Prisoner of Conscience Makes Waves in Cuba’s Penitentiary System

Lynn Cruz

“…The Modelo prison was what it had to be, its story is overwhelming and depressing… men became monsters, a select few became heroes while martyrdom redeemed hundreds..”  -Pablo de la Torriente Brau, Modelo Prison

Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, unjustly imprisoned. Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — Over the past few weeks, news of a Cuban political prisoner, scientist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, has traveled the entire world. Ariel is serving an unfair sentence after a summary trial was held on May 8th in Pinar del Rio province. He was arrested at the farm he shares with his sister and mother in Vinales.

He received the maximum one-year sentence for an alleged (made up) crime: “contempt”.  He is accused of having called agents “Rural Guard”, who showed up at his home to charge him for the indiscrimate cutting down of trees which isn’t true either as he proved, right there on the spot, that he was clearing his farm’s perimeter so he could put up a fence. The way he was taken to trial and condemned only go to show how shady all of this is, because according to his sister Omara’s statement to Cibercuba, he was sentenced during a summary trial.

On the other hand, talking to Omara via phone, she clarified that Ariel never said “Rural Guard” but “Rural Police”.  Thus adding a new lie to this rigged trial.  This PhD in biological sciences is currently serving his sentence in the preventive detention center at Pinar del Rio’s Km 5 Luis Lazo provincial prison.

Ariel was recently physically abused by a prison guard who goes by the surname Acosta. Ariel showed prisoners and Acosta himself, Cuba’s Prison Rules. He was trying to spread awareness about all of the violations being committed. As a result, Acosta grabbed him by the neck of his shirt and pushed him up against a door, then he ordered for him to be handcuffed suddenly.

Omara also said that they don’t have any electricity, that food is transported without any kind of protection and that meals are often spoiled by the time they sit in prisoners’ plates. They are only given 2 minutes to eat. The quality of the water they’re given is awful, it isn’t even filtered.  The positive thing has been that he has found many others like him in prison, arrested for also defending their rights in spite of all them (or so it seems) being charged with ordinary crimes.

Stipulated in Cuba’s Prison Rules, Ariel has demanded the right to an hour of sunshine, a telephone call and the right to work. His first two demands were met. Nevertheless, Ariel is waiting to be moved to a labor camp where he can exercize the third right he is claiming. Out of principle, he wants to work wherever he finds himself.

Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

One thought on “Prisoner of Conscience Makes Waves in Cuba’s Penitentiary System

  • The Cuban communist regime has decided that Ariel Ruiz Urquiola is a dissident and a threat to their system of totalitarian oppression. As a potential possible leader for democracy, they have locked him up.
    Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi suffered similar repression and were locked up.
    But look what eventually happened with each of them!’
    Fidel Castro could have earned a similar honoured place in world history for freeing his people and introducing real democracy. But Fidel Castro in his craving for control, and personal power chose otherwise. He chose communism and dictatorship.
    Cuba will need people like Ariel Ruiz Urquiola when the communist system like apples in a barrel rots from within!

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