The Peace the Castros are Looking For / Luis Felipe Rojas

Patrols keeping the Ladies in White headquarters in Havana under observation. Photo: A. Moya

Luis Felipe Rojas, 13 August 2016 — Now, in the second week of August, dozens of members of the Cuban opposition have been trapped in their houses. The Cuban political police have been instructed to close off the streets and mount patrols to prevent dissidents from going out to protest.

The photos published by the ex-political prisoner Ángel Moya Acosta let us see the Lawton area in Havana, where police patrols, olive-green forces and members of the Rapid Response Brigade harass Cuban dissidents, especially the Ladies in White, to stop them going to Sunday mass or arranging the monthly Literary Tea (monthly meetings with discussions and speeches on current social/political situation in Cuba, attended by opposition group representatives).

A police patrol keeping watch over the Havana office of the Damas de Blanco. Photo: A. Moya

The peace that the Castros are looking for: with plastic handcuffs, rubber truncheons and fetid prison cells.

Translated by GH

Armando de Armas Shows His Cards / Luis Felipe Rojas

Armando de Armas, Cuban writer.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 30 July 2016 — This weekend — the end of July 2016 — Armando de Armas will open the Festival Vista in Miami. In the middle of the diatribes coming out of the U.S. elections, the Cuban novelist and essayist has given another twist to the torture with his gift of this corrected and expanded edition of Los naipes en el espejo [The Cards in the Mirror], Neo Club Ediciones 2016).

You don’t write books to get applause. De Armas knows this, so he came with the rigor that accompanies him in speaking of “an epochal change.” In this handful of essays, De Armas takes a brief run through the U.S. political swamps, from Andrew Jackson to Obama. De Armas sharpens his stylus to take us into a game of cards: the myths that surround a “progressive” and generous Democratic Party, and the poisonous venom that the Republican Party spouts on the public plaza. But he also skirts the imaginary public that remains undecided or doesn’t want to call a spade a spade, in a fight where they’re going to lose their dreams of a lifetime. Continue reading “Armando de Armas Shows His Cards / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Cuban Poets: Exile, Prison and Oblivion / Luis Felipe Rojas

At the front, a panel composed of Ángel Cuadra, Luis De La Paz y José Abreu Felippe (left to right).

Luis Felipe Rojas, 9 July 2016 — José Abreu Felippe has become a goldsmith. He’s a guy who’s creating a city that will be lost, and he wants to change it into a jewel that we all will carry with us. Poesía exiliada y pateada (Alexandria Library, 2016) collects poems of seven Cuban writers who already have left for other worlds. They are beings with lives twisted by existence itself, and even so, they wrote in verse and kept their fingers on the trigger for generations of readers and writers to come.

They are Eddy CampaEsteban L. CárdenasRoberto ValeroReinaldo ArenasDavid LagoJorge Oliva and René Ariza. Felippe read a poem from each one in the West Dade Regional Library of Miami. There are two routes these bards took: insanity and oblivion, but in both meanings, their transfiguration of reality preserved them for us. The power that they imprinted on their verses has left them a little more beyond the popular imagery. Continue reading “Cuban Poets: Exile, Prison and Oblivion / Luis Felipe Rojas”

The United States Denies Visa For Poet Rafael Vilches / Luis Felipe Rojas

Rafael Vilches, Cuban writer.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 1 July 2016 — This Friday I was informed that Cuban writer, poet, novelist, and cultural advocate Poemario de Rafeal Vilches was denied a visa by the United States embassy in Havana. Vilches has become an problem for those who claim that things have changed in Cuba. He has been arrested, interrogated by State Security, and remains in an intellectual shadow now that he is no longer invited to official literary soirees on the island.

It is a pattern. It happened some months ago to Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado (although the matter was resolved in three days after a diplomat urgently asked me for his contact information), and to the musician Renay from the band Prono para Ricardo. The writer Ernesto Pérez Chang was denied a visa at least twice. Continue reading “The United States Denies Visa For Poet Rafael Vilches / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Speech in Cuba: A Freedom under Threat / Luis Felipe Rojas

Pedicab in Havana (14ymedio)
Pedicab in Havana (14ymedio)

Luis Felipe Rojas, 20 May 2016 — Every day it becomes more dangerous. Engaging in speech and dissent in Cuba is still like a throwing a rock against the door of Castroism.

After their cell phones were returned to them, Pastor Mario F. Lleonart and his wife, Yoaxis Marcheco, found their Twitter accounts had been disrupted. The two had been taken far from their home in Villa Clara and kept for four hours in a patrol car. Continue reading “Speech in Cuba: A Freedom under Threat / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Castro’s Kicks and the Applause of the Sheep / Luis Felipe Rojas

A Lady in White being carried away in Havana by women officials from the Ministry of the Interior. (Source: Cubanet)

Luis Felipe Rojas, 3 May 2016 — They’ve barely finished giving a slap before they give another. The insult-spitting machine of the Castro regime is fired up week after week.

Arbitrary arrests, repudiation rallies, and beatings calibrated from the offices of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) in every province. This arsenal of harassment counts on the bleats of the screaming sheep who don’t dare to look at how much grass they have left in the olive-green kingdom before leaving Cuba. Continue reading “Castro’s Kicks and the Applause of the Sheep / Luis Felipe Rojas”

A Glossary Against the Deafness of Raul Castro / Luis Felipe Rojas

Elizardo Sánchez. Photo taken during an interview by AFP in Paris on 19 March 2013 (AFP, Samir Tounis). “The repression against all of society, as well as the level of intimidation from the state, continues to be unjustifiably high but difficult to quantify, given its systemic character.” –Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz, president, Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

Luis Felipe Rojas, 28 March 2016 — With mouths agape and arms extended to the heavens, Cubans of goodwill are still awaiting the night on which Raúl Castro will liberate all political prisoners and fling into the garbage can that judicial aberration which is the current Penal Code.

Meanwhile, Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz, president of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) continues documenting–with an artisan’s meticulousness and well-sharpened pencil–every blow, act of repudiation, police harrassment, and finally compiles the details on every Cuban sent to prison under obscure circumstances that appear to be politically motivated. Continue reading “A Glossary Against the Deafness of Raul Castro / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Pro-Castro Foolishness / Luis Felipe Rojas

“There will be no impunity for the enemies of the fatherland, for those who intend to endanger our independence.” — Raúl Castro, 3 August 2010.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 28 February 2016 — Attention, all who rabidly applaud the Obama-Francisco-Castro pact: it is worthwhile to make difficult proposals, ask inconvenient questions, and bother the military beast that has run the Island with the trembling hands of whisky hangovers.

Oh, no? Not in your plans? It must be said again and again, because after the hugs have come the kisses, and who knows what else. Among secretaries of agriculture, lady mayors, aide-de-camps, successful businesspeople, and rock superstars, there must be somebody left with a little shame who will make it known to Raúl Castro that his outstretched hand should go in another direction, he should look the people in the eye and quit posing for a photograph that will take on a sepia tone faster than his egomania can stand it. Continue reading “Pro-Castro Foolishness / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Covering the “Eyes” of Claudio Fuentes / Luis Felipe Rojas

Cuban photographer Claudio Fuentes, arrested by the political police in Havana. Courtesy: Ailer González, State of SATS.

Luis Felipe Rojas, Miami, 15 February 2016 — Cuban photographer and dissident Claudio Fuentes was once again arrested on Sunday, 14 February, by forces of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in Havana. The Castro regime’s gendarmes kept Fuentes from taking part in the peaceful action #TodosMarchamos [We All March], which the Ladies in White and dozens of activists put on in support of Human Rights.

Cuban photographer Claudio Fuentes, arrested by the political police in Havana. Courtesy: Ailer González, State of SATS.

Claudio Fuentes is an independent photographer who has been arrested on numerous occasions for taking part in and photographing peaceful activities of the internal dissidence in Cuba. His photographs reveal victims of beatings, women who express their courage against the threatening actions of the Cuban dictatorship, but he has also photographed in an original manner life in Havana as he has lived it.

The information regarding the arrest of Claudio Fuentes was provided by Ailer González, who in charge of artistic projects for State of SATS, which is directed by Antonio Rodiles. The activist posted various photos in which Fuentes can be seen being detained at the hands of the PNR and officials from State Security. Similarly, González reproached the journalist Fernando Ravsberg and others who blame the Cuban opposition for not bringing together more people.

“…And how do you mobilize them under a totalitarian dictatorship where there are these levels of control, harrassment and repression? Assisted further by the Obama administration, the Vatican and even Kirill, the czar of the Russian mafia?” asked the activist.

For over 10 months, diverse organizations and individual activists have documented 41 consecutive Sundays in which the military forces have violently repressed the Ladies in White during their march upon leaving St. Rita Church, on 5th Avenue in the Miramar neighborhood in the Cuban capital. The Forum for Rights and Liberties (FPDyL) has coordinated support for the women.

Claudio probably is free at this hour, and frustrated because they did not allow him to photograph that piece of Cuba not found in today’s tourist guides. If not, I send him all my solidarity — as on several occasions he did with me, when the henchmen were detaining me and minutely recording my life in a small town of eastern Cuba where the tourists, businesspeople and celebrities did not, and still do not, arrive to stroll impassively while looking the other way.

I will leave you here other marvelous photos taken by Claudio Fuentes.

“Gente” [People]. Photos by Claudio Fuentes.
“Gente” [People]. Photos by Claudio Fuentes.

Lía Villares, Cuban activist. From the series, “Gente.” Photos by Claudio Fuentes.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

What Women Want / Luis Felipe Rojas

Patricia Jaramillo, author of the book “What the hell do they want?” Photo – Luis Felipe Rojas.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 28 January 2016 — Patricia Jaramilla is a Colombian lady, whose composure helped her write What the hell do they want? — an independent production, which isn’t a manual, but a “code for women,” which is the subtitle of the text which she gave me as a present a few months ago.

We are talking about an energetic and relaxed writer, who produced a book in order that men could once and for all understand what it is they want. These are the times of the best sellers and not all works go the same way, or at the same speed, but this one promises to be a super best-seller, coming from an “indie” writer. Continue reading “What Women Want / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Elisa Tabakman: Editing, Ceramics, Life / Luis Felipe Rojas


Luis Felipe Rojas, 11 January 2016 — Her friends call her Elisa, it’s that simple. She is an Argentinian writer, editor, ceramics artist who got so involved in the case of the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban that she ended up redesigning his blog, The Children Nobody Wanted, and wrote to Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, to help them to visualize the irregularities in process repeatedly divorced from reason, but that sent Santiesteban to prison at the beginning of 2013.

Between that date and his release in 2015, while she posted the letters and articles of the Cuban novelist in “The Children…”, Elisa Tabakman was cooking animals and rare and beautiful creatures over a slow fire, with pieces of glass and wire. When the oven temperature drops out of the oven come cats and fish now celebrating life. Continue reading “Elisa Tabakman: Editing, Ceramics, Life / Luis Felipe Rojas”

In #Miami, #WeAllMarch / Luis Felipe Rojas

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#TodosMarchamos [“We all march”]. Activists in Miami. Photo: LuisFelipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Miami, 8 November 2015 — This past Sunday, I went to the mythical and cloyingly Cuban Versailles Restaurant. There were a handful of Cubans there who believe that solidarity doesn’t have borders, and can’t be imposed from any corner.

On this day, November 8th, I went to join Bárbara Travieso, Jorge Ross, and others who firmly believe in supporting those who are suffering. While in La Habana, tens of Ladies in White and human rights activists were being arrested, in the heart of Cuban food in Miami, about ten Cubans stood on the sidewalk, telling everyone how much could be done for those who are still behind bars. Continue reading “In #Miami, #WeAllMarch / Luis Felipe Rojas”

The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

Cuban prison. Photo from http://www.telemundo51.com
Cuban prison. Photo from http://www.telemundo51.com

Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 September 2015 — Joy came to 3,522 Cuban homes, this being the the number of prisoners serving sentences for (technically) common crimes who set to be released. Indeed, this calls for celebration, as jails certainly do no reeducate anybody, much less in the island’s repressive atmosphere.

Thus, the Cuban government has just offered another gesture to Pope Francis in advance of his visit to Cuba, which will begin on September 19. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its gratitude, as no doubt many Cubans have done, but with no questions asked. As the saying goes, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And the meager crumbs scattered in recent months by the Castro’s tight-fisted military regime has left many people dazed and confused. Continue reading “The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Three Al Jazeera Reporters Sentenced to Three Years in Prison in Egypt / Luis Felipe Rojas

The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.
The three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera.

AFP/ Khaled Desouki. The journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera,  Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, seated in the prisoners’ cell during their trial in Cairo on 29th of August 2015

This Saturday, an Egyptian tribunal sentenced  the three journalists from the Qatari network Al Jazeera to three years in jail,despite the international campaign for their acquittal.

The Australian Peter Greste, the Canadian Mohamed Fahmy and the Egyptian Baher Mohamed were found guilty of having “spread false information” and of having worked in Cairo without the necessary permission. Continue reading “Three Al Jazeera Reporters Sentenced to Three Years in Prison in Egypt / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Asks Maduro to Cease Harassment of the Media / Luis Felipe Rojas

Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.
Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reacted with “profound concern” to the lawsuit filed by the President of the National Assembly, deputy Diosdado Cabello,against the newspapers El Nacional and Tal Cual, and the website LaPatilla.com. It urged national authorities to “cease these acts of harassment that deepen the deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in the country and threaten the media and critical journalists in Venezuela,particularly in an election year.

The case that Cabello filed against the media, and the judicial decisions that several judges have rendered in it—like the one prohibiting 22 executives of the defendant companies from leaving the countryor the one last week seizing the headquarters of El Nacional—worry the CIDH, a body that is aware of the support that the Supreme Court (TSJ) gave the legislator last May when it described as “lacking foundationthe accusations that he was linked to drug trafficking, as had been reported in Spanish and U.S. media, in stories that were republished in the country by the defendants. Continue reading “Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Asks Maduro to Cease Harassment of the Media / Luis Felipe Rojas”