Vicente Botín, the Spanish Journalist Who Can’t Get Cuba Out of His Mind / Mario Lleonart

At either edge of this photo, Mario Félix Lleonart and Yoaxis Marcheco; in the center, María Werlau, between Vicente Botín and his wife.

Mario Lleonart, 24 September 2016 — During this past July 28-30, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2016 meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, held in Miami, as part of the panel discussion,”Transitional Justice and the Longed-For Cuban National Reconciliation.” My paper was on “The Longed-For National Reconciliation: Challenges, Realities and Hopes.” However, it is not my paper to which I will refer here.

During this timeframe, on Friday, July 29, a special luncheon took place that provided a pause in the midst of the 18 interesting panels and their debates. For this occasion, the Spanish journalist Vicente Botín, who also served as the special guest commentator on the panel in which I took part, gave a talk that was thought-provoking for all present. Continue reading “Vicente Botín, the Spanish Journalist Who Can’t Get Cuba Out of His Mind / Mario Lleonart”

Botín is a journalist and writer who specializes in international politics, particularly in Latin America. He has produced numerous documentaries in many countries as the managing editor of a well-known television program, including one in Cuba for which he interviewed Fidel Castro. He served as a correspondent for Televisión Española from 2005-2008, and later published two books about Cuba: “Castro’s Funeral,” followed by, “Raúl Castro: The Flea That Rode the Tiger.” Today he is a columnist for El País, El Mundo, and other Spanish newspapers, and resides in Madrid.

His words made so much sense to me regarding the Cuban reality that, upon the conclusion of his remarks, I congratulated him and sought his permission to post them on my blog–receiving from him a most cordial assent–but which unfortunately I have been unable to do until now because of technical problems on my blog which I have only recently been able to resolve.

But, because Botín’s voice still resounds so vibrantly in my mind, with words that have not lost one iota of their relevance–quite the opposite–I share them now with great pleasure so as to place in cyberspace these thoughts which are so sympathetic to the catastrophe of the Cuban people, by someone who also has been directly immersed in our reality, and who cannot get us off of his mind, nor out of his heart.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Observing the Elections / Mario Lleonart

@mauriciomarci vs. @danielscioli The cards are on the table! (Note: This post refers to last year’s elections in Argentina)

Mario Lleonart, 22 November 2015 — The winds of God, that blow and lift me, have brought me to the epicenter of a democratic battle, of the ballot in Argentina, the second round of the electoral contest between two candidates for the presidency of the Republic. The plane that brought me to Buenos Aires landed on Sunday November 15th at the very moment when the first presidential debate took place in the history of Argentina. During a very intense week I lived for the first time in my forty years the passionate effervescence of a nation that can settle at the polls today the final decision of a people. Continue reading “Observing the Elections / Mario Lleonart”

Beyond the pros and cons, beyond who wins, the value of my experience is witnessing the possibility of a country to enforce Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The right to democracy! The right of everyone to participate in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives!

I could be in a nation which manifests and asserts its will as a basis for granting authority to a government expressed in genuine elections by universal suffrage conducted by secret ballot. I’m not just having the experience of witnessing but also to serve as an observer accompanying some of the prosecutors in several schools in the city of Rosario.

And as if I were a child, which I am in many respects, I felt an immense curiosity before these first democratic elections I’d observed in my 40 years. We have never had this in my whole life in Cuba. But I hope that we will experience it soon. And I agree with many political scientists who affirm that the results of today’s elections are going to echo across the entire continent.

Today may be the beginning of the end of the fateful rise of populism in Latin America. And if the flutter of a butterfly in Hong Kong can cause a storm in New York, we can say that there will be effects from these elections in Argentina today for those on 6 December 2015 in Venezuela, and next year in Cuba.

They are already having an effect on me!

If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart

Photo: with friends Roberto Pisano and Leonardo Delgado

Mario Lleonart, 29 January 2016 — A few days ago (January 15th and 16th) I took part in a gathering in Miami of the Coordinating Liaison Committee of the Cuban National Meeting, of which I am a member, along with eight others. On the 18th, on Martin Luther King Day in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I paid tribute to King, joining in the parade in his honour distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the 19th I visited locations in Sarasota and Manatti, Florida, which had been pounded by tornados early in the morning of the 17th. Continue reading “If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart”

While I was doing this, the political police made appointments with or visited people who know me in Cuba, who take part in forums of the Instituto Patmos, parishioners, collaborators, friends, neighbours and family members, to warn them that it was dangerous to have anything to do with me, inviting them to cooperate with their secret services, and to turn them against me. After I returned to Cuba some of them dared to tell me about these contacts, pressures, harassment and threats. One of the reasons put forward by the Cuban Gestapo, without any support, was that I had met terrorists in the USA.

In the afternoon of the 20th, I visited Leonardo Delgado, a one-time political prisoner, in his house in Tampa. He has been battling lung cancer for five years. With him was Roberto Pisano, one of his prison companions. His stories about the ancient Cuban prison are shocking.

That morning I had received some mail from Cuba, testifying to the arguments put forward against me by the State Security. Listening to Pisano and Delgado’s stories made me think how ridiculous it was that someone in Cuba would say that I had met terrorists in the US, since it was in fact the opposite.

I replied to the mail saying that if, by any chance I had had a meeting, without knowing it, with terrorists in the USA, it would have been if I had unknowingly met an undercover agent, one of the hundreds illegally infiltrated into the US by the Cuban political police. Like those involved in the shooting down of the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots, or those who specialise in assassinating without leaving any traces.

Translated by GH

The "Che" of Argentina / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 19 December 2015 – Although I arrived in Argentina under the assumption that the common notion of Ché Guevara would be the romantic, absurd idea of the mythical nonexistent hero, and not the executioner and murderer that Cuba got to know in La Cabaña, I can’t deny that I was surprised to discover that I was wrong. And I discovered this in nowhere else but Rosario, his city of birth.

My first surprise was finding out that in the house where he was born, an insurance company now resides — and not just any insurance company. It’s MAPFRE, a Spanish multinational that works in the insurance and reinsurance sector, has a presence in 49 countries, and whose stocks are listed on the stock exchanges of Madrid and Barcelona.

The only homage to Ché’s birth is found on the sidewalk, because the property is now completely dominated by capitalism. I understood that even in Santa Clara, Cuba, the Argentinian guerrilla fighter had become a piece of sales merchandise for tourists, but what I hadn’t imagined was that even here in his own birthplace, the system that he fought so hard against was the dominant one.

But my biggest surprise was that, during the days I spent in Rosario, just blocks from there, in a park where he is honored, someone had tossed paint on an image of him, and below that an immense piece of anarchist graffiti declared: “Ché is dead”. And no one seemed to care.


Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart

Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina
Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Lleonart, 26 November 2015 — Mauricio Macri won. For those who hope for democracy in Cuba, the best option won. Although the recently-elected President hardly mentioned the island during his campaign, it is clear that the cause of liberty in Cuba will have a friend in him. His references to the situation in Venezuela have also been a wake-up call for the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.

If he manages the transition well in his country, his will definitely be a major mandate. Nevertheless, Macri needs to get himself prepared for governing Argentina, starting off from the disaster left by Cristinismo [ed. note: Cristina Kirchner’s administration], which will signify quite an achievement in view of the obvious boycott by officialdom, which is showing a certain reluctance in handing over power. A gesture far-removed from what politicians who are really interested in the future of the country, and respectful of the popular will should do. Continue reading “Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart”

An indication of Macri’s intelligence and ability is his new cabinet. In the election of each post one can see a genuine intention to get Argentina to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes. The appointment of Susana Malcorra to the chancellorship was accompanied by the news of a top-class team to lead the country from December 10th.

The up-to-now Head of the Cabinet of the General Secretariat of the UN, a position in which he has performed exceptionally well since 2012, has earned public praise from Ban Ki-moon himself. “I have valued his advice, admired his dedication and benefitted from his leadership,” he once affirmed. Praise which is confirmed in Malcorra’s experience, in relation to international relations, an area in which Argentina has been very lacking.

Without doubt, the head of the cabinet could not be anyone else than Marcos Peña, one of the best thinkers in Macri’s electoral alliance, Propuesta Republicana (PRO). He was also one of the principle interlocutors at the time of laying out discussion points when he was head of the campaign. His youth — 38 years of age — is in keeping with the tone of this new party, which has been capable of destroying such a damaging Peronist tradition.

A demonstration that each Minister has been considered with the necessary care is the appointment of the social activist, ex-Buenos Aires legislator and present National Deputy, Sergio Bergman to the Environmental portfolio. This rabbi, chosen in 2011 as legislator for the City of Buenos Aires for the PRO, is an important and eloquent expert in relation to the present global context.

Bergman has been an unwavering opponent of the Argentina-Iran Memorandum of Understanding, signed by President Cristina Kirchner in relation to the matter of the attack perpetrated in 1994 on the headquarters of the Argentina Mutual Association of Israel (AMIA, its initials in Spanish), which resulted in the death of 85 people. His appointment is further evidence of the change of direction represented by Macri’s victory from the terrible course Argentina has been following.

The delay in naming the Minister of Employment also indicates the respect shown in this instance and says much for the care taken by Macri not to make a quick superficial decision on this position which is of such importance to the Argentinians, especially in times of change such as these.

Working with that team, Macri will be able to put behind them the dark times of scandals like the Chavista [ed. note: a reference to Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez and his and the current administration in that country] briefcase transported to Argentina by a businessman to finance Cristina’s campaign or the unpunished assassination of the Public Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, as well as the squandering of public money.

The new government will put an end to the period of justice denied, as in the case of the attack against the AMIA The renaming of the Centro Cultural Kirchner will symbolise the passing from one era to another.

The first target for Macri in the international field will be his participation in the next Mercosur summit, to take place in Asunción in December. He has already announced that he will insist then on the application of the democracy clause to Venezuela “for the perscution of the opposition.”

What has happened in Argentina will probably be reflected in the next few days in the Venezuela elections. The popularist policies urged by the Havana regime remain stuck in the past.

Translated by GH

Another Prisoner Swap? / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 30 October 2015 — Once again the name of Ernesto Borges Pérez returns to the public arena, generating new expectations about his release. He has served more than seventeen long years of the thirty to which he was sentenced, after his death sentence was commuted at the prosecutor’s request. Ernesto’s advance disclosure thwarted the illegal infiltration into the U.S. of twenty-six Cuban spies, of the hordes frequently sent there. But at the cost of seventeen unrecoverable years from Ernesto’s valuable life. Everything indicates that he is the bargaining chip long set aside to trade for the spy Ana Belén Montes.*

Ernesto may finally go free and benefit from his heroic action, which by any measure was invaluable, whatever the price paid. I hope that the answer to the prayers we have raised for so long finally arrives. Ernesto’s parents Yvonne and Raul, elderly and ailing, can still experience the greatest happiness of their lives. His brother Cesar, and Paola, his only daughter, in exile, can laugh again. And he, with his tremendous human virtues, strengthened in prison, can still be of great benefit to a world greatly in need of heroes like him.

*Translator’s note: The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst convicted in 2003 of spying for Cuba and sentenced to 25 years in prison. See, e.g. “New Revelations About Cuban Spy Ana Montes.”

Translated by Tomás A.

PIGS! / Mario Lleonart

Drawing by El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) of the piglets he intended to release in a street performance in Havana.

Mario Lleonart, 18 October 2015 — For the second time they have lied about a release date for prisoner-of-conscience (so designated by Amnesty International) Danilo Maldonado, better known by his artistic name “El Sexto” (The Sixth). First they announced his release for August 24. Then for September 15. But now we know they lied disgracefully on both occasions.

The regime’s own behavior regarding this prisoner of conscience shows the relevance of the performance that he intended to put on when they arrested him last December: “Animal Farm.” They behaved like pigs, just as he thought. His crime was to have the courage to label them with exactly that description: PIGS! There is something Biblical about this! Continue reading “PIGS! / Mario Lleonart”

When Christ cast out the legion of demons in Gadara, they took over a herd of pigs that rushed into the sea, and there could not be a better judgment against the Roman Empire. Jesus himself called Herod “FOX!” The theological symbolism in the sacred texts whenever pigs are mentioned, with their classification as unclean animals, is well known.

The young graffiti artist El Sexto, detached, and sometimes even rejected from self-righteous church circles, has dared to do what all Christians should have done a long time ago—shout prophetically! But he has given new meaning to Christ’s words: if you are silent, the stones will cry out.

God bless all those who in an upcoming round of the #TodosMarchamos campaign will raise their voices for all political prisoners or prisoners of conscience who like El Sexto are victims of all kinds of harassment in Cuban prisons. God bless even more those like Danilo who dare to shout “pigs” at the tyrants. God have mercy on those who are silent and become accomplices by their silence.

Quo Vadis* Francis? / Mario Lleonart

Those of us who lived through the repressive crackdown that took place in Cuba in 2012 during the visit of Benedict XVI have never received a response from the Vatican, although it was informed of the facts. Jose Conrado—the priest who is a maverick within the Catholic Church in Cuba, like a modern-day Father Bartolome de las Casas**—met with many of us on March 29, 2012, in the home of Ismael de Diego, to share experiences of what happened during the papal visit to Cuba, the police crackdown called “Operation Vow of Silence.” The priest expressed regret and personally delivered letters and videos to the Apostolic Nunciature. But they didn’t even give him the courtesy of a response. As a result of this crackdown some activists were detained for more than two years without even the formality of a trial. Continue reading “Quo Vadis* Francis? / Mario Lleonart”

When those repressed in Cuba met months later, on February 11, 2013, the date of Joseph Ratzinger’s resignation, something which hadn’t happened for almost six hundred years, we speculated that among all the reasons why the Pope took this momentous decision, even if the smallest of all, was his silence about what had happened to us.

Before the announcement of the new Pope’s visit this time, many of us thought the story would be different. As an indication of this, on July 16, 2015, Cuban Civil Society Open Space sent a letter by way of the Apostolic Nunciature to Pope Francis suggesting that he “receive a representation of Cuban civil society, as had happened during your recent apostolic trip to Latin America, in a private audience during the busy schedule of your anticipated next visit to Cuba. This symbolic gesture could mean the inclusion of all Cubans, especially those of us pushed to the margins of society and treated as second-class citizens because of our way of thinking or for proposing peaceful, non-violent alternatives.” This letter was delivered in person that same afternoon by Father Jose Conrado, accompanied by the prominent Catholic layman Dagoberto Valdes, and me, and was received by the Secretary of the Nuncio.

Regrettably, our letter did not receive a positive response and the Pope did not hold private meetings, except with Fidel Castro, the victimizer, to whom he extended a harmful and very undeserved legitimacy. To make matters worse, and contrary to that spirit, what actually happened was that across the length and breadth of the island at least 250 peaceful activists were arrested. The four activists who managed to break through police cordons to try to reach the Pope to respectfully express their feelings and deliver a letter were seen live by the entire world, and to date they remain in a maximum security prison. In addition to this there were hundreds of illegal house arrests and communication blockages similar to those enforced during the 2012 “Vow of Silence” operation when Benedict XVI visited.

Weeks in advance the regime began preparing this crackdown, using international media to defame and circulate false information in order to create confusion. An interview with agent Raul Capote by Russian media was disseminated worldwide. Agents employed by the regime did the same on social networks with apocryphal stories on Twitter trying to instigate religious hatred and bias the Catholic clergy against Cuban civil society, warning of phony “sabotages” against the papal visit.

In his homily the Pope expressed messages of mercy and peace worthy of being taken seriously by Cuban society and by those who misrule. But the latter did not give any sign of receiving the message, and even exploited his visit, as they had that of Benedict XVI, to carry out, as usual, something quite the opposite. While representatives of the regime sported  guayaberas and hypocritical smiles, their henchmen returned to execute behind the scenes, as in 2012, a genuine witch hunt.

Still the Vatican and Pope Francis could help greatly by issuing some statement acknowledging the above facts, which we never got from the pontificate of Benedict XVI. But maybe Francis agrees with the former president of the National Assembly of Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, who when interviewed by Jackie Nespral of NBC said dismissively that “the Pope is a busy man and cannot waste time with people and issues that are not important.”

*Latin for “Where are you going?” The reference is to an apochryphal encounter by the Apostle Peter, fleeing persecution in Rome, with the risen Jesus. When Peter asks Jesus this question, Jesus answers “To Rome to be crucified again.” In response, Peter returns to Rome, and his own subsequent martyrdom.

**16th-century Spanisn cleric who championed Native-American rights.

Translated by Tomás A.

Spanish post
25 September 2015

A new case of fraud shakes Cuban universities / Mario Lleonart

A new case of academic fraud this Thursday has shaken the universities. A group of first year medical students in Villa Clara province were able to see in advance the answers to the morpho-physiology exam, which was sat Thursday July 2nd. According to various witnesses, the sale and circulation of the test was so widespread that it occurred in other venues, such as Sagua la Grande.

The immediate solution they are going to arrange is to get all the first year students to repeat the exam next Monday July 13th. At this stage it is not known whether any penalties will be applied to those who committed the fraud, nor whether they have made public the source of the leak. The only details which are known have come from those who have to retake the exam, with some students  complaining they are paying for the guilty ones.

This type of scandal in the academic world has occurred frequently in all educational levels. In July last year this daily paper reported the leak of various final tests in Medical Faculty Number 1 in Santiago de Cuba. On that occasion 23 students were directly involved in the leak and distribution of the contents of the second year anatomy and statistics exams, 4th year English, and the so-called State Test. On that occasion, the Teachers’ Board at the centre called for a sanction of two years’ suspension from higher education for the students involved in the act.

Translated by GH
9 July 2015

The Cuban Evangelical Churches Face Future Democratic Elections / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 30 June 2105 — A paper I presented on Monday, June 29, at the event “Paths of Transition”, in Havana (a theoretical conference concerning on issues of democratic construction in Cuba).

In the present order of things, the Cuban State boasts about how some of its deputies in the National Assembly of People’s Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular) are evangelical pastors, or have some other leadership position in the Protestant religious environment, which is an evident attempt at necessary auto-reaffirmation of that constitutional change which took place in 1992 of declaring a hitherto religiously atheistic State to secularity was more than a simple change of letter.

These exceptional cases of Protestant leaders that the Government boasts about, as in the case of other minorities, such as women, with regard to sex, or blacks, with regard to race, have helped soften the image which from all appearances is monolithic clearly from the ideological point of view that characterizes this body from its first organization. It is a sort of, “You tell me what you boast about and I’ll tell you what you lack.” Continue reading “The Cuban Evangelical Churches Face Future Democratic Elections / Mario Lleonart”

Indeed, three or four names, of peoples characterized by their unconditional surrender to system, were on loan to rent out their cassocks and sweeten of the lack of democracy in the current Parliament. The same faces can be seen in similar condition on other fronts where they were sent to represent the archaic system, as it was in evidence at the recent 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, when some of these “religious” people were even able to participate in the so-called acts of repudiation against representatives of Cuban civil society, only to later affirm that they felt the presence of God there.

It is classic cohabitation of the princes and the false prophets. Regardless of the efforts to make people believe through the official propaganda that these individuals are heads of the Cuban evangelical churches, it is known for sure that they have actually been, are leaders of the so-called Cuban Council of Churches (Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba, CIC) after excelling in denominations of limited membership or historically vulnerable to government interference.

The CEC, notwithstanding the efforts made by the Office for the Attention of Religious Matters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), in conjunction with a manipulated Registrar of Associations of MinJus (Ministry of Justice), has failed to bring together the diversity of Evangelical and Protestant churches of Cuba.

Its membership lists do not reach half of religious institutions which possess legal personality, so if we also take into account the huge group of churches and religious movements without legal recognition, despite attempts to procure it, then we arrive at the conclusion that only a minority within the minorities that constitute the Protestant and Evangelical churches have been represented, not to say abused, by such opportunists.

In this context, one might think that even with pseudo-parliamentarians, at least the Protestant minorities might have had some experience, and that even have taken the lead over the Catholic Church, whose clergy have been notoriously absent, while [the evangelicals], in the end, in some way, have been present in the National Assembly. But in the future this actually might be reversed in a negative way for the evangelical minority, for two reasons at least.

On the one hand, the Catholic Church, whose political ambitions have never been a secret and which surely will seek representatives from its clergy in Cuba, when there is finally a genuine Parliament, could appeal to its current withdrawal, as advantage moral to get votes for having not lent names to a spurious Assembly.

On the other hand, the majority of evangelicals, by their negative reaction against the current undemocratic conditions, and perhaps even by rejection of the positions of “their representatives”, adopt a negative position, that is the extreme of rejecting the political, of alienation, by confusing the political with the current situation.

It is the social burden of false political position known as ’neutrality’, which is so necessary to question because, in addition to its real non-existence, is incompatible with the “subversive memory” of the Christian message, and which is by their apathy, an accomplice of so many excesses, is extremely dangerous, especially for the future of Cuba.

It is imperative to recognize that essential aspects of the evangelical mission, whatever arises, in the field of social, political, educational, economic, unfortunately remain excluded today, and what is worse, sometimes so far as rejected, either by fears of a State that has demonstrated its repressive character of “leftovers”, or by negative reaction to the aforementioned negative procedures.

It turns out to be extremely reductionist that the powerful message whose powerful influence has been demonstrated in Western culture, and the history of America, with roots even in the huge differences of today between the North and South; that this force, in the words of theologian and German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “frees from everything which oppresses and overwhelms”, be understood in Cuba as exclusively religious and cultic categories, even if they include the commendable knowledge of practices, beliefs, membership, attendance, etc.

It is undeniable that in Cuba in the present reality, evangelical churches have become what the Swiss sociologist Christian Lalive called The Refuge of the Masses; these communities, in their exponential growth, have become family, hospital, shelter, consolation for the unprotected masses of the island, and this has its positive side, but if you want to provide a greater good to Cuba it is necessary a go further if they really wish to contribute to their nation as a source of leadership and influence, and not remain as a mere reservoir.

The bad example, the negative face of those who pretend to represent them has have given currently to a foul play could be reversed with genuinely evangelical members of parliament in the future, contributing to a new Cuba where real justice, real democracy and respect to the most vulnerable groups, better distribution of wealth, which is in sumo a nation with good rulers, which coincides with the biblical ideal that these minorities preach.

It is time, not to withdraw into one’s shell or hide like the ostrich, but to first of all break to their core the myths and taboos put in a manifesto in a mutilated fulfilling of the mission.

Cuba needs that these powerful minorities get involved too, and participate in order to transform their reality, it needs a church that understands that both evangelism and social action are components in equal measure of its mission, that its good news constitutes a comprehensive message that knows no boundaries of any kind and that is addressed to every human being, considering all the reality of the person: the physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, social, and political.

In this context it is necessary that the evangelical leadership, if it is responsible and if the destiny of Cuba really interests it, begin to exchange this sterile culture of the rejection of the political, inherited as much from the anthropological damage infringed against all of society, as by the negative attitude of those who have lent themselves to the game of a false democracy.

Pastors, theologians, and other leaders of the Cuban Protestant churches must open up to the need for what we might call an integral evangelization for Cuba.

And it’s not necessary to sit and wait while others dedicate themselves to changing social conditions and generate the creation of a genuine Parliament, able to represent all the interests of the nation, without ignoring the minorities, in which group the evangelical churches are represented.

All Cubans; including evangelicals, in accordance not only with their path throughout the world, but in Cuba itself since their arrival in the 19th century; we are called to be proactive agents that we begin to generate the change-before-the-change. The analysis of the results of the latest constituency elections is extremely interesting, even if the results are taken from the official statistics.

On the one hand is the historic 20% that expressed their opposition whether through its absence from the ballot box (11.7%), by voiding a ballot (4.92%), or by leaving it blank (4.54%).

On the other hand are those who took the courageous position of going even further, trying to get candidates and even in two very unusual cases managing to dispute the elections in order to obtain the support of more than four hundred electors who dared to vote in favor of those who, in violation of the very Constitution, were called with the pejorative and intimidating label of “counter-revolutionaries”.

In the midst of this panorama I am interested in wondering how much the evangelicals contributed to each of these percentages. And I am even more excited to imagine the positions in which they will be able to decide the fate of Cuba, not only the evangelical leaders, but that number of electors that reaches their churches more and more, the evangelical mass, when they come to be aware of how much good they can do for the nation, in keeping with their faith, if it is genuine, and if this wish is verified by more than simple attendance at church: in living standards, in democratic decision-making, in the satisfaction of justice, in the common good of all.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

The Violations of Religious Freedom in Cuba Continue / Mario LLeonart

Mario Lleonart, 22 June 2015 — Cuban Christians are grateful to Christian Solidarity Worldwide for the constant monitoring of violations of religious freedom in our country. I’d like to thank the Washington Post for giving this message a voice as other organizations like the Anajure in Brazil have done. I’d like to especially thank you for mentioning the theft of the lot belonging to our Baptist church in Yaguajay where our baptist college was held from in those times when we were also able to contribute to education.

Translated by: J. García

Profile of a Father / Mario Lleonart

Right about now, on this Father’s Day, Raúl Borges Álvarez is surely living something similar to what he has been suffering for 17 years, petitioning the prison where one of his two sons is held which will not even concede the possibility of letting him out on parole, to which he is entitled by law — all because of blasted politics!

At Havana’s Santa Rita Church — as at various other churches across the country — mothers, sisters, daughters and friends of many other political prisoners penalized for political differences attempt to gather each Sunday to attend Mass and later march, each holding a gladiolus. According to the latest statistics from the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), there are around 71 prisoners on the known list. The women who march for them are known as the Ladies in White. Continue reading “Profile of a Father / Mario Lleonart”

Other equally brave women known as the “Women Citizens for Democracy” do this at other locations. But Raúl Borges, like other fathers, brothers and friends, will not stand by inert before the valor of these women, and intends to join them in demonstrating his indignation, too.

The last 11 Sundays have been like a battle, with entire brigades sent to counterract these civil and peaceful forces, attacking them as if they were common criminals who must be suppressed. It has not been easy for Raúl. Besides being in his seventies, barely a few years ago he underwent two complicated operations — open-heart surgery on 31 August 2010, and a procedure for a peripheral cerebral infarction, in March 2012.

But none of this is more grave for him than the unjust imprisonment of his son, for which–besides everything else he does all the time–Raúl will do everything possible to join those hundreds of other persons who, all over the country, will demand the freedom of prisoners like his son, Ernesto Borges Pérez.

Neither his age nor physical condition will keep Raúl from trying to break through the lines of guards that start to form as of Thursday or Friday, and later, if he succeeds, he will not be ashamed to be thrown, like so many others, in the back of a truck or a bus headed for jail cells or to a remote and isolated spot where he would be put out to find his own way home, nor to be shackled and beaten, with no care as to whether the chosen target for the punch is his scarred chest–as it was four Sundays ago.

But a father’s love is not to be disdained next to that of a mother, for all the insistence by some that anyone can be a father, but a mother can only be one. Raúl is the refutation of this erroneous suggestion. And in the love of a father determined to do whatever it takes to gain the freedom of a son who is considered to be unjustly imprisoned, those who try to subdue civilian forces through violence will find an irresistible force, no matter how aggravated the confrontation may be.

None other than a Cuban State Security agent admitted as much to César, Raúl’s other son, when he warned him that he could not be responsible for the life of César’s stubborn father. “But,” the agent acknowledged, “were I in his place, I would do the same.”

Translator: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

21 June 2015

Why The Beatings? / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 5 June 2015 — Beatings of peaceful demonstrators in Havana have been in the news for eight consecutive Sundays. In one of the first rounds, the son of the labor leader Jesús Menéndez was dragged for several yards along the ground with no concern for his advanced age.

On the seventh Sunday, between beatings and more beatings, it was obvious that another attempt was made to kill Raúl Borges Alvarez, this time with a sure blow to the chest–no matter (or, actually, because of) his having undergone heart surgery. Continue reading “Why The Beatings? / Mario Lleonart”

Even so, with respect to Raúl, officials from State Security warned his son, Ernesto, in prison, and his other son, Cesar, on the street, about the the possibility of Raúl’s imminent demise from his additional ailment of “chronic pancreatitis”–the same condition that killed Juan Wilfredo Soto García on 8 May 2011, following a beating by police three days earlier–because of course death can be a natural consequence of a beating, especially if one has prior health problems, and it is well known that the area of the pancreas is another preferred target of the attackers.

Some of us had hoped, following the announcement about normalizing relations between the US and Cuba, that there would be a stop to–or at least a lessening of–the beatings, but we now know that what is happening is precisely the opposite.

It would seem that the beast is feeling mightier and able to strike with impunity. This is borne out by the 641 arrests in May, the highest number of detentions of dissidents in the last 10 months, and which always, in some fashion, involve violence.

During the beatings and acts of repudiation against the Ladies in White, the political authorities have not hesitated to shamelessly transport the tormentors on buses that were brought to Cuba by the “Pastors for Peace” Caravan–an unintended purpose for these vehicles, we assume.

Experiences such as the recent Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama show that the regime that is an expert in beatings is willing to export this modality of intolerance to whichever location in the world will receive it. The international community can confirm that the system which, for survival’s sake, accedes to dialogue with its historical enemy, with the world power, with the “empire,” is not ready to do the same with its own people–and even less so if the issue is about accepting differences of opinion. It’s through strikes and blows that it tends to resolve any matter with its citizens.

The worst part is that many in the population have assimilated this modus operandi learned from Papa State, and it is thus that they prefer to resolve any problem, with or without reason: by hitting.

Any male or female citizen in Cuba, however peaceful he or she may be, is exposed to the blows that come directly from the State, or from any of its many Frankensteins, its “New Men” as evoked by Guevara, who prefer to use their neighbors as punching bags before resolving differences through dialogue.

Blows abound when words–and especially reasons–are scarce.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Four Years Without Justice / Mario Lleonart

Juan Wilfredo Soto García, “The Student,” October 13, 2010

May 5th was the fourth anniversary of the brutal beating of activist Juan Wilfredo Soto García, which resulted in his death two days later. It was followed bythe deaths of noted leaders Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, in which many also acknowledge the presence of the criminal hand. The effectiveness of extrajudicial execution, verified in the case of Juan Wilfredo Soto and amply proven by other governments, is also beyond doubt in Cuba.

The regime that began with firing squads no longer needs them. The moratorium on the death penalty since 2003 is possible because those in power have perfected their method of eliminating political opponents, paying for it at the lowest possible price. North Korea, which “judicially” exterminates without ceremony, as demonstrated again a few days ago, should take lessons from its more sophisticated Cuban allies, the best students of Machiavelli. Continue reading “Four Years Without Justice / Mario Lleonart”

The common denominator in the three cases cited above is the lack of impartial investigations, which would most benefit murder suspects who were truly innocent. Four years after his death, what has happened in Juan Wilfredo’s case?

– His closest relatives, his two children, well aware of the criminality of the regime, opted for safety and emigrated through the Refugee Program of the United States.

– The impartial investigation requested of the Attorney General’s Office has not provided any conclusion.

– Not a single witness from the list that I gave to the Provincial Prosecutor of Villa Clara was called to testify. When I recently went to Prosecutor Osmel Fleites Cárdenas seeking information, he listened to my statement, reviewed the file, and confirmed that there is sufficient evidence to open a case, but then explained to me that he “no longer has anything to do with the matter because the investigation has been handed over to the Military Prosecutor.”

– It has been impossible to contact the family of Alexis Herrera Rodriguez, then a neighbor at 204 5th Street in the Camacho subdivision of Santa Clara. He was one of the three soldiers who participated in the fatal beating of Soto, the investigation of which was handled with total security by officers of the Political Police. Several witnesses placed him at the scene of the beating that fatal morning. He committed suicide by gunshot on Sunday May 8, 2011, Mother’s Day (the day we buried Soto), but survived some five days and was ultimately buried with a ceremony surrounded by heavy security on Friday May 13.

– It has also proved impossible to locate the other two police officers who participated in the beating—a man and a woman, twenty-year-olds, like Alexis—although it is rumored that both are now out of the military, at least from outward appearances, and that one is probably interned in a psychiatric hospital.

We live our lives aware of the dangers we face in denouncing the reality that extra-judicial executions are carried out with impunity in Cuba. We are supported in this every day in different ways, but we have no alternative if we truly want to represent the God of Justice whom we say we serve and to whose protection we entrust ourselves.

And in the case of Juan Wilfredo, having exhausted the meager options of the rigged Cuba legal system, we have no recourse but to appeal to the established international mechanisms, for which we have the support of the Commission on Human Rights, headed by Elizardo Sanchez, and of the beleaguered organization Cubalex.

6 May 2015