Pedro Luis Boitel (1931-1972), student leader "anti-communist" whom Fidel Castro so much "I hated"was forced to go thirsty during a hunger strike in prison, because "Castro gave the order that his water be cut off until he died"according to what his cellmate, the human rights activist Armando Valladares, told Efe.

"The history of political prison in Cuba could not be written without naming Pedro Luis"says in an interview with Efe Valladares, painter, poet and former US ambassador to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Fidel Castro expressly hated Pedro Luis, a leader of the 26th of July (movement) and exiled (of Fulgencio Batista) in Venezuela"Valladares comments shortly before participating in a colloquium in Miami this Wednesday for the 50th anniversary of Boitel’s death.

"He was well known and the candidate most likely to win the elections (for president) of the FEU" (University Student Federation) to the triumph of the revolution, he adds about his companion in cell 64, in the circular building number 4 in the Isla de Pinos prison, now in disuse and from where both escaped.

In 1961 Boitel was arrested and charged with conspiracy against the state. He was sentenced in a trial to ten years in prison, a sentence that was later extended with other charges.

THE ESCAPE FROM A MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON

A kind of maximum security Alcatraz, being located on a small island in the south of Cuba, the Isla de Pinos prison was considered "impossible" of transgressing, recalls Valladares, who turns 85 next Friday.

Valladares, imprisoned at the age of 21 for refusing to hang a plaque that read "I am with Fidel" and who spent 22 years in prison, during which he suffered torture and punishment of all kinds and went on eleven hunger strikes, met Boitel in La Cabaña prison in Havana.

"When my interrogations in the political police ended, they sent me to galley 12 in La Cabaña. At the door was Pedro Luis, thin and wearing very large glasses. Then we were together years and years and years"recalls.

"When we escaped on October 21, 1961 – I remember it because I was released on the same day 20-odd years later – there was a guard who walked around at sunset with a dog and a rifle"recalls this facility in which Fidel Castro was also imprisoned before being amnestied by the government of Fulgencio Batista.

"We went inside the barracks dressed as soldiers, greeting the guards. They captured us on the third day because the people who were supposed to pick us up on the coast did not go because they thought it was impossible for us to escape."Valladares adds.

"We were the only ones who managed to escape from the cordon of the circular, it will go down in history, I don’t know why there is a tendency to eliminate this heroic and almost fictional act from the interviews"he regrets, and clarifies that the idea of ​​the escape was Boitel’s.

Upon being captured, they were taken to the punishment cell where they remained. "almost a year"assures Valladares.

"We went on strike to get us out of there, which was the first"recapitulates the author of the book "against all hope"where he recounted his memories after 22 years in prison.

According to this activist’s account, Boitel was taken to the Military Hospital (in Havana), where he was one of the first to be given civilian clothes.

"He was making strikes until the last in (the prison of) the Castle of the Prince. It was a hunger strike, not a thirst strike. Fidel Castro gave the order that his water be cut off until he died"assures Valladares.

Boitel died at the age of 41 on a hunger strike on May 25, 1972 in the Castillo del Príncipe prison in Havana.

The organizers of the tribute to Boitel, among which are Planted to the Freedom of Cuba, the Institute of Cuban Historical Memory against Totalitarianism and the PEN Club of Cuban Writers in exile, today brought a floral offering to the tomb of the Boitel’s mother, Clara Abraham de Boitel, at Miami’s Flagler Memorial Cemetery.

This afternoon they screen at the Tower Theater in Little Havana the documentary "Boitel: Dying in installments"directed by Daniel Urdanivia and produced by Pedro Corzo, where Valladares will speak to the public.

Next to him, he pointed out, will be "another great friend of Pedro Luis"Richard Heredia, also anti-communist and who was with Boitel "in hiding".

 "It is a well deserved tribute. Pedro Luis is a legend for all political prisoners like me. Fortunately, we have groups in Cuba that have even adopted their name"he highlighted.

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