Dr. José Luis García Paneque
Dr. José Luis García Paneque
Journalists' Association and independent journalist, local coordinator
of the Varela Project, 24 year sentence
Dr. José Luis García Paneque is a 42 year-old surgeon and independent
journalist from Las Tunas, Cuba. He is married to Yamilé Llanes
Labrada, a lawyer, and they have four children ranging in age from 9 to 16.
Dr. García Paneque is a member of the Manuel Marquez Sterling
Journalists' Association, an independent professional association which
the government refuses to recognize, and is the administrator of the
Carlos J. Finlay independent library. He founded an independent medical
association—also unrecognized—and took part in the Varela Project. A
surgeon by training, Dr. García Paneque was dismissed from the Ernesto
"Che" Guevara hospital in Las Tunas for his criticism of government
Dr. García Paneque was arrested in March 2003 as part of a major
crackdown on peaceful dissent in Cuba. He was charged under Law 88 and
sentenced at a summary trial to 24 years in prison. Since 2005, he has
been held in the "Las Mangas" prison in Bayamo, Cuba, where his health
has been dangerously deteriorating.
In addition to developing severe digestive problems from the poor prison
food and lack of movement and sunlight, Dr. García Paneque has been
harassed by the common criminals in the prison. Dr. García Paneque
cannot digest lactose and gluten, and such dietary restrictions are not
accommodated by the prison diet. His wife reports that he has lost
nearly 50 percent of his body weight.
In early June 2007, Dr. García Paneque informed his mother that the
prison doctors had taken him to a hospital in Bayamo, Cuba, after he
complained of intense abdominal pain. An ultrasound revealed a cyst
measuring 36 by 38 mm on his kidney, which prison doctors want to
surgically remove. Dr. García Paneque was transferred to the medical
ward of "Las Mangas" from the beginning of June until the end of July
2007. The ward is not equipped to properly treat Dr. García Paneque's
health condition. Medical exams at the "Carlos Manuel de Céspedes"
Hospital in Bayamo revealed that he is suffering from a cyst on his
kidney and from pneumonia.
Despite his fragile health, Dr. García Paneque was returned to a humid
cell without windows in early August 2007, sharing the space with more
then 15 criminal detainees who reportedly subject him to harassment and
beatings. On August 28, 2007, a common criminal entered Dr. García
Paneque's cell and beat him about the head. The injuries required four
stitches above his eyebrow.
Members of Dr. García Paneque's family, including his four young
children, have been repeatedly harassed at home and at school,
culminating in their fleeing the island in March 2007. Yamilé Llanes
Labrada is an active member of the Ladies in White.
His family's petitions for his release based on health concerns, as well
as requests that he be treated by an independent medical professional,
have gone unanswered by the Cuban authorities.