Dozens of Activists Detained in Havana Following the Ladies in White March / Diario de Cuba, Angel Moya

Ladies in White marching this past Sunday, 26 July*, in Havana (Ángel Moya)

Ladies in White marching this past Sunday, 26 July*, in Havana (Ángel Moya)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Angel Moya, Havana, 26 July 2015 – Some 60 activists were arrested this past Sunday in Havana following the customary Sunday march of the Ladies in White, reported government opponents on social media. The arrests took place within the context of an act of repudiation described by the opponents as “violent,” and were carried out by “civilian mobs,” tweeted Ailer María González Mena.

The Ladies’ Sunday march was preceded by the arrests of several of the women, along with independent journalists, dissident sources were reporting as of midday.

The women, as usual, attended mass at St. Rita’s Church, and later met at Mahatma Gandhi Park, from where they began their march along Fifth Avenue.

During the meeting they paid homage to the deceased opponents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, who died under mysterious circumstances three years ago last week.

Former political prisoner Ángel Moya posted on his Twitter account that the Ladies Oilyn Hernández and María R. Rodríguez were arrested, as well as blogger Agustín López. Other activists had their residences surrounded by State Security agents.

Activists had predicted there would be a major police presence in the area.*

*Translator’s Notes: *26 July is the date commemorated by the Cuban government as the start of the Revolution

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Revolutionary Mass is Held at Dawn / 14ymedio, 26 July 2015

The official ceremony to commemorate the assault on the Moncada Garrison was celebrated at dawn. (EFE)

The official ceremony to commemorate the assault on the Moncada Garrison was celebrated at dawn. (EFE)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 26 July 2015 — The liturgy does not change. The anniversary event for the Day of National Rebellion took place this Sunday in front of the Moncada Barracks. A script where each detail is repeated year after year, like a rite empty of emotion and surprises. The only novelty on this occasion has been the hour chosen for the start. At 5:12 in the morning National TV began the broadcast of the event from a plaza in darkness with an orator yawning in the dawn.

The second secretary of the Communist Party, Jose Ramon Ventura, was charged with the annual speech for the 26th of July. Any study of the television audience would reveal that the only viewers of the small screen at this hour were the insomniacs looking for something to entertain them and the journalists chasing headlines. Both nocturnal creatures ended up disappointed. There was no entertainment nor news.

And of course, the event would not be complete without the “Young Pioneer” girl on the verge of tears hysterically spewing out well-rehearsed slogans. Nor the reenactment of the assault on the barracks, 62 years ago, acted out by teenagers who only know the version of history imposed on them by the gentlemen seated in the front row. The only excitement was hearing their youthful voices crying “Down with the dictatorship!” The applause, almost syncopated, completed the spectacle.

The only excitement was hearing their youthful voices crying “Down with the dictatorship!”

The artistic gala, with its roughly gesturing men dancers and languid women, added to the historical cult. A dance style widely used at official events that mixex socialist realism with the kitsch of a circus act. In the words of the playwright and film director Juan Carlos Cremata, another of “the thousands of public events where masses of money is squandered and bad taste, ineffectiveness, falsehood and madness are encouraged.”

No announcements occurred during the “Revolutionary Mass.” Not even on addressing the theme of the reestablishment of relations with the United States did Machado Ventura go beyond what has already been repeated ad nauseam. The process will be “long and complex,” the functionary recited like a weary oration. Conspicuous for its absence in his words was any allusion to John Kerry’s upcoming visit to Cuba and the opening ceremony for the American embassy in Havana.

For its part, the speech of Lazaro Exposito Canto, first secretary of the provincial committee of the Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba, slid along the path of triumphalism. He boasted of the territory’s economic results, in an uncritical and obviously fake way. There was no lack of commitment to the founders of the cult, when he affirmed that “Santiaguans have never failed the Party nor the direction of the Revolution, because in Santiago, dear Fidel and Raul, always, absolutely always, you will be victorious,” without explaining that it would be a “victory” like that of those terrible early morning hours of 26 July 1953, on the feast day of Saint Anne.

Only one gesture departed from the script. Raul Castro, at the last second, grabbed the microphone and shouted, “Let Santiago always be Santiago!” A tired “amen” that few heard because they had already turned off the TV.

New Embassy for an Old Dictatorship / Miriam Celaya

Inauguration of the Washington embassy with officials from Cuba and the US (picture from the Internet)

Inauguration of the Washington embassy with officials from Cuba and the US (picture from the Internet)

Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — The reopening of the Cuban embassy in Washington finally took place amid extravagant fanfare, and, judging by the profuse media coverage, with catchy headlines and photos on the front pages of almost all the newspapers, it seemed that there was nothing more relevant taking place in the world.

The (re)opening of the Cuban embassy was the recipient of movie star treatment in some of the news media: photo galleries with pictures of before and after, instant ones — not as offensive — of the first opening of the building during the Cuban Republican era, a construction worker, proudly posing outside the newly renovated headquarters, showing off his Che Guevara arm tattoo, an indoor plaque to be unveiled at the time of the opening, and the flag hoisted on the mast; just like all flags at embassies around the world … Undoubtedly, the Island’s proverbial vanity was on a high.

A large official delegation traveled from Cuba, at public expense, to attend the merriment that joyfully celebrated the Castros’ capitulation and which – with that skill for euphemisms — the government discourse coined as a “victory of the Revolution.” These included several representatives of the government “civil society” who offered the embarrassing spectacle of rallies of repudiation orchestrated during the last Summit of the Americas in Panama, who now were awarded a trip of encouragement to the Empire of Evil which provides so many goods. Continue reading

Cuba-USA: Embassies and Average Cubans / Ivan Garcia

Cuba-EEUU-Tomanda-de-Telemundo1-_ab-620x330

 Source: Telemundo

Ivan Garcia, 19 July 2015 — Norge imagines himself sipping Cuban coffee at the Versailles restaurant in Miami on July 20 as officials of the Castro regime in white guayaberas and Americans in jackets and ties listen to their national anthems being played and watch flags being hoisted at their respective embassies in Washington and Havana.

For a couple of months he has been planning an illegal escape from the northern coast of the island with a group of friends. Days before setting off to sea in a metal boat outfitted with a diesel engine, Norge consults his Santeria priestess to see if luck is on his side.

The woman throws several snails onto a wooden board and says, “Now is the time.” The rafters then accelerate their plans.

“Once diplomatic relations are reestablished between Cuba and the United States, the Cuban Adjustment Act’s days will be numbered. I don’t have family in the yuma* and it isn’t getting any easier here. As usual, things keep going downhill, so I hope to be playing dominos in Miami on July 20,” Norge says optimistically. Continue reading

Contaminated Aquifers, Cause for Alarm / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 23 July 2015 – Although they have not been properly disclosed, in spite of their great importance, numerous studies carried out repeatedly by teams of Cuban scientists have raised the alarm about the critical state of Cuba’s main aquifers.

The detection of high levels of lead and other heavy metals harmful to human health in lakes and reservoirs intended for human use and for work related to agriculture and fisheries suggest that this could be one of the main causes for the increase among the Cuban population of cancer and other illnesses related to prolonged exposure to toxic substances.

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

While the phenomenon afflicts all the country’s provinces, Havana is the region most affected because, first, it is surrounded by several landfills capable of leaking highly toxic elements into underground waters that feed sources destined to supply the capital; and, second, most industries do not comply with international norms for the treatment of wastes and the filtering of harmful gas emissions, and they even discharge wastes directly into river basins like the Almendares, which crosses the capital and whose waters are used on farmlands. Continue reading

Twenty Families in Güines Endangered by Imminent Collapse / Hablemos Press, Raul Ramirez Puig

The structure is propped up and bears a sign that warns of danger from collapse.  Photos taken by the author.

The structure is propped up and bears a sign that warns of danger from collapse.
Photos taken by the author.

Hablemos Press, Raul Ramirez Puig, Mayabeque, 25 June 2015 – Residents of the building located on Habana Street and Esquina de Teja, in the municipality of Güines, Mayabeque province, are making known the imminent danger they are facing.

The structure was built in 1735, according to data from the Municipal Library. Other buildings dating from that era, such as the Güines Villa, have not had any maintenance since 1959.

More than three months ago, barricades and signs were put up warning passersby of the danger, but there has been no move to repair the damages.

Güines is one of the most productive municipalities of Mayabeque province. It is also one of the most forgotten.

About Hablemos Press

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Restore Sovereignty to the People If You Want To Avoid another Revolution / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks  in 1953was the opening move of the Revolution

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks on 26 July, 62 years ago, was the opening move of the Revolution

A pandemic of freedom floods our senses.
Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos and other authors, Havana, 25 July 2015 – It will soon be 62 years since a group of young men headed by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an event that catapulted that figure to the foreground of national politics and definitively buried the possibility of a peaceful and political outcome to the situation created by Fulgencio Batista’s coup a year before.

The armed struggle prevailed and managed to oust the tyrant from power. But the violent way in which it was achieved marked until today the political fate of Cuba. The Encampment triumphed again over the Republic.

That same character who organized and led that assault and who then headed a rebel military movement capitalized on the popular triumph of the 1959 Revolution, made and supported by the great majority of the Cuban people in order to restore the democratic system. Continue reading

Authority as Exemplified by Elpidio Valdés / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

Elpidio Valdez

Elpidio Valdés

14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Havana, 18 July 2015 —  I remember it as if it were yesterday when my old man took me to see the first Elpidio Valdés feature film in 1974. Having just debuted in the city of Santa Clara, we had to jump through hoops to find a taxi willing to take us all the way there from the town of Encrucijada. Thanks to the help of one of my father’s many friends, we were able to sneak into the Cubanacán Cinema, now long gone. Around the corner and in front of an improvised ticket booth set up for these types of events, a large police unit tried controlling half of Villa Clara Province that had descended on the Provincial capital for the movie’s premiere.

I have seen that film around fifty times. I doubt there are many who can beat my record. Whenever it played in Encrucijada’s movie house, I would go see it the four nights in a row of its run.

I was and still am a fan of this fictional military leader of the Cuban Wars of Independence. It is no wonder I stored all the Elpidio Valdés animations from before 1990 on my computer. On top of that, I also own a copy of the quickly-forgotten series Más se perdió en la guerra, or Más se perdió en Cuba,* the title changing depending on whether it was distributed on the island or in Spain. Continue reading

A new case of fraud shakes Cuban universities / Mario Lleonart

A new case of academic fraud this Thursday has shaken the universities. A group of first year medical students in Villa Clara province were able to see in advance the answers to the morpho-physiology exam, which was sat Thursday July 2nd. According to various witnesses, the sale and circulation of the test was so widespread that it occurred in other venues, such as Sagua la Grande.

The immediate solution they are going to arrange is to get all the first year students to repeat the exam next Monday July 13th. At this stage it is not known whether any penalties will be applied to those who committed the fraud, nor whether they have made public the source of the leak. The only details which are known have come from those who have to retake the exam, with some students  complaining they are paying for the guilty ones.

This type of scandal in the academic world has occurred frequently in all educational levels. In July last year this daily paper reported the leak of various final tests in Medical Faculty Number 1 in Santiago de Cuba. On that occasion 23 students were directly involved in the leak and distribution of the contents of the second year anatomy and statistics exams, 4th year English, and the so-called State Test. On that occasion, the Teachers’ Board at the centre called for a sanction of two years’ suspension from higher education for the students involved in the act.

Translated by GH
9 July 2015

Writing about the Cowards / Reinaldo Escobar

Moncada Barracks

Moncada Barracks

Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 July 2015 — I do not know if I’ll be the first to do it, but at a time like this I want to congratulate the cowards.

Those who 62 years ago were summoned to a Revolutionary action in Santiago de Cuba, and who, when they heard the details describing the madness that involved storming the Moncada barracks, declined to participate.

I do not know the exact number of those who backed out at the last moment, much less their names. I have heard that their identities have never been disclosed, because among them there were some who later joined the fight and even fell in combat. The official story goes that of 135 implicated only four did not “step up.” Other versions raise to 165 the number of the conspirators and about 30 who thought better of it. Continue reading

Among Thieves: Who Robs Whom? / Hablemos Press, Yixander Doimeadios

Entre ladrones_MG_3749Hablemos Press, Yixander Doimeadios, Havana, 25 July 2105 – Theft is institutionalized in Cuba. It is a pseudo-culture, endured and practiced from one end of the Island to the other, and the excuses for it are: “I have to live, life is hard….” as if the parasitic “living” were something that must be accepted.

The fees tacked on to products sold in the hard currency stores* are insulting. Discounts on them, even hours before their sell-by dates, are notable in their absence.

And what to say about the private-sale merchandise added to the inventory by the shopkeepers? Nothing is direct from the producer or manufacturer, and everything has a shady provenance because it comes in “under the table.” Continue reading

“They forced me not to dream”: Interview with Angel Santiesteban / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Angel Santiesteban

Blogger and writer Angel Santiesteban (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, 24 July 2015 – In the Border Guard facility where Angel Santiesteban spent his last year in prison, he heard the sound of the sea. Inside his less than nine by twelve foot cell, when there was a storm the writer could feel the pounding of the waves. A sound that also accompanied him when he was released last Friday and walked, without a centavo in his pocket to take the bus, along the coast through Playa to the house of a friend.

Three nights after getting out of prison, the blogger and activist agreed to talk with 14ymedio about the days in prison, his literature, Cuba and the future.

Lilianne Ruiz (LR): How did they announce your release?

Angel Santiesteban (AS): Hours beforehand a guard was joking and told me, “I think you’re leaving today.” I ignored him, believing that it was a part of the game to psychologically debilitate me. While I was talking to the mother of my daughter during my turn to use the telephone, a prison officer came with the notice of my release. He said, “Congratulations, you’re going.” He gave me papers to sign for my parole. Continue reading