CubaBrief: Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros and the continuing six decade tragedy of political prisoners in Cuba

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in his 1861 book, The House of the Dead  that “the degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” What does this say about the Cuban government that has barred the International Committee of the Red Cross from visiting Cuba’s prisons for decades?

Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros

Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros

Cuban dissident Yosvany Arostegui Armenteros died on August 7, 2020 in Cuba while in police custody following a 40 day hunger strike. He had been jailed on false charges in the Kilo 8 prison of Camagüey. His body was quickly cremated by the dictatorship.

Yale professor and author Carlos Eire writing in Babalu Blog highlighted Yosvany’s untimely passing and placed it in context:

It’s happened again. Another Cuban dissident has died in prison. Strangely, unlike previous hunger-striking political prisoners who received international attention, Yosvany Arostegui was barely noticed in social media and totally ignored by the world’s news outlets. He joins a long list of hunger-strikers who have been pushed to their deaths by the Castro regime. May his self-immolation in prison be the last, and may he rest in peace and eternal freedom.

Exiled Cuban lawyer and human rights defender Laritza Diversent over Facebook wrote:

I feel deep sadness and pain. I imagine how lonely he felt and how convinced he was that he preferred to exhaust his body until it was turned off. His death reminds me of the thousands of people who, in Cuban prisons, use their body to protest against unjust criminal proceedings. It makes me more aware of all the activists who, like Silverio Portal, are locked up as punishment for exercising their rights to free expression, criticize, protest, meet and associate.

On Friday, August 7, State Security contacted the family of prisoner Yosvany Aróstegui Armenteros to inform them that he had died during a hunger strike that he had carried out for 40 days.

Aróstegui Armenteros had been arrested a year earlier and prosecuted for two common crimes for which he pleaded not guilty from the beginning. Before this last strike he had carried out others with the same objective: to demand his freedom.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after a hunger strike

Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on February 23, 2010 after a hunger strike

As in the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo (February 2010), Aróstegui Armenteros was transferred to Kilo 8 prison from another prison and then transferred to the Prison ward of the Amalia Simoni Hospital in the city of Camagüey. Authorities at the Kilo 8 Prison have a torture system to subject prisoners who go on strike: they isolate them, and take away their water, the only sustenance of any striker.

In the case of Zapata and thanks to pressure from opposition groups outside the Amalia Simoni hospital, his mother was able to see him and learn from his lips about the torture and denial of water to which he had been subjected.

Yosvany Aróstegui did not have the same luck. His brother, Yaudel Aróstegui Armenteros was not allowed to see him.

“Ten days before he died, they called my brother Yaudel Arostegui Armenteros, at the hospital to appear there, when he arrived at Amalia Simoni they told him that my brother was very ill. My brother couldn’t see him. A doctor who was there told my brother that the next call they were going to make would not be good, it was because he was going to die. And so it was,” Raidel Aróstegui Armenteros, who lives in exile in the state of Washington, United States, told the Center.

According to Raidel, his brother always said he was innocent of the common crimes he was accused of. The family hired an attorney who conducted investigations into the case, but a week before the trial, the attorney mysteriously died in a traffic accident.

His brother always thought he would be released, but upon receiving the 15-year prison sentence he began a series of hunger strikes.”My brother Yosvany Arostegui was a human rights activist. He was always confronting the political police. In Camagüey his actions bothered the political police. He always told me that the day something happened to him that he was going to plant himself in protest. That the day they did something to him, he was going to be planted and that the second Zapata in Camagüey was going to be him. And so it happened. Look how his death was,” he added.

During this dictatorship of more than sixty-one years of the Castros, dozens of political and common prisoners have died on hunger strike as a result of the denial of water and medical assistance, in addition to the cruel treatment to which those who decide to denounce the disrespect of their human rights were subjected to.

The Center for a Free Cuba has denounced this case to international human rights organizations and demanded an independent investigation into the death of Yosvany Aróstegui Armenteros.

In the aftermath of Cuban dissident Yosvany Arostegui’s death, artist and activist Tania Bruguera has called for a virtual “chorus of voices” to acknowledge and honor the political prisoners in Cuba. On her Facebook page yesterday, she posted a list of 102 current prisoners and asked supporters to record themselves reading the names out loud, uploading the videos with the hashtags #JusticiaParaYosvani (#JusticeForYovani) and #CoroPresosPoliticosCuba (#ChorusPoliticalPrisonersCuba).

The Center is encouraging others to participate in this initiative by the Cuban artist.

Hyperallergic, August 10, 2020

Tania Bruguera Asks the Internet to Acknowledge Cuba’s Political Prisoners With Virtual “Chorus”

Following the death of Yosvany Arostegui in police custody, the Cuban artist asked people to record themselves reading the names of 102 current political prisoners out loud.

By Valentina Di Liscia

Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera

In the wake of Cuban dissident Yosvany Arostegui’s death in police custody last Friday, August 7, artist and activist Tania Bruguera has summoned a virtual “chorus of voices” to acknowledge and honor the political prisoners on the island. On her Facebook page yesterday, she posted a list of 102 current prisoners and asked supporters to record themselves reading the names out loud, uploading the videos with the hashtags #JusticiaParaYosvani (#JusticeForYovani) and #CoroPresosPoliticosCuba  (#ChorusPoliticalPrisonersCuba).

“In his name and those of all the political prisoners who have been jailed for the only crime of thinking differently, let’s start a chorus to make them and the great injustices against them known to the world,” Bruguera wrote.

As reported by El Diario de Cuba, Arostegui, an avid critic of the Cuban government and human rights activist, was imprisoned in the Camagüey province under charges of domestic violence, which he denied. While in detention, he staged a hunger strike, a non-violent form of resistance used by numerous political dissidents in Cuba. One activist told El Diario that Arostegui was “driven to the limit” and “allowed” to die, adding that police selectively choose when to offer hunger strikers medical intervention. The Camagüey-based curator Anamely Ramos González and the National Cuban American Foundation have also taken to social media to denounce Arostegui’s death.

Among the voices heeding Bruguera’s call is that of art historian Yanelis Núñez Leyva, who co-organized the #00Bienal de la Habana with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara in 2018. Leyva, Alcantara, and Bruguera have all been detained by the Cuban government on different occasions, notably while on the way to anti-government protests. Most recently, Bruguera was arrested in her home in Havana before a demonstration against police brutality she planned on attending. 

Last month, 14 organizations — including PEN America, Reporters Without Borders, and Movimiento San Isidro — signed a letter denouncing the “arbitrary arrests of journalists and artists” in Cuba. On June 30, the day on which Bruguera was detained, at least 132 people were victims of arrests and internet service cuts when they attempted to participate in or reported on protests, the letter states.

The artist plans on compiling the uploaded videos to create a collective audiovisual artwork with the help of three collaborators: writer Lien Carrazana, filmmaker Alain Rafael Dueñas Estevez, and musician Luis Alberto Mariño Fernández.

https://hyperallergic.com/581741/tania-bruguera-asks-the-internet-to-acknowledge-cubas-political-prisoners-with-virtual-chorus/

Off The Bus, August 11, 2020

Death of Cuban opponent on hunger strike denounced in the US

Mayhill.J.Fowler

Yósvany Aróstegui Armenteros (Screen capture: UNPACU video)

Yósvany Aróstegui Armenteros (Screen capture: UNPACU video)

The Center for a Free Cuba on Tuesday denounced the death of the Cuban opponent Yósvany Aróstegui Armenteros in a prison hospital in Camagüey after 40 days of hunger strike and compared his case with that of Orlando Zapata, who died in similar circumstances in 2010.

The executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, John Suárez, told Efe that they have communicated the case to international human rights organizations and are demanding an independent investigation into the death of Aróstegui Armenteros, who had been sentenced to 15 years in prison. for two common crimes of which he always pleaded not guilty.

Raidel Aróstegui Armenteros, brother of the deceased and exiled in the United States, affirmed in a video published by the Center for a Free Cuba that in Camagüey Yosvany was “a stone in the shoe of the political police for his actions.”

According to Raidel Aróstegui, on Friday, August 7, State Security contacted the family to inform them that Yosvany had died when he had been on a hunger strike for 40 days.

According to the brother, it was not the first hunger strike he had carried out since he had been arrested a year earlier and tried for rape and robbery.

As in the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died in February 2010 while on a hunger strike, Aróstegui Armenteros was transferred to Kilo 8 prison from another prison and then transferred to the Prisoners’ Room of the Amalia Simoni Hospital in the Camagüey city.

“The authorities of the Kilo 8 Prison have a system of torture to subject prisoners who go on strike: they isolate them and take away their water, the only livelihood of any striker,” said the Center for a Free Cuba.

This is what Zapata himself told his mother when he visited him before he died in the Amalia Simoni hospital, according to a statement from the Cuban exile organization.

Yosvany Aróstegui’s family was not allowed to see him, although another brother, Yaudel Aróstegui, was summoned to the hospital where a doctor told him that he was very ill, according to Raidel Aróstegui in the video.

“A doctor who was there told my brother that the next call they were going to make was not going to be a good one, it was because he was going to pass away. And so it was, ”said Raidel Aróstegui Armenteros.

According to Raidel, his brother always said he was innocent of the common crimes of which he was accused and the family hired a lawyer who carried out investigations into the case, but a week before the trial he died in a traffic accident and the justice system put one that he only saw it once and did not know the case.

Yosvany “always told me that he was innocent, my brother who went to see him in prison, saw him in a wheelchair, he was very skinny, very deteriorated,” he said.

“My brother Yosvany Arostegui was a human rights activist (…) He always told me that the day something happened to him that he was going to plant himself. That the day they did something to him, he was going to be planted and that the second Zapata in Camagüey was going to be him. And so it happened. Look how his death was ”, he added.

https://www.offthebus.net/2020/08/11/death-of-cuban-opponent-on-hunger-strike-denounced-in-the-us/