Alan GGross / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The Silence of Alan Gross

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

We live not in the civilization of media, but of the mediocre. And from there directly we inhabit the miserable.

Cubans desperately need witnesses to our tragedy. In the absence of politicians on the Island, we pin our hopes on any alternative voice: bloggers, musicians, graffiti artists, performers, etc.

Just recently a supposed North American hostage has been released. Alan Gross completed his role in the democratic-totalitarian theater of legitimization of the Castro dictatorship. He is now free, but he remains stuck in the labyrinth of his lawyers and the six-figure compensation with which they have invited him to recuperate and remain reticent. In the United States, he will not for one moment stop being a true hostage.

Cubans therefore ask why Alan Gross does not speak to us. Does he not feel shame for his irresponsibility towards our nation? He has not asked for forgiveness–that is, if he were to consider himself guilty. Nor has he accused his olive-green tormentors who, according to him, drove him to the point of suicide and stole five of the possibly fewer years of life he will now enjoy in liberty.

Alan Gross was another of our sterile hopes for drawing attention to the criminal cruelty that hangs over every Cuban. But he has come out–along with his unhinged gaze–determined not to expend even one drop of saliva on the Revolution. He is the “sixth hero”* of this complicit comedy of trade and trickery. And he has no problem with the G-2.

Thus is perpetuated the impunity of the 56-year-old regime imposed upon Cuba by a gerontocracy and by millions of North Americans–and soon, by the “millions” of the North Americans. Except for the Cubans–including the agents of influence and the spies–socialism is loved in America. This is consummate statistics. And the month of muteness of Alan Gross is one of its most sensational symptoms.

Why does he keep silent, and what is he silencing, our USAID contractor in Havana? How was his trial behind closed doors? Was he tortured physically and verbally?   What are the repressive buildings like inside, where he was disappeared even from his biography? With whom would Alan Gross speak in Cuba, and what did he know of the world during his time on the scaffold in unreal time? While in Cuba was he threatened with death or the death of his family if he did not cooperate? And, now, in the United States, what is the retaining wall that keeps him betraying us, while saving the very regime that destroyed him?

The meat grinder will not cease even when the Castro regime falls. There is no justice that can withstand such violence and vileness which were inculcated in us, between paternalism and panic. The world will never be as scared of the Castros as we are, their executors who in turn will be executed. Among the people there are too many Alan Grosses.

*Translator’s Note: The five Cuban spies who were serving prison terms in the US and were released in December, 2014, are labeled in Cuban government propaganda as “The Five Heroes.”

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

13 January 2015

2015 Partial Elections: an Old Woman Wearing Rouge / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Billboard for the 2008 parliamentary elections. "Cuba in elections: without masters, without impositions"

Billboard for the 2008 parliamentary elections.
“Cuba in elections: without masters, without impositions”

14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 19 January 2015 – Next spring, Cuba will hold the first election process after the announcement of the restoration of relations with the imperialist enemy. Everything indicates that the authorities of the Island are ready to stand the test of what the democratic makeup should look like to create an impression of positive change. For this reason, they are rushing to create their own mechanisms for “approval” with the democratic systems in the region.

If the US President wants to see democratic change in Cuba, the regime’s double-dealers are working on it. After all, the old adage has already stated it: “It is not enough to be Caesar’s wife; it is a must, in addition, to appear so.” Though we Cubans are aware that the innovations brought about by the hand of the same government that curtailed civil liberties are only imitations of those dilapidated and unkempt old buildings in order to prolong their existence, and that, in the popular jargon we refer to as “an old woman wearing rouge.”

Last January 5th, the official Cuban press published a call of the State Council to the midterm elections, “as established in the Constitution of the Republic and Law #72 of October 29, 1992″ in which delegates to the municipal assemblies of the People’s Power will be “chosen” for a “mandate” of two and a half years, subject to revocation.

The next day, the 17 members of the National Electoral Commission took up their positions and received appropriate accreditation. They must “organize, manage and validate the electoral acts”.

Granma newspaper reported the start of a “political and strengthening process on the 55th Anniversary of the CDR [Committees for the Defense of the Revolution]”, at the municipal level, as part of which  “assemblies at the popular board level” were held on January 8th, and on the 12th, they were held “at all zones of the CDR’s.” Such assembly process sought to “improve the functioning of the leadership structures of the CDR” from the grassroots level –on each city-block up to the municipal and zone-specific committees, and at the same time the “conditions of individuals who occupy charges at different levels of management” were evaluated. According to the national CDR coordinator, Carlos Rafael Miranda Martínez, this process ensured, among other objectives, “to help support the election process and the incorporation of young people.”

Election campaigns and political parties are expressly prohibited, but the PCC really runs the election process de facto

The first round of the process will take place on April 19th, 2015, the second round, “at those constituencies where none of the candidates have obtained more than 50% of the valid votes cast,” on the 26th.

The current Electoral Law in Cuba states that any citizen can be nominated as a candidate for delegate by a show of hands in the assemblies of each constituency, and subject to popular vote at the polls to exercise that capacity. Election campaigns and political parties are expressly forbidden, so it’s not a requirement that delegates and deputies belong to the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), but the PCC really runs the election process, plus governs the country de facto. Therefore, all levels of government of the popular power are subordinate to the PCC. In fact, party militancy is often a relevant qualification when proposing a candidate for delegate.

In the succinct proposal process, selection of the candidates and voting for the delegates of the electoral districts, all “democratic possibilities” are exhausted. Cubans are deprived of their legal capacity to choose, not just a President to rule the country for a reasonable defined period, but they won’t be able to opt directly for governor of their municipal district, city, or the province where they reside.

The “delegate” thus embodies the living exponent of the beginning and the end of the (popular) citizen power in Cuba. In this way, from the actual implementation of the first revolutionary electoral system, established in 1976, Cubans have strictly voted for a district representative – barely a portion of a neighborhood – whose function is mainly centered on receiving complaints from his constituents and passing down to them the decisions or guidelines emanating from the Municipal Assembly. That’s where the functions and powers of electors and elected at the grassroots level cease.

A possible ban on using the Little Pioneers as agitators often sent by the presidents of polling stations to citizens’ homes to go to the polls

A few days after the decree for partial elections in April 2015, seminars have begun to be taught in the capital to those called “trios” – composed of three individuals, members of the Communist Party, subject to the municipal committee of the PCC – who are responsible for driving and controlling the grassroots electoral process.

At these seminars, the trios are being instructed in the new guidelines that will begin to be applied to Cuban elections, whose main component is the addition of two new figures: the observer and the supervisor. This information has not been published in the official media. Also not published to the seminar attendees is what organizations will be in charge of watching and supervising the elections in order to validate their transparency.

At this point we could only speculate that the Cuban government requested the presence of observers from allied organisms as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) or the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), since Cuba is not a member of the Organization of American States, an institution that has its own mechanisms for such effects. This will allow the Cuban government to evade the direct supervision of those entities more discerning in matters of democracy.

Another detail of these elections will possibly be banning the use of the Little Pioneers (i.e. children) as agitators, who are often sent by the presidents of the polling station to citizens’ homes to get them out to the polls, a practice guided by the directorate of the municipalities of the PCC to each electoral table, which has been in effect since the establishment of the system.

“In these elections, voters will not be able to be pressured to go to the polls so that election stations may close early,” an instructor of a seminar directed a large group of trios at the Centro-Habana municipality. He also made implicit reference to the coercion that has been exerted on the electorate – who sometimes vote as to “not stand out,” so their own will not be harmed, or with lesser knowledgeable sectors who might believe that voting is a mandatory exercise – when he stated that a voter may show up when he decides to do so, and that they should not be pressured into being forced to come out and vote. If 10 show up, then it will end up being 10. Whatever. Nobody is required to vote.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

Yes to Regulation, No to Control / 14ymedio, Henry Constantin

Filmmaker Fernando Pérez during the interview with Henry Constantin

Filmmaker Fernando Pérez during the interview with Henry Constantin

14ymedio, Henry Constantin, Camagüey, 21 January 2015 — I interviewed Fernando Pérez in a small room of that little movie theater is still left in Camagüey one day after the premiere of his latest production, La pared de las palabras (Wall of Words), a stellar film about which I didn’t ask a single question. I decided not to interview the film director and instead question the intellectual, the public figure who contributes more than just his works to the daily life of Cuba.

Fernando Pérez deserves, and can handle, any difficult question one can think of. His films, never boring and with noteworthy depth, reveal a certain level of social nonconformity and demonstrate high cinematographic and intellectual capacities that transform the slim and modest man into a very serious subject. Despite being thoroughly deserving, the cinematographer isn’t inflated with the airs of a great artist or a prominent public figure and treats with kindness both his public and the press.

I had to ask him a complicated or daring question in the scarce minutes of my interview because there was little I hadn’t heard following his eloquent speeches before the camagüeyano audiences that had welcomed him in various places throughout the day.

Constantin. Following the prohibition of privately owned movie theaters, do you, cinematographers, still include in your proposals for the Cinema Law the independent distribution and showing of films?

Peréz. We’ve advanced a proposal that, of course, includes the distribution, showing, and preservation of our patrimony.

Regarding showings, there are very few venues that meet the requirements of a real movie theater. There are generations of youths that don’t know what a real movie theater is, even in a moment where the ways of showing and distributing films have diversified, for better or for worse. Rescuing the quality of movie theaters is fundamental. I can watch a movie in a smaller screen, on a laptop even, I don’t oppose that, but its true place is in a movie theater, not because it’s dark or because it is projected on a larger screen, it’s because of the energy generated from watching it alongside a live audience. It’s as if you were living within another movie altogether. Our movie theaters have either lost their intended purpose at the expense of other varied activities or, due to decay, have ceased to operate completely.

“Personal initiative would generate better results than having to wait for centralized decisions to be passed down.”

On the other hand, distribution is still centralized within The Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC). We need to debate an editorial policy that is concrete and safe because there are national works – and I’m not talking about the international ones – that are not shown due to an editorial policy that is unclear. That needs to be regulated as well; it can’t be subjected to circumstantial or temporary decisions.

Q. Does your proposed Cinema Law conceive the ICAIC as the sole entity charged with distributing and showing films in Cuba?

A. Not exactly, although we don’t have all the answers, but distributing and showing is an extensive process that depends on a financial framework that we neither manage nor will. But, we are considering and analyzing the possibility of a breakup, a decentralization of many of these activities, where independent initiatives, regulated but not controlled, can generate improvements and also experience a more dynamic growth themselves.

I think that beyond Cuba’s audiovisual industry, having a centralized pyramidal social structure has caused many aspects of our reality to be plagued by processes that delay, that don’t find solutions, that aren’t dynamic, and that are bureaucratized because they depend on centralized decisions that cannot respond to everything. More freedom to operate and act would facilitate personal initiative, and personal initiative would generate better results than having to wait for centralized decisions to be passed down.

This structural relaxation has to somehow be envisioned as part of the system we would like to have. I can’t give you concrete solutions because we are, in fact, debating. We don’t want them to come only from us; we want to explore them with other regulatory entities in our country. Not everything will be feasible immediately.

We feel like that policy is not yet outlined, or like we don’t know where it’s going, or that it’s too centralized, that it starts on a routinely straight line that is very difficult to divert.

“Maybe Tania foresaw that it wouldn’t happen and that was the real performance, none at all.”

Q. From what I’ve seen within your work, you strike me as a person who believes that art can serve to change the world you live in. How do you see the relationship between art and politics?

A. Art needs to relate and mingle with life and also have its own discourse within that relationship, holding the person at the center of it all. While politics delves into the general, art targets the particular. Politics can serve art, by always upholding the freedom of expression that art needs, and art can serve politics, by rendering its reality more complex without becoming propaganda. If art becomes political propaganda, its reach becomes limited.

Q. I asked you that question because I was interested in knowing your opinion regarding Tania Bruguera’s performance and all that occurred around it.

A. Tania Bruguera’s situation has been very, very, very complicated. I think that it is possible that at some point an open microphone can be placed on Revolution Square. What happened was that Tania proposed it at a time when she knew it wasn’t possible. For a performance to have a deliberate result, it needs to account for its possible reach. Maybe Tania foresaw that it wouldn’t happen and that was the real performance, none at all. So, the performance was the whole process, the waves of detentions, censorship… it wasn’t the microphone for people to speak through. That will happen someday, but not now.

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

A Letter to Fidel Castro from ‘A Revolutionary Cuban’ / 14ymedio

Fidel Castro billboard: "Fight against the impossible and win"

Fidel Castro billboard: “Fight against the impossible and win”

Dear Fidel,

I know you’re dead. Despite their attempts to hide it from me, to deny it or to lie about it with false letters bearing your signature, I am convinced of your death.

I don’t believe you capable of abandoning us now, at the moment when we need you most, because that’s not what you have accustomed us to. I can’t imagine you sitting back on your recliner enjoying a good book, listening to music or eating your favorite dishes knowing that the course of this country is changing at a vertigo-provoking speed that we are not used to and that we are now faced with the impossible task of writing a new chapter in our history without a leader. I can’t picture you oblivious or indifferent, absent as if you were roaming on an adrift cruise ship, or wandering some faraway lands, ignoring what happens on this island that gave you life, that gave you glory, and made you universal. I also know that you would never cower like an ostrich or a rat before the dangers that stalk us.

I know that if you were still alive you would be, right now, exhorting us to defy these dangers like you always have. You would be warning us of the threats that, invisible to us, only you are capable of seeing. If you were alive, we would have seen you, filled with emotion, embrace your Cuban Five, your heroes, for whose freedom we rallied behind you in every campaign, march, parade, and act. If you still held on to life, you wouldn’t allow the threat of the empire to fly again over our heads, except this time closely, too closely, and with new arms and combat tactics for which we are unprepared. You wouldn’t allow savage capitalism to return to Cuba nor for those whom we once vanquished by simply throwing eggs at them to come back as proud victors.

If even a drop of life were to still inhibit your body, you would give your people a dignified goodbye, that people that has supported you in everything: in the liberation war, by cleansing the counter-revolutionary threats that hid in the Escambray Mountains, working the arduous sugarcane zafras, repudiating the “worms”, the “antisocials”, and the “scum,” betting our lives in Angola, Nicaragua, or Venezuela with rifles, notebooks and pencils or white coats, on volunteer work, giving what little we had to others and receiving nothing in exchange, and battling today, defenselessly, your most recent detractors. Right now, it’s your obligation to stand with us and you know it.

You surely haven’t forgotten (I haven’t) your favorite slogans, like “Homeland or Death” and “Socialism or Death”, those that you pronounced at the end of every speech in a firm tone, and that we followed with cries of “We will be victorious” before we applauded you in passionate approval while exclaiming “Long live Fidel” and “Long live the Revolution.” If neither the Homeland nor Socialism interest you any longer, the only logical explanation is that death has won against you in that final battle and we should not be kept in the dark, we should know, if at least out of respect for those that have supported you unconditionally, so that we may grieve you and honor you with a humble but heartfelt tribute.

And if your death not be true, excuse my sincerity Comandante, I’d rather continue thinking you’re dead because it’s simply the best option I have to keep my faith as a Revolutionary.

A Revolutionary Cuban, January 16 2015

3 and 25 p.m.*

*Translator’s Note: Fidel Castro signs his writings with the time expressed in this way.

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

14ymedio, 23 January 2015

“To remain entrenched” / 14ymedio, Victor Ariel Gonzalez

Cuban and US Delegations at the Convention Palace in Havana (kkkk)

Cuban and US Delegations at the Convention Palace in Havana (Fotograma)

14ymedio, VICTOR ARIEL GONZÁLEZ, Havana, 24 January 2015 — We didn’t have to wait too long for an answer. “Yes, we have an enemy” was the title of an opinion article published some days ago by Pinar del Río’s Guerrillero, perhaps in honor to the provincial newspaper’s bellicose name. In any case, this was how the spokesman of the only political party in Cuba’s westernmost province appraised the country’s rapprochement to the United States, which started on December 17: “when the enemy is in your home, he becomes even more dangerous.”

However, today the Island seems committed to dialogue with the United States regardless of how “dangerous” it might be. On Thursday, a first round of talks regarding the reopening of embassies and “other topics of bilateral interest” took place in Havana. That same day, Granma, the country’s official newspaper, dedicated almost an entire page to an analysis of the current diplomatic process, noting that “diverse are the tendencies that can be observed; from the slightly naïve views of those that think that with it all our problems will be solved, to those that frown upon the recent developments and prefer to remain entrenched.”

Looking back, it turns out that less than two weeks after the local newspaper Guerrillero called for “a new kind of confrontation” with the United States, Granma would publish several lines calling for moderation. That some Cubans prefer “to remain entrenched” does not sound like a positive attitude.

It certainly is not. What’s interesting is that it be recognized as such by a generally intransigent medium like Granma. At risk of seeming infected with the current excessive enthusiasm, I would even say it is a good precedent. Yes, it’s time to be moderates, because this attitude is the only way of negotiating solutions.

Even government officials have recognized certain adverse conditions in Cuba’s quest to resurface undefeated – that is to say without needing to make any concessions – from dialogue with the United States and therefore to remain exactly as we have known it. Among the difficulties are “years of material scarcity, certain weaknesses in the social formation of younger generations, and the loss of some values.” But, the greatest challenge is not a return to a “dependent relationship” with our Northern Neighbor; it is redefining the concept of enmity. And, alongside that, controlling the hope generated by the easing of political tension without seeming a spoilsport.

“There have been and there continue to be deficiencies in the social formation of our children and youths,” says Granma. However, even for those who “are not so young anymore” it seems that “the past no longer exists” and that’s the biggest worry for an ideology that, faced with limited perspective, clings desperately to its past, invoking a disagreement that has lost it followers. In any case, “the reserves of our identity” should save us against those disadvantages.

Both the solitude and fatigue of the Island’s rulers become more tangible with each passing day. The character of the Cuban government has cost it many friends; but currently, as dialogues with the United States unfold, it seems that the regime will also lose its most valuable enemy, the wild card it used to excuse its – many – failures. To remain entrenched is the instinctive response of those who are afraid, even of their own shadows.

Translated by Fernando Fornaris

Angelito Santiesteban Does Not Believe Himself the Center of the World / Luis Felipe Rojas

Graphic: Sonia Garro Alfonso, recently freed Lady in White. Collage over a piece by Rolando Pulido.

The writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats, from the prison where he is serving an unjust sentence, just published–thanks to the help of a friend on Facebook–a brief post expressing his thoughts about the recent releases of political prisoners. As always, Angelito is filled with Light and strength. May my embrace reach him though the faithful reproduction of his text.

Ángel’s post:

I have received the expressions of pain from many friends, my publisher, and my relatives–some stupefied, others offended–over my exclusion from the list of prisoners recently released by the Cuban government.

Upon completing almost two years of unjust imprisonment, I can assure everyone that never have I asked the correctional authories or, even less, the officials from State Security who have visited me, when I will be released. I will never give them that satisfaction, just as I have never inquired whether I will be given the pass* which is granted to all “minimum severity” prisoners like me, who am sentenced to five years. Continue reading

“It is up to Cubans decide their future” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 24 January 2015 — In October of 2013 I had a conversation with Roberta Jacobson, via a Google hangout (videodebate), on democracy, technology and the role of women in activism. On that occasion, we interacted through a screen in the company of internauts interested in our chat. Now, we talked with a few inches between us, in a visit of the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs made to our independent daily, 14ymedio, in Havana.

Proximity has allowed me to confirm what I had already felt in our previous conversation, that this loquacious woman with an attentive gaze has a profound knowledge of the Cuban reality. It is no wonder that she has led the first round of conversations between Cuba and the United States after the December 17th announcement about the reestablishment of relations between both countries.

Several members of our editorial board along with some collaborators met with Jacobson on the 14th floor of the Yugoslav-style building where our headquarters are located. Following is a transcript of a conversation, where we tried to address a wide spectrum of topics.

Yoani Sánchez: Do we have reason to worry that pragmatism and the politics of rapprochement prevail above all else, and that the issue of human rights and civil liberties will be relegated to the background? Continue reading

New U.S. Measures on Cuba Not Featured in the Island’s Headlines / Ivan Garcia

cuba-mujer-bandera-FM-620x330On December 17 Noemi and her coworkers at the telecommunications company ETECSA were surprised to hear their boss hastily reading “the day’s top news story” to their entire workforce in a tone of voice that was intended to sound solemn.

“Comrades, after the conclusion of agreements with President Obama, three of the five heroic Cuban prisoners unjustly incarcerated by the Empire are today en route back to their homeland. They are returning as was promised by our undefeated Comandante,” he said the business manager, barely taking a breath.

At noon later that day all the employees gathered around an ancient Chinese television to listen to the speech by General Raul Castro and to hear the news about the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States after fifty-four years. Continue reading

The Most Rehearsed Funeral in Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

So much passion and apathy for “Our Country or Death, We Shall Overcome” has ended up creating a certain inclination toward false patriotism and a funeral mentality. This was in evidence at the end of last week, when yet another widespread rumor of the ex-ruler’s death came to light.

With this new passing, the tagline “Fidel Castro Dies” stands out from other trending topics on social media, triggering a kind of hypnosis, a carousel of emotions. It is like a wistful zombie apocalypse in which fabrication becomes information.

It is not the first time nor will it be the last that rumors swirl around the former Cuban politician. This is why I find the widespread alarm so odd. I had the same exaggerated reaction when I turned twenty-five and had to face the loss of my childhood and my hair. It seems that, rather than wanting to forget, there is a need to preserve this ancient, ubiquitous presence who, because of age and illness, saw fit to withdraw from the scene.

One day he will die, like all human beings. But I doubt it will be on a day when Alejandro Castro Espín, one of his nephews and the most powerful man in Cuba, happens to be strolling through Greece, as was the case in this instance. In fact, the odds are better at winning the lottery. Continue reading

Humanitarian proposal from the Human Rights Commission / 14ymedio

José Daniel Ferrer, Elizardo Sanchez and Hector Maseda at the news conference. (14ymedio)

José Daniel Ferrer, Elizardo Sanchez and Hector Maseda at the news conference. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, 23 January 2015 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) convened a press conference at its headquarters to unveil an initiative to release, on humanitarian grounds, a total of 24 prisoners who have spent more than 12 years in Cuban prisons.

Presenting were Elizardo Sanchez, Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba and Hector Maseda, president of the Liberal Party of Cuba, who also promoted the Four Points of Consensus of the Cuban Civil Society, ratified and updated last December 22 in a meeting of the Cuban Civil Society Open Forum.

One of the aspects most discussed today among the internal dissidence on the Island, is the issue of who should be on the list of possible prisoners to be released. Debated is whether there should appear, among those who should receive this benefit, those accused of acts of terrorism, hijacking of planes, or other armed actions.

The group proposed by the CCDHRN includes people incarcerated for similar reasons, but it is argued that they are one the list for humanitarian reasons, which does not justify the acts committed.

A Question for Roberta Jacobson / 14ymedio, Clive Rudd Fernandez

Roberta Jacobson (From  Marti-Noticias)

Roberta Jacobson (From Marti-Noticias)

14ymedio, Clive Rudd Fernandez, 22 January 2015 — In July of last year, when I talked to some of the victims of the “Marzo de 13” Tugboat massacre in the Bay of Havana, I found a list of horrifying statistics.

Two of them would make any halfway decent human being shudder: the bodies recovered from the sea as a result of the sinking of the boat were never returned to the families, and there was never an independent investigation into the massacre in which 41 Cubans lost their lives. Ten of them were minors.

What was so shocking about these events was not just the impunity of those who perpetrated the atrocity on Cuban soil, but that what happened on 13 July 1994 is a pattern that has been repeated almost since the Revolutionary government took power in 1959.

The violent deaths, on 22 July 2012, of Oswaldo Payá, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, and Harold Cepero, young leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, followed the same path of an absence of justice and the utter helplessness of the affected families. Although in this case the bodies were handed over to the families, neither Payá nor Harold were given an autopsy or an independent investigation.

With the policy changes of the Obama administration and the Havana dictatorship, some voices have begun to ask for independent investigations of the violent deaths, especially where it is known that the authorities had some participation.

Some voices think that these “problems” have the potential to point the accusing finger at the face of the government in Havana and that “this is not the opportune moment to talk about accusations, but rather about the issues that bring both nations closer,” like an independent blogger on the Island told me.

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero

The international media ignores the issue to the same extent. The saddest thing isn’t that they don’t emphasize these presumed assassinations, but rather that the majority of us, Cubans inside and outside the country, don’t consider it one of the most important issues to address.

An independent investigation into the deaths of Osvaldo Payá and Harold Cepero protects all of us Cubans.

The alleged “accidents” and “careless doctors” who allegedly caused the deaths of Laura Pollán, Oswaldo Payá, Harold Cepero and many other Cubans are today the extrajudicial execution that hang like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all Cubans living on the Island.

Those who dare to dissent and openly criticise the Government have felt the danger much more closely. Many of them have received death threats from members of State Security, who act with total impunity, as they well know that there will be no legal consequences for them.

Rosa María Payá

Rosa María Payá

Last night I heard that Rosa María Payá met Robert Jacobson on a plane, when the daughter of the Cuban dissident was returning from a short trip to Washington, where she had the privilege of being the guest of Senator Marco Rubio at the State of the Union.

The Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs was on her way to Havana to meet with officials from the Cuban Government in one of the meetings between the two nations at the highest level since the Jimmy Carter administration.

In this short encounter, Rosa María Payá asked whether the investigation into the death of her father would be on the negotiating table. The answer, as politically correct as it was evasive, was, “This is always a point that we raise”. 

Maybe I’m wrong, but judging by the response, the issue of the unexplained deaths of opponents like Oswaldo Payá and Laura Pollán will remain unaddressed and, with them, the fear every Cuban has of being murdered at any moment, without consequences for the executioners, nor for those who give the orders.

*In English in the original

“This is your country, and no regime can take it from you” / 14ymedio

A World Heritage site, the Colón (Columbus) Cemetery in Havana has more than 500 mausoleums, chapels and family vaults. (Photo: Marius Jovaisa)

A World Heritage site, the Colón (Columbus) Cemetery in Havana has more than 500 mausoleums, chapels and family vaults. (Photo: Marius Jovaisa)

  • The photographer’s work was the pretext that Havana used to suspend negotiations with the European Union

14ymedio, Ernesto Hernandez, Miami, 23 January 2015 — Marius Jovaiša is a Lithuanian photographer, 41, who has spent much of the last five years taking photos of Cuba from a perspective never before seen: from above. He started the project in 2010 thinking that, being a foreign artist far removed from politics, it would be quite easy to get permission to take aerial photos. However he quickly realized that he would have to navigate against an extremely slow bureaucracy, invest a great deal of resources, be patient, and understand that the freedom to do things is very limited on the island.

Unseen Cuba, a collection of more than 300 ariel photos of the island, taken from an ultralight 300 feet above the surface of the earth, was published in 2014. The exhibition of the images in Washington and Brussels caused problems with the Cuban authorities, who came to use his work as a pretext to suspend their dialogue with the European Union last November.

Question: Why did you decide to write a book about Cuba?

Answer: After the publication of my book of ariel photos of Lithuania, I realized that I was doing something that I enjoy, that appealed to the public, and that could also be a profitable project. With this new project I could combine my passion for photography with the adrenaline that one feels when flying in an apparatus that is open as an ultralight. It was like I was flying in a chair and, at the same, time taking incredible photos. Continue reading