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Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García

Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want
blood. And more severe laws for criminals.

While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are
advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there
are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated.

If you ask Gisela about the subject, her eyes fill hopelessly with
tears. At one time this woman, who is pushing 50, was a brilliant nurse.
She formed a model family together with her spouse, an ex-official of a
foreign business. They lived in a well-cared-for apartment in Reparto
Sevillano, in the south of Havana.

But the night of December 14, 2010, their marriage took a dramatic turn.
"They killed our only son. He was only 15. He was with some friends in
El Vedado. A gang assaulted him to take his clothes. Before running
away, they stabbed him twice in a lung. After his death, our life
changed and got worse. I always wonder, if God exists, where he was that
night," says Gisela.

After the loss of their son, the marriage dissolved. She became a
habitual alcoholic. They sold their car and later exchanged their
apartment for a smaller one. The money was spent on rum and psychotropics.

Gisela divorced the father of her deceased son, and they put him in a
psychiatric hospital. When you ask her opinion about the death penalty
or more severe laws for certain crimes, she answers without subtlety:
"Whoever kills a person ought to be executed. Look at my case. The
criminal who killed my son got 20 years in prison, and for good conduct
he served only six and is now back on the street. It's not fair."

Those who have lost a family member or friends of violent crime victims
are more susceptible and hope for the return of executioners and a State
that decrees death.

In Cuba, the crime rate is notably low. Although official statistics are
unknown, the Island is a safe place. But gangs of juvenile delinquents
and home robberies have increased.

Since 2005, the Cuban Government has had a moratorium on the death
penalty. The last convict executed was called "Crazy Victor" in the
world of the marginal underground, and he was a sinewy mestizo almost
6'6″ tall, with an assassin's soul.

At the end of the '90s, he killed an old woman inside her house in the
neighborhood of La Vibora. The day of his arrest he had a shoot-out with
police in the style of an American action film.

In the spring of 2004, the Council of State ratified the death penalty
for Victor, which was carried out in the adjacent courtyard at the
Combinado del Este, a maximum security prison on the outskirts of the
capital.

Fidel and Raúl Castro have not held back from pulling the trigger. From
the very beginning of January 1, 1959, they used the death penalty to
eliminate their recalcitrant enemies and even peaceful dissidents. A
lawyer, now retired, relates:

"When an objective academic study is done, without political passion,
the exact number of Cubans that the government of Fidel Castro has
executed will be known. On principle, they eliminated criminals from
Batista's police and army. Several of these trials were real Roman
circuses, televised to the whole country, without the proper judicial
guarantees. They took advantage of the situation to deliver justice in
order to liquidate the enemies of the revolution.

"In one step, the laws sanctioned the death penalty for betrayal of the
country by soldiers, as in the case of General Arnaldo Ochoa. Or the
execution of 19 people in an air base in Holguín in 1963, most of them
war pilots. Fidel, Raúl and Che signed quite a few death penalties. The
figures vary, according to the sources. Some say that 500 were executed;
others, 3,000 or more.

"Dissident jurists consider these to be crimes of the State, because
they were established offenses that didn't necessarily call for capital
punishment. But the Government claimed it was being persecuted by Yankee
imperialism."

In 2003, after a summary trial, three young black men, residents of
Centro Havana, were executed for trying to hijack a boat to leave the
country, which they weren't able to achieve. "It was a counterproductive
political error. It was an an act of Fidel Castro's meant to set an
example that cost him the condemnation of world public opinion," said
the ex-lawyer.

In the spring of that same year, among the 75 peaceful dissidents
punished with long years in prison by Fidel Castro, who used only words
as a weapon, the Prosecutor of the Republic requested seven death
penalties. "It was something appalling. Luckily the Government didn't
carry it out. It would have been a crime in all meanings of the word,"
said the old lawyer.

As in any revolutionary movement, whether in France, Russia or Cuba,
violence begins with force. The death penalty always was a weapon of
combat for intimidating the enemy. However, several people consulted
considered that while political adversaries were sanctioned excessively
or executed in a pit in the fortress of San Carlos de la Cabaña, Cuban
justice was too permissive with some blood crimes.

"Right now someone who kills a cow gets more years in prison that
someone who kills a human being. I know cases where they got only four
or five years in prison in spite of having killed someone. Those who
slaughter beef cattle are condemned to 20 or more years of privation of
liberty," says an ex-prisoner.

There are quite a few ordinary Cubans who think that crimes like robbery
in occupied homes, sexual violations and other mean-spirited acts should
be considered by the State as crimes, and the killers should be executed.

"Although my religion is against the death penalty, I'm in favor of
executing those who commit horrendous crimes," confesses Mayda, who
defines herself as a practicing evangelical.

Saúl, who works for himself. considers that in addition to "executing
serial killers or psychopaths, they ought to punish other infractions
with more years. As in the United States, where they give them life
imprisonment for these same crimes. The thugs would think twice before
breaking the law."

But in the opinion of another lawyer, in the case of major crimes or by
resuming the death penalty, "the State could be tempted to condition
these laws and carry out a purge of the opposition. The subject of the
death penalty, whether to abolish it or keep it, should be debated
nationally and the citizens should decide by vote." But Cuba isn't
Switzerland.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/cubans-want-more-severe-laws-for-criminals-ivn-garca/ Continue reading
Iván García, 6 May 2017 — Some people in Cuba, not just a minority, want blood. And more severe laws for criminals. While the Catholic Church and different international institutions are advocating a crusade to eliminate the death penalty on the Island, there are people who, for many reasons, think firing squads should be reactivated. If … Continue reading "Cubans Want More Severe Laws for Criminals / Iván García" Continue reading
Red ink: The high human cost of the Cuban revolution
BY GLENN GARVIN
ggarvin@miamiherald.com
LINKEDIN

Danilo Maldonado's collision with the Cuban revolution is, in some ways,
a silly asterisk to history. And in others, it practically defines the
country's dilemma of the past 57 years, a state that defines itself as
the people's political vanguard, but more often seems to be their jailer.

On Christmas Day of 2014, Maldonado — a dissident graffiti artist better
known as El Sexto — was riding along Havana's waterfront Malecón when
traffic cops pulled his car over. Hearing odd scrabbling noises from the
trunk, they opened it to find a pair of pigs with names scrawled on
their backs: Fidel and Raúl.

Without another word, the cops arrested the 30-year-old Maldonado. (Not
that his explanation would have helped; he was taking the pigs to
perform in an informal production of George Orwell's withering
anti-communist satire "Animal Farm.")

Charged with "disrespect of the leaders of the revolution" — the police
clearly did not believe it a coincidence that the pigs' names were the
same as those of the Castro brothers who have ruled Cuba since 1959 —
Maldonado languished in jail without a trial for 10 months until Amnesty
International labeled him a "prisoner of conscience" and the government
finally turned him loose.

Those 10 months — 300-some days, 7,000-some hours, all irretrievably
lost — are a tiny part of the human cost of Fidel Castro's revolution.
If Castro strode the stage of world history the past six decades,
preaching socialism and making allies and enemies of nations a hundred
times Cuba's size, the price was paid — in jail time, in exile, in blood
— by his unwilling countrymen. It is a price that defies accounting.

"The price? I couldn't begin to give you the numbers," says Carlos
Ponce, the director of the Latin American and Caribbean division of the
human-rights group Freedom House. "I can tell you that 2 million Cubans
live outside Cuba, I can tell you that in the last 10 years, there have
been nearly 18,000 political detainees.

"How many in jail since 1959? How many executed? How many lost at sea? I
can't even guess."

There are organizations that try to track those numbers. But extracting
information from a secretive totalitarian regime that likely doesn't
even know the answers itself is a nearly impossible task and likely to
remain so, even if there are significant changes in the way the the
Cuban government does business following Fidel Castro's death last month.

"Even after the Soviet Union fell, when some of its archives opened up
for a time, all we really learned was the extent of the cover-up, all
the measures the Soviets took to cover up their crimes," says Marion
Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial
Foundation, which studies the human-rights histories of communist regimes.

"But we never got a precise number of victims, or their names. The
Soviets didn't want to keep precise records — they had learned their
lesson from the Nazis, who did keep precise records, which were used to
indict Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg."

Approaching the problem from the other end — compiling statistics based
on accounts from victims or their friends and families — has its own
difficulties, including the human tendencies to exaggerate or even
deliberately falsify information for propaganda purposes.

In the mid-1990s, one of the most visible reproofs to Cuba's
human-rights record was the "Quilt of Castro's Genocide," a collage of
hand-sewn cloth panels bearing the names of about 10,000 Cubans believed
to have met their deaths at the hands of their own government. But
within a few years, the quilt disappeared after many of the "victims"
proved to be alive or to have died of natural causes.

Yet even with all the obstacles, some groups have at least made a start
in establishing the broad outlines of what Castro's government has cost
its people.

DEATHS
The late and widely respected University of Hawaii historian R. J.
Rummel, who made a career out of studying what he termed "democide," the
killing of people by their own government, reported in 1987 that
credible estimates of the Castro regime's death toll ran from 35,000 to
141,000, with a median of 73,000.

"I think that's a good range," says Smith. "It's compatible with what
we're comfortable using, which is 'tens of thousands.'"

Yet the Cuba Archive, the Coral Gables-based organization generally
regarded as the most scrupulous in documenting human-rights abuses in
Cuba, uses a much lower figure of 7,193 (which, incidentally, includes
21 Americans, several of whom worked with the CIA).

"Those are the ones we've documented, using either information released
by the government or the testimony of eyewitnesses, not hearsay or
guesswork," says Maria Werlau, the group's president. "We know the
numbers are much, much higher, but this is what we can actually document
so far."

Part of the difficulty is figuring out what deaths to include. The 5,000
or so executed in the immediate aftermath of Castro's 1959 takeover —
sometimes after kangaroo-court trials, sometimes without even that — are
included in nearly everybody's figures. (Figurative talk about a balance
sheet for the human costs of the revolution turns quite literal when the
executions are discussed; for a time during the 1960s, the Cuban
government extracted most of the blood from the victims before they were
shot, then sold it to other communist countries for $50 a pint.)

But what about the Cuban soldiers killed during Castro's military
adventures in Africa during the 1970s and 1980s? (The official death
toll: 4,000. But a Cuban Air Force general who defected in 1987 put the
number killed in Angola alone at 10,000.) And the county's suicide rate
has tripled under Castro. Should the 1,500 or so Cubans who kill
themselves each year be included? If not all of them, how about the 10 a
year who commit suicide — or die of medical neglect — in prison?

The largest number of deaths is believed to be those lost at sea trying
to escape Cuba on makeshift rafts. For years, the Cuba Archive used an
estimate worked up by Harvard-trained economist Armando Lago of about
77,000 rafter deaths by 2003.

But that number was always controversial. It was derived not from
eyewitness testimony but a shaky mathematical formula. Lago first
estimated the number of Cuban refugees reaching the United States by
sea, then assumed that they represented just 25 percent of the attempted
crossing. The rest were presumed dead.

"After Armando died in 2008, we quit using that 77,000 number," Werlau
says. "We don't really know how many people arrive by sea — the U.S.
Coast Guard does not cooperate with us, and in any event, they don't
catch everybody who comes by sea. And the 75 percent mortality rate,
that was just an assumption that was not really defensible. It might be
lower. It might be higher."

Instead, the Cuba Archive uses a much lower number — 1,134 missing or
dead — collected from accounts of survivors who saw other rafters go
astray. "We know that number is far too low — far, far too low — but
it's what we can prove," she says.

Whatever the real number of deaths that can be attributed to Fidel
Castro's regime, it's clear he was an underachiever compared to other
communist regimes, where large percentages of the population were
killed. "Our estimate on deaths in the Soviet Union is 50 million, and
in China, 60 million," says Smith. "Castro is small chops compared to that."

POLITICAL PRISONERS
Whether you count in cold economic terms as time diverted from
productive work, or as an unquantifiable sentimental loss of moments
with friends and loved ones, the uncountable thousands of collective
years Cubans have spent in jail for political offenses is certainly part
of the human toll of the revolution. But it's a number that no one is
even willing to guess at.

"There is no one list of political prisoners that can be considered
complete or reliable," says Matt Perez, a spokesman for the New
Jersey-based Union of Cuban Ex-Political Prisoners. "Even court records
and prison records wouldn't tell you.

"For instance right after the [1961] Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro
rounded up everybody who might remotely be considered a suspect in
working against the government, thousands and thousands and thousands of
people. They didn't have enough jails to hold them all, so they took
over schools and then houses and just put people inside, so crowded that
they couldn't even sit down.

"Some of those people were released in days, some in weeks, some in
months, and some went to jail for a long time. Most of them never had
any kind of trial and hearing. But every single one of them was a
political prisoner, at least for a little while.

"Perhaps someday, if we're lucky enough and the regime falls and we can
get into the archives, we can know this. If they don't burn them first."

Even the archives might not be enough. Many criminal offenses in Cuba,
from the illegality of owning a boat to the prohibition on farmers
slaughtering cattle to feed their families, wouldn't be crimes at all in
a democracy where people can come and go as they please and sell the
products of their work to whomever they choose.

"In Cuba, telling the difference between a political crime and a common
crime can be very complicated," says Cuban-American writer Humberto
Fontova, author of several books harshly critical of the Castro regime.
"The prohibition on slaughtering cows, for instance — you might actually
spend more time in jail in Cuba for killing a cow than for killing a
person, because they don't want farmers selling their beef to anybody
but government slaughterhouses."

Freedom House's Ponce, during conversations with Alan Gross, a U.S.
government contractor jailed for five years in Cuba on spying charges,
was astonished to learn that Gross' cellmate was in prison for accepting
an unauthorized tip from a foreign tourist. "Five or six years in jail
for taking a couple of dollars from a tourist!" exclaimed Ponce. "Most
human-rights groups do not include those types of crimes when they are
making lists of political prisoners, but I don't know what else you
could call it."

Nearly everyone who has examined the issue of Cuban political prisoners
agrees that, over the course of Fidel Castro's rule, they numbered in
the hundreds of thousands, serving jail time ranging from a few hours to
a few decades. And there is no sign that his death has changed anything.

Within a few hours of Fidel's exit from the mortal coil, Danilo
Maldonado, barely a year out of jail for his renegade pig humor, was
locked up again, accused of writing anti-Castro graffiti on the wall of
the Hotel Habana Libre, where Castro lived for a time following his
victory in 1959. The words Maldonado scrawled: Se fue. He's gone.

Clearly, he's not.

Source: The human cost of Fidel Castro's revolution was a high one |
Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article118282148.html Continue reading
Prison, death, exile: Outcomes of peaceful opposition to a communist Cuba
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO AND NORA GAMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

There are 44 years of dissidence between Cuban human rights activist
Elizardo Sánchez and street protester Sara Martha Fonseca, four and a
half decades of peaceful opposition to a communist system that jails
people for simply "disrespecting" Fidel Castro.

In between were the Ladies in White, bloggers like Yoani Sánchez,
independent groups of journalists, librarians and lawyers, Afro-Cubans,
Catholic and Protestant and gay rights activists and everyone else
struggling for human and civil rights.

The Cuban government has branded them all as "counterrevolutionaries"
and "mercenaries" on the U.S. payroll. It has thrown thousands of them
in prison, freed them, forced them into exile abroad and then jailed
thousands more again.

Yet the dissidents not only survived but evolved into today's
many-headed, multi-cause movement that, while still relatively small and
little known inside Cuba, is bigger than ever and commands intense
attention and respect abroad.

Blogger Yoani Sánchez won an armful of international prizes. The
European Union awarded its Sakharov prize for human rights in 2010 to
Guillermo Fariñas and in 2005 to the Ladies in White, female relatives
of political prisoners.

Only a handful believe they can topple the system. But through sheer
defiance and persistence, they have carved out spaces once thought
impossible — for the Ladies in White the right to march down the streets
of Havana every Sunday, for others the possibility of uncensored access
to Sánchez's blog.

"The important thing is that as recently as 1987 there were only 10 of
us in Havana, and now there are thousands of us throughout the country,"
said Elizardo Sánchez, who has spent 44 of his 70 years as a human
rights activist — 8½ of them in prison.

A former professor of Marxist philosophy at the University of Havana, he
broke with Fidel Castro in 1967 and now heads the Cuban Commission for
Human Rights and National Reconciliation, which meticulously monitors
and tabulates government abuses.

Compare that with Fonseca, a 47-year-old high school dropout who staged
a string of stunningly daring protests in very public places, including
the Capitol building in central Havana, with the declared intent of
sparking a street disturbance.

Yet Fonseca sees no difference between the many generations of dissent.

"We have one same destiny, to oppose the government," she said. "Some do
it with human rights, some with technology, like the bloggers. My thing
is the streets, to take our message to the people and look for ways to
have the people join us."

Elizardo Sánchez acknowledges that he is the last of the founders of the
dissident movement still living in Cuba. Many others, like Gustavo
Arcos, have died. Dozens of others went into exile abroad after
suffering years of government persecution.

They were followed by more politically minded dissidents like Oswaldo
Payá, whose Varela Project collected 25,000 signatures demanding a
referendum on the communist system, and Héctor Palacios of the Liberal
Union. Payá died in 2012 in what the Cuban government says was a traffic
accident and what his family insists was a crash caused by state
security agents. His immediate family now lives in South Florida.

Other leaders have included hardliners like former Cuban air force MiG
pilot Vladimiro Roca and economist Martha Beatriz Roque; Catholic
activists like Dagoberto Valdés; and Oscar Elías Biscet, a physician who
started out alleging abuses in abortion procedures.

U.S. diplomats in Havana reported in 2009 that dissidents were "the
conscience of Cuba" and blamed many of their setbacks on penetrations by
Cuban government agents designed to fuel internal rivalries.

But the dispatch, made public by Wikileaks, went on to report that the
"traditional dissidents" were old, carried little weight on the island
and were unlikely to play a significant role in its future.

"We see very little evidence that the main-line dissident organizations
have much resonance among ordinary Cubans," it said. They also "have
little contact with younger Cubans and, to the extent they have a
message... it does not appeal to that segment."

The cable suggested U.S. policy should look more to "the younger
generation of nontraditional dissidents" like bloggers and artists
"likely to have a greater long term impact on post-Castro Cuba."

Fidel Castro tried to crush dissent once and for all in 2003, when his
security forces arrested 75 government critics across the island and his
courts sentenced them to up to 28 years in prison in a string of one and
two-day trials known as Cuba's Black Spring. All were declared
"prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International.

But just weeks later, wives, mothers and daughters of the prisoners who
had met while visiting their male relatives in jail began staging Sunday
marches down Havana streets dressed in white and carrying pink gladioli.

The Ladies in White eventually became the only opposition group usually
allowed by security forces to stage such street protests, and helped
push Raúl Castro into agreeing in mid-2010 to free the last of the 75
dissidents still in jail. Most were taken directly from prison to the
Havana airport to board flights to exile in Spain, and only 12 remain on
the island..

In his final years in power, Fidel Castro's repressive tactics shifted
from long prison sentences to short-term detentions — with the
dissidents sometimes dropped off in remote areas. Elizardo Sánchez
reported 8,899 such arbitrary short-term detentions in 2014, nearly
2,500 more than the previous year.

Dissidents also were subjected to verbal and physical harassment by
government-organized mobs and pressured to leave the island.

Yet the opposition movement continued to grow and evolve, along with the
technology.

Yoani Sánchez, who started out posting anonymously on the frustrations
of daily life, had by 2008 become the world-famous face of a digital
dissidence that included some 40 blogs, ranging from her Generación Y to
Cubanoconfesante, written by Mario Felix Lleonart Barroso, a dissident
Protestant pastor based in rural Taguayabón.

The new crop of bloggers — some prefer to be called "independent" or
"alternative" writers rather than "dissident" — now include a former
Cuban government counter-intelligence analyst, a lawyer, a photographer
and several gay-rights activists and university students. Their blogs
are based on servers abroad to get around the censorship, and are often
then emailed back to the island.

Trying to fight back, the government has deployed squads of
pro-revolution bloggers, most of them state employees, and created
Internet sites especially designed to engage in a "cyberwar" against the
"cybermercenaries."

Sánchez pushed on, founding a blogger's academy and opening a Twitter
account that almost immediately alerts to arrests and other government
abuses. Most recently, she launched a digital news site called 14ymedio.

In the latest evolution of the dissidence, Fonseca and other women set
out to stage protests in public places with the stated hope of getting
people to join them and sparking a street disturbance.

The strategy of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the largest and
most active dissident group on the island, especially in eastern Cuba,
is even more ambitious. Its leader, José Daniel Ferrer, one of the 75
arrested in 2003, has insisted on the opposition movement's "need to
coordinate more and more actions across the country" and work "with the
people, person by person" in order to reinvent itself.

"When we persist in maintaining the old paradigms and these demonstrate
patriotism, heroism, sacrifice, but do not attract the population, we
must modernize our strategies," Ferrer told El Nuevo Herald. With that
goal, UNPACU has developed one of the most effective media strategies
within the opposition movement by providing a steady stream of news,
videos and other content on the Internet.

Palacios, another of the so-called "75," said that the greatest
challenge facing the opposition is to establish a strong bond with the
Cuban people, "who are the only ones who can change the situation on the
island. Until the population has faith in the opposition movement and we
educate ourselves to prepare for change, it will not happen."

Said Ferrer: "Nobody will get on a boat they are told will sink 15 miles
offshore. It's the same with the Cuban people: They are eager to take
part in an expedition toward freedom and democracy but they want to make
sure they are on a sturdy ship, in this case the opposition movement,
and they want to see good captains on the bridge who know how to navigate."

Even Fonseca, the feisty protestor, acknowledged that the government's
repressive tactics could force her to reach for exile abroad — a safety
valve that has helped keep the dissident movement relatively small and
isolated over the past five decades.

"I have two roads ahead, and I know them very well," she said in 2011.
"On one road I would go to prison, and I would not come out alive. I
know that would end my life. The other is to leave. It's not what I
want. But it is one road."

Fonseca indeed went into exile in the United States on Jan. 7, 2014. She
now lives with her family in New Jersey.

Elizardo Sánchez, first arrested in 1972 on charges of "expressing
criticism of Comandante Fidel Castro," said he accepts that the road
ahead for dissidents appears to be long and hard.

Sánchez himself suffered a blow to his reputation in 2003 following the
release of a video showing a state security officer giving him a medal.
Sánchez denied the accusation and said he was set up, but dissidents
have long had to contend with infiltrations by state security agents to
promote internal conflict. Likewise, those linked to funds funneled by
the United States to pro-democracy programs in Cuba have had to fend off
accusations of being U.S. mercenaries.

Antonio Rodiles, a human rights activist who has led a demand for the
government to ratify several United Nations covenants, said that trying
to propel change without outside financial assistance is nearly
impossible because the Cuban government prevents dissidents from
generating "their own resources, especially to pay for a project that
could challenge the existing power. All that is coldly calculated. To
say that a Cuban can generate the necessary resources internally to
contribute to a regime change is totally absurd."

Rodiles also warned that dissident groups should be more selective with
their members: "The opposition movement in Cuba must have a clear
profile of the people it wants within so that it can really gain
prestige within Cuban society. Otherwise, the government will use that
to try to denigrate the opposition movement."

"The role of the dissidence has always been to present an alternative to
the totalitarian system," said Elizardo Sánchez. "So the best we can do
is to do our work, and allow the younger people to perform the role that
falls to them.

"Society will generate its next leaders," he said, adding a reference to
the Polish labor leader who helped end the communist rule of his nation.
"The Lech Walesas of Cuba are in the future."

Miami Herald staff writer Nancy San Martin contributed to this report.

Source: Prison, death, exile: Outcomes of peaceful opposition to Fidel
Castro's communist Cuba | Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article117201468.html Continue reading
Ivan Garcia, 5 November 2016 — When I began writing in 1996 as an independent journalist for Cuba Press, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique was no longer working as an economist for Cuba’s Central Planning Agency (JUCEPLAN ) and had already become an opponent of the Castro regime. In 1991, together with another economist, friend and colleague, … Continue reading "Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique: Farewell to an Exemplary Dissident / Iván García" Continue reading
From Today Your Life Will Be "Very Difficult," State Security Tells
Dagoberto Valdes / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 28 October 2016 — The director of the Center for
Coexistence Studies (CEC), Dagoberto Valdes, summoned to a meeting with
State Security on Thursday, received "an official warning" which
anticipates "the possibility of committing crimes against State Security
as defined in the Penal Code."

Valdes, who remained at the police headquarters on the San Juan road for
two hours and fifteen minutes, explained to 14ymedio that the officials
threatened him that "as of today" his life "would be very difficult" if
one day "he was to incur one of these crimes." The police mentioned as
possible violations of the law the receipt of money from the United
States for his activities, or the lack of a contribution to the
treasury. The director of Coexistence affirmed that he had "received not
even one cent from the United States government."

Despite these warnings, Valdes affirmed that everything happened "in a
serious and respectful climate" and that "there was no physical abuse"
at any time.

"I came to this place [the headquarters of the State Security] on time
and within minutes of the hour I was received by Lieutenant Colonel
Osvaldo Labrador, head of the unit, and Major Joaquin" said Valdes in a
statement received by this newspaper.

According to the director of Coexistence, on entering the unit he was
led to "an interrogation room where the entire conversation was
filmed." In it, he said Lt. Col. Labrador told him that for "all these
years" he had remained "at the razor's edge between being a layman of
the Church and being a counterrevolutionary."

Accordingly, Valdes added by telephone, they advanced that if he
"engages in counterrevolution" he would be "treated" accordingly, but
not if he continues with "his profile as a Catholic layman and cares for
the social objective of Coexistence" and he mentioned "2003, when the 75."

At the end of the declaration, Valdes was taken to the "technical" room
where they took his "finger and palm prints, an odor print of his pelvis
and photos from the front and side," and later took him to the
infirmary. Despite telling Major Joaquin that he felt "in very good
health," they insisted on taking his blood pressure, which was stable.

Dagoberto Valdes is thankful "with all his heart, for the immense
solidarity received from friends and brothers of many countries and
institutions, as well as for the prayers of pastors and brothers of
different faiths."

The Coexistence Studies Center focuses on training for citizenship and
civil society in Cuba. Among its activities is the publication of the
magazine Convivencia (Coexistence), the discussion of proposals for the
future of the island and the exchange ideas about our current situation.

Last September the members of Coexistence denounced that at least nine
of them had been subjected to police interrogation. The activists were
forced to suspend the My Neighborhood One Community program due to
pressure from State Security, which included operations around several
of their homes, arrests and the cutting of the cell phone service of
event organizers.

Based in the province of Pinar del Rio, the independent entity is
conceived as a think tank to "think about the national home we desire,
to contribute to the reconstruction of the human person and the fabric
of civil society."

Source: From Today Your Life Will Be "Very Difficult," State Security
Tells Dagoberto Valdes / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/from-today-your-life-will-be-very-difficult-state-security-tells-dagoberto-valdes-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 28 October 2016 — The director of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC), Dagoberto Valdes, summoned to a meeting with State Security on Thursday, received “an official warning” which anticipates “the possibility of committing crimes against State Security as defined in the Penal Code.” Valdes, who remained at the police headquarters on the … Continue reading "From Today Your Life Will Be “Very Difficult,” State Security Tells Dagoberto Valdes / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Guillermo "Coco" Farinas; Hunger and Thirst Strike Continues / Lilianne Ruíz

Lilianne Ruiz, 29 July 2016 — Guillermo 'Coco' Fariñas lost
consciousness on Thursday, 28 July at noon, the eighth day of his hunger
and thirst strike. He had to be taken to the main hospital of Santa
Clara by the group of activists who are with him in the strike. He had
spent the morning with much discomfort and his temperature had risen
because of dehydration.

He arrived at the hospital unconscious and with the corners of his mouth
and tongue parched, and covered of bloody scabs. He is suffering from
"dizziness and all the hassles of severe dehydration," according to Dr.
Rodriguez Rangel, a FANTU (Anti-Totalitarian Front) activist and
follower of Coco's. It was the activists who took him, unconscious, to
receive intravenous hydration. Coco had indicated, as he told me by
phone, that the strike is "not about committing suicide," but about
resisting hunger and thirst until his demands are met. This is his 25th
hunger strike.

Reflecting on the deteriorating health of Coco makes very sad reading.
Jorge Luis "Bebo" Artiles Montiel has been designated by FANTU as
spokesperson for the strike and sends out information via text messages.
Most impressive to me is updated information on blood pressure, heart
rate, the quantity of the urine in the day, being taken by his mother,
Alicia, a licensed nurse.

I think about her, in the immense love and respect that she must feel
for her son's decision, dealing with the pain of seeing his physical
deterioration.

The image of Christ and the Virgin at the foot of the cross comes to
mind. Suffering for a cause that transcends his own person and doing it
practically alone, flooded by a faith that has been lost in others from
the bitter experience of knowing what in its time was named "the world"
and that, thinking clearly, was nothing other, before or now, than
"politics."

And I say "alone" because although they have the support of many people
inside and outside of Cuba, we mustn't forget that they are in Santa
Clara and that if they were in Havana they would have already received
more visits from representatives from the diplomatic corps who, at the
end of the day, are the only ones who can help us right now with their
solidarity. And there would also be more of a presence of the foreign
media to shape public opinion about the strike; and a little more access
to the internet so that the activists can keep the issue visible on the
social networks.

Being in the provinces, Coco's strike now needs all our strength, of
memory, of our good actions, a visit, a call, effective management by
those who can apply political pressure, a campaign on the social
networks, an escalation of visibility which demonstrates the commitment
to the defense of freedom and democracy in Cuba, which is above all a
moral imperative.

Not only has Coco been hurt by a beating at the hands of State Security
agents while handcuffed, but also by that which was aptly defined by
Pope John Paul II, as the experience of "humiliation at the hands of
evil." So the hunger strike is Coco's moral response, committed to
nonviolence.

Coco told me by phone that he appreciated his brothers from FANTU and
other organizations for having helped him when he lost
consciousness. And the doctors and nurses of the hospital of Santa Clara
because they did not let themselves be coerced.

The members of the repressive forces were also guarding the hospital, as
the activists with whom I spoke on the phone reported to me. The
presence of of the political police in our lives as Cubans is one of the
things we want to erase and part of that chapter of violence which
Coco's hunger strike is protesting against.

To give just one example, in Havana for the last 62 Sundays the Ladies
in White have confronted a brutal repression. They are beaten, thrown to
the pavement, and arrested to prevent them from marching for the freedom
of the political prisoners.

To conceal the fact of the violence of its institutions the government
uses violence.

It reminds me of the little I've read of John Stuart Mill, because it
seems so desirable to build coexistence. Limiting the powers of
government is what they understood, and understand, as freedom. First
"obtaining recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties
or rights." Because it is essential to the rule of law to prevent all
sorts of wrongdoers from coming to power.

A hunger and thirst strike creates an unspeakable discomfort in the
body. Although his body has been hydrated intravenously, it continues to
suffer and deteriorate through the effects of starvation and the oral
withdrawal of water. It is enough to feel thirsty or hungry during a few
hours in the day to imagine the severity of a strike like this.

Coco still suffers the physical effects of previous strikes, the longest
lasting 18 months. He suffers from a polyneuropathy in peripheral limbs,
muscular hypotonia, and gastric disorders. Because of his sacrifice, 52
of the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring were released, but the
circumstances surrounding that sacrifice was one of large-scale
international solidarity. Now we need that solidarity again.

We all want Coco to be well, with the same force with which we wish to
the violent repression inherent in the political and economic system of
Cuba to cease, along with the punishment for dissent, for seeking
justice, for freedom from a government hatefully ensconced in every
corner of this island where the light is trapped, and contributing to
the destruction: civic, political, economic, social and cultural.

Source: Guillermo "Coco" Farinas; Hunger and Thirst Strike Continues /
Lilianne Ruíz – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/guillermo-coco-farinas-hunger-and-thirst-strike-continues-lilianne-ruz/ Continue reading
Guillermo "Coco" Farinas; Hunger and Thirst Strike Continues / Lilianne Ruíz

Lilianne Ruiz, 29 July 2016 — Guillermo 'Coco' Fariñas lost
consciousness on Thursday, 28 July at noon, the eighth day of his hunger
and thirst strike. He had to be taken to the main hospital of Santa
Clara by the group of activists who are with him in the strike. He had
spent the morning with much discomfort and his temperature had risen
because of dehydration.

He arrived at the hospital unconscious and with the corners of his mouth
and tongue parched, and covered of bloody scabs. He is suffering from
"dizziness and all the hassles of severe dehydration," according to Dr.
Rodriguez Rangel, a FANTU (Anti-Totalitarian Front) activist and
follower of Coco's. It was the activists who took him, unconscious, to
receive intravenous hydration. Coco had indicated, as he told me by
phone, that the strike is "not about committing suicide," but about
resisting hunger and thirst until his demands are met. This is his 25th
hunger strike.

Reflecting on the deteriorating health of Coco makes very sad reading.
Jorge Luis "Bebo" Artiles Montiel has been designated by FANTU as
spokesperson for the strike and sends out information via text messages.
Most impressive to me is updated information on blood pressure, heart
rate, the quantity of the urine in the day, being taken by his mother,
Alicia, a licensed nurse.

I think about her, in the immense love and respect that she must feel
for her son's decision, dealing with the pain of seeing his physical
deterioration.

The image of Christ and the Virgin at the foot of the cross comes to
mind. Suffering for a cause that transcends his own person and doing it
practically alone, flooded by a faith that has been lost in others from
the bitter experience of knowing what in its time was named "the world"
and that, thinking clearly, was nothing other, before or now, than
"politics."

And I say "alone" because although they have the support of many people
inside and outside of Cuba, we mustn't forget that they are in Santa
Clara and that if they were in Havana they would have already received
more visits from representatives from the diplomatic corps who, at the
end of the day, are the only ones who can help us right now with their
solidarity. And there would also be more of a presence of the foreign
media to shape public opinion about the strike; and a little more access
to the internet so that the activists can keep the issue visible on the
social networks.

Being in the provinces, Coco's strike now needs all our strength, of
memory, of our good actions, a visit, a call, effective management by
those who can apply political pressure, a campaign on the social
networks, an escalation of visibility which demonstrates the commitment
to the defense of freedom and democracy in Cuba, which is above all a
moral imperative.

Not only has Coco been hurt by a beating at the hands of State Security
agents while handcuffed, but also by that which was aptly defined by
Pope John Paul II, as the experience of "humiliation at the hands of
evil." So the hunger strike is Coco's moral response, committed to
nonviolence.

Coco told me by phone that he appreciated his brothers from FANTU and
other organizations for having helped him when he lost
consciousness. And the doctors and nurses of the hospital of Santa Clara
because they did not let themselves be coerced.

The members of the repressive forces were also guarding the hospital, as
the activists with whom I spoke on the phone reported to me. The
presence of of the political police in our lives as Cubans is one of the
things we want to erase and part of that chapter of violence which
Coco's hunger strike is protesting against.

To give just one example, in Havana for the last 62 Sundays the Ladies
in White have confronted a brutal repression. They are beaten, thrown to
the pavement, and arrested to prevent them from marching for the freedom
of the political prisoners.

To conceal the fact of the violence of its institutions the government
uses violence.

It reminds me of the little I've read of John Stuart Mill, because it
seems so desirable to build coexistence. Limiting the powers of
government is what they understood, and understand, as freedom. First
"obtaining recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties
or rights." Because it is essential to the rule of law to prevent all
sorts of wrongdoers from coming to power.

A hunger and thirst strike creates an unspeakable discomfort in the
body. Although his body has been hydrated intravenously, it continues to
suffer and deteriorate through the effects of starvation and the oral
withdrawal of water. It is enough to feel thirsty or hungry during a few
hours in the day to imagine the severity of a strike like this.

Coco still suffers the physical effects of previous strikes, the longest
lasting 18 months. He suffers from a polyneuropathy in peripheral limbs,
muscular hypotonia, and gastric disorders. Because of his sacrifice, 52
of the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring were released, but the
circumstances surrounding that sacrifice was one of large-scale
international solidarity. Now we need that solidarity again.

We all want Coco to be well, with the same force with which we wish to
the violent repression inherent in the political and economic system of
Cuba to cease, along with the punishment for dissent, for seeking
justice, for freedom from a government hatefully ensconced in every
corner of this island where the light is trapped, and contributing to
the destruction: civic, political, economic, social and cultural.

Source: Guillermo "Coco" Farinas; Hunger and Thirst Strike Continues /
Lilianne Ruíz – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/guillermo-coco-farinas-hunger-and-thirst-strike-continues-lilianne-ruz/ Continue reading
Lilianne Ruiz, 29 July 2016 — Guillermo ‘Coco’ Fariñas lost consciousness on Thursday, 28 July at noon, the eighth day of his hunger and thirst strike. He had to be taken to the main hospital of Santa Clara by the group of activists who are with him in the strike. He had spent the morning with much … Continue reading "Guillermo "Coco" Farinas; Hunger and Thirst Strike Continues / Lilianne Ruíz" Continue reading
"I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Laura's Death"/ Cubanet, Hector Maseda

Cubanet.org, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Augusto Cesar San Martin, 29 July
2016, Havana – Hector Maseda dreamed of designing big ships and hanging
his naval engineering degree where everyone could see it, but "since
they only built boats here," he graduated with a degree in electrical
engineering.

His excellent grades assured him a post in the National Center for
Scientific Research (CNIC) until 1980 when the Mariel Boatlift changed
his life, as it did for tens of thousands of Cubans who decided to
emigrate, but from a different angle.

Hector did not emigrate but lost his job at the CNIC for refusing to
repudiate his colleagues who chose to leave the Island. He stopped
enjoying the "political trustworthiness" indispensable for working at
the center, the "father of science in Cuba."

From a scientist with three post-graduate studies and author of
several scientific articles, he became a handicrafts vendor for more
than a year in order to be able to survive. After going through several
different jobs he began to work in the medical devices department in the
oldest functioning hospital in Cuba, the Commander Manuel Fajardo
Teaching Surgical Hospital.

It was there, on Christmas of 1991, that he began the courtship of Laura
Pollan, a teacher of Spanish and literature who would later become a
symbol of the peaceful struggle for human rights in Cuba.

The spring of 2003 was a "Black Spring" for Hector and 74 of his
colleagues (known as the Group of 75). Sentenced to 20 years in a
summary trial for a supposed crime against the independence and
territorial integrity of the State, he spent more than seven years in
prison.

From that Black Spring emerged the Ladies in White, a group of wives
and family members of the 75 dissidents. Laura Pollan, because of the
arrest of Hector Maseda, quit her job as a professor in the Ministry of
Education and became the founder and leader of the Ladies in White.

"From that moment, she gave up all her pleasures, all her intellectual
and social inclinations, etc., and became a leading defender of human
rights," says Maseda.

But Laura would not survive long after Hector's liberation. A strange
virus ended her life in 2011, although Hector Maseda is convinced that
the Cuban political police assassinated her.

President of the National Commission of Masonic Teaching and
past-President of the Cuban Academy of High Masonic Studies, Hector has
traveled the whole road of Cuban Freemasonry.

From apprentice to Grade 33 of the Supreme Council for the Republic of
Cuba, he is one of the 25 Sovereign Grand Inspectors of the order which
is composed of about 29 thousand Masons spread through more than 300
lodges around the Island.

He has worked as an independent journalist for outlets like CubaNet,
Miscelaneas de Cuba and others. His book Buried Alive recounts the
conditions of the Cuban political prison system and the abuses of
jailers against political and common prisoners.

But he, who at age 15 was arrested and beaten by the Batista police
after being mistaken for a member of the July 26 terrorist group and at
age 60 psychologically tortured by Fidel Castro's political police by
being subjected to sleep deprivation in interrogations, still has not
overcome the death of his wife Laura Pollan.

"I have not been able to overcome that trauma," says Maseda.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Source: "I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Laura's Death"/ Cubanet,
Hector Maseda – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-have-not-been-able-to-overcome-lauras-death-cubanet-hector-maseda/ Continue reading
Title on video: “The most difficult moment was when they tried to accuse me of spying…” Cubanet.org, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Augusto Cesar San Martin, 29 July 2016, Havana – Hector Maseda dreamed of designing big ships and hanging his naval engineering degree where everyone could see it, but “since they only built boats here,” … Continue reading "“I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Laura’s Death”/ Cubanet, Hector Maseda" Continue reading
Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 23 July 2016 — In a letter published Saturday by the
former president of Costa Rica and 1987 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize,
Oscar Arias Sanchez asks his "friend" Guillermo Fariñas to "lift his
hunger and thirst strike."

Arias Sanchez explains that the hunger strike will not succeed as a
recourse to persuade the government of the island "that you cannot
pursue noble ends with ignoble means." He also says that Cuba "is not a
different democracy" but rather is "a dictatorship." The former Costa
Rican president (1986-1990 and 2006-2010) recalled the case of regime
opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died after an 86-day hunger strike.
He did not manage "to convince the Cuban regime that it was necessary to
preserve the life of this person, regardless of any ideological
differences" and nor did he move "the compassion of the Cuban dictatorship."

The missive, published on Arias Sanchez's Facebook account, says that
"nothing we could do could save Orlando Zapata." He emphasized that his
voice will not be silent as long as "they continue to violate human
rights in Cuba" and that he has lived long enough "to know that there is
nothing worse than being afraid to tell the 'truth'."

Guillermo Fariñas, 2010 recipient of the European Parliament's Sakharov
Prize for Freedom of Thought, declared himself on a hunger and thirst
strike in the early hours of Wednesday, July 20 to demand that the
beatings of non-violent opposition members in Cuba be stopped and that a
dialogue be opened with government.

Friday, Fariñas added a third demand which requires the regime to "cease
the arbitrary confiscations from the self-employed, small businesses and
entrepreneurs and all Cubans who are being violently attacked" by the
"military."

Fariñas expressed solidarity with Carlos Amel Oliva, youth leader of the
Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who began a hunger strike on July 13
"to protest the arbitrary confiscations" and said he would continue the
strike until the belongings that were confiscated from him are returned.
On Friday, one of the 75 dissidents imprisoned during the Black Spring
of 2003, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, joined the hunger strike.

Source: Oscar Arias Asks Fariñas To Suspend His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/oscar-arias-asks-farinas-to-suspend-his-hunger-strike-14ymedio/ Continue reading
Fariñas Begins Hunger And Thirst Strike To Demand Dialogue With The
Government / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 20 July 2016 — Guillermo Fariñas, winner of the
European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010, has
declared a hunger and thirst strike and as of dawn Wednesday to demand
an end to the beatings of non-violent opponents in Cuba and that a
dialogue be opened with government.

"It would be cynical of the Cuban government, which was a mediator in
the dialog between the Colombian [FARC] guerillas and the authorities of
that country, to be unable to sit down and dialog with a non-violent
opposition to avoid these beatings and other outrages," he said in a
conversation with 14ymedio.

The opposition figure is asking Cuban president Raul Castro to
"publically commit before national and international public opinion to
cease these beatings, torture, death threats, the creation of false
criminal charges against opponents, searching dissidents' homes and
confiscating the personal belongings of opponents," and that the
government "designate a vice president to meet with 12 prominent leaders
of the internal opposition," responsible for ensuring the end of the
violence.

The announcement comes after Fariñas denounced, on Tuesday, a beating by
police officers in Santa Clara, and would direct the Fifth Police
Station to communicate with the Pinar del Rio Unit where a member of the
Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU) – the group Fariñas coordinates – who
was arrested last Thursday.

"I offered no resistance, but they still beat me, they threw me into a
patrol car, they forcefully handcuffed me, and used a strangulation
technique to drag me to the patio behind the Central Fire Station in
Villa Clara," he says. The opponent said that after being transferred to
the Provincial Criminal Investigation Unit in Villa Clara, they left him
"handcuffed and exposed to the sun" and officials from the Special
Brigade continued to beat him. "They told that this was the rigor that
they would apply if I went out into the street again, better I dedicate
myself to writing, because they would kill me," he says.

Fariñas also wrote a letter to Raul Castro, in which he says he was
"tortured while handcuffed by members of the Special Brigade of the
Ministry of the Interior in the province of Santa Clara." In the
missive, he emphasizes that his phenomenon forms a part of the "wave of
abuses, terror and violence," that he has unleashed against "the
non-violent opposition, which civilly faces totalitarianism."

Fariñas has undertaken many hunger strikes. In 2010 he received the
European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought after 135
day strike in protest against the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and in
a demand for better condition for 26 of the 75 prisoners of the 2003
Black Spring, who were suffering serious health problems. Finally, this
strike and its media impact were decisive in the beginning of the
process of negotiations that ended with the release of the 75 detained
since March of 2013.

Source: Fariñas Begins Hunger And Thirst Strike To Demand Dialogue With
The Government / 14ymedio – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/farinas-begins-hunger-and-thirst-strike-to-demand-dialogue-with-the-government-14ymedio/ Continue reading
"The Tentacles of Castroism Are Long" / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 13 July 2016 — Desolate, but firm and
willing to continue fighting for Cubans, whom he calls "my
brothers." Thus, Efrain Sanchez Mateo defines himself after serving a
sentence of five days in jail for allegedly assaulting a police officer
during the eviction of Cuban migrants camped at El Arbolito Park in
Quito, Ecuador.

"That was something they were planning for a long time, but they didn't
have the courage to do it. The turning point was our protest outside the
Cuban consulate in Quito," explained Sanchez Mateo. The unprecedented
march in which hundreds of migrants repudiated the statement from the
embassy accusing them of trying to score points to get political asylum
"frightened the regime," added the Cuban.

"How long are we going to continue supporting the Association of Cuban
Resident in Ecuador (ACURE)? How long will we continue supporting the
lies of an embassy that doesn't represent us?" he says in a reference to
the accusation of the pro-Castro association that accuses them of
receiving money from abroad and "serving the interests of Miami."

"If this inhumane action and violation of human rights committed by the
Ecuadorian government in collusion with Cuban State Security has made
something clear, it is that nobody has sustained and supported us from
the outside," he argues.

Mateo, a coordinator of Cuban migrants, says the presence of the Mambi
or "Freedom" encampment, as he called their tents in the Quito park, had
authorization from the police and the Ministry of Social Inclusion and
they have evidence to prove it.

"We had been promised they would not intervene. We had an organization
and lived in solidarity with other Cuban brothers and many who are still
there, having no place to sleep, went to work and carried on the cause,"
he comments.

Ecuador's Vice Minister of the Interior, Diego Fuentes, told the press
that it wasn't exclusively about the Cubans, but "of migratory control
that affects all citizens and all nationalities." The official also
explained that these controls sustain "a regular and responsible
migratory flow" that will avoid the "abuse" of Ecuador's image of
universal citizenship and open doors, something that Mateo agrees with.

"The night the camp was evacuated, the police followed the same modus
operandi as they used the first time when they evacuated the migrants
from the around the Mexican embassy," he explained. "They came at
midnight and about two in the morning a large group of police and
anti-riot troops evacuated the place. However, this time they used
migration control as a pretext, so it could not be called an eviction,
but it's clear that the motive was xenophobia against Cubans," he says.

"We men try to protect the women. We are beaten and threatened. Cuban
State Security agents in plainclothes in among the Ecuadorian police
tried to catch me. Every day I receive threats toward me and my family,
because they believe it will make me abandon my brothers. I regret what
happened, but I will not do that, neither those in Cuba nor those here,"
he says.

Efrain Sanchez Mateo regrets that the Cuban community abroad has not
shown their support for respect for the rights of their compatriots in
Ecuador. "We have been beaten, our rights have been violated, we are
trying to escape communism and they have left us on our own," he laments.

"I call on the internal opposition in Cuba and those who fight for their
freedom from exile. Do not leave the 75 Cubans who were deported to the
island on their own. Do not let them fall back into the clutches of the
government," says Mateo says he is in contact with several of those who
have been repatriated and has urged them to continue what they started
in Ecuador.

At 3:30 am on Wednesday morning, a judge responsible for procedural
rights and guarantees rejected the habeas corpus petition for 47 of the
48 Cubans being held at the Hotel Carrion. Yesterday afternoon a group
of Ecuadorian and Cuban protestors demonstrated their support for the
migrants with protest actions in front of the court. On Monday morning,
Ecuador completed the second transfer of Cubans to their country of
origin, bringing the number of those repatriated to 75.

"The Cubans in Ecuador could not possibly show more courage. We did
everything possible, but the tentacles of Castroism are long," he adds.

Source: "The Tentacles of Castroism Are Long" / 14ymedio, Mario Penton –
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/the-tentacles-of-castroism-are-long-14ymedio-mario-penton/ Continue reading
Another Sunday Of Repression For The Ladies In White / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 12 June 2016 – This Sunday there was, again, a
operation around the Ladies in White headquarters in the Lawton area of
Havana, organized by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), State
Security agents and civilians called up for Rapid Response Brigades.

Lady in White Luisa Ramona Tuscany told 14ymedio via phone that "as they
left the house" at 2:00 pm all of them were harassed by "mobs" and that
they were arrested "while shouting slogans and carrying their banners."

Ramona detailed that, in total, 18 people, "seven [other] activists and
eleven Ladies [in White]" who left [for Santa Rita Church] from the
Lawton site this Sunday. Among those arrested were some from other
provinces "who had been here from a day or two earlier" said the same
source, who reported that Berta Soler [leader of the group] "was also
detained" as was the former prisoner of the Black Spring case of the 75,
Angel Moya.

Among those arrested on leaving the Lawton headquarters site were
members of a delegation from Santiago de Cuba, including Bizmaira Amelo
Jardines and Santa Fernandez Diaz. Also arrested was Maribel Hernandez
Garcia who, according to Luisa Ramona, "already reported in" by phone to
say "that she was released at the stroke of 9:30 pm in the detention
area of Tarara, where they were taken."

According to Luisa Ramona, approximately seven Ladies in White and
independent journalist Yuri Valle Roca reached Santa Rita Church. She
said that the journalist is being held at the Santiago de las Vegas
station, along with Ladies in White María Cristina Labrada, Lismery
Quintana, Daysi Artiles and Suarmi who were able to reach Santa Rita.

Several Sundays ago many members of this group were prevented from
reaching the Mass and later meeting up with other activists who support
them at the end of their march. These representatives of different
opposition organizations have joined this initiative for more than 55
Sundays.

Source: Another Sunday Of Repression For The Ladies In White / 14ymedio
– Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/another-sunday-of-repression-for-the-ladies-in-white-14ymedio/ Continue reading
14ymedio, Havana, 12 June 2016 – This Sunday there was, again, a operation around the Ladies in White headquarters in the Lawton area of Havana, organized by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), State Security agents and civilians called up for Rapid Response Brigades. Lady in White Luisa Ramona Tuscany told 14ymedio via phone that “as … Continue reading "Another Sunday Of Repression For The Ladies In White / 14ymedio" Continue reading
Cuba's opposition movement has grown stronger since U.S.-Cuba deal,
dissident says
By Elizabeth Llorente Published June 03, 2016 Fox News Latino

The thawing of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States
is having a little-spoken-about side effect – people on the island are
feeling bolder about challenging the government, says one of Cuba's
leading dissidents.

"Without a doubt, the people of Cuba grow weary," said Jose Daniel
Ferrer, leader of Cuba's largest and increasingly influential dissident
group, in an interview with Fox News Latino. "It's been too many years
of misery and oppression."

The change in relationship between the two countries has been
accompanied by more outside sources of news and perspectives reaching
Cubans long accustomed to state-run media.

"International and internal forces within Cuba have resulted in Cubans
being exposed to more information, and that drives Cubans to feel more
inspired and oppose the regime," said Ferrer, who is visiting the United
States after receiving a short-term permission from the Cuban government
to travel outside the island. "Each time the size of disillusioned,
frustrated people grows broader and so do the number of people who
oppose and challenge the government."

Ferrer does not criticize the many Cubans who have risked their lives
trying to flee, most recently to Latin American in hopes of reaching the
United States. That number has surged as more Cuban fear that improving
relations between their homeland and the United States will spell the
end of opportunities their northern neighbor gives Cubans to seek refuge
there.

"The Cuban regime clearly drives the point home to Cubans that we in
Cuba have only two options – you completely obey the regime, or if you
don't want to obey them, you leave," he said.

"The third option (in Ferrer's group) is we defend our rights, is we're
not leaving, we're staying, and we are going to fight for freedom from
inside Cuba, the freedom many Cubans choose to flee to seek."

"International and internal forces within Cuba have resulted in Cubans
being exposed to more information, and that drives Cubans to feel more
inspired and oppose the regime. Each time the size of disillusioned,
frustrated people grows broader and so do the number of people who
oppose and challenge the government."
- Jose Daniel Ferrer, Cuba dissident

"Many Cubans are afraid, they say either I leave now or I'll never be
free," Ferrer added. "But to leave Cuba means they will not be able to
push for that change. We believe Cuba is where we must be, where must
stay, to effectively fight for change and a better future."

While tens of thousands of Cubans have under cover of darkness fled the
island in recent months – not to mention over the decades – Ferrer
flatly refused the Cuban regime's near-begging that he leave the island.

It's not that Ferrer wasn't facing the same hardships – and more – as
his countrymen. He had gone through more, including arrests for
opposition to the Cuban regime, beatings by government security forces,
and 8 years in jail for taking part in a petition pushing for freedom of
speech and other democratic reforms.

On rarely given permission to travel outside the United States, the
leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union, Cuba's most prominent dissident
group, told Fox News Latino in a wide-ranging interview that he would
not trade his political activism for life in exile.

"It's a matter of dignity, a matter of moral obligation," Ferrer told
Fox News Latino about why he did not jump at the chance to leave a life
he clearly found insufferable. "And that is why we stayed put."

Ferrer was one of 75 dissidents rounded up by Cuban security forces in
2003 in what became known as Cuba's "Black Spring."

Ferrer, a former fisherman, was one of several sentenced to 25 years in
prison. Under a deal pushed by the government of Spain and the Cuban
Catholic Church, the Castro government agreed to free many of the
prisoners after several years, but on the condition that they live in
exile elsewhere.

About a dozen of the dissidents, including Ferrer, refused. In 2011,
Ferrer and Felix Navarro Rodriguez, the only two of the 75 inmates who
still remained in jail from the "Black Spring" sweep, were released.

"During the 8 years that we were in prison, the regime was always
proposing that if we would leave Cuba indefinitely, they would release
us and then our difficult conditions would come to an end," Ferrer said.
"I always said no because, remembering [Cuban revolutionary leader] Jose
Marti, he said the freedom of a people always comes at a great price."

"And you decide either to achieve it, or you resign yourself and that
society to continue living without liberty."

The focus on Cuba these days, for the most part, is on the parade of
U.S. businesses looking to get a foothold there, and on American
tourists clamoring to travel the long-forbidden Caribbean island.

Ferrer has said that there are differences in how Cuban dissidents view
the restoration of U.S.-Cuba relations.

Some feel that the United States, for instance, should have demanded
more concessions and promises by the Cuban government to make democratic
reforms before moving ahead with such things as reopening embassies in
each other's nations and easing restrictions on trade and travel.

Others feel that Cuba would have continued to resist making changes, and
that stalemate that has languished for decades would continue.

"It's not divisions that we have among dissidents groups in Cuba over
normalizing relations with the U.S., it's just differences of
perspectives," Ferrer said. "We are not divided in the opposition
movement; we are united in the daily struggle for democracy and the
well-being of the Cuban people."

He praised Obama for using his visit in March to essentially scold the
Castro regime and making a point of reaching the Cuban people in a
variety of ways, including doing a skit with Cuba's most popular
comedian, Panfilo.

"President Obama's visit is without a doubt the most important visit
we've had in the last half century," said Ferrer, who was among a
handful of dissidents who met with Obama at the U.S. Embassy in Havana
during the president's visit. "The impact was quite forceful."

Ferrer said it was nothing short of "a stroke of genius" for Obama to
humanize himself before the Cuban people by using Panfilo's popular
comedy show to reach out to the public.

"People watch and love Panfilo," he said. "Brilliant move, that was."

Ferrer will be traveling in the United States and Europe until July,
then will return. He does so at considerable risk. Cuban authorities do
not hide the fact that at any time, for any reason, they can return him
to jail to complete the rest of the original 25-year sentence.


Elizabeth Llorente is the Politics Editor/Senior Reporter for Fox News
Latino, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnewslatino.com.
Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente

Source: Cuba's opposition movement has grown stronger since U.S.-Cuba
deal, dissident says | Fox News Latino -
http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/politics/2016/06/03/cuba-opposition-movement-has-grown-stronger-since-us-cuba-deal-dissident-says/ Continue reading
José Daniel Ferrer, the man behind Cuba's largest opposition group

Former political prisoner heads the Cuban Patriotic Union, an
organization in eastern Cuba that has launched a campaign urging the
island's people to let go of their fear.
NORA GÁMEZ TORRES
ngameztorres@elnuevoherald.com

Irreverent youth, activist in the Christian Liberation Movement's early
days, political prisoner and now leader of Cuba's most active opposition
group, José Daniel Ferrer is probably one of the biggest headaches for
the island's government.

One of the 75 political prisoners jailed in the 2003 crackdown known as
Cuba's Black Spring, Ferrer, 45, was one of the last to be freed in 2011
under a parole that barred him from leaving the country. He arrived in
Miami last week, after the government gave him a one-time permission to
travel abroad.

After his release Ferrer founded the Cuban Patriotic Union, UNPACU by
its Spanish initials, which he estimates now has more than 3,000 members
and sympathizers, mostly in Santiago de Cuba and other parts of eastern
Cuba although it also has members in Havana, Camaguey and the Isle of Youth.

How he managed to gather those 3,000 supporters — a number that is small
in an island of 11 million people yet is significantly large compared to
other dissident organizations — is a question with more than one answer.

He is a clearly charismatic leader, and even in prison he managed to
persuade the jailers to improve the quality of the food or rush an
inmate to a nearby hospital. His love for politics, he told el Nuevo
Herald and Miami Herald editors on Thursday, grew as he listened
clandestinely to foreign radio broadcasts. He described himself as a
voracious reader, and more than once quoted Chinese strategist Sun Tzu's
book, The Art of War.

Czech leader Vaclav Havel was another idol.

"When I completed my military service in 1991, I got a copy of Vaclav
Havel's book, The Power of the Powerless, and I understood that we could
topple the dictatorship," he said. "Until that time, the question of
whether I would leave [Cuba] or stay was in the air. But the fall of the
Communist bloc and this book encouraged me to start the struggle."

I UNDERSTOOD THAT WE COULD TOPPLE THE DICTATORSHIP

What's more, Ferrer has organized UNPACU for maximum efficiency, and the
movement now has a structure and way of operating that look much like
those of a political party. Although Cuba bans all but the Communist
Party, Ferrer acknowledges that turning UNPACU into a political party is
one of his goals.

Members have concrete and clear goals to meet, and they are checked
regularly. One important part of their work is face-to-face contacts,
trying to persuade others to join the group. They receive training to do
just that.

If anything distinguishes UNPACU from other dissident groups in Cuba, it
is that ability to move beyond street protests.

Ferrer said that "valiant work in the streets" is indispensable for
showing the government that there is "a vanguard that is not afraid of
it" — an important message to convince the rest of the people that
change is possible and that the opposition has at least some chance of
winning.

But Ferrer also lists other key activities: humanitarian assistance to
the poor "without asking for anything in return," and an "intelligent
outreach" with the organization's anti-Castro message.

That's another strong side of UNPACU, which maintains an active presence
in social networks, publishes videos of its activities and
man-on-the-street interviews on topics like rising food prices, and goes
door-to-door distributing thousands of DVDs and flash drives with its
work or foreign news reports. Occasionally, it also manages to sneak
UNPACU information into the paquete — the weekly digital archive of
entertainment, news and other items sold throughout the island and the
main source of independent information for most Cubans.

UNPACU also creates its own educational materials from a broad range of
sources, including Hollywood movies edited "to encourage people to lose
their fear" or to generate discussions at group meetings.

"No one wishes for what they don't know, and no one loses their fear if
they don't see that others have liberated themselves, that they have
lost their fear," he said.

NO ONE LOSES THEIR FEAR IF THEY DON'T SEE THAT OTHERS HAVE LIBERATED
THEMSELVES

Ferrer said that one of the positive results of President Barack Obama's
recent visit to Cuba, aside from his meeting with a group of dissidents
that included the UNPACU chief, was the media spotlight trained on the
island for a few days.

"When Obama went to Cuba, dozens of journalists from the free world also
went and asked us about the political prisoners, the basic freedoms," he
said. UNPACU activists later copied the articles published and
distributed them "house to house. Then people can say, 'They really are
right, because the newspaper said so.' "

Ferrer stressed that this work of disseminating information is essential
in a place like Cuba, where the mass media is totally and tightly
controlled by the Communist Party.

"A people that for so many years has received only the information
allowed by its oppressors cannot see things in the way that a free
person sees them, for example in Miami, where they can see as many
newspapers as they want," he added.

Another UNPACU initiative has been the elaboration of a "minimum
program" for a transition, in which the organization calls for economic
reforms, a new electoral law, a free press and the release of all
political prisoners, as well as decent wages and food security. It also
declares that "health, together with education and social welfare, will
be considered a non-negotiable right of all Cubans" — an ideal that
aligns the dissident group with the desires of many Cubans on the island.

UNPACU also is trying to use the micro-enterprises allowed by the
government to sustain its members and make up for the emigration of many
of its members, who have been joining the exodus shaking up the island
in the past few years.

What's more, all of the group's activities take place under the tight
vigilance of and repression from Cuba's political police, which
constantly try to keep the opposition from continuing to grow.

Aware of the government's power to "intimidate," his strategy has been
to use small activities to slowly move toward "the democratization of
Cuba," Ferrer said.

Ferrer, who spent 90 minutes in conversation with Herald and el Nuevo
Herald journalists, acknowledged that his leadership accounts for much
of UNPACU's success. He was asked what would happen if the organization
suddenly lost its leader.

"It's a risk, but there are other people in other organizations. In
fact, I have said [to members] on several occasions that if I disappear
and they don't feel they are capable of carrying on with UNPACU, they
should end the organization and join the United Anti-Totaliarian Front,
the Pedro Luis Boitel Movement or the Ladies in White," he answered,
referring to some of Cuba's other dissident movements.

Ferrer already has urged other dissident organizations to put aside
their differences over the changes in U.S. policies toward Cuba and
agree on common aspects under a Democratic Action Unity Roundtable,
which backs initiatives such as trying to register independent
candidates for legislative elections in 2017.

WE HAVE TO BATTLE THE REGIME IN ANY ARENA WHERE WE CAN

"We have to be active in all sectors of society. We have to battle the
regime in any arena where we can," said Ferrer, who is scheduled to
visit several other cities in the United States and Europe before
returning to the island.

"We cannot allow them to feel comfortable any place," he said with a
smile. "Anywhere they are, they should feel the heat. They should feel
the chair is a little tight."

Source: José Daniel Ferrer, the man behind Cuba's largest opposition
group | In Cuba Today - http://www.incubatoday.com/news/article80388607.html Continue reading
From prison, Cuban political prisoner Angel Santiesteban notes how the U.S.-Cuba rapprochement has led to unequal treatment of Cuban dissidents: If you support the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, you're pretty much left alone. If you don't, it's more of the... Continue reading
Two Types of Dissidence, Two Policies / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on March 26, 2015

Angel Santiesteban, 25 March 2015 — For the first time in the history of
the violations against the Cuban dissidence by the political police of
the totalitarian Regime, there are two lines of thought: one subdued and
the other more severe.

Those in the opposition who have publicly supported the intention of the
governments of the United States and Cuba to reconstruct diplomatic
relations have had their rights respected to travel abroad, reunite,
publish, etc.

But those who openly oppose the reestablishment of diplomatic relations,
unless the Cuban Government respects human rights and frees the
political prisoners, have been detained and had their passports take
away, like the plastic artist Tania Bruguera, who was visiting the
country, so that she now finds herself held hostage, and the activists
Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzales.

The Ladies in White, together with their leader, Berta Soler, and one of
the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring, Angel Moya, Antonio Rodiles, Ailer
Gonzalez, Claudio Fuentes and Tania Bruguera, among others, were
captured, some for several days, and, coincidentally, have all opposed
the reestablishment of relations.

It's painful that this distance exists between both factions, which,
when united, have suffered so much abuse from the dictatorship. Some who
accept relations keep quiet about the abuses committed toward those who
think differently.

In a certain way, they have to recognize that silence converts them into
accomplices of the Regime. We can't forget that in different ways,
thinking from parallel paths, is precisely what transforms us in
dissidence, because we came fleeing from belonging to that mob that
accedes to the call of the Dictator, which sometimes, even in an
indirect way, can manipulate us in its favor.

Although we think that others are wrong, we should defend their right to
be so. There is no one dissidence that is bland and another that is
extreme, only degrees that are necessary and that strive for the same thing.


Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Unidad de Guardafronteras Prison, Havana. March 2015.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Source: Two Types of Dissidence, Two Policies / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/two-types-of-dissidence-two-policies-angel-santiesteban/ Continue reading
[1]Angel Santiesteban, 25 March 2015 — For the first time in the history of the violations against the Cuban dissidence by the political police of the totalitarian Regime, there are two lines of thought: one subdued and the other more severe.Those in the opposition who have publicly supported the intention of the governments of the United States and Cuba to reconstruct diplomatic relations have had their rights respected to travel abroad, reunite, publish, etc.But those who openly oppose the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, unless the Cuban Government respects human rights and frees the political prisoners, have been detained and had their passports take away, like the plastic artist Tania Bruguera, who was visiting the country, so that she now finds herself held hostage, and the activists Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzales.The Ladies in White, together with their leader, Berta Soler, and one of the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring, Angel Moya, Antonio Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez, Claudio Fuentes and Tania Bruguera, among others, were captured, some for several days, and, coincidentally, have all opposed the reestablishment of relations.It’s painful that this distance exists between both factions, which, when united, have suffered so much abuse from the dictatorship. Some who accept relations keep quiet about the abuses committed toward those who think differently.In a certain way, they have to recognize that silence converts them into accomplices of the Regime. We can’t forget that in different ways, thinking from parallel paths, is precisely what transforms us in dissidence, because we came fleeing from belonging to that mob that accedes to the call of the Dictator, which sometimes, even in an indirect way, can manipulate us in its favor.Although we think that others are wrong, we should defend their right to be so. There is no one dissidence that is bland and another that is extreme, only degrees that are necessary and that strive for the same thing.[2]Ángel Santiesteban-PratsUnidad de Guardafronteras Prison, Havana. March 2015.Translated by Regina Anavy [1] https://blogloshijosquenadiequiso.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/dos-polc3adticas-dos-disidencias.jpg [2] https://blogloshijosquenadiequiso.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/firma-3.jpg Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_39305" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Berta Soler in a file photo[/caption](EFE) 21 March 2015 -- The leader of the Cuban dissident movement Ladies in White,BertaSoler, is "convinced" that“Cuban State Security is hiding" behind the conflicts within the group and which led to the separation of some of its members.Soler pointed to a History student, Alejandro Yañez, as the person who leaked a video that shows an angry internal conflict and stated that the one responsible for the leak is “someone sent by [Cuban] State Security” since 2007, to gather information and “promote misunderstandings in the group,” as affirmed by the newspaper El Nuevo Herald.The incident earned the dissident criticisms, especially within the Cuban exile community in the United States, after which Soler decided to submit her leadership to a referendum held this month in Havana in which she was ratified as the movement’s leader.“I think it doesn’t end because the Government has stuck its hands and body into this,” said Soler, who nevertheless affirmed that the experience taught her to rectify.In the video in question, several members of the group, Soler among them, demonstrate with shouts against Alejandrina Garcia de la Riva, an activist who was “suspended” and who appeared at the group’s site as a “provocation.”The leader of the movement also said that on her return to Havana she would personally deliver the keys to the group’s site to Laura María Labrada Pollán, daughter of Ladies in White founder, the deceased Laura Pollán, whose home has been the movement’s headquarters since its founding.Last Thursday, Laura Labrada announced in Havana that she would create a foundation in honor of her mother and would not authorize Soler to use the name Laura Pollán, after criticizing the "unfortunate events that have raised questions" about the prestige of the organization.Soler said she “respects” Labrada’s decision, and although the movement could continue to use its current name, Laura Pollán Ladies in White Movement, she would not “get into this family problem.”Soler said that "respect" the decision of Labrada, and although the movement could continue using its current name, Laura Pollán Ladies in White Laura Movement, she will not "get involved in this family problem.""We are against the Cuban government, not against anyone of the people. Laura will always be present in us," said Soler.In the interview, the dissident preferred not to give details about the use of the 50,000 euros that the movement received from the European Parliament when, in 2013, it received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, among other reasons because she doesn’t want to “reveal information to the Cuban government nor to State Security.”The people who have placed their trust and monetary incentives in the movement, “know how the money is used,” she added.The “Ladies in White” movement was created by women members of the families of the 75 dissidents condemned to prison during the “Black Spring” of 2003 (now released), among whom are Angel Moya, Soler’s husband, and Hector Maseda, Pollán’s widower.[1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Berta-Soler-foto-archivo_CYMIMA20150321_0006_13.jpg Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_39236" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Laura Labrada during the press conference at the headquarters of the Ladies in White (14ymedio)[/caption][2]14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2015 -- In a press conference Thursday in Havana, the Lady in White Laura Labrada, daughter of the late Laura Pollán, announced the creation of a foundation with the name of her mother said she wouldn’t allow "Berta Soler to use the name of [her] mother in her movement."In a long document, read in front of independent journalists and foreign correspondents, Labrada accused Soler of poor leadership of the movement and “adopting irreverent conduct.” She added, “I respect from a distance what [Soler] does and her effort, for this she should use her own name, which history will view with mistrust.”The foundation, which will be created shortly, will have as its objective support for the most disadvantaged people, according to Labrada, especially children and the elderly. During the round of questions, the Lady in White said that in making these decisions she counted on the support of “more than a hundred women,” belonging to the movement. "There have been lamentable events, which have challenged not only the prestige of the organization but also its intended purpose" In the first point of the statement, Labrada says that since the death of her mother, “There have been lamentable events, which have challenged not only the prestige of the organization but also its intended purpose and its methods.” She highlighted, “Unjustified expulsions, resignations for mistreatment, misunderstandings and the lack of democracy. The intrusions of people from outside the movement in decision-making, fights between men and incitements to violence, internal repudiation rallies in the style of the Castro regime, and disqualifications.”The conference has taken place a few weeks since a hundred women, among them Labrada herself, signed a letter in which they asked for changes within the Ladies in White. The organization was going through “a very difficult situation with undemocratic procedures that are happening in the headquarters of our organization,” the document asserted.Berta Soler, who assumed the leadership of the group after the death of Laura Pollán, responded to the call for a referendum on her leadership. She received a widely favorable result, getting 180 votes out of a total of 201.The organization has faced other problems in the past year. In September 2014, a group of women in the province of Santiago de Cuba, led by Belkis Cantillo, founded Citizens for Democracy. This decision was taken following the disagreements between Belkis Cantillo and Berta Soler that caused the separation of dozens of women from the Ladies in White.The Ladies in White movement arose after the arrests of the Black Spring [3], exactly 12 years ago. A group of women dressed in white marched after attending mass at the Santa Rita parish in the Miramar neighborhood, to peacefully protest and give visibility to the situation of the political prisoners jailed that March of 2003. Laura Pollán stood out, together with Miriam Leyva and Gisela Delgado, and became the leader of the group and the most recognized figure internationally. The Ladies in White received the European Parliament’s Sakharov Price, which they did not collect until 2013, as the Government did not allow them to travel to participate in the award ceremony. The house at 963 Neptune Street "cannot be returned to the women who participated in the act of repudiation against Alejandrina García de la Riva" In her statements, Labrada referred to the negotiations between the governments of Cuba and the United States and said that “we support and recognize the decision of the United States government, a historic event that offers new opportunities to establish true democracy in Cuba. Then it will depend on us, the people, to know how to take advantage of it to construct a strong civil society that visualizes the path to freedom."To a question from 14ymedio about the property at 963 Neptune, Laura Labrada said that this house “cannot be returned to the women who participated in an act of repudiation against Alejandrina García de la Riva.”The house, located in Cental Havana, has been the headquarters of the Ladies in White since it emerged in 2003 and, until her death in 2011, the leader of the movement Laura Pollán lived there. The house has been the direct target of acts of repudiation, monitoring and control by the political police during all those years, and in it have been carried out numerous activities such as literary teas – the most important meetings of the organization – and tributes or memorials to other figures of the opposition movement. In addition, the place served as a shelter for women activists who came from other provinces to the capital. Currently living in the house is Laura Pollán’s widower, Hector Masada, who was one of the 75 opponents imprisoned during the Black Spring.[1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Laura-Labrada-conferencia-Damas-Blanco_CYMIMA20150319_0008_13.jpg [2] http://www.14ymedio.com/ [3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Spring_%28Cuba%29 Continue reading
[1] In recent years my country has been engaged in a deception. The Cuban government is changing the Law, but ignoring the rights of the people, which were sequestered over half a century ago. More people are allowed to enter and leave the country, but the regime decides who can enjoy this “privilege”. The migratory reform was established as a control mechanism. For example, the government has invalidated the passport of the artist Tania Bruguera for attempting a performance in Havana. Sonia Garro, a member of the Ladies in White, and one of the political prisoners released during the Washington-Havana secret deal, cannot travel abroad and thus she is still a hostage of the government, as Alan Gross was for 5 years. The same applies to the former prisoners of the Cause of the 75 from the spring of 2003. The Cuban government has permitted more people to operate small businesses, but due to the Cuban laws, entrepreneurs cannot be a factor to foster democracy because their existence as “private” owners depends on their submission to the government. There cannot be free markets where there are no free persons. The Cuban government said it would free 53 political prisoners, but instead it released them on parole. Meanwhile, many others were not freed at all. Yosvani Melchor was transferred to a maximum security prison last December. He was put in prison 4 years ago for being the son of a member of the Christian Liberation Movement, who refused to cooperate with State Security. The young artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, was imprisoned after December 17 without committing any crime. The regime turns political prisoners into pieces to be exchanged, because they can catch-and-release at will more political prisoners, and democratic nations accept this blackmail with innocent citizens. As my father did, four months before he was killed, I denounce the regime’s attempt to impose a fraudulent change, and I denounce the interests that hamper a real transition and the recovery of our sovereignty. My father also denounced the attempt to link groups of exiles to this fraudulent change. He said, “The diaspora is the diaspora because they are Cuban exiles to whom the regime denied all rights, as they do to all Cubans. In such a context of oppression, without rights and without transparency, the insertion of the diaspora would only be part of the fraudulent changes.” As the engagement would be fraudulent, if the United States were to accept the rule of the Cuban government. We have never asked our people to be isolated or embargoed, but engagement will only be real if it occurs between free peoples. We urge you to truly open up to Cuba, but to advance a helping hand is essential the solidarity with the Cuban citizenry. It is essential to support the peaceful and legal changes that thousands of Cubans have presented to their fellow citizens and to the Cuban Parliament, an alternative that allows our people to decide their own future. There is no respect for the self-determination of the Cuban people when negotiations are a secret pact between elites, or when there is no mention that the Cubans can participate or be represented in their own society. I know that the US Congress and the Administration will do what you think is best for this country, which has served as refuge for nearly 20% of our population. But only a real transition to democracy in Cuba can guarantee stability for the hemisphere. We the Cubans are not Chinese, we are not Vietnamese, and we definitely won’t accept a Putin-like model towards despotism. The strategy to prevent a mass exodus from Cuba is not by saving the interests of the group now in control, this is an unstable equilibrium that could end in more social chaos and violence. In fact, this country is already facing a Cuban migratory crisis, despite the record numbers of US visas granted. More than 6,500 Cubans arrived in the United States via the Mexican border since last October, and more than 17,000 did so in the previous year. With or without the Cuban Adjustment Act, this situation will get worse because of the attempts of those in power in Cuba for self-preservation of the status quo. We Cubans want real changes, to design the prosperous country that we deserve and can build. The only violence here comes from the Cuban military against Cubans, that’s why the solution is a peaceful transition, not an appeasement. The way that you can promote stability in the region is through supporting strategies that engage the popular will, to reach the end of totalitarianism with dignity for everyone. You have the opportunity to support the petition for a constitutional plebiscite in favor of multi-party and free elections, already signed by thousands of citizens in the Varela Project, as is allowed for the Cuban constitution. There is an active campaign by Cubans from all over the globe, asking for rights for all Cubans and the Plebiscite, which is a first vote for the long-lasting changes that Cuba needs. On 22 July 2012, Cuban State Security detained the car in which my father, Oswaldo Payá, and my friend Harold Cepero, along with two young European politicians, were traveling. All of them survived, but my father disappeared for hours only to reappear dead, in the hospital in which Harold would die without medical attention. The Cuban government wouldn’t have dared to carry out its death threats against my father if the US government and the democratic world had been showing solidarity. If you turn your face, impunity rages. While you slept, the regime was conceiving their cleansing of the pro-democracy leaders to come. While you sleep, a second generation of dictators is planning with impunity their next crimes. That is why we hope that this Congress demands that the petition for an independent investigation, regarding the attack against Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero, be included in the negotiations with the Cuban government, and that we hear publicly what response is given to this point.  Knowing the whole truth is essential in any transition process, and to tolerate impunity is to endanger the lives of all Cubans wherever we live. Don’t turn your backs on Cubans again; don’t earn the distrust of the new actors of our inevitably free future, in exchange for complicity with a gerontocracy who belongs to the Cold War era. I want to conclude with the words my father wrote to President Obama 5 years ago: “Your government must move forward and extend a hand to the people and government of Cuba, but with the request that the hands of Cuban citizens not be tied. Otherwise, the opening will only be for the Cuban government, and will be another episode of an international spectacle full of hypocrisy. A spectacle that reinforces oppression, and plunges the Cuban people deeper into the lie and total defenselessness, seriously damaging the desire of Cubans for the inevitable changes to be achieved peacefully. The pursuit of friendship between the United States of America and Cuba is inseparable from the pursuit of liberty. We want to be free and be friends.” God bless and protect our peoples. Thank you.Rosa María Payá Acevedo3 February 2015Original in English[1] https://orlandolunes.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/4cb0b-rosa.jpg Continue reading
… on Wednesday in the Cuban capital of Havana of the photo exhibition … hand, the Spanish ambassador in Havana stressed the EFE’s importance … chain Melia Cuba and the embassy of Spain in Havana. The opening … . The 75 photographs exhibited in Havana were shot by photojournalists belonging … Continue reading
Exiled Ladies in White members demand leader's resignation after YouTube
video
NORA GÁMEZ TORRES NGAMEZTORRES@ELNUEVOHERALD.COM
02/18/2015 7:38 PM 02/18/2015 11:07 PM

After appearing before two recent U.S. congressional hearings seeking
freedom for political prisoners and respect for human rights in Cuba,
the leader of Ladies in White now faces calls for her resignation from
exiled members of the organization.

The controversy began after a YouTube video was posted showing a large
group of Ladies in White members booing Alejandrina García de la Riva
and screaming "Down with traitors!" on Dec. 16 at the organization's
headquarters in Havana.

After entering the building, several women surrounded De La Riva,
yelling "traitor" as she remained silent.

De La Riva, who lives in Matanzas, is founder of the movement that was
originally started by wives and family members of the 75 dissidents
arrested during the spring of 2003. Her husband, Diosdado González
Marrero, was one of them, serving a 20-year prison sentence.

De La Riva had expressed disagreement with the direction of the
organization, headed by Berta Soler.

Sixteen founders of the movement who live in exile have signed a letter
asking Soler to resign and hold elections to give the group a new
direction because of the way De La Riva was treated. They called it "an
abominable act of repudiation."

Such actions are signs of "communist" and "fascist" behavior, they say,
"and not of people who fight for democracy and human rights."

The signers of the letter emphasized the "courageous trajectory" of De
La Riva "in the struggle to free all members of the group of 75," and
asked that all women who participated in the protest be expelled from
the organization.

In Miami, Aniley Puentes, one of the Ladies in White who signed the
letter, said that "it was not appropriate" for Soler to continue leading
the movement after "having thrown mud on the name of the Ladies in
White" with "this act of repudiation typical of Communist behavior."

Puentes, who left Cuba for Spain in 2010 with her husband, former
political prisoner Fidel Suárez Cruz, and a year later moved to Miami,
said that she was unaware how Soler was elected to head the movement
after the death of Laura Pollán in 2011.

"We don't know how Berta was elected," she said. "We were not consulted
and we don't know the way to hold an election in Cuba. If Berta resigns,
which I doubt, it must be a problem of the women there to hold an election."

Contacted by el Nuevo Herald, Soler dismissed the request for her
resignation. "Resign? Never," she said. "Those who really count here are
the women of the Ladies in White movement who live in Cuba, who are more
than 250, and they have not considered elections."

Soler said she "respected the freedom of expression of those women in
exile." She also acknowledged that "maybe the way [the protest] was done
was not correct," but that "it was not an act of repudiation against
Alejandrina de la Riva," but rather a "rejection, because we didn't want
to listen to her and she had been warned" that she had to wait for a
meeting with the national board to express her disagreement over Soler's
leadership.

Soler said that De La Riva went to the movement's headquarters to
"provoke a situation" and also referred to the precedent set by the
State Security when they used members of opposing groups to attack their
leaders. Soler underlined that De La Riva had expressed her opinions
previously and that the rejection of her statements prompted the angry
reaction of the Ladies in White who were present.

"What would you do with a person who enters a place and is not accepted,
not wanted and is asked to leave?" Soler asked. "Call the police, beat
her, leave her alone or scream at her?"

Her husband, former political prisoner Ángel Moya, posted on YouTube
another clip from the incident where Soler and De La Riva argued over
the distribution of food and aid. One of the Ladies in White who was
present vehemently denied that Soler had left "food for the State
Security" at customs when she returned to Cuba from the United States,
as De La Riva claimed.

"It's important to watch the complete video," Soler said. "Because the
Cuban government only posted a clip to create confusion about the Ladies
in White."

It's not the only crisis facing the movement, which in 2005 was awarded
the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience.

In August, Eastern region representative Belkis Cantillo resigned after
clashing with Soler, which prompted about 30 women to leave the
organization and create a new movement named Citizens for Democracy.

Beyond internal conflicts and divisions, this incident points to a
deeper issue in the country's political life, says Sebastián Arcos,
former political prisoner and deputy director of Florida International
University's Cuban Research Institute.

"Three generations of Cubans have been living in a political environment
where debates have not existed and which constantly incites verbal
aggression," he said. "That is the political culture under which Cubans
have grown after 1959. It is not a heritage of the republic; it's a
heritage of the Castro regime."

Source: Exiled Ladies in White members demand leader's resignation after
YouTube video | The Miami Herald The Miami Herald -
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/cuba/article10644872.html Continue reading
So How's That Cuba Deal Going?
Raúl Castro's demands include reparations and no more U.S. asylum for
doctors who defect.
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
Feb. 8, 2015 6:36 p.m. ET

Less than two months after his "historic" outreach to Havana with a
promise to "normalize relations," the U.S. commander in chief is getting
the back of Raúl Castro 's hand.

On Dec. 17, President Obama floated his plan to revise a
half-century-old U.S.-Cuba policy by promising engagement. "We intend to
create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people," he said.
The trouble is that as his statements in recent weeks have shown, Raúl
Castro has no interest in doing things differently.

The message from Havana is that if Mr. Obama wants a Cuba legacy it will
have to be on Cuba's terms. That means he will have to go down in
history as the U.S. president who prolonged the longest-running military
dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere.

Days before Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs
Roberta Jacobson arrived in Havana on Jan. 21 for talks, the Cuban state
newspaper Granma published the government's list of "demands" for
normalizing relations. One of them was that the U.S. recognize Cuban
state-run community groups as nongovernmental organizations. It did not
name any, but the notorious "committees to defend the revolution," which
exist to enforce repression by spying on the neighbors, come to mind.
Also on the list published in Granma was a demand that the U.S. end its
asylum program for Cuban doctors who escape while serving in third-world
countries where they have been sent to work for slave wages.

A few days later, at a summit of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in
Belén, Costa Rica, the 83-year-old little brother of Fidel reiterated
some of his other demands. He said that relations would not be
normalized unless Washington unilaterally lifts the embargo, returns
Guantanamo Bay to Cuba, ceases radio and television transmissions beamed
into Cuba and makes reparations for the half-century-long embargo.

Mr. Obama may want to give back Guantanamo as his critics claim. But it
is not clear that he could do so without congressional approval. He
definitely needs Congress to lift the embargo and there's not a
snowball's chance in Havana that Congress is going to accept any such
thing as embargo reparations, let alone pay them. Raúl Castro knows
this, so in other words he's telling Mr. Obama to take a hike.

But Mr. Obama wants to be friends with the military dictatorship. To
prove it, he has promised to use his executive pen to streamline the
permit process for so-called educational and cultural travel by
Americans to the island. The military owns the tourism industry and more
American tourists will mean more dollars going into its coffers.

No problem there for the Castros. But don't expect any quid pro quo that
requires a softening of the totalitarian machine. That much was made
clear in the days following Mr. Obama's speech.

Mr. Obama said that Cuba had pledged to release 53 prisoners of
conscience in exchange for three Cubans serving lengthy sentences in the
U.S. for espionage. This was supposed to be proof that Havana would
behave more reasonably if only Washington would show more humility.

Snookered again. The spies were released but Havana did not keep its
side of the bargain until pressure mounted weeks later, and not even
then in any true sense. When the names of the prisoners finally were
made public, the Havana-based Cuban Commission on Human Rights and
National Reconciliation found that about a dozen of them had been
released before the "swap" was even announced. Some had completed or
were close to completing their sentences and were already scheduled for
release.

Marcelino Abreu Bonora was on the list. He had been released in October.
He was rearrested on Dec. 26 and spent two weeks in a solitary
punishment cell before being released again in mid-January. His crime
was holding a sign that said "change." There were some 200 political
arrests in the four weeks following Mr. Obama's speech.

Cuba has never granted freedom to prisoners of conscience, as the
treatment of the 75 dissidents rounded up during the "Black Spring" of
2003 shows. Sixty-three of them were exiled. The 12 who refused to leave
are sporadically detained and denied the right to travel abroad.

Mr. Obama says Cuba can help the U.S. fight drug trafficking. Cuba
certainly knows the business. It runs Venezuelan intelligence these
days—and Caracas is home to some of the region's most notorious drug
capos. But who can believe that Havana would interfere with the cash
flow the trade generates for its closest revolutionary ally?

Cuba's top demand is that it be taken off the U.S. list of
state-sponsors of terrorism. But in 2013 it was caught running weapons
for North Korea. It is an Iranian ally. Last week the Colombian military
intercepted 16 Russian-made antiaircraft rocket launchers bound for the
Cuba-supported Colombia guerrilla group FARC.

No one doubts that Mr. Obama is hard up for friends these days, but
courting Cuba makes him look desperate.

Write to O'Grady@wsj.com

Source: Mary Anastasia O'Grady: So How's That Cuba Deal Going? - WSJ -
http://www.wsj.com/articles/mary-anastasia-ogrady-so-hows-that-cuba-deal-going-1423438581 Continue reading
Cuban activist Rosa Maria Paya's prepared statement delivered to a U.S. Senate subcommittee on Tuesday is a must-read to understanding why the Obama administrations rapprochement with the Castro dictatorship falls so far short of what Cuba and Cubans truly need.... Continue reading
"I am a meddlesome peasant" / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez
Posted on February 2, 2015

14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Entronque de Herradura, 31 January 2015
– Entronque de Herradura is a little village in the Pinar municipality
of Consolacion del Sur. I go there in search of Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, a
Cuban with rapid speech, skill with the ten-line stanza and proven
courage. He was among the 75 dissidents sentenced during the Black
Spring of 2003, but not even a long prison stay made him lose his smile
or wit.

Fleitas asserts that he is "just a meddlesome peasant." In this
interview he speaks of his life, his early activism and of that other
passion, which is the land where he has worked as long as he can remember.

Question: In other interviews your work as an opponent always comes up,
but I would like to speak of your personal history. What did you do
before that fateful March of 2003?

Answer: As a child I worked in the fields. I had to grow up fast, and I
studied auto mechanics. Later I became a driver and even drove a bus. In
1989 I started driving a taxi and later became a transport inspector.
However, in 1993 I stopped working for the State, demanding that they
pay me with dollars to be able to buy in the hard currency stores
because the national currency had no value. Since then I have worked on
the plantation with my father.

Q: Where did the ethical and moral values that guide your life come from?

A: My father taught me respect, kindness, honesty and love of work,
spirit of service and help to others. From my mother, a farmer and
housewife, I learned effort and integrity as well as loyalty and also
love, which I have seen in them, because they have been married since 1950.

Q: What was the process that led you to be disappointed in the political
and social process which, from its beginnings, said it was defending the
peasantry?

A: With the triumph of the Revolution we thought, like many, that it was
something good. But after three or four months things began to get bad;
the executions, the land was no longer ours. The discourse ran one way
and reality the other. All that was waking me up.

Q: But it's a long way from discontent to activism. When did you begin
to be a dissident publicly?

A: In the year1988. Since then and until now I have been active in
several opposition organizations and held different responsibilities.

Q: During the Black Spring of 2003 you were arrested along with other
dissidents, journalists, librarians and independent trade unionists.
They sentenced you to 21 years imprisonment and you were behind bars
almost nine years. How hard was jail?

A: What most struck me about the Cuban penitentiary system is the great
cruelty with which the inmate is treated, whether political or not.
There you are not a person, you are at the mercy of your jailers. I saw
extremely sick prisoners ask for medical attention, and the guards
laughed in their faces. We must humanize Cuban prisons!

I also have to say that prison offered me the chance to see, to my
surprise, how many people support, in one way or another, the peaceful
opposition movement in Cuba. I never felt alone inside. Prison also gave
me the opportunity to harbor not even a drop of hatred against my
victimizers. In my heart there exists neither hatred nor rancor towards
them.

Q: You have participated in several unity initiatives among opposition
forces, the latest of them the Open Space of Civil Cuban Society. Do you
believe consensus can be achieved in spite of differences?

A: All proposals of this type are excellent. What I do consider
unjustifiable is the dismissive insult and personal attack among
ourselves. That is the method the Cuban government uses against us, it
is anti-democratic and not at all ethical. No activist should fall for
something like that. We must have consensus on basic points, and that is
what Open Space has achieved and what we have sought for years. I am
happy to be able to participate in that initiative.

Q: What do you think about the intention of the governments of Cuba and
the United States to re-establish diplomatic relations after more than
half a century of confrontation?

A: As of last December 17 a new era for Cuba began. The government of
the United States has realized that the prior policy was a dead end with
no way out, and now a host of opportunities is opening for our people.

I have asked people about the measures announced by the American
government, and they look favorably on them, because they mean
prosperity for the people. But when I have asked them what they think of
the Cuban government in the face of this challenge, they answer that
they do not trust it. Nevertheless, I am optimistic. We must create
awareness that dialog is best. I believe that the United States is
committed to us and has intelligently confronted the regime.

We have to have the courage to reclaim democracy and to respect our
rights. The era of change may be coming for all Cubans, and it falls to
everyone to do it in harmony. Cuba has to flourish again for everyone
and for the good of all!
Unanimity is not good. We must live in diversity. But it is good for us
to be unanimous when dealing with differences. Well…better I say it in
verse:

Cuban,
Why is it that it doesn't matter to you
To ruin your dignity?
Because so much calamity
Will never produce heroism.
Bury that pessimism
That daily assaults you.
Raise your voice, you are able
To be the example of the titan
Awaken those who are
Prisoners of their own webs.

Translated by MLK

Source: "I am a meddlesome peasant" / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/i-am-a-meddlesome-peasant-14ymedio-juan-carlos-fernandez/ Continue reading
[caption id="attachment_38402" align="aligncenter" width="623"] [1] Eduardo Diaz Fleitas on his farm. (14ymedio)[/caption]14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, Entronque de Herradura, 31 January 2015 – Entronque de Herradura is a little village in the Pinar municipality of Consolacion del Sur. I go there in search of Eduardo Diaz Fleitas, a Cuban with rapid speech, skill with the ten-line stanza and proven courage. He was among the 75 dissidents sentenced during the Black Spring of 2003 [2], but not even a long prison stay made him lose his smile or wit.Fleitas asserts that he is “just a meddlesome peasant.” In this interview he speaks of his life, his early activism and of that other passion, which is the land where he has worked as long as he can remember.Question: In other interviews your work as an opponent always comes up, but I would like to speak of your personal history. What did you do before that fateful March of 2003?Answer: As a child I worked in the fields. I had to grow up fast, and I studied auto mechanics. Later I became a driver and even drove a bus. In 1989 I started driving a taxi and later became a transport inspector. However, in 1993 I stopped working for the State, demanding that they pay me with dollars to be able to buy in the hard currency stores because the national currency had no value. Since then I have worked on the plantation with my father.Q: Where did the ethical and moral values that guide your life come from?A: My father taught me respect, kindness, honesty and love of work, spirit of service and help to others. From my mother, a farmer and housewife, I learned effort and integrity as well as loyalty and also love, which I have seen in them, because they have been married since 1950.Q: What was the process that led you to be disappointed in the political and social process which, from its beginnings, said it was defending the peasantry?A: With the triumph of the Revolution we thought, like many, that it was something good. But after three or four months things began to get bad; the executions, the land was no longer ours. The discourse ran one way and reality the other. All that was waking me up.Q: But it’s a long way from discontent to activism. When did you begin to be a dissident publicly?A: In the year1988. Since then and until now I have been active in several opposition organizations and held different responsibilities.Q: During the Black Spring of 2003 you were arrested along with other dissidents, journalists, librarians and independent trade unionists. They sentenced you to 21 years imprisonment and you were behind bars almost nine years. How hard was jail?A: What most struck me about the Cuban penitentiary system is the great cruelty with which the inmate is treated, whether political or not. There you are not a person, you are at the mercy of your jailers. I saw extremely sick prisoners ask for medical attention, and the guards laughed in their faces. We must humanize Cuban prisons!I also have to say that prison offered me the chance to see, to my surprise, how many people support, in one way or another, the peaceful opposition movement in Cuba. I never felt alone inside. Prison also gave me the opportunity to harbor not even a drop of hatred against my victimizers. In my heart there exists neither hatred nor rancor towards them.Q: You have participated in several unity initiatives among opposition forces, the latest of them the Open Space of Civil Cuban Society. Do you believe consensus can be achieved in spite of differences?A: All proposals of this type are excellent. What I do consider unjustifiable is the dismissive insult and personal attack among ourselves. That is the method the Cuban government uses against us, it is anti-democratic and not at all ethical. No activist should fall for something like that. We must have consensus on basic points, and that is what Open Space has achieved and what we have sought for years. I am happy to be able to participate in that initiative.Q: What do you think about the intention of the governments of Cuba and the United States to re-establish diplomatic relations after more than half a century of confrontation?A: As of last December 17 a new era for Cuba began. The government of the United States has realized that the prior policy was a dead end with no way out, and now a host of opportunities is opening for our people.I have asked people about the measures announced by the American government, and they look favorably on them, because they mean prosperity for the people. But when I have asked them what they think of the Cuban government in the face of this challenge, they answer that they do not trust it. Nevertheless, I am optimistic. We must create awareness that dialog is best. I believe that the United States is committed to us and has intelligently confronted the regime.We have to have the courage to reclaim democracy and to respect our rights. The era of change may be coming for all Cubans, and it falls to everyone to do it in harmony. Cuba has to flourish again for everyone and for the good of all! Unanimity is not good. We must live in diversity. But it is good for us to be unanimous when dealing with differences. Well…better I say it in verse: Cuban, Why is it that it doesn’t matter to you To ruin your dignity? Because so much calamity Will never produce heroism. Bury that pessimism That daily assaults you. Raise your voice, you are able To be the example of the titan Awaken those who are Prisoners of their own webs. Translated by MLK[1] http://translatingcuba.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Eduardo-Diaz-Fleitas-finca_CYMIMA20150130_0009_13.jpg [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Spring_%28Cuba%29 Continue reading
Cuba and the United States: Regret the past or build the future?
JORGE CALAFORRA, Warsaw | Diciembre 22, 2014

On 17 December 2014 at 12:01 Washington DC time, the President of the
United States, Barack Obama, announced the United States' new policy
toward Cuba. It should be recalled that the president of the United
States of America makes his decisions taking into account all the
interests of that country, not just in the short term but also in the
medium- and long-term.

Fidel Castro, with the objective of remaining in power as long as his
health allowed, began the absolute destruction in 1959 of all existing
institutions in Cuba, all individual freedoms, and at the same time
generated a conflict with the United States and brought about the
rupture of diplomatic relations and the introduction of the embargo.
Previous attempts by the United States to reinitiate diplomatic
relations were boycotted and Cuban policies eventually led to the
bankruptcy of Cuba and Venezuela.

The embargo, initially designed to bring about the collapse of the
dictatorship, ended up being just as a medium of exchange during
American elections. The lack of information, tools and the impossibility
of achieving one's dreams, led almost all the human capital Cuba
possesses to leave the country or to be ready to leave it at the first
opportunity that presents itself.

Therefore it is unlikely that a shift toward democracy in Cuba would
have occurred with the previous strategy, without a radical change in
the strategy of the United States towards Cuba.

The release of Alan Gross, kidnapped after a failed attempt to exchange
the five spies for the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring, the release of
a Cuban spy very important to the intelligent services of the United
States, the release of 53 political prisoners in Cuba, as well as the
release of the three spies remaining imprisoned in the United States,
were fundamental and nonnegotiable issues for both governments.

For the creators of this strategy there was no better time than today to
begin implementing it. The resumption of relations tries to avoid a
possible collapse of the country, an uncontrolled situation of domestic
violence within Cuba, and a sudden and massive emigration to the United
States. President Raul Castro knows that improving the economy is not
working and will not work and that the entry of American capital will
increase the legitimacy of his heirs, as well as offering the Cuban
people what the majority of them really want at this time; more food at
a better price and the ability to be closer to their families, between
the island and exile.

The resistance of the Cuban people to the update of the socialist
economic system, which has not brought them benefits, is demonstrated by
an emigration that is accelerating from year-to-year. Raul Castro
prefers to sharpen the demographic problems and provide incentives for
people to use their talents to improve their lives through independent
work. Obama's plan will try to reverse this flow, that is already
exhausting the Florida's capacity for the absorption of new labor and
social support.

The Cuban effort to destroy the Venezuelan economy, by recommending to
them that they take the same measures that Cuba took in the 1960s, is
finally bearing fruit, and the fall of oil prices, from $107.89 a barrel
on average in June 2014 to $55.91 this Wednesday, has led both parties
who made the decision this week not to postpone it any longer.

The American decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with Havana
and to begin the process that will lead to the end of the embargo in
force since 1960 has little to do with Cubans.

It is a geopolitical strategy to try to position themselves as the
culturally dominant matrix that absorbs a culturally different circle,
the Latin American. To do this, the United States uses its best asset:
force and its admirable economic wealth. Force and wealth that it has
produced and maintained since it was formed as a nation, because they
were able to come together as confederated states and live together with
their differences. And to always point to great common objective:
prosperity to guarantee opportunities for all Americans.

We Latin Americans, however, despite belonging to the same cultural
circle, have not been able to stay united. Since the wars of
independence and the division of the continent into twenty republics, we
have spent almost two centuries in permanent conflict and cyclical
poverty. If we were to identify ourselves as belonging to the same
cultural circle, we could develop a strong Latin American industry, the
only possible source of a true democracy.

A scenario with members of the current Cuban opposition in power is not
an option desired by either of the two governments, and the strategy
desired by the Republicans in the United States, to strengthen the
embargo and unconditionally support the opposition in overthrowing the
Cuban government, can be discarded after its disastrous application in Iraq.

The Cuban government can greatly help to implement the new American
strategy in Latin America, and Cuba can benefit hugely if the decisions
taken by its Council of State benefit not just its members' own
families, friends and children of friends, but if they begin to make
decisions to the benefit of the 13.6 million Cubans. More than two
million Cubans live in the United States, which according to the 2010
census had more than 250,000 firms doing more than 51 billion dollars in
business, and the talent, creativity and skills of the Cuban labor force
will be another cornerstone in this strategy, with an enormous benefit
for Cuba and Cubans.

From the point of view of the United States, the forces left to Raul
Castro in his remaining two years in power* is an advantage to ensure
stability in the country and to take advantage of his influence in the
region to build the foundations of a new structure in its relations with
Latin America.

The lack of details, and the traditional style of Raul Castro's speech,
broadcast simultaneously with Obama's on 17 December at noon, should not
cause much concern. Fidel Castro has ended his active political life and
President Raul Castro's is coming to an end. On the morning of 9
November 1989, the leaders of the Communist Party of the German
Democratic Republic confirmed the support of the German people for the
construction of socialism; while that same night the same people
joyously celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall.

From the point of view of the art of negotiation, this decision is fine
as it allows Raul Castro to construct an exit strategy, and so avoid the
failure that would lead to an extremely dangerous situation for the
whole region: a rise in populism financed by Russia or China. This would
aggravate Latin America's problems such as drugs and corruption,
bringing as a consequence greater instability in the region and an
increase in migration to the United States. In other words, more costs
and fewer businesses.

We Cubans must once again build a prosperous and democratic country. But
for it to be democratic, we must first and fundamentally modernize its
economy, There are no human rights without prosperity. And we must not
relegate this responsibility to the government of another country.

Both Raúl Castro and Barack Obama have opened new opportunities, and we
will have as much democracy in Cuba as we as a civil society are able to
build.

We have had one of the most inhuman governments of all time. The groups
close to the current halls of power are not going to disappear, nor will
they want to renounce their benefits and Mafia methods, nor their secret
tribunals.

But not everyone now participating in the system belongs to these
groups. Cuba will be prosperous if we are capable of building
institutions for the benefit of all, if we include those with
constructive attitudes, creating a state of law, forcing the government
to respect human rights, and if we destroy the mafias and the corruption
and prevent decisions from being taken without transparency. From within
Cuba, and from civil society, organized and with clear objectives.

If we as Cubans know how to take advantage of American money and
know-how, we can not only rebuild our country but support a better
future for all of Latin America.

If the phrases uttered in speeches (in that of Raul regarding respect
for the United Nations, and in that of Obama with regards to human
rights) are a reflection of some agreement in the negotiations, then the
preconditions exist to improve the conditions of individual freedoms on
the island. But we will have rights only to the extent that we are
effective in fighting for them, and if we are capable of defending them.

We can devote the entire 24 hours in a day to regretting the past, or to
building our future. It we lose ten pesos, somehow it comes back to us.
Ten minutes that is lost, is lost irretrievably.

Jorge Calaforra www.foresightcuba.com

*Translator's note: Raul Castro has stated that he will step down from
the presidency in 2018.

Source: Cuba and the United States: Regret the past or build the future?
-
http://www.14ymedio.com/englishedition/US-Cuba-relations-opinions_0_1693030693.html Continue reading
Sunday Respite for the Ladies in White
14YMEDIO, Havana | Diciembre 22, 2014

The Ladies in White marched for the freedom of political prisoners as
they left mass this Sunday, an activity held every week and one which
had special significance on this occasion because it was the first time
since the announcement of reestablishment of relations with the United
States. In Havana and Pinar del Río, where there are usually arrests and
acts of repudiation against these peaceful activists, there were no
repressive activities.

In Santiago de Cuba, however, the Citizens for Democracy suffered the
usual repression, according to the Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation. Of the 36 women who were preparing to go to
mass, only half managed to arrive there, while the remaining 18 were
detained and abandoned in sites far from their homes.* The organization
came into being after a rift with the Ladies in White over differences.

No other province had reported, as of last night, more cases of arrests
or ill-treatment. The meeting this Sunday put to the test, for many, the
political will of the Cuban government to behave in way coherent with
the negotiations held with the United States government. The relative
calm of the day has been interpreted by many opponents, however, as a
maneuver by the regime to deceive public opinion and the international
press.

At the end of the mass at Santa Rita Church in Havana, some 60 women
marched through the pedestrian crossing on Fifth Avenue and then
gathered in a park where some activists expressed their disagreement
with the resumption of diplomatic relations between the United States
and Cuba, which some classified as a betrayal of the Cuban people.

Among the speakers who expressed that view were Ángel Moya, former
prisoner of the Cause of the 75 of the 2003 Black Spring, and Antonio
González Rodríguez, who both rejected the results of the talks because
they only lead to sustaining and recycling in power the current leaders
and their family members.

*Translator's note: It is a common practice of State Security Agents to
detain dissidents and, rather than processing them at a police station,
to simply drive them far out into the countryside and put them out of
the vehicle, with no way to get home.

Source: Sunday Respite for the Ladies in White -
http://www.14ymedio.com/englishedition/Sunday-Respite-the-Ladies-White_0_1693030706.html Continue reading
14ymedio, 22 December 2014 – The Ladies in White marched for the freedom of political prisoners as they left mass this Sunday, an activity held every week and one which had special significance on this occasion because it was the … Continue reading Continue reading
14ymedio, Jorge Calaforra, Warsaw, 20 December 2014 – On 17 December 2014 at 12:01 Washington DC time, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced the United States’ new policy toward Cuba. It should be recalled that the president … Continue reading Continue reading
Crisis Among Cuban Dissidents? / Ivan Garcia
Posted on October 19, 2014

The egos and grandstanding are projecting an uncertain outlook within
the peaceful opposition in Cuba. It's like a symphony orchestra without
a conductor, where musicians play their own tunes.

It's not for lack of political programs that Cuban activists cede space.
They are overflowing with ideas, projects and platforms aimed at
democratic change. Some are more consistent than others.

And although all platforms and political parties are entitled to have
their doctrines and programs, the reality in Cuba has demonstrated the
ineffectiveness of dissident theses.

Born deformed as a matter of genesis. They have no popular support.
There are ever fewer reports about them in the Florida media, the
Spanish press and the BBC.

Indeed, to be an opponent on the island is an act of unquestionable
value. Hanging in the air of the Republic is a dark law that sanctions
with up to twenty years behind bars those who oppose the regime or write
without permission.

But the repression, fierce or subtle, the lack of public space, has
transformed the dissidents into a group of coffee klatchers, without
support in their neighborhoods.

The evidence of their incompetence is that they're out of sync with the
average Cuban. Never before in the 55 years of the Castro brothers'
government, has the percentage the citizenry who disapprove been higher.

Any survey or conversation with people on the street serves to confirm
it. But political proselytizing has failed to organize that anger.

Their interests are different although they sound analogous. Carlos, a
carpenter, also wants democracy. He feels that the military autocracy
has hijacked the future of his family with unfulfilled promises. Be he
has no confidence in the discourse and narrative of the Cuban opposition.

In the old taxis in Havana, in the lines for bureaucratic paperwork, or
at a baseball stadium, people talk to you without hesitation about a
radical change to improve the economy and the precarious quality of life.

Some have read or heard about an opposition paper. But it does not
excite them. They see it as distant as a government minister. Although
the dissidents are neighbors on their same block, they have done little
for his district or municipality.

They are disconnected, like a cosmonaut from the Earth. The particular
world of dissent is to generate news, report meetings, make suggestions
or report police abuse, but they lack a basic foundation to become
legitimate actors for the future that is upon us.

The fate of the Island will be decided in the next five years. Perhaps
earlier. The great majority of those in European Union, the United
States and Latin America also want a democratic Cuba.

But the opposition's raw material to manage the future is tenuous. So
the strategy of the international community is to agree to a bizarre
transition from totalitarianism to authoritarianism with Castro
supporters. According to their perception, it is the least bad way.

On issues ranging from the repression to the shamelessness, the
opposition has degenerated into a "swallow" dissent who at the first
change ask for political asylum, preferably in the United States.

Those who remain are tough, but have adapted to the rules dictated by
the regime.

There is an unwritten law of what can be done within the magical realism
of autocracy.

The elderly rulers have gone from an anachronistic and authoritarian
totalitarian system to another with a veneer of modernity and more
flexible laws.

In 2014 you won't be sent to prison for writing articles critical of the
government. The most that will happen is a short detention in a police
dungeon, an act of repudiation, or screams on the public street from an
enraged assassin.

Depending on the circumstances, the dissidence is allowed to hold
discussions, forums and debates in private homes. For two years, just
for dissenting, Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Munoz, both
black, have been held in jail. Another dozen activists are also
prisoners or awaiting sentencing.

But the playing field is much wider today than before 2003. Since
February 2013, most opponents and independent journalists are allowed to
travel abroad.

A golden opportunity for more effective political lobbying. And they are
not taking advantage of it. Everything stays in sterile encounters.
Probably the most consistent program is led by Antonio G. Rodiles with
his Citizen Demand For Another Cuba.

(http://www.porotracuba.org/demanda-citizen-by-another-Cuba-2/).

It is reasonable, because it has a grip on reality and not in the
political science fiction of other groups with their outlandish appeals.
Rodiles uses a primary logic.

If we want Cuba to change, the government must ratify the United
Nations' international covenants signed in 2008. This is the gateway to
legalizing a future civil society where, in addition to freedoms and
human rights, there is political pluralism.

All opponents should support Rodiles and the Campaign for Another Cuba.
But egos and grandstanding prevails. Each dissident leader is surrounded
by a cloud of minions who defend their project as if it were an island
under siege.

In turn, they attack and discredit contrary proposals. The worst of
these brawls is that they don't generate any credible proposals. Just
bluster and platitudes. And behind them are the special services with
their strategy of division.

Unfortunately, the Lades in White, an organization whose street marches
in 2010 forced the government to release the 75 dissidents imprisoned in
the 2003 Black Spring, has been split by intrigues and intemperate
personalities.

This scrapping also extends to other dissident groups. More than an
internal crisis or one of leadership, the Cuban opposition suffers from
paralysis and the inability to join with the citizens.

When I read that some opposition groups claim to have the support of
thousands of followers, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. An event
that triggers a massive protest needs capable leaders Any event that
triggers a massive protest only need capable leaders. And that is what
we're lacking.

Iván García

Photo: Antonio G. Rodiles, Coyula Regina and Ivan Garcia in a panel of
independent journalism in Cuba organized by Estado de SATS in Havana on
September 4, 2014.

9 October 2014

Source: Crisis Among Cuban Dissidents? / Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba
- http://translatingcuba.com/crisis-among-cuban-dissidents-ivan-garcia/ Continue reading
The egos and grandstanding are projecting an uncertain outlook within the peaceful opposition in Cuba. It’s like a symphony orchestra without a conductor, where musicians play their own tunes. It’s not for lack of political programs that Cuban activists cede … Continue reading Continue reading
I’m going to start gathering my posts from other sites here, because I’m writing very little  these days and have half-abandoned my blog. In addition to this concert, I attended the one by Fito Paez and enjoyed it even more … Continue reading Continue reading
Money Bristles, Yesterday and Today / Miriam Celaya
Posted on July 6, 2014

About the previous post, which -as expected- elicited many well and
ill-intentioned comments, I noticed one in particular, a reader
commenting about what used to be our digital magazine Consenso, which
the commentator himself referred to as having opened a Cuban window on
the world. I happen to agree with him and, as part of the management
group and the editorial board of that magazine, I thank him for the
memories and the praise.

But the truth is that his comment inspired me to search through those
articles that were published at the time in Consenso, among which I
found one from my friend and colleague Reinaldo Escobar relating to the
subject of the debate: money. Because, though some were biased in
reading my post and tried to twist the meaning of what I said,
attributing it to my personally attacking those "who did not
like14ymedio.com", when read correctly, it shows that what I attack is
the vice of envy, questioning other's finances, exactly the same matter
that Reinaldo Escobar discussed in Consenso in 2007. Contrary to my
habit of not posting here articles I have not authored, I reproduce it
today, with the previous authorization of the writer. You be the judge
about its worth, and I hope you enjoy it.

Money Bristles

Reinaldo Escobar

It seems almost superfluous to explain that any political activity
generates costs, from the essential existence of a professional staff,
dedicated to party work on a full time basis, to the development and
dissemination of documents, including trips involving transportation,
food and lodging outside the cities where they reside; organizing
seminars, meetings or press conferences, or simply connecting to the
Internet. Can you think how it would be possible to carry out politics
without these things?

There isn't the slightest possibility for an entity in the nascent Cuban
civil society to establish anything like a lucrative business to cover
the costs of political work. There are no cafeterias, rental rooms,
bicycle repair shops or birthday clown entertainers willing or able to
meet those expenses. Not even one of the leaders of the internal
opposition has his own resources, family assets from before the
revolution, or has jewelry to sell or an inheritance to enjoy; most of
them do not receive a salary, they are unemployed. However they engage
in politics in a professional manner, they secure their own
transportation and stays away from home, they undertake conferences,
print documents, receive and send emails. Where does the money come from?

The Cuban government's answer to this question is that the money comes
from the US, be it Florida exiles, independent foundations, or the
American government itself, which, if there ever was any doubt, has just
approved an $80 million budget to this effect. It is known that some EU
or Latin American countries also contribute, but it is clear that,
according to the official interpretation of the facts, this last source
of funds is, when all is said and done, from the US, by way of an
extensive and tangled pathway.

Perhaps the most interesting question is not where the money comes from,
but under what conditions it is received.

José Martí raised funds for Cuban independence from selfless Tampa
cigars manufacturers, but also from wealthy American, Mexican and Cuban
philanthropists. There used to be a picture at the Museum of the
Revolution, long ago removed, where Fidel Castro was seen sitting at a
table in front of a mountain (a small mountain) of dollars. The photo
was taken in New York, while raising funds to buy the yacht Granma, plus
weapons for the 82 revolutionaries. Were these donations subject to any
conditions? Of course they were! The funds were donated, in the first
case, to end the humiliating Spanish colony and in the second, on
condition to overthrow Batista's dictatorship. There is no evidence, not
even hallway gossip, giving the impression that the money was used for
the personal benefit of the apostle [as Cubans call Jose Marti], who
always wore the same threadbare black suit, or on luxuries of the
foremost leader, who, it is rumored, did not cross his legs in public so
none could see the holes on the soles of his shoes.

The triumphant Cuban revolution received lots of aid from the Soviet
Union and other socialist countries, and I am speaking just of what is
euphemistically called "fair trade between poor and developed
countries". I'm talking about ships full of weapons and other war
supplies, about college scholarships, technology transfer, collaboration
of police intelligence, even of space travel, which would have never
happened if Cuba had not complied with the condition of becoming the
first socialist country in the Western Hemisphere. It is a historical
fact that when Che Guevara traveled to China, a joint communique was
issued on completion of his trip, as is the custom, in which the
Chinese, bragging with sincerity, objected to the qualification of
"disinterested" made by the Cubans about the support the Asian giant was
giving the small island.

In those early years, parallel to the subsidy of the revolution, the
financing of the counterrevolution began. It is well documented that at
least between 1959 and 1965 almost all the opposition activities were
directly funded by the CIA, the Pentagon, and the US State Department.
The central characters themselves have stated so, and all of them
justified this financing, so obviously stipulated by the fact that the
government of Fidel Castro was supported by Communist powers.

Today, Cuban dissidents are imprisoned when it is shown, or when there
is a conviction, that they have received money from the US. That was, in
every case, the heaviest accusations resulting in disproportionate
sentences to which the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003 were subjected.
This went as far as to include in the same boat journalists receiving
payment in exchange for articles in foreign newspapers. It led, among
other consequences, to new divisions among the internal opposition:
those not receiving money and receiving it through the U.S. Interests
Section, and those who did not receive funds from the US, but from
independent institutions in Europe and Latin America.

What almost no one asks is where the money comes from today to publish
all those costly national and provincial newspapers, organs of the
Communist Party, of the Union of Young Communists, or the Central Cuban
Workers Union. How were the open forums financed all this time, the
militant marches, the whole material base of the "Battle of Ideas", the
campaigns for the rescue of the five combatants of the Interior
Ministry, jailed in the United States, the trips abroad, the foreign
guests at political events, billboards on highways, t-shirts with
slogans, or the little flags.

Would it be possible to pay all that with the monthly member
contributions to these organizations, which isn't even enough to pay the
salaries of thousands of professional cadres scattered throughout the
whole country, in every province, in every municipality, occupying
premises that do not pay rent, where water and electricity are consumed,
where there are phones and secretaries, gas-guzzling cars that include a
chauffeur?

Political work involves disbursements, be it from the opposition or the
government. If the party in power has at its disposal boxes of public
funds to cover expenses and those in the opposition, besides not having
even legal recognition, also don't have, literally, a place to drop
dead, what is the recommendation? To let the government do whatever it
wants without offering the slightest resistance, or to limit the action
only to within earshot, without even a megaphone to amplify it?

The only option the members of the opposition on the island have been
cornered into, in order to be able to exercise their specific political
tendency, is that of accepting financing from whomever offers it, unless
they are OK with being a "family faction" without the least echo in
society. This is part of the deliberate intention on the part of the
government to disallow any alternative of political change in Cuba. This
intention stretches from a long series of die-hard slogans (socialism or
death, we are ready to shed the last drop of blood, the Island will sink
in the sea first…) to the modification of the constitution to enact the
immobility of the system. The harder it is to dissent, the better for
the government. If the material and legal obstacles aren't enough, if
fear of going to jail is not enough, that's where the ethical scruples
(prejudices?) come in, preventing decent people from accepting funds
that automatically turn them into mercenaries of the imperialism.

Ideally, the Cuban media should not be the party's fiefdom, but a public
space for all political persuasions; with the state budget partially
allocated to fund the work of civil society and of political parties
duly registered under the law. If the state, instead of distributing all
these funds and resources in an impartial manner, funds that proceed
from the working class, monopolizes them only for the favored party, it
loses its moral right to ask where the opposition's money comes from.
Additionally, it should not deny anyone the possibility of becoming a
disinterested donor or a calculating investor. The state should protect
those citizens who have a political proposal, the right to defend it and
have it compete publicly and on equal terms, without being forced to
sell their souls to the devil.

Translated by Norma Whiting

Posted 9 June 2014 by Miriam Celaya

Source: Money Bristles, Yesterday and Today / Miriam Celaya |
Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/money-bristles-yesterday-and-today-miriam-celaya/ Continue reading
About the previous post, which -as expected- elicited many well and ill-intentioned comments, I noticed one in particular, a reader commenting about what used to be our digital magazine Consenso, which the commentator himself referred to as having opened a … Continue reading Continue reading
Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on April 15, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – On April 12, 2003, media throughout the world carried the
news of the execution of three young Cubans for their involvement in the
hijacking of the Regla-based boat "Baraguá." They were trying to flee
the country and get to the United States.

Leftist newspapers, sympathetic to the Cuban regime, tried to justify
the act, writing: "the government wanted to strike at the roots of
airplane and boat hijackings." They admitted that the punishment was
intended to send a message, meaning that none of the accused was
entitled to a fair trial.

Some went further. Heinz Dieterich Steffan (who later became the
ideologist of "Socialism of the XXI Century"), told on his website how
the then-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was sending a message to the
White House: "You have declared war and your first soldiers have
fallen." And he later added: "I want you to know how to interpret the
message of the firing squad, so there is no more bloodshed."

The executions occurred just over a week after the group of 11 young
men, armed with a gun and a knife, had diverted the ferry some 30 miles
offshore.

How did it all happen?

The hijackers, upon boarding the boat, fired a shot in the air and one
yelled: "This is fucked! We're going to the U.S.!" After 30 miles the
fuel ran out and the boat drifted. The sea was very choppy, so in an act
of tragic naivety they agreed to be towed to the port of Mariel with the
promise that the authorities there would give them fuel.

They didn't tie anyone up (as—according to family members of the
accused—the prosecution claimed). If they had, how do you explain that
upon arriving at Mariel some passengers, at a signal from security
agents, jumped into the water? Enrique Copello Castillo, who tried to
prevent one of the foreigners on board from escaping, had the gun. But
he didn't use it even when the situation got out of his control. This
shows that he was not a criminal, just a young person desperate to reach
the United States, in search of freedom and the chance for personal
advancement.

On April 8, 2003, after a summary trial, the sentence was issued:
Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro L. Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis
Martínez Isaac were condemned to death. The rest of those involved in
the attempted hijacking were given prison sentences: life imprisonment
for Harold Alcala Aramburo, Maykel Delgado Aramburo, Ramon Henry Grillo
and Yoanny Thomas Gonzalez; 30 years for Ledea Wilmer Perez; and from 2
to 5 years for the women traveling with them.

In March of that same year, the government had jailed 75 human-rights
activists, independent journalists, and political dissidents. These were
in the Villa Marista prison when the hijackers were taken to that
infamous headquarters of the Cuban political police. Ricardo González
Alfonso, the now-exiled independent journalist and one of the 75, has
left behind a disturbing account of the last hours of Enrique Copello
Castillo, who shared his cell.

The day of the trial, a State Security captain took him to an office to
explain that, although they were seeking the death penalty for Copello
Castillo, there was a chance he would not be executed. He therefore
asked for González Alfonso's cooperation in helping save the condemned
man's life if he tried to commit suicide. In light of what happened on
April 11, when the condemned were taken before the firing squad without
notice to their families, it can be interpreted that the captain was in
charge of "supply": he could not allow the scapegoats to escape their
own sacrifice. How could they make an example of Copello Castillo if he
had not attended his own execution?

Danger Zone

On San Francisco Street in Havana, between Jesus Peregrino and Salud
streets, is the building where Bárbaro L. Sevilla García lived with his
mother, Rosa Maria. Some neighbors remember what happened on April 11,
2003. The street was full of cars with military license plates from 6:00
am., forming a police blockade. Some women from the Interior Ministry
knocked at the door of Rosa Maria to tell her that her 22-year-old son
had been shot at dawn. The woman started screaming and ran out to the
street naked, yelling the whole time: "Down with Fidel!" and
"Murderers!" Afterward she was forced to leave the country, say the
neighbors, who did not give their names for out of concern for their safety.

A short time later police began moving into the building on the corner,
on Salud Street. Even today the area is considered "dangerous."
Neighbors also warned this reporter not to take pictures of the
demolished middle balcony where the mother and her son lived, because
the green building on the corner of Jesús Peregrino is the DTI
(Department of Technical Investigations), a division of the Interior
Ministry.

They did not use explosives, but charge will be used in court

Why so much harshness and speed in the execution of punishment if there
was no alleged injury or loss of life during the kidnapping? The lawyer
Edilio Hernández Herrera, of the Cuban Legal Association (AJC,
independent), has prepared a legal opinion that reveals how the law was
broken in Case 17 of 2003.

The defendants were tried for the crime of Acts of Terrorism. Law No. 93
"Against terrorism" was published on December 24, 2001, in the Official
Gazette.

In the opinion of Hernández Herrera, the portions of the law that apply
to the crime committed would be Articles 14.1 and 16.1.a, pertaining to
the taking of hostages and acts against the safety of maritime
navigation. But the court sentenced the boys for acts that certainly did
not happen. The other offense charged, from Articles 10 and 11.c,
referred to "acts committed with explosives, chemical, biological or
other substances." With this they intended to justify the sentences of
the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, an economist and independent journalist,
one of the political prisoners of the Case of the 75, shared a cell in
Villa Maristas with Dania Rojas Gongora, age 17, who was on the boat.
She was the girlfriend of Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, who was shot. The
girl told how another mother learned that her son had been shot the day
she was to bring him toiletries. The last time Dania saw her boyfriend
alive, one of the guards said sarcastically: "Plan now how many children
you are going to have."

Roque Cabello has no doubt in stating:

"The dictator Fidel Castro wanted blood. He was furious also because in
the midst of this, sending the 75 political dissidents to prison was
turning out to be a fiasco. That gained worldwide condemnation. It was
his decision: execution and life imprisonment for these young people. So
those who are now continuing to serve a life sentence are prisoners of
Fidel Castro.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Lilianne Ruiz

Translated by Tomás A.

Source: Eleven Years Since the Baragua / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating
Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/eleven-years-since-the-baragua-lilianne-ruiz/ Continue reading
HAVANA, Cuba – On April 12, 2003, media throughout the world carried the news of the execution of three young Cubans for their involvement in the hijacking of the Regla-based boat “Baraguá.” They were trying to flee the country and … Continue reading Continue reading
Opponents' Attorney Can't Practice / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on February 24, 2014

HAVANA, Cuba – The attorney Amelia Rodríguez Cala, hired by Gorki Águila
to conduct his defense — in a trial against him still unscheduled since
it was postponed on 11 February — has been suddenly sanctioned to six
months without the ability to practice her profession in court. For this
reason, the singer of the punk band Porno para Ricardo will have to find
another attorney to represent him.

Although Cubanet could not obtain statements from Rodríguez Cala, this
information was provided first by Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello and
confirmed by Gorki Águila and Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in
White, who told this paper she had hired Rodríguez Cala on 27 January to
represent her before the courts of the Department of State Security,
responsible for looking that organization's headquarters on 3 January, a
judicial action without precedent since 1959, according to Soler.

She also said that her attorney had taken her investigation to the
Picota police station where they had taken the various items stolen from
the headquarters that day at 5:30 in the morning, but there they told
her everything was in the hands of Villa Marista, main interrogation
headquarters of the Cuban political police.

The labor sanction against Rodríguez Cala also left incomplete the
process initiated by Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello to ask the court to
revoke her parole or immediately cease the physical and psychological
attacks, the siege and the police cordon that surrounds her own house
and that flares up every Wednesday to prevent her meeting with Network
of Community Communicators, over which Roque Cabello presides. The
answer of the Court, so far, as been that it "has no evidence" to proceed.

Roque Cabello says that the attorney Rodríguez Cala has defended her
since 1997, and she especially remembers the time before the trial began
that would once again send her to prison in March of 2003, when the
attorney for the defense hugged her, visibly moved, to tell her that
they hadn't even allowed her to see the file against her.

During the 3 days that the so-called Black Spring trial lasted,
Rodríguez Cala defended 25 of the 75 accused. In total, she has defended
150 dissidents in her career.

Gorki Águila, meanwhile, faces a trial still without a date and now
without an attorney, where he would submit the complete documentation
stamped by the Notary Registry of the Mexican Department of the Interior
and the Cuban Consulate in that country, which proves that he takes the
two Tradea pills that the police found in his backpack on prescription.

The prosecutor — because of the police complaint — seeks to try Águila
for "production, sale, demand, trafficking, distribution, having illegal
drugs, narcotics, psychotropics and other similar effects."

In Section 191, subsection C, under which they want to condemn him,
reads: "The mere possession of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances
and other similar effects without due authorization or prescription, is
punished: -C) with privation of liberty of three months to a year, or a
fine of one hundred to three hundred shares* (…)"

According to Águila, Rodríguez Cala showed she was sure of being able to
free him from prison, thanks to the documents proving his innocence.

Because of the summary nature of the trial against Águila doesn't allow
the defense to produce proofs until the moment of the trial. Numerous of
the singer's friends on the social networks remain alert and have opened
the website: La Libertad de Gorki es la de tod@s! [Gorki's freedom is
everyone's].

Finally, Rodríguez Cala also was the writer of Review Appeal document
for Angel Santiesteban. The award-winning Cuban writer being held at
military forced-labor center in Havana. On 28 February he will have been
in prison for a year. The document intends to demonstrate that his trial
was spurious, without due process, in which the defendant was defenseless.

The Minister of Justice has not responded regarding whether he will
order the promotion of the Review Appeal initiated by Cala Rodríguez

As of now and for six months, the attorney has been demoted, with a much
lower salary than she had as a professional, to a technical position
(which in practice is carried out by an associate), fetching and
carrying papers for other attorneys, in a Legal Collective in La Lisa
Municipality.

*Translator's note: The Cuban legal system establishes fines as "shares"
so that the actual amounts can be administratively adjusted over time
without having to change the underlying laws.

22 February 2014

Source: Opponents' Attorney Can't Practice / Lilianne Ruiz | Translating
Cuba -
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HAVANA, Cuba – The attorney Amelia Rodríguez Cala, hired by Gorki Águila to conduct his defense — in a trial against him still unscheduled since it was postponed on 11 February — has been suddenly sanctioned to six months without … Continue reading Continue reading
A whopper of a Cuban sandwich helped feed the crowd at the first Kiwanis Club of Hallandale Beach Hispanic Festival on Saturday. About 400 people came to see the 75-foot behemoth that was prepared by Continue reading