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”

Queer* / Luis Felipe Rojas

William S. Burroughs, Ediciones Alma Perro.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 5 July 2105 — For a week I have been steeped in the acidic prose of William S. Burroughs. It is neither a debut novel nor something reissued in the wake of legalization of gay marriage in the United States. The work is an edition released by Anagrama, a Barcelona-based publishing house, and it comes without frills or pretensions. The faded cover shows Burroughs under a blue visor, almost dissolving into a watery background of opaque tones. Reading it took me longer than I would have thought.

Those looking for a world of good manners and polite expressions — or even the insane for that matter — might not want to tread near this literary specimen. In one-hundred thirty tightly packed pages, Burroughs bangs out a chronicle of his alter ego Lee’s travels through the most sordid and filthy corners of Mexico, Panama and Ecuador. This is definitely not everyone’s idea of literature, as Queer attests.

The homoerotic experiences of the intense Lee and his brash companion Allerton — a young man aroused not by other human bodies but by his own flesh and entrails — form a portrait that is somewhat darker than the story of two homosexuals simply trying to live a “normal” life in a Mexico that is more than a little bit macho, which makes it all the more alluring. Their goal is to find what has brought them there: Yage, a natural substance that promises total control over their thoughts. Continue reading “Queer* / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats Released from Prison / Luis Felipe Rojas

L to R: Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, Ailer Gonzales, Claudio Fuentes, an unidentified human rights activist
L to R: Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, Ailer Gonzales, Claudio Fuentes, an unidentified human rights activist

Luis Felipe Rojas, 18 July 2015 — In the early evening of this Friday, 17 July, the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats was released from prison. The news raced from the editor of his blog, the Argentinian Elisa Tabakman. Elisa sent messages to Santiesteban’s friends immediately.

“I was released on parole, which they had denied me April and June and recently they told me they would grant it in August, but they released me today,” was Angel’s statement to the blog “Crossing the Barbed Wire” from the home of regime opponent Antonio Rodiles in the Playa municipality of Havana.

Santiesteban entered prison on 18 February 2013, charged with “violation of domicile” and accused of beating his ex-wife. His case was plagued by clear legal violations and the process was repeatedly denounced by his family members, his first attorney, Amelia Rodriguez Cala, and dozens of human rights activists.

Santiesteban’s release occurred just hours before the beginning of functions at the embassies of the United States and Cuba, which until now have maintained interest sections in their respective capitals since the end of the ‘70s of the last century.

Writers, human rights activists, and people of good will, have generally received the news of Angel Santiesteban-Prats’ release with pleasure.

“There is no homeland other than poetry” / Luis Felipe Rojas

Luis Felipe Rojas. Photo: E. Aguado.

I want to thank my friend and excellent writer, Amir Valle, for this interview for his magazine Another Monday, and for publicizing the book that has just been published and will be presented shortly in Miami.

Amir Valle (AV): Machine for Erasing Humanities is, after Feeding the Dog-Fight, your second book since you went into exile. Although some think that poetry books are simply a collection of poems written over the passage of time, those of us who write know that between one book and another there are always secret threads, pathways that unite or split in two in order to differentiate them. What is the difference then between the two books?

Luis Felipe Rojas (LFR): I believe, without any doubt, in time. What there is between one passage and another is time, and the way in which the two poets have been changed by it: one who arrived as a frightened animal, fleeing from horror, exclusion and suffocation; and the other, who put down his head to rest for an instant and saw his children sleeping in the morning, who no longer expects a kick in the rear, and who experienced many upheavals to live in a developed country. Continue reading ““There is no homeland other than poetry” / Luis Felipe Rojas”

An Abandoned Doll…at the gates of Miami / Luis Felipe Rojas

Story of an Abandoned Doll, Teatro Pálpito. Photos LFRojas.

Artefactus Teatro has been so kind as to receive Ariel Bouza and his team into its southeast space in Miami. Bouza and company bring a gift from Havana for this April: a loose, free version of Story of an Abandoned Doll by Norge Espinosa, which is from the text by the Spanish playwright Alfonso Sastre.

I traveled far into the southern reaches of Miami to see this play for the second time in my life, having already seen it once in Camagüey. It seems they have taken extra care to conserve the grace with which Paquita and Lolita play with ambition, love, envy, and piety within a theatrical framework that places the performance beyond the fallacies that we so often see in current times.

Ariel Bouza (Teatro Pálpito, Havana) directs the action with equal parts drama, laughter, and reflection to carry the spectators into situations where they must decide who are the heroes and anti-heroes, but there can be no middle ground. This piece that Bouza has been taking to the stage since 1999 has the bonus of ambivalence: it can be viewed and enjoyed equally by children and adults. Sastre’s version is classical, hierarchical, and well placed in the history of modern theater–it is rejuvenated with Bouza’s staging and a good push from Teatro Pálpito. Continue reading “An Abandoned Doll…at the gates of Miami / Luis Felipe Rojas”