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New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan Garcia
Posted on July 23, 2014

On September 1, 2014 the Customs Service of the Republic of Cuba will
begin enforcing new regulations intended to combat illegal trafficking
of merchandise by relatives, friends and "mules"* through airports and
port facilities.

It's one more turn of the screw. Every year since 2011 new regulations
have been put in place designed to halt the illegal importation of goods
destined for families and private businesses on the island.
In Spring 2012 the customs service began charging ten dollars for every
kilo above the twenty-kilo limit for personal baggage. For parcel post
the charge was ten dollars per kilo above the five-kilo limit.

According to Onelia, a customs official, "The new measures are intended
to halt the trade in goods brought in by mules."

The military regime quite often resorts to demagogic rhetoric. It
eschews the military uniform and takes on the role of victim when
talking about the economic and financial embargo that the United States
has imposed on Cuba since 1962.

But the embargo does not justify establishing a string of regulations
that affect family well-being, private businesses and the quality of
life for a wide segment of the population.

Simply put, they are applying a set of prohibitions and laws in order
increase sales in the chain of hard-currency stores operated as military
businesses. It is a disgrace.
It is monopoly in its purest form. The government would now find itself
hard pressed to explain how these measures are benefitting its citizens.
Its aberrant customs rules, prohibitions on retail sales of imported
clothing and high taxes on the self-employed are anti-populist edicts.

I asked twenty-eight people — friends, neighbors, taxi drivers, public
and private sector workers — if they approved of these regulations.
Regardless of their political beliefs, the verdict was unanimous: all
twenty-eight were opposed to the current measures as well as to those
scheduled to take effect on September 1.

Some 80% of Cubans have a relative or friend in the United States or
Europe. Some benefit from regular shipments of clothes, food,
appliances, video games, computer tablets or smart phones. Others
receive occasional shipments.

But it is black market commerce, driven scarcity and a system of
economic production that does not satisfy demand, the most important
provider of the things people need.

HP laptops, plasma-screen TVs, instant soups and even major league
baseball hats arrive on the island from Miami, as do Russian car parts
and cloned satellite TV cards, which are banned by the Cuban government.
What businessmen, politicians and exiles living in the United States do
not mention when expressing support for relaxing or repealing the
embargo is the regime's obsession with controlling our private lives.

We must navigate an internet packed with filters, watch TV channels that
the government authorizes, read books over which the mullahs of
censorship pass judgment and pay extortionist prices for cell phone service.

We should be talking more often about the internal blockade the
government imposes on its citizens.

Is it legal for a nation to stifle illegal commerce? Yes, it is. But
before punishing people, it should provide by offering range of products
and prices for the domestic market, living wages and efficient services.

This is not the case in Cuba. State workers earn around twenty dollars a
month. The "basic basket" of goods that a ration book covers barely
lasts ten days. Putting two meals a day on the table is a luxury in many

The State has become an insatiable overseer. It owns industries that
provide us with overpriced mayonnaise, canned tuna and queso blanco.

At no meeting of the boring and monotonous National Assembly did I hear
any delegate demand that the state set fair prices. Food prices in Cuban
hard currency stores are higher than those in New York.

The price of flat-screen TV or a computer is two and a half times what
it is in Miami. Tiles and bathroom fixtures are five times as expensive.
And a Peugeot 508 sells for an exorbitant price, comparable to that of a

Thanks to mules, relatives in Florida send us everything from powdered
milk to sanitary pads because the state cannot satisfy the monthly
demand of women or offer such products for sale at affordable prices.

This is what it's about. The new measures attempting to stop trafficking
by mules are intended to benefit state enterprises and businesses, and
to increase their sales, though what becomes of the profits is never

They are only hampering the transfer of small ticket items, however, not
of dollars. Greenbacks are still welcome. The more, the merrier.

Before the Obama administration relaxes that relic of the Cold War
called the embargo, those speaking on behalf of the Cuban people should
ask Raul Castro for greater freedom and economic independence for his

And don't get me started on the denial of political rights. That's
another story.

Photo: From Univision Colorado.

*Translator's note: Slang term for couriers of goods from overseas.

18 July 2014

Source: New Measures by Cuban Customs Service Coming in September / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
On September 1, 2014 the Customs Service of the Republic of Cuba will begin enforcing new regulations intended to combat illegal trafficking of merchandise by relatives, friends and “mules”* through airports and port facilities. It’s one more turn of the … Continue reading Continue reading
The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio
Posted on July 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, 22 July 2014 – On 22 July 2014, the opposition leader Oswaldo
Payá and the activist Harld Cepero died. Payá led the Christian
Liberation Movement and promoted the Varela Project, which managed to
collect some 25,000 signatures to demand a national referendum. Freedom
of expression, of association, freedom of the press and of business, as
well as free elections, were some of the demands of that document signed
by thousands of Cubans.

Nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize, Payá was one of the most
visible and respected figures of the Cuban opposition. In 2002 the
European Parliament awarded him the Sakharov Prize for Human Rights by
and he was able to tour several countries to offer information about the
situation on the island. He was also an official candidate for the
Prince of Asturias Award and received honorary degrees from Columbia
University and the University of Miami.

Paya's death occurred in the vicinity of the city of Bayamo, while he
was traveling accompanied by the Spaniard Angel Carromero, the Swede
Aron Modig, and his colleague Harold Cepero. The Cuban government
explained the death as the result of a car accident, but his family and
many Cuban activists have maintained their doubts about that version. An
independent investigation into the events of that tragic July 22 has
been requested in various international forums, but Cuban authorities
have not responded to those requests.

On the second anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Payá, we asked
activists who shared his democratic ideals, "What is the greatest legacy
of the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement?"

Guillermo Fariñas, a psychologist and the winner of the European
Parliament's Sakharov Prize

The main legacy left by Oswaldo Payá Sardinas for the Cuban nation,
beyond its geographical boundaries, was that he showed his people and
the world that the Cuban government breaks its own laws. When the Varela
Project submitted almost 25,000 signatures to the People's Assembly on a
citizens' petition for a plebiscite, the Cuban government refused to
hold one and in a crude way changed the Constitution. That in my opinion
was his main contribution: demonstrating that the Cuban government is
beyond anything that could be construed as the Rule of Law and that it
does not even respect its own draconian laws that support Castro's
totalitarian state.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, promoter of Constitutional Consensus

I see the legacy of Oswaldo Paya in his pioneering activity to
demonstrate that it was possible to generate civic trust towards
democratic change. Even he had many doubts that the public would respond
positively, would commit itself to a proposed change, especially at a
time like the 90s and early 2000s when it was even more difficult for
the civic movement. That's what he sowed, what he left as a legacy,
which demonstrated this as a future possibility for all pro-democracy
activists on the island.

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the digital magazine Convivencia

First we recall our brother Oswaldo Paya with much love and affection
and I would especially emphasize the future, in his legacy, the legacy
he has rendered to all Cubans and so I think of the three gifts he left
us. First, his posture, his civic attitude. He was a citizen who forged
this society and who knew how to awaken a consciousness to fight for
democracy in a peaceful way, and from there came his second
contribution. Oswaldo was a man who fought tirelessly throughout his
life with peaceful methods without being provoked or coming to violence.
Finally—I have to say it—as someone who is also a Christian: he was a
man who understood that religion could not be alienated or be divorced
from the reality in which he lived, and that was why he was deeply
committed as a Christian to work for democracy in Cuba.

Jose Conrado Rodriguez Alegre, Catholic priest

Oswaldo has left us a legacy full of sincerity and honesty; a love
sacrificed for his country and a genuine commitment to the gospel of
Jesus Christ, a gospel embodied in social life, in political life, in
the good of others, everything that has to do with society as such. His
was a radical commitment to the gospel, but at the same time, as it
should be, to every human being. In remembering him, we must pay tribute
to the man he was in every dimension, while we feel the pain of the
brother we lost and we ask God that there be many others like him, men
who can give their lives for others, in silence, in humility, in the
midst of the misunderstandings of men, but certainly with a total
commitment and a quality of life that today illuminates the existence of
those of us still here.

José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)

There is no doubt that the late Oswaldo Payá left an everlasting
impression. We remember him as a determined and courageous Cuban who,
from an early date, assumed the method of nonviolent struggle with the
intention of bringing Cuba the rights and freedoms that we have lacked
for half a century. The work of the Christian Liberation Movement set a
tone in peaceful actions in favor of the fair, free, democratic and
prosperous Cuba that we all want, this was the side he was on.

The Varela Project, the citizen initiative launched by Oswaldo in which
so many of us became involved full-time, also set a tone in the actions
of the fighters for democracy. Initially, there were more than 11,000
people, in complex and difficult circumstances, circumstances that were
against those who collected signatures and against those who signed that
citizen petition. The fact that for the first time so many Cubans
defended a proposal, putting their names and identity data, supporting
the five points that made up the project, it was a real milestone.

Personally Oswaldo was a great friend with whom I shared both difficult
and happy moments. We are very mindful of that. The Cuba Democratic
Union (UNPACU) will render the homage he deserves on this second
anniversary of his tragic death.


Today, from 6:45 PM (Havana time) there will be the premiere of a
documentary about Oswaldo Paya of the Varela Hall of Ermita de la
Caridad in Miami, Florida. The video can also be viewed simultaneously

Source: The Political Legacy of Oswaldo Paya / 14ymedio | Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Posted on Tuesday, 07.22.14

Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba

On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader
Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, announced Tuesday that the
Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign
to demand a plebiscite on the island's future.

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father's Varela
Project, would include "one single question: Do you want to participate
in free and multi-party elections?"

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition
seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of
expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other

The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in
2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of
Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela
Project remains alive, "it is not necessary to collect more signatures.
More than double the number required already have been handed in, even
though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

"But the Varela Project is a citizens' effort. Our intention with this
(new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights," she
added. "There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there's a
recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of
association to carry out the change we want."

The activist added that her family, which now lives in South Florida, is
also preparing a new request to the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, for an
independent investigation of her father's controversial death.

According to the official version of the Cuban government, Payá and MCL
activist Harold Cepero died when the driver of their vehicle, Angel
Carromero, lost control near the eastern city of Bayamo and crashed into
a tree on July 22, 2012.

Carromero, a member of the youth wing of Spain's Popular Party, was
tried in Cuba and sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular
homicide and is now serving his sentence in Spain, free but under
probation. The other passenger in the car, Jens Aaron Modig, a member of
the youth wing of Sweden's Christian Democratic Party, was allowed to
leave Cuba shortly after the crash.

The Payá family and Carromero have repeatedly insisted that the car
carrying the two Cubans and two Europeans was rammed from behind and
forced off the road by another vehicle that had been following them.

Source: Payá family launches new effort for plebiscite in Cuba - Cuba - - Continue reading
14YMEDIO, 22 July 2014 – On 22 July 2014, the opposition leader Oswaldo Payá and the activist Harld Cepero died. Payá led the Christian Liberation Movement and promoted the Varela Project, which managed to collect some 25,000 signatures to demand … Continue reading Continue reading
How would you feel if you were innocent but still thrown in jail each

As a result of the Ladies in White movement continuing to be a target of
Cuban state authorities, the Czech NGO People in Need would like to
bring greater public attention to two cases of Ladies in White members
who have been forced to contend with constant repression over the last
two years.

Keila Ramos Suarez is 28 years old. She has been detained and assaulted
15 times between March 2013 and April 2014.

Due to the fact that her family doesn't agree with the political
opinions she holds, she has been repressed to an even greater extent.
She has been thrown out of her house and left to live on the street.
Furthermore, her son has been taken away from her by state authorities
on account of her dissident activities. She has regularly been arrested
before the weekly Ladies in White marches held on Sundays or been given
orders that prevent her from participating in the Mass.

Maria Teresa Gracias Rojas is 48 years old. She has been detained and
assaulted 39 times between January 2013 and March 2014.

The state police organized a so called search of her house during which
all of her belongings were destroyed; she was assaulted, and subjected
to acts of repudiation and intimidation. She has been under constant
surveillance, including having a police patrol car permanently parked in
front of her house. She has been prevented from participating in the
Ladies in White marches almost every Sunday during this time span. The
police usually arrest her either just outside of her residence or in
front of the local church. We would like to stress the gravity of the
fact that she happened to be assaulted directly by the priest as well.
Her situation has been made all the more difficult due to her daughter's
health problems for which she hasn't been receiving any help.

The scripts and tactics the authorities use are almost always the same:

One of them is to detain members of the Ladies in White before the
Sunday Mass, so that they cannot participate in their weekly protest by
taking part in their common walk to the church. They are brought to the
local police station for several hours where they are placed under
constant psychological and physical distress: the police agents have
been beating, humiliating and threatening to jail them for years, while
also openly threatening to harm their families if they don't stop their
dissident activities. The Ladies in White protest every Sunday dressed
in white, as a symbol of peace, in order to demand freedom for the their
relatives who are jailed dissidents, as well as on behalf of all other
political prisoners.

The other tactic is to organize public acts of repudiation against them
in order to cause them distress, while also intimidating and frightening
them. Usually small groups of people are brought to the dissidents'
residence who then shout insults at them, throw stones at their houses
and threaten them.

Why have these brave women kept on fighting their battle despite the
pressure they find themselves under? Their answer is simple and clear:
they want change and freedom for their loved ones and the people of Cuba.

The NGO People in Need condemns the repression that the Cuban
authorities have directed towards Keila and Maria Teresa, as well as
towards all the Ladies in White, and ask for them to comply with the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Cuba is a signatory.

The regular weekly march was harshly repressed in Havana, as well as in
the provinces, following the announcement of celebrations in memory of
the victims of "13th of March" Tugboat that was sunk in 1994. A total of
89 Ladies in White, among which the leader of the movement, Berta Soler,
and 9 men who participated in the march were arrested.

The Ladies in White Movement was initiated in the aftermath of the Black
Spring in 2003, when the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried
and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and
independent librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison. The
initiator was Laura Pollan, the wife of one of the jailed activists,
Hector Maseda. Each member of the march carries a picture of her jailed
relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.


Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba

People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy | @PeopleCuba - rewriting Cuba, Continue reading
The Battered Press / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso
Posted on July 22, 2014

14YMEDIO, Fernando Damáso, Havana, 21 July 2014 – It is no secret that
the editorial policy of a newspaper responds to the interests of its
owners. In countries where freedom of the press exists and is respected,
newspapers abound, reflecting many different interests. In countries
where freedom of the press is clearly absent, one, two or three
newspapers are sufficient, more than enough to cover the form, because
they all say the same thing and defend the same principles.

The case of Cuba is a good "bad example"; Granma, Juventud Rebelde
(Rebel Youth), and Trabajadores (Workers), each in its area of
influence, serve a single objective: to defend at all cost the
established political economic system.

In Republican-era Cuba, with a population half as large as today, there
were 14 national newspapers: Diario de la Marina, El Mundo, Información,
El País, Excelsior, Prensa Libre, Mañana, Alerta, El Crisol, Ataja,
Tiempo en Cuba, La Calle, Diario Nacional and Noticias de Hoy. There
were also two newspapers in English and three in Chinese, as well as
newspapers in each one of the six provinces.

Some came out in the morning and others in the afternoon. Some included
comic strips and were printed in color with photographs, and some had
weekend supplements. In their Sunday additions the newspapers multiplied
the number of pages and had a great number of advertisements. They sold
for five cents during the week and 10 cents on Sunday.

This variety of daily papers covered the entire Cuban social spectrum,
from the most conservative positions represented by Diario de la Marina,
to the most radical represented by Noticias de Hoy, the newspaper of the
communist. Between one or another there appeared the whole gamut of
political, economic and social concepts. Some prioritized political
news, and others events. All of them dedicated space to culture and
sports, where qualified journalists had regular columns.

In their Sunday editions Diario de la Marina, El Mundo and Información
devoted ample space to literature, visual arts, theater, music, film,
science, among other topics, with articles written by prestigious
intellectuals who were not forced to toe the editorial line.

Leafing through old copies, articles appear from important personalities
and journalists such as Enrique José Varona, Juan Gualberto Gómez, Rubén
Martínez Villena, Raúl Roa, Carlos Márquez Sterling, Sergio Carbó, Jorge
Mañach, Anita Arroyo, Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring, Gastón Baquero,
Felipe Pazos, Mirta Aguirre, Eladio Secades, Edith García Buchaca, Alejo
Carpentier, Agustín Tamargo, Enrique de la Osa and many others who make
up the endless list and demonstrate the multiplicity of views.

Every citizen could freely choose the one most corresponding to their
own, without dogmatic impositions of any kind.

There were dailies that exploited sensationalism and yellow journalism
to sell their copies quickly, and those that offered more serious news
in a measured way, which were most of them. Newspapers were hawked on
the streets by vendors, using as promotional hook the main news on the
front page, always leaving up in the air a question that forced you to
buy it, if you wanted to know everything.

Some famous hooks, often repeated, were: See how they caught him! He
struck her and fled! He stole and jumped from the second floor! Get the
scandal! Here is all the evidence! The cyclone is coming tomorrow! and

The main points of sale were the bus stops, where they were offered to
the passengers through the windows in quick sales transactions. In
addition, there was home delivery by subscription or, more leisurely, by
distributors that roamed the neighborhoods. They were characterized by
punctuality, thus ensuring that the papers arrived daily before
breakfast or before dinner, depending on whether it was a morning or
evening edition.

After 1959, the Republican-era press had a sad ending, first with the
invention by the government of "tag lines"—short texts, supposedly
written by "revolutionary" workers, were added at the ends of articles
and reports to reject the opinions expressed—and finally, with the
intervention and closure of the newspapers.

The Republican-era Cuban press was dismissed during the last half
century by the spokespeople of the ruling party, forgetting that it
provided an important service in the defense of citizens' interests and
in critiquing the different governments in every era, a source of pride
and an example to imitate in these times, where free opinions are only
possible in the few independent newspapers that exist against all odds,
persecuted and suppressed by the authorities, and whose circulation is

Source: The Battered Press / 14ymedio, Fernando Damaso | Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Oswaldo Payá's death in Cuba two years ago still awaits a proper
By Editorial Board July 21 at 6:40 PM

TWO YEARS ago Tuesday, a blue rental car was wrecked off a deserted road
in eastern Cuba. In the back seat was Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba's
best-known dissidents, who had championed the idea of a democratic
referendum on the nation's future. Mr. Payá's voice was not the loudest
against the Castro dictatorship, but it was one of the most committed
and determined. On the day of the car crash, he had been trying for more
than a decade to bring about a peaceful revolution, one that would
empower Cubans to decide their own fate and end the half-century of
misrule by Fidel and Raúl Castro.

Mr. Payá endured harassment and intimidation for his efforts. Many of
his friends and allies were jailed. He received threats by phone and
other warnings, some violent. But he did not give up. On the day of the
crash, Mr. Payá was traveling with a young associate, Harold Cepero,
across the island to meet with supporters of the Christian Liberation
Movement. In the front of the rental car was a visitor from Spain, Ángel
Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of that country's ruling party,
and one from Sweden.

The car spun out of control after being rammed from behind by a vehicle
bearing state license plates, according to Mr. Carromero. While he and
the associate from Sweden survived, Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were killed.
Mr. Carromero says he was then coerced to confess and subjected to a
rigged trial in order to cover up what really happened. Mr. Carromero's
videotaped "confession," broadcast on television, was forced upon him;
he was told to read from cards written by the state security officers.
He was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and
later released to return to Spain to serve out his term.

Since then, there has been no serious, credible investigation of the
deaths. Cuba has brushed aside all demands for an international probe
that would reveal the truth. Mr. Payá held dual Cuban and Spanish
citizenship, but Spain has been shamefully uninterested in getting to
the bottom of the story. The truth matters — to show the Castro brothers
that they cannot snuff out a voice of freedom with such absolute impunity.

On May 14, Pope Francis received Mr. Payá's family at his private
residence. We don't know what the pope said, but Mr. Payá's daughter,
Rosa Maria, delivered a letter carrying an impassioned appeal for the
cause of democracy and human dignity in Cuba. Hopefully, the pope will
keep listening to the voices demanding change in Cuba and speak out for
democracy and freedom there. The values that Mr. Payá fought for in Cuba
must not be forgotten. Other dissidents are still struggling, despite
crackdowns, beatings, jailings and persecution, and they must not be

Source: Oswaldo Payá's death in Cuba two years ago still awaits a proper
investigation. - The Washington Post - Continue reading
14YMEDIO, Fernando Damáso, Havana, 21 July 2014 – It is no secret that the editorial policy of a newspaper responds to the interests of its owners. In countries where freedom of the press exists and is respected, newspapers abound, reflecting many different … Continue reading Continue reading
Protestors in the streets of Vienna (Luz Escobar) A friend sent me photos of a demonstration in the streets of Vienna in support of the Palestinians. I also received—from all over the world—images with signs of solidarity or rejection of … Continue reading Continue reading
Charlie da Dog es un perro raza beagle que lleva dos años en las redes sociales, desde que sus dueños decidieron crearle una página en Youtube, con el objetivo de que todo el mundo conociese sus hazañas a través de vídeos y conseguir fondos para perros de raza beagle a través de la Fundación 'Beagle Freedom Project' (Proyecto Liberar al Beagle). Continue reading
Miami's historic Freedom Tower is unveiling a Cuban exile experience exhibit in September and it is asking the community to help them locate memorabilia to tell the story of the building and the refugees Continue reading
Miami's historic Freedom Tower is unveiling a Cuban exile experience exhibit in September and it is asking the community to help them locate memorabilia to tell the story of the building and the refugees Continue reading
"I owe to my father the hatred of authoritarianism that he embodied" /
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa
Posted on July 16, 2014

The writer Mario Vargas Llosa discusses literature, democracy and Latin
America in the second part of an interview with 14ymedio. First part of
the interview: "The myth of Cuba has been cut to shreds"

Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 15 July 2014 – During my conversation with the
writer and Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Mario Vargas Llosa in his
home in Madrid, we spoke about his passion for Cuba and his
disappointment with the revolutionary myth, as we reflected yesterday in
the first part of this interview. Today I share with our readers the
rest of this dialogue, centered on democracy, literature and Latin America.

Question: How do you see the health of the democratic model and civil
liberties in Latin America?

Answer: If we compare it to the ideal, of course we get depressed. But
if we compare Latin America from a democratic point of view looking at
the last few years, there has been considerable progress.

When I was young, Latin America was a set of dictatorships and the
democracies, such as Chile and Costa Rica, were really the exception to
the rule. That has changed radically today, there are virtually no
military dictatorships. There is one dictatorship, which is Cuba, one
quasi-dictatorship, which is Venezuela, and beyond that some democracies
that are far from perfect. There are varying degrees of quality and
there are some Latin American democracies that are very basic and others
that are more advanced. However, the democratic trend predominates over
the authoritarian tradition that was so strong in our peoples.

My impression is that this is not coincidental, it's because there is a
much much wider consensus about democracy than in the past. There is a
rightwing that has accepted that democracy is preferable to
dictatorship, that offers more institutional guarantees for property and
for business. We also have a leftwing that wasn't democratic either,
that has accepted—or resigned itself—to democracy. Which explains cases
like Uruguay, where a very extreme left took power, and yet, the
democratic way works, freedom of expression works, and the economy and
the market work.

This also explains the phenomenon of the Concertación (Concentration) in
Chile, which respected the precepts of democracy and didn't change the
political economy of the dictatorship, because it gave good results. The
Concertación respected this model but expanded economic freedom and
political freedom, which brought Chileans an extraordinary period of
prosperity and calm.

This trend toward democracy will continue, with ups and downs, but it's
difficult to imagine there will be a reversal that reestablishes the
authoritarian tradition that was so catastrophic for Latin America.

Question: How do you see the case of Peru?

Answer: Peruvians have had many dictatorships throughout our history. If
I weigh it from my birth to today, we've probably experienced more
dictatorships than democratic governments. Perhaps the greatest
difference is that the last dictatorships we've had, from General
Velasco Alvarado's to Alberto Fukimori's, had such catastrophic
consequences that a part of the population has somehow been vaccinated
against the idea that a dictatorship is more efficient for bringing
economic prosperity or for achieving social justice.

We have experienced dictatorships of the right and left that have
brought widespread corruption or an atrocious impoverishment of the
country, like during the Velasco era, which was a leftist military
dictatorship, or during the first term of Alan Garcia, which wasn't a
dictatorship but it was a populist government which, with its
nationalizations and its defiance of all the international organizations
brutally impoverished the country. Finally, Fujimori's dictatorship was
probably the one that was most thieving. An investigation by the
Ombudsman calculated that more or less six billion dollars was stolen
and sent abroad by the Fujimoro regime. For a poor country like Peru,
that's significant.

All this was so disconcerting; as of 2000 there hadn't been a consensus
in Peru for political democracy and economic freedom. There had been a
consensus for democracy at some times, but there had never been one for
economic freedom. Today, for the first time, there is. That consensus
has brought 15 years that are so good, so prosperous, that my hope is
that it lasts until its irreversible. Although the truth is that nothing
is irreversible, as modern history has demonstrated.

"Literature was an indirect way of resisting the authority of my father
doing something he hated and that he wanted to eliminate from my life"

Question: In the foreword to a book of poems for children written by
José Martí, he said "Son, scared of everything, I take refuge in you."
In your case, were you so scared of reality you looked for refuge in

Answer: Yes, literature was my refuge when I was a kid, when I met my
father with whom I had a very difficult relationship. I met him when I
was 11 and he was a very authoritarian person who practically isolated
me from my maternal family, with whom I'd lived in a virtual "paradise."
My father was very hostile to my literary ambition. As soon as he
discovered it, he thought it was a terrible failure in my life. I owe
him many things: discovering the fear and discovering the hatred of
authoritarianism that he embodied. My father's hostility to my literary
vocation made me cling to this vocation and I found a refuge in
literature, a different way of living that life of fear I had in my
parents' house, because of my father.

I see that now, at that time I didn't see it. Literature was an indirect
way of resisting the authority of my father doing something he hated and
that he wanted to eliminate from my life. Writing became something more
important, more transcendent, more intimate than it had been. Until
then, it was a kind of game that my mother's family celebrated in me.
With my father it was a risk to write poems and "little stories," but at
the same time it was a way of defending the freedom and the autonomy
that I lost when faced with him.

Yes, in my youth literature was a refuge, but in my life literature has
been much more than this. In literature we can live what we can't
experience in our own lives. We are beings endowed with imagination and
desires, those eternal dissatisfactions because life never gives anyone
everything they desire. We want lives more diverse, rich and intense
than those we have. That is why we have invented literature, why we have
fiction, to compensate for how limited our lives are.

So literature is a refuge, but it also has the ability to complete those
incomplete lives we are obliged to have. However, literature is much
more than that, because while it appeases that appetite for different
experiences, it sparks, sparks the need, which results in greater
dissatisfaction. If we read a lot it turns us into beings deeply
dissatisfied with the world as it is. Nothing is better than good
literature to make us discover, in such a vivid, persuasive way, that
the world works badly and that it's not enough to satisfy human aspirations/

"That is why we have invented literature, why we have fiction, to
compensate for how limited our lives are."

When you finish reading a great novel, like The Kingdom of this World,
by Alejo Carpentier, or One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García
Márquez, or a story by Jorge Luis Borges, what do you discover? That
reality is very poor compared with that wonderful reality you've
experienced with this fantasy, this language. This makes us dissatisfied
and rebellious people, who want the world to be better than it is, and
this is the engine of progress.

The world has been evolving, we have come out of the caves and we've
reached the stars. Literature is an extraordinary stimulus for
dissatisfaction and rebellion, and also a permanent critique of what
exists. If this criticism and dissatisfaction didn't exist, literature
wouldn't exist.

Question: So literature is to blame for so much dissatisfaction?

Answer: I think so, and the best proof of that is that all the regimes
that have tried to control life from the cradle to the grave, the first
thing they've done is to try to control literary creation. They try to
subjugate fiction, because they have seen the danger in the free
creativity that fiction signifies. Religious dictatorships, ideological
dictatorships, military dictatorships… the first thing they do is
establish systems of censorship. I don't think they're wrong, because in
some ways literature is a source of sedition, discrete and indirect, but
a source of sedition.

Question: You chair the Fundación Internacional para la Libertad (FIL)
[International Foundation for Freedom]. How do you evaluate the work of
the foundation? Do you think you've wasted your time?

Answer: I don't know if it's had the effect we wanted it to have. The
fact that it exists, it's been twelve years, we've had a lot of
conferences, seminars, spreading liberal ideas. We defend democracy, but
within democracy we defend the liberal doctrine, against which there are
many prejudices. Even the word liberal has been demonized and that is a
great victory for the more dogmatic left, having turned the word
"liberal" into a bad word, associating it with exploitation, injustice,

The task of the International Foundation for Freedom is to combat this
demonization of the liberal doctrine and to spread the culture that has
brought these major reforms and changes to society since the creation of
democracy, of the idea of Human Rights, of the idea of the individual as
the pillar of society, endowed with rights and duties that must be
respected and exercised freely. Those are the kind of ideas that we want
to spread and to what extent we have succeeded? We have done something
and I think it would be worse if we hadn't done the things we've done,
even if they are insufficient.

Source: "I owe to my father the hatred of authoritarianism that he
embodied" / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa | Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
“The myth of Cuba has been cut to shreds for the most part” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa
Posted on July 15, 2014
The writer and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, talks about Cuba in the first part of an interview with 14ymedio

Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 14 July 2014 — Mario Vargas Llosa, writer, politician, excellent analyst and even better conversationalist, received me at his home in Madrid for this interview. The minutes flew by with his proverbial grace for dialogue as he offered me his reflections about democracy, freedom, literature, Latin America and Cuba. Today I share these with the readers of 14ymedio who in some way were there, without being in that room lit by the light of summer and the lucidity of the writer.

Question: I know that Cuba has been an important part of your passions, to say nothing of your great obsessions…

Answer: Absolutely. The Cuban Revolution was for me, as it was for many young people, the appearance of a possibility many of us had dreamed about but that had seemed unattainable. A socialist revolution, which was both socialist and free, socialist and democratic.

Today that may seem like an act of blindness, but it wasn’t at that time. At that time, that’s what the Cuban Revolution seemed to us, accomplished not for, but outside, the Communist Party, a Revolution that was backed up by every heroic exploit. In the first days of the Cuban Revolution, we saw in it what we wanted to see.

A Revolution that would make great social reforms, that would end injustice and at the same time would allow freedom, diversity, creativity, that wouldn’t adopt the Soviet line of strict control of all creative and artistic activities.

We believed it was going to allow criticism and this is what we wanted to see in the Cuban Revolution and for a good number of years that is what I saw in it, despite going to Cuba, despite being linked very directly to the Casa de las Americas, in which I came to sit on the committee. That was what we saw because the Cuban Revolution had the ability to feed that illusion.

Question: At what point did you start having doubts?

Answer: Of the five times I went to Cuba in the sixties, the fourth time coincided with the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP) and it was a shock to know that they had opened what were almost concentration camps where they took dissidents, thieves, homosexuals, religious people. I was very impressed especially by the case of a group I expect you know, El Puente (The Bridge). I knew many of the girls and the boys who made up the group, among them were lesbians and gays, but all were revolutionaries, absolutely identified with the Revolution. A good number of them went to the concentration camps, where there were even suicides.

That affected me a great deal, because it seemed impossible that something like this was happening in Cuba. So I wrote a private letter to Fidel Castro, where I said, “Comandante, I really don’t understand, this doesn’t fit with my vision of Cuba.” Then they invited me to visit Cuba and have a meeting with Fidel Castro. We were about ten or twelve and somehow we demonstrated our surprise about what was happening.

It was the only time I’ve talked with Fidel Castro, it was all night, from eight at night to eight in the morning. It was very interesting and although he impressed me, I wasn’t convinced by his explanation. He told me what had happened to many very humble peasant families, whose sons were trainees, and they complained that their sons had been victims of “the sickos,” that’s what Fidel said. The gays and lesbians for him were “the sickos.” He told me something had to be done, that perhaps there were excesses, but they were going to correct it.

I remember Che Guevara had already left by then and no one knew where he was. Then Fidel Castro—during that conversation—made allusions to where Che might be and show up. He was also very histrionic, standing on the table, telling how they’d set up ambushes, he was a very overwhelming personality, but I realized then that he did not allow interlocutors, only listeners.

It was almost impossible to pose any questions, however brief. It was the first time and since then I was left with many doubts, much anguish that I didn’t dare to make public and I continued returning to Cuba until Fidel’s support for the interventions of the Warsaw Pact countries in Czechoslovakia.

Question: How did you experience the entry of Soviet tanks into Prague in 1968?

Answer: That made a tremendous impression on me, and it was the first time I made public a letter criticizing Cuba. I wrote an article titled Socialism and the Tanks, saying it wasn’t possible that if Fidel had always defended the autonomy, the sovereignty of small countries, now that a small country wanted its own version of socialism, for the Soviet tanks to invade and for Cuba to support this. How is it possible?

Despite this they continued to invite me, but when I returned to Cuba there was already a situation of panic among the intellectuals. My best friends wouldn’t talk to me or they lied to me. There was terror. It was a few weeks before the imprisonment of Heberto Padilla and the poet was totally beside himself, talking like a mad man, feeling the spaces close in on him and very soon he would no longer be able even to function.

The main problem with Cuba is not that it still awakens revolutionary fantasies and desires, rather the problem is the forgetting

I was with Jorge Edwards, just during the months that he was described as persona non grata. I remember that thanks to Jorge, who was diplomatic, we could bring Jose Lezama Lima to eat in one of those dining rooms where only diplomats could go. Poor Lezama, he ate with happiness, he loved to eat.

We talked about everything but politics, of course. But on leaving, on saying goodbye, I remember he squeezed my hand and said, “You understand the country in which I am living,” I responded yes, but he came back and squeezed my hand again and repeated, “But you understand the country in which I am living,” and I answered, “Yes, I understand.” That was the last time I saw him.

Soon came the capture of Padilla, the letter that several of us wrote and that meant the rupture with a number of important intellectuals who weren’t Communists but we had made the cause of the Cuban Revolution our own. For me that was very important, because I regained a freedom that had been lost during those years, because of this blackmail that was so effective, of “not giving arms to the enemy,” “you can’t attack the Cuban Revolution without yourself becoming an ally of colonialism, imperialism, fascism.”

Well, since then I was much more free and I was left forever, up to today, with the idea of having contributed in some way to this myth and to helping a system—already 55 years old—that had converted Cuba into a concentration camp and that has frustrated at least three generations of Cubans.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been so insistent in my criticisms of Cuba, it’s a way of exercising self-criticism. Because I believe that we contributed a lot, and the Cuban regime was highly skilled in this, getting the support of intellectuals, journalists, academics, that contributed so much to this myth, that still survives, although it seems like lies and happily the support is from ever smaller circles.

The main problem with Cuba is not that it still awakens revolutionary fantasies and desires, rather the problem is the forgetting, the disinterest. Many people are tired of the Cuba issue and then there is a great detachment. Many times when the topic of Cuba is on the agenda, there is such skepticism, as if it weren’t a social and human phenomenon. What can you do against an earthquake, a tsunami? Nothing, because Cuba is like an earthquake or a tsunami for many people.

Source: “The myth of Cuba has been cut to shreds for the most part” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Mario Varga Llosa | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Raul Castro’s Not-So-Innocent Slip of the Tongue about Russia
July 15, 2014
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — “We support the current policy of firmness and the intelligent policies being pursued in the international arena by the Soviet Union – I mean Russia,” General Raul Castro declared during President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Havana.

This “slip of the tongue” is not as innocent as it could seem. It is common for Cuba’s official press and for many high officials of the Cuban government to refer to contemporary Russia in friendly terms, as though they were speaking of the former Soviet Union.

Referring to the collapse of the USSR and the “socialist bloc” in that same speech, Raul Castro said: “the world’s power balance was disrupted when the force that kept that balance disappeared.” “That force,” he added, “begins to recover and we’re already seeing the effects, first of all at the international level and, second of all, in Russia’s new bilateral relations.”

This means that, for the Cuban president, there is apparently no difference between that “socialist” force of old and this new “Russian” force: they are one and the same balancing factor.

The colonial mentality of dependence of many high Cuban officials continues to be marked by the role the Soviet Union played in maintaining the Cuban government and by the fact Putin comes from the old, “Soviet” bureaucratic apparatus. “Things continue like before,” our smart boys in uniform appear to be saying.

The Cuban bureaucracy’s objective need to secure foreign economic and political aid in order to sustain its centralized State system forces it to ignore or blinds it to the “nature” of the new international role played by Russia, or anyone willing to aid the “Cuban revolution” for that matter.

This is also related to the traditional view of imperialism that predominates within the Cuban government, which generally only makes mention of “US imperialism”, forgetting about Spanish, British, German and (increasingly) Chinese imperialism, to say nothing of Russia’s.

Another factor that keeps the high leadership from seeing the true nature of contemporary Russia is that many members of Cuba’s high and mid-level nomenklatura regard the changes that took place in the country of the Tsars as something akin to the transformation of “State socialism” into authoritarian State capitalism, as we can surmise from the policies of the so-called economic “reforms” impelled by Raul Castro and his military.

Little by little, the different decrees and laws passed as part of the “reform process” have slowly but surely revealed that the “changes” being implemented by the Raul Castro administration are principally aimed at strengthening the control of the top leadership over large State companies that exploit wage labor in the absence of worker control, a Cuban version of the appropriation of important State companies by the Soviet nomenklatura, in the context of a capitalist market economy.

In this “updated” model – yet another form of non-socialism – non-State forms of production (self-employment, small and midsized private companies and cooperatives) have no life of their own in terms of production and the market, but are rather subordinated and dependent on the State economy, which they are meant to support.

Incidentally, to characterize forms of production not on the basis of how they exploit the means of production and labor force (slavery, feudalism, wage labor, free or associated labor) but by whether they are part of the State or not is one of the “brilliant” contributions of our “reform” process to so-called Marxism-Leninism.

It is therefore no accident that, in Cuba, Russia should often be confused with the former Soviet Union, that the post-Perestroika government should be seen as a natural extension of the “Soviet” era, that the Cuban government-Party-State has never discussed the fall of “socialism” in the USSR and Eastern Europe in depth and that Cuba’s debts to Russia (or the former Soviet Union) should be wiped clean from the slate. Everything’s been forgotten here and there, so let’s move forward!

To give further weight to the ideas that sustain this “slip of the tongue,” the “main enemy” of the two governments continues to be the same one and, since both adhere to the pragmatic maxim to the effect that “the enemy of your enemy is your friend,” the two needn’t say much to reach an agreement and cooperate in financial, political and security issues.

The rapprochement between Russia and Cuba, in the absence of the relaxation or lifting of the US blockade/embargo, could be the lifebelt Raul Castro’s government needs to continue “selling the future” to the Cuban people and to hold the “anti-imperialist” flag high (as though Russia were not at all imperialist). It allows him not to “give in” to the “blackmail” of US imperialism with regards to the human, civil and political rights of the Cuban people. It’s a sweet deal.

The problem is that, as a military power, Russia will not likely be in a position to offer Cuba the economic subsidies the former Soviet Union did. This could make the Cuban government restrain itself in its cooperation with Russia on “security” matters in order to continue looking for an agreement with the United States and the West.

All the while, the restructuring of the Cuban government with regards to the people – in greater need of beans and freedom than cannons and violent, imposed measures – is nowhere to be seen, as revealed by the last regulations established by Cuban customs, aimed at restricting the number of products brought into the country by Cubans, products that help many families get by and to overcome many of the daily needs faced by Cubans (and which the State is unable to meet).

What worries the State the most is that such products nourish a market that is independent of the State, a market that competes with the chain of stores operated by the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) – something the military government cannot tolerate.

This clearly reveals that the similarities between Putin’s authoritarian government and Cuba’s governing military, more than casual, are causal.


Source: Raul Castro’s Not-So-Innocent Slip of the Tongue about Russia - Havana - Continue reading

Further information on UA: 201/13 Index: AMR 25/003/2014 Cuba Date: 15 July 2014
sentencing of three brothers postponed

The sentencing of three prisoners of conscience originally scheduled for 1 July has been postponed with no further information. They are prisoners of conscience and should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Twenty-two-year-old Alexeis Vargas Martín and his two 18-year-old twin brothers, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín, were tried on 13 June at the Provincial Court in Santiago de Cuba, south-eastern Cuba, under the charges of public disorder of a continuous nature (alteración del orden público de carácter continuado).
The sentencing was scheduled for 1 July but was postponed with no indication of a new date. The mother of the three brothers visited the Court on 1 July in order to collect the sentencing documents but they were not finalised. According to local activists the authorities may try to convince the three brothers to give up their activism and this could be the reason behind the postponement.
Amnesty International believes that their arrest and detention is in response to their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and that it is intended to send a message of intimidation to other government critics, particularly other members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU). The three brothers are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.
Please write immediately in Spanish, English or your own language:
Calling on the authorities to release Alexeis Vargas Martín, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín immediately and unconditionally, as they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression;
Urging them to allow the free exercise of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, without fear of reprisal.

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Attorney General
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República Fiscalía General de la República Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella Centro Habana
La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
And copies to:
Calle 9 no. 10, entre E y G
Altamira, Santiago de Cuba
Cuba C.P. 90200

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the second update of UA 201/13. Further information:
sentencing of three brothers postponed

According to information received by Amnesty International, the Public Prosecutor has asked for Alexeis Vargas Martín to be sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and three years for Vianco and Django Vargas Martín, who were 16 at the time of arrest. They were reportedly subjected to a summary trial, with none of the witnesses for the defence being allowed to testify. In political trials such as these it is typical for the judge to pass the sentences requested by the public prosecutor.
The brothers, from the city of Santiago de Cuba, are all members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), a civil society organization which advocates for greater civil liberties in the country. Since their detention, Alexeis Vargas Martín is being held at Aguadores Prison in Santiago de Cuba province, while Vianco and Django Vargas Martín are held at the Mar Verde prison in the same province.
In the afternoon of 27 November 2012, Alexeis was returning to his house where a government-sanctioned demonstration (acto de repudio) was underway at the time. The house was surrounded by government supporters as his mother, Miraida Martín Calderín, a member of the Ladies in White protest group, was meeting with other members of the same organization. Alexeis was refused entry to his own home and was arrested by police and officials from the Department of State Security. On 2 December, Vianco and Django Vargas Martín – then only 16 years old – were also arrested when they went with friends to protest outside the Micro 9 police station in the city of Santiago de Cuba against the detention of their brother. In early July 2013, officials from the Department of State Security told the brothers’ family that they could be released on bail. The three brothers, however, have refused this as they reject the charges made by the police and insist on their innocence.
Miraida Martín Calderín was also arrested on 2 December 2012 as she protested outside the Tercera Unidad police station in the city of Santiago de Cuba and charged by police with public disorder (desorden público). She was held at the Mar Verde prison for women and released pending trial on 20 February 2013. Miraida Martín Calderín appeared in court alongside her sons on 13 June facing charges of public disorder and defaming institutions, heroes and martyrs (difamación de las instituciones, héroes y mártires). She may face a sentence of over two years to home arrests.
The right to a fair trial in Cuba is affected, especially in trials with political connotations, as courts and prosecutors are under government control. Cuba’s National Assembly elects the President, Vice-President and the other judges of the Peoples’ Supreme Court, as well as the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General. In addition, all courts are subordinate to the National Assembly and the Council of State, raising concerns over internationally recognised standards for fair trial and the right to trial by an independent and impartial tribunal.
Acts of repudiation (actos de repudio) are government-coordinated demonstrations, usually carried out in front of the homes of government critics, attended by government supporters, state officials and law enforcement agencies, aimed at harassing and intimidating opponents of the government, and are often used to prevent them from travelling to take part in activities. During an act of repudiation, political opponents and human rights activists are subjected to verbal and physical abuse by groups of people chanting pro-government slogans. Police are usually present but do not intervene to stop the assaults. Such incidents frequently involve the Rapid Response Brigades (Brigadas de Respuesta Rápida), a structure set up in 1991 and composed of Communist Party volunteers whose task is to deal with any sign of "counter-revolution". Local human rights activists and others believe these incidents are orchestrated by Cuba's security services to intimidate any opposition. Miraida Martin Calderin has told Amnesty International that members of the Rapid Response Brigade threw stones at her house during the act of repudiation on 27 November 2012.
Names: Alexeis Vargas Martín, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín
Gender (m/f): m
Further information on UA: 201/13 Index: AMR 25/003/2014 Issue Date: 15 July 2014

Source: Document - Further information: Cuba: Sentencing of three brothers postponed | Amnesty International - Continue reading
The writer Mario Vargas Llosa discusses literature, democracy and Latin America in the second part of an interview with 14ymedio. First part of the interview: “The myth of Cuba has been cut to shreds” Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 15 July 2014 … Continue reading Continue reading
Amid the sound and fury that greeted the Supreme Court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case, many liberals had sharp words for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the federal law in which the court's decision Continue reading
The editors of the Catholic magazine Laity Space, a sociological debate organ of the Archdiocese of Havana, were removed from their posts. Roberto Veiga and Lenier Gonzalez announced it in a brief note that is circulating via email: “We want … Continue reading Continue reading
"Esta es la segunda vez en menos de un mes que las autoridades han detenido y encarcelado a cientos de mujeres pertenecientes a las Damas de Blanco por simplemente marchar de manera pacífica”, dijo Cynthia Romero. Continue reading
The writer and Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, talks about Cuba in the first part of an interview with 14ymedio Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 14 July 2014 — Mario Vargas Llosa, writer, politician, excellent analyst and even better … Continue reading Continue reading
In response to the Cuban government's detention of more than 100 members of the women's group Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) on July 13, Freedom House issued the following statement: "Freedom House Continue reading
CHATHAM - A drummer who aims for abstraction, an improviser in love with form, Dafnis Prieto brought his unique quest to the Tracy Memorial Village Hall Saturday. The Cuban composer and bandleader, Continue reading
Members of the Ladies in White opposition movement are arrested in Havana on July 13, 2014 Shouting "Freedom! Freedom!," the women offered no resistance as they were put on buses by dozens of police Continue reading
Havana (AFP) - Cuban authorities arrested an unusually large group of about 100 dissident marchers Sunday, breaking up a march by the Ladies in White opposition activists. Shouting "Freedom! Freedom!," Continue reading
Cuban authorities arrested about a hundred women Sunday, breaking up a march by the opposition group Ladies in White. Shouting "Freedom! Freedom!," the women offered no resistance as they were boarded Continue reading
Roman Catholic magazine in Cuba might soften its political side
Franklin Reyes/Associated Press
Posted: Saturday, July 12, 2014 11:28 am
Associated Press |

HAVANA — Launched as a bulletin for Catholic lay people, Espacio Laical
magazine became an unusually open and critical forum for debate in Cuba,
a rarity in a country where the state has controlled all media for five
Now, the sudden departure of its two longtime editors may have
endangered that status just as Cuba's Roman Catholic Church and the
Communist-run country embark on major changes.
First published in 2005, Espacio Laical's reflections on faith and daily
life were augmented by articles about politics, economics and society.
The magazine became a must-read for members of Cuba's academic and
intellectual elite — some of them the very architects of President Raul
Castro's ongoing reforms, such as allowing limited private enterprise
and decentralizing state-run businesses.
Espacio Laical "gave room to opinions from different points of view,"
said Cuban analyst and former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray, who has worked
with the magazine. "It is something that is very needed today in Cuba,
which is a public space for debate about the nation's problems."
But editors Roberto Veiga and Lenier Gonzalez resigned in early May,
later confirming they quit because the magazine's content was
controversial in the ecclesiastical community. The magazine's director,
Gustavo Andujar, said the editors left voluntarily.
Published four times a year with a press run of just 4,500, Espacio
Laical also has a website that is likely seen by few in a country where
Internet access is difficult and costly. Its footprint is much smaller
than a publications like the Communist Party newspaper Granma, published
daily and distributed to the masses across the island.
But its audience was influential, and its articles provoked debate.
In July 2013, Espacio Laical published a supplement titled "Cuba
Dreamed, Cuba Possible, Cuba Future," outlining what the country should
aspire to, including freedom of expression, political association and
private economic rights.
University of Havana religious historian Enrique Lopez Oliva said that
surely set off alarms both within the Catholic community, which is
divided over how much the church should involve itself in politics, and
for government and party officials, who say Raul Castro's reforms do not
contemplate change to Cuba's single-party system.
"These points constitute a platform for a political movement," Lopez
Oliva said. "They must have caused a certain amount of concern."
After the reforms began in earnest in 2010, Espacio Laical published
analyses by economists such as Omar Everleny Perez and Pavel Vidal, who
are associated with the government but have been relatively outspoken in
criticizing its programs. In one piece, they said there were not enough
approved free-market activities for half a million laid-off state
workers, and not enough white collar jobs for an educated population.
Other contributing writers have included academics, energy experts and
sociologists both inside and outside of Cuba. Espacio Laical also
organized gatherings with diverse participants including prominent Cuban
exile businessman Carlos Saladriegas.
Andujar told The Associated Press in an email interview that some
aspects of Espacio Laical won't change. But he also acknowledged there
will be more emphasis on topics like the arts, sciences and religious
ethics, rather than an overwhelming focus on economics and politics.
"It is not desirable that other, very broad and important aspects of the
cultural life of the country and the world find comparatively little
space," he said.
The changes at the magazine come as the church gets ready for a major
transition. Cardinal Jaime Ortega submitted his resignation in 2011 as
bishops customarily do upon turning 75. The Vatican has not yet accepted
it, but Ortega is widely assumed to be leaving soon.
Relations were hostile between the Catholic Church and the officially
atheist state for decades after Cuba's 1959 revolution. It was Ortega
that negotiated better ties, beginning the 1990s as Cuba removed
references to atheism in the constitution and Pope John Paul II visited
in 1998.
Ortega's successor will be named by Pope Francis, a Jesuit seen as a
reformer keen on social issues. Whoever takes his place as head of the
Havana Archdiocese will have to chart his own course between emphasizing
spiritual work and political involvement.
Catholic authorities want further concessions such as more access to
radio and TV airwaves, the return of more church property and permission
to begin some kind of religious education — causes that could be helped
by not antagonizing the government.
The changes at the magazine, Lopez Oliva said, "could be a shift toward
being more cautious in the political arena."
Gonzalez said neither he nor Veiga would comment on Espacio Laical
beyond their initial statement. But in a hint of their post-magazine
plans, he said Monday in a follow-up email to the AP that they are
launching a project called "Cuba Possible" — a clear echo of the
controversial 2013 supplement's title.
Gonzalez did not say whether it will be a new publication, entail more
seminars or even be affiliated with the church.
It involves a "platform that allows for the airing and channeling of
concerns and proposals from Cubans and foreigners that keep communion
with those principles," he wrote. "We hope that participants ...
interact with Cuban civil society, diaspora groups and other entities
abroad, always through open and pluralistic dialogue that seeks consensus."

Source: Roman Catholic magazine in Cuba might soften its political side
- World News - Continue reading
Posted on Thursday, 07.10.14

Sentencing for hijacker who flew to Cuba hits snag

MIAMI -- Attorneys for a man who pleaded guilty to hijacking a passenger
jet to Cuba requested a sentencing delay Thursday after federal
prosecutors filed last minute classified documents in the case.

New Jersey native William Potts Jr., 57, could face up to life in prison
for the 1984 hijacking of a Piedmont Airline flight en route from New
York to Miami. Potts voluntarily returned to the U.S. last fall and
agreed to a plea deal in May.

On Thursday, Potts' public defender Robert Berube told a federal judge
he needed more time in light of the latest filing, which even he is
prohibited from seeing.

The non-classified portion of the filing by Assistant U.S. Attorney
Maria Medetis is long on legal precedent but short on clues as to what
information the classified documents contained or why prosecutors felt
the need to submit it two days before sentencing.

Prosecutors did not discuss details during Thursday's hearing, and an AP
email requesting comment from the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami was
not immediately answered.

Potts' sentencing was rescheduled for next Thursday before U.S. District
Judge K. Michael Moore.

Federal prosecutors had charged Potts with kidnapping in lieu of a
previous charge of air piracy, which carried a mandatory prison sentence
of at least 20 years. The kidnapping charge has a maximum life sentence,
but it allows Moore greater flexibility in sentencing. Medetis has not
yet put forth a recommended sentence.

During the hearing, a frustrated Potts said he wanted to a new lawyer
because Berube was not negotiating hard enough to keep him out of prison.

"Are you saying you want to drop the guilty plea?" Moore demanded,
noting that in signing his plea agreement, Potts had acknowledged he
understood the maximum penalties he faced.

Potts conceded he wouldn't drop his plea.

According to the FBI, Potts claimed in his 1984 note to a flight
attendant that he had explosives, threatened to blow up the flight and
demanded $5 million in ransom.

At the time, Potts identified as "a soldier in the Black Liberation
Army," the FBI said. His note urged freedom for black Africans in South
Africa and criticized U.S. interference with Nicaragua's Sandinista

Potts has said he expected to be welcomed when he landed the plane in
Cuba. Instead, Cubans tried him for the hijacking. He spent 13 years in
Cuban prison and two more years in government custody there before being
released and living in an apartment east of Havana.

Follow Laura Wides-Munoz on Twitter:

Source: MIAMI: Sentencing for hijacker who flew to Cuba hits snag -
Florida Wires - - Continue reading
Are We In Transition? / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on July 9, 2014

Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 9 July 2014 – Right now I am taking part, along
with several Cuban activists, in a seminar on the Spanish transition
being held in Madrid. Organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans
for Freedom and the Spanish Transition Foundation at the Casa de
America, the event includes the participation of nine activists from
within the Island from many different sectors, such as law, citizenship,
human rights and journalism. An opportunity for us to meet with each
other without the police cordons or acts of repudiation.

While I listened to several speakers, I remembered when, in 2011, I
watched the series The Transition, with the voice of Victoria Prego.
Coincidentally, the morning I started to watch the excellent scenes of
that documentary and the analysis that accompanied it, a friend from
Madrid visited me. She looked at the TV screen and said to me, "I
experienced many of those events, but at that time I didn't know we were
in transition." Her phrase has stayed with me as solace and hope all
these years. Today, in the Casa de America, I remembered it.

Are we Cubans living in the transition? Just asking this question is
enough to annoy some people and excite others. A transition – the
experts and analysts tell me – needs more political, social and economic
evidence. A word of such magnitude requires real substance, not just
desires, others warn me, also with very good arguments. If it turns out
that an irreversible and defining change has occurred within Cubans,
could we see that as the transition? In this case, the micro look beats
out the macro analysis.

Every day I meet more people who are no longer collaborating, who no
longer believe, who no longer support the system. I also stumble upon
people who aren't interested in watching official TV, or taking part in
official events, or accepting official perks. What do we call that? May
the transition theorists forgive me, but if that is not a change, what
is it? "Pre-transition" perhaps?

Source: Are We In Transition? / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Yoani Sánchez, Madrid, 9 July 2014 – Right now I am taking part, along with several Cuban activists, in a seminar on the Spanish transition being held in Madrid. Organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom and the Spanish … Continue reading Continue reading
- Right now I am taking part, along with several Cuban activists, in a seminar on the Spanish transition being held in Madrid. Organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom and the Spanish Continue reading
CUBA: Young Leaders Group, Center for a Free Cuba and the Cuban Democratic Directorate Call for Twenty Minutes of Silence for Twenty Years of Impunity Washington DC. July 8, 2014. Human rights and civil society organizations have called for a … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuba is Going, But into Exile* / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on July 8, 2014

According to the authorities, Cubans are now allowed to travel, they can
own businesses, and now Cuba is the world champion of freedom. However,
even so, desertions from the country continue apace. Within the span of
a few hours, ten dancers from the National Ballet of Cuba via Puerto
Rico, two tennis players who competed in the Davis Cup, and the members
of the women's Cuban field hockey team, all decide to cross the border
to the United States.

Raúl can say what he wants, but judging from events, things — meaning
Cuba — are going from bad to worse.

* Translator's Note: The first part of the title of this post, "Cuba
Va", is a play on the title of – and lyrics in – a song by Cuban folk
singer Silvio Rodriguez. In the sense that Rodriguez uses the phrase, it
can be interpreted as "Cuba will survive" or "Cuba will prevail". But
the phrase can also be read literally, as in "Cuba is Going" — which is
the sense in which the blogger is using it.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

13 June 2014

Source: Cuba is Going, But into Exile* / Juan Juan Almeida | Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Cuba: Join HRF and DDC for "20 minutes of silence for 20 years of impunity"
[09-07-2014 00:01:00]
Human Rights Foundation

( NEW YORK (July 8, 2014)—Directorio
Democrático Cubano (DDC) and the Human Rights Foundation (HRF) invite
you to join in a symbolic act of peaceful protest in honor of the
20-year anniversary of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat killings. On July 13,
1994, the Cuban government murdered 37 Cuban citizens as they attempted
to escape the island aboard the tugboat 13 de Marzo. The gathering will
take place Thursday, July 10, at 12:00pm EST, outside the Permanent
Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations, located at 315
Lexington Avenue in New York. Human rights activists, civil society
representatives, and members of the Cuban exile community will gather in
front of the mission to observe 20 minutes of silence for the 20 years
that this crime has gone unpunished.
"The anniversary of the 13 de Marzo tragedy is a harsh reminder of the
cruel and ruthless nature of the military dictatorship that has ruled
Cuba for the last 55 years," said Janisset Rivero, national secretary
assistant of DDC. Likewise, Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF stated:
"The innocent victims of these barbaric acts, the men, women, and
children who were murdered by agents of the Cuban dictatorship, are a
vivid example that there is nothing—no matter how heinous, violent, or
immoral—that tyrants aren't willing to do to prevent people from
breaking free of their rule."

On July 13, 1994, Cuban coast guard vessels were deployed in pursuit of
the 13 de Marzo tugboat after state security forces learned of the
massive attempt to escape the island. Acting on direct orders from the
government, state agents chased and intercepted the boat, which carried
72 men, women, and children, seven miles from the Havana harbor. The
Cuban agents had no intention of returning the boat to land; instead,
they first used high-pressure water hoses to sweep the boat's occupants
off the deck, and then rammed the boat repeatedly until it collapsed and
sank. 37 Cuban citizens, mostly women and children, drowned as a result.
As the result of a decision made by the Cuban government, no attempt was
made to recover the bodies.

Twenty years after the 13 de Marzo tugboat killings, the perpetrators of
this heinous crime have yet to be brought to justice. Meanwhile, the 30
survivors of the attack have been denied any moral or financial
compensation, despite comprehensive and conclusive reports, issued by
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other international
organizations, which find the Cuban government responsible for the

"The refusal to investigate, prosecute, and convict those responsible
for serious human rights violations in Latin American military
dictatorships, coupled with a lack of judicial independence, has led to
the establishment of a 'right to the truth' to which victims and their
relatives are entitled," said HRF legal associate Roberto González. "In
the case of the tugboat 13 de Marzo, the Cuban military dictatorship,
like the anticommunist dictatorships of the seventies, not only refused
to compensate the victims, but they publicly refused to perform any
investigative procedure aimed at uncovering the truth of what happened.
On the contrary, a few days after the 37 deaths, president Fidel Castro
actually praised the acts committed by the Cuban agents as 'truly
patriotic efforts,' stressing that their behavior was 'exemplary,'"
concluded González.

DDC and HRF invite all human rights activists, international civil
society members, and Cuban exiles in the New York area to honor the
victims of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat killings and express outrage for
the continued impunity enjoyed by the Cuban government. Please join us
on July 10 at 12 p.m. EST outside the Permanent Mission of the Republic
of Cuba to the United Nations, located at 315 Lexington Avenue in New York.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit
organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a
focus on closed societies. We believe that all human beings are entitled
to freedom of self-determination, freedom from tyranny, the rights to
speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and
enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded
equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity
to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF's ideals
likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have
the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from
interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF does not support
nor condone violence. HRF's International Council includes human rights
advocates George Ayittey, Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Garry
Kasparov, Mutabar Tadjibaeva, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

Source: Cuba: Join HRF and DDC for '20 minutes of silence for 20 years
of impunity' - Misceláneas de Cuba - Continue reading
According to the authorities, Cubans are now allowed to travel, they can own businesses, and now Cuba is the world champion of freedom. However, even so, desertions from the country continue apace. Within the span of a few hours, ten … Continue reading Continue reading
I Would Not Accept Trading My Freedom For That of the Spies / Angel
Posted on July 8, 2014

I hope that President Obama does not have the card up his sleeve to
exchange Alan Gross for the three spies who are fulfilling their
sentences in the United States. The dictatorship is aiming for that to
happen. We all know – by the actions of more than a half-century of
totalitarianism – that the régime survives on media circuses, the most
remembered of them being the one that concerned the child Elian.

The latest theme that they have chosen was that of the "ZunZuneo", which
sought to raise dust in front of the calamities and the strict
censorship in a country that is sinking but — incredibly — without even
touching bottom, precisely, thanks to those life with those who
manipulate the media of the Fourth Estate.

Fidel Castro, Champion of Disinformation

The Castro brothers, wise in foreign policy in terms of deception,
blackmail and economic vampirism, understood – ever since the trial
against began in Miami of the agents of Cuban Security – that they would
have a cause, a slogan and entertainment for a while. Fidel Castro,
invariably, has been the champion of disinformation, always making a
defeat seem like a victory; that is what he has been doing since he
failed in the attack on the Moncada Barracks.

Since his last lights and years in Government, he planned this blackmail
of the United States. He tried also with the imprisonment of 75
dissidents, which later was called the "Black Spring" and paid a high
price for it with the attitude taken by the European Community and its
"Common Position".

Alan Gross, hunted rabbit

Cuban State Security waited a long time for an opportunity to seize an
American spy who had no diplomatic rank, and seeing that it was not
going to happen, manufactured one, as suits its political ability.

The Obama government has not recognized the contractor Alan Gross as a
spy for his country, although, on humanitarian grounds such as his age
and state of health, it has asked Havana to release him.

Of course, Cuba has played all the cards, because if their prey were to
die for whatever reasons, it would create a conflict of major
proportions. But the Castros needed a victory to result, especially if
it concerns their historic enemy, and so, winding the watch of their
power and extending it for a while longer.

To top it off, as if it had to do with cattle, and seeing that a single
hostage is not enough incentive, the political police has seen fit to
apprehend four residents of Miami on serious allegations of terrorism,
as a desperate gesture to undermine influences and press for the exchange.

Media campaigns that are bleeding us dry

One day it will be known the economic amount the media campaigns of
Fidel Castro cost, but only the campaigns of the child Elian and the
Five Spies have deeply bled the Cuban economy.

To maintain committees in dozens of countries, and elderly people paid
at the service of the political police of the Island, they constitute an
army that not even a prosperous state would be able to afford.

The paid publications in newspapers of great importance, the billboards
along the highways — even in Miami itself — the payment for lawyers and
constant travel of relatives around the globe, are only some of the
costs of the infinite list that the Cuban citizen pays.

An exchange would be a setback for the United States

If President Obama, in the two years remaining to him, exchanges the
spies for a maligned civilian, it would harm the Cuban vote, so
important in Florida, and would lose that place for the candidate of his

In addition, Hillary Clinton just acknowledged — in her book of memoirs
— that "she advised Obama to ease the embargo", by which it can be
inferred that she is willing to exchange them, which would be a major
setback for the United States in terms of its position in defense of
human rights in the Island, even more so, because these spies are
related to bloody deeds — such as the shooting down of the small plane
of the "Brothers to the Rescue" (Hermanos al Rescate) — and it would be
a Pyrrhic victory with regard to policy, for their inhuman actions.

They should be incarcerated and with long sentences – the three who are
left — should it be exclusively pride of Fidel Castro, who did not
hesitate to expose his men in "enemy" territory. It was he who
slaughtered and betrayed them.

An exchange would stain Gross

If the U.S. Government has maintained until today that Gross is not an
agent, exchanging him would be a deadly act, first, because it would be
recognizing him as such, after several years of ordeal as a hostage;
second, it would be to accept that they have sacrificed it for nothing,
because they could have exchanged him from the beginning; by the way, it
would strengthen the Cuban dictatorship, and would weaken the effort for
human rights that the American administrations have pursued for decades.

And lastly, by carrying out an exchange, it would pass into history as
an act of cowardice by, a high cost that perhaps he is not willing to
pay. To exchange a civilian for spies sentenced because of acts of
blood, is to muddy Alan Gross, As the US President, maybe he is willing
to pay that price, not exactly as a fighter for liberty, which does not
at all have to do with the exchange of Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for five
Afghan prisoners at Guantanamo, as a result of the war against Taliban

In my case in particular, as a civilian, artist and civil rights
activist, I would prefer to die in Cuban jails before being so stained
by history, by the simple and reasonable fact that I am innocent, as
corroborated by my evidence, as should be Alan Gross, as has government
has said so far.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. June 2014.

Source: I Would Not Accept Trading My Freedom For That of the Spies /
Angel Santiesteban | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
I hope that President Obama does not have the card up his sleeve to exchange Alan Gross for the three spies who are fulfilling their sentences in the United States. The dictatorship is aiming for that to happen. We all … Continue reading Continue reading
Another Day Without His Children / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on July 6, 2014

Today is the second Father's Day that two teenagers will spend without
their dad, like many; they will throw him a kiss through the bars of the
Lawton prison settlement, if the strict vigilance that the dictator
dedicated to Angel Santiesteban doesn't prevent it.

Three guards and some officials, just for him, watch him constantly.
This "common inmate" must be very important to make the Cuban people pay
for such "guarding." Every official costs more than a thousand pesos,
and there are three trios taking it in turn over 24 hours, generation a
cost of more than seven thousand pesos a month, plus the gasoline for
their transportation, and that of the bosses who come daily to check in
person how the guarding of Angel is going.

Also today, there are many dads who will miss the warm kiss of their
children, from the capricious vengeance of a dictator who violently
represses and imprisons all those who fight peacefully for freedom.

Ramón Muñoz, Alan Gross, Jorge Cervantes, just to mention some of the
many political prisoners of the Castro dictatorship, will, like Angel,
spend another day without their children and many of them will spend the
day without their parents.

The dictator brothers will celebrate — with their children and
grandchildren — gobbling and drinking with no limits everything
forbidden to Cubans, while pretending to the world to be everything they
aren't, laughing at the thousands of families separated by the distance
of exile for over half a century.

The mother of his child, along with the Political Police, managed to
imprison him on false charges, all of which accusations were not proven,
not the guilt of her ex-husband — she never proved that anything
happened — rather her own guilt was proved because a false accusation is
a crime and harms the reputation of another person. But the mother of
his son didn't manage to turn her son against his father; he is as
attached to him as ever. Angel will receive the kiss that his son blows
him from a distance, a kiss that will deservedly caress his heart,
because for Angel Father's Day is every day, and his children show how
incredibly proud they are of him.

I lost my father many years ago and the best way I can honor him is to
live the ethical teachings and principles he passed on to me. I know
that he — wherever he is — is proud that I am doing what I'm doing for

The Editor

15 June 2014

Source: Another Day Without His Children / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading
If the Shoe Fits… / Miriam Celaya
Posted on July 6, 2014

As expected, the birth of the new site attracted immediate
attacks from the servers of the Cuban regime. A few hours after the
media's first appearance, it was redirected by official cyber-hosts to a
dedicated page (oh, the satrapy's supreme homage!), not to the
disqualification of counterrevolutionary journalistic medium as such,
but to its "insignificant" manager, the multi-award-winning – and
multi-abominated — Yoani Sánchez-Cordero, evil among the worst.

Interestingly, the essence of the invectives against Yoani the terrific
is not the legitimacy of exercising the right to free opinion, of
creating an information media to and from Cuba, or of the desire that
the media become, in addition to a source of diffusion, an enterprise
producing income to Yoani and her associates, paying for her
collaborators, promoting independent journalism and creating sources of
employment. "The chicken in a chicken and rice meal", as the ever
soporific Lázaro Barredo might say, who had been director of the
libelous "Granma" for a brief period, but who has currently disappeared
from the public scene. It is about questioning what capital this blogger
has available to fund such an enterprise, whether or not she deserved
the awards she has received, and about the nature of her fabulous
emoluments, which, in the imaginary collective of her embittered
detractors is close to half a million dollars.

However, what is truly amazing is that there are some petty characters
in the internal dissent (and even more conspicuous, characters of "the
external"), who have joined the same chant, thus indicating that the
perverse nature of the olive green autocrats has soaked into the
conscience of Cubans beyond suspected limits, also poisoning a sector of
those who call themselves – and indeed are — enemies of the Cuban

This virulence has reached such magnitude that it instills pity. How
mediocre can an individual be who even feels threatened in the presence
of the mere presumption of the success of others? Why must the
prosperity or the awards and recognitions received by others be a cause
for concern, especially when those "others" not only were and are our
fellows in the cause, but at times have opened space and have shared
with us their fortunes and misfortunes? What dark Cuban trait deprives
us at times of the greatness of rejoicing in the victory of others?

In recent days I have been a witness to, not surprisingly, attacks
launched on the new newspaper from our own "trenches" as if
we were their worst enemies. Fortunately, many more words of praise and
encouragement have been sent from the most diverse points, than the sour
bile generated by the ever resentful.

The most poisonous reviews, of course, come from the most mediocre
subjects. Some of these consider themselves "journalists", perhaps in
response to some magical genetic inheritance, though not necessarily
from qualifications or pedigree, or because they feel they have
exclusive rights of "antiquity". If the latter were true, then we would
have to recognize the special rights of the political power of the
regime that has been exerting them for over 55 years in Cuba.

Also not missing in this sui generis repudiation meeting are certain top
dogs inflamed with messianic aspirations, those who always know how,
when, and where things should be done, and who cannot conceive, much
less tolerate, something that is as healthy as it is helpful for the
development of freedom which is simply called competition.

There are those who claim that competition, in order to be healthy, must
have fair opportunities, which remedies the disastrous (and false)
vulgar egalitarianism imposed by the Castros, whose deplorable
consequences we know so well. They are clueless, despite living on
"information" that such a thing as "equality" does not exist in any part
of the world, and that one has to go out and seek the "opportunities",
such as wealth, they have to be conquered, creating them by intellect
and efforts, because they do not fall from heaven, like divine grace, on
anyone's shoulders. And when one reaches them, there is absolutely no
obligation to share them. In fact, it is morally harmful to do so.

Believe it or not, there are individuals from the Cuban dissidence who –
in tune with the government itself — consider others' successes as an
obstacle to their own fulfillment, and, in the licentiousness of their
personal frustration, they take hold of what action they deem
appropriate, including complaints and catharsis about the hardships of
the "un-rewarded" or the "unfunded for professional performance" –what
we often call a cry baby – with such resentment that it reminds us of
the national motto: "I don't want to be as well-off as the Joneses, I
just want for the Joneses to be as fucked up as me."

These kind of individuals don't consider talent, hard work, drive,
courage, will power or – let's say it brazenly and give it its due
–ambition. For them, from, there is "unfair competition",
just because Yoani Sánchez has received funding (oh, what a damn word!)
and because she can count on a decent enough comfortable place to work,
so she doesn't need to use the conjugal bed as a sofa. I would consider
this an advantage a bit more hygienic than a status symbol, but – of
course — I understand that we don't all think alike. What is true is
that, for some of the more stubborn enemies of the Castros, comfort and
money (other people's) are as dirty as for the olive green elite itself.

However, many conveniently ignore that they have received (or are
receiving) financial help — something that I sincerely admire and hope
never runs out – way before 14ymedio, before someone was awarded, and
certainly, before the independent Cuban blogosphere was born and
developed, otherwise they could not have sustained their newspapers or
magazines, a reason for having allowed payment for collaborations for
some time now. And congratulations.

That's something, for instance, that the magazine Consenso, and later
Contodos (2004-2007), could never do just because they lacked financing,
a reason why many of them did not collaborate with that project, since
they have always worked for money, as is normal and reasonable, though
there have always been romantics that do certain things for free. It is
understood that nobody is obligated to do it. So what's the problem? Why
are they wearing themselves thin attacking other independent projects?
Isn't it better that we have the greatest possible number of
publications in order to continue penetrating the wall of the regime's
information monopoly?

Another practice that the "pure ones" demonize is marketing. They call
it "media hype" as if it were something obscene, and they talk about
"inflated ego", "lack of humility" (a special merit that they apparently
believe abounds among them). Because, at the height of perfidy, Yoani
Sánchez is not settling for creating a newspaper, period, but she aims
to "create the best newspaper", states a critic (or should I say a
criticizer?). And the question arises, what harm is there in pursuing
perfection? Why shouldn't anyone wish to reach that goal at a healthy
pace, particularly when they work so hard to that end?

Personally, as a citizen journalist, I am in the habit of believing that
the better I do my job, the more my readers appreciate it, whether or
not they are in agreement with my opinions. So, with every effort I
undertake, I go beyond, getting close or not to a certain extent, the
perfection I aim for, why settle for less? Why should this be a flaw?

It is curious that certain people often parasitize on the opinions of
others and present them as their own (which in itself is unfair, and
even fraudulent), people who lack education, training or qualification —
academic or self-taught — people who "decorate" with lies or hype the
information given to them, who make up non-existent people in interviews
they publish and limit their relative success in the overwhelming
mediocrity (even more) of those around them – which, de facto, melds
them into mediocre individuals — might seek to establish themselves as
champions of honesty and virtue as well

And, since excessive vanity inevitably leads to the ridiculous, the
sorrowful orphans lie or misrepresent reality: has never
claimed to be the first independent digital medium in Cuba, or declared
itself "anti-Castro" (or "anti" anything, but rather, "pro" rights,
although it seems that the same is not equal), which is why, from the
opposite ends, Yoani is accused of falling into "ambiguities" because
there is always some moron who, despite lacking his own projects, feels
he has the right to issue guidelines about what the projects of others
should and must be.

And, finally, to finish off so much Castro-socialist drivel, designed
for those masterfully defined as "perfect Latin-American idiots" by
three academics a lot wiser than I am, let's leave, once and for all,
the eternal posture of the mentally herniated poor little victims, who
will have to be fed and subsidized forever. Neither Yoani Sánchez nor, nor absolutely anyone else, other than the same
individuals, are responsible for their own lack of success or of
"financiers" to overcome their woes.

The formula for prosperity, dear idiots of this island village, is not
to wait for generous patrons to appear, but to have something to offer.
You should not have to sit down and wait for some bored mogul to want to
"do justice" and throw you a financial bone.

Perhaps the wailing crew of the day should use the energy they employ in
lamentations to work more efficiently and creatively. Incidentally, it
would not be a bad idea for them to get up to date with the present.
Don't feel put out, none of that! These are only a few suggestions. That
said, be adventurous, take risks. I am referring, in particular, to
financial and professional risks, so don't come back again with the
morsel that this one or that one was taken prisoner, or that they take
their lives into their own hands "on the street", because that is a risk
that all of we Cubans take, from the daredevil who establishes a
political party or who writes independently to the poor devil who steals
three pounds of meat from a warehouse. This is another one of our best
entrenched myths. In Cuba, jail does not depend on anybody's merits, but
on the whim of the satrapy.

And if someone chooses to be personally offended by this post, know that
I can't be bothered with such tackle, but I respect all your conscious
choices. If I have not mentioned names, is not to evade confrontation,
but because I will not give them a single hit or a smidgen of brain
cells, to a debate that, in addition, would be useless. We know that
some people are hopeless. Time is usually a wise judge. Also know that
making enemies does not move me, but false expectations are not
believable: I pick my enemies. I don't know if the recipients of this
post are at the height of the conflict or in the process of getting
there. At any rate, I wish you much success.

Published June 2nd, 2014, by Miriam Celaya
Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: If the Shoe Fits… / Miriam Celaya | Translating Cuba - Continue reading
A look at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist's call to end
the US/Cuba trade embargo
Posted: July 5, 2014 - 12:41pm | Updated: July 5, 2014 - 12:46pm
By The Associated Press

MIAMI | When Charlie Crist went to Miami's Little Havana recently, the
Democratic candidate for governor stood before a crowd and said what few
politicians have in decades of scrounging for votes in the
Cuban-American neighborhood: End the trade embargo against Cuba.

"If you really care about people on the island, we need to get rid of
the embargo and let freedom reign," he said, shouting above a small band
of protesters who responded with chants of "Shame on you!"

Crist's supporters cheered louder.

It was a scene inconceivable just a few years ago, when politicians were
careful about what they said on the issue, for fear of alienating
Cuban-American voters, many of whom fled Fidel Castro's Cuba in the 1960s.

But Democrats now sense an opening with newer Cuban arrivals and
second-generation Cuban-Americans who favor resuming diplomatic
relations with the communist island.

In a sign of just how much the climate has shifted, Democrat Hillary
Rodham Clinton, who backed trade limits when she ran for president in
2008, is now calling for the embargo to be lifted. She described it as
"Castro's best friend" and said it hampers "our broader agenda across
Latin America."

Her words mark the first time a leading presidential contender from
either political party has suggested reversing the 52-year-old policy.

The efforts represent the largest challenge to Cuban-American orthodoxy
in decades and could help reshape American foreign policy.

It also could alter the political landscape in the largest swing-voting
state, where Republicans long have dominated the Cuban vote by taking a
hard line on the embargo.

Crist's campaign will be the first statewide test of whether the trade
restrictions are still a live wire for politicians in Florida, home to
70 percent of the nation's Cubans.

Crist is a former Republican governor who once said he would only visit
Cuba "when it's free." Now that he's a Democrat and trying to regain his
old job, he has floated the idea of going to Havana "to learn from the
people of Cuba and help find opportunities for Florida businesses."

He argues that the embargo has failed because it has not toppled the
Castro government but has hurt the Cuban people. "The definition of
insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a
different result," he told reporters at the opening of a campaign office
in Little Havana.

Florida Republicans are outraged, casting Crist's position as a betrayal
of the Cuban-American community.

"I'm going to stand with Cuban-Americans that believe in freedom,
believe in democracy, believe in freedom of speech and oppose the
oppression of Cuba," said GOP Gov. Rick Scott. Crist, he added, will "be
standing with Castro."

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a potential GOP presidential candidate whose
parents left Cuba in the 1950s, said the embargo is "the last tool we
have remaining to ensure that democracy returns to Cuba one day."

Lifting the embargo, he said, would "further entrench the regime in
power by giving them more money to carry out their violent repression of
people's fundamental rights and dignity."

Nationwide, the share of Cuban registered voters who identify with or
lean toward the Democratic Party has doubled in the past decade, from 22
percent to 44 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Less than
half of Cuban voters now affiliate with the Republican Party, down from
64 percent over the same time period.

President Barack Obama won Florida twice, campaigning on easing travel
restrictions for Cuban-Americans who want to visit their families on the
island and allowing them to send more money to their relatives. In 2012,
he captured nearly half the Cuban-American vote, a record for a Democrat.

The shift is driven in part by changing demographics.

Cuban-Americans, once the dominant bloc of Florida's Hispanic vote, have
seen their political clout diminished by a huge influx of Puerto Ricans,
Mexicans and people from Central and South America, who lean Democratic.
In the 2012 election, 42 percent of Hispanic voters in the state were
Cuban, an 11 percentage point drop from 2000, according to the Census
Bureau's Current Population Survey.

The exiles who arrived in the decade and a half following Cuba's 1959
revolution have been dying off while their children and fresh waves of
immigrants hold a different view of Cuba. More than one-third of the
Cubans residing in Miami-Dade County arrived after 1995, with many
supporting travel and trade policies that strengthen ties between the
U.S. and Cuba, said Guillermo Grenier, a lead researcher for the Cuban
Research Institute at Florida International University.

Even some of South Florida's most prominent Cuban-American business
leaders, long among the most strident defenders of the embargo, are
publicly talking about investing in Cuba.

"The politics are way behind public opinion on this one," said Steve
Schale, a Democratic consultant and Crist adviser who managed Obama's
Florida campaign in 2008.

Overall, polls of the community have confirmed a tilt toward engagement,
with the most recent survey by Florida International University finding
Cuban-Americans in Miami split over the embargo, which was a near
record, and 71 percent saying it had not worked either very well or at all.

"The embargo! It's so screwed up!" said Caridad Novo, as she sipped
espresso at a cafe in Doral, a Miami suburb.

The 52-year-old Cuban, who came to Florida during the 1980 Mariel boat
crisis, said U.S. trade restrictions drive up the cost of sending goods
to her family in Cuba. Shipping a 4-pound can of milk to her 3-year-old
grandson in Havana costs $55, she said.

But some scholars and political operatives say Crist risks energizing
Republicans in the conservative exile community while attracting little
support from younger Cuban-Americans and newer arrivals, who tend to be
less politically active.

The recent Florida International University poll found that less than
one-third of those who have arrived since 1995 are U.S. citizens. Voter
registration rates among newer arrivals lag their older counterparts by
double digits.

"What is changing is opinions" on the embargo, Grenier said. "But for
the opinions to become relevant to policymakers, they have to translate
into more than just opinions. They have to be votes."

Associated Press

Source: Analysis: A look at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie
Crist's call to end the US/Cuba trade embargo | - Continue reading
Angel saying goodbye to his son in the police car taking him to prison Today is the second Father’s Day that two teenagers will spend without their dad, like many; they will throw him a kiss through the bars of … Continue reading Continue reading
As expected, the birth of the new site attracted immediate attacks from the servers of the Cuban regime. A few hours after the media’s first appearance, it was redirected by official cyber-hosts to a dedicated page (oh, the satrapy’s … Continue reading Continue reading
Cuba: Putting the Military Back in its Barracks
July 3, 2014
"One cannot found a nation, General, as one commands a military
encampment" – Jose Marti
Pedro Campos

HAVANA TIMES — Not a day goes by without a report published by Cuba's
alternative or official media telling us of important decisions made and
regrettable actions taken by high or mid-level government officials in
an economic, political and social sector, behind which we always find an
active or retired military officer (who has, needless to say, been
officially appointed).

To confirm this, one need only look at the series of incoherent measures
that make up (and undermine) the current "economic reforms", all of them
decided by General/President Raul Castro and the group of military
officials around him.

These officials can just as easily distribute lands without any
prospects to farmers than approve a labor law that legalizes salaried
exploitation, in violation of the current constitution. They organize
economic plans on the basis of military discipline, liberalize the sale
of automobiles at astronomical prices, organize "cooperatives" through
State mandates, issue a foreign investment law which appears designed to
sell the country out to international capital or sign a "security"
treaty with an imperialist power engaged in territorial wars.

One senseless measure after the other

Cuba experts of the United States establishment had many expectations of
Raul Castro, his military officers and his "iron hand" (1), which is
supposed to "prevent chaos" following the disappearance of Fidel Castro,
lead to a "peaceful transition", "prevent a migratory crisis" and
"develop a market economy." The "reform process" and its measures,
particularly the foreign investment law and the labor law that
complements it, must please these characters. I am of course not
insinuating or accusing anyone of doing what imperialism wants, I am
merely exposing facts.

Today, those who see no way to realize our aspirations are us ordinary,
dispossessed Cubans.

The most recent misfortune experienced by the people because of measures
taken by the military is described by the prestigious intellectual
Esteban Morales, who tells us of the arbitrary treatment of visitors to
Terminal 3 of the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana who are not
allowed inside the facility. No one answers for stupid things like this,
but everyone knows that the airport and its immediate surroundings are
under the control of the military, as anything of any importance in the
country generally is.

The main cause of this disaster is, without a doubt, the State-command,
bureaucratic and hyper-centralized economic and political model that was
established in Cuba in the name of socialism, which concentrates all
decision-making prerogatives in the hands of a small group of people,
and in which the people and workers only follow the orders of the
bureaucratic elite. They have no role in decisions, implementation or
resource allocation, (much less elect public officials at any level).

The military and their chain-of-command methods, which have been
implemented in the spheres of politics and the economy, have a lot to do
with this "socialist" mess.

Regrettably, this is something we have been seeing in Cuban history
since the wars of independence of the 19th century, when the military
sought to secure political power, in contradiction with the opinion of
the most lucid Cubans of the time, such as Major General Ignacio
Agramonte and the most illustrious of all, Jose Marti – intellectuals
who loved freedom, justice and democracy, not military men.

One cannot stress some of the lines written to Gomez by Marti on October
20, 1884 enough: "One cannot found a nation, General, as one commands a
military encampment; (…) What guarantees do we have that public
liberties, the only aim a country should find worthy of fighting for,
will enjoy greater respect tomorrow? What are we, general? The heroic
and modest servants of an idea that warms our hearts, the loyal friends
of an unfortunate people, or the courageous and fortunate military
strongmen who, whip in hand and spur on boot, set out to take war to the
people, so as to become its masters later? Will you throw away the
reputation you earned for yourselves in one enterprise, your reputation
as courageous, loyal and prudent men?

Those of us who strive to make Cuba a paradise of freedom, justice,
democracy and socialism, under the leadership of the unchanging
government of Sierra Maestra rebels, today sadly realize how right Marti
was to try and prevent the military from controlling the country's
public and government affairs.

Militarism was to spread following Marti's death and, after Cuba secured
independence from Spain, most of the country's presidents in its first
30 years of existence as a pseudo-republic were generals from those same
wars of independence. The military was to continue playing this role
with Fulgencio Batista in the revolution of the '30s, his first
constitutional government in 1940 and his dictatorship, established in 1952.

Finally, the military struggle against that unconstitutional government
took the current military leadership to power in the name of socialism.
The means once again prevailed over the ends.

In one way or another, all of these military officers started out
defending a constitutional and democratic government and ended up
turning their backs on it and imposing their authority through force.

The revolution of 1959, which united the people of Cuba in the struggle
against Batista and for the restoration of the democratic system and
constitution established in 1940, ultimately frustrated those aims when
Fidel Castro and his young, Sierra Maestra rebels decided to remain in
power, suppress all opposition, postpone general elections indefinitely
and set in motion a system of government based on a personality cult and
the rule of a single Party, ratified in the constitution of 1976.

How much longer will we Cubans tolerate living under military rule?
Don't misunderstand me: I am not calling for revolt, disorder, violence
or anything of the sort. We have had too much of that already. Violence
engenders more violence. We don't need any more violence – of any kind –
in Cuban society.

It is time to put our house in order, to democratize the country's
political and economic system – it is time for us to have full freedom
of expression and association.

How are we to achieve this? There are proposals for a new constitution,
for democratizing the country's political and economic system, lifting
restrictions on Internet access, demanding that the government respect
people's freedom of expression and association, that all public
officials be elected by the people, for the country to renew itself and
revoke old structures. This is a task for all Cubans of good will and of
all political affiliations.

But there is one thing I have no doubts about. Whatever the solution, it
will require the military to retreat to their barracks, something they
will have to do for the good of everyone – and their own good.
1- See Soren Triff's articles and publications in The New Herald
(January 18, 2007), Alejandro Armengol's column in the same newspaper,
where he calls Raul Castro "Washington's man", and Brian Lattel's
assessment of Raul Castro and what is expected of his government in the
United States.

Source: Cuba: Putting the Military Back in its Barracks - Havana - Continue reading
"El Sexto" or the King of Spray / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on July 3, 2014

We spoke with El Sexto, the young man who has made graffiti one more
method of denunciation.

Yoani Sánchez, Havana | June 26, 2014 – Winking at art, a non-authorized
decoration on the walls, graffiti maintains its irreverent and
clandestine air that distances itself from galleries and approaches our

If one day there is a tour of Cuban graffiti, it will have to include
this gangly young man called El Sexto*. A character of the night, of
agile fingers, he has marked facades, bridges and traffic signs all over
Havana with his art.

Many consider him an artist, others accuse him of vandalizing the city
and marking landmark places, but, how does El Sexto see and construe

Question: Graffiti, performances, paintings, charcoal draawings… you
work in many techniques.

Answer: I have tried to insert new technologies in my work as well. For
example, I developed a line of placing QR codes (quick response code)
messages about Cuban society and politics. After leaving them stuck to
walls, on products in the market, on the wall of a cell in the police
station… People were very curious tio know what the little quadrangle
filled with pixels was saying, so they would look for someone with a
smart phone with the QR reader application to understand them.

Then they would read the message: "El Sexto," "Down with the Castros!"
or the dissemination of some event on the alternative scene. It was a
form of mocking censorship through new technologies.

Question: Many Cuban artists opt for the metaphor, perhaps to stay out
of trouble and to not be censored. You go for an ever more direct
language. Has no institution approached you to organize an exposition?

Answer: So far no one has approached me to present my work in any
institutional gallery. I am an artist outside the permitted limits.
Although the official world doesn't accept me, other Cuban artists have
offered me solidarity and encouragement. At first I thought that the art
scene wasn't looking at me, didn't know my work. However, I've been in
contact with some major figures such as Ezequiel Suárez, Garaicoa, Los
Carpinteros, and to my surprise they value my art and are up to speed on
what I'm doing. This has given me greater commitment to my work and
makes me improve every project I undertake.

"I had to look out for the guards at the Museum of the Revolution in
order to paint on the façade of the Museum of Fine Arts."

Question: Can you talk about the graffiti movement in Cuba?

Answer: Yes, there are young people who are joining this phenomenon.
Right now, I am working with a group that sees in the idea of painting
walls as also being a way of promoting social phenomena. Helping to give
a face and form to figures of the alternative scene and also artistic,
technological and even journalistic projects. We create graffiti,
flyers, umbrellas, shirts… with the symbols that distinguish these
projects and to go to public places where people ask, "And this, what's
this?" A way of arousing curiosity and disseminating these phenomena.

Question: In the last year you left the country for the first time and
you were in Miami. How did that first trip abroad go?

Answer: It's been very important in my life. Especially the stay in
Miami where I could meet so many Cubans and see what they've managed to
achieve. That gave me a lot of happiness but it also made me very sad to
think of all the lives that have been shattered on this side because
they don't have freedom to fulfill themselves. I learned a lot about
publicity; it nurtured me, the ways in which people want to spread an
idea among as many people as possible. But I also understood on those
trips that I am here, in the street, I need the Cuban streets to realize
my art and to inspire me. So I returned home.

Question: You were also in The Hague, Netherlands, what did you do there?

Answer: My art tries to call attention to what is happening here. So in
The Hague I gave a public performance – which coincided with the
so-called Night of the Museums in that city – where I used a 24-yard
chain to convey the sensation of confinement and lack of freedom that we
experience in Cuba. It was very cold and my body was totally shaking in
the street, while people waited in long lines to enter the museum halls,
also joining the piece and creating a great impact on those who were

"In The Hague I performed with a 24-yard chain to convey the feeling of
confinement we experience in Cuba."

Question: You're always living with one foot in the street and the other
in jail. Are you afraid?

Answer: I've been given many fines for painting facades, fines I will
never pay, because it's my art. This has been a path to my individual
freedom, I'm going to build myself toward greater sincerity. Even if I'm
taken prisoner tomorrow, I will continue doing it.

Question: Of all your graffiti, which do you like best?

Answer: The one that has come farthest with me is my signature, El
Sexto, and although I like them all, that one in particular took me a
lot of work because of the place where I did it. I had to look out for
the guards at the Museum of the Revolution in order to paint on the
façade of the Museum of Fine Arts, so there I am, in that place, despite

Question: Future projects?

Answer: I'm going to do a performance that has a lot to do with the
direction of my career. I still don't have a date but I'm working on it.
It will be a piece in which I will refine with my art and my own body
the wall where I will paint it.

Translator's note: Follow the link for an explanation of the
nom-de-plume "El Sexto," whose given name is Danilo Maldonado Machado.

26 June 2014

Source: "El Sexto" or the King of Spray / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez |
Translating Cuba - Continue reading