The First Book of the End of Castroism / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Cuban dissident and opposition party leader Oswaldo Payá in an interview before his death. Photo: Tracey Eaton
Cuban dissident and opposition party leader Oswaldo Payá in an interview before his death. Photo: Tracey Eaton

The Madrid publisher Anaya has just released the first book of the end of Castroism—that is, of Castroism understood as a myth perpetuated by the intellectual left. From now on, one cannot sympathize with the Castro dynasty without also becoming a criminal collaborator.

The book is called Muerte bajo sospecha (Death Under Suspicion) and it contains the testimony of Ángel Carromero, the young Spanish politician who witnessed a double State assassination in Cuba on July 22, 2012. In the attach, both the human rights activist Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement and winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2002, were killed.

Two years ago, on July 22, Carromero was driving a rental car from Havana towards Santiago de Cuba, accompanied by the Swedish politician Aron Modig and the Cubans, Cepero and Payá. A little after midday, they were rammed off the road by another car. Nobody was injured. A group of unidentified men in plain clothing descended on them immediately. The foreign men were taken in separate vans to Bayamo Hospital which was already occupied by army officers and the police. Hours later, Cepero and Payá were dead. The identities of the men who transported the two survivors has never been revealed by the Cuban government. A few months later, during the trial that sentenced Carromero to four years in jail for “negligent homicide,” there was no investigation into the unidentified men. continue reading

This is the basis of Carromero’s story, and it’s what he and Modig were able to convey via text message after the accident, before their foreign cell phones were confiscated by hospital staff, and before they were put into solitary confinement, despite the Payá and Cepero families’ demands to speak with both of them.

Muerte bajo sospecha summarizes these details and many others. Most sinister of all, the book is now the testimony of a man with a death sentence hanging over him. Carromero describes how, before finally being deported back to Spain in December 2012 to serve the rest of his prison sentence, a Cuban State Security official warned him that if he ever told the truth, he too would be killed by extra-judicial means.

Carromero has now told the truth, and so his death is inescapable, and it will be “accidental.” It could happen whenever public opinion least expects it, and it will happen just when the intellectual left—who have already begun to stigmatize the young Spanish secretary of the People’s Party, including through protests in the basest Castroist fashion—least believe it could.

But Carromero’s conscience can already rest in peace. The Cuban people must show their gratitude for his courage. With his testimony, the post-Castroist era has been ushered in, where the Revolution and Crime-Without-Punishment will be synonymous forever more.

From Sampsonia Way Magazine, 1 April 2014

Oliver Stone’s Venezuela: Between Forgetting and Horror / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Scenes from Oliver Stone's new documentary 'Mi Amigo Hugo.' Photo: Created by Sampsonia Way via YouTube.
Scenes from Oliver Stone’s new documentary ‘Mi Amigo Hugo.’ Photo: Created by Sampsonia Way via YouTube.

For over a month now, the people of Venezuela have been joining together to protest the country’s Chavista government, which has ruled since Hugo Chávez took power 15 years ago. The demonstrations down on the streets and at the barricades are unstoppable. They form a sea of largely young people, a generation that has known no other reality but nonetheless is thoroughly fed up with the only one it knows. As a result, they are crying out that enough is enough.

Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.

They are condemning the shortages, the wholesale delinquency, the government corruption, the ransoming of civil society (including the closure of the free press), Cuba’s meddling attempts at imposing a monolithic model of society, the electoral fraud, and the list goes on and on. Ultimately, they are denouncing the asphyxiation of the very fragile illusion that we call Latin American democracy. continue reading

Venezuela’s Bolivarian government responded immediately—with military and paramilitary repression in front of its citizens’ cameras, which fortunately were connected to the net. What a macabre deployment of first-world technology to suppress popular opinion.

Beatings. Torture. Countless accusations. At least twenty eight people are dead, most of whom were unarmed civilians—and most were killed by an expertly executed shot to the head. Venezuela’s Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, acknowledged that more than a thousand Venezuelans had been arrested in a single month, using precautionary measures that restrict their freedom to protest in public, though she assured that only 104 were still in prison, including 15 public officials who have been accused of human rights violations.

March 5th marked the first anniversary of the announcement of the death of ex-President Hugo Chávez—who is now known as the Supreme Commander—although there are rumors that his death occurred in Cuba and not Venezuela, at an earlier date than the official version.

On that day, Oliver Stone premiered his posthumous tribute documentary, Mi Amigo Hugo, which was shown as a mandatory broadcast on every Venezuelan TV network, while the Bolivarian National Guard held the country in a headlock. Long live total freedom of expression! But the American filmmaker forgot to say a single word about the tragedy that is devouring Venezuela today. Long live the amoral amnesia of expression too?

Translated by Alex Higson

From Sampsonia Way Magazine

17 March 2014

Our Potato Who Art in Heaven / Orlando Freire Santana

HAVANA, Cuba — Prices of agricultural products have increased between 15 and 25 percent in recent months. An unsustainable burden if we take into account the population’s salaries. The price increase coincides with new forms of marketing. It turns out that the mechanism for bringing producers and consumers closer and eliminating intermediaries set off prices.

It was obvious: An official research center decides to cast aside marketing analysis and concentrates on production.

Armando Nova Gonzalez, researcher for the Cuban Economic Studies Center, told the Tribuna de la Havana newspaper: The levels of production should have increased with the transfer of idle lands to lease-holders. But it has not been so because of how expensively the State sells tools and adequate inputs to the lease-holders in order to make the land produce, among other reasons. continue reading

Other forms of production — the Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPA) and the Credit and Services Coooperatives (CSS) — also have seen their costs affected by the high prices that they pay for fuel, fertilizer, tires and parts for trucks and tractors.  All those provided by a single supplier — a certain state enterprise — which does not offer options to the producers.

Nova concludes that those costs will not diminish — nor the retail prices — as long as there exists no market for inputs, where the producer may select what he needs, with the only limit being his ability to buy, through credits or personal savings.

In order to verify the prices, we decided to visit three farmers markets in the capital, each one with a different way of marketing. The Egido Market, of the offer-demand mode, exhibited the following prices (all per pound of product): black beans at 10 pesos, red beans at 15, yams at 2, tomato salad at 5, cucumbers at 4, malanga at 5 and chunky bananasat 10 pesos a bunch.

A point of sale in Calzada de Monte, leased to the CCS Juan Bruno Zayas, offered these prices: black beans at 12, red beans at 13, yams at 2, tomato salad at 7, cucumbers at 4, malanga at 5 and chunky bananasat 10 pesos a bunch.

In Arroyo, a non-agricultural cooperative, the black beans were at 12, there were no red, yams at 2, tomato salad at 5, there were no cucumbers, malanga at 4, and there were no chunky bananaseither.  It is clear, there are no significant variations in the prices among the different forms of marketing. Nova is right, the elevated costs of production determine the high sale prices to the public. But, his suggestion of an inputs market for the growers could meet the same fate as the wholesale market for the self-employed workers. . .  And the price of the potato will continue toward the heavens.

Cubanet, March 24, 2014, 

Translated by mlk

Potatoes, Food and Condoms: The Shortages Diversify

Image taken from the Internet

Chronic shortages in Cuba are extending their tentacles with renewed vigor. The cycles of absence of numerous products are ever more frequent, even in the markets that trade “in hard currency.” Lately toilet paper has disappeared (for the umpteenth time in recent months), and similarly there have been short “gap” periods in which there have been no toothbrushes, toothpaste, wheat flour, powdered milk, soaps and detergents, sanitary napkins, etc. Nothing seems to be safe from the black hole that is Castro’s socialism, in which life is reduced to “not-dying,” while running a perennial pilgrimage after those articles which, anywhere in the civilized world, are a part of the most common reality.

With regards to food, it’s better not to talk about it. It’s enough to see the Dantesque scenes offered to us by the lines that form at dawn whenever someone announces that this or that farmers market “is going to have potatoes.” The police in Central Havana are practically on a war footing attending to the brawls that occur in the crowds who aspire to buy the longed-for tuber.

Now it turns out that the shortages have reached condoms, those attachments needed for the safe practice of what some call “the national sport.” Things have reached such an extreme that it has come to the point where drugstores and pharmacies have mobilized staff to change the expiration dates that appear on this product–already expired–to “update” it and be able to sell it. There is testimony that in some of Cuba’s interior provinces this task has been assigned to recruits doing their military service: a strategy of total combat in the face of the alarms set off by this small and humble latex object. According to the authorities, this is being done “because the dates on the containers were wrong.”

Consumers, however, are wary. In a country where corruption and deceit are part of the reality, no one feels safe. Some paranoiacs go to the extreme of suspecting it’s part of an official conspiracy to promote births in Cuba… What it really does is lead to an increase in abortions.

At the moment, a friend tells me, half-amused half-worried, that if in the 90s she had buy condoms to use as balloons at her son’s birthday party–today a young man of twenty-something– now she will have to buy balloons to practice safe sex.

31 March 2014

An Opportune Difference Between Cuba and Venezuela / Angel Santiesteban

Thanks to the god of the communication media, in Venezuela the national and foreign TV hasn’t been sold to Chavismo, and they report on events immediately, without concern for reprisals.

In Cuba we face another reality. The foreign broadcasters (independent national stations don’t exist), rarely look behind the news that would harm the government, that would immediately put an end to the long vacations they take in the archipelago living in five-star hotels. continue reading

The times I accompanied the Ladies in White, I never saw a TV reporter, knowing that in some way, their being there would protect them from the arrests and abuse. If they did their duty, the images of our events would speak for themselves, and the activists would risk more. But in most cases, we suffer the beatings and they arrest us without leaving any witnesses to defend us, save those times when the opposition itself can record it and upload it to the Internet.

Before entering prison, the only media based in the island that came to me was the Associated Press (AP) via Andrea Rodríguez, their correspondent. All the opposition advised me not to grant her an interview, branded her as a Cuban security agent, used to misrepresent the evidence, and to manipulate the news to favor the communist government and harm the opposition.

But I agreed anyway because I am someone who has nothing to hide and does not avoid talking, and I fell into the trap. The news was delivered my version amputated in a ghost article, obviously official, of one of those writers who then signed the letters against me in Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC). The author, who also refused to give her name and the reporter respected that — put my words in doubt and as much as possible gave the official version.

Following that, I had an exchange with the reporter and told her I understood she was hardly ethical if she gave my testimony with my name, and then sought people who doubted my word and refused to give theirs, staying in the shade, because that position was not transparent.

Later I learned that this “journalist” is married to a former official from the political police. It doesn’t matter how far certain commentaries goe if they lack impartiality.

The opposition lacks media coverage before the world in terms of real and direct news, and this marks the great different with the rest of the countries which, in recent years, have had large social movements.

We need journalists to accompany us in this war against the dictatorship.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Lawton Prison Settlement. March 2014

Please sign the petition to Amnesty International here.

31 March 2014

The Cuban Parliament Interrupts Its Eternal Vacation / Juan Juan Almeida

In a small editorial, the newspaper Granma reported that, in accordance with Article 90, section (a) of the current Constitution, the State Council of the Republic of Cuba agreed to convene a special session of the National Assembly of Popular Power to consider the draft Law on Foreign Investment.

Wow, even in that there is apartheid! Wouldn’t it be better to reconvene to establish the rights of Cuban entrepreneurs? I don’t know why I bother if Cubans already know that in this strange debate the MPs only attend to shout in unison “Aye.”

20 March 2014

Serious Denunciations Before the IACHR: Human Rights Situation of Journalists in Cuba. The Santiesteban Case

The lawyer, Veizant Boloy, and the journalists Roberto de Jesús Guerra and Julio Aliaga have presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights denunciations about the permanent violations of human rights of the independent journalists, and explained how the persecution of information professionals operates. They have shown the Commission the video of the detention of Angel Santiesteban on November 8, 2012.

Cuban journalists reported before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights that they continue being persecuted in Cuba. 

March 25, 2014

Washington, March 25 (EFE). Two Cuban journalists and a Cuban lawyer reported today before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that independent reporters “continue suffering persecution” in Cuba.

They explained in a hearing on the subject about the situation of freedom of expression and the rights of journalists on the island, organized by the IACHR, an autonomous entity of the Organization of American States (OEA), at which no representative of Raúl Castro’s government turned up. continue reading

“The repression continues against the journalists, the opposition and citizens who wish to express themselves freely,” said the journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, of the agency Hablemos Press, who described himself to the IACHR as an ex-political prisoner.

Guerra Pérez testified that in March, four journalists were detained while they were performing their work on the island, and he added that in 2013 the workers in his agency were arrested more than 70 times and that they had their material confiscated on repeated occasions.

The lawyer Veizant Boloy González, from the center of legal information, Cubalex, explained that Cuban journalists are  submitted to censorship, incarceration, surveillance and requisition of material.

“The authorities continue persecuting independent journalists,” affirmed Boloy.

“Although the Cuban state projects an image of economic and political opening, it doesn’t take weighty measures to promote freedom of expression. The medium of diffusion of information continues being in the power of the State. The citizens continue without participating in the political life of the country, and the government doesn’t take this into account,” added Boloy.

Another journalist, Julio Aliaga, told how he had been detained on several occasions, and he pointed out that in Cuba the provinces are “dark zones” as far as journalistic coverage is concerned, owing to the fact that the international media is centered in Havana.

Aliago requested of the Castro regime that they develop a law that establishes freedom of expression and abolishes the crimes in the penal code that affect this right, and the law known as the “gag” law, as well as modify the law of association.

Furthermore, the journalist appealed to the IACHR that it develop a report on the situation of freedom of expression in Cuba and that it invite the government to participate in the inter-American system of human rights.

The constituents of the IACHR regretted the absence of representatives of the Cuban executive and recalled that the Commission always invites the State and notifies it of all the denunciations.

Participants: Hablemos Press Center of Information (CIPRESS)/CUBALEX

State of Cuba

Please sign the petition to have Angel Santiesteban declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Regina Anavy

27 March 2014