Cloud Seeding or the Sword of Voltus V / Yoani Sanchez

The Japanese anime Voltus V

The Japanese anime Voltus V

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 28 August 2015 — Undone, with the sparks of short circuits clouding his vision and the cabin smashed into smithereens, Voltus V faced the worst end against a fearsome enemy. However, at the last minute, he drew his sword and in a clean cut slew his enemy. Japanese anime, so popular on the island during the eighties, seems to have inspired the Cuban authorities in their tendencies to hold off on certain solutions until a problem has already resulted in the worst ravages.

This has happened with the recent announcement that, as of this coming September 15, a campaign will begin to “artificially increase the rain.” Through a technique known as “cloud seeding,” Pyrocartridges will be launched from a Russian Yak-40 plane so that the water vapor particles will condense, and this condensation will produce precipitation, according to the official press.

The first reaction of many on reading the news was to wonder why they hadn’t done something like this earlier. Did the country have to get to its current state of hydrological emergency for Voltus V to draw his sword? With the dams at no more than 36% of capacity and 25 reservoirs completely dry–at the so-called “death point”–now the experts from the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INRH) propose to bombard the clouds?

The answers to these questions not only alert us to the insolvency and inefficiency of our state apparatus to handle certain issues, but also clearly indicate that they have not been up to the task to preserve this valuable resource. As long as leaks and breaks in the country’s water system continue to waste more than 50% of the water pumped, no water project will be sustainable.

As long as leaks and breaks in the country’s water system continue to waste more than 50% of the water pumped, no water project will be sustainable.

On the other hand, it is worth questioning how water management has been approached for decades in our nation, which has prioritized the creation of large reservoirs. This decision has ended up damaging the riverbeds of the countless dammed rivers and has reduced the sediment they carry to the coasts, with the consequent erosion of flora and fauna in the deltas.

­Of course, many of these reservoirs–now below half their capacity, or totally dry–were built at a time when the Hydrologist-in-Chief made decisions about every detail of our lives. The marks of his excesses and harebrained schemes are still apparent in our country, excesses that failed to give our people more food, more water and more freedom.

The marks of excesses and harebrained schemes are still apparent in our country, excesses that failed to give our people more food, more water and more freedom

So enormous public works of damming the rivers and streams were undertaken to the detriment of other solutions that would have helped us to ease the current situation. Among them, investments in wastewater treatment and the desalination of seawater, which surrounds us on all sides. Every hydrological bet in the country was placed on one card: the rain. Now, we are losing the game.

If the announcement of “cloud seeding” had been made in a country with an environmental movement, we would see protests in the street. The method is not as innocuous as the newspaper Granma wants us to think. In fact, the critics of this practice consider it “an alteration of the normal rhythm of nature,” and argue that interference with moisture in one part of the country could compromise the rain pattern elsewhere.

Looking up to see whether or not the rains come, we Cubans are waiting for something more than a crop of clouds altered with a blast of silver iodide. We deserve a coherent hydrology policy, over the long term, without magic or spells, but with guarantees. May the next drought not find us like Voltus V, destroyed and thirsty, raising an arm to draw our majestic sword… that we haven’t carried for a long time.

“El Sexto” in the Clutches of the Castro Beast / Luis Felipe Rojas

Piece by "El Sexto" (mixed media)

Piece by “El Sexto” (mixed media)

Danilo Maldonado is a Cuban political prisoner who just embarked on the terrible path of committing to a hunger strike. This was confirmed by his family members from Havana late on August 25th.

“El Sexto” (as in “The Sixth [hero]”, referring to the 5 Castro spies who were imprisoned in the United States, and in open mockery of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party) is a restless youth who for months ran Cuban Intelligence ragged in Havana, painting his graffiti art around as he pleased.

The following is a short and intense note posted by Lia Villares today on her blog. She has accompanied him during the months of travail since his apprehension for painting the names “Fidel” and “Raul” on two pigs that he was going to release in a Havana park, as performance art:

From Lia Villares

In a telephone conversation a few minutes ago with Danilo’s lawyer Mercy, she told me that—because she has only been licensed for two and a half months, and is in the midst of family problems—she has “turned over” Danilo’s case to another lawyer.

This Monday when she started work, the first thing she did when she got to the office (at 23rd and G) was to pick up Danilo’s file.

She said she had done everything possible for Danilo, including filing with the prosecutor more than 4 petitions to modify the conditions of release; all were rejected. The last time she went to apply for modification of conditions of release at the Municipal Prosecutor’s office, a prosecutor named Viviana told her that she couldn’t do anything because the file was at the Attorney General’s Office (at 1st and 18th).

She insists she wants to take on Danilo’s defense, because she sees no “crime” in the case, and although Danilo had told her during their last visit (some months back) that he did not want any defense, she still wants to defend him because she also sees no “dangerousness in the act,” which is what they are arguing in denying the modifications she has requested.

“I didn’t want to let go,” she told me in an anguished voice, “and everyone who has come to see me knows that I haven’t stopped doing everything available to me.”

Tuesday I will see her along with Danilo’s mother and take to her the Complaint document prepared byCubaLex, the independent legal counsel office. I delivered a copy of it on Tuesday, August 25 to the Municipal Prosecutor of La Lisa, to the Provincial Prosecutor of Havana, and to the Attorney General of the Republic. I have an acknowledged receipt from each of them. They are required to respond within 60 business days.

The document explains how Danilo’s case ranges from arbitrary detention to the violation of the universal right to freedom of thought and expression, how “due process” has not been accorded him, and how his right to liberty, security, and personal integrity has been violated.

The Complaint is directed to the officials charged with enforcing the law, that they “accept this document, and investigate the facts here reported, and submit the officers involved to criminal proceedings, while restoring the law violated, to avoid the international responsibility of the Cuban state for breach of its obligations to respect and guarantee the human rights of all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, without distinction, as affirmed by almost all the relevant international treaties.”

And it further requests his “immediate release as a necessary measure to protect his personal well-being. The precautionary measures requested are raised as necessary and appropriate, according to the truthful information reported and provided in this document.

“The extreme gravity and urgency of this case justifies the need to protect the physical and mental integrity of Maldonado Machado, because of the extreme seriousness of the threat to his freedom and personal safety presented by his arbitrary detention and current imprisonment by the national authorities. The urgency of the measure is clear when we set forth the extremely vulnerable position Danilo finds himself in because of his role as a dissident and defender of human rights.

“It is internationally understood that ‘a person who in any way promotes or seeks the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, nationally or internationally’ should be considered a defender of human rights, and that the work of human rights defenders is fundamental to the universal implementation of human rights, and for the full existence of democracy and the rule of law.

“Defenders of human rights are essential for strengthening and consolidating democracies, since the goal that motivates the work is for society in general and seeks to benefit it. Therefore, when a person is prevented from defending human rights, the rest of society is directly affected.”

Translated by Tomás A.

Same Hatred, Different Collar / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Graphic Source: http://www.e-lecciones.net

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Lord Acton

Hate crimes are violent acts induced by prejudices against a person or group considered “different,” owing to their social class, race, ethnicity, nationality, political affiliation, ideology, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. Modernity has driven the legislative powers of many countries to establish judicial standards to combat those types of crimes and to prosecute the perpetrators. This has entailed a reduction of such abuses, which are provoked also by the social context of the persons or groups, and by the stereotypes created by societies.

In Cuba, the official and propaganda media of the regime inform us about hate crimes that are committed “in capitalist countries,” of course. Thus, the Cuban population knows of those violent behaviors that occur in places where there are no military conflicts and which are miles away from their security and wellbeing — rather than those that could be occurring at that moment in their own environment, just inches from their own backside, or at just a hair of separation from their own head.

The reports don’t reach Cubans directly or unadulterated, but rather strained through the proselytizing sieve of the state analysts. It is the same hatred, its collar placed by the official discursive demagoguery and the rulers of some countries, who because of rampant special interests — often personal, partisan or group-based — are aligned with the Cuban dictatorship.

Ever since the Castros rose to power in 1959, they have relied greatly on incentivizing, for their own benefit, this type of conduct classified as a crime in the penal codes, and even in the constitutions, of some countries. The Castros utilize this criminal behavior as propaganda, and as political confrontation and victory.

Years of repeating the same modus operandi with total impunity confirm this. While they deny one part of the society the exercise of its freedom of expression, they reward pro-government gangs when these behave in a criminal fashion that favors the authorities.

In my country, where strikes are prohibited de facto, where almost everything is directed by the authorities and nobody dares to perform that type of discriminatory violence without the consent of the government, the historic Cuban leader — retired since 2006 — has on more than one occasion called upon the citizenry to “take control of the streets,” which they allege repeatedly and coercively, belong to the revolutionaries.

Numerical advantage notwithstanding, they represent the lion and the victims represent the bound monkey. However, there is even more vileness in hiding under the civic skirt while throwing people into the bullring of that cowardly and vulgar misdeed.

Tattooed onto the history of the first two decades of this system is the humiliation, repeated and sustained for years, of ordering those who were filing their exit papers to labor in the fields.

Similarly, there was the harassment in the 1980s, with the so-called “acts of repudiation,” inflicted on those who wanted to leave for the United States via the Mariel Boatlift.

The authorities have stuffed their legacy full of actions of this type directed at leaders of the peaceful opposition, independent journalism, and civil and human rights organizations. It is a government crime that persists today. This is not because I say so, it is because they do it.

Such is the brazenness, and such has been the impunity throughout the 56 years of dictatorship, that Cuba now is not enough for them, and they dispatch their committed civil army — individuals who want to maintain their standard of living, or who are afraid to refuse in these despicable activities so as to keep their jobs or perks — to other countries, as we saw at the Summit of the Americas this past April in Panama.

It is not just that some of us extend the open hand of reconciliation and dialogue, and in return receive the fist of official ridicule and violence. But, what can we expect from an extortionist political model that took over the country, amputated and demonized democratic praxis upon imposing a single-party system — thus eliminating political competition — and that governs testicularly, according to their whims, despite the fact that its long tenure has ruined Cuba?

In these times that seem like closing stages, or like historical summations, within our territory and regarding it, in which many observers beyond the rulers are thinking positively and constructively about the Cuban people, it is necessary that we reframe the concept of the peace that we want for our society.

It should not be one with a clockwise-rotating swastika — as that intimidating one of Nazi Germany’s — but rather a “pax” anchored in respect, inclusion, social justice, sustained harmony, and equity among all the children of the same one nation.

Hate crimes in Cuba? Definitely — almost all instigated, run and monitored by the government.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

13 August 2015

Somos+ to Launch its First Foreign Group in Florida / Somos+

Translation of the video:

I am pleased to announce that the Somos+ movement will open its first site outside Cuba on Saturday, August 29th, 2015. From twenty-nine countries we chose the United States as a platform for this important event. And it is Florida that opens its doors to us so we can move forward with more strength as an alternative political movement for change. That change that is you, that is me, that is all of us. We are more. Somos+

Translation of Spanish summary:

The time has come to organize our efforts territorially and to instituionalize our goals. To follow our news and stay connected, and to actively participate, visit our section SÚMATE, #ElCambioEresTú.

28 August 2015

“We Will Be More Effective In Promoting Human Rights,” Says Kerry’s Assistant / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Tom Malinowski (Flickr)

Tom Malinowski (Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 27 August 2016 — In mid-August Tom Malinowski was part of the delegation accompanying John Kerry during his visit to Cuba. The Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights was not only present at the raising of the flag at the embassy in Havana, but met behind closed doors with a group of Cuban activists in the residence of the US charge d’affaires.

Some questions of concern to Cuban civil society and the Cuban exile were included in the questionnaire that Malinowski agreed to answer for 14ymedio via e-mail.

Lilianne Ruiz. Several groups within the Cuban community believe that the historical commitment of the United States in favor of the democratization of the island has weakened since the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries.What can you respond to this?

Tom Malinowski. The commitment of my Government to promote universal human rights and democratic principles in Cuba remains as strong as before, as Secretary of State, John Kerry, said during the opening ceremony of the embassy in Havana on August 14.

“The opening of the embassy has allowed us to increase our contact with the Cuban people”

The opening of the embassy in Havana allows us to advocate more for these values. These changes have already allowed us to increase our contact with the Cuban people. Secretary Kerry and I were able to meet with several activists and other representatives of Cuban civil society on August 14 and it was clear that they are taking advantage of the new situation to push for real change.

Now we have more possibilities to discuss human rights issues with Havana. I met March 31 with the Cuban government to plan for a future dialogue. It will be more difficult to treat US organizations and other international NGOs as criminals now that Cuba has diplomatic relations with us.

The new approach also facilitates Cubans’ access to information and resources for they themselves to build their own future.

Ruiz. Will the programs that support Cuban civil society change as a result of this?

Malinowski. President Obama has made it ​​clear that the US government will continue the programs that promote universal human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba, as we do in dozens of countries around the world. However, it is possible that the Cuban Executive will maintain its objection to these efforts and try to repress those who are participating in these programs.

After Cuba eliminated many immigration restrictions in 2013, a larger number of members of civil society on the island has been involved in training courses abroad, developing their professional networks.

“The United States and its companies are among Cuba’s largest suppliers for food and health-related products”

Ruiz. The Cuban government alleges that the economic embargo prevents the buying of medicine and medical equipment from the US. For example, there is a shortage of some medicines for cancer treatment in Cuban hospitals. Is there any truth in the statements of the Executive?

Malinowski. The restrictions on transactions with the Cuban government do not apply to medicines or medical equipment. At least since the Act for Democracy in Cuba was approved in 1992, medicines and medical supplies, instruments and equipment are authorized to be exported to Cuba. Far from restricting aid to Cubans, we are proud that the people of the United States and its companies are among its biggest suppliers of food and health-related products. In 2014, US exports to Cuba totaled nearly $ 300 million in agricultural products, medical supplies and humanitarian goods.

One of the advantages of our new policy is that it will be harder for the Cuban government to blame the United States for any humanitarian difficulties which might befall the Cuban people. The United States will do its part, according to its laws, to enhance the success of the self-employed, to improve access to the internet and to increase economic ties between the two peoples, with the objective of benefitting ordinary Cubans. As the Secretary Kerry said, the embargo has always been a two-way street; both sides have to remove the restrictions that prevent Cubans from taking full advantage of these changes.

Ruiz. After December 17, the arbitrary arrests, intimidation and beatings of peaceful activists have continued and the regime refuses to respect fundamental freedoms. How will the US put into practice its commitment to support the defenders of human rights in Cuba?

Malinowski. First of all, we condemn the harassment instigated by the Cuban government, and the use of violence or arbitrary arrests of citizens exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. And we have addressed these points directly to the Government.

When we announced our new policy in December of last year, we said we did not expect that the behavior of the Cuban government would change overnight as a result of the restoration of diplomatic relations. However, we start with the idea that we will be more effective in promoting human rights if we have diplomatic relations and an embassy in Havana, because now the international attention will be focused on the policies of the Cuban government instead of instead of limiting itself to criticizing the embargo.

We have not stopped denouncing human rights violations and we will continue our dialogue with the Cuban Government on these matters, emphasizing the need for it to keep its promise to allow access to international observers.

El Sexto Confirms from Jail His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2015 – In a telephone call this Thursday, artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, confirmed that he is on a hunger strike. From the Valle Grande prison he also referred to his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, whom a State Security agent had told of his “speedy release.” The graffiti artist has made the announcement cautiously because it is not the first time that “they have tricked him with something like this,” Machado told this daily.

On August 24, El Sexto’s family waited outside the prison for hours for his release. Days before, an official from State Security had reported that date as the one on which he would be liberated. However, the prison authorities denied that “an order or paper allowing him to leave” had arrived. The graffiti artist advised that he would declare himself on hunger strike, although until today his situation could not be confirmed.

Wednesday at the Office of Attention to the Valle Grande Jail Population, Machado was assisted by an official who assured her that no one in the penitentiary center was on hunger strike. However, on exiting, relatives of other prisoners advised her that her son together with other prisoners had begun a fast.

El Sexto recently received the International Vaclav Havel 2015 Prize for creative dissidence, awarded in a ceremony organized under the framework of the Oslo Freedom Forum which he could not attend because he was in prison.

The artist has been imprisoned since last December on a charge of contempt for having tried to carry out a performance with two pigs painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul.” Eight months after his arrest he has not been taken before a court.

Translated by MLK

We Cubans Need to Solve Our Own Problems / Ivan Garcia

Hombre-cargando-agua-en-Santiago-de-Cuba-_ab-620x330Fifty-four years, seven months and eleven days after that January 3, 1961— the day on which American diplomatic personnel closed their embassy — seventy-three year old Denis Sentizo, a heavy-set African-Cuban with an easy smile, did not want to miss a historic moment: seeing the stars and stripes waving again against his country’s intense blue sky.

“Right now I can’t help but think about my father, may he rest in peace,” says Santizo. “He worked as a kitchen helper at the US embassy in the 1950s. In 1961 the embassy closed and he couldn’t find another job, so he had to go cut sugarcane in Camagüey (500 kilometers east of Havana). He died in 1991 and would have wanted to live to see this moment. Given our geography and history, this promises more advantages than disadvantages.” Continue reading

4-star Cockroaches / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Facade of the Plaza Hotel in Old Havana (14ymedio)

Facade of the Plaza Hotel in Old Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 26 August 2015 – When Francina Islas and Juan Andres Sanchez planned their Cuban vacation from Miami, they didn’t imagine that their stay in Havana would become a sequence of discomforts and annoyances. Three days at the centrally-located Hotel Plaza was enough to know that the excellence of Cuban tourist facilities is often a publicity mirage with no connection to reality.

The latest figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that the country experienced a 21.1% increase in foreign visitors between January and May of 2015, compared the same period from a year ago. However, at the same time that the number of tourists was increasing, customer demands were increasing.

The couple who shared their experience with 14ymedio said, “We were not looking for luxury, just minimal conditions of hygiene and maintenance, working hot water, no cockroaches,” said Francina, a Mexican traveling with her Spanish husband and their daughter.

With difficulty, the family managed to book a room in Havana from Spain. The flood of tourists has left little availability in the accommodation network which includes 430 establishments throughout the country, including hotels, apartment hotels, motels, villas, hostels, houses, cottages and campgrounds. Continue reading

Graffiti Artist El Sexto Declares a Hunger Strike after Eight Months in Prison / Diario de Cuba

Graffiti artist El Sexto (Danilo Malodonado) (VOICE PROJECT)

Graffiti artist El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) (VOICE PROJECT)

DiariodeCuba.com, Havana, 25 August 2015 – Graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, declared a hunger strike Tuesday, according to his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, in statements taken by Radio Marti. As of August 25 he will have spent eight months in custody following his arrest and incarceration in the Valle Grande prison for the rebellious performance with the two pigs named Fidel and Raul.

In recent weeks, State Security had told the graffiti artist that he would leave jail on August 24, news that the jail authorities themselves denied Monday under pressure by relatives who appeared at the penitentiary center to seek explanations.

This Tuesday the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), which has awarded a prize to the graffiti artist for his artistic fight in favor of human rights, demanded his liberation.

“El Sexto is a prisoner for satirizing a family dynasty that for 57 years has arrogated to itself absolute power in Cuba, without holding a single democratic election and repressing any critical expression no matter how inoffensive it might be,” said the president of the HRF, Thor Halvorssen.

“Like the inhabitants of the farm [Animal Farm], in Cuba, artists like Danilo Maldonado, Tania Bruguera and Gorki Aguila, are systematically punished for refusing to live under the capricious tenets of a totalitarian regime lacking any sense of humor and repressing even the least manifestation of liberty,” Halvorssen said.

Translator’s note: Danilo is being held in pre-trial detention, he has not been tried.

Translated by MLK

The Missing Statistics On Women In Cuba / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Gender violence affects an unknown number of victims in Cuba every day, but the statistics of these reprehensible acts do not come to light. (Silvia Corbelle / 14ymedio)

Gender violence affects an unknown number of victims in Cuba every day, but the statistics of these reprehensible acts do not come to light. (Silvia Corbelle / 14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 25 August 2015 — In the neighborhood of Cayo Hueso everyone knew her as “the woman with the machete slashes.” You didn’t have to get too close to see the scars on her arms. These marks for life were made one night when her husband returned home with more alcohol than patience and, machete in hand, went after her. He was in prison for a couple of years and afterwards returned to the same tenement room where the fight had been. “He didn’t have any place else to live and the police didn’t get him out of here,” she said, apologetically. Gender violence creates an unknown number of victims every day in Cuba, but the statistics on these acts are not made public.

For weeks now, marking the 55th anniversary of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), we’ve had to hear on television and in the official press the numbers of women who have achieved administrative positions, who are at the helm of a company, a part of Parliament or who have managed to graduate from college. They stuff us full of only some of the numbers, to show that the women’s emancipation has reached this country, while remaining silent on the data about the dark side of reality, where the man commands and the woman obeys. Continue reading

Dreaming in Color / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Havana’s Malecon — quiet — today (Image from Wikipedia offline)

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, 5 August 2015 — On August 5, 1994, the Havana shoreline filled with a human tidal wave that took the capital by surprise and overflowed into international news. The national press, as always, had to wait for the approval of the censor before reporting on the event. Nothing like this had happened in thirty-five years of the Castro dictatorship: a tsunami of people overcame fear, and hundreds of them went to the seaside promenade, driven by rumors that boats from the United States were coming ashore to transport those who wanted to emigrate.

Many thought it was another exodus approved by the authorities, like the Mariel boatlift. When they got there, the unraveling rumors gave way to frustration, and anti-government demonstrations broke out along the length of the Malecon and adjacent areas. Thus was born the event known as El Maleconazo. Continue reading

Neither Strong Men nor Soft Coups / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

A Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana. (14ymedio)

A Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 24 August 2015 — Two notable Cuban analysts, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Rafael Rojas, have plunged the scalpel almost simultaneously, but without having come to an agreement (as far as we know) about a particular issue: the popular anti-government protests in Latin America. Montaner in, “The Terrible Time of the Strongmen” and Rojas under the title, “Soft Coups?” in the Mexican newspaper La Razón

The first, the politician, makes a list of twelve demands shared by the citizens of Latin American countries against governments of the left, the center and the right; the second, the academic, questions the term “golpista” (coup supporter) from the leftist governments faced with their respective “peaceful and institutional oppositions, without the support of the armies, who are loyal to their governments.”

Looking at this simultaneously from different positions – which do not diverge – overlooking the Latin American political landscape, one appreciates the agreement on the inefficiencies of the continent’s democracies. The protests, organized or spontaneous, with greater or lesser violence, allowed or suppressed, are a reflection of the discontent of certain sectors who do not feel duly represented in the halls of parliaments, where what is demanded with shouts in the street should be settled in a calm way. Continue reading