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Political prisoners

14ymedio Havana, 27 March 2017 — The health of the siblings Fidel Batista Leyva, and Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva is worsening, as Monday marked their 21 days on a hunger strike, according to their mother, Maydolis Leyva Portelles, who spoke with 14ymedio. Members of the Cuban Reflection Movement, the three siblings are experiencing “a … Continue reading "Health Of Three Siblings On Hunger Strike In Cuba Worsens" 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
price.

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
El senador estadounidense reiteró que EEUU debe exigir su libertad Continue reading
José Daniel Ferrer: "This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage Us" / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2017 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of
Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer, was released Thursday after being detained for
more than 24 hours. The opponent denounced an "increase in
the repression" against the activists of his movement, in a phone call
to 14ymedio a few minutes after his release.

"The search of the homes began at six in the morning," explains Ferrer,
who was taken out of his home at eight o'clock in the morning this
Wednesday and taken to the First Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, known
as Micro 9.

The former prisoner of the Black Spring explains that the police raided
six properties of UNPACU members. They seized "food, a hard disc,
several USB memories, two laptops, five cellphones, seven wireless
devices, a stereo, a large refrigerator, an electric typewriter and a
camera."

"I spent more than six hours in an office with a guard," Ferrer recalls.
"Then they put me in a cell where you could have filmed a horror movie
for the amount of blood on the walls of someone who had been cut."

The dissident was interrogated by an official who identified himself as
Captain Quiñones, who threatened to send him to prison for "incitement
to violence," in a recent video posted on Twitter. Ferrer flatly denies
the accusation.

During the operation they also confiscated medications such as aspirin,
duralgine, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

"Most of our activists are in high spirits," says Ferrer. "This type of
assault does not discourage us," he adds. He says that "from November
2015 to date, there have been more than 140" raids of houses of members
of the organization.

On 18 December, at least nine houses of members of the opposition
movement were searched and numerous personal belongings seized by
members of the Ministry of Interior.

Among those who still have not been released are the activists Jorge
Cervantes, coordinator of UNPACU in Las Tunas, and Juan Salgado, both of
whom are being held in the third police unit in that eastern city. The
whereabouts of opponent Esquizander Benítez remain unknown. In addition,
about 50 of UNPACU's militants are being held in several prisons in the
country, which makes the it the opposition organization with the most
political prisoners in the country.

Source: José Daniel Ferrer: "This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage
Us" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/jose-daniel-ferrer-this-type-of-assault-does-not-discourage-us-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2017 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer, was released Thursday after being detained for more than 24 hours. The opponent denounced an “increase in the repression” against the activists of his movement, in a phone call to 14ymedio a few minutes after his release. “The search of … Continue reading "José Daniel Ferrer: “This Type Of Assault Does Not Discourage Us” / 14ymedio" 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
Raúl Castro slams Trump – and I'm forced to agree with the dictator. How
sick is that?
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
fsantiago@miamiherald.com

Cuban dictator Raúl Castro has no moral authority to condemn any
democratically elected world leader.

Not when the most distinguishing trait of his and his late brother's
legacy is death, prison and exile for millions of his critics and
opponents. Not when, as if the Castros didn't already have enough blood
on their hands, there's another dissident who has died amid questionable
circumstances.

Hamell Santiago Mas Hernández, 45, walked into one of Cuba's most brutal
prisons as a healthy man after being arrested in June for a catch-all
offense dubbed desacato — disrespect — widely used as an excuse to pick
up dissidents. Eight months later, he died awaiting trial, supposedly of
a heart attack. He had developed a kidney infection and had lost 35
pounds in three weeks. His wife has denounced conditions at the
Combinado del Este prison, where not even the water is fit to drink. The
Castros have for decades refused to let independent monitors inspect
prisons where political prisoners are kept in inhumane conditions.

So I repeat: Cuban dictator Raúl Castro has no moral authority to
condemn any U.S. president.

But President Donald Trump is an easy target — and Castro is no fool.

He smells the weakness — and opportunity — handed to him on a silver
platter by Trump acting like the hemisphere's new bully on the block.

In a regional summit with leftist leaders in Caracas on Sunday, Castro
lashed out at Trump's immigration and trade policies, calling his plan
to build a wall along the Mexican border "irrational."

"The new agenda of the U.S. government threatens to unleash an extreme
and egotistical trade policy that will impact the competitiveness of our
foreign trade, violate environmental agreements to favor the profits of
transnational [companies], hunt down and deport migrants," Castro said.

And here I am, critic and exile, being forced to agree with the dictator
— a first.

How sick is that?

It's repulsive, but Trump rose to power on an agenda that puts this
country at odds with the rest of the Americas, including our allies. His
first 1 ½ months in office have been like nothing Americans have ever
seen, with Draconian executive orders being signed amid a growing
scandal about Russia's tampering with the U.S. election to benefit him,
and the lingering questions: How much did Trump know? Did he participate?

It's especially notable that Castro has chosen to break his silence on
Trump at a time when the Trump administration is in the middle of "a
full review" of President Obama's U.S.-Cuba policy — and before any
changes are announced. Castro's only comment after Trump took office was
cordial (and, as always, pompous) indicating Cuba's willingness to
"continue negotiating bilateral issues with the United States on a basis
of equality and respect of our country's sovereignty and independence."
Cuba's ambassador attended Trump's inauguration and tweeted from it. At
least two of Trump's White House advisors have been to Cuba and were
ecstatic about doing business there during the Obama years.

But Cuban Americans in Congress have been pressuring Trump to get tough
on Castro and return to the isolation polices of the late 1990s and
early 2000s. That didn't yield much change, and certainly no end to the
58-year-old dictatorship. But during Obama's tenure — and under
unrelenting internal pressure from dissidents, independent journalists,
and a population that simply can't stand the oppression anymore — Raúl
Castro began some reforms, even if the quashing of opponents seldom
relented.

It would be a regrettable turn of events if, at this critical juncture,
Trump's protective nationalist policies gave new combative fodder to
Castro — who has promised to finally leave his post in 2018 — or to
those waiting in the wings to take over Cuba.

I'll say it again: Raúl Castro — head of one of the longest-lasting
dictatorships in the world — is no one to talk.

Yet, here I am, to quote Blue Oyster Cult, giving the devil his due.

Fabiola Santiago: fsantiago@miamiherald.com, @fabiolasantiago

Source: Cuban dictator Raul Castro slams Trump's immigration and trade
policy | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fabiola-santiago/article137006518.html Continue reading
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
Editorial: Rosa María Payá and Castroism's fear
DDC | Madrid | 23 de Febrero de 2017 - 12:37 CET.

In Havana, Rosa María Payá, President of the Latin American Youth
Network for Democracy, was going to bestow the Oswaldo Payá Freedom and
Life Award on Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, and to honor
late Chilean President Patricio Aylwin, represented by his daughter,
former minister and ex-representative Mariana Aylwin.

In 2002 Oswaldo Payá submitted 11,020 signatures to the Cuban National
Assembly and, in 2004, 14,000 additional ones demanding the freedom of
association, the freedom of speech and press, free elections, and
amnesty for political prisoners. Securing the support of such a large
number of people under circumstances like Cuba's entailed a complex
mobilization effort headed up by the leader of the Varela Project, the
largest undertaken by the democratic opposition in Cuba.

The response of the National Assembly to this request resulted in a
modification of the Constitution, with socialism being described as
"irreversible" in Cuba.

Oswaldo Payá perished on July 22, 2012 on a road near Bayamo. His family
reported that the car he was traveling in was hit by a State Security
vehicle. The circumstances of his death remain unclear. The regime has
never allowed an investigation by international experts, and sought to
close the case with a farcical trial.

Thereafter, while upholding her father and his legacy, Rosa María Payá
has continued her struggle for the democratization of Cuba, framing it
in a continental context. This has helped to overturn the tendency to
approach Cuba separately, as unique exception, in the region. Payá has
shown solidarity with the causes and challenges facing youth and
activists from other countries, obtaining the same in return.

The result of this has been a wave of condemnations and expressions of
solidarity from figures such as former Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, and former presidents Sebastián Piñera (Chile) and Felipe
Calderón (Mexico), to the obstacles placed by the regime against the
awards ceremony, to be held in Havana. Once again Castroism has shown
that it is, irreversibly, a dictatorship. Denying entry to the Secretary
General of the OAS and other international invitees merely evidences its
desperation and fear.

Source: Editorial: Rosa María Payá and Castroism's fear | Diario de Cuba
- http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1487849877_29173.html 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
The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania
Diaz Castro

Cubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva,
26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his
dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17.

Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente
Zenea was shot.

It did not help Nelson that, in 1960 he had been a teacher in the
Literacy Campaign in the mountains of Oriente, or that in 1964 he
already had an excellent book of stories published by Virgilio Piñera,
in Ediciones R, or that his mother Ada Leiva wrote a letter to Fidel
Castro asking for clemency for her son, or that another book of Nelson's
poems was pending publication.

Just a few days ago El Nuevo Herald in Miami published an extensive
report about the exposition of the writer Juan Abreu, with one hundred
portraits of those executed by the Castro regime, painted by him, and
presented at the headquarters of the European Parliament in Brussels,
Belgium.

Perhaps Nelson's face was there.

Abreu received the respect and admiration of former political prisoners
such as Pedro Corso, director of the Cuban Institute of Historical
Memory Against Totalitarianism, and the poet Angel Cuadra, who said that
Abreu's Exposition "… is like making history talk through the faces, to
rescue them and give them new life." He would have also received the
support of the writer Reinaldo Arenas, a dear friend, who lamentably
died in New York and who always remembered his friend Nelson.

It's about, said Abreu, "… not conventional portraits, but an approach
to the faces, so often blurred, conserved in old photos."

Abreu's project is a history of the Cuban regime, today in the hands of
Raul Castro, who wants to erase, above all, those days when this place
was used for executions after summary trials, to make examples or simply
for revenge or fear of a fierce opposition that arose among all the
political opponents condemned to death. Bringing it to the European
Parliament must be considered a victory.

The number of five thousand individuals shot dead hangs like a Sword of
Damocles over Cuba. The spirit of all these who faced the firing squad
hangs over La Cabana Fortress, no matter how many parties are held
there, no matter who much fun and excitement and hullabaloo there is, no
matter how many books are sold at the book fair that the executioner
government hold every year, for a people who are so busy just trying to
survive that they don't have time to read.

In this fortress, with a history as dark as the dictatorship itself, the
Book Fair is celebrated, strategic project of Fidel Castro to clean the
blood off their graves, cells, bars and walls, as if history could be
made to disappear.

The two young writers, Nelson and Angelito, were tied up there, their
eyes closed, so as not to see the rifles of the night, close together,
as they asked to die.

Not long ago, someone who knew them, told me that Nelson was very
romantic, that he wept with the melodies of The Beatles, and even
resembled a bit James Dean, the American actor of the fifties and that
Angelito, converted Into his noble page, had the face of a child.

Through the sad streets of La Cabaña Fortress, where Nelson and his
friend walked towards death, today walk the "grateful" who ignore this
story. They are looking for a book to read. Not precisely Nelson's book
of stories, The Gift, or those pages smeared with tears that someone
picked up from an empty dungeon.

Source: The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet,
Tania Diaz Castro – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-spirit-of-the-executions-still-haunts-la-cabana-cubanet-tania-diaz-castro/ Continue reading
Cubanet, Tania Diaz castro, 14 February 2017 — Nelson Rodríguez Leiva, 26, was shot in La Fortaleza de la Cabaña in 1971, along with his dearest friend, Angelito de Jesús Rabí, 17. Also in the same place, but a century earlier, the poet Juan Clemente Zenea was shot. It did not help Nelson that, in … Continue reading "The Spirit Of The Executions Still Haunts La Cabaña / Cubanet, Tania Diaz Castro" Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 16 February 2017 — US President Donald Trump referred to the Cuban-American community during a press conference on Thursday, stating “Cuba was very good to me” and said that he was referring to the role in the US elections of the “Cuban-American people.” Trump won the Florida vote in last November’s election and … Continue reading "Donald Trump: “Cuba Was Very Good To Me” / 14ymedio" Continue reading
The video of Maldenado’s remarks is here. His prepared remarks begin at 01:18:00, and can be read here in English. He then answers questions at 2:18:31. 14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 16 February 2017 — Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, a well-known Cuban graffiti artist and human rights activist, appeared before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, … Continue reading "‘El Sexto’ Appears Before US Senate to Speak of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" 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
father.

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
says.

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
scandalous.

"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
cigars!"

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
regained.

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
free.

— 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
… ' POLICY FOR CUBAN REFUGEES Every day the Cubans gather there, just … ; (people traffickers) along the way. CUBAN-AMERICANS BOTH CELEBRATE, DEPLORE END OF … Lester Diaz, who lived in Havana. "It's unfair … deportation, Sara Ramos said "Cuba supposedly has no political prisoners … Continue reading
Jose Marti's Birthday Is Marked By House Arrests / 14ymedio

14ymedio, 28 January 2017 – On the 164th anniversary of the birth of
José Martí, the day was marked by house arrests of several activists and
the arrest of the regime opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa. The most intense
operation has been against those involved in a global action to demand
the release of political prisoners and demand access to the internet.

The initiative is promoted with the slogan "Occupy Your WiFi Point,"
urging Cubans to use the wireless internet connection areas as spaces to
claim greater freedoms. One of the main promoters of the campaign,
scientist Oscar Casanella, was warned by the police early in the day
that they would not let him leave his house.

Opposition leader Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a member of the Democratic Action
Roundtable (MUAD), was arrested on Saturday afternoon outside the home
of an activist from the organization at Neptuno and San Francisco, in
Central Havana, as reported to this newspaper by Ileana Hernandez
program director Lens Cubano .

Hernandez said that the arrest occurred around 4:30 in the afternoon
when Cuesta Morúa interceded for her before two men in civilian clothes
who were preventing her from accessing the house of dissident Aída
Valdés Santana, a member of MUAD.

"They threw him on the ground and called a police patrol to take him
away," Hernandez says.

"It was not political at all what was going to happen here, we were just
going to eat," says the activist.

A witness later spotted Cuesta Morúa when he was transferred to the
police car on San Lázaro Avenue. This newspaper called the official
telephone number where Cubans can inquire about people arrested, but was
told that Cuesta Morua is not registered.

The leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement, Eliécer Ávila,
denounced that fact that as of Saturday morning three members of State
Security had warned him that they would not allow him to leave his
house. "They have been been in the hallway to the outside to prevent us
from going to the street," the activist said.

"They told me that although they had no confirmation that there was
going to be a public event, they were here for safety," Ávila
explains. Officers told him that this January 28 was "a very important
day for the Revolution" and they would not allow "provocations."

A similar situation was experienced by Luis Alberto Mariño, known as
Tito, a member of the initiative Cuba Decides and one of the most
visible faces of the call for civic action this January 28.

"Yesterday an officer came to warn me that I could not go out, and he is
now out there and says if I go out he will arrest me," he told 14ymedio.

Activist Lia Villares also reported that "two state security agents on a
motorcycle" visited her to threaten her and they remained "on guard" to
prevent her from leaving her home in Vedado.

From Matanzas the ex-prisioner of the Black Spring, Iván Hernández
Carrillo, reported the arrest of regime opponents Sayli Navarro, Félix
Navarro and Francisco Rangel, who also participated in the campaign.

In Palmarito del Cauto the coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(Unpacu), Jorge Cervantes García, was arrested according to a report in
the Twitter account of the dissident Carlos Amel Oliva.

Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests
throughout the country. A figure that "puts the Government of Cuba in
first place in all of Latin America," said the report of the independent
organization.

Source: Jose Marti's Birthday Is Marked By House Arrests / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/jose-martis-birthday-is-marked-by-house-arrests-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, 28 January 2017 – On the 164th anniversary of the birth of José Martí, the day was marked by house arrests of several activists and the arrest of the regime opponent Manuel Cuesta Morúa. The most intense operation has been against those involved in a global action to demand the release of political prisoners and … Continue reading "Jose Marti’s Birthday Is Marked By House Arrests / 14ymedio" Continue reading
21 km for Cuban Political Prisoners / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas, 21 January 2017 — This 29th of January I will be
running the Miami Half Marathon. It will be 21 kilometers of puffing and
panting while I think about the people who are in jail in Cuba because
of their opinions.

My legs and ankles will get unscrewed, my liver will tell me to stop
throughout the entire 13.1 miles of the run, which I will try to
survive. I come from an island where you are not allowed to criticise
whichever dictator happens to be there. Isn't 58 years a dreadfully long
time to dictate peoples' lives?

I am going to run for those who held up an anti-government
sign, those who uttered a slogan which clashed with the chorus of sheep
who say yes and think no. Also, for those who once took arms against the
oldest dictatorship in the west: the two Castro brothers.

I have spent exactly a year puffing away along the road for more than
two hours, in the stifling humidity of the Miami swamps, and the sun
which doesn't understand which season is which. Weights, treadmills,
long runs, speed runs, and running barefoot. I want to run through the
21 kilometers of this beautiful city and the endless alleys where you
can breathe the humidity of the Cuban jails.

I want to get to the 8 mile point, which will totally wear me out, like
somebody who gets put in the Guantánamo Penal Institution, "Combinado",
as it is known, the dismal jail in Boniato, Santiago de Cuba, or the
monstrous model prison at Km 8 in Camagüey.

I can do more, I know, but it's a gesture which will do for now. I only
want to invite you to watch the 15th Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. I
will run slowly, to savour and suffer every mile, every pace within the
pack of runners. This Sunday, more than a hundred Cuban political
prisoners will hear the shout Count! and some will be beaten.

The country that is Cuba which will be subdued by each kick, each
beating. A lock will be fastened. Someone will run along the road in
Miami to open it.

Translated by GH

Source: 21 km for Cuban Political Prisoners / Luis Felipe Rojas –
Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/21-km-for-cuban-political-prisoners-luis-felipe-rojas/ Continue reading
Luis Felipe Rojas, 21 January 2017 — This 29th of January I will be running the Miami Half Marathon. It will be 21 kilometers of puffing and panting while I think about the people who are in jail in Cuba because of their opinions. My legs and ankles will get unscrewed, my liver will tell me to … Continue reading "21 km for Cuban Political Prisoners / Luis Felipe Rojas" Continue reading
PolitiFact: Were there five times the number of political arrests in
Cuba in 2015 as there were in 2010?

PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter rates a claim about political arrests in
Cuba, and whether or not there have been five times as many in 2015 as
there were in 2010.
Last Updated: Tuesday, January 24, 2017, 10:57 AM EST

POLITIFACT RULING

Were there five times as many political arrests in Cuba in 2015 than
there were in 2010?
The recent death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro has raised questions
about the future direction of the country, and whether or not the seeds
of democracy will be planted by the influx of American visitors and
American dollars.

In the view of Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R), it's a "not-so-fast"
situation, because, as Cruz puts it, Cuba is still a dangerous country,
especially when it comes to people who publicly don't agree with the
government. Cruz made this statement about political prisoners in Cuba:

"In 2015, roughly 10,000 political arrests occurred in Cuba. That is
five times as many as occurred in 2010, when there were only about 2,000."

Our partners at PolitiFact Florida took a look at this claim to see if
it was accurate. PolitiFact reporter Allison Graves says that Cruz's
claim rates MOSTLY TRUE on the Truth-O-Meter. Graves says that Cruz,
for the most part, gets the numbers and the gist of the claim correct.

"Sen. Cruz's numbers are mainly accurate, but he would have been more
accurate to cite numbers from 2016, which show more than 10,000
arrests," said Graves. "The data comes from the Cuban Commission for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which is a widely respected
organization based in Havana."

Despite being widely respected, Graves says that there are some caveats
with the data. "One of the issues we had with the data is defining the
length of time the government detains you to type you as a political
prisoner," said Graves. "Cuba has a sort of revolving door system, where
they can hold people for months, days, or even hours, and they could
still be considered political prisoners. It raises the question as to
how many of the arrests led to significant time being held as a
political prisoner."

Graves notes, though, that in the broader scheme of things, political
arrests have risen since 2010, and it's not a stretch to make that
claim. PolitiFact rates Cruz's claim MOSTLY TRUE on the Truth-O-Meter.

Source: PolitiFact: Cuban political arrests on the rise? -
http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2017/1/23/politifact_cuba_pris.html Continue reading
An end to wet foot, dry foot
The outgoing American president makes it harder for Donald Trump to undo
the rapprochement with Cuba
Jan 21st 2017 | HAVANA AND MEXICO CITY

Floating to Florida is now futile
AMONG a group of young men gathered in a tin-roofed telephone-repair
shop in Havana, the topic of conversation is how to leave Cuba. The
easiest way, they now reckon, is to marry a European. That is because on
January 12th, in one of his final acts as president, Barack Obama ended
the 22-year-old "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which allowed Cubans who
land on American soil to stay in the country; those caught at sea were
sent home. That shuts off the main escape route for Cubans in search of
a better life.

Mr Obama's decision looks like an attempt to protect one of his few
foreign-policy successes: his agreement with Cuba's president, Raúl
Castro, in December 2014 to restore diplomatic relations and loosen an
economic embargo imposed on the island by the United States in 1960.
Donald Trump, who will become the American president on January 20th,
has said contradictory things about the rapprochement with Cuba, but his
more recent comments have been negative. Some members of his transition
team are fierce opponents of the normalisation policy.

Mr Trump's administration may thus try to undo the rapprochement with
Cuba, which includes freer travel and better telecoms links with the
island. The wet foot, dry foot decision makes that harder. Mr Trump does
not like immigration; he will find it awkward to reverse a decision that
makes it more difficult. It will also be tricky to justify reopening
automatic asylum for Cubans but not for citizens of countries that are
even more repressive.

Fearing that the United States would shut its Cubans-only entrance, many
Cubans rushed to its borders. In fiscal year 2016, which ended in
September, 56,000 arrived, more than double the number of two years
before. Many paid thousands of dollars for tickets and in bribes and
fees to people-smugglers to reach the United States' southern border.
One popular route started with a flight to Ecuador, followed by a
perilous land journey through Central America. Some Cubans still venture
into leaky boats to cross the Florida Strait.

Mr Obama's abrupt decision to end the wet foot, dry foot policy leaves
some—no one is sure how many—stranded en route to the United States.
More than 500 are in southern Mexico, waiting for documentation from the
Mexican government that would allow them to journey to the American
border. They will now be treated just like others clamouring for
admission, though the United States says it will try to give them
humanitarian assistance.

Nearly half a million people were caught trying to enter the United
States illegally in fiscal 2015 (down from 1.8m in 2000). They face
detention until they are sent back. About a third were from Central
America's "northern triangle", where governments are less repressive
than in Cuba but violence is far worse. Cubans who face political
persecution will still have a right to asylum. Others can apply for the
20,000 migrant visas available to the country's citizens each year.

American conservatives have slammed Mr Obama's wet foot, dry foot
reversal, and his simultaneous decision to stop giving Cuban doctors who
defect from a third country fast-track entry to the United States, as
his final betrayal of the Cuban people. The regime has become more
repressive since he unfroze relations, they maintain. Arrests of
dissidents, for example, have increased.

Defenders of Mr Obama's thaw point out that the government now uses
short-term detention rather than long jail sentences to discourage its
opponents. The number of political prisoners has fallen sharply.
Although Mr Trump has complained that the United States gets "nothing"
from its new relationship with Cuba, it has led to co-operation in such
areas as drug-trafficking and cyber-crime.

In Havana, the reaction to Mr Obama's gambit is mixed. Cuba's
government, which saw the wet foot, dry foot policy as an insult and a
cause of a damaging brain drain, is pleased. Some ordinary folk think
the change is justified. Wet foot, dry foot was just "another way to
implement the blockade", said a well-dressed woman who would not give
her name. Barbara Izquierdo, a housewife whose brother went to the
United States 15 years ago, admits that most Cubans leave for financial
reasons, not political ones.

But many Cubans, living on monthly incomes of $50-200, are crestfallen.
"We don't live, we survive," says a young man who works in property. He
had hoped to leave and then to return to "build something for myself".
He must now wait for the government to allow greater economic and
political freedom. The death last November of Fidel Castro, the leader
of the Cuban revolution, and Raúl Castro's plan to step down as
president next year, may help bring change. Ambitious Cubans, denied the
prospect of escaping to the United States, may now push harder for that.

Source: An end to wet foot, dry foot | The Economist -
http://www.economist.com/news/americas/21714600-outgoing-american-president-makes-it-harder-donald-trump-undo-rapprochement?fsrc=rss%7Came Continue reading
Artist jailed in Cuba since November for anti-Fidel Castro graffiti may
be released Jan. 28
By Elizabeth Llorente Published January 18, 2017 FoxNews.com

A prominent graffiti artist in Cuba who was jailed the day after Fidel
Castro died for actions that appeared to celebrate the late Cuban
leader's passing, reportedly will be released on Jan. 28, his girlfriend
told FoxNews.com

Danilo Maldonado, known as "El Sexto," has been transported to various
jails since his arrest on Nov. 26. The 33-year-old dissident has not
been charged with any crimes, those close to him say. He is being held
in a maximum-security jail on the outskirts of Havana, according to
Amnesty International, which has been monitoring Maldonado's
imprisonment and on Tuesday demanded his release.

His girlfriend, Alexandra Martinez, who lives in Miami, said she is
hopeful but leery about news that Maldonado will be released. Martinez
said Maldonado told her in a telephone call on Tuesday night that Cuban
authorities told him they were freeing him on Jan. 28.

"We don't know if this is just more psychological torture," she said.
"Last week, he called me screaming that they told him they were going to
execute him. So it was shocking to hear yesterday that they are
releasing him."

Cuban authorities have accused Maldonado of damaging state property,
though no formal charges have been pressed, according to those close to
him as well as Cuban exile groups and international human rights
organizations that have been tracking his situation.

Cuba-based news media reported that Maldonado had created graffiti on a
wall in Havana that read: "He's gone," which was seen as a disrespectful
act by Cuban authorities.

"He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and
unconditionally," said Amnesty International in its Tuesday statement.

Amnesty International noted that it has been denied access to Cuban
jails since 1988. It describes the jail that is housing Maldonado as a
place "where convicted murderers and political prisoners being punished
for their political views are traditionally held."

Meanwhile, Martinez said she is looking toward Jan. 28.

"I fully expect and demand that they follow through" with the promise of
release, she said.

Source: Artist jailed in Cuba since November for anti-Fidel Castro
graffiti may be released Jan. 28 | Fox News -
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/01/18/artist-jailed-in-cuba-since-november-for-anti-fidel-castro-graffiti-may-be-released-jan-28.html 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
discipline."

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
divided."

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
Opponents of U.S.-Cuba normalization have taken full advantage of the fact-free character of recent political debate in the United States to spread a variety of myths. Cuba expert William LeoGrande dispels them 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
censorship.

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
consequences.

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
Spain.

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 -
http://translatingcuba.com/fidel-castro-the-tyrant-exits-but-the-damage-remains-jeovany-jimenez-vega/ Continue reading
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, … Continue reading "Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany Jimenez Vega" Continue reading
EFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 5 January 2017 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), a dissident group, denounced today that it had documented at least 9,940 arbitrary arrests for “political reasons” in 2016, the highest figure of the last six years. With a monthly average of 827 arrests, the opposition organization said … Continue reading "Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In Cuba In 2016 / EFE,14ymedio" Continue reading
Cuban opposition activists said Thursday that … highest count since 2010, the Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation … denies holding any political prisoners. Cuba's longtime revolutionary leader … group Amnesty International has listed Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado as … Continue reading
Opposition Leader José Daniel Ferrer Released / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 22 December 2016 — José Daniel Ferrer, general
coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), was arrested on
Thursday around one in the afternoon when he left the organization's
headquarters in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and released about 40
minutes later, as reported in a phone call to 14ymedio from Omar Fayut,
a member of the opposition organization. Ferrer was taken in a bus,
handcuffed, to the third police station in the city of Santiago de Cuba
and then released, without further explanation.

The activist denounced that since the death of former President Fidel
Castro "many members of the movement have been harassed" by the
political police who maintain a cordon around Unpacu's headquarters.

Last Sunday, some hundred members of the UNPACU were arrested when
they tried to march to the shrine of El Cobre to demand the release of
political prisoners. Most of the detainees were released after a few
hours, but nine remain imprisoned.

Minutes before his arrest, Ferrer had denounced on Twitter that
activists Ovidio Martín, Samuel Leblan, Juan Salgado, Yasmani Magaña,
Belkis Cantillo and Moraima Díaz, among others, continued to be detained.


Carlos Amel Oliva, a member of Unpacu, maintains that "the threat is
constant" and that since Monday the headquarters remains besieged with
police officers "stationed on the corners." The young man explains that
the soldiers "put up fences to prohibit the access of any type of vehicles."

The arrests and police cordons are in addition to the searches of at
least 13 houses of Unpacu activists.

The last report of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCDHRN) said that during last November there were at
least 359 arbitrary arrests of peaceful dissidents on the island. That
is roughly one hundred fewer than in October but the independent
organization warns of possible repression after the death of former
President Fidel Castro on November 25.

Source: Opposition Leader José Daniel Ferrer Released / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/opposition-leader-jose-daniel-ferrer-released-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 22 December 2016 — José Daniel Ferrer, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), was arrested on Thursday around one in the afternoon when he left the organization’s headquarters in the city of Santiago de Cuba, and released about 40 minutes later, as reported in a phone call to 14ymedio from … Continue reading "Opposition Leader José Daniel Ferrer Released / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Gov. Scott to Raul Castro: Bring Freedom and Democracy to Cuba
By: FOX 13 News staff
POSTED:DEC 21 2016 11:09AM EST
UPDATED:DEC 21 2016 11:09AM EST

TALAHASSEE (FOX 13) - Governor Rick Scott sent a strongly-worded letter
Tuesday to Raul Castro urging him to bring absolute freedom and
democracy to Cuba.

In the correspondence, Governor Scott tells Cuba's new leader, "You have
a tremendous and historic opportunity right in front of you. You can
take Cuba in one of two directions."

Scott called Castro out for continuing his brother's tyranny, bringing
up specific examples of people the younger Castro imprisoned in the wake
of his brother's death.

The Florida governor appealed to religion, recalling that after Pope
Francis' visit, Castro suggested he might return to church and begin to
pray again.

Governor Scott ended the letter with a moment of self-reflection and
hope, stating, "People will mock this letter and call it naïve. But,
for the sake of the Cuban people, I pray change will come."


Read the letter in its entirety, in English, below:

Dear Mr. Castro:

As you know, following the death of your brother Fidel, the streets of
Miami were packed with people celebrating. The celebration represented
the hope for an end to the decades of torture, repression, incarceration
and death that you and your brother have caused the people of Cuba.

While many are hopeful for the future of Cuba, it is thus far clear that
nothing has changed. Let me be specific with a few examples: You
recently imprisoned the artist El Sexto for expressing his views
following the announcement of your brother's death. It is reported
that he is in isolation without food or clothing. Dr. Eduardo Cardet,
the National Coordinator for the "Movimiento Cristiano Liberación" (MCL)
was imprisoned. And, just a few days ago Berta Soler, the leader of the
Ladies in White, was detained.

Like your brother, you are known for firing squads and imprisonment of
those who oppose you. You have said that you plan on retiring in 2018,
but the leadership that you have picked to come after you is designed to
keep your oppression intact, and to keep your people trapped.

After Pope Francis' trip to Cuba, you suggested that you may return to
the church and pray again.

My prayer for you and the Cuban people is that you listen to Pope
Francis and focus on bringing absolute freedom and democracy to Cuba. I
pray that you open Cuba to freedom of the press and religion; release
all political prisoners; provide unfettered access to the internet;
allow ownership of land; provide reparations to those whose property was
confiscated; bring all Cuban military home and allow for free and fair
elections with international supervision.

You have a tremendous and historic opportunity right in front of you.
You can take Cuba in one of two directions.

You can allow a new era of freedom and opportunity for Cuba. This path
will almost overnight provide all Cubans with a dramatic improvement in
their quality of life at every level. The people of Florida and of the
entire United States are ready to help make your country an overnight
success with unprecedented levels of trade and capital investment.
Every human heart longs for freedom, and your people long for freedom.

Or, you can continue on the other path. This path is best characterized
by oppression, tyranny, wrongful imprisonment, torture, and murder.
This is the path that hates freedom, the path that does not trust every
man and woman to make their own decisions, the path that opposes all
those who honor and worship God.

And this is also the path of poverty, the path where the tyrants live
like kings while the people live like peasants. But, right in front of
you is the opportunity to embrace freedom and bring in a new era of
unprecedented prosperity for your people. I have no doubt that the
people of Florida stand ready to flood Cuba with prosperity.

No one thinks you will choose the way of freedom, the way of democracy,
the way of peace. People will mock this letter and call it naïve. But,
for the sake of the Cuban people, I pray change will come.

Sincerely,

Rick Scott

Governor

Source: Gov. Scott to Raul Castro: Bring Freedom and Democracy to Cuba |
FOX 13 Tampa Bay - http://www.fox13news.com/news/local-news/224868604-story Continue reading
Berta Soler Released, But UNPACU Activists Still Detained / 14ymedio, Mario Penton 14ymedio, Miami, 19 December 2016 — The leader of the Ladies in White movement was released on Monday after being detained for 24 hours. Berta Soler was arrested the previous day in one of the largest raids against the opposition in recent months. […] Continue reading
14ymedio, Miami, 19 December 2016 — The leader of the Ladies in White movement was released on Monday after being detained for 24 hours. Berta Soler was arrested the previous day in one of the largest raids against the opposition in recent months. Meanwhile, approximately ten activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) remain imprisoned, … Continue reading "Berta Soler Released, But UNPACU Activists Still Detained / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Harsh Police Operation Against the Patriotic Union of Cuba / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 18 December 2016 – Beginning at 6:00 AM on Sunday
morning, Cuban State Security forces attacked nine homes of members of
the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU); six in Santiago de Cuba, two in
Palma Soriano, and one in Palmarito de Cauto. More details are expected
in the coming hours; currently most of the activists' telephones have
been cut off.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the organizations, explained to 14ymedio
that the "justification" for the harsh repressive operation was a call
made by UNPACU for people to come into the streets in protest, in Havana
and Santiago de Cuba. The objective of the opposition organization was
"to demand the release of the political prisoners and the end to
increasingly severe repression against independent civil society
groups," Ferrer said.

The homes simultaneously attacked were those of Leonardo Pérez Franco,
Ovidio Martín Castellanos and Damaris Rodríguez. At the home of Iriades
Hernández, who is currently abroad, the police entered and took two
laptops. The police also broke into UNPACU's working headquarters and
the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer.

In Palma Soriano the homes of Yenisei Jiménez, wife of political
prisoner Geordanis Muñoz, and that of Yeroslandi Calderín, coordinator
of the March 18 Cell and a replacement for Víctor Campa who is currently
a political prisoner. In Palmarito de Cauto, so far it has only been
possible to report an attack on the home of Yasmani Diaz, but it is
presumed that there may be other cases.


Assaults, thefts, detentions against member of #UNPACU, Today
families won't eat because their sustenance was stolen.
Among the possessions seized were printed material, discs, audiovisual
materials, hard drives, four laptops and several cellphones. In the home
of Jose Daniel Ferrer they seized 370 dollars intended to feed a
pregnant woman and to buy supplies for her unborn child. As a part of
the operation, more than 50 activists in the province of Santiago de
Cuba and 10 in Havana had been detained by 1:30 this afternoon.

Some ten of those arrested have been released, among them Jose Daniel
Ferrer, who reported the following: "A lieutenant colonel who refused to
give me his name showed me a warning notice where it said that our call
gave rise to the crimes of public disorder, contempt, attack and
espionage. They also warned me that they had been disturbed by my
statements about the late Fidel Castro on our website and my modest
interpretation or translation of his concept of Revolution."

Source: Harsh Police Operation Against the Patriotic Union of Cuba /
14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/harsh-police-operation-against-the-patriotic-union-of-cuba-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Doing Business in a Post-Fidel Cuba
Pablo González AlonsoAlec Lee
DECEMBER 19, 2016

President Obama's historic visit to Cuba in March 2016 drove excitement
for businesses considering the market that the island could become. The
move made it possible to imagine an end to the U.S. embargo of Cuba
(which remains firmly in place) and a consequently sharp improvement in
Cuba's economic conditions.

However, in the subsequent months, Cuba has failed to advance on
economic liberalization, encountered a fiscal crisis, watched the U.S.
elect a potentially hostile president, and lost its revolutionary
leader. It's no longer clear whether Cuba will see either domestic
reforms or greater engagement from the U.S.

Understanding the policies that leaders in the U.S. and Cuba could
implement over the next two years will be critical for helping business
executives determine the level of urgency around developing their Cuba
operation.

A limited business opportunity
First, it is important to remember why Cuba still presents only a
limited opportunity for doing business. Cuba faces three overarching
challenges: The first is a lack of capital investment, which, in all
likelihood, is unsolvable without greater capital inflows to Cuba from
the United States, meaning the embargo needs to end. With a limited
financial system, Cuba lacks the domestic savings to raise fixed capital
investment above the current level of 10% of GDP (half the average of
Latin America).

Second, Cuba confronts the difficult task of unburdening its largely
stalled state-led economy. With many state-run enterprises dependent on
public subsidies, Cuba has attempted to shift workers to the much more
agile private sector, but progress continues to be slow.

Finally, Cuba confronts significant difficulties caused by its dual
currency system. In order to facilitate transferring subsidies to its
public-sector entities, Cuba utilizes two currencies: the convertible
Peso (CUC) valued on par with the dollar and fully tradable, and the
Cuban Peso (CUP) valued at a rate of 24:1 with the dollar. While useful
for exerting economic control, this mechanism serves to undermine the
competitiveness of Cuban exports and severely limits the purchasing
power of Cuban wage earners.

Without meaningful advancements on these three fronts, new business
developments in Cuba will simply not progress. While limited
opportunities will exist for companies in select sectors (such as
hospitality and telecoms), underlying economic performance will remain
flat, much as it has for the last several decades.

An economic crossroads
In April 2016, Cuba held its Seventh Communist Party Congress. At the
last Congress, in 2011, Raul Castro had announced plans to introduce new
market reforms and attract foreign investment. As such, many Cuba
watchers anticipated similar announcements in 2016, potentially
including instructions regarding the eventual elimination of the
country's dual currency regime. Instead, only limited new reform
measures were announced, and Fidel himself appeared to push back
somewhat against the general movement toward greater economic
liberalization.

Perhaps more important for an analysis of near-term Cuba policy, this
non-event took place in the context of an expanding fiscal crisis for
the Cuban government. Having long relied on subsidized oil imports from
Venezuela to provide cheap energy and the bulk of its foreign exchange
income, Cuba has seen its subsidized oil inflows dwindle as its
benefactor has entered into economic collapse. The result has been
periodic shutdowns of key public sector companies in Cuba, and blackouts
in Cuban neighborhoods.

In this setting, two distinct options are available to Cuban leadership,
depending on whether Trump will continue to advance economic and
diplomatic engagement with Cuba, or whether he will back away from the
country. In the case of the former, Cuba could continue down the path of
slow but steady liberalization, and in the case of the latter, it would
likely be pushed to retrench while seeking alternate sources of finance.
The first scenario would allow for continued development of already
existing business ventures and provide greater space for the U.S. to
remove the embargo; the second would likely result in limited new
opportunities within Cuba and continued economic stagnation.

An unpredictable U.S. President-elect
During the presidential campaign, President-elect Trump said that he
would revoke "the deal" with Cuba if he could not get more concessions,
such as the release of political prisoners or expanding the scope of
approved private sector business activities. Within a month after his
election, Trump had already hired two professed "Cuba hardliners" as
part of his transition team (Mauricio Clover Corone and Yleem Poblete,
who both support maintaining the Cuba embargo), possibly signaling that
he intends to hold hard and fast to his campaign rhetoric.

Despite these signs, due to expanding U.S. economic interest on the
island, which the Obama administration has worked hard to strengthen
before the transition of power in January, it would be difficult for
Trump to cancel all of Obama's policy changes toward Cuba. Rather, it
would be easier politically for Trump to seek some symbolic victory over
the medium-term (such as securing a win in Cuba for an American business
like Google), while largely maintaining Obama's policy changes. The
worst case for businesses interested in Cuba would be if Trump chooses
(or is forced) to retrench on Obama's key economic policy measures,
specifically the easing of travel restrictions and the licensing of
companies in the telecoms and financial services spaces.

How to know where the economy is heading
With these factors in play, the short-term outlook for Cuba is highly
uncertain. In that respect, companies can follow these key events to
better track the development of policy both on the island and in the
United States.

Does Trump pull the trigger on Article III of the Libertad Act of 1996
during the first 100 days of his presidency? The Act, passed in 1996 to
strengthen the U.S. embargo of Cuba, includes a provision, which, if
triggered, makes it possible to set off tens of thousands of lawsuits
against the Cuban government for property confiscated following the 1959
revolution. This would make trade with Cuba nearly impossible and likely
push back accelerated growth in Cuba by years, if not longer.
Does Cuba get a new economic benefactor? With Venezuela in free
collapse, Cuba is in a position to accept help from a new economic
benefactor. Potential support from either Russia or China could stave
off near-term economic contraction, while also potentially incentivizing
the Trump administration to end to the embargo in order to further
engage Cuba and avoid losing influence.
Do the Democrats add Senate seats in the U.S. mid-term elections in
November 2018? While there is a significant number of Republicans
who support ending the embargo, the Senate would likely require greater
Democratic representation to gain sufficient support for ending the embargo.
Does the new Cuban leader, who takes over in February 2018, accelerate
economic reforms? The new government will likely be the first not led by
a participant in the 1959 revolution, and it will need to draw a greater
portion of its legitimacy by driving economic growth and improving the
lives of Cubans. This would potentially push it to accept a greater
liberalization of the economy, including permitting greater private
activity and eliminating the dual currency system.
Pablo González Alonso is Director of Latin America Research at Frontier
Strategy Group (FSG), the leading information and advisory services
partner to senior executives in emerging markets. Access his latest
report, "Sizing the Cuban Opportunity."
Alec Lee is a research analyst at Frontier Strategy Group (FSG), the
leading information and advisory services partner to senior executives
in emerging markets. Access his latest report, "Sizing the Cuban
Opportunity."

Source: Doing Business in a Post-Fidel Cuba -
https://hbr.org/2016/12/doing-business-in-a-post-fidel-cuba Continue reading