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 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

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

The Trials / Lilianne Ruiz

Gorki Aguila (in glasses) and Porno para Ricardo

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.

They called in an official forensic handwriting expert, who said that the slant of Santiesteban’s handwriting indicates a violent personality, and with this the trial ended. Continue reading

A Year Without the White Card (Travel Permit) / Lilianne Ruiz

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)

Guillermo-Fariñas-300x150The 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

World Human Rights Day in Cuba / Lilianne Ruiz

Camilo Ernesto Olivera, a member of the team of Estado de SATS, was stopped as he left his home on Dec. 7. Most alarming is how these things are happening in Cuba: going from one moment to another in a state of total helplessness before the forces of repression. I always remember Orlando Luis Pardo when he said that you don’t talk to kidnappers because if the higher order were to take you into the forest outside of Havana to shoot you in the neck, no words would persuade them otherwise.

The fact is that after they searched Camilo, throwing him against the police car, they put him in the pursuing car without further explanation. They drove around La Lisa, until a subject on a Suzuki motorcycle approached them. Without taking off his helmet he looked at Camilo and told police: “Take this one to Melena del Sur.” And what Camilo could do to help himself? These people represent the law, illegitimate though it may be. Resisting, trying to escape, all that will get you is to complicate things further. So absolutely passive in his own “legal” kidnapping he saw himself being driven on an interprovincial journey without knowing how it would end. Nor was he allowed to call his family, though it is written in Cuban law among the rights of detainees.

They left him in a jail cell all day; around 7 PM they took him out of there to free him. At that time Camilo, who originally had gone to see Ailer Mena to bring her up to date on the events of 10 and 11 December on SATS, had to look for a car-for-hire to take him to Havana. He told me himself that luckily they hadn’t “confiscated” his money, because everyone knows people who’ve been robbed of everything, all that they had in their pockets.

To ensure he’d be there on the 10th, he had to hide out in Rodiles’ house from the 8th on. We have already seen the videos of the enormous act of repudiation disguised as a “cultural activity” that the political police staged outside Estado de SATS on the 10th and 11th of December. They took elementary school children, junior high school and high school students to make street paintings with the traditional communist insults against Civil Society like “worms”, “imperialists”, and things of that style.

1386954247_ailer-en-protesta-en-medio-de-la-calle1Here we see Ailer Mena in the middle of the street, seated in the lotus position, opposing with beauty the arbitrary detention of her husband, Rodiles, who’d gone out to protect her.

They also took Rodiles by carrying his weight as ants carry a leaf. They hurt Walfrido in the neck because they grabbed him in that area to carry him away. This bothers me a lot; the impunity with which the political police act in Cuba.

We are not going to stop doing what we do because it’s a question of identity. All those I know who oppose with their work, their opinion, or their protest, all do the same thing: exist.

To exist, and that by itself is a demonstration against whichever form of oppression, call it political, religious, ideological, or against the powers that be. But I think that this is of the worst kind because it assumes control of our humanity, and makes people spit on it while placing some sophisticated shackle on their necks, yes, on the neck. For that, to protect mine, I can only be what I am, be who I am.

Everything shows up on the video of Estado de SATS so that to repeat it is foolishness because a picture is worth more than a thousand words. For that they threw Kissie’s camera (Kissie is from Omni Zone Franca) as if to a pack of dogs. But they couldn’t take the camera. All this was carried out in front of the children they’d gathered there to put on the act of repudiation in a fair-like atmosphere for the Day of Human Rights.

We have to endure hatred when you think that the singer known as Arnaldo and his Lucky Charm donated their singing and yelling of revolutionary, fundamentalist slogans; surrounded all the while by the political police. The strangest fair in the world. It’s said that next week this same act will be in Miami to sing there. They’re pigs.

Not only there; they took the Ladies in White, too. Better said, not only did they let them arrive at 23rd and L, where they’d announced they’d start their march for Human Rights Day, protesting for freedom for Cuban political prisoners. But they might have had an idea: María Cristina Labrada and her husband Egberto Escobedo — who was a political prisoner for 15 years — were detained at the same corner as their house and taken to the Granabo police station.

The Sunday before, they’d suffered a similar kidnapping coming out of Santa Rita Church like they had every Sunday, to join with the Ladies and walk down 5th Avenue. They left Cristina in a jail cell filled with mosquitoes and she recalled Martha Beatriz who almost a month ago was under house arrest — some days are harder than others — and it all began for refusing — completely within her rights — to be fumigated with oil, which is forced upon our homes while the city has turned into a garbage dump.

But totalitarians have always regulated our privacy. Cristina was quite uncomfortable all day and at about 7 PM she was also freed along with her husband. But as she told me, the patrol car in which they were put left Guanabo for the municipality of October 10th without headlights or taillights and it was already night time. She doesn’t know if it was to trigger an accident or to intimidate them. Something similar happened to all the Ladies, supposedly including their leader Berta Soler, who was detained with her husband, Angel Moya, in similar circumstances.

Also in the area of 23rd and L, they gathered some children for a fair that very day. But notice how they operate as one body that keeps society held hostage. I don’t know if mothers who gave permission for their kids to be there knew what all this was about. I think that to speak of emotional blackmail, by the fact of using kids as a smokescreen to hide their acts of repression falls short. It is a hell. Cuba is living the fall of the Castros, and everything indicates that he doesn’t want to die without lashing out with calculated but irrational violence (which is self-satisfying, blind) in his pride. They did not succeed in grafting their damned roots into our humanity.

Freedom and change are stronger.

Translated by: JT

13 December 2013

She Can’t Return to Cuba: She’s on the Blacklist / Lilianne Ruiz

HAVANA, Cuba, December 2013, www.cubanet.org. – Guadalupe Bustos left Houston, Texas on November 27, enthusiastic about her upcoming trip to Cuba. But she didn’t know that she is on the “black list,” delivered to the Miami airport authorities by the Cuban Immigration Office, with the names of Cubans who are forbidden, for political reasons, from returning to their country.

Lupe, as she is known to friends and family, traveled by car from Houston to Miami. She was loaded down with gifts for her family and many friends in Cuba. Some are human rights activists and political dissidents. But she also has brothers and nephews waiting for her. One of her brothers is recovering from a complicated operation and, because of his advanced age, Lupe’s first priority was to visit him.

She arrived in Miami on the 28th. She could barely sleep that night, thinking about everything that she would be doing within a few hours. Early the next day she left for the airport. Upon arriving she presented all her papers in proper order: her U.S. passport, Cuban passport, and return ticket. At the airport they gave her the well-known “Cuban entry card” for her to fill out later, on the plane.

She still had her papers in hand when an airport official hurriedly approached, asking the employee at the window to point out the one named Lupe. Upon being told he said:

“No, stop her luggage. Cuban Immigration just called; they said that she is denied entry for failure to comply with ’immigration requirements’.”

In an email interview Lupe said:

Lilianne Ruiz (l) with Guadalupe Bustos

“I was floored. I talked to the man and he put me on the phone with the head of Cuba flights, who had received the call, and I told him I needed them to explain to me which ’requirements’ I did not meet, and if this were true, then why they had not advised the travel agency and stopped me from buying the ticket, something that the agency itself says that it can’t explain, because when a person does not have permission to enter they must communicate this before the passage is booked.”

The Cuban immigration authorities did not respond to any of the emails sent by Lupe:

“The Cuban government has prevented me from entering my country, my homeland, without any basis, without setting out a single argument against me, as the law requires.”

And she points out:

“They are a disgrace to the world, acting like this to protect their policy of totalitarianism, of opposing all desire for change, for freedom, for improving our people. But I also believe that they are not the owners of a land, and of a history of emancipation that dates back many years. They are not the owners of the children of Cuba nor their dreams of freedom.”

For years Lupe has maintained her solidarity with the Cuban democratic movement. She is the mother of Ernesto Hernández Bustos, editor of the Cuban-affairs blog Penúltimos Días.

The government ban to keep her out of the country coincides with the approach of December 10. Historically that day in Cuba has been characterized by an increase in arbitrary arrests carried out by the political police in order to prevent the celebration of World Human Rights Day, and to impede the emerging civil society.

Lilianne Ruiz

Cubanet, December 8, 2013

Translated by: Tomás A.

Marta Beatriz Roque, Injured by State Security / Lilianne Ruiz

On Tuesday we learned of the beating of Marta Beatriz. They didn’t just beat her, they also dragged her up the stairs, 31 steps, beating her neck and whole body. I did not ask Marta’s age but she is an older woman, perhaps older than 60. She was the only woman in the group of 75 (from the Black Spring of 2003), imprisoned for her activism and for publishing her opinions against the regime.

She, a group of activists and friends, had been standing in front of the Zanja police station to protest the harassment she suffers from some of her neighbors.

That morning Marta had refused to let her house be fumigated with smoke and oil, an invasion on the pretext of doing away with the mosquito that carried dengue fever. There are other methods of fumigation, which here they call “special” that also eliminate the larva and the mosquitoes, but that was not available and the smoke was spreading into the house through the slats of the blinds, and the smoke is toxic for people with asthma and any respiratory problems, like her.

I can’t stand even the noise these smoke machines make and also that any stranger can come into our rooms. Sometimes they must enter our houses along, because if the smoke injures us they assume we have to leave for them to fumigate, and trust they won’t touch any of our personal things.

To me, it seems like a form of violation of our spaces. On the other hand, the city is full of trash dumps and potential breeding grounds for mosquito larva, huge deposits of stinking water. But our houses are preferred by the State.

Marta had spent the whole night in front of the police station, protesting. At 7 in the morning a police car stopped in front of her she was taken by force by two of those rude women who join the Ministry of the Interior — it’s sad to see what they turn into because of their envy and hatred, attacking without scruples any enemy o the government.If the order was to kill they would kill. It seems they have no conscience.

They are the result of ideological propaganda and the zone of ignorance fed to them by the free education of the State. Later you see them coveting any trinket, proudly receiving some jewelry, probably the fruit of Customs forfeitures, as a reward for their cruelty.

The two MININT women were beating Marta the whole way, stopping at the entrance to the building where she lives, on Belascoain, and dragging her out of the car. They continued dragging her up the stairs without allowing her to stand up, the 31 steps to the door of her house.

Since then her home has been under siege by the police. The second day didn’t let her 17-year-old nephew come up to bring her juice. The two activists with her happened to be in the house because they went there to make coffee to take to the Station, and were surprised to see Marta beaten, swollen and bruised, with the veins of her arms and legs on the point of splitting from so much trauma. They won’t let them see her, which seems to be the point of the siege at the house; perhaps they are waiting for the bruises to fade.

But Marta Beatriz hasn’t been able to be seen by a doctor. She is taking anti-inflammatory pills that have begun to damage her stomach. Yesterday they were arresting all those who came to visit.

21 November 2013

“500 Times I’ve Looked at a Place to Hang Myself” / Lilianne Ruiz

HAVANA, Cuba, November 2013, www.cubanet.org.- Giraldo Rodríguez Comendador, 76, can’t cross the avenue because cataracts cloud his vision. Every day he has to decide whether to seek the evidence of this 42 working years (to initiate a process that would culminate in a 250 peso pension — Cuban pesos, not the ones convertible into dollars, about $10), or to set himself to the little “errands” — as he calls them — to survive.

Most of the time he’s forced to the second option, not just because hunger is an undeniable fact, but also because he is losing hope.

In 2006, when he retired — from the Ministry of Construction in Las Tunas where he worked as a driver — they told him that his record didn’t appear, that it might even have been devoured by flames. I’ve heard, on other occasions, of people with a problem like his, but until today I didn’t understand that a lost work record multiplied by zero equals the sacrifice of an entire life.

To alleviate his desperation a little, a social worker appeared and offered him the assistance of 142 Cuban pesos, but Rodríguez Comendador expressed his indignation.

“Like me there are a few, at least in Las Tunas, who have demanded and taken the charity given to them. And they are satisfied with that. I am not a beggar. To me they must give what is mine.”

To get “his” he has to go to every place where he worked and get them to sign documents that support his having been on the payroll, and then go to the Collective Law Firm and hire a lawyer to make his claim. One of the inconveniences he confronts is that most of his peers have retired. Others have changed jobs. He says that once he met the boss he had when he was working on the El Cornito dam.

“He said to me, ’Boy, go to Los Pinos, to the human resources department of Removal and Construction, and I’ll send you a truckload of witnesses.”

But the witnesses weren’t enough to authorize paying the pension, which is processed through documents like the work record. They will only certify, in an extreme case like his, that he worked in a specific place for a determined amount of time.

“Seven years ago I was on the ropes. Even my knees gave out when I was walking. I was convinced I’d lost my working years. For nothing, because they mistreated me like they are mistreating me today. I worked to have what’s mine, for myself I don’t worry that there’s a law that obliges children to take care of their parents,” he says.

As for hiring a lawyer, the fee for labor processes isn’t very high. But Rodríguez Comendador asks:

“How amI going to hire a lawyer? I don’t know the medical prescriptions I’ve lost out on because I can’t buy medicines that cost 19 pesos.”

He went out again to look for work, but no one gave him any; because he’s of retirement age he doesn’t have valid documents and can’t do temporary work.

Also, as blind as I am, they put me on the truck to throw dirt, mud, cow manure, and I do it because I need the pesos. He knows that I’m blind, so what he’s going to do is take off. My situation is absolutely terrible situation.”

When asked if he’d been hungry, he remains silent for several seconds. And then answers, like someone who rising above his honor made a stack of old crumpled papers:

“Imagine it; if I tell you no, I’m lying. Charity doesn’t solve the problem: They’ve given me a blanket and I had to sell it to eat, a pair of shoes and I had to sell them to eat.”

So there is no doubt when he says,

“Me, you tell me to take an iron bar to the train station for 10 pesos and I hoist it on my shoulder and I take it.”

But the urgent question is, how long can he continue to take his body to the extreme of exhaustion with such bad nourishment?

This doesn’t seem to worry him more than how he is going to get by day-to-day.

“I’ve caught myself at six in the morning, thinking. And what can a man think when he’s at a crossroads like I am?”

The little light fades and he says,

“I’ve thought about hanging myself, girl. Five hundred times I’ve looked at an iron bar back there where I can hang myself, but I see this fat woman you see sitting over there, that’s my wife, and I change my mind. Anyway, I have to die of something.”

By Lilianne Ruíz

Cubanet, 12 November 2013

These Are Images From the 2nd Grade Reading Book / Lilianne Ruiz

“An exemplary Combatant / Cuban history is very beautiful because it is full of examples of men, women and even children who fought for independence and freedom for our country. The combatant we are talking to you about is an example of one of the young men who shaped part of our history.”

I tell my daughter that being responsible is a privilege. I don’t know from what deep part of me this form of rebellion emerged. I find that it is not something I’m fully aware of. It is not the education I received in school, nor at home, where the most important thing was to be obedient. To be guided by others.

In the blink of an eye she’s turned 7. In the same period that we have spent together — unquestionably the best part of my life — she will be 14, then 21… By then I will have taught her the best I have to give. I’m not sure about having been free. And I think you can only be happy from there.

Amid the crap that goes on in Cuba today, my daughter and I are really lucky that her teacher from the first grade is pretty good. But you can’t teach someone to be free, and so, she can’t be educated to be truly responsible. The teacher, whether by conviction or obedience I don’t know, but undoubtedly because here we all play down the importance, must teach my daughter about other heroes who are not her mother’s, if I ever had any.

And she must indoctrinate her from the time she’s little in the political religion, and I swear no one has ever asked me if I agree with this model of children’s awareness. And it’s taken for granted that if the education is free I have to accept that the values they teach my daughter are the same ones that have brought about the profound crisis in human rights of our country since the seizure of power by the Castros, who have made it a place that most people dream of escaping from.

Can we do nothing other than play down the importance of the the way others, whom we did not choose, educate our children? Content ourselves with their learning to read and write and perhaps one day going the University and becoming members if they annul their consciousness, their will, their responsibility and their freedom? Who comes out ahead with the education offered free from the State. The family or the State dictatorship?

The day my daughter was born I understood that I could not continue to disengage myself from my responsibility. She taught me the rudiments of freedom with her first cries. That day, in the room where we were waiting to be discharged the next day, Palms and Canes was showing on TV, a program from time immemorial, after the State News. And I told myself I did not want anything like that for her, that her life was going to be different from mine, that all the times I had shut up about my small truths, I had lost the opportunity to carve out a future. But I didn’t realize I would have to do my part to give her a better life.

A few years ago I opened the blog Jeronimo, falling under the spell of an engraving by Durer, and in the act of finding my own expression I started to listen to my heart, the same voice that tells her that being responsible is a privilege that she earns and that she should do so, for love of herself.

A country where people are silenced in so many ways, that blocks the path to the internal truth of each person, cannot produce individual growth, flourishing, creativity, wealth, happiness.

“Read: amicably, supportive, long-lasting, revolution, Soviets, happiness. Answer: What did Lenin’s wife ask of the children?”

A friend has a 3-year-old daughter in daycare. She told me one day the girl came home with directions to paint Che’s cap. So she took the black crayons and as best she could painted a cap with a star. The following day the girl was supposed to paint Camilo’s sombrero. And the same thing happened. On the third day, while she was climbing the stairs to the house, the little girl announced that that night she was supposed to paint, for the following day, Fidel’s trousers. My friend looked at her husband and the two of them, in chorus, said, “Don’t fuck with us!”

But outside of pretending to be demented and forgetting a task that carries so much political weight, and arriving late for the morning assemblies which are also political, there’s not much more you can do as long as the school system belongs to the State. Every day that passes I ask myself what is the path to regaining the freedoms our parents sold and without wanting to, postponing their responsibility, they passed it on to us.

“Vladimir Ilich Lenin led the revolution that gave power to the workers. He is one of the greatest men who ever lived. Lenin fought with all his might for the happiness of”

12 November 2013

Sonia Garro, Optimistic in Prison Remains a Lady in White / Lilianne Ruiz

L. to R. Yamile Garro with her sister Sonia Garro in prison

L. to R. Yamilé Garro with her sister Sonia Garro in prison

HAVANA, Cuba, November 1, 2013, www.cubanet.org.- The trial of the White Lady Sonia Garro, which had been scheduled for today, was suspended yesterday without explanation by the authorities.

Her lawyer, Amelia Rodriguez Cala, appeared before the People’s Court to finalize the details on Thursday, October 31, and no one could explain the cause of this last minute decision.

Looking for first-hand information, Cubanet spotted Yamilé Garro, sister of the accused, who had visited her that morning in Guatao women’s prison.

According to her sister, Sonia is optimistic about her defense by the attorney Rodríguez Cala, who historically has defended those prosecuted for political reasons.

Remembering what happened on March 18, 2012 — the day that assault troops stormed Garro ‘s house, within a few hours of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island — the sister of the defendant contends that she did not commit the crimes for which charges have brought by the prosecution.

“It all began with an act of repudiation,” she explained.

Sonia Garro with her daughter Elaine Bocourt

Sonia Garro with her daughter Elaine Bocourt

A crowd organized and led by State Security stationed themselves around the Garros’ house, in Marianao, to repudiate them. The Garro couple reacted by shouting “Down with Fidel!” and placing anti-government posters in the doorway of their home. This provoked the troops to violently storm their house. Sonia was injured in the leg with a rubber bullet.

It’s worth remembering that, on the eve of the visit of the Supreme Pontiff to the Island, all the human rights activists and political opponents ,who State Security and the top leadership of the country thought would attend the Papal mass in the Plaza of the Revolution, were detained.

Garro ‘s lawyer also filed a request Thursday for a change of custody, which would involve the immediate release of her client who is awaiting trial.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Rodriguez Cala, told this reporter, “I place my hopes in the Court. The fact that these people are political opponents should not determine the sentence. Ideally the trial would have already been held.”

Sonia’s 17-year-old daughter, Elaine Bocourt Garro, is waiting for her at home. When asked what she can tell us about her mother, she struggles to hold back her tears and then tells us, “I miss her greatly. I love her, she’s my mother. I need her. Also, they’re holding her on a whim… she hasn’t done anything.”

L. To R.: Daysi Rodriguez, Lady in White, Elaine Boucourt Garro and Yamile Garro

L. To R.: Daysi Rodriguez, Lady in White, Elaine Boucourt Garro and Yamile Garro

Inconvenient for the Jailers

Garro has been in prison without trial for one year and seven months. In all this time, she has experienced very harsh conditions. From being locked up in solitary confinement for 20 days, to the gunshot wound in her leg being infected by Staphylococcus aureus, to suffering beatings by several armed guards.

This latest incident, according to her sister, dates from a few months ago, but she can not remember the exact date. It happened when Garro forgot her card to make phone calls and had to return to the detachment where one of the officers was mistreating a prisoner. Garro said facing the jailer who, if he was in such a bad mood, it would have been better not to have gone to work.

sonia-garro-poster-207x300“It wasn’t even a minute before several guards jumped on her and she was beaten with batons,” Yamilé said.

Incredible as it may seem, she adds, “On the medical certificate which was issued several days later, it said Sonia was the aggressor and she had attacked the guards, who were victims.”

Since a month and a half ago, Garro has been suffering from a kidney infection. She still hasn’t received medical treatment.They just put her on painkillers and send her back to her cell.

The prison authorities tell her sister that they don’t have any budget for this type of medicine.

“This isn’t new. When she was infected with staphylococcus, they said it was due to lack of vitamins and it was just a matter of taking vitamins and iron. Now she had Staphylococcus aureus on her skin and boils erupt periodically,” says her sister.

She also says that, in prison, Garro witnessed and reported an unfortunate event known as “the Mutiny on the Mattresses.”

The guards didn’t allow a group of prisoners to leave the laundry area and they began to protest. The reaction of the guards was to lash out against them. Therefore, the prisoners rebelled burning a mattress.

Lilianne Ruiz, Cubanet, 1 November 2013