UNPACU Activists Denounce Raid On Their Homes / 14ymedio

UNPACU Activists marching in protest. “We all march, for the release of political prisoners, for fair wages, for freedom for the Cuban people, for democracy, for decent housing, for respect for human rights. (UNPACU Archive)
UNPACU Activists marching in protest. “We all march, for the release of political prisoners, for fair wages, for freedom for the Cuban people, for democracy, for decent housing, for respect for human rights. (UNPACU Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 May 2016 – This week has been one of surprises for several activists from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who denounce that they have been victims of a raid on their homes and the confiscation of their belongings. The dissidents detailed that the political police raided three houses in the city of Santiago de Cuba on Saturday morning and a fourth in Havana on Wednesday.

Ermito Morán Sánchez, an UNPACU activist, confirmed to14ymedio that they “raided the homes of Carlos Oliva Torres, Yusmila Reyna and Karel Reyes where they seized printed materials, a camera, and other items in response to our activities to disseminate the reality of this country among the people.”

In a telephone conversation with 14ymedio, Yusmila Reyna said that at six in the morning, while her family was sleeping, there was a “knock on the door.” It was the police with “a search warrant for subversive activities.” An officer showed her a paper, but did not allow her to read it carefully or to take it in her hands. The incident occurred on 12th Street in the Mariana de la Torre neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba.

Reyna managed to read that the order specified that they came to “seize methods of communication, money, and any other means of counterrevolution.” A total of ten uniformed officers plus two in plain clothes, who supposedly came to witness the search (Cuban law requires two civilians to witness such a search), participated in the operation.

The raid lasted over an hour and ultimately they seized working notes, two laptops, an electronic tablet, two hard drives, a printer, a camera, “and even receipts for items acquired abroad,” according to Reyna.

The activist circulated a text where she says that “acts like these do not prevent us from continuing our work in defense of human rights and accelerating the process of democratization of our island.”

During the search of her house they also seized a number of issues of the magazine Coexistence, documents relating to the initiative Otro 18 (Another 2018)—in support of free multiparty elections—and documents relating to the Roundtable for United Democratic Action (MUAD).

“They took two staplers and the boxes of staples, and a hole-punch. They didn’t leave any document I was working on and warned me that any demand [for the return of the seized items] would have go to the ‘Confrontation Offices’ but that they were not going to return anything.”

Meanwhile the dissident Arcelio Rafael “Chely” Molina Leyva said that Wednesday morning the police arrived to search his home, which serves as the UNPACU headquarters in Havana.

“They came with several gentlemen in plainclothes and after a thorough search took three laptops, a battery to recharge cell phones, two mobile phones, office supplies, news from international agencies, printed civic material and digital backups,” Chely enumerated.

This is the fourth search of this nature by the political police on UNPACU’s Havana headquarters. As a part of the operation they arrested Carlos Amel Oliva Torres, who despite having a temporary residence permit for Havana was taken to the third station of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in Santiago de Cuba, where he is still under arrest.

Oscar Elias Biscet Says That Cuba Can No Longer “Bring Down” The Opposition / EFE (14ymedio)

Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet. (EFE)
Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 26 May 2106 — Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet said Wednesday, on arriving at the Miami airport from Spain, that the opposition on the island is “well defined” and that the regime “can no longer bring it down.”

Biscet, who was happy to be in “land of freedom” for Cubans, told reporters that he would explain to the Cuban exile community in South Florida his civic political project to end the dictatorship and promote democracy, through a method of non-violent struggle.

The medical doctor said that the opposition is “very united” and that part of the opposition is his initiative, the Emilia Project, which has gathered the support of more than 3,000 signatures.

He noted that the signers are “brave people, who gave their names, who gave their addresses, their identity card data, saying they do not want more communism.”

Biscet, 54, was optimistic that this group would become “a crowd that would end the dictatorship in Cuba.”

He said his initiative seeks to “make change by shifting the superstructure” and he calls this “the revolution on non-violent human rights.”

The dissident was arrested in late 2002 and sentenced to 25 years in prison for being part of the so-called Black Spring, where a group of dissidents known as the Group of 75, were accused of conspiring with the United States.

Biscet was released from prison in March 2011 during the process of the release of political prisoners carried out by Raul Castro’s government after mediation by the Vatican.

The dissident, who visited Madrid to give a lecture and see friends, admitted this week in Spain that he is afraid of reprisals in Cuba when he returns.

Hollywood Conquers Havana with a Fistful of Dollars / Ivan Garcia

Filming during Fast & Furious 8 in Havana. From Mundo Motorizado.
Filming during Fast & Furious 8 in Havana. From Mundo Motorizado.

Ivan Garcia, 7 May 2016 — A black helicopter hovers at low altitude over Havana Bay. Meanwhile, dozens of pedestrians on the streets below wave and try to capture the image on their mobile phones.

The aircraft makes an acrobatic turn and flies back towards the port. “Mijail, hurry up and try to get a photo now,” yells a girl almost hysterically to her boyfriend, who wastes no time activating the camera from his old Motorola phone.

At the bus stop near the cruise terminal in the old part of the city, everyone has a story to tell about filming in Havana for the eighth installment of Fast & Furious.

Adelfa, a peanut vendor, observes, “A friend of mine who collects empty beer and soda cans told me that — at the Hotel Saratogo, where the actors and some yumas (Americans) are staying — they were handing out twenty dollar bills to everyone who was in the Fountain of the Indian across the street. I missed out. Now I am trying to sell peanuts where people from Hollywood might be to see if they will give me something.”

A guy with the look of a government official says to several people, “The film producers paid forty million dollars to the local People’s Power administration for any inconvenience that might be caused.”

His comments open up a debate. “Would you happen to know what the government plans on doing with this money?” asks a man who says he has been waiting an hour for the P-5 bus. “Will they fix the houses that are falling down or buy new buses?”

A black youth who is listening to music removes his ear buds and replies, “You want me to tell you what I think they will do with the money? They will put it in a bank account in an overseas tax haven for Daddy’s kids: Antonio or Mariela Castro.”

Some of those present cast sideways glances, an instinctive gesture in Cuba denoting fear, to see if someone from the “apparatus” (political police) have heard the young man’s outburst.

On Wednesday, April 20, rehearsals began and on Friday, April 22, they started shooting. From then until Thursday, May 5, when filming is scheduled to end, several streets of Central Havana and Old Havana were closed to traffic, forcing people to walk or take long detours to reach homes or workplaces in those areas.

Production trailers, parked on the corner of Infanta and San Lazaro streets, are surrounded by local residents and curious onlookers. Cuban security personnel hired by the studio are harsh with people taking photos and recording cell phone videos.

“It’s what the producers ordered,” a security guard, justifying this behavior. “They claim that anyone can film a bit of something and then post it on the internet. These people pay a lot and pay well but they always want to control the rights to the film. In Cuba we don’t know anything about this.”

Rumors about Fast & Furious producers handing out money by the fistful are spreading throughout Havana.

Osvel, a driver for a taxi collective who works the Vibora-Vedado route, notes, “They gave ONAT (the government agency that regulates self-employment) three hundred dollars to give for every private-sector worker in the area where they are filming. But the workers only got forty convertible pesos apiece. They’re taking a big cut.”

Arianna, a secretary for ONAT, says, “I cannot confirm how much producers paid. My bosses have not said anything about that, but I do not think the government got that much, as always turns out to be the case with these things.”

As usually happens when it comes to the subject of money in Cuba, the government has remained silent, which has only fed the rumor mill. Getting anything out of a movie studio spokesperson is a mission impossible for a independent journalist.

“When filming is complete, there will be a press conference,” says a man with a Universal Pictures badge. Not even the United States embassy in Havana knows what the studio’s plans are nor anything about a hypothetical press conference with the actors and director.

“Private companies do not necessarily have to contact the embassy to carry out their work. We only have access to governmental agencies,” says an embassy spokeswoman.

Nor can she confirm various Fast & Furious rumors circulating through the city. It is said, for example, that old car owners were paid eighty thousand dollars for the use of their vehicles in collision scenes and that extras were paid fifty dollars an hour.

The fact is that not since Fidel Castro’s revolution has Cuba seen so much Hollywood paraphernalia or such a waste of money.

“The last time Americans filmed here was in the mid-1959s when they shot Our Man in Havana. They paid me ten dollars to play a fruit vendor,” says Ramon, a seventy-six-year-old man who, six decades later, sells corn tamales corn from a bucket of hot water.

The movie, starring Alec Guinness and Maureen O’Hara and based on novel by Graham Greene, won a Golden Globe in 1960.

But the street vendor was mistaken. Our Man in Havana was not an American film; it was British. To Cubans all English speakers look alike.


Cubans Demonstrate In Front Of The US Embassy In Quito / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cubans demonstrating in front the US embassy in Quito, Ecuador, on Friday. (14ymedio)
Cubans demonstrating in front the US embassy in Quito, Ecuador, on Friday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 27 May 2016 — Hundreds of Cubans, more than a thousand according to organizers, marched this Friday morning in front of the United States embassy in Quito, to ask for Washington’s intervention in the negotiation of an immigration agreement that would allow more than 5,000 migrants reach the US border.

“They didn’t let us go past the embassy. The Ecuadorian police blocked the way,” said Peter Borges, who leads the protests along with Fernanda de la Fe.

According to the activists, it was a peaceful demonstration intended to deliver a letter to the ambassador to ask him to mediate with the Ecuadorian government for the passage of thousands of Cubans who want to emigrate to the United States and take advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act. Since 1996, the Act has given special treatment to the island’s citizens who are able to reach US territory with regards to emigration.

“Cubans do not want to leave here, we spent several hours in the demonstration,” said the activist.

The letter, which they were not able to deliver, denounced the “horrendous episodes of extortion, rapes, murders and the disappearance of entire families,” which the migrants have suffered on their journey as undocumented emigrants across the continent with the objective of “reaching the freedom and well-being permitted by the generous United States government.”

The purpose of the missive is “to seek help to avoid further loss of human lives.” The letter also states that Cubans living in Ecuador are worried because “the Ecuadorian government has implemented a document review process for a large group of ‘irregular’ Cubans who make their lives here on the occasion of this crisis and as a form of retaliation.”

The demonstration comes after the Mexican government rejected a similar request on 18 May. On that occasion, Jaime del Arenal, Mexican ambassador in Ecuador, explained in a communication that the Cubans, many of whom have not been able to regularize their immigration status in the country, “do not qualify for the granting of visas.”

According to the organizers, the initiative also seeks to avoid adding to the number of Cubans who are stranded in Turbo, Colombia, after Panama closed its border to the passage of undocumented migrants. Panama recently transfered more than 3,800 Cubans to Mexico as the result of an an exceptional migratory agreement.

Following the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States and the worsening of living conditions on the island, tens of thousands of Cubans are trying to reach the US border for fear that the Cuban Adjustment Act will be repealed. In the current fiscal year alone, between October 1 and April 30, 35,652 Cubans had been accepted under the special “parole” program available to them in the United States. It is expected that more than 60,000 Cubans will arrive in the United States this year.

Cuban Migrants Criticize The High Prices Of Airfares To Mexico / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Cuban migrants stranded in Mexico wait to buy airplane tickets to Mexico
Cuban migrants stranded in Mexico wait to buy airplane tickets to Mexico

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 6 May 2016 — Accustomed to standing in long lines on the island, thousands of Cuban migrants stranded in Panama were waiting for hours Friday to buy an airline ticket to Mexico. Among these “middle class rafters” criticism was rising over the high price of airfares which has reached $805 for an adult ticket.

José Antonio Quesada and his wife, both lawyers, are among those who were waiting in the sun today to get tickets. As of May 5, the Panamanian Government authorized the sale of airline for Cuban migrants and at least 800 of them have already purchased their tickets to continue their journey.

The two attorneys spent 1,669 dollars in tickets, including the trip by bus to the airport, the equivalent of more than five years wages for a in Cuba. Both have managed to raise the money with the help of relatives in Miami, but they are concerned because they have no more cash for when they reach the U.S. border.

Quesada and his wife traveled from the island to Ecuador with the intention of settling there and improving their economic condition. However, the obstacles to legalizing their residence and finding jobs pushed them to make a difficult journey through Colombia and the Darién jungle. They departed with the hope of taking advantage of Cuban Adjustment Act which grants immigration benefits to all residents of the island who reach United States.

Now the two professionals are among the lucky ones who have been able to purchase a ticket for flights starting next Monday to the city of Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas State, Mexico. The cost of the trip by plane for a child between 2 and 11 years is $332 whereas for a child under a year the amount drops to $160.

The sale of tickets has been marked by the absence of official statements from the Panamanian president’s office, which arouses suspicions among migrants, who fear shady dealings with regards to prices or lack of transparency in the process. “The Government does not give us information,” complains the Cuban Elizander Roque.

As of noon this Friday hundreds of migrants from the island had undertaken, on their own, to travel to the David’s Mall, 25 miles from the shelters where they are staying in Los Planes, Gualaca, to buy tickets.

The prices have surprised Sisleydis Moret, a 25-year-old Cuban who says she feels “desperate” at not having enough money to buy them, due to the expenses of supporting herself during her stay in Panama.

The ticket from Panama to Mexico costs $805 per each adult. (Courtesy)
The ticket from Panama to Mexico costs $805 per each adult. (Courtesy)

Her companion in the hostel, Keily Arteaga, age 29, is in a similar situation. “The news was like a bucket of cold water,” she says and comments that, “now we don’t have the money they are asking for.”

Arteaga, who resides in a house in San Isidro, left Ecuador because she was not able to legalize her immigration status. She had “a good job” but she was illegal, which mean that “all the doors” were closed to her, she explains. She says she has taken advantage of “all of this turmoil” of the immigration crisis in Central America to reach Panama.

Those who travel accompanied by several family members experience the most delicate situation. Isleyda Lelle said she was glad to hear that tickets sales had begun to Mexico, but now she needs to wait for her mother, resident in the United States, to help her “complete” the cost of the trip for her, her brother and her sister-in-law.

For Andy Llanes, the situation is more difficult because he says that he does not have “a single dollar” to buy the ticket. “My journey was very hard, we were attacked along the way and they stole from us all that we had.” In the trip to Panama he details that his partner “was raped and now the poor woman is pregnant from the Coyote who abused her.”

Llanes says the only thing he owns is the “flip-flops” he is wearing and says that if he cannot continue the trip, he will stay in Panama because “I won’t return to Cuba even if they threaten me with death.”

Alfredo Córdoba, regional head of the National Migration Service in the Chiriqui province told 14ymedio that he still does not know what will happen to those Cubans who cannot afford the airfares.

An official source who requested anonymity explained that Cuban migrants found in Puerto Obaldia have not received their passports yet and so far there are no specific directions about whether they will or will not be part of the humanitarian program.

This newspaper has gotten in touch with both the Panama National Migration Service and the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but so far we have not received answers to our questions.

Ed. note: Since this article was written the price of the airfare was lowered and then the sale of tickets was cut off altogether. Translations of articles detailing these subsequent events will follow.

Translated by Alberto

Cuba: The Return of the Power Cuts / Ivan Garcia

Black out in Cuba (Cubanet)
Black out in Cuba (Cubanet)

Ivan Garcia, 27 May 2016 — As of three weeks ago there have been power cuts of up to three hours in different parts of Havana. Sometimes longer.

“Friday, April 29 in Altahabana (a neighbourhood in the southeast of the city), the power was cut off from eleven at night until four-thirty in the morning. Because of the heat, I spent the whole night waving a fan over my eight-month-old baby. Two days earlier, there was a three-hour outage in the afternoon,” I was told by Magda,  who works at Comercio Interior.

In the central and eastern provinces, the power cuts started in the middle of March. According to Reinaldo, who lives in San Pedrito in Santiago de Cuba, 550 miles east of Havana, the blackouts aren’t the only problem.

“In some parts of Santiago we get water every eight or nine days. People store it in buckets, bowls and improvised tanks, which increases the chance of mosquitos transmitting dengue, zika and chikungunya. You can add to that the countless earthquakes you get in the months of December through March. Many families sleep in the parks because they are afraid their roofs will collapse. The power cuts in Santiago are frequent. Sometimes half an hour, and other times up to five hours,” Reinaldo told me.

In Remedios, a town in Villa Clara province, 180 miles from the capital, Odaisi, an intensive care assistant, tells me that the cuts have become worse since the end of April.

“There are two or three a week, and sometimes up to five hours, or all night. People go out in the street because of the dreadful heat. Lots of people phone the electric company but they get no reply,” Odaisis said.

Esther, who works in a substation on the outskirts of Havana, is sure it isn’t because of a fuel shortage, which is what many people think. “Fifty percent of the electricity generated in the country uses Cuban diesel. And there are new plants which run on gas. The problem is unexpected breaks in the cables, which, together with maintenance to the power stations in Matanzas and Holguín, have created power shortages in peak hours.”

A power company official, who preferred to remain anonymous, didn’t think that the present cuts will get as bad as the ones in the years of the Special Period [a time of severe crisis after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the elimination of its aid to Cuba].

“No way. The country is much better prepared to deal with electricity supply. Thousands of kilometres of cable have been replaced, transformers and connections have been renewed, and power distribution losses, which got to thirty percent, have fallen to five percent. There is also more modern equipment in the power plants, and we have a contract with Russia to build two new power stations and modernise four others. Our present problem is due to breakages, but we will sort them out in the month of May,” the official assured me.

But Noel, who works at CUPET, the initials of the Cuba Petrol Company, is doubtful. “Out of the 105 thousand barrels a day we were receiving from Venezuela two years ago, now we only get sixty thousand, and my bosses tell me that they expect it to reduce further down to forty thousand or fewer barrels. In Venezuela, because of the drought, and the bad technical state of their power stations, there are constant power cuts outside of Caracas. To that you can add the economic crisis and the fact that oil exports represent ninety-five percent of their income.”

Although a barrel of oil has fallen from over a hundred dollars a barrel a few years ago to a little under thirty dollars on the international market, Orelvis, an economist, believes that the Cuban government doesn’t have enough money to buy fuel.

“Bartering with Venezuela is the perfect business deal. Medical services in exchange for oil, and part of the oil gets re-exported. Now electricity generation in the country has increased. More hotels and private businesses consuming more, and some of the people with money to buy things have air conditioning and electrical appliances in their houses. I think there has been a setback in electricity production, but I don’t think that the situation can be as serious as in the 90’s, and the Special Period, but people need to be ready for programmed blackouts in the coming months,” he thought.

Raisa, a technician in the electric company sees the problem differently. “Every province and town in the country has an assigned level of fuel consumption, and, for various reasons, most of them are consuming more. That, plus the recent breakdowns, are the cause of the latest outages.”

But it’s difficult to convince the Cuban in the street with technical arguments. There is nothing they like less than a power cut.

“It’s one damn thing after another. A screw-up getting any food. Salaries which are too low, not enough public transport, and now they are telling us that if the drought continues, the water supply will be cut in Havana. And, the cherry on the cake, more power cuts. It’s too much. We have had these problems for nearly sixty years, and they have never come up with a definitive solution,” complains Adelberto, a pensioner.

The electricity cuts in Cuba are cyclical. For one reason or another, they always recur. It’s one of the pernicious legacies of Fidel Castro’s revolution.

Translated by GH

“I’m Going to Set Fire to It and See What Happens” / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

Man throwing trash into the dumping ground. (Photo: Anddy Sierra)

Anddy Sierra, Havana, Cuba, 30 April 2016 — The battle by Lumumba residents against the dumping of solid waste in the neighborhood is all but lost. The garbage dump, established three years ago, is bigger today and includes debris from roadwork done in the area.

According to residents, there were initially only twenty meters of trash, but today it covers more than a hundred. Local residents point to Comunales, the company in charge of collecting the solid waste, as the main cause for what is happening.

“They blame us for creating this dump but it’s not our fault. In this borough (Arroyo Naranjo) it’s Comunales; they are the ones responsible for all the waste here,” said Amelia Corrales, a resident of Lumumba.

“The problem is that we are black and that makes us scapegoats,” notes Yaima Lombillo, a resident of a neighborhood that is predominately dark-skinned. We either have to put up with it or set the trash ablaze to get the firemen to come, as happened three months ago.”

Enrique Peña, a worker at the local headquarters of the company, says that every three months they pick up all the refuse. “We come with a six-person brigade, two trucks and a bulldozer to collect the debris left there by residents. It takes us three hours and in the end everything is clean,” he said. Pity.

He continues, “We don’t throw our trash there but neither do we make sure that some of our workers aren’t dumping garbage there instead of going someplace further away.”

But the problem is that residents do see company workers dumping their trash.

“I passed there three times yesterday and there was a worker throwing garbage there instead of picking it up. When I returned, there was another one doing the same thing. We will continue living in filth and breeding more Aedes aegypti mosquitoes [carriers of dengue fever and the zika virus],” said Miguel Borroto, an area resident.

Local authorities have not responded to the problem. Attempts were made to speak to the local representative but he refused to discuss it. “I am very busy and am not going to my waste time talking to you,” said Alejandro, the area’s representative, when I asked him about the Lumumba dump.

Residents will have to make due with Comunales’ three-month schedule for cleaning an area which apparently its own employees are trashing. “I am not expecting much,” says Yaima Lombillo, “so I am going to set fire to it all and see what happens.”

A Dead End / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 24 May 2016 — Historically, Venezuela has been a country of dictators, as have others in Latin America: Simon Bolivar was one, regardless of his merits as the Liberator of America from the Spanish yoke;  and then the Monagas brothers were (1846-1858); followed by Guzmán Blanco (1870-1888), Cipriano Castro (1899-1908), Juan Vicente Gómez (1908-1931), Delgado Chalbaud, Marcos Perez Jimenez (1950-1958), Hugo Chavez and now, in the process of learning, Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro’s pedantry, his attempt to be Chavez’s “designated” successor, his accelerated loss of popular support, the unassailable triumph of the opposition in achieving a majority in the National Assembly, the systematic setbacks of his operation and, now, the overwhelming number of signatures collected to proceed with a midterm recall referendum, plus his economic failures, have made him hysterical, inventing conspiracies, economic wars, interventions and other absurdities, products of his fevered mind and those who guide him from inside and outside the country. As Uruguay’s former president Mujica said, “He is madder than a goat.”

To this is added the environment around him which is not favorable: Argentina without Cristina Kirchner and with Macri, Brazil without Dilma Rousseff and with Temer, Evo Morales unable to be reelected, Correa responsibly dedicated to the his country’s recovery from the earthquake, and Cuba getting worse all the time.

As if that were not enough, the institutions and organisms created by the Latin American Left (UNASUR, ALBA, CELAC and others) in the years of splendor, for their mutual support and to maintain themselves in power, ignoring those existing previously, are in the doldrums, having lost their main sources of economic support, and very little has been done, other than some passing some generic declarations, more formal than real, to make it clear that they are still breathing, although they are in intensive care.

Maduro blames the opposition, the “empire” the OAS, Uribe, and the many who criticize the problems in Venezuela, but forgets that it is, above all, he and Chavism that is to blame. With Maduro and those who sustain him in power, Venezuela will not emerge from the political, economic and social crisis in which it finds itself.

Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Of the approximately 7.4 billion people living on the planet, only 3.2 billion are connected to the Internet. (CC)
Of the approximately 7.4 billion people living on the planet, only 3.2 billion are connected to the Internet. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 25 May 2016 — For Cubans who update their domestic entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and anonymous “Weekly Packet,” a subtitle in bright greenish-yellow letters at the beginning of movies has become familiar. It is the ever present www.gnaula.nu, which appears so frequently that it spurred my curiosity: I found it impossible to recognize what country corresponded to the extension “.nu” so I turned to the always useful Wikipedia.

Surprise. The country where all the movies we watch at home are pirated is Niue, an atoll with the pretensions of a little island, attached to New Zealand. In 1996, an American (who of course doesn’t live in Niue) took the rights to “.nu” and in 2003 founded the Niue Internet Society, and offered to the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into the first wifi nation of the world. The offer was rounded out with a free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we’re talking about a population of barely 1,300 people. Continue reading “Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

Shameful Friends / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Alexandr Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994. (CC)
Alexandr Lukashenko has been in power in Belarus since 1994. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 May 2016 – People with whom we share sorrows and joys are a reflection of ourselves, however different they may appear. As friends we choose them to accompany us, but also to complete us, with the diversity and continuity that our human nature needs. The problem is when our choices of coexistence are not based on affinities and preferences, but on interests and alliances focused on annoying others.

In the same week, the Cuban executive has embraced two deplorable authoritarian regimes. A few hours after Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez met with government functionaries in Belarus, Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution hosted a meeting between Raul Castro and a special representative from North Korea’s Workers Party. Disgraceful comrades, shamelessly embraced and praised by the island’s officialdom.

In a world where civil society, calls for the respect for human rights, and movements that promote the recognition of rights are making themselves heard ever more loudly, it is difficult for the Cuban government to explain his good relations with Europe’s last dictator and with the cruelly capricious grandson who inherited power through his bloodline. What united the island’s authorities with similar political specimens?

The only possible answer is sticking their finger in the eye of Western democracies and the White House. The problem with this attitude lies in the demands from these fellow travelers for commitments and silences. Diplomatic friendship is converted into complicity and the comrades end up defining the nature of those who have chosen their company.

‘El Sexto’: “Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break them.” / 14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin

Danilo Maldonado – known as El Sexto – at the Oslo Freedom Forum. (OFF)
Danilo Maldonado – known as El Sexto – at the Oslo Freedom Forum. (OFF)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Maria Tejero Martin, Oslo, 24 May 2016 – Danilo Maldonado is known as El Sexto the name engraved in ink on his skin and that he paints on the walls of Havana to plant an idea of freedom in his compatriots, like a seed that flourishes and breaks the “dangerous myths” that, he says, surround Cuba.

When he was nine he caused his mother grief when he drew Fidel Castro in his military uniform but with the head of a monkey; by his twenties he had decided to turn himself into the antihero El Sexto (The Sixth), in response to the regime’s campaign to free Los Cinco (The Five), Cuban agents arrested in the United States. Continue reading “‘El Sexto’: “Myths are very dangerous, but an idea can break them.” / 14ymedio, Maria Tejero Martin”

Cuba is Not Brazil or Venezuela / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The leaders of the so-called wave of 21st Century Socialism, gathered during the creation of the Bank of the South. (DC)
The leaders of the so-called wave of 21st Century Socialism, gathered during the creation of the Bank of the South. (DC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 24 May 2016 – The receding tide of the populist wave in Latin America, in particular the delicate situation in Venezuela and the ouster of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, has uncovered all kinds of speculation about the supposed relationship of cause and effect controlling political-economic and social process in Cuba.

Those who are still waiting for the problems within the island to be solved believe they can be resolved from outside, while the ‘statist fundamentalists’ take advantage of the ‘threat’ to entrench themselves in their anti-democratic and anti-socialist positions.

However, Cuba is not Brazil or Venezuela, in any sense. Its processes have different origins, circumstances and dissimilar dynamics of development and, therefore, an evolution that proceeds along uneven paths. Continue reading “Cuba is Not Brazil or Venezuela / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos”

The Step-Motherland’s Droit de Seigneur / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, greeting Raúl Castro. (EFE / Estudios Revolución)
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo and Minister of Development, Ana Pastor, greeting Raúl Castro. (EFE / Estudios Revolución)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 May 2016 — Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, recently made his second visit to Cuba. Unlike his first, in November 2014–when the general-president did not deign to meet with him—this time his “highest excellency” Spanish Foreign Minister was emphatically welcomed by the upper echelons of power.

This new attitude between both sides is not so strange, since García-Margallo was in a “democratic” mode in 2014, triggering the olive-green gerontocracy’s suspicion and displeasure. Now, the Chancellor has come solely in a business mode, with the mission to strengthen and expand as much as possible Spain’s investments in Cuba before the resources of the powerful northern neighbor intrude (for a second time) in the territory of the former Spanish colony, once again depriving Spain of its devalued Crown jewel. Continue reading “The Step-Motherland’s Droit de Seigneur / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”

Lady in White Berta Soler Threatened With Prison / 14ymedio

Berta Soler at the Havana airport. (File / 14ymedio)
Berta Soler at the Havana airport. (File / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 May 2016 — Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, faces a prison sentence of three months to five years for the alleged crime of resistance. The activist was arrested last Sunday when she attempted to go to the Cathedral of Havana for the inauguration of the new archbishop of the capital. After being charged by the authorities, she is required to available to them at all times and cannot leave Cuba before her trial. “I didn’t become an opponent [of the regime] in order to travel and I am prepared to go to prison if that is the decision. I won’t even get a lawyer,” Soler told 14ymedio.

The group of 31 activists, among them 22 Ladies in White, was intercepted on leaving the Ladies in White’s headquarters in the Lawton neighborhood. The repudiation rally against them before the Sunday Mass was organized for 9 in the morning and involved many people who were not even from the neighborhood. “Although we already knew we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Berta Soler said, “we decided to leave [for the church] because our house is not a jail cell.” As commonly occurs, tempers flared and finally the police arrived to arrest them.

“When they stopped us we sat down, which is a common practice in peace movements around the world, except in Cuba,” Soler emphasized.

Berta Soler was driven to the Alamar neighborhood where, she said, there was “a classroom reserved by the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police).” At about six or seven in the evening they told her that this time there would be formal charges. “At first they said that I had scratched a policewoman, but eventually they dismissed the charge of attack,” she said.

That night an official who said she was the investigator/prosecutor on her case told her that she was accused of resistance. “I didn’t respond in any way and went to sleep. At a quarter to ten at night they came to find me to sign the accusation but I didn’t sign any document. We (and they as well) have videos that show I never lifted a hand to anyone or attack anyone, not even verbally.”

Berta Soler says she has no problem complying with the requirement that she not leave the country. “At the moment I have no plans for any trip. The closest is an idea to go to Geneva, but that still has not materialized. If before [the trial], or at any time I need to leave the country for some event, they will have to stop me from traveling at the airport itself,” she said.

The date of her trial has not been set.

Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín

Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)
Rosa Maria Paya (Photo: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), María Tejero Martín, Oslo, 23 May 2016 — Cuban opposition member Rosa María Payá said Monday ,in an interview with EFE, that the “totalitarianism” of the government led by Raul Castro “has not broken” despite the open contact with the United States and the European Union (EU), and so she asked that these approaches be used to achieve “concrete progress.”

“Rapprochement with Cuba is very good, but it depends on how and how it is sold. It also has negative consequences, such as the rest of the world perceiving an internal process of openings toward democracy, and this has not occurred,” said Payá in the Norwegian capital, where she has come to participate in the Oslo Freedom Forum (OFF). Continue reading “Rosa María Payá: “Totalitarianism is not broken in Cuba, we can not pretend it is” / EFE (14ymedio), María Tejero Martín”