2 Cuban army officers killed at jail

February 8, 2007

Miami Herald- Frances Robles

Two Cuban army officers were shot dead when three young conscripts detailed to a prison near the eastern city of Santiago de Cuba tried to help an inmate escape, a dissident Cuban news service has reported.

A dispatch by the Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental (APLO), an independent journalists' group in eastern Cuba, said the incident -- fatal attacks on Cuban soldiers are rare -- took place Dec. 20 at the El Manguito prison.

The report said that when three conscripts detailed to the prison headed to the infirmary to subdue their superiors, an officer told conscript Yoelvis Delgado Arvelo to quit fooling around with dangerous weapons.

Delgado answered: 'I am not playing. This is the truth,' and opened fire, killing Lt. Oliverio Orozco and 2nd Lt. José Antonio Tamayo, according to the report by APLO member Lisette Bravo.

The Miami Herald spoke by phone to Bravo, who wrote the story based on reporting by other APLO journalists. She filed the dispatch to Cubanet, an exile news organization based in Miami.

The incident has not been reported in Cuba's state-run media.

Bravo's article cited the mother of accused soldier Irán Cabrera León as saying the conscripts would likely face the death penalty. The mother could not be reached by The Miami Herald. The name of the third conscript involved was not known.

Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez said he was convinced the incident was true because some of the human rights activists he works with spoke to the family of one of the accused. The families were instructed by the government not to speak to the news media or dissident groups, he added.

Sánchez said up to five people have been detained: three soldiers and two inmates.

'It has nothing to do with the opposition or any kind of political project,' Sánchez told The Miami Herald by phone.

'I think it was an isolated incident which reveals, more than anything, the increasing degree of violence in Cuba,' he said.

The young soldiers left the prison armed with Soviet-style rifles, but were caught nearby, according to Bravo's report. One inmate was shot and injured by the police.

Bravo told The Miami Herald that the inmate had persuaded the soldiers to help him escape with promises of helping them flee Cuba.

Cuban conscripts, usually in their late teens, are assigned the least desired jobs and are generally the least disciplined members of the Armed Forces, said National War College Professor Frank Mora, who studies the Cuban military.

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