The Revolutionary Mass is Held at Dawn / 14ymedio, 26 July 2015

The official ceremony to commemorate the assault on the Moncada Garrison was celebrated at dawn. (EFE)

The official ceremony to commemorate the assault on the Moncada Garrison was celebrated at dawn. (EFE)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 26 July 2015 — The liturgy does not change. The anniversary event for the Day of National Rebellion took place this Sunday in front of the Moncada Barracks. A script where each detail is repeated year after year, like a rite empty of emotion and surprises. The only novelty on this occasion has been the hour chosen for the start. At 5:12 in the morning National TV began the broadcast of the event from a plaza in darkness with an orator yawning in the dawn.

The second secretary of the Communist Party, Jose Ramon Ventura, was charged with the annual speech for the 26th of July. Any study of the television audience would reveal that the only viewers of the small screen at this hour were the insomniacs looking for something to entertain them and the journalists chasing headlines. Both nocturnal creatures ended up disappointed. There was no entertainment nor news.

And of course, the event would not be complete without the “Young Pioneer” girl on the verge of tears hysterically spewing out well-rehearsed slogans. Nor the reenactment of the assault on the barracks, 62 years ago, acted out by teenagers who only know the version of history imposed on them by the gentlemen seated in the front row. The only excitement was hearing their youthful voices crying “Down with the dictatorship!” The applause, almost syncopated, completed the spectacle.

The only excitement was hearing their youthful voices crying “Down with the dictatorship!”

The artistic gala, with its roughly gesturing men dancers and languid women, added to the historical cult. A dance style widely used at official events that mixex socialist realism with the kitsch of a circus act. In the words of the playwright and film director Juan Carlos Cremata, another of “the thousands of public events where masses of money is squandered and bad taste, ineffectiveness, falsehood and madness are encouraged.”

No announcements occurred during the “Revolutionary Mass.” Not even on addressing the theme of the reestablishment of relations with the United States did Machado Ventura go beyond what has already been repeated ad nauseam. The process will be “long and complex,” the functionary recited like a weary oration. Conspicuous for its absence in his words was any allusion to John Kerry’s upcoming visit to Cuba and the opening ceremony for the American embassy in Havana.

For its part, the speech of Lazaro Exposito Canto, first secretary of the provincial committee of the Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba, slid along the path of triumphalism. He boasted of the territory’s economic results, in an uncritical and obviously fake way. There was no lack of commitment to the founders of the cult, when he affirmed that “Santiaguans have never failed the Party nor the direction of the Revolution, because in Santiago, dear Fidel and Raul, always, absolutely always, you will be victorious,” without explaining that it would be a “victory” like that of those terrible early morning hours of 26 July 1953, on the feast day of Saint Anne.

Only one gesture departed from the script. Raul Castro, at the last second, grabbed the microphone and shouted, “Let Santiago always be Santiago!” A tired “amen” that few heard because they had already turned off the TV.

Restore Sovereignty to the People If You Want To Avoid another Revolution / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks  in 1953was the opening move of the Revolution

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks on 26 July, 62 years ago, was the opening move of the Revolution

A pandemic of freedom floods our senses.
Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos and other authors, Havana, 25 July 2015 – It will soon be 62 years since a group of young men headed by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an event that catapulted that figure to the foreground of national politics and definitively buried the possibility of a peaceful and political outcome to the situation created by Fulgencio Batista’s coup a year before.

The armed struggle prevailed and managed to oust the tyrant from power. But the violent way in which it was achieved marked until today the political fate of Cuba. The Encampment triumphed again over the Republic.

That same character who organized and led that assault and who then headed a rebel military movement capitalized on the popular triumph of the 1959 Revolution, made and supported by the great majority of the Cuban people in order to restore the democratic system. Continue reading

Authority as Exemplified by Elpidio Valdés / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

Elpidio Valdez

Elpidio Valdés

14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Havana, 18 July 2015 —  I remember it as if it were yesterday when my old man took me to see the first Elpidio Valdés feature film in 1974. Having just debuted in the city of Santa Clara, we had to jump through hoops to find a taxi willing to take us all the way there from the town of Encrucijada. Thanks to the help of one of my father’s many friends, we were able to sneak into the Cubanacán Cinema, now long gone. Around the corner and in front of an improvised ticket booth set up for these types of events, a large police unit tried controlling half of Villa Clara Province that had descended on the Provincial capital for the movie’s premiere.

I have seen that film around fifty times. I doubt there are many who can beat my record. Whenever it played in Encrucijada’s movie house, I would go see it the four nights in a row of its run.

I was and still am a fan of this fictional military leader of the Cuban Wars of Independence. It is no wonder I stored all the Elpidio Valdés animations from before 1990 on my computer. On top of that, I also own a copy of the quickly-forgotten series Más se perdió en la guerra, or Más se perdió en Cuba,* the title changing depending on whether it was distributed on the island or in Spain. Continue reading

“They forced me not to dream”: Interview with Angel Santiesteban / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Angel Santiesteban

Blogger and writer Angel Santiesteban (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, 24 July 2015 – In the Border Guard facility where Angel Santiesteban spent his last year in prison, he heard the sound of the sea. Inside his less than nine by twelve foot cell, when there was a storm the writer could feel the pounding of the waves. A sound that also accompanied him when he was released last Friday and walked, without a centavo in his pocket to take the bus, along the coast through Playa to the house of a friend.

Three nights after getting out of prison, the blogger and activist agreed to talk with 14ymedio about the days in prison, his literature, Cuba and the future.

Lilianne Ruiz (LR): How did they announce your release?

Angel Santiesteban (AS): Hours beforehand a guard was joking and told me, “I think you’re leaving today.” I ignored him, believing that it was a part of the game to psychologically debilitate me. While I was talking to the mother of my daughter during my turn to use the telephone, a prison officer came with the notice of my release. He said, “Congratulations, you’re going.” He gave me papers to sign for my parole. Continue reading

The False Prophecy of Fidel Castro About Obama and Pope Francis / 14ymedio

Fidel-Castro-Barbara-Walters-ABC_CYMIMA20150724_0012_16
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 July 2015 — A phrase supposedly attributed to the former Cuban president Fidel Castro has become, in the last few months, one of the symbols of the thaw between Washington and Havana, announced last December after 54 years of enmity. “The United States will come to talk to us when we have a black president and the world has a Latin American pope,” the former president supposedly replied to a question asked by the foreign press in 1973. However, there is no proof of the existence of this quote prior to 2014.

Fidel Castro’s alleged prophecy has circulated widely on the social networks and in the international press, translated into several languages, generating amazement among users and readers, shocked by the ex-president’s ability to foresee the future. Continue reading

Half of Latin Americans Have Internet Access, But Only 5% of Cubans Do / 14ymedio

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Whole families connect to WiFi in central Pinar del Rio (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Miami / Havana, July 24, 2015 — Half of the population of Latin America is still without internet access, while only 10% have broadband and 20% are connected via mobile phones, according to data from the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF) published Friday in Miami. However, Cuba is one of the most technologically backward countries in the world, with a penetration rate to the network of only 5%, which is reduced to 1% for broadband.

The report notes that, despite advances in digitization projects in the region, the absence of digital coverage in Latin America is 50%, according to the study “The Ecosystem and digital Economy in Latin America.” Continue reading

Marti and His Myth / 14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenechea

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José Martí in an image from 1891 (University of Miami)

14ymedio, José Gabriel Barrenechea, Santa Clara, 17 May 2015 – From the interpretation of a significant event in the history of a nation, the interpreters’ political orientation can be very well surmised. Here we have this date, 24 February 1895 – the day on which our ancestors departed for the last time to the scrubland, to make of Cuba an independent and democratic nation, in which sovereignty would belong to each and every one who would declare themselves as Cubans.

This event can be interpreted in two radical ways: the Fascist, as a triumph of the Cuban people’s will, embodied in José Martí, ensuing from a supposed teleological destiny; or the Marxist, as a result of the economic contradictions between Cuban national interests and those of Spain, which engendered the fact that the colony’s economy was by that time integrated into that of its immediate neighbor, the US, and not of its distant and cash-strapped imperial ruler. Continue reading

Santiago Hides Its Indigents / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)

Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago, 23 July 2015 – The builders hurry to give the last touches to building projects, and the communal brigades obsessively clean the streets. A few days before the celebration of its fifth centennial, the city of Santiago is bustling. The imminent arrival of the delegations to the ceremony for the Assault on the Moncada Barracks has also caused the local authorities to gather up the many vagrants of the historic center.

The psychiatric institutions of the city have established monitoring services for the areas surrounding Cespedes Park in order to proceed with the detention of the mentally ill and homeless or those who beg near the tourist destinations. “Everything must be clean,” explains one of the members of a medical brigade that handles such tasks.

For those who reside in the city of Santiago it is evident that something is missing from the landscape of the so-called “golden kilometer” where the first houses, established in 1515, and the Holy Basilica are located. Absent are those figures, often scrawny and in dirty clothes, who stretch out their hands or display a prescription so that the passersby will give them “some help to live.” Continue reading

Ecuador, The Route to El Dorado / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)

The route of migration for Cubans. (Reportero24)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 July 2015 – Four years Ecuador has been the route of Cubans who want to reach the United States. For many it was the first step towards the El Dorado of the North. In recent weeks, a fear has been growing that the South American nation might toughen the requirements for access to its territory. Entire families could stay on the island with their bags packed and and dreams broken.

Luis, 27, is the youngest of two brothers. In mid-2014 he put together the money for a ticket to Quito and left. Single, with no job, no bank account or property, no consulate would have granted a visa, considering him as a “potential immigrant”. However, Ecuador does not require a visa for Cubans, nor even ask for a letter of invitation.

The Ecuadorian Constitution adopted in 2008 proclaimed “the principle of universal citizenship, free movement of all inhabitants of the planet and the progressive end of foreign status.” President Rafael Correa said at the time that he was determined to “dismantle the invention of the twentieth century which were passports and visas”. And there the Cubans went en masse. Continue reading

Human Rights Foundation suggests “Direct Responsibility of the Cuban Regime” in the death of Paya / 14ymedio

Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)

Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)

14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 – The human rights defense organization Human Rights Foundation (HRF) thinks that the Cuban government has “direct responsibility” in the deaths of dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, according to the conclusion of an 88-page report presented this Wednesday at the University of Georgetown (Washington), on the third anniversary of the death of the opponents.

“The accident (…) is the result of an automobile incident deliberately caused by agents of the State,” assert the authors of the report, lawyers Javier El-Hage and Roberto C. Gonzalez, both of HRF. According to the lawyers, there was “intention to assassinate Oswaldo Payá and the passengers who were travelling with him.” The authors of the report also think there was the intention of “causing them serious bodily injury” or that the event “was carried out with negligence and/or extreme indifference – and an unjustified high risk – for the life of the activist.”

The foundation highlights the “errors” and the “contradictions” of the official investigation into the events of 22 July 2012, documenting numerous violations, such as a faulty autopsy of the “most prominent pro-democracy activist in Latin America in the last 25 years,” according to the president of the HRF, Thor Halvorssen.

The report maintains that the evidence, deliberately overlooked by the official investigation, suggests that it was not a traffic accident and implicates the government in the crash between the vehicles.

The organization believes that the Spaniard Angel Carromero, who was driving the car in which Payá was travelling and who is now on probation in his country, was ”obliged” to confess himself to be responsible, and that Cuban Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the dissident’s relatives, excluding them from the trials. Carromero himself, who was then a leader of the youth branch of Spain’s Popular Party (PP), has asserted on several occasions that the accident was an “attack” orchestrated by the Island’s regime. Those responsible for the report insist that Carromero had no access to a lawyer for weeks and that, later, he was forced to be represented by lawyers with close ties to the Government.

“The State of Cuba is responsible internationally for having violated Angel Carromero’s right to an effective legal defense,” says the report, since the authorities refused his defense access to the case file and the opportunity to present new evidence.

“Cuba is not a democratic State in which individual rights are respected or in which there exists independence among the powers of the State,” warns the report, which labels trials that involve dissidents as “a mere formality” in which “all the actors (prosecutor, judge and defense attorney) direct their work towards legitimizing the Government’s decision and not towards the search for the historical truth of events and the punishment of the responsible parties.” The investigation and the later trial in the death of Payá and Cepero were not exceptions, having been carried out in a “context of complete authoritarianism.”

Cuban authorities also did not permit the family of the deceased to speak with the two survivors of the crash (Angel Carromero and the Swede Jens Aron Modig), and three years after the event, they have still not communicated the result of the autopsy. The dissident’s relatives received the clothes that he was wearing the day of the incident already washed which kept them from opting for an independent examination.

“Havana’s authorities believed that it was necessary to destroy my father,” said the daughter of the opponent, Rosa Maria Payá, present at the University of Georgetown. “This report will be an important tool against the impunity of those authorities,” she added. According to the activist, the document “is the end of the first part” of her efforts, and the process to clarify what happened to her father “is only beginning” with “the analysis of the evidence” in the hands of the family.

“We plan to use this report as a tool in front of all the international bodies,” said Payá, who calls on Cuban authorities to release her father’s and Cepero’s autopsy reports.

The authors of the report accuse Havana of having violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.

Translated by MLK

“Paya Was An Example Of Dedication And Persistence” / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)

Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 — Three years after the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, 14ymedio has collected the opinions of some Cuban activists who knew the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement. They is people who shared with him projects and risks, who admired or were inspired by his civic labor. Let these seven testimonies serve to approach the legacy of a man who devoted his best years to achieving greater rights and freedoms for the citizenry.

Father José Conrado

He has left us a testimony of life, a consistent life in service to his people, a courageous life that knew how to respond to the difficulties and the circumstances of the times. A life true to his convictions of faith and his love for his country until his last moment. It is a testimony that we will never forget and at the same time something to be deeply grateful for, because men like him are the ones who are needed, men like him are those who build a people from within.

Martha Beatriz Roque

It is very difficult to summarize in a few lines his life and the legacy he left us. First of all we have to note his actions as a father, a husband and a member of the Catholic Church. He knew how to pass on an excellent education for his children and to sow love in his family. Now we have Rosa María [his daughter], who is continuing his struggle and also persevering in seeing that justice is done for those who murdered him. His life’s companion, Ofelita, is doing the same thing.

Payá witnessed in favor of democracy and his legacy is reflected in the continuity of his work. These men who have acted with dignity in life, in times as difficult as those we Cubans have had to live through, one can say they have not died, they continue with us.

Jose Daniel Ferrer

I always had great respect and great affection for him, and joined in with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) for many years, especially on Project Varela. I would like to highlight one way he is remembered in the eastern region, especially in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The term that we are referred to by, whether we are members of UNPACU, of CID, of the Republican Party, the Citizens for Democracy, or any other organization, is “Varelistas” [“supporters of Project Varela”], and not because of a direct relation to Felix Verala, who well deserves it for his contribution to Cuban nationality, but precisely because of Project Varela, which not only collected thousands of signatures at that time, but also left a lasting impact.

So that is what people call us there and, on occasion, even our worst enemies do. So every time they call us Varelistas, they are remembering Payá.

Dagoberto Valdes

The first thing I want to point out about the legacy Oswaldo left us is the integrity of one person who throughout his life remained consistent with what he thought and believed. Secondly, he left us what in my view is the most important civic exercise of the last decades: the Varela Project. Third, he left us the perseverance of a man who believed in the cause of freedom and democracy for Cuba and who dedicated his entire life to it.

Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart

His legacy goes far beyond even the Christian Liberation Movement he founded. His precious heritage belongs to Cuba and is found in the shared yearning for democracy and respect for human rights, for all individuals who think as he thought. For this he will always be respected. When Cuba can enjoy democracy, he will not be with is, but his teachings will be.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez

He was a great leader in the peaceful Cuban opposition because he accomplished what no one had been able to accomplish, which was to collect those thousands of signatures supporting Project Varela and doing it within the very laws of Cuba.

Still today I feel I see him, with the enthusiasm that characterized him, seeking unity among Cubans so that we can manage the change in a peaceful way, so that the people would be the owners of their own opinions and be able to put their rights into practice. It fills us with great satisfaction to have been able to be at the side of a man like him at those moments before the Black Spring of 2003, and to continue working with his daughter Rosa María today.

Miriam Leyva

He was a very self-sacrificing person who was characterized by believing in what he was doing. He was convinced that he could fight for a better life for Cubans to achieve progress and democracy for Cuba. He was a practicing Catholic and also a tireless worker. In his specialty, medical equipment repair, he was acknowledged and respected, not only in his workplace but in all public health facilities where he went to provide services.

Payá was an example of self-sacrifice and above all persistence, so his legacy extends beyond the MCL and Project Varela; an example as a human being, as a Cuban. That is what remains in my memory and I appreciate all the years I knew him in the midst of such difficult situations.

Activists Will Help Users In Wifi Areas In Santiago de Cuba And Havana / 14ymedio

An Internect connection room in Santiago de Cuba. (Yosmani Mayeta / 14ymedio)

An Internect connection room in Santiago de Cuba. (Yosmani Mayeta / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Havana, 21 July 2015 — A few weeks since the opening of 35 wireless Internet access zones throughout the country, activists announced a project to help people connect to the web. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) circulated a text on Monday in which it explains that the organization will provide services “to anyone interested in using the Internet for peaceful and ethical purposes.”

The project will begin in the provinces of Santiago de Cuba and Havana and the beneficiaries will receive navigating advice, help in creating social networking profiles and the opportunity to use a tablet or laptop belonging to UNPACU if they don’t have their own.

In statements to 14ymedio, UNPACU’s leader Jose Daniel Ferrer explained that among the objectives of this initiative is to “give Cubans access to different sources, but it is also a way to encourage them to seek another version of events.” According to the activist, “so many years of misinformation have caused apathy and an unwillingness to know when inquiring about any event.”

Among the objectives of this initiative is to “give Cubans access to different sources, but it is also a way to encourage them to seek another version of events.” 

The promoters of the initiative also say they are “aware of the great importance for society as a whole of an open, uncensored flow of information.” In promoting this freedom they will help the interested to find data and “to open accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail.”

Contact phone numbers to request UNPACU’s help are + 53-537-40544 and + 53-45-21382 in Santiago de Cuba. In Havana you can seek help at + 53-525-28719 + 53-720-21574.