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Dissident

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 11 October 2017 — When he was a boy all he needed was a scalpel to shape a piece of wood and he gladly exchanged the tracks of athleticism for art. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara dreamed of “being famous, having money and improving the world,” but ended up denouncing, through his aesthetic … Continue reading "Luis Manuel Otero: “Fear is One of the Most Effective Tools of This System”" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia,25 September 2017 — If you want to go to the house of the 58-year-old dissident lawyer, Julio Ferrer Tamayo, the busy Esquina de Tejas, which is ten minutes by car from central Havana, can do as a reference point. Four important city streets meet at the famous corner; Monte, Infanta, Calzadas de Cerro, … Continue reading "Interview with Julio Ferrer Tamayo, Independent Cuban Lawyer / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2017 — Cuban dissident Darsi Ferret, who has lived in the United States since 2012, was found dead Saturday in West Palm Beach, as confirmed to 14ymedio by his colleagues and family. Ferret, 47, a doctor, was at a local television station planning to launch in that Florida city when he died in … Continue reading "Darsi Ferret Dies in Miami" Continue reading
Iván García, 30 August 2017 — Since his wife died two years ago, Manuel hasn’t been eating properly. At night, he sits in front of an obsolete cathode ray tube television, and usually watches the news or the baseball while he drinks some fourth-rate rum bought from a convenience store. His big old house with high … Continue reading "Cuban Universities Need Autonomy / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 29 August 2017 — Five opposition organizations have withdrawn from the coalition of more than seventy independent groups that form the Democratic Action Roundatable (MUAD), as well as the #Otro18 (another 2018) campaign, which is demanding a new electoral law in Cuba. The split has become “irreversible” according to comments from the veteran dissident … Continue reading "Five Cuban Opposition Organizations Break With MUAD and #Otro18" Continue reading
Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, 24 August 2017 — In his hardline speech to Cuban Communist Party (PCC) cadres, Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel killed any illusions some may have harbored that a future government headed by him, following Raúl Castro’s retirement,* would tend towards reforms and be less authoritarian and repressive. Assuming the stance of a … Continue reading "Díaz-Canel: Killer of Illusions / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez" Continue reading
Cuban state police kill a man with sonic torture. The Miami-based Cuban … .” Denuncia expreso político cubano Luís Zúñiga ante Justice Cuba: https:/… currently holding Daniel Llorente, a Cuban dissident who was detained after … result of “unprecedented” “incidents” in Havana. “We take this situation extremely … Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 2 August 2017 — The Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) is celebrating its six years in the midst of the complicated situation faced by the island’s opposition, assaulted by repression and limited by laws that penalize any form of organized dissidence. Under the leadership of José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU was born in … Continue reading "Opposition Organization UNPACU Turns Six In Very Difficult Circumstances" Continue reading
… member of any Cuban dissident or pro-democracy organization—the Cuban government did … ship came to shore in Havana. At the time, Llorente brought … without a trial, indefinitely. The Cuban regime has become significantly more … number of political prisoners in Cuba doubled between April 2016 and … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 14 August 2017 – The Office of the Attorney General of Cuba declared the “final dismissal” of the case against the activist Eliécer Ávila, accused of the crimes of receiving and illegal economic activities. The court also ordered the seizure “in favor of the Cuban State” of most of the property seized during a … Continue reading "Prosecutor Dismisses The Case Against Eliecer Avila But Seizes His Belongings" Continue reading
Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 29 May 2017 —  Yes, General, on this point I entirely agree with you: “The enemy uses ever more sophisticated information weapons”. He clearly is the enemy; the one who stubbornly opposes all my people’s progress; the one who brazenly deprives them of their rights; who obliges them to live in misery; … Continue reading "Talking With The Enemy / Jeovany Jimenez Vega" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 6 August 2017 — Havana, 4 August 1994. Amidst the suffocating heat, 12-hour blackouts, the devalued currency, and the scarcity of food, the sensations felt on the streets of Havana 23 years ago had reached the breaking point. Frustration and social malaise were in full bloom. People sat on the corners making plans … Continue reading "The Maleconazo, Cuba’s First Popular Revolt, Happened 23 Years Ago / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 21 July 2017 — In recent weeks, the official media have spared no space to explain the details of the Cuban electoral system, which they call “the most democratic in the world.” However, the infographics, data and explanations published so far neglect details that “firmly maintain” the mechanisms to avoid surprises. Between … Continue reading "By Show of Hands" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 24 July 2017 — Cuba’s incipient civil society, independent journalism and political activism on the island is starting to find the cupboard is bare. According to a US embassy official in Havana, “Seven out of ten dissidents chose to settle in the United States after the Cuban government’s new immigration policy in January … Continue reading ""Since 2013, 7 of every 10 Cuban dissidents have settled in the US" / Iván García" Continue reading
Our apologies for not having subtitles for this video. 14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2017 — At least 40 activists attended a mass in tribute to opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero on the fifth anniversary of their deaths, on Thursday evening. The ceremony took place in the church of Los Quemados in Marianao, Havana, and passed … Continue reading "Dozens of Opponents Attend Mass in Honor of Oswaldo Paya in Havana" Continue reading
Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 14 June 2017 — What you lose last is hope. And those who
have plans to immigrate to the United States maintain bulletproof optimism.

Close to a small park in Calzada street, next to Rivero's funeral home,
dozens of restless people await their appointment for the consular
interview at the American Embassy located at the Havana's Vedado district.

Ronald, a mixed-race man of almost six feet, requested a tourist visa to
visit his mother in Miami. Before going to the embassy he bathed with
white flowers and sounded a maraca gourd before the altar of the Virgen
de la Caridad, Cuba's Patron Saint, wishing that they would approve his
trip.

Outside the diplomatic site, dozens of people await restlessly. Each one
of them has a story to tell. Many have had their visas denied up to five
times while some are there for the first time with the intent to get an
American visa; they rely on astrology or some other witchcraft.

Daniela is one of those people. "Guys, the astral letter says that Trump
instructed the embassy people to give the biggest possible number of
visas," she says to others also waiting.

Rumors grow along the line of those who read in social media — never in
the serious news — that Trump, in his next speech in Miami, will reverse
the reversal of the "wet foot-dry foot" policy.

In a park on Linea Street with Wi-Fi internet service, next to the
Camilo Cienfuegos clinic, two blocks from the United States Embassy,
Yaibel comments with a group of internet users that a friend who lives
in Florida told him that Trump was going to issue open visa to all Cubans.

The most ridiculous theories circulate around the city among those who
dream to migrate. The facts or promises made by Trump to close the
faucet of immigration mean nothing to them.

Guys like Josue holds on to anything that makes him think that his luck
will change. "That's the gossip going on. Crazy Trump will open all
doors to Cubans… Dude we are the only country in Latin America that
lives under a dictatorship. If they give us carte blanch three or four
million people will emigrate. The Mariel Boatlift will be small in
comparison. That's the best way to end this regime. These people — the
government — will be left alone here"… opines the young man.

In a perfect domino effect, some people echo the huge fantasy. "Someone
told me that they were going to offer five million working visas to
Cubans. The immigrants would be located in those states where they need
laborers. The people would need to come back in around a year, since the
Cuban Adjustment Act will be eliminated," says Daniela, who doesn't
remember where she heard such a delirious version.

Now, let's talk seriously. If something Donald Trump has showed, aside
from being superficial and erratic, it is being a president profoundly
anti-immigrant. But more than a few ordinary Cubans want to assert the
contrary.

The ones who wish to immigrate are the only segment that awaits with
optimism good news from Trump. The spectrum of opinion of the rest of
the Cubans ranges from indifference to concern.

In the local dissidence sector, the ones who believed that Trump was
going to open his wallet or go back to Obama's strategy towards dissent,
became more pessimistic after the White House announced a decrease of
$20 million dollars for civil society programs.

"Those groups that obtained money thanks to the Department of State are
pulling their hair out. But the ones that receive financing from the
Cuban exiles are not that unprotected," indicates a dissident who
prefers to remain anonymous.

The Palace of the Revolution in Havana is probably the place where
Trump's pronouncements are awaited with the greatest impatience. The
autocracy, dressed in olive green, has tried to be prudent with the
magnate from New York.

Contrary to Fidel Castro's strategy, which at the first sign of change
would prepare a national show and lengthy anti-imperialist speeches,
Raul's regime has toned that down as much as possible.

In certain moments they have criticized him. However, without
offensiveness and keeping the olive branch since the government is
betting on continuing the dialogue with the United Estates, to lift the
embargo, to receive millions of gringo tourists and to begin business
with American companies.

Official analysts are waiting for Trump to act from his entrepreneur
side. The autocracy is offering business on a silver plate, as long as
it is with state companies.

According to a source that works with Department of Foreign trade, "The
ideal would be to continue the roadmap laid out by Obama. With the
situation in Venezuela and the internal economic crisis, the official
wish is that relations with the United States deepen and millions in
investments begins. The government will give in, as long as it doesn't
feel pressured with talk about Human Rights.

"I hope that Trump is pragmatic. If he opens fire and returns to the
scenario of the past, those here will climb back into the trenches.
Confrontation didn't yield anything in 55 years. However, in only two
years of Obama's policy, aside from the panic of many internal leaders,
there was a large popular acceptance," declares the source.

In Havana's streets Trump is not appreciated. "That guy is insane. Dense
and a cretin and that's all. If he sets things back, to me it's all the
same. The majority of ordinary Cubans don't benefit from the agreements
made on December 17. Of course, I think it was the government's fault,"
says Rey Angel, worker.

And the reestablishment of the diplomatic relations and the extension of
Obama's policy to get closer to the the island's private workforce,
caused more notice in the press than concrete changes.

The people consulted do not believe that Trump will reduce the amount of
money sent in remittances by Cubans overseas, or the number of trips
home by Cubans living in the United States. "If he does, it will affect
many people who live off the little money and things that family living
in the North (United States) can send", says a lady waiting in line at
Western Union.

The rupture of the Obama strategy will decidedly affect the military
regime. And it looks like the White House will fire its rockets against
the flotation line. But anything can happen. Trump is just Trump.

Translated by: LYD

Source: Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García – Translating Cuba
-
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-awaits-new-trump-proposals-ivan-garcia-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 14 June 2017 — What you lose last is hope. And those who have plans to immigrate to the United States maintain bulletproof optimism. Close to a small park in Calzada street, next to Rivero’s funeral home, dozens of restless people await their appointment for the consular interview at the American Embassy located … Continue reading "Cuba Awaits New Trump Proposals / Iván García" Continue reading
UM names interim director for the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American
Studies
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

The University of Miami has appointed founder and former senior fellow
Andy Gómez as interim director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-
American Studies.

Gómez, who retired from UM in 2012 with a Presidential Medal, replaces
Jaime Suchlicki, who will leave ICCAS on Aug. 15, according to a UM
statement.

He said he was "honored" to be asked to return.

"First, we need to honor Jaime Suchlicki for his work and dedication to
the university," Gómez said. "My intention here is to preserve some of
the legacy that Suchlicki created ... part of the good work that has
been done ... and to begin to move forward in some of the programming
aspects of ICCAS, but more importantly to begin a search for a permanent
director. That is going to take some time."

Gómez was assistant provost of UM between 2005 and 2012, and dean of the
School of International Studies between 2001 and 2004. More recently, he
traveled to Cuba for Pope Francis' 2015 visit to the island. He and his
family also support two programs at the Church of Our Lady of Mercy in
Havana.

Following UM's recent announcement of his departure, Suchlicki publicly
refuted insinuations that he was retiring stating that he was
"resigning" due to differences with President Julio Frenk on the
university's mission for Cuban studies. He further stated that he had
received notice that the ICCAS would close in August and that he had
plans to move the institute to another location.

An official at the University of Miami disputed Suchlicki's version of
what transpired. Jacqueline R. Menendez, UM's vice president for
communications, said there are no plans to close the center.

The controversy has raised some concern among members of the
Cuban-American community.

The National Association of Cuban Educators (NACAE) sent a letter to
Frenk requesting that ICCAS not be closed because it could be
interpreted as a "lack of support for the Cuban community." The Mother's
Against Repression group asked Frenk to hold off on a decision so that
members of the Cuban-American community, lawmakers and donors could
weigh in.

Gómez's appointment puts an end to speculation about an immediate
closure of the institute.

Founded in 1999, ICCAS for years received several million dollars from
the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to
finance the Cuba Transition Project. But the administration of former
President Barack Obama cut those funds significantly and ICCAS cut some
of its staff. Its digital site is has become outdated and several of its
databases are no longer available.

Gómez said his priorities include looking at ways to provide more
"meaningful information" on the website, raise funds for the institute
and attract a younger audience to events at Casa Bacardí.

ICCAS' academic rigor has been questioned some some in the field of
Cuban studies. Many other U.S. universities have already developed
institutional relationships with their Cuban counterparts and
established study abroad programs.

Events at Casa Bacardí, by contrast, often feature speakers from the
island's dissident movement and members of anti-Castro organizations in
exile.

"ICCAS has suffered a little bit by being, at times, too political to
one side," said Gómez. "I think institutes have to find a balance and
stay in the middle.

"I strongly believe in academic freedom," he said. "...ICCAS should be a
center for everybody to feel comfortable to come and share different
points of view. I know that is always a bit challenging in our community
but we have come a long way."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres en Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: UM names interim director at ICCAS | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article161288108.html Continue reading
If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 8 July 2017 — Without too much caution, the CUPET tanker
truck painted green and white begins to deposit fuel in the underground
basement of a gas station located at the intersection of Calle San
Miguel and Mayía Rodríguez, just in front of Villa Marista, headquarters
of State Security, in the quiet Sevillano neighborhood, south of Havana.

The gas station, with four pumps, belongs to the Ministry of the
Interior and all its workers, even civilians, are part of the military
staff. "To start working in a military center or company, be it FAR
(Revolutionary Armed Forces) or MININT (Ministry of the Interior),
besides investigating you in your neighborhood and demanding certain
qualities, you have to be a member of the Party or the UJC (Union of
Young Communists)," says one employee, who adds:

"But things have relaxed and not all those working in military companies
are 100 percent revolutionary. And like most jobs in Cuba, there are
those who make money stealing fuel, have family in the United States and
only support the government in appearances."

Let's call him Miguel. He is a heavy drinker of beer and a devotee of
Santeria.

"I worked at the gas station six years ago. It is true that they ask for
loyalty to the system and you have to participate in the May Day marches
so as not to stand out. But it is not as rigorous as three decades ago,
according to the older ones, when you could not have religious beliefs
or family in yuma (the USA). I do not care about politics, I'm a
vacilator. I have two sons in Miami, and although I look for my
shillings here, if Trump cuts off the remittances to those of us who
work in military companies, Shangó will tell me what to do," he says and
laughs.

If there is something that worries many Cubans it is the issue of family
remittances. When the Berlin Wall collapsed and the blank check of the
former USSR was canceled, Fidel Castro's Cuba entered a spiraling
economic crisis that 28 years later it still has not been able to overcome.

Inflation roughly hits the workers and retirees with a worthless and
devalued currency, barely enough to buy a few roots and fruits and to
pay the bills for the telephone, water and electricity.

Although the tropical autocracy does not reveal statistics on the amount
of remittances received in Cuba, experts say that the figures fluctuate
between 2.5 and 3 billion dollars annually. Probably more.

Foreign exchange transactions of relatives and friends living abroad,
particularly in the United States, are the fundamental support of
thousands of Cuban families. It is the second national industry and
there is a strong interest in managing that hard currency.

"Since the late 1970s, Fidel Castro understood the usefulness of
controlling the shipments of dollars from the so-called gusanos
('worms,' as those who left were called) to their families. When he
allowed the trips of the Cuban Community to the Island, the Ministry of
the Interior (MININT) had already mounted an entire industry to capture
those dollars.

"Look, you can not be naive. In Cuba, whenever foreign exchange comes
in, the companies that manage it are military, or the Council of State,
like Palco. That money is the oxygen of the regime. And they use it to
buy equipment, motorcycles and cars for the G-2 officials who repress
the opponents and to construct hotels, rather than to acquire medicines
for children with cancer. And since there is no transparency, they can
open a two or three million dollar account in a tax haven," says an
economist.

The dissection of the problem carried out by the openly anti-Castro
exile and different administrations of the White House is correct. The
problem is to find a formula for its application so that the stream of
dollars does not reach the coffers of the regime.

"The only way for the government not to collect dollars circulating in
Cuba, would be Trump completely prohibiting transfers of money. It's the
only way to fuck them. I do not think there is another. But using money
as a weapon of blackmail to make people demand their rights, I find
deplorable. I also have the rope around my neck. I want democratic
changes, better salaries, and I have no relatives in Miami. But I do not
have the balls to go out in the street and demand them," says an
engineer who works at a military construction company.

Twenty years ago, on June 27, 1997, the Internal Dissident Working Group
launched La Patria es de Todos (The Nation Belongs to Everyone), a
document that raised rumors within the opposition itself. Economist
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, along with the late Félix Antonio Bonne
Carcassés, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez and lawyer René Gómez Manzano, tried
to get those Cubans who received dollars to commit to not participate in
government activities or vote in the elections, all of them voluntary.

It is true that the double standards of a large segment of Cubans upset
the human rights activists. With total indifference, in the morning they
can participate in an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White and
in the afternoon they connect to the internet so that a family member
expedites the paperwork for them to emigrant or recharges their mobile
phone account.

This hypocrisy is repulsive. But these people are not repressive. Like
millions of citizens on the island, they are victims of a
dictatorship. In totalitarian societies, even the family estate is
perverted.

In Stalin's USSR a 'young pioneer' was considered a here for denouncing
the counterrevolutionary attitude of his parents. There was a stage in
Cuba where a convinced Fidelista could not befriend a 'worm', or have
anything to do with a relative who had left the country or receive money
from abroad.

I understand journalists like Omar Montenegro, of Radio Martí, who in a
radio debate on the subject, said that measures such as these can at
least serve to raise awareness of people who have turned faking it into
a lifestyle. But beyond whether regulation could be effective in the
moral order, in practice it would be a chaos for any federal agency of
the United States.

And, as much frustration as those of us who aspire to a democratic Cuba
may have, we can not be like them. It has rained a lot since then. The
ideals of those who defend Fidel Castro's revolution have been
prostituted. Today, relatives of senior military and government
officials have left for the United States. And the elite of the olive
green bourgeoisie that lives on the island likes to play golf, drink
Jack Daniel's and wear name-brand clothes.

If Donald Trump applies the control of remittances to people working in
GAESA or other military enterprises, it would affect more than one
million workers engaged in these capitalist business of the regime,
people who are as much victims of the dictatorship as the rest of the
citizenship.

The colonels and generals who changed their hot uniforms for white
guayaberas and the ministers and high officials, do not need to receive
remittances. Without financial controls or public audits, they manage
the state coffers at will. One day we will know how much they have
stolen in the almost sixty years they have been governing.

Source: If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García – Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/if-trump-ends-our-remittances-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 8 July 2017 — Without too much caution, the CUPET tanker truck painted green and white begins to deposit fuel in the underground basement of a gas station located at the intersection of Calle San Miguel and Mayía Rodríguez, just in front of Villa Marista, headquarters of State Security, in the quiet Sevillano neighborhood, … Continue reading "If Trump Ends Our Remittances? / Iván García" Continue reading
Whom Do They Serve? / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 28 June 2017 — Whether at the municipal or provincial
level, the people's administrative councils are supposed to be looking
out primarily for the interests of their constituents and, in
conjunction with them, carrying out the duties of local governance. But
due to the inaccessible and very undemocratic Cuban electoral system,
that is not the case.

Lacking any real power and without questioning what is meant by "the
people," these councils have for years simply carried out the orders
handed down to them by higher-ups in government without concern for the
needs of their constituents or responding to them in a compelling way.
In a country where every worker was once an employee of the government,
their inefficiency was just part of the broader inefficiency of the
entire system.

With the advent of self-employment, or private sector work, they have
continued to act in the same way, turning a deaf ear to the complaints
and grievances of the self-employed, imposing bureaucratic measures
under the guise that such taxes benefit the weak and needy. This
demagogic, paternalistic position, far removed from reality, is not
fooling anyone.

For evidence one need only look to the government's recent "collisions"
with private-sector taxi drivers, with homeowners in Viñales who rent
out rooms to tourists (the government tried, without success, to force
homeowners to permanently cover over swimming pools they had built on
their properties), with construction crews (whose prices officials have
tried unsuccessfully to regulate), with clothing and handicraft vendors
(who continue to sell these items), with truck drivers transporting
passengers in the backs of their vehicles (who were overwhelmed by
endless and repeated demands for documentation) and many other similar
examples.*

Even without established organizations to represent them, small groups
of people with shared interests began pushing back against arbitrary
demands by authorities, who were trying to exercise the same sort of
tight control they had always exercised over state-sector workers
without understanding that something had changed: a group or collective
spirit had arisen that was at odds with the authorities' interests. It
is all still very new and appears to be primarily driven by a need for
survival rather than by economic or political demands.

The original sin of the Cuban dissident movement has been that it has
never actually represented any specific segment of society. Instead, it
has been made up of independent agents who have assumed a critical and
combative stance towards the system, gathering around them a few
like-minded individuals. The exception has been the Ladies in White,
which respresents the interests of family members unjustly sentenced to
long prison terms for holding differing opinions.

At the moment, one cannot say that there is a real dissident movement,
one that demands respect and fights for its rights, that represents
specific segments of society, that is united by economic interests. This
is, in truth, what brings about change.

As long as there are no solutions, these segments will grow, develop and
gain strength. And every day the authorities will find it more difficult
to maintain a hegemonic position of force.

*Translator's note: In 2013 the government announced that independent
clothing vendors would no longer be allowed to sell items imported from
abroad, a major source of their inventory. More recently, private truck
owners have been converting their vehicles to accommodate passengers in
order to transport them from one city to another. In spite of the
dangers this presents, such as the absence of seat belts, the service is
more accessible than that of the state-owned bus company and much
cheaper than buses catering to the tourist market.

Source: Whom Do They Serve? / Fernando Dámaso – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/whom-do-they-serve-fernando-dmaso/ Continue reading
Fernando Damaso, 28 June 2017 — Whether at the municipal or provincial level, the people’s administrative councils are supposed to be looking out primarily for the interests of their constituents and, in conjunction with them, carrying out the duties of local governance. But due to the inaccessible and very undemocratic Cuban electoral system, that is … Continue reading "Whom Do They Serve? / Fernando Dámaso" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 21 June 2017 — One morning, eighth grade students at a high school in La Vibora, a neighborhood in southern Havana, are waiting to take a Spanish test. After drinking a glass of water, the principal clears her throat and lashes out with the traditional anti-imperialist diatribe, denouncing the interference of “Mr. Trump … Continue reading "Trump Provides the Perfect Stage for the Castro Regime / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 June 2017 – More than five years ago social networks were roiled by the Arab Spring, while the screens of their mobile phones lit up the faces of the young protesters. In those years Twitter was seen as a road to freedom, but shortly afterwards the repressors also learned how … Continue reading "The Hijacking Of Social Networks" Continue reading
… coordinator of Cuba's largest dissident organization, the Cuban Patriotic Union … "strong sanctions" on Havana. However, notwithstanding much hype both … relations; reduced immigration favouritism for Cubans; restored commercial flights and cruise-ship … remittances and visitation by Cuban Americans; removal of Cuba from the list … Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 19 June 2017 – Over the weekend the official media have repeated ad nauseam the declaration of the government in response to Donald Trump’s speech about his policy toward Cuba. The declaration’s rhetoric recalls the years before the diplomatic thaw, when political propaganda revolved around confrontation with our neighbor to the … Continue reading "Consensus and Dissent in the Face of Trump’s Cuba Policy" Continue reading
… , general coordinator of Cuba’s largest dissident organization, the Cuban Patriotic Union … favor of “strong sanctions” on Havana. However, notwithstanding much hype both … remittances and visitation by Cuban Americans; removal of Cuba from the list … Continue reading
Cuban dissident on the cheek and pronouncing “Little Havana” with a mimic Cuban … embassy in Havana, which was closed in 1961 following the Cuban revolution … similar views on Cuba,” Trump said, adding that “Cuban people” were “very … the United States and Cuba on his “Cuban friends” in Florida, whom … Continue reading
… kisses Martha Beatriz Roque, a Cuban political dissident, during a speech … U.S. Cuba policy on Friday, June 16, 2017, Cubans are bracing … negotiate a better deal for Cubans and Cuban-Americans. Announcing the rollback of … increase pressure on Cuba's government. Embassies in Havana and Washington … Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 6 June 2017 — The leader speaks for hours on the platform, his index finger pointing to an invisible enemy. A human tide applauds when the intonation of a phrase demands it and stares enraptured at the bearded speaker. For decades these public acts were repeated in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution, shaping the … Continue reading "Populism Cuban Style: Conquests, Threats and Leadership" Continue reading
Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet) / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 3 June 2017 — In coming days when the administration of the
unpredictable Donald Trump, following four months of review, announces
its Cuba policy, it could be that Obama's guidelines are retained save
for touch-ups of a few items such as doing business with military
enterprises that directly benefit the dictatorship.

Good news for the regime would be that the White House were to maintain
the status quo.

To appease the internal dissident movement and a segment of the historic
exile community that supported his election bid, Trump will demand
respect for human rights, economic liberty and freedom of expression,
and blah, blah, blah.

But the Castroite autocracy will counterattack with plausible and
powerful arguments.

And it will point a finger at the Trump administration, which accuses
his own country's press of being his worst enemy and which makes
multi-million-dollar deals with the Saudi monarchy, a government that
violates innumerable human rights and reduces women to mere objects. All
of which makes it not the best moral paragon to speak of freedoms.

During the Obama era–my god, how the regime misses him–Castroism did not
allow small private businesses to access credit nor import products from
the US.

The Cuban government's strategy is simple. They want to do business with
the powerful Norte, all comers, but with state–or military–run concerns
as the sole partners.

If Trump maintains the scenario unfolded by Obama, i.e., academic,
cultural, business and political exchanges between both nations, Raúl
Castro will probably make his move and grant greater autonomy to small
private businesses on the Island so as to placate the New York real
estate mogul.

Not a few small private entrepreneurs, perhaps the most successful ones,
are children or relatives of the olive-green caste, and they head up
successful enterprises such as the Star Bien paladar (private
restaurant), or the Fantasy discotheque.

If the panorama does not change, the regime will continue its diplomatic
and academic offensive, utilizing its agents of influence in the US to
continue efforts to bring down the embargo, or at least weaken it until
it becomes a useless shell.

For the olive green autocracy, the plan to counteract that "damn
obsession of US elites with democracy and liberties" involves conducting
sterile negotiations that only buy time.

The Palace of the Revolution wants to change, but only in the style of
China or Vietnam. It does not understand how those two communist
countries can partner with the US while Cuba cannot. Castroite strategy
is headed in that direction.

There are two subliminal messages coming from the military junta that
governs the Island.

First: With an authoritarian government of social control in place,
political stability is assured and there is no risk of a migratory
avalanche or of the Island becoming a base of operations for Mexican
drug cartels.

Second: Were there to be a change that provoked the people to take to
the streets, the Island could become a failed state.

Trump, who is not known for his democratic qualities and has the
discernment of an adolescent, could take the bait and do an about-face.
"After all," he might think, "if we're partners with the monarchies in
the Gulf, we continue to buy oil from the detestable Maduro government,
and I want to make a deal with Putin, what difference if I play a little
tongue hockey with Raúl Castro or his successor?"

But Trump is an uncontrollable reptile. And Cuba is not a center of
world power, and it has a small market and laughable consumer power.
Thus it could be that Trump will play the moralist and make demands that
not even he himself lives up to, just to satisfy the Cuban-American
political bloc in Miami.

Whatever happens, Trump has begun shooting tracer bullets. His
announcement of a drastic $20 million cut in funding for dissident
projects favors the Havana regime.

It is likely that this was not Trump's intention. But remember that he
is not a Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He is a man in his third age with
the mind of a primary school student.

With all that the Island autocracy is going through–reductions in
petroleum from Venezuela and a crisis that could annihilate Venezuelan
President Nicolás Maduro, leaving Cuba bereft of an important economic
support; Russia supplied a shipment of fuel but is asking where will the
money come from next time; and a Raúl Castro who is supposedly destined
to surrender power–for the military mandarins the scene that is coming
into view at the moment is the worst possible.

Don't worry about the repression. Hard-core dissidents will never want
for punches and slaps. But in a country at its breaking point, any spark
can give rise to a conflagration of incalculable proportions.

Right now, the average salary in Cuba is 27 dollars per month, but to
live decently requires 15 times that amount. And Havana, the capital of
the Republic, has gone for a week without water.

Food prices are through the roof. Public transit has gone from bad to
worse. And, as if we were living in Zurich, Samsung has opened on the
west side of the city a store (more like a museum) where a 4K Smart TV
goes for $4,000, and a Samsung 7 Edge costs $1,300, double its price in
New York.

Havanans, mouths agape, go to gaze and take selfies with their cheap
mobiles. This is the snapshot of Cuba. A mirage. And all during a
stagnant economic crisis dating back 27 years which few venture to guess
when it will end.

While we thought we were in bad shape, the reality is that we could be
worse off. And nobody knows when we will hit bottom.

Iván García

Photo: In the entryway of the Plaza Hotel, in the heart of the capital,
a beggar uses a nylon bag containing her belongings as a "pillow." To
the side is an empty cigar box collecting coins from passersby. This
image is part of The Black Beggars of Havana, a photo essay by Juan
Antonio Madrazo published in Cubanet.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Source: Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven't Hit Bottom Yet) /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-from-worse-to-impossible-and-we-havent-hit-bottom-yet-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 3 June 2017 — In coming days when the administration of the unpredictable Donald Trump, following four months of review, announces its Cuba policy, it could be that Obama’s guidelines are retained save for touch-ups of a few items such as doing business with military enterprises that directly benefit the dictatorship. Good news … Continue reading "Cuba: From Worse to Impossible (and We Haven’t Hit Bottom Yet) / Iván García" Continue reading
… York mayor and the prominent Cuban political dissident share the same … as Cuba's "leading woman dissident," is touring Cuban-American … island next week.  Nicknamed "Havana on the Hudson," North … is home to a large Cuban-American community.  Roque Cabello said she … Continue reading
… with other Cuban dissidents, and even talked about returning to Cuba to … , Sergio Gatria, director of the Cuban Information Center in Lyndhurst. Gatria … marches through Cuban streets. He has also helped bring Cubans across the … York, respectively, Roque is among Cuban-American Democrats who opposed President Obama … Continue reading
Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García

Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want
blood. And more severe laws for criminals.

While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are
advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there
are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated.

If you ask Gisela about the subject, her eyes fill hopelessly with
tears. At one time this woman, who is pushing 50, was a brilliant nurse.
She formed a model family together with her spouse, an ex-official of a
foreign business. They lived in a well-cared-for apartment in Reparto
Sevillano, in the south of Havana.

But the night of December 14, 2010, their marriage took a dramatic turn.
"They killed our only son. He was only 15. He was with some friends in
El Vedado. A gang assaulted him to take his clothes. Before running
away, they stabbed him twice in a lung. After his death, our life
changed and got worse. I always wonder, if God exists, where he was that
night," says Gisela.

After the loss of their son, the marriage dissolved. She became a
habitual alcoholic. They sold their car and later exchanged their
apartment for a smaller one. The money was spent on rum and psychotropics.

Gisela divorced the father of her deceased son, and they put him in a
psychiatric hospital. When you ask her opinion about the death penalty
or more severe laws for certain crimes, she answers without subtlety:
"Whoever kills a person ought to be executed. Look at my case. The
criminal who killed my son got 20 years in prison, and for good conduct
he served only six and is now back on the street. It's not fair."

Those who have lost a family member or friends of violent crime victims
are more susceptible and hope for the return of executioners and a State
that decrees death.

In Cuba, the crime rate is notably low. Although official statistics are
unknown, the Island is a safe place. But gangs of juvenile delinquents
and home robberies have increased.

Since 2005, the Cuban Government has had a moratorium on the death
penalty. The last convict executed was called "Crazy Victor" in the
world of the marginal underground, and he was a sinewy mestizo almost
6'6″ tall, with an assassin's soul.

At the end of the '90s, he killed an old woman inside her house in the
neighborhood of La Vibora. The day of his arrest he had a shoot-out with
police in the style of an American action film.

In the spring of 2004, the Council of State ratified the death penalty
for Victor, which was carried out in the adjacent courtyard at the
Combinado del Este, a maximum security prison on the outskirts of the
capital.

Fidel and Raúl Castro have not held back from pulling the trigger. From
the very beginning of January 1, 1959, they used the death penalty to
eliminate their recalcitrant enemies and even peaceful dissidents. A
lawyer, now retired, relates:

"When an objective academic study is done, without political passion,
the exact number of Cubans that the government of Fidel Castro has
executed will be known. On principle, they eliminated criminals from
Batista's police and army. Several of these trials were real Roman
circuses, televised to the whole country, without the proper judicial
guarantees. They took advantage of the situation to deliver justice in
order to liquidate the enemies of the revolution.

"In one step, the laws sanctioned the death penalty for betrayal of the
country by soldiers, as in the case of General Arnaldo Ochoa. Or the
execution of 19 people in an air base in Holguín in 1963, most of them
war pilots. Fidel, Raúl and Che signed quite a few death penalties. The
figures vary, according to the sources. Some say that 500 were executed;
others, 3,000 or more.

"Dissident jurists consider these to be crimes of the State, because
they were established offenses that didn't necessarily call for capital
punishment. But the Government claimed it was being persecuted by Yankee
imperialism."

In 2003, after a summary trial, three young black men, residents of
Centro Havana, were executed for trying to hijack a boat to leave the
country, which they weren't able to achieve. "It was a counterproductive
political error. It was an an act of Fidel Castro's meant to set an
example that cost him the condemnation of world public opinion," said
the ex-lawyer.

In the spring of that same year, among the 75 peaceful dissidents
punished with long years in prison by Fidel Castro, who used only words
as a weapon, the Prosecutor of the Republic requested seven death
penalties. "It was something appalling. Luckily the Government didn't
carry it out. It would have been a crime in all meanings of the word,"
said the old lawyer.

As in any revolutionary movement, whether in France, Russia or Cuba,
violence begins with force. The death penalty always was a weapon of
combat for intimidating the enemy. However, several people consulted
considered that while political adversaries were sanctioned excessively
or executed in a pit in the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, Cuban
justice was too permissive with some blood crimes.

"Right now someone who kills a cow gets more years in prison that
someone who kills a human being. I know cases where they got only four
or five years in prison in spite of having killed someone. Those who
slaughter beef cattle are condemned to 20 or more years of privation of
liberty," says an ex-prisoner.

There are quite a few ordinary Cubans who think that crimes like robbery
in occupied homes, sexual violations and other mean-spirited acts should
be considered by the State as crimes, and the killers should be executed.

"Although my religion is against the death penalty, I'm in favor of
executing those who commit horrendous crimes," confesses Mayda, who
defines herself as a practicing evangelical.

Saúl, who works for himself. considers that in addition to "executing
serial killers or psychopaths, they ought to punish other infractions
with more years. As in the United States, where they give them life
imprisonment for these same crimes. The thugs would think twice before
breaking the law."

But in the opinion of another lawyer, in the case of major crimes or by
resuming the death penalty, "the State could be tempted to condition
these laws and carry out a purge of the opposition. The subject of the
death penalty, whether to abolish it or keep it, should be debated
nationally and the citizens should decide by vote." But Cuba isn't
Switzerland.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-want-more-severe-laws-for-criminals-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want blood. And more severe laws for criminals. While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated. If … Continue reading "Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 3 June 2017 – The Ministry of Higher Education (MES) ratified the expulsion of Professor Dalila Rodriguez from the Marta Abreu Central University of Las Villas. A letter dated May 9 and delivered this Friday to the academic, responds to her earlier appeal and confirms the revocation of her teaching status, as Rodriguez … Continue reading "The Ministry Ratifies the Expulsion of Professor Dalila Rodriguez from the University of Las Villas" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 2 June 2017 – The principal of Academy 1010 and Somos+ (We Are More) Movement activist, Joanna Columbie, was deported Friday from the Vivac detention center in Havana to Camaguey province, as reported to 14ymedio by the leader of the Somos+ organization, Eliecer Avila. “Joanna called from Vivac to say that she was … Continue reading "Activist Joanna Columbie Deported to Camaguey" Continue reading
Autonomy of Cuban Dissidents Will Always Be Beneficial / Iván García

Iván García, 1 June 2017– The majority of the openly anti-Castro
opponents I know do not live in lavish mansions nor do they possess
items fashioned with the latest technology. Neither do they boast bank
accounts in financial paradises and they do not own yachts or beach
houses. I don't believe any of them know how to play golf or can afford
a vacation on a Greek island.

Those luxuries are reserved for the hierarchs of the olive green regime.
Those who sing The Internationale, compose speeches replete with
declarations on behalf of social justice and poverty, but who wear
designer-label clothing, use French perfumes and employ household servants.

The national prosecutor's office will never open a file on the Cuban
functionaries involved in the Panama Papers. No state office exists
where the average Cuban citizen can learn how public monies are spent or
invested. The nomenklatura lives and performs its functions with total
impunity.

That leadership style of never being accountable, which has taken root
inside the olive green autocracy, has in a certain way been imitated by
the opposition on the Island. Most certainly, it is a harmful style.

Corruption, and its variants such as nepotism and influence peddling,
has permeated a significant sector of the dissident movement. There is
no transparency regarding the funding and materials they receive.

Some opponents behave with dictatorial arrogance and manage their
organization as if it were a family business.

One needs money to live. And it doesn't fall from the sky. The ideal
would be that the opposition obtains money through local financing
mechanisms. But Cuba under the Castros is a genuine dictatorship.

Those on the Island who declare themselves dissidents, if they work or
study, are expelled from their workplaces or schools. And even were they
employed, because of the financial distortions caused by the country's
dual currency system and low wages, they would be unable to sustain
their organizations. Prior to 1959* political parties supported
themselves with membership dues and donations from sympathizers and
anonymous supporters.

To make political opposition and free journalism, to maintain offices
for independent lawyers or for any civil society organization, requires
funds. How to obtain them?

There are foreign private foundations that award grants to approved
projects. Government institutions in first-world democratic societies
also provide aid.

Is this lawful? Yes. But for the Castro regime, it is illegal and you
could be prosecuted under the anachronistic Ley Mordaza [Gag Law] in
force since February 1999. If the nation's laws prohibit obtaining funds
from other countries to finance political, journalistic, or other types
of activities, Cuba in this case should be able to count on banking
mechanisms to enable to transmission of resources.

But the opposition on the Island is illegal. The dissident movement has
almost always been financed by institutions or foundations based in the
US, which is not illegal in that country and is publicly reported.

I am not against receiving money from US government institutions, as
long as it can be justified by by the work performed. In the case of
journalism, reporting for the Voice of America, Radio Martí, the BBC,
and Spain's RNE Radio Exterior is not a crime–except in Cuba, North
Korea or perhaps in China and Vietnam.

Any funding from abroad is financed by that country's taxpayers. In the
case of political or journalistic activities, the ideal would be to
receive monies from journalistic foundations and citizens or enterprises.

An important part of the opposition's economic support has come from the
US State Department or other federal institutions. Those local
opposition groups who believe this to be ethical and a lawful way to
obtain funds should therefore be transparent in their management.

Yet 95 per cent of them do not account for those monies nor do they
publish reports about them. Most of the time, the members of these
groups do not know how the funds received are managed. By and large they
are administered by the individual at the head of the opposition group.

They justify this secrecy with the pretext, at times well-founded, that
they are keeping this information from reaching the ears of the State
Security cowboys, who act like 21st Century pirates and confiscate money
and goods without due process of law.

However, and this is regrettable to say, that opacity in managing
collective resources is the embryo of corrupt behaviors within the Cuban
opposition. Within the majority of dissident organizations, whatever
they may be called, such absence of managerial accountability and
transparency leads some dissidents to skim money and goods that do not
belong to them, or to appropriate a portion.

These organizations, with their erratic performance, hand over on a
silver platter enough information for the counterintelligence to sow
division and create interpersonal conflicts inside the dissident movement.

How to stamp out these corrupt and nefarious practices, which not only
defame the dissident movement, but also set a bad precedent for a future
democracy? Can you imagine one of those current venal opponents tomorrow
becoming a State minister or functionary? The most reasonable way to nip
this phenomenon in the bud is through practicing transparency.

This could take the form of quarterly or annual reports. For example,
the reporters of Periodismo de Barrio [Neighborhood Journalism], led
by Elaine Díaz, keep a running budget on their web page of receipts and
expenditures.

The Trump administration's measure to drastically cut aid to the Cuban
opposition, more than being harmful, signifies a new way forward that
will require the development of new funding models.

Besides, this will provide greater autonomy and credibility. And it
might bury once and for all that very questionable mentality of seeking
solutions to Cuba's problems through mechanisms sponsored by other
governments.

The interests of the US are their interests. They are not necessarily
our interests. Of course, that nation's solidarity and also the European
Union's, is a support at the hour of denouncing the lack of political
freedoms and the Cuban regime's human rights violations.

But that's where it ends. The money needed to carry out political
projects under the harsh conditions of absurd tropical socialism should
be provided by those Cubans in exile who are concerned about the future
of their homeland. Money from their own pockets. Not from a foreign
government. And if they believe that to enroll in a cause that is not
their affair or doesn't interest them is not a smart investment, they
are within their legitimate rights to not donate even a penny.

Cuba's problems are for Cubans, those at home and abroad, to resolve.
Not for anybody else.

Our society's modernization and the future we design for ourselves is
our problem and we should resolve it with creativity, greater humility
and more unity of judgment.

Perhaps the Cuban opposition will end up being grateful to Donald Trump
for cutting millions in funds of which few knew the ultimate
destination. Believe me, it is always better to be as independent as
possible.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

*Translator's Note: Fidel Castro's revolutionary forces overthrew the
government of dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day, 1959.

Source: Autonomy of Cuban Dissidents Will Always Be Beneficial / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/autonomy-of-cuban-dissidents-will-always-be-beneficial-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 1 June 2017– The majority of the openly anti-Castro opponents I know do not live in lavish mansions nor do they possess items fashioned with the latest technology. Neither do they boast bank accounts in financial paradises and they do not own yachts or beach houses.  I don’t believe any of them know how … Continue reading "Autonomy of Cuban Dissidents Will Always Be Beneficial / Iván García" Continue reading
Can We Progress in Cuba under the Current Model?
May 29, 2017

HAVANA TIMES — I couldn't help but think about the analogy of a popular
Cuban saying when reflecting upon the prospects we have of our economy
progressing by 2030, while reading about a case in the Juventud Rebelde
newspaper last week.

The article talks about the solution of a rice farmer's complaint
because of outstanding payments for his sales to the State, which had
been overdue for a ridiculously long amount of time. And they still want
to pick up this country by 2030! At the rate the government is going,
and with its dysfunctional system, this won't happen even in 2230.

According to the newspaper, solutions only appear once a public
complaint has been made that is covered by the media, which don't appear
spontaneously. Yusbel Valera Mesa, from Campechuela, is the farmer who
complained. However, it's very common to experience delays of months
(and even years) in receiving payment for a harvest you've sold to the
State.

It's common at my cooperative and we always hear "we're working on
resolving this issue"; not only at a local level, but at a central level
too. However, they've been "working on this" for 58 years and it still
isn't working. Maybe it just doesn't work? Another laughable phrase at
this stage is: "so many thousands of tons are being produced, but we are
still unable to satisfy the population's demands."

Tell me, with only 10 million inhabitants in a country with the
agricultural capacity to feed over 100 million people more than enough,
what would happen if the Revolution had inherited resources from
capitalism like Mexico City, which has almost double the Cuban
population? The queue to buy tortillas would be a kilometer long and a
child would be able to cross Paseo de la Reforma without any trouble at
rush hour.

The emancipating ideology of these "socialists", which takes away the
sovereignty of its people behind the guise of a noble ideal, is like an
herbicide: wherever they act everything dries up. Their ways are
arbitrary, bureaucratic and unnatural. They are so far from the real
socialist ideal! I see more socialism in the Scandinavian countries and
in Canada than in any Marxist-Leninist system, the ones that called
themselves "real Socialism". In my opinion, this is just radical
socialism or pseudosocialism.

I can't help but think about the parallel between the way of tackling
the problem of outstanding payments for rice farmers and the tobacco
farmers' struggle to receive a fair price for tobacco. The solution in
the rice farmer's case and the problem being dealt with, in our case,
only appears once we complain to the press. Nothing comes out of, nor
can we hope for solutions from official channels of action.

The farmer from Granma reported his problem in Juventud Rebelde; I
reported my problem on alternative digital media platforms, such as
Havana Times (How can you fight injustice in Cuba?). After more than
four months of complaining and forging agreements at meetings that are
then archived, Cubatabaco finally came to the cooperative to analyze the
price problem we have. However, they didn't go to the Farmers Assembly,
the came directly to the farmer, the one who publicly denounced the
problem, which was me in this case.

Of course, I pointed out the fact that this wasn't a personal problem,
that it was something all tobacco farmers were suffering. However, the
unfair price for tobacco continues. Resolving injustices in Cuba is a
titanic task, especially if whoever should be defending us by law (the
National Association of Small Farmers in Cuba ANAP) admits that
"defending farmers is our responsibility, but our first and foremost
task is to defend the Revolution." These were the words of a politician
who gave an speech on May 17th at the party for Cuban Farmers' Day. If
there is a dichotomy, farmers interests fade away into the background
and we are the ones who pay the ANAP a high tax on our incomes.

Furthermore, defending the Revolution isn't "changing everything that
needs to be changed" according to them. This idea, which doesn't cease
to be a concept of pure propaganda, is never implemented because it
might be the case that the ones who are raising this flag might be the
same ones who need to be changed. That's why everything is the opposite:
they try to keep this concept static, under the mistaken concept that
highlighting this or that mistake and trying to rectify it, is a
dissident and counter-revolutionary act.

So of course I must be considered a "counter-revolutionary" for wanting
a fairer price for tobacco. If I were robbing the Cuban people or giving
manipulative-coercive political speeches to make them work for measly
salaries, then they would consider me to be a true revolutionary.

I'll put it like Hatuey did: If those men are true revolutionaries I
don't want to be like them, nor do I want to go where they are heading.
But, of course, I won't stop being a socialist, nor believing in the
struggle for a better world, because of the simple fact that this noble
ideal is being abused. If we were to stop dreaming of this and fighting
for it, we would also stop being human: this was the spirit that got us
out of the caves and brought us to the skyscraper era.

These examples aren't an exception: if we were to analyze any example
taken from Cuban daily life, it would irrefutably prove the fact that
the Cuban system is unfeasible. There isn't any chance of progressing
under this current model. There won't be any improvements, without more
profound changes, that need to stem from a democratizing process of
society as a whole.

Of course Raul Castro wanted to leave a legacy of a growing and
developing Cuba, if he really is going to step down next year: but this
is already impossible. Cockroaches also wanted to sit down, but they
don't have buttcheeks. That's how the saying goes: What does the
cockroach have? It isn't enough to want it; we have to do the right
thing to ensure success.

Source: Can We Progress in Cuba under the Current Model? - Havana
Times.org - http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=125473 Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miamia, 25 May 2017 — On the verge of being operated on in Miami for a traumatic cataract caused by a punch from a Cuban State Security agent during one of the many acts of repudiation against her, the dissident and former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque was forceful in evaluating the … Continue reading "Martha Beatriz Roque: “The Cuban Opposition Has Not Found The Right Path”" Continue reading
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 22 May 2017 — The saleswoman described her merchandise in a murmur: loggerhead turtle steaks, beef and shrimp. The man salivated, but replied that he could not buy any of those products, the most persecuted in the informal market. Every opponent knows that the authorities would want to try him for an … Continue reading "Economic Crime, the Pitfall in the Path" Continue reading
Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García

Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let's step back in time. One morning in 1985,
Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio
Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet
entitled "Nueva Cuba." After distributing the single-page, handmade
newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall in
the Coppelia ice cream parlor in the heart of Havana's Vedado district.

His intention was not to criticize the autocratic regime of Fidel
Castro. No, it was simply an act of rebellion by a reporter who believed
that information was a public right. In his writing, Yndamiro tried to
point out the dire consequences that institutional contradictions were
having on the country's economy.

He was arrested and questioned at Villa Marista, a jail run by the
political police in southern Havana. Later that year he was arrested
again, this time for having given an interview to the New York Times.
That is when his troubles began. He was fired from Radio Rebelde and
branded with a scarlet letter by Special Services. Without realizing it,
Yndamiro Restano had laid the foundations for today's independent
journalism in Cuba.

Cuba was emerging from overwhelmingly bleak five-year period in which
censorship was having an almost sickening effect. The winds of glasnost
and perestroika were blowing from Gorbachev's USSR. Some intellectuals
and academicians such as the late Felix Bonne Carcasses decided the time
was right for more democratic openness in society and the media. Havana
was a hotbed of liberal thought.

Journalist Tania Díaz Castro along with young activists Rita Fleitas,
Omar López Montenegro, Estela Jiménez and former political prisoner
Reinaldo Bragado established the group Pro Arte Libre. According to the
writer Rogelio Fabio Hurtado, Cuba's independent press was born out of
the first dissident organization, the Cuban Committee for Human Rights,
led by Ricardo Boffill Pagés and the organization's vice-president
Rolando Cartaya, a former journalist at Juventud Rebelde. In a 2011
article published in Martí Noticias, Cartaya recalled, "When we arrived
at dawn at his house in Guanabacoa's Mañana district, Bofill had already
produced half a dozen original essays and eight carbon copies of each
for distribution to foreign press agencies and embassies."

No longer able to work as a journalist, by 1987 Yndamiro Restano was
making a living cleaning windows at a Havana hospital. He would later be
fired from that job after giving an interview to the BBC. Frustrated by
not being able to freely express himself in a society mired in duplicity
and fear, he joined the unauthorized Cuban Commission on Human Rights
and National Reconciliation created by Elizardo Sánchez.

Along with other journalists fired from newspapers, magazines, radio
stations and television news programs who were eager to publish their
own articles without censorship, Restano decided in 2011 to form an
organization that would allow reporters condemned to silence to work
together. Thus was born the Cuban Association of Independent
Journalists, the first union of freelance correspondents.

In 1991 — a date which coincided with the beginning of the Special
Period, an economic crisis lasting twenty-six years — the Havana poet
Maria Elena Cruz Varela founded Criterio Alternativo which, among
causes, championed freedom of expression. In an effort to crack open the
government's iron-fisted control of the nation, Maria Elena herself,
along with Roberto Luque Escalona, Raúl Rivero Castaneda, Bernardo
Marqués Ravelo, Manuel Diaz Martinez, Jose Lorenzo Fuentes, Manolo
Granados and Jorge A. Pomar Montalvo and others signed the Charter of
Ten, which demanded changes to Castro's status quo.

On September 23, 1995, Raúl Rivero — probably Cuba's most important
living poet — founded Cuba Press in the living room of his home in La
Victoria, a neighborhood in central Havana. The agency was an attempt to
practice a different kind of professional journalism, one which reported
on issues ignored by state-run media.

Now living in exile in Miami, Rivero notes, "I believe in the validity
and strength of truly independent journalism, which made its name by
reporting on economic crises, repression, lack of freedom and by looking
for ways to revive the best aspects of the republican-era press." He
adds, "There was never an attempt to write anti-government propaganda
like that of the regime. They were pieces whose aim was to paint a
coherent portrait of reality. The articles with bylines were never
written so some boss could enjoy a good breakfast. They were written to
provide an honest opinion and a starting point for debate on important
issues. That is why, as I found out, Cuba Press was formed at the end of
the last century."

Cuba Press brought together half a dozen official journalists who had
been fired from their jobs. Tania Quintero, now a political refugee who
has lived in Switzerland since 2003, was one of them.* Once a week,
Quintero boarded a crowded bus to deliver two or three articles to Raul
Rivero, whose third-floor apartment was a kind of impromptu editing
room, with no shortage of dissertations on every topic. An old Remington
typewriter stood vigil as the poet's wife, Blanca Reyes, served coffee.

The budding independent journalism movement had more ambitions than
resources. Reporters wrote out articles in longhand or relied on
obsolete typewriters using whatever sheets of paper they could find.
Stories were filed by reading them aloud over phone lines; the internet
was still the stuff of science fiction. The political police often
confiscated tape recorders and cameras, the tools then in use, and well
as any money they found on detainees. They earned little money but
enjoyed the solidarity of their colleagues, who made loans to each other
that they knew would never be repaid.

Those who headed other alternative news agencies also had to deal with
harassment, arrest and material deprivation. That was the case of Jorge
Olivera Castillo, a former video editor at the Cuban Institute of Radio
and Television who wound up being one of the founders of Havana Press.

Twenty-two years later, Olivera recalls, "Havana Press began life on May
1, 1995. A small group led by the journalist Rafael Solano, who had
worked at Radio Rebelde, was given the task of starting this initiative
under difficult conditions. After working for four years as a reporter,
I took over as the agency's director in 1999 and worked in that position
until March 2003, when I was arrested and sentenced to eighteen years in
prison during the Black Spring."

Faced with adversity, the former directors of Havana Press — Rafael
Solano, Julio Martinez and Joaquín Torres — were forced to go into
exile. "More than two decades after this movement began, it is worth
noting its importance to the pro-democracy struggle and its ability to
survive in spite of obstacles. Those initial efforts paved the way for
the gradual evolution of initiatives with similar aims," observes Olivera.

For the former prisoner of conscience, "independent journalism remains
one of the fundamental pillars in the struggle for a transition to
democracy. It has held this position since the 1990s, when it emerged
and gained strength due to the work of dozens of people, some of whom
had worked for official media outlets and others who learned to practice
the trade with remarkable skill." This is because independent journalism
began with people who had worked in technical fields or in universities
but had no journalistic experience or training. They are self-taught or
took self-improvement courses either in Cuba or abroad, carved a path
for themselves and are now authorities their field. They include the
likes of Luis Cino, Juan González Febles and Miriam Celaya.

Radio Martí was and still is the sounding board for the independent
press and opposition activists. The broadcaster reports on the regime's
ongoing violations of freedom of expression, its intrigues, its delaying
tactics and its attempts to feign democracy with propaganda that rivals
that of North Korea.

In a 2014 article for Diario de Cuba, José Rivero García — a former
journalist for Trabajadores (Workers) and one of the founders of Cuba
Press — wrote, "It is worth remembering that this seed sprouted long
before cell phones, Twitter, Facebook or basic computers. The number of
independent journalists has multiplied thanks to technology and
communication initiatives over which the Castro regime has no control."

Necessity is the mother of invention. Even without the benefit of proper
tools, a handful of men and women have managed in recent years to create
independent publications such as Primavera Digital, Convivencia or 14ymedio.

Currently, there are some two-hundred colleagues working outside the
confines of the state-run media in Havana and other provinces, writing,
photographing, creating videos and making audio recordings. But they
still face risks and are subject to threats. At any given moment they
could be detained or have their equipment confiscated by State Security.
Their articles, exposés, chronicles, interviews and opinion pieces can
be found on Cubanet, Diario de Cuba, Martí Noticias, Cubaencuentro and
other digital publications, including blogs and webpages.

In almost lockstep with the openly confrontational anti-Castro press
there is an alternative world of bloggers and former state-employed
journalists. They practice their profession as freelancers and hold
differing positions and points of view. Among the best known are Elaine
Díaz from Periodismo de Barrio, Fernando Rasvberg from Carta de Cuba and
Harold Cárdenas from La Joven Cuba, all of whom are subject to
harassment and the tyranny of the authorities.

Reports issued by organizations that defend press freedom in countries
throughout the world rank Cuba among the lowest. The regime claims that
there have been no extrajudicial executions on the island and that no
journalists have been killed. There is no need. It has been killing off
the free press in other ways since January 1959.

Since its beginnings more than two decades ago, Cuba's independent press
has sought to revive freedom of the press and freedom of expression. And
slowly it has been succeeding. In spite of harassment and repression.

*Translator's note: Tania Quintero is the author's mother.

Source: Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/independent-journalism-seeks-to-revive-press-freedom-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let’s step back in time. One morning in 1985, Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet entitled “Nueva Cuba.” After distributing the single-page, handmade newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall … Continue reading "Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García" Continue reading