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Repression

The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot /
14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 17 February 2017 – The ending of the
United States' Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy – that allowed Cubans who
touched American soil to stay – crushed the hopes of many Cubans of
being able to achieve the American dream, that is equality of
opportunities and the freedom to allow all citizens to achieve their
goals in life through their own effort and determination. More than
something unique to the United States, it seems a dream for anyone.

When the policy was cancelled, many warned that closing one of the
valves of pressure cooker that state-socialism has made of Cuban
society, is a total contradiction.

Today with the crisis affecting Havana's private taxi-drivers – known as
"boteros" or "boatmen" – the first bean in the pot is about to burst,
under the stimulus of a senseless and traditional state policy of
resolving socio-economic problems with repression and extra-economic
constraints, a la Robin Hood, taking from those who have to give to
those who have less.

All Cubans know that with the unreliable schedules of state
transportation, some of us need to get places more quickly than we could
by waiting for the bus, and we are forced at times to take an
"almendron" – or an "almond", named after the shape of the classic
American cars often used in this shared fixed-route taxi service – where
we talk about everything for 20 minutes, with the advantage that no one
knows each other.

A couple of young drivers that I talked to before the ending of the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, confessed to me that the cars they drove were
not theirs and that they were working as "boteros" to try to get the
money needed to leave the country. One of them had already tried, by
sea, with other friends, and after spending all they had to build a raft
with an engine, they were caught by the US Coastguard and returned to
Cuba. The next time would be by land and that is what he was working for.

I never learned if these young men were among those who managed to reach
the US before the crisis caused by the closing of the Nicaragua border,
which was resolved in favor of the Cuban emigrants crossing through the
jungle.

It is likely that these boys, in their late thirties, were not the only
ones who were driving for that reason.

The cancellation of the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy may be one of the
factors of the current crisis, in addition to the problem of the capped
prices that the Government had already tried, as there is now one less
incentive to encourage the drivers to comply with the absurd state
regulations.

Such causality can also manifest itself among other self-employed
workers who do not undertake a line of work as a way of life, but as a
means to make enough money to leave the country.

I imagine that there were also many of the young truckers, new
retailers, who were making fast and abundant money due to the absurd
state policies of imposing prices on farmers and truckers and preventing
them from selling directly in the city.

When emigration is the reason a person is working, they may be willing
to ensure fines, mistreatment and the stupid fees as long as it doesn't
endanger their final goal. As soon as they take off, all the reasons
they had to put up with it end.

They say that "revolutionaries" who are trying to control the markets
for transport, farm products and housing construction through price
controls, are contributing greatly to the pressure in the pot. Mainly
due to voluntarism and ignorance of the economy and the dialectic.

This is the natural result of the contradictions of the statist,
directed and centralized economy and policies, imposed in Cuba in the
name of socialism.

When Obama, a few days before the end of his term, decided to end the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, he left a poisoned gift to Raul Castro, who
was not able to respond to everything the former US president did to
improve relations with Cuba.

Apparently, the closing of that escape valve, along with the stupidities
of the bureaucracy of the Cuban government, already caused the first
bean to explode. The leaders of the island do not have the capacity to
reverse the US presidential order, but they could stop further
imposition of absurd regulations.

Will the Cuban repressive bureaucracy have the ability to lower the heat
under the pot? Or will it continue to keep the gas on high? For me, in
truth, I only see the right hand continuing to turn the gas all the way up.

Source: The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The
Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-crisis-of-the-boteros-the-first-bean-to-burst-into-the-pot-14ymedio-pedro-campos/ Continue reading
The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot /
14ymedio, Pedro Campos

14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 17 February 2017 – The ending of the
United States' Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy – that allowed Cubans who
touched American soil to stay – crushed the hopes of many Cubans of
being able to achieve the American dream, that is equality of
opportunities and the freedom to allow all citizens to achieve their
goals in life through their own effort and determination. More than
something unique to the United States, it seems a dream for anyone.

When the policy was cancelled, many warned that closing one of the
valves of pressure cooker that state-socialism has made of Cuban
society, is a total contradiction.

Today with the crisis affecting Havana's private taxi-drivers – known as
"boteros" or "boatmen" – the first bean in the pot is about to burst,
under the stimulus of a senseless and traditional state policy of
resolving socio-economic problems with repression and extra-economic
constraints, a la Robin Hood, taking from those who have to give to
those who have less.

All Cubans know that with the unreliable schedules of state
transportation, some of us need to get places more quickly than we could
by waiting for the bus, and we are forced at times to take an
"almendron" – or an "almond", named after the shape of the classic
American cars often used in this shared fixed-route taxi service – where
we talk about everything for 20 minutes, with the advantage that no one
knows each other.

A couple of young drivers that I talked to before the ending of the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, confessed to me that the cars they drove were
not theirs and that they were working as "boteros" to try to get the
money needed to leave the country. One of them had already tried, by
sea, with other friends, and after spending all they had to build a raft
with an engine, they were caught by the US Coastguard and returned to
Cuba. The next time would be by land and that is what he was working for.

I never learned if these young men were among those who managed to reach
the US before the crisis caused by the closing of the Nicaragua border,
which was resolved in favor of the Cuban emigrants crossing through the
jungle.

It is likely that these boys, in their late thirties, were not the only
ones who were driving for that reason.

The cancellation of the Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy may be one of the
factors of the current crisis, in addition to the problem of the capped
prices that the Government had already tried, as there is now one less
incentive to encourage the drivers to comply with the absurd state
regulations.

Such causality can also manifest itself among other self-employed
workers who do not undertake a line of work as a way of life, but as a
means to make enough money to leave the country.

I imagine that there were also many of the young truckers, new
retailers, who were making fast and abundant money due to the absurd
state policies of imposing prices on farmers and truckers and preventing
them from selling directly in the city.

When emigration is the reason a person is working, they may be willing
to ensure fines, mistreatment and the stupid fees as long as it doesn't
endanger their final goal. As soon as they take off, all the reasons
they had to put up with it end.

They say that "revolutionaries" who are trying to control the markets
for transport, farm products and housing construction through price
controls, are contributing greatly to the pressure in the pot. Mainly
due to voluntarism and ignorance of the economy and the dialectic.

This is the natural result of the contradictions of the statist,
directed and centralized economy and policies, imposed in Cuba in the
name of socialism.

When Obama, a few days before the end of his term, decided to end the
Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy, he left a poisoned gift to Raul Castro, who
was not able to respond to everything the former US president did to
improve relations with Cuba.

Apparently, the closing of that escape valve, along with the stupidities
of the bureaucracy of the Cuban government, already caused the first
bean to explode. The leaders of the island do not have the capacity to
reverse the US presidential order, but they could stop further
imposition of absurd regulations.

Will the Cuban repressive bureaucracy have the ability to lower the heat
under the pot? Or will it continue to keep the gas on high? For me, in
truth, I only see the right hand continuing to turn the gas all the way up.

Source: The Crisis Of The 'Boteros': The First Bean To Burst Into The
Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-crisis-of-the-boteros-the-first-bean-to-burst-into-the-pot-14ymedio-pedro-campos/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Miami, 17 February 2017 – The ending of the United States’ Wet-Foot/Dry-Foot policy – that allowed Cubans who touched American soil to stay – crushed the hopes of many Cubans of being able to achieve the American dream, that is equality of opportunities and the freedom to allow all citizens to achieve … Continue reading "The Crisis Of The ‘Boteros’: The First Bean To Burst Into The Pot / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos" Continue reading
Havana's Archbishop Asked Cuban Government "To Sit Down And Talk To The
Opposition," Says Berta Soler / 14ymedio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Havana's Archbishop Asked Cuban Government "To Sit Down And Talk
To The Opposition," Says Berta Soler / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/havanas-archbishop-asked-cuban-government-to-sit-down-and-talk-to-the-opposition-says-berta-soler-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 16 February 2017 — Berta Soler, after meeting this Wednesday with Archbishop of Havana Juan de la Caridad Garcia Rodriguez, said that he has offered his full support to the Ladies in White and that the prelate told her he had asked the Government to sit down and talk to the opposition. “We … Continue reading "Havana’s Archbishop Asked Cuban Government “To Sit Down And Talk To The Opposition,” Says Berta Soler / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez, El Pais, 12 February 2017 — Statistics are
deceiving. They only reflect measurable values, tangible
realities. International agencies cram us with numbers that measure
development, life expectancy or educational attainment, but seldom
succeed in grading dissatisfaction, fear, and discouragement. Frequently
in their reports they describe a Latin America and its inhabitants
encased in a fog of digits.

This year the region will have weak growth of 1.3%, according to
forecasts by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean
(ECLAC). A data point that barely manages to transmit the scope of lives
that will be ruined by the region's sluggish progress. Unfinished
projects and a long string of social dramas will be accentuated in many
of these countries in the coming months. The breeding ground from which
populism springs.

However, the major drama remains the lack of horizons formillions of
people on this side of the planet

A Haitian who risks crossing the jungle of Panama's Darien Gap to reach
the United States is driven not only by the miserable conditions of life
in her country, the destruction left by natural phenomena or the
repeated epidemics that cost thousands of lives. The most powerful
engine that moves her is hopelessness, the conviction that in her own
country she will never have new opportunities.

Seeing no end to violence pushes other Central Americans to escape their
countries. In several of these nations gangs have become an enthroned
evil, corruption has corroded the internal scaffolding of institutions
and politicians go from one scandal to the next. Discouragement then
prompts a response quite different from that generated by indignation.
While the latter may push people to rebel, the former pushes them to escape.

Meanwhile, on this Caribbean island, millions of human beings ruminate
over their own disappointment. For decades Cubans fled because of
political persecution, economic problems and weariness. Until 12 January
2017, that generalized choking sensation had a relief valve called the
wet-foot/dry-foot policy, but President Barack Obama closed it a few
days before finishing his second term.

The most staunch critics of that migratory privilege say that it
encouraged desertions and illegal exits. Some people also criticized its
unjust character in that it benefitted and offered entitlements to
people who were not escaping war, genocide or a natural disaster. They
forget, among these arguments, that discouragement also deserves to be
taken into account and computed in any formula that tries to decipher
the massive flight that affects a nation.

A similar error has been committed by agencies such as the FAO, UNHCR or
ECLAC, all of which specialize in measuring parameters such as the
number of daily calories ingested, the effect of climate change on human
displacements, or the percentage decrease in a nation's GDP. Their
reports and statements never evaluate the energy that accumulates under
frustration, the weight of disappointment or the impotence reflected in
every migration.

When more than three generations of individuals have lived under a
political and economic system that does not evolve or progress, there is
a conviction among them that this situation is eternal and
immutable. They no longer see any horizon and the idea that nothing can
be done to change the status quo becomes rooted in their minds. By
now, many of those born in Cuba after January 1959 have grown up with
the conviction that everything had already been done by others who
preceded them.

That explains why a young man who had recently slept under a roof in
Havana, who had access to a limited but adequate amount of food through
the rationed market and who spent his long free hours on a park bench,
launched himself into the sea on a raft, at the mercy of the winds and
sharks. The lack of prospects is also behind the large number of
migrants from the island, in recent years, who have ended up in the
hands of human traffickers in Colombia, Panama or Mexico.

Washington not only cut an escape path, but the White House's decision
ended up deepening the depression that comes from the chronic absence of
dreams that characterizes our country. The Cuban Adjustment Act, enacted
in 1966, is still in effect for those who can prove they are politically
persecuted, but the most widespread feeling among potential migrants is
that they have lost a last chance to reach a future.

However, this undermining of illusion has little chance of being
transformed into rebellion. The theory of the social pressure cooker and
the idea that Obama closed the escape valve so that the fire of internal
austerity and repression will make it explode is a nice metaphor; but it
misses several key ingredients, among them the resignation that
overcomes individuals subjected to realities that appear unchangeable.

The belief that nothing can be done and nothing will change continues to
be the principle stimulus, in these areas, to lift one's anchor and
depart for any other corner of the planet. The pot will not explode with
a sea of people in the streets bringing down Raul Castro's government
while singing hymns on that dreamed of "D-Day" that so many are tired of
waiting for.

Those who believe that the closing of a one door to emigration will act
like the snap of the fingers to awaken a society whose civic conscience
is hypnotized are mistaken. The cancellation of this policy of benefits
in the United States is not enough to create citizens here at home.

A new bureaucratic barrier is a small thing to those who believe that
they have reached their own glass ceiling and that in their homeland
they have nothing left to do. This quiet conviction will never appear in
tables, bar charts or schemes with which specialists will explain the
causes of exodus and displacement. But ignorance of it means the
specialists will never understand such a prolonged escape.

Far from the reports and statistics that everyone wants to explain,
hopelessness will take Cuban migrants to other places, re-orient their
route to new destinations. In distant latitudes, communities will
flourish that will dine on their usual dish of rice and beans and
continue to say the word "chico" before many of their phrases. They will
be the ones who will let drop small tear when they see on a map that
long and narrow land where they had their roots, but in which they could
never bear fruit.

Source: Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/measuring-hopelessness-yoani-sanchez/ Continue reading
Yoani Sanchez, El Pais, 12 February 2017 — Statistics are deceiving. They only reflect measurable values, tangible realities. International agencies cram us with numbers that measure development, life expectancy or educational attainment, but seldom succeed in grading dissatisfaction, fear, and discouragement. Frequently in their reports they describe a Latin America and its inhabitants encased in a fog of … Continue reading "Measuring Hopelessness / Yoani Sanchez" Continue reading
The MUAD and #Otro18 lament that the electoral process will not be held
under the 'Law promised by the Government'
DDC | La Habana | 10 de Febrero de 2017 - 00:09 CET.

The Democratic Action Unity Roundtable (MUAD) and the Civic Platform
#Otro18 expressed their regret Wednesday that the electoral process
initiated on the Island is not being carried in accordance with the new
"Law promised by the Government" and that the authorities are not
providing responses to the people's demands for more participation.

In a statement to which DIARIO DE CUBA had access, the organization
stated that it was "pleased that the authorities have decided to
enlighten people, especially youth, about the electoral system."

"This is a significant step towards the proper institutionalization of
the political process in Cuba, which always begins with the cultural
incorporation of certain fundamental rules," they stated.

"This should certainly be accompanied by basic education on the Cuban
Constitution and existing laws, which, unfortunately for the citizens,
are systematically violated by the authorities themselves," they expressed.

"Early, though discreet, information on the establishment of the
Electoral Commissions for the upcoming elections is another important
step. The complete and up-to-date publication of the electoral lists
would be advisable, so that citizens could gradually examine the
information," they said.

The MUAD and #Otro18 lament that "it has occurred in the past that the
authorities have removed from the lists particular groups of citizens,
so that they did not affect the percentages of participation in the
elections."

In this regard they state that "the Citizen Observers of Electoral
Processes (COPE) network will be closely monitoring this important phase
of the process, impinging on the transparency and fairness of the
electoral system."

Similarly, they are surprised by the fact that these "elections are not
held under the new Electoral Law promised by the Government, for which
#Otro18 delivered to the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies a
series of proposals reflected and worked on by many citizens over the
course of almost a year."

"We thought that the Government grasped the importance of adapting the
Electoral Law to the new realities of an increasingly plural and diverse
society. However, society has no clear news about authorities'
intentions in this regard, when it is demanding, with increasing
forcefulness, more open and plural participation and the exercise of
their political rights," the text reads.

"As we have seen at both the MUAD and #Otro18, citizens want to be able
to directly elect their president, from amongst different options," they
say.

"The authorities' response to citizens' demands for more participation
continue to take, however, an improper course. They lament what is a
spurious interpretation of the Electoral Law, in an effort to establish
a kind of "revolutionary citizenship," clearly unconstitutional and
contrary to the provisions of the current law, which recognizes
citizenship for all Cubans by birth or naturalization; and, secondly,
increased repression, including violence, also illegal and
unconstitutional, against a group of active citizens active in the
#Otro18 Platform.

They cite as an example the most recent case of "the activist Iliana
Hernandez, with the organization Somos Más, who on Monday was
arbitrarily detained for more than six hours and from whom various work
instruments were illegally seized."

Iliana Hernández is one of the coordinators of the #Otro18 Candidates
and a member of the Muad-#Otro18 Communication Team.

"Suppressing citizens who are only exercising their rights, recognized
at three levels: the Constitution, the law, and society, is symptomatic
of a failed state. It is, in any case, useless. #Otro18 will continue to
carry out its work, and with more and more public support."

Source: The MUAD and #Otro18 lament that the electoral process will not
be held under the 'Law promised by the Government' | Diario de Cuba -
http://www.diariodecuba.com/derechos-humanos/1486681745_28817.html Continue reading
More Than 50% Of Cuba's Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU, According
To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: More Than 50% Of Cuba's Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU,
According To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/more-than-50-of-cubas-political-prisoners-belong-to-unpacu-according-to-human-rights-group-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 6 February 2017 – A report released this Monday by the National Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) counts 478 arbitrary arrests against dissidents throughout the island during the month of January. The text states that during the past month, there were 20 arrests more than in December 2016. The independent body … Continue reading "More Than 50% Of Cuba’s Political Prisoners Belong To UNPACU, According To Human Rights Group / 14ymedio" Continue reading
The Struggle for Freedom Continues in Cuba
by MARIO T. DE LA PENA February 5, 2017 4:00 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Cuba Post-Castro: Repression Continues | National Review -
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444622/cuba-post-castro-repression-continues Continue reading
Coexistence Profiles Future Proposals For Cuban Education And Culture /
14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 30 January 2017 — A pluralistic
education, deeply democratic, with a privileged use of technology and
communications together with a vision of culture open to universality:
these were some of the proposals of the third meeting of the Center for
Coexistence Studies (CEC) for the future of Cuba held this weekend in Miami.

The Cuban think tank, based in Pinar del Rio, held its meeting at
Florida International University (FIU) within the framework of an
journey of thought for Cuba. A similar process is taking place in
parallel on the island, although that meeting had to be suspended in the
face of the repression of the political police. Paradoxically, the
prohibition decreed by the authorities facilitated greater interaction
through alternative means such as email.

Dagoberto Valdés, director of the CEC, offered an overview of the
national reality that, in his opinion, is marked by several elements,
including the country's economic crisis "in free fall," the death of
Fidel Castro and the end of the wet foot/dry foot policy that allowed
Cubans who touched American soil to remain in the country, regardless of
whether they had a visa.

The analysis of Cuban culture involved preparing a list of paradigmatic
personalities, institutions and referential processes that make up the
nucleus of the nation's identity. It also addressed "weaknesses" and
"negative features" in the country's cultural processes.

With regards to education, there was a discussion of pedagogical models
that tend to strengthen ethical values ​​and individual autonomy.

"The projects presented seek to clarify the roots of identity that
should be rescued and maintained, as well as detail models, content and
methodologies. Also, the types of institutions and educational spaces
that should predominate in the future, and what the profile of an
educator should be," said the press release issued by the institution.

Four sessions enriched the meeting, including one led by the economist
Carmelo Mesa Lago, another by anthropologist and journalist Miriam
Celaya, as well as two led by members of the editorial team of
Coexistence magazine, Dagoberto Valdes and Yoandy Izquierda.

The meeting at the FIU, together with the work being done in Cuba, has
enabled the drafting of 45 legislative proposals for a new Cuban legal
framework.

The results of the workshops will be compiled by the Center's Academic
Council and the Board of Directors and published on its website.

Source: Coexistence Profiles Future Proposals For Cuban Education And
Culture / 14ymedio, Mario Penton – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/coexistence-profiles-future-proposals-for-cuban-education-and-culture-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
On Notice: Cuban Repressor Dainier Suarez Pagan / Foundation for Human
Rights in Cuba

Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, 30 January 2017 — To Mr. Suarez
Pagan: For six months, since we took the initiative to identify those
people who exercise the repression of the Cuban tyranny, your name is
repeated more often than any other, associated with the use of methods
that stand out for their brutal violence against peaceful citizens.

We have accusations against you that have been issued by your numerous
victims and that are validated by photos, videos and medical opinions.
However, your more recent act of intimidation intended to recruit as an
informant the young woman Liset Maria Santos, from the recently formed
Dignity Movement, has exceeded all limits.

You have told her that you released the criminal who raped her when she
was 11-years-old, and have given her the choice of informing against her
friends or facing the consequences of what this criminal might do to her
or even to her daughter. To brag about your total control over the lives
of others you tell her that, if she cooperates, you can put the rapist
back in prison (he hasn't served even half of his sentence for that and
other crimes) or even kill him.

You believe yourself to be immune for being a part of the national
repressive machinery. But you are wrong Mr. Suarez Pagan.

You are a cog in that machine, it is true, but you are inescapably
personally responsible for your actions. Even your superiors – if they
consider it convenient to their own interests – could take the
initiative to prosecute you at any time to distance themselves from your
abominable crimes.

You may believe that the current non-violent vocation of the regime's
opponents assures you of a peaceful future. But you are wrong there,
too. No one is going to forget or forgive your crimes. For repressors
like you there will be no amnesty.

You are personally responsible for any and all of the detestable
assaults you have perpetrated against peaceful opponents. Do not forget
that. This has happened historically since the trials of the Nazis in
Nuremberg. Each person is legally obliged to take individual
responsibility for their actions and no one can excuse themselves
afterwards with the justification that they "carried out orders from my
superiors."

You told young Liset Maria Santos that it was within your reach that
nothing would happen to her or her family. Make it so.

You believe yourself omnipotent because you know where each opponent
lives. We also have the facts and reliable proofs of your despicable career.

Know that we are already working to apply various international
sanctions and we will do the same with any superior of yours who is
implicated in this and other sadistic actions. We are not going to wait
for things to change in Cuba. And they will change, Mr. Dainier Suárez
Pagán. Keep that in mind.

Source: On Notice: Cuban Repressor Dainier Suarez Pagan / Foundation for
Human Rights in Cuba – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/on-notice-cuban-repressor-dainier-suarez-pagan-foundation-for-human-rights-in-cuba/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 30 January 2017 — A pluralistic education, deeply democratic, with a privileged use of technology and communications together with a vision of culture open to universality: these were some of the proposals of the third meeting of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC) for the future of Cuba held this weekend … Continue reading "Coexistence Profiles Future Proposals For Cuban Education And Culture / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, 30 January 2017 — To Mr. Suarez Pagan: For six months, since we took the initiative to identify those people who exercise the repression of the Cuban tyranny, your name is repeated more often than any other, associated with the use of methods that stand out for their brutal violence against … Continue reading "On Notice: Cuban Repressor Dainier Suarez Pagan / Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba" Continue reading
Why We Don't Have A Lech Walesa In Cuba / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 January 2017 — I recently had the
opportunity to participate as guest in a forum held at Florida
International University. Among other topics, the issue of labor rights
in Cuba and the role of journalism in the defense of these rights were
discussed.

At first glance, the proposal does not seem incongruous. The
relationship between journalism and workers in the struggle for the
exercise of labor rights in Cuba had its beginnings as far back as the
second half of the nineteenth century, when the first trade union
periodicals of the region were founded in Cuba – La Aurora and El
Artesano – (Castellanos, 2002), an indication of both the worker's
recognition of the importance of the press and the timely proficiency
they developed in union organization.

On the other hand, labor rights of domestic workers is one of the most
recurrent and polarized issues of current official and independent Cuban
journalism, though from two opposite ends. Contrary to the official
monopoly of the press, in charge of praising the supposed guarantees of
the State-Party-Government labor rights – though the new Labor Code does
not even recognize such universal achievements as the right to strike,
free recruitment and free association – the independent, press denounces
the constant violations of all rights, including the most basic one:
earning a deserved living wage.

Numerous independent journalists have addressed the issue of labor
rights. Among them are the articles of historical analysis on the Cuban
trade union movement, its achievements and errors, developed by the
researcher Dimas Castellanos, some of which are cited here.

However, while the independent journalism sector has had the most
sustained growth within the Cuban pro-democratic civil society in the
last decade, its scope and real possibilities should not be
overestimated. Much less can we hope that the press works the miracle of
transforming society separate from the human beings who compose it.

Journalism can support and complement the actions of individuals in
their struggle for the full exercise of their most legitimate rights,
but it cannot assume the functions of the institutions that those same
individuals must create. Neither is it capable of changing reality all
on its own. Thus, just as the triumphalist discourse of the official
press does not turn into practice the rights it touts as "conquests of
the Revolution," neither is the independent press able to function as an
intangible union, apart from the collective workers.

Unions, as organizations created to defend workers' interests from
employers (State, managers, companies), cannot be replaced by the press
or, as in the case of Cuba, by the State. It is worth noting that nor is
it the role of the (marginal) political parties of the opposition is not
to assume such a demanding mission, especially considering that, under
the Castro regime, opponents don't usually have any labor ties nor have
they have successfully influenced large sectors of the population, and
even less so in workers' State or private labor collectives.

In other words, the demand for labor rights is the responsibility, first
and foremost, of the workers themselves within the extent of their
groups, as subjects with the capacity to organize spontaneously and
autonomously in defense of their interests as a group, developing a
strong trade union movement capable of dealing with the powers that
restrain those rights. It is the essential premise for the press – in
this case, the independent press – to expand, thus increasing the effect
of the workers' labor demands or for the opposition to rely on trade
union movements.

The working social base is so significant in mobilizing changes that a
prominent union leader who counts on its support could become a
political leader, such as the well-known case of Lech Walesa, or the
well-known union leaders of the Latin American left, Lula Da Silva and
Evo Morales, who eventually reached the presidency of their respective
countries. But the inverse does not take place: political leaders do not
usually become trade union leaders.

In fact, the powerful Solidarity trade union, with its effectiveness in
overthrowing the puppet government of Moscow in Poland and putting an
end to the so-called "real socialism" in that country, is an essential
reference point when we are talking about which path the Cuban
transition should follow: A great working organization with strong
leadership, able to face and bend the Power.

Regrettably, such practice is not possible in Cuba, where sufficiently
strong or autonomously organized labor groups in key positions in the
economy do not exist, where the relatively better paid jobs are in the
hands of joint venture foreign capital companies and in those of local,
dominant military caste where, in addition, the deep national and civic
feeling characteristic of the Polish peoples has never existed.

This leads directly to the historical fragility of the civil society in
Cuba, demolished completely, especially in the 60 years after the
arrival of the Castros to power, and hijacked by the leaders of the
Revolution to put it at their service, subordinating it to the ideology
of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

The official policy of manipulating the different social organizations,
which operated autonomously and were self-financed before 1959, has
abolished the possibility of the existence of true trade unionism in
Cuba, whose dependence on the political will of the Government is
equally evident, since numerous calls for plenary meetings and "workers"
congresses stem from the Political Bureau of the PCC and not from
so-called trade union organizations, and the workers' laws and "rights"
are also stipulated by the political power.

But even though political manipulation of Cuban trade unionism became
absolute after the "revolutionary triumph," pre-1959 alliances of some
trade union leaders with political parties had already strongly
undermined the trade union movement, detracting from its autonomy,
undermining its foundations and fragmenting it into its structures.

This is how Castellanos summarizes it in one of his writings on the
subject: "The subordination of trade union associations to political
parties, which began in 1925, intensified in the 1940's with the
struggle between workers in the Authentic and Communist Parties for
control of the labor movement. In 1952, when Eusebio Mujal, then General
Secretary of the labor movement, after ordering the general strike
against that year's coup d'etat, ended up accepting an offer from
Batista in exchange for preserving the rights acquired by the CTC*."
(Castellanos, 2013)

The death of Cuban trade syndicates was sealed in 1959, when the CTC was
dissolved and replaced by the (CTC-R). The 10th Congress of the workers'
organization took place that year, and its Secretary General, David
Salvador Manso, said during his speech that "workers had not attended
the Congress to raise economic demands but to support the Revolution."
At the 11th Congress, held in November 1961, the loss of autonomy of
trade unionism was enshrined, when delegates renounced almost all the
historical achievements of the labor movement, among others, the 9 days
of sick leave, the supplementary Christmas bonus, the 44-hour work week,
the right to strike and a raise of 9.09%. The CTC became, in fact, a
mechanism of government control of the workers. (Ibid)

Needless to say this has been maintained until now, with the aggravating
fact that the Cuban autocratic regime has achieved the positive
recognition of all the international organizations responsible for
ensuring compliance with labor rights, which increases Cuban workers'
hopelessness.

In fact, far from improving the situation, the exploitation of Cuban
workers has diversified and consolidated since the arrival in Cuba of
foreign-funded enterprises – which employ Cuban workers indirectly,
entirely through contracts signed with the State rather than with the
workers themselves – and with the leasing of professionals, especially
health workers, who are sent abroad under collaborative projects in
countries allied to the Castro regime.

Raúl Castro's rise to the head of the government, as successor to his
brother, the so-called historic leader of the revolution, seemed to open
a brief period of expectations, encouraged by a reformist speech
followed by a set of measures meant to bend the extreme centralism in
Cuba's domestic economy.

Such measures allowed for the emergence of small sectors of private
entrepreneurs, grouped under the generic name "self-employed," which
have faced a number of constraints – such as high taxation, harassment
by corrupt inspectors, absence of wholesale markets to provide their
businesses, among others – and initially constituted an opportunity to
encourage autonomous venues that could eventually pave the way for the
emergence of groups of workers organized in defense of their interests,
independent of the State.

However, the private workers were quickly absorbed by the government's
political officials who run the sole Cuban workers pivotal labor shop.
The self-employed also meekly accepted the official "unionization" that
represents the interests of the boss: the tower of power.

Thus, though Cuba has been a signatory of the United Nations Economic,
Social and Cultural Rights Covenants since 2008 – which recognize, among
others, the right to work and the choice of employment – and the Civil
and Political Rights Convenants – whose written text includes freedom of
the Press, expression, association and assembly, which are also
essential for the existence of trade syndicates – there are no real
trade union organizations in the country or areas of freedom to make
them possible. The Cuban government has not ratified the signatures of
these Covenants, and United Nations officials responsible for ensuring
compliance with their contents are often extremely complacent with the
Cuban authorities.

A long road traveled and a longer one yet to go

In spite of the historical shortcomings of Cuban civil society, the
reality is that labor movements demanding workers' rights began
relatively early in Cuba. The strength achieved by the workers during
the Republican period, organized and grouped in unions, determined
political transformations as important as Gerardo Machado's departure
from power after a powerful workers strike that paralyzed the country.

During the same period, collective bargaining was another struggle
method that gave trade unions the ability to influence the enactment of
laws based on workers' demands. Politicians recognized in the working
masses a social fiber so powerful that the governments of Grau San
Martin, Carlos Mendieta, and Federico Laredo Bru promoted labor
legislation that included such rights as the eight-hour day, labor
striking, paid and maternity leave, and collective bargaining. (Decrees
276 and 798 of April of 1938). (Castellanos, 2002)

Later, the 1940 Constitution legally recognized the results of previous
years' union struggles by dedicating 27 articles of Title VI to the
collective and individual rights of workers. These ranged from the
minimum wage to pensions due to the death of the worker. Paradoxically,
once the government "of the poor, with the poor and for the poor" came
to power, not only were unions lost by a stroke of the pen and absorbed
by the new dictatorship of a supposed military "proletariat",
but Chapter VI of the 1976 Constitution reduced labor rights to six
minimal articles, omitting almost all the gains of the trade union
movement of the previous periods, endorsed in the Constitutions of 1901
and 1940.

Currently, the Cuban socio-political and economic situation is extremely
complex. Not only because an economic crisis has taken root permanently,
but there has been a wave of layoffs and no salaries in Cuba are
sufficient to even acquire basic foodstuffs. Social actors capable of
reversing that scenario cannot be found in our country.

The opposition has proposed a few attempts for independent unions.
However, such proposals have not made progress, not only because of the
repression that is exerted against any manifestation of dissidence
within Cuba, but because these alternatives have no social bases or real
support. In fact, since they are marginalized by the system, Cuban
opponents do not usually have any labor ties – if they had held a state
job they would generally have been fired — so they have no chance of
representing Cuban workers.

The constant Cuban exodus, mainly composed of working age individuals,
is another factor that contributes to the weakening of the work force,
the result of the system itself but one whose solution is already beyond
the reach of a government to which any deep change might cost the loss
of its power.

So far, it does not seem that the vicious circle that keeps Cuban
workers and the whole of society in a motionless state will be broken in
the short term. The road to recovery will be long and tortuous, and will
only begin when the omnipotent power that has hijacked the nation for
almost 60 years disappears. Because without rights, there will be no
unions, and without unions there will be no force capable of
legitimately representing the interests of that endangered species that
was once called "the Cuban workers."

*(CTC): The Central Union of Cuban Workers [Central de Trabajadores de
Cuba] originated as the Confederation of Cuban Workers [Confederación de
Trabajadores de Cuba] in 1939. The original leaders of the organization
were forced to flee after Castro's seizure of power in 1959.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Source: Why We Don't Have A Lech Walesa In Cuba / 14ymedio, Miriam
Celaya – Translating Cuba -
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14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 27 January 2017 — I recently had the opportunity to participate as guest in a forum held at Florida International University. Among other topics, the issue of labor rights in Cuba and the role of journalism in the defense of these rights were discussed. At first glance, the proposal does not … Continue reading "Why We Don’t Have A Lech Walesa In Cuba / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya" Continue reading
Gandrilla Launches His Mandate at MINIT With New Orders / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 January 2017 — Hours after the Obama
administration said good-bye to what was the "wet foot/dry foot" policy,
in Cuba the recently named Minister of the Interior, the new man in
charge of guarding the secrets and security of the State, Julio Cesar
Gandrilla Bermejo, orders a braking, a review and punishment of all
those officers who, in complying with the law, commit excesses and/or
abuses in their treatment of the population, of those charged,
imprisoned, and even those the government calls "members of little
counter-revolutionary groups."

The surprising directive not only comes within the framework of
normalizations of relations between the United States and Cuba, and also
appears at exactly the time when the uncertainty of many Cubans
was triggered when, out of the blue, they closed the valve and reduced
the escapes.

The news of the "wet foot/dry foot" repeal had barely been announced,
intended to stop the exodus of Cubans to the United States, but
the pressure within the island didn't wait. This opportune measure, or
opportunistic reaction, aims to take advantage of the change to protect
the system and national security, silence those who attack the
government showing the constant violations of individual justice, and
avoiding at all costs popular discontent.

Although today everything appears to be in Gandrilla's favor, some
turbulence of opinion arose among the officers who mocked the
vice-admiral saying that he is the only sailor who doesn't know how to
swim, and that his vertiginous ascent is due to a personal relationship
with general Raul Castro, who — after testing his trustworthiness as a
partner in marathon domino tournaments, and evaluating his active
participation in important hunts and risky fishing expeditions — first
appointed him chief of the Department of Personal Security (DSP) of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) (which should not be confused with the
group of the same name in the Ministry of the Interior), and then made
him Chief of Military Counterintelligence (CIM), and later first vice
minister of the Ministry of the Interior and ultimately the Minister,
taking the same route as his predecessor, the deceased general Carlos
Fernandez Gondin.

Can the new minister enforce the new provision?

Julio César Gandarilla is a "cadre" of Raul's. He lives with a certain
modesty, along with his children (one a cardiologist and the other in
the military) at number 44 on La Torre Street in the capital district of
Nuevo Vedado, almost directly across from the building occupied for
years by the Castro Espín clan.

He is not known for excesses, he is a solitary man, suspicious, slow to
laugh and a good eater. It is opportune to know that when he was chief
of the CIM he came on the scene because of his critical interest in
reforming the methods that have created overflowing prisons in Cuba,
with a total absence of social rehabilitation for the prisoners.

Personally, I don't think he has the power to stop the repression, like
many, and with great care he may be able to control the excesses
committed by hundreds of repressors.

He has a great deal of experience in pursuing soldiers, comes from CIM
with a doctorate in Internal Control; but the Ministry of the Interior
is not the Revolutionary Armed Forces, it is one of those territories
where it is not easy to impose new norms.

Source: Gandrilla Launches His Mandate at MINIT With New Orders / Juan
Juan Almeida – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/gandrilla-launches-his-mandate-at-minit-with-new-orders-juan-juan-almeida/ Continue reading
Juan Juan Almeida, 24 January 2017 — Hours after the Obama administration said good-bye to what was the “wet foot/dry foot” policy, in Cuba the recently named Minister of the Interior, the new man in charge of guarding the secrets and security of the State, Julio Cesar Gandrilla Bermejo, orders a braking, a review and … Continue reading "Gandrilla Launches His Mandate at MINIT With New Orders / Juan Juan Almeida" Continue reading
Belkis Cantillo, Leader Of The Dignity Movement Released / 14ymedio, Luz
Escobar

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 January 2017 — The leader of the
Dignity Movement, Belkis Cantillo, who was arrested last Thursday was
released Monday afternoon, as confirmed to 14ymedio by Moraima Diaz, an
activist of the same movement.

Shortly after being released, in a telephone conversation with this
newspaper, Cantillo explained that she was given a warning letter that
he refused to sign.

According to the activist, the document stated that she could not "meet
with anyone" or be visited by "counterrevolutionaries." The police also
prevented her from carrying out "public demonstrations."

About her days in custody, she says that they removed the mattress and
that she was "sleeping on the cement" which caused an "increase of the
pain she already suffered due to renal colic." The activist reports
that, after insisting, she was visited by a lawyer.

After her release she was summoned to appear next Saturday before the
offices of the State Security in the municipality Julio A. Mella.

According to Moraima Díaz, members of the Dignity Movement cannot leave
their homes without State Security agents "persecuting them."

"We have agents at every corner of the house. It is a police siege to
which we are subjected," she adds.

"We have been told that if we leave the house, our families will be the
ones who will pay the consequences," she says from Palmarito de Cauto, a
town in the province of Santiago de Cuba.

"The situation here is extreme. The police have taken the town so that
there are no dissident demonstrations," says the activist.

The women of the Dignity Movement have experienced days of intense
repression since they created their movement in the Sanctuary of the
Virgin of Charity of Cobre on Saturday, January 14. They call for, among
other things, immediate and unconditional amnesty for all those who
today are serving prison sentences for "pre-criminal dangerousness" and
for this concept which they consider to be "arbitrary" to be eliminated
from the Penal Code.

Amel Carlos Oliva, youth leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba,
told 14ymedio that in the early hours of the morning the police raided
the house of Thomas Madariaga Nunez, 66, an active member of his
organization.

Right now, Madariaga is in custody.

Source: Belkis Cantillo, Leader Of The Dignity Movement Released /
14ymedio, Luz Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/belkis-cantillo-leader-of-the-dignity-movement-released-14ymedio-luz-escobar/ Continue reading
Obama Left, Trump Arrived, the Repression Continues / 14ymedio, Reinaldo
Escobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Obama Left, Trump Arrived, the Repression Continues / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/obama-left-trump-arrived-the-repression-continues-14ymedio-reinaldo-escobar/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 January 2017 — The leader of the Dignity Movement, Belkis Cantillo, who was arrested last Thursday was released Monday afternoon, as confirmed to 14ymedio by Moraima Diaz, an activist of the same movement. Shortly after being released, in a telephone conversation with this newspaper, Cantillo explained that she was given a warning … Continue reading "Belkis Cantillo, Leader Of The Dignity Movement Released / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar" Continue reading
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 January 2017 — Within 48 hours of Donald Trump being declared President of the United States, the political police maintained their repression against opponents unchanged. The hard hand of State Security begins to contradict the claim that “Barack Obama’s concessions” to the Plaza of the Revolution fueled the repressive character of … Continue reading "Obama Left, Trump Arrived, the Repression Continues / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar" Continue reading
Trump May Make It Harder To Travel To Cuba – And Send Remittances
By TIM PADGETT

Donald Trump becomes President on Friday – and now here we wait to see
how he plans to keep his pledge to roll back normalized relations with Cuba.

In recent weeks his transition team has reached out to Cuban-Americans
in South Florida for conversations about U.S.-Cuba policy. One of them
is Andy Gomez, a former senior fellow at the University of Miami's
Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies. Gomez spoke with WLRN's
Tim Padgett this week about his sense of what's coming on Cuba.

Andy, after listening to the transition team, how important is Cuba to
the incoming administration?

Well, realistically, we in South Florida like to think Cuba is always at
the top of the list in Washington. What I hear is, given all the issues
around the world this incoming administration will have to face, Cuba is
not even among the top 100 issues that they're looking at right now.
Unfortunately for us.

That said, what do you sense might be some of the more significant steps
Donald Trump is set to take regarding Cuba policy?

Donald Trump is going to address all foreign policy with a very firm
hand. Particularly on Cuba, the question that has been asked is, What
have we gained from Cuba in the last two years-plus since we established
diplomatic relations – and they think very little. If there is one thing
from my point of view, as I discussed with them, at least there is an
open line of communications.

But I don't think they'll continue these discussions that have been
going on, on a regular basis, between Washington and Havana. They think
we're going to have to push back – to see if Cuba might be willing to
come to the table on more serious issues.

So having said that: Remittances, you know, that used to be $300 and
President Obama changed all that and made it unlimited now? Possibly
that's going to be looked at very carefully – and it might even be reduced.

So Cubans here would no longer be able to send an unlimited amount of
remittances to the island?

That's what I hear.

And they'll will be rolled back to $300 per year?

They haven't set a figure yet. It might be $300 – it might be less. But
it's not going to be more.

POLITICAL RISK

I would assume that would also include the amount of travel that
Cuban-Americans can make to Cuba. Is that a political risk for Trump?
Allowing unlimited travel was one of the more popular moves that
President Obama made in the Cuban-American community in South Florida,
for example.

Yes, there is a political risk. And their idea here – which I don't
completely agree with, Tim, based on what has happened in the past – is
that if you create social pressure within the island by cutting down
additional help from the Americans, there could be the possibility of
social instability and millions of people out in the street protesting
and demanding. I don't see that happening in Cuba. I think it's very
unrealistic.

So you do think we will see the Trump Administration make it harder for
Americans to visit Cuba?

Absolutely – until the Cubans come to the table with something concrete.
And let me tell you what I think that issue might be. If the Cubans are
willing to develop a long-term plan to repay American companies that had
their properties confiscated when the 1959 revolution came into play, I
think that will attract, as I am told, the Trump Administration to say,
OK, let's now move forward.

Another issue, as you know very well, is human rights. I mean,
repression under Raúl Castro has actually been worse than it was under
Fidel Castro during the last five years of his rule.

Or at least in terms of short-term jail detentions.

Yes.

But you also mentioned that you see them rushing to reverse many of the
business executive orders Obama made on Cuba.

I think they will. But they're going to be very careful not to step on
or violate any contracts that are already in place.

For example, the Starwood hotel corporation – they have an agreement
with the Cuban government, so does Google, to operate in Cuba. If we
cancel the executive order that allows them to do that, we're cancelling
their contract with the Cuban government. Is the American government
then responsible for paying Starwood the amount that that contract was
worth? You know, those issues will have to be looked at very carefully.

Source: Trump May Make It Harder To Travel To Cuba – And Send
Remittances | WLRN -
http://wlrn.org/post/trump-may-make-it-harder-travel-cuba-and-send-remittances Continue reading
Belkis Cantillo Launches A New Fight From Santiago De Cuba / 14ymedio,
Luz Escobar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Care About Ideology, Not People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Normalizing The Communists Who Run Cuba Makes This Survivor Sick
-
http://thefederalist.com/2017/01/16/normalizing-communists-run-cuba-makes-survivor-sick/ Continue reading
Repression Spiking in Cuba / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 123 January 2017 — Two days ago, our eastern
coordinator in Las Tunas, Wiliam Espinosa, spent 24 hours in jail when
he tried to leave to attend our meeting in Havana.

Last night there was a great witch hunt and persecution all over the
Havana neighborhood of Vededo to prevent us from attending a meeting of
Otro18. They even forced a private restaurant to close.

Today dawns with the news that they have seized the home of Karina
Galvez, Dagoberto Valdes's right-hand person on the Convivencia
(Coexistence) team. She was arrested and no one is allowed to see her.

Right now, the official who calls himself "Leandro," along with a police
car, has closed my block at the corner. It is very likely there will be
arrests.

I just talked to professor Wilfredo Vallin who has been blocked from
leaving home and they told him he could not come to my house. Because I
am a "danger" to State Security. My God…

They seized and are still holding Alexey Gamez's laptop, cellphone and
hard drives, as a sequel to the latest offensive against our academy,
where we seek to educate citizens.

And added to this is that El Sexto (the graffiti artist Danilo
Maldonado) has been under arrest since November, without trial, and we
have a panorama of extreme despair on the part of a system that cannot
find any way to emerge from its crisis and clings tooth and nail to
violence as the only path to salvation.

What disaster it going to happen at the highest levels of the
government, where they do not want anyone at the base to be able to move?

Source: Repression Spiking in Cuba / Somos+, Eliecer Avila – Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/repression-spiking-in-cuba-somos-eliecer-avila/ Continue reading
Cuba's New Minister of the Interior Inaugurates His Tenure With a
Repressive Wave Across the Country / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 11 January 2017 — While in the
United States Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump's nominee for Secretary of
State, made it clear that human rights will be an important part of
Washington's policy toward Cuba, the island's police forces carried out
repressive actions in different parts of the country.

"The increase in repression is due to several causes, among them a push
that the government is making in the last days of Barack Obama's
administration to make it clear to Trump that they do not care about the
policy change he has announced towards Cuba," said José Daniel Ferrer,
leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) speaking from Santiago de
Cuba.

Ferrer denounced the arrest of Jesús Romero and Alexis Rodríguez,
activists of his organization who were accused of "posting an opposition
sign in the center of the city."

Among Unpacu members recently detained are also its coordinator, Ovidio
Martín Castellanos, and the singer Yuniel Aguilera.

"After the death of his brother, Raul Castro needs to increase terror
levels to maintain power," says Ferrer, who says the government is
willing to do anything to eliminate any hint of dissent.

"They know people are tired of the same thing. When in April we
mobilized more than 1,000 people the political police told us that we
would never do something like that again," he adds.

At the other end of the island, the editor of the magazine Convivencia
(Coexistence), Karina Galvez, was the victim of search of her home,
which ended up being sealed. Galvez herself, age 48 and an economist by
profession, is under arrest for the alleged crime of tax evasion.

The director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, Dagoberto Valdés
Hernández, called the escalation against the civic project he leads –
including the suspension of a planned meeting and multiple arrests –
acts of "harassment" by State Security.

Also arrested this day was regime opponent Óscar Elías Biscet, founder
of the Emilia Project, which seeks the change of government in the
island by means of a popular uprising. After a few hours, Dr. Biscet,
who has spent long years in jail, was released.

Activists Eduardo Quintana Suarez, Jose Omar Lorenzo Pimienta and Yoan
Alvares, who belong to the same organization, were also arrested, as
reported by El Nuevo Herald.

Activist Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested when she attempted to attend
the scattering of the ashes of the recently deceased opponent Felix
Antonio Bonne Carcassés. She explained to 14ymedio that her detention
lasted until two on Wednesday afternoon.

Opponent René Gómez Manzano told this newspaper that they "appealed" to
his sanity so that he would not attend the ceremony where the ashes
would be scattered, although he finally succeeded in doing so.

According to a press release from Democratic Directorate in the city of
Holguín, human rights activist Maydolis Leiva Portelles, together with
her three children, under arrest since November 27, 2016, were brought
to trial.

The entire family, according to the press release, including two minors,
was the subject of an act of repudiation that included "violent raiding
of the home, beatings, and robbery of personal property."

This repressive wave has been unfolding within a few hours of the
replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández
Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla. Among other
prerogatives, the person who controls the portfolio of the Interior
Ministry also exercises command over State Security and the National
Revolutionary Police.

"With the [previous minister] repression was quite extensive, although
it must be said that in Cuba a minister cannot do anything without Raul
Castro authorizing it. The policy carried out by Gondín continues with
Gandarilla. We will have more repression as the discontent increases,"
says José Daniel Ferrer.

Source: Cuba's New Minister of the Interior Inaugurates His Tenure With
a Repressive Wave Across the Country / 14ymedio, Mario Penton –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubas-new-minister-of-the-interior-inaugurates-his-tenure-with-a-repressive-wave-across-the-country-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
Obama Ends Exemption for Cubans Who Arrive Without Visas
By JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and FRANCES ROBLES JAN. 12, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Obama said Thursday that he was terminating the
22-year-old policy that has allowed Cubans who arrived on United States
soil without visas to remain in the country and gain legal residency, an
unexpected move long sought by the Cuban government.

"Effective immediately, Cuban nationals who attempt to enter the United
States illegally and do not qualify for humanitarian relief will be
subject to removal, consistent with U.S. law and enforcement
priorities," Mr. Obama said in a statement. "By taking this step, we are
treating Cuban migrants the same way we treat migrants from other
countries."

The move places a finishing touch on Mr. Obama's efforts as president to
end a half-century of hostility between the United States and Cuba and
to establish normalized relations and diplomatic ties with a government
American presidents have long sought to isolate and punish.

The action came through a new Department of Homeland Security
regulation and a deal with the Cuban government, which Mr. Obama said
had agreed to accept the return of its citizens.

"What we've agreed to is that the past is past, and the future will be
different," said Jeh Johnson, the Homeland Security secretary. "This is
us repealing a policy unique to Cuba given the nature of the
relationship 20 years ago, which is very different right now."

The so-called "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which dates to 1995, owes its
name to its unusual rules, which require Cubans caught trying to reach
the United States by sea to return home, yet allow those who make it
onto American soil to stay and eventually apply for legal, permanent
residency.

It was one way in which the United States tried to weaken Fidel Castro's
government, by welcoming tens of thousands of Cubans fleeing repression.
In recent years, however, it has become a magnet for economic refugees,
enticing many Cubans to make a perilous journey to the United States,
where they enjoy a status unlike migrants from any other country.

"The exceptionalism of the 'wet foot, dry foot' policy toward Cuba is a
relic of the Cold War, and this decision by the administration is really
its final effort to normalize an area of interaction between Cuba and
the United States, migration, that is clearly in need of normalization,"
said Peter Kornbluh, a co-author of "Back Channel to Cuba," which
recounts the secret negotiations between the United States and Cuban
governments that forged the policy.

But the change drew sharp criticism from opponents of Mr. Obama's move
to thaw United States relations with Cuba, who argued it would reward
dictators in Cuba, ignoring their human rights abuses.

"Today's announcement will only serve to tighten the noose the Castro
regime continues to have around the neck of its own people," Senator
Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said in a statement. He said
Congress had not been consulted on the move, and he added, "The Obama
administration seeks to pursue engagement with the Castro regime at the
cost of ignoring the present state of torture and oppression, and its
systematic curtailment of freedom."

Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, who led
clandestine negotiations that produced the 2014 opening, said most
Cubans who came to the United States in the past "absolutely had to
leave" Cuba "for political purposes." Now, he said, the flow is largely
of people seeking greater economic opportunity. Ending the policy, he
added, is a reflection of Mr. Obama's view that, ultimately, the rise of
a new generation of Cubans pressing for change in their own country is
vital to bringing about change there.

"It's important that Cuba continue to have a young, dynamic population
that are agents of change," Mr. Rhodes said.

Jorge Mas, the chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, said
the changes would force Cuba's leaders to be more responsive to their
citizens. "People may be initially upset at not being able to have this
way of getting out of Cuba, but ultimately, the solution for Cuba is
people fighting for change in Cuba," Mr. Mas said.

The change in policy essentially guts the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966,
which assumed that Cubans were political refugees who needed protection
and allowed those who remained in the United States for more than a year
to become legal residents.

Obama administration officials urged Congress on Thursday to repeal the
measure, but in the interim, by eliminating the policy that
automatically afforded parole to Cubans arriving in the United States,
they have essentially denied Cuban migrants the opportunity to take
advantage of its benefits.

Cuba, likewise, still has a law in place that denies re-entry to
migrants once they have been gone for four years or more; Mr. Rhodes
said officials in Havana have pledged to repeal it once the United
States Congress scraps the Cuban Adjustment Act.

Cubans who believe they will be persecuted if they return home will
still be permitted to apply for political asylum when they reach the
United States.

According to the agreement, which was signed on Thursday in Havana, the
Cuban government said it would accept 2,746 people who fled in the
Mariel boatlift of 1980 back into the country, and consider accepting
back others on a case-by-case basis.

The Obama administration also eliminated the Cuban Medical Parole
program, in which Cuban medical professionals stationed in international
missions could defect and get fast-tracked visas to the United States.

Obama administration officials had initially said they were not planning
to change the policy after efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. But
the thaw prompted speculation that once diplomatic relations resumed —
as they did in 2015 — the arrangement would end. On Thursday, the
officials said they had deliberately played down talk of revising the
policy for fear of setting off an even larger exodus from the island nation.

The number of Cubans trying to arrive by sea surged after the United
States and Cuba announced the decision to restore diplomatic relations
in 2014. In the 2014 fiscal year, almost 4,000 Cubans either landed or
were caught. Two years later, the number shot up to 7,411, according to
the Coast Guard.

The number of Cubans who have since begun to arrive in the United States
by land has also soared in recent years. The number of Cubans who
arrived at the Southwest border has increased more than fivefold since
2009. Last year, almost 55,000 Cubans arrived nationwide, the Department
of Homeland Security said.

Kevin Appleby of the Center for Migration Studies of New York praised
the specific change, while questioning the broader rules covering
asylum. "The good news is that it ensures equal treatment between Cubans
and asylum-seekers from other nations," he said. "The bad news is that
our asylum system is broken and does not afford adequate due process and
protection to those who need it."

Phil Peters, president of the Cuba Research Center, said that the number
of Cubans entering the United States is actually much higher because
tens of thousands more overstay their visitor visas and still others
migrate legally.

Source: Obama Ends Exemption for Cubans Who Arrive Without Visas - The
New York Times -
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/world/americas/cuba-obama-wet-foot-dry-foot-policy.html?_r=0 Continue reading
Editorial: The ashes of a dissident and of a minister
DDC | Madrid | 13 de Enero de 2017 - 11:31 CET.

Félix Bonne Carcassés and Carlos Fernández Gondín died at the end of
last week, just a few hours apart, in Havana. The former was a
professor at the University of Havana for 20 years, ousted for his
political views and imprisoned for "sedition and actions against the
security of the Cuban state." The latter, a division general, had been
Interior Minister since 2015. Both were cremated.

The funerary honors for Fernández Gondín featured all the due pomp and
circumstance: an urn exhibited at the Pantheon of Veterans at Columbus
Cemetery, prior to their burial in the Mausoleum of the Second Front.
The ashes of Bonne Carcasses, in contrast, were to be scattered at sea,
in a quiet corner of the Malecón. But such a simple ceremony was
prohibited by authorities at the ministry which Fernandez Gondín headed
until his death, which arrested friends and colleagues who came to pay
their final tribute to Bonne Carcassés.

There is widespread fear among the Cuban regime's elite, which
recommends the cremation of every deceased leader's body. This fear
spurs the regime to pursue and repress a simple ceremony involving the
ashes of a dissident. It is fear of the future. Fear of the desecration
of corpses, and fear of ending up as a corpse.

This is the reason for the simultaneous police arrests and searches and
threats around the country. And this is the reason for the escalation
of repression against dissidents. It is not, as one might think, a
product of the tension generated by Donald Trump, the naming of Cuban
Americans to his transition team and the rethinking of Washington's
policies towards Cuba promised by soon-to-be Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson.

"The increase in repression in Cuba began, not a few days ago, and not
motivated by statements by Trump or his team, but during the Obama
Administration." And it was Minister Fernández Gondín who was behind it.
Tracing the origin of repression in Cuba to recent external threats is a
subterfuge. The origin of repression is firmly within the regime: the
fear of the future its leaders feel, their fear of being cadavers, and
receiving a dreaded punishment –even after their deaths.

Source: Editorial: The ashes of a dissident and of a minister | Diario
de Cuba - http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1484303471_28097.html Continue reading
… guts the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, which presumed Cuban migrants were … become eligible for legal residency. Cubans who are concerned they will … of Miami’s Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American studies. “This is a … repression. Cuba had long complained that the policy encouraged Cubans to put … Continue reading
Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 123 January 2017 — Two days ago, our eastern coordinator in Las Tunas, Wiliam Espinosa, spent 24 hours in jail when he tried to leave to attend our meeting in Havana. Last night there was a great witch hunt and persecution all over the Havana neighborhood of Vededo to prevent us from … Continue reading "Repression Spiking in Cuba / Somos+, Eliecer Avila" Continue reading
So much for Obama's 'new chapter' with Cuba
By DANIEL ALLOTT (@DANIELALLOTT) • 1/11/17 6:39 PM

"If I had told you that we would open up a new chapter with the Cuban
people…you might have said our sights were set a little too high."

So said President Obama in his farewell address to the country Tuesday
night. Obama often touts his administration's actions on Cuba as
evidence that his approach to diplomacy has worked. The Obama
administration did open up a new chapter with the Cuban regime —
restoring diplomatic relations with the government and making it easier
for Americans to travel and do business there. Unfortunately, the new
chapter reads like something out of a Stephen King novel.

Cuban dissident and human rights activist Dr. Oscar Biscet was arrested
Wednesday morning by state police in his home in Havana. He was released
after six hours and told that he'd be imprisoned if he did not stop
organizing for Project Emelia, an initiative he recently launched to
help teach Cubans how to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience.

Biscet is a leading advocate of nonviolent resistance to the Castro
regime and of a peaceful transition to democracy on the island. Biscet
is a physician and human rights activist who has spent 13 years in the
state's prisons. He has been imprisoned for a variety of "crimes,"
including exposing the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion,
displaying the Cuban flag upside down in an act of protest and
organizing to carry out nonviolent acts of civil disobedience. This last
act earned him a 25-year prison term, for which he served 8 years.

Biscet has been awarded numerous awards for his work, including the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, bestowed by President Bush in 2007.

Biscet left the island for the first time last year and arrived in
Washington D.C., visiting the Washington Examiner's offices in June. He
told the Washington Examiner that Obama's outreach had been "a strategic
error" because it rewarded the regime and got the Cuban people nothing
in return. He warned that the reforms Raul Castro had enacted were
mostly cosmetic and that true change would only come once all Cubans had
secured the basic rights of free speech, religion, assembly and a free
press.

Biscet is hardly alone in being targeted by state police. As Obama has
"open[ed] a new chapter" with Cuba, the Cuban regime is still reading
from the old playbook when it comes to political repression. As Amnesty
International put it about Cuba last year, "Despite increasingly open
diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression,
association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of
government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported."

During his summer visit to D.C., Biscet told the Washington Examiner
that he was anxious to return to Cuba to launch Project Emelia. "I have
a moral and ethical commitment to return. I can't leave my people enslaved."

Daniel Allott is deputy commentary editor for the Washington Examiner

Source: So much for Obama's 'new chapter' with Cuba | Washington
Examiner -
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/so-much-for-obamas-new-chapter-with-cuba/article/2611608 Continue reading
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 11 January 2017 — While in the United States Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, made it clear that human rights will be an important part of Washington’s policy toward Cuba, the island’s police forces carried out repressive actions in different parts of the country. “The increase in … Continue reading "Cuba’s New Minister of the Interior Inaugurates His Tenure With a Repressive Wave Across the Country / 14ymedio, Mario Penton" Continue reading
Arbitrary Arrests Rose And Repression Spread To Civil Society In 2016 /
14ymedio

14ymedio, Madrid, 4 January 2016 – Last year closed with a balance of
almost 1,000 more arbitrary arrests than in 2015, according to data from
the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, based in Madrid, which on
Wednesday issued its annual report on the situation on the island.

In 2016, there was a total of 9,351 arbitrary arrests, 5,383 against
women and 3,968 against men. A year earlier, there were 8,314 acts of
this type.

Most of these arrests were "made by the political police to prevent the
exercise of the rights of association, assembly and peaceful
demonstration," the entity says.

Organizations most affected have been UNPACU (with 138 detainees, 70
raided homes and 48 members currently in prison) and the Ladies in
White, who have suffered harassment by the authorities every Sunday
since they started street demonstrations almost two years ago.

The Observatory also cites the cases of two activists whose legal
situation at the moment is delicate. One of them is Eduardo Cardet,
national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL),
arrested on November 30 and for whom the prosecutor is requesting up
to 3 years in prison for the alleged crime of "undermining the
authority." Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), has been in
prison since late November for a graffiti farewell to Fidel Castro – Se
fue (He's gone) – and his family knows very little about the details of
his situation.

In addition to the opposition organizations or prominent members of the
anti-Castro activism, the Observatory notes that there has been an
extension of the repression of civil society, as, for example, against
the Convivencia (Coexistence) project in Pinar del Rio, led by Dagoberto
Valdes.

The current Law of Associations regulates the make up of these entities,
the report says, but independent organizations claim that in practice
they are not allowed to exercise their rights and there is no
recognition of their legal status by the State. "In addition to these
legal impediments, the political police 'monitors,' that is they talk,
spy, threaten, repress and try to infiltrate every group," it added.

The report describes the general situation of Cuba's civil rights,
noting that there has been no positive change despite the normalization
of relations with Washington, initiated more than two years ago, and the
rapprochement – "voluntary and with the acquiescence of the government"
– with the European Union, which signed a new bilateral agreement with
Cuba on December 12.

"We cannot assess the Cuban situation and the effectiveness of
international changes related to Cuba, from a perspective that does not
take into account the exercise of rights and freedoms," reflects the
organization.

The Observatory notes that there are still no elections nor political
pluralism and that the year has ended without a new Electoral Law,
repeatedly promised by the powers-that-be.

The economic conditions on the island continue to be negative the
organization stresses, and although official propaganda calls for
support for the self-employed sector, there have been withdrawals of
licenses from several private workers "for making use of the citizen's
right to publicly disagree with the Cuban regime."

The report adds that workers' rights are permanently violated because
workers cannot freely choose their employment or be remunerated
according to their social contribution, which pushes them to the illegal
market. Discrimination against Cuban workers is also addressed,
recalling the case of the workers from India who worked on the Manzana
de Gomez Hotel in Havana, at salaries of 1,400 to 1,600 dollars, while
Cuban workers were receiving less than 100 dollars.

"In the last six years, the Cuban government […] has announced more
repressive and disciplinary measures in the workplace under a model that
aims to maintain the essence of the system: collectivism, state
ownership of the means of production, planning, centralization of
decisions and the prohibition of individual accumulation of wealth," it
adds. In addition, in early 2011 the Government launched a plan to lay
off 1,300,000 state employees.

The text also refers to discrimination against organizations of
vulnerable groups such as LGTBI or racial diversity, since they cannot
defend the rights of their members, being outside of officialdom.

"The only solution to the problem of all Cubans is a comprehensive
reform, that is, constitutional and legal changes that cover all spheres
of social life [and are accompanied by] public policies that respond to
the huge problems […] of the poorest and most destitute, which are the
immense majority of citizens," the report close

Source: Arbitrary Arrests Rose And Repression Spread To Civil Society In
2016 / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/arbitrary-arrests-rose-and-repression-spread-to-civil-society-in-2016-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Madrid, 4 January 2016 – Last year closed with a balance of almost 1,000 more arbitrary arrests than in 2015, according to data from the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, based in Madrid, which on Wednesday issued its annual report on the situation on the island. In 2016, there was a total of 9,351 arbitrary … Continue reading "Arbitrary Arrests Rose And Repression Spread To Civil Society In 2016 / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Time Takes Another Life In Cuban Politics / 14ymedio –
Translating Cuba -
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Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 29 November 2016 — The dictator Fidel Castro died last Friday at the age of 90. The extensive news coverage was to be expected. After all, he was both the object of the most romantic, idealized love and the most scathing, caustic hatred. Gone was the man who, over the last six decades, … Continue reading "Fidel Castro: The Tyrant Exits but the Damage Remains / Jeovany Jimenez Vega" Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 8 January 2017 — Faithful, hard-line and knowledgeable of the ultimate secrets of dissidents and ministers, Carlos Fernandez Gondín made his mark on the Ministry of Interior (MININT), the most feared Cuban institution. But shortly after taking over the portfolio in 2015, life played a bad trick on him and he had a stroke, … Continue reading "Time Takes Another Life In Cuban Politics / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Members of the Cuban Damas de Blanco were arrested during a demonstration in March. (AP photo) In the post-fact world we live in, you can interpret numbers anyway you want, even when they reflect the absolute tyranny of the Castro... Continue reading
Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In Cuba In
2016 / EFE,14ymedio

EFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 5 January 2017 — The Cuban Commission for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), a dissident group,
denounced today that it had documented at least 9,940 arbitrary arrests
for "political reasons" in 2016, the highest figure of the last six years.

With a monthly average of 827 arrests, the opposition organization said
that Cuba is in "first place" in Latin America for this type of
"repressive action."

In its monthly report, the CCDHRN reports that in December there were
458 arbitrary arrests of "peaceful dissidents," up from 359 in the
previous month, but a much lower figure than in other months of last
year; data from January to April showed more than 1,000 arrests a month.

According to this organization, in December there were also 14 physical
assaults by political repression groups against peaceful opponents, 37
acts of harassment and intimidation, and two acts of repudiation, "true
civil lynchings without the loss of human lives until now."

The commission notes that the opposition groups most punished by this
harassment are the Ladies in White, who march every Sunday to demand
respect for human rights on the island, and the Cuban Patriotic Union
(UNPACU), which has suffered "vandalism and robbery by the police" at
its headquarters in Santiago de Cuba and at the homes of some of its
activists.

The CCDHRN also expressed concern over the situation of two political
prisoners imprisoned since November: Eduado Cardet, coordinator of the
Christian Liberation Movement, and Danilo Maldonado, the graffiti artist
known as "El Sexto," who is considered a prisoner of conscience by
Amnesty International.

"El Sexto" has been detained since the early hours of November 26 for
painting "He's gone" in a central place in Havana on the occasion of the
death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. He is being held in a maximum
security prison without trial.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, led
by the well-known dissident Elizardo Sánchez, is the only group to
record and report the numbers of these incidents in Cuba.

The Cuban government considers dissidents "counterrevolutionaries" and
"mercenaries."

Source: Dissident Group Denounces At Least 9,940 Arbitrary Arrests In
Cuba In 2016 / EFE,14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
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