This information from an outside source, covers some of the comments made about the concentration camps in Ciba:
Delaware review of Latin American Studies
Vol. 14 No. 2 December 31, 2013
Testigos de Jehová
Those interned on grounds of their religious activity probably made up the largest proportion of UMAP internees, and of them, Jehovah’s Witnesses were the most severely abused.21 Young, active Catholics were frequently sent to the UMAP camps and their experiences are very well represented in the body of published testimony. However, Catholics comprised just a small fraction of UMAP internees. One Catholic former internee estimated that just 2,000 Catholics were interned out of a total of 35,000 internees – just over 5 percent (Cardenal 293). Protestant religions and sects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses22 were viewed as especially counter-revolutionary because of their historical and allegedly treasonous connections with the norteamericanos (North Americans, esp. from the United States). On March 13, 1963, in front of the University of Havana, Fidel Castro gave a speech where he condemned the “pseudo-religiosos” whom he called batiblancos: “there are three principal sects, which are instruments of today’s imperialism, they are: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Gideons International, and Pentecostals.”23Later in the speech, he claimed that “these sects … are directly headed by the United States … and they are used as agents of the CIA, State Department, and Yankee policy” (Castro 1963). Since many Protestant religions in Cuba originated from the United States and many still had ties with the US, these sects were perceived as un-Cuban and potentially contrarrevolucionario (Rosado 88, 93, 95, 134–35, 145). In addition, the resolutely apolitical stance of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which motivates their resistance to practices ranging from saluting the flag to fulfilling draft requirements, rendered them the pariah of the boisterously patriotic and authoritarian Cuban Revolution (Yero 24). When resistance met resistance at the camps, some of the very worst abuses unfolded.
In 1938, there were only about one hundred Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba. By 1947, that number had grown to 4,000 and by 1965 there were nearly 20,000 – making them one of the largest organized religions on the island (Aguirre and Alston 171; Rosado 194). In 1962, the Ministry of Communication banned the import of Jehovah’s Witness religious literature and prohibited Jehovah’s Witnesses from using mail for distributing religious materials (Aguirre and Alston 190). In 1963, foreign Jehovah’s Witnesses were expelled from Cuba, just one year after over one hundred Catholic priests had been banished from the island (Aguirre and Alston 190; Treto 45). That same year, hundreds of Jehovah’s Witnesses were arrested for assembling without having obtained a permit from their CDR and hundreds more on account of their proselytizing activities (Calzon 14; Aguirre and Alston 191). In Pinar del Río, nearly every Kingdom Hall was shut down and its property confiscated (Aguirre and Alston 191). In the late 1960s, when there were incidents of Kingdom Halls and other meeting places being attacked by mobs with stone, brick, and iron, the government refused to prosecute the perpetrators (Calzon 14). Numerous propaganda pieces produced by Granma (Cuba’s state newspaper) and Verde Olivo between 1965 and 1968 stressed the presence of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the UMAP camps, complete with photos and personal interviews.24 Conversely, of the 11 Verde Olivo and Granma articles which reference the UMAP camps, not a single one mentions homosexuals. Since the purpose of the propaganda was to combat the camps’ poor reputation, representations of gays had to be excluded.
There does not exist any testimony from testigos in the UMAP camps; all information about their experiences comes from the eyewitness testimony of other internees. This is not because these former testigo internees are unknown or have all passed away. Rather, testigos de Jehová have been extremely hesitant to share their experiences with those who will publish their testimony. The reasons for this are threefold. Firstly, upon religious principles Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to shy away from anything that even remotely relates to government or politics. Secondly, because conditions for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Cuba have begun to improve over the past two decades, testigos in the Cuban-exile community do not wish to publicize any criticisms of the Cuban government which may put these meager religious liberties at risk.25 Finally, the highly traumatic experiences of many testigos make it emotionally challenging for these former internees to open up to outsiders. Jehovah’s Witnesses were by far the most abused at the camps (Viera). As former internee Héctor Santiago, who was sent to camps for gay men, emphasized:
With us, they were terrible, but let me tell you the truth, they treat you like a lady compared to the testigos de Jehová. Oh my god, they really, really were terrible with them, terrible. The things that they did to them … horrible, horrible.
internee René Cabrera, who was interned for his Catholic activities,
corroborated in his memoir, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses, as always, were the
principal victims of the government’s intention of those crimes” (97).
Testigos de Jehová were not permitted to receive family visits, were not granted passes to leave the camps, and did not receive packages or letters (Cabrera 88, 113; Muñoz). In one instance, a camp guard did not allow a testigo to see his mother who had come to visit him because he refused to put on the verde olivo pants which had to be worn for family visits (Muñoz). When first transferred to the camps, many Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to participate in any camp activities and many refused to even wear the camp uniform (Former; Cabrera 59; Muñoz; Blanco 86). Testigos faced severe punishments for their non-participation, such as beatings, being buried in the ground up to their necks, or being forced to stand outside for hours until fainting (Blanco 86; Ros 101, 112, 194; Cabrera 59–60). However, most Jehovah’s Witnesses began to participate in camp activities and work after the great deal of coercion they faced (Cabrera 74). Less strict guards did not force testigos to wear the UMAP uniform (Former).
Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced a variety of tortures in the UMAP camps. In addition to the practices explained earlier, at some camps a guard would take individual Jehovah’s Witnesses who refused to wear the UMAP uniform out into the fields and fire a pistol, pretending to shoot them while the others were still in earshot. After faking this execution, the guard would return to the camp and select another Jehovah’s Witness who refused to put on the uniform. Former internee José Blanco wrote in his memoir that he did not see even one testigo concede to wear the uniform in the face of these simulated executions (87). Another common punishment was forcing testigos to stand in latrines filled with excrement up to the waist or chest (Blanco 86; Former). At some camps, guards forced Jehovah’s Witnesses to scoop the sewage from camp ditches with their bare hands (Blanco 86).
The Cuban government justifies its persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses by claiming that the sect was part of a scheme orchestrated by the CIA. For example, in January 1963, the Cuban government released a statement announcing that it had sabotaged a CIA spy network based in Oriente province, where they claimed to have found “a large quantity of buried weapons … 36,000 Cuban pesos and some Jehovah’s Witnesses’ prayer books” (“Broke CIA Spy Ring,” 1963). In a 1985 interview, Fidel Castro remarked that “Jehovah’s Witnesses cause problems everywhere … we were highly sensitive. Threatened by the United States, we needed to apply a strong defense policy – and we found ourselves faced with a doctrine that opposed conscription. We didn’t have any trouble over beliefs; rather, all our problems were over ideas – and you don’t know whether they’re religious or political” (Borge 186–87).