EFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 26 May 2106 — Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet said Wednesday, on arriving at the Miami airport from Spain, that the opposition on the island is “well defined” and that the regime “can no longer bring it down.”
Biscet, who was happy to be in “land of freedom” for Cubans, told reporters that he would explain to the Cuban exile community in South Florida his civic political project to end the dictatorship and promote democracy, through a method of non-violent struggle.
The medical doctor said that the opposition is “very united” and that part of the opposition is his initiative, the Emilia Project, which has gathered the support of more than 3,000 signatures.
He noted that the signers are “brave people, who gave their names, who gave their addresses, their identity card data, saying they do not want more communism.”
Biscet, 54, was optimistic that this group would become “a crowd that would end the dictatorship in Cuba.”
He said his initiative seeks to “make change by shifting the superstructure” and he calls this “the revolution on non-violent human rights.”
The dissident was arrested in late 2002 and sentenced to 25 years in prison for being part of the so-called Black Spring, where a group of dissidents known as the Group of 75, were accused of conspiring with the United States.
Biscet was released from prison in March 2011 during the process of the release of political prisoners carried out by Raul Castro’s government after mediation by the Vatican.
The dissident, who visited Madrid to give a lecture and see friends, admitted this week in Spain that he is afraid of reprisals in Cuba when he returns.
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 27 May 2016 — Hundreds of Cubans, more than a thousand according to organizers, marched this Friday morning in front of the United States embassy in Quito, to ask for Washington’s intervention in the negotiation of an immigration agreement that would allow more than 5,000 migrants reach the US border.
“They didn’t let us go past the embassy. The Ecuadorian police blocked the way,” said Peter Borges, who leads the protests along with Fernanda de la Fe.
According to the activists, it was a peaceful demonstration intended to deliver a letter to the ambassador to ask him to mediate with the Ecuadorian government for the passage of thousands of Cubans who want to emigrate to the United States and take advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act. Since 1996, the Act has given special treatment to the island’s citizens who are able to reach US territory with regards to emigration.
“Cubans do not want to leave here, we spent several hours in the demonstration,” said the activist.
The letter, which they were not able to deliver, denounced the “horrendous episodes of extortion, rapes, murders and the disappearance of entire families,” which the migrants have suffered on their journey as undocumented emigrants across the continent with the objective of “reaching the freedom and well-being permitted by the generous United States government.”
The purpose of the missive is “to seek help to avoid further loss of human lives.” The letter also states that Cubans living in Ecuador are worried because “the Ecuadorian government has implemented a document review process for a large group of ‘irregular’ Cubans who make their lives here on the occasion of this crisis and as a form of retaliation.”
The demonstration comes after the Mexican government rejected a similar request on 18 May. On that occasion, Jaime del Arenal, Mexican ambassador in Ecuador, explained in a communication that the Cubans, many of whom have not been able to regularize their immigration status in the country, “do not qualify for the granting of visas.”
According to the organizers, the initiative also seeks to avoid adding to the number of Cubans who are stranded in Turbo, Colombia, after Panama closed its border to the passage of undocumented migrants. Panama recently transfered more than 3,800 Cubans to Mexico as the result of an an exceptional migratory agreement.
Following the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United States and the worsening of living conditions on the island, tens of thousands of Cubans are trying to reach the US border for fear that the Cuban Adjustment Act will be repealed. In the current fiscal year alone, between October 1 and April 30, 35,652 Cubans had been accepted under the special “parole” program available to them in the United States. It is expected that more than 60,000 Cubans will arrive in the United States this year.
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 6 May 2016 — Accustomed to standing in long lines on the island, thousands of Cuban migrants stranded in Panama were waiting for hours Friday to buy an airline ticket to Mexico. Among these “middle class rafters” criticism was rising over the high price of airfares which has reached $805 for an adult ticket.
José Antonio Quesada and his wife, both lawyers, are among those who were waiting in the sun today to get tickets. As of May 5, the Panamanian Government authorized the sale of airline for Cuban migrants and at least 800 of them have already purchased their tickets to continue their journey.
The two attorneys spent 1,669 dollars in tickets, including the trip by bus to the airport, the equivalent of more than five years wages for a in Cuba. Both have managed to raise the money with the help of relatives in Miami, but they are concerned because they have no more cash for when they reach the U.S. border.
Quesada and his wife traveled from the island to Ecuador with the intention of settling there and improving their economic condition. However, the obstacles to legalizing their residence and finding jobs pushed them to make a difficult journey through Colombia and the Darién jungle. They departed with the hope of taking advantage of Cuban Adjustment Act which grants immigration benefits to all residents of the island who reach United States.
Now the two professionals are among the lucky ones who have been able to purchase a ticket for flights starting next Monday to the city of Nuevo Laredo in Tamaulipas State, Mexico. The cost of the trip by plane for a child between 2 and 11 years is $332 whereas for a child under a year the amount drops to $160.
The sale of tickets has been marked by the absence of official statements from the Panamanian president’s office, which arouses suspicions among migrants, who fear shady dealings with regards to prices or lack of transparency in the process. “The Government does not give us information,” complains the Cuban Elizander Roque.
As of noon this Friday hundreds of migrants from the island had undertaken, on their own, to travel to the David’s Mall, 25 miles from the shelters where they are staying in Los Planes, Gualaca, to buy tickets.
The prices have surprised Sisleydis Moret, a 25-year-old Cuban who says she feels “desperate” at not having enough money to buy them, due to the expenses of supporting herself during her stay in Panama.
Her companion in the hostel, Keily Arteaga, age 29, is in a similar situation. “The news was like a bucket of cold water,” she says and comments that, “now we don’t have the money they are asking for.”
Arteaga, who resides in a house in San Isidro, left Ecuador because she was not able to legalize her immigration status. She had “a good job” but she was illegal, which mean that “all the doors” were closed to her, she explains. She says she has taken advantage of “all of this turmoil” of the immigration crisis in Central America to reach Panama.
Those who travel accompanied by several family members experience the most delicate situation. Isleyda Lelle said she was glad to hear that tickets sales had begun to Mexico, but now she needs to wait for her mother, resident in the United States, to help her “complete” the cost of the trip for her, her brother and her sister-in-law.
For Andy Llanes, the situation is more difficult because he says that he does not have “a single dollar” to buy the ticket. “My journey was very hard, we were attacked along the way and they stole from us all that we had.” In the trip to Panama he details that his partner “was raped and now the poor woman is pregnant from the Coyote who abused her.”
Llanes says the only thing he owns is the “flip-flops” he is wearing and says that if he cannot continue the trip, he will stay in Panama because “I won’t return to Cuba even if they threaten me with death.”
Alfredo Córdoba, regional head of the National Migration Service in the Chiriqui province told 14ymedio that he still does not know what will happen to those Cubans who cannot afford the airfares.
An official source who requested anonymity explained that Cuban migrants found in Puerto Obaldia have not received their passports yet and so far there are no specific directions about whether they will or will not be part of the humanitarian program.
This newspaper has gotten in touch with both the Panama National Migration Service and the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but so far we have not received answers to our questions.
Ed. note: Since this article was written the price of the airfare was lowered and then the sale of tickets was cut off altogether. Translations of articles detailing these subsequent events will follow.
14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 25 May 2016 — For Cubans who update their domestic entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and anonymous “Weekly Packet,” a subtitle in bright greenish-yellow letters at the beginning of movies has become familiar. It is the ever present www.gnaula.nu, which appears so frequently that it spurred my curiosity: I found it impossible to recognize what country corresponded to the extension “.nu” so I turned to the always useful Wikipedia.
Surprise. The country where all the movies we watch at home are pirated is Niue, an atoll with the pretensions of a little island, attached to New Zealand. In 1996, an American (who of course doesn’t live in Niue) took the rights to “.nu” and in 2003 founded the Niue Internet Society, and offered to the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into the first wifi nation of the world. The offer was rounded out with a free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we’re talking about a population of barely 1,300 people. Continue reading “Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 May 2016 – People with whom we share sorrows and joys are a reflection of ourselves, however different they may appear. As friends we choose them to accompany us, but also to complete us, with the diversity and continuity that our human nature needs. The problem is when our choices of coexistence are not based on affinities and preferences, but on interests and alliances focused on annoying others.
In the same week, the Cuban executive has embraced two deplorable authoritarian regimes. A few hours after Cuban Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez met with government functionaries in Belarus, Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution hosted a meeting between Raul Castro and a special representative from North Korea’s Workers Party. Disgraceful comrades, shamelessly embraced and praised by the island’s officialdom.
In a world where civil society, calls for the respect for human rights, and movements that promote the recognition of rights are making themselves heard ever more loudly, it is difficult for the Cuban government to explain his good relations with Europe’s last dictator and with the cruelly capricious grandson who inherited power through his bloodline. What united the island’s authorities with similar political specimens?
The only possible answer is sticking their finger in the eye of Western democracies and the White House. The problem with this attitude lies in the demands from these fellow travelers for commitments and silences. Diplomatic friendship is converted into complicity and the comrades end up defining the nature of those who have chosen their company.
EFE (via 14ymedio), Maria Tejero Martin, Oslo, 24 May 2016 – Danilo Maldonado is known as El Sexto the name engraved in ink on his skin and that he paints on the walls of Havana to plant an idea of freedom in his compatriots, like a seed that flourishes and breaks the “dangerous myths” that, he says, surround Cuba.
14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 24 May 2016 – The receding tide of the populist wave in Latin America, in particular the delicate situation in Venezuela and the ouster of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, has uncovered all kinds of speculation about the supposed relationship of cause and effect controlling political-economic and social process in Cuba.
Those who are still waiting for the problems within the island to be solved believe they can be resolved from outside, while the ‘statist fundamentalists’ take advantage of the ‘threat’ to entrench themselves in their anti-democratic and anti-socialist positions.
14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 23 May 2016 — Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, recently made his second visit to Cuba. Unlike his first, in November 2014–when the general-president did not deign to meet with him—this time his “highest excellency” Spanish Foreign Minister was emphatically welcomed by the upper echelons of power.
This new attitude between both sides is not so strange, since García-Margallo was in a “democratic” mode in 2014, triggering the olive-green gerontocracy’s suspicion and displeasure. Now, the Chancellor has come solely in a business mode, with the mission to strengthen and expand as much as possible Spain’s investments in Cuba before the resources of the powerful northern neighbor intrude (for a second time) in the territory of the former Spanish colony, once again depriving Spain of its devalued Crown jewel. Continue reading “The Step-Motherland’s Droit de Seigneur / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya”
14ymedio, Havana, 24 May 2016 — Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, faces a prison sentence of three months to five years for the alleged crime of resistance. The activist was arrested last Sunday when she attempted to go to the Cathedral of Havana for the inauguration of the new archbishop of the capital. After being charged by the authorities, she is required to available to them at all times and cannot leave Cuba before her trial. “I didn’t become an opponent [of the regime] in order to travel and I am prepared to go to prison if that is the decision. I won’t even get a lawyer,” Soler told 14ymedio.
The group of 31 activists, among them 22 Ladies in White, was intercepted on leaving the Ladies in White’s headquarters in the Lawton neighborhood. The repudiation rally against them before the Sunday Mass was organized for 9 in the morning and involved many people who were not even from the neighborhood. “Although we already knew we wouldn’t be able to get there,” Berta Soler said, “we decided to leave [for the church] because our house is not a jail cell.” As commonly occurs, tempers flared and finally the police arrived to arrest them.
“When they stopped us we sat down, which is a common practice in peace movements around the world, except in Cuba,” Soler emphasized.
Berta Soler was driven to the Alamar neighborhood where, she said, there was “a classroom reserved by the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police).” At about six or seven in the evening they told her that this time there would be formal charges. “At first they said that I had scratched a policewoman, but eventually they dismissed the charge of attack,” she said.
That night an official who said she was the investigator/prosecutor on her case told her that she was accused of resistance. “I didn’t respond in any way and went to sleep. At a quarter to ten at night they came to find me to sign the accusation but I didn’t sign any document. We (and they as well) have videos that show I never lifted a hand to anyone or attack anyone, not even verbally.”
Berta Soler says she has no problem complying with the requirement that she not leave the country. “At the moment I have no plans for any trip. The closest is an idea to go to Geneva, but that still has not materialized. If before [the trial], or at any time I need to leave the country for some event, they will have to stop me from traveling at the airport itself,” she said.
EFE (via 14ymedio), María Tejero Martín, Oslo, 23 May 2016 — Cuban opposition member Rosa María Payá said Monday ,in an interview with EFE, that the “totalitarianism” of the government led by Raul Castro “has not broken” despite the open contact with the United States and the European Union (EU), and so she asked that these approaches be used to achieve “concrete progress.”
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 22 May 2016 – In a packed cathedral with screens showing the mass for those who couldn’t enter the temple, Havana’s new Archbishop, Juan de la Caridad Rodriguez, took possession of his new post this Sunday. The successor to Jaime Ortega y Alamino delivered a homily in which he acknowledged he was “scared” the face of so much responsibility.
“You will understand that I’m scared” and “do not understand the mystery of why I’m here,” said the prelate who also enumerated his wishes that Cubans might “live in peace, eat in peace, work and study in peace, and die in peace.. For which “we dream that no one touches anyone, no one hits anyone, no one, nobody hurts anyone.”
A multitude waited for García Rodríguez from the early hours of the morning in the vicinity of the church. At the front door of the Cathedral Cardinal Ortega y Alamino awaited him, and he opened the ceremony with the crozier in his hands, subsequently handing it over to the new archbishop. On June 29 Pope Francisco will deliver to him in Rome the pallium, a liturgical ornament appropriate to his status.
For Marcia, 66, “it begins a new era for our church and I hope he will bring harmony and respect,” she told this newspaper. Christian and very attentive to ecclesiastical life, the woman notes that “there are high expectations among those who frequently come to this church and people have received the appointment with joy.”
The ceremony on Sunday was attended by several Cuban bishops of various dioceses and the Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski. Government representation was headed by the Vice President of the State Council, Salvador Valdes Mesa and Caridad Diego, head of the Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
Along with parishioners who usually attend Sunday Mass in Havana’s main church, numerous foreign press correspondents, tourists passing through town and dozens of onlookers also gathered. “This is a historic moment and I came to take pictures and send them to my relatives in Tampa,” a young history student at the University of Havana explained to 14ymedio.
A group of faithful Catholics from the Camaguey region also came to the church. “I am very proud that one of our own has come so far,” Mauritius, age 58 and a resident in Sibanicú told this newspaper. He added, “it has been known for years now that this priest was destined for great challenges.”
Garcia Rodriguez, who served as bishop of Camaguey, was appointed in April by Pope Francis as the new archbishop of Havana. The appointment came after the pope accepted the resignation of former archbishop of the city, Jaime Ortega y Alamino, who had passed the age of 75 years, which is the limit set in the Code of Canon Law.
During the Mass on Sunday a message sent by Pope Francis from the Vatican was read, in which he explained his decision and said that Garcia Rodriguez is “endowed with recognized intellectual and moral qualities,” in addition to enjoying “a wide expertise in the exercise of the pastoral work.”
Born in 1948, the new archbishop of Havana was appointed priest in 1972 and joined the parish of Morón and Ciego de Avila. He was also pastor of Jatibonico and Florida, as well as the founder and director of the School for Missionaries in the diocese of Camagüey, for which was named archbishop in 2002.
Garcia has stressed that he expects his episcopate to serve to increase the dialogue with the Cuban government, so that “the Church can be present in spaces that belong to them, such as education, the media and prison ministry.”
14ymedio, Pedro Armando Junco, Camagüey, 21 May 2016 — Every city rests on the man who safeguards it. He can be called mayor, administrator or public official; ultimately the label is the least important. This is his charge, like the steward of the millionaire’s mansion. His obligation lies in the zeal with which he is able to optimize the performance of the city’s people. For this he counts on public economic resources and the necessary personnel.
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 21 May 2016 – Three years after the first meeting of the G20, a group of Cuban filmmakers who are demanding a Film Law, the group continues to wait for an institutional response that addresses their demands. This week a letter was made public reaffirming their demands for greater recognition for filmmakers and the legalization of independent productions, among other benefits.
Ignored by the official media and frowned upon by the authorities who should be responding to these demands, the group has also been transformed over its three years of existence. Exhausted, worn out and with the responsibility of other commitments, a group that formerly contained 22 names now has only eight members. Continue reading “Filmmakers Reaffirm Their Demands / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”
We observe a man who always speaks of patriotism and he is never patriotic, or only with regards to those of a certain class or certain party. We should fear him, because no one shows more faithfulness nor speaks more strongly against robbery than the thieves themselves.
Felix Varela (in El Habanero, 1824)
14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 19 May 2016 – Observing the tranquil surface of Cuban society offers a misleading impression. The stagnation is localized only in the government and in the party; and even there it is not very reliable. There is no doubt that many party members participated in and observed the 7th Congress of Cuban Communist Party (PCC) hoping for changes and, watching the direction of the presidential table, dutifully (and resignedly, why not) voted one more time unanimously.
Outside this context, where one thing is said but what is thought may be something else, there is right now a very interesting debate in which all parties believe themselves to be right. The most commonly used concepts to defend opposing theses can be covered in the perceptions of revolution and democracy, which each person conceptualizes according to his or her own line of thinking. Continue reading “Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”
14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 19 May 2016 — All signs point to the collapse of Venezuela. Every minute that passes the country is disintegrating in the hands of Nicolas Maduro, who insists on maintaining with revolutionary violence a power that he has not known how to keep through efficiency or results. His stubbornness has led a nation rich in resources to misery and his incendiary oratory is now pushing it towards a violent explosion.
In front of the microphones, Maduro claims to defend a chimerical 21st century socialism that only works in the minds of its progenitors. However, his political and repressive actions are aimed at preserving the privileges of a clan that rants against the bourgeoisie while living in opulence and looting the public coffers. He believes in the Robin Hood of the children’s stories, but this time Sherwood Forest has become unlivable, even for the poor. Continue reading “Maduro and the Country That is Disintegrating in His Hands / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez”