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.
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”
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”
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.
My steps on this street
on another street
I hear my steps
passing on this street
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Ángel Santiesteban, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, and Gorki Águila have in common that they dissent from the Cuban regime. The first was tried in a court so lacking in due process guarantees that he was declared by his attorney to be in a state of defenselessness, based on Cuban law.
The witnesses for his defense, who could have declared that they were with him at the time when, it was said, the events occurred, were dismissed. His son, a minor, gave a confusing statement that his father wasn’t in the house the day Santiesteban’s ex-wife alleged he had attacked her. (Clearly he was somewhere else, in the Masonic Lodge with his brothers who were later his defense witnesses.)
The first declaration of his ex-wife spoke of a fight, the second day it appeared she had been sexually attacked, and by the end she accused him of nothing short of attempted murder. There was no evidence of any of these three things.
The only prosecution witness appeared in a video confessing that he had been given a mobile phone and some clothes so that he would lie. To they eliminated the charges of rape and attempted murder, but not the one of attack, for which there was no evidence at all.
HAVANA, Cuba, 14 January 2014, www.cubanet.org.- How has the Cuban political scene changed for human rights activists and leaders of the political opposition who have left and returned to Cuba? Is the day after the fall of the Castro regime close? To answer, Cubanet contacted some of the protagonists of this story.
Miriam Celaya (blogger and independent journalist)
Why is immigration and travel reform so important? Well, because we know that until that time you needed a permit to leave; and of course the dissidents, opponents, nonconformists, independent civil society members, anyone ’uncomfortable,’ if you don’t sympathize with the government, they simply forbade you to leave and you didn’t leave.
I believe it’s a positive measure in the sense that it opens up for us the possibility of traveling when we’ve been invited. We have been able to have direct contact with institutions, with other governments and with free societies in the free world. It has strengthened our voices, people have met us personally.
But one can’t overestimate these things, because I don’t think this has substantially changed the Cuban political scene. Yes, we have been able to get solidarity, to find support, there have been groups that have now found sectors aligned to their respective activities, to the spheres where they operate as activists and they are receiving more effective support.
To me, this seems very good. But on the other hand I don’t see that these trips have significantly changed the Cuban political scene. It also tends to focus attention, to give to large a role to what the government does. The measures the government takes, which could mean some real opening on the road to democracy.
I think it’s time for civil society and all of us to understand that what we do doesn’t completely depend on what the government does, because the government is on the defensive: why give them that role?
To the extent that we can’t understand our own political reality, our own position toward the interior of Cuba and occupy a place in the political game of the country… I don’t think that because there is travel it’s going to substantially change the political situation in Cuba; we can’t change outside of Cuba, we change the interior of Cuba.
Guillermo (Coco) Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2010, General Coordinator of the United Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU) and spokesperson for the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)
The timid reforms, including the immigration and travel reform, implemented by general-president Raul Castro’s government on 14 January 2013, should not be perceived as an advance of achievement, but rather as the fulfillment of a long postponed or delayed right. We must have the civic courage to demand other rights that they still don’t recognize. Continue reading “A Year Without the White Card (Travel Permit) / Lilianne Ruiz”