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Ladies in White

Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For Alleged
Crime Of 'Attack'

14ymedio, Havana, 25 April 2017 — On Tuesday morning the Court in
Havana's municipality of Diez de Octubre, confirmed the prosecutor's
request of two years and eight months in jail for Micaela Roll Gibert, 53.

The woman, a member of the opposition group Ladies in White, is charged
with the crime of attack, alleging that she knocked down Luanda Mas
Valdés, an official from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), during
an arrest.

According to Berta Soler, the leader of the women's group who spoke with
14ymedio, the incident took place on May 1, 2016, when Roll Gibert left
the headquarters of the Ladies in White.

"Roll was beaten by two cops. When they put her inside the bus to take
her to the police station, one of the officers twisted her arm and
knocked her down. As she fell, Roll took with her another police officer
who was trying to repress her," explained Soler.

Soler says that Micaella Roll Gibert's 16-year-old daughter was expelled
from the School of Nursing because of her mother's activism and another
of her children, a son, was fired from his job in retaliation against
his mother

The officer who fell, Mas Valdés, did not appear in this Tuesday's trial
and according to Soler, they explained to those present that she was
"nine month's pregnant" and "has high blood pressure."

"The trial was finally held without the presence of the officer making
the accusation and instead the court accepted an affidavit, taken at the
house of Mas Valdés moments before the trial," adds Soler.

According to the opposition leader the trial was rigged, prepared by
State Security.

"It's one more woman they are going to send to prison," says the
activist, who notes that some time ago a State Security official
proposed to Roll Gibert that she "collaborate with them."

"When she refused him, they warned her that her life would become a
nightmare," Soler adds.

Soler says that Micaella Roll Gibert's 16-year-old daughter was expelled
from the School of Nursing because of her mother's activism and another
of her children, a son, was fired from his job in retaliation against
his mother.

The Lady in White also denounced that other women from the movement are
"still missing since early this morning."

"We do not know where the Ladies Yolanda Ayala, María Josefa Acón and
Gladys Capote are," says Soler.

Source: Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For
Alleged Crime Of 'Attack' – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/lady-in-white-sentenced-to-almost-three-years-in-prison-for-alleged-crime-of-attack/ 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
14ymedio, Havana, 25 April 2017 — On Tuesday morning the Court in Havana’s municipality of Diez de Octubre, confirmed the prosecutor’s request of two years and eight months in jail for Micaela Roll Gibert, 53. The woman, a member of the opposition group Ladies in White, is charged with the crime of attack, alleging that she … Continue reading "Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For Alleged Crime Of ‘Attack’" Continue reading
Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván
García – Translating Cuba -
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
Ivan Garcia, 17 April 2017 — Money is no object. When it comes to thwarting, harassing and repressing intellectuals or journalists, there are always enough funds in military’s coffers to write a blank check. Solid numbers are hard to come by but, according to conservative estimates, Cuba’s special services and armed forces account for roughly 35% … Continue reading "Cuban Counterintelligence Plays Hardball with Journalists / Iván García" Continue reading
Editorial: Holding the Repressors Accountable
DDC | Madrid | 31 de Marzo de 2017 - 04:08 CEST.

Both off and on the Island, in recent weeks several successful actions
have been taken against State-perpetrated violence.

Composed of lawyers, professors, human rights activists and political
and student leaders of several Latin American countries, a new
organization was announced: the International Commission for the
Investigation of Crimes against Humanity by the Castro Regime. Dedicated
in its first stage to documenting and investigating violations, it will
organize public hearings in various capitals and advocate for the
creation of an international tribunal to investigate these crimes.

In Havana, a delegation of the Ladies in White submitted to the Attorney
General of the Republic a detailed analysis of the repression suffered
by the women's movement from 2016 to 2017. The report was also presented
to the delegation of the European Union (EU) and the Apostolic
Nunciature, and in the next few days will be sent to the Military
Prosecutor's Office, the State Council and various embassies.

In Washington the Citizens for Racial Integration Committee provided the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights with a report covering the 187
cases of human rights violations of Afro-Cuban citizens. This report
will serve as the basis for efforts by various activists in their
dealings with Cuban authorities.

Also in the US, at the University of California Irvine (UCI) School of
Law, a group of independent journalists and activists from the Island
offered the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression first-hand
information on violations of this right. The group met with teachers and
students, and advised the Special Rapporteur to insist on his request
for an authorization to visit Cuba.

Meanwhile, at its last meeting the UN Committee against Enforced
Disappearances raised objections to the official Cuban report, called
for the Island's authorities to ratify the Optional Protocol to the
Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and
Political Rights, and to recognize the International Criminal Court. It
also pointed out the fact that the Government does not currently
recognize the legitimacy of any human rights organizations in Cuba.

All this activity comes in addition to the sustained work, on and off
the Island, by organizations such as the Cuban Commission for Human
Rights and National Reconciliation, Archivo Cuba, the Foundation for
Human Rights in Cuba, the Cuban Human Rights Observatory, and Cubalex.

It is not just a question of documenting and publicizing each of the
violations and crimes, but holding the regime's representatives and
institutions accountable for their repressive and criminal record. The
joint work by international and Cuban organizations, although not
officially recognized, serves to pressure the repressors and serve
notice that their crimes are being methodically recorded and will not go

In recent months State-sponsored violence against opposition activists
and independent journalists has increased, but also growing and
strengthening are means and instruments to peacefully resist such
violence, and to keep the truth about our most recent history alive.

Source: Editorial: Holding the Repressors Accountable | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1490926100_30042.html Continue reading
Ladies in White Report the Repression They Suffer to Attorney General

14ymedio, Havana, 2017 — The Ladies of White Yamile Garro Alfonso,
Lázara Barbara Sendilla and Maria Cristina Labrada delivered on Monday,
as representatives of the whole movement, a summary report to the
Attorney General's Office on the repression they have suffered over the
last fifteen months.

The leader of the women's group, Berta Soler, explained to 14ymedio that
the report is the same as the one presented on 23 March by Leticia Ramos
to the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression,
David Kayes, on "Arbitrary detention and harassment against the family
of Ladies in White," but that it had been "updated to yesterday."

Soler detailed that the new version of the report explains how "the
Cuban regime" threatens them "all the time" with fines to keep them from
leaving the country and with imprisonment.

The leader of the movement denounced that activist Lismerys Quintana
Ávila was sent to prison on Monday in what she defined as "a rigged trial."

"They are really inventing some crimes to be able to fine us and to kill
the Ladies in White," explains Soler

"We delivered it to the Attorney General's Office, the European Union
Delegation, the mailbox of the Apostolic Nunciature and the Embassy of
the United States," said Soler. She also said that they will also "hand
it over to the Archbishop of Havana." According to the Lady in White,
the movement wants the Catholic Church to understand what is happening
to them.

"They are really inventing some crimes to be able to fine us and to kill
the Ladies in White," explains Soler, who considers the actions of the
authorities arbitrary and also denounces "what they are doing to the
families, to the children and spouses," of the activists.

He added that they plan to deliver a copy of the text, about twelve
pages, to the Military Prosecutor's Office and the State Council, as
well as to send it to the embassies of Spain and the Czech Republic by

She also denounced that the Ladies in White headquarters in the Lawton
neighborhood of Havana is surrounded by "an operation" that "has been
around the clock since Thursday, March 23."

Source: Ladies in White Report the Repression They Suffer to Attorney
General – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/ladies-in-white-report-the-repression-they-suffer-to-attorney-general/ Continue reading
Cuba: Thugs Beat Pregnant Pro-Democracy Dissident 'in the Belly,' Put
Father in the Hospital
by FRANCES MARTEL29 Mar 2017110

An unidentified mob attacked two members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(UNPACU) – a pregnant teen and her activist father – on Sunday night,
hurling bottles at them and reportedly punching the woman in the belly.
The activists in question are 52-year-old Ángel López Figueroa and his
18-year-old daughter Ariadna López Sotolongo, who is six months
pregnant. According to Sotolongo's father-in-law, who spoke to the
Miami-based Martí Noticias, a mob formed outside the family home in
Havana on Sunday night and began attempting to break into the house.

"They began throwing bottles at the house, that is when they hurt the
father. They tried to open the front door, managed to pry it open and
attack Ángel," according to Roberto Pérez Rodríguez. Sotolongo,
meanwhile, "received blows to the belly" and injured her hand trying to
fight off the mob. Her 13-year-old sister also received unspecified
injuries, according to Pérez.

Images UNPACU has circulated on social media of Figueroa after the
attack indicate that he sustained grave injuries to the head and may be
suffering a concussion.

Journalist Liu Santiesteban writes on Facebook that Figueroa was "left
for almost dead" following the incident and Sotolongo "barely showed
vital signs" upon arriving at the hospital and "almost lost the fetus."

Pérez told Martí that his family struggled to convince their local
clinic to take in the dissidents. "The doctor said things were not that
way, that he had to [receive care] at the hospital… that the ultrasound
had problems," he explained. "Yesterday we had problems, today they told
me the woman who had to work here didn't come in today. That is how
things are with us dissidents."

The Cuban government often recruits civilian members of the Communist
Party – not police – to commit "actos de repudio," or "acts of
repudiation," against dissident headquarters. These acts typically
involve mob attacks on unarmed dissidents in which they are pelted with
garbage, physically attacked, tarred, and insulted with vulgar epithets.

Given its size and its presence throughout the island, UNPACU is one of
the primary targets of the Cuban government's repression efforts against
the pro-democracy opposition, along with the Ladies in White and the
Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) dissident groups. UNPACU is believed
to have more prisoners of conscience among their members than any other
dissident group.

UNPACU suffered a violent attack on its headquarters in Santiago, on the
eastern end of the island, in early March, in which UNPACU leader José
Daniel Ferrer was arrested and "disappeared" to an undisclosed location.
This attack, unlike typical actos de repudio, was executed by Cuban
National Revolutionary Police (PNR). When Ferrer resurfaced, he
described the holding cell police placed him in as akin to a "horror
movie for how much blood there was on the walls, of prisoners who were
beaten and the mosquitos killed by prisoners."

During that raid, police confiscated over one thousand pounds of food
goods – including rice, sugar, vegetables, and meat, all difficult to
procure for the average Cuban.

Ferrer nonetheless told local media that "the majority of our activists
are in high spirits, this type of attack does not discourage them."

This month, UNPACU lost prisoner of conscience Hamell Santiago Maz
Hernández while imprisoned without due process; Maz was facing charges
of "disrespect," a catch-all crime the Cuban police use to imprison
anti-communist dissidents. UNPACU members told media they did not
believe the official story of his demise, "cardiac arrest," and would
continue investigating the incident.

Violence against anti-communist dissidents has skyrocketed since
President Barack Obama visited Cuba a year ago, attending a baseball
game with Raúl Castro and standing silently beside him as he denied the
existence of political prisoners on the island. In addition to
emboldening the Castro regime by promoting business ties with the
dictatorship, President Obama repealed the longstanding refugee policy
known as "wet foot/dry foot," eliminating the little hope Cubans had of
escaping the island, albeit through the dangerous Florida strait. The
last-minute policy change has stranded hundreds of known Cuban nationals
throughout Mexico, Central, and South America.

"We Cubans gave him our heart and he betrayed us," Luis Pedroso, a Cuban
stranded in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, told the Cuban independent outlet 14 y
Medio. "I lost my life."

Source: Cuba: Thugs Beat Pregnant Pro-Democracy Dissident 'in the
Belly,' Put Father in the Hospital - Breitbart -
http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/03/29/cuba-police-beat-pregnant-dissident/ Continue reading
The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García

Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the
need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow
passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or
bricks recovered from demolished buildings, "apartments" have appeared
where a dozen families reside, living on the razor's edge.

Among the blasting Reggaeton music and illegal businesses, cane alcohol,
stolen the night before from a state distillery, is sold and later used
in the preparation of home-made rum; or clothing with pirated labels,
bought in bulk from stalls in Colón, a stone's throw from the Panama
Canal. A while back, when cattle were slaughtered in the Lawton or
Virgen del Camino slaughterhouses, you could get beef at the wholesale

These overpopulated townships in the capital are cradles of
prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling. Lawton, like no other
neighborhood in Havana, is the "model" for marginalization and crime.
People live from robbing state institutions, selling junk or whatever
falls from a truck.

But don't talk to them about political reforms, ask them to endorse a
dissident party or protest about the brutal beatings that the political
police give a few blocks away to the Ladies in White, who every Sunday
speak about political prisoners and democracy in Cuba.

Let's call him Miguel, a guy who earns money selling marijuana,
psychotropic substances or cambolo, a lethal mix of cocaine with a small
dose of bicarbonate. He's been in prison almost a third of his life. He
had plans to emigrate to the United States but interrupted them after
Obama's repeal of the "wet foot-dry foot" policy.

Miguel has few topics of conversation. Women, sports, under-the-table
businesses. His life is a fixed portrait: alcohol, sex and "flying,"
with reddened eyes from smoking marijuana.

When you ask his opinion about the dissident movement and the continued
repression against the Ladies in White, he coughs slightly, scratches
his chin, and says: "Man, get off that channel. Those women are crazy.
This government of sons of bitches that we have, you aren't going to
bring it down with marches or speeches. If they don't grab a gun, the
security forces will always kick them down. They're brave, but it's not
going to change this shitty country."

Most of the neighbors in the converted bunkhouse think the same way.
They're capable of jumping the fence of a State factory to rob two
gallons of alcohol, but don't talk to them about politics, human rights
or freedom of expression.

"Mi amor, who wants to get into trouble? The police have gone nuts with
the businesses and prostitution. But when you go down the path of human
rights, you're in trouble for life," comments Denia, a matron.

She prefers to speak about her business. From a black bag she brings out
her Huawei telephone and shows several photos of half-nude girls while
chanting out the price. "Look how much money. Over there, whoever wants
can beat them up," says Denia, referring to the Ladies in White.

Generally, with a few exceptions, the citizens of the Republic of Cuba
have become immune or prefer to opt for amnesia when the subjects of
dissidence, freedom and democracy are brought up.

"There are several reasons. Pathological fear, which certainly infuses
authoritarian societies like the Cuban one. You must add to that the
fact that the Government media has known very well how to sell the story
of an opposition that is minimal, divided and corrupt, interested only
in American dollars," affirms Carlos, a sociologist.

Also, the dissidence is operating on an uneven playing field. It doesn't
have hours of radio or television coverage to spread its political
programs. The repression has obligated hundreds of political opponents
to leave the country. And State Security has infiltrated moles in almost
all the dissident groups.

"The special services efficiently short-circuit the relation of the
neighbors of the barrio and the people who support the dissidence. How
do you overcome that abyss? By expanding bridges to the interior of the
Island. I believe the opposition is more focused on political crusades
toward the exterior. The other is to amplify what the majority of Cubans
want to hear: There isn't food; to buy a change of clothing costs a
three months' salary; the terrible transport service; the water
shortage….There is a long list of subjects the dissidents can exploit,"
says Enrique.

I perceive that around 80 percent of the population has important common
ground with the local opposition. The timid economic openings and
repeals of absurd regulations were always claimed by the dissidence,
from greater autonomy for private work, foreign travel or being tourists
in their own country.

According to some dissidents, many neighbors approach them to say hello
and delve into the motives for their detentions after a brutal verbal
lynching or a beating. But there aren't enough.

Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, the leader of the Alianza Democrática
Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) and director of Palenque Visión
(Palenque Vision), felt frustrated when street protests demanding rights
for everybody were taking place, and people were only watching from the
curb of a sidewalk.

"One night I was in the hospital's emergency room, since my son had a
high fever, and I initiated a protest because of the poor medical
attention. Several patients were in the same situation. But no one
raised their voice when the patrols arrived and the political police
detained me by force. That night I realized that I had to change my
method to reach ordinary Cubans. Perhaps the independent press is a more
effective way," Lobaina told me several months ago in Guantánamo.

Although independent journalists reflect that other Cuba that the
autocracy pretends to ignore, their notes, reports or complaints have a
limited reach because of the lack of Internet service and the
precariousness of their daily lives.

For the majority of citizens, democracy, human rights and freedom of
expression are not synonymous with a plate of food, but with repression.
How to awaken a Cuban from indifference is a good question for a debate.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-regime-survives-by-fear-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or bricks recovered from demolished buildings, “apartments” have appeared where a dozen families reside, living on the razor’s edge. Among … Continue reading "The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García" Continue reading
Site manager’s note: The Cuban opposition frequently posts photos of their repressors — in plainclothes as well as in uniform — sometimes naming them as well. Translation: Angel Juan Moya: Department of State Security (DSE) and National Revolutionary Police (PNR) repressive operation at the national headquarters of the Ladies in White. Martha Beatriz Roque: None … Continue reading "“None of these women have anything better to do at home” / Martha Beatriz Roque" Continue reading
The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government
prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from
traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an
alleged infraction "against public adornment." Meanwhile, the
authorities accuse her of having thrown "papers in the street," which
the regime opponent clarified to 14ymedio were "leaflets."

Soler took advantage of the action to denounce the disappearance, this
Tuesday, of her husband, the activist Angel Moya. "We consider that he
is 'disappeared' because when he left the house he was being followed,"
she detailed. "Today I am calling him and his phone is shut off or
outside the coverage area."

"This morning I was supposed to travel to the United States, first to
Miami and then to California," said Soler. However, after passing
through the immigration booth and security controls at Jose Marti
International Airport in Havana, she was intercepted by an immigration
official who asked her to accompany him to an office.

The official told Soler that they would not let her board the plane
because she had not paid a fine for "throwing papers into the street."
According to Decree 272, whoever "throws into the public street waste
such as papers, wrappings, food waste, packaging and the like," will
have a fine of 50 pesos and must "pick them up immediately."

"Here, the person who owes the Cuban people freedom is Raul Castro,"
Soler replied to the accusation. She claims that it was sheets with
political slogans. "The fine is from last September, after that I went
to Panama and the United States, so I don't understand this now," the
dissident complains.

Last year, when the Aguilera Police Station informed Soler about the
fine, she signed a document informing her of the contravention with an
ironic "Down you-know-who," and threw it in the agents' faces, telling
them: "I do not accept any inappropriate fines."

Subsequently, Soler was informed that the unpaid fine could be doubled,
and it was suggested that the police could exchange each Cuba peso
(approximately 4 cents US) of the fine for one day in jail or instead
not let her travel on Tuesday.

The activist was planning to meet in California with David Kaye, United
Nations rapporteur for freedom of expression. Instead of Soler, Lady in
White Leticia Ramos will attend the meeting.

"In the report we list all those fines that they assign to us
inappropriately," reflects Soler. "They are illegal and violate the
Republic's penal code," a situation that is complemented by "the
harassment, the threat and violence that is unleashed against our
families, against our children and our husbands to try to get us to stop
our activism."

This month marks a year since the Lady in White was prevented from
attending mass at Santa Rita parish, and also blocked from attending the
Sunday marches on 5th Avenue, a traditional route that goes back to the
origins of the movement after the repressive wave of 2003, known as the
Black Spring.

Source: The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/the-government-prohibits-berta-soler-from-leaving-cuba-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2017 – This Tuesday, the Cuban government prevented Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White movement, from traveling outside the country because of an unpaid fine for for an alleged infraction “against public adornment.” Meanwhile, the authorities accuse her of having thrown “papers in the street,” which the regime opponent … Continue reading "The Government Prohibits Berta Soler From Leaving Cuba / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality
George Diaz
Orlando Sentinel
"So when are you going to Cuba?"

I get that a lot, maybe once a week. It's understandable, since I am a
home-grown Cubano, at least until I was almost 5 years old. That's when
my parents, in an act of ultimate sacrifice, left everything behind
except their dignity and a sense of purpose to escape Fidel Castro's thumb.

It's the Cuban-American narrative. We'll fast-forward through all the
tears and pain and hardships to get to 2017, when we are dancing on
Fidel's grave and Cuba is now an alluring tropical paradise. Grab some
sunscreen, book a flight or cruise, and order a mojito with a side of

Everybody is Havana Daydreamin'!

Not I. I don't begrudge anyone who wants to go. It is a beautiful place,
with a time-machine vibe. Hop on a '57 Chevy and feel the ocean breeze
as you cruise down el Malecón.

Cuba still stands still in so many ways. The "normalization" of Cuba
under the Obama administration has unlocked the keys to free commerce,
but not the chains that bind dissidents and others under Cuba's
dictatorial rule.

People still rot and die in prisons. Members of the dissident group
Ladies in White still get pummeled by cops and arrested.

Just last month, Cuban dissident Hamell Santiago Mas Hernandez died in
prison. Cuban officials called it a "heart attack," a euphemism for when
a prisoner develops kidney failure, loses 35 pounds and rots away in a cell.

The U.S. does business with a number of unsavory nations, including
China, but the difference with Cuba is that there are a lot of
Cuban-Americans taking notes. They are passionate hall monitors who
don't understand why the Obama administration didn't squeeze Cuba on the
human-rights issue in return for the perks of tourism and groovy
American pesos.

Will things change under the Trump administration? Check your Twitter
feed for updates from 45. I suspect there will be more pushback, given
this snippet from the confirmation hearings for Secretary of State Rex

"Our recent engagement with the government of Cuba was not accompanied
by any significant concessions on human rights," he said. "We have not
held them accountable for their conduct. Their leaders received much
while their people received little. That serves neither the interest of
Cubans or Americans."

He has a point. The purpose of negotiating is to get something in
return, not just give away stuff.

But there's another dynamic in play here, too, that does not bode well
for Cuban tourism. The novelty is wearing off.

Silver Airways recently announced that it will scrap its service to Cuba
next month, citing low demand and competition from other airlines.
Frontier Airlines will cease its daily flight to Havana from Miami in
June. American Airlines and JetBlue have also scaled back their number
of flights.

Raúl Castro and his compadres are finding out that capitalism is driven
by market factors, and Cuba is still running the con trying to lure all
those Americanos.

The infrastructure is a little shaky, given the impact of the embargo
and other economic factors. Hotel reviews on TripAdvisor include handy
tips like "Don't forget to bring and 'USE' bug repellent!!" and "I guess
you get what you pay for."

Restrictions abound: There are 12 "authorized types" of travel to Cuba,
including educational, religious and journalistic purposes. And here's
another fun fact from the U.S. embassy in Havana:

"The Government of Cuba does not recognize the U.S. nationality of U.S.
citizens who are Cuban-born or are the children of Cuban parents."

That would be somebody like me. Cuba keeps meticulous notes on
journalists writing about the regime, and I probably would fill all the
checkmarks as an "enemy of the state." Without any rights as a
naturalized American citizen.

I'm afraid there will be no Havana Daydreamin' for me.

I prefer to visit my homeland one day free of restrictions. I want to
take in the ocean breeze from el Malecón without a cop asking for my
Cuban passport. I want to walk freely along the streets, without fear of
somebody monitoring my footsteps.

You don't have to be in prison to wear shackles. You just can't see them
when you disembark the cruise ship or an airplane.

gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com Read George Diaz's blog at

Source: Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality -
Baltimore Sun -
http://www.baltimoresun.com/os-ed-cuba-human-rights-not-improving-george-diaz-20170317-story.html Continue reading
CCDHRN: 482 arbitrary arrests on the Island in February and a political
activist, dead in prison
DDC | La Habana | 8 de Marzo de 2017 - 20:48 CET.

In its monthly report the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced the "482 arbitrary arrests" of
peaceful opponents and dissidents that took place in Cuba in the month
of February.

The figure was slightly higher than those from the three preceding
months: 359 arrests (November), 458 (December) and 478 (January).

"Our Commission also documented 16 cases of physical assaults and 18
cases of harassment perpetrated by undercover political police and
paramilitary agents, with peaceful dissidents also their victims," added
the report, to which DIARIO DE CUBA had access.

The document indicated that "the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union
of Cuba (UNPACU) were the most repressed organizations: the former has
been repeatedly subjected to harassment and other abuses, for 90
consecutive weekends, while 54 members of the UNPACU are political
prisoners, most of them remaining imprisoned without formal charges, or
awaiting trials."

The report also denounced the death in prison on February 24, at the
Combinado del Este (Havana) of the "political prisoner Hamel Santiago
Maz Hernández, a member of UNPACU, who had languished there since June
3, 2016; that is, more than 8 months without even receiving even the
kind of kangaroo court that the Castro regime calls a "trial."

"There have been many cases of Cubans who have died in government
custody, and all the moral and legal responsibility rests with the
ruling elite," concludes the CCDHRN.

Source: CCDHRN: 482 arbitrary arrests on the Island in February and a
political activist, dead in prison | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1489002530_29507.html Continue reading
Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces The Death Of A Political Prisoner
Pending Trial / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 7 March 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights
and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) has denounced the death of
political prisoner Hamel Santiago Maz Hernández, an activist from
UNPACU, who died* on February 24 at Combinado del Este prison in
Havana. The opponent had been imprisoned for eight months without trial
for the alleged offense of contempt.

The CCDHRN has released its report for the month of February in which it
says that "there have been thousands of cases of Cubans killed in
government custody," a situation for which the authorities bear all the
"moral and legal responsibility."

The report includes the 482 arbitrary arrests of dissidents last month,
a "slightly higher figure than in January."

The CCDHRN also documented 16 cases of physical aggression and 18 of
harassment, "by the secret political police and para-police agents,"
with the victims being peaceful opponents, adds the report.

The text clarifies that, given "the closed nature of the regime that has
ruled Cuba for almost 60 years," it is "impossible to record the
thousands of violations of fundamental rights" that occur throughout the
island each month.

Nevertheless, it reports that the Ladies in White and the Patriotic
Union of Cuba (UNPACU) are once again the organizations most
repressed. In the case of the women's organization, they have been
"subjected to humiliations and other abuses" over and over. For its
part, 54 members of the UNPACU "are political prisoners, most of whom
remain imprisoned without formal charges or pending trial."

During 2016, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented 9,940 arbitrary detentions. This
figure "places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all of Latin
America," according to the independent organization.

*Translator's note: Cuban State Security informed his wife that he died
of a heart attack.

Source: Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces The Death Of A Political
Prisoner Pending Trial / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-human-rights-group-denounces-the-death-of-a-political-prisoner-pending-trial-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 7 March 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) has denounced the death of political prisoner Hamel Santiago Maz Hernández, an activist from UNPACU, who died* on February 24 at Combinado del Este prison in Havana. The opponent had been imprisoned for eight months without trial for the alleged … Continue reading "Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces The Death Of A Political Prisoner Pending Trial / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Cuba: 50 Ladies in White Arrested After Communist Mob Stones HQ
Kyodo via AP Images
by FRANCES MARTEL 6 Mar 2017

The Cuban anti-Communist group Ladies in White reports at least 50 of
its members were arrested this weekend following a mob attack on their
headquarters in Havana, in which the dissidents were forced to hide as
the mob hurled large stones into the building.
"They called us mercenaries, paid for by the Empire [the United States],
told us to get on a raft and go," Ladies in White member María Cristina
Labrada told the Spain-based publication Diario de Cuba.

"They shouted obscenities at us, called us whores, lesbians, told us to
come out so they could beat us." Labrada added that the group, which she
estimated to be about 200 people, ran to the other side of the building
in which they typically congregate on Sundays to avoid coming "under
fire with stones… they threw large rocks, we had to cover up the TV and
get away."

Ultimately, the women needed to leave the building. Labrada says the mob
beat those who left, ensuring to cover up any cell phone cameras that
could capture the attack.

The government reportedly organized the mob at a nearby park under the
guise of an International Women's Day celebration. "I think the goal was
to organize people at that activity and bring them here," Labrada said
from the Ladies in White headquarters.

Miami's Martí Noticias cited a different Lady in White, Denia Fernández,
who confirmed the event as an attempt to keep the Ladies from attending
Catholic Mass on Sundays. The group, founded during the Black Spring of
2003, began as a support group for the wives, daughters, sisters, and
mothers of political prisoners. The Ladies in White attend Catholic Mass
every Sunday carrying the portraits of their relatives who remain
imprisoned for opposing Communism. The government often intervenes to
prevent them from attending Mass, even during holiday seasons like Lent.

Violence against the Ladies in White is common in Cuba. In an incident
in December, for example, Lady in White Ivonne Lemus lost consciousness
after a Cuban state police officer repeatedly slammed her head on the
pavement while arresting her. During high-profile visits like those of
Pope Francis and former U.S. President Barack Obama, police beat and
temporarily detained Ladies in White members to prevent them from
attending welcome event for the prominent individuals. The women would
be beaten and driven hours away from their homes, abandoned with no way
of returning to their families.

During Pope Francis's visit in 2015, Ladies in White leader Berta Soler
recalled: "They grabbed me by the hair, by the neck, and shoved my
violently into a car."

That same year, a Communist mob attacked Lady in White Digna Rodríguez
Ibañez and doused her in tar as a form of humiliation.

While President Obama claimed that opening the United States up for
further interaction with the dictatorship of Raúl Castro would help the
Cuban people, extreme repression of dissidents has continued, and
worsened, since his "normalization" announcement in December 2014. The
Cuban Observatory for Human Rights documented 484
arbitrary/politically-motivated arrests in February 2017 alone. Largely
driven by Ladies in White activity, 77 percent of those arrested were women.

The 2016 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report on Cuba found
multiple incidents of police torture of dissidents, including an
incident in March 2016 in which "police officers allegedly beat two
members of the Damas de Blanco with cables" and multiple reports of
"head injuries, bites, bruises, and other injuries during
government-sponsored counter protests and detentions."

Source: Cuba: 50 Ladies in White Arrested After Communist Mob Stoning -
http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/03/06/cuba-communist-mob-stones-ladies-white-way-church/ Continue reading
Cuban Double Agent Fears for His Life after Revealing His True Identity
/ Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 27 February 2017 — Luis Enrique Cepero García was an
opponent of the Cuban regime serving a sentence in the Combinado del
Este prison when he decided to infect himself with a disease rather than
continue being subjected to mistreatment in prison.

Given his state of health, Luis Enrique was transferred and imprisoned
at the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine (IPK) in Havana where,
on orders from a doctor, his life ended abruptly one day in 1995.

"I remember that before he died in the IPK, my brother Luis Enrique told
me that a doctor told another doctor he would not be there the next day.
My brother began to have some tremors. Then in the afternoon a nurse
came into the room and began putting cotton in his nose, mouth and anus.
My brother died and I was left with that image in my head.

"Then I did something I should never have done. To take revenge I joined
the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) and pretended to
be a revolutionary in order to get inside State Security and take my
revenge for the death of my brother," says William Cepero García, who
today is a former spy living on Santa Maria del Rosario Road, kilometer
4.5, Cubicle #106, Cambúte, San Miguel del Padrón, a district located in
the east of the Cuban capital.

When Luis Enrique died, William was living in Old Havana, buying and
selling antiques. He started pretending to be a revolutionary. He says
that, with his money and growing popularity, it was not difficult to
attract the attention of the Cuban secret services.

"I started at the CDR… Well, you know how that works. In 2005 I was
approached by officers from DTI (Technical Investigations Department)
who wanted to recruit me. But I told them that, if I was going to do
something for the Revolution, it had to be something big. It was then
that I met an officer by the name of Yosbani, a young man from a
Domestic Counterintelligence unit in Old Havana. He was the one who
recruited me."

I met the spy

"It's all a surprise to me," says Luz María Piloto Romero, a Cuban
dissident who now lives in exile in Miami. "I met William Cepero García
because he was living in Old Havana around the corner from my house. His
brother, the one who died from HIV, was a good friend of mine. I always
saw William at non-violent opposition events in support of human rights."

Cepero García says that, after several exams and countless meetings at
the Municipal Identity Card Directorate's offices, he was instructed to
collect information on people in the area who sympathized with opponents
of the government.

"At first I was very frightened," he admits. "I realized that the people
I knew were innocent but, after a few months working as a spy, I
determined that the information I was giving to my official contacts had
already been given to them by other agents I did not know."

Cepero García remembers being sent in 2005 to Cambute in San Miguel del
Padrón, where there as an active opposition movement. He says that there
he was part of a group under the direction of the local Domestic
Counterintelligence office. He began trying to penetrate the Cuban Human
Rights Foundation, an opposition organization then headed by Juan
Antonio Bermúdez Toranza.

"I very cautiously tried to warn Juan. I didn't know whether or not he
was also a State Security agent and did not want to get burned.
Everything here has been infiltrated," he says.

But Bermúdez Toranza, who currently lives in exile in Spain, says,
"William came out from the shadows. It was Juan Carlos who introduced
him to me."

He is referring to Juan Carlos González Leiva, a blind attorney,
activist and founder of the Independent Blind Fraternity of Cuba and the
Cuban Human Rights Foundation.

"William approached me offering to help. He was interested in my needs,"
adds Bermúdez Toranza. "His help was economic. He was a guy who moved
money around, dealing in antiques, jewelry and those sorts of things.
But he was asking a lot of questions; he wanted to know everything. He
never disagreed with any of my decisions and it isn't normal to agree
with everything. I never trusted him. I always compartmentalized with
him because I suspected he was working for State Security."

Two years later Bermúdez Toranzo was arrested and charged with
counter-revolutionary activities. William left the area but returned in
2009 with a new mission. "Juan (Bermúdez Toranzo) was in jail and his
then wife, Neris Castillo, was one of the Ladies in White, and my new
mission was to insert myself in her life, get information on the Ladies
in White, blackmail her and sleep with her… You know how these things
go," he says.

A female spy's testimony

"He told me he had come to carry out a task but he didn't have the
courage for it. He told me about his brother. I saw him trying to help
young men who had decided to set out to sea and other people I can't
remember right now. That's why I took him to what was then the US
Interests Section in Cuba, to the human rights office, so he could
provide information and decide whether to switch from one side to the
other," explains the former Lady in White, Neris Castillo Moreno, who is
now Cepero García's partner.

"He helped a lot of people. When my brother was taken prisoner, William
helped him. After being in a jail myself for a week, there was nothing
to eat at my house and he said to me, 'Let's go, Luz. I'll fix you a
sweet roll.' And he did. I hope that all the people he once helped might
now help him. Actually, I was surprised by the news," says Luz María, a
Cuban dissident who now lives in exile in Miami and says she knows
Cepero Garcia.

According to Cepero García, his work as a double agent earned him enough
credit with the regime's intelligence agencies that they ended up giving
him the mission to become the leader of the Republican Party of Cuba and
later the secretary general of the November 30th Frank País Democratic
Party after the death of the previous office holder.

However, after receiving a new mission from officials at Cuban State
Security, which Cepero García had allegedly infiltrated years earlier,
the self-described "double agent" decided to reveal his true identity
and expose himself to the risks inherent in such a decision.

"I fear for my life but I am aware of what I have done. I have to face
whatever comes." And here his story ends.

Meanwhile, the exiled Cuban dissident living in Spain, who is familar
with the spy's performance in San Miguel del Padrón, insists that Cepero
García's true intention in making this revelation is to leave Cuba.

"What William wants is a visa to the United States. I know he is a spy
and that he has regrets and that he helped people. But, look, if William
is saying that, he is not doing it because he is in charge or because he
wants to say it. He is saying it because someone is ordering him to do
so. And I assure you it is someone in Section XXI (of G2, the
Intelligence Directorate)," concludes Juan Antonio Bermúdez Toranzo

Source: Cuban Double Agent Fears for His Life after Revealing His True
Identity / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-double-agent-fears-for-his-life-after-revealing-his-true-identity-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 27 February 2017 — Luis Enrique Cepero García was an opponent of the Cuban regime serving a sentence in the Combinado del Este prison when he decided to infect himself with a disease rather than continue being subjected to mistreatment in prison. Given his state of health, Luis Enrique was transferred and imprisoned … Continue reading "Cuban Double Agent Fears for His Life after Revealing His True Identity / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
Cuba's Ladies In White Report 50 Arrests This Sunday / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Some fifty Ladies in White were
detained this Sunday on the Island, according to members of that
dissident organization.

Former political prisoner and regime opponent Angel Moya told 14ymedio
by phone that Berta Soler had been arrested by members of a State
Security operation and the police surrounding her Lawton house. The
incident happened shortly after three in the afternoon on Sunday, when
Soler left the movement's site in the company of the Lady in White
Danaysi Munoz.

Moya added that in Havana the Ladies in White Yordanka Santana and Norma
Cruz were "abandoned to their fate*" on the ExpoCuba and Cotorro
highways respectively, after being released. According to the same
source, as of 6:00 in the evening 23 Ladies in White had been arrested
in the capital, although that number could be increased by some "who
still haven't called in."

Moya also reported on a Lady in White detained in Bayamo and eight in
Palma Soriano, while in Matanzas there were 22. In that locality Leticia
Ramos and Marisol Fernandez were arrested twice in a single day and he
said that the whereabouts of both women was still unknown.

The opponent also reported that from the province of Ciego te Avila
Lucia Lopez complained that she was "beaten at the time of her arrest"
by State Security agents and "stripped of her blouse and bra before
being released," in a "clear act of indignity," said Moya.

Meanwhile, Iván Hernández Carrillo reported from his Twitter account of
the arrest in the city of Cárdenas of Odalis Hernandez, Hortensia
Alfonso, Cira de la Vega and Mercedes de la Guardia. Likewise, from
Columbus the activist denounced the arrest of his mother Asunción
Carrillo and Caridad Burunate when they were on their way to the church.

At two o'clock on Sunday afternoon, minutes before being detained, the
leader of the Ladies in White women's movement, Berta Soler, informed
the media that there were already more than twenty detained in Havana to
"prevent them from reaching the site." She mentioned that two of them
were "released on the road to Pinar del Rio*," despite living in the
capital. "Since last Wednesday morning there has been a constant [State
Security and Police] operation outside," the organization's headquarters.

She also mentioned the particular case of Berta Lucrecia Martínez, who
was detained at noon hours after a solo protest in Calabazar
Park. According to the information that Soler has received, the activist
stood for "more than 35 minutes" with a poster regarding Human Rights
and shouting anti-government slogans.

Lucrecia Martinez is one of the Ladies in White who has repeatedly been
prevented from attending Sunday Mass or reaching the headquarters of his
organization. Until the moment of not knowing the place to where it was
led by the police patrol that stopped it.

Calabazar park is a very busy wifi area. As reported to this newspaper
by the activist Agustín López Canino, many people "filmed and
photographed the moment of protest."

Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary
detentions, a figure that "places the Government of Cuba in first place
in all of Latin America" ​​at the head of such arrests, according to a
report by the independent organization.

*Translator's note: Cuban police/State Security often arrest dissidents
and drive them a long way outside the city where they are arrested and
then put them out of the car in the "middle of nowhere," to find their
own way home.

Source: Cuba's Ladies In White Report 50 Arrests This Sunday / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-ladies-in-white-report-50-arrests-this-sunday-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Editorial: The Catholic Church takes a good step
DDC | Madrid | 20 de Febrero de 2017 - 09:41 CET.

Ever since the trip to Cuba taken by Pope John Paul II, the Cuban
Catholic Church's dedication to the defense of human rights has clearly
been insufficient. Understandably, some have come to describe this
failure as constituting collusion with the dictatorship, especially
during the years and years under Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, who
decided to advance the Church's position on the Island at the expense of
not denouncing the social, political and economic crisis induced by the
dictatorship. Ortega Alamino even went so far as to deny the existence
of political prisoners in Cuba, and to serve as a spokesman for the
regime in various international forums.

While Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba yielded few advances in the
struggle for human rights, that by Pope Francis was downright
regrettable, with the pontiff solely focused on repairing relations
between Cuba and the US, without even acknowledging the main problems
haunting the country: the lack of freedom and permanent violations of
human rights.

On Wednesday, however, the current Archbishop of Havana, Juan de la
Caridad Garcia, received representatives of the Ladies in White and
spoke with them, thereby sending an encouraging signal.

Hopefully this dialogue will help to lessen the harassment this group of
women regularly receives from civil society, and the Catholic Church,
without renouncing its ecclesiastical work and promotion of the faith,
will speak out regarding the injustices suffered by the Cuban people at
the regime's hands.

The trail blazed by Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García must be trod
again in the near future, for the sake of the Catholic Church, and for
the good of the Cuban people, both believers and nonbelievers.

Source: Editorial: The Catholic Church takes a good step | Diario de
Cuba - http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1487580115_29087.html Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Some fifty Ladies in White were detained this Sunday on the Island, according to members of that dissident organization. Former political prisoner and regime opponent Angel Moya told 14ymedio by phone that Berta Soler had been arrested by members of a State Security operation and the police surrounding her Lawton … Continue reading "Cuba’s Ladies In White Report 50 Arrests This Sunday / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Havana's Archbishop Asked Cuban Government "To Sit Down And Talk To The
Opposition," Says Berta Soler / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 16 February 2017 — Berta Soler, after meeting this
Wednesday with Archbishop of Havana Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez,
said that he has offered his full support to the Ladies in White and
that the prelate told her he had asked the Government to sit down and
talk to the opposition.

"We ask the Catholic Church to speak out, because whoever is silent
supports [the government], and he said to me: 'No Berta, silence is not
always support. We have asked the Cuban Government to sit down and talk
to the opposition, but what we say is one thing and what they do is
another," Soler told 14ymedio.

Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, and Maria Cristina Labrada, a
member of the organization, met with Juan de la Caridad Rodriguez early
Wednesday morning and the Archbishop told them that that during the trip
from their Lawton headquarters they were "monitored by a large operation
made up of the National [Revolutionary] Police and State Security."

According to Soler's account, at the meeting the Archbishop was "very
receptive" to the movement's complaints, and they explained to the
prelate how they are systematically prevented from reaching the church
to attend mass and are victims of abuse such as thefts and fines for
"violating the security cordon of the Communist Party of Cuba" when they
leave their homes.

"We were able to give him some names and surnames of those who have told
us that we could never go to mass at any church," she added.

María Cristina Labrada and Berta Soler received from the hands of the
Archbishop "a family Bible with a dedication for each of us," and they
gave him "a CD and two reports with evidence of repression" suffered by
the women's movement and their families. Both left the door open for a
future second meeting.

Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez was named Archbishop of Havana in
April of last year after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of Jaime
Ortega and Alamino who retired, as established by the Code of Canon Law,
after having reached the age of 75.

A few weeks after taking office, Garcia Rodríguez generated a bitter
controversy in declaring that he did not want Cuba to "have capitalism
or anything like that, but that socialism should progress" to go
"forward in a just and balanced society and one of brotherhood."

Source: Havana's Archbishop Asked Cuban Government "To Sit Down And Talk
To The Opposition," Says Berta Soler / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/havanas-archbishop-asked-cuban-government-to-sit-down-and-talk-to-the-opposition-says-berta-soler-14ymedio/ Continue reading

The leader of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco), Berta Soler, and María Cristina Labrada Varona, representing the women's movement, met on Wednesday morning with the Archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez.

Soler informed DIARIO DE CUBA that the discussion went ahead in spite of extreme vigilance exercised by the political police "since they left the national headquarters in Lawton until they arrived at the Archbishopric."

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For the first time since being appointed nearly 10 months ago to the highest Catholic post in Cuba, Havana Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García Rodríguez met privately with two … Click to Continue » Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 16 February 2017 — Berta Soler, after meeting this Wednesday with Archbishop of Havana Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, said that he has offered his full support to the Ladies in White and that the prelate told her he had asked the Government to sit down and talk to the opposition. “We … Continue reading "Havana’s Archbishop Asked Cuban Government “To Sit Down And Talk To The Opposition,” Says Berta Soler / 14ymedio" Continue reading
More Than 50% Of Cuba's Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU, According
To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2017 – A report released this Monday by the
National Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation
(CCDHRN) counts 478 arbitrary arrests against dissidents throughout the
island during the month of January. The text states that during the past
month, there were 20 arrests more than in December 2016.

The independent body documents "12 cases of physical aggression and 11
cases of harassment" of opponents, a situation that is part of the
"policy of intimidating repression" that "has prevailed in Cuba for
nearly six decades."

The CCDHRN affirms that the Ladies in White movement continues to be a
priority target of political repression, although the Patriotic Union of
Cuba (UNPACU) also is a particular target of "the arbitrary arrests and
destructive raids against its members."

UNPACU, an opposition organization with a strong presence in the east of
the country, has been the victim of "plundering of their means of work
(laptops , cameras, mobile phones, etc.)." These police acts have been
carried out "with a great deal of political hatred," the Commission
points out.

The report conveys the concern of the CCDHRN on "the situation in prison
of Dr. Eduardo Cardet, general coordinator of the Christian Liberation
Movement, who has just been adopted as a prisoner of conscience by
Amnesty International."

For ordinary prisoners, "material conditions and abuse continue to
worsen" in the nearly two hundred prisons and prison camps on the island

The concern extends to the "arbitrary detention for several days, of
Karina Galvez," a member of the editorial board of the
magazine Coexistence, accused of the crime of tax evasion and now
awaiting trial. The economist was released on bail on January 17 after
six days of detention.

The Commission states that "the number of politically motivated
prisoners in Cuba is still over 100, of which 55 are active members of
the Patriotic Union of Cuba." For ordinary prisoners, "material
conditions and abuse continue to worsen" in the nearly two hundred
prisons and prison camps on the island.

The text states that the Government "continues to use prisoners as
semi-skilled labor in various jobs for commercial purposes," including
"the production of charcoal for export, mainly to Europe and the United
States of America," referring to the recent shipment of charcoal made
from the invasive marabou week to the United States.

Last year the CCDHRN documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests, a
figure that "places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all
of Latin America" with regards to arrests of this type, according to a
report by the independent organization.

Source: More Than 50% Of Cuba's Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU,
According To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/more-than-50-of-cubas-political-prisoners-belong-to-unpacu-according-to-human-rights-group-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2017 – A report released this Monday by the National Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) counts 478 arbitrary arrests against dissidents throughout the island during the month of January. The text states that during the past month, there were 20 arrests more than in December 2016. The independent body … Continue reading "More Than 50% Of Cuba’s Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU, According To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio" Continue reading
"I come from the street, but I did not want to stay there," says 'El
Sexto' / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) after his release from prison. (14ymedio)
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 3 February 2017 — The uniform haircut
imposed upon entering the Combinado del Este prison contrasts with the
stains of fresh paint on the shoes of the super tall man, who stands
nearly 6'5″. Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as 'El Sexto' (The Sixth),
a graffiti artist and human rights activist in Cuba, embodies the
antithesis of the New Man forged by the Revolution.

After being imprisoned for 55 days for painting graffiti on a wall of
the Habana Libre hotel, Maldonado was released on 21 January. He is
currently visiting Miami to promote his art and to thank the Cuban
community there for their support.

His life has not been easy. He was born in 1983 and grew up in the years
of the Special Period when the Soviet subsidies ended and the island was
plunged into misery. Originally from Camaguey, he had to share a roof in
Havana with another family and take on the weight of a home without a

His art is street art. He never went to an academy. As a child he tried
but was rejected for being "very small"

"In those years I was selling milk caramels in the neighborhood to help
my mother get by," he recalls.

"Sometimes we did not even have fifty cents to buy milk. The rebellion
against poverty and oppression began at that time."

His art is street art. He never went to an academy. As a child he tried
but was rejected for being "very small." Leonel, a teacher in the House
of Culture in his neighborhood, took him under his wing and showed him
the first strokes.

"From there I wanted to get out what I had inside, but I did not know
how," he says.

The first time that Maldonado went to prison was due to a robbery at a
warehouse on a Cuban Army tank base. At that time he was serving his
compulsory military service. He was sentenced to six years in
prison. The prison experience changed him "forever."

"Prison is a place where you find many types of people, with different
cultures and points of view. Learning to live among them, to live
together, is one of the great lessons that experience left me with," he

His artistic name, El Sexto (The Sixth) occurred to him in the midst of
the Cuban government's campaign to bring back "The Cuban Five" – spies
imprisoned in the U.S.

In prison he also learned that respect is not gained through violence
but "with principles and with acting in the right way of."

Maldonado does not hide that he had a troubled past.

"I have been involved in many things in my life that have made me what I
am. I do not come from a monastery. I come from the street but that is
not where I wanted to stay," he answers when asked about the campaign
against him pushed by bloggers working for the Cuban government who
accuse him of being addicted to drugs.

"People change, they have the right to do it. I do not like even the
smell of drinking," adds the artist.

His artistic name, El Sexto (the Sixth), came in the midst of the
campaign by the Cuban government to bring back the five Wasp Network
spies imprisoned in the United States, who were known in Cuba as "The
Five Heroes."

He called himself "The Sixth Hero," who represented the voice of the
Cuban people, "the hostage" of the dictatorship, according to Maldonado.

Maldonado has been arrested three times for political reasons

"They (the Government) put them on television, like they are part of
your family. I want people to know the message of freedom and to open
their eyes. So I understood I had to come to them with a message that
was sarcastic and that everyone could understand," he says.

"You cross out my things, I cross out yours," he wrote, about the stupid
black spots that officialdom uses to try to hide graffit in the capital.
In addition, he distributed leaflets with subservise phrases and invited
the whole world to be free and happy.

"I am doing my work: being free. I would like others to see that it is
possible to be free and to break with the government," he says when
asked about his role in Cuban culture.

Maldonado has been arrested three times for political reasons. In 2014
he attempted to stage a street performance titled Animal Farm. He
proposed to release two pigs in Havana's Central Park. On the backs of
piglets, which were painted green, the names of the Cuban rulers were
also painted: Fidel on one piglet and Raúl on the other.

The idea was that whoever captured the piglets could keep them as a
prize. It was easy to imagine what the winners would do with them. The
daring act, which never came to fruition, cost him ten months'
imprisonment in the Valle Grande prison.

El Sexto has been imprisoned for joining the Ladies in White in their
Sunday protest marches to demand the release of political prisoners

The conditions in the Cuban prisons, the dirt, the bad food and the
degrading treatment to the inmates were documented by him in a diary. In
addition, the artist was able to take photographs that he clandestinely
sneaked out of Valle Grande to support his complaints.

Art and his activism go hand in hand. Sometimes both activities are

"There are people who accuse me of calling the flag a 'rag' or reproach
me for a work of art made with the bust of José Martí. For me what is
truly sacred is human life, above any other symbol created by society. I
believe in life and in respect for it," says Maldonado.

El Sexto has been imprisoned for joining the Ladies in White in their
Sunday protest marches to demand the release of political prisoners, and
has been part of the 'We All March' campaign.

Laura Pollán, the deceased leader of the Ladies in White and Oswaldo
Payá, the deceased leader of the Christian Liberation Movement,
are tattooed on his skin, along with a petition for the release of
Leopoldo López, a Venezuelan politician currently a political prisoner
in that country.

In 2015, Danilo Maldonado received the Vaclav Havel Prize, for "creative
dissent, the display of courage and creativity to challenge injustice
and live in truth"

"I am worried about the situation of political prisoners in Cuba,
Eduardo Cardet and many others," he says. He is also trying to sensitize
the international community to the drama of thousands of Cubans who were
stranded in Latin America following Barack Obama's repeal of the wet
foot/dry foot policy, shortly before he left office.

"These are our brothers, we should unite to help them. As long as we
Cubans do not join together, we will not change the situation of our
country," he laments.

In 2015, Danilo Maldonado received the Vaclav Havel Prize, awarded to
people "who participate in creative dissent, display courage and
creativity to challenge injustice and live in truth."

Currently, El Sexto is preparing an art exhibition in the United
States. He also plans to travel to Geneva to talk about human rights in
Cuba and plans to attend the Oslo Freedom Forum.


This article is part of an agreement between 14ymedio and the Nuevo Herald.

Source: "I come from the street, but I did not want to stay there," says
'El Sexto' / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-come-from-the-street-but-i-did-not-want-to-stay-there-says-el-sexto-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 3 February 2017 — The uniform haircut imposed upon entering the Combinado del Este prison contrasts with the stains of fresh paint on the shoes of the super tall man, who stands nearly 6’5″. Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth), a graffiti artist and human rights activist in Cuba, embodies … Continue reading "“I come from the street, but I did not want to stay there,” says ‘El Sexto’ / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
The Struggle for Freedom Continues in Cuba
by MARIO T. DE LA PENA February 5, 2017 4:00 AM

Fidel Castro is dead, but Castroism still needs to be defeated

Fidel Castro died on November 25, but Castroism — the one-party,
neo-Stalinist system that has tyrannized Cuba for more than half a
century — still needs to be defeated.

Fidel's brother, Raúl, "president" of the island nation for most of the
last decade, has shown no signs of ending the political oppression and
human-rights violations that define the regime. To be sure, Raúl has
made a few minor reforms out of necessity, to open up the economy. But
those changes have not been accompanied by political reforms.

The Obama administration restored diplomatic relations with the Cuban
government and made it easier for Americans to travel and do business
there. On January 12 of this year, the administration announced that it
was ending the longstanding "wet foot, dry foot" policy that grants
permanent-resident status to any Cuban who makes it to the U.S. shore.
And back in October, the Obama administration announced the
implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 43, which directs the
Department of Defense to expand its relationship with Havana.

Other changes include permitting Americans to bring back as much Cuban
rum and cigars as they like from Cuba. "Already we are seeing what the
United States and Cuba can accomplish when we put aside the past and
work to build a brighter future," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan
Rice said at the time. "You can now celebrate with Cuban rum and Cuban

But Cubans aren't celebrating. Under Castroism, Cuba's main
accomplishments have been the highest per-capita rates of suicide,
abortion, and refugees in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba has the oldest
population in Latin America. Cuba ages and withers away, strangled by
Castro's tyranny.

The problem with Obama's overtures is that they have not been
reciprocated by the Cuban regime. There is still no respect for human
rights or political freedom. As Amnesty International put it recently:

Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on
freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of
cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and
detentions were reported.

But the situation is not hopeless. Cubans of different generations and
backgrounds are committed like never before to working for a free Cuba.

There are many things Cubans, Cuban Americans, and other people of
goodwill can do. They can support the resistance by encouraging those
who are involved in direct civic action on the island. For instance, the
Ladies in White, a group of wives, mothers, and sisters of jailed
dissidents, continue to suffer beatings, harassment, and jailing at the
hands of the government for their silent, non-violent marches. Such
protests are an indispensable means through which Cubans' rights will be

What must happen for Cuba to be free? The regime must give general
amnesty for all political prisoners. That means full rights to free
expression, access to information, assembly, association, peaceful
protest, profession, and worship.

Other essential rights include the right to collective bargaining, the
rule of law, checks and balances, and the balance of power, including an
independent judiciary.

A free Cuba will be realized only when multi-party elections are held
and the right to vote and the privacy of the ballot are respected. For
that to happen, a constitutional process must take place that includes a
constitutional convention and a referendum on a new constitution.

Many Cuban Americans hope that President Trump will be a stronger
advocate for human rights than Barack Obama was. During the campaign,
Trump promised to "stand with the Cuban people in their fight against
Communist oppression" and criticized the "concessions" that Barack Obama
made to the Castros. He promised to secure a "better deal" between the
two countries than the one Obama negotiated.

Trump should make it clear that he will sever diplomatic relations with
the Cuban government unless it makes progress to end political
repression, opens its markets, protects freedom of religion, and
releases all political prisoners.

The public may believe that, now that Fidel and Obama are gone, Cuba is
well on its way to being free. But Castroism didn't die with Fidel. The
repression and violence against the Cuban people continues. Economic
changes alone will not bring about democracy. They are important, but
only respect for human rights and political liberty will truly make Cuba

— Mario T. de la Peña is an advocate for a free and democratic Cuba who
has lived in the United States since 1962.

Source: Cuba Post-Castro: Repression Continues | National Review -
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444622/cuba-post-castro-repression-continues Continue reading
Obama Left, Trump Arrived, the Repression Continues / 14ymedio, Reinaldo

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 January 2017 — Within 48 hours of
Donald Trump being declared President of the United States, the
political police maintained their repression against opponents
unchanged. The hard hand of State Security begins to contradict the
claim that "Barack Obama's concessions" to the Plaza of the Revolution
fueled the repressive character of Raúl Castro's government.

According to partial reports issued on Sunday, the political police
detained more than 60 members of the Ladies in White Movement in Havana,
Matanzas, Santa Clara and Ciego de Ávila. Berta Soler and her husband,
the former Black Spring prisoner Angel Moya, were arrested along with 23
women as they prepared to leave the organization's headquarters in the
Lawton neighborhood of Havana.

The repressors did not shake their hands in the face of the scenario of
a new tenant in the White House. They were not even frightened by the
warning issued by the mogul weeks before in his Twitter account, when he
clarified that "if Cuba is not willing to offer a better agreement for
Cubans, Cuban Americans and the American people in general," he would
liquidate the diplomatic normalization.

Despite the hopes of some and the threats of others, the repression
continues and on this Sunday morning more than 30 Ladies in White in
Matanzas were prevented from attending Mass. Some were taken to police
stations, while others were driven to the outskirts of the city and put
out of the cars to find their own way home, and other were driven
home. Two arrests were reported in the city of Santa Clara and another
in Ciego de Ávila.

If there really is any relationship between what the new president says
and does and how the Cuban government decides to treat its opponents,
the next few weeks will have to prove it.

With the thaw or without the thaw, the repressive nature of the Cuban
system remains unchanged. Obama does not seem to be responsible for the
twist in the oppression experienced in the past two years, as perhaps
Trump also fails to alleviate the rigors of a regime that could not
exist where liberties flourish.

Source: Obama Left, Trump Arrived, the Repression Continues / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/obama-left-trump-arrived-the-repression-continues-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 January 2017 — Within 48 hours of Donald Trump being declared President of the United States, the political police maintained their repression against opponents unchanged. The hard hand of State Security begins to contradict the claim that “Barack Obama’s concessions” to the Plaza of the Revolution fueled the repressive character of … Continue reading "Obama Left, Trump Arrived, the Repression Continues / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar" Continue reading
Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope In Trump
/ 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 January 2017 — Abandoned to their fate
on islands, in jungles and at borders, thousands of Cubans have not
recovered from the surprise measure of Barack Obama's administration
that frustrated the trip for which they sold their few belongings in
Cuba to venture to reach American soil.

With a soft voice, sometimes broken by emotion and sadness, Elisabet
Casero Fernández, a Cuban dentist who fled Venezuela a week ago, laments
the situation in which her compatriots have been left.

Casero escaped one day before the United States eliminated its Cuban
Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) program – through which doctors who
deserted their missions abroad were allowed to settle in the United
States – and the policy of wet foot/dry foot, by which Cubans who
touched land in the United States were allowed to stay and become legal

"We believed in American legality, in the opportunity to rebuild our
lives away from a government that does not allow us to be free and that
clings to not changing," she says from Bogota.

Cuban doctors go abroad with an official passport, which is why on the
border between Colombia and Venezuela they are easily identified and
handed over to the Cuban authorities, who will forcibly repatriate them
and retaliate.

"I had to cross the jungle on a motorcycle. It was the only way to
circumvent the surveillance that doctors are subjected to," she explains.

Leaving is expensive. Dr. Casero earned barely 27,000 bolivars a month
(less than 10 dollars when exchanged on the street) while working in the
state of Carabobo. In order to flee, she had to save as much as she
could from her meager salary.

"The Cuban medical mission also did not give us money for water and gas,
we had to rely on the 'solidarity of friends'," she told us.

In practice, the Cuban authorities asked their doctors to have
Venezuelan patients pay for the cost of these basic services.

The decision to travel to Venezuela was also made under pressure,
according to the doctor. "They told us that we should go on a mission.
If you refuse, you can lose even your career because they call you a
counterrevolutionary," she says.

According to Casero, once in Venezuela she understood the urgency of the
Cuban Ministry of Health.

"You are a mainstay of the medical mission," they were told. The
reality, according to this young woman of 24 years, is that Venezuela
"pays more" for dentists than for other doctors, so they had to work
more hours and were carefully monitored to enforce the statistics of
consultations in exchange for which the Venezuela Government pays Cuba
in oil.

"I did not even have the opportunity to finish my residency," she adds.

With the recent changes, even Cuban doctors who have already applied for
the CMPP program will be treated like any other migrant, so the
dentist's hopes of resolving her case are increasingly distant.

"When I arrived at the US embassy in Bogotá, they told me that I could
no longer ask for asylum. Now that I have deserted I cannot enter Cuba
for eight years and if they catch me, I will end up being retaliated
against," he says.

Her money that, as a stimulus, the Cuban Government deposited in an
account in a bank in Cuba, has already been expropriated, she learned
directly from her mother, whom she had lived with.

In Colombia hundreds of doctors are waiting for a favorable decision
from the US embassy. An indeterminate number are in Brazil where, in
2016, 1,439 doctors benefited from the CMPP.

But doctors are not the only ones affected. There are also dozens of
emigrants who are transiting Central America after their departure from
Ecuador and Guyana. They seek to reach Panama by going through the
Darien Gap, one of the most dangerous jungles in the world.

In Trinidad and Tobago, of a group of 15 Cubans detained by the
immigration authorities, there are only six left. All the others have
been forcibly repatriated to Cuba.

"The Cuban embassy is involved in this and we are desperate. There were
political refugees among us, but they did not care," explains Baldomero
Despaigne speaking from that Caribbean country.

"They are preparing everything to return all of us who are still here.
We need help," he says.

In Suriname, another group of Cubans, including women members of the
Ladies in White with their children, are asking for clemency to reach
the United States.

In the Caritas hostel in Panama the presence of Cuban migrants has
increased significantly. In less than a week more than 230 refugees have
arrived for the US administration to grant a grace period that allows
them to reach their destination.

"They are calling by phone to indicate that they will continue to arrive
from the jungle. At least 70 migrants are announced for the next few
hours," said Deacon Victor Berrío, who is in charge of the institution.

However, the director of Panama's National Service of Migratio, Javier
Carrillo, announced that undocumented Cubans must leave the country.
"The law is clear, they must leave the national territory," Carrillo
told this newspaper.

Some of these migrants have not stopped at the announcement of the end
of the policy of wet foot-feet and continue their way towards the
American border. On Tuesday, the presidential adviser Ben Rhodes said
the US does not host the Cubans who were on the border of that country
and Mexico.

"We are not going to stop, we will continue to the border, we have spent
a lot of time to escape from Cuba and we have no desire to go back, we
have no house or money or anything," says Yuniel Ramos, a migrant who
left everything and crossed Central America from Ecuador. Now he is
about to cross Mexico.

"The Siglo XXI Migrant Station in Tapachula is full of Cubans, people do
not want to go there because they leave you in jail," says Miguel
Antunez, another Cuban who is in the Mexican state of Chiapas.

"The lines are long to get the safe passage and cross Mexico. They gave
me an appointment for the second week of February," he adds. This
situation of defenselessness makes migrants the victims of scammers and
corrupt officials.

"An attorney with connections inside Migration is giving Cubans papers
for $500. Even the Migration officials themselves tell you that if you
give them money they will move your turn up to the next day," adds Antunez.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Cubans continue to arrive from Central America.
Next to the US border dozens of Cubans wait to see what the new White
House tenant will do.

"Trump is the only hope we have left," says Antunez. "Obama has betrayed
us, and he went to Cuban to become the friend of Cubans. Trump is the
only hope left to us," says Antunez.


This article is part of an arrangement between 14ymedio and El Nuevo Herald.

Source: Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope
In Trump / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/thousands-of-cubans-stranded-along-the-continent-put-their-hope-in-trump-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 18 January 2017 — Abandoned to their fate on islands, in jungles and at borders, thousands of Cubans have not recovered from the surprise measure of Barack Obama’s administration that frustrated the trip for which they sold their few belongings in Cuba to venture to reach American soil. With a soft … Continue reading "Thousands Of Cubans Stranded Along The Continent Put Their Hope In Trump / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio,
Luz Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 January 2017 — Talking with Belkis
Cantillo these days can be an impossible mission. With her home
raided on several occasions, a daughter about to give her her first
granddaughter and the foundation of the new Dignity Movement, the life
of this woman is a whirlwind. A resident of Palmarito del Cauto,
Santiago de Cuba, the activist is looking forward to better days for
Cuba, but she is not ready to fold her arms to wait for them.

With her voice breaking up, Cantillo speaks through the telephone line
about her projects and the new organization she has created to support
the prisoners who populate the prisons of the Island. She clarifies, to
anyone who asks about the origins of the new group, that many of the
women who comprise it were part of the Ladies in White. "We were also
the group Citizens for Democracy (CXD) and most of us have a great deal
of knowledge about this struggle."

For Cantillo, life is a perennial battle. Last Friday at dawn she
crossed the mountain to avoid the police siege and shorten the distance
that separates her house from the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Charity
of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, whom Cubans affectionately call
Cachita. Although she considers herself a devotee of Cachita, this time
it was not only her faith that moved her. Some 16 women gathered there
to announce the birth of the Dignity Movement.

"The repression was so great that only some of us made it here," she
tells 14ymedio. The fright from what she experienced has not yet passed,
but Cantillo is a "battle-hardened" woman. Under her leadership are now
grouped around 60 companions of the struggle, three-quarters with a
history of activism and experience in opposition from eastern Cuba, the
area of ​​the country most tightly controlled by State Security.

"We entered, 14 of us, and later, at ten at night, two more," Cantillo
explains. The surveillance agents also arrived and they threatened them,
telling them to withdraw without waiting for Sunday Mass. The women
insisted in remaining in a nearby shelter, managed by the church, but in
the end they had to return to their homes.

"They didn't let us eat, nor even drink water. They'd never seen
anything like that there, they even called the police to get us out,"
she remembered. But the people who were pressuring them didn't know they
had given birth to a new group.

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has words of
encouragement for the movement that has just been born. "I see as good
every person who fights against the regime," she emphasizes. "Any
movement that is willing to fight the regime, for me, is valid and
effective in this fight," she says. However, she disagrees with what
happened on Saturday: "We have to respect the churches, that's their

Cantillo is now focused on the future. Her effort and that of the rest
of her colleagues is focused on the common prisoners, a sector that few
speak about and whom many avoid representing. "We chose these prisoners
to help them and their families with the social and legal attention they
need and do not have," the woman said. At the center of her critique is
the crime of "pre-criminal dangerousness" – a "crime" for which it is
possible to imprison a citizen on the mere suspicion that they may
commit a crime in the future.

In the middle of last year, the United Nations Development Program
estimated that Cuba had 510 people in prison for every 100,000
inhabitants, a figure that places it at the head of the region. In 1959
the island had 14 prisons, the figure now exceeds 200, according to
estimates by Elizardo Sánchez, president of the Cuban Commission on
Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has
denounced that, after El Salvador, Cuba is the country in Central
America and the Caribbean with the highest rate of overcrowding in
prisons. Between common and political prisoners, the prisons are
estimated to house more than 80,000 Cubans, 80% of them black or mixed-race.

The activists are seeking to extend their actions to all provinces but,
for the moment, feel comforted to have been able to get this far. "We
have succeeded, now we will continue," says Cantillo, with that direct
and brief way of speaking of women accustomed to the rigors of rural life.

"All those who initiated the movement have been threatened by the
political police, house by house," she reports. However, "my family has
always been very supportive of me and has had to be strong not to become

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), her husband, knows
Cantillo's determination well. José Daniel Ferrer looks positively on
the formation of the new entity of the civil society. "It seems to us
positive that women and men, in this case women, are concerned about the
problems that most affect our nation, our society."

"The only thing we had not recommended was to change the name, they
already existed as Citizens for Democracy and had been known for two
years," he reflects.

Cantillo also leaves a space for premonition when she says in a firm
tone of voice: "Soon my first granddaughter will come into the world and
she will be very strong because she has experienced the repression since
she was in the womb of her mother."

Source: Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/belkis-cantillo-launches-a-new-fight-from-santiago-de-cuba-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Cuba 2016: The Visit of Barack Obama and Death of Fidel Castro / Iván García

Ivan Garcia, 2 January 2017 — A spring rainstorm with light gusts of
wind fell over metropolitan Havana on Sunday, March 20th, when at 4:30
PM Air Force One landed at the first terminal of the José Martí
International Airport carrying President Barack Obama to one of the
final redoubts of communism in the world.

While a Secret Service agent opened Obama's umbrella at the foot of the
airplane stairs as he greeted Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez,
two hours earlier in Miramar, west of Havana, State security agents had
fiercely repressed a group of forty women and two dozen men who were
demanding democracy and freedom for political prisoners.

The dissident movement Ladies in White was instrumental in the
olive-green autocracy's calculated political reforms before the
international gallery.

Raúl Castro, hand-picked for the presidency in the summer of 2006 by his
brother Fidel, took the brunt of the escalating violence, and in three
way negotiations with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos
and the National Catholic Church in 2010, he freed 75 dissidents and
sent the majority into exile.

Castro II changed the rules of the game. The repressive modus operandi
of the regime began using brief detentions and returned, in a worrisome
way, to beatings, death threats, and verbal attacks on its opposition.

The afternoon that The Beast rolled into Old Havana, where Obama ate
dinner with his family in a private restaurant, the regime sent a
message back to Washington: the reforms — if they can be called reforms
— would be made at the convenience of the Palace of the Revolution, not
the White House.

On December 17, 2014, Raúl Castro and Barack Obama decided to
reestablish diplomatic relations and to turn around the anachronistic
policies of the Cold War.

The strategy of Obama proved indecipherable to the Taliban of Castroism.
He did not threaten to deploy gunboats nor subvert the state of affairs.

In his memorable speech at the Grand Theater of Havana on the 22nd of
March, he simply offered things that the majority of Cubans desire, and
of course did not renounce the doctrines that sustain American
democracy, of supporting private businesses and political rights.

Obama said what he thought looking into the eyes of Raúl Castro,
squatted in an armchair on the second balcony of the theater and
surrounded by the military junta that has administered Cuba for almost
60 years.

The 48 hours of his visit shook Havana. Neither the strong security
measures nor the Communist Party's strategy for minimizing the impact of
Obama's speech prevented the spontaneous reception of the people of
Havana that greeted the president wherever Cadillac One passed.

But official reactions to the visit were not long in coming. Fidel
Castro, retired from power, sick and waiting for death in his
residential complex of Punto Cero, opined that Obama's outstretched hand
was poisoned candy.

The propaganda machinery of the regime began to corrode, and some signs
of economic backlash against intermediaries and private sellers of
agriculture products, which began in early January, were reinforced in
the following months.

Obama's visit entrenched the hard-core of the island's totalitarianism.
The gang closed ranks, they returned to the spent Soviet language, and
began to render to Castro I a cult of personality modeled on a North
Korean manual.

It was assumed that the arrival of the president to Havana would be the
event of 2016 in Cuba, but at 10 PM on the night of November 25th,
according to the government, Fidel Castro died.

His death was no surprise. With 90 years and various ailments, the death
of the ex-guerilla was imminent. For better or for worse, he placed Cuba
on the world political map, confronting it with strategies of subversion
against the United States.

His revolution was more political than economic. He could never erect a
robust economy, and the architecture and textile factories during his
extensive rule, only produced things of shoddy and bad taste. Any
reasonable person should analyze the benefits and prejudices of the
regime of Fidel Castro. Sovereignty powered by cheap nationalism.
Division of families. Polarization of society. Relentless with its
enemies and local opposition.

Agriculture declined, he buried the sugar industry and it is difficult
to find any economic, sports or social sector that has not gone
downhill. There was no political honesty in recognizing his failures. On
the contrary, the regime entrenched itself in what it knows best: odes,
panegyrics and trying to enshrine its absurdities in gothic lettering.

And then, 2016 was the year of Raul Castro's diplomatic apparatus, the
most outstanding in his decade as president of the republic. In the last
five years he has reaped success. The secret negotiations for the
reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba. The
intermediation of peace in Colombia, with the Roman Catholic Church and
the Russian Orthodox Church. The cancellation of financial debts and
negotiation of a new deal with the Paris Club. And he even managed to
blow up the Common Position of the European Union. Unobjectionable
triumphs of Castro's advisers in international relations.

But those same advisers misjudged their strategy against the United
States. Like the American media and pollsters, they failed to discern
the Donald Trump phenomenon. They may now regret that they have not made
enough progress during Obama's term.

Trump is unpredictable. He repeals the agreements reached with the
United States saying he will make a better one. But something is clear
to the regime. To negotiate benefits you have to make concessions. No
more gifts.

In 2016 there was much more. Mick Jagger unfolded his unusual physical
energy in a mega-concert, scenes of the movie Fast and Furious were
filmed in Cuba, and almost every day a celebrity landed in Havana.

In May, Chanel offered a haute couture show in the Paseo del Prado in a
country where the majority of inhabitants earn $25 a month and not
everyone can see Chanel models in fashion magazines.

Cruises began arriving from Miami as did regular flights from the United
States. There were more than 1,200 cultural and academic exchanges, and
the visits by weighty figures of both governments have been numerous.

The meetings and negotiations have been constant; as constant as the
repression. According to the National Commission of Human Rights and
Reconciliation, in the month of November there were 359 arbitrary
detentions of dissidents, activists, and independent journalists.

The détente is not about to land on the Cuban table. Markets continue to
be out of stock, two meals a day is still a luxury, and one hour of
surfing the internet is equivalent to the wages of a day and a half of
work by a professional.

The year 2017 will be a key year. Barack Obama, the conciliator, will
not be in the White House, and in Cuba the old leader Fidel Castro will
not be there either.

Source: Cuba 2016: The Visit of Barack Obama and Death of Fidel Castro /
Iván García – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuba-2016-the-visit-of-barack-obama-and-death-of-fidel-castro-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 January 2017 — Talking with Belkis Cantillo these days can be an impossible mission. With her home raided on several occasions, a daughter about to give her her first granddaughter and the foundation of the new Dignity Movement, the life of this woman is a whirlwind. A resident of Palmarito del Cauto, Santiago … Continue reading "Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar" Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 2 January 2017 — A spring rainstorm with light gusts of wind fell over metropolitan Havana on Sunday, March 20th, when at 4:30 PM Air Force One landed at the first terminal of the José Martí International Airport carrying President Barack Obama to one of the final redoubts of communism in the world. … Continue reading "Cuba 2016: The Visit of Barack Obama and Death of Fidel Castro / Iván García" Continue reading
Normalizing The Communists Who Run Cuba Makes This Survivor Sick
Totalitarianism touches every aspect of every person's life, and Cuban
communism has been traumatic for adults and children not drunk with
By Armando Simón
JANUARY 16, 2017

Ever since the death of that psychotic dictator Fidel Castro, I have
been experiencing déjà vu. At age ten, I fled my native Cuba after the
Communists took over and proceeded to trash the nation to make it
conform to their totalitarian ideology. You may think that a
ten-year-old would be ignorant of politics and not remember much, but
totalitarianism touches every aspect of every person's life, and it was
traumatic for adults and children who were not drunk with fanaticism.

Aside from the constant persecution, militarism, censorship,
indoctrination in schools, and idiotic slogans pasted everywhere, there
was a complete vanishing of books, comic books, good films, food,
clothing, household items, you name it. Not only were the Communists
psychotic murderers, they were stupidly incompetent at running the
economy, something that they boasted of benefitting the population. In
fact, the only ones who never lacked for anything were the Communists.
You see, "some animals are more equal than others."

So my parents sent me to Florida and joined me soon thereafter. In a few
years I was immersed in American life and culture. When I was in my late
teens and early twenties, I slowly became exposed to Communists in
America. In America, the Communists refuse to call themselves as such
and refer to themselves with euphemisms like "social activists,"
"progressives," and "liberals" (thereby tarnishing every decent
liberal). When they found out I was Cuban, they would grin and tell me
how much they admired Castro, how much good he had done for the Cuban

At the time, I thought they were misinformed, so I tried to tell them
what it was really like. But they didn't want to hear what I had to say,
and nothing penetrated their skulls. They would argue with me! They had
never lived in Cuba before the revolution, they had never visited Cuba
after the revolution, they knew absolutely nothing about Cuba's history,
they knew nothing about Cuban culture, they didn't even speak a word of
Spanish, yet they would argue with a Cuban about Cuba! And they didn't
see how grotesquely stupid was their position.

We Care About Ideology, Not People

Later, in the 1970s, they developed a myth: that Cuba had been America's
colony and playground (i.e., it was a tourist destination—big deal),
prostitution had been abolished, and it was run by the Mafia. This
delusional mantra was overlaid with claims that the Communists had
improved the educational system, and everyone on the island benefitted
from a superb health system (which didn't help my cousin from dying from
beriberi due to malnutrition).

They studiously ignored the tens of thousands of Cubans who fled such a
paradise, a fifth of the population; or the instances of political
repression that would occasionally be revealed, from Huber Matos early
on to the present-day Ladies in White. So although they would blather
about how much they cared about the welfare of the Cuban people, the
reality was that they didn't really give a damn. That was just an
excuse. They just cared about the welfare of the Communist regime.
President Obama's decisions on Cuba exemplify these ideas, from
normalizing the Cuban regime to just recently ending asylum for Cubans
who manage to escape to the United States.

Along this same line, no sooner had the guns gone silent in Cuba that
Hollywood began to crank out pro-Castro and anti-exile movies: "Cuban
Rebel Girls," "Cuba," "Havana," "Scarface," "Creature from the Haunted
Sea," "The Godfather 2," "The Motorcycle Diaries," "Che," "Che," and
more "Che." Since for leftists history is not a scholarly subject but an
instrument for power to be manipulated and molded, historical facts were
distorted. In one film Batista, who was a black man, was portrayed as a
white blonde.

Love for A Murderous Dictator Is Evil
Since the fall of the evil empire, I did not hear much from such
individuals, aside from occasionally coming across some ignorant jackass
who sported a Che Guevara T-shirt. But now, with the death of that
psychopath—yes, he was a true psychopath—they have come crawling out of
the woodwork to heap praise on Fidel Castro, saying yes, he may have
been a dictator but, hey, that is outweighed by how much good he did for
the people (and the s.o.bs still don't speak a word of Spanish!).

Besides, he defied America, whereupon they indulge in abuse of the
United States, usually by citing myths that they hold dear. Much has
been in print, such as the comments of Canada's Justin Trudeau, but you
can hear some of the gushing admiration and Peter Hitchens throwing cold
water on the admirers on YouTube.

So it's all coming back. I have a deep hatred for such individuals, not
just because they are praising a murdering, dictatorial Communist
dictator, although that is understandable in the same way as hearing
Muslims justify pedophilia. It is also because I know full well that
such individuals, given half the chance, would send people to either
concentration camps or firing squads, set up book-burning bonfires, shut
down book publishers and news sources, and establish a secret police. Of
that, you can be sure. That benevolent-sounding pipsqueak is evil.

So the next time you hear someone praise Castro and his minions, do me a
favor: break their face.

Armando Simón lives in San Antonio and is the author of "A Cuban from
Kansas," and, "The Only Red Star I Liked Was a Starfish."

Source: Normalizing The Communists Who Run Cuba Makes This Survivor Sick
http://thefederalist.com/2017/01/16/normalizing-communists-run-cuba-makes-survivor-sick/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Madrid, 4 January 2016 – Last year closed with a balance of almost 1,000 more arbitrary arrests than in 2015, according to data from the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, based in Madrid, which on Wednesday issued its annual report on the situation on the island. In 2016, there was a total of 9,351 arbitrary … Continue reading "Arbitrary Arrests Rose And Repression Spread To Civil Society In 2016 / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 29 November 2016 — The dictator Fidel Castro died
last Friday at the age of 90. The extensive news coverage was to be
expected. After all, he was both the object of the most romantic,
idealized love and the most scathing, caustic hatred. Gone was the man
who, over the last six decades, had left his imprint on Cuban history, a
man who was unquestionably one of the most controversial figures of the
twentieth century.

There is little to say that has not already been said about this tyrant,
so there is little point in now rehashing extensive accounts of his
life. It seems more prudent to ask a basic question that might summarize
what imprint this man had on Cuban society.

What did Fidel Castro leave behind? What did Cubans inherit from his
more than half-century legacy? The answer is not always a simple one
because almost nothing is simple in Cuba, where the reality itself is
often tinged with varying shades of light and shadow.

From Fidel Castro's point of view, he leaves behind a country with
virtually no illiteracy and an educational system accessible to everyone
everywhere within the country's borders. It seems idyllic, especially in
light of the repeated positive assessments by UNICEF. But let's not
forget an essential point: Not everything here is so rosy.

There is only one centralized, compulsory system of education, imposed
on everyone, which provides no alternative. Parents cannot choose what
kind of schooling their children will receive. Every day children must
swear an oath: "Pioneers for Communism; we will be like Che!" They are
taught by educators suffering from enormous personal frustration. In
exchange for their enormous efforts, teachers receive paltry salaries,
working under the most inadequate of conditions in schools that are in
near ruin. Additionally, every child is subjected to political
indoctrination, which is responsible in large part for the unfortunate
loss of civic culture paralyzing Cuban society today.

And what is there to say about public health? The country which boasts
of its achievements in biotechnology, universal childhood vaccination
and state-of-the-art clinics catering to foreigners — comparable only to
those reserved for exclusive use by elite government officials — is the
same country whose neighborhood medical clinics stand empty and whose
pharmacies suffer from a constant shortage of medications.

Its excellent doctors are paid poverty-level wages, must deal with
unimaginable scarcities and work under deplorable conditions in
hospitals which are structurally unsound and which, in many instances,
should be demolished.

The government of Fidel Castro has always relied on its medical missions
to more than sixty countries — "in search of the world's poor" — as its
trump card. Under the heel of Raul Castro, those same missions greedily
skim 70% off the salaries of its overseas medical personnel.

This slave trade generates between 8 to 10 billion dollars a year.
Meanwhile, the government shamelessly rails, with characteristic
cynicism, against worldwide capitalist exploitation.

The very serious crisis in Cuban sport is so obvious that it is scarcely
worth discussing. The defections of more than two-hundred top-flight
baseball players to the "brutal north" in search of better opportunities
in recent years are a slap in the face of the deceased, who used sport
as a weapon of propaganda. But the humiliating and mediocre performances
of a wide range of athletes in international arenas suggest that things
could hardly get much worse.

And what has the "invincible" comandante left behind on the field of
economics? Anything one might say on such a potent and cruel topic risks
sounding redundant. The profound economic damage resulting from the
endless trail of Fidel Castro's erratic policies continues to have
ongoing repercussions. So absurd and systemic was the damage that it has
become insoluble, at least under the current rules of the game imposed
by the military dictatorship, which subordinates everything to its
perverse predilection for control.

In spite of having enjoyed the world's most generous subsidies —
courtesy of the former Soviet Union —for its first three decades, Cuba
has never experienced a period of real economic independence or credible
growth during the entire Castro era. It later suckled on the nipple
provided by Hugo Chavez, who always had to cradle the drooling mouth of
the silly child because it never learned to support itself.

It is an undeniable fact that the comandante's government, like that of
its successor, never managed to overcome its prodigious parasitic
habits. Its survival always depended on an outside supplier. In short,
the dictator leaves behind a desolated country, perpetually in the red
and without a a credible development plan in sight.

Did the comandante opt for persuasion, for convincing argument, in order
to govern? Did he exercise his power through normal, healthy and
necessary confrontation — free of judgment — with a dissenting
legislature in which opposition was a daily reality, as in all free
societies? Certainly not. From the very beginning, he penalized
difference of opinion and buried the press under a blanket of hermetic

He monopolized national editorial policy and all mass media, maintaining
an iron-fisted stranglehold which he never eased. Under his totalitarian
dictatorship there was never anything that might be called a parliament.
Instead, a circus of marionettes met once a year to give consent —
always by unanimous vote — to orders previously approved by the Central
Committee of his Communist Party.

The shocking human rights situation has been a constant for the entirety
of the Castro regime. It represents a very long saga of systematic
abuse, a logical consequence of having no separation of powers. The
noteworthy indices of political repression have been the immutable
backdrop of Cuban society for more than five decades, though they have
become something of a scandal since the thaw in relations with the
United States was announced. The dearly departed leaves behind, as
testament to his despotism, about a hundred political prisoners in jail
cells, to say nothing of the thousands who preceded them.

The comandante also bequeathed to Cuban history four great waves of
emigration, confirming his scandalous failure as a ruler. Young people
fled in terror from their enslavement, an eloquent expression of an
entire people's discontent. Well organized exoduses were augmented by an
endless string of drownings from sunken rafts in the Florida Straits, a
deeply painful saga for the Cuban people caused, once again, by Fidel
Castro's absolutism.

But let's try to shed light on at least one small aspect of the genius
which frontmen and toadies attribute to him. Let's look at the tactical
"solutions" the tyrant imposed as well as their practical and permanent
long-term consequences. For example, no sooner had revolutionaries won
than they found themselves with a housing problem. Did the comandante
promote a coherent national program of building new housing to meet the
demand? No. It was easier to steal long-held properties from their
rightful owners through to the Urban Reform Law. The consequences? Even
today, half a century later, housing remains one of the country's most
serious problems and perhaps the hardest one to solve.

In 1959 the newly triumphant comandante also found himself facing the
problem of land distribution. But once the Agrarian Reform Law was
adopted, did it create the conditions necessary for small-scale farmers
to flourish? Did it vigorously stimulate agricultural and livestock
production throughout the country? No. Instead it imposed one absurd
regulation after another in order to impede, by any means necessary,
agricultural producers' financial success. It created multiple
mechanisms to limit their profits and unleashed the Attorney General's
watchdogs on any misguided soul who had acquired wealth by dint of his
own legitimate efforts.

The consequences? Even today, meager harvests rot in the fields thanks
to the well-documented irresponsibility of the Empresa Nacional de
Acopio (National Harvest Company) — an ineffective monopoly and the sole
entity in charge agricultural harvesting. Even today, as an indefensibly
large proportion of the country's arable land remains plagued by maribu
weed, Cuba imports millions of dollars worth of food, including — of all
things — sugar. Fields lie untended due to, as always, the whims and
stubbornness of the country's rulers. Meanwhile, shortages of basic
staples set new records week after week.

An uninterrupted mass exodus began in early 1959, most notably of
professionals, when a segment of the population felt disappointed by the
first populist measures. What did the newly-inaugurated prime minister,
Fidel Castro, do to halt or discourage it? Did he improve working
conditions or offer better salaries to those professionals? No. He
chose, as usual, to restrict the the right of all Cubans to travel
freely for decades and prohibited any overseas travel that did not have
official authorization. The consequences? The island literally became
one vast prison, serving as Fidel Castro's private gulag for more than
fifty years. During that time the despot deprived us of the universal
right to freely come and go from our own country.

It is also worth remembering one fateful moment: When faced with the
challenge of a democratic election in 1960, did he fulfill the promise
he made in the Sierra Maestra to hold elections after eighteen months in
power? Never! Instead he coined that celebrated slogan "Elections for
what?" The unfortunate consequences of that failure translate into an
absence of political freedom today. The consequences? Since then, there
has been a complete disregard by Cuba's military/political elite for our
natural right to free thought and for many of the most basic human
rights, an offensive contempt resulting from, above all, the twisted
personality of Fidel Castro.

Faced with the persistence of tens of thousands of private businesses
and family micro-enterprises throughout the country, did the comandante
develop a parallel national system of consumer services that would
compete on an equal footing with those of the extensive private sector?
Was their promise finally fulfilled, providing better services to the
people? Absolutely not. Instead, he launched the notorious Revolutionary
Offensive in March 1968, which in a few months swept away the legacy of
millions of entrepreneurs who had amassed their fortunes as a result of
generations of honest work.

This wave of brazen confiscation, followed by widespread institutional
laziness, led to a dramatic and irreversible decline in the food service
industry and every possible consumer service from Cabo San Antonio to
Punta Maisí. The consequences? Even today, this sector remains one of
the most eloquent testimonials to the inefficiency and corruption of a
system as centralized as that of Cuba.

In other words, this bearded reprobate always opted for the easiest,
most mediocre, most simplistic solution — coincidentally, usually the
one he had come up with — that in the long run would lead to the worst

Where is the supposed genius in leading the country into absurdist
economic ruin, trampling on people's human rights, putting power in the
hands of an arrogant oligarchy with bourgeois tastes, creating a
disturbed, dysfunctional society and turning it into a quagmire of moral
ruin? What fanciful argument could purport that a life so aberrant and
demonstrably harmful to the Cuban people was virtuous?

Other than stores in several countries being closed, there was nothing
memorable about last Friday, November 25, except for the day's top
story. Nothing of consequence will happen in Cuba after this date
because it marked an outcome for which the dictatorship has had
sufficient time to prepare. The military will, for now, keep everything
under control and business will continue as its usual.

The tyrant died but he left behind an intact dictatorship, with an
organized army of henchmen and repressors well-trained in all manner of
coercion, intimidation and blackmail. It acts like an eager, arrogant
hitman who has his finger on the trigger, always at the ready. In his
profound alienation, he would not hesitate to calmly pull it as soon as
the order was received.

The dictatorship's capacity for repression remains intact; the people
remain totally defenselessness against the divine designs of the
dictator on duty. We carry with us the execrable consequences of massive
social indoctrination, which will require the passing of more than a
generation to overcome its imprint of immorality once freedom finally
arrives. Society still lacks the vital independent mechanisms to
seriously address the true aspirations of the Cuban people.

All this notwithstanding, there have been many messages of condolence
from a wide range of political and religious figures including Vladimir
Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Xi Jinping, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, Frei
Betto and Pope Francis. Other diverse figures include soccer star Diego
Maradona, every leftist president from Latin America and King Felipe of

There will undoubtedly also be hundreds of condolences from all over the
globe, from people of varied ancestries who nevertheless all have one
thing in common: none have personally suffered the consequences of the
Stalinist madness of the deceased.

None of these grieving mourners were the father of a young man who was
shot. None were humiliated for a being believer or a homosexual and
sentenced to hard labor in the Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP).
In fact, not one of them will even know what the UMAP was. None of them
were forced to support their families on twenty dollars a month or
experience the hell of a ration book.

None of these very disturbed friends of the dictator had family on the
'13 de Marzo' tugboat; none was sentenced to more than 20 years in
prison during the Black Spring; none has seen their mother, their wife
or their daughter dragged by the fascists hordes during a march of the
Ladies in White; none is a dissident besieged or beaten with impunity by
the Cuban political police; none has been imprisoned for weeks or months
without even knowing what charges are imputed to them, and then released
without trial or further explanation; none has been expelled from their
job due to political differences nor had a child expelled from their
university career for the same reason.

None suffered a raid on their home without having engaged in punishable
offenses; none has witnessed the degrading repudiation rallies organized
by the political police and the Communist Party of its
Commander-in-Chief against peaceful opponents. In short, none of them is
surnamed Zapata, Payá, Boitel, Soto García, or Pollán.

But the inevitable finally occurred and dust returned to dust. Fidel
Castro exerted absolute power using brutal methods for half a
century. His achievement, such as it is, was that he always appealed on
the most mean-spirited, despicable and lowly aspects of human nature.
Camouflaged by his extraordinary capacity for simulation and guided by a
highly refined ability to discern a person's basest instincts, he
manipulated people for his personal advantage in order to satisfy the
pathological impulses of his deeply narcissistic personality, his
insatiable egotism and an uncontrollable need for recognition of his
boundless megalomania.
The despot has left to face God's judgement but leaves behind a painful
legacy. The monster has died but the damage he caused remains. In spite
of all this, Cuba will one day find the true pathway toward democracy.
While we will try to never again hate, we are obliged not to forget. The
dictator leaves this world, as many of his kind often do, without
summary judgment, without having faced earthly justice. But the tyrant
will never escape to the moral judgment of a people who have, at least
so far, not definitively absolved him. History, however, has already
firmly condemned him.

Source: Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany
Jimenez Vega – Translating Cuba -
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Time Takes Another Life In Cuban Politics / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 8 January 2017 — Faithful, hard-line and knowledgeable
of the ultimate secrets of dissidents and ministers, Carlos Fernandez
Gondín made his mark on the Ministry of Interior (MININT), the most
feared Cuban institution. But shortly after taking over the portfolio in
2015, life played a bad trick on him and he had a stroke, and this
Saturday he became the most recently deceased of a dying gerontocracy.

His death, at age 78, came as no surprise to anyone. The official note
says he died "because of complications of a chronic illness," and on
June 6, at the celebration of the creation of the Ministry of the
Interior, he did not appear on the cameras of national television,
something that fanned the rumors about his state of health.

The powerful ministry he led controls the police, immigration and
aliens, prisons and the omnipresent State Security, among other
departments. Gondín arrived at the top of the institution thanks also to
the perfect fidelity he always showed towards Raul Castro, under whose
orders he fought in the Second Eastern Front in the years of the fight
against Batista.

Gondín made his career in the Cuban army, graduating from the Matanzas
School of War and was later selected to study at the Soviet Union's
Frunze Academy. He participated in the military adventures in Angola and
Ethiopia, reaching the position of second in command of Cuban troops in

From 1980 he sat on the Central Committee, the highest organ of the
Communist Party of Cuba which decides the number of members of the
Politburo, the maximum circle of power in the nation. He was also an
elected member of Parliament as of the seventh legislature.

In 1989, MININT's leadership was purged and Fidel Castro named Abelardo
Colome Ibarra, known as Furry, as interior minister while Gondín became
the first deputy minister. Both had worked together since in 1978 when
Gondín was named to head the Counterintelligence Directorate of the
Armed Forces

"He was a man of the Armed Forces who came to MININT at a time when it
was purged of its more open and reformist elements," political scientist
and historian Armando Cuban Chaguaceda told 14ymedio from Mexico.

According to the academician, there has always been a rivalry between
the Ministry of the Interior and the Revolutionary Armed Forces that
climaxed with the conviction of General Arnaldo Ochoa and 13 others
accused of getting rich through drug trafficking operations in 1989.

"The MININT apparatus has more sophisticated people than the
military. There are many people dedicated to analyzing, to thinking,
especially those who are in contact with the outside," explains
Chaguaceda. He believes that Gondín's death will not affect the current
policy on the island. "Until proven otherwise it is more of the same,"
he says.

Gondín was also known for being a meticulous man, who knew how to stay
in the shadows. He was considered the eminence grise after the
political repression during the mandate of Furry. Several dissidents
point to the recently deceased military man as the main organizer of the
arrests, house arrests and strict surveillance against opponents,
especially against the Ladies in White.

However, shortly after assuming the position of minister, Gondin
suffered a stroke that left him unable to perform his duties. Since then
and to date, Cuba's most powerful ministry has been under the command of
Vice Admiral Julio Cesar Gandarilla Bermejo, first deputy minister of
the Ministry of the Interior who comes from the Ministry of the Armed
Forces Military Counterintelligence arm.

The analyst Julio Aleaga, author of a study about who's who in Cuban
national politics, told 14ymedio that Gondín's time in management was
"very short" and when he was named to the post "it was already known
that he was a sick man." When asked who will fill the vacancy, he points
to Gandarilla Bermejo, who has completed missions in 11 countries,
including Angola, and who is also a septuagenarian.

Aleaga discards the idea that Alejandro Castro Espín, son of the current
ruler, and a man whom many point out as possible replacement, will be
placed at the front of the ministry. "If they were preparing Alejandro
to ascend in the control of the dynasty, he would hold a position at
another level, not in the Ministry of the Interior," he says.

For his part, Juan Antonio Blanco, executive director of the Cuban-based
Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, is skeptical about the arrival of a
reformist era with the death of Gondín.

"It is more likely to be related to facilitating the ascent of the
grandson, Raul Guillermo Rodríguez Castro and the son, Alejandro Castro
Espín, within MININT and the elite of power," he says.

For Blanco, "What is coming is the definitive consolidation of Castro's
succession before 2018," the year in which the second term of Raul
Castro ends.

For his part, Chaguaceda says that it is difficult to establish a
parallelism between the longevity of Cuban rulers and that of the
elderly secretaries of the Communist Party in the Kremlin during the
time of the Soviet Union. By 1982, a successive chain of deaths had
renewed Soviet rule and allowed a younger generation to take power and
implement change. The fundamental difference would be that in the Soviet
case the rulers were part of the nomenklatura and not the creators of
the system itself, as is the case in the Cuba.

"In Cuba the succession is given, in the life of the founder and with a
decade of development, while in the USSR, Brezhnev, Andropov and
Chernenko died in quick succession, which shook the ossified bureaucracy
of the politburo," the expert explains.

Many of the members of the Politburo are in the seventh decade of their
lives. In the coming months obituaries and new appointments could appear
very frequently in the Cuban press.

Source: Time Takes Another Life In Cuban Politics / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
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