January 7, 2003

Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, a 37 year old blind lawyer imprisoned in Cuba, president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights, reveals in a clandestine letter smuggled out of Holguin Prison, that State Security is introducing a chemical substance in what he eats and drinks.  Food brought by his mother and handled by a prison official caused intense burning to his stomach and intestines. This blind activist states that: "twice in the last ten days I have smelled and tasted creolina (a desinfectant) in the water bottle. My aunt says it smells to her like wood alcohol.  All this was verified by my mother, my sister Minerva and my wife on December 31st, day they visited me. My mother, who brings me the water I drink, assured me she has not seen this disinfectant (creolina) in more than a year."

Gonzalez Leiva´s family considers him innocent and has been fasting for several weeks demanding his release as well as the liberation of 9 other activists involved.  On March 4, 2002 Gonzalez Leiva and members of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights carried out a peaceful protest in a hospital in Ciego de Avila in solidarity with a fellow activist severely beaten by the political police. All arrested are awaiting trial, accused of common crimes.

According to Gonzalez Leiva his family's life is in danger when he states that: "in view of the great injustice committed against me by the Cuban government, they (Cuban authorities) have radicalized their position and I have a well founded fear that serious confrontations with tragic consequences could arise at any time with my family since they are country folks with no knowledge of what the peaceful struggle is all about and are not integrated to any dissident organization... I make the maximum governmental authorities in Cuba responsible of any situation and consequences that could place in danger the physical integrity of my loved ones."

Jose, a brother of this blind lawyer, was harassed and forced to abandon his job and has been threatened with imprisonment. According to Gonzalez Leiva this same brother Jose, another one named Onel Ramon and his father where all three forced on a bus and left abandoned several kilometers from the city. They had to return walking since State Security prevented cars passing by from picking them up.

Gonzalez Leiva wishes to inform public opinion that his cell mate named Joel Prado de La Torre who identifies himself as a pastor: "follows me around silently everywhere I go like a shadow, including to the bathroom whenever I'm in need of going. For more than 15 days he waits until I lay down and burns a bunch of grass which gives off a strong odor and fills the room with smoke...also, he keeps a razor with him inside the cell."

Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva is presently weighing 90 pounds due to a fast he began September the 4th and concluded Christmas Day, December 25, 2002 in protest for the unjust accusations held against him and his 9 fellow human rights activists involved in the case. He refuses to be represented by a lawyer and dresses all in black as a sign of mourning for the suffering of the Cuban people.

From a prison cell where he suffers physical and psychological tortures, a blind lawyer reports the cruel and inhumane acts committed in Cuba against men and women who defend the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva urgently asks solidarity from the national and international community, World States, Churches, and other institutions which defend human rights.
All documented information obtained via telephone was recorded, transcribed and translated.  
Coalition of Cuban-American Women/LAIDA CARRO

MARITZA CALDERIN COLUMBIE, wife of Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva.
Address:  Honorato del Castillo 154, entre República y Cuba, Ciego de Avila, Cuba.