It’s not my fault either / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)
Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas (EFE Señal Instucional)

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14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Panama, 12 April 2015 — During the Summit of the Americas, when Raul Castro said Barack Obama was not at fault for the decisions taken by the ten presidents that preceded him, confusion overcame me and it’s no wonder.

Upon hearing that speech, delivered in front of more than thirty leaders meeting in Panama, it became even harder for me to understand why the gallant members of the pro Cuban government “civil society” who came to this city continued to label as assassins the activists, dissidents and independent representations who came to participate in forums parallel to the historic event.

If Obama is not guilty of what happened at the Bay of Pigs, nor the logistics support to the anti-Revolution rebels of the Escambray; if he is not responsible for the creation of Radio Martí, nor the Cuban Adjustment Act… nor even for the implementation of the embargo, then, what guilt is it that they want to foist on the activists defending human rights?

Now, that the general-president has already absolved the dignitary of the country that official propaganda sees as “the enemy,” it is worth asking why his supporters accuse of events that happened decades ago those, who organize opposition parties, or engage in library projects or independent journalism with the sole purpose of proposing a country different from that outlined in the guidelines of the Sixth Communist Party Summit.

When the horrendous sabotage occurred to the Cuban plane coming from the Barbados, Guillermo Fariñas was engaged in or preparing for an international mission in Africa. At the moment when they shot the prisoner Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Bolivia, neither Eliécer Ávila nor Henry Constantin had been born. It would be like blaming Abel Prieto for the firing squads, the forced relocation of the farmers from the center of the country to captive villages, the atrocities of the Revolutionary Offensive, the disaster of the 1970 sugar harvest, the “Five Gray Years” and so many other things.

When I mention Abel Prieto I could include the names of almost the entire delegation whose tickets and lodging were paid for by the Cuban government. Are they aware that when you accuse others of a past in which they didn’t exist nor make decisions, you will also be evaluated in the same light? Are they prepared to take on all the atrocities committed by their predecessors?

The Panamanians, however, gave us a clear example of this positive attitude during the summit, an attitude that is summed up by looking more to the future than the past. I would like to believe that Raul Castro is not responsible for anything… although the evidence points in the other direction.

Perhaps the time has come when we should concern ourselves more with solutions than with blame.

I know many compatriots, who totally within their rights, will not agree with me, especially since there are wounds impossible to heal and grievances difficult to forget. If I had to vote on it, I would raise my hand in favor of their retiring in peace. Their penance, their worst punishment, will be to watch us construct a nation without hatred nor rancor. Once again Cubans, everyone, at the same fiesta.

“We are ready to talk about everything, with patience,” Castro tells Obama / 14ymedio

Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas
Raul Castro with Barack Obama at a press conference at the Summit of the Americas

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, Panama, 11 April 2015 – The president of the United States, Barack Obama, today told his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, that “it was time to try something new” in relation to Cuba, during the historic meeting they held in Panama under the framework of the Summit of the Americas.

It is the first time in half a century that the presidents of the two countries have met.

For his part, Raul Castro assured the US president that “we are willing to talk about everything, but with patience,” in the process towards normalization of bilateral relations. continue reading

Moments before the start of the meeting, Obama explained that “The history between the United States and Cuba is complicated,” and, “We are now in a position to move on a path toward the future.” He immediately said that the majority of Americans and Cubans had “responded positively” to the process of reestablishing relations, announced last December 17.

The US president confirmed that there are “profound differences” between to two countries. “We are willing to talk about everything. The United States will defend democracy and human rights and Cuba will put on their table their concerns with respect to US policy, as Mr. Castro did during his speech,” Obama emphasized during a press conference immediately after the meeting.

Obama went further and ventured that, “And over time, it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries.”

The two leaders met in room at the Atlapa Convention Center where, on Friday, the Summit of the Americas got underway, and where Saturday’s sessions have transpired.

The meeting began after the photo session of all the presidents who participated in the hemispheric forum in which Cuba is participating for the first time.

“This is the time for Cuba to open up” in Baseball / 14ymedio

Juan Francisco Puello, president of the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball
Juan Francisco Puello, president of the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 11 April 2015 — The Dominican Juan Francisco Puello, president of the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball, is currently visiting Cuba and attended the sixth game of the finals of the National Baseball Series. At the conclusion of the game at the stadium in Ciego de Ávila, the representative of the regional organization answered questions from the press.

Puello acknowledged that having witnessed the game between the local team and the team from the Isla de la Juventud was “an enlightening and rewarding experience.” At his side were Higinio Velez, president of the Cuban Baseball Federation, and Heriberto Suárez, another senior official of the State Institute of Sports. continue reading

All the questions were directed to the visitor, who began by responding to the possibility of recruiting Cubans in the leagues that make up the Caribbean Confederation. Puello said that this issue was one of the items on his agenda during his current trip to Cuba. “It is important to note that (…) until we have a specific definition with the Major Leagues and OFAC [both in the US], that we can have Cuba as a full member of the Confederation, it will not be possible,” the Dominican said with respect to contracts.

However, he added that the arrival of players from the island to the winter leagues in Venezuela or Mexico, “Is at hand, because we have been talking to lawyers in the major leagues who are working on that.” Next week, Puello announced, there will probably already be a definition of that in particular, “and we will communicate it to Cuba.”

He also confessed that “some organizations have approached the Cuban authorities informally” but the impediment would come from the US authorities, both Major League Baseball and the government of that country. “All the leagues [of the countries of the Confederation] have shown interest” in Cuban athletes. “The fact that they are engaged (…) is going to reduce the extreme fatigue,” a condition that hinders the participation of players committed to the major leagues in regional tournaments.

The Confederation official believes that at least until 2020 there will not be a Caribbean Series held here, because for this to happen the Island should be a full member of the regional sports organization. Meanwhile, the country is expected to continue to attend the annual competition, the latest of which was won by a team with the name of Vegueros of Pinar del Río.

“To invite Cuba is a firm decision,” said Puello, who considers it “disproportionate” not to pay the Cuba players the awards they won for their performance in Caribbean Series. And he judges that this is a “problem is more political than sport-related, (…) it must end.”

“This is the time for Cuba to open up,” said Puello, who was visiting the country for the first time since 1999, but, he said, “That was not the time for opening Cuba” he said. The official is currently working on including the Cuban Baseball Federation, controlled by the government and still officially represented as an “amateur” sport, in the Caribbean Confederation of Professional Baseball.

Barack Obama meets with Cuban activists before meeting with Raul Castro

Laritza Diversent and Manual Cuesta Morua in meeting with Barack Obama
Laritza Diversent (3rd from R) and Manual Cuesta Morua (2nd from R) in meeting with Barack Obama

14ymedio biggerEFE, 10 April 2015 – The president of the United States, Barack Obama, met today in Panama with members of the Cuban opposition and civil society leaders from other countries before his anticipated meeting this Saturday with with Cuban president Raul Castro.

After giving a speech at the Forum of Civil Society, Obama attended a round table, closed to the press, with activist and civic leaders from several countries, among them the Cuban opposition members Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Laritza Diversent, according to information provided by the White House.

Also participating in the meeting were the presidents of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, and Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez.

Castro exempts Obama from responsibility for the policy of the previous “ten presidents” / 14ymedio

Raul Castro during his speech at the Summit of the Americas

14ymedio biggerEFE / 14ymedio, 11 April 2015 — The first speech from the president of Cuba, Raul Castro, at the Summit of the Americas, received a standing ovation in the room where the meeting is being held and grabbed the attention of hundreds of journalists in the press room installed in the Atlapa Convention Center.

“It was time for me to speak here” on behalf of Cuba, said the Cuban leader, who on Friday joined the US President Barack Obama, in a historic moment when they shook hands at the opening of the Seventh Summit of the Americas.

The announcement of Castro’s speech of the host country’s president, Juan Carlos Varela, immediately after the words of the president of the United States, provoked a loud and long applause from the heads of state and official delegations. continue reading

In the newsroom, reporters crowded in front of the giant screen to follow closely the discourse of the Cuban leader, who provoked laughter throughout his audience when he confessed that he would make “a great effort” to limit his historic speech to the eight minutes established by protocol.

“And as the six summits that excluded [Cuba] should count, six times eight is 48,” the president of Cuba joked.

During his oration, Raul Castro exempted the United States president, Barack Obama, from responsibility for the policy developed against the Caribbean island by the “ten presidents” preceding him.

The Cuban president called Obama “honest” and expressly apologized for getting emotional “in defense of the Revolution.”

However, the speech was peppered with historic allusions and complaints about the actions of the United States toward the island. He also referred to the Internet because “it works for the best […] and it works for the worst.” The issue of new technologies has played a major leading role in several of the speeches at this Summit of the Americas.

Raul Castro also expressed today his “resolute and real support for the sister republic of Venezuela and the legitimate government of Nicolas Maduro.”

“Venezuela is not and cannot be a threat to the national security of a superpower like the United States, and it is positive that the US president Barack Obama has recognized that,” added Castro during his speech to the Seventh Summit of the Americas that is unfolding in Panama.

Mission Accomplished, General / 14ymedio, Miriam Celaya

A group of members of the official Cuban delegation will hold a protest at the entrance of the Civil Society Forum. (EFE / Alejandro Bolívar)
A group of members of the official Cuban delegation will hold a protest at the entrance of the Civil Society Forum. (EFE / Alejandro Bolívar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Panama, 9 April 2015 – Just as expected, April 8th was D-day for Castro’s troops in Panama, with the Forum of Civil Society in the framework of the Summit of the Americas. The physical and verbal aggression and the “revolutionary violence” unleashed in all its public display of barbarism before the astonished eyes of those who were involuntary witnesses of the shameful act, demonstrate how long the arm of the dictatorship of the Island is, and how disrespectful they are willing to be at international democratic venues.

It would have been naive to expect any other conduct, after preludes that foretold the climax. The Castro clan was initially flattered in its infinite vanity, after half a century of being expelled from the OAS, to have been one of the first invitees to the Americas’ Summit, only to have to swallow the bitter pill, soon after, of tolerating the independent civil society’s presence at the regional event. These are appropriate games of democracy, but a humiliation that the Antillean olive green caste was not willing to accept.

Now we were able to prove that it was not by happenstance that several activists of the Cuban independent civil society were harassed on our arrival at the Tocumen airport, some detained a relatively long time and interrogated, as if we were terrorists or criminals, by authorities that report directly to the Panamanian government. “We do not want disturbances or provocations at the Summit,” was the warning we received before allowing us to continue, and following that, a polite phrase that was almost cynical: “Welcome to Panama.” No doubt this is a peculiar sense of the hospitality and the official image this country is offering these occasional visitors. continue reading

It was no coincidence that several activists of the Cuban independent civil society were harassed upon our arrival at Tocumen airport

Later, there was an official apology issued by the Panamanian Foreign Ministry, but it was also learned that the Cuban regime’s troops of the “civil society” were not ill-treated or warned on their arrival. Perhaps that was why they immediately began to distribute, through the hotels hosting delegates from dozens of countries, printed leaflets containing the photographs and full names of various members of the Cuban dissidence, under the heading of “mercenaries.” A great number of the tabloids were placed on tables in the lobby of the hotel El Panama, where credentials were being processed, while other activists handed them out in the streets around the headquarters, where activities of the Summit would take place.

Thus, encouraged by the permission – the complicity, I should say – of the hosts and organizers of the Summit, the revolutionary low-lives who were further protected by the dozens of accreditations that were granted to them, felt free to create violent disturbances right in the meeting room, rudely attacking the scarce representatives of several independent organizations on the Island that had barely achieved accreditation from the Civil Society Forum on behalf of dozens of contenders who were denied the opportunity to participate.

Some public places were also the scenes of Castro mobs, sabotaging the democratic and civilized spirit that should have been expected from this hemispheric event.

It was a poor choice on the part of these guests to the democratic festivity, Messrs. hosts, and if such is the model of civility that we want to imitate in the region, a very bad effect. But worse are the results for the regime in Havana, whose objective was always to boycott the Summit and blow up the spaces for dialogue, but in attempting to demonstrate the supposed low aspect of its opposition, it ended up demonstrating its own, additionally granting its opponents the chance to show their moral superiority. Now the democrats in the region may be wondering about the stateless group who have sustained decades of peaceful struggle against the enormous machine of violence that has been brought to bear against them from the seat of power.

Worse yet are the results for the Havana regime, whose original purpose was always to boycott the Summit and blow up the spaces for dialogue

A great number of the delegates offered their solidarity to the Cuban civil society and commented to us about their bewilderment. “If this is the way it is in the midst of this forum and at a democratic venue, what must they be able to get away in Cuba,” commented a group of young people from several Latin American nations.

A somber sixty-something man shook his head disapprovingly: “This is not right … It is not proper … We cannot allow it,” he said, referring to the performance of Castro followers and supporters.

Our spontaneous embraces in the hotel lobby, to demonstrate support for each other among members of the independent civil society made a better impression than all the shouting and screaming of slogans of the crazed members of the regime. The aggression had only succeeded in uniting us beyond any differences.

It was also made clear that a dictatorship that has sustained itself on confrontation and belligerence, inside and outside its own geographical territory, would not be able to overcome the challenge posed by the open debate and arguments of its opponents. Weeks ago the General-President had already announced that “the true Cuban civil society would come to the Summit to defeat the stateless mercenaries at the service of the Empire,” thus demonstrating their absolute lack of political willingness to respect the diversity of ideas and alternative projects of the very Cubans on the Island.

Well then, General, your serfs – those same strident individuals who carry out your acts of repudiation, whose passports were confiscated as soon as they crossed the border into Panama in order to avoid inopportune desertions – withdrew from the Summit as soon as they fulfilled their wretched role. It did not matter that the Cuban State spent its people’s ever-scarce resources to finance documents, travel, accommodations, food, and a huge amount of printed pamphlets. Nothing will prevent the end of its empire of corruption and fear.

I can imagine how its “victorious” delegation will be welcomed when it returns to the ridiculed homeland. I can almost imagine the team leader, submissively bowing his prop epaulettes: “Mission accomplished, General.” And just the thought of such a degrading image overwhelms me with two conflicting feelings: compassion and contempt.

Translated by Norma Whiting

The Cuban government’s ‘civil society’ admits defeat and withdraws from the meeting with the heads of state / 14ymedio

The site of the closing of the Summit's Civil Society Forum (14ymedio)
The site of the closing of the Summit’s Civil Society Forum (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 April 2015 — In a “statement” published on the government website Cubadebate, the Cuban government’s “civil society delegation” announced today that it will not participate in the Friday afternoon meeting between the Civil Society Forum and the heads of state participating in the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

“We have taken this decision after collectively reflecting on the scenario that has been designed in the Civil Society Forum to force us to share with mercenaries paid from abroad for the purpose of subverting the political and social system of the country,” they explained in their statement.

US President Barack Obama will participate in this meeting, along with the presidents of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez, and Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solis. In addition, Obama is expected to talk with various leaders of civil society, although the White House has not detailed with whom. continue reading

The Cuban delegation adds that it has decided to retire after “mercenaries [received] the official invitation to enter the plenary this afternoon. Out of respect for the host President and other leaders, including President Obama, the delegation of the Authentic Cuban civil society has chosen not to participate in the referenced meeting.”


Our delegation has decided not to participate in the dialogue of civil society and social actors with governments scheduled for this afternoon.

We have taken this decision after collectively reflecting on the scenario that has been designed in the Civil Society Forum to force us to share with mercenaries paid from abroad for the purpose of subverting the political and social system of the country.

Particularly offensive has been the presence of individuals linked to terrorist as vile as Luis Posada Carriles and Felix Rodriguez Mendigutía. Since our arrival in Panama, we have repeatedly denounced, with documented evidence, the true identity of these alleged representatives of the Cuban people. We reject the press manipulation of our consistent performance and its intentional omission of the evidence we have presented.

The mercenaries have received the official invitation to enter the plenary this afternoon. Out of respect for the host President and other leaders, including President Obama, the delegation of authentic Cuban civil society has chosen not to participate in the referenced meeting.

We also want to express our rejection of any document that may arise without having been the result of the discussions that took place yesterday at the Citizen Participation and Democratic Governance Tables in the Crystal and Bella Vista Rooms.

The Summit from my TV / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Americas during the Summit. (Summit of the Americas)
Meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Americas during the Summit. (Summit of the Americas)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 10 April 2105 – A clever strategy on the part of the Cuban government, with regards to the participation of the official civil society at the meeting associated with the Summit of the Americas, has been to present a delegation full of projects and good results from which they can look down on the newcomers from alternative civil society.

Cuban Television’s coverage – where the word ‘coverage’ is more akin to ‘cover up’ – identifies the official delegation, however, with objectives anchored in the era of the Cold War. They arrived in Panama with a fierce spirit and clear directions to not recognize independent civil society and to silence as much as possible its participation in the forum.

I don’t know if, after so much reading of the newspaper Granma, my granmar is so sharp that where others read patriotic indignation, I see lack of arguments; where they see maneuvers against Cuba, I interpret an intention to boycott the event. continue reading

Once more I had to hear how shamelessly the representatives of the most rancid ruling party dominate the nation, and believe they have the right to deprive it of those who don’t think like them, but rather have free will; and they also deprive me as I don’t feel represented by any of their institutions.

A special mention of the incident at the statue of José Martí. We Cubans should definitely make our devotion to Martí a private matter and not a political wildcard, a moratorium should be established on the public use of Martí so as to be able to put him in his proper place. But aside from the buffeting this giant of a Cuban has been subjected to, I feel ashamed for others. A friend country hosts an event with global resonance and “our true civil society” choses every way possible to express their outrage through violence and rabble-rousing.

Statements by some of the delegates of this civil society make it clear that they prefer dialogue with the “enemy of the North that despises us,” over that with their next door neighbors in Cuba

 Statements by some of the delegates of this civil society make it clear that they prefer dialog with “the enemy from the North that despises us,” over that with their next door neighbors in Cuba, with whom they may have profound differences with whom they share a territory and an identity card.

I do not know how international public opinion will treat these painful events, but within our dis-informed country the result has been a success. To my neighbor Tomás, Cubans not included in the official delegation are nothing more than terrorists and mercenaries. Both repeat a lie until it becomes a truth for the purposes of propaganda, and great has been the use of both adjectives in the last three days. Nor do I believe that this escalation of insults will be the prelude to a kind of cultural revolution of the young Talibans, as a friend fearfully expressed to me. The Government doesn’t need experiments with more surprises than certainties.

On writing these notes I don’t have the least idea how things are going indoors, but the image of the official Cuban delegation – and this is an impression formed exclusively by watching television – is one that even the most moderate international observers could confirm, with this presence in Panama of Cubans of a different nature, the lack of democracy in our country.

Cuba invites America’s entrepreneurs to do business together / 14ymedio

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)
Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade, speaks at a Business Forum at the Americas Summit. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 10 April 2015 – This Thursday Cuba offered itself as a safe destination for foreign investment and invited the business leaders of America, meeting in Panama, to visit the island “to make progress toward establishing mutually beneficial businesses.”

Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment also said, in statements to reporters, that “the policy of the [US] blockade goes against not only Cuba and the Cuban people, but also the will of businesspeople in the United States.”

In a speech to businesspeople participating in the CEO Summit of the Americas, Malmierca spoke of “great expectations” produced by last December’s announcement, the beginning of a process of normalization of relations between Washington and Havana. continue reading

“The measures adopted [by the US] on Cuba in January, which modify certain aspects of the embargo, although limited, are a step in the right direction. But it must not be forgotten that (…) the blockade remains in force,” he said.

He stressed that “in recent months” Cuba has “received important delegations of [US] businesspeople and politicians, who have confirmed their interest in developing businesses with Cuban entities.”

“We are witnessing a new phase of the inclusion of Cuba on the international economic stage”

In Cuba “We do not limit nor discriminate against US companies, so that opportunities” for business and investment offered by the Island in sectors such as food, renewable energy, oil exploration, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology “are also open (to the USA),” he added.

“Today we can say that we are witnessing a new phase of the inclusion of Cuba on the international economic stage, which introduces opportunities for trade and investment,” Malmierca told the business leaders

The Cuban minister said that in this “new phase” the government of Raul Castro extended its “vision of the role of foreign investment, recognizing it as an active and essential element for the growth of certain sectors and economic activities.”

The Cuban government estimates that it needs about “2,500 billion annually in foreign investment to stimulate a growth that will lead to developing prosperity and sustainability” of the “socialist” project, he said.

Malmierca pointed out that Cuba, in addition to the “guarantees and incentives” established in a new law, “makes available” to foreign capital attractions such as scientific potential, the availability of a skilled workforce with expertise in high technology, and a privileged geographic location, among other assets.

The government needs “about 2.5 billion annually in investment to stimulate growth to sustain the socialist project”

“The Cuban market, although it is not a large economy, has an important weight in the Caribbean (…), which together with other aspects (…) translates into new opportunities to expand trade with Cuba and its role in intraregional trade,” he said.

He added that Cuba has outlined a program of long-term development that leads the country’s efforts for the building of a socialist society to bring further benefits to all Cubans.

“We are convinced that the countries of the region will accompany Cuba in these efforts,” he said.

The Second CEO Summit of the Americas is one of four official forums previous to the Seventh Summit of the Americas at which, on Friday and Saturday, the 35 countries of the continent will meet for the first time.

One of the most anticipated moments of the continental meeting is the greeting between the American president Barack Obama and the Cuban president Raul Castro.

The business event has generated a document with recommendations that will be presented to heads of state and government attendees of the hemispheric summit.

A North Korean ship coming from Cuba detained in Mexico / 14ymedio

The North Korean ship Mu Du Bong. (John Wrightson / Marinetraffic)
The North Korean ship Mu Du Bong. (John Wrightson / Marinetraffic)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 April 2015 — The North Korean ship Mu Du Bong and its crew are being detained in the port of Tuxpan, Mexico, as confirmed Wednesday by the Mexican Mission to the United Nations. The whip coming from Cuba ran aground on a reef, causing serious environmental damage to a protected natural area. According to the UN, the company owning the vessel is included on a list of sanctioned companies.

North Korea has accused Mexico of illegally retaining the vessel with 50 people on board and announced that it will take the necessary steps to release the vessel.

The ship was traveling with a crew of 33 North Korean nationals, according to data provided by the Mexican government. The workers are in good physical, moral and psychological condition, according to the Mexican embassy, with complete freedom of movement and will be repatriated in cooperation with the Embassy of North Korea. The vessel, however, will remain in Mexico while the investigation continues.

Panama’s president warns Cubans he will not tolerate further incidents / EFE via 14ymedio

The official delegation assaults opponents in Panama. (Garrincha)
The official delegation assaults opponents in Panama. (Garrincha)

(EFE) Panama, 9 April 2015 — The president of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, Thursday called for “respect” among opposition groups and Cuban officials who staged violent incidents yesterday that ended with the temporary detention of about twenty people.

“We are a country that welcomes everyone and we ask everyone to show respect. Last night those detained were released with a warning that, if the incidents are repeated, sanctions will be applied,” Varela told journalists before the inauguration of the Rectors of America Forum, parallel to the Seventh Summit of the Americas.

The president said that what happened outside the Cuban embassy in Panama, “Was very unfortunate and unacceptable,” and pointed out that also striking were “The sectors of Cuban [government] staff and their lack of tolerance and their provocation,” which ended with a confrontation of punches and kicks. continue reading

Although no individuals were identified, the violent encounter occurred between staff and people linked to the Cuban government, and exiled Cubans invited to the Civil Society Forum, which opened yesterday delayed by the incidents, another of which also took place at the meeting site in a hotel far from the Embassy.

Varela acknowledged that among Cubans, “There are deep wounds”

Varela acknowledged that among Cubans, “There are deep wounds” and stressed that the Panama forums are “an opportunity for approach” but that the incidents resulted in “security being strengthened in all forums,” as a result of which he directed, “a warning to everyone because the country will offer guarantees to all the leaders attending the summit.”

The Secretary of Communication for Panama, Manuel Dominguez, specified that “If a new incident occurs, the police will use force” to stop it and reiterated that they would only allow demonstrations within the framework of the law, which has provisions for expulsion or deportation from the country for the use of violence.

The Seventh Summit of the Americas will meet on Friday and Saturday, April 10-11, with all the countries of the Americas for the first time since 1956 — with the incorporation of Cuba — to discuss “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas.”

“They Have Taken Everything from Me, Even My Family” / 14ymedio

Arian Gonzalez Perez (personal photo)
Arian Gonzalez Perez (personal photo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 8 April 2015 — “How is it possible that I cannot enter my country?” Arian Gonzalez Perez asks himself time and again. This 26-year old Cuban, originally from Santa Clara, has lived in Barcelona for five years, and for that reason he was recently denied permission to travel to the Island and visit his sick grandmother.

“I feel like an outcast, very depressed,” he explains in a telephone conversation from the Catalan city. In his native country, he devoted himself to chess, but, like all players who remain living outside of Cuba, he was expelled from the ELO list (a chess player’s ranking) two years ago. In order to obtain the title of master of this discipline he will have to search for another national federation to cover him. “They have taken everything from me, even my family. It is very frustrating not to have rights,” he says. continue reading

Gonzalez was 21 years old when he decided to leave his country in search of a better future. “Desperate to leave the country, I left only at the first opportunity I had, but not before the Cuban authorities had denied me three trips. I came directly to Spain and did not even intend to stay, but I had to because of the poverty on the Island. I borrowed money and came, but the tournaments went badly for me and I could not pay the debt, so I stayed,” he says.

This law student thought that, when he had residence in Spain, he would get permission to travel to Cuba, but that was not the case. “It is inconceivable. Cuba is my country, it is my right and my family. This situation violates human rights,” he insists.

Gonzalez visited the Cuban consulate in Barcelona a year ago where they assured him that within a month they would have answered his request to travel to the Island, but the answer never came. “When I found out that my 81-year-old grandmother had fallen and broken her hip, I panicked and returned to the consulate. They told me they had no answer, and the civil servant that assisted me told me that I had defected,” he says sorrowfully.

As a result of these events, he decided to approach the human rights defense organization Amnesty International. “I believe that I should tell the truth and not be afraid of the injustices that are committed in my country; we Cubans cannot continue to permit this outrage,” he stresses. “It is time to add my two cents worth and fight for change.”

Gonzalez left Cuba before the reforms promoted in recent years by President Raul Castro, which he branded as “lies.” With the changes in the migratory law, the time limit for a citizen abroad to be classified as a defector and prohibited for eight years from returning has been extended from 11 months to two years. The young man charges that the rule violates Article 13.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, according to which “all people have the right to leave any country, including their own, and to return to their country.”

Arian Gonzalez, also stripped of his livelihood, was involved in a controversy in 2013 while participating in competitions under the Cuban flag. The chess player was subject to disqualification by the Spanish Grand Master Victor Moskalenko, who accused him of attending a tournament in Mollet del Valles (Barcelona) while drunk and cheating. Moskalenko extended his accusations to another Cuban federated chess player in Spain, Orlevis Perez Mitjans and asserted: “When you play against Cuban players, the other fellow countrymen are behind your back, bothering you… You are confronted not only with a player but with a team of gangsters.”

Arian Gonzalez Perez plays against Yuniesky Quesada Perez (personal photo)
Arian Gonzalez Perez plays against Yuniesky Quesada Perez (personal photo)

Gonzalez, who defended himself then by writing a letter to the Competition Committee of the Catalan Chess Federation to seek measures against Moskalenko for libel and slander, denounces the governmental policy on chess. “Chess in Cuba is part of the Cuban government’s political monopoly. As in many other fields, this is a means for young people to be able to have the aspiration of leaving the Island and search for a better future. But many do not do it because chess at the world level is a poor sport while the Cuban government gives the Grand Masters a salary of 100 CUC which is high in comparison with the rest of the population.”

Arian Gonzalez now hopes that Amnesty International will press for authorization for his return to Cuba. The organization promised him an answer after Easter. “It would be an eternal frustration in my life if my grandmother were to die without me being able to see her 5 years after I said goodbye to her when I left Cuba.”

Translated by MLK

Pro-Castro Panamanian groups threaten Cuban activists / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 8 April 2105 — Several Panamanian leftist organizations have forwarded to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, Isabel de Saint Malo, a letter of protest against the activities organized by the groups in opposition to the governments of Cuba and Venezuela in the forums being held before the Summit of the Americas. The letter was sent last Monday and has been published today in the official Cuban media.

The signers of the text consider that the dissidents, “Have as their aim to use our country as a platform to conspire and coordinate actions intended to interfere in the internal matters of these two nations.” Therefore, they ask, “Very respectfully that the national government, through the Foreign Ministry, take measures to prevent these activities.” The agenda of the forums whose suspension they are asking was presumably added to the letter, although it has not been disclosed in the official media. continue reading

The signatories specify that they do not oppose the participation of the opponents in the Summit’s forums, but rather, “The conspiratorial activities and the public demonstrations outside the Summit, that have a perverse intention, against the two sister nations.” However, they warn that if these measures they have requested are not taken they will see themselves “obliged” to respect their country, “and so avoid that it is used for interventionist conspiracies and demonstrations and the internal matters of other brother countries.”

The letter concludes by holding the Government of Panama responsible for what might happen if it does not take measures to avoid the forums. “If these activities and provocation and interference are not prevented, the national government will be responsible for whatever lamentable situation it might present.”

The organizations signing the letter are the Independent Movement of National Refoundation (MIREN), the Panama National Workers Center (CNTP), The Authentic Workers Federation (FAT), the CocaCola Workers Union, The National Brewery and Others (SITRAFCIREBGASCELIS), the Union Federation of the Workers of the Republic of Panama (FSTRP), the Wide Colon Front (FAC), the Veraguas Association of Educators (AEVE), the National Coordinator of Solidarity with Cuba, the Ecological Collective Voices (COVEXC), the Student Group of Transformative Thinking and Action (PAT), the Conscience Renewal Student Group (CORE), the Independent Association of Functionaries of the CSS (AIFCSS), the Panama Journalists Union (SPP), The Polo Citizenry, and the National Front for the Defense of Economic and Social Rights (FRENADESO).

Young Latin Americans call to fight against political apathy / 14ymedio

Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. (14ymedio)
Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. Eliecer Avila with the microphone. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 8 April 2015 — Young Latin American leaders gathered Tuesday on the second day of the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum in Panama and addressed issues such as the rise of populist regimes in the region, and agreed on the need to organize civil society at the hemispheric level to fight against political apathy.

The protagonists of the morning session were Micaela Hierro Dori, president of the Argentine civil association CICES, who acted as moderator; Ricardo Antonio Álvarez Arias, vice president of Honduras; Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala; Guillermo Cochez, former Ambassador of Panama to the Organization of American States (OAS); Martha Lucía Ramírez, former Minister of Defense of Colombia; Gustavo Amaya, executive director of the Center for Training and Promotion of Democracy (CECADE) in San Salvador; and Carolina Quinonez, a journalist from Guatamala’s Antigua Channel.

Political apathy, according to attendees at the meeting, threatens equally countries ruled by totalitarian regimes and those in which the society assumes that “all is well” or at least “better than in other countries,” because in the latter it can leave the door open to the possibility that populism and other deformations will silence thoughtful proposals to take advantage of what the traditional parties have not resolved. continue reading

Carlos Amel Oliva, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), compared this phenomenon with the rise of fascism in Europe before World War II, ignored by governments until the outbreak of the war. “The democratic countries of the region need to not let the same thing happen with populism. It is not Cuba’s or Venezuela’s problem, it is a regional problem.”

Press freedom was another issue that focused attention during the morning panel. The representative from UNPACU denounced the “media laws that are driving some governments to control and limit freedom of expression under the pretext of preventing the spread of lies and distortions.”

Participants also discussed the problem of parasitism that grows in the region due to both the family remittances from emigrants as well as government “handouts,” especially under populist systems, factors that discourage the growth and development of national economies and create a vicious circle that encourages emigration and at the same time reinforces parasitism.

Participants’ skepticism of transnational organizations and meetings was reflected in the statements of Eduardo Stein, shared by several attendees, who questioned the existence of a regional organization like the OAS. For the former vice president of Guatemala, on the OAS Permanent Council, the alliance of a few countries prevents certain issues from being analyzed in the Summits. “There will be no will to confront the political problems of each country, appealing to the right of national sovereignty,” he added about the Summit of the Americas.

The afternoon of the day was dedicated to the initiatives of young Cubans with regards to democratic opening, with the participation of Kirenia Yalit Núñez, Yasser Rojas, Eliécer Ávila and Roberto Jiménez on behalf of the Roundtable, a proposal of democratic changes on the base of initiatives that seek to involve all Cubans in the solution of the problems that affect the whole population.

Also presented at the meeting was the new Cuba Decides initiative led by Rosa María Payá and Erick Álvarez, members of the Christian Liberation Movement; while Yusmila Reyna and Carlos Amel Oliva spoke of the objectives of UNPACU.

Finally, the Aulas Abiertas (Open Classrooms) project was presented, a project which promotes knowledge of the basic questions inherent in democratic societies, to prepare citizens before the eventual process of transition in which they will be capable of participating with a proactive role.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to expand the debate with questions from the audience due to the frequent and prolonged power outages in the room where the session was being held, which also affected some of the equipment for projecting materials, and which the Forum organizers attributed a deliberate attempt to sabotage the activity.

Young people call to fight against fear and self-censorship / 14ymedio

Several activists of Cuban civil society at the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum (14ymedio)
Several activists of Cuban civil society at the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 April 2015 — The Second Regional Youth and Democracy Forum started Monday in Panama City with the challenge of becoming a “dialogue space for young leaders of student, social and political movements in the region.” The meeting, which runs until Tuesday and is organized by the Latin American Youth for Democracy Network (RLJD), is being held in the framework of the Summit of the Americas and aims to prepare future leaders for democratic governance and citizen participation, two of the priority themes of the Summit.

Most participants concluded, during the day yesterday, that the region is undermined by the cancer of populism, whose origins lie in Cuba. They also consider that democratic governments violate the fundamental principle of the Organization of American States (OAS) by sitting down with Cuba and Venezuela and not recognizing the legitimate voice of civil society in these countries. If the OAS and its organizations are not genetically reformulated, they warn, they will cease to have a reason for being and could lose any credibility as a regional body. continue reading

In the opening session,Guillermo Cochez, Panama’s former Ambassador to the OAS and member of the RLJD Advisory Council, urged the young people not to allow authoritarian governments to appropriate the discourse of social justice and of the continent. “I urge you to continue the fight against the enemies of democracy, who do not rest. You also must not rest in your struggle to defend democracy,” he urged.

Present at the conference were Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala, and Marta Lucía Ramírez, former Minister of Defense of Colombia, who participated with opinions and questions.

Yesenia Alvarez, director of the Institute for Political Freedom (IPL- Peru) and member of the Iberoamerican Youth Advisory Council, asked the young civil society leaders to look at the problems of each country across the region. “We join with Cuba, and we will continue together with the Cubans until they are free and can choose their destiny as a nation. We will work hard for it. The Latin American presidents will not speak about it, so I ask the civil society not to forget Cuba and Venezuela. Don’t be afraid. Dictatorships live in self-censorship that causes fear,” she added.

Meanwhile, Gina Romero of RedLad (Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy), called for developing an awareness of the kind of democracy that seeks and prioritizes the objective that all citizens have a decent life.

The first panel of the day, Youth Participation in Proposals for Strengthening Democracy and Governance, had as participants Pedro Cruz (Youth for Guatemala), Ricardo Sande (Student Federation of the Catholic University of Chile) and Rosa Maria Paya, who spoke of her project Cuba Decides. Also invited was, Rodrigo Diamanti, one of the directors of the video A World Without Gag Laws, who could not attend because the Venezuelan government prevented him from leaving the country. Sande demanded citizen involvement in politics to prevent the State from becoming the only provider of solutions. “There is no point having a democracy if we give the solution of the problems to power, (…) forgetting that citizens are responsible to each other, not to the states.”

Among those attending the second panel, on the Inter-American System of Human Rights and specific cases in the region, was Nizar El Fakih, a human rights lawyer from Venezuela who offered specific data on the situation in the country — including the unofficial count in 2013 showing 6% of the Venezuelan population in extreme poverty. Kirenia Nunez of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), warned of the known increase in short-term detentions on the island, while Ana Karina Garcia, from the Venezuelan Youth Popular Will, discussed the challenge to sensitize Venezuelan society to the fact that authoritarianism affects not only the opposition but the entire society. “The government is applying the same methods as the Cuban dictatorship, spreading terror to paralyze the population, alongside increasing deprivation and violence,” she said.

The Nicaraguan deputy Edipsia Dubon focused criticism of the government of her country on the Canal Law that will threaten and sweep away indigenous rights, given that 52% of the lands that will be confiscated by the State under the Law belong to those groups. For his part, Mauricio Alarcon, of Fundamedios (Ecuador), called attention to the violation of freedom of expression and press, as well as the attempts by some of the governments of the region to maintain themselves in power.

After a discussion between all the young participants and the social and political leaders from Latin America, the first day closed with a concert with Cuban hip hop artists Michel Matos (Matraka), Soandres del Rio, David D Omni and Aldo Roberto Rodriguez Baquero (of Los Aldeanos).