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… Castro, the daughter of former Cuban President Raúl Castro, directs — on … that will take place in Havana and in the city of … Francisco Rodríguez Cruz, a gay Cuban blogger and CENESEX-affiliated activist who … Havana press conference that 35 people have had the procedure in CubaContinue reading
14ymedio, 15 March 2018 — The actress Alicia Bustamante died on Thursday as confirmed by family and friends on social networks. The actress had an extensive career in theater, film and television, in addition to serving as a teacher and theater director. On learning of the death of the artist there have been the first reactions within … Continue reading "Alicia Bustamente, One of Cuba’s Best Actresses, Dies" Continue reading
Regina Coyula, 16 March 2018 — (Text published in the bulletin of the 2018 Internet Freedom Festival) Cell phones have been used commercially in the world since 1995, but we Cubans couldn’t have our own cell phones until 2009. Internet access through prepaid cards in public places dates from 2015. In Cuba, the year 2017 … Continue reading "Internet from the Shore / Regina Coyula" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 16 March 2018 — After 24 hours in detention, independent journalist Boris González is still in a dungeon at the police station in the city of Pinar del Río, where he was taken under an alleged “tourist harassment” violation, according to his wife Juliette Fernández. The activist was arrested on Thursday morning when he … Continue reading "Police Accuse Journalist Boris Gonzalez of "Harassing Tourists"" Continue reading
EFE/14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The Oswaldo Payá prize was presented this Thursday, in a symbolic way, to the IDEA initiative, after Cuba refused entrance on Wednesday to the presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who came to receive the award in an act seen by the Government of the Island … Continue reading "Paya Prize Awarded Without Honorees, In An Event Cuban Government Calls a "Provocation"" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 6 March 2018 — The activist and blogger Agustín López Canino has been charged with the crime of “receiving” after a police search of his home last Friday, where a personal computer, camera and other objects were seized. The opponent could face a sentence of up to one year in prison, according to the criminal … Continue reading "Activist and Blogger Agustin Lopez Charged with Crime of ‘Receiving’" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 4 February 2018 — A police search of Havana’s independent El Círculo Gallery, managed by the activist Lía Villares and the painter Luis Trápaga, ended with the seizure of computers, cameras and video cameras, several hard drives, USB drives and cell phones. The authorities informed Villares and Trápaga, the owner of the house … Continue reading "Cuban Police Detain El Círculo Gallery Artists Villares and Trapaga for 24 Hours" Continue reading
EFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 3 January 2018 — Representatives of the Cuban exile community in Miami, on Wednesday, called Cuba’s new immigration rules “abusive and aberrant”; the rules would allow children born abroad to Cuban parents to qualify for Cuban citizenship, but would deny it to such children of parents opposed to the ideology of the … Continue reading "Denying Citizenship to Children of Cuban Opponents is An "Aberration"" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 20 December 2017 — At least five artists have been released in recent hours after being detained by the police on Wednesday while trying to attend a performance at the independent art gallery El Círculo, as a part of the Endless Poetry Festival promoted by the Group Omni Zona Franca, which is celebrating … Continue reading "Cuba Releases at Least Five of the Artists Arrested for Attending a Performance" Continue reading
See also: Police Arrest Actress Iris Ruiz and Blogger Lia Villares in Havana Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 20 December 2017 — Actress Iris Ruiz and blogger Lia Villares were arrested Wednesday around five in the afternoon at the independent gallery El Círculo. The arrest of both occurred during a police operation to prevent a performance scheduled as a part of the Endless Poetry Festival. A presentation of the monologue Psychosis was planned, … Continue reading "Police Arrest Actress Iris Ruiz and Blogger Lia Villares in Havana" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 7 December 2017 — Ernesto Machado will never forget a cold morning in 1968 at José Martí airport in Havana. A migration officer removed her parents’ gold wedding rings while annulling her passport. “This is the property of the revolutionary government,” the woman dressed as a soldier told her, before she left Cuba to … Continue reading "Cuban Customs Can’t Keep Up With Cuban Ingenuity" Continue reading
Lawton, La Habana, Juan González, (PD) Luego de apreciar el material filtrado con toda intención por quienes deciden cosas de este estilo por acá, es decir la guardia pretoriana castrista o fuerzas armadas establecidas para la imposición de una dictadura a todos los cubanos y el resto de los pandilleros asalariados del denominado Ministerio del Interior, unidos todos en un partido único, denominado comunista. Valdría desbocar la imaginación sobre cómo sería el continuismo castrista que se nos viene encima. Algunos […] Continue reading
La Habana, Cuba, Redacción Hab, (PD) Circula ampliamente la filtrada por el gobierno y muy promovida Conferencia impartida por el primer vicepresidente, no electo por nadie, Miguel Díaz Canel Bermúdez, a cuadros de dirección del partido único. Este pronunciamiento, encontró una acertada respuesta por parte de Estado de Sats y su líder, Antonio González Rodiles. La misma, fue dada a conocer, desde un excelente audiovisual realizado por Ailer González y Claudio Fuentes y producido por Estado de Sats. Allí son […] Continue reading
… is being run by Cuba. As Cuban-American blogger Alberto de la Cruz … were determined weeks ago in Havana. — Alberto de la Cruz (@albertodelacruz … is being run by Cuba. As Cuban-American blogger Alberto de la Cruz … were determined weeks ago in Havana. — Alberto de la Cruz (@albertodelacruz … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 27 June 2017 – Cuban authorities blocked at least seven activists from traveling to Cancun, Mexico this Monday, to participate in the 4th Forum on Roads to a Democratic Cuba, a meeting of the United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), according to blogger Regina Coyula speaking to … Continue reading "Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for Democracy Action Meeting" Continue reading
Difundir los rostros de la oposición cubana es un deber Continue reading
Prof. Narayana Rao defines industrial engineering as system efficiency engineering and human effort engineering. PITTSBURGH, PA, USA, May 27, 2017 / -- The world famous and extremely popular international blogger Prof. Narayana … Continue reading
State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia

Ivan Garcia, 5 April 2017 — He says his name is Alejandro. A thin, timid
mulatto, dressed in light-blue jeans, a pullover sweater with
Prussian-blue collar, and low-cut black sneakers. In one hand is a dark

He speaks quietly and deliberately. He looks like a recent graduate of
the Cuban counterintelligence school. According to the summons, he is a
first lieutenant.

The interview location is the Aguilera police station in the Lawton
neighborhood, off Porvenir Avenue. By now the procedure is habitual.
State Security routinely summons dissidents and unmuzzled journalists to
police precincts.

Although he didn't tell me the reason for the summons, it probably has
to do with my latest news reports about the upcoming implementation of
the 3G network, and a report on the state of opinion of workers and
residents in Old Havana about the administration of the military company
GAESA in businesses run by Eusebio Leal, the City Historian.

Of course, the citations serve to try to gather information and to
threaten the interviewee. It's nothing new for me. In March 1991 I spent
two weeks in a cell at Villa Marista, headquarters of the Department of
Security (DSE). They accused me of "enemy propaganda," but I wasn't

Later, during several hours or days, in cells of the 10th Unit, at
Avenida de Acosta and October 10th Street. Then various summonses from
the political police in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In October 2008,
a 12-hour detention at the Zanja and Lealtad Unit, Central Havana. And
in August 2010, a summons from Counterintelligence in a special unit of
the armed forces, in Rancho Boyeros.

The novelty in this case is that before citing me directly, as they have
now done, they cited several friends in the neighborhood to gather
information about me, intimidating them with the accusation that they
provided me information or that they violated certain laws, and
ultimately asked them to collaborate with the special services.

This technique was used by the Soviet KGB and the East German
STASI. According to the procedure, the ideal is that there are two or
more informants in each neighborhood and a counterintelligence officer
for every 50,000 inhabitants.

The main lines of operational work of the Counterintelligence at the
moment are directed by Alejandro Castro Espín, the only son of Raúl, the
president appointed by his brother Fidel.

Since forever, the Castro brothers have designed the strategies to
follow and authorized every step taken by State Security. They don't act

In the current context, with the crisis in Venezuela that has cut oil
supplies to the island by 40%, the economic recession worsened by the
oil deficit, the arrival in the White House of a guy as unpredictable as
Donald Trump, who has threatened to repeal the agreements made with
Barack Obama since 17 December 2014, and the hypothetical change in
government in February of 2018, has set off alarms among the olive green
executive and the secret services.

The arrests have increased. The physical violence towards the Ladies in
White has not stopped. And the harassment, threats and confiscation of
the equipment of free journalists is multiplied.

In the case of the alternative press, they don't care that they have
different ideological positions. They repress equally an anti-Castro
journalist like Henry Constantin, a neo-communist blogger like Harold
Cardenas, or a foreign journalist with family in Cuba like Fernando

For political opponents, the repression has also increased. The most
controversial are beaten and injured. To those who bet on inserting
themselves legally into legal mechanisms, like Candidates for Change and
Otro18 (Another 2018), they are also repressed.

There is no ideological distinction. Liberal thinking wihout
authorization from the military junta is punished. Tomorrow it's my turn
to be 'interviewed' by the counterintelligence officials.

I promise to keep you informed.

Source: State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 5 April 2017 — He says his name is Alejandro. A thin, timid mulatto, dressed in light-blue jeans, a pullover sweater with Prussian-blue collar, and low-cut black sneakers. In one hand is a dark briefcase. He speaks quietly and deliberately. He looks like a recent graduate of the Cuban counterintelligence school. According to the … Continue reading "State Security Summons for Ivan Garcia / Ivan Garcia" Continue reading
Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2017 — Money is no object. When it comes to
thwarting, harassing and repressing intellectuals or journalists, there
are always enough funds in military's coffers to write a blank check.

Solid numbers are hard to come by but, according to conservative
estimates, Cuba's special services and armed forces account for roughly
35% of the nation's paltry GDP.

There is never a shortage of fuel, guesthouses, vacation homes, medical
clinics or surveillance equipment for monitoring alleged

It is mistakenly believed that the top priority of the Special Services
is the fragmented domestic opposition, which can never turn out more
than a few followers for any public gathering. Meanwhile, the brave
fighters at the barricades are kept in line by punches, karate chops and
detention in damp, filthy jail cells.

The real danger for the government, and for counterintelligence as well,
are high-level officials. "They are like laboratory guinea pigs, always
under observation. Their phone calls, internet traffic, contacts with
foreigners, sexual preferences and personal tastes are monitored. They
cannot escape electronic surveillance even in the bathroom," says a
former intelligence officer with experience listening in.

As in the German film The Lives of Others, people with meaningful
positions in government, the armed forces, international trade and the
foreign ministry are under tight scrutiny. The next most heavily
monitored group of individuals — more closely monitored even than
dissidents — are those in the world of arts and letters and the sciences.

"The method for dealing with outspoken opposition figures is to
intimidate them, pressuring them with physical and psychological abuse,
or simply incarcerating them. We know how they think. But individuals
such as writers, musicians, scientists, researchers and
government-employed journalists are like a knife with two edges. Many
are silent dissidents. They often lead double lives. In assemblies,
government offices and newsrooms they appear to be loyal to the system.
At home they are budding counterrevolutionaries," observes the former
intelligence officer.

According to this source, agents are well-trained. "They focus on
managers, officials and employees of important state institutions.
Recent graduates of the Higher Institute of the Ministry of the Interior
are assigned to dissidents and independent journalists. They are more
adept at using physical and verbal violence than intellectual arguments."

In my twenty-years working as an independent journalist, State Security
has summoned me for questioning five or six times. On other occasions
the interviews were more casual. A guy would park his motorcycle outside
my building or near my house, as though he were a friend, and calmly
chat with me or my mother, Tania Quintero, who now lives in Switzerland
as a political refugee and who was also an independent journalist.

He said his name was Jesús Águila. A blond, Caucasian young man, he had
the air of an Eton graduate. When he became annoying, as when he would
call or visit us to discuss our case or would harass my sister at work,
Tania would threaten him with a ceramic mug and he would flee the scene.

One afternoon in the late 1990s I was questioned at a police station by
a high-ranking, rather refined official. Then, on an unbearably hot
morning in 2010, I was questioned at a branch of Special Troops near the
Reloj Club on Boyeros Avenue by officials from Military Counterintelligence.

The site where I was interviewed was an interrogation cubicle located in
a holding area for inmates. I had written a couple of articles for the
Americas edition of the Spanish newspaper El Mundo on meddling by senior
military officers in businesses and corporations. According to my
interrogators, the Cuban armed forces did not like the image these
articles created of military institutions. In a hollow threat, they told
me that I could charged with violating a law — I do not remember which
one — against disrespecting the "glorious and undefeated revolutionary
armed forces."

But ultimately it only amounted to intimidation. For six years they did
not bother me. They denied me access whenever I tried to cover something
at which operatives from State Security were present but they never
detained me. Then, three weeks ago, they questioned a few of my friends
whom they suspected of being sources for my articles.

I wrote one piece in which I said that, if they wanted to know anything
about me, they could call me in for questioning. Apparently, they read
it because on April 4 they summoned me to appear the next day at a
police station in Havana's Lawton district.

There I encountered two pleasant, mixed-race and educated young men. I
cannot say much else about them. I told them that what is needed — once
and for all and by everyone — is open dialogue, to acknowledge the
opposition and to try to find a solution to the national disaster that
is Cuba today by following the path of democracy. While the officers did
not promise tolerance, they did remain silent.

Three days later, one saw the flip side of the coin. As had happened for
ninety-seven Sundays, a mob dressed in civilian clothes was incited by
State Security to stage a verbal lynching of the Ladies in White House
near the police station in Lawton where I had been questioned.

From January to March of 2017 the political police made 1,392 arrests
and in some cases confiscated work materials and money from independent
journalists and human rights activists.

They harass people with little rhyme or reason. A group of reporters
from Periodismo del Barrio (Neighborhood Journalism), an online journal
which focuses on environmental issues and vulnerable communities, or a
neo-Communist blogger like Harold Cardenas are as likely to be targeted
as an overtly anti-Castro figure like Henry Constantin, regional
vice-president of the Inter-American Press Society.

With ten months to go before Raul Castro hangs up his gloves, the
Special Services' game plan is poised to undergo a 180-degree
turnaround. Using its contacts, it could establish a channel of
communication between dissidents and the government, which could serve
as a first step towards the ultimate legal resolution of Cuba's
political problems.

But I fear that democracy is not one of the Cuban regime's top priorities.

Source: Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván
García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Un intento por atraer al público joven, cada vez más alejado del dogma oficialista Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2017 — Money is no object. When it comes to thwarting, harassing and repressing intellectuals or journalists, there are always enough funds in military’s coffers to write a blank check. Solid numbers are hard to come by but, according to conservative estimates, Cuba’s special services and armed forces account for roughly 35% … Continue reading "Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García" Continue reading
Cuba's slick TV channel that supports 'more revolution'
By Will Grant
Cuba correspondent, BBC News
23 April 2017

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Slick new graphics, drum and bass theme music and young presenters: at
least in its presentation, Cuba's latest state television channel is a
break with the past.
Called Canal Caribe, it is an attempt to stand out from the stiffly
presented, heavily scripted newscasts that have aired on state TV for
The channel is trying out different formats. They include live link-ups
with international correspondents via Skype and the use of social media
sites like Twitter - simple devices that are common on most other news
channels but new for Cuban TV.
The channel's news director, Ovidio Cabrera, showed me around the station.
As one of the founders of another left-wing Latin American news service,
the Venezuelan-funded Telesur, he says this new venture will be unique
in Cuba because it will run outside the fixed midday and early-evening
"The key difference is that this will be a news and information channel
that's on air for 18 hours a day," says Mr Cabrera.
"And the vast majority of our coverage, around two-thirds, will be live."

'More revolution'
A live, round-the-clock television news channel might not sound
particularly innovative, but in Cuba such changes happen slowly.
The state-run newspaper and mouthpiece of the Cuban Communist Party,
Granma, has barely changed its typeface in 50 years of revolution.
The question is whether editorially Canal Caribe will be any different
from other channels on the Communist-run island and if criticism will be
"This is a channel for more revolution," says Mr Cabrera, immediately
squashing any suggestion that Canal Caribe will be anything less than
100% pro-government.
"We won't shy away from criticising what isn't working, from making
suggestions, from analysing and discussing social problems, but always
through the prism of supporting the revolutionary process, not against
it," he explains.
The young journalists at Canal Caribe insist that, despite the
restrictions on them, they will report issues that matter to ordinary
"As an intern [working in state media] here, I was told a lot of rules I
found to be nonsense," says news anchor Luis Miguel Cabrera in fluent
"And I'm really proud that I've experienced how those rules have been -
I can't say 'changed' exactly - but certainly made more flexible."
Not yet in his thirties, Mr Cabrera presents The World Now programme and
believes that Canal Caribe is evidence of changing media attitudes in Cuba.
"I have personally experienced that I could report the sort of issues
that one couldn't do in the past. So I think that we have that
responsibility to push hard in order to change things that we don't find
representative of what is going on, not only in Cuba but in the world as
That said, he is a realist and knows the editorial environment in which
he works.
"You have to keep in mind that this is a state-owned channel. But I
believe that we can responsibly show on TV what is going in Cuba and
what is representative of the Cuban people," he says.
Change under way
The way Cubans are consuming their news is undoubtedly changing.
"I haven't watched state TV in years", a young music video producer
tells me.
"I get all my information from the Weekly Package" he adds, referring to
an offline form of file-sharing in Cuba using hard-drives which is both
cheap and hugely popular.
There are also now about 100 public wi-fi spots dotted across the island
and most young people would rather pay for an hour of Internet access
than tune into the nightly news.
Canal Caribe may be the Cuban Government's attempt to tackle that, but
they will find it hard to engage the island's youth.
A pilot scheme has just ended to allow Internet connections in private
homes and theoretically should soon become more widely available.

Essential message
One Cuban blogger, Ariel Montenegro, thinks the days of the Internet
being perceived as dangerous by the authorities may now be numbered.
"I don't believe that the Cuban Government believes right now that the
Internet is bad and is going to be bad for the country and for the
revolution and for socialism and so on," he says, sitting in a public
wi-fi spot.
Although getting online is still slow and expensive, he says, he is
broadly optimistic about the future of the island's connectivity.
Part of the Canal Caribe newsroom is a building site as they construct a
completely new set while inside the on-air studio, the young team of
journalists is preparing to broadcast live again.

In a rapidly changing media environment, the Cuban government is acutely
aware that the slogans of the past no longer appeal to many young people.
With a round-the-clock news channel, they are hoping to become more
relevant to their audience again while still delivering the same
essential message.

Source: Cuba's slick TV channel that supports 'more revolution' - BBC
News - Continue reading
… site Diario de Cuba, published in Spain by Cuban exiles. The cartoon … female tourists accompanied by black Cuban male prostitutes with exaggerated features … racist caricature were in Cuba, disconnected. Sandra Álvarez, Cuban blogger “I felt … ” from the control of the Cuban authorities. However, several speakers agreed … Continue reading
Reinaldo Escobar, 18 June 2008 — The former president Fidel Castro has just published a foreword to the book Fidel, Bolivia and Something More in which he discredits the internet blog, Generation Y, written by my wife, the blogger Yoani Sanchez.  From the first day, she has put her full name (which he omits) and … Continue reading "Reflections* From a Glass House" Continue reading
Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Airbnb hosts in Cuba, who
were so enthusiastic at the beginning, have been complaining recently
about the delays in receiving the payments made by the tourists who have
stayed in their homes. The discontent is clear from the complaints
published on the platform of the American company and the interviews
conducted by 14ymedio.

On the Airbnb site a couple claims to have experienced repeated delays
in payments. "Between January and part of February 2016 we had a serious
delay in receiving the payments through the agency VaCuba," complained
Ileana and Rolando, who have had problems again in early 2017. "We are
already behind in the dates scheduled by Airbnb; we haven't received the
payments and right now we're waiting on three more payments," they explain.

The Miami-based courier company VaCuba, with headquarters in Miami, is
in charge of bringing the payments to the hosts who rent out their
homes, rooms and spaces through Airbnb. In any other country, these
payments are made in the ordinary way through internet transfers, but
the banking system in Cuba has hired this agency to send the cash to get
the money to the Airbnb hosts.

The growth of Airbnb in Cuba during the last year has been remarkable,
making it the country where the platform has grown the most thanks to
the extension of licenses of that allows Cuban hosts to attract clients
from all over the world, not only from the United States, like at the

Jorge Ignacio, an economics student who rents out a house in the town of
Soroa, in Artemisa, told 14ymedio that in February of this year,
"there's nothing from Airbnb." Now he says he's "looking for
alternatives" to collect for the stays of his guests because VaCuba, the
only money distribution mechanism offered by Airbnb has collapsed,
"because there are so many customers" and it can't continue "counting
the 'kilos'," he comments. "I get the full amount of the payment but
always with a big delay," said Jorge Ignacio, explaining that it's not
an isolated case "because the whole world is in the same situation."

Rebeca Monzó, a Cuban artisan and blogger who has a room to rent in
Nuevo Vedado, has a different complaint but adds to the discomfort
generated in recent months. "The payment delay is almost a month, I
never receive the full amount, they bring me 19 CUC when they actually
owe me 500." Monzó says that a messenger from VaCuba explained that "the
Cuban bank is behind with the transfers" and that "it cannot get the
full amount at once" and that is why they prefer to "make partial payments."

As a retiree, Monzó says the situation is not easy because she doesn't
see the result of her efforts and she only receives a fraction of what
she spends on daily supplies that allow her to "maintain a functioning
business." The payments are not the only thing she needs to stay
afloat. Monzó does her best to earn the good comments that clients place
on her profile. Each morning she prepares the breakfast for her clients
with great care and when they arrive at her house, she receives them
with a welcome card she makes herself.

"I wrote an email to Airbnb to comment on the delay of the payments and
not only did they not answer me but they returned the message. I have
also asked other hosts who have been in this for a longer time and they
have told me that it is not possible to receive the money by any means
other than VaCuba."

She says that Airbnb always makes the payment "in less than two days"
and that the company notifies her by email. Monzó confesses that she
does not want to leave the platform because "it is very safe" and sends
"the type of clients that you ask for."

"I refuse to take in the tourists just off the street because I do not
want to take risks, I want it to always be through a company that
guarantees me the seriousness of the customer," says Monzó.

Other users of the platform say they have found a solution to the
problem by using AIS cards to send and receive transfers, which can be
found in any branch of the state-owned company Financiera Cimex.

"You can ask VaCuba to start sending the money to the AIS card,"
explains an Airbnb host.

By the end of 2016, at least 34,000 self-employed people were engaged in
renting homes to serve a growing number of tourists (4 million last
year). To do so legally, they have to get a license and pay taxes, which
are levied even when their rooms are not rented.

Source: Cuban Hosts Complain About Airbnb's Payment System – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 7 March 2017 – The poet and essayist Francis Sanchez has returned to the blogosphere this week after six years of not updating his personal blog. The writer from Ciego de Avila announced he would continue to publish his ideas “without censorship” on his site Man in the Clouds, now with a new … Continue reading "Poet Francis Sanchez Reopens His Blog After Six Years Of Digital Silence / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Francis Sanchez, 1 March 2017 – I am re-opening this blog where I will publish my ideas without censorship. It’s been years since October 2010 when I started “Man in the Clouds” and after five months I was forced to stop updating it. All of the bloggers in Cuba were being accused at that time … Continue reading "Why Am I (Again) “in the clouds”? / Francis Sanchez" Continue reading
… until they actually arrive in Havana. On arrival, they find their … . Conversely, plenty of travellers to Cuba relish the chance to disconnect … , those needs could change, says Cuban youth blogger Ariel Montenegro. … in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana. Image copyright Getty Images Image … Continue reading
… until they actually arrive in Havana. On arrival, they find their … . Conversely, plenty of travellers to Cuba relish the chance to disconnect … , those needs could change, says Cuban youth blogger Ariel Montenegro. … in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana. Image copyright Getty Images Image … Continue reading
The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2017 — On February 24 of next year Raul
Castro must leave the presidency of Cuba if he is to fulfill the
promise he has made several times. His announced departure from power is
looked on with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by
others, but hardly anyone argues that his departure will put an end to
six decades of the so-called historical generation.

For the first time, the political process begun in January 1959 will
have a leader who did not participate in the struggle against the
dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. Nevertheless, Raul Castro can
maintain the control of the Communist Party until 2021, a position with
powers higher than the executive's and enshrined in the Constitution of
the Republic.

In the 365 days that remain in his position as president of the Councils
of State and of Ministers, the 85-year-old ruler is expected to push
several measures forward. Among them is the Electoral Law, which he
announced two years ago and that will determine the political landscape
he leaves behind after his retirement.

In the coming months the relations between Havana and Washington will be
defined in the context of the new presidency of Donald Trump and, in
internal terms, by the economy. Low wages, the dual currency system,
housing shortages and shortages of products are some of the most
pressing problems for which Cubans expects solutions.

Raul Castro formally assumed the presidency in February of 2008,
although in mid-2006 he took over Fidel Castro's responsibilities on a
provisional basis due to a health crisis affecting his older brother
that forced him from public life. And now, given the proximity of the
date he set for himself to leave the presidency, the leader is obliged
to accelerate the progress of his decisions and define the succession.

In 2013 Castro was confirmed as president for a second term. At that
time he limited the political positions to a maximum of ten years and
emphasized the need to give space to younger figures. One of those faces
was Miguel Díaz-Canel, a 56-year-old politician who climbed through the
party structure and now holds the vice presidency.

In the second tier of power in the Party is Jose Ramon Machado Ventura,
an octogenarian with a reputation as an orthodox who in recent months
has featured prominently in the national media. A division of power
between Díaz-Canel and Machado Ventura (one as president of the Councils
of State and of Ministers and the other as secretary general of the
Party) would be an unprecedented situation for millions of Cubans who
only know the authority being concentrated in a single man.

However, many suspect that behind the faces that hold public office, the
family clan will continue to manipulate through pulling the strings
of Alejandro Castro Espín. But the president's son, promoted to national
security adviser, is not yet a member of the Party Central Committee,
the Council of State or even a Member of Parliament.

For Dagoberto Valdés, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies,
Raúl Castro leaves without doing his work. "There were many promises,
many pauses and little haste," he summarizes. He said that many hoped
that the "much-announced reforms would move from the superficial to the
depth of the model, the only way to update the Cuban economy, politics
and society."

Raul Castro should "at least, push until the National Assembly passes an
Electoral Law" that allows "plural participation of citizens," says
Valdés. He also believes that he should give "legal status to private
companies" and "also give legal status to other organizations of civil

The American academic Ted Henken does not believe that the current
president will leave his position at the head of the Party. For Henken,a
professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Baruch College in
New York, Castro's management has been successful in "maintaining the
power of historic [generation] of the Revolution under the authoritarian
and vertical model installed more than half a century ago" and "having
established a potentially more beneficial new relationship with the US
and embarking on some significant economic reforms. "

However, Henken sees as "a great irony that the government has been more
willing to sit down and talk with the supposed enemy than with its own
people" and points out "the lack of fundamental political rights and
basic civil liberties" as "a black stain on the legacy of the Castro

Blogger Regina Coyula, who worked from 1972 to 1989 for the
Counterintelligence Directorate of the Interior Ministry, predicts that
Raul Castro will be remembered as someone "who could and did not
dare." At first she saw him as "a man more sensible than the brother and
much more pragmatic" but over time "by not doing what he had to do,
nothing turned out as it should have turned out."

Perhaps "he came with certain ideas and when it came to reality he
realized that introducing certain changes would inevitably bring a
transformation of the country's political system," says Coyula. That is
something he "is not willing to assume. He does not want to be the one
who goes down in history with that note in his biography."

Independent journalist Miriam Celaya recalls that "the glass of milk he
promised is still pending" and also "all the impetus he wanted to give
to the self-employment sector." She says that in the last year there has
been "a step back, a retreat, an excess of control" for the private sector.

With the death of Fidel Castro, his brother "has his hands untied to be
to total reformist that some believed he was going to be," Celaya
reflects. "In this last year he should release a little what the
Marxists call the productive forces," although she is "convinced… he
won't do it."

As for a successor, Celaya believes that the Cuban system is "very
cryptic and everything arrives in a sign language, we must be focusing
on every important public act to see who is who and who is not."

"The worst thing in the whole panorama is the uncertainty, the worst
legacy that Raul Castro leaves us is the magnification of the
uncertainty," she points out. "There is no direction, there is no
horizon, there is nothing." He will be remembered as "the man who lost
the opportunity to amend the course of the Revolution."

"He will not be seen as the man who knew, in the midst of turbulence,
how to redirect the nation," laments Manuel Cuesta Morua. Cuesta Morua,
a regime opponent, who belongs to the Democratic Action Roundtable
(MUAD) and to the citizen platform #Otro18 (Another 2018), reproaches
Raúl Castro for not having made the "political reforms that the country
needs to advance economically: he neither opens or closes [the country]
to capital and is unable to articulate another response to the autonomy
of society other than flight or repression."

Iliana Hernández, director of the independent Cuban Lens,
acknowledges that in recent years Raúl Castro has returned to Cubans
"some rights" such as "buying and selling houses, cars, increasing
private business and the right to travel." The activist believes that
this year the president should "call a free election, legalize
[multiple] parties and stop repressing the population."

As for the opposition, Hernandez believes that he is "doing things that
were not done before and were unthinkable to do."

Dissident Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello is very critical of Raul Castro's
management and says she did not even fulfill his promise of ending the
dual currency system. "He spoke of a new Constitution, a new economic
system, which aren't even mentioned in the Party Guidelines," he says.

"To try to make up for the bad they've done, in the first place he
should release all those who are imprisoned simply for thinking
differently under different types of sanctions," reflects Roque
Cabello. She also suggests that he sit down and talk to the opposition
so that it can tell him "how to run the country's economy, which is

Although she sees differences between Fidel's and Raul Castro's styles
of government, "he is as dictator like his brother," she said. The
dissident, convicted during the Black Spring of 2003, does not consider
Diaz-Canel as the successor. "He is a person who has been used, I do not
think he's the relief," and points to Alejandro Castro Espín or Raul
Castro's former son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, as
possible substitutes.

This newspaper tried to contact people close to the ruling party to
obtain their opinion about Raúl Castro's legacy, his succession and the
challenges he faces for the future, but all refused to respond. Rafael
Hernández, director of the magazine Temas, told the Diario de las
Américas in an interview: "There must be a renewal that includes all
those who have spent time like that [10 years]." However, not all
members of the Council of State have been there 10 years, not even all
the ministers have been there 10 years."

This is the most that the supporters of the Government dare to say.

Source: The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro's Departure From Power /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 24 February 2017 — On February 24 of next year Raul Castro must leave the presidency of Cuba if he is to fulfill the promise he has made several times. His announced departure from power is looked on with suspicion by some and seen as an inescapable fact by others, but hardly anyone argues that … Continue reading "The Countdown Begins For Raul Castro’s Departure From Power / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Too Young for the Party and Too Old for the Communist Youth / Cubanet,
Luis Cino Alvarez

Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 9 February 2017 — Try as I might—to
avoid being a bore and accused of holding a grudge against the boy—I
cannot leave Harold Cárdenas, the ineffable blogger at La Joven Cuba, in
peace, I just can't. And the fault is his own, because the narrative he
makes out of his adventures defending his beloved Castro regime, and his
loyal candor, strikes one as a kind of masochism worse than that of
Anastasia Steele, the yielding girl in Fifty Shades of Grey.

In a post on 19 January, Harold Cardenas complained of the terrible
limbo, for a communist, in which he finds himself (not to mention that
it would be the envy of many militants who accepted the red card because
they had no other option): Harold, being past the requisite age, was
removed from the Union of Young Communists (UJC), but he is not accepted
into the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) because, they explain, he is
still too young.

His situation reminds me of a 1976 song by the British rock band Jethro
Tull (which Harold probably doesn't know, because of his age, and
because I can't imagine him listening to any music other than that of
Silvio, Buena Fe and Calle 13). The song tells the story of the
disconsolate and hairy motorcyclist and failed suicide, Ray, who was
"too old to rock and roll, too young to die."

Harold Cárdenas rightly intuits, given the entrenchment recently being
displayed by the regime, that he has been given the boot—or the bat, as
his contemporaries say—from both organizations because of his
publications "in other media." And so he knocks himself out with
explanations, challenges his punishers to find one counterrevolutionary
line in his writings, "but without taking a line or a post out of its
context—conducting a serious search through the totality of the content."

As if these guys needed to go to so much trouble to suspect someone and
consider him an enemy!

The blogger, with his foolish sincerity and wild innocence (Ay, Julio
Iglesias!) has annoyed the stony big shots and their subordinate
"hard-core" little shots—always so unsympathetic towards those who, even
while remaining within the Revolution, dare to think with their own
heads and give too many opinions. This is why they consider him
undisciplined, hypercritical, and irresponsible, why they don't want him
in the UJC nor the PCC.

Overall, he came out all right, because in other times, not too long
ago, who knows what the punishment might have been…

Harold Cárdenas, with his faith intact through it all, assures us that
he does not have a single complaint about the Party, although, as he
says, it hurts him "how some dogmatists detract from the collective
intelligence of the organization."

As far as Harold is concerned, his punishers do not answer to an
official policy, but rather are dogmatic extremists who think themselves
more leftist than Stalin. He warns: "We must take care not to confuse
sectarian procedures with State or Party politics, even if they try to
disguise themselves as such. The individuals who apply them, although
they might try to justify their actions as being taken in the name of
the Revolution or some institution, are doing it for themselves. They
are trying to preserve the status quo of the known, motivated by fear,
ignorance or other interests."

Harold Cárdenas, who seems to believe himself the reincarnation of Julio
Antonio Mella (who, by the way, seems to have been assassinated by order
of his comrades and not the dictator Machado, due to his Trotskyite
connections) believes that what is happening is a "tactical struggle
among revolutionary sectors" of which he has been a victim. But he does
not despair. With the patience of a red Job, having been warned that "it
is very difficult to fight for a better society outside of the movement
that must lead the construction," Cárdenas says that he will join the
Party when he will not have to "subordinate the political struggle to a
vertical discipline… when they give me a way, there will be a will."

And one, faced with such resigned masochism, does not know whether to
pity Harold in his wait for the blessed little red card, or give him up
as incorrigible, and let him continue to self-flagellate. May Lenin Be
With Him!

Author's email:

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Too Young for the Party and Too Old for the Communist Youth /
Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 9 February 2017 — Try as I might—to avoid being a bore and accused of holding a grudge against the boy—I cannot leave Harold Cárdenas, the ineffable blogger at La Joven Cuba, in peace, I just can’t. And the fault is his own, because the narrative he makes out of … Continue reading "Too Young for the Party and Too Old for the Communist Youth / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez" Continue reading
Airbnb, The Cuban Experience / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 February 2017 — Rustic, elegant or
family friendly. These are the preferred accommodations offered
by Airbnb in Cuba. The hosts, for their part, prefer serious customers
who pay well, but above all value the ability to directly manage their
rental, two years after the huge international private rental platform
opened its services in Cuba.

"There is nothing like Airbnb," said Jorge Ignacio Guillén, a student of
economics who rents out a house in the town of Soroa, Artemisa.
Surrounded by lush vegetation, orchids and birds native to the area, the
accommodation is described as "rustic" and in direct contact with nature.

The young man helps his family manage the home's profile on the
California website specializing in vacation rentals. Guillén signed up a
year ago and his family's house is now is one of the more than 4,000
rental options that Airbnb claims exist on the island.

Airbnb listings in Cuba range from exclusive mansions with pool that can
cost up to $1,000 a night depending on the number of rooms, to single
rooms with a bed or bunk for about 10 dollars

The San Francisco-based company, created nine years ago, expanded its
services to Cuba in April 2015, just months after the announcement of
the diplomatic thaw between Washington and Havana.

The offerings on the island range from the most luxurious to the
simplest. From exclusive mansions with pools that can cost up to $1,000
a night depending on the number of rooms, to single rooms with a bed or
bunk for about 10 dollars*. Hot running water, coffee upon awakening or
a minibar are some of the options to choose from.

Of the more than 535,000 self-employed workers in the country at the end
of 2016, at least 34,000 dedicate themselves to renting homes, rooms and
spaces. An unknown number offer a house or a room "under the table,"
without a state license and without paying taxes.

On the island, entrepreneurs need to obtain a rental license, in
accordance with the regulations on self-employment implemented in the
mid-1990s. Owners of registered rentals must pay license fees and taxes
deducted from personal income. These vary depending on the location of
the property, the square footage allocated to the rental, and the
occupancy numbers.

Airbnb registration is simple. The first step is to fill out a detailed
form about the accommodation you are offering and the guests you wish to
host. Within a few minutes you will receive an email welcoming you to
the platform. The last step is to attract customers, who will rate the
accommodation through the company's website.

The Guillén family has wanted to do everything legally to be able to
take advantage of the growth in tourism. Last year, the number of
foreign visitors reached 4 million, 6% more than the 3.7 million
visitors initially forecast, according to the Ministry of Tourism (Mintur).

Most of the rooms offered on Airbnb are located in Havana, but other
destinations such as Trinidad, Viñales, Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas
are gaining prominence. The Cuban market stands out as the fastest
growing in the history of the company.

Guillén learned about the service through a friend outside the island
and as soon as he had the opportunity to connect to the internet he
posted his advertisement. "From then to now business improved a great
deal and we are finding a lot more customers," he tells 14ymedio. Also,
the new customers "are much better, more serious and more respectful,"
and "they pay more," he summarizes.

The family is offering "a simple country house," and puts its guests in
touch with a guide service and horseback riding. After the reservation,
all the information is shared via email, the most fragile part of the
operation due to the low connectivity to the internet still experienced
in Cuba.

Rebeca Monzó, a craftswoman and blogger who has a room for rent on
Airbnb, complains of the difficulties involved in managing the service
without internet access. Although an email account on the government
Nauta service has alleviated the problem, responding immediately when
she receives a reservation message is complicated.

Monzó, who has made clear her preference for "stable, professional and
retired couples," will receive her first customer in February, "a
Mexican filmmaker who is coming with his wife." For this coming March
she already has another confirmed reservation.

The increase in the number of days of occupation per year is one of the
advantages for local entrepreneurs who have joined Airbnb. Guillen
confesses that although he still has "much to learn about the management
of the platform," he does manage, through it, to "maintain a good number
of reservations."

After the difficulties of eight years of construction to get their
property ready in Soroa, a beautiful natural area, the young man's
family is reaping the fruits of their labors. However, they recognize
that the most difficult thing continues to be "always having on hand the
necessary supplies to meet basic needs," because "there still is no
wholesale market in the country."

In Monzó's Havana neighborhood of Nuevo Vedado, "almost everyone who
rents to tourists has signed up for the service. The customer pays from
their own country directly to Airbnb," and then "they send an Airbnb
representative to the house who brings the money in cash," she says. It
is the same formula frequently used by Cubans abroad to send remittances
to family on the island.

But for Monzó, the business is far from a source of great profits. "When
I signed up, I wasn't thinking about being able to buy a yacht. I was
just thinking I'd like to have a well-stocked refrigerator."

*Translator's note: Looking at the listings on Airbnb's site as of
today, single room rental rates (two guests) appear to be concentrated
in the range of about $25-$35 (with many that are more and less than
that). A professional employed by the state in Cuba earns roughly $40 a
month; physicians earn roughly $60 a month.

Source: Airbnb, The Cuban Experience / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar –
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 February 2017 — Rustic, elegant or family friendly. These are the preferred accommodations offered by Airbnb in Cuba. The hosts, for their part, prefer serious customers who pay well, but above all value the ability to directly manage their rental, two years after the huge international private rental platform opened its services in Cuba. … Continue reading "Airbnb, The Cuban Experience / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar" Continue reading
Cuba's Young Communist Union Comes Late To The National Blogosphere /

14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2017 — The Union of Young Communists (UJC)
has joined the national blogosphere, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde
(Rebel Youth) reported on Wednesday. The Young Cuban arrives ten years
behind the world of blogs, that the opposition, independent journalism
and civic activism have successfully developed over the last decade.

The managers of the new digital site seek to turn it into "another
alternative" so that young Cuban internauts can participate in a
"scenario of debates and displays of opinions," according to the
official media. It is hosted on the free WordPress platform and is
defined as "a blog of the vanguard Cuban youth."

Asael Alonso Tirado, an official of the UJC National Committee,
clarified that the space is committed to "a fresh language that is
consistent with the codes of youth," and "stipped of all formalism."
However, he said that in the debates there should be first "respect for
and defense of the best values of the Revolution."

The official is optimistic and says that the space has 31,500 followers
and in "less than five days has achieved almost 1,000 visit, mainly from
Cuba, the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile,
Namibia and Angola."

Nevertheless, the UJC's blog lands in a tangled jungle of digital spaces
that gain presence on the Island in spite of the low rate of
connectivity to the internet. Most young people consume content that
they acquire through informal distribution networks.

The Cuban Youth blog joins the most important official services and
social networks. Prominent among them is Ecured, which attempts to rival
the volunteer led Wikipedia; Reflections, similar to blog hosting
services like Blogger; The Washing Line, which tries to compete with
Facebook; and Backpack, a substitute for the informal but ubiquitous
weekly packet.

None of these copies has achieved the popularity of the originals, so we
will have to wait to see if the new UJC blog is able to overcome the
indifference of users to official initiatives and mass organizations.

Source: Cuba's Young Communist Union Comes Late To The National
Blogosphere / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2017 — The Union of Young Communists (UJC) has joined the national blogosphere, the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) reported on Wednesday. The Young Cuban arrives ten years behind the world of blogs, that the opposition, independent journalism and civic activism have successfully developed over the last decade. The managers of the new … Continue reading "Cuba’s Young Communist Union Comes Late To The National Blogosphere / 14ymedio" Continue reading


La Unión de Jóvenes Comunistas (UJC) se ha sumado a la blogósfera nacional, según informa este miércoles el diario Juventud Rebelde. El joven cubano llega con diez años de retraso al mundo de los blogs, que la oposición, el periodismo independiente y el activismo cívico han desarrollado con éxito en los últimos diez años.

Los gestores del nuevo sitio digital buscan convertirlo en "otra alternativa" para que los internautas participen en un "escenario de debates y exposiciones de criterios", asegura el medio oficial. Está alojado en la plataforma gratuita de Wordpress y se define como "un blog de la vanguardia juvenil cubana".

Asael Alonso Tirado, funcionario del Comité Nacional de la UJC, aclaró que el espacio apuesta por "un lenguaje fresco y acorde a los códigos juveniles" y "despojado de todo formalismo". No obstante, aclaró que en los debates debe primar "el respeto y la defensa de los mejores valores de la Revolución".

El funcionario se muestra optimista y asegura que el espacio cuenta con 31.500 seguidores y ha logrado "en menos de cinco días casi 1.000 visitas, principalmente desde Cuba, Estados Unidos, Brasil, Argentina, Venezuela, Ecuador, Chile, Namibia y Angola".

[[QUOTE:El Joven cubano se inserta en una tendencia oficial de competir con los más importantes servicios y redes sociales de internet]]Sin embargo, el blog de la UJC aterriza en una enmarañada jungla de espacios digitales que ganan presencia en la Isla a pesar de la baja conectividad a la red de redes. La mayoría de los jóvenes consume contenido que obtiene a través de la redes informales de distribución.

El Joven cubano se inserta en una tendencia oficial de competir con los más importantes servicios y redes sociales de internet. Entre ellos destaca Ecured, que busca rivalizar con la enciclopedia participativa Wikipedia; Reflejos, similar a servicios de alojamiento de bitácoras como Blogger; La Tendedera, que intenta competir con Facebook, y el sustituto del paquete ilegal de audiovisuales, apodado la mochila.

Ninguna de esas copias ha logrado la popularidad de sus originales, por lo que habrá que esperar para comprobar si el nuevo blog de la UJC supera la indiferencia de los usuarios ante las iniciativas oficiales y de las organizaciones de masas.

Continue reading
What's next for Cuba?
Updated December 19, 2016 11:34 AM
By Alvaro Vargas Llosa,

One would think there is no doubt in anybody's mind about Fidel Castro's
horrific legacy. And yet we have heard important leaders say some
outrageous things.

What is Castro's real political legacy? The last free election in Cuba
was in 1948; Fidel Castro turned the island into a more ruthless police
state than the one he inherited from the Batista regime. The guerrillas
he exported to Latin America gave rise to savage right-wing military
dictatorships in the 1970s. Today no country in Latin America, with the
pathetic exception of Venezuela, models itself on Cuba. The few
left-wing populists who were allies of Cuba have been defeated at the
polls (Argentina), constitutionally removed from power (Brazil), or
forced to give up their hopes of another unconstitutional re-election
(Ecuador, Bolivia), while Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega has metamorphosed
into a right-wing despot.

Soon after he took over from Fidel (first on an interim basis, then
formally), Raul Castro, who would like to copy the Vietnamese formula
(state capitalism and one-party rule), began to renounce some basic
tenets of Cuba's socialist economic model. He did not go far, but some
of his measures — those relaxing the draconian emigration rules,
allowing small businesses to operate privately, and re-establishing
diplomatic relations with the United States without the precondition of
lifting the embargo — have a counterrevolutionary whiff.

What about Fidel Castro's economic legacy? The respected Cuban economist
Carmelo Mesa-Lago has calculated that the Soviet subsidy amounted to $65
billion over a 30-year period and that Venezuela's largesse toward the
island amounted to $10 billion annually during the reign of Hugo Chavez.
(It continues in diminished form under Nicolas Maduro.)

Castro wanted to turn Cuba into an agricultural powerhouse, but today it
imports more than 70 percent of its food, and the sugar harvest, which
reached 8 million tons a long time ago, has been reduced to about 1.4
million tons. The small industrial activity that still exists is half of
what it was at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Economics
professor and blogger Tyler Cowen thinks the country's per capita income
is below $2,000.

What now? Raul Castro announced in 2013 that he will relinquish power in
2018 and seemed to suggest he would be succeeded by Miguel Diaz Canelo,
an electrical engineer. Raul will relinquish the presidency of the
Council of State and the Council of Ministers, but real power rests in
the military and the Communist Party, where he will continue to call the
shots. His son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodriguez, is the head of GAESA, the
holding company of the armed forces, which directly controls half of
Cuba's economy. This is the body you must partner with if you want to
invest in tourism, retail, infrastructure projects, etc.

Not to speak of the third Castro generation, already positioned for
important things. A son of Raul Castro, Alejandro, is a colonel in the
Ministry of the Interior and the head of counterintelligence.

At the age of 85, Raul will not be around to make decisions much longer.
But anyone who thinks this is the beginning of a meaningful political
transition is sorely mistaken. Fidel's brother believes in combining
limited market reforms with one-party rule — the "Vietnamization" of the
Cuban model. He may not be Fidel, but he commands enough authority to
make sure nothing funny happens under his watch.

What is much less clear is what will happen after Raul Castro is gone.
No apparatchik wields enough power to ensure the perpetuity of the
system. Although civil society is too weak at this time to rebel against
one-party rule, the cracks that might open within the structure of the
state could unleash forces of the kind we saw in Eastern Europe both
inside and outside of the Communist Party.

But that will not happen anytime soon.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa is a senior fellow at the Independent Institute and
author of "Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of
State Oppression" and "The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty."

Source: What's next for Cuba? | Newsday - Continue reading
HBO Documentaries Illuminate Castro's Brutal Cuba
Two offerings coincide with strongman's death.
Glenn Garvin | December 3, 2016

HBO should get a little trophy from the television industry for giving
executives something to talk about at holiday parties besides falling
ratings and the specific level of Hell that should be reserved for
whoever invented this internet thing. Instead, they can ponder over the
question: Is HBO's documentary division the most genius outfit in
television, or just the luckiest? Months ago, HBO acquired two
unheralded documentaries on Cuba, then booked them for the very moment
when Fidel Castro would head off to the great workers' collective in the
sky. Water-cooler buzz galore, Latin American Policy Wonk Department.

And if that department had an Emmy, Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or
Death would win it right now. First-time director Olatz López Garmendia
is better known as a model and a fashion designer, but she must have had
a career in operating heavy construction equipment, too, because Patria
O Muerte takes a merciless wrecking ball to the Potemkin Village imagery
of Cuba promoted by most of the American chattering class. The
desolation and despair of Castro's Revolution—its actually existing
socialism, as Marxist theoreticians of the 1950s would have called
it—has never been on such devastating display for American audiences.

Garmendia lived in Cuba as a child, when her Spaniard parents joined the
flocks of European Fidel groupies moving to Havana to stand by their
man, but she clearly didn't swallow the Kool-Aid; Patria O Muerte is not
her first demythology project on Cuba.

She also informed the sensibilities of her then-husband, Julian
Schnabel, when he was making his epic anti-Castro movie Before Night
Falls. (Garmendia worked on the film as music supervisor.) She made
Patria O Muerte as something of a samizdat work; the film was shot
without Cuban authorization, and she had a devil of a time getting the
footage off the island.

Without narration and little archival footage, Patria O Muerte makes its
points through a series of interviews of ordinary Cubans, filmed in
their seedy tenement apartments in Old Havana. The stories they tell,
with only occasional exceptions, are not of lurid torture or
persecution, but of the quiet desperation of life in a dead-end society
weighed down by decay of every type: economic, physical, mental.

There's a cadaverous old man named Julio who bluntly declares his life
useless and is clearly talking about more than his grubby apartment when
he responds to a question: "What am I missing? Everything." Or Valery, a
goth transvestite who took to the streets as a jinatera, as the island's
part-time hookers are known, after the remittances from a sister in the
United States dried up and she found herself without enough money to buy
a new toothbrush. That career ended, though, one night after she was
lectured by a tourist whose appreciation for cheap commercial sex had
not diminished his more-revolutionary-than-thou ardor for the Castro
regime. He told her that "Cubans were shameless, that Cubans said they
had problems, when there weren't any problems in Cuba." Retorted Valery:
"If that's true, then what am I doing here with you for $20?" She left
the streets, fearful that she was "about to kill [herself], or kill one
of these foreigners."

Or Mercedes, a housewife living in a tottering building built in the
1870s in which she must sleep with one eye open to avoid being hit by
chunks of falling masonry. Her young son, injured in a balcony collapse,
needs surgery, but building repairs make it impossible: "If we buy
cement, then we can't buy food or medicine." An aphorism which, oddly,
didn't make it into Sicko, Michael Moore's encomium to the Cuban
health-care system.

Garmendia shot some interviews with dissidents, too, including rogue
blogger Yoani Sanchez, whose contribution of an audio tape of her 2010
detention by men without uniforms or credentials is by far the most
chilling moment in the film. Unfortunately, her cameras weren't along
when one of her subjects, graffiti artist El Sexto, was arrested when
found in possession of a couple of pigs painted with the names Fidel and

Patria O Muerte's companion piece, Mariela Castro's March: Cuba's LGBT
Revolution, is a far better film than I would have guessed, given it's a
project of longtime Castro apologists Saul Landau and Jon Alpert. But it
has to be given credit as the first English-language documentary to
discuss, however briefly, the regime's brutally harsh treatment of
homosexuality during the 1960s and 1970s.

There was no shortage of official homophobia around the globe at that
time, of course, particularly in the machista world of Latin America.
But few counties took it to the extremes of Cuba, where gays were locked
up in work camps for years at a time.

"Look at me here, with bright shiny eyes," says one elderly gay man,
brandishing what looks like an old graduation photo. Then he opens the
internal passport the government issued him after two years in a work
camp: "The camp changed that for the rest of my life. ... My eyes are
vacant and sad." They would become sadder still; the passport was marked
with his sentence to the work camp, Castro's equivalent of a pink
triangle that doomed any social or professional prospects.

But that rare and valuable look at a largely unseen side of Cuban
history is over in a few short minutes. The rest of Mariela Castro's
March is about the budding movement for gay acceptance being led by the
daughter of Raul Castro. It has its oddly charming moments, including an
interview in which Cuba's first female-to-male transgender surgery
patient displays his bulging new package, which he's named Pancho, and
proclaims: "Pancho works perfectly!" Grumbles his elderly brother: "I'm

Yet too much of this documentary is suffused with the cult of
personality that colors everything about the Castros. And there's no
awareness—on the part of the filmmakers or the movement activists,
though the latter may simply be exercising reasonable prudence—of the
irony of seeking liberty in one small sphere of Cuban life while
ignoring the crushing totalitarianism of everything else. "I can shout
that I'm gay and nothing happens!" boasts one giddy man. Yeah, but
trying painting "RAUL" on a pig's butt and see what happens.

Photo Credit: 'Patria O Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death'
Contributing Editor Glenn Garvin is the author of Everybody Had His Own
Gringo: The CIA and the Contras and (with Ana Rodriguez) Diary of a
Survivor: Nineteen Years in a Cuban Women's Prison. He writes about
television for the Miami Herald.

Source: HBO Documentaries Illuminate Castro's Brutal Cuba - - Continue reading
… Sanchez, a world-known Cuban blogger, was touring Havana’s picturesque Malecon, or … second visits to Cuba.  On my first trip to Havana in 2009, I was pursued by Cubans begging me … and buildings that populated most Havana neighborhoods have gotten a coat … Continue reading
… Tuesday in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, where Cubans will be … the news spread in Havana, the popular Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez tweeted … that this moment fills Cubans - in Cuba and in the United … Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, celebrators outside of the Cuban restaurant Versailles … Continue reading
Tania Bruguera: Cuban artist fights for free expression
How the internationally renowned dissident artist turned a performance
piece into a fight for freedom of expression.
by Carlos Manuel Alvarez
Carlos Manuel Alvarez is a Cuban journalist.

Havana, Cuba - It is December 17, 2014 and the Cuban artist Tania
Bruguera is at Pope Francis' weekly public mass at the Vatican.

As a political artist, Bruguera has developed one of the most powerful
bodies of work in installation and performance art in Latin America. She
has come to Rome to present the pope with elements from her campaign,
Dignity has no Nationality. It is part of her new project - a public
political platform called the International Immigrants' Movement.

On the train to Venice, where she'll be participating in a performance
art festival, Bruguera gets the news: after more than a year of secret
negotiations, Cuba and the United States have announced the restoration
of diplomatic relations.

"I became very anxious … fearful, hopeful, all at once," she says. "An
event like this marks a separation between the present and the past. You
wonder, what's to be done now?"

She continues: "In a way, something like this means everyone has a new
role, as if the parts are being reshuffled; the old metaphors suddenly
acquiring new meaning. Everything becomes re-contextualised."

Two days later, she publishes an open letter to Raul Castro on Facebook.
It is the first action of Yo Tambien Exijo (YTE), which means I Also
Demand, a civic platform made up of a group of friends and colleagues,
with Bruguera as its main spokeswoman.

"I found it suspicious that the government would try to sell an image to
the world that portrayed everyone in Cuba as being happy with the
agreement with the US. The government has always felt entitled to the
feelings of its citizens, and thus acted as Cubans' only legitimate
spokesperson. In my interpretation, people weren't happy. People were
shocked. They felt a certain hope, a hope that they hadn't felt for
years, the hope that something might change. But that's not the same as
happiness...," Bruguera says.

"Cuba's president simply informs us. He dictates new resolutions without
us knowing what sort of external pressures or intentions lie behind
them. That's because in Cuba, there is no institutional transparency.

"A president should navigate with its people through a political process
like this, because it is also an emotional one. I find it as much an act
of violence to say something can't be done as to say now everyone is
obliged to do it."

Bruguera announces on social media that she intends to restage her
performance on free speech, Tatlin's Whisper.

In the piece, which was last performed in Havana at the 2009
Biennial, participants are given a microphone and one minute to speak
about anything they choose.

In a country where many believe the only microphone belongs to the
state, the 2009 performance was an unprecedented event where even
dissidents had a platform.

This time, however, Bruguera says she wants to bring the performance to
a public space, preferably Plaza de la Revolucion or Revolution Square -
the government's symbolic bastion.

Revolution Square or 'Censorship Square'?

But it soon becomes evident that Bruguera's proposal isn't welcomed by
the authorities.

Various government-run blogs, magazines and online newspapers begin
to portray her as a peon serving those pushing for the US annexation of
Cuba or as attempting to destabilise the government.

Raul Capote, a former state security agent turned blogger, writes (link
in Spanish): "They're not interested in peace or freedom of expression,
but in sparking confrontation, provoking confusion and instability, at a
time when the fascist right in Miami is shaking before the end of its
hegemony of terror."

Her attempt at political intervention is framed as an act of political

When Bruguera arrives at Havana airport on December 26 she is met by the
political police who start filming her. Her every step is scrutinised.

In such moments, one lives in the present, Bruguera says.

"You enter this state, this state in which you are very much alert,
trying to understand the semantic consequences of your actions, and how
they are interpreted," she says. "You are trying to keep them from
sequestering your own story."

A symptom, which will dictate the events to come, begins to emerge.

Pablo Helguera, the director of adult academic programmes at New York's
Museum of Modern Art, MoMA, describes it on Facebook (link in
Spanish): "It is impossible to think of a relevant artistic action in
the second decade of the 21st century that hasn't been mediatised - or
in which such mediatisation isn't part of the work itself.

"Tania's work is precisely that - a campaign - and whatever occurs or
doesn't occur within it is part of the work. It's no surprise that the
government stumbled into it like one stumbles into a black hole."

Others criticise Bruguera, saying she has allowed political dissident
groups to usurp her performance.

Bruguera says that both government and dissident forces seized upon her
work at some point, mostly without really understanding it, after
discovering an element worth exploiting for their own political goals.

But, she tells herself, she has worked with dissidents and activists in
Europe and the United States who have used her work for various ends, so
why not let those in her own country do so?

Over the next few days, a struggle ensues between Bruguera and Cuba's
cultural bureaucracy.

She visits the Havana police and the national police to ask about the
permits she needs for her performance. But no one knows the answer; a
regulatory limbo is imposed.

She has two meetings with Ruben del Valle, the president of the National
Council of Plastic Arts (CNAP), who suggests alternative venues, like
the National Museum of Fine Arts. For Bruguera, Revolution Square is
vital to the performance, but she nevertheless accepts del Valle's
alternative and agrees to a reduced performance of 90 minutes.

But before they finalise a deal, del Valle says the museum must choose
the show's participants.

For Bruguera, this amounts to killing the performance.

She decides that the performance belongs in Revolution Square.

Revolution Square has become Censorship Square, she argues.

A first act of political rebellion

Forty-eight-year-old Bruguera grew up in the upmarket Havana
neighbourhood of El Vedado. Her father, Miguel Brugueras, was an
underground militant during the Batista dictatorship and became a
diplomat after 1959. He was a trusted ally of the revolution's senior

Miguel Brugueras' family never knew what he did on his trips abroad.
According to Bruguera, he rarely spoke. At 18, in reaction to her
father, Bruguera dropped the last letter of her surname and along with
it lost any possible inheritance, either material or symbolic. It was
her first act of political rebellion.

Between 1980 and 1983, she studied at the Elementary School of Plastic
Arts in Havana and later attended the San Alejandro Fine Arts
School, where she was a student until 1987. In 1992 she graduated with a
degree in painting from Cuba's prestigious arts university,
the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA).

It was a time of upheaval in Cuban art.

As Cuban essayist and intellectual Rafael Rojas argues (link in
Spanish), "Between the 80s and 90s, a generation of plastic artists
carried out a renovation of Cuba's cultural life. This was a generation
that, while pertaining to the Soviet bloc, was aware of the most
groundbreaking movements taking place in Western art, and attempted to
assimilate and adapt them into the Cuban context. Among the most
emblematic artists in that transition was Tania Bruguera."

Over the next two decades, Bruguera would maintain an influential
presence in Cuba, mostly as a teacher at the ISA through her renowned
Behaviour Art programme, which she established in 2002.

She simultaneously built a powerful international career. She has dealt
with subjects such as migrants' rights, the use and proliferation of
weapons, drugs in Colombia and violence on the Mexican border. She
taught at the University of Chicago, as well as at the National School
of Fine Arts in Paris, and won distinctions like the Guggenheim
Fellowship (1998) and the Prince Claus Award (2008).

But around Christmas of 2014, things began to crumble.

"It was the first time Tania was doing a specifically political project
in direct reference to Cuba," Clara Astiasaran, an art critic, curator
and YTE member, explains.

"Her work has always been political, but this time she was directly
addressing the nation's president regarding a foreign policy decision
that was key to Cuba's nation-building efforts over the past 60 years -
the idea of anti-imperialism."


On the evening of December 29, Bruguera feels scared for the first time.

She goes for a walk, feeling confused. The performance has been
announced for 3pm the next day, but friends have warned her that she
won't be allowed to attend.

She contemplates her options: she could sleep at someone else's house,
dress up as a homeless person and show up unannounced at the square,
or she could wander around town until the show starts.

Instead, she walks to her mother's house in Vedado and starts making
phone calls, inviting artists and friends, trying her best to make the
situation appear as ordinary as possible.

The next morning at 5.30am there's a knock on the door.

From her balcony, Bruguera can see the political police surround her
building. Certain of what's about to happen, she sits down with her
mother and 94-year-old aunt and asks them to stay calm, no matter what.

It's not until noon - after picturing the reaction at Revolution
Square when people realise that she's not there and fearing a breakout
of violence - that Bruguera takes off her glasses and jewellery and
opens the door.

She doesn't see anyone so she calls out and a couple of officers appear.
Bruguera has already tried contacting her sister in Italy to ask her to
announce the performance's cancellation, but ETECSA, the state-run
telecommunications company, has cut off her landline and mobile phone.

She is charged with incitement to break the law, inciting public unrest
and resisting the authorities, which is later dropped when it becomes
apparent that she never resisted. Her Cuban passport is confiscated.

Bruguera is driven to the first of more than 30 interrogations she will
be subjected to.

Detention and interrogation

At 3pm, a calm hangs over Revolution Square. It is hard to believe that
it is at the centre of such turbulent events.

There are some international reporters, carrying their credentials, and
a few cameras on tripods, along with the usual symbols: the statue of
Jose Marti, the silhouette sculpture of Che Guevara on the facade of the
Ministry of Interior building and of Camilo Cienfuegos on the
Communications Ministry building, the Jose Marti National Library and
the National Theatre.

There are also dozens of curious bystanders, standing in groups waiting
for Bruguera to arrive. They watch the side streets and try to divine
who among them is an undercover agent. Cars and buses drive up and down
Boyeros Avenue, just as on any other afternoon. An hour later, people
start to leave.

A few days earlier, graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as
El Sexto, had spray painted the names of Fidel and Raul on two pigs. He
was arrested as he tried to release them on to the street and sent to

As Bruguera is driven to a police station, several other activists and
well known political dissidents are arrested. Some weren't even planning
on participating in Bruguera's performance.

Earlier that day, CNAP had issued an official statement: "In light of
the circumstances, it is unacceptable to carry out the performance in
the symbolic venue of Plaza de la Revolucion, particularly given the
widespread coverage and manipulation the counterrevolutionary media have
been doing of this."

At the police station, Bruguera is given an inmate's uniform to wear.
She is locked in a cell with another woman, who, she concludes, must be
a government informant because of all the questions she asks about
political dissidents.

"It was at that moment," Bruguera says, "I learned that injustice has a
way of manifesting itself physically and isn't just a concept. I stopped
eating, not out of courage, but because I thought what was being done to
me was unfair, and I had no other way of making that clear."

A few officers interrogate her. Some are persuasive; others just shout.
She is then handed over to a psychologist who asks questions such as:
"What kind of television shows do you watch?"

She can't tell whether this is supposed to push her to the point of
desperation or to help pass the time.

Back in her windowless cell, exhausted from so much conversation, she
tries to get some sleep. The next day she is released.

Having learned that other dissidents are still in prison, she heads to
El Maine monument, on Havana's Malecon, where she makes a public appeal
for people to return to Revolution Square. She is again detained.

This time, she has another female cellmate.

"[She] looked like an undercover informant that had been planted there
to watch me," Bruguera says.

"I didn't want to speak with anyone, and she stayed relatively quiet and
polite. We didn't talk about anything, other than her asking me whether
I was planning on eating, and me telling her, No, I'm not. At some
point, she started doing her hair and I ended up helping braid her hair
in silence."

Three national security officers take turns to interrogate her: Agents
Andrea, Javier and Kenia, the lead investigator in her case. Bruguera
doesn't know whether these are their real names.

Andrea is younger and the least experienced. Javier seems more seasoned.
He knows a lot about Cuban art in the 1980s, Bruguera's career and even
tries to play mind games with her by reminding her about her father.
With Kenia, whose interrogation technique involves giving revolutionary
spiels while mixing in talk about personal things, she establishes a
more systematic interaction.

"There's something interesting about Kenia; she seems like an honest
person," Bruguera says. "I don't know whether she is truly honest.
Things are not what they appear to be during interrogations."

On New Year's Eve, Bruguera is again released.

She welcomes 2015 with a court case against her, no passport, and unable
to leave town.

"The performance turned out to be not so much what didn't happen at
Plaza de la Revolucion," wrote Helguera (link in Spanish), "but the
display of hysteria and arrogance that ensued on the part of the Cuban
authorities ... Cuba lives in a perpetual state of hysterical
manipulation, and any person - whether an artist or not - who manages to
break that balance will of course be viewed with terror and indignation."

The line between empowerment and disengagement

In one of the few instances in which a Cuban artist or critic publicly
criticised Bruguera's work, National Plastic Arts Award laureate Lazaro
Saavedra wrote in an essay(link in Spanish), "Just like with Tatlin's
Whisper, in 2009, Tania will be leaving Cuba having scored yet another
'goal' for her artistic resume and amassed thousands of anecdotes.

"She will be criticised, and also celebrated for her braveness and
rebellious spirit in social media - both real and digital - and some
curator or critic will fittingly mention her in their writings about
contemporary art, etc. When she goes, she will be leaving behind her
thousands of Cubans fighting for our civil rights, and as always there
will be hundreds or thousands abroad pushing them. He who pushes doesn't
get hurt."

According to him, "There is more provocation in Tania Bruguera's YTE
than success or progress in regards to civil rights beyond what's
obvious and has been said over and over: the government will not allow
open microphones or all voices to be heard."

That is precisely the point some scholars might have made without the
risk of arrest: What happens when political art works within a society
but then gets recognition outside of it? What's the line between
empowerment and disengagement?

Though many critics I spoke to disagreed with Bruguera's work, they
would not publicly debate it, partly out of concern that they might be
seen as condoning the government's actions.

Some critics say that had Bruguera carried out her performance inside a
museum she would have managed to mount a challenge to the high
bureaucrats of Cuban culture. But by taking it outside, she left culture
unchallenged and undisturbed, while her work was insubstantial from a
political standpoint, receiving scant public attention.

"As a creator," Saavedra wrote, "Tania should have found an intelligent
way to circumvent censorship and formal structures of social control and
created a temporary autonomous zone where it would be possible to 'open
microphones' and let 'all voices' be heard. But she failed, and the
voices are still waiting to be heard."

The performance continues

In early January 2015, more than 2,000 figures in the international art
scene begin demanding that Bruguera's documents be returned to her after
her third arrest in 72 hours. On January 5, Bruguera returns her
National Culture Award and renounces her membership of the national
union of writers and artists. Two weeks later, she receives a case
number: No 25 for the year 2015.

Over the next month, police interrogations and citations
follow. Bruguera has to show up at the police station in Vedado, from
where she is driven around the city to various "interrogation sites".

Some question why she always seems so willing to go and be interrogated.

"In order for it to work, the performance had to stick to the law," she
says. "Since it's dealing with the issue of tolerance, the work had to
show the control mechanisms the system has and all the legal
contradictions which exist in Cuba."

At the end of January, YTE sends a letter to Raul Castro and Maria
Esther Reus Gonzalez, the justice minister, demanding they decriminalise
free expression and remove all charges against Bruguera.

In response, Kenia, the investigator, tells Bruguera that the prosecutor
hasn't yet made a decision about her case and she will have to wait for
another 60 days.

Over the following months, the wave of international solidarity grows.
Renowned artists such as Anish Kapoor and Jeremy Deller sign an open
letter published in The Guardian.

She chronicles her experiences on social media. In one piece called The
Eyes of Power, she writes: "I have looked into the eyes of power for
four months now and throughout this time, I held my gaze, beginning a
journey into another Cuba, a Cuba that belongs to those fighting for
their right to free expression.

"Today, I'm in a Cuba that neither the tourists nor the businesspeople
calculating the risks of their investments on the island will see, nor
will the artists attending the Havana Biennial, because they will be
safely inside the bubble of the art world."

On May 20, just before the Havana Biennial opens, Bruguera begins an
open-studio performance, a 100-hour reading of Hannah Arendt's The
Origins of Totalitarianism at her home in Old Havana.

This reading is the first undertaking of the Institute of Artivism
Hannah Arendt (INSTAR), founded by Bruguera.

Although Bruguera thinks her performance has several endings and may not
yet have ended, the reading could be considered the culmination of her
work: what began as Tatlin's Whisper and has continued with everything
that has happened since, the performance she has now titled
#YoTambienExijo, also the name of the platform, YTE, which she considers
part of the work.

"I think this work was quite a success, because I was able to try out
different theories I had about political art, which I had written about,
discussed at conferences, carried out separately in one or another work,
but here managed to lay out in a very clear way," she says. "For
instance, one of the concepts that is present is what I call 'doing work
for a specific political moment'. That is, when works don't emerge out
of the artist's personal, intimate desire but rather the political
conditions where they will be developed. That was very clearly the case.

"The other thing that was at play was the investigation I have been
doing for over 20 years about the limits between art and life, the
creation of moments during which those limits force you to ask a very
fruitful question - is that art you are being exposed to?

"Finally, I was able to experiment with the concept of behavioural art
in which the work becomes complete through the reaction of the audience
- their behaviour generates new content and meaning. This means there
are no right or wrong answers to the work, just honest answers."

Astiasaran, the art critic and YTE member, believes the project was
successful at the time for two reasons. "It brought alliances from the
art world into politics," she says, "and showed the path for different
agendas to become sovereign as well as politically and ideologically

On June 29, 2015, after a lengthy bureaucratic feud, the public
prosecutor's office dictates that the case against her be
discontinued. Bruguera gets her passport back and on August 21, after
taking part in several marches with the dissident group the Ladies in
White, she flies out of Cuba.

Following months of organisation overseas through YTE, and after a
successful Kickstarter campaign raising more than $100,000, INSTAR is
formally launched on April 8, 2016.

In May, Bruguera returns to Cuba.

Her house now serves as INSTAR's headquarters.

"This time of polarised feelings, of the lack of citizens' resources to
change the course of things, calls for us to reclaim public space as a
civic space rather than a venue for propaganda where above all there is
a lack of transparency and institutional tolerance. Since the
government likes to simplify things into right or wrong, I would like to
share with others the construction of complex concepts or emotions, like
forgiveness," she says.

Translated from Spanish to English by Alvaro Guzman Bastida.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera

Source: Tania Bruguera: Cuban artist fights for free expression - News
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