By Travis Cartwright-Carroll
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
MIAMI, USA -- A Cuban man who had been detained at a detention centre in The Bahamas said on Friday he had a “hellish” experience, which included being allegedly beaten by guards.
"I have no words to describe the experience," Randy Rodriguez told reporters. "This is something that has no comparison with anything else."
Former Bahamas detention centre detainee Randy Rodriguez points to a scar that he claims is the result of abuse at the centre. Photo: Ahvia J. Campbell
He claimed that while at the detention center, he was "mercilessly" kicked on the floor by guards, pepper sprayed and doused with water. Emotions ran high on Friday when Rodriguez and his family, who were granted asylum by the United States, arrived in Miami around 1 p.m.
They were greeted at the airport by Miami-based protest group Democracy Movement spokesman Ramon Sanchez.
At the group’s headquarters, Rodriguez relived his experience while detained in The Bahamas as his family looked on in silence.
He was surrounded by his two sons and wife, who were visibly shaken by his testimonial.
After allegedly being beaten at the facility, Rodriguez was transferred to prison and was released from custody on Thursday.
He had been accused of attempting to escape from the detention centre but denied this.
"The detention centre, that is criminal," he said. "Many times, children were unable to eat because food was in bad condition."
Rodriguez said he was beaten by the guards at the detention center and while at the prison, he was stabbed by an inmate.
His children winced at the words.
"I was beat up in the detention centre," he said. "In the prison, I was not beaten up by the officers, but they put me in a cell with four criminals – two had killed police officers, one that had raped two women and one I don't recall very well, but his mind was not right.
"Once I was there, I was Cuban and white and they would say dirty things to me. There was a day when one of them showed me a sharp object and said he was going to kill me."
The man ended up stabbing him, he claimed.
Rodriquez's wife and two children were briefly held at the detention centre as well.
His wife claimed to have witnessed sexual abuse at the facility.
Rodriguez also said a video purporting to show Cuban detainees being beaten by Bahamian officers was real. He claimed to have been present when the video was taped.
However, the government has said that the video was staged.
A detainee claimed in a witness statement to Defence Force investigators that the video was staged to reenact earlier abuse.
Meanwhile, Democracy Movement on Friday asked Bahamas Prime Minister Perry Christie to take action against the guards responsible for allegedly abusing Cuban detainees at the detention centre.
During the press conference in Miami at the group's headquarters, Sanchez said Christie must address the allegations.
"Do we need to say any more before we hear from you the good news that you will immediately make all victims and witnesses available to the press and the investigators, not only for the horrible incident already exposed by a leaked report?" Sanchez asked.
"We are not looking for revenge, sir. We are looking to impede those same people [so they won’t] commit the same acts in the future when everyone goes about their daily lives and forgets this tragic episode."
He was reading from a letter to the prime minister that the group intends to deliver to the consul general in Miami.
In statements contained in a defence force report
on alleged abuses at the detention centre, marines admitted to beating detainees.
Sanchez said the report's leak is a victory for the truth, but called on Christie to release the official report.
"We encourage you to stand tall on the sacred post that you hold, put politics aside, and give the world the good news that the truth is more important to you than an insincere image...” he said.
Sanchez urged the prime minister to show that he cares about “abused, mistreated and humiliated human beings” whose physical wounds might heal in a while, but whose spiritual wounds could last a lifetime.
"We further encourage you to deploy the courage to sit down together with us in the table of brotherhood so that we can all work together to find justice and harmony in the rest of this process," he said.
Marleine Bastian, executive director of the Haitian Women of Miami, said she has also heard allegations of abuse against Haitian nationals detained at the detention centre.
She said the allegations of abuse against the Cubans have deeply upset her.
"It pains me," she said at the press conference. "My heart bleeds to hear the plight of the refugees."
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian