Another story of a foreigner who moved to Cuba to work with the Castro regime and once he wears out his usefulness, ends up in a gulag on trumped-up charges of espionage. Who would have ever imagined that a murderously repressive and corrupt dictatorship that also sponsors terrorism, traffics drugs, and launders money for criminal and terrorist organizations would do such heinous things?
The Brit condemned to Castro’s dungeon: Locked in a stinking Cuban hellhole with drug smugglers and rapists, the businessman branded a spy whose diaries will chill your blood
British architect Stephen Purvis moved his wife and four children to Cuba to escape their humdrum middle-class life in London. For 15 years their adventure paid off – until 2012, when Stephen, then 51, was arrested and accused of spying for the Americans. It was the beginning of a 16-month nightmare…
My universe has shrunk to the dimensions of a king-size mattress – not much more than 6ft square.
This is a standard cell in Villa Marista, the state security interrogation centre. It’s a dungeon I will have to share with three other people for months, even years. Four people in a tiny concrete box in a country where the summer temperature is 40 degrees and the humidity 80 per cent.
The washing and toilet facilities are a 3ft-square sunken trough by the cell door. These dungeons were built to KGB technical specifications. We are reduced to animals in a zoo for enemies of the state.
When I first came to Cuba in 1997, the country was bankrupt. There was no food. The whole country felt and smelt like a pair of tramp’s trousers.
To save his wonky world, President Fidel Castro (who handed power to his brother Raul in 2008) gambled by opening his country to the Pandora’s box of tourism and allowing direct foreign investment. Which is where I came in with two left feet and our life savings to invest. My wife Sarah and I, with our four children, went to Cuba because we saw an opportunity to escape our conventional, suburban middle-class lives to have the kind of family experience you cannot buy.
It was work that first took us there. I had been introduced to a client who needed an architect – and decided to stay. For years, while I helped build multi-million- pound projects like the golf and real estate development Bellomonte in Playas del Este Havana, we lived the dream.
But then the rules changed. Foreigners could no longer rent private houses so we had to move to a posh suburb with diplomats and other big cheese foreigners. Castro’s regime began a purge on the same people who had been invited in to help build the economy. The company I worked for and my boss were caught up in something far bigger than me.
When they come for you, its mostly at your workplace or they grab you off the street like the Gestapo. It’s what happened to my boss: they came and took him away, provisionally charged with revelations of state secrets and corruption.
I should have gone to the airport and taken the first flight out, but I refused to run away. I wasn’t a crook. Five months later, they came for me.
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