Iván García, 19 April 2017 — When evening falls, Yainier and a group of
friends who live in El Canal, a neighborhood in the Cerro municipality,
20 minutes by car from the center of Havana, grab a table by the door of
an old bodega, and between swigs of rum and Reggaeton, they play
dominoes well into the dawn.
They are six unemployed youths who live by whatever "falls off the back
of a truck." They also sell clothing imported from Russia or Panama,
joints of Creole marijuana and toothpaste robbed the night before from a
They note down the domino scores they accumulate in a school notebook.
The duo that gets to 100 points earns 20 pesos, the equivalent of one
dollar, and if they really kick ass, they can earn double that amount.
The winners buy more rum, and between laughter and chatting, they kill
time in a country where the hours seem to have 120 minutes. No one has a
plan for the future.
In the seven or eight hours they pass playing, they usually talk about
women, football or black-market businesses. Politics is not a subject of
The dissident, Eliécer Ávila, lives a few blocks away from where they're
playing dominoes. He's an engineer and the leader of Somos Más (We Are
More), an organization that supports democracy, free elections and free
Probably Ávila is the most well-known dissident among Cubans who drink
their morning coffee without milk. His debate in 2008 with Ricardo
Alarcón, then the president of the one-note national parliament, was a
success on the Island. The concerns of the young computer engineer and
Alarcón's incoherent answers circulated clandestinely on flash drives.
Eliécer, together with Antonio Rodiles, Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Julio
Aleaga Pesant, figure among the most well-prepared dissidents in Cuba.
Born in 1985 in Puerto Padre, Las Tunas, Ávila has leadership qualities
and good speaking skills.
His project goes over the heads of people in the neighborhood, like the
six domino players, who are indifferent to the reality of their country.
How to achieve anything is a problem to solve for a repressed local
opposition, which up to now has no power to convoke a meeting. Without
going farther, in the slum area of Canal, where most inhabitants are
black and deathly poor, almost no one is interested in demanding
inalienable rights in any modern society.
One of those neighbors is Raisán, a mulatto with discolored skin, who
religiously pays his dues to the Cuban Workers Center, the only labor
organization that's authorized on the Island. However, he recognizes
that the Center, which supposedly ensures his salary and labor demands,
doesn't even attempt to manage them.
"Brother, this has to change. You can't live on a salary of 400 Cuban
pesos — around 17 dollars — while it costs 10 times that to eat or dress
yourself," says Raisán, after making a list of the daily hardships that
the government never solves.
There's a dichotomy in Cuba. Ask any Cuban his assessment of the
performance of the State organizations and you can publish several tomes
of complaints. People are tired of political rhetoric. The citizens want
better services, salaries and living conditions. But they don't have the
legal tools to carry out their propositions.
Creating a movement or party that looks out for their interests,
changing the political dynamic and demanding the democratization of
society, continue to be taboo subjects. Although the dissidence requests
these rights, it still hasn't managed to gain the confidence of the
beleagured citizens, for whom the priority is to find food and money
sufficient to allow them to repair their houses, among other needs.
State Security, the political police, short-circuits any initiative that
tries to insert the opposition inside the population. And certainly it's
the fear, typical of a tyrannical regime that has more severe laws for
dissenting than for certain common crimes. Fear is a powerful wall of
containment that repels nonconformists.
Cuban society continues being excessively simulated. It always was.
During the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, after the assault on the
Presidential Palace by the Revolutionary Directorate, March 13, 1957,
the authorities called for an act of reconciliation with the dictator,
and in spite of the rain, 250,000 residents of Havana responded in a
The same thing happened in 1959, after Fidel Castro took power. In
silence, without protesting, Cubans saw how Castro knocked out
democracy, dismantled the legal judicial machinery, buried the free
press, eliminated private businesses and governed the country like a
The answer to discontent always was to emigrate. A considerable segment
of the citizenry didn't support – nor do they support – those who bet on
peacefully reclaiming their rights, inserting themselves into politics
and denouncing the frequent attacks on human rights.
People prefer to look away or continue coming to the game, seated in the
To get Cubans to understand that the best solution to their complaints
is democracy, free elections and a coherent and independent judicial
framework, which supports small and medium-sized businesses, until now
has been a subject that stopped with the internal opposition. Which has
tried, but without success.
Translated by Regina Anavy
Source: For Ordinary Cubans, Democracy Isn't a Priority / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/for-ordinary-cubans-democracy-isnt-a-priority-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
AFP April 12, 2017
Havana (AFP) - Cuban dissidents planning to run in the communist
country's local elections in November have been arrested, threatened and
otherwise harassed by the authorities, one of their leaders said Tuesday.
At least five would-be candidates have been charged with crimes such as
robbery, had their property seized, or been threatened with losing their
jobs, said Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the opposition Unity
Roundtable for Democratic Action (MUAD).
"They (the authorities) are taking preventive measures so that no
independent citizen who doesn't fit their agenda can run," he told AFP.
The local elections in November kick off an electoral cycle that will
ultimately decide the successor to President Raul Castro.
The next step will be the election of the 612-member National Assembly,
which chooses the all-powerful Council of State, which in turn chooses
Opposition parties are banned in Cuba, but dissident groups are trying
to sneak the maximum number of Castro opponents into the local polls.
Two opposition candidates managed to stand in the last local elections
in 2015. Neither won.
This year, 109 opposition candidates are prepared to run, according to
Castro, 85, took over in 2006 from his brother Fidel, Cuba's leader
Raul Castro has steered Cuba toward a very gradual economic opening and
restored ties with its old Cold War enemy the United States.
But opponents say the only communist regime in the Americas still
controls most of the economy, and muzzles free speech and political dissent.
Source: Cuba opposition candidates say targeted for reprisals -
https://www.yahoo.com/news/cuba-opposition-candidates-targeted-reprisals-224942848.html Continue reading
run in the 'elections'
YUSIMÍ RODRÍGUEZ LÓPEZ | La Habana | 12 de Abril de 2017 - 12:10 CEST.
'We will take the voter's voice wherever necessary', says José Díaz Silva.
For his anti-Government activism José Díaz Silva has received four jail
sentences totaling 16 years. He is the leader of various internal
dissidence organizations, and frequently ends up in jail. Now he plans
to be a candidate to serve as a Poder Popular (national assembly)
delegate, running on the #Otro18 independent platform, exercising his
right, as stipulated in the Constitution, to elect and to be elected.
Never before had he thought about taking a step of this type. "I do not
belong to the CDR, nor did I use to vote. Years back, we wanted to be
observers. We went here to the Electoral Board close to here, and they
threw us out. I will run here and now because we want to define the
difference between their [pro-Government] candidates and ours," he
explains. In this way, we will not change the system, but we will act as
spokespeople for the community, which complains about its lack of say.
We know that they will (...) describe us as delinquents and
contrarrevolutionaries. They also claim that we are paid by the Empire.
A lie, and they know it," says Díaz Silva.
"I get help from my family in the US: two children (also former
political prisoners, for writing 'down with Fidel', as stated in their
court records), five siblings, and my mother. My wife has five siblings
there. There I have friends there who want to see a free and democratic
Cuba. They help human rights organizations and political prisoners. They
send food," he explains.
Díaz Silva is the president ofOpositores por una Nueva República,a
national delegate of the Movimiento Democracia, a national coordinator
of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Frente de Resistencia y Desobediencia
Civil, and one of the coordinators of the Democratic Action Unity Bureau
"The way you entered through, I clear it with a mower I brought from the
United States. Where is the money assigned for that? It is robbed by
Áreas Verdes, Comunales, the municipal government. They report that the
highway is kept clean. But it is cleaned by a human rights activist," he
"We want to know where the budget assigned to each municipality goes,
which comes from taxes," he affirms.
He is already suffering retaliation for his intention to run for office
in his district.
"They have threatened us, telling us that they could easily tie us up in
the courts, which would prevent us from exercising our right. Manuel
Velásquez Licea and Eduardo Herrera Hernández, also candidates, have
been incarcerated for the past six months", he explains.
"On Tuesday, 28 March, at 4:35 a.m., they knocked on my door. They came
to conduct a search. The paper indicated 'electronic equipment and
others.' To make it legal, they have to look for something specific. The
witnesses were people they have used before to carry out acts of
rejection, brought from Santiago de las Vegas. This is a violation, as
the witnesses must be from the community," he complains.
"I told them to wait, as I was going to get cleaned up. They kicked the
door in. They injured my hand and fingers, throwing me against the wall.
My head was swollen, but it subsided. I bled from my nose. They
handcuffed me. They burned our brochures. They took books, legal
documents (like sentences), two laptops, a mini laptop belonging to my
daughter, and another to my granddaughter, a disk drive, CDs; money,
mine and my daughter's; two chains worth some 1,200 CUC, my pressure
gauging device, two little short-wave radios, a printer, a television
set antenna, a large television set that my son bought and that entered
legally, through Customs. They left the one in the living room. They
broke the door to my daughter's room, to which I do not have a key. She
came when the neighbors told her, and they wouldn't let her in. From the
refrigerator they took a tin of Spam, packages of noodles, six or seven
bars of chocolate, and two of peanut butter, sent for the prisoners," he
"The police officers' ID numbers were 29140 and 29113, two captains. And
lieutenant 29156. There was an official from the MININT who, while the
search was carried out, lit up a cigarette. I told him that he was
showing a lack of respect, that in my house nobody smoked. He went
outside to smoke, very annoyed, and when he returned he said to me: 'you
people, for us, you are animals, dogs, and we are going to do away with
you.' I asked why he didn't say that on television, so that the people
could know their position. He responded: 'that's just what you'd like.'"
Díaz Silva says that he was taken to Santiago de las Vegas. The
authorities, he indicates, made eight copies of what they took from his
house, but did not give him one.
State Security agents Bruno and Raymo, who had threatened him before,
said to him: 'Have you seen how what we said is happening?'" the
"The police fined me for handling stolen goods. They let me go the next
day, a 6:00 in the afternoon. Here there are no laws. They could kill us
and nothing would happen."
Do you think any members of your community will dare to nominate or vote
A family told me that they were going to nominate me. But it remains to
be seen, as they can take measures against the family… but residents
told me that I can count on their votes, and I think that they will dare
to follow through. When the Police entered my house, some neighbors
expressed their indignation to me. It was they who alerted my daughter.
And they are not dissenters.
Many presidents of the CDR and women with the Federation (FMC) approach
us, as dissidents, to tell us that we have their votes." There are even
police who tell us to "continue fighting, because you are right. They
see that what the regime says, that we are delinquents, is a lie.
How did Fidel and Raúl deal with this? With force. They killed. They
killed police heads, informers. It is in the documentaries that they
broadcast. We don't do those things. We are pursuing what Fidel Castro
claimed he wanted in History will Acquit Me: a state based on the rule
Traditional delegates, many eager to work, face barriers, like the lack
of resources. Will a dissident be able to do more for the community?
We don't promise anything, and we don't have conditions. After all, the
system is our enemy. But we will take the voice of the voter wherever it
is necessary. The community's vote will give us the right us to demand
solutions to problems before bodies. In this way we have an advantage,
because we are not scared, and we know the laws a little better.
In spite of your intention to run, you say that the way to remove the
Castros' Communist regime from power is with people in the streets.
They will always look for mechanisms to thwart anything that we do. We
have the example of Oswaldo Payá. It was necessary to change the law,
because he presented the signatures. I was a promoter of the Varela
Project. When it reached [the National Assembly], they said that the
Cuban socialist system was irrevocable, and the Constitution said so.
They mocked what they themselves had written, because they wrote that
Constitution and Penal Code. Now they will do the same thing, but this
is a way to tell the people that we have the right to change this
through peaceful channels.
Source: 'We have an advantage. We're not scared.' A former political
prisoner to run in the 'elections' | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1491991825_30312.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Walking along the
streets with Eliécer Ávila can be a complicated task. His face is well
known thanks to a viral video broadcast almost a decade ago. However,
before fame came into his life, this young man born in Las Tunas was a
model "New Man": the most finished product of ideological indoctrination.
Like all Cuban children, Avila shouted slogans during his school's
morning assembly, participated in countless repudiation activities
"against imperialism" and dreamed of resembling Ernesto 'Che'
Guevara. But while, in school, they taught him the social achievements
that the Revolutionary process brought to the population, at home
reality was stubborn and showed itself to be something quite different.
The residents of Yarey de Vázquez – the Puerto Padre municipality of
Puerto Padre where the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement was
born – are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat. A
place lost in nothingness, where many families still use latrines for
their bodily needs, and live in houses with roofs made of palm fronds.
Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life
did not resemble the official version he was being taught. Born in 1985,
in the middle of that "golden decade" when the Soviet Union was propping
up the island, he was barely walking a year later when Fidel Castro
ordered the closing of the free farmers markets in the midst of the
"Process of Rectification of Errors and Negative Tendencies."
Eliécer Avila reached puberty during what was called the Special
Period. With the voracity that still characterizes him, he faced many
days of his adolescence with his plate half full, or almost empty. He
hand stitched the shoes he wore to school, invented all kinds of
"outfits" from his grandfather's old shirts, and turned off the light
when it was time to strip down to his underwear, so no one could see the
With a natural leadership quality, in which a certain humor mixes with
an undeniable histrionic capacity to narrate anecdotes, the young man
made his way through those years without climbing aboard a raft to
escape the country or ending up in jail. Those who knew him predicted a
future in politics, because of those "fine lips" that helped him in
student meetings and in romantic conquests.
A little bit later, luck smiled on him. He was able to enroll in the
University of Computer Sciences (UCI), founded in 2002 in the middle of
the Battle of Ideas. UCI was located on the site that had once been the
Center for Exploration and Radioelectronics Listening, known as the
Lourdes SIGNIT Station, where until 2001 Russia – and the Soviet Union
before it – had had its largest spy station outside its borders. UCI was
a school for trusted young people to become computer soldiers for a
Revolution that fears the Internet.
While a student at UCI, Avila led Operation Truth. His task was to
monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government. In those
spaces, the young revolutionary sharpened his arsenal of tools for
political struggle that included everything from hacking to the
execution of the reputation of anyone who opposed the Plaza of the
Little by little, like acid that filters through the cracks, those
anti-government arguments he read on the web began to sink into his mind
and mingle with his own disagreements. Restless, in 2008 he took his
turn at the microphone during a visit to UCI of Ricardo Alarcón, then
president of the National Assembly. The minutes of that public
appearance that followed marked the rest of his life.
The video of the collision between Ávila and Alarcón jumped to first
place in the hit parade on the clandestine networks that distributed
audiovisuals. No one wanted to miss it, especially the moment when the
leader of Parliament justified the travel restrictions imposed on Cubans
by saying how congested the skies might be, if everyone were allowed to
board an airplane.
Now, nine years later, the young activist prefers not to be called
"Eliécer, the one who debated with Alarcon," but for the rest of his
life it will be his most important letter of introduction to millions of
Cubans. His challenge of power, with simple questions and a firm voice,
has been one of the most accurate and best documented gestures of
rebellion in almost six decades of Castroism.
After that, he received his punishment. After graduating, the
authorities sent him to a remote Youth Computer Club to purge his
audacity. It was the decisive moment in which he decided to cross the
red line towards independence. He left the state sector, founded the
Somos+ Movement and relocated to Havana. One audacious act after another.
The attacks rained down from all sides. State Security raised the level
of pressure on his environment, traditional opposition leaders threw
darts at the upstart, and there was no shortage of those who claimed
that he was only a mole for the political police disguised as a dissident.
Since then, Ávila has tried to give shape to a civic discourse that uses
new technologies and a less politicized language, closer to the concerns
of ordinary people. But, like every dissident, he is caught in the grip
of charges of illegal action, subjected to constant vigilance and
assigned the halo of demonization imposed on anyone who does not applaud
The numerous trips abroad that he has made since the Travel and
Immigration Reforms of 2013 have allowed him to know the world, only to
discover that the most exciting and indecipherable of the territories
that await him is located in the future Cuba. That country so many have
dreamed of and that is taking so long to arrive.
Recently he went a step further and announced that he was prepared to
represent the electors of his constituency as a delegate. A somewhat
remote possibility, given the oiled mechanisms of control over the
People's Assemblies maintained by the ruling party where, by show of
hands, the attendees must nominate the potential candidates.
This week, the guajiro of Yarey de Vázquez has crossed another line. A
public protest at José Martí International Airport has resulted in his
house being searched, and him being arrested and charged with "illicit
economic activity." The trigger was the seizure of his laptop at Customs
when he returned from Colombia.
Now, it is expected that the siege around the young leader and his
Somos+ Movement will continue to close. Nothing is more disturbing to a
system that has played with social alchemy than a creature from its own
ideological laboratory turning against it. Eliécer Ávila will be doubly
punished because power acts with more fury against its own, when it rebels.
More articles in English by and about Eliécer Ávila can be read here.
With online translation:
Source: Eliécer Ávila, The 'New Man' Who Became An Opponent –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eliecer-avila-the-new-man-who-became-an-opponent/ Continue reading
Iván García, 30 March 2017 — Fear has the habit of first knocking on
your door. On any night, in a work center or a house, an official of
State Security can give a citizen an official citation with an
It could be your sister, a close relative, childhood friends or a
neighbor. The strategy is always the same. The assassination of the
dissident journalist's reputation by combining half-truths with
They play all their cards. From one's commitment to the Revolution to
blackmail and social isolation.
Since I began a relationship with my wife, a telecommunications
engineer, her professional career has been stalled. They control her
email and the contents of her work through a magnifying glass. The same
thing happens with friends who collaborate on my journalistic notes.
It's an insolent and arbitrary harassment.
The political policy officials in Cuba know they have an all-reaching
power. They perform, Olympically, the violation of their own laws of
An official of the National Revolutionary Police told me about the
problems the State Security agents cause among their staff instructors.
"They consider themselves to be above good and evil. They come into the
unit and mobilize personnel and resources to detain or repress someone
in the opposition. Or they take over an office without even asking
permission. They're a bunch of thugs."
If you want to know the methods they use to create tensions among
families and friends and to cause marital problems, I recommend that you
see the documentary on political prisoners in Cuba, Avatares de la
familia, made by Palenque Visión and recently premiered in Miami.
When someone gets involved in peaceful dissidence or exercises
independent journalism, the family pays the price. If it's not enough to
create concern when a mother, father, spouse or son isn't going to sleep
at home one night; the treacherous State Security tries to dynamite
intimate relations with accusations of marital infidelity.
The Regime surely washes its hand like Pontius Pilate when it declares,
in international forums, that the Island doesn't assassinate the
opposition or independent journalists. But the fabrication of files with
false proof is also a punishable crime.
The beatings of dissident women on public streets or in front of their
children have increased. The occupation of work teams and the harassment
of independent journalists have become a habitual practice of the
Creed, religion or ideology doesn't matter. It's the same repression for
neo-communist bloggers like Harold Cárdenas (El Toque Cuba), foreign
correspondents like Fernando Rasvberg (Cartas Desde Cuba) or pure
reporters like Elaine Díaz, who founded a digital newspaper (Periodismo
de Barrio), which covers the country's vulnerable communities.
For Raúl Castro's government, disagreeing is a symptom of
insubordination and the first step toward dissidence. In the midst of
the 21st century, the olive-green State affirms its right to give
permission about what should be written or expressed. Anyone who doesn't
fulfill this precept is a criminal outside the law. Of course, for the
openly anti-Castro journalists, the repression is more ferocious.
In the spring of 2003, 14 years ago, Fidel Castro ordered the
incarceration of 75 peaceful opponents, 27 of which were independent
journalists, among them the poet Raúl Rivero, whose "weapon" was a stack
of ballpoint pens, an Olivetti Lettera typewriter and a collection of
literature from universal writers.
Some colleagues who write without State permission and with different
doctrines believe that the subject of the dissidence in Cuba — although
it is packed with problems, divided but real — is hidden by the
ideological police, and that those who support the status quo, the
cultural policies and ideological thought on the Island, are rewarded.
Recent facts show that the mantle of intolerance, which at times
resembles fascist behavior, has no borders. They insult Rasvberg with
crude swearwords and detained Elaine and several of her colleagues from
Periodismo de Barro when they tried to report on the aftermath of
Hurricane Matthew in Baracoa, just as they systematically harass the
independent journalist from Cama gagüey, Henry Constantín Ferreiro, who
has been the regional Vice President of the Sociedad Interamericana de
Prensa for some months.
I know Henry personally. He's a quiet guy, unaffected and creative, and
right now the authorities are trying to accuse him of "usurpation of
legal capacity," the same as his colleague, Sol García Basulto. His
"crime" is to exercise independent journalism and direct a magazine
without State sponsorship.
We Cuban journalists should show solidarity with each other when the
State tries to roll over us and shut us up. It doesn't matter what each
of us thinks. We all have the right to freely express our opinions.
To paraphrase Martin Luther King: You don't have to love me, I only ask
that you don't lynch me.
Translated by Regina Anavy
Source: Exercising Independent Journalism In Cuba Is A State Crime /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/exercising-independent-journalism-in-cuba-is-a-state-crime-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Status as a "dissident " is not the product of any coherent calculation. It does not refer to a particular affiliation or a specific creed. It does not even necessarily stem from a primeval hatred of what they call "Revolution."
It is everyday abuse, accumulated disappointment, insufferable humiliation, and, largely, chance, that turn a simple citizen into a dissident.Continue reading
Father in the Hospital
by FRANCES MARTEL29 Mar 2017110
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An unidentified mob attacked two members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(UNPACU) – a pregnant teen and her activist father – on Sunday night,
hurling bottles at them and reportedly punching the woman in the belly.
The activists in question are 52-year-old Ángel López Figueroa and his
18-year-old daughter Ariadna López Sotolongo, who is six months
pregnant. According to Sotolongo's father-in-law, who spoke to the
Miami-based Martí Noticias, a mob formed outside the family home in
Havana on Sunday night and began attempting to break into the house.
"They began throwing bottles at the house, that is when they hurt the
father. They tried to open the front door, managed to pry it open and
attack Ángel," according to Roberto Pérez Rodríguez. Sotolongo,
meanwhile, "received blows to the belly" and injured her hand trying to
fight off the mob. Her 13-year-old sister also received unspecified
injuries, according to Pérez.
Images UNPACU has circulated on social media of Figueroa after the
attack indicate that he sustained grave injuries to the head and may be
suffering a concussion.
Journalist Liu Santiesteban writes on Facebook that Figueroa was "left
for almost dead" following the incident and Sotolongo "barely showed
vital signs" upon arriving at the hospital and "almost lost the fetus."
Pérez told Martí that his family struggled to convince their local
clinic to take in the dissidents. "The doctor said things were not that
way, that he had to [receive care] at the hospital… that the ultrasound
had problems," he explained. "Yesterday we had problems, today they told
me the woman who had to work here didn't come in today. That is how
things are with us dissidents."
The Cuban government often recruits civilian members of the Communist
Party – not police – to commit "actos de repudio," or "acts of
repudiation," against dissident headquarters. These acts typically
involve mob attacks on unarmed dissidents in which they are pelted with
garbage, physically attacked, tarred, and insulted with vulgar epithets.
Given its size and its presence throughout the island, UNPACU is one of
the primary targets of the Cuban government's repression efforts against
the pro-democracy opposition, along with the Ladies in White and the
Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) dissident groups. UNPACU is believed
to have more prisoners of conscience among their members than any other
UNPACU suffered a violent attack on its headquarters in Santiago, on the
eastern end of the island, in early March, in which UNPACU leader José
Daniel Ferrer was arrested and "disappeared" to an undisclosed location.
This attack, unlike typical actos de repudio, was executed by Cuban
National Revolutionary Police (PNR). When Ferrer resurfaced, he
described the holding cell police placed him in as akin to a "horror
movie for how much blood there was on the walls, of prisoners who were
beaten and the mosquitos killed by prisoners."
During that raid, police confiscated over one thousand pounds of food
goods – including rice, sugar, vegetables, and meat, all difficult to
procure for the average Cuban.
Ferrer nonetheless told local media that "the majority of our activists
are in high spirits, this type of attack does not discourage them."
This month, UNPACU lost prisoner of conscience Hamell Santiago Maz
Hernández while imprisoned without due process; Maz was facing charges
of "disrespect," a catch-all crime the Cuban police use to imprison
anti-communist dissidents. UNPACU members told media they did not
believe the official story of his demise, "cardiac arrest," and would
continue investigating the incident.
Violence against anti-communist dissidents has skyrocketed since
President Barack Obama visited Cuba a year ago, attending a baseball
game with Raúl Castro and standing silently beside him as he denied the
existence of political prisoners on the island. In addition to
emboldening the Castro regime by promoting business ties with the
dictatorship, President Obama repealed the longstanding refugee policy
known as "wet foot/dry foot," eliminating the little hope Cubans had of
escaping the island, albeit through the dangerous Florida strait. The
last-minute policy change has stranded hundreds of known Cuban nationals
throughout Mexico, Central, and South America.
"We Cubans gave him our heart and he betrayed us," Luis Pedroso, a Cuban
stranded in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, told the Cuban independent outlet 14 y
Medio. "I lost my life."
Source: Cuba: Thugs Beat Pregnant Pro-Democracy Dissident 'in the
Belly,' Put Father in the Hospital - Breitbart -
http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/03/29/cuba-police-beat-pregnant-dissident/ Continue reading
Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the
need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow
passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or
bricks recovered from demolished buildings, "apartments" have appeared
where a dozen families reside, living on the razor's edge.
Among the blasting Reggaeton music and illegal businesses, cane alcohol,
stolen the night before from a state distillery, is sold and later used
in the preparation of home-made rum; or clothing with pirated labels,
bought in bulk from stalls in Colón, a stone's throw from the Panama
Canal. A while back, when cattle were slaughtered in the Lawton or
Virgen del Camino slaughterhouses, you could get beef at the wholesale
These overpopulated townships in the capital are cradles of
prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling. Lawton, like no other
neighborhood in Havana, is the "model" for marginalization and crime.
People live from robbing state institutions, selling junk or whatever
falls from a truck.
But don't talk to them about political reforms, ask them to endorse a
dissident party or protest about the brutal beatings that the political
police give a few blocks away to the Ladies in White, who every Sunday
speak about political prisoners and democracy in Cuba.
Let's call him Miguel, a guy who earns money selling marijuana,
psychotropic substances or cambolo, a lethal mix of cocaine with a small
dose of bicarbonate. He's been in prison almost a third of his life. He
had plans to emigrate to the United States but interrupted them after
Obama's repeal of the "wet foot-dry foot" policy.
Miguel has few topics of conversation. Women, sports, under-the-table
businesses. His life is a fixed portrait: alcohol, sex and "flying,"
with reddened eyes from smoking marijuana.
When you ask his opinion about the dissident movement and the continued
repression against the Ladies in White, he coughs slightly, scratches
his chin, and says: "Man, get off that channel. Those women are crazy.
This government of sons of bitches that we have, you aren't going to
bring it down with marches or speeches. If they don't grab a gun, the
security forces will always kick them down. They're brave, but it's not
going to change this shitty country."
Most of the neighbors in the converted bunkhouse think the same way.
They're capable of jumping the fence of a State factory to rob two
gallons of alcohol, but don't talk to them about politics, human rights
or freedom of expression.
"Mi amor, who wants to get into trouble? The police have gone nuts with
the businesses and prostitution. But when you go down the path of human
rights, you're in trouble for life," comments Denia, a matron.
She prefers to speak about her business. From a black bag she brings out
her Huawei telephone and shows several photos of half-nude girls while
chanting out the price. "Look how much money. Over there, whoever wants
can beat them up," says Denia, referring to the Ladies in White.
Generally, with a few exceptions, the citizens of the Republic of Cuba
have become immune or prefer to opt for amnesia when the subjects of
dissidence, freedom and democracy are brought up.
"There are several reasons. Pathological fear, which certainly infuses
authoritarian societies like the Cuban one. You must add to that the
fact that the Government media has known very well how to sell the story
of an opposition that is minimal, divided and corrupt, interested only
in American dollars," affirms Carlos, a sociologist.
Also, the dissidence is operating on an uneven playing field. It doesn't
have hours of radio or television coverage to spread its political
programs. The repression has obligated hundreds of political opponents
to leave the country. And State Security has infiltrated moles in almost
all the dissident groups.
"The special services efficiently short-circuit the relation of the
neighbors of the barrio and the people who support the dissidence. How
do you overcome that abyss? By expanding bridges to the interior of the
Island. I believe the opposition is more focused on political crusades
toward the exterior. The other is to amplify what the majority of Cubans
want to hear: There isn't food; to buy a change of clothing costs a
three months' salary; the terrible transport service; the water
shortage….There is a long list of subjects the dissidents can exploit,"
I perceive that around 80 percent of the population has important common
ground with the local opposition. The timid economic openings and
repeals of absurd regulations were always claimed by the dissidence,
from greater autonomy for private work, foreign travel or being tourists
in their own country.
According to some dissidents, many neighbors approach them to say hello
and delve into the motives for their detentions after a brutal verbal
lynching or a beating. But there aren't enough.
Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, the leader of the Alianza Democrática
Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) and director of Palenque Visión
(Palenque Vision), felt frustrated when street protests demanding rights
for everybody were taking place, and people were only watching from the
curb of a sidewalk.
"One night I was in the hospital's emergency room, since my son had a
high fever, and I initiated a protest because of the poor medical
attention. Several patients were in the same situation. But no one
raised their voice when the patrols arrived and the political police
detained me by force. That night I realized that I had to change my
method to reach ordinary Cubans. Perhaps the independent press is a more
effective way," Lobaina told me several months ago in Guantánamo.
Although independent journalists reflect that other Cuba that the
autocracy pretends to ignore, their notes, reports or complaints have a
limited reach because of the lack of Internet service and the
precariousness of their daily lives.
For the majority of citizens, democracy, human rights and freedom of
expression are not synonymous with a plate of food, but with repression.
How to awaken a Cuban from indifference is a good question for a debate.
Translated by Regina Anavy
Source: The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García – Translating
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-regime-survives-by-fear-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government
prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from
traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an
alleged infraction "against public adornment." Meanwhile, the
authorities accuse her of having thrown "papers in the street," which
the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were "leaflets."
Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this
Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. "We consider that he
is 'disappeared' because when he left the house he was being followed,"
she detailed. "Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or
outside the coverage area."
"This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to
Miami and then to California," said Soler. However, after passing
through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti
International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration
official who asked her to accompany him to an office.
The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane
because she had not paid a fine for "throwing papers into the street."
According to Decree 272, whoever "throws into the public street waste
such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like," will
have a fine of 50 pesos and must "pick them up immediately."
"Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,"
Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with
political slogans. "The fine is from last September, after that I went
to Panama and the United States, so I don't understand this now," the
Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the
fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an
ironic "Down you-know-who," and threw it in the agents' faces, telling
them: "I do not accept any inappropriate fines."
Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled,
and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso
(approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead
not let her travel on Tuesday.
The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United
Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in
White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.
"In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us
inappropriately," reflects Soler. "They are illegal and violate the
Republic's penal code," a situation that is complemented by "the
harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our
families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop
This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from
attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the
Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the
origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the
Source: The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/the-government-prohibits-berta-soler-from-leaving-cuba-14ymedio/ Continue reading
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
Frustrated by what they see as "indolence" from the previous
administration, some Cuban government opponents are urging President
Donald Trump to backtrack current Cuba policy and speak out about
increased government repression on the island.
Antonio G. Rodiles and his partner Ailer González — both members of the
Forum for Rights and Freedoms — are calling on the new administration to
reset U.S.-Cuba relations and "recognize that they are dealing with a
"The main thing would be for those of us who are legitimate actors on
the Cuban scene — inside and outside the island — to be part of the
policy design and part of that political process toward the island"
unlike what former President Barack Obama did, Rodiles said during a
recent meeting with el Nuevo Herald.
The couple also denounced an increase in repression since Obama
announced his policy of engagement and the restoration of diplomatic
ties with Cuba in December 2014. The situation, they said, has become
worse since the death of former leader Cuban Fidel Castro in November
with a "millimetric monitoring" of opponents' actions and harassment of
"It is important for the new administration to start taking action on
the issue and make some statement, because silence is being very well
used by the regime to try to crush the opposition," Rodiles said.
The Cuban government opponent criticized the "indolence" of the Obama
administration toward the human rights situation on the island.
"We have direct experience, including talking to President Obama, and
the direct experience was that there was a lot of indolence in what
happened with Cuba ... There was a moment when we understood that the
administration was not an ally [in the struggle for] for democratic
changes in Cuba, that they had a vision that Cuba was going to change in
the long term and that we would have to accept neo-Castroism," he said.
Although he was careful not to mention what measures taken by the
previous administration should be eliminated — such as sending
remittances or authorizing U.S. airline travel to the island, which are
popular in Cuba and within a large portion of the Cuban American
community — Rodiles said he supports returning to the previous longtime
policy of applying economic pressure against the Raúl Castro government,
a practice Obama has referred to as a "failed policy."
"If the regime is taking advantage of some of these measures, I'd cut
that economic income," Rodiles said. "Everything that is giving benefits
to the regime and not to the people must be reversed."
The frustration expressed by the activist couple has become increasingly
evident. A video published by the Forum for Rights and Liberties and in
which González exclaims, "Obama, you are finally leaving!" unleashed a
whirlwind of controversy within social media networks.
According to Rodiles, Obama asked dissidents and activists during a
meeting in Havana on March 22, 2016, to have patience with his policy of
"I told him that you can't be patient when they are kicking citizens and
women with impunity," Rodiles said. The couple was among several
activists arrested during a widely reported act of repudiation against
dissidents on the same Sunday that Obama arrived in Havana for an
Rodiles and González dismissed criticism by those who question their
support for President Trump and claim their agenda is dictated by groups
within the Cuban exile community. They said their interest is in
readdressing Cuba issues not taking a position on U.S. domestic issues.
"Those same people who say that we are being radical and
confrontational, are extremely unsupportive. They do not report any
violation of human rights. These are hypocritical positions," González said.
As for other strategies being carried out by other opposition groups on
the island in an effort to incite change, the couple acknowledged that
there are many different ideologies and approaches, which they said was
a healthy element in the struggle for democracy.
"The most important thing," Rodiles said, "is that the regime has to
understand that 60 years is more than enough, and that it's over."
Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres
Source: Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles calls on Trump to get tough on
Cuba | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article139927853.html Continue reading
"So when are you going to Cuba?"
I get that a lot, maybe once a week. It's understandable, since I am a
home-grown Cubano, at least until I was almost 5 years old. That's when
my parents, in an act of ultimate sacrifice, left everything behind
except their dignity and a sense of purpose to escape Fidel Castro's thumb.
It's the Cuban-American narrative. We'll fast-forward through all the
tears and pain and hardships to get to 2017, when we are dancing on
Fidel's grave and Cuba is now an alluring tropical paradise. Grab some
sunscreen, book a flight or cruise, and order a mojito with a side of
Everybody is Havana Daydreamin'!
Not I. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to go. It is a beautiful place,
with a time-machine vibe. Hop on a '57 Chevy and feel the ocean breeze
as you cruise down el Malecón.
Cuba still stands still in so many ways. The "normalization" of Cuba
under the Obama administration has unlocked the keys to free commerce,
but not the chains that bind dissidents and others under Cuba's
People still rot and die in prisons. Members of the dissident group
Ladies in White still get pummeled by cops and arrested.
Just last month, Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Mas Hernandez died in
prison. Cuban officials called it a "heart attack," a euphemism for when
a prisoner develops kidney failure, loses 35 pounds and rots away in a cell.
The U.S. does business with a number of unsavory nations, including
China, but the difference with Cuba is that there are a lot of
Cuban-Americans taking notes. They are passionate hall monitors who
don't understand why the Obama administration didn't squeeze Cuba on the
human-rights issue in return for the perks of tourism and groovy
Will things change under the Trump administration? Check your Twitter
feed for updates from 45. I suspect there will be more pushback, given
this snippet from the confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Rex
"Our recent engagement with the government of Cuba was not accompanied
by any significant concessions on human rights," he said. "We have not
held them accountable for their conduct. Their leaders received much
while their people received little. That serves neither the interest of
Cubans or Americans."
He has a point. The purpose of negotiating is to get something in
return, not just give away stuff.
But there's another dynamic in play here, too, that does not bode well
for Cuban tourism. The novelty is wearing off.
Silver Airways recently announced that it will scrap its service to Cuba
next month, citing low demand and competition from other airlines.
Frontier Airlines will cease its daily flight to Havana from Miami in
June. American Airlines and JetBlue have also scaled back their number
Raúl Castro and his compadres are finding out that capitalism is driven
by market factors, and Cuba is still running the con trying to lure all
The infrastructure is a little shaky, given the impact of the embargo
and other economic factors. Hotel reviews on TripAdvisor include handy
tips like "Don't forget to bring and 'USE' bug repellent!!" and "I guess
you get what you pay for."
Restrictions abound: There are 12 "authorized types" of travel to Cuba,
including educational, religious and journalistic purposes. And here's
another fun fact from the U.S. embassy in Havana:
"The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S.
citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents."
That would be somebody like me. Cuba keeps meticulous notes on
journalists writing about the regime, and I probably would fill all the
checkmarks as an "enemy of the state." Without any rights as a
naturalized American citizen.
I'm afraid there will be no Havana Daydreamin' for me.
I prefer to visit my homeland one day free of restrictions. I want to
take in the ocean breeze from el Malecón without a cop asking for my
Cuban passport. I want to walk freely along the streets, without fear of
somebody monitoring my footsteps.
You don't have to be in prison to wear shackles. You just can't see them
when you disembark the cruise ship or an airplane.
firstname.lastname@example.org Read George Diaz's blog at
Source: Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality -
Baltimore Sun -
http://www.baltimoresun.com/os-ed-cuba-human-rights-not-improving-george-diaz-20170317-story.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2017 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of
Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer, was released Thursday after being detained for
more than 24 hours. The opponent denounced an "increase in
the repression" against the activists of his movement, in a phone call
to 14ymedio a few minutes after his release.
"The search of the homes began at six in the morning," explains Ferrer,
who was taken out of his home at eight o'clock in the morning this
Wednesday and taken to the First Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, known
as Micro 9.
The former prisoner of the Black Spring explains that the police raided
six properties of UNPACU members. They seized "food, a hard disc,
several USB memories, two laptops, five cellphones, seven wireless
devices, a stereo, a large refrigerator, an electric typewriter and a
"I spent more than six hours in an office with a guard," Ferrer recalls.
"Then they put me in a cell where you could have filmed a horror movie
for the amount of blood on the walls of someone who had been cut."
The dissident was interrogated by an official who identified himself as
Captain Quiñones, who threatened to send him to prison for "incitement
to violence," in a recent video posted on Twitter. Ferrer flatly denies
During the operation they also confiscated medications such as aspirin,
duralgine, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
"Most of our activists are in high spirits," says Ferrer. "This type of
assault does not discourage us," he adds. He says that "from November
2015 to date, there have been more than 140" raids of houses of members
of the organization.
On 18 December, at least nine houses of members of the opposition
movement were searched and numerous personal belongings seized by
members of the Ministry of Interior.
Among those who still have not been released are the activists Jorge
Cervantes, coordinator of UNPACU in Las Tunas, and Juan Salgado, both of
whom are being held in the third police unit in that eastern city. The
whereabouts of opponent Esquizander Benítez remain unknown. In addition,
about 50 of UNPACU's militants are being held in several prisons in the
country, which makes the it the opposition organization with the most
political prisoners in the country.
Source: José Daniel Ferrer: "This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage
Us" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/jose-daniel-ferrer-this-type-of-assault-does-not-discourage-us-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The headquarters of the Patriotic Union
of Cuba (UNPACU) were assaulted by police forces in the early hours of
Wednesday. The troops forcibly entered five homes located in the
Altamira and José María Heredia areas in Santiago de Cuba, where they
arrested a dozen opponents, according to opposition sources.
Two buildings that operate as UNPACU headquarters and three belonging to
members of the movement were the object of a wave of searches carried
out by agents of the political police and brigades of the National
Revolutionary Police (PNR).
The homes were "looted" simultaneously according to activist Ernesto
Oliva Torres, who reported that at the main headquarters the troops
confiscated "a refrigerator, a television, two laptops, six cordless
phones, among other items."
The searches were accompanied by arbitrary arrests and the interruption
of the telephone communications of most of the UNPACU activists.
Among those arrested on Wednesday morning were Liettys Rachel Reyes,
Carlos Amel Oliva and his father Carlos Oliva, Alexei Martínez, Ernesto
Morán, Juan Salgado, Roilán Zamora, Yriade Hernández, Jorge Cervantes
and his wife Gretchen, David Fernández, Miraida Martín, and the national
coordinator of the movement, José Daniel Ferrer.
14ymedio was able to confirm that Carlos Amel Oliva was released on
Wednesday night, but several of the dissidents remain incommunicado.
Oliva's telephone line had serious problems that prevented the dissident
from communicating with the press.
Liettys Rachel Reyes, 30 weeks pregnant, was under arrest for about
three hours and then released. The whereabouts of the rest of the
detainees remain unknown.
Source: Police Forces Assault UNPACU Headquarters, Activists Arrested /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/policeassaultunpacu14ymedio/ Continue reading
sick is that?
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
Cuban dictator Raúl Castro has no moral authority to condemn any
democratically elected world leader.
Not when the most distinguishing trait of his and his late brother's
legacy is death, prison and exile for millions of his critics and
opponents. Not when, as if the Castros didn't already have enough blood
on their hands, there's another dissident who has died amid questionable
Hamell Santiago Mas Hernández, 45, walked into one of Cuba's most brutal
prisons as a healthy man after being arrested in June for a catch-all
offense dubbed desacato — disrespect — widely used as an excuse to pick
up dissidents. Eight months later, he died awaiting trial, supposedly of
a heart attack. He had developed a kidney infection and had lost 35
pounds in three weeks. His wife has denounced conditions at the
Combinado del Este prison, where not even the water is fit to drink. The
Castros have for decades refused to let independent monitors inspect
prisons where political prisoners are kept in inhumane conditions.
So I repeat: Cuban dictator Raúl Castro has no moral authority to
condemn any U.S. president.
But President Donald Trump is an easy target — and Castro is no fool.
He smells the weakness — and opportunity — handed to him on a silver
platter by Trump acting like the hemisphere's new bully on the block.
In a regional summit with leftist leaders in Caracas on Sunday, Castro
lashed out at Trump's immigration and trade policies, calling his plan
to build a wall along the Mexican border "irrational."
"The new agenda of the U.S. government threatens to unleash an extreme
and egotistical trade policy that will impact the competitiveness of our
foreign trade, violate environmental agreements to favor the profits of
transnational [companies], hunt down and deport migrants," Castro said.
And here I am, critic and exile, being forced to agree with the dictator
— a first.
How sick is that?
It's repulsive, but Trump rose to power on an agenda that puts this
country at odds with the rest of the Americas, including our allies. His
first 1 ½ months in office have been like nothing Americans have ever
seen, with Draconian executive orders being signed amid a growing
scandal about Russia's tampering with the U.S. election to benefit him,
and the lingering questions: How much did Trump know? Did he participate?
It's especially notable that Castro has chosen to break his silence on
Trump at a time when the Trump administration is in the middle of "a
full review" of President Obama's U.S.-Cuba policy — and before any
changes are announced. Castro's only comment after Trump took office was
cordial (and, as always, pompous) indicating Cuba's willingness to
"continue negotiating bilateral issues with the United States on a basis
of equality and respect of our country's sovereignty and independence."
Cuba's ambassador attended Trump's inauguration and tweeted from it. At
least two of Trump's White House advisors have been to Cuba and were
ecstatic about doing business there during the Obama years.
But Cuban Americans in Congress have been pressuring Trump to get tough
on Castro and return to the isolation polices of the late 1990s and
early 2000s. That didn't yield much change, and certainly no end to the
58-year-old dictatorship. But during Obama's tenure — and under
unrelenting internal pressure from dissidents, independent journalists,
and a population that simply can't stand the oppression anymore — Raúl
Castro began some reforms, even if the quashing of opponents seldom
It would be a regrettable turn of events if, at this critical juncture,
Trump's protective nationalist policies gave new combative fodder to
Castro — who has promised to finally leave his post in 2018 — or to
those waiting in the wings to take over Cuba.
I'll say it again: Raúl Castro — head of one of the longest-lasting
dictatorships in the world — is no one to talk.
Yet, here I am, to quote Blue Oyster Cult, giving the devil his due.
Fabiola Santiago: email@example.com, @fabiolasantiago
Source: Cuban dictator Raul Castro slams Trump's immigration and trade
policy | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article137006518.html Continue reading
/ Juan Juan Almeida
Juan Juan Almeida, 27 February 2017 — Luis Enrique Cepero García was an
opponent of the Cuban regime serving a sentence in the Combinado del
Este prison when he decided to infect himself with a disease rather than
continue being subjected to mistreatment in prison.
Given his state of health, Luis Enrique was transferred and imprisoned
at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) in Havana where,
on orders from a doctor, his life ended abruptly one day in 1995.
"I remember that before he died in the IPK, my brother Luis Enrique told
me that a doctor told another doctor he would not be there the next day.
My brother began to have some tremors. Then in the afternoon a nurse
came into the room and began putting cotton in his nose, mouth and anus.
My brother died and I was left with that image in my head.
"Then I did something I should never have done. To take revenge I joined
the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and pretended to
be a revolutionary in order to get inside State Security and take my
revenge for the death of my brother," says William Cepero García, who
today is a former spy living on Santa Maria del Rosario Road, kilometer
4.5, Cubicle #106, Cambúte, San Miguel del Padrón, a district located in
the east of the Cuban capital.
When Luis Enrique died, William was living in Old Havana, buying and
selling antiques. He started pretending to be a revolutionary. He says
that, with his money and growing popularity, it was not difficult to
attract the attention of the Cuban secret services.
"I started at the CDR… Well, you know how that works. In 2005 I was
approached by officers from DTI (Technical Investigations Department)
who wanted to recruit me. But I told them that, if I was going to do
something for the Revolution, it had to be something big. It was then
that I met an officer by the name of Yosbani, a young man from a
Domestic Counterintelligence unit in Old Havana. He was the one who
I met the spy
"It's all a surprise to me," says Luz María Piloto Romero, a Cuban
dissident who now lives in exile in Miami. "I met William Cepero García
because he was living in Old Havana around the corner from my house. His
brother, the one who died from HIV, was a good friend of mine. I always
saw William at non-violent opposition events in support of human rights."
Cepero García says that, after several exams and countless meetings at
the Municipal Identity Card Directorate's offices, he was instructed to
collect information on people in the area who sympathized with opponents
of the government.
"At first I was very frightened," he admits. "I realized that the people
I knew were innocent but, after a few months working as a spy, I
determined that the information I was giving to my official contacts had
already been given to them by other agents I did not know."
Cepero García remembers being sent in 2005 to Cambute in San Miguel del
Padrón, where there as an active opposition movement. He says that there
he was part of a group under the direction of the local Domestic
Counterintelligence office. He began trying to penetrate the Cuban Human
Rights Foundation, an opposition organization then headed by Juan
Antonio Bermúdez Toranza.
"I very cautiously tried to warn Juan. I didn't know whether or not he
was also a State Security agent and did not want to get burned.
Everything here has been infiltrated," he says.
But Bermúdez Toranza, who currently lives in exile in Spain, says,
"William came out from the shadows. It was Juan Carlos who introduced
him to me."
He is referring to Juan Carlos González Leiva, a blind attorney,
activist and founder of the Independent Blind Fraternity of Cuba and the
Cuban Human Rights Foundation.
"William approached me offering to help. He was interested in my needs,"
adds Bermúdez Toranza. "His help was economic. He was a guy who moved
money around, dealing in antiques, jewelry and those sorts of things.
But he was asking a lot of questions; he wanted to know everything. He
never disagreed with any of my decisions and it isn't normal to agree
with everything. I never trusted him. I always compartmentalized with
him because I suspected he was working for State Security."
Two years later Bermúdez Toranzo was arrested and charged with
counter-revolutionary activities. William left the area but returned in
2009 with a new mission. "Juan (Bermúdez Toranzo) was in jail and his
then wife, Neris Castillo, was one of the Ladies in White, and my new
mission was to insert myself in her life, get information on the Ladies
in White, blackmail her and sleep with her… You know how these things
go," he says.
A female spy's testimony
"He told me he had come to carry out a task but he didn't have the
courage for it. He told me about his brother. I saw him trying to help
young men who had decided to set out to sea and other people I can't
remember right now. That's why I took him to what was then the US
Interests Section in Cuba, to the human rights office, so he could
provide information and decide whether to switch from one side to the
other," explains the former Lady in White, Neris Castillo Moreno, who is
now Cepero García's partner.
"He helped a lot of people. When my brother was taken prisoner, William
helped him. After being in a jail myself for a week, there was nothing
to eat at my house and he said to me, 'Let's go, Luz. I'll fix you a
sweet roll.' And he did. I hope that all the people he once helped might
now help him. Actually, I was surprised by the news," says Luz María, a
Cuban dissident who now lives in exile in Miami and says she knows
According to Cepero García, his work as a double agent earned him enough
credit with the regime's intelligence agencies that they ended up giving
him the mission to become the leader of the Republican Party of Cuba and
later the secretary general of the November 30th Frank País Democratic
Party after the death of the previous office holder.
However, after receiving a new mission from officials at Cuban State
Security, which Cepero García had allegedly infiltrated years earlier,
the self-described "double agent" decided to reveal his true identity
and expose himself to the risks inherent in such a decision.
"I fear for my life but I am aware of what I have done. I have to face
whatever comes." And here his story ends.
Meanwhile, the exiled Cuban dissident living in Spain, who is familar
with the spy's performance in San Miguel del Padrón, insists that Cepero
García's true intention in making this revelation is to leave Cuba.
"What William wants is a visa to the United States. I know he is a spy
and that he has regrets and that he helped people. But, look, if William
is saying that, he is not doing it because he is in charge or because he
wants to say it. He is saying it because someone is ordering him to do
so. And I assure you it is someone in Section XXI (of G2, the
Intelligence Directorate)," concludes Juan Antonio Bermúdez Toranzo
Source: Cuban Double Agent Fears for His Life after Revealing His True
Identity / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
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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
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
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
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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-countdown-begins-for-raul-castros-departure-from-power-14ymedio/ Continue reading
By Sarah Marsh and Nelson Acosta | HAVANA
Communist-ruled Cuba on Wednesday said it had foiled a serious plot
aiming to destabilize the country by preventing the chief of the
Organization of American States traveling to the island to attend an
award ceremony organized by dissidents.
The opposition group, which the government called "anti-Cuban and
illegal," had invited OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to Havana to
honor him for shining a light on violations of human rights in the Americas.
Cuba, which views the Washington-based OAS as an imperialist instrument
of the United States despite its fledgling detente with its Cold War
foe, denied Almagro and other international invitees visas and issued a
The incident comes at an awkward time as U.S. President Donald Trump
considers whether to continue normalizing relations with the Caribbean
"The plan ... consisted of mounting in Havana an open and serious
provocation against the Cuban government, generating internal
instability, damaging the country's international reputation," the
statement by the foreign ministry read.
The ministry accused Almagro of "an ambition agenda of auto promotion
with attacks against progressive governments like those of Venezuela,
Bolivia and Ecuador."
In a letter to the dissidents, Almagro said he had assured the Cuban
authorities he did not have an anti-Cuban agenda.
The OAS's only interest was to "help move Cuba closer to the values and
principles upheld by the organization in relation to democracy and human
rights," he said.
Cuba had earlier prevented other international invitees, including a
former Chilean minister and an ex-president of Mexico, from traveling to
Cuba to attend the award ceremony, stoking tensions across Latin America.
Chile said it was recalling its ambassador to Cuba for consultation
while Mexico's foreign ministry said on its Twitter account that it
"regretted" Cuba's decision.
The Cuban foreign ministry defended its move as "impeccable act of
transparency," saying it had contacted the countries from which invitees
were traveling to inform them of the plot, hoping they could be
dissuaded from traveling.
"There was no lack of declarations by defenders of the false persecuted,
allies of past dictatorships and unemployed politicians willing to ally
themselves with vulgar mercenaries in the service of foreign interests,"
the ministry said.
The dissident group that had organized the award ceremony is led by the
daughter of late democracy activist Oswaldo Paya, who died in a 2012 car
accident. Rosa Maria Paya accuses the Cuban government of causing the
crash, a charge it denies.
Paya went ahead with the ceremony on Wednesday in the Paya family home
in Havana as planned, although she said she would keep his prize until
he could pick it up in person.
That looks unlikely to happen soon. In its statement on the events, Cuba
denounced a recent neo-liberal, imperialist offensive against certain
Latin American countries that had plunged millions back into poverty.
"Where has the OAS been, that has always kept a complicit silence facing
these realities?" the ministry asked, reiterating that Cuba would never
rejoin the organization.
Fidel Castro, a leading Cold War figure who built a communist state on
the doorstep of the United States and defied U.S. attempts to topple
him, died in November at the age of 90, eight years after handing the
presidency over to his younger brother, Raul.
(Additional Reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Editing by Nick
Source: Cuba says it foiled plot to destabilize country, slams
dissidents and OAS | Reuters -
http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-dissidents-idUSKBN1620A6 Continue reading
BY: SABRINA MARTÍN - @SABRINAMARTINR - FEB 22, 2017, 12:21 PM
Cuba removed a Chilean student leader from Cuba hoping to attend an
award ceremony dedicated to Cuban political activist Oswaldo Payá.
Juan Carlos Vargas, a former student at the Central University of Chile
and member of the executive board of the Latin American Youth and
Democracy Network that was hosting the ceremony, was removed from the
island not long after the daughter of former Chilean President Patricio
Aylwin, Matiana Aylwin, was also prevented from flying there this week
for the same event.
Vargas was reportedly arrested in Cuba once he arrived on the island.
Authorities held him with no access to a phone call or other communication.
Read More: Meet Guillermo Lasso, Ecuador's Best Hope to End a Decade of
Read More: Uncertainty in Ecuador as Votes Trickle in, Opposition
Confident in Second Round
A similar incident took place to former Mexican President Felipe
Calderón, who Cuban authorities did not allow to enter the island.
He had planned to attend the award ceremony organized by the Latin
American Youth and Democracy Network.
Local media reported that Vargas was received by the Cuban Police as
well as a group of cameramen who appeared to be part of state-approved
Authorities took away his passport and boarded him on a plane to Panama,
where he expects to return to Chile soon. However, he reportedly has not
yet recovered his identification.
Vargas was supposed to place the Oswaldo Payá award in Matiana Aylwin's
hands, but now the ceremony will have to be rescheduled and relocated.
Source: El Demócrata
Source: Cuba Blocks Chilean Student from Entry for Award Ceremony
Honoring Dissident -
https://panampost.com/sabrina-martin/2017/02/22/cuba-blocks-chilean-student-from-entry-for-award-ceremony-honoring-dissident/ Continue reading
14ymedio/EFE, Havana, 22 February 2017 — The presentation of the Oswaldo
Payá "Freedom and Life" Prize has led to a diplomatic conflict, after
the Cuban government vetoed the entry into the country of three of the
guests: OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, Former Mexican President
Felipe Calderón, and Mariana Aylwin.
Almagro, Calderón and Chilean delegate Mariana Aylwin were unable to
travel to the Caribbean country on Tuesday to participate in the event
called by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, chaired by
Rosa Maria Payá, daughter of the late Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá,
which the Cuban government Cuban has labeled a "provocation."
Around Payá's house, in the Havana municipality of Cerro, a police
operation deployed in the early hours of the day prevented activists
from reaching the home. From Manila Park, near the house, State Security
agents dressed in civilian clothes demanded documentation from any
dissident or independent journalists who approached.
Payá told this newspaper that her phone had been "out of service" in the
afternoon although "in the morning it worked." The ceremony was attended
by seven activists who had spent the night in the house "plus another 20
people who where able to reach it," said the dissident. Among them was
the head of the political-economic section of the US Embassy in Cuba,
Dana Brown, as well as diplomatic representatives from Sweden and the
Payá said that the award ceremony had been surrounded by a lot of
repression on the part of the regime, Cuban State Security and the
Foreign Ministry." She condemned the reprisals "suffered by civil
society members who wanted to participate in the ceremony, resulting in
many of them being arrested and others prevented from leaving their homes."
All of the leaders of the opposition groups on the island "were
invited," Payá told this newspaper. "There are some with whom we have
lost communication over the last few days because of everything that is
happening, and others who are not in the country and others who couldn't
"We hope that this aggression, this rudeness, will find a response and a
reaction in all the governments belonging to the Organization of
American States (OAS), in all the governments of our region and also in
the European Union," said Rosa María Payá.
Luis Almargo tweeted: Our interest: To facilitate #Cuba's approach to
Interamerican values/principles and to expand the country's achievements
in science, health and education.
The Chilean and Mexican Chancelleries regretted the decision of
Cuba, and Chile announced that it will call its ambassador on the island
Meanwhile, the only official response from Cuba has come from the
Cuban embassy in Chile, which issued a communication referring to the
matter as "a grave international provocation against the Cuban
government," with the aim of "generating internal instability" and
affecting Cuba's diplomatic relations with other countries.
According to this note, the act was created "by an illegal anti-Cuban
group that acts against constitutional order and that arouses the
repudiation of the people, with the collusion and financing of
politicians and foreign institutions."
The ceremony finally took place without the presence of the
international guests. "The chairs will remain empty" until the awardees
"can land in Havana" to pick them up in person, assured Rosa María
Payá. Other Cuban guests were prevented from leaving their homes or
arrested on the road.
Independent journalists Henry Constantin Ferreiro and Sol García Basulto
were detained in the airport of Camagüey at the moment that they tried
to board a flight towards the capital.
Constantín Ferreiro is vice-president of the Inter-American Press
Association for Cuba and remains in custody without his parents being
able to see him or provide him with personal hygiene supplies, according
to his father.
Havana's decision not to authorize the arrival of the head of the OAS
was known after a night of uncertainty in which it was not clear whether
Almagro had traveled to the Cuban capital, where he initially planned to
fly from Paris, where he had participated in institutional activities
yesterday. Rosa María Paya today called on the OAS to support the right
of the Cuban people to decide on their destiny.
"To the point that Cuba is democratizing, all democracies in Latin
America will also gain stability," said the opposition leader, who hoped
that "today is the beginning of an OAS commitment to the cause of rights
and freedom in Cuba."
She pointed out that they do not expect the OAS to "speak out against
anyone," but instead to put itself "on the side of all Cuban citizens in
their right to begin a transition process."
Source: Oswaldo Payá Award Ceremony Is Absent The Winners / 14ymedio,
EFE – Translating Cuba -
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14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — Just five years ago, Mexican
President Felipe Calderón was greeted warmly in Havana during an
official visit. However, this week the now former president was denied
entry to the island to participate in the Oswaldo Payá "Freedom and
Life" awards to be held this Wednesday.
"I deeply regret not being able to be with them at this tribute" to the
deceased opponent, the politician conservative National Action Party
(PAN). "The Cuban immigration authorities asked Aeromexico" not to seat
me on the flight, telling them I was an "inadmissible passenger" on Tuesday.
Prior to the trip, the former president alerted the Mexican Foreign
Ministry of his intention, because he did not want to "arrive as if he
were a tourist." He reported on his departure to Cuba's ambassador to
Mexico, Pedro Núñez, and his country's representative in Havana, Enrique
This is the first time that the Plaza of the Revolution has prevented a
former Mexican president from entering the country, an event that has
raised a diplomatic dust storm, including a tweet from the Mexican
Foreign Ministry in which he "regrets the decision of the Government of
Cuba not to authorize the visit to Havana of former President Felipe
Calderón recalls that he supported "Oswaldo Payá many years ago without
having met him, by spreading the Varela Project and collecting
signatures in Mexico for him." In those years he saw "with great sadness
how the Cubans involved in the project were persecuted."
The politician evokes with special aggravation the Black Spring of 2003
and his indignation to learn that 75 dissidents had been arrested and
sentenced to long prison terms under the so-called Gag Law.
In one of his previous visits to the island, Calderón asked President
Raúl Castro to let him speak with Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Christian
Liberation Movement (MCL). However, "the Cuban government always
resisted," he recalls. He believes that the "diplomatic complications
obstructed" this longed-for encounter.
"I ask the Cuban government to rectify this absurdity," said the former
president, who maintains his idea of meeting "with Oswaldo's family"
whom he admired for being "an example of congruence, civility and love
The former Chilean foreign minister Mariana Aylwin experienced a similar
situation on Wednesday when she was prevented from boarding a flight
from her country to participate in the ceremony where a posthumous
recognition will be made to her father, Patricio Aylwin, the first
president under democracy in Chile after the dictatorship of Augusto
The Chilean Foreign Ministry said that the government "will make the
Cuban authorities aware of their displeasure at this action" because the
purpose of Mariana Aylwin's trip "was to receive from a civic
organization the testimony of recognition of her father… The exercise of
this right should not be impeded, especially when in Chile there have
been various acknowledgments of Cuban historical and political figures."
According to Rosa María Payá, Uruguayan Luis Almagro, Secretary General
of the Organization of American States (OAS), has confirmed his presence
at the event today to receive the Freedom and Life Award for his
"outstanding performance in defense of democracy," although he has not
made a statement on the matter.
The award ceremony, which is due to be held on Wednesday, is being led
by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, an organization
headed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late dissident.
Nationally, the government also prevented independent journalists Sol
García Basulto and Henry Constantin from Camagüey from traveling to
Havana, where they planned to fly to attend the award ceremony. The
Inter American Press Association (IAPA), of which Constantin is regional
vice president for Cuba, issued a protest statement demanding the
release of the reporter, who until yesterday remained detained.
Source: Felipe Calderón: "I Ask The Cuban Government To Rectify This
Absurdity" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
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