Assassins, Accomplices, and Victims (II) / Ángel Santiesteban

Abel Prieto, Cuban Minister of Culture, Eduardo Galeano and Roberto Fernández Retamar, President of Casa de las Américas. AIN FOTO/Omara García Mederos

Ángel Santiesteban, 2 September 2016 — After writing what will now be considered the first part of this post, and publishing it under this same title, I was arrested by State Security; however it was not the writing, and much less the visibility that it would attain in my blog, that was the real cause for the arrest. My captors, in the height of contempt, tried to make me believe that I was a trickster, a vulgar swindler. In a flash I became, again, a dangerous offender. I confess that I even got to imagine myself in the shoes of some famous swindlers whom I met in movies, but this was not at all a game, and the cell was not a movie set.

I have dug around a great deal in their procedures up to now, and I know their falsehoods, which was why I urged them to let me know the details of my mischief. What was the cause? What would they do now to present me as a swindler? Continue reading “Assassins, Accomplices, and Victims (II) / Ángel Santiesteban”

First would be to convince me of that strange condition of con artist that even I did not recognize in myself. Time and again, fraud would be cited in their arguments, with no trace of it when the facts were compiled. Diffusion, accusation…so that the crook I was would contradict himself and ultimately see the error of his ways. Which ways?

They themselves would offer me very few details. Everything had occurred a year ago, and on the Isle of Pines–that island south of the larger one which, arbitrarily and without popular consultation, the government decided to rename the Isle of Youth. While I was shut away in a dungeon, my “interlocutors” mentioned a fraud which they were not able to explain very well, only to later refer to a packet of leaflets which, supposedly, I had given to the photographer and human rights activist Claudio Fuentes, who was also detained.

Try as the hired gun might to convince me of the “misdeed” and that I had no option other than to recognize my “crime,” I could not help but burst out laughing. The allegation was so ridiculous that I could have dignified it with many guffaws such as the one it provoked at the start, but these spurious accusations have no intention other than to ruin the lives of we Cubans who think differently, and laughter is a good thing.

I had not other option than to let them know that I was well aware of those strategies, that I was sure that they were trying to make me believe that Claudio had denounced me, and how that was a well-worn tactic–even in the movies and police novels. “I do not think the same as you. I am not a coward, nor am I your ’comrade.’ I am not a lackey.” That’s just what I said to them.

Then they laughed, but their laughter was not that of a victor, it was the nervous laughter of someone who’s about to lose. I confess that I felt frustrated; I have always dreamed of taking on an intelligent adversary, an enemy convinced of the rightness of his actions. This would be much better, but this time again it was useless to pine for such a thing, and the worst was that those gendarmes had not the slightest idea what the words “liberty” and “democracy” mean.

I was so annoyed that I started to speak of my childhood, of those days when I believed that Cuban State Security was one of the best in the world, even mentioning out loud the titles of a few novels: “Here the Sands are Whiter,” and “If I Die Tomorrow,” and “In Silence It Has Had to Be.” I mentioned the mark that those works had left on a bunch of proud adolescents who, still, believed that what which those fictional officials were defending actually existed in reality–and that we even believed, naively, that on this Island was a concerted effort to create a lasting prosperity.

The bad part, I assured them, was when I knew the whole truth, when I understood that those agents were only after ensuring the perpetual rule of the Brothers Castro. I mentioned the moment in which I crossed the line, that line that placed me, irreversibly, on the opposite side. I spoke of my discontent with a totalitarian regime, and about how I discovered the true essences of those killers in the service of the Castros: people capable of abusing women, of planting false evidence for the prosecution (after brutalizing them) of those who fight for change in Cuba. They would laugh, nervously…and with no segues they arrived at a new argument, undoubtedly the most important one, the one that caused them to shut me away.

What had truly annoyed them was a post that I had published regarding Roberto Fernández Retamar, in which I called him an assassin. According to them, I had not considered the fact that Roberto was my colleague. “I don’t have colleagues who are assassins,” I told them, and they replied that my attack had not achieved any importance, that it had already been forgotten, and that Fernández’ true comrades had made a tribute to him immediately. Then why, I asked, were they holding me there? Why were they mentioning that post? For sure, they were contradicting themselves–but I was already used to that, and once again I smiled, sardonically.

I thought of a version of Silvio Rodríguez whom I had seen on TV making tributes, in song, to Fernández, which made me suspect that it all could be a reply to my post. My detention had nothing to do with the leaflets nor with any fraud– that seizure was orchestrated after I accused Roberto Fernández Retamar of having signed a death sentence against three youths who only wanted to get out of an extremist country where they no longer wanted to live.

I had already received some news about the comments that had been incited by that post, and I also knew of the vexation that it had provoked in some writers, who judged it excessive that I should call Fernández an assassin. Again it was I who was the monster, I who committed savageries, I the irreverent and cruel barbarian–while Fernández was presented as the venerable elder, the respectable and virtuous man, the honest citizen, even after having signed a death warrant.

My detractors, the same who became his defenders while forgetting that the poet was one of the signatories of that judgment that would send three youths to the execution wall, denigrated me again, but never mentioned that the “revolutionary” poet lent a veneer of legitimacy to the death of those three young men, whose only sin was to have tried to leave a country that was tormenting them, to separate from an Island and from the dictators that have been ruling it for more than 50 years. Is that a crime?

Those who were annoyed by the post are the same who repeat the charge against me that the official discourse prepared some years ago. Those who claim that I was unjust toward Roberto Fernández Retamar did not defend my innocence when I went to jail. They saw me be taken away, they knew I was shut away in a cell, and they were silent. They never had doubts, they never confronted a power that decided to accuse of me of physically mistreating the woman who was then my companion. Those who again judge me and cast me aside are also guilty of my imprisonment.

Those who today are annoyed because I accused the president of the Casa de las Américas, did not lift a finger to request, at least, a thorough investigation of my case. They believed in the “dignity” of that woman, and today turn a deaf ear to the statements by my son. They, whom my post angered so, are the same who remain silent when “State Security” beat the Ladies in White, a “State Security” that beats women who are demonstrating peacefully. What kind of security is this? Of what State? This shows their double standard and hypocrisy. Those who signed the accusation against me today are irritated by my “attack” on the poor poet Fernández, following the orders of Abel Prieto, who at the same time was following those of the highest hierarchy of a dictatorial government.

My attackers defend only their permanence in that official union that is the UNEAC. They who seek to tarnish me want to preserve their membership in the official delegations sent to any event taking place outside the Island. They who raise their voices to attack me defend the shoes and sustenance of their children. They who attacked my liberty because, supposedly, I was beating the mother of my son, said not a word after the thrashing that State Security delivered to the actress Ana Luisa Rubio.

That woman who found herself so vulnerable, so trampled, had no choice but to leave Cuba–and what else could she do, if the UNEAC did not offer her any support nor did it organize a demonstration to confront that power that decided to batter her. No woman was to be found confronting the janissaries that bashed Rubio. In those days there was no book going around collecting the signatures of indignant UNEAC members, if any there were. Nobody went out on the street–apparently, they were amusing themselves by protecting the crumbs they get from the powers that be for their services to the “fatherland.”

 Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others

The Ex-President of the National Bank of Cuba Has Been Arrested / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 26 October 2016 — Under the alleged charge of influence peddling, Héctor Rodríguez Llompart, an ex-Cuban diplomat and the ex-President of the National Bank, was arrested.

“No one knows the motives,” said a source close to the Llompart family. “I think after the Ochoa case, the people running this country lost all the elements of inhibition in human conduct.”

Retired and 82-years-old, on August 8, 2016, there appeared in Granma an article that was later reproduced for the digital portal, Cudadebate. It was entitled “Viva Fidel,” in allegory to the 90th birthday of the ex-Cuban leader. However, in spite of his advanced age, his copious history and the laudatory writing about Fidel, Llompart was arrested at home, in the Casino Deportivo neighborhood, together with his wife, Patricia Arango.

Llompart, ex-Vice Chancellor, ex-President of the State Committee for Economic Collaboration (CECE), ex-Vice President of the National Commission on Economic and Scientific-Technical Cooperation and ex-President of the National Bank of Cuba, is known for depenalizing the dollar in 1993, and for the implementation of the Cuban Convertible Peso as the second official currency in 1994. Both measures had a significant impact on the economy and on living conditions for Cubans.

According to sources consulted, Patricia Arango, Rodríguez Llompart’s wife, after being freed and subjected to a search of her home, has been confined to her house.

Héctor Rodríguez Llopart is a native of Havana and did not join the Rebel Army during the conflict in the Sierra Maestra. He passed through the Cuban Chancellery, where he was Vice Minister, Minister-President of the CECE, and then the President of the National Bank of Cuba for 10 years.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Nominated for Reporters Without Borders Prize / Iván García, Tania Quintera

Ivan Garcia (L.), Tania Quintera (C.) and Raul Rivero (R.) Summer 2000
Ivan Garcia (L.), Tania Quintera (C.) and Raul Rivero (R.) Summer 2000

Tania Quintero and Iván García, Lucerne and Havana, 25 October 2016 — To all our friends:

Thank you for the congratulatory emails to Ivan and me (Tania Quintera) for having been nominated by Reporters Without Borders for their Press Freedom Prize in the category of Citizen Journalists.

Thanks also for the notices published in Diario de CubaDiario Las Américas and Martí Noticias.

Let me dwell on the photo from Martí Noticias, the only one where Raul Rivero, Ivan and I all appear together. In the caption they say they we are in the press room of the Cuba Press agency, but as Raul Rivero used to say, Cuba Press was an “abstraction”: it never had a headquarters or a press room. Continue reading “Nominated for Reporters Without Borders Prize / Iván García, Tania Quintera”

Most of the time, the thirty some journalists of Cuba Press, climbed the three flights of stairs to the apartment of Raul and his wife Blanca Reyes, at 466 Penalver between Oquenda and Francos streets in Central Havana, and from its phone, a black apparatus with the number 79-5578, located on the hall table, we dictated our articles to people in Miami or Madrid and they posted them on the internet.  We’re talking about the years 1995-1998.

We had no internet and few Havana homes had cordless phones, which now are common. Then, we didn’t even dream of cellphones, texting, Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook… If I remember rightly, it was in 199 when 2 or 3 of us from Cuba Press, among them Ivan and I, got some money and went to the Carlos III Mall and bought fax machines, and through them sent our work, a “luxury” in the midst of so much insecurity.

The photo from Marti Noticias, posted here, was taken in the summer of 2000 for a report on Cuban independent journalism, prepared by the Swiss journalists Ruedi Leuthold and Beat Bieri.

Raul in his only denim shirt, Ivan with his Sunday t-shirt, and me with my “coming and going” dress (in 2000 the island of the Castro’s was still living in “a special period in a time of peace”), we were ar Ricardo Gonzales Alfonso’s house, in 88th Street between 9th and 7th, in Miramar.

Three years later, on April 4, 2003, Ricardo and Raul would be tried together in the People’s Court of Diez de Octubre, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. For health reasons, Raul was released in late 2004 and April 1, 2005 came to Madrid as a political refugee.

Ricardo remained in prison until July 2010, when the negotiations between the Catholic Church, the Ladies in White, the Spanish government and Raul Castro, the political prisoners of the Group of 75 were freed and he was exiled to Spain. Ricardo continues to live in Spain, and in Cuba, it is worth remembering, was a correspondent for Reporters Without Borders.

Along with the two of us, Reporters Without Borders is also recognizing the hundreds of journalists, independent, alternative and unofficial today who in Cuba do or try to do journalism by and for Cubans.

But honestly, to be fair, that award should be given to those who are faring worse than we are: our colleagues Lu Li Yuyu Tingyu arrested in China; Ali Al-Mearay, arrested in Bahrain; Negad Roya Saberi, an Iranian-Britin sentenced to five years in prison in Tehran; the Brazilian of Japanese origin Leonardo Sakamoto; or the site SOS Média, of Burundi.


The Old Age of Elpidio Valdés / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

The image of the artist Denys Almaral gives an unexpected turn to the iconography created by Juan Padrón.
The image of the artist Denys Almaral gives an unexpected turn to the iconography created by Juan Padrón.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 24 October 2016 — Several generations of Cubans have grown up watching cartoons based on the adventures of Elpidio Valdés. A Mambí – Cuban freedom fighter – friendly and popular, the character has starred in many popular sayings and some jokes repeated ad nauseam. Willing to annihilate the Spaniards with a slash of his machete, nationalist to the core and vindicator of the version of history clung to by the official discourse, this insurrectionist tried to represent Cuban identity in his picaresque rebelliousness.

The image created by the artist Denys Almaral gives an unexpected twist to the iconography created by Juan Padron. Aged, forced to sell newspapers to survive and marked by economic hardship, this Elpido Valdes of this little vignette belies the heroic tints in which he appeared in numerous shorts and feature films dedicated to the witty independence fighter. Continue reading “The Old Age of Elpidio Valdés / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Instead of the country for which he fought, the rogue spends his last years in a Cuba where those who live better are those who have hard currency, where the dreams of equity are a thing of the past, and where the generation that helped to build the system is a “hindrance” to the government’s desire for a monopoly.

The island is full of Elpidio Valdéses asking for alms, standing in long lines to buy the only bread they have the right to each day and dreaming of the project of this nation that led them to the countryside to shake off the yoke of a foreign power. Now, they are not subjects of the metropolis, but of the Castro regime.

Elpidio Valdes -- the Jaun Padron version "in his youth"
Elpidio Valdes — the Juan Padron version “in his youth” Source:

Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba’s Private Restaurants / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 24 October 2015 — Some news outlets echoed the words of the Vice President in charge of the Council of Provincial Administration for Havana, Isabel Hamze, when she exposed the Havana Government’s reasons for temporarily suspending the issue of new licenses for paladares — private restaurants — and revising those that already exist. Look, this campaign isn’t a matter — like so many have repeated — of a war against the self-employed, the Cuban private initiative, the restaurants or the late-night bars. It’s much more: a field battle, subtle and personal, against some private entrepreneurs who brushed up against power.

It’s true. The municipal governments of Havana affirmed that they had several meetings with 135 owners of Havana paladares and conversed with them, implying a threat, about particular negative tendencies that have appeared in some private restaurants. But yes, according to official figures, in Havana there are more than 500 paladares and 3,000 cafes. So why didn’t they all attend these meetings? Continue reading “Hidden Agenda Behind the Attack on Cuba’s Private Restaurants / Juan Juan Almeida”

At the beginning of this month, Cuban authorities ordered some private nightclubs to close, citing allegations of violations of the closing hour (3:00 am), not having parking, hiring artists without going through agencies, permitting the consumption and trafficking of drugs, accepting the practices of prostitution and pimping in the establishments, not respecting Customs regulations in the importation of goods for commercial use, acquiring and smuggling goods, money laundering and investing capital of doubtful origin, not abiding by contractual relationships as established in Law 116 or the Work Code, violating city regulations and evading taxes.

Doing so would be understandable. But they didn’t close Bolahabana or the Ashé Bar, the Shangri Lá and others, where incidents had been reported with some members of the Castro elite. Thus, the measure is simply a demonstration of power.

You remember that in August of last year, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, the bodyguard-in-chief (and Raul Castro’s grandson), now with a higher rank, because of a “skirt” problem, insisted on expelling from Cuba, with an indefinite sanction against entering the national territory, the Spanish businessman, Esteban Navarro Carvajal Hernández, owner of the Shangri Lá bar and the Up&Down bar-restaurant.

These particular restaurants are the most visible part of the economic reforms promoted by General Raúl Castro. No one in his right mind can believe that a “Vice President in accordance with a Council of Provincial Administration,” a Cuban official of the fourth category, sweaty, poorly coiffed and with an excellent aptitude for being a police officer, is the person in charge of informing the media that the Cuban Government is deciding to take a step backwards from such a trumpeted opening of the new economic model.

So, why did they do it this way?

The present socio-political situation and the historic advertising caused a considerable increase in the number of travelers that come to the island today. The images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Matthew, although at a too-high price, helped the government monopolize the friendly view of the international community.

The moment is favorable for General Raúl Castro, but politically it’s not sensible to go back to landlord methods.

The day after tomorrow, in the next session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, the presentation of the Cuba Report entitled, “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba,” will resume the robbery of owners.

The Cuban government hopes that the majority of the countries’ representatives present will disagree with maintaining a law that they consider a violation of international rights. This is the same government that today hinders, harasses and blockades, without the least respect and in its own backyard, not useful enemies, but a group of entrepreneurs who have bet on private initiative and social improvement.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Cuban Institute For Freedom Of Expression And The Press Denounces Harassment Of Its Members / 14ymedio


14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 October 2016 – A Cuban State Security operation has been directed, so far in October, against different independent journalists who cooperate with the Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP), according to Monday’s press release from that organization.

These operations have resulted in the arrests of nine journalists, raids of their homes, and confiscation of the tools of their trade. Victims say they have used physical violence and verbal threats. Continue reading “Cuban Institute For Freedom Of Expression And The Press Denounces Harassment Of Its Members / 14ymedio”

The journalist Dianelys Rodriguez, director of the media Panorama Pinareño, denounced that last Friday, 21 October, his house was searched without a warrant. The official in charge, identified as Lt. Col. Jesús Ramón Morel, head of the Department of Confrontation of Pinar del Rio Counter-Intelligence, with the help of two other officers, forcefully dragged Rodriguez and covered her mouth so she could not protest, according to the journalist. Finally, she was taken to the police station where she was held for five hours. They prepared a warning letter and threatened her with incarceration if she continued her work.

Four other journalists’ were also victims of raids on their homes and confiscation of the tools of their trade. The preliminary balance sheet, according to the ICLEP members affected, was the confiscation of five printers, two laptops, a video-camera with a tripod, six cameras, three cellphones and other auxiliary devices.

Last Friday, Ricardo Fernandez, Panorama Pinareño’s editor, was summoned to the Pinar del Rio Technical Office, where he was threatened with going to prison and “assured that ICLEP would disappear.” Previously, the political police had raided his home, confiscating a laptop and cellphone.

Raul Velaquez, ICLEP executive director, was arrested while investigating what happened to these journalists. On this occasion, they took Raul Velaquez’s cellphone, gave him an official warning and threatened that he would be prosecuted if he returned to visit the province.

ICLEP’s legal director, Raul L. Risco Perez and journalist Claudia Cristina Ortega were summoned and threatened with jail. In the east of the country, Leovanis Correa Moroso, director of Santiaguera Voz, was “arrested, handcuffed and beaten in the face” and then remained “under arrest for three days” and also was threatened with prison if he “continued working as a citizen journalist.”

In the municipality of Jatibonico in the province of Sancti Spiritus, Osmany Borroto Rodriguez, director of the Espirituano, was accused of distributing the newsletter in the streets. Shortly before, Ada Maria Lopez had been arrested in the capital’s Fellowship Park and taken to a police station because he was distributing the Habanero Amanecer (Havana Dawn) newsletter.

Another case of arbitrary detention against ICLEP journalists occurred on 14 October against a Majadero de Artemis worker, Yosdanys Blanco Hernandez. The journalist was detained in a market by agents of the National Revolutionary Police and taken to the Artemis National Police station, where he was held under arrest for 24 hours. The agents explained to him that he was arrested because there was a complaint against him.

ICLEP’s denunciation is part of the growing wave of repression by the authorities towards independent media, which in recent months has led to the arrest of many journalists.

Lashing Out Again Against Private Restaurants / Rebeca Monzo

Menus from private restaurants — paladares — in Havana

Rebeca Monzo, 24 October 2016 — The Peoples’ Powers and the Ministry of Internal Trade are mobilizing again against successful paladares — privately owned restaurants — using the excuse of corruption and drug sales.

To clarify, it is true that some of these establishments, sadly, are bars and discos and these crimes have occurred. Above all, because there are no licenses for these kinds of businesses, so they get licensed as paladares, and as a “cover” offer some culinary specialities. Continue reading “Lashing Out Again Against Private Restaurants / Rebeca Monzo”

Among the things that really annoy the Cuban state, is that these private establishments have proved very successful, exposing the ineptitude and inability of the administration of the regime to face competition. One of the main reasons for this state failure are the low wages and high political demands they make on their employees.

One of the regime’s pretexts to attack these restaurants is prostitution and drugs, but this has nothing to do with them, but rather with the bars and discos, which can only survive under a restaurant license. And it is here that inspectors and corrupt police “get fat.”

What is not said publicly, it is that many of these trouble spots belong to children of senior leaders of the country, while the attacks, unfortunately, are lodged against the most politically vulnerable.

However, the regime has a hard time officially acknowledging that the main dens of prostitution and drugs, have been and are those belonging to the state, the sites of the the biggest scandals of this kind, as happened a few years ago in the Old Havana Brewery and in the Commodore and Copacabana nightclubs, just to mention a few examples.

Furry’s Offspring Set Up Camp in the US / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 20 OCtober 2016 — Yet another son of Army Corps General and former Interior Minister Abelardo Colomé Ibarra, alias “Furry,” arrived in southern Florida and decided to say. Nothing unusual in that, if we think back.

Nineteen-year-old Antonio Colomé Hidalgo, son of Furry and Iraida, left Cuba on a flight from Santa Clara province and landed at Miami International Airport at about noon on Friday, October 14.

Antonio was not travelling alone. His final destination was Georgetown, a city in Scott County, Kentucky, where he planned to attend the annual Festival of the Horse, which was being held from October 21 to 23. But upon his arrival in Miami, the purpose of his visit took an unexpected turn: Tony decided to stay and then moved in with some relatives living in Naples, Florida. Continue reading “Furry’s Offspring Set Up Camp in the US / Juan Juan Almeida”

The response from the family has been silence. But the “sudden” decision to settle in the United States does appear not to have been spontaneous. Quite the contrary. It was planned down to the smallest detail.

Citing health problems, General Colomé, resigned as member of the Council of Ministers and from his post as Minister of the Interior on October 21, 2015. His resignation was accepted and, “in recognition of his long revolutionary service, the Council of State agreed to bestow on him the Order for Service to the Fatherland in the First Degree.”

The impression left by an article on the website Cubadebate, the same publication known for ignoring and covering up, is that General Colomé was forced to resign because — along with his successor, Carlos Fernandez Gondín, and other high-ranking officials — he was deeply involved in systemic corruption, diversion of state resources, money laundering and leaking information. A widespread rumor is that, although efforts were made to conceal it, he quickly went from being the accuser to being the accused.

Antonio’s arrival now brings to three the number of Furry’s children who have moved to the United States. I am also told that one of his daughters, Gabriela, is — as the song by Cuban singer and and musician Wilfredo “Willy” Chirino goes — on route and will be arriving soon. It’s only to be expected, given all that has happened.

A Vaccine Against Populism 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The book 'The Populist Deception' was published this spring by Ediciones Planeta Colombia
The book ‘The Populist Deception’ was published this spring by Ediciones Planeta Colombia

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 October 2016 — While it may be considered tacky to reveal the trick with which a circus magician entertains his audience, it is very useful to expose the tricks used by a fraudster to deceive his fellow man. This seems to be the public utility of El engaño populista (The Populist Deception), a book by Axel Kaiser and Gloria Alvarez published this year by Ariel publishers in collaboration with Planeta Colombiana Publishing.

In 15 sections grouped into three chapters, these essays present factual information and philosophical and political arguments in a balanced and convincing way.

The book exposes the populist as a political figure who promises a host of social benefits that can only be provided by an omnipotent state. This will be the paternal state that defends the helpless citizen from the shellfish appetites of capital, and from some external enemy that threatens the sovereignty of the nation. Continue reading “A Vaccine Against Populism 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

In just two hundred pages, the authors describe the state designed from the populist perspective. Like any authoritarian father, it nullifies the individual who tries to differentiate himself. To do this it spreads the obsession for egalitarianism and the idea that all accumulated wealth is the fruit of plundering others. This phenomenon is identified with concrete and contemporary examples. Chile, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, and even the Spain proposed by the Podemos Party, find amazing coincidences and common points of departure.

One of the most striking aspects of this book is the definition of the role played by “organic intellectuals” in the process of building and financing populism. The project, developed by Antonio Gramsci (1891-1927), is based on the assumption that intellectuals can construct a cultural hegemony to sensitize the masses and lead them to socialism.

“Twenty-first century socialism” as an antidote to neoliberalism and the strategy developed by the Sao Paulo Forum are identified in this study as populist developments to which we must pay more attention. The roadmap of Latin America’s leftist movements was drawn in the 1990 Forum led by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his Workers’ Party of Brazil — he was then president of the Party and later president of the Brazil. Just when socialism seemed definitively buried, the Forum achieved a renewal of thought among the Latin American left.

If The Populist Deception weren’t so obviously apologetic of liberalism as a political doctrine, it could find a wider audience precisely among those deceived by populism. This, at least methodologically, seems to be its weak point. Demonstrating the dichotomy between freedom and security is, in reality, a false dilemma; the real contradiction is between the proposal of a system that promotes happiness and one that ensures the right to achieve it.

The most valuable thesis of this book may be that populists governments concentrate power in the hands of the state, supposedly so it will have the resources to allow it to deliver happiness to its people; meanwhile “the others” create a state of law in which it is assumed that each person may have at therr disposal the resources to build their own personal happiness.

History has shown that populism does not achieve its goals and ultimately poverty and corruption prevail. But contemporary liberalism also has unfinished tasks. The book that would explain this in detail, free of ideological propaganda, remains to be written.

Goodwill / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 20 October 2016 — It is said that the choice of the word “embargo” or “blockade” to define the US policy toward Cuba, clarifies the position of the speaker-writer. Those who speak of the “blockade” are not better Cubans than those who call it the “embargo” (although they believe themselves to be). It is a policy that doesn’t depend on Cubans; not even the international community can eliminate it.

A goodwill gesture on the part of my leaders would be the elimination of the internal blockade to which we are subjected, in the name of the country and the imperialist threat. Clearly, although this policy toward Cuba has been dismantled little by little, it is there and we will have to wait for the goodwill of the American government for its total disappearance. Continue reading “Goodwill / Regina Coyula”

“The international community has denounced the US embargo because it violates international law, and also for moral, political and economic reasons.”

This quote is from a report by Amnesty International and reflects the rejection of the extraterritorial character of the set of laws that makes up the embargo. The bold text is intended to bring out the fundamental reason for the widespread rejection of this body of law, which is its extraterritorial nature. International law prohibits any national law to be applied beyond the country ’s borders. The Helms-Burton law is extraterritorial and retroactive, as it applies to events prior to the adoption of the legislation.

The Cuban citizen has become accustomed to hearing only about the damage the blockade  has caused and continues to cause in our economy and society; this citizen ignores in many cases the origin of these measures versus those taken in response to it, but above all, it serves as a smokescreen for domestic disaster resulting from a willful and failed policy. Neither the US blockade nor the one caused by our government have affected even for one second the life of our leaders.

Panama’s Darien Gap, a Mediterranean Without Boats or Headlines / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Cubans crossing the Darien jungle to get to Panama. (Courtesy to '14ymedio')
Cubans crossing the Darien jungle to get to Panama. (Courtesy to ’14ymedio’)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Panama, 23 October 2016 — If anything deserves to be called “tropical” it is the Darien jungle in the south of Panama. Humidity, mosquitoes and heat makes moving within the dense vegetation of the area a superhuman task. Through the dense jungle extends one of the most dangerous migratory routes of the world. A Mediterranean without boats or headlines, but one where opportunity and death also converge.

Where Central America joins in a narrow embrace with South America, is is the deadliest and most feared stretch along the route to the United States. Crossing from Colombia to this area in Panama are migrants arriving from nearby or distant countries, such as Cuba, Haiti, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Somalia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

This piece of land has lodged in many migrants’ memories as the most difficult in the long march toward a dream. However, for migrants from other continents, coming from Asia and Africa, overcoming it is a major effort. There are those who cross the Atlantic at the mercy of the human traffickers, hidden in the cargo holds of ships that often depart a Europe incapable of confronting its own immigration crisis. Continue reading “Panama’s Darien Gap, a Mediterranean Without Boats or Headlines / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”

Without speaking a word of Spanish, nor knowing the least cultural details of this area of the world, the recently arrived collide with a region where reality oscillates between the marvelous and the sinister. In most cases, they carry no identity documents and only a few know words such as “water” and “food.”

Those who manage to cross the thicket of vegetation and danger, celebrate on the other side, now in Panamanian territory, with the joy of reaching a final destination, but with the crossing of the rest of Central America and Mexico still ahead of them, some of it semi-desert. But conquering the Darien comes to be seen as winning a medal in the most difficult Olympic disciplines… one in which the athletes play at life.

There are no half measures in this strip of rough terrain. A coyote might be an experienced guide who leads a group of travelers toward the next frontier, or a criminal who delivers the group into the hands of extortionists, rapists and thieves.

Through the jungle, the migrants appear in groups, some with children riding on their shoulders, stumbling through the mud and branches along makeshift routes. Their stories are barely told in the foreign media, and international organizations have been parsimonious in highlighting the humanitarian crisis that is taking place in this narrow waist of land that enhances the curves of America.

It is also a path marked by simulation. Many Haitians cross the jungle passing themselves off as Africans. The citizens of the country in this part of the world hardest hit by natural disasters and poverty are considered as pariahs, with little appeal even to the human traffickers.

In no other place on the continent, as in the Darien, are the deficiencies of Latin American diplomacy in coordinating common policy more apparent. Meanwhile, Nicaragua continues to keep its borders closed to migrants, Costa Rica seeks to stem the flow of foreigners flooding it, and the president of Panama warns that those who enter the jungle area separating his country from Colombia “are going to be given humanitarian assistance to continue their journey.”

The Darian Gap incarnates the fiasco of regional integration, delayed by the short-sightedness of the politicians and the successive attempts to create select clubs of countries, united more by ideological conveniences than by the urgent needs of their citizens. The greatest failure is the fault of the Central American Social Integration Secretariat (SISCA), incompetent to implement an effective contingency plan for the situation.

It has been of little use that James Cavallaro, President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), made a call to the United States of America to act “immediately to open channels that allows these people to migrate legally and safely.” In the government palaces, everyone seems more focused on lighting their own fires than in supporting joint efforts.

This diplomatic selfishness didn’t escape Cavallaro, who also said that “the fact that the migrants resort to irregular channels and human traffickers is explained by the lack of legal and safe channels to migrate,” a situation that increases their vulnerabilities to the abuses and extortion of criminal organizations, human traffickers and corrupt police.

The landscape worsens every day with a Europe overwhelmed by the massive arrival of migrants and a “destination America” appearing as an option for those fleeing armed conflicts: the poor and the desperate. Like a river that starts with a thin trickle of water, the flow of those crossing the Central American isthmus grew and grew, swelled by thousands of Cubans who fear the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act and the benefits it offers them in the United States.

The drama takes place beyond the photographers’ lenses. The images of the boats filled with refugees coming from Myanmar and Bangladesh trying to get to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand filled the newspaper headlines in the middle of last year, while the Darien hid its most terrible scenes. It barely appeared in the international press.

To those who boast of living in a hyper-connected world, with every inch already explored and with the eyes of satellites crossing it foot-by-foot, they would do well to visit this jungle. One of the last natural redoubts that terrorizes men, stops the most daring expeditions and seems to laugh at adventurers in the style of Indiana Jones.

A descent into the abyss of humidity and insect bites could shade the reading of news about space probes that reach distant planets and collect images of other galaxies. The region remains as stark as in the days of the Spanish Conquest.

The Pan American Highway, which runs from Alaska to Argentina, is interrupted here. A situation that has helped to preserve the natural diversity of the area but that certainly increases the deadliness of this stretch for migrants.

In September of this year, a family of three drowned in the Turquesa River. Fishermen in the area reported the body of a child not yet four years old floating in the water. Then they also found his parents. All had “foreign-features,” according to the Panamanian border service.

They are just a few of the many victims claimed by the Darien Gap. This jungle is so thick that not even screams escape it.


Editor’s note: This text was published on Sunday 23 October in the newspaper El País.

“It’s Hard for the Government to Tolerate the Professionalism of Independent Journalists”

Ignacio Gonzalez, journalist and editor of Free Hot Press agency (screenshot)
Ignacio Gonzalez, journalist and editor of Free Hot Press agency (screenshot)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Joanna Columbie, Havana, 21 October 2016 – Ignacio Gonzalez is frequently seen in the streets of Havana with microphone in hand recording citizens’ reactions to a flood, a historic baseball game or the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. Independent journalist and editor of the Hot Free Press (ECPL) agency, the young man aspires to continue excelling professionally and thinks that non-government media are experiencing a time of growth.

Recently Gonzalez spent 48 hours under arrest at a police station as a consequence of his work as a reporter, an arrest that is among the repressive acts carried out against independent journalism in recent months.

Columbie: How was Hot Free Press born?

Gonzalez: It comes from the idea that people are again gaining confidence in the independent press, which had lost a little due to government propaganda that says that it involves unqualified and mercenary journalists. We interview not only the regime’s opponents but also doctors, engineers, can collectors, mechanics, carpenters… people like that. Continue reading ““It’s Hard for the Government to Tolerate the Professionalism of Independent Journalists””

Columbie: You suffered an arrest recently. What happened?

Gonzalez: I was doing a report together with another colleague on a study of central Havana, and an operation began with a patrol car, five police officers and two agents from State Security. They took us to the fourth police unit and interrogated me in one of the offices. They made me undress and squat forwards and backwards in order to see if I had hidden any USB drives. I felt denigrated.

Then I was transferred to a police station on Zanja Street and later to the 10th of October, located on Acosta Avenue. I was detained for 48 hours, which had never happened to me, because they had always detained me between three and four hours.

Columbie. Were you accused of some crime or are you now subject to some investigative process?

Gonzalez. They told me that they had a file on me and that I am a counter-revolutionary. Although they assured me that my detention was not because of political problems, but because I was committing an illicit economic activity, since I had an agency where it was known that I paid workers and that I had no license to practice this activity nor was I accredited in the country. They also threatened me that my equipment could be seized. I did not sign nor will I sign any paper. There is no accusation as such, what I have is threats.

Columbie: Do you feel you are a “counter-revolutionary?”

Gonzalez: I told them that they were the counter-revolutionaries because they refuse progress and all kinds of democracy to our country. If they are going to put me in prison, they are going to have to do so also with thousands of Cubans who bravely and spontaneously make statements for our reports. Nor am I a mercenary. I work and get a salary for my work with my press outlet.

What they want with their threats is that I stop being an independent journalist and dedicate myself to taking photos for birthdays and quinceañeras [girls’ 15th birthday celebrations – a major coming-of-age milestone].

Columbie: How do you define yourself?

Gonzalez: I am neither an opponent nor a dissident; I am a person who practices journalism in favor of the truth. If the government does something positive, I do an interview or a report about that topic, but if it does something negative, I also bring it to light. If an opponent commits an act of corruption, I bring it to light, and if he is making a move in favor of the people, I do as well. That’s how journalism should be: impartial.

Columbie: Why do you believe that the repression against you has become more intense now?

Gonzalez: The increasing growth of independent journalism is upsetting them. We unofficial reporters have had the opportunity to attend courses, improve ourselves, and the government doesn’t tolerate it. This improvement, this professionalism that journalists are acquiring, even the audio-visual media which shows the whole world the news as it is, it is hard for them to tolerate. They are trying to accuse us of illegalities. It is a zero-tolerance policy towards the independent press.

In the case of Hot Free Press we are making reports almost of the same quality as Cuban television, but with the difference that we are not censored. We are reaching people; we have managed to make people feel a little more confident with the independent press, to give their statements. We have even found among members of the public that they say that if it’s not for national television, they say whatever they want. They are more disposed to make statements to independent outlets because they know that the national press belongs to the government and simply does not work.

Columbie: Are other non-governmental press agencies going through the same situation?

Gonzalez: I have not seen the same attitude with the rest of the new supposedly independent programs, like Bola 8 or Mi Havana TV. These just have a lot of nonsense. Supposedly they are being financed by the self-employed, but I work in this industry, and I know that the self-employed cannot pay for a production like these programs are showing. There are diverse locations and entry to places to which the independent press does not have access.

Columbie: How would you define the practice of the press in Cuba outside of the official sphere?

Gonzalez: Being an independent journalist here is like being a war correspondent.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Cuba After a Hurricane / Iván García

Elderly married couple married in their house which was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Jesús Lores, El Marrón neighbourhood, Guantánamo. The photo, taken by Leonel Escalona Furones, was taken from the Venceremos newspaper.
Elderly married couple married in their house which was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew in Jesús Lores, El Marrón neighbourhood, Guantánamo. The photo, taken by Leonel Escalona Furones, was taken from the Venceremos newspaper.

Iván García, 6 October 2016 — One week. Perhaps two. That’s the shelf-life of news in Cuba about the recovery process after a hurricane has passed through. You can read information, which has a slight smell of triumphalism, about  the various teams of linesmen who re-establish communications and power.

A gallery of moving photos of the disaster provoked by the hurricane in Baracoa. The account is always related in military terms. As if it were an epic battle. If you can believe the newspaper headlines, the olive green big cheeses and first secretaries of the Communist party in the eastern regions really got down and touched base with the people.

While they are inspecting the devastation, they promise to build strong new houses, and they ask the people in neighbouring areas for more work and sacrifice, and tell them they can be absolutely sure that “the revolution will never abandon them”. After that, the news focus fades. Continue reading “Cuba After a Hurricane / Iván García”

Then the state scribblers turn to concentrate on the starting of the new sugar harvest or in the “innumerable production successes”, which can only be effectively conveyed in the black ink of the national and provincial press.

The human drama starts up precisely on the day after a natural catastrophe terminates. Ask any of the 35 families who are surviving in precarious conditions in a big old dump of a place in the town of Cerro. The run-down development, number 208, is located way down in Domínguez Street.

The authorities declared the building uninhabitable in 1969. Its occupants have seen a dozen hurricanes pass through. As a result of the floods of April 29, 2015, caused by torrential downpours, Raúl Fernández lost all the electrical appliances his wife brought from Venezuela. “I am 46 and I was born in this place. I have spent years asking for an apartment so I can leave here and, up to now, my requests have been in vain. The town council is well aware of the situation of the families here and they do nothing”.

Some tenants say that the only things they have received have been foam mattresses. “But, if we wanted them, we would have to pay, in cash or installments. It is 900 pesos for singles and 1,400 for the bigger ones. Government corruption. Because insurance doesn’t work, or works badly in Cuba, people have to pay for the fuck-all that they give you — a mattress, a rice cooker and a packet of spoons and cups, says Magaly, who has lived in Domínguez for 20 years.

In 2015, by way of Resolution no, 143, The Ministry of Finance and Prices put out a regulation containing the procedure for valuing, certifying, setting prices, accounts, finance, fees, and risk and damage management in cases of natural, health and technological disasters.

That’s to say a family which loses its possessions needs to pay for what the state can give it at the commercial retail price level. If it can’t, they authorise a credit which has to be repaid in accordance with the terms set out by the bank.

Also, based on analysis of the economic situation of the victim’s family, the Peoples’ Council, or Defence Zone, can propose to the Municipal Council or the Municipal Defence Council, if it considers appropriate, that the bank loan interest be partially or wholly assumed by the public purse.

Olga, aged 71, retired, and resident in a poor area of Havana, lost an ancient cathode ray tube television, refrigerator, saucepans, rice boiler and all her clothing.

“After an interminable paper-chase and standing in queues for hours, where I had to demonstrate that I only have my pension to live on, they gave me an airbed, some extra-large size used clothes, a half-broken rice boiler, a refrigerator motor, for which I had to pay a mechanic 500 pesos to install. For a year I have had to listen to TV soaps on the radio. And the number one item in the political propaganda is about Civil Defence performance, which is good for saving lives, but as for repairing the damage suffered by the victims, the government does nothing”, says Olga.

There are families like Jorge Castillo’s, who live in a shabby room in an old lodging house in the south of Havana, turned into a hostel for victims, who have put up there for fourteen years waiting for a home.

“That was the time of the tropical storm Edward in 2002. Imagine waiting until the people came from Santiago, having lost their homes in Cyclone Sandy in 2012 and now the people from Baracoa after Matthew passed”, says Jorge.

On 25 October, 2012, Barrio Rojo, in Mar Verde, Santiago de Cuba, nearly 1000 km east of Havana, was wiped off the map by the destructive 175 kph gusts of wind of Hurricane Sandy.

“Mar Verde is a community which has been officially recognised since 1981. It is located on the beach of the same name, forms part of the Agüero-Mar Verde Peoples’ Council, which covers 62.5 square kms and is District 47 out of the 277 which constitute the town of Santiago de Cuba. There is no postal service there, shops, farmers’ markets, pharmacies, schools or grocery stores. Only a family medical consultancy offering a basic service, reports the journalist Julio Batista in a shocking article published in Periodismo de Barrio last February.

Thirty one families, 85 persons in total, who lost their homes during Hurricane Sandy, live in little shacks in a poor old campsite where the water comes through the pipes only every 10 or 11 days.

The authorities have promised to let them have a group of new houses. But it’s a never-ending tale. First they said in December 2014 they would hand over the keys to 56 of the 250 homes. Then, in December 2015. Now, according to Julio Batista’s report, they are talking about finishing the works in December 2016.

But the people living in the Mar Verde campsite are sceptical. The people who lost their properties through natural disasters, whether in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo or Baracoa, feel they have been misled by the government. Or that it has not been frank with them. As if the tragedy they are living through is nothing much.

Diario Las Américas, 7 October 2016.

Translated by GH

Cuba’s Private Restaurant Owners are Worried / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The Esteban Kitchen paladar (private restaurant) in Havana’s in Vedado district. (14ymedio)
The Esteban Kitchen paladar (private restaurant) in Havana’s in Vedado district. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana 20 October 2016 — Chinese, Italian or international food fill the menus of Cuban paladares, but lately fear has starred as the main dish on the menu of these private restaurants. The jewel in the crown of entrepreneurship on the island is experiencing moments of uncertainty after the government froze the issuing of licenses for these businesses run by the self-employed.

In recent months food and beverage outlets have watched a parade of pop stars, Hollywood actors, emblematic rock-and-rollers and even US President Barack Obama through their establishments, but it is a complicated time.

Even Camaguey province has been shocked, after the closure, at the beginning of this month, of three of the most important paladares operating in the city. Restaurant 1800 was searched by the police, who confiscated some of the furniture and arrested the owner, Edel Izquierdo. Two other paladares, Mi Hacienda and Papito Rizo’s Horseshoee, were also forced to close. Continue reading “Cuba’s Private Restaurant Owners are Worried / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

The suspension in the granting of new licenses for these premises has stoked fears about a possible backward step in the reforms undertaken by Raul Castro starting in 2008. Although officialdom has rushed to clarify that this is a temporary measure, a sense of a country going backwards to times of greater controls is felt on all sides.

The Acting Vice-President of the Provincial Administation in the capital, Isabel Hamze, declared on national television this Wednesday that “of the 135 license holders [of private restaurants] we met with 129 to alert them to a group of problems that cloud the services that they offer and we explained them that, with these exchanges ended, it was time to undertake an inspection.”

The official noted that during several meetings with owners of the private locales they discussed among other issues the consumption and sale of drugs inside restaurants, along with evidence of prostitution and pimping.

Hamze emphasized that those who acquired “money in Cuba or abroad illegally” in order to “bring it to the island and launder it,” need to be on guard. “Nowhere in the world is it legal to launder money and it is not permitted. We are not accusing anyone of doing it, we talked about where their capital comes from,” she said.


“The state can not compete with the privates, which in a short time have managed to run more efficient and attractive places for foreign and domestic customers,” a waiter of the centrally located Doña Eutimia Restaurant, nestled against the Havana Cathedral. The man believes that the current “storm will pass, because otherwise it would go against the times.”

Most owners of these private premises prefer to keep silent. “He who moved doesn’t end up in the photo,” joked a private restaurant owner on 23rd Street. “Everything is on hold, because no one dares to stand out now,” he added. “The repression of the paladares has come because some have become nightclubs with musical programs that attract a lot of people.”

According to updated data, more than 150,000 self-employed work in 201 occupations in Havana. There are more than 500 private restaurants throughout the capital.

In some locations it has become common to alternate good food with shows ranging from comedy, to magic, to fashion. Lately, the celebrated King Bar has sent out invitations to spend October 30, Halloween night, with costumes and frights.

The government undertakes inspections to guarantee strict compliance with the rules that govern the operations of these establishments: no more than 50 seats, limited hours, and the purchase of supplies exclusively in state stores with receipts to prove it.

However, several entrepreneurs consulted by this newspaper agree that it is difficult to manage a private restaurant following the letter of the law. The shortages often experienced in the markets that sell in Cuban convertible pesos, the lack of a wholesale market, and the prohibition against commercial imports, hobble the sector and push owners to the informal market.

In the Labor and Social Security Office on B Street between 21st and 23rd in Havana, this Tuesday, it was not possible to get a license to open a paladar. “The licenses of those who already have them are not suspended,” but “the issuing of new licenses has been halted,” declared an official to the nervous entrepreneurs who came to the site for more information.

The measure was preceded by meetings with the owners of paladares where they were warned to comply with the law; officials from the National Tax Administration Office (ONAT) and the police were at the meetings. The answer has been felt immediately on the menus of the most emblematic places, which have reduced their offerings to what can be purchased in the state retail network.

The Don Quijote paladar (private restaurant) on 23rd Street in Havana’s Vedado district. (14ymedio)
The Don Quijote paladar (private restaurant) on 23rd Street in Havana’s Vedado district. (14ymedio)

Lobster and beef have been among the first items to disappear from the menus, as most of these products are purchased on the black market from suppliers who circumvent police roadblocks to bring them to the city.

The law criminalizes very severely the theft and illegal slaughter of cattle – which is nearly all slaughter of cattle outside the state system – in addition to the “illegal abetting” of such goods. Due to the decrease in the number of cattle, to a little more than 4 million today, the Government considers any irregularities in the slaughter and marketing of these animals to be a serious violation of Penal Code.

However, of the 1,700 private restaurants that offer the country has many typical dishes known as ropa vieja and vaca frita, among other dishes made from beef. Given the current onslaught of the authorities, a stealthy slogan is in play: survive and wait out the storm.

Tom Malinowski Speaks with the Independent Cuban Press / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Tom Malinowski, Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, held a meeting with independent journalists in Havana this Saturday
Tom Malinowski, Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, held a meeting with independent journalists in Havana this Saturday

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 15 October 2016 — The second round of talks on Human Rights took place this past Friday between the governments of Cuba and the United States, as part of the ongoing dialogue initiated when relations were restored.

In line with the importance of the issue and in relation with the relevance that the US government has granted him, this Saturday, Thomas Malinowski — Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor- who co-chaired the US delegation, together with Mrs. Mari Carmen Aponte, Acting Assistant Secretary for Affairs of the Western Hemisphere — met with independent journalists Ignacio González and Miriam Celaya, to discuss topics that were debated on that occasion.

Unlike the previous meeting held in Washington on March 31, 2015, this time both sides delved deeply into human rights issues, on which they hold opposing positions. Continue reading “Tom Malinowski Speaks with the Independent Cuban Press / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

Malinowski: “I don’t expect to be able to persuade the Cuban government about how we consider human rights should be applied in Cuba”

“I don’t expect to be able to persuade the Cuban government about how we consider human rights should be applied in Cuba, but we consider human rights as an important and permanent item on our agenda,” said Malinowski. While acknowledging the opposing stances of the two governments, he considers that these meetings are of great value because, on the one hand, they reflect the common agreement of both governments on addressing that the issue of human rights in the rapprochement process is legitimate; and on the other hand, it has been established that the basis for these freedoms is upheld in international standards that establish the universal character of human rights, recognized and signed by our two countries.

“The result is positive. At least the Cuban government is not refusing to discuss human rights, and does not deny that they are also applicable to Cuba, though the legal interpretation of the principles is defined differently in our countries”.

Both sides discussed related laws and international treaties that confirm the universality and protection of fundamental rights, such as freedom of association, freedom to join unions, and electoral systems, among others. About the last item, the US side fully explained the characteristics of its electoral system and inquired about the Cuban system, particularly the obstacles faced by opponents and critics of the Cuban government to aspire to political office.

“For our part, we recognize that our system is not perfect. But in the US human rights violations are made public, and there are ways and mechanisms to force politicians to fulfill their commitments and obligations”.

Cuban laws, however, are designed so that the Power can manipulate them according to its interests, with no civic or legal mechanisms to force the government to observe the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948.

Malinowski asserted that the US government is committed to the debate on human rights at every meeting with the Cuban authorities, but he insists that it is not their place to interfere in Cuban politics, which is a matter for the government and the people of Cuba. He believes that dialogue is proceeding on the basis of mutual respect, despite differences in respective viewpoints on the subject. However, he believes that frank conversations about the realities of our nations create a more positive and beneficial climate for all than does the policy of confrontation that maintained a breach between the two countries.

There are pockets of the dissidence that remain critical or skeptical of the White House’s new policy of a thaw towards the Palace of the Revolution

There are pockets of the dissidence that remain critical or skeptical of the White House’s new policy of a thaw towards the Palace of the Revolution. Some people assume that it only favors the Castro regime, and complain that the demands of opponents are not represented on the agenda.

In that vein, Malinowski said: “We have maintained contact with all of Cuban civil society. Not only with opponents, independent journalists and other sectors of civil society, but also with representatives of the emerging private sector and even the sectors that are in tune with the Cuban government. We want to hear all opinions, aspirations and proposals to form a more complete picture of the aspirations of the Cuban people. We share and defend the defense of human rights and our government will continue with this policy”.

According to Malinowski, a climate of detente favors the desires to strengthen the ties between our peoples, and to promote a mutual approach after half a century of estrangement and hostility. In fact, in the last two years, exchanges between the US and Cuba have increased and diversified, as evidenced –for example — by the participation of young Cubans in scholarship programs in US universities

When asked how the US government viewed Cuban authorities’ insistence on spreading through its media monopoly a distorted interpretation of the topics discussed at the bilateral meetings, Malinowski stated that this encounter with the independent press was exactly a way to get a more complete view to Cubans about information on the issues discussed between the two delegations.

At the end of the meeting, the Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor recognized the importance of the views and suggestions received by the US delegation from many sectors of Cuban society. “Without their remarks and views, without their participation, our agenda for these meetings on human rights with the Cuban government would not be possible. We appreciate the contributions of all Cubans. We are open to continuing to listen to all proposals, whether they come from those who support the dialogue process or from its detractors”.

Translated by Norma Whiting