The Canadian lawyer imprisoned in Cuba, Benjamin Tomlindenounced that there are no Canadian or British representatives in Havana to provide consular assistance to its citizensparticularly those in a more vulnerable situation, and warned those wishing to travel to the island of the inconvenience this could cause.
New health problems and barriers to accessing a doctor led him to use his dual nationality and attempt to communicate, unsuccessfully, with Canadian and British officials at their respective embassies in Cuba.
In recent days, the prisoner – transferred last summer from the prison for foreigners The Countess in Combinado de Este- began to suffer from a severe earache and urged the guards to take him to the doctor.
“My ear got worse, it hurt, it was itchy”Benjamin said Cyber Cuba, who described the sensation in the ear as if it had an insect walking inside it. As the days passed, the pain became more excruciating and he was eventually taken to the prison infirmary.
The prisoner assumed that once in the infirmary, he would be examined by a doctor with an otoscope, an instrument with a beam of light that allows the visualization and examination of the state of the ear canal and eardrum, and which may reveal the cause of certain symptoms. . However, the only thing they offered him was an injection, probably a painkiller, although to this day the Canadian claims to be unaware of what was in it.
Similar to what happened during the coronavirus vaccination, the lawyer detected that the nursing staff wanted to administer the injection with “single use disposable needle” and added that “It doesn’t happen anywhere”.
Eventually, as before, he managed to get new needles brought to him and only then did he agree to receive the injection. However, he pointed out that getting sick on weekends is a problem as there are no medical staff in the prison. In general, health care is very poor, judging by their statements: “They don’t give more health care here and I don’t know why.”
A few days later, he was given drops for ear discomfort and now, momentarily, he feels better; but according to his testimony, when he needed it most, he did not receive timely help from his governments on the island.
Seeking the support of his consular representatives, with a “desperate” earache, he called two consular offices in Havana. As a Canadian and British citizen, he is unlikely to lack consular assistance, however, the lawyer was unable to communicate with Canadian or British authorities in Cuba.
“I’ve called the embassy 60 or 70 times,” he said, referring to the Canadian embassy, ”and I can’t even talk to them when I call. I’ve been put on hold and there was no [oficial] Canadian available »assured.
Last week, he was informed by the rehabilitator that he would have a visit from a representative of the Canadian government, but he never showed up. “They were supposed to come last week but they didn’t and I have no explanation why they never came. This is the first time this has happened.”warned the lawyer, and clarified that the Bahamian citizens with whom he shares captivity in the Combinado have indeed received their representatives and, with them, provisions and provisions which it is otherwise complex to acquire since they do not have no relatives in Cuba.
The prisoner insisted that the government of his country “You can’t allow Canadians to go to Cuba if they don’t have consular assistance.”
As if that were not enough, now the British Embassy in Havana is closed and “He also does not offer consular assistance, nor does the Australian”revealed.
Cyber Cuba made two calls to said consular headquarters and, indeed, received an automated message informing them of the closure, with no further explanation or date limit. Therefore, it is not possible to establish whether this is a temporary or indefinite closure, and the reasons for the closure are not known. dead end.
When you dial the number for the British Embassy, the metallic voice gives you the option of dialing an extension for consular assistance, and an affable official, across the Atlantic in London, answers in the event of an emergency. It appears that there are no British officials in Cuba to provide consular support to their citizens on the island.
For Cyber Cubaattention was limited to a reminder of the third-party data protection policy, which prevented the official from answering our questions about consular attention to Tomlin, who, according to the detainee himself, was practically zero. Canadian authorities have used a similar argument in every communication with this media.
For Tomlin, a series of personal questions made him think he was “under questioning”, he said, although he acknowledged there was an intent to help on the part of those who respond to calls on behalf of the UK authorities.
The fear of not being able to access timely treatment, the experience of the health complications he had due to an inguinal hernia that was only operated on when it compromised other organs and his own life, according to his testimony at the time, is what motivates the Canadian to denounce the isolation in which he finds himself.
He knows that there are consequences for those who speak out against the deplorable conditions of prisons and medical care in Cuba, but he does not want to remain silent, despite the reprisals that probably await him and that he has already suffered.
Only now Cyber Cuba learned that after the publication of the article on the hunger strike by Hispanic inmates in La Condesa Last July, guards were cruel to the lawyer and sent him to a punishment cell for weeks, in clear violation of the maximum 14-day detention under Cuban law.
“The article came out on the morning of the 27th and they took me out and put [confinamiento] lonely without access to calls for weeks and without being able to talk to anyone. Later, when they took me out of my cell in September 2021, it was because I was able to speak with the consul”said the inmate.
At this time, this medium learned that even those close to Tomlin did not know where he was. From July to September, the lawyer disappeared from The Countess and later appeared transferred to the Combinado del Este, with the excuse that he would finally receive the surgery he then needed.
However, it took five months for his operationnot without several reproaches on his part Cyber Cuba documented at the time. His state of health began to deteriorate to such an extent that the lawyer came to believe that the Cuban and Canadian authorities they waited for him to die to, with it, bury the errors committed in the treatment of your file.
For all the above, he feels that his physical integrity is in danger. It is even impossible that everything that happened does not have a negative impact on his mental health, as strong as it is, especially since he has always declared himself innocent of the charges against him.
Benjamin Tomlin was arrested in Havana in 2018 and charged with bribing minors, while working as a lawyer for the company Canada Development Investment Corporation. During the trial, the alleged victim, a 15-year-old girl, said she had never seen him in her life. Despite the fact that the jury could not prove any relationship, the Canadian was sentenced to 10 years in prison, of which he served half, depending on the time served in prison.
During those four years, he applied for transfer and deportation to Canada, as well as parole. All their requests were rejected by the Cuban authorities.
“People need to know how serious the situation is. They know that when Canadian diplomats returned to Canada, they sued the Canadian government for covering things up. »said Tomlin, alluding to the consequences suffered by several officials as a result of the appeal “Havana Syndrome”also called “sound attacks”.
“And they are diplomats, who are supposed to be the most protected people here. They have the connections, they have the power and they have the diplomatic status. So what are we going to become? Think how bad things will be for us.”sentenced.