Bernardo Arévalo Padrón was arrested in August 1997 and charged with “insulting and contemptuous behavior” towards then-President Fidel Castro, for which he was sentenced to six years in prison. He was released in 2003 after the completion of his term. He was arrested again on September 6, 2014, and briefly detained for his writings in the opposition newspaper, El Cubano Libre, de Hoy. According to reports, the police threatened to give him a four-year prison sentence if he did not leave Cuba. Padrón refused and declared that he will never leave Cuba. Arévalo was also arrested and detained for eight hours in February 2010.

Case History

Bernardo Arévalo Padrón was working as a railroad engineer when he became a member of a human rights association that was not recognized by the state. He later became a journalist, and in 1996, he founded Linea Sur Press, a small, privately run and independent press agency based in Cienfuegos. He has served since then both as a journalist and the director of this agency, which he created with the goal of making the Cuban public aware of the ways in which their government was violating their fundamental rights.

Bernardo Arévalo Padrón was arrested on August 14, 1997. He was detained by State Security agents in Aguada de Pasajeros and released three days later to await trial. A Cienfuegos court charged him with “insulting and contemptuous behavior” following articles considered insulting towards Fidel Castro and the President of the National Assembly, Carols Lage, and sentenced him to six years’ imprisonment. Interviewed by radio from Miami, Arévalo Padrón denounced the allegations as lies and accused the government of ignoring the declaration of Vita de Mar (Chile), where the Ibero-American Summit of 1996 was held. This declaration, which was signed by Cuba, upholds political plurality as a universal value.

On February 3, 1998, Arévalo Padrón wrote to Marvin Hernandez, correspondent of the independent news agency Cuba Press. In his letter, he reported that he was being held in a cell with non-political prisoners, that he had been suffering from bronchitis for one month, and that his request for a visit by a priest had been ignored. It is also reported that he was severely beaten by two prison guards in Ariza Prison in April 1998. On April 1, 2001, his application for conditional leave (all Cuban prisoners become eligible for this on serving half their sentence, and Arévalo reached the halfway point in October 2000) was turned down by the authorities on the grounds that he had not been sufficiently “politically re-educated.” In March 2002, the journalist released information on prison conditions in the center where he was being held. He was instantly deprived of his wife’s visits and the following month prison authorities turned down his fourth request to be released on parole.

After his latest transfer back to Ariza Prison, Bernardo Arévalo Padrón’s physical and psychological health deteriorated. He was being held in a cell with criminal convicts, in a forced labor camp that provided poor levels of nutrition. He was reported to be suffering from high blood pressure, and in December 2002, Arévalo was diagnosed with leptospirosis, a disease that is spread by rats. He was released on November 13, 2003, after spending six years in prison. 

Bernardo Arévalo Padrón is also an Honorary Member of the English, Catalan, Peruvian and Canadian PEN Centers. He is one of the 2003 recipients of the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.