Cuba’s Long Black Spring

Carlos Lauria, Monica Campbell, and María Salazar – Committee to Protect Journalists – 2 Jan , 2009

Five years after the Castro government cracked down on the independent press, more than 20 journalists remain behind bars for the crime of free expression.

In her kitchen overlooking Havana’s crumbling skyline, Julia Núñez Pacheco recalls the day five years ago when plainclothes state security agents, pistols on hips, stormed into her home. They accused Adolfo Fernández Saínz, her husband of three decades and an independent journalist with the small news agency Patria, of committing acts aimed at “subverting the internal order of the nation.” Over the course of eight long hours, agents ransacked the apartment, confiscating items considered proof of Fernández Saínz’s crimes: a typewriter, stacks of the Communist Party daily Granma with Fidel Castro’s remarks underlined, and outlawed books such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984. As Fernández Saínz was hauled away, Núñez Pacheco remembers one of the agents turning to her and saying, “You know, we’ve been told you are decent, quiet people. No fighting, no yelling. It’s a shame you’ve chosen this path.”

Today, the 60-year-old Núñez Pacheco lives alone in this same Central Havana apartment. A blown-up photograph of her husband and autobiographies of Nelson Mandela and Malcolm X rest on a bookshelf. Núñez Pacheco survives on family remittances from overseas, occasional donations from international human rights groups, and her government-issued ration card, which allots for basic provisions. Like most prisoners’ relatives, she is blacklisted and unable to work in any official capacity, as the state is Cuba’s sole employer.

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