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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For
Alleged Crime Of 'Attack' – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván
García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 25 April 2017 — On Tuesday morning the Court in Havana’s municipality of Diez de Octubre, confirmed the prosecutor’s request of two years and eight months in jail for Micaela Roll Gibert, 53. The woman, a member of the opposition group Ladies in White, is charged with the crime of attack, alleging that she … Continue reading "Lady In White Sentenced To Almost Three Years In Prison For Alleged Crime Of ‘Attack’" Continue reading
Iván García,9 April 2017 — They did not put a Makarov pistol to his head or torture him with electric prods. Let’s call him Josué. (The names in his article have been changed). He is a guy who wears American-made jeans, listens to jazz by Winton Marsalis on his iPhone 7 and is a diehard … Continue reading "How Cuban State Security Intimidates Potential Informants / Iván García" Continue reading
The Fidel Castro Fair / Iván García

Iván García , 21 February 2017 — The wood charcoal embers are slowly
browning half a dozen kebabs with vegetables, pineapples and pieces of
pork, while, on a shelf, the flies are hovering around the steamed corn

From very early in the morning, Jesús, a chubby mulatto with calloused
hands, gets on with cooking chicken, pork fillets and sautéed rice, to
sell later in his small mobile shop positioned in a large car park, at
the main entrance to the International Book Fair in Havana.

A line of kiosks with aluminium tubes and coloured canvas tops offer
local favourites, like bread with suckling pig, ham and cheese
sandwiches, jellies, mineral water and canned drinks.

"My kiosk specialises in dishes from San Miguel de Padrón. But the
truth is that in this particular fair, sales are sluggish. Mainly
because the organisers prohibited the sale of alcohol. You can forget
about books and all that intellectual shit, you have to give Cubans beer
and reguetón if you want them to feel happy – the rest is secondary",
says Jesús.

Thursday February 16th started off rainy in Havana. Idelfonso, a
self-employed clown, looks up at the overcast sky and mutters, "if it
starts raining again, they'll have to take the circus and its tent away,
because no-one will bring their kids in bad weather. This fair has been
pretty bad for us. No-one has any money, and those who do prefer to
spend it on books and food", he says, in his bear get-up.

In different parts of the car park, private businesses rent
out inflatable toys for fifteen pesos for the kids to bounce about for
thirty minutes, and five pesos for a quick ride on a horse.

"Many families don't come to buy books. They would rather their kids
enjoyed themselves playing with the equipment. There are hardly any
amusement parks in the capital", says Rita, who deals with charging for
the horses.

Families and groups of friends lay towels out on the grass and picnic on
a hill from where you get a unique view of the city across the bay.

Gerard, a young man with tattooed forearms, feels uncomfortable. He
tells his wife to go off with the kid to play with the inflatable toys
while he complains about the lack of any beer.

"These people are really party poopers. Whose idea was it to stop
selling lager and nips of rum? I can't imagine it was because of Fidel
Castro's death, as the bloke has been pushing up daisies for over two
months now", moans Gerard, knocking back a lemonade as a temporary
solution to the matter.

Dora and Germán come from El Cotorro, in south west Havana, with two
enormous bags to buy "fifteen or twenty boxes of drink. We have a cafe
and we buy stuff here for ten pesos and then we sell them there for
twenty. If we have time, we buy a few books for our grandchildren".

The Book Fair always was a good excuse for thousands of Habaneros to
amuse themselves. Kids skipping classes looking over displays of foreign
books, inveterate bookworms, pseudo intellectuals who take the
opportunity to come over as writers, the peripheral catwalk of hustlers
and pickpockets selling tourists fake Cohíba cigars made in shacks in
deepest Havana.

But this time the organisers decided to put a stop to "sideshows which
have nothing to do with reading", says Idalia, a Editora Abril
bookseller, who adds:

"The fair has been turned into a mess. Like a strip club. Hustlers who
came to pull foreigners and people with money who have never read a book
and were downing beers 'til closing time. The number of people coming
here has definitely fallen, as nearly two million people came here two
years ago. Now the numbers have fallen to less than half" says Idalia,
who, in exchange for offering her opinions for Martí Noticias, asks me
to buy some books.

"The thing is, we get commission on our sales. And we aren't selling
much", she emphasises. From the books on display, I choose the biography
of Raúl Castro written by Nikolai Leonov, an ex high-up in the KGB and
personal friend of the Carribean autocrat.

The book, which looks good, costs 30 pesos, equivalent to three times
the daily minimum wage in Cuba. According to the official press, it is
the best selling book of the year. Idalia thinks differently.

"You can put any rubbish you like on paper. They give the book, just
like they did with Fidel's, as gifts to lots of people who attend
events, and then they record them as sales. And, being prioritised by
the printers, they have gigantic print-runs, and are on sale in all the
bookshops in the country. But, I haven't seen too much enthusiasm among
Cuban readers for Raúl's biography. Foreign lefties certainly do buy
books dedicated to Fidel", she tells me.

Although the present Book Fair is dedicated to Canada and the tedious
state official Armando Hart Dávalos, the dead Fidel Castro is the prime

There is no lack of sets of Fidel Castro's speeches on the local
publishers' stands, a revised edition of History will Absolve Me and
cartoon books eulogising the dictator from Birán.

"God help us! Fidel everywhere", says a lady walking through the Mexican
pavilion looking for a diary she has promised her granddaughter. The
foreign publishers are the busiest, in spite of the high foreign
currency prices.

They also sell pirate Leo Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar teeshirts, as
well as a collection of Barcelona and Real Madrid posters. A Mexican
bookseller tells us that "We take advantage of the fact that Cubans like
football, and so we push this merchandise".

At midday St Charles Fort looks just like an informal flea market. A few
serious readers sit down, leaning against the ancient cannons which
protect the fort, in order to read George Orwell's 1984 or a Gabriel
García Márquez novel.

The less serious fill up nylon bags with books on spritual advice or
magazines about fashion and cooking. Then they form a little queue at
the exit from La Cabaña, to get the bus going to the centre of Havana.

Few visitors know the dark history of the fort, an ancient prison and
location of hundreds of firing squads for Castro opponents. The thing is
that in Cuba the disinformation, fear of knowing the truth, and amnesia
help people live apathetic and apolitical lives.

Translated by GH

Source: The Fidel Castro Fair / Iván García – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Iván García , 21 February 2017 — The wood charcoal embers are slowly browning half a dozen kebabs with vegetables, pineapples and pieces of pork, while, on a shelf, the flies are hovering around the steamed corn cobs. From very early in the morning, Jesús, a chubby mulatto with calloused hands, gets on with cooking chicken, pork … Continue reading "The Fidel Castro Fair / Iván García" Continue reading
Ramallah, April 20 (RHC)-- As many as 1,500 Palestinian prisoners are now on hunger strike in eight separate Israeli jails.  Israeli prison officials have moved to retaliate against strike leader Marwan Barghouti, moving him to another prison and placing … Continue reading
Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano

Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano, Havana, 5 Abril 2017 — In recent days, the
absence of a true rule of law has become evident in the two countries of
"Socialism of the 21st Century," an absence that reached the highest
levels of arbitrariness and injustice: Cuba and Venezuela. In the second
of these the iniquity took place at the highest level, the
Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.

The brand new Chavista magistrates ruled: "As long as the contempt and
invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persist, this
Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly
by this Chamber or by the body that it designates." In short, the court
replaced the parliament with itself.

And in passing, the High Court also withdrew immunity from the country's
parliamentary deputies. It was a coup d'etat pure and simple; only not
one undertaken by the military or the congressional branch, but by the
judicial. Of course, it didn't happen on the judges' own initiatve, but
because Maduro ordered it, because it is already known that the supposed
independence of that power is now a fiction in the homeland of the
"Liberator," Simon Bolivar.

The voices of protest did not hold back: in Venezuela, National Assembly
President Julio Borges called the shameful ruling "trash" and ripped it
up in front of the television cameras. The protests of students and
others who disagree began. At the international level, the Permanent
Council of the Organization of American States was convened, and Peru
withdrew its ambassador from Caracas. Even complacent the mediators
Torrijos, Fernandez and Rodríguez Zapatero rejected the gross maneuver.

But not only democracy supporters weighed in. A character as little
suspected of being anti-Chavez as the Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa
Ortega (yes, the same person labeled the "Eternal Commander" as "the
most humanist man that has ever existed on the planet" and totally
supported the unjust imprisonment of Leopoldo López) described what
happened in his country as a "rupture of the constitutional order."

Urgently convened, the Venezuelan Defense Council called on the Supreme
Court to "review" the statements that left Parliament without
functions. The obedient magistrates, in a fulminating manner, applied
"what I meant to say was…"

In Cuba, on the other hand, recent illegality had a lower level, in both
directions of the word. Lady in White Lismerys Quintana Ávila, also
urgently, was subjected to a spurious trial and sentenced to six months
in prison — the maximum allowed penalty — by a docile Municipal Court.

As a precedent for this injustice, we must remember the new trick that
the political police use against these admirable women: At the outset,
they impose a fine for a misdemeanor that does not exist. After the
refusal to pay the illegally imposed penalty, the defendant (in this
case, Lismerys) is taken to a Municipal Court to be tried.

Now the offense charged is "breach of obligations arising from the
commission of misdemeanor," and is provided for in article 170 of the
current Penal Code.Under this provision, "anyone who fails to comply
with the obligations arising from a resolution that has exhausted its
legal process, issued by a competent authority or official, relating to
contraventions" may be punished.

According to the final sentence of that rule, "if before the sentence is
pronounced, the accused meets the obligations derived from that
resolution, the proceedings will be archived." The purpose of this,
obviously, was not to establish a mechanism to send one more person to
prison, but to dissuade her from not paying the imposed pecuniary penalty.

But it is already known that, in Cuba, "whoever made the law, set the
trap." In the case of someone who disagrees and says so, any
misrepresentation of the correct sense of the rules is valid for the
Castro regime's authorities. What real chance to pay the fine had
Lismerys or her loved ones if she were detained and the latter did not
know what her situation was?

We know that the repressor who "cared for her" (who calls himself
"Luisito", but whose real name is known (unusual in itself) — Ariel
Arnau Grillette) was truthful in the text messages with which he
harassed this Cuban mother. We know what they said thanks to the
inventiveness of the brave fighter Angel Moya Acosta: "the desicion to
send you to prision is in my hands," he wrote. A phrase in which we do
not know what to admire more: his creative spelling or the confidence
with which he says what everyone knows, but usually shuts up about …

However, what is decisive in this case is not what the murky State
Security intended, but the submission of a court to the design of that
repressive body. This is how the "organs of justice" of Cuba and
Venezuela, once again, have become brothers in ignominy.

Translated by Jim

Source: Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez
Manzano – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano, Havana, 5 Abril 2017 — In recent days, the absence of a true rule of law has become evident in the two countries of “Socialism of the 21st Century,” an absence that reached the highest levels of arbitrariness and injustice: Cuba and Venezuela. In the second of these the iniquity took place at the highest level, … Continue reading "Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano" Continue reading
Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 April 2107 — Confined for more than 80
days in a punishment cell, without a single contact with the outside,
the activist Lisandra Rivera Rodríguez of the Patriotic Union of Cuba
(UNPACU) received her first family visit this Tuesday, in the Mar Verde
Women's Prison in Santiago de Cuba.

Lisandra Rivera, 28, was arrested after her home was raided by State
Security on 31 December of last year. On that occasion, and despite
having been beaten by the agents, she was accused of an alleged criminal
"attack," according to UNPACU activists. Her family had not been able to
contact her since 17 January when her trial was held in the Provincial
Court and she was sentenced to two years imprisonment. On 18 April she
will have served four months.

Her husband, Yordanis Chavez, commented in a telephone interview with
14ymedio that both he and her parents managed to be with her for almost
two hours. "As of Saturday she is outside the punishment cell and is in
a of maximum severity wing of the prison."

According to Chávez, from now on they will be able to visit her
normally. The next appointment is scheduled for the 17th of this
month. "We saw her well, quite strong of spirit. She continues to refuse
to comply with orders and or to accept reeducation."

The authorities of the prison used this refusal to accept the
"reeducation" regime as a reason to impose the isolation of a punishment
cell on Rivera. "The tried to make her stand up and give military
salutes to the jailers who conduct a count three or four times a day.
When a high official arrived she also had to stand at attention like
they do in the military and she refused to do it," says Chavez.

During the visit, Lisandra told her relatives that the punishment cell
is like that of any police dungeon, pestilent and in very bad
conditions, without light. She had no access to anything, no right to
family or conjugal visits, nor could she receive phone calls or food
brought in from outside. "Every Tuesday I was handcuffed and taken,
almost dragged, to the disciplinary council," the activist told her husband.

Yordanis Chavez explained that they have not appealed the ruling because
they do not trust the judicial system. "Lisandra has not committed any
crime, it is only because it was an order of State Security as
punishment for her activism in UNPACU in favor of freedom and democracy
in Cuba."

José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU's leader, fears that, in the midst of the
difficult international situation, there could be a repeat of what
happened in the spring of 2003, when 75 regime opponents were arrested
and sentenced to extremely long prison terms. That crackdown, which came
to be known as the Black Spring, coincided with the United States'
invasion of Iraq, a time when the world was looking the other way. At
present, more than 50 UNPACU activists remain in prison in several
provinces, many of them accused of crimes they have not committed.

For its part, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation announced in its last report, on the month of March, that
there had been at least 432 arbitrary detentions of peaceful dissidents
in Cuba in that month. In addition, several dissidents were vandalized
and stripped of their computers, cell phones and other means of work, as
well as cash.

Source: Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
"State Security Doctors Constantly Mistreated Us"

14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2017 — Maydolys Leyva can breath easy for the
first time since last March 7. Her three children have abandoned their
hunger strike after being released on parole. This Monday, their mother
prepared a meal of mild creamed vegetables, root vegetables and meat for
her daughter Anairis and son Fidel Batista, as they began to resume
eating. Her other daughter, Adairis Miranda, is still in intermediate care.

From her bed at Vladimir Ilich Lenin Teaching Hospital in Holguín,
where she is recovering, Anairis Miranda spoke via telephone with 14ymedio.

14ymedio. What led you to undertake the hunger strike?

Anairis. We spent 27 days without food and continued to demand the
immediate release of our family because we never accepted the unjust
sentence of a year of deprivation of liberty imposed on us.

We are also demanding the release of the political prisoners of the
Cuban Reflection Movement to which we belong with pride and whose
national leader is Librado Linares. We also demand the immediate release
of the national leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Eduardo
Cardet. In response to these demands we obtained parole for health reasons.

14ymedio. Are you still under surveillance?

Anairis. Right now, here in the hospital, there is no presence of State
Security. As of Sunday, when they delivered the parole documents to us,
they took their repressors and left.

14ymedio. What were the most difficult moments during the strike?

Anairis. We suffered a lot of repression by State Security. They made
threats against our mother's life. The official in charge of
confrontation in the province of Holguin, Fredy Agüero, threatened to
take custody of my sister's two children, who were being looked after by
our mom. He said they would arrest her and kill her in prison.

14ymedio. How is your sister right now?

Anairis. Adairis is now in intermediate therapy in the surgical clinic,
she has a monitor and an IV. We all have very low blood pressure. We
weigh 66 pounds and are continuing to lose weight. My brother has very
unstable blood pressure, it goes up and down. My brother and I are
suffering from ischemic heart disease as a sequel to the strike. I have
some vaginal bleeding and diarrhea. I am still very ill, just like my

14ymedio. How has the treatment from the doctors been from a humane
point of view?

Anairis. Some doctors have treated us well, those who are not from the
Ministry of the Interior. The doctors of the State Security, who
constantly mistreated us, have already left. They tried to misrepresent
everything about our health and to overshadow everything. Now, since
they left, we have noticed the change in the treatment of the hospital
doctors and the people who have come to see us. Before they didn't let
anyone approach us.

14ymedio. How many days do the doctors expect you to remain hospitalized?

Anairis. They tell us that we have to stay in the hospital about ten
more days because we could suffer a heart attack or different
complications can occur, although in the case of my sister it could be
longer depending on the improvement in her immune system.

14ymedio. How did you receive evidence of solidarity?

Anairis. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the international
public for their solidarity and to all the brother and sister activists
of both the diaspora and the country. Of course, also the journalists
who reported what happened.

Source: "State Security Doctors Constantly Mistreated Us" – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading

On Sunday the regime released on parole the three siblings from Holguín who had been on a hunger strike since March 7, when they were sentenced to a year in prison for the alleged "defamation of heroes and martyrs and public disorder" during the funeral ceremonies honoring Fidel Castro, confirmed the children's mother, Maydolis Leyva Portelles.

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14ymedio, Havana, 3 April 2017 — The three Holguin siblings who had been on hunger strike since last March 7 were released on Sunday on parole, according to what their mother, Maydolys Leyva, told this newspaper. The activists Anairis Miranda, Adairis Miranda and Fidel Batista were sentenced were sentenced to one year in prison for the … Continue reading "Three Siblings On Hunger Strike Released On Parole" Continue reading
Fidel Batista Leyva y Anairis y Adairis Miranda Leyva Amnesty International last week called for "urgent action" on behalf of three imprisoned siblings, who their mother says are in poor health after starting hunger strikes on March 7 to demand... Continue reading
Locked up for 16 months: how a British architect discovered Cuba's dark side
2 APRIL 2017 • 7:00AM

The Cuban conundrum is that little is what it seems. The mojitos flow,
the Buena Vista tribute acts play and the tropical sun shines
magnanimously on the tourists: the pasty Canadians, Britons and now –
thanks to Barack Obama – Americans.

My mother, on her first visit to the island a few years back, remarked:
"It's so strange, because when you think of Stalinist dictatorships you
think of grey, North Korean-style misery, and Cuba doesn't feel like
that." I'm going to buy her Stephen Purvis's book.

In Close But No Cigar, Purvis, a 52-year-old London architect who moved
to Cuba in 2000, reveals a rather different side to the Castros' fiefdom.

His shocking memoir recounts being locked up for more than a year,
initially for "spying", then for "economic crime", without ever being
told the details of the allegations against him. "It's Alice in
Wonderland for sociopathic commies," he writes.

In 2012, Purvis was seized from his home in Havana by the much-feared
secret police.

"When they come for you, they mostly come either to your workplace and
march you out of the front door for maximum public humiliation, or they
grab you off the street like the Gestapo and throw you in the back of
the car so no one knows," he writes.

"But sometimes they appear like phantoms at your house just before dawn,
politely dismember your family and dismantle your life forever." So it
was for Purvis. In the early hours, he was bundled into an ageing Lada,
and went on to spend 16 months trapped in Cuba's Kafka-esque justice system.

The frightening thing is just how unwittingly he had been caught in the
spider's web. Having arrived from London with his wife and four children
aged between six months and six years, his decade in Cuba had been, on
the whole, tropical and bright: a whirl of diplomatic socialising and
business schmoozing, with weekend sorties to the beach.

He made Cuban friends, and took up painting and boxing; he was on the
board of the international school, and co-produced the Sadler's Wells
dance show Havana Rakatan.

Things began to sour in October 2011 when his boss, overseeing 
$500 million construction of the Bellomonte golf course and club, was
arrested. As the web tightened around Purvis, his diplomat friends
became concerned. But Purvis, with what he now sees as naivety, believed
that even the Cubans couldn't invent charges. After all, he said, he had
done nothing wrong. But he underestimated the danger.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, Fidel Castro realised that he had to
open up the island to the outside world to survive. It was a reluctant
engagement: Castro was horrified by memories of a visit to China, and
determined that the communist grip would not slip. He and his brother
Raúl had a tiger by the tail; capitalism was ushered in, but kept on a
tight leash.

At times, when it served their interests, business freedom was
increased. When it got too much, it was abruptly curtailed.

"Having allowed foreign capitalism in to rescue the collapsed economy,
they now want to behead it before it becomes too powerful," Purvis
writes. "They have watched the piggy get fat and now they want to steal
the piggy before it goes to market. It's a Stalinist purge for the
internet generation."

After his arrest, Purvis endured eight months of daily interrogation in
Havana's notorious Villa Marista prison, sharing a fetid cell no larger
than a king-size mattress with three others, the rancid roof six inches
from his nose. He was kept in that darkness apart from 15 minutes each
week, when he was ushered into a cage open to the sky. He was not
physically tortured, but felt his mind slipping away. To cope, he
relived in his mind childhood escapades to the Norfolk coast.

Then he was transferred to the dog-eat-dog world of La Condesa, 40 miles
outside the capital, a prison for foreign inmates, where he found
himself with Latin American drug traffickers, European paedophiles and
what he terms "business class passengers" – those, like him, locked up
for falling foul of some economic rule they never knew existed.

The heat was unbearable, the boredom stifling, the food inedible – and
meagre, tithed first by the deliverers, then by the guards, then by the

"My Friday supper club for business-class passengers is going well," he
jokes. "Last night I did Chinese, although to be fair the only Chinese
thing about it was that it was cooked in a communist country."

He spent his time playing chess with an Algerian inmate, and carved out
a niche painting fellow inmates' wives from photos. He gave classes on
architectural design, and helped Jamaican drug smugglers draw up
business plans for boat repair shops.

One evening, he came across a group of Yardies, sobbing during a
screening of the film Mamma Mia! Prison football teams played
tournaments: São Paulo Dealers vs Juarez Rapists, Napoli Smugglers vs
Montego Bay Murderers. "It's like being retired except without the
G&Ts," he says.

But his humour cannot hide the horror. Purvis lost 50lbs in weight, and
his wife had to be sectioned. The ordeal of finding psychiatric care for
her in Cuba was a nightmare all of its own.

After his family left for Britain, Purvis struggled to mask despair in
his letters home – with good reason. In July 2012, the redoubtable
British ambassador Dianne Melrose was succeeded by Tim Cole, about whom
Purvis is scathing. The Foreign Office mantra that Britain cannot
interfere in another country's judicial system – a line parroted to
journalists – still drives him to rage.

In its tragic absurdity, Close But No Cigar reads like a Graham Greene
story, with a cast of characters to make Hemingway proud. Purvis
describes it as 
"an attempt to shine a tiny 
light into the broken
heart of Cuba". His tale should be read 
by anyone who wants to
understand what lies beyond 
the beaches and Bacardi.

After an absurd trial, Purvis was released in 2013 with a
two-and-a-half-year custodial sentence, then driven by a cheerful guard
to the house of a friend. The driver sauntered off with the words: "I
hope you have enjoyed your stay in Cuba."

Purvis, turning, replied: "You are all totally f------ mad."

Close But No Cigar by Stephen Purvis
272pp, W&N, £18.99, ebook £9.99. To order this 
book from the Telegraph
£16.99 plus 
£1.99 p&p, call 0844 871 1515 or visit

Source: Locked up for 16 months: how a British architect discovered
Cuba's dark side - Continue reading
Warning to the Repressors: "We Are Watching You"

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 31 March 2017 — The Foundation for Human
Rights in Cuba (FDHC) launched its new program Artists For Rights in
Miami on Friday and sent a strong message to the Cuban government's
"repressors": You are being watched and your actions will not go unnoticed.

The artistic project seeks to sensitize artists and the Cuban people in
general about the difficult situation of human rights in the island.
More than 30 artists have contributed to the project's first activity,
among them artists who are in Cuba, in exile and in other countries such
as Venezuela, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico.

"In the gallery there will be pictures of all kinds, not necessarily
political. What we consider to be political is the artist's decision to
contribute his art to the promotion of human rights in Cuba," said Juan
Antonio Blanco, president of the Foundation.

The first action of this new project is an exhibition of fine art open
to the public at Calle 8 in Miami, the hub of the Cuban diaspora in the

Among the artists who will exhibit their works at the Cuban Art Club
Gallery are Ramón Unzueta, Danilo Maldonado known as El Sexto, Claudia
Di Paolo, Rolando Paciel, Yovani Bauta, Roxana Brizuela and Ramon
Willians. The exhibition will be open from April 1st to 15th, and
admission will be free

Blanco also talked about the Foundation's project to identify and
document the repressors that the Cuban government uses to muzzle the

"We have numerous documented cases of repressors, with photos and
archives proving their participation in activities against civil society
and human rights activists on the island," he said.

"Publicity isn't important to us, rather we want to have a psychological
impact on military and paramilitary repressors. We want our message to
reach those who carry out the acts of repudiation in exchange for a
sandwich or for a T-shirt, so that they think about it three times," he

According to the FDHC, in Cuba there are more than 70,000 prisoners,
which is why it ranks as the sixth country in the world in prisoners per

"There are thousands of prisoners who are in prison under the charge of
'dangerousness' [without having committed a crime] so they do not have
to call them political prisoners," he added.

According to Blanco, the Foundation is undertaking "quiet diplomacy" to
ensure that these people who have been identified as repressors are not
able to obtain visas for the United States or European countries.

The detailing of the record or repressors has not been without conflict.

"In Miami we have received denunciations against repressors, but we
always ask the denouncer to sign a notarized affidavit that the
repressor is accused of having carried out that work in Cuba," he explained.

According to Blanco, his organization has had to face maneuvers by the
Cuban government to delegitimize the work they are doing, by 'leaking'
the names of people who are not repressors.

"The Havana regime wants to keep it quiet, it is not a priority, but
that is precisely what we do not want. We seek to focus on violations of
human rights in Cuba and we want Cuba to be a priority," he insisted.

Source: Warning to the Repressors: "We Are Watching You" – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
UA: 76/17 Index: AMR 25/6001/2017 Cuba Date: 31 March 2017


Two days after Fidel Castro's death, a family of four human rights
defenders were
arrested in Holguín, south-east Cuba. They received a one-year sentence,
and the three
siblings are currently on hunger strike. They are prisoners of
conscience and must be
released immediately and unconditionally.

Twin sisters Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva, their brother, Fidel
Manuel Batista Leyva, and their mother,
Maydolis Leyva Portelles, all human rights defenders, were arrested on
27 November 2016, two days after the
death of Fidel Castro for allegedly leaving their house during the
period of state mourning. The initial arrests took
place in Holguín and coincided with an "act of repudiation" (acto de
repudio), a government-led demonstration that
is common in Cuba, carried out at the family's home. The family are
government critics, known for their activism
and associated with a number of political and human rights movements
including Movimiento Cubano de Reflexión
(Cuban Reflection Movement). According to Maydolis Leyva Portelles,
currently under house arrest, there were
many non-uniformed state security officials, including political police
and military officials, present during the arrest.
Maydolis Leyva Portelles and her children were charged under Article 204
of the Penal Code, which criminalizes
defamation of institutions, organizations and heroes and martyrs of the
Republic of Cuba, and with public disorder.
On 13 January, a court of second instance upheld a one-year prison
sentence for all three siblings, but allowed
their mother to carry out her sentence under house arrest in order to
care for her grandchildren, Adairis' children.
According to their mother, the three siblings began a hunger strike on 7
March, the day they began serving their
sentences and were imprisoned. The siblings are currently being held in
three separate hospitals in critical
condition. Doctors informed their mother that Adairis is at risk of a
heart attack and that Fidel is urinating blood; and
that all have lost significant weight. On her last hospital visit,
Maydolis Leyva Portelles says that she was asked to
sign a document which would authorize doctors to force feed her three
children, which she refused to do. She told
Amnesty International, "I don't want any of my children to die, but I
want to respect their wishes." All three siblings
and their mother are prisoners of conscience and must be released
immediately and unconditionally.
Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
- Calling on the authorities to release Anairis Miranda Leyva, Adairis
Miranda Leyva, and Fidel Manuel Batista
Leyva immediately and unconditionally from imprisonment and Maydolis
Leyva Portelles from house arrest, as they
are prisoners of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising
their right to freedom of expression;
- Calling on them to refrain from using measures to punish hunger
strikers or to coerce them to end a hunger
strike, which would be a violation of their right to freedom of expression.
- Urging them to provide the siblings with access to qualified health
professionals providing health care in
compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of
confidentiality, autonomy, and informed consent.
President of the Republic
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba Office in
Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban
Mission to UN)
Email: (c/o Cuban Mission
to UN)

Salutation: Your Excellency
Attorney General
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República
Fiscalía General de la República
Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella
Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General/
Señor Fiscal General
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your
country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below:
Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address
Salutation Salutation
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above

According to its webpage, El Movimiento Cubano de Reflexión is a
non-violent organization which aims to mobilize Cuban
citizens to bring about social change.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a
Cuban-based human rights NGO not recognized by
the state, documented a monthly average of 827 politically motivated
detentions in 2016.
Provisions of the Cuban Criminal Code, such as contempt of a public
official (desacato), resistance to public officials carrying
out their duties (resistencia) and public disorder (desórdenes públicos)
are frequently used to stifle free speech, assembly and
association in Cuba.
Article 204 of the Cuba Penal Code criminalizes "defamation of
institutions, organizations and heroes and martyrs of the
Republic of Cuba." (Difamación de las instituciones y organizaciones y
de los héroes y mártires). Under the law, anyone who
publically defames, denigrates or disparages institutions of the Cuban
Republic, or political organizations, or heroes or martyrs
of the homeland, risks sanctions of deprivation of liberty of three
months to a year or a fine.
Under international law, the use of defamation laws with the purpose or
effect of inhibiting legitimate criticism of the government
or public officials violates the right to freedom of expression.
Name: Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva (f), Fidel Manuel Batista Leyva
(m), Maydolis Leyva Portelles (f)
Gender m/f: all
UA: 76/17 Index: AMR 25/6001/2017 Issue Date: 31 March 2017

Source: Continue reading
Los riesgos de hacer negocios en Cuba: cárcel, despojo y expulsión MANUEL C. DÍAZ Especial/el Nuevo Herald Mucho antes de que el presidente Barack Obama estableciese relaciones diplomáticas con Cuba y de que algunas compañías norteamericanas como Carnival Cruise Lines, Airbnb, Starwood Hotels y Jet Blue, comenzasen a hacer negocios en la isla, ya había […] Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 31 March 2017 — The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FDHC) launched its new program Artists For Rights in Miami on Friday and sent a strong message to the Cuban government’s “repressors”: You are being watched and your actions will not go unnoticed. The artistic project seeks to sensitize artists … Continue reading "Warning to the Repressors: “We Are Watching You”" Continue reading
Ladies in White Report the Repression They Suffer to Attorney General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Ladies in White Report the Repression They Suffer to Attorney
General – Translating Cuba - Continue reading
McALLEN — A Cuban man was sentenced to prison … sentenced Jorge Ernesto Blanco-Rodriguez, a Cuban and Spanish citizen, to 135 … Continue reading
… (AP) - Authorities say a Cuban man who ran an international … of Havana was sentenced Thursday in McAllen, Texas. The 43-year-old Cuban and … , whose operation was based in Cuba, was arrested as he traveled … Continue reading
14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 29 March 2017 — It was only a matter of time before the spy Fernando González Llort took over the presidency of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP). Since his return to Cuba after serving a 15-year prison sentence in the United States, many predicted his rise to that … Continue reading "The Ascent Of The Spy" Continue reading
No bandits, scum, or mercenaries (bandidos, escoria, mercenarios):
learning to speak without the keywords of Castroist propaganda
FRANCISCO ALMAGRO DOMÍNGUEZ | Miami | 29 de Marzo de 2017 - 11:00 CEST.

On March 11 Cuban television aired The Other War (La otra guerra) a
series on the civil conflict (1960-1966) that took place in the center
of the Island and produced thousands of victims. As is typical of
political propaganda, the series seems to lack the essential balance
between good and evil, and exhibits a substantial detachment from
historical truth: the "bandits" (bandidos) remain those who rose up
against the Communist regime; the civil war is still called "clean-up of
Escambray," (limpia del Escambray) as if it just involved cleansing some
pestilent redoubt.

Assuming that the democratization of information, and the passage of
time, have enabled those living on the island to harbor a more balanced
understanding of those days can be a critical mistake. There may be no
little glasses of milk, or free bread, as had been promised by the
regime, but a steady diet of anti-history and political manicheism is
and will be guaranteed. Most of our compatriots have a skewed view of
the past, and, as a consequence, of the future. As with the psychotic,
their views are impervious to the logic of evidence.

Perhaps for this and many other reasons it is necessary to explain to
newcomers, before any legal process, or job application, that there are
words and concepts that on this side of the water are not used, or are
understood in a completely different way, or are even
offensive. Fernando Ortiz conceived the term catauro, a kind of rustic
basket used in fields, as a dictionary to "translate" Cuban terminology
that is difficult to understand for other Spanish speakers, or those
speaking other languages.

A generous humanitarian gesture would be to read to each new Cuban
immigrant this new catauro, a kind of lexical primer. For example,
those who live in this country and in this city are not gusanos
(worms). We are people. Those arriving probably still call escoria
(scum) those who left from the Port of Mariela; as in, "He came with the
scum." We should talk about the thousands of Cubans who arrived 50 years
ago with nothing but the shirts on their backs, or those who, 40 ago,
crammed into boats full of madmen and criminals. They are the ones who
have built this beautiful and vibrant city.

Cuba was no pseudocolony of the US. In 1959 almost 70% of Cuban industry
and commerce were in the hands of nationals. It was a republic whose
independence was recognized on May 20, 1902, and not on January 1. Cuba
was a country that had several presidents (some true heroes in the War
of Independence), a Senate, House, and Supreme Court, with their highs
and lows, but more good than bad, allowing it to became one of the most
advanced republics in the Americas in the 50s.

Among the ranks of the strong opposition to the Batista regime there
were rich people, merchants, professionals, workers, peasants and
students. It was not a "class struggle". No senior leader of the armed
opposition to Batista was a worker or a peasant. And in the early
months of the effort there was little talk of Communism, Lenin or Marx.
In fact, the Cuban people were thoroughly anti-Communist. Unfortunately
for the propagandists, there are reels and reels of film and hundreds of
yellowed pages constituting incontrovertible evidence of this.

The catauro of terms should include a chapter dedicated to the Bay of
Pigs. The so-called "mercenaries" were young Cubans who did not fight
under the US flag, but rather that of their homeland, Cuba. They did
receive US financial support and training. But, as history would have
it, there has not been a single strike against an oppressor in Cuba that
has not been funded by and supported from the US territory, whether
actively or passively. Here in Miami they respect and revere the
"invaders" of the Bay of Pigs. To say otherwise is an insult to the
memory of nearly 100 Cubans killed in combat, or who ended up in prison.

Finally, it is important for the catauro or primer for the
visitor/emigrant to Miami to clarify that the "clean-up of Escambray"
was an actual civil war in the Cuban mountains, and that the regime
displaced entire civilian populations to the far end of the island,
seizing all their property, as part of a kind of a "reconcentration"
that gave rise to the infamous "captive towns."

There were atrocities on both sides: summary executions, torture,
indiscriminate bombing. Many "bandits" had been officers of the Rebel
Army, peasants who had served in the columns that took Santa Clara and
other cities in Las Villas and Camagüey. Which is why the fighters in
Escambray should really be called "mutineers."

Cuban television can keep making all the TV series its wants, while
paying with the material and spiritual poverty of a whole people. Once
Cubans have reached this country, they ought to know that those over
here have the right, and the duty, to tell the other side. Those who
step on this soil will realize, as Rabindranath Tagore said, that the
truth does not belong to he who screams loudest.

Source: No bandits, scum, or mercenaries (bandidos, escoria,
mercenarios): learning to speak without the keywords of Castroist
propaganda | Diario de Cuba - Continue reading
14ymedio Havana, 27 March 2017 — The health of the siblings Fidel Batista Leyva, and Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva is worsening, as Monday marked their 21 days on a hunger strike, according to their mother, Maydolis Leyva Portelles, who spoke with 14ymedio. Members of the Cuban Reflection Movement, the three siblings are experiencing “a … Continue reading "Health Of Three Siblings On Hunger Strike In Cuba Worsens" Continue reading
The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García – Translating
Cuba - Continue reading
Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or bricks recovered from demolished buildings, “apartments” have appeared where a dozen families reside, living on the razor’s edge. Among … Continue reading "The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García" Continue reading
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

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

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

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

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

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 - Continue reading
Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality
George Diaz
Orlando Sentinel
"So when are you going to Cuba?"

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

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

Everybody is Havana Daydreamin'!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuba capitalism blinds tourists from Communist reality -
Baltimore Sun - Continue reading
Rio Mar, a Restaurant Under Surveillance by Alejandro Castro / Juan Juan

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 - 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

"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 - 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 - 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 - 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
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 - Continue reading
Raúl Castro slams Trump – and I'm forced to agree with the dictator. How
sick is that?

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

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

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:, @fabiolasantiago

Source: Cuban dictator Raul Castro slams Trump's immigration and trade
policy | Miami Herald - 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 - Continue reading
Father reports: 'They are making inquiries as if we were criminals'
Published: 16 hours ago

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

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

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

"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

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 - Continue reading