Maykel González Vivero: "You cannot imagine what a cell is like"
Journalist Maykel González Vivero, a DIARIO DE CUBA collaborator, was released Wednesday after spending three days in a cell in Baracoa, where he had been travelled to report on the ravages of Hurricane Matthew.
"You have to experience that to understand what it is like, and to really know Cuba. You cannot imagine what one of those cells is like. It has to be one of the worst things in the world," he told DIARIO DE CUBA shortly before boarding a bus bound for Guantánamo.
González Vivero's arrest marked the start of a State Security onslaught against journalists not linked to the official media who were trying to report on the situation facing the inhabitants of Guantánamo villages after Matthew's devastating passage.
On Wednesday nine workers for the Periodismo de Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism) website, including its director, Elaine Díaz, were arrested as well in Baracoa and transferred to Guantánamo, confirmed family sources.
"I was just conducting interviews," said González Vivero about his arrest. "When I was arrested I was interviewing the president of a CDR (Revolutionary Defense Committee)," he added.
He specified that he was arrested by State Security and taken to a police station.
"There was some delay, as if they were deciding what to do with me, and they ended up confiscating all my things and putting me in a cell," he said. "I was isolated, they wouldn't let me talk to my family, and they denied me access to a lawyer. Poor medical care, when I asked for it. The support I received was from the other prisoners. From the others, nothing but mistreatment."
Vivero González explained that at first the regime's agents informed him that he had been arrested "in the interest of State Security" but "they later invented a crime: illicit economic activity."
"They took my computer and camera. I'm going to file a complaint with the Prosecutor's Office in Guantánamo," he said.
The reporter noted that he met two dissidents in jail: Víctor Campa, from Santiago de Cuba; and Emilio Almaguer, who had received donations to aid the victims in Baracoa. The rest were common criminals.
"I heard their stories. I learned so many things. It hurt, and I would have tried to avoid it, but I learned a lot," said González Vivero. "They told me to 'talk, talk about everything that is going on.'"
"You feel that you have no rights, that you cannot demand anything. There was a large sign at the entrance to the jail explaining the rights of prisoners. I was supposed to be able to see a lawyer at any time, but they never let me see mine (...) They never let me call anyone. They said they would, but they didn´t," he explained.
As for the support he received from the common prisoners, he explained: "The first night I was able to bathe because a prisoner, accused of robbery, lent me a towel and some soap. I was able to communicate with my family thanks to a prisoner who still had not had his mobile confiscated. He did me the favor, spending his own credit, of calling for me. He was a baker who had been arrested because some of the bread he had produced was underweight," he explained.
González Vivero estimated that in the end there were about 14 people in the cell. "Apparently they carried out a raid yesterday," he said.
Maykel González Vivero resides in Sagua la Grande and recently lost his job at the local radio station for writing for independent media.
On his way to the area affected by the hurricane he wrote an article for DIARIO DE CUBA: "On the Road to Baracoa After Matthew's Passage," in which he criticized the political propaganda in the midst of disaster.