A Chavez Supporter Denounces “The Castros’ Deception” / 14ymedio

Advertisement greeting arriving passengers at Havana’s José Martí International Airport Terminal 3. Poster reads “Cuba: A Healthcare Destination for All.” (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 29 July 2015 — On June 30, 2015, the pro-Chávez website Aporrea posted a disturbing testimonial about the Cuban healthcare system, with a title that says it all: “Ninety Days in Havana: You Have to be There to Know The Truth.” The Venezuelan Nelson Jesús Lanz Fuentes, a regular contributor to Aporrea, and a great admire of Hugo Chávez, narrates the ordeal he went through first in his country, and later in Havana, where he accompanied his son with the hope that Cuban doctors could save his leg.

A traffic accident left the son of Lanz Fuentes, a resident of the Venezuelan city of Guarenas, with severe injuries to one of his legs. His tibia factured in three places and the doctors from Venezuela’s public health system inserted a plate in his leg to help regenerate the bone. However, the operation caused an infection resulting in a terrible diagnosis: infected pseudoartrosis and osteomyelitis of the right tibia, and a dermoepidermal ulcer with bone exposure. Venezuelan doctors in private practice recommended a very expensive treatment that did not guarantee good results. continue reading

Lanz Fuentes, who in recent years has been very critical of Nicolás Maduro’s administration (which he accuses of false socialism) posted an open letter to the President on Aporrea, complaining bitterly how Venezuela dares call itself a socialist country when his son might lose his leg “because of commercialized private healthcare and an ineffective public health system.”

In the same missive, he asked the Venezuelan government to give him permission to exercise his right to travel with his son as stipulated in the healthcare agreement between his country and Cuba because Lanz Fuentes sincerely believed that “Cuba is the only country in the world where the leg could be saved.” He was convinced that “socialism only really exists in Cuba, where every citizen receives free healthcare regardless of medical condition.”

Lanz Fuentes wish came true when on March 30, 2015 he flew to Havana, after being “fast tracked” with the backing of a bureaucrat for the Cuban–Venezuelan Healthcare Agreement.

Like all Venezuelans, Lanz Fuentes’ son was sent to La Pradera International Healthcare Center (built as tourist center at the beginning of the century), which receives patients in accord with the Cuban–Venezuelan agreement. From there, patients are dispersed to different medical facilities according to their pathology. Upon being diagnosed with acute osteomyelitis and infection of the tibia, Lanz Fuentes’s son was transferred to Havana’s Frank País Orthopedic Hospital where he was to undergo emergency surgery as per the Cuban doctors’ recommendation. The diagnosis was completely confirmed at the center, but the urgency ended there.

Thirty days after being admitted, Lanz Fuentes’ son had yet to be operated on. His treatment was reduced to treating the infection with antibiotics. The official rational was a lack of a bed in sterilized room. After complaining for several days and promises broken, Lanz Fuentes reports that a doctor finally confessed that “the truth is my son will have to wait between three and five months. Foreigners who pay in cash and in US dollars get preference.”

Disillusioned, Lanz Fuentes admonished the doctor for his response, and argued that the Venezuelan people already pay the Cuban government with their oil. So since Cuba has incurred a debt of billions of dollars with his country, Venezuelans should receive care first. Lanz Fuentes’ angry reaction resulted in his son being transferred to Havana’s Fructuoso Rodríguez Orthopedic Teaching Hospital in El Vedado.

“We spent 45 days locked up in a beautiful resort. We were allowed to move around freely within the compound, but we could only leave it on Saturdays, from 2:00 to 6:00 PM, and on Sundays from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. From Monday to Friday we were locked in there,” protests Mr. Lanz as he recalls the days he spent at La Pradera International Healthcare Center. On top of being confined, Lanz Fuentes had to accept the fact that patients who paid in cash and in U.S. dollars enjoyed priority over Venezuelans, since their care was “free of charge.”

But with all that, the worse was the “bill.” Although he had been assured in Venezuela that the agreement with Cuba guaranteed free healthcare, Lanz Fuentes was charged for antibiotics, medications and vitamins, as well as for all meals and hospitalizations. He was handed two bills for US$7,800 each his son’s expenses, and another one for US$4,800 for his. Lanz Fuentes states: “What this means is that, for the stays of all of us who turn to Cuba, the Cuban government is very well compensated by its principal ally and pimp, our Venezuelan government.”

It took just a few months in Cuba for Lanz Fuentes to fully understand “the absolute truth about the current Cuban reality, all the lies that the Maduro Government tells us about the Cuban government, and the fantastic propaganda machine that the Castros use in order to keep deceiving the rest of the world.”

Translated by José Badué

Eighty Percent of Las Tunas Province Is Facing Soil Erosion / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 July 2015 — Experts have just confirmed what peasants in Las Tunas Province already knew due to the declining yields of their harvests and the degradation of their land. Eighty percent of the province’s arable land has already eroded, and another 28% is facing desertification. According to reports appearing in the official Cuban press on July 28th, this problem is a result of “changes in rain patterns, and inadequate management of the province’s farmable lands.” continue reading

Specialists from this eastern Cuban province’s Communist Party Agricultural Affairs Committee estimate that 445,000 acres of previously fertile land are now ruined, accounting for 11.67% of the of the island’s deserts. According to the report, climate change combined with a growth in farming in the so-called “vulnerable zones” will only exacerbate and spread the environmental damage.

Top and subsoil erosion, poor drainage, salinization, and compaction are among the negative results of soil degradation. Consequently, the region’s agricultural output has dropped significantly.

The government experts stress that uncontrolled forest fires, the burning of harvest leftovers, the absence of crop rotation, deforestation, and the excessive use of machinery are some of this situation’s other causes. Las Tunas Province has a naturally dry climate, from where it takes name.* Nevertheless, this reality has only been worsened by the current predicament.

The loss of arable land is worse on the northern border with Camagüey Province. According to Amado Luis Palma, an expert from the Ministry of Science, Technology and the Environment, “(northern) Las Tunas Province is beginning to resemble Cuba’s only semi-arid region, the desert corridor between Caimanera and Maisí, in Guantánamo Province.”

*Translator’s note: “Tunas” are a type of native Cuban cactus that grows wild in the province.

Translated by José Badué

Drivel and Anniversaries: Cuban Television is a Wreck / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Cuban TV prime time news
Cuban TV prime time news

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 29 July 2015 — Twenty minutes after the start of the news, the only things they had announced were the anniversaries of historic events and obituaries. As if nothing has happened in the country now. For the evening prime time news, the world stopped fifty years ago and remains only something to remember and honor. Even the weather has mothballs. A “good night” concludes the broadcast and we viewers hold out unfounded hope for what could be the best part of the line-up. But nothing.

Cuban television is experiencing one of its worst moments. Programming oscillates between the stiffness of ideology and American programming taken without any regard for copyright. So, we go from a tearful documentary about the birth of Hugo Chavez, to the intrigue of the series Castle, where a murderer manages to escape at the last second. One channel re-broadcasts Machado Ventura’s soporific 26th of July speech, and on another some kids learn to cook recipes that could never be made in Cuba because of the lack of ingredients. continue reading

Bleeding-heart vampires alternate with martyrs fallen in who knows what battle. Soap operas of more than 100 episodes made in Brazil, Mexico or Colombia try to recover an audience that for the most part already knows that the bad guy married the good girl, because they already watched the series through the illegal “weekly packet.” Audience participation programs try to transmit freshness from a studio where even the applause is recorded and the dubbed music kills all the charm of a live performance.

Without any concept or order, TV is shaped by whatever comes to hand, what can be stolen from some foreign channel, and the stagnation of domestic productions

The comedy shows are not spared either, with the exception of the popular Vivir del Cuento (Surviving by Your Wits), the others range from vulgar to easy. Jokes copied from outside sources are the most abundant, given the impossibility of broadcasting on the small screen what really makes us laugh. Can you imagine a comic in front of the camera saying, “It happened once in hell that there were the presidents of the United States, Russia and Cuba…”? No, no you can’t. The humor we see on TV has become as boring as the news.

Without any concept or order, TV is shaped by whatever comes to hand, what can be stolen from some foreign channel, and the stagnation of domestic productions. The worst part comes when the domestic scripts try to compete with Hollywood, the Discovery Channel or History. That’s when they come out with these messes like “On the Trail,” where the police are always so right, honest and effective that you end up wondering how there can be so much crime in a country with such perfect police forces.

Nor are we saved by the sports broadcasts. You have to listen to the commentators who, for long minutes, assure you that the medal was stolen from some Cuban athlete “who did so well, but the referee favored the challenger,” while avoiding offering even one compliment to the hosts of some sporting event taking place abroad. The chauvinism takes the form of the pole, the ball, the bat or the hammer. The athletes become the spearhead of politics.

It’s been an hour since the end of the news broadcast and channel surfing confirms that Cuban television is a wreck. How many people, right now, are looking at one of the broadcasts on the national channels? I suspect very few.

Time for Compensations / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Who will compensate the thousands of Cuban boat people who lost their lives in the Florida Straits? (Mexico, Department of the Navy)
Who will compensate the thousands of Cuban boat people who lost their lives in the Florida Straits? (Mexico, Department of the Navy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 22 July 2015 — After the media foreplay stirred by the opening of the Cuban and US embassies in their respective countries, some outstanding issues on the agenda of negotiations between the two governments begin to surface as matters that should, in short order, get the attention of the media and of public opinion.

Statements by senior officials on both sides have made reference to cardinal issues that marred the Cuba-US relations for half a century, whose solution – requiring very complex negotiations and agreement — will depend on the success of the standardization process that has been occupying headlines and raising expectations since this past December 17th.

One such point refers to compensation claims from both sides. On the US side, for the expropriations suffered by large American companies in Cuba, whose assets have remained in the hands of the Cuban government, and the demands of Cuban citizens who emigrated to the US, who were also stripped of their properties under laws introduced by the Revolution in its early years which remained in place for decades. The total amount of compensation demanded by those affected is estimated at about 7 or 8 billion dollars. continue reading

The amount the Cuban government has established as compensation “to the people” exceeds $100 billion, though it is not known what indicators were used to calculate it.

The Cuban government, in turn, is demanding that American authorities “compensate the Cuban people for over $100 billion in human and economic damages caused by US policies,” referring to economic constraints imposed by the commercial and financial embargo that has weighed on the Island (the so-called “genocide”), as well as other damages resulting from “terrorist attacks”. The total that the Cuban Government has established exceeds $100 billion, although it is not known how or who came up with the process of quantification of the damages.

Up until recently, Cubans “in Cuba” have feared the supposed danger of the nearly 6,000 compensation claims registered in the US at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC, its acronym in English). A quasi-war cry that emerged from the official discourse, when stating that those once termed “siquitrillados”* — hat despicable gang of “bourgeois and stateless softies” who stole the wealth that belonged to the humble people and then took refuge under the shadow of Cuba’s worst enemy — were trying to recuperate what they had lost under the weight of revolutionary justice. That is to say, in the event revolutionary power might cease, thousands of Cuban families would be left homeless when the former owners took back their real properties and evicted them from their buildings. At the same time, children would be left without schools and there would not be enough hospitals, jobs, etc.

The fear was so deep that until now the specter of eviction, unemployment and other possible losses worries not just a few families

And, while that was the message to Cubans on the island in the late 90’s, the government, with its exhausted coffers, sent reassuring signals to foreign investors interested in Cuba as a market, reassuring them that they would be willing to negotiate “fair” compensation with the victims of those old expropriations.

But fear, that indispensable tool of every totalitarian power, had penetrated so deeply into the common people’s psyche that, to date, the specter of eviction, of unemployment and of some other possible losses worries not just a few of the families who live in properties built before 1959 or who work at establishments and factories that Fidel Castro’s government seized decades ago. It is expected, therefore, that the issue of “claims and compensation” of the current negotiating agenda will awaken a higher expectation among Cubans than the modicum of (harmless) novelties that have been presented so far in the framework of political strife currently taking place.

Every Cuban is familiar with those huge posters displaying mysterious mathematical calculations which, however, nobody understands. Such language is often seen declaring how many books, notebooks, medicines or sport equipment have not been acquired for each number of days of the “blockade” (embargo) against Cuba.

Cubans should be getting their calculators ready to determine the exact amount of compensation that the “revolutionary” government should pay us.

The figures are usually astronomical, but the basic criteria and indicators are completely unknown. That is, exactly what is the equivalent of one day of US embargo if measured in notebooks? What are these notebooks and how are their prices calculated? Something similar happens with even more subjective issues, such as the amounts the US owes Cubans who have been victims of violence or terrorism in acts of sabotage taking place during these years.

However, it is absolutely fair to demand compensation for damages in either case. For this reason, and because the scenario seems conducive to reconciliation, Cubans should be getting our calculators ready to determine exactly what amounts of compensation the “Revolutionary” government should pay us for all the wars they got us involved in, where thousands of our fellow countrymen died, how much for the destruction of the national economic infrastructure, how much for the waste of public funds based on ideology, how much for the parades, for the poverty, for the emigration, for shattering our country and the Cuban family, for so many useless “battles,” for the fraud they call Revolution, for the lives lost in the Florida Straits, for the sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat, for the repression, moral damages, persecution, exclusions, prohibitions, low wages, inflation, monetary duality, for snatching our freedom, and for the curtailment of our rights.

Let’s test it out, and in the style of those experiments the beloved General-President loves so much. I propose that we prepare, slowly but surely, a list of our losses over 56 years of dictatorship, and calculate their cost. Our list of demands is sure to be endless, but the sum of the total compensation they owe us is simply beyond price.

*Translator’s note” Siquitrilla: wishbone. Those who lost property in early years of the revolution, or who “ended up with the short end of the (their own) wishbone.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

Havana’s Pools: That Blue Water Yonder / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

The José Martí Stadium Pool, on Havana’s Avenue of the Presidents. (14ymedio/Javier H.)
The José Martí Stadium Pool, on Havana’s Avenue of the Presidents. (14ymedio/Javier H.)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 21 July 2015 — Now 67 years of age, Juan Carlos recalls how when he was a kid he climbed up on a roof and from there spied on the pool of an adjacent exclusive Havana hotel. He was fascinated by what he saw, but Juan Carlos’ family’s financial limitations kept him from enjoying all that magnificence. The slogan “The People Have a Right to Sports” had firmly taken root by his teens and early adult years. Consequently, Juan Carlos got to splash around in several pools, and for free. However, his memories of those blue waters now come back to haunt him. Today, all the pools near Juan Carlos are either in a state of total ruin or way beyond his budget.

Currently retired, Juan Carlos insists that “access to pools in July and August should be a human right.” When summer heat waves make Cubans sweat so profusely, “there’s nothing better then taking a dip to cool off,” he says, with a confident half-smile. continue reading

The lack of chlorine, paint, failing pumps, and lack of maintenance has led to all the “Closed” notices appearing on many of the capital’s pools

After touring those places in Havana where kids once frolicked loudly as others pirouetted before plunging in, it is obvious that pools are no longer affordable to all. Public pools are the most dilapidated. The lack of chlorine, paint, failing pumps, and lack of maintenance has led to all the “Closed” notices appearing on many of the capital’s pools.

Whoever walks under the blazing sun up the street leading to the University of Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital would undoubtedly be upset when coming upon the faded blue paint on what used to be the University Stadium’s Swimming Pool. Lying there empty, deserted for no reason, rests the place where once upon a time students practiced their strokes, and where swimming meets between the University’s departments were held.

The same thing has happened to El Pontón, a sports and recreation center on the corner of Oquendo and Manglar Streets in Downtown Havana. El Pontón used to house two pools, one for laps and the other for diving. The latter had a thirty-foot-high diving platform. Yet all that remains of these pools is an enormous pit full of trash through which the floodwaters in this low-lying area are drained off.

“This was once full of kids,” recalled an elderly man who was trying to do his morning exercises in the midst of overgrown weeds on a field which many years ago was a baseball diamond. “A lot of us from the area would bring our kids here so that they would learn to swim,” he remembers. “I now have a fifteen-year-old granddaughter. If she falls in the water she’d drown. She’s never had the chance to swim in a pool, not even to just learn how to float.”

Pool in a privately owned restaurant near the U.S. Embassy. (14ymedio/Javier H)
Pool in a privately owned restaurant near the U.S. Embassy. (14ymedio/Javier H)

On the list of destruction on which appears El Pontón, one can also find the José Martí Stadium, located on the Avenue of the Presidents just a few yards from the Malecón. Youngsters now use the empty pool for soccer matches. It is also not uncommon on some nights for couples to use this pool for lovemaking under the twinkling stars. “The only thing missing in this pool is an avocado plant growing right in the middle of it. Maybe when that happens they’ll finally realize they need to fix it,” complained Fidelio, a resident of nearby “E” Street, who goes for a run on the stadium’s dilapidated track every morning.

A few blocks from the José Martí Stadium stands the Havana Riviera Hotel, opened in 1957 with twenty floors and 352 guest rooms. This enormous hotel has a pool that can be enjoyed even by those who are not guests. Admission costs 15 CUC for adults and ten for children, with a snack included that is actually eighty percent of the total price. Juan Carlos would have to not touch one single cent of his pension for a whole two months in order to enjoy such a luxury.

Aside from offering dining services and lodging in their homes, many families advertise the use of a pool as an added attraction.

Notwithstanding all the bad news, our retiree is not giving up. He asked a friend with Internet access to find him a private pool. Three days later he was handed a list with more than fifty options, almost all of them in the more upscale districts of Vedado, Miramar, and Casino Deportivo. “This one is the pool I told you about!” Juan Carlos exclaimed, with the same eagerness that as a youngster he felt when first spied on those distant blue pool waters from a rooftop. However, now he cannot afford to enjoy it.

Aside from offering dining services and lodging in their homes, numerous families also advertise the use of a pool as an added attraction. These houses are usually rented out for “fiestas de quince” (15-year-old girls’ birthday parties), weddings, or for the arrival of an émigré relative whose family wants to welcome him in one central location where they can all enjoy a relatively lavish get-together. In Havana’s most centrally located neighborhoods, enjoying a day of dips in a pool, with a couple of beverages included, and perhaps a light lunch, costs no less than ten CUC per person.

After touring all the pools he swam in his youth but that now lay in ruins, Juan Carlos also had to rule out the hotel and private home offers. The excessive prices are a reality he cannot ignore. Nevertheless, a friend lent him a 67-inch diameter inflatable pool. Last weekend he set it up on his balcony, filled it with a few buckets of water, and sat in it with a bottle of Cuban Bucanero beer in hand. He looked like a teenager. The next day, Juan Carlos was informed that a neighbor had snitched on him to the police for “excessive use of water from their building’s tank.”

Translated by José Badué

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. continue reading

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.

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

The small group close to Fidel and Raul Castro leads, now for more than half a century, an authoritarian Government that never re-established democratic institutions, structured on the basis of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” according to the principles of Stalinism, which has nothing to do with Marx or with the founders of socialism.

All very well done to keep the little group in power. All very badly done according to the interests of the people and workers.

Injustice today still openly and violently represses different thought, prevents a few women [the Ladies in White] from marching with flowers on an avenue seeking liberty for political prisoners, imposes on the nation its own Communist Party and political economy that they decide and negotiate with the US Government, behind the backs of the Cuban people, an effort to save their monopolistic State capitalism with an alliance with the foreign capital that could lead to the virtual economic and geo-political annexation by the neighbor to the north.

The failure of monopolistic State capitalism imposed on Cuba in the name of socialism, the Revolution and the working class is more than evident in many of its main results:

1-Destroying the country’s economy. 2- Impoverishing workers and Cubans in general. 3- Covering the word socialism in mud. 4-Dividing and scattering the Cuban family. 5-Discouraging the Cuban people from working. 6-Distorting national history and de-nationalizing the Cuban nationality. 7-Retarding for almost half a century revolutionary progress in Latin America with its encouragement of violence.

The constant violation of the civil and political rights of the Cuban people is found today in the most recent absurd attacks by the bureaucratic system against artists of great national and international prestige such as Tania Bruguera and Juan Carlos Cremata

Another recognized achievement is international solidarity, which has been the work of the Cuban people, but some part would have to be celebrated, another part discussed and much re-evaluated as counterproductive and even reprehensible. Education and health in reach of all, with all its deficiencies and limitations, are the little improvement that it has achieved, but both were conceived for the skilled and continuous exploitation of salaried statism.

That is the concrete thing we have today. What happened before 1959 is ancient history for new generations, who are brought up in absolutism around the power established and recognized in an obsolete Constitution, copied from the former USSR, a constitution that the Government itself violates every day.

The constant violation of the civil and political rights of the Cuban people is found today in the most recent absurd attacks by the bureaucratic system against artists of great national and international prestige such as Tania Bruguera and Juan Carlos Cremata, attacks which constitute offenses against the whole national culture and prove that the

Encampment does not back down in its outrage against the Republic.

If different expressions of art and national culture cannot be freely demonstrated, if they cannot creatively represent our contemporary national reality, then the old slogan “Within the Revolution everything, outside the Revolution nothing” has been turned into: The ‘Revolution’ is no longer ‘everything,’ rather it is ‘nothing.’

A nation is its culture and if it is not respected, it is nothing more than a group of empty symbols.

The most sacred thing that a human being has, what permits him to live, to be fulfilled and to build a family, is his work, his creative capacity, his physical and intellectual aptitudes, which are materially translated into remuneration for his efforts and results.

The right to payment for work is perhaps the most important right, which permits in turn the realization of other rights.

And the supposedly socialist State is violating that right since it appropriated and nationalized all the factories, lands, big, medium and small businesses, theaters, cinemas, parks, beaches, cultural and social centers, dance halls, etc., and converted everyone, even artists, into salaried employees of the State. Today they receive miserable salaries and pensions, the same as 50 years ago but devalued 50 times.

That desecration of the value of work, the main basis for any economy, has destroyed the productive forces of the nation, especially the most important, the human workforce, which has been demoralized and corrupted by the high level of exploitation to which it is subjected with extremely low wages. How can they ask people to be productive, to take care of the means of production and to feel master of them?

If they do not respect the workforce, art or the citizens’ civil or political rights, what mess are we facing?

We already told the General [Raul Castro] that it was time to close the Encampment and to open the Republic. But like all our messages to power, this one did not reach receptive ears either. It was ignored.

Do the current rulers really believe they can ignore with impunity the demands of other revolutionaries and citizens with different thinking? Do they believe that I gained this by shooting and by shooting they will have to take it from me? Why were those shots fired? To gain access to power eternally and return to the people trampled dignity and sovereignty? To keep themselves in power by means of violence? Do some still believe that it is preferable to sink the Island in the sea than to lose their power and privilege?

From the democratic left the government has been warned many times: if they continue forgetting the original contents that gave life to this process and continue to violate the rights of Cubans, the unchanneled discontent could overflow.

They go so slowly that they are becoming paralyzed. Everything has its limits. Patience, too.

Today repressive actions against the peaceful opposition do not stop not even with the approach of the pope’s visit. If anything, they increase in number and intensity in an effort to stop the inevitable progress of the democratization demanded by almost all of Cuban society, parts of which are equally inside and outside of Cuba, the worker, the fledgling entrepreneur, the student and the soldier, the communist, the indifferent and the dissident. We are all parts.

I recently demanded an end to the spiral of violence, which is the fault of the repressor State. The opposition no longer places bombs or makes attacks. It assumed the path of peaceful confrontation. The world today is different than that of the Cold War. Not realizing these changes and continuing with violence is good for no one.

As some opponents demand: Judge for yourself the repression’s direct actors.

From the democratic left it has been warned many times: if they continue forgetting the original contents that gave life to this proc overflow.

If they do not want people protesting in the streets or wherever or however they can, they must do things right: stop the repression, free the political prisoners, permit freedom of expression, association, election and economic activities. Start a dialogue with everyone. Move towards a new democratic Constitution, a State of law and a new electoral law.

We do not demand that you surrender or submit, but that you permit the democratization of Cuban society

Set reasonable internet prices. Eliminate obstacles to self-employment, cooperativism and state trading monopolies. Deliver state enterprises to the collective management of the workers. And free yourselves from so much blame.

Without peace, democracy and freedom, there will be no development or any socialism.

This is, once more, a plea from the political forces that emerged from the revolutionary process itself. From people who devoted the best years of their lives to fighting for the socialism in which they believed and who today see their poor families torn apart and their children and grandchildren risking their lives at sea or in the jungles searching for well being. Bringing people to desperation is the worst politics. Prevent violence from growing and spreading.

We do not demand that you surrender or submit, but that you permit the democratization of Cuban society or let others do what you espoused and were incapable of doing: achieving the complete happiness of all the Cuban people.

Do that last service for the Revolution that you began and that long ago you should have put into the hand of the sovereign people, and then no one will bother you. In any case, you would pass into history as those who righted the stray path.

Let the people decide, restore to them their sovereignty. Because of that and for that they supported the Revolution that you lead 62 years ago. Don’t provoke another one.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

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

However, and in the spirit of René Descartes, I decided a while back to take on the task of doubting everything as far as possible so I could take ownership over the truth that allows me to reason on my own without prejudice or imposed dogmas. This is why I have also chosen to analyze Juan Padrón’s greatest creation according to my own criteria.

Since I do not want to bore my readers, I will only highlight the following thoughts. Authority figures are beyond reproach in all the Elpidio Valdés cartoons. Throughout this character’s adventures in the fight for Cuban independence, it is clear that the struggle’s leadership exists in a different reality than the rest of the characters. It is never the brunt of jokes, not even indirectly. All other characters can certainly be ridiculed, but certainly not the leaders of the cause. Now compare the reverence given military leaders in Elpidio Valdés to the treatment afforded the renown comic book characters Astérix and Obélix, both of whom enjoy national hero status in France.

Gallic chieftain Astérix is simply another pathetic member of his tribe. He threatens his wife with a rolling pin, is even less eloquent than Cuban Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, and more unintelligible than “Cantinflas”. Astérix never manages to effectively lead his subjects, since they are in fact his equals.

Is the image of a leader projected by Elpidio Valdés compared to Astérix’s an illustration of the anthropological damage inflicted on Cuba by the long-drawn-out Castro regime? Or is it perhaps the exact opposite, since the Cuban impulse to bow down to authority existed way before the arrival of the current regime? This may also help explain why this dictatorship seized control so effortlessly.

It is no coincidence that the two most successful dictators of Cuba and Spain went to great lengths to present themselves as beyond reproach. In other worlds, their success was linked in no small measure to the impeccable personae they projected. This should make Cubans cognizant of the fact that our respect for authority is an age-old social disorder inherited from the Spanish founders of our culture.

Whether it is due to an anthropological pathology, or the reinforcement of the preconceived notions of the majority, the Castro regime has only reinforced our sacrosanct view of authority, which evidently existed in Cuba even before 1959. In light of this, we are faced with a dilemma far greater than just having to overthrow a dictatorship; we are being called to launch a cultural revolution.

Please do not think that I am calling for anything to be erased from our past. Whether Cubans like it or not, Elpidio Valdés epitomizes a quintessential part of our culture, much like the whole corpus of Greco-Roman literature ­– which despite echoing the common justifications of its age for slavery – is still part of the Western canon. What all Cubans need to do is study our overall culture, and Elpidio Valdés in particular, using Cartesian doubt. By simply applying methodological skepticism, Cubans would automatically understand why we submit to authority as we do, a fact that distinguishes us from the French in every single segment of society.

*Translator’s Note: Literally “More was lost in the war,” and “More was lost in Cuba,” respectively. Meaning “Don’t cry over spilled milk,” this expression refers to what is known in the U.S. as the Spanish-American War. The former term is more common in Cuba, while the latter is used most often in Spain.

Translated by José Badué

“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

When I reached the street, I realized I didn’t have any money to pay for transport, but I was so full of emotion I felt like running, and I kept walking.

LR: What were those first minutes like after being released?

AS: I felt like a ghost, I felt like I wanted to see everything and nobody saw me. I was thinking: How easily they can deprive you of liberty and how easily they can let you go. I ended up walking a little over a mile, to Antonio Rodiles’ house.

LR: What is your current legal status?

AS: I got out on parole, conditioned on complying with whatever they establish. A form of blackmail. On the Tuesday previous to my release, State Security took me to Villa Marista, the eleventh time in the last year. There they showed me some papers which, surprisingly, contained the revocation of the parole that they had not yet granted me. A threat of what would happen, for example, if I joined the Sunday marches of the Ladies in White. I told them if they wanted, I could sign it right then.

LR: As a writer, what influence did your prison experience have on you?

AS: Hemingway said that prison accelerated the maturation of the artist. I believe that it makes him confront a viewpoint, it provides a seed of inspiration, like being fed the first line of a poem and then improvising from there. How to transform this misery into literature. I had the experience of my book, Blessed Are Those Who Mourn, about when I was in prison the first time, I was 17 and not a writer. Now it was different. I went into prison with this artistic viewpoint and a certain expertise. However, I learned that in these circumstance you don’t look from the viewpoint of art, but from the human viewpoint.

LR: Any new literary project?

AS: I left stunned. I am adapting myself to being distinct, to living a life different than I lived. Someone asked me for an article and I told them that at this moment I didn’t have ability to draft a sentence. I have a revolution of sensations in front of me and I have to wait for repose.

There are books that pursue you, ideas that are out their raising their arms as if saying: “My turn now.” But I look at them and say: “Not yet.” Although I did write a novel in prison about incarceration issues titled God Does Not Play Dice, which my literary representative and friend, the writer and editor Amir Valle, has.

LR: Is it true you’re working on a movie script?

AS: That is the pillow of relief. I have a fairly advanced script, I wrote it by hand and sent it to my family who transcribed it and printed it. In essence, it is inspired by Sur, latitude 13 (South, Latitude 13), although I bring to the cinematic language much more than was in the book. Lilo Vilaplana, in Miami, is enthusiastic about shooting the film.

LR: And the future?

AS: I’ve avoided thinking about it because it scares me. It is not that I want to be pessimistic, it is that I’m forced to be aware. I am coming from two and a half years in prison, where I was forced not to dream, because hope, in some way, can be harmful. Now I have one foot here and one foot in prison. I have a very high chance of returning to prison, especially for my links to the dissidence.

LR: Will you stay in Cuba?

AS: Yes. Indeed, I am going to stay in Cuba. I have never had a dream that is outside of Cuba.


The False Prophecy of Fidel Castro About Obama and Pope Francis / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 July 2015 — A phrase supposedly attributed to the former Cuban president Fidel Castro has become, in the last few months, one of the symbols of the thaw between Washington and Havana, announced last December after 54 years of enmity. “The United States will come to talk to us when we have a black president and the world has a Latin American pope,” the former president supposedly replied to a question asked by the foreign press in 1973. However, there is no proof of the existence of this quote prior to 2014.

Fidel Castro’s alleged prophecy has circulated widely on the social networks and in the international press, translated into several languages, generating amazement among users and readers, shocked by the ex-president’s ability to foresee the future. continue reading

Among the most cited sources to substantiate the claims is the blog Maoist Rebel news, or the labor union forum on the island, Cuba Sindical. The anecdote even made it into the French paper Paris Match, which attributes it to a joke about a hypothetical conversation between the ex-president and Che.

The urban legend could be linked to Fidel Castro’s 1977 response to a journalist from US TV, although he made no allusion to a “black president” or to a “Latin American pope.” On that occasion, the then president said that he expected a normalization of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington during a hypothetical second term of president Jimmy Carter, between 1980and 1084. However, Carter was not elected for a second term.

Half of Latin Americans Have Internet Access, But Only 5% of Cubans Do / 14ymedio

Whole families connect to WiFi in central Pinar del Rio (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Miami and Havana, July 24, 2015 — Half of the population of Latin America is still without internet access, while only 10% have broadband and 20% are connected via mobile phones, according to data from the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) published Friday in Miami. However, Cuba is one of the most technologically backward countries in the world, with a penetration rate to the network of only 5%, which is reduced to 1% for broadband.

The report notes that, despite advances in digitization projects in the region, the absence of digital coverage in Latin America is 50%, according to the study “The Ecosystem and digital Economy in Latin America.” continue reading

In businesses, according to the study, digital penetration is much higher, about 70%.

The report, to be presented in the coming weeks, was sponsored by CAF, The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), the Ibero-American Association of Research Centers and Telecommunication Enterprises (AHCIET) and the Telephonic Foundation.

In a statement, Mauricio Agudelo, a CAF telecommunications specialist, says that a significant improvement of internet access “can be achieved through public and private efforts” and added: “143 billion dollars are needed to close the digital gap digital between now and 2020. ”

According to figures from the CAF, in the last five years the digitization of Latin America contributed 4.3% to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and generated more than 900,000 jobs, making it an essential element to mitigate the current economic slowdown.

Cuba’s government promised to connect 50% of the population to the internet from their homes and 60% from the mobile phones by 2020, according to data from the US Department of State released in March.

On the island, access to the Internet is restricted and in general the prices in public navigation rooms are very high for most of the population. In 2013, just 514,400 computers of the more than one million computers in the country were connected to the network, according to the National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI).

Marti and His Myth / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

José Martí in an image from 1891 (University of Miami)

14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 17 May 2015 – From the interpretation of a significant event in the history of a nation, the interpreters’ political orientation can be very well surmised. Here we have this date, 24 February 1895 – the day on which our ancestors departed for the last time to the scrubland, to make of Cuba an independent and democratic nation, in which sovereignty would belong to each and every one who would declare themselves as Cubans.

This event can be interpreted in two radical ways: the Fascist, as a triumph of the Cuban people’s will, embodied in José Martí, ensuing from a supposed teleological destiny; or the Marxist, as a result of the economic contradictions between Cuban national interests and those of Spain, which engendered the fact that the colony’s economy was by that time integrated into that of its immediate neighbor, the US, and not of its distant and cash-strapped imperial ruler. continue reading

It goes without saying that the Castro regime’s official interpretation, from which even the heterodox historians residing on the Island do not dare depart, is the first. This is understandable, being that the Castro regime presents itself as the culmination of that alleged teleological destiny, and Fidel Castro as the reincarnation of José Martí.

Nevertheless, let us ask ourselves: had Martí so much influence on the interior of the Island as to drag Cubans into the war of 1895?

Santiago Hides Its Indigents / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)
Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago, 23 July 2015 – The builders hurry to give the last touches to building projects, and the communal brigades obsessively clean the streets. A few days before the celebration of its fifth centennial, the city of Santiago is bustling. The imminent arrival of the delegations to the ceremony for the Assault on the Moncada Barracks has also caused the local authorities to gather up the many vagrants of the historic center.

The psychiatric institutions of the city have established monitoring services for the areas surrounding Cespedes Park in order to proceed with the detention of the mentally ill and homeless or those who beg near the tourist destinations. “Everything must be clean,” explains one of the members of a medical brigade that handles such tasks.

For those who reside in the city of Santiago it is evident that something is missing from the landscape of the so-called “golden kilometer” where the first houses, established in 1515, and the Holy Basilica are located. Absent are those figures, often scrawny and in dirty clothes, who stretch out their hands or display a prescription so that the passersby will give them “some help to live.” continue reading

The cathedral entrance is one of the busiest places for those displaced people who, with a figure of Saint Lazarus, a candle and a little plate, spend the days waiting for parishioners to throw them some coins. Now they are not even seen, due to having been confined in hospital wards until the more than 4,000 guests of the festivities leave.

Regina Lobaina, a nurse at the Gustavo Machin Psychiatric Hospital, confirms to 14ymedio the hospitalization of the vagabonds and explains that although “many have family and receive aid from provincial social assistance, poor living conditions force them to beg on the more affluent streets.”

However, not only the destitute have been removed from the “family portrait” that is being prepared for the city’s anniversary. Those who gather raw materials in the vicinity of downtown have been warned “not to appear” until the week concludes. Bernardo, retired from the Ministry of the Interior, is one of them. He picks up cans in parks, bars and public places because his pension is not enough, but recently they have “knocked down his business,” he explains.

The facilities of the Train Terminal have also been “cleaned” of indigents. Lourdes often takes shelter there, but recently has searched for another roof under which to spend the night “until all this is over.” Her house was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, and she says she has slept in all kinds of places, including the provincial Party headquarters. “My children are in the Shelter for Homeless Children because I cannot have them with me,” she adds.

Lourdes says she “has been lucky” because at least she has not been confined. “I prefer the street even though it is hard because a hospital room is worse,” she asserts while she gathers her belongings in a bag that years ago lost its handles and zipper. Bernardo, Lourdes and the other indigents are superfluous to the showcase of the fifth centennial of Santiago de Cuba which is preparing to be shown off to journalists and authorities.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Ecuador, The Route to El Dorado / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)
The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 July 2015 – Four years Ecuador has been the route of Cubans who want to reach the United States. For many it was the first step towards the El Dorado of the North. In recent weeks, a fear has been growing that the South American nation might toughen the requirements for access to its territory. Entire families could stay on the island with their bags packed and and dreams broken.

Luis, 27, is the youngest of two brothers. In mid-2014 he put together the money for a ticket to Quito and left. Single, with no job, no bank account or property, no consulate would have granted a visa, considering him as a “potential immigrant”. However, Ecuador does not require a visa for Cubans, nor even ask for a letter of invitation.

The Ecuadorian Constitution adopted in 2008 proclaimed “the principle of universal citizenship, free movement of all inhabitants of the planet and the progressive end of foreign status.” President Rafael Correa said at the time that he was determined to “dismantle the invention of the twentieth century which were passports and visas”. And there the Cubans went en masse. continue reading

Healthy and young, Luis was confident that his hands and entrepreneurship would allow him to make his way anywhere. And so it has been: in one year, in La Mariscal, he has managed to make money as an auto mechanic and has saved something to help his family. His obsession remains the same: hitting the road to take him to Miami, where relatives have promised a roof and work. In a drawer, he saves a two-dollar bill that will bring him good luck on the way.

The route from Ecuador to the US includes a path through seven countries

The route from Ecuador to the United States includes a path through seven countries: Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. It is a road full of dangers, ranging from extortion to death. Of all the variables, it is the most feared is deportation. Returning to the Island becomes the worst nightmare.

Some cross the Darien Gap, 80 miles of tropical jungle extending between Colombia and Panama. Mountains, passes between mountains, muddy terrain, crocodile infested rivers and jungles full of beasts. It is in this area that criminal groups linked to drug trafficking and the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) also operate.

From October 2013 until August 2014, almost 13,400 Cuban immigrants arrived at the border between the US and Mexico, according to a US Customs and Border Protection. Many of them made the route that Luis planned for months. All that’s missing is family members in Havana completing the sale of the family apartment to be able to afford tickets to Quito. His family already has a buyer. Every night his mother lights a candle and thinks of Ecuador, the first step on a long road.

Diplomatic sources in the United States Interests Section in Havana, who preferred anonymity, say that this year the number of Cubans who will enter the United States, legally or illegally, could exceed 70,000. The fear that the process of reestablishing relations between Washington and Havana will put an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act has triggered the departures.

In 2013, it seemed that Quito might turn off the tap of entry for Cubans. The country started requiring a “letter of invitation” to put the breaks on the migration avalanche. But a few months later, in 2014, it eliminated this requirement in virtue of the “excellent framework of bilateral relations” with Cuba.

The Cuban migratory reform that went into effect in January of 2013 also contributed to the increase of people leaving for Quito. Now, without exit visa requirements to leave Cuba, the main obstacle is the purchase of a plane ticket with prices averaging around $650 from the island.

Ecuadorian authorities reserve the right to decide which Cubans can enter their country

However, the apparent “open door” policy does not work for everyone. Ecuadorian authorities reserve the right to decide which Cubans can enter their country. The decision is taken during an interview with immigration at the airport. Any inconsistency, any doubt and the passenger is put back on the plane heading home. Activist and independent Cuban journalist Ernesto Aquino, was rejected a few weeks ago when he arrived in the country for a leadership course organized by an independent entity. He was returned to Havana without appeal.

Among those on official missions* in the South American nation, desertions are common. To prevent the escape of Cuban doctors the Cuban Ministry of Health has implemented new policies that include “suspension from the practice of the profession” of those who “left the service without authorization.” Unable to practice as doctors in Cuba, the doctors have another motivation to reach the United States.

Barbara, 42, was among the first Cuban who went by way of Ecuador. Almost ten years ago she made a marriage of convenience and settled in that country waiting to take the big leap. She was deported to Cuba when the Panamanian authorities surprised her at the border. Now she is in Havana, desperate and without a place to live. “I can’t stay in my parents’ house because not one more person can fit there,” ahe explains. Her only option now is to cross the Straits of Florida by raft. For her, the door to Ecuador is closed.

*Translator’s note: For example “medical missions” – that is the Cuban regime’s scheme to send doctors abroad as a major source of hard currency income, as the receiving countries pay much more per doctor than the doctor is paid.

Human Rights Foundation suggests “Direct Responsibility of the Cuban Regime” in the death of Paya / 14ymedio

Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)
Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 – The human rights defense organization Human Rights Foundation (HRF) thinks that the Cuban government has “direct responsibility” in the deaths of dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, according to the conclusion of an 88-page report presented this Wednesday at the University of Georgetown (Washington), on the third anniversary of the death of the opponents.

“The accident (…) is the result of an automobile incident deliberately caused by agents of the State,” assert the authors of the report, lawyers Javier El-Hage and Roberto C. Gonzalez, both of HRF. According to the lawyers, there was “intention to assassinate Oswaldo Payá and the passengers who were travelling with him.” The authors of the report also think there was the intention of “causing them serious bodily injury” or that the event “was carried out with negligence and/or extreme indifference – and an unjustified high risk – for the life of the activist.”

The foundation highlights the “errors” and the “contradictions” of the official investigation into the events of 22 July 2012, documenting numerous violations, such as a faulty autopsy of the “most prominent pro-democracy activist in Latin America in the last 25 years,” according to the president of the HRF, Thor Halvorssen.

The report maintains that the evidence, deliberately overlooked by the official investigation, suggests that it was not a traffic accident and implicates the government in the crash between the vehicles.

The organization believes that the Spaniard Angel Carromero, who was driving the car in which Payá was travelling and who is now on probation in his country, was ”obliged” to confess himself to be responsible, and that Cuban Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the dissident’s relatives, excluding them from the trials. Carromero himself, who was then a leader of the youth branch of Spain’s Popular Party (PP), has asserted on several occasions that the accident was an “attack” orchestrated by the Island’s regime. Those responsible for the report insist that Carromero had no access to a lawyer for weeks and that, later, he was forced to be represented by lawyers with close ties to the Government.

“The State of Cuba is responsible internationally for having violated Angel Carromero’s right to an effective legal defense,” says the report, since the authorities refused his defense access to the case file and the opportunity to present new evidence.

“Cuba is not a democratic State in which individual rights are respected or in which there exists independence among the powers of the State,” warns the report, which labels trials that involve dissidents as “a mere formality” in which “all the actors (prosecutor, judge and defense attorney) direct their work towards legitimizing the Government’s decision and not towards the search for the historical truth of events and the punishment of the responsible parties.” The investigation and the later trial in the death of Payá and Cepero were not exceptions, having been carried out in a “context of complete authoritarianism.”

Cuban authorities also did not permit the family of the deceased to speak with the two survivors of the crash (Angel Carromero and the Swede Jens Aron Modig), and three years after the event, they have still not communicated the result of the autopsy. The dissident’s relatives received the clothes that he was wearing the day of the incident already washed which kept them from opting for an independent examination.

“Havana’s authorities believed that it was necessary to destroy my father,” said the daughter of the opponent, Rosa Maria Payá, present at the University of Georgetown. “This report will be an important tool against the impunity of those authorities,” she added. According to the activist, the document “is the end of the first part” of her efforts, and the process to clarify what happened to her father “is only beginning” with “the analysis of the evidence” in the hands of the family.

“We plan to use this report as a tool in front of all the international bodies,” said Payá, who calls on Cuban authorities to release her father’s and Cepero’s autopsy reports.

The authors of the report accuse Havana of having violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel