Cuba Mental Hospital Deaths Remain Mystery

Fernando Ravsberg

Photo from Las Terrazas, Pinar del Rio by Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, Jan. 13 — She’s Nelly Lopez, a mother destroyed by the death of her son, Fernando Comas, who was a patient at the Havana psychiatric hospital.  She has been waiting a year for the official explanation but has received only the most appalling rumors.

With a voice broken by her crying, she recounted to us how she lives in uncertainty.  She says she’s asked everyone, but no one has given her an answer about the death of her son, who was mentally ill since he was a little boy and “what I loved most.”

Looking for the truth, no matter how cruel it might be, is the duty of the authorities.  It is their responsibility to inform her about the crime and the legal measures taken against the murderers.  However she’s now 78 and most likely will die with doubt nailed in her chest.

The relatives of the victims are those who have the greatest right, but they are not the only ones demanding an explanation.  In the blog “Joven Cuba,” produced at the University of Matanzas (Cuba), this matter is described as the government’s pending debt to the citizenry.

These revolutionary youth are openly demanding authorities “explain to the people (as the investigation advances) what happened at the Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital and the measures they have taken with regard to those responsible.”

Even the journalist and Cuban State Security agent David Orrio demanded the national media investigate the case.  One year ago he expressed his “well-founded suspicions” concerning several contradictions that have still not been clarified.

Obviously this is not a campaign led by the “Miami mafia” of “imperialism” or by the “corporate press.”  No, it is a demand made by all Cubans I know, without exception, and firstly by the relatives of the victims.

Stealing from the victims

They have asked me not to use the word “crime,” but I haven’t been able to come up with another term that defines the action better for killing people who are mentally ill through the use of hunger and cold to steal from them.  It was such a cruel act that no one should benefit from extenuated words.

This involved more than 30 Cubans who were murdered by soulless speculators, but the most serious part was that it happened under the eyes of neighborhood residents, medical personnel, union leaders and activists of the party and the communist youth organization.

This is why for many citizens it isn’t enough that those principally responsible go to prison.  They believe the way to prevent something like this in the future is through an in-depth analysis of what caused people across the board to participate.

This makes a good bit of sense since the most effective form of justice is preventive, that which generates conscience among citizens and fear within potential criminals, something that is only achieved when the punishment — legal and moral — is made publically known.

Nevertheless, up to now there have only been contradictory rumors.  Concerning the main person implicated, for example, some say he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while others swear they saw him on the news boarding an airplane bound for Venezuela.

Government stonewall on information

With a year having passed since this cruel event, and after having tried to obtain the official version from the authorities on the progress of the investigation and the legal measures taken, I requested interviews with the ministries of Public Health and Justice.  They never responded.

However municipal political leaders did in fact visit some of the relatives of the dead and their neighbors, but this was to “orient them” not to give us any more interviews because we’re “counter-revolutionaries” interested in defaming Cuba.

They weren’t very successful.  The citizens — even a member of the Cuban Communist Party — spoke with us again, though this time anonymously.  They criticized the pressuring tactics, expressed the fact that they still haven’t received any information and asked us to continue writing about the crime.

The problem is that “secretismo” has few supporters in this case.  The fact that even Cuban revolutionaries are openly asking for greater transparency is a good barometer for measuring the political cost being paid for the silence.

It seems they’re beginning to demonstrate the thought of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who warned us that “all truths that are kept quiet become poisonous.”

An authorized Havana Times translation of the original BBC Mundo post in Spanish.

5 thoughts on “Cuba Mental Hospital Deaths Remain Mystery

  • Jerry, the article is not about the treatment of schizophrenia.
    It is about the silence of the Cuban government it is about the secrecy. It is about accountability. It is about finding who is responsible for the murder of these people that can not anymore talk for themselves.

    It is about solving a crime that is going unpunished.
    Even their own “Joven Cuba,” are asking for the matter to be solve

    Here is a link to pictures of the bodies of this people that were murder. Not one, not even two but many.
    The crime is specially heinous. Take a good look at the pictures. What will any of you do if these were your own family?

    There is a simple questions that have not been answer by the government.

    Who are responsible for these murders?

  • Of course going “hat in hand” to “the proper authorities” will get you nowhere. Looks like the only way to get any real answers as to why 30 mental patients died from hypothermia one year ago is to do some leg-work yourself! Perhaps a reporter, like the protagonist of the lurid early 1960’s movie “Shock Corridor,” could gain admittance to this facility pretending to have a serious mental illness. Then, once “inside,” he or she could find out, from the inpatients themselves, or from disgruntled staff, what went wrong and who was (or, more than likely, who were) REALLY to blame. In the end, however, it would be superficial to make them soley the scapegoats, as it seems to be a systemic failure here (as exemplified by these questons going unanswered after more than a year.) BTW, the protagonist of “Shock Corridor” does not have a happy ending. He finds out the truth–but instead of setting him free, the truth drives him crazy. No wonder this film was not a commercial success (although it subsequently became a cult classic)!

  • While doing a thirteen country survey of innovative programs for the treatment of schizophrenia in 1983, I visited several Cuban psychiatric hospitals in Cuba as a delegate to the World Health Organization meeting in Havana. My impression was that the care was better than most psychiatric hospitals in the United States and England but they used the same methods of control i.e. psychotropic medications. I found programs in Denmark and Germany not run by the government and organized by social workers and psychologists to be much superior to anything in Cuba or the developed countries… see “Psychological & Social Integration for the Labeled Schizophrenic”, Psychological Reports February 1986

  • Will correct immediately. The editor.

  • How come the link to “original BBC Mundo” comes up as a ‘Error 404 – Page not found’?

    May I remind you that British government officials are fellow travelers with the American imperialists?

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