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… of the Cuban Ministry for Foreign Affairs led the Cuban delegation. He was accompanied by Cuban Ambassador and … as other officials of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The … EU-Cuba partnership. The EU and Cuba affirmed their commitment for even … Continue reading
… communique from the Cuban Embassy in Belgium said the Cuban delegation was … and International Rights of the Cuban Foreign Ministry. The EU delegation … political dialogue and cooperation between Cuba and the EU and its … took place in Brussels and Havana, in June 2015 and 2016 … Continue reading
Washington, May 22 (RHC)-- A U.S. senator has censured the record-setting $110 billion weapons deal President Donald Trump signed with the Saudi kingdom, insisting that Washington is trusting a regime with “the worst human rights record” in the region to … Continue reading
Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence Day

On Cuban Independence Day, I extend my warmest wishes to the Cuban
American community and the people of Cuba as our whole Nation joins you
in celebrating the anniversary of Cuban Independence.

Americans and Cubans share allegiance to the principles of
self-governance, dignity, and freedom. Today, we remember patriots like
José Martí, who devoted himself to making Cuba an economically
competitive and politically autonomous nation. He reminds us that cruel
despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of
Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for
their children to live free from oppression. The Cuban people deserve a
government that peacefully upholds democratic values, economic
liberties, religious freedoms, and human rights, and my Administration
is committed to achieving that vision.

Today, we also honor the generations of Cuban Americans who have made
outstanding contributions to our country by sharing their culture and
talents. Cuban Americans have distinguished themselves in literature,
the arts, business, sports, the courts, Congress, and within my
Administration. We are especially thankful to the Cuban Americans who
serve in our military and who have sacrificed in defense of our freedom.

Melania and I send our best wishes on this important day in history for
the Americas. God bless the people of Cuba and our Cuban American
friends who call the United States home.

Source: Statement from President Donald J. Trump on Cuban Independence
Day | whitehouse.gov -
https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/21/statement-president-donald-j-trump-cuban-independence-day Continue reading
Havana lashes out against Trump's May 20 message to the Cuban people
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Havana has reacted strongly to a statement issued by President Donald
Trump to the Cuban people over the weekend to mark the 115th anniversary
of the birth of the Republic of Cuba.

A statement read on Cuban state television on Saturday described Trump's
message as "controversial" and "ridiculous."

"...the Miami Herald on Saturday published a controversial and
ridiculous message from the ill-advised U.S. President Donald Trump to
the people of Cuba about May 20, a date that the United States considers
as the emergence of the Republic of Cuba, when we actually know that
what was born that day was a Yankee neo-colony, which lived until on
January 1, 1959," says the statement, referencing the date when Fidel
Castro seized control of the island.

The statement, which was also published on the Cuban TV website, is
signed only as "Official Note" and it is unclear whether it corresponds
to a change of position by the Cuban government, which had been careful
in its statements on the new U.S. president, who has ordered a review of
Cuba policy.

On several occasions, the Cuban government has offered to maintain a
dialogue with the United States.

Official notes from Havana are usually signed by "the Revolutionary
Government" or the governmental entity issuing it. Cuban Television
responds directly to the Central Committee of the Communist Party, a
conservative bastion within the government of Raúl Castro.

The Cuban Embassy in the United States did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.

The statement also references a wire story published in el Nuevo Herald
that focused on "Trump's slips in state affairs."

"Even within in the U.S. government there is knowledge of the
contradictory and clumsy pronouncements of the millionaire tycoon turned
president, on issues of politics, both exterior and interior," the
statement says.

On Sunday, state television continued to lash out with commentator
Oliver Zamora stating in the noon newscast:

"..Now we must really worry about the future of bilateral relations
after this letter from the president-magnate, because he can only
respond to two initial positions, or part of the cynicism, or at best
ignorance."

Trump's message, which triggered Havana's reaction, highlighted "that
cruel despotism cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of
Cubans, and that unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for
their children to live free from oppression."

Trump also promised that he will work for Cubans on the island to have a
government that respects democracy and civil liberties.

During his campaign, Trump promised to change Cuba policy, and a State
Department official recently said that the United States would seek to
put more pressure on the Cuban government regarding its human rights
record. It was anticipated that an announcement about these changes
would come by Saturday, but it was postponed because of the president's
trip to the Middle East and because the Cuba policy review has not been
completed, a White House spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.

FOLLOW NORA GÁMEZ TORRES ON TWITTER: @NGAMEZTORRES

Source: Havana reacts to Trump's May 20 message to Cubans | Miami Herald
-
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article151952832.html Continue reading
As his administration has yet to announce the results of its review of U.S. Cuba policy, President Trump issued a statement that seems to describe the Cuban system as "cruel despotism". Raúl Castro said Trump makes "contradictory and clumsy pronouncements". Continue reading
Acusan a guardias fronterizos de EEUU de rechazar extranjeros que piden asilo ALFONSO CHARDY achardy@elnuevoherald.com Nuevas acusaciones han surgido acerca de que funcionarios estadounidenses de inmigración siguen rechazando en la frontera con México a extranjeros que llegan en busca de asilo debido a persecución en sus países de origen. Esto se desprende de un nuevo […] Continue reading
As Cubans await policy changes, Trump sends a message on Cuban
Independence Day
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

On the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Cuba, President
Donald Trump on Saturday extended his "warmest wishes" to Cuban
Americans and promised that he will work for Cubans on the island to
have a government that respects democracy and civil liberties.

"Today, we remember patriots like José Martí, who devoted himself to
making Cuba an economically competitive and politically autonomous
nation," Trump said in a statement. "He reminds us that cruel despotism
cannot extinguish the flame of freedom in the hearts of Cubans, and that
unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams for their children to
live free from oppression."

During his campaign, Trump promised to change Cuba policy, and a State
Department official recently said that the United States would seek to
put more pressure on the Cuban government regarding its human rights
record. It was anticipated that an announcement about these changes
would come by Saturday, but it was postponed because of the president's
trip to the Middle East and because the Cuba policy review has not been
completed, a White House spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.

In his statement, Trump also highlighted the "outstanding contributions"
of several generations of Cuban Americans to the United States.

"Cuban Americans have distinguished themselves in literature, the arts,
business, sports, the courts, Congress, and within my Administration. We
are especially thankful to the Cuban Americans who serve in our military
and who have sacrificed in defense of our freedom."

Follow Nora Gámez Torres on Twitter: @ngameztorres

Source: As Cubans await policy changes, Trump sends a message on Cuban
Independence Day | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article151733357.html Continue reading
HAVANA - Cuban state television responded to a … respect for human rights in Cuba. "Cruel despotism cannot extinguish … the hearts of Cubans, and... unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams … ;comedy cocaine', says Noah Cuban television broadcast its response late … Continue reading
Havana: Cuban state television responded to a … respect for human rights in Cuba. "Cruel despotism cannot extinguish … the hearts of Cubans, and... unjust persecution cannot tamper Cubans' dreams … did not say whether the Cuban statement constituted an official response … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 19 May 2017 — The government rushed on Friday to accomplish some pending tasks before Raul Castro leaves the presidency. The Third Plenary Session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party ratified two programmatic documents at a meeting where Marino Murillo reappeared, vice-president of the Council of Ministers removed from the family photo … Continue reading "Castro Regime Rushes Unfinished Business Before Raul Leaves the Presidency" Continue reading
Activists on both sides still await President Trump's reset with Cuba
Ledyard King and Alan Gomez, USA TODAY Published 5:41 p.m. ET May 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — Four months after he was sworn in, President Trump has yet
to make good on his vow to undo his predecessor's Cuba policies.

There were reports the president would unveil his plan on Saturday to
coincide with the 115th anniversary of Cuba's independence. But those
who oppose Barack Obama's thawing of diplomatic relations with the
communist country 90 miles south of Key West will have to wait until
next month.

Trump initially applauded Obama's decision to ease sanctions. But he
shifted during the last few months of last year's presidential campaign.
In media interviews, campaign speeches and tart tweets last fall, Trump
condemned Obama's Cuba policy saying it gave away too much without
requiring human rights guarantees from the Castro regime.


Then on Nov. 28, three weeks after he won the election and two days
following the death of Cuban President Fidel Castro, Trump tweeted an
ultimatum:

"If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the
Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal."

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio expects he'll follow through.

"The president has committed to addressing U.S. policy towards Cuba in a
way that supports our national security, democracy and human rights,"
said Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants and one of Congress' fiercest
anti-Castro voices. "I have no doubt it is a commitment he will keep."

A top State Department official told reporters last week the
administration is conducting a "comprehensive policy review" that will
include an assessment of human rights progress in Cuba.

"I suspect that there will be important differences that will emerge
between how this administration plans to address the situation in Cuba"
and those under Obama, said Francisco Palmieri, acting Assistant
Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Because most of the steps Obama took to open up relations with Cuba,
such as opening an embassy, loosening the ability of Americans to visit
the island nation, easing trade and financial barriers, were
presidential orders, Trump could reverse them without congressional consent.

But whenever the president decides to announce his policy, anti-Cuba
hardliners might face some disappointment. Cuba experts don't expect
Trump to make the kind of wholesale changes to Cuba policy that he
hinted at during his presidential campaign.

Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, has been
a long-time advocate of maintaining the economic embargo on the
communist island and opposed Obama's decision to open up relations with
the island.

But even he doesn't expect — or want — Trump to change some of the core
aspects of the opening, such as the reestablishment of diplomatic
relations, the reopening of embassies in Washington and Havana, and some
of the new business opportunities available to American companies who
have already invested millions in new ventures.

"You can never go back," Calzon said.

Instead, many believe Trump will tinker around the edges of Obama's
opening. That could include revoking some business opportunities that
are too closely tied to the Cuban government, or making it more
difficult for Americans to visit the island.

Frank Mora, director of the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean
Center at Florida International University in Miami, said Trump has
never been adamant about shutting down Obama's Cuba opening, but feels
he must do something to satisfy Cuban-American voters, and members of
Congress, who supported him in Florida.

"They can't say, 'We were wrong, we're going to continue with Obama's
policy,'" Mora said. "They need to deliver something. They need to be
able to say, 'Promise made, promise delivered.' That way, they can go
home (and) declare victory. End of story."

But that's probably not a victory Cuban-Americans in Congress who remain
critical of the Castro regime are likely to salute.

They point to continued reports from rights groups suggesting very
little has changed since U.S-Cuba relations began thawing in 2014

"The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and punish public
criticism," according to a report from Human Rights Watch, "It now
relies less than in past years on long-term prison sentences to punish
its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders,
independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in
recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government
include beatings, public shaming, and termination of employment."

"Despite all of the propaganda, despite all of the misguided policy over
the past years, the reality is that the regime's repression is only
getting worse," Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami-Dade, said on the
House floor Wednesday

"We must be honest about what is really going on in Cuba. We must not be
placated by the regime's lies or by those who repeat them," she said.
"We must fight for the truth and show the Cuban people that they are not
alone, that together we all stand in solidarity with them in the pursuit
of freedom."

Source: Cuba policy: Activists on both sides still await President
Trump's reset -
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/05/18/activists-both-sides-still-await-president-trumps-reset-cuba/101840226/ Continue reading
'Experiencing Cuba' while under government surveillance

CAIBARIÉN Cuba — Caibarién is a town on a bay that separates it from
Cayo de Santa María, which is located on Cuba's northern coast. It's
proximity to the city of Santa Clara, which is less than an hour to the
south, provided the perfect place to escape "experiencing Cuba" and all
that it entails — including a flat tire and dead battery on my rental
car on Thursday morning — before returning to the U.S.
The breeze that was blowing off the bay was refreshing. The fish at La
Tormenta, a small restaurant on Caibarién's beach that means "the storm"
in Spanish, that I had for lunch was freshly caught and delicious. There
were also no visible Cuban police officers or security agents within sight.
It became increasingly clear over the last couple of days the Cuban
government decided to place me under surveillance, or at the very least
knew where I was and with whom I spoke. The Cuban government will likely
never confirm my suspicion if I were to ask, but coincidence is more
than simple coincidence in a country with little tolerance of public
criticism of the government and/or those who represent it.
Tuesday afternoon was the first time I realized the Cuban government may
have decided to place me under surveillance.
I called Nelson Gandulla, president of the Cuban Federation of LGBTI
Rights, an independent LGBT advocacy group, shortly after noon from the
street to confirm our meeting at his home in the city of Cienfuegos that
we scheduled for 3 p.m. I called Nelson from the cell phone that I
bought from the state-run telecommunications company shortly after I
arrived in Cuba on May 2. The conversation lasted less than two minutes
and I walked back to the apartment near Santa Clara's Parque Leoncio
Vidal that I had rented on Airbnb from D.C.
I was leaving around 2 p.m. when the woman from whom I was renting the
apartment told me someone from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs
called and asked her whether I was a credentialed journalist. The Cuban
government granted me a 20-day visa that allowed me to report on
LGBT-specific issues in the country. I also received a Cuban press
credential from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' International Press
Center in Havana.
The situation clearly left the woman from whom I rented the apartment
embarrassed, and I honestly felt bad the government had placed her into
such an awkward position. She profusely apologized to me several times
after I showed her my Cuban press credentials and assured me that I
would not have any problems while staying in her family's home. I left a
few minutes later and walked to my car that was parked a couple of
blocks away.
Police checked documents after interviewing activist
The hour-long drive from Santa Clara to Cienfuegos, which is on Cuba's
southern coast, was largely uneventful aside from getting lost while
leaving the area around Parque Leoncio Vidal. Driving anywhere in the
country is another one of those "experiencing Cuba" moments that can
certainly leave a lasting impression.
Four Cuban soldiers in red uniforms were clearly visible when I drove
onto the main road on which Nelson's house is located. The large rainbow
flag that usually hangs on the fence and a poster on the front door that
describes Mariela Castro as a "fraud" were gone. The dozens of people —
independent activists and neighbors — who welcomed me to Nelson's house
in 2015 and 2016 were not there when I arrived.
Nelson, who is a doctor, was alone. The only interruptions during our
nearly hour-long interview were a handful of telephone calls and a woman
who asked him to write her a prescription. Nelson casually pointed out
two security agents who passed by his house as he sat in an old wooden
rocking chair with his front door open.
The soldiers that I had seen at the intersection when I drove to
Nelson's house were not there when I passed it shortly after 4:30 p.m.
Men wearing military uniforms were among local residents as I drove
through Cienfuegos, but they are a common sight in Cuba.
I parked alongside a square in Palmira, a town that is roughly 15
minutes north of Cienfuegos, shortly after 5 p.m. to check my email on a
public hotspot. One must use cards from the state-run telecommunications
company to access it. I sent a couple of emails and texts about my
interview with Nelson and started driving again after about 15 minutes.
I was driving through a town near the border of Cienfuegos and Villa
Clara Provinces less than 15 minutes later when a police officer on a
motorcycle pulled me over. He asked me to where I was driving — Santa
Clara I told him — and requested my documents — passport, visa, driver's
license and Cuban press credentials — that I politely and calmly handed
to him. The officer took them and walked over to his motorcycle. He
spoke to someone over the radio before writing something down on a piece
of paper. The officer walked back to my car a few minutes later, handed
my documents back to me and said that I could leave.
I returned to my apartment in Santa Clara about half an hour later. The
trip to and from Santo Domingo, a town that is roughly half an hour west
of Santa Clara on Cuba's Carretera Central, where I met a group of
independent activists who are less forceful in their criticism of
Mariela Castro and her father's government was uneventful.
Back in Santa Clara, I began to notice a white police car (patrulla in
Cuban Spanish) that was parked near the corner of Parque Leoncio Vidal
that was closest to my apartment. I took particular note of its location
in the morning and at night when I walked to the park to check my email
at a public hotspot in the park.

Coincidence?
I'm a curious and somewhat defiant person, so I decided to stare into
police officers' eyes on Wednesday when I saw them. It was an admittedly
self-serving attempt to convince myself that they know that I know the
government decided to place me under surveillance.
A white patrol car was once again parked along the edge of Parque
Leoncio Vidal that was closest to my apartment on early Thursday morning
when I was walking home from a party that Mariela Castro's organization,
the National Center for Sexual Education, organized as part of its
International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia commemorations.
There were two officers leaning on the car smoking cigarettes. I walked
past them and said, "Good evening" to them in Spanish. They looked at me
incredulously. I chuckled and called them "idiots" in Spanish under my
breath as I walked home.
A white patrol car was parked in the same area on Thursday morning when
I walked through the park to exchange some U.S. dollars into Cuban pesos
at a government-owned currently exchange house. It was not there when I
returned to my apartment about half an hour later.
The idea of "experiencing Cuba" during the 16 days that I was working in
and traveling through the country will continue to evoke laughter,
resignation, frustration and a variety of other emotions long after I
have returned to D.C. The idea the Cuban government likely placed me
under surveillance — however absurd the reason may have been — is a
clear reminder the country's human rights record remains a very serious
problem that should not be ignored.

Source: 'Experiencing Cuba' while under government surveillance -
https://www.washingtonblade.com/2017/05/18/experiencing-cuba-government-surveillance/ Continue reading
Trump will not announce highly anticipated changes in Cuba policy
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

After much anticipation that an announcement on Cuba policy changes
would be made no later than Saturday, President Donald Trump — in the
midst of various political crises — has not decided what to do,
officials said.

The White House had considered holding an event May 20 to commemorate
the 115th anniversary of the birth of the Cuban Republic, but Trump will
begin an international trip on Friday and the review of the policy
toward the island has not concluded, a spokeswoman told el Nuevo Herald.

"The issue of Cuba is extremely complex, and the president does not want
to rush it," said the spokeswoman. "Besides, he won't be here on May 20."

The Trump administration is carrying out a review of Cuba policy that
involves several federal agencies and is being coordinated by the
National Security Council.

Rumors of an imminent announcement circulated around Capitol Hill and
even crossed the Florida Straits to the island, although Havana seems
less anxious than before, when Trump's presidential victory and strong
statements raised questions about the so-called "thaw" in diplomatic
relations initiated by former President Barack Obama in 2014.

"Havana is confident that not much will happen," said a businessman
close to the Cuban government.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a drastic change
would not make much sense because the Cuban communist government would
quickly adjust to a policy of confrontation with its historical enemy,
the United States, and because the island is in the throes of a
significant transition — the expected retirement of Cuban leader Raúl
Castro, 86, in February.

"Raúl Castro has nine months left [in office] and you are going to come
out with a new policy to readjust later? What message will that send to
[Cuba's] new president?"

However, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere,
Francisco Palmieri, said last week that Trump's revised Cuba policy
would have "important differences" with the one implemented by Obama and
currently in effect.

"One of the areas that will be a high priority is to ensure that Cuba
makes further substantive progress toward greater respect for human
rights in the country," Palmieri said during a press conference in
Washington, D.C.

That kind of pressure could take the form of more public criticism, for
example in the United Nations, where U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has
already included Cuba among countries where "human rights are widely
disregarded."

But beyond public statements and gestures, "I'm not sure what else they
can do," said a former Obama administration official who was involved
with the diplomatic shift toward Cuba and asked not to be named.

Several other sources with knowledge of the revision options agreed that
changes to the presidential directive issued by Obama in October 2016 —
or its elimination — could be one of the first measures announced by Trump.

However, even the elimination of the directive would be a "largely
symbolic" move, said the former Obama official. Obama's directive, she
said, "clearly set out unambiguously what United States policy was," in
this case a policy of engagement. "To revoke it will not have concrete
consequences as would changes in regulations."

Almost all of Obama's policy is based on new regulations or changes to
existing ones through executive orders. While they could easily be
reversed by the new president, it would require a legal study that would
take more time. And a return to the pre-Obama policy would adversely
affect U.S. companies that have established businesses in Cuba.

The review already has reached the level of deputy and undersecretaries
of the various agencies involved, said another former Obama official,
who also asked not to be named, adding that "the option that is winning
for now is to seek elements within Obama's directive [to eliminate] and
impose symbolic changes."

This would allow the Trump administration, "to gain time to see what
they will do in the long run."

But even if the final recommendations from government agencies end up
being conservative and suggest that Trump should not make drastic
changes at the moment, the administration must present them in a way
that satisfies the pressure from Cuban-American Florida Republicans
Marco Rubio and Mario Díaz-Balart, who have been most visibly involved
in designing a new Cuba policy.

Just days after Trump's electoral victory last year, Díaz-Balart
predicted that a "dramatic" shift in policy toward the island would
ensue. He now says he is "more certain than ever that the president and
vice president's policy on Cuba, which has been announced on numerous
occasions ... will be enforced in a very short time."

Díaz-Balart declined to comment on a memorandum attributed to his office
in which he proposes to eliminate all the measures taken by Obama since
December 2014, in essence to reverse the "thaw." But he said that the
magnitude of the upcoming changes would be such that the "Bay of Pigs
heroes will not feel betrayed and will be very pleased that the
president has fulfilled his commitment and will not make a policy to
appease the regime."

Rubio told el Nuevo Herald in April that he was "sure that President
Trump is going to treat Cuba as the dictatorship that it is." Most
recently, he wrote on his Twitter account that he was still "confident"
that Trump would keep his promise to make changes in Cuba policy.

Follow Nora Gámez Torres in Twitter: 305-376-2169, @ngameztorres

Source: President Trump remains mum on Cuba policy changes | Miami
Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article151099482.html Continue reading
Buenos Aires, May 17 (RHC)-- The standoff between human rights organizations in Argentina and President Mauricio Macri's government continues to escalate.  Now, the leader of the Argentinean human rights organization Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, Hebe de … Continue reading
Rallying MLB players around a cause dear to so many of their hearts has been a challenge, considering the decision to speak out could mean life or death. Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli has become the unexpected leader of Venezuelan-born players com... Continue reading
Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/independent-journalism-seeks-to-revive-press-freedom-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 3 May 2017 — Let’s step back in time. One morning in 1985, Yndamiro Restano Díaz, a thirty-seven-year-old journalist with Radio Rebelde, took out an old Underwood and wrote a clandestine broadsheet entitled “Nueva Cuba.” After distributing the single-page, handmade newspaper up and down the street, one copy ended up pinned to a wall … Continue reading "Independent Journalism Seeks to Revive Press Freedom / Iván García" Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 15 May 2017 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), announced his desire to reside in the United States, although he will remain attentive to what happens in Cuba to be able to denounce the arbitrary detentions. Maldonado, whose girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, is a US citizen, declined to respond … Continue reading "‘El Sexto’ Will Stay In The US But Will Continue To Fight Against Arbitrary Detentions In Cuba" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 14 May 2017 – This Sunday Cuban State Security prevented Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC), from boarding a flight to Sweden to participate in the Stockholm Internet Forum (SIF). The car in which the activist was traveling to José Martí International Airport was intercepted by the police, according to … Continue reading "State Security Prevents Yoandy Izquierdo From Boarding A Flight For Sweden" Continue reading
LGBTQ Americans meet in Havana with fellow Cuban activists
BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@miamiherald.com

A delegation of American LGBTQ advocates met Saturday in Havana with
"leaders of Cuban civil society" who are demanding that the government
there recognize marriage for same-sex couples and create legal
protections for transgender Cubans.

The group from the U.S., organized by Cuban-American civil-rights
attorney Tico Almeida, includes Brad Sears, executive director of the
Williams Institute think tank at UCLA Law School; trans activist Dana
Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland; and Nadine Smith,
CEO of Equality Florida.

"I began my activism helping to found the International Gay and Lesbian
Youth Organization in the '80s and I'm pleased to have an opportunity to
return to those roots by connecting with activists in Cuba," Smith told
the Miami Herald just before she traveled to Havana.

"Florida has a special connection to the people of Cuba. Our state has
been a destination of hope and a beacon of light in the midst of a
brutal regime," Smith said. "Now, as a new, more open day dawns we must
maintain that relationship as the LGBT community worldwide continues the
fight for basic equality, justice and dignity under the law."

A year ago, Almeida and Freedom to Marry founder Evan Wolfson were in
Cuba for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia events. In
Havana, they met with Mariela Castro, director of the Cuban National
Center for Sex Education and daughter of Cuban leader Raúl Castro.

Before this week's trip to Havana, Almeida said he wants to "create
stronger connections" between LGBTQ people in Cuba and the United
States, and also hopes that Congress lifts all travel restrictions to
the island.

"Business leaders at our top companies like American Airlines, Google,
and Facebook have helped build bridges between Americans and the Cuban
people, and it's also important for the LGBT movement in the United
States to create stronger connections with the brave gay and lesbian
Cubans who are petitioning their government for the freedom to marry the
person they love," Almeida told the Herald.

"While we wait for the United States Congress to repeal the absurd
travel ban that still restricts Americans' freedom to travel to Cuba, we
can participate in legal 'people to people' travel opportunities that
allow us to meet with leaders of Cuban civil society and exchange ideas
about promoting fairness and equality for LGBT people in both countries."

Some Cuban-American LGBTQ activists in Miami are skeptical about the visit.

"While it's important to engage the Cuban people, I would be extremely
concerned about creating optics that support the Cuban Regime — a regime
that continues to suppress its people and the people of Venezuela," SAVE
Executive Director Tony Lima posted Saturday on Facebook.

"It is telling that Cuba's leading LGBTQ rights activist is the straight
daughter [Mariela Castro] of Raul Castro. We must not forget ONE family
has controlled Cuba for nearly six decades with brutal implications for
LGBTQ people during the far majority of that time," Lima continued. "I
hope the current LGBTQ delegation in Cuba will reach out to those voices
outside the regime and will be sensitive to its complex and painful
implications in our South Florida community. Be it Cuba, Venezuela or
Syria, we must all be vigilant in promoting basic human rights."

Herb Sosa, president of Unity Coalition, Miami's Hispanic LGBTQ-rights
group, said his organization "supports any and all efforts to assist the
Cuban people on the island in their path to civil liberties & freedom."

But, he added:

"Unity Coalition has maintained communications with dozens of LGBT
activists on the island — most of whom are routinely arrested, beaten,
jailed and kept away from these sort of media circus opportunities
orchestrated by the Castros. The real activists fighting for change in
Cuba are not allowed to meet with these well-intentioned U.S. activists."

Source: LGBTQ Americans meet in Havana with fellow Cuban activists |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/gay-south-florida/article150356007.html Continue reading
Con una muestra en San Francisco, California Continue reading
Buenos Aires, May 11 (RHC)-- Thousands of people filled Argentina’s historic Plaza de Mayo on Wednesday evening to reject the Supreme Court's recent controversial ruling against human rights.  The law -- known as the "Two for One" -- reduces … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – The number of political prisoners has doubled this year, according to the most recent report from the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which counts 140 people charged for these reasons in April, compared to 70 for the same months in 2016. The organization’s monthly accounting … Continue reading "Number of Political Prisoners Doubles In Last Year, According To Human Rights Group" Continue reading

Ana Milena Varón

(EFE).- La última obra del artista cubano Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, no es un grafiti, sino encerrarse en una celda, réplica de la que tuvo en una cárcel de máxima seguridad de su país, y no probar alimento por tres días.

Con esta propuesta artística inscrita en una exposición titulada "Ángeles y demonios", que presenta desde este jueves en San Francisco y es auspiciada por la Fundación de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Foundation, HRF), Maldonado quiere sensibilizar al público sobre los encarcelamientos arbitrarios, según dice en una entrevista con Efe.

"El encarcelamiento injustificado y el abuso del poder existen, desgraciadamente, en todos los gobiernos y hay que denunciarlos. Tenemos que crear consciencia de lo que está pasando", subrayó.

Para ello, El Sexto, de 34 años, se encerrará en una celda muy reducida por 36 horas y sólo beberá agua.[[QUOTE:"El encarcelamiento injustificado y el abuso del poder existen, desgraciadamente, en todos los gobiernos y hay que denunciarlos. Tenemos que crear consciencia de lo que está pasando"]]En este lapso de tiempo Maldonado plasmará las historias que decenas de inocentes están viviendo esta clase de encierro.

"Quiero que la gente entienda que es estar preso arbitrariamente, en un espacio reducido, reprimido y sin saber cual va a ser tu futuro", dice.

Un simple mensaje con las palabras «Se fue» escritas en una pared del hotel Habana Libre llevaron al artista nuevamente a la cárcel. La obra era su expresión al conocer la muerte de Fidel Castro, ocurrida el 26 de noviembre de 2016.

La intención de El Sexto siempre ha sido conectar con la comunidad, por eso su arte ha sido callejero y se especializa en el grafiti. Maldonado asegura que la idea de denunciar las injusticias que se viven siempre están latentes entre los vecindarios, pero que se deben conectar en una voz para decirse.

Esta necesidad de estar en constante comunicación con la gente lo llevo a desarrollar un personaje anónimo conocido como El Sexto. Fue su respuesta a la campaña del Gobierno cubano en 2001 para declarar como héroes a cinco espías cubanos encarcelados en Estados Unidos.

El Sexto, es el verdadero héroe, que es el pueblo" advierte.

La creación de este personaje lo llevó a la cárcel. De allí vendrían varios arrestos por presentar sus obras, incluso antes de exponerlas.[[QUOTE:La creación de este personaje lo llevó a la cárcel. De allí vendrían varios arrestos por presentar sus obras, incluso antes de exponerlas]]En 2014 el grafitero intentó realizar una presentación en el Parque de la Habana con dos cerdos pintados de verde con los nombres Fidel y Raúl, una obra inspirada en "Rebelión en la Granja" de George Orwell.

Pese a que lo detuvieron antes de realizar la exhibición duró 10 meses recluido en una celda, sin haber sido llevado a juicio. Maldonado aún se pregunta ¿qué pasó con los cerdos?

La presión ejercida a través de las redes sociales logró que el Gobierno lo dejara libre y Maldonado pudiera salir de la Isla a cumplir con los compromisos artísticos que ya tenía en Estados Unidos y otras partes del mundo.

Sobre su presentación en San Francisco, señala que "llega en un momento justo para que podamos entender cosas que están pasando no sólo en Cuba, sino en Venezuela, China, Turquía, Rusa, y lo que están viviendo los migrantes en todo el mundo".

Maldonado hará referencia a los centenares de cubanos y migrantes de otras regiones que están varados buscando llegar a tierra estadounidense.[[QUOTE:"Hasta que me callen, voy a seguir denunciando lo que creo que es injusto y represivo, e invito a jóvenes y viejos a que se unan y hablen o si no, nada va a cambiar"]]
Él asegura que personas que huyen de la pobreza también deberían ser tratadas como refugiados políticos. "¿De quién depende la economía de un país?, ¿por qué no hay para comer?, ¿por qué no hay trabajo?", se pregunta para responderse inmediatamente: "por el Gobierno".

Tras la exhibición Maldonado viajará a Noruega y Suecia a llevar su mensaje. El artista espera radicarse en Estados Unidos.

"Hasta que me callen, voy a seguir denunciando lo que creo que es injusto y represivo, e invito a jóvenes y viejos a que se unan y hablen o si no, nada va a cambiar" concluyó.

La celda en la que hoy se encerrará Maldonado es una réplica de la de la prisión Combinado del Este que ocupó hasta el pasado 21 de enero, tras su detención el mismo día de la muerte de Fidel Castro, el 26 de noviembre de 2016.

La "performance", titulada "Amnistía", está acompañada de una exhibición de obras de arte creadas por El Sexto en prisión.

Con "Ángeles y demonios", curada por Holly Baxter y producida por Adam D'Arcy, en colaboración con Immersive Art Lab de San Francisco, HRF inaugura una serie de exhibiciones titulada Arte en Protesta.

Danilo Maldonado ganó el Premio Vaclav Havel a la Disidencia Creativa en 2015.

Continue reading
… 's administration will press Cuba on human rights progress, a … details on his policy toward Havana, Palmieri said the United States … change in Cuba's political and economic system; Cuba however rejects … high priority is ensuring that Cuba makes more substantive progress towards … Continue reading
Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado is in San Francisco, planning for the opening of his art exhibit, “Angels and Demons,” at the Immersive ART LAB, 3255A Third Street, May 11, 6-10pm. His exhibit is sponsored by the Human Rights Foundation as part of its Art in Protest series. This interview took place with the translation help … Continue reading "Interview with El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) in San Francisco" Continue reading
… 's administration will press Cuba on human rights progress, a … details on his policy toward Havana, Palmieri said the United States … change in Cuba's political and economic system; Cuba however rejects … high priority is ensuring that Cuba makes more substantive progress towards … Continue reading
Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of TodosMarchamos

14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – At least 38 Ladies in White were arrested
this Sunday in Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila and Santa
Clara, during the 100th day of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March)
campaign for the release of Cuba's political prisoners.

The leader of the group, Berta Soler, was arrested along with three
other activists outside the group's headquarters in Havana's Lawton
neighborhood. The women carried posters denouncing the harassment
against their movement, dissident Deisy Artiles told 14ymedio.

Soler was leaving the headquarters along with to Yamilet Garro, Aliuska
Gómez and Sodrelis Turruella when they were intercepted and arrested by
the police. Inside the house were Artiles, along with Ladies in White
Zenaida Hidalgo and Cecilia Guerra.

The police also detained, in the vicinity of the headquarters, the
former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta and the activist Jose Oscar
Sánchez.

"The operation started on Friday morning," Artiles said, adding that "an
act of repudiation was carried out [against Berta Soler] at the time of
her arrest."

Dissident Ada Lopez was also arrested outside her home when she tried to
reach the headquarters of the movement. Her husband reported the arrest
and managed to photograph the moment she was taken to a police car.

In Matanzas, at least a dozen of the movement's women managed to reach
the church to attend Sunday Mass, while 19 were arrested on the way to
the parish.

"We have had an operation since Saturday in front of the houses of the
Ladies in White," said Matanzas activist Leticia Ramos Herrería.

The police "have been embroiled in trying to end our movement," says the
opponent. "The threats they are making against the activists and their
families are serious. Many are being fined for simply evading the police
cordon in front of their homes."

In the town of Palma Soriano, in Santiago de Cuba, a dozen members of
the group were arrested, while in Ciego de Avila the police violently
arrested the dissidents Lucía López Rondón and Mayden Maidique Cruz.

On Thursday, the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) issued a
report in which it stated there were 1,809 arbitrary detentions in the
island during the first four months of 2017.

Throughout the month of April the organization documented 467 arbitrary
arrests, of which 335 were women and 132 were men. 147 of those arrested
were black and ten of them were "beaten brutally," according to the text.

The OCDH emphasizes that a climate of repression prevails "at a time
when the Cuban Government has achieved important international support
such as that from the European Union and the Government of Spain," and
warns that "in the coming months the political climate may be aggravated
because of the government's nervousness over the difficult economic and
social situation that Cuba is facing."

Source: Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of
#TodosMarchamos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/dozens-of-ladies-in-white-arrested-on-the-100th-day-of-todosmarchamos/ Continue reading
Brussels, May 8 (RHC)-- Human rights advocates and groups from across Europe are sacrificing their health for the sake of solidarity, refusing food and joining the indefinite hunger strike by 1,700 Palestinian political prisoners.   The hunger strikers … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2017 – At least 38 Ladies in White were arrested this Sunday in Havana, Matanzas, Guantanamo, Ciego de Avila and Santa Clara, during the 100th day of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March) campaign for the release of Cuba’s political prisoners. The leader of the group, Berta Soler, was arrested along with … Continue reading "Dozens Of Ladies In White Arrested On The 100th Day Of #TodosMarchamos" Continue reading
Cuba: Another perspective

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall wants to sell Kansas wheat to Cuba
("Congressman reflects on a recent Cuba trip," High Plains Journal,
April 10), and has filled a bill that "allows" American banks and to
finance the Cuban government's purchase. Really? Cuba has one of the
worst credit records in the world. Americans shouldn't be dragooned into
the role of guarantors of credit extended to Cuba.

The real issue isn't selling to Cuba. It's getting Cuba to pay for what
it buys. The Heritage Foundation's 2017 Index of Economic Freedom puts
Cuba's credit rating right in the bottom—178th out of 180 countries,
followed by Venezuela and North Korea.

The problem : The average Cuban's salary is about $25 dollars a
month—there's no great purchasing power there. Havana has defaulted on
loans worth billions.

It's not a new issue. Despite raking in massive Soviet Union subsidies
and boasting Moscow was a better commercial partner than the United
States, Fidel Castro stopped payment in 1986 on the island's $16 billion
debt to the Paris Club, a consortium of foreign banks facilitating trade
with Cuba. By 2015, those banks had "forgiven" $4 billion of Cuba's
debt. Last year, Japan forgave $1.08 billion dollars (120 billion Yen)
owed by Cuba. The Castros dynasty seems to assume it never has to pay
off its loans. Uncle Sam must not become Cuba's next sucker.

American companies have been making sales for years to Cuba on a "cash
and carry" basis. In the year before Barack Obama became president,
American companies exported $711.5 million in foodstuffs to Cuba. By
2010, trade had dropped to $362.8 million and by 2015 to $180.2 million.
The decline was deliberate and intended to put pressure on U.S.
companies to lobby Congress and the U.S. administration to extend credit.

"Much has changed and in a very positive way," Marshall says now. In the
United States, many changes. In Cuba, not much change other than a
dramatic increase in repression. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights
documented 1,005 political arrests in 2008 and 9,940 in 2016.

The "greater mutual security" that the Congressman wants can't be
attained without considering the presence of Russian spy ships in
Havana's harbor and such hostile acts as Gen. Raul Castro's 2013 attempt
to smuggle war planes, hidden under tons of sugar, in a ship to North
Korea—a clear violation of United Nations' trade sanctions. That came as
President Obama prepared to re-establish diplomatic relations by making
numerous concessions to Cuba.

One of those concessions was removing Cuba from the U.S. list of
supporters of terrorism. Yet, Cuba today harbors numerous U.S.
criminals. On the FBI's "Most Wanted List" is a domestic terrorist
convicted of murdering a New Jersey state trooper in cold blood. She was
sentenced to life in prison but escaped and fled to Cuba, where she
enjoys the regime's hospitality. The good people of Kansas may want to
ask President Donald Trump to demand her return and, if Cuba refuses, to
put the island nation back on the infamous list.

Before the Castro Revolution, Cuban teenagers used to sell expired
lottery tickets to naïve American tourists. Now Congressmen take guided
tours to Cuba. As Mark Twain observed: "It is easier to deceive folks,
rather than to convince them, they have been deceived." Extending credit
to "do business with Cuba" would be a deceit—and a very bad deal for
American taxpayers.

—Frank Calzon is executive director of the Washington-based Center for a
Free Cuba.

Source: Cuba: Another perspective | Opinion | hpj.com -
http://www.hpj.com/opinion/cuba-another-perspective/article_2a56e050-31c0-11e7-be16-eb0b120a6fed.html Continue reading
Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington
by Diana Chandler, posted Friday, May 05, 2017

SANTA CLARA, Cuba (BP) -- Religious liberty leaders are interceding on
behalf of a college student interrogated, threatened and charged with
public disorder by the Cuban government because of his work to expose
Christian persecution there.

Felix Yuniel Llerena López, far left, is shown with USCIRF commissioner
Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, center, and others during his April trip to
Capitol Hill to advocate for religious liberty in his native Cuba.
Photo from Twitter
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Kristina Arriaga de Bucholz, a
commissioner with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
(USCIRF), are advocating for the student, 20-year-old Felix Yuniel
Llerena López, who was arrested April 27 upon his return from a trip to
Washington.
Cuban state security authorities made him sign an "Acta de Advertencia"
or pre-arrest warrant for public disorder, ordered him to appear in
court and also interrogated his mother, CSW said in a May 2 press release.

"We are extremely concerned about the government's treatment of Felix
Yuniel Llerena López upon his return to Cuba," CSW Chief Executive
Mervyn Thomas said in the press release. "Public accusations linking him
to terrorism are not only preposterous and unfounded, but also put his
family in danger. We call on the Cuban government to cease its
harassment of Felix and to turn its attention to addressing its ongoing
violations of freedom of religion or belief as a matter of urgency. We
also urge the international community to closely monitor this situation."

Llerena, central region coordinator for the independent Patmos Institute
for religious freedom, was part of a Patmos delegation including
evangelical pastors who briefed USCIRF, the State Department and
non-governmental groups on religious freedom violations in Cuba, CSW
reported. Llerena is described as the only Christian in his family.
Arriaga, who met Llerena during his trip to Capitol Hill, has initiated
a Twitter campaign on the student's behalf -- @FelixLlerenaCUB. While
Llerena's current whereabouts were not disclosed, Arriaga said on a May
2 WORLD Radio broadcast that he remained in custody.

"He came to the United States briefly with a group of evangelical
pastors," Arriaga told WORLD Radio, "and after he met with the
commission members -- precisely because he met with the commission
members -- he flew back to Havana with great courage to again continue
to spread the Word of Gospel."

The exposure of Llerena's story will not only encourage him but will
also help deter the Cuban government from harming him, Arriaga told
WORLD Radio. She also encouraged Americans to call and email the Cuban
government directly, urging them to stop harassing people of faith.

"The fact that his name is known by Americans alone," she said,
"protects him in Cuba."

Llerena was detained just a day after USCIRF released its 2017 annual
report naming Cuba for the 14th consecutive year as a "Tier 2" country,
the USCIRF category that falls just short of countries described as the
world's most severe violators of religious liberty.

Other members of the Patmos delegation to Washington, CSW said, included
Apostolic Movement pastor Yiorvis Bravo Denis, Baptist church leaders
Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso and Yoaxis Marcheco Suarez, and Baptist
theologian and former political prisoner Raudel Garcia Bringas. But
there was no word of whether they also had been interrogated upon their
return to Cuba.

Cuban authorities captured Llerena as he arrived at Abel Santamaria
International Airport in Santa Clara, CSW said in its press release.

"Llerena López reported that he was questioned aggressively by two
high-ranking state security officers, who appeared to have detailed
information about his activities while in the United States," CSW said.
"They told him, 'This is a country town; the people here don't know
anything about human rights and if one of these country peasants is made
to believe that you are going to commit a terrorist act, he is going to
cut you open with a machete, and later you won't be able to say that we
sent him."

CSW describes the Patmos Institute as an independent group promoting
freedom of religion or belief and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation.

Common religious liberty offenses committed by the Cuban communist
government, USCIRF said in its 2017 report, include the harassment and
short-term detention of religious leaders and laity, demolition of
churches, threats to confiscate churches and the systematic restriction
of religious practice through laws and surveillance.

Source: Cuban student arrested after trip to Washington -
http://bpnews.net/48819/cuban-student-arrested-after-trip-to-washington Continue reading
Buenos Aires, May 5 (RHC)-- Human rights organizations slammed the Mauricio Macri administration for what they call a "concealed pardon" for human rights abusers.  Social organizations in Argentina have harshly criticized a court decision to … Continue reading
United Nations, May 5 (RHC)-- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has raised alarm over the fact that at least 41 activists have been killed in Colombia so far this year.  The report says the figure lays bare a troubling continuation of … Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami/Havana, 4 May 2017 — The team at the Cubalex Legal Information Center and its director, attorney Laritza Diversent, have obtained political refuge in the United States following the intensification of repression against the nonprofit organization dedicated to legally advising Cubans. Diversent, told 14ymedio, from a stop at Miami International Airport this … Continue reading "Laritza Diversent and Cubalex Begin Their Life In Exile" Continue reading
… predecessor Fidel. The rallies filled Havana's Revolution Square and … economist, at the march in Havana. "People will accept one … to its leftist allies in Havana. Cuba is currently in recession, dragged … has reiterated concerns over the Cuban government's human rights … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 30 April 2017 – After 100 days in the White House, Donald Trump has not uttered a single word about Cuba. His indifference is keeping Havana officialdom on pins and needles, worried about the opposition and disoriented by Cuban society. More than two years after the beginning of the diplomatic thaw between the … Continue reading "Trump: 100 Days in the White House and Not a Single Word About Cuba" Continue reading
Cuba obtiene ingresos millonarios por venta de plasma sanguíneo abril 29, 2017 Agencia EFE Los datos oficiales señalan que la mayor parte de los ingresos de Cuba se derivan de los trabajadores temporales en el extranjero, pero estas estadísticas no reflejan otros ingresos procedentes de la explotación humana, asegura María Werlau, la directiva de Archivo […] Continue reading
Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 18 November 2016 — The evil of corruption–the act of
corruption and its effects–has accompanied the human species since its
emergence. It has been present in all societies and in all ages. Its
diverse causes range from personal conduct to the political-economic
system of each country. In Cuba it appeared in the colonial era, it
remained in the Republic, and became generalized until becoming the
predominant behavior in society.

To understand the regression suffered we must return to the formation of
our morality, essentially during the mixing of Hispanic and African
cultures and the turning towards totalitarianism after 1959, as can be
seen in the following lines.

The conversion of the island into the world's first sugar and coffee
power created many contradictions between slaves and slave owners,
blacks and whites, producers and merchants, Spanish-born and Creole, and
between them and the metropolis. From these contradictions came three
moral aspects: the utilitarian, the civic and that of survival.

Utilitarian morality

The father of utilitarianism, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), said that
utility is measured by the consequences that actions tend to produce,
and came to the conclusion that all action is socially good when it
tries to procure the greatest possible degree of happiness for the
greatest number of people, and that each person has the right to be
taken into account in the exercise of power.

That thesis of Bentham became a popular slogan synthesized in the
phrase: "The greatest happiness for the greatest number." Such a concept
crystallized in Cuba as a creole variant of a utilitarianism that took
shape in exploitation, smuggling, corruption, banditry, and criminality,
which turned into the violation of everything predisposed as an accepted
norm of conduct in society.

The gift of a plant by the sugar planters to the governor Don Luis de
las Casas; the diversion of funds for the construction of Fortaleza de
la Real Fuerza de la Cabaña, which made it the most expensive fortress
in the world; the gambling house and the cockfighting ring that the
governor Francisco Dionisio Vives had for his recreation in the Castillo
de la Real Fuerza, whose government was known for "the three d's":
dancing, decks of cards, and drinking, for which reason, at the end of
his rule, there appeared a lampoon that said: "If you live (vives) like
Vives, you will live!"; the mangrove groves; bandits like Caniquí, the
black man of Trinidad and Juan Fernandez, the blond of Port-au-Prince …
are some examples.

Utilitarianism reappeared on the republican scene as a discourse of a
political, economic, and military elite lacking in democratic culture,
swollen with personalismo, caudillismo, corruption, violence and
ignorance of anything different. A masterful portrait of this morality
was drawn by Carlos Loveira in his novel Generales y doctores, a side
that resurfaced in the second half of the twentieth century.

Thus emerged the Republic, built on the symbiosis of planters and
politicians linked to foreign interests, with a weak civil society and
with unresolved, deep-rooted problems, as they were the concentration of
agrarian property and the exclusion of black people. The coexistence of
different moral behaviors in the same social environment led to the
symbiosis of their features. Utilitarianism crisscrossed with virtues
and altruisms, concerns and activities on matters more transcendent than
boxes of sugar and sacks of coffee.

Throughout the twentieth century, these and other factors were present
in the Protest of the 13, in the Revolution of the 30, in the repeal of
the Platt Amendment, in the Constituent Assembly of 1939, and in the
Constitution of 1940. Also in the corruption which prevailed during the
authentic governments and in the improvement accomplished by the
Orthodox Dissent and the Society of Friends of the Republic. Likewise,
in the 1952 coup d'etat and in the Moncada attempted counter-coup, in
the civic and armed struggle that triumphed in 1959 and in those who
since then and until now struggle for the restoration of human rights.

Civic morality

Civic morality, the cradle of ethical values, was a manifestation of
minorities, shaped by figures ranging from Bishop Espada, through Jose
Agustín Caballero to the teachings of Father Felix Varela and the
republic "With all and for the good of all" of José Martí. This civic
aspect became the foundation of the nation and source of Cuban identity.
It included concern for the destinies of the local land, the country,
and the nation. It was forged in institutions such as the Seminary of
San Carlos, El Salvador College, in Our Lady of the Desamparados, and
contributed to the promotion of the independence proclamations of the
second half of the nineteenth century, as well as the projects of nation
and republic.

Father Félix Varela understood that civic formation was a premise for
achieving independence and, consequently, chose education as a path to
liberation. In 1821, when he inaugurated the Constitutional Chair at the
Seminary of San Carlos, he described it as "a chair of freedom, of human
rights, of national guarantees … a source of civic virtues, the basis of
the great edifice of our happiness, the one that has for the first time
reconciled for us the law with philosophy."

José de la Luz y Caballero came to the conclusion that "before the
revolution and independence, there was education." Men, rather than
academics, he said, is the necessity of the age. And Jose Marti began
with a critical study of the errors of the War of 1868 that revealed
negative factors such as immediacy, caudillismo, and selfishness,
closely related to weak civic formation.

This work was continued by several generations of Cuban educators and
thinkers until the first half of the twentieth century. Despite these
efforts, a general civic behavior was not achieved. We can find proof of
this affirmation in texts like the Journal of the soldier, by Fermín
Valdés Domínguez, and the Public Life of Martín Morúa Delgado, by Rufino
Perez Landa.

During the Republic, the civic aspect was taken up by minorities.
However, in the second half of the twentieth century their supposed
heirs, once in power, slipped into totalitarianism, reducing the Western
base of our institutions to the minimum expression, and with it the
discourse and practice of respect for human rights.

Survival morality

Survival morality emerged from continued frustrations, exclusions, and
the high price paid for freedom, opportunities, and participation. In
the Colony it had its manifestations in the running away and
insurrections of slaves and poor peasants. During the second half of the
twentieth century it took shape in the lack of interest in work, one of
whose expressions is the popular phrase: "Here there is nothing to die for."

It manifested itself in the simulation of tasks that were not actually
performed, as well as in the search for alternative ways to survive.
Today's Cuban, reduced to survival, does not respond with heroism but
with concrete and immediate actions to survive. And this is manifested
throughout the national territory, in management positions, and in all
productive activities or services.

It is present in the clandestine sale of medicines, in the loss of
packages sent by mail, in the passing of students in exchange for money,
in falsification of documents, in neglect of the sick (as happened with
mental patients who died in the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana of
hypothermia in January 2010, where 26 people died according to official
data), in establishments where merchandise is sold, in the workshops
that provide services to the population, in the sale of fuel "on the
left" and in the diversion of resources destined for any objective.

The main source of supply of the materials used is diversion, theft, and
robbery, while the verbs "escape", "fight" and "solve" designate actions
aimed at acquiring what is necessary to survive. Seeing little value in
work, the survivor responded with alternative activities. Seeing the
impossibility of owning businesses, with the estaticular way (activities
carried out by workers for their own benefit in State centers and with
State-owned materials). Seeing the absence of civil society, with the
underground life. Seeing shortages, with the robbery of the State.
Seeing the closing of all possibilities, with escape to any other part
of the world.

Immersed in this situation, the changes that are being implemented in
Cuba, under the label of Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy of the
PCC, run into the worst situation regarding moral behavior. In this,
unlike in previous times, everyone from high leaders to simple workers
participates. A phenomenon of such a dimension that, despite its
secrecy, has had to be tackled by the official press itself, as can be
seen in the following examples of a whole decade:

The newspaper Juventud Rebelde on May 22, 2001 published an article
titled "Solutions against deception", where it is said that Eduardo, one
of the thousands of inspectors, states that when he puts a crime in
evidence, the offenders come to tell him: "You have to live, you have to
fight." According to Eduardo, neither can explain "the twist of those
who bother when they are going to claim their rights and instead defend
their own perpetrator." It results in the perpetrator declaring that he
is fighting and the victims defending him. The selfless inspector,
thinking that when he proves the violation he has won "the battle," is
wrong. Repressive actions, without attacking the causes, are doomed to
failure.
- The same newspaper published "The big old fraud", reporting that of
222,656 inspections carried out between January and August 2005, price
violations and alterations in product standards were detected in 52% of
the centers examined and in the case of agricultural markets in 68%.
- For its part, the newspaper Granma on November 28, 2003, in "Price
Violations and the Never Ending Battle" reported that in the first eight
months of the year, irregularities were found in 36% of the
establishments inspected; that in markets, fairs, squares, and
agricultural points of sale the index was above 47%, and in gastronomy 50%.
- On February 16, 2007, under the title "Cannibals in the Towers", the
official organ of the Communist Party addressed the theft of angles
supporting high-voltage electricity transmission networks, and it was
recognized that "technical, administrative and legal practices applied
so far have not stopped the banditry. "
- Also, on October 26, 2010, in "The Price of Indolence", reported that
in the municipality of Corralillo, Villa Clara, more than 300 homes were
built with stolen materials and resources, for which 25 kilometers of
railway lines were dismantled and 59 angles of the above-mentioned high
voltage towers were used.

If the official newspapers Granma and Juventud Rebelde had addressed the
close relationship between corruption and almost absolute state
ownership, with which no one can live off the salary, with which
citizens are prevented from being entrepreneurs, and with the lack of
the most elementary civic rights, then they would have understood that
repression alone is useless, that the vigilantes, policemen, and
inspectors are Cubans with the same needs as the rest of the population.

In order to change the course of events, it is necessary to extend the
changes in the economy to the rest of the social spheres, which implies
looking back at citizens' lost liberties, without which the formation
and predominance of civic behavior that the present and future of Cuba
require will be impossible.

Ethics, politics, and freedoms

In Cuba, the state of ethics – a system composed of principles,
precepts, behavior patterns, values and ideals that characterize a human
collective – is depressing; While politics – a vehicle for moving from
the desired to the possible and the possible to the real – is
monopolized by the state. The depressing situation of one and the
monopoly of the other, are closely related to the issue of corruption.
Therefore, its solution will be impossible without undertaking deep
structural transformations.

The great challenge of today's and tomorrow's Cuba lies in transforming
Cubans into citizens, into political actors. A transformation that has
its starting point in freedoms, beginning with the implementation of
civil and political rights. As the most immediate cause of corruption –
not the only one – is in the dismantling of civil society and in the
nationalization of property that took place in Cuba in the early years
of revolutionary power, it is necessary to act on this cause from
different directions.

The wave of expropriations that began with foreign companies, continued
with the national companies, and did not stop until the last fried-food
stand became "property of the whole people", combined with the
dismantling of civil society and the monopolization of politics, brought
as a consequence a lack of interest in the results of work, low
productivity, and the sharp deterioration suffered with the decrease of
wages and pensions. Added to these facts were others such as the
replacement of tens of thousands of owners by managers and
administrators without knowledge of the ABCs of administration or of the
laws that govern economic processes.

The result could not be otherwise: work ceased to be the main source of
income for Cubans. To transform this deplorable situation requires a
cultural action, which, in the words of Paulo Freire, is always a
systematic and deliberate form of action that affects the social
structure, in the sense of maintaining it as it is, to test small
changes in it or transform it.

Paraphrasing the concept of affirmative action, this cultural action is
equivalent to those that are made for the insertion and development of
relegated social sectors. Its concretion includes two simultaneous and
interrelated processes: one, citizen empowerment, which includes the
implementation of rights and freedoms; and two, the changes inside the
person, which unlike the former are unfeasible in the short term, but
without which the rest of the changes would be of little use. The
transformation of Cubans into public citizens, into political actors, is
a challenge as complex as it is inescapable.

Experience, endorsed by the social sciences, teaches that interest is an
irreplaceable engine for achieving goals. In the case of the economy,
ownership over the means of production and the amount of wages
decisively influence the interests of producers. Real wages must be at
least sufficient for the subsistence of workers and their families. The
minimum wage allows subsistence, while incomes below that limit mark the
poverty line. Since 1989, when a Cuban peso was equivalent to almost
nine of today's peso, the wage growth rate began to be lower than the
increase in prices, meaning that purchasing power has decreased to the
point that it is insufficient to survive.

An analysis carried out in two family nuclei composed of two and three
people respectively, in the year 2014, showed that the first one earns
800 pesos monthly and spends 2,391, almost three times more than the
income. The other earns 1,976 pesos and spends 4,198, more than double
what it earns. The first survives because of the remittance he receives
from a son living in the United States; the second declined to say how
he made up the difference.

The concurrence of the failure of the totalitarian model, the aging of
its rulers, the change of attitude that is occurring in Cubans, and the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US, offers better
conditions than previous decades to face the challenge. The solution is
not in ideological calls, but in the recognition of the incapacity of
the State and in decentralizing the economy, allowing the formation of a
middle class, unlocking everything that slows the increase of production
until a reform that restores the function of wages is possible. That
will be the best antidote against the leviathan of corruption and an
indispensable premise to overcome the stagnation and corruption in which
Cuban society is submerged.

Source: Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/corruption-versus-liberty-a-cuban-dilemma-dimas-castellano/ Continue reading
… that "the changes in Cuba concerning human rights have been … fact that the government of Cuba was excluded from participation in … that the Internet is enabling Cubans to have more access to … ." "The changes in Cuba regarding other human rights have … Continue reading
Dimas Castellanos, 18 November 2016 — The evil of corruption–the act of corruption and its effects–has accompanied the human species since its emergence. It has been present in all societies and in all ages. Its diverse causes range from personal conduct to the political-economic system of each country. In Cuba it appeared in the colonial era, … Continue reading "Corruption Versus Liberty: A Cuban Dilemma / Dimas Castellano" Continue reading
How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García

Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head
or torture him with electric prods. Let's call him Josué. (The names in
his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made
jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a
diehard fan of LeBron James.

He used to work at a gasoline station. One day earned the equivalent of
fifty dollars, enough to have some beers at a Havana bar with his
buddies. "One of my friends was an opponent of the regime and two were
independent journalists," says Josué. "That wasn't a problem for me. I
had known them for years and they were decent, trustworthy people. We
talked politics but, when we just hanging out, we usually talked about
sports or our daily lives," says Josué.

One morning two officials from the Department of State Security (DSE),
dressed as civilians and riding motorcycles, showed up at his door.
"They wanted to 'have a friendly chat' with me. They asked if I would
collaborate with them, if I would pass on information about my dissident
friends. When I refused, they threatened to charge me with embezzling
state funds."

"'We know you are stealing gasoline,' they said. 'Either you work for us
or we'll press charges.' At first, I went along with it but only passed
along false information or said that my friends didn't tell me anything
about their work activities. Then they suggested I infiltrate the
dissident movement. I refused. In the end I quit my job at the gas
station. So now they hassle me constantly and come up with any excuse to
arrest and detain me at the police station," say Josué.

For Sheila, an engineer, the modus operandi is familiar: "First, they
tried to blackmail me, accusing me of having an extra-marital affair
with a dissident. When I told them, 'Go ahead; do it,' they changed
tactics and said they were going to charge me with harassment of
foreigners and prostitution because I have a European boyfriend."

One of the objectives of Cuban special services is to "short-circuit"
the connections that so many of the regime's opponents, such as
independent journalists, have with official sources. "They are in a
panic over the possibility that dissidents and independent journalists
are building bridges and establishing networks of trust with employees
and officials at important state institutions. That's why they are
trying to poison the relationships dissidents and journalists have with
relatives, friends and neighbors," claims an academic who has received
warnings from the DSE.

According to this academic, "The DSE will use whatever weapon it can to
achieve its goals. These include blackmail, psychological pressure, a
person's commitment to the party and the Revolution, and threats of
imprisonment for criminal activity, which is not uncommon given that
some potential informants work in the financial or service sector and
often make money by defrauding the government. State Security does not
need to torture its informants. A system of duplicity, widespread
corruption and fear of reprisal are enough to accomplish the objective:
to isolate the opponent from his circle of friends."

Yusdel, an unlicensed bodyshop repairman, recalls how one day an
agent from State Security told him, "If you want to keep your business,
you have to inform on your stepfather," a human rights activist.
"They're pigs," says Yusdel. "It doesn't matter to them if you betray
one of your relatives. If you refuse, you are besieged by the police."

For Carlos jail is a second home. "Once, when I was a serving time at
Combinado del Este prison, a guard asked me to intimidate another
inmate, who was a dissident. 'Punch him, do whatever it takes. Nothing
will happen to you.' In exchange for this, they were going to give me
weekend passes. I said I wouldn't do it. But there are common criminals
who are all too willing to do this shit," says Carlos.

The pressure to become a "snitch" is greater when a government opponent
or an alternative journalist is inexperienced. Because the dissident
community is made up of groups of pacifists and because it operates
openly, it is easy for counterintelligence to infiltrate it and
blackmail dissidents, who can easily break down or crack under
psychological pressure.

With eighteen years' experience in the free press, a colleague who has
known fake independent journalists such as the late Nestor Baguer and
Carlos Serpa Maceira says that ultimately they became informants
"because of pressure exerted on them by State Security."

A professor of history who has been subjected to bullying by an agent
believes, "The revolutionary/counterrevolutionary rhetoric was inspiring
in the first few years after Fidel Castro came to power, when those who
supported the revolutionary process were in the majority. Now, those who
collaborate do not do it out of loyalty or ideology. They do it out of
fear. And that makes them vulnerable and unreliable citizens. Not to
mention that the professionalism of the current DSE officers leaves much
to be desired. Some agents seem marginal and very intellectually unstable."

To achieve its objective, Cuban counterintelligence resorts to extortion
of would-be informants. And in the case of the opposition, to physical
violence. If you have any doubts, just ask the Ladies in White.

Source: How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/how-cuban-state-security-intimidates-potential-informants-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-counterintelligence-plays-hardball-with-journalists-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head or torture him with electric prods. Let’s call him Josué. (The names in his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a diehard … Continue reading "How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García" Continue reading