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Elio Delgado-Legon: I am a Cuban who has lived for 79 years, therefore I know full well how life was before the revolution, having experienced it directly and indirectly. As a result, it hurts me to read so many aspersions cast upon a government that fights tooth and nail to provide us a better life. If it hasn’t fully been able to do so, this is because of the many obstacles that have been put in its way.

Ana Belen Montes’ Harsh Prison Conditions

March 18, 2016 | Print Print |

Elio Delgado Legon

anamaontesHAVANA TIMES — Some weeks ago, I wrote and Havana Times published an article titled Ana Belen Montes: A Case of Conscience. In one of the paragraphs dealing with this heroic woman, who has been imprisoned under the most trying conditions one can imagine, I promised to broaden on the subject in a future post.

Ana Belen Montes, former Pentagon intelligence analyst, convicted to 25 years in prison in 2002 for supplying Cuba with information about the United States’ aggressive policies towards the island, has been serving her sentence at the Carswell Federal Medical Center, located in Fort Worth, Texas – a prison offering specialized mental health services (the wing Ana is confined in) to female criminals, in a top-security environment.

According to a report published in 2015, for more than ten years, Ana Belen Montes has endured the following confinement conditions, in frank violation of her human rights:

  • “A Federal Prison Bureau decree (due to her espionage conviction) restricting contact to only her closest relatives.
  • A prohibition on inquiries about her health or the reasons for her detention in a center for the mentally ill, when she suffers no such condition.
  • A prohibition on the receipt of packages.
  • Letters sent to her are returned by registered post to the sender.
  • She is not allowed associate with other inmates.
  • She is not allowed make or receive phone calls.
  • She is not allowed read newspapers, magazines or watch TV.
  • She is not allowed visits from friends.
  • Her family members have, because of her commitment to the cause of Cuba, rejected or refused to maintain contact with her, meaning that Ana has been totally isolated from the world for more than a decade.”

“The US press has reported that “serving a sentence in the Carswell treatment unit has become a death sentence for many female prisoners.” Detainees there have suffered gross violations of their human and constitutional rights, including documented cases of police abuse, suspicious deaths — investigations into which have been blatantly obstructed, deaths due to the denial of basic medical attention, rape of prisoners by guards and exposure to toxic substances, all of which place her life at risk.”

“Ana Belen Montes was not paid by Cuba for what she did and there was nothing sordid or coercive about her recruitment. She was not motivated by any desire for revenge or attraction to
power.  Despite full awareness of the personal risk arising, she acted out of love, her sense of justice and a noble solidarity with Cuba. She was accused of having helped convince both George W. Bush and Bill Clinton that Cuba did not represent a military threat to the U.S., thus preventing a war that would have resulted in a significant loss of Cuban and US lives.”

Recently, I was provided with information that indicates Ana Belen Montes’ confinement conditions have changed:

  • Ana may receive letters and visits from 20 people (her father passed away before she was imprisoned). Visitors are cleared by the prison or the FBI. One of the mandatory conditions for a visit is to have known Ana before her imprisonment. No one else is allowed to see her. No one has ever interviewed her either.
  • The fact 20 people / relatives may visit her does not mean everyone on this list exercises that right. Very few people have visited her over these past few years (perhaps only two or three in total), for reasons that include the remoteness of the facility and others.
  • Ana may call her mother once a week and speak with her for 15-20 minutes. She may not receive phone calls.
  • Currently, she may read books (sent from bookstores or publishers) and magazines. She may also watch documentaries and CNN.
  • Ana is in good physical condition and well-nourished.
  • She maintains no relationships with anyone in the prison and is always alone in her cell, where she has been confined for nearly 15 years.

According to this information, provided by the Cuban Committee for the Freedom of Ana Belen Montes, prison conditions are not as extreme as they were for over ten years, when she was being punished more severely for having prevented a direct act of aggression against Cuba through her intelligence efforts. By virtue of the changes that have been taking place between the two countries and understanding this as an attenuating circumstance, Ana Belen Montes should be pardoned.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    The penalty for treason is death. Sounds like she got off easy.

    • curt9954

      Moses, Ana did not commit treason. She only provided info about the U.S aggressive policies toward Cuba and the info was used by Cuba in order to defend itself. Ana received no money from the Cuban government for her information. Ana is a hero and for doing the rifght thing she was imprisoned. The U.S unjustly imprisons people also, just like the Cuban government. Hopefully she will be real eased just as the Cuban 5 were.

      • Moses Patterson

        Aiding and abetting enemy governments is treason. We have no idea how the information that she shared was used. Spying is only heroic for the people that you are spying for. The Castros should put up billboards in her honor the way the did for the 5 Cuban spies.

      • Jose Gonzalez

        And our “Jewish” prisoner, recently released, was not treated in this fashion!!

      • Edalmo7980

        Cuba and Russia tried irresponsible to atack USA and the best defense was these kind of policies to control those perverse minds.

      • E Brown

        She was a spy and provided far more than information about U.S. and Cuban relations.
        She was directly responsible for the death of U.S. assets. She got off lightly as she should have been executed.

      • Edward J Baker

        So supporting mass murdering tyrannies around the world is Cuba “defending itself?” You’re as much of a coward as the Castro brothers.

    • Rich Haney

      Letting anti-Castro, pro-Batista zealots control U. S. courts and congressional laws have victimized a lot of people and enriched many more, with revenge being the added bonus. Ana is a victim as her victors rejoice.

      • Moses Patterson

        She was a spy! She is hardly a victim.

  • Doug1943

    If we believe that total loyalty to the state of our citizenship is the highest form of morality, trumping everything else, then of course it is consistent to demand, or condone, death for those who do not exhibit that loyalty by betraying the secrets of their state, to another.

    Because states can and do go to war with each other, helping another state against one’s own can, arguably, have far worse — lethal — consequences for one’s fellow citizens than, say, giving away the confidential commercial information of one’s employer to a competitor. We feel we need to have the threat of the ultimate penalty available, the one normally reserved for the most heinous murders.

    And yet … although it is undoubtedly true that the average citizen of every state believes his state is basically ‘good’ as against its rivals, and thus deserving of total loyalty, I would hope that Havana Times readers have a more nuanced understanding of international political reality.

    By the ‘treason-deserves-death’ rule, Germans who aided the Allies against Hitler, Soviets who helped the West against Stalin and his successors, and, yes, Cubans who take US government money to, as they see it, help build a democratic opposition in Cuba and go to the American embassy or its predecessor for long talks about … what? … — all people aiding and abetting a hostile state — are guilty of treason. And, technically, so they are.

    But we instinctively recoil — or so I hope — from simply applying the label of ‘traitor’ to these people, because these are clear examples — and not every reader will necessarily agree that all of these given here apply! — where the ‘betrayed’ state was not quite the essence of Good, and its opponent states, in these circumstances, not entirely the essence of Evil.

    So in the case, say, of Germans who ‘betrayed’ the Nazi state, wouldn’t we say that the label ‘traitor’ was cancelled out by the fact that these people had a higher loyalty, a better one, a loyalty to humanity, including their fellow Germans, which was in fact expressed by ‘betraying’ the state which ruled their country? And it was no doubt a painful choice, because the Allies they aided included Joseph Stalin’s USSR. But life seldom presents us with pure choices.

    Now, the United States, and the West more generally, are not Nazi Germany. In the broad sweep of history, they are ‘good guys’, at least as opposed to their adversaries in the two great confrontations of the 20th Century, against the Third Reich and the Soviet empire. But that’s just an ‘averaged out’ judgement. It definitely doesn’t mean that in every situation, the USA was the ‘good guy’.

    For example … suppose you had worked in the American embassy in Chile in Septermber of 1973, and had received advance knowledge of the bloody coup being prepared against the democratically-elected Allende government? (Yes … the economic woes of Chile, although abetted by American action, were basically caused by the Allende government itself … and the coup, although approved by the Americans, was not really instigated and guided by them … it was indigenous). But, had you known, say via a word dropped by a fellow-employee in the embassy, a CIA agent say … would you have tried to warn Allende? Would you have been a ‘traitor’?

    In those circumstances, I think there is only one answer for a decent human being.

    There is a deep natural law that says that conflicts tend to become bi-polar: there are few three- or more way wars. So each of the two opposed camps ends up as a collection of disparate allies, many of whom are not carbon copies of the dominant actor in their coaltion. The Soviet Union was pretty awful, but Allende’s Chile was not the same thing as the Soviet Union. Nor was Mossadegh’s Iran, nor the Guatemala of Arbenz. To be a ‘traitor’ to the US by trying to scupper American efforts to overthrow these governments and replace them with pro-American dictatorships was to be a ‘traitor’ in the tradition of German anti-Nazis and Russian anti-Communists.

    I believe Ana Montes and Walter Kendall Myers were/are idealists who were/are ‘traitors’ only in the technical sense — only in the sense that someone in the American embassy in Chile who tried to give the alarm about the oncoming bloodbath would have been. (By the way, I also think that characterization probably applies to people, such as Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, who spied for the Americans against Cuba. )

    Now all of these people may have been foolish, misguided, whatever. They made choices in an ugly imperfect world where it’s tempting to see all virtue on the other side, none on the side of your native country.

    So what should Mr Obama do today? He should offer a second swap: let all the ‘Cuban spies’ in the US go, and in return, let those Cubans imprisoned in Cuba as a result of Cuban/American enmity (including the boat hijackers) go. Nothing is served by keeping these people locked up, and releasing them would be another step towards normalizing relations.

  • Edalmo7980

    She was lucky to be Us Citizen and spy against USA that why she got only 25 years of imprisonment. If this happens in Russia, Cuba or North Korea she would deal to death penalty, or simply they disappear her off the face of the earth.

  • D.R. STRON

    People were executed in Cuba as a direct result of information made available to that government by Montes. A firing squad is the best answer for her, and any others like her. She is doomed to a lifetime of ignonimity, in equal portion to her useless entitiy as a complete waste of skin.

  • Jeanie

    Not only did she commit treason she murdered every US military personnel who died as a result of her actions. She should be hung

  • JDAMTag

    I would not be surprised if, in the last couple of weeks of the Obama presidency, administration officials complete the exchange of Ana Montes for Joanne Chesimard, who fled to Cuba in 1984 after escaping from a New Jersey prison in 1979.
    Chesimard, now a 67-year-old fugitive granted political asylum by Fidel Castro, was a member of the Black Panthers and Black Liberation Army who went on a spree of city robberies and attacks on cops when she pulled the trigger and killed a New Jersey state trooper on May 2, 1973.
    Since Montes has already served 15 years of her 25 year sentence for spying, Obama could feel that he will, on balance, be praised for the swap; an old spy for a convicted murderer.
    I guess the only question would be whether Fidel sees any value in getting Montes over to Cuba and parading her around as a heroine in service to Cuba.

  • Cindy

    The suggestion that the U.S. has had any interest in going to war with Cuba is laughable; crediting this woman for preventing such an imaginary war parts with reality. However noble you might want to interpret this woman’s actions, the intelligence that she gave away translated to Cuban financial profit as it is their practice to sell information to the states that would do us harm.

    In this democratic country she had many avenues available to her to act on her sympathies that perhaps might have garnered support from the American people, which would have been far more effective and enduring than betraying her countrymen. Were she to go to Cuba, could you truly feel confident of where her loyalties would lie? Someone who has demonstrated that they feel no allegiance for the country of their birth, which has afforded them every freedom, doesn’t present themselves as very reliable. It seems her greatest commitment is to her own ideas and who is to say they wouldn’t change in the face of communism?

    She is deservedly in prison which is never pleasant; a choice she made for herself. If she is in fact in isolation rather than in the general population, it’s probably done in her best interest as fellow inmates would not take kindly to an American traitor in their midst. If she becomes part of a prisoner swap, it would be poetic justice that she would permanantly lose all the freedoms this country has afforded her; a case of not knowing what you have until it’s gone. I hope she does go; she doesn’t deserve to live in the United States.

  • Qvilleman

    Most likely and unfortunately I can see the Obama administration releasing her as a gesture of good faith to our latest friends in Cuba :(

  • evelyn stever

    She’s confirmed as the party directly responsible for the deaths of Americans. At least one death of a Green Berets Sgt. And it wasn’t fast nor painless. She’s fortunate not to have paid with her life.

  • Manuel

    How are conditions in Cuban jails for US spies? Or better yet how does the Cuban government treat their own citizens incarcerated for treason or spying? And you still have the audacity to claim her human rights were being violated because she couldn’t watch TV or be visited by her friends while being incarcerated for treason?!

  • Arthur

    Anna is a traitor to her country. If she loved Cuba so much then why not just move there and be done with the US? Oh she did not because she wanted to hurt the US…? Seeing that is the case she should have been hung and dead for her traitorous actions. She gets to live 25 years in prison off my tax dollars and that is just 1 more crime added on top of all the rest of her crap. I say hang em high don’t waste my tax dollars on crap like her.

  • Mi Fro

    Shes fortunate to be locked up in an American Prison system, try Cuba or any trash 3rd world system, she would be dead by now. I have no sympathy for her, she ad my son killed, SGT Greg Fronius when she gave Cuban intelligence information about a training camp he and 10 other special forces members were stationed at in El Salvador. He was awarded the silver Star for his actions in that battle against Cuban led Marxist Guerrillas. not to mention giving up the identities of 4 under cover agents and who knows who else.