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UN Watch testimony at UNHRC interrupted by Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia,
China, Iran, Bangladesh
By UN Watch —— Bio and Archives March 21, 2017

GENEVA— Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Bolivia, UAE, Iran,
Bangladesh, and Venezuela today attempted to silence UN human rights
council testimony by the head of UN Watch, a Geneva-based human rights
non-governmental organization, after he criticized or called for the
removal of these countries from the council.

However, Neuer thanked the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Netherlands,
and Latvia for successfully defending the right of UN Watch to speak.
Full text of the speech and interruptions below.

UN Human Rights Council, debate under Agenda Item 8, Vienna Declaration
of Human Rights

delivered by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch
https://youtu.be/CEygFMZdG4Q

Today we ask: Is the world living up to the Vienna Declaration, which
reaffirms basic human rights?

We ask the government of Turkish President Erdogan, if it cares about
human rights, why did they just fire more than one hundred thousand
teachers, university deans, judges, prosecutors, religious figures and
public servants?

We ask Pakistan, when will they release Asia Bibi, the innocent,
Christian mother of five, now on death row on the absurd charge of
blasphemy?

We ask Saudi Arabia, when will you end gender apartheid? When will you
stop oppressing all religious practice that is not Wahhabist Islam? When
will you release Raif Badawi, serving 10 years in prison for the crime
of advocating a free society?

We welcome the Secretary-General's new pledge of UN reform. That is why
today, pursuant to Article 8 of Resolution 60/251, we call for the
complete removal of Saudi Arabia from this Council.

So long as 1.3 billion people are denied their basic freedoms, we call
for the removal of China. So long as human rights are abused by
Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, and UAE, we
call for their removal.

So long as the Maduro government imprisons democracy leaders like Mayor
Antonio Ledezma of Caracas, and causes its millions of citizens to
scavenge for food, we call for the removal of Venezuela.

So long as the Castro government jails Eduardo Cardet, a prisoner of
conscience, we call for the complete removal of Cuba from this Council.

[Cuba interrupts on a point of order, followed by 8 other countries]

Cuba: We are taking the floor under Article 13 of the UN General
Assembly Rules, Point of Order. We heard the speaker, he has just taken
the floor in this debate and questioned the membership of the Human
Rights Council, particularly our membership but also other countries.
The decision on granting membership is up to the member states of the
United Nations alone, pursuant to which they freely decide and elect who
will be a member. And bear in mind resolution 96/31 of ECOSOC and
resolution 60 of the UNGA, we would ask you to call the speaker to order
and that we should confine our comments to what is on agenda. It's
important that they are called to order, bearing in mind the
prerogatives that NGOs enjoy.

Bangladesh: We also have the same position as Cuba with regard to the
intervention made by the NGO, UN Watch. We note with very high concern
that the language used by this particular organization is not only
unacceptable, it is abhorrent. The basic premise of questioning the
membership of the Human Rights Council with regard to a number of states
is out-hand rejected. We believe that this is a matter of serious
concern, the continued participation of this organization in the
proceedings of this Council is, to our view, not desirable, and we would
ask the Human Rights Council to take a unified view on this matter.

Venezuela: I wanted to support the points of order raised by Cuba and
Bangladesh. My delegation would also like to state in writing its
position. We reject what has been said by this political organization
called UN Watch. They use this session to address political issues which
have nothing to do with promoting human rights. Vice-President, we are
under agenda item 8, the general debate, this is a thematic debate, it
has to do with the Vienna Action Plan. We therefore reject the fact that
this political body violates the spirit of cooperation that needs to
prevail in our work. President, I agree that we need to respect freedom
of expression and freedom to disagree with a country, but at the same
time we demand respect, and we cannot accept offensive terms used
against our country and our government. I would, therefore, president,
ask you to call the speaker to order. Thank you.

Pakistan: We would support the well articulated arguments already given
by Cuba, Bangladesh, Venezuela, and we would also align ourselves with
their viewpoint, that this organization is way out of line, and the
honor and respect of the Council should be always at the top of the
agenda, and to target continuously particular countries by the
organization, which we saw in the last agenda item also, and again in
the last agenda item we had to take the point of order on the same
organization, it is not in line, and we urge the whole Council to take a
unified position on this, and we respectfully request the Vice-President
to take Point of Order on this.

United States: Without addressing the substance of the speaker's
statement, we are of the opinion that what we have heard of the
intervention is indeed addressed to the subject matter at hand before
this council and is within the UN rules and IB package. I believe that
the speaker has already finished speaking as I understood it but if the
speaker has not, we respectfully ask that you rule that the speaker be
allowed to finish his presentation.

China: I support the statement made by Cuba, Bangladesh, Venezuela and
Pakistan. Members of the Human Rights Council were elected by the member
states, and this is an NGO which is making this kind of attack, which is
totally unacceptable, and therefore I would respectfully request the
Vice-President to end the speech that has been made by this NGO. And I
would also call on this NGO to respect the rules of the Council in this
regard.

United Kingdom: NGOs should be allowed to speak openly and freely in
this forum. The NGO should be allowed to conclude their statement,

Netherlands: We highly value that civil society be able to speak. We ask
you to allow the speaker to finish their statement.

Canada: Canada deeply believes that accredited NGOs should be authorized
to take the floor in this council. What we heard from this statement is
relevant to our ongoing discussions.

Saudi Arabia: I won't be long. We support the points of order raised by
Cuba, Bangladesh, and China. Thank you.

Iran: We would like to support the point of order made by our
distinguished Cuban colleagues, followed by Bangladesh and other
distinguished members of the Council. Thank you.

Latvia: It is very important that we allow NGOs to express their views,
even if we may sometimes disagree with what they say. That enriches our
human rights dialogue. It is the better of courtesy to ensure that NGO
statements should not be interrupted. I call on you to allow NGOs to
continue.

Vice-President (Egyptian ambassador Amr Ahmed Ramadan): Actually NGOs
were given the chance to speak, we have been listening to them since
mid-day…

Germany: Like others before us, we would urge upon this council to
listen to the voice of NGOs, even if we do not always agree with what
they say.

Bolivia: Thank you, brother Vice-President. We feel compelled to second
what has been said by Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, etc. We are not
questioning freedom of expression, it is the content of what has been
said which discredits the NGO. We are clear in how this NGO operates.
Thank you.

United Arab Emirates: President, the Emirates would also like to endorse
the point of order raised by Cuba, China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and
others. Thank you.

Vice-President: Distinguished members of this council: we have wasted
more than 10 minutes, we listened to 15 countries whether to allow UN
Watch to continue with this statement. We need all to recognize that we
are short of time in this session. So with that in mind, we need to work
in an efficient manner, to finish the agenda. With that in mind, I will
ask the representative to respect member states, and more importantly to
respect this Council.

UN Watch: Mr. President, we have the right to cite the suspension
provision of this council's own charter. They can silence human rights
defenders at home, but they cannot do so at the United Nations.

UN Watch is a Geneva-based human rights organization founded in 1993 to
monitor UN compliance with the principles of its Charter. It is
accredited as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Special
Consultative Status to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and
as an Associate NGO to the UN Department of Public Information (DPI).

Source: UN Watch testimony at UNHRC interrupted by Cuba, Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia, China, Iran, Bangladesh -
http://canadafreepress.com/article/un-watch-testimony-at-unhrc-interrupted-by-cuba-pakistan-saudi-arabia-china Continue reading
Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality
George Diaz
Orlando Sentinel
"So when are you going to Cuba?"

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

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

Everybody is Havana Daydreamin'!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Source: Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality -
Baltimore Sun -
http://www.baltimoresun.com/os-ed-cuba-human-rights-not-improving-george-diaz-20170317-story.html Continue reading
Rio Mar, a Restaurant Under Surveillance by Alejandro Castro / Juan Juan
Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 28 February 2017 — An unusual combination of powerful
forces has conspired to put Río Mar, a privately owned restaurant, in
the defendant's dock. Who has broken the rules this time?

Río Mar occupies an enviable location on the western bank and at the
mouth of the Almendares River, right across from the former St. Dorothy
of the Moon of Chorrera Fort, erected in 1646, which currently houses
the Mesón de la Chorrera. This small detail gives you some idea of the
cost that comes from having a pedigree like the owners: the stigmatized
and closely watched family of former military men, Antonio and Patricio
de La Guardia, who were convicted in 1989.*

Located on Third Avenue between C Street and Final Street in the Miramar
district, Río Mar has become a favorite of local and international
customers who consider it one of the best of its kind in Cuba. Opened in
2012, the restaurant maintains an unbeatable offering that combines
gastronomic quality, superb service and a delightful environment in just
the right amount. It also offers a fabulous view of Havana and its
seaside promenade.

In this case, it is not the total subordination to military authority
that exists on the island that is so troubling. Rather it is the
astonishingly placid acceptance of how the judicial and legislative
branches serve as a private law firm for the executive — a branch which
in Cuba is synonymous with the Castros — and how this hinders the
performance of the private sector and society as a whole.

Neighbors indicate that Río Mar is not violating rules covering legal
hours of operation for this type of business or regulations governing
noise levels. It cannot be accused of fraudulently transferring
ownership because the building has always been in the family. Instead,
sources close to the investigation indicate the business's problem is
not with the agency that regulates all private-sector work, nor with the
courts, nor with the police, much less with the Provincial
Administrative Council.

The investigation was launched by the Committee for Defense and National
Security** — an unsettling and highly visible organization with no legal
standing — and ordered by the office of the Attorney General of the
Republic of Cuba. This office was set up to oversee the organs of
government, administer state assets, and prevent and prosecute
administrative corruption, not to waste its resources investigating
small privately owned businesses.

"It's really despicable. Look, I'm not an inspector or an owner. I don't
have access to the information the comptroller has… not by a long shot.
The only information I have is from working in this restaurant and that
tells me they are not doing anything illegal here. They obey all the
self-employment regulations because they know better than anyone that
their surname constantly keeps them under the watchful eyes of the
government and its henchmen," says an employee with real bitterness.

Translator's notes:

*Tony de la Guardia was a colonel in the Cuban Interior Ministry who
was executed after being convicted of cocaine trafficking. His twin
brother Patricio was sentenced to thirty years in prison.

** In a previous post, the author described the Committee for Defense
and National Security, an organization headed by General Raúl Castro's
son Alejandro, as an unofficial agency unrecognized by the Cuban
constitution but which nonetheless plays a role in government.

Source: Rio Mar, a Restaurant Under Surveillance by Alejandro Castro /
Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/r%C2%ADo-mar-a-restaurant-under-surveillance-by-alejandro-castro-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Stephen Purvis publicará su testimonio Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 28 February 2017 — An unusual combination of powerful forces has conspired to put Río Mar, a privately owned restaurant, in the defendant’s dock. Who has broken the rules this time? Río Mar occupies an enviable location on the western bank and at the mouth of the Almendares River, right across from the … Continue reading "Río Mar, a Restaurant Under Surveillance by Alejandro Castro / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 11 March 2017 — An aging prostitute is like a book with tattered pages depicting the life of a nation. A survival manual to approach the vagaries of reality, to learn about its most carnal and, at times, most sordid parts. Many of the courtesans of Utopia in Cuba are already octogenarians. … Continue reading "Utopia’s Courtesans / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez" 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
CCDHRN: 482 arbitrary arrests on the Island in February and a political
activist, dead in prison
DDC | La Habana | 8 de Marzo de 2017 - 20:48 CET.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: CCDHRN: 482 arbitrary arrests on the Island in February and a
political activist, dead in prison | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1489002530_29507.html Continue reading

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

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

leer más

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
No sign of release for the last Cuban spy in a US jail
Despite thaw in relations, Ana Belén Montes looks set to serve last nine
years of quarter-century sentence
PABLO DE LLANO
Corresponsal en Miami
Miami 8 MAR 2017 - 16:05 CET

On February 28, in her cell at a maximum security prison in Fort Worth,
Texas, Ana Belén Montes turned 60 years of age. Once regarded as one of
the Pentagon's top analysts and an expert on Cuba's military, the
so-called "Queen of Cuba" was arrested in 2001 when her 17-year career
as Cuban spy was discovered and she was sentenced to 25 years in jail.

Despite the thaw in relations between Havana and Washington under Barack
Obama, which saw three of the last Cuban spies returned home in 2014,
Montes remains behind bars in a facility reserved for some of the most
dangerous and mentally ill prisoners in the United States.

In 2016, a family member revealed that Montes had undergone surgery for
breast cancer, although there has been no official confirmation of this.

Her release is currently scheduled for 2026, by which point she will be
69 years old.

Unlike the three prisoners released in 2014, the Cuban government has
never officially campaigned for Montes' freedom. In June 2016, Miami
Spanish-language daily El Nuevo Herald reported that Cuban officials had
asked after her during a meeting in the United States. A few months
earlier, Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez had called for her
release at a concert in Spain. The request was repeated a few days ago
at one of his concerts in Puerto Rico. Mariela Castro, daughter of
Cuba's President Raúl Castro, posted a report from Venezuela's official
news agency mentioning that a campaign for Montes' freedom had been
organized in Cuba.

Montes penetrated US intelligence deeper than any other Cuban agent

Writing in his blog on Montes' birthday about her treatment by the
regime, Cuban journalist Harold Cárdenas said: "The Cuban Foreign
Ministry's discretion is understandable. In contrast, the silence in the
national media is shameful."

There has been speculation that the United States and Cuba are
negotiating Montes' exchange for Assata Shakur, the Black Panther leader
accused of shooting a police officer who managed to escape to Cuba in
1984, claiming political asylum. But a 2016 US State Department internal
document rejects the option.

Montes is considered to be the Cuban agent who most deeply penetrated US
intelligence. An analyst at the Pentagon, she was recruited by Havana in
1984, and after undergoing training, would report each night to her
handlers via shortwave radio without ever having to make copies of
documents, thanks to her remarkable memory.

She rose through the ranks from her initial position as a typist,
garnering commendations along the way, one of which was presented by the
then-head of the CIA. Born to Puerto Rican parents on a US army base in
Germany and whose two siblings worked for the FBI, while her former
boyfriend was a Pentagon official, Montes passed on top-secret
information, such as the identity of four US spies in Cuba or US
activities in Central America. She refused payment for her spying,
telling the judge at her 2002 trial she acted out of "love" for Cuba,
which she felt was being treated "cruelly" by the United States.

The Cuban government has never officially campaigned for Montes' freedom

Former CIA analyst Brian Latell, who worked with Montes, remembers her
as "bitter" and "prepared to risk her life for her love of Fidel Castro
and his revolution."

Piero Gleijeses, an expert in US foreign policy, was her teacher in the
1980s when Montes undertook a Master's in International Studies at Johns
Hopkins University. He remembers her as a "brilliant" student regarded
as "conservative" in the classroom. Montes visited him in a decade
later, ostensibly to discuss a paper he had written, but in reality to
scope him for information about Cuba. "I told her that if I had any
confidential information I wouldn't tell her, because I knew where she
worked and I didn't agree with US foreign policy."

A year ago, in a letter to her family, Montes wrote from her cell:
"There are certain things in life that are worth going to jail for. Or
that are worth committing suicide for after doing them."

English version by Nick Lyne.

Source: US-Cuban thaw: No sign of release for the last Cuban spy in a US
jail | In English | EL PAÍS -
http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/03/08/inenglish/1488974544_403150.html 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
… , Texas (AP) — Prosecutors say a Cuban man living in South Texas … Continue reading
McALLEN — A Cuban man was sentenced to prison … connection with allegations that the Cuban man, who had been residing … Continue reading
The Prosecution Asks For Three Years In Prison For The Opponent Eduardo
Cardet / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 3 March 2017 — This Friday, the trial against Eduardo
Cardet, a doctor and the national coordinator of the Christian
Liberation Movement (MCL), was concluded. The prosecution has maintained
its original request for three years of deprivation of liberty for the
opponent, who has been detained since November 30 and charged with
"attack on authority." The trial was held in the Municipal Court of
Gibara (Holguin) and the sentence will be handed down on March 20.

The arrest occurred in a violent manner outside the activist's home in
the municipality of Velasco, where he lives and works in the Family
Clinic office. He is charged with an alleged attack on a State Security
officer at the time of arrest.

Cardet's wife, Yaimaris Vecino, was able to enter the courtroom this
morning, but other MCL activists had to wait outside the
building. Marlenys Leyva, Cardet's mother-in-law, told 14ymedio that
only nine family members were allowed in.

A neighbor told 14ymedio that "Cardet was very calm and explained very
well what happened, without contradictions." He asserts that the
opponent has the truth in his hand and that the same could not be said
of the accusation. "They stumbled from beginning to end trying to impose
their lies," he explains.

According to Marlenys Leyva, the access road to the Tribunal was closed
from the early hours and there was a considerable number of members of
the Rapid Response Brigades around the outside of the building.

Cardet, 48, was denied bail on three occasions to await trial at his home

"The people of State Security are here, like Major Juan Carlos
Espinosa." He stated that not only was there a police presence outside
the building but there was also "a large group of officers inside."

Cardet, 48, was denied bail on three occasions to await trial at his
home. Set to begin on February 20, the process was postponed to Friday
without explaining the reasons to either the family or the accused.

According to Vecino, the defense lawyer, Eliécer La Rosa, called four
witnesses during the trial. The lawyer indicated that those presented by
the prosecution are members of the Rapid Response Brigades. For their
part, MCL activists have denounced Cardet's case as being "fabricated"
by the Cuban government to get him to stop his activism.

The extension of the preventive confinement of the opponent has
generated pronouncements of international organizations such as Amnesty
International, which declared him a prisoner of conscience. Similarly,
the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation
demanded his immediate release.

Source: The Prosecution Asks For Three Years In Prison For The Opponent
Eduardo Cardet / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-prosecution-asks-for-three-years-in-prison-for-the-opponent-eduardo-cardet-14ymedio/ Continue reading
HUMAN RIGHTS? CUBA ARRESTS, ORDERS TRIAL FOR HOMESCHOOLING PARENTS
Father reports: 'They are making inquiries as if we were criminals'
Published: 16 hours ago
BOB UNRUH

Even as President Trump prepares to undo some of Barack Obama's
executive orders to normalize America's relations with Cuba, the
communist island nation remains far short of international human-rights
standards.

For example, government officials arrested and put on trial a mother and
a father for homeschooling their children.

Prosecution of homeschooling parents has been carried out in other
countries in recent years, including Germany, Ireland, Sweden and even
the United States. But the Home School Legal Defense Association, the
world's premiere homeschool advocates, says that doesn't make Cuba's
recent jailing of Ramon and Adya Rigal any the less a violation of their
rights.

The organization said the couple, arrested on Feb. 21, had decided to
homeschool because they wanted the best for their children.

"We wanted the freedom to give our children the education that we, the
parents, have chosen," Ramón explained. "As Article 26.3 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, every parent has the right
to give his children the education that he chooses."

The dispute erupted when authorities noticed their children were not in
the government's education program.

See what American education has become, in "Crimes of the Educators: How
Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America's Children."

The parents were visited by a team of police officials, a lawyer and
several teachers.

"They wanted to impose their position upon us and gave us a warning
notice and told us they would take us before the courts because of our
position on homeschooling," Ramón said in a statement released through
HSLDA.

"I visited authorities several times to find a peaceable solution to my
problem," he added. "I brought up the possibility of homeschooling under
their supervision. I was told that if I did, my wife and I would be
imprisoned and our children sent away."

It was the Municipal Office of Education in Guantanamo that explained
"in our system, homeschooling is not considered an educational
institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist
foundations."

There are penalties, the government said, for allowing a minor to be
absent from school.

The officials then moved through the neighborhood to undermine the
pastor and his wife.

"They are making inquiries among our neighbors as if we were criminals
and creating a bad image of me as they go about homes making inquiries
about us," Ramón said.

The government was equally unconcerned about a letter from Michael
Donnelly, HSLDA's chief of global outreach. Officials simply didn't respond.

Donnelly had pointed out that "as a matter of international human rights
law, the right of parents to choose the kind of education their children
shall receive is recognized as a 'prior' right by the United Nations
Declaration on Human Rights in article 26(3)."

"When parents choose to home educate their children they are exercising
their own right as well as taking on the responsibility to provide an
education for their children," he said. … There is no human rights
framework or treaty that recognizes that an education must be provided
by government controlled schools."

He provided copies of the Berlin Declaration and the Rio Principles to
help officials understand.

See the parents awaiting processing by police:
The parents now been ordered to check in with police every week.

The HSLDA report from Donnelly explained: "Ramón wants to be able to
stay in Cuba to pastor his congregation. But it is no wonder that Ramón
and his family, after being treated like this simply because they
homeschool, have expressed a desire to seek refuge in a country that
would respect their rights to educate their children."

He noted that before 2014, when Obama and Raul Castro cut a deal to
restore ties with Cuba, there had been no official contact for decades.

See what American education has become, in "Crimes of the Educators: How
Utopians Are Using Government Schools to Destroy America's Children."

U.S. law still required the U.S. to oppose Cuba's human rights violations.

The White House said only last year that should Cuba want to become part
of the global community of nations, it needs to treat its citizens with
"certain minimum norms."

HSLDA said Cuba needs to acknowledge the rights of parents to homeschool
their children, and an online petition allows people to send that very
message to Cuba.

"We hope that members of Congress and the Trump administration will take
an interest in this case and take action to defend the Rigals and others
like them. Your support, through membership and the Homeschool Freedom
Fund, provides the resources which enable us to fight these important
battles for families who are being oppressed and mistreated for their
choice to homeschool," Donnelly's report said.

The threat of jail for homeschool parents is more common that probably
most people know.

Just this year an Ohio mom mother faced the possibility of conviction
for homeschooling. HSLDA said Valerie Bradley was convicted of being
"criminally reckless" over homeschooling.

In Germany, the Wunderlich family has been in the bull's-eye of a
long-running government campaign against homeschooling, repeatedly being
threatened with jail terms.

In 2013, they famously faced down police officials armed with a
battering ram at the home.

The SWAT team, authorized by a judge to use force if necessary, took the
children and told the Wunderlichs they wouldn't see them again soon
because they were violating federal law by homeschooling.

Although there was no claim the children were being mistreated, a team
of 20 social workers, police and special agents stormed the family's
home. The HSLDA said at the time that Judge Koenig of the Darmstadt
family court signed the order authorizing the immediate seizure of the
children by force.

Previously in Ireland, a homeschooling mother went to prison for 10 days.

In Germany, officials have left untouched the anti-homeschooling laws
from the Adolf Hitler era.

In 1937 Hitler said: "The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow.
For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our
youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early
age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore
unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the
future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no
one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and
its own upbringing."

In 2006, a German education official said the government was working to
avoid future conflicts over homeschooling with one particular family by
looking "for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the
family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement."

HSLDA has documented that the German government considers homeschooling
to be child abuse, even though it is recognized as a right by the
Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention for the
Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the United Nations
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

In fact, a 16-year-old in Germany once was taken into custody and
detained in a mental facility because she was being homeschooled.

In nearby Sweden, WND also reported a case in which authorities snatched
a 7-year-old child from an airplane as the parents were moving to India
so they could homeschool.

Swedish courts have ordered Dominic Johansson to be permanently
separated from his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson. Christer later
was imprisoned in the fight.

The U.S. Department of Justice at the time, under Obama, said in court
it agrees with the philosophy of the German government that bureaucrats
can punish homeschooling parents.

In one case in Mississippi, HSLDA fought a decision from Judge Joe Dale
Walker of the state's 13th Chancery district court that included the
judge's threats to school officials.

"He threatened us," said a school official who later was served with an
order the judge wrote and signed for himself.

Walker about that time was ordered by the state Supreme Court to explain
his behavior.

Source: Human rights? Cuba arrests, orders trial for homeschooling
parents -
http://www.wnd.com/2017/03/human-rights-cuba-arrests-orders-trial-for-homeschooling-parents/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 3 March 2017 — This Friday, the trial against Eduardo Cardet, a doctor and the national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), was concluded. The prosecution has maintained its original request for three years of deprivation of liberty for the opponent, who has been detained since November 30 and charged with “attack on … Continue reading "The Prosecution Asks For Three Years In Prison For The Opponent Eduardo Cardet / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Cuban Double Agent Fears for His Life after Revealing His True Identity
/ Juan Juan Almeida

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

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

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

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

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

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

I met the spy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A female spy's testimony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuban Double Agent Fears for His Life after Revealing His True
Identity / Juan Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cuban-double-agent-fears-for-his-life-after-revealing-his-true-identity-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Report: Cuba has kept drug trafficking, consumption in check
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
mwhitefield@miamiherald.com

Although Cuba sits in close proximity to Caribbean drug lanes and the
U.S. market, the U.S. State Department's annual narcotics control report
found that it's not a major consumer, producer or transit point for
illegal narcotics, and drug consumption on the island remains low.

The report to Congress, which was released Friday, discusses the record
of countries around the world in combating the global drug trade. It is
the first time since 2008 that the report was rolled out to the media.

It comes at a time that William Brownfield, assistant secretary for
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, says the United
States is experiencing "perhaps the worst drug crisis that we have seen
in the United States of America since the 1980s, and the worst heroin
and opioids crisis that we have seen in the United States in more than
60 years."

But it is also a time when Cuba and the United States have begun to work
more closely on combating the drug trade. A new U.S.-Cuba drug accord
was signed in July 2016, and there is a U.S. Coast Guard liaison in the
U.S. Embassy in Havana to coordinate with Cuban law enforcement. Direct
communications between the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and
Cuba's National Anti-Drug Directorate began in July.

The Coast Guard and Cuban authorities have been sharing tactical
information on vessels transiting Cuban waters that are suspected of
trafficking and are coordinating responses.

"Cuba's intensive security presence and interdiction efforts have kept
supply down and prevented traffickers from establishing a foothold,"
said the report. "Cuba concentrates supply reduction efforts by
preventing smuggling through territorial waters, rapidly collecting
wash-ups, and conducting thorough airport searches."

CUBA'S INTENSIVE SECURITY PRESENCE AND INTERDICTION EFFORTS HAVE KEPT
SUPPLY DOWN AND PREVENTED TRAFFICKERS FROM ESTABLISHING A FOOTHOLD.
State Department report

The most recent maritime seizure of drugs by Cuban authorities occurred
in 2015. That year, the Cuban government seized 906 kilograms of illegal
drugs, including 182 kilos of cocaine, 700 kilos of marijuana and 24
kilos of hashish oil. That same year, Cuban authorities detected the
incursions of 48 suspicious go-fast boats along the island's
southeastern coast.

In July 2016, Cuban authorities sentenced 11 Cubans to 15 to 30 years in
prison for smuggling marijuana from Jamaica through Cuba to the Bahamas,
the report said. During the case, the principal organizer was extradited
from Jamaica, a country with which Cuba also shares real-time
information on suspected trafficking.

The report also looked at money laundering and financial crimes around
the world.

"The government-controlled banking sector, low internet and cell phone
usage rates, and lack of government and legal transparency render Cuba
an unattractive location for money laundering through financial
institutions," the report said.

Although the risk of money laundering is low in Cuba, the report said
Cuba has a number of "strategic deficiencies" in its
anti-money-laundering regime. Among suggestions were that Cuba increase
the transparency of its financial sector as well as in criminal
investigations and prosecutions.

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi

Source: U.S., Cuba have increased cooperation on fighting illicit drug
trafficking | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article136310783.html Continue reading
Sarah Stephens: 43 days in, and the Trump administration has made no changes to the Cuba policy Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 27 February 2017 — Luis Enrique Cepero García was an opponent of the Cuban regime serving a sentence in the Combinado del Este prison when he decided to infect himself with a disease rather than continue being subjected to mistreatment in prison. Given his state of health, Luis Enrique was transferred and imprisoned … Continue reading "Cuban Double Agent Fears for His Life after Revealing His True Identity / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
The Private Sector Consolidates Its Presence in Gastronomy and Services
/ 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 1 March 2017 — The corner of
Galiano and Zanja is a hive of people at noon. The area's private cafes
sell everything from bread with croquettes to a complex meat lasagna,
but the nearest state places only sell cigarettes. A third of the
food services in Cuba are managed privately or by cooperatives, a sector
that is attracting a larger and larger clientele.

According to public statements in Monday's official press from Interior
Minister Mari Blanca Ortega, 32% of food, personal and technical
services operating on the island "have moved to non-state forms of
management." This formula now seeks to "achieve more quality and
efficiency," says the official.

In the last two decades, the scene in the nation's streets has been
transformed with the appearance of timbiriches – tiny private businesses
– sales counters in the doorways of houses, all the way to restaurant
complexes serving Creole and international food. But the sector is still
burdened by the absence of a wholesale market and a strong tax policy.

"The taxes are very high," says Dario, who manages a small fruit and
snack store near the Military Hospital in Havana. "The account doesn't
balance because the products have gone up a lot of price and I have to
pay the Office of the Tax Administration (ONAT) almost half of what I
earn in a year," he complains.

Right now, more than 200,000 workers, of whom at least 170,000 are
self-employed, must submit their formal declarations of accounts. Those
who have annual incomes in excess of 50,000 Cuban pesos (about US
$2,000) must pay the Treasury up to 50% of the total earned.

Darío says that in the area where he works "many small businesses have
closed because they have not been able to maintain a stable
supply." However, at the national level the numbers have grown, albeit
slowly in recent years. By the end of 2016, the country had 535,000
self-employed workers, according to data from the Ministry of Labor and
Social Security.

The most common activities are the preparation and sale of food, the
transport of cargo and passengers, the rental of dwellings, rooms or
spaces and telecommunications agents.

Cases of tax evasion are common. Recently ONAT indicted 223 of these
entrepreneurs in court. If found guilty they could face sentences of up
to eight years in prison, ONAT's legal director, Sonia Fernández, told
the official media.

Outside a bakery on Carlos III Avenue, several of the self-employed were
waiting Monday to supply their businesses. "I come every day and buy
about 30 flautas, but sometimes I have to wait up to two hours to get
goods," says Migdalia, a cafeteria employee at nearby Calle Reina.

The bakery belongs to the retail network and the line alternates
entrepreneurs and customers who only want to buy for home
consumption. "If behind me someone buys wholesale, I'm left with
nothing," protests a retiree who considers that "the normal consumer is
affected" when he must stand in line with small businesspeople.

Due to shortages affecting domestic markets, other products must be
imported directly from abroad. "All the olive oil and Parmesan cheese we
use we have to bring in from the outside," said the administrator of a
busy Italian restaurant in Havana's Chinatown, insisting on anonymity.

In September 2014, new resolutions of the General Customs of the
Republic attempted to restrict shipments of goods for commercial
purposes by air, sea or postal. But the flow of products to the private
sector has not stopped.

"I cannot tell a customer that we are not making a dish because there is
no nutmeg in the country or because I ran out of sesame," complains the
manager of the Italian restaurant. "When people come here they want to
see that everything on the menu is being served; to guarantee that, you
have to import many ingredients," he says.

A report published a few days ago from the Economic and Trade Office of
Spain in Havana says "the lack of stable access to raw materials and
supplies necessary for their activity" as one of the greatest
difficulties that the self-employed and cooperatives must face.

The lack of legal status is also at the root of most of the problems in
this sector.

In spite of the rapid growth in numbers, and the contribution to the
gross domestic product made by entrepreneurs and cooperatives, these
forms of management have not been able "to squeeze into the productive
fabric with sufficient force, due to the strong regulation and legal
obstacles they encounter."

Source: The Private Sector Consolidates Its Presence in Gastronomy and
Services / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-private-sector-consolidates-its-presence-in-gastronomy-and-services-14ymedio-marcelo-hernandez/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 1 March 2017 — The corner of Galiano and Zanja is a hive of people at noon. The area’s private cafes sell everything from bread with croquettes to a complex meat lasagna, but the nearest state places only sell cigarettes. A third of the food services in Cuba are managed privately or by … Continue reading "The Private Sector Consolidates Its Presence in Gastronomy and Services / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez" Continue reading
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana 27 February 2017 – This Tuesday, a campaign launches in Cuba for the liberation of Ana Belén Montes, a former intelligence analyst for the United States Defense Intelligence Agency, condemned for espionage and considered a “prisoner of conscience” by the government of Havana. The initiative includes concerts, conversations, and publications on … Continue reading "Havana Mobilizes For The Liberation Of The Spy Ana Belén Montes" Continue reading
Lisbon, February 27 (RHC)-- In Portugal, police have arrested a former U.S. intelligence operative and are preparing to extradite her to Italy, where she faces a prison sentence for her role in the kidnapping and rendition of an Egyptian cleric in 2003. … Continue reading
Appeasement Never Works
by GEORGE WEIGEL February 25, 2017 4:00 AM

And it's making matters worse in Cuba.
At first blush, Luis Almagro would seem an unlikely candidate for the
disfavor of the current Cuban regime. A man of the political Left, he
took office as the tenth secretary general of the Organization of
American States in 2015, vowing to use his term of office to reduce
inequality throughout the hemisphere. Yet Secretary General Almagro was
recently denied a visa to enter Cuba. Why? Because he had been invited
to accept an award named in honor of Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo
Payá, who died in 2012 in an "automobile accident" that virtually
everyone not on the payroll of the Castro regime's security services
regards to this day as an act of state-sanctioned murder. Payá's "crime"
was to organize the Varela Project, a public campaign for basic civil
liberties and free elections on the island prison, and he paid for it
with his life.

The regime's refusal of a visa for the head of the OAS caused a brief
flurry of comment in those shrinking parts of the commentariat that
still pay attention to Cuba, now that Cuban relations with the United
States have been more or less "normalized." But there was another facet
of this nasty little episode that deserves further attention: While
Almagro's entry into Cuba was being blocked, a U.S. congressional
delegation was on the island and, insofar as is known, did nothing to
protest the Cuban government's punitive action against the secretary
general of the OAS.

According to a release from the office of Representative Jim McGovern
(D., Mass.), the CoDel, which also included Senators Patrick Leahy (D.,
Vt.), Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), and Tom
Udall (D.,N.M.), and Representative Seth Moulton (D.,Mass.), intended to
"continue the progress begun by President Obama to bring U.S.–Cuba
relations into the 21st Century and explore new opportunities to promote
U.S. economic development with Cuba," including "economic opportunities
for American companies in the agriculture and health sectors." I've no
idea whether those economic goals were advanced by this junket. What was
certainly not advanced by the CoDel's public silence on the Almagro
Affair while they were in the country was the cause of a free Cuba.

There were and continue to be legitimate arguments on both sides of the
question of whether the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba should be lifted.
And those pushing for a full recission of the embargo are not simply
conscience-lite men and women with dollar signs in their eyes. They
include pro-democracy people who sincerely believe that flooding the
zone in Cuba with American products, American technology, and American
culture will so undermine the Castro regime that a process of
self-liberation will necessarily follow. That this seems not to have
been the case with China is a powerful counterargument. Meanwhile, my
own decidedly minority view — that the embargo should have been
gradually rolled back over the past decade and a half in exchange for
specific, concrete, and irreversible improvements in human rights and
the rule of law, leading to real political pluralization in Cuba — seems
to have fallen completely through the floorboards of the debate.

But as pressures to "normalize" U.S.–Cuba relations across the board
increase, there ought to be broad, bipartisan agreement that Cuban
repression, which has in fact intensified since the Obama initiative two
years ago, should have its costs. If, as Congressman McGovern averred,
he and others want to move Cuba–America relations into the 21st century,
then let him and others who share that goal agree that Cuba should be
treated like any other country: meaning that when it does bad things, it
gets hammered by criticism and pressures are brought to bear to induce
or compel better behavior in the future.

"Opening up" without pressure has never worked with Communist regimes.
It didn't work when the Vatican tried it in east-central Europe in the
1970s; the Ostpolitik of Pope Paul VI made matters worse for the
Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. It didn't work vis-à-vis
the Soviet Union in the years of détente, which coincided with some of
the worst Soviet assaults on human-rights activists. It hasn't worked
with China, where, as in Cuba, repression has increased in recent years.

To will the end — a 21st-century Cuba where the government behaves in a
civilized fashion and economic opportunity is available to all Cubans,
not just those favored by the regime — necessarily involves, at least
for morally and politically serious people, willing the means: which
must include holding the current Cuban regime to account when "opening
up" does not extend to basic civil liberties for the Cuban people, and
when "opening up" does not include a decent respect for the hemispheric
proprieties, such that the head of the OAS is summarily refused entry
into Cuba.

That the Almagro Affair had to do with an award named for Oswaldo Payá,
a true martyr in the cause of freedom who was inspired by Christian
Democratic convictions, suggests that the Castro regime and those who
wish to inherit its power are nervous. Authoritarians confident of their
position would not have reacted so stupidly to an award being given to a
left-leaning, Spanish-speaking, Latin American politician — unless, that
is, they were afraid that the memory of Oswaldo Payá would be rekindled
in the ceremony in which Almagro received the Payá Award. All the more
reason, then, for congressional delegations and others to end the
Neville Chamberlain routine, stop appeasing the Castro regime, and start
taking steps to ensure that what Congressman McGovern called "the
progress begun by President Obama" is, in fact, progress in Cuba — and
not just economic progress, but progress in human rights and the rule of
law.

— George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics
and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in
Catholic Studies.

Source: Luis Almagro -- Cuba Blocks Visa for Oswaldo Paya Award |
National Review -
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/445238/luis-almagro-cuba-blocks-visa-oswaldo-paya-award-organization-american-states Continue reading
Felipe Calderón: "I Ask The Cuban Government To Rectify This Absurdity"
/ 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — Just five years ago, Mexican
President Felipe Calderón was greeted warmly in Havana during an
official visit. However, this week the now former president was denied
entry to the island to participate in the Oswaldo Payá "Freedom and
Life" awards to be held this Wednesday.

"I deeply regret not being able to be with them at this tribute" to the
deceased opponent, the politician conservative National Action Party
(PAN). "The Cuban immigration authorities asked Aeromexico" not to seat
me on the flight, telling them I was an "inadmissible passenger" on Tuesday.

Prior to the trip, the former president alerted the Mexican Foreign
Ministry of his intention, because he did not want to "arrive as if he
were a tourist." He reported on his departure to Cuba's ambassador to
Mexico, Pedro Núñez, and his country's representative in Havana, Enrique
Martínez.

This is the first time that the Plaza of the Revolution has prevented a
former Mexican president from entering the country, an event that has
raised a diplomatic dust storm, including a tweet from the Mexican
Foreign Ministry in which he "regrets the decision of the Government of
Cuba not to authorize the visit to Havana of former President Felipe
Calderón."

Calderón recalls that he supported "Oswaldo Payá many years ago without
having met him, by spreading the Varela Project and collecting
signatures in Mexico for him." In those years he saw "with great sadness
how the Cubans involved in the project were persecuted."

The politician evokes with special aggravation the Black Spring of 2003
and his indignation to learn that 75 dissidents had been arrested and
sentenced to long prison terms under the so-called Gag Law.

In one of his previous visits to the island, Calderón asked President
Raúl Castro to let him speak with Oswaldo Payá, leader of the Christian
Liberation Movement (MCL). However, "the Cuban government always
resisted," he recalls. He believes that the "diplomatic complications
obstructed" this longed-for encounter.

"I ask the Cuban government to rectify this absurdity," said the former
president, who maintains his idea of ​​meeting "with Oswaldo's family"
whom he admired for being "an example of congruence, civility and love
of neighbor."

The former Chilean foreign minister Mariana Aylwin experienced a similar
situation on Wednesday when she was prevented from boarding a flight
from her country to participate in the ceremony where a posthumous
recognition will be made to her father, Patricio Aylwin, the first
president under democracy in Chile after the dictatorship of Augusto
Pinochet.

The Chilean Foreign Ministry said that the government "will make the
Cuban authorities aware of their displeasure at this action" because the
purpose of Mariana Aylwin's trip "was to receive from a civic
organization the testimony of recognition of her father… The exercise of
this right should not be impeded, especially when in Chile there have
been various acknowledgments of Cuban historical and political figures."

According to Rosa María Payá, Uruguayan Luis Almagro, Secretary General
of the Organization of American States (OAS), has confirmed his presence
at the event today to receive the Freedom and Life Award for his
"outstanding performance in defense of democracy," although he has not
made a statement on the matter.

The award ceremony, which is due to be held on Wednesday, is being led
by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, an organization
headed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late dissident.

Nationally, the government also prevented independent journalists Sol
García Basulto and Henry Constantin from Camagüey from traveling to
Havana, where they planned to fly to attend the award ceremony. The
Inter American Press Association (IAPA), of which Constantin is regional
vice president for Cuba, issued a protest statement demanding the
release of the reporter, who until yesterday remained detained.

Source: Felipe Calderón: "I Ask The Cuban Government To Rectify This
Absurdity" / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/felipe-calderon-i-ask-the-cuban-government-to-rectify-this-absurdity-14ymedio/ Continue reading
… plans for the facility in Cuba were consistent with his campaign … Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2017 — Just five years ago, Mexican President Felipe Calderón was greeted warmly in Havana during an official visit. However, this week the now former president was denied entry to the island to participate in the Oswaldo Payá “Freedom and Life” awards to be held this Wednesday. “I deeply regret not being able … Continue reading "Felipe Calderón: “I Ask The Cuban Government To Rectify This Absurdity” / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Broken Dreams / Cubalex

Translator's note: The references here to the empty offices and the
inability to work relate to a police raid that occurred in September of
last year, during which much of the organization's equipment was
confiscated.

Cubalex, 20 February 2017 – It is an ordinary November day. Cubalex
members are visiting the headquarters, the emptiness of the offices
hardly bearable, their faces are not the same as before, but they
continue to be united.

"A letter has arrived," says an assistant. "Read it out loud," everyone
says. "It is a new case, I don't recall the name," she affirms. "But
start reading it," exclaimed the investigator.

"OK, I'll start," she says. "Havana, 16 November 2016, Dear Laritza and
the Cubalex team, I recently wrote to you, another inmate gave me the
address. Today I received an answer from you in which you explained the
process to be able to help me.

"And I felt like the happiest prisoner in the world. I had written to
all the state institutions and none responded to me. I am speaking to
you from my heart, that you have given me back my hope and a desire to
go on living."

The emotion was visible on everyone's face, after so many days without
being able to do our work this letter filled the space and all of us
with emotion. It was the first pleasant emotion we had felt after more
than 90 days of anguish.

"A million thanks," she continued reading, "love and blessings to
you all, a thousand thanks for the help you can offer me, I have no way
to thank you. I once again want to live. In you, I have found different
human beings.

"I will send you all the documents you asked me for, I am serving a
sentence for a crime I didn't commit, while the real culprit walks free.
They accused me of the theft and slaughter of cattle, and condemned me
to 12 years* and I swear to you I am innocent.

"Soon I will turn 21, you are my best gift, just by responding to my
letters. I was planning to go on a hunger strike, but I knew of
Cubalex's existence and the help you have given to many inmates
here. May God always accompany you and thousands of blessings to you,"
she concluded reading.

"He's just a kid," said the group's senior sadly. "Where is it from?"
"From Agüica," replied the reader, looking at the envelope. "We have to
answer him," said the psychologist, "even if it's on a blank sheet and
with a pen. We must explain what happened at our headquarters on
September 23. He has his hopes set on us."

"I have an envelope, and I saw that they left the stamps on the day of
the [police] operation, you'll find them in my drawer," said the
secretary to the assistant.

"Who will answer him?" She asked. "I will," was the answer that was
heard in chorus. "That's like pouring a bucket of cold water," said
secretary said. "It would be better if the psychologist answered."

The silence was an expression of the anguish captivated them. "Send him
the phone number to call us," advised the Director. "At least we can
guide him. Let's keep the letter, to show it to the teacher Julio on the
next visit to the prison. By the way, who is going to make this visit?"

"I am," replied the social investigator. "Don't worry, I'll give it to him."

*Translator's note: the penalties for unauthorized slaughter of cattle
in Cuba are very severe, and it is literally true that a person
may serve more time for killing a cow than someone else serves for
killing a person.

Source: Broken Dreams / Cubalex – Translating Cuba -
https://translatingcuba.com/broken-dreams-cubalex/ Continue reading
Translator’s note: The references here to the empty offices and the inability to work relate to a police raid that occurred in September of last year, during which much of the organization’s equipment was confiscated. Cubalex, 20 February 2017 – It is an ordinary November day. Cubalex members are visiting the headquarters, the emptiness of the … Continue reading "Broken Dreams / Cubalex" Continue reading
Trump: Rubio and I have 'very similar views on Cuba'
BY NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

President Donald Trump said during a press conference Thursday that he
shares Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio's views on Cuba.

"We had dinner with Senator Rubio and his wife, who was by the way,
lovely, and we had a very good discussion about Cuba because we have
very similar views on Cuba," Trump told journalists.

"Cuba has been very good to me, in the Florida elections, you know, the
Cuban people, Americans," he added in reference to the support of Cuban
American voters.

Former rival Rubio and his wife had dinner with Trump and First Lady
Melania on Wednesday night, after the president received Lilian Tintori,
the wife of the Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López in the
White House. A smiling Rubio posed for a photo with Trump, Vice
President Mike Pence and Tintori.

The comment suggests a possible change in Cuba policy since Rubio was
one of the staunchest critics of former President Barack Obama's
engagement with Cuba, especially in the area of human rights.

Rubio and New Jersey Democrat Senator Bob Menéndez, also Cuban American,
introduced a bill this week to "reform" the human trafficking report
produced annually by the State Department. Both senators expressed their
displeasure with the improvement of Cuba's ranking in the report, from
the worst level to the "tier 2 watch list" in 2015. Several proposals
included in the bill would likely affect Cuba's position in the report.

Rubio, who was reappointed as chairman of the Western Hemisphere
Subcommittee in the Senate, has also been one of the most active
politicians in Washington on Venezuela. On Monday, he gave a speech on
the Senate's floor in which he called for the release of López and
stated his hope for new sanctions to come against the government of
Nicolás Maduro. Earlier this week, the Trump administration froze the
assets of Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami for alleged links
to drug trafficking.

During his campaign, Trump promised that he would negotiate a "better
deal" with the Cuban government or would reverse Obama's measures. White
House Spokesman Sean Spicer has said that Cuba policy was under review
and that human rights would be a priority.

On Thursday afternoon, Rubio was scheduled to chair a hearing on the
need for U.S. leadership on democracy and human rights in the Americas.
Among the speakers was Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto,
who was recently released from prison in Havana following his arrest for
using street art to celebrate the death of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

FOLLOW NORA GÁMEZ TORRES ON TWITTER: @NGAMEZTORRES

Source: Trump: Rubio and I have 'very similar views on Cuba' | Miami
Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article133193594.html 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
Cuba, because we have very similar views on Cuba,” Trump told journalists. “Cuba … Republican Senator Bob Menéndez, also Cuban American, introduced a bill this … Americas. Among the speakers was Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as … recently released from prison in Havana following his arrest for using … Continue reading
El presidente de EEUU recibió en la Casa Blanca a Lilian Tintori Continue reading
Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded In
Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 February 2017 — Hundreds of Cubans
were stranded in Mexico after the Obama administration ended the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy that favored Cuban's immigration to the United
States, but for the 90 who are detained at the 21st Century Migrant
Station in Tapachula, and for their relatives in the United States, the
American dream has become a nightmare of extortion and disappearances. A
hope against all hope.

"For weeks a person has been calling us to ask for money if we want to
see our families again," says the mother of one of those stranded who
asked not to be identified to protect her son.

The woman, who lives in Miami, recounts how within half an hour of
receiving a call from her son from the Migration Station the phone
started to ring from different numbers in Mexico.

The voice on the other side of the device identified himself as "lawyer
Padilla." She said, "He tried to learn the names of our family members
and told us he could help get them out of there for a sum of money."

To Yuniel, stranded in southern Mexico, those responsible for these
calls are the agents themselves from Mexico's National Institute of
Migration (INM).

"We all know that the migration officials have some way of knowing the
numbers of the people we call in the United States. Somehow, they figure
out the numbers and then take advantage of that to extort the families,"
he says

The telephones set up for international calls at the Migration Station
are public, but at least three relatives of different migrants consulted
by this newspaper affirmed that they had received calls in which people
calling themselves officials asked them for money for the freedom of the
Cubans.

"We are afraid for their fate, they are in the hands of mafiosos. Last
week three Cubans 'disappeared' from the same prison. As of today, we
haven't heard anything from them," says the mother of a Cuban migrant.

An IMF official confirmed to 14ymedio that there are currently 90 Cubans
at the 2st Century Migration Station. Of these, 59 asked for protection
before a judge and 23 asked for refuge from the Mexican authorities. The
remaining eight are awaiting the decision of the Cuban embassy in that
country. If Havana recognizes their citizenship, under migratory
agreements between the two countries they must be deported back to Cuba.

With regards to the absence, since last Wednesday, of three Cubans
(Armando Daniel Tejeda, Daniel Benet Báez and Yosvany Leyva Velázquez)
the official said that it was an escape, which is why they are not
considered missing. So far the relatives of the Cubans do not know the
whereabouts of these migrants.

With regards to the accusations against the INM officials, the
representative of the Mexican government made it clear that "they are
lies." According to her, the immigration agents do not even have guns or
clubs.

"They (the Cubans) are very desperate. We aren't trying to justify
ourselves, but we believe that is the cause. "

"Two of them had sought refuge and one was waiting for the legal
process. Both of them escaped and the corresponding authorities were
given notice."

It was the migrants themselves in the 21st Century center who discovered
that three Cubans were missing and, given the silence of the
authorities, they began a protest that was brutally repressed, according
to those stranded. The police and the Mexican army participated in
putting down the revolt.

"They were beaten, their blankets and mattresses were taken away,
forcing them to sleep in cement bunks. They are being watched and held
as if they were criminals," the migrant's mother told the newspaper.

"My son may disappear, just as those have disappeared," she adds.

Last week a group of eleven Cubans was kidnapped by a criminal gang and
later released under conditions not made clear in Reynosa, northern Mexico.

Corruption prevails in Tapachula, according to the testimony of Yuniel,
one of the stranded, who has been waiting for more than a month for a
safe conduct to continue to the north of Mexico.

"Receiving money from abroad is impossible without mediations," explains
the migrant. If you do not have the corresponding visa, the transfers
made by Western Union carry a charge from locals who are awarded a
commission of 5% for the transaction.

The hope that Trump will reinstate the wet-foot/dry-foot policy or
declare an amnesty for stranded Cubans is increasingly remote, according
to Yuniel, even though that the number of Cubans arriving in Mexico from
Central America "has taken a nosedive."

"All that's left for me is to surrender to the authorities and ask for
political asylum. I have nothing to lose because I have lost
everything," he says.

Some relatives in the United States who have contracted legal services
in Tapachula to avoid the repatriation of the stranded complain of the
slowness of the processes and even of scams.

"The attorney José Roberto Escobar Ross allegedly filed an protection
petition for our relatives not to be repatriated to Cuba, and demanded
the payment of $120. To this day, they are still being detained," says
the girlfriend in Miami of one of those held in Tapachula, Karla Ramírez.

Escobar, via telephone, explained that he has in his hands the 59
protection orders for Cubans and that he is doing his best to get them
released as soon as possible.

"The judge gave Migration three days to solve the case of the Cubans but
until now we see no response, they haven't even been released," he said.

The INM official made clear that there will be no releases until the
legal proceeding has been held and a judge determines the fate of the
Cubans.

"It is not the fault of the INM that they are detained. By law, these
people cannot be released until the trial is held." It costs Mexico to
for these people to be there, to feed them, to care for them and so on."

In the case of Cubans who asked for refuge, the National Commission for
Refugee Assistance is responsible for analyzing their cases.

For Ramírez, the girlfriend of one of the detainees, this is a maneuver:
"They are trying to delay their release as much as possible so that they
have no choice but to return to Cuba or they run out of money. It's a
hell for us Cubans."

Source: Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded
In Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/extortions-kidnappings-and-limbo-daily-life-of-cubans-stranded-in-mexico-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 14 February 2017 — Hundreds of Cubans were stranded in Mexico after the Obama administration ended the wet-foot/dry-foot policy that favored Cuban’s immigration to the United States, but for the 90 who are detained at the 21st Century Migrant Station in Tapachula, and for their relatives in the United States, the … Continue reading "Extortions, Kidnappings And Limbo: Daily Life Of Cubans Stranded In Mexico / 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
Clinic operator who fled to Cuba returns to face $130M healthcare fraud case BY JAY WEAVER jweaver@miamiherald.com Soon after the feds broke up a family-run chain of clinics that tried to steal $130 million from Miami-Dade Public Schools and a string of major U.S. companies, a trio of Cuban immigrants fled to Mexico and eventually […] 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
… Combinado del Este facility in Havana now contrasts with the fresh … Camagüey in eastern Cuba, he had to share a Havana house with … prison on the outskirts of Havana. While in prison, he wrote … made with the bust of [Cuban patriot] José Martí,” Maldonado said … Continue reading