El Sexto Confirms from Jail His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2015 – In a telephone call this Thursday, artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, confirmed that he is on a hunger strike. From the Valle Grande prison he also referred to his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, whom a State Security agent had told of his “speedy release.” The graffiti artist has made the announcement cautiously because it is not the first time that “they have tricked him with something like this,” Machado told this daily.

On August 24, El Sexto’s family waited outside the prison for hours for his release. Days before, an official from State Security had reported that date as the one on which he would be liberated. However, the prison authorities denied that “an order or paper allowing him to leave” had arrived. The graffiti artist advised that he would declare himself on hunger strike, although until today his situation could not be confirmed.

Wednesday at the Office of Attention to the Valle Grande Jail Population, Machado was assisted by an official who assured her that no one in the penitentiary center was on hunger strike. However, on exiting, relatives of other prisoners advised her that her son together with other prisoners had begun a fast.

El Sexto recently received the International Vaclav Havel 2015 Prize for creative dissidence, awarded in a ceremony organized under the framework of the Oslo Freedom Forum which he could not attend because he was in prison.

The artist has been imprisoned since last December on a charge of contempt for having tried to carry out a performance with two pigs painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul.” Eight months after his arrest he has not been taken before a court.

Translated by MLK

4-star Cockroaches / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Facade of the Plaza Hotel in Old Havana (14ymedio)

Facade of the Plaza Hotel in Old Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 26 August 2015 – When Francina Islas and Juan Andres Sanchez planned their Cuban vacation from Miami, they didn’t imagine that their stay in Havana would become a sequence of discomforts and annoyances. Three days at the centrally-located Hotel Plaza was enough to know that the excellence of Cuban tourist facilities is often a publicity mirage with no connection to reality.

The latest figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics indicate that the country experienced a 21.1% increase in foreign visitors between January and May of 2015, compared the same period from a year ago. However, at the same time that the number of tourists was increasing, customer demands were increasing.

The couple who shared their experience with 14ymedio said, “We were not looking for luxury, just minimal conditions of hygiene and maintenance, working hot water, no cockroaches,” said Francina, a Mexican traveling with her Spanish husband and their daughter.

With difficulty, the family managed to book a room in Havana from Spain. The flood of tourists has left little availability in the accommodation network which includes 430 establishments throughout the country, including hotels, apartment hotels, motels, villas, hostels, houses, cottages and campgrounds. Continue reading

The Missing Statistics On Women In Cuba / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Gender violence affects an unknown number of victims in Cuba every day, but the statistics of these reprehensible acts do not come to light. (Silvia Corbelle / 14ymedio)

Gender violence affects an unknown number of victims in Cuba every day, but the statistics of these reprehensible acts do not come to light. (Silvia Corbelle / 14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 25 August 2015 — In the neighborhood of Cayo Hueso everyone knew her as “the woman with the machete slashes.” You didn’t have to get too close to see the scars on her arms. These marks for life were made one night when her husband returned home with more alcohol than patience and, machete in hand, went after her. He was in prison for a couple of years and afterwards returned to the same tenement room where the fight had been. “He didn’t have any place else to live and the police didn’t get him out of here,” she said, apologetically. Gender violence creates an unknown number of victims every day in Cuba, but the statistics on these acts are not made public.

For weeks now, marking the 55th anniversary of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), we’ve had to hear on television and in the official press the numbers of women who have achieved administrative positions, who are at the helm of a company, a part of Parliament or who have managed to graduate from college. They stuff us full of only some of the numbers, to show that the women’s emancipation has reached this country, while remaining silent on the data about the dark side of reality, where the man commands and the woman obeys. Continue reading

Neither Strong Men nor Soft Coups / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

A Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana. (14ymedio)

A Sunday march of the Ladies in White in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 24 August 2015 — Two notable Cuban analysts, Carlos Alberto Montaner and Rafael Rojas, have plunged the scalpel almost simultaneously, but without having come to an agreement (as far as we know) about a particular issue: the popular anti-government protests in Latin America. Montaner in, “The Terrible Time of the Strongmen” and Rojas under the title, “Soft Coups?” in the Mexican newspaper La Razón

The first, the politician, makes a list of twelve demands shared by the citizens of Latin American countries against governments of the left, the center and the right; the second, the academic, questions the term “golpista” (coup supporter) from the leftist governments faced with their respective “peaceful and institutional oppositions, without the support of the armies, who are loyal to their governments.”

Looking at this simultaneously from different positions – which do not diverge – overlooking the Latin American political landscape, one appreciates the agreement on the inefficiencies of the continent’s democracies. The protests, organized or spontaneous, with greater or lesser violence, allowed or suppressed, are a reflection of the discontent of certain sectors who do not feel duly represented in the halls of parliaments, where what is demanded with shouts in the street should be settled in a calm way. Continue reading

Yusmila Reyna: “UNPACU’s Challenge Is To Turn Sympathizers into Activists” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

UNPACU activist Yusmila Reyna. (Facebook)

UNPACU activist Yusmila Reyna. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 25 August 2015 – A philologist by training, a dissident by passion, and an activist with the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) by choice, Yusmila Reyna (b. 1976) is today one of the most important figures in the opposition. She speaks slowly, moves easily through technology issues and seeks perfection in everything she does.

Since joining UNPACU, this woman has known how to leave the imprint of a part of her personality on the movement. This week we exchanged messages through the State Nauta service about the fourth anniversary of the opposition organization. In her free minutes between her young daughter and daily challenges, Yusmila responded to some questions for 14ymedio.

Sanchez. Four years after the founding of the UNPACU, what is the main challenge of the organization?

Reyna. To motivate and move thousands of Cubans to join the peaceful struggle for freedom. That is the great challenge of all opposition. Although we have achieved certain results, the reality is that we have much left to do.

Sanchez. Who are the members of UNPACU and how many are there?

Reyna. We have had many ups and downs in the course of these four years. Many have joined, but not everyone can bear the pressures of the repressive forces. Between the eastern region and Camaguey is where we are best organized. We now have about 2,500 activists. In the rest of the country we are not in a condition to establish numbers right now. In the central and western regions we are reorganizing, restructuring and trying to identify the leadership to sustain the fight. Continue reading

Another Sunday of Repression Against the Ladies in White / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 23 August 2015 — This Sunday has resulted in dozens of arrests among activists and Ladies in White. The arrests occurred after the traditional march that the human rights movement takes along Fifth Avenue in Havana. This time, the police operation was very intense and many of those who tried to approach Santa Rita parish in Miramar were intercepted.

The regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque reported that after 11 in the moring only 14 people had been able to reach the place, along them activists from different groups and independent journalists. For his part, the dissident Angel Moya confirmed the arrest of at least 10 opponents who had intended to accompany the Ladies in White in their Sunday walk.

After the Mass and the meeting at the Gandhi Park, several activists were repressed by groups organized by the State Security. As is usual in these acts of violence, the police put dissidents in several buses that took them to a detention center in Tarara or the place known as Vivac in the south of the capital city.

The Terrible Time of the Strongmen / 14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner

Hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets of Brazil to protest against corruption. (Twitter / Telenoticias)

Hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets of Brazil to protest against corruption. (Twitter / Telenoticias)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 23 August 2015 — Latin America’s streets are filled with people protesting angrily against their governments. The protests are against governments of the left (Venezuela – the worst of all, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Nicaragua and Argentina); against those of the center (Peru and Mexico); and against those of the right (Guatemala and Honduras). Surely others will be added along the way.

Those who have taken to the streets in Latin America are essentially protesting for one, several or all of the following twelve reasons: corruption, inefficiency, insecurity against violent crime, the impunity of criminals, the subordination of the other republican branches of government – the legislative and the judicial – to the will of the executive, the blatant change in the rules to stay in power indefinitely, the violation of human rights, electoral tricks, control over the media, shortages, the abuse of rights previously granted to unions or indigenous peoples, and the irresponsible abuse of the delicate ecosystem.

The general perception is that the region is being governed terribly badly, which in part explains the longstanding relative backwardness Continue reading

Cuban Doctors in Bogota Demand US Visas After Defecting In Venezuela / 14ymedio

Dozens of Cuban doctors demonstrating this Saturday for a US visa in the Plaza de Banderas, south of Bogota. (EFE / Leonardo Muñoz)

Dozens of Cuban doctors demonstrating this Saturday for a US visa in the Plaza de Banderas, south of Bogota. (EFE / Leonardo Muñoz)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Bogota, 22 August 2015 – Around fifty Cubans who deserted from Cuban “medical missions”* in Venezuela, gathered this Saturday in Bogota to denounce the “legal limbo” of nearly 500 of them who continue to wait for a visa to the United States and have exhausted the time of their stay in Colombia.

“We are gathered here today to demonstrate the world that we are professional and we are seeking freedom to practice our profession,” the dentist Mara Martinez, one of the Cubans in Bogota, explained to EFE.

Martinez, like many of her compatriots, finds herself in Bogota after deserting in Venezuela and crossing the border to Columbia “informally.” Continue reading

The Artist Tania Bruguera Arrives in New York / 14ymedio

The group of Yale World Fellows for 2015, including the artist Tania Bruguera. (Yale University)

The group of Yale World Fellows for 2015, including the artist Tania Bruguera. (Yale University)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 22 August 2015 – In a statement released by #YoTambienExijo (I too demand), it was reported that the artist Tania Bruguera arrived in New York this Friday, after eight months in Cuba. “I just landed at JFK (…) to be a Fellow of the Yale World Fellowship 2015,” a program of the renowned Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, her note said. She was greeted by officials of the university.

As a program fellow, Bruguera will be at Yale University until December of this year. She will have the opportunity to participate in a seminar taught by Yale professors on global issues, exclusively for the fellows, as well as to take classes and give lectures at Yale. Continue reading

Jose Daniel Ferrer Can Not Leave The Country For Reasons Of “Public Interest” / 14ymedio

Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU leader. (14ymedio)

Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU leader. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 August 2015 — The activist José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) has been informed this week by the Office of Immigration and Nationality that he can not leave the country. The authorities said that the travel restrictions are being imposed because he is not “in compliance with the criminal sanction” and there are “reasons of public interest” to prevent him from crossing the national borders.

The official response was communicated Wednesday, when Ferrer attempted to being the paperwork for a new passport at the identity card office in the Playa municipality in Havana. Continue reading

Unusual “bomb alert” at the Carlos III Market / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

Interior of Carlos III Market in downtown Havana. (14ymedio)

Interior of Carlos III Market in downtown Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana | August 18, 2015 — A crowd of shoppers and dozens of neighbors in the vicinity stood together at around 3 PM last Monday across from the popular Carlos III Market, in the capital municipality of Centro Habana. In a matter a minutes, and in a flurry of confusion, they had been forced to evacuate all shopping departments, eateries and entertainment areas due to a “bomb threat”.

The emblematic shopping center was shut down, and employees responsible for its security, who almost never have anything to do other than to check out the bags of customers suspected of theft, fluttered from one side to the other, trying to keep away the curious while exchanging details in their walkie-talkies, in a showy display worthy of a Hollywood action film like those that air on Cuban TV on Saturday nights. They had become the heroes of the day and were enjoying their role.

We are the only people who, instead of running away, stand around in a place where the possibility of a bomb exploding has just been announced. Continue reading

Food Shortages Are Getting Much Worse / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

The shortages and high food prices have led many retirees to stand in line for others.(14ymedio)

The shortages and high food prices have led many retirees to stand in line for others.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 19 August 2015 – She boasts that she “walks all over Havana” and there isn’t a single store, market or point of sale she doesn’t know about. “I have a family to feed and for years I’ve also taken advantage of my walks to tell the neighbors where they can get something,” sais Maria Eugenia, 58, who these days never stops repeating, “everything is bare.” The food shortage has gotten worse in recent weeks and the situation has reached crisis levels in many places.

“There is no chicken, no chopped soy-meat, no sausages, and never mind meat,” details this stubborn housewife. The refrigerators in the stores of the Cuban capital have hardly any merchandise and in many cases the cooling system has even been turned off, to avoid wasting electricity. “People don’t know what is happening, because they don’t explain it on television,” the lady complains. Continue reading