Getting by in Castro’s Cuba

CoppeliaNick Caistor at the Times Literary Supplement:

The first time I was arrested by the Cuban police was almost thirty years ago. I was at Los Cocos prison, a half-hour drive outside Havana, talking across a wall to AIDS patients locked up there by the authorities. At the time, Cubans were being tested for HIV at work, and those found to be suffering from symptoms were taken and put away in this prison hospital facility, denied visits from family or friends.

At the time, soldiers returning from campaigns in Angola and Ethiopia were blamed for the outbreak of HIV-AIDS in Cuba. A few days after my attempt to interview the patients at Los Cocos, I found myself at a parade ground on the outskirts of Havana, where commander-in-chief Fidel Castro was to welcome the male and female troops back and bestow medals on them. This was the closest I ever came to El Comandante. He and his entourage brushed past me on their way towards the ranks of troops, and I could swear that the glare from the big man (and he was very big and burly, the son of an immigrant from Galicia in Spain) was meant just for me. Again, my attempts to interview any of the soldiers were cut short as I was bustled away from them.

more here.