visit his daughter in Sweden. The only explanation the officials gave was that they were obeying “higher orders.” -Many journalists have chose to suspend their work because they might be arrested, leaving their families unprotected. Several agencies have ended operations because their directors and main supporters have been arrested. Some have decided to send their dispatches abroad anonymously or under pseudonyms, as Cubanet agency has done from Miami. The increase in magazines and alternative newsletters in Havana and other cities has halted because of these circumstances. Nevertheless, other centers of creativity are alive and active. Despite the shortage of material and the repression, a group of founders of the bimonthly magazine De Cuba were able to put out their third issue. The magazine, which is produced by hand, was first published last December to open a window of free information for readers on the island. In fact, confiscated issues of the magazine were part of the “evidence” against its editor, Ricardo González Alfonso, and his adviser, Raúl Rivero. The prosecutor described the magazine as a “subversive” publication, used by the Márquez Sterling Journalists Society “as another façade to provide information to the U.S. government.” Two women journalists who are members of De Cuba’s Publication Board, Claudia Márquez and Tania Quintero, put together this 62-page issue, which provided testimony about the 75 opposition figures arrested in March. At the writing of this report, 200 copies had been printed and distributed throughout the country. The publishers planned to distribute 200 more soon. Earlier, State Security agents had threatened Márquez, who serves as vice president of the Márquez Sterling Journalists Society, that they would take away custody of her 6-year-old son, who was born during her marriage to dissident Osvaldo Alfonso, who is serving an 18-year term. Government propaganda is devoting enormous resources to impose its totalitarian ravings and defame internal and external opponents. The internal situation is still governed by the “battle of ideas” decreed by Fidel Castro which includes “round tables” and “open forums” along with frequent rebroadcasts of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s marathon speeches. A Pastoral Theological Instruction issued on September 8 by Cuba’s Catholic bishops questions this repetitive style of communication that ideologically colors the way problems are handled, thus “making information less objective and hindering the possibility of critical dialogue.” “It is worrisome to state that currently everything that does not coincide with the official ideology in thought or action is considered illegal and is discredited and opposed without taking into account the truth and goodness that it might have,” the Catholic Church hierarchy’s document said. Concerned about the international prestige achieved by the dissidents, the government assigned two pairs of official journalists, all with a history of service to the authorities, to write books to discredit opposition figures, to begin intrigues and divide their adversaries: The Dissidents, by Rosa Miriam Elizalde and Luis Báez, and El Camaján, by Arleen Rodríguez and Lázaro Barredo. According to unofficial information circulating on the island, other titles are being prepared. With an eye toward the rest of the world, the Cuban government began in January a Web site called to gather international support for the release of the so-called Five Heroic Prisoners of the Empire, the five Cubans convicted of espionage in the United States. Shortly after it was established under the auspices of the official Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), the Circle of Journalists Against Terrorism launched another Web site called with a similar propaganda goal. According to the language of subterfuge of its supporters, it seeks to “confront the media terrorism that is globalizing lies and demonizing fighters and people who do not surrender.” The IAPA is a repeated target of attacks in the government media. An article in the daily Granma on the 40th anniversary of the founding of the UPEC (“The Value of Principles in Journalism,” by Ernesto Vera; 7/15/2003) describes the IAPA as an “anti-democratic” institution and “accomplice of the most extraordinary avalanche of lying campaigns against the Cuban revolution.” It says IAPA is identified with “the broadest exercise of intellectual terror in history.” The same writer, ex president of UPEC, attacked the Declaration of Chapultepec in an earlier article (“Freedom to Lie and Kill,” Granma, 5/13/2003). He said it “denies the professional character of journalism when it condemns obligatory licensing.”