After pro-democracy activist dies in Cuban prison, wife questions cause of death

Patriotic Union of Cuba member dies at Combinado del Este

HAVANA – The Cuban government claims Afro-Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Mas Hernandez died Feb. 24 of a heart attack. But his wife, Milfred Reyes, said she questions the cause of death. 

Reyes said he was healthy when he was arrested in June and got sick in prison after he was sentenced to four years for "disrespect of authority" without a trial.  

Mas Hernandez, 45, was a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, a pro-democracy group. Reyes said he didn't have access to a fair trial and whe she saw his health deteriorate, he didn't get the care that he needed.

"He looked like a cadaver," Reyes said in Spanish. 

Mas Hernandez had the symptoms of a kidney infection and lost weight, Reyes said. She fears he got sick with tuberculosis and the Cuban government didn't provide medical attention. 

Mas Hernandez died after Cuban authorities transferred him to Combinado del Este, a prison that has developed a reputation among dissidents as a death trap.

Cuban officials were reached for comment on the conditions of Mas Hernandez case and death, but they have yet to issue a response. 

Local 10 News Andrea Torres contributed to this story. 


About the Author:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.