Speaking of Human Rights Talks Between the US and Cuban Governments… / Lilianne Ruíz

Cuban human rights activists at the Americas Summit in Panama. “Democracy is Respect”

Lilianne Ruiz, 13 October 2016 — Cubans are a captive people. The first evidence of this is that the island’s government will not talk to dissident voices about human rights. It does it with the US government.

In the island’s 43,190 square miles, two completely opposite projects or visions of a nation coexist badly. The two visions of a nation speak different languages. One, theirs, defend its domination; the other, ours, the right to change in a peaceful and democratic way this state of affairs that is so unjust.

For the Cuban government, whose political model of supply is socialism, the language is one of intolerance, the rights of conquest on the social body. The discourse of sovereignty invoked by the regime is incompatible with respect for human rights. Continue reading “Speaking of Human Rights Talks Between the US and Cuban Governments… / Lilianne Ruíz”

Government propaganda blames material poverty on the American economic embargo. But doesn’t recognize that it itself is a political aberration, with the state erecting itself as the administrator of our human needs as if it was about an endowment of slaves, an infantilized family, a mass of poor people and failed citizens that cannot freely build their own destiny, because their rights to do so is not recognized by the state.

We, as dissident civil society, have a different vision of what we want our country to be. Without even having to agree, because we are very diverse, we want to resolve the issues that affect us and affect our children, like education, health, culture, the role of the state, through the exercise of our civil and political rights. We want to elect cultured leaders who willingly accept their limitations. We want a free economy, without state interference, because the socialist economy is a condition without which the current government could not exercise its tyranny over society.

To better understand us we could say that our spirit is more akin to the American Declaration of Independence than the Marxism they tried to indoctrinate us with in school. Precisely because the Cuban state-party-government  behaves with respect to society like, in their time, a metropolis did with respect to colonies. In its logic there are conquerers and conquered, which is the logic of a relation of forces and not the logic of politics, and does not recognize our rights and in this sense we are a captive nation.

But we’re not really conquered, because there is no chance that we will give up our dreams, that have withstood every kind of storm. Sooner or later dreams find a way to express themselves and end up coming to fruition in the world

We can say that the Castro regime is alien to us, deaf to our affections, because it ignores the spiritual dimension of a liberalizing longing. So the reasons that move the political changes in totalitarian dictatorships are not only political in nature, but above all spiritual.

In the Civil Society Forum in the 7th Americas Summit in Panama, we endured the insults of the alleged civil society of artifice brought by the Castro regime leaders to defend their interests in interfering in the social body and trying to legitimate their domination presenting is as the highest form of humanism. I will never forget the opportunity that premiered at that Forum, of responding to those ridiculous attacks, with which they tried to disqualify us, although the never responded to our arguments, to our signs that said “Democracy is Respect.”

That artificial civil society that  launched itself against us, howling, in Panama, is made up of associations registered with government permission or of its own employees.

As long as the government is the administrator of needs, the distributor of benefits, and can treat Cubans like the subjects of its beneficence, given the impossibility of choosing another alternative, our ordeal will continue.

We can’t forget the ultimate purpose of the Socialism which is to create a new kind of human being that has forgotten forever everything that constitutes civilization, and to give a new universal interpretation, especially the significance of human rights.

From the Panama Forum I remember the speech of President Obama. He said, “Strong democracies are not afraid of their citizens.” This is the language of my captive island Not of the government, which engages in sophistry with its interlocutors, as it has tried to fool them for more than half a century.

The Virgin According to the Popes / Lilianne Ruíz

Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 9 September 2016 — The processions of the Virgin of Charity, Patroness of Cuba, which took place yesterday, September 8, on the island, made me recall with nostalgia the subject of this article, Pope John Paul II.

Back in the ’60s of the last century, the then auxiliary bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla was an activist for the right of the inhabitants of the new workers’ city of Nowa Huta, built on the outskirts of Krakow, to have a church consecrated to the Queen of Poland, Mary, Mother of God, under the patronage of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.

Therefore, the future Pope of the Christian millennium celebrated a Midnight Mass in the open, more precisely in a frozen field, because of all the years the communist government of Poland refused to authorize the construction of a temple. In 1977 the new church was finally ready, having taken ten years to build. Continue reading “The Virgin According to the Popes / Lilianne Ruíz”

After celebrating the consecration ceremony, Wojtyla, at that time the metropolitan archbishop, defender civitatis as tradition recognizes the Bishop of Krakow, gave a different sermon, as a “voice crying in the wilderness.” He said:

“This city is not a city of people who belong to no one. Of people to whom they can do what they want, who can be manipulated according to the laws or rules of production and consumption . . . We hope that in our country, with such a Christian and humanitarian past, these two orders — The Light and The Word of God, and respect for human rights — will join in a more effective way in the future.”

Years later, when he came to be pope, he would lead a spiritual and cultural crusade against totalitarianism; which was one determining factor in the 1989 liberalizations throughout Eastern Europe, establishing a new democratic order. While Reagan and Gorbachev played a historic role in the nonviolent revolution, John Paul II was the spiritual force that fatally wounded communism.

We Cubans currently ignore “where the shots come from,” of Pope Francis. The only thing that could excuse him for appearing so lukewarm when it is time to issue a condemnation of the way of life under socialism-communism, is the fact that he himself has never lived under similar conditions.

Life under such a political and economic model becomes miserable both in terms of goods as well as in aspirations and opportunities. Not, as the official propaganda tries to sell us, because of the US economic embargo or as a result of mistakes in economic plans, whose very existence violates fundamental freedoms, rather the scarcity of consumer goods and of opportunities for the individual to develop his or her own life project are the essential principle of the operation of the system.

Needless to say the socialist-communist state bases its stability on the elimination of any attempt at mobilization and political dissent; and not, as those who haven’t taken the trouble to reflect on it believe, on the ideological formula that tries to legitimate it in public opinion.

It is contradictory to listen to the Holy Father — from Krakow! — tell young Cubans “Don’t be afraid,” just when the ecclesiastical authorities on the island seem to limit themselves out of fear of political reprisals by the Cuban government, which have already been notable.

The antiquated government discourse of the right of sovereignty and nationalism as an ideological justification for the unlimited violations and damages that a discretionary and arbitrary power inflicts on individuals, on behalf of “social justice,” is a fraud consistent with the group in power determining what the needs are and distributing the satisfactions of these needs to entitled members of society, completely misrepresenting the needs of the human condition and its aspirations; in fact, it can only be countered by a strong speech in defense of human rights, by those who have the authority to make themselves heard.

Especially because the dignity of the human person promoting Catholicism only becomes meaningful when states show respect for those rights. The violation of which is what qualifies totalitarians as anti-humanists, the biblical antichrist, specifically because they deprive human beings of the consciousness of their individual moral responsibility, inalienable like their freedom.

In response to the question of what should be the current policy of the Vatican with respect to Cuba, the answer seems to refer more to the Ostpolitik of the Holy See than to the extraordinary legacy of John Paul II.

This Ostpolitik led in its day to Pope John XXIII, author of the encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) delivered in reference to the nuclear crisis triggered by the installation of Soviet missiles in our country, and it reminds us that in calling the Second Vatican Council he was inspired by the maxim “save what can be saved” as a reaction to the policy of communist governments to try to stifle religious life to the point of extinction

It was the Secretary of State of the Holy See, Agostino Casaroli, who was charged with developing the Ostpolitik in relation to the countries of the Iron Curtain. But that policy would have defrauded the liberalizing yearnings of millions of human beings, victims of totalitarianism. John Paul II, unlike Casaroli, condemned such a political model under the human faculty of discernment between good and evil.

Most alarming in all this would be to conclude that the Polish Pope has been an exception to the rule, or that the current pontiff is more empathetic, due to his Argentine origin, with the “liberation theology” of an anti-liberal and leftist trend, and is trying to interpret the concept of the Kingdom of God on earth expressed in state interventionism as a disciplinary power applied to society, to “eradicate social injustice, the gap between rich and poor.”

Either way, the question arises to which we Cubans still have no answer: Can the Catholic Church be at peace with communism simply because of the fact that it is not presented as atheism?

Like conquering the world, whatever politics says, in the dreams of Cubans the Virgin of Charity is present. But not like the one of the processions, so cold and distant, so like a superstition; but the living one, the Mother of God, custodian of the name of every Cuban physically and spiritually violated on the stocks of the Political Police’s repression, those who serve the masters of the only party.

The Virgin, also called mambisa — female freedom fighter — protector of Cubans in the sea of the Florida Straits, companion of the deceased to that other dimension where there will be no weeping, to her we Cubans pray. And for the return of the democratizing wave, of the unforgettable Pope John Paul II.

Coco Farinas Lost Consciousness Again / Lilianne Ruíz

Lilianne Ruiz, 19 August 2106 — Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas had to be taken to the hospital again yesterday, at 4:40 in the afternoon The photo at the top of this post was taken several weeks ago but it shows how FANTU activists take him to the hospital.

As stipulated in the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Malta on Hunger Strikers, he was intravenously hydrated with saline solution. I want to clarify I am citing the Declaration of Malta because of one of the attacks of the regime’s trolls in the virtual forums that arise these days, it is a fact that Coco could not receive saline solution in a state hospital. Continue reading “Coco Farinas Lost Consciousness Again / Lilianne Ruíz”

It is obvious that all the hospitals and polyclinics in Cuba are state owned, and that is one of the fatalities that many of us want to change, not only to improve the quality of medical services and make them accessible to everyone without discrimination, but also to put an end to this technology of Power that Foucault aptly defined as “Biopower,” and that allows the Cuban government to minutely control the population with disciplinary and regulatory effects.

In the Cuban context we must take into account the lack of a civic culture that affects even doctors and nurses in the healthcare system. According to the World Medical Association Declaration, “Physicians attending hunger strikers can experience a conflict between their loyalty to the employing authority (such as prison management) and their loyalty to patients. Physicians with dual loyalties are bound by the same ethical principles as other physicians, that is to say that their primary obligation is to the individual patient.”

We have to think of Cuba as a prison, a concentration camp, a decrepit experiment that all Cubans want to sweep away; but fear of reprisals makes them powerless to make political decisions; but it is not the case in homes, whose walls at least reflect the echoes of the protest. So when talking about state violence we have to include the coercion and the permanent propaganda in the media, which are a state monopoly. This is how totalitarianism works: it is made up of a network of anti-democratic institutions that make up the malignant machinery.

On another point, while writing this post I managed to talk to Coco in Tuesday, by phone. He could barely talk, it’s more exact to say that I managed let him hear me for a few minutes, to express all my support and solidarity.

However, I also told him that I will give thanks to God when he is back on his feet to continue fighting for freedom, for political freedom, like fundamental human rights, which we Cubans lack.

I compare this feat of Coco’s to swimming across the Atlantic, with the legitimate purpose of disarming a criminal government, before the incredulous eyes of the major stakeholders. Because, I believe that not only Cubans but the civilized world desire that Coco, or any opposition action in this non-violent struggle for freedom and democracy in Cuba, manages to disarm the so-called Cuban government, like a criminal who puts the social order in danger is disarmed in the dreamed-of Rule of Law.

As, in fact, Coco puts his life and danger and it seems a mission impossible, the only thing we, his friends, family and activists (along with every person of goodwill in the world who knows about this situation) can do is to offer our support both because his demands are our demands, the demands of the entire Cuban people, and because preserving his life means that his struggle can be much longer. But in any case, keeping in mind in every moment what is happening in Cuba. I believe that saving him from death and the suffering of a hunger and thirst strike is a moral imperative, to be with him, to support him, to make his struggle visible by every means possible.

So, it is as if we make up a rescue team and we must do it to accompany this whole journey of Coco’s, approaching death for bringing us the incredible gift of limiting a repressive government that could be disarmed and deactivated in all its power that day by day is only negative.

Last but not least: I want to denounce the fact that the political police again seem to be plotting a smear campaign against Fariñas’ hunger and thirst strike, diverting the phone calls that we activist make.

The Telecommunications Company (ETECSA) is also a state monopoly and is controlled by the military caste.

Last weekend, August 13 and 14, it seemed that all calls in question on many occasions were diverted to a State Security command center where at least two women, clearly officials, passing themselves off as activists, provided false information about the strike, trying to make people believe that it had been ended without prior declaration.

I fund it very strange, and as a precaution didn’t respond to any absurd comment. Especially strange to me was the farewell message of the supposed activist for its bureaucratic language, the sepulchral silence of the atmosphere on the other side of the line and the insistence that the friend we call “Bebo” — an activist and spokesperson for the strike, whose voice I know — could not come to the phone.

Now that is is confirmed by the experience of many people who also called that it was a police command post and not the house in Santa Clara, I remember the words of a dear friend who always tells me that in addition to all the political arguments against socialism, people with common sense reject if for the massive lack of style it projects.

In particular, what saved me from being taken in by the trick was my full confidence in Coco Fariñas as an activist. I remember the words of Gandhi, always opportune in situations like this: “Power first ignores you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Guillermo "Coco" Farinas; Hunger and Thirst Strike Continues / Lilianne Ruíz

Lilianne Ruiz, 29 July 2016 — Guillermo ‘Coco’ Fariñas lost consciousness on Thursday, 28 July at noon, the eighth day of his hunger and thirst strike. He had to be taken to the main hospital of Santa Clara by the group of activists who are with him in the strike. He had spent the morning with much discomfort and his temperature had risen because of dehydration.

He arrived at the hospital unconscious and with the corners of his mouth and tongue parched, and covered of bloody scabs. He is suffering from “dizziness and all the hassles of severe dehydration,” according to Dr. Rodriguez Rangel, a FANTU (Anti-Totalitarian Front) activist and follower of Coco’s. It was the activists who took him, unconscious, to receive intravenous hydration. Coco had indicated, as he told me by phone, that the strike is “not about committing suicide,” but about resisting hunger and thirst until his demands are met. This is his 25th hunger strike. Continue reading “Guillermo "Coco" Farinas; Hunger and Thirst Strike Continues / Lilianne Ruíz”

Reflecting on the deteriorating health of Coco makes very sad reading. Jorge Luis “Bebo” Artiles Montiel has been designated by FANTU as spokesperson for the strike and sends out information via text messages. Most impressive to me is updated information on blood pressure, heart rate, the quantity of the urine in the day, being taken by his mother, Alicia, a licensed nurse.

I think about her, in the immense love and respect that she must feel for her son’s decision, dealing with the pain of seeing his physical deterioration.

The image of Christ and the Virgin at the foot of the cross comes to mind. Suffering for a cause that transcends his own person and doing it practically alone, flooded by a faith that has been lost in others from the bitter experience of knowing what in its time was named “the world” and that, thinking clearly, was nothing other, before or now, than “politics.”

And I say “alone” because although they have the support of many people inside and outside of Cuba, we mustn’t forget that they are in Santa Clara and that if they were in Havana they would have already received more visits from representatives from the diplomatic corps who, at the end of the day, are the only ones who can help us right now with their solidarity. And there would also be more of a presence of the foreign media to shape public opinion about the strike; and a little more access to the internet so that the activists can keep the issue visible on the social networks.

Being in the provinces, Coco’s strike now needs all our strength, of memory, of our good actions, a visit, a call, effective management by those who can apply political pressure, a campaign on the social networks, an escalation of visibility which demonstrates the commitment to the defense of freedom and democracy in Cuba, which is above all a moral imperative.

Not only has Coco been hurt by a beating at the hands of State Security agents while handcuffed, but also by that which was aptly defined by Pope John Paul II, as the experience of “humiliation at the hands of evil.” So the hunger strike is Coco’s moral response, committed to nonviolence.

Guillermo ‘Coco’ Fariñas (left), Lilianne Ruiz (center)

Coco told me by phone that he appreciated his brothers from FANTU and other organizations for having helped him when he lost consciousness. And the doctors and nurses of the hospital of Santa Clara because they did not let themselves be coerced.

The members of the repressive forces were also guarding the hospital, as the activists with whom I spoke on the phone reported to me. The presence of of the political police in our lives as Cubans is one of the things we want to erase and part of that chapter of violence which Coco’s hunger strike is protesting against.

To give just one example, in Havana for the last 62 Sundays the Ladies in White have confronted a brutal repression. They are beaten, thrown to the pavement, and arrested to prevent them from marching for the freedom of the political prisoners.

To conceal the fact of the violence of its institutions the government uses violence.

It reminds me of the little I’ve read of John Stuart Mill, because it seems so desirable to build coexistence. Limiting the powers of government is what they understood, and understand, as freedom. First “obtaining recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties or rights.” Because it is essential to the rule of law to prevent all sorts of wrongdoers from coming to power.

A hunger and thirst strike creates an unspeakable discomfort in the body. Although his body has been hydrated intravenously, it continues to suffer and deteriorate through the effects of starvation and the oral withdrawal of water. It is enough to feel thirsty or hungry during a few hours in the day to imagine the severity of a strike like this.

Coco still suffers the physical effects of previous strikes, the longest lasting 18 months. He suffers from a polyneuropathy in peripheral limbs, muscular hypotonia, and gastric disorders. Because of his sacrifice, 52 of the 75 prisoners of the Black Spring were released, but the circumstances surrounding that sacrifice was one of large-scale international solidarity. Now we need that solidarity again.

We all want Coco to be well, with the same force with which we wish to the violent repression inherent in the political and economic system of Cuba to cease, along with the punishment for dissent, for seeking justice, for freedom from a government hatefully ensconced in every corner of this island where the light is trapped, and contributing to the destruction: civic, political, economic, social and cultural.

An Interview of a Friend / Lilianne Ruiz

Lilianne Ruiz, 9 October 2015 — Oscar needs visibility to get them to stop bothering him in his work just because he is the person he is and because he defends his identity. Typical of those systems where they try to prevent any participation, initiative, voting, creativity. Imagine what kind of hell it is when those who are violent, idle, less intelligent, those who repress, restrict the freedom of the rest.

This interview with Oscar Casanella, my friend, is late appearing in other media and so I am publishing it in my blog.

Oscar Casanella Saint-Blancard has a degree in Biochemistry and is a researcher at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR). He is also an adjunct professor of Immunology with the Faculty of Biology of the University of Havana, where he has taught without receiving wages since 2006. Despite all the services he offers to society, Casanella has been continually harassed by the political police from Thursday 5 December 2013, when he planned to throw a party to welcome home Ciro Javier Díaz Penedo, a graduate in Mathematics from the University of Havana and a musician in the punk rock band “Porno para Ricardo,” who has been his friend for twenty years and who was returning to Cuba. Continue reading “An Interview of a Friend / Lilianne Ruiz”

In 2008 Casanella won a scholarship in bioinformatics at the Complutense University of Madrid for 2009 to 2011, and received training in bioinformatics at the Swiss Institute of this specialty in the city of Lausanne. He is currently studying the National Collaborative Curriculum PhD Program in Bioinformatics coordinated by the Virtual Center for Bioinformatics.

Ruiz: When did the harassment against you in your work start?

Casanellas: Both the Deputy Director of INOR, Lorenzo Anasagasti, as well as Pedro Angulo Wilfredo Fernandez Cabezas, both members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), despite my reputation of 10 years of good work in the INOR, believed the lies of the political police officials that my friends and I were mercenaries, terrorists, annexationist [i.e. want Cuba to become part of the United States] and I continued to maintain friendly relations with Ciro and friends in the opposition that I had met through him. Anasagasti removed me from the post of Executive Secretary of the Forum of Science and Technology of INOR, and he has prevented me from participating in research projects with the centers of the Havana Scientific Center.

He also coerced my colleagues to give him copies of my legal documents, which contain the facts and items violated by the State Security and their collaborators and the letter sent by me to Raul Castro, with an attachment documenting the excellent opinions of me from my colleagues, my neighbors and my students at the University of Havana, claiming that all these documents are enemy propaganda.

 Ruiz: What is your work situation at the moment?

Casanellas: The most recent events are the constraints Anasagasti Angulo is putting on my colleagues. He demands that several laboratory chiefs at INOR’s research department block my access to them with the argument that there is a rule at the center that restricts access to the labs. However, he demands that this apply only to me, not to the rest of the employees who, although they don’t belong to a laboratory can freely enter any one of them, so I feel discriminated against.

I am one of the professors of the molecular biology module, a subject that is taught to doctors who are doing their specialty in oncology, and the person responsible for coordinating the instruction said something very sad to me–distressed and with tears in his eyes–that Anasagasti demanded that I not enter his laboratory, not even to work. This person is very psychologically unbalanced by all the pressure from Anasagasti and is thinking about asking to step down from INOR due to the ethical, professional and personal dilemma, because in addition to the working level we also have a strong friendship.

Anasagasti told another person that he preferred he not do a thesis on which I did the bio-statistic analysis. Despite the pressure, this person allowed and recognized my collaboration on his thesis.

Last year I had planned to teach a course on bio-informatics for researchers and interested workers from INOR and for students from the Biology Faculty at the University of Havana. I obtained authorization from my immediate boss, a classroom was reserved with the teaching department, but Anasagasti didn’t give me authorization. I asked him for a response regarding this negative and he told me, “Oscar, get it into your head that I am going to do everything possible so that you will not have a future in this institution, and I am going to make every step you try to take difficult.”

That is, for the deputy director, his work as a collaborator with State Security — applying the psychological war against me, which has as a secondary effect of a war against my colleagues as well — is more important than researching cancer, teaching and improving the medical and non-medical work of the INOR.

Ruiz: Have you heard anything about the deputy director doing the same thing to other workers?

Casanellas: Yes, Anasagasti showed up with the State Security agents “Victor” and “Mario” on a Sunday last August at the home of Dr. Carlos Vazquez, chief of peripheral tumors at INOR to intimidate him because of his friendship with Manual Cuesta Morua, leader of the Social-Democratic Progressive Arc Party.

Ruiz: Do the conditions at INOR guarantee the best development for the research projects?

Casanellas: I can tell you that many supplies and materials are arranged for personally by the workers. They aren’t provided by the institution. For example, INOR does not provide us with water of the quality required to carry out the experiments. Personally, I have had to go to the  Center of Molecular Immunology in my own car with my own gasoline to look for several gallons of water for INOR research labs, as this center does have the necessary equipment for the purification process.

Years ago we transported cell lines on public buses between INOR and the Scientific Center. The funny part of the story is that in a crowded bus people opened a space around us as a result of my spilling some liquid nitrogen at 196 degrees below zero, which instantly evaporated. People said we were terrorists who were transporting acid.

Imagine that I am doing a PhD in bioinformatics and INOR won’t give me internet access. The chiefs have it. Internet access can already be considered a human right. But here this tool is prioritized for the political cadres, not for the researchers. So I consider myself an off-line bio-informatics specialist.

We recently had the opportunity to publish an article on brain metastases in the World Journal of Oncology Research. The magazine editors ask authors of the selected articles for around $200 USD for the right to publish. When I discussed it with my work colleagues they thought I was crazy, that INOR would never give that amount.

Thanks to my sister, who lives abroad, who paid this amount, we could publish and now INOR’s name appears in an international scientific journal. Everywhere in the world there are institutions that pay the publications who publish their researchers in magazines. In addition, outside of Cuba institutions pay for their workers to have access to scientific journals. We have to ask for help from friends abroad who work in research centers who download items of interest to us and email to them.

Ruiz: Any other anecdotes?

Casanellas: On Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 11:40 am, I was kidnapped in the INOR by agents from State Security and the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police). Several members of the INOR leadership left their offices to let the agents use them as they were trying to interrogate me because I had invited several friends to Tania Bruguera’s performance in the Plaza of the Revolution, which for us would have recovered a little of the character of the Civic Plaza [its former name] with the completion of performance.

After an hour, the directors of INOR allowed my kidnapping during work hours and without a warrant. Three police cars took me along with my wife, Eleanne Triff Delgado and my cousin Walter Saint-Blancard Valdes to Tarara. Later after another hour of uncertainty they took us to the Guanabo Police Unit.

I was interrogated by several political police agents, among them agents Victor and Mario, until 9:20 PM. Agent Mario sent us off telling us to be careful because it was night, and the end of the year and there were a lot of accidents.

On the return trip my wife, my cousin and I felt that my cousin’s car, which had also been taken on this journey, had a sound in one of the tires that hadn’t been there before the trip to the PNR Station. When we got to my house we checked it and realized that the bolts that hold the wheel on were making the noise because they were loose.

Anybody Can Have a Bad Day / Lilianne Ruiz

Lili under the sea

Lilianne Ruiz, 22 September 2015 — A great friend always tells me, “When something unpleasant happens to you, just say, ’This happens to us because we are alive.’”  I have wanted to be as delicate as a flower but I must admit that life is not like that, and the hard knocks, some of them, are like a box of chocolates. We must have great expectations and be determined to realize them, or, at least, to start on the path to doing so. Over here there are a bunch of decadent people, it is true, but the sun keeps rising every day, and life is so beautiful.

Today, I am gifting myself this poem by Octavio Paz, that appears in Rayuela, and I am sharing it with everyone with whom I speak today, because it has always moved me.

Here

My steps on this street
re-echo
on another street
where
I hear my steps
passing on this street
where

Only the fog is real.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Several Reasons to Support #Otro18* / Lilianne Ruiz

Lilianne Ruiz (standing, middle) and her husband, Manuel Cuesta Morua (standing, left) with others in Havana

Lilianne Ruiz, 8 September 2015 — I have already written this before in my blog. I want to live in my country and to know that my power as a citizen is intact, that with my vote I participate in the legal architecture that governs the small details of our lives. Never more than now.

Because now, for example, our children are learning artificial values in school, that are not their families’ values. Children in elementary school, teenagers and our young people, in the entire school system, are inculcated with the terror of a State that does not respect the values of our families. The values that can only be transmitted through the family are missing in this country.

Today I have to accept that my 8-year-old daughter cries before she goes to school, because she has lost the badge that should be hanging from a button on her blouse that says “José Martí Pioneers Organization.” Continue reading “Several Reasons to Support #Otro18* / Lilianne Ruiz”

It is not about simple verses**, abounding with values that shape our beauty as human beings, and José Martí’s prologue to this book of verses that I discovered in my teens. It is not about Martí the journalist whom I would like to write as well as, nor the orator, the essayist, the passionate man who teaches about love. Nor about the the author of the diary whose missing pages are more substantial than the tokonoma. Nor even Martí as the warrior of Dos Rios.

Because for the cheap politicking of more than half a century of obscurantism and blackout on the island of Cuba, they have enslaved the texts, the name, and Martí himself in our atavistic imagination.

Until this morning I had not realized that my daughter was acquiring this terror of the State hypertrophied with socialism. Until now, she has cried before going to school telling me as an adult the address of the school passing through the classrooms and pointing to a list of children who don’t have the badge.

This act of pointing them out on a list becomes something very disturbing, including fear that their grades will be lowered for not wearing the distinction that is nothing more than membership in a political organization that harangues them at the morning assembly with anti-values that deform the strength of individual character.

I have the sacred right to choose my children’s education and with a Hegelian tranquility I am willing to defend that freedom. My energy is in #Otro18*. We Cubans are living day to day, in the sense of seeking food to sustain ourselves until tomorrow and so we lack courage, with half of this courage we could change the tragic sign of our existence and support the creation and implementation of a new electoral law looking ahead to 2018. The Castro regime will be just a nightmare that, little by little, we will awaken from, until it becomes a mockery in any discussion, making us laugh at ourselves and what we’ve been through.

We need — and I say it sincerely — we need like a glass of fresh water to change our lives in this country. To do it peacefully, to leave behind all the discourse of violence that leaves our psyches in terror of the totalitarian State that in Cuba is also a question of the family in power, which has become a real mafia that represents everything we want to leave behind.

With my vote, peacefully, I need to prove that I can change destiny, that there no longer exists the inevitability of an island of Cuba determined by the Castro regime. So that we can wake up every morning and look out the window and not see the same landscape as yesterday. Not swearing allegiance to, not worshiping at the cult of the past. Experiencing freedom and the power to choose.

For this we need #Otro18. To change the electoral system and the electoral law, and to believe in the values of plurality and the importance of every citizen exercising their political power so that we will never again be governed by a dictator.

 

Tania Bruguera (on the couch) and Lilianne with others in Havana.
Angel Santiesteban (right)

Translator’s notes:

*#Otro18 (Another 2018) is a campaign to change Cuba’s process governing elections with a new electoral law, for the 2018 elections. Raul Castro has stated that he will step down as president in that year, at which time, if he is still living, he will be 86.

**“Simple Versus” is the title of a poetry collection by José Martí, Cuba’s national hero widely admired among Cubans of all political persuasions.

From Villa Marista They Threaten to Delay Angel Santiesteban’s Release / Lilianne Ruiz

Angel in an earlier prison where he was held for a while.
Angel in an earlier prison where he was held for a while.

Lilianne Ruiz, 12 June 2015 –Last Saturday, officials of Section 21 of the Ministry of the Interior returned to take Santiesteban  from the prison where he is held in Jaimanita to Villa Marista. There he spent twelve hours in an office listening to threats from two MININT officers who told him “Why would we free you if some Sunday you’re going to meet with the Ladies in White and we’ll put you back in prison.”

Angel got two and a half years in prison, although the Ministry of Justice accepted the appeal for review of the judgment filed by his lawyer, which showed that he was a victim of a spurious trial, because of the slanders of his ex-wife. This June he is rightfully entitled to parole. His friends and family hope he will be released before the September visit of the Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church. Continue reading “From Villa Marista They Threaten to Delay Angel Santiesteban’s Release / Lilianne Ruiz”

While waiting for his freedom, Angel reads tirelessly. And writes. He completed 36 interview questions for his friend and editor Amir Valle, some stories, and is also working on a screenplay inspired by his work “13 South Latitude.” To counteract the heroic-epic view of the war in Angola being promoted by the latest films produced by ICAIC (Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry) on the subject.

He writes literally cloistered in the 3 by 4 meter kennel where they keep him, and from where they only let him leave once a week to walk 20 steps to talk on the phone, and every 21 days to walk 40 steps to the courtyard where he is visited by relatives and a friend. The place is in a military unit west of Havana. He writes with a pencil, so he asks his friends for 0.7mm leads. His writing is very clear, no smudges or doodles. Like a scholar’s writing. I can’t help but remember that the slant of his writing—which seems delicate to me, like a high school student writing his first poems—was the only evidence presented by the prosecution* to try to prove his alleged violent nature.

This month, according to Cuban law, he is eligible for parole. His friends and family impatiently wait for that day. His daughter excitedly tells him that she got the second choice on her application for seeking a university degree. And his son wants to be a writer like him.

He told me that to stay in shape he runs the perimeter of his cell for an hour. He has calluses under the big toe because it has to flex every 3 steps.

Posted in El Blog de Jerónimo

*Translator’s note: A “handwriting expert” was called as a witness in Angel’s trial and testified that his penmanship — the size and slant of his letters — was proof of his guilt. (No, we are not making this up!)

12 June 2015

Photos of Our Wedding / Lilianne Ruiz

Manuel Cuesta Morua and I have married. I have never been happier. He is an exceptional man and I have the good fortune that we will love each other for the rest of our lives. I want to share these photos with everyone who has accompanied me at this time and and will continue to do so until we can meet in a Havana afternoon, but in Freedom. Our love to all. Lili and Manuel.

9 December 2014

Constitutional Consensus Makes Noise / Lilianne Ruiz

Constitutional Consensus advances from below, from those who know the least. Deep within the Island citizens, or rather those who aspire to be, join the project with misspellings, in the midst of smoke and sweat, fixing old bikes that deserve to be abandoned, and plowing the earth with one eye on the cow that needs to be watched.

What is happening is unusual at one point. None of the activists who run the initiative tells these people, forgotten and persecuted by a troop of fine collectors, what they should say. Like the plow, the pliers or the pastry flour, they just offer another instrument for them to express what they want in the laws to defend and how they want them to be written.

An activist, Marthadela, never tires of walking and pushing these tools to get answers, any answers, the come to the common people in the spirit of the new laws. And to her surprise, the result is immense and multiplying.

If you started sweating with one farmer in his bar on the ground, four farmers have already approached you do see if they can protect their cows from the voracious greed of the State.

Another activist, Carmelo, makes it so that at a Constitutional Initiative Discussion an apparently exhausted and lost citizen speaks up to say that the only thing he knows is that no one, not those above and not those below, should be above the law, which has occurred in Cuba since the first day of 1959. An idea worth its weight in gold because it took several centuries to give birth to it.

All this gives us confidence. If these ordinary men and women assume that the law and its defense is worth the trouble it means we come together again in a civilized way one of these days. But what is likely happening is common sense is the best soil for the sense of rights.

Constitutional Consensus moves forward with these people.

7 October 2014

The Stop: A Citizen Performance / Lilianne Ruiz

Angel Santiesteban and Manuel Cuesta Morua

My blog appears abandoned. But that is not the case. What happens is I want to do many thing and so I am behind in updating it. I follow what’s going on around me, I want to understand our history, our social paralysis. I am not brave. I realize it’s easy to stay home, have a hot drink, read a book, ask others questions. The hard part is going outside, engaging in any form of protest about the arbitrariness in which we live.

So I thought of stopping, in that the same day and the same hour we stop like the world stops and connect with our troubles. Because we are very troubled, everyone has their own personal story for feeling this way.

But Cuba is a country where to protest, you have to be a hero. And I don’t like heroes. Which otherwise only appear in barbaric times. We imagine an individual of such size made in the image and likeness of good, as in the Bible, confronting constitutional walls like those that make socialism, the central control the State and the a single party political system irreversible. Wo we must change the constitution, because there is no lack of heroes, nor are there laws to protect people from the power of the state, Hobbes’ Leviathon.

I someone goes out to protest the police come, such brutes and so brutal, and not only are they arbitrarily detained, but right there the strength is lost because those who have experienced it fall into a kind of revolutionary mockery that doesn’t know the value of time.

A person disappears in this time of gigantic size where nothing nothing nothing happens. And a police officer poorer than you are and with less awareness of his rights is who is sent to shut you up as if to say: abandon all hope, here we mock everything, civil, political, economic rights, everything. Here nothing nothing nothing happens.

So I propose to stop. Stop, as an individual, in the street, for example next Wednesday at two in the afternoon, or any other day, just three minutes, to meditate on everything that hurts us, our impotence as individuals and as a society. No harangue, no poster, looking inward, toward the endless abyss that seems to be our individual and national destiny.

They do not want us to take to the streets because they send the police brutes smelling of mother-of-pearl soap (from the bodega) and bad breath, in their eyes the swamp of binging and the revolutionary rabble which swallows out civic, civilizing and profoundly counterrevoltuonary attemps. Let us stop, then.

Police citation for Manuel Cuesta Morua to appear for “an interview”

6 June 2014

At the Train Station We’re All Fighters / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

 Central Station, Havana. (14ymedio)
Central Station, Havana. (14ymedio)

In Havana, travelers bound for the provinces don’t just say goodbye from the platform, they wage a daily battle for survival

Lilanne Ruiz, Havana / June 4, 2014 – It’s seven p.m. in Havana. The train to Guantanamo has just arrived at Central Station. “Let’s go, have your tickets ready!” the conductor shouts, while inching open the gate to the platform.

The travelers push forward, some carrying all their luggage, others squeezing through and waiting for a family member to pass their boxes and suitcases to them through the bars. “Take care, I’ll call when you get there,” says a voice. Only the passengers can get to the cars. No one complains. They’ve never lived the classic scene of saying goodbye from the platform to someone departing on a train.

The Central Railway Station in Havana is an imposing building, built in 1912. The deteriorated ceilings are propped up by wood in the platform-access areas. Despite the neglect, the building endures and impresses.

In the lounge several rows of seats are arranged without a view of anything. It seems like an immense classroom, but without a teacher or blackboard. You can’t see the platform, only the wall. It is a lifeless scene, that gives no sense of movement nor help to make the wait enjoyable. Continue reading “At the Train Station We’re All Fighters / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz”

There are only 11 weekly trains to meet the demand. For the eastern region, those to Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, and Bayamo-Manzanillo, depart every three days. Those are the biggest, with 10 or 12 cars of 72 seats each. For the route to the center of the island, there’s one to Sancti Spiritus and one to Cienfuegos. Another goes to Pinar del Rio and five smaller ones travel to Guines and Los Palos, in Mayabeque .

Travelers who gather at Central Station, uniformed in poverty, are forced to improvise. They dress with what they can and assemble their luggage from what’s available. Briefcases, sealed plastic buckets, cardboard boxes covered with tape. If they can carry it, they bring it.

The figures of Ministry of the Interior (MININT) officials in battle dress stand out. They are armed. It is not known if they will be traveling or if they are patrolling. One of them, sitting two benches to my right, drinks from a bottle of homemade wine. He works in Havana but lives in the east. He goes on vacation every five months and returns to see his family. In the boxes, he says, he’s carrying packages of macaroni, spaghetti, and crackers that he’ll sell at the military unit before leaving.

Shipping ground coffee from the eastern part of the country is a crime comparable to transporting beef

He’s lucky to be able to transport all of this. For other people, moving goods is a problem. Shipping ground coffee from the eastern part of the country is a crime comparable to transporting beef. You may not carry more than two kilograms of cheese because the authorities assume that that is the limit of household consumption. Although farmers are allowed to sell the milk produced by their cows, it is prohibited to sell cheese.

If they can’t sell, how would they survive? “In the East there is no money,” says a woman waiting to go to Jiguaní the next day. When she came to Havana the train broke down at 3:00 a.m. in Ciego de Avila and did not get underway until twenty-four hours later. The passengers, united by adversity, got off the train to talk and share water and food.

Despite a potential fine of 1,500 Cuban pesos, vendors selling bottles of ice water pass through the waiting room. There is no water on the train. Women carrying satchels offer sorbets, candies, and mints. The state-owned outlets offer sliced pork and rice with black beans in small cardboard boxes for 25 Cuban pesos, or hot dogs for only 10 pesos. The cheapest offering is bread and ham for 3 pesos. The ham is a slice slightly thinner than a razor blade and the bread is the color of white cement. Hunger helps one overlook the poor appearance of the food.

A cardboard box is the usual luggage of travelers. (14ymedio )
A cardboard box is the usual luggage of travelers. (14ymedio )

A wrinkled old woman is chewing hungrily. She lives in Dos Rios, where José Martí died , and she is the granddaughter of an Afro-Cuban soldier from the war of 1895. She came to Havana to spend a few days with a granddaughter and brought back a box of malangas because “you can’t get it there.” The bag that her belongings are in was once a sack for detergent. Her clothes look worn, but as clean as if they had been washed and dried in the sun.

Two women wearing the uniform of those employed by the “Safety and Security Agency” contemplate a sandwich wrapped in plastic without deciding whether to eat it. It is the snack given to them by the state, their employer. Most sell it to get 20 pesos. I ask them why the platform is barred and the gate controlled as if for barnyard animals. “They try to board the train without a ticket, that’s how to make sure people pay.”

Why don’t they want to pay? “There are those who travel with nothing but a bottle of water and 5 pesos. Ay mami, this is very hard,” one answers. She doesn’t finish the sentence and laughs out loud as she walks away.

“In Havana, the fight is better than in the East,” everyone repeated

Those who sell and those who buy have a word in common: fight. “In Havana you fight.” “Here the fight is better than in the East,” everyone repeats. They come to the capital because they believe that the wages are higher. They do masonry, or work in agriculture with private producers, who pay fifty pesos a day (more than twice the average wage).

A young mother nurses her four-month-old baby. She carries a cargo of detergent, soap, toothpaste, and candies for kids. “The east is hard. Worse than Havana,” she says. She came from Guantanamo with a box of mangoes and guavas for her family in the capital: “There the fruit is sweeter and cheaper,” she says.

A woman wanders through selling plastic sandals. She explains that it is good business to buy in “La Cuevita” (a large unofficial market in the San Miguel del Padron municipality of Havana) and resell for a little more to travelers in the station. “We are all fighters, and this is the fight for survival,” she says, indicating the station with a sweeping gesture. “We’ll sell whatever is available, even caskets. Life is hard.”

The sandal-seller says that some regulars are homeless and spend the day at the station. They search in the dump for anything they can sell. “They go to La Coubre, the reservations and waiting-list terminal near the Central Station, to sleep on cardboard boxes they put on the ground. There they take advantage of and steal the suitcases from those unfortunate ones going back to the country,” she reveals.

The last train has left for Sancti Spiritus at 9:20 p.m. In front of the television in the waiting lounge men and women huddle who do not seem like travelers. They’re not waiting for anything. When the train has gone, the employees and a policeman prepare to close the terminal. They shoo them out: “Get up, we’re closing.”

Everyone obediently withdraws until the next day, at 6:30 a.m., when everything begins again.

Translated by Tomás A.

At Repression’s Ground Zero / Lilianne Ruiz

The first time I set foot in that scary place called Villa Marista, similar to Lubyanka Prison in the now fortunately disappeared Soviet Union, it was by my own will. I accompanied Manuel Cuesta Morúa to see Investigator Yurisan Almenares, in charge of Case No. 5, 2014, against Cuesta Morúa, after he was arbitrarily arrested on 26 January of this year to keep him from participating as an organizer of the 2nd Alternative Forum to the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) Forum, held in Havana.

His detention ended 4 days later with the notification of a precautionary measure that was never delivered, but that obliged him to go to a Police Station every Tuesday and sign the document, for the supposed crime of Diffusion of False News Against International Peace.

But the precautionary measure was only shown to the eyes of the person it concerned once: on 30 January when he was released. In practice, Cuesta Morua was signing an unofficial paper. Imprecision characterized the situation from the beginning. The reasons for the arrest and the case they sought to bring against him had no direct relationship, which shows that the old school mafia of the Castro regime still rules in Cuba: studying the penal code in order to destroy their adversaries, manipulating the law until the punishment proves your guilt.

In Villa Marista I wanted to see the face of someone working there inflicting pain on other human beings. Punishing them, not for violating universal law, which could not exceed the measure of punishment, but for not expressing loyalty to the Castro regime.

For some reason I connected with the mother of Pedro Luis Boitel, who I saw in a documentary titled “No One Listens.” She said that her son, having been persecuted in the Batista era, always found a door to knock on, an opportunity to save himself from death. But in the times of Fidel Castro is wasn’t like that, and Boitel died after a hunger strike, imprisoned in the cruelest and most degrading conditions, in La Cabaña Prison.

Those were the times when the International Left granted the Cuban government impunity so that it could improvise a vast record of human rights violations. And Cuban society, terrorized, also looked the other way: escaping to the United States, while “going crazy” to step foot on the land of liberty. It’s not very different today.

Villa Marista is a closed facility. It can’t be visited by an inspector from the Human Rights Council, nor from representatives of civil society organizations–dissident and persecuted–to ensure that they are not practicing any kind of torture against the prisoners and are respecting all their rights. The government has signed some protocols and declares itself against torture, but we don’t believe in the government and those who have passed through Villa Marista’s cells bear witness that they do torture them there to the point of madness in order to destroy the internal dissidence.

And if someone accuses me of not having evidence, I tell them that’s the point, that it is precisely for this that the Cuban government opens its jails to the press, not controlled by them, and to the international inspectors and Independent Civil Society, because what the Castros present is fabricated by the regime itself.

Not only the dissidents are tortured. Nor do we know if it’s only with “soft torture” which is still torture. Also there are workers who make a mistake and are accused of sabotage, without being able to demand their inalienable rights or defend themselves against such accusations.

It made me want to open doors, to be very strong and kick them all down. To find a legal resource for the Cuban people to investigate–and the right to presumption of innocence–all those who work there. Even the cooks, responsible for having served cabbage with pieces of cockroach to a friend’s relative, a simple worker, who was kept there for long unforgettable days, who was interrogated like in the inquisition to extract a false confession from him. They didn’t even let him sleep.

But I have gone only into the reception area: polished floors, plastic flowers, kitsch expression to hide the sordidness of the jailers instructed by the Interior Ministry; the misery reaching into the bones of the prisoners down those shiny floors. Villa Marista is one thing outside and another inside, as the common refrain says.

Investigator Yurisan Almenares didn’t show his face. Perhaps he wasn’t ready for the persecuted to find him. He had no answers because those guys can’t improvise. They have to consult their superiors, not the law or their own conscience.

A smiling captain took us into a little room and explained, almost embarrassed, that the Investigator wasn’t there and she would make a note of what Manuel was demanding. So I watched as she carefully traced the words he was pronouncing.

We wanted to get notification of the dismissal of the case. There was no precautionary measure; ergo there should be no case pending. This not to say that the presumed case was unsustainable without the precautionary measure. Living in Cuba it’s impossible to escape the reality of power, however absurd and Kafkaesque it may be, like kicking the locked cell doors of Villa Marista.

Remember, the crime has a name as bizarre as Diffusion of False News Against International Peace. And the supposed false news deals with the issue of racism in Cuba, where the government teaches discrimination for political reasons in the schools, and talks about the issue of racial rights, not inborn rights, but as a concession emanating from the State dictatorship; and administered so that it can later be used for revolutionary propaganda.

But racism is still here, rooted in society like a database error that manifests itself in daily phenomena that shock the whole world. Growing, along with other forms of discrimination and masked under the cynical grin of power.

Manuel Cuesta Morua knows this because he has dedicated his life to record this phenomenon in Cuba, historically and in the present. Thus, he has written about it on countless occasions and takes responsibility for every one of his words.

We went there without getting answers. My mind filled with the memory of these people I don’t know who are imprisoned there, half forgotten by the whole world, their own attorneys in a panic.

One thing we can promise Villa Marista’s gendarmes and its top leaders, wherever they hide themselves: some day we will open all those doors, and after judging, with guarantees of due process, those who oppress us, the place will become a part of the popular proverbs turning Cuba into a nation jealous of the freedom of its citizens.

Lilianne Ruiz and Manuel Cuesta Morua

22 April 2014

Eleven Years Since the Regla Ferry Hijacking / Lilianne Ruiz

The Regla Ferry
The Regla Ferry

HAVANA, Cuba – On April 12, 2003, media throughout the world carried the news of the execution of three young Cubans for their involvement in the hijacking of the Regla-based ferry, the “Baraguá.” They were trying to flee the country and get to the United States.

Leftist newspapers, sympathetic to the Cuban regime, tried to justify the act, writing: “the government wanted to strike at the roots of airplane and boat hijackings.” They admitted that the punishment was intended to send a message, meaning that none of the accused was entitled to a fair trial.

Some went further. Heinz Dieterich Steffan (who later became the ideologist of “Socialism of the XXI Century”), told on his website how the then-president of Cuba, Fidel Castro, was sending a message to the White House: “You have declared war and your first soldiers have fallen.” And he later added: “I want you to know how to interpret the message of the firing squad, so there is no more bloodshed.”

The executions occurred just over a week after the group of 11 young men, armed with a gun and a knife, had diverted the ferry some 30 miles offshore.

How did it all happen?

The hijackers, upon boarding the boat, fired a shot in the air and one yelled: “This is fucked! We’re going to the U.S.!” After 30 miles the fuel ran out and the boat drifted. The sea was very choppy, so in an act of tragic naivety they agreed to be towed to the port of Mariel with the promise that the authorities there would give them fuel.

They didn’t tie anyone up (as—according to family members of the accused—the prosecution claimed). If they had, how do you explain that upon arriving at Mariel some passengers, at a signal from security agents, jumped into the water? Enrique Copello Castillo, who tried to prevent one of the foreigners on board from escaping, had the gun. But he didn’t use it even when the situation got out of his control. This shows that he was not a criminal, just a young person desperate to reach the United States, in search of freedom and the chance for personal advancement.

The three executed
The three executed

On April 8, 2003, after a summary trial, the sentence was issued: Enrique Copello Castillo, Bárbaro L. Sevilla García, and Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac were condemned to death. The rest of those involved in the attempted hijacking were given prison sentences: life imprisonment for Harold Alcala Aramburo, Maykel Delgado Aramburo, Ramon Henry Grillo and Yoanny Thomas Gonzalez; 30 years for Ledea Wilmer Perez; and from 2 to 5 years for the women traveling with them.

In March of that same year, the government had jailed 75 human-rights activists, independent journalists, and political dissidents. These were in the Villa Marista prison when the hijackers were taken to that infamous headquarters of the  Cuban political police. Ricardo González Alfonso, the now-exiled independent journalist and one of the 75, has left behind a disturbing account of the last hours of Enrique Copello Castillo, who shared his cell.

The day of the trial, a State Security captain took him to an office to explain that, although they were seeking the death penalty for Copello Castillo, there was a chance he would not be executed. He therefore asked for González Alfonso’s cooperation in helping save the condemned man’s life if he tried to commit suicide. In light of what happened on April 11, when the condemned were taken before the firing squad without notice to their families, it can be interpreted that the captain was in charge of “supply”: he could not allow the scapegoats to escape their own sacrifice. How could they make an example of Copello Castillo if he had not attended his own execution?

Danger Zone

On San Francisco Street in Havana, between Jesus Peregrino and Salud streets, is the building where Bárbaro L. Sevilla García lived with his mother, Rosa Maria. Some neighbors remember what happened on April 11, 2003. The street was full of cars with military license plates from 6:00 am., forming a police blockade. Some women from the Interior Ministry knocked at the door of Rosa Maria to tell her that her 22-year-old son had been shot at dawn. The woman started screaming and ran out to the street naked, yelling the whole time: “Down with Fidel!” and “Murderers!” Afterward she was forced to leave the country, say the neighbors, who did not give their names for out of concern for their safety.

A short time later police began moving into the building on the corner, on Salud Street. Even today the area is considered “dangerous.” Neighbors also warned this reporter not to take pictures of the demolished middle balcony where the mother and her son lived, because the green building on the corner of  Jesús Peregrino is the DTI (Department of Technical Investigations), a division of the Interior Ministry.

Harold-Alcala-Aramburu-y-Maikel-Delgado-Aramburu-junto-a-su-abuela-de-90-años-Foto-de-Lilliane-Ruiz-300x200
Harold Alcala Aramburu and Maikel Delgado Aramburu with their 90-year-old grandmother. Photo: Lilianne Ruiz

They did not use explosives, but charge will be used in court

Why so much harshness and speed in the execution of punishment if there was no alleged injury or loss of life during the kidnapping? The lawyer Edilio Hernández Herrera, of the Cuban Legal Association (AJC, independent), has prepared a legal opinion that reveals how the law was broken in Case 17 of 2003.

The defendants were tried for the crime of Acts of Terrorism. Law No. 93 “Against terrorism” was published on December 24, 2001, in the Official Gazette.

In the opinion of Hernández Herrera, the portions of the law that apply to the crime committed would be Articles 14.1 and 16.1.a, pertaining to the taking of hostages and acts against the safety of maritime navigation. But the court sentenced the boys for acts that certainly did not happen. The other offense charged, from Articles 10 and 11.c, referred to “acts committed with explosives, chemical, biological or other substances.” With this they intended to justify the sentences of the death penalty and life imprisonment.

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, an economist and independent journalist, one of the political prisoners of the Case of the 75, shared a cell in Villa Maristas with Dania Rojas Gongora, age 17, who was on the boat. She was the girlfriend of Jorge Luis Martínez Isaac, who was shot. The girl told how another mother learned that her son had been shot the day she was to bring him toiletries. The last time Dania saw her boyfriend alive, one of the guards said sarcastically: “Plan now how many children you are going to have.”

Roque Cabello has no doubt in stating:

“The dictator Fidel Castro wanted blood. He was furious also because in the midst of this, sending the 75 political dissidents to prison was turning out to be a fiasco. That gained worldwide condemnation. It was his decision: execution and life imprisonment for these young people. So those who are now continuing to serve a life sentence are prisoners of Fidel Castro.

Cubanet, April 11, 2014, Lilianne Ruiz

Translated by Tomás A.

Barbarism in Cuba Wears a Uniform and Police Badge / Lilianne Ruiz

Iris and Antunez

The men who sawed through the metal bars at Jorge Luis Garcia Perez’s (Antunez) house at 5:30 in the morning last Tuesday were police, After cutting the fence, they broke the latch and drove everyone sleeping in the house out with blows, taking them prisoner. They were following orders from the Ministry of the Interior. This information is already old because a few hours later they were arrested again. But I just connected and the post I wrote at home after taling with Iris on Wednesday night.

On Monday, 10 February, Antunez started a hunger and thirst strike, in protest for the police ransacking he was a victim of last Wednesday. He is demanding the return of everything they took from his house. His wife explained that it wasn’t a question of the material possessions, but of a moral response that tries to limit these arbitrary actions.

There were two other men with them this morning, from the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance Front, who joined the hunger strike. At this time everyone continues the same stance, despite being isolated. The activists’ cell phones were not returned by the police, to increase the sensation of isolation and limit the visibility of the strike.

We have to look with horror on the fact that wearing the uniform or carrying an ID card from the Department of State Security, provides momentary impunity. The seeds of violence are planted in this social war fueled by ideology; this is nothing new. But the end depends on people of good will — if there are any left — both inside and outside of Cuba.

Who dares to propose, from Cuba, that Latin America and the Caribbean is a Zone of Peace.

14 February 2014