Are We Cubans More Unruly Than Other Peoples? / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Telephone with the handset ripped off
Telephone with the handset ripped off

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 30 September 2015 – “Nobody takes care of anything,” raged the lady in line at the cash register of a State butcher shop. She was referring to those who leave the refrigerators open or who put their shopping baskets on the glass counters. However, she didn’t seem to notice the lack of air conditioning, the stench coming from some of the freezers where the goods were spoiled, or the single employee taking payments, while the others looked on with their arms crossed. The customers are to blame, according to the feisty woman.

Social indiscipline has become a recurring theme in reports and interviews in the national media. Vandalism is blamed for everything, from problems with public transport buses to the deplorable state of planted areas. Official journalists raise the accusing finger more and more against the pillage, while barely addressing the educational and political system that has molded these citizens so bent on looting and destruction. continue reading

Social behavior is shaped by one’s environment. On a spotless floor, a clean sidewalk, in a cared-for city, many will imitate the environment and avoid dirtying, destroying or degrading it. Context greatly influences people’s attitude toward public spaces and common goods. But when the environment is dirty, assaulted by carelessness and becomes hostile, those who inhabit it will neither respect nor care for it.

Cubans are no more unruly than other human beings and yet, right now, a park filled with children’s play structures needs to be guarded like a bank, so that the swing seats, the iron from the carousels or the ropes from the climbing nets aren’t stolen. In poorly lit areas of the city people defecate or urinate, microdumps rise in thousands of corners and a stream of dirty water can fall from any balcony, directly on pedestrians below.

When the environment is dirty, assaulted by carelessness and becomes hostile, and those who inhabit it will neither respect nor care for it

The situation has gone on for so long that many have come to believe that it is in the DNA of our identity to not care for our surroundings. “This city couldn’t have a subway, because imagine the stink in those tunnels with people taking care of all their needs down there,” states a gentleman with the tint of a shabby official, while waiting at a bus stop.

With his words, the man suggested that we Cubans cannot enjoy the privileges of modernity and comfort, because we are unable to maintain them. However, this same “unredeemable exterminator” that we have become can get on a plane, go to New York or Berlin, and in two weeks in those place be throwing trash in the bins, not lighting up in public places, and cleaning the mud off their shoes before entering an office.

Vandalism is a problem present in all societies. Laws and control regulate it and keep it in check, but there it is. It is a part of our human nature that a moment of rage makes us take a blade and inscribe our name on a recently painted wall, or rip the fabric of a movie theater seat. Fines and other penalties should keep this vulture we all shelter within us from getting out of hand.

However, the context has to encourage people to care for things. It is not enough to call for discipline and formal education, the individual has to feel that it’s worth the trouble to preserve his or her surroundings. A street full of potholes, a late and overloaded bus, a sidewalk plunged into darkness, its single streetlight broken years ago, are the ideal components for depredation and pillage.

Many, like the lady who complained at the butcher’s, no longer perceive the scenario of constant attacks on the rights of consumers and citizens that our society presents. So accustomed to the abuse, the inefficiencies, the breakage and the high prices, they throw all the blame on those “unruly Cubans” who couldn’t “live anywhere without destroying it.”

Amnesty International Calls for Release of ‘El Sexto’ / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'The Sixth'. (Claudio Fuentes)
Danilo Maldonado, ‘The Sixth’. (Claudio Fuentes)

14ymedio, 29 September 2015 — The human rights defense organization Amnesty International on Tuesday launched an action to demand the release of the Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the Sixth), whom it considers a prisoner of conscience.

The artist wrote a “farewell letter” from the Valle Grande prison where he has been detained since last December for trying to organize a performance in which two piglets, painted with the names Raul and Fidel, would have been released in a public place. The letter, dated Sept. 16, was published by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) on its website .

The graffiti artist, imprisoned without trial or sentence, has maintained a hunger strike since 8 September.

The farewell letter of El Sexto

Valle Grande Prison

From the “cell” (of punishment)

September 16, 2015…

Where I am there is little light and I am in my underwear because I do not want to wear the prison uniform. They give me a mattress for 5 or 6 hours at night. I only drink water and there will be no ability to respond (from you to this letter) because they don’t allow contacts.

Thanks to Lia, Gorki, Antonio and everyone for helping my mother manage things. Thanks to Aylín for the beautiful and encouraging letters. I read them as many times as I could, I would like to write you a thousand letters like you deserve but now I do not think I will have the light, the paper, nor the energy to do it. continue reading

This may be my last letter from here in the punishment cell and if I survive you will hear more from my lips. So I want to tell everyone that I waited too long for this moment to do a hunger strike, we Cubans have wanted too long to expel these scoundrels.

Now that I have started, I feel my faith, determination and self-esteem go through the roof for having decided. I feel proud of being the artist that I am and of doing the art that I do for the Cuba I represent. So I am willing to give my life a hundred times if necessary.

He who lives without finding out what to die for, has not found the essence of life. A man with ideals of peace, love and one who does not carry a weapon to assert his opinions is the man of the future. Because with his faith, his hope, he builds an Eden here on earth.

Thank you all for trusting me and know that if I die I will die happy to carry with me a tattoo of my time like Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Paya, who left traces of their existence, of their generation, of their responsibility to leave behind then a legacy for their loved ones, one lesson: love what you do and devote your life to it.

I was born in a poor neighborhood, Nuevitas, Camagüey. My family is very humble: I lived in Arroyo Arenas from age 4; in Chafarinas, Guira de Melena; in Covadonga, Las Tunas: a village still without electricity; Guáimaro, Camagüey and Arroyo Arenas, La Lisa. And I was lucky to live in Vedado often, there I have my daughter Renata María, who was born in England.

I am a wanderer and I have gone here and there getting to know my country, my culture, that I love and so I raise my voice to denounce what seems wrong to me. I visited Holland for three months, I lived in The Hague, 45 minutes by train from the fabulous Amsterdam. I studied and lived at Miami Dade College in the United States for three months as well. All these places taught to me relate quickly to my surroundings, that the most important thing is to have friends, to love, to respect and not to do to anyone what we do not want them to do to us. I learned how to stand up to the powerful.

My art is respected today, more than anything because I believe in it. I respected it and gave it—and give it—all my strength, perseverance, affection and love. Although I was misunderstood and perhaps by others I still am, when those around you see so much love and how much you are able to give and how much you respect your art, then they begin to value it. But first we must build an altar of consecration in our chest and others, little by little, will begin to respect you for what you do: this knowledge is my legacy.

Someone said that all of humanity will part when we see a man who knows where he is going. This might be my last work and I have named it “Drawing Attention” or “The Awakening of the Inner Magician.” Each one of us has an inner magician. May my Gothic existence touch your hearts and light your flame and awaken your internal leader, being conscious of this gift of life and standing up against evil. Someone said, “The world is not this way because of those who do evil but because of those who allow it.”

This work is dedicated to my mother, my little daughter Renata María, to all those who support me, all those who added a grain of sand to achieve freedom for Cuba. To all the Ladies in White in the world and especially in Cuba: no more beating of women! To the memory of Laura, Oswaldo, Zapata.

This work is dedicated to my mother, my little daughter Renata María, to all those who support me, all who put in a grain of sand to achieve the freedom of Cuba. To all the Ladies in White of the world especially those in Cuba: no more beating of women! In memory of Laura, Oswaldo, Zapata.

The day I grabbed a spray can in my hand I decided what to do with my life.

So be it.

I am with faith and conviction: Liberty or death, to die for art is to live.


Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto.

Please sign for his freedom at < click there

El Sexto has been on a hunger strike since September 8th. He is demanding his freedom because he has been imprisoned since December 25th (of last year) for thinking to release some pigs with the names of Fidel and Raul, which he never released because he was imprisoned. He is in prison without trial or sentence or justice.

Pinar Del Rio, Under Siege By Dengue Fever / 14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez

Hallway in Pepe Portilla Pediatric Hospital where beds have been set up for fever patients. (Juan Carlos Fernandez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Carlos Fernandez, 29 September 2015 – The fear of contracting dengue fever keeps thousands of families on tenterhooks in the province of Pinar del Rio, especially those with young children.

Problems with the water supply are among the main causes for the outbreak, said a family doctor from the Hermanos Barcón People’s Council, who requested anonymity. “People build tanks, cisterns and try to store water and that is a constant focus of vectors,” he says. “There are areas in the city that only receive water every fifteen days,” adding that the “poor state of the health centers in the capital makes many people with the disease try to hide it so they will not be forced to go to a hospital,” thereby increasing the risk of contagion. continue reading

Hospitals have reinforced their services to deal with cases of dengue fever, especially Leon Cuervo Rubio Hospital and Abel Santamaría General Teaching Hospital, which has one room only for pregnant women. It has also set up a room at the Simon Boliver Health Polytechnic and another for infants in the Turcios Lima polyclinic, while in the Pepe Portilla Pediatric Hospital the avalanche of fever cases has required them to place beds in the corridors, with mosquito nets to prevent transmission.

Although health authorities spread the word about the increase of cases in the region they have not yet provided data on infections. Dr. Mérida Morales Lugo, head of the International Sanitary Control Program, simply explained last Friday in a statement to the local newspaper Guerrilla that conditions are favorable for “accelerated vector reproduction,” referring to the Aedes aegypti mosquito. However, the specialist said, so far there are no cases of hemorrhagic dengue fever, the most feared form of the disease.

There are confirmed cases of dengue fever in the four health areas of the Pinar del Rio capital and in eight of its People’s Councils, an area that has a population of about 122,000. The disease has also reached the municipalities of San Luis, San Juan y Martinez and Consolacion del Sur, near the provincial capital.

Health authorities have urged people to go to the doctor at the least sign of fever symptoms. Medical students, staff in all the family medicine offices and public health administrative workers have been mobilized along with other workplace employees to search house to house, looking for people with symptoms of the disease.

Wifi, Another Opportunity To “Resolve Things Under The Table” / EFE, Yeny Garcia

People of all ages connect to the WiFi from the center of Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)
People of all ages connect to the WiFi from the center of Pinar del Río. (14ymedio)

EFE, 14ymedio, Yeny Garcia, Havana, 28 September 2015 – For the last three months Cuba has experienced an unprecedented, although still limited, increase in Internet access with 35 new WiFi points, a boom that engages Cubans and that has led to the proliferation of services “under the table.”

Many “bisneros” [businessmen] or street traders have taken advantage of the inability of the telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA, to maintain a stable supply of recharge coupons, high prices and the lack of knowledge among neophyte users, to offer services outside the legal to meet demand.

“It’s like it’s always been, we try to resolve it however we can, we don’t worry too much about how, the problem is to resolve it, to connect,” says Gerardo, a young man who has settled with his laptop on a bench on Boulevard San Rafael in Old Havana, where one of the wireless internet areas operates. continue reading

Almost always this Cuban “resolve” goes one way: “under the table,” which explains what this young Havanan intends to do to be able to challenge the restrictions.

For Gerardo “the world moves through the Internet” so the access to the web brings “many benefits to Cubans,” although for some it is still very difficult to pay the 2 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) fee for one hour of internet (over $10 US or one-tenth or more of the average monthly wage).

The eagerness of Cubans to surf the web has resulted in 55,000 individual connections from the 35 WiFi points spread across the island

“The price for the cards is very expensive, because we cannot do much in an hour, the connection is very slow, you have to keep reconnecting, and in the end it is not economical for us,” he said.

Cuba is one of the countries with the lowest rates of connectivity in the world, with only 5% of people connected to the internet (that is, not the island’s own intranet), which is reduced to 1% for broadband.

The eagerness of Cubans to surf the web has resulted in 55,000 individual connections from the 35 WiFi points spread across the island, 8,000 of them simultaneously, according to the official data.

“Many people connect and ETECSA isn’t equipped to sell the recharge cards, the lines are very long, they’re only sold during working hours. So you have to go to the black market,” a “bisnero” who offers the service told EFE, asking for anonymity.

Reselling the cards, generally at 3 CUCs (one above the official price) means having “the police always on top of you,” and so this business has shifted to “installing software,” to turn cellphones into WiFi hotspots.

Several local media, among them the main official newspaper, Granma, criticize these WiFi “merchants” who sell to users via middlemen who use their devices to create alternative wireless networks that can be accessed for half the official price.

“People often do not have the money to take advantage of what is offered, but they’re aware of all this and have increased the surveillance; I myself have been picked up by the police, for no reason, and they had to let me go,” says this young man who recognizes that “the wifi is something that has not been developed as it should have been.”

“ETECSA isn’t equipped to sell the recharge cards, the lines are very long, they’re only sold during working hours. So you have to go to the black market”

Another user, Grisel, welcomes the opportunity to connect, but is concerned about the consequences, “You have to keep your eyes open, so that someone doesn’t take your cellphone,” recognizing that the price will continue to be “elevated” if you take into account the average Cuban salary.

Hundreds of people, focused on their phones, tablets and computers, accommodate themselves as best they can on sidewalks, benches, stairs and curbs within the WiFi zones, including Yainiel, who travels from Santiago de las Vegas, about 12 miles from Havana, to connect.

“I come from far away,” he tells EFE, while affirming that “when so many people with phones and computers are outdoors, robberies increase the insecurity.”

The young engineer acknowledges the poor quality of the connection, “when there are a lot of people it is very slow and that’s money that it’s costing you,” he said, noting that this is why many people prefer to pay half-price, even though it is illegal.

“If ETECSA lowers prices (…) and expands the sale of cards, this (the illegalities) will eventually fall,” he said, while excusing himself saying that in Cuba “time is money.”

Cuban Exiles Demand The Release Of Danilo Maldonado / EFE, 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'El Sexto' (The Sixth). (Artist's File)
Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth). (Artist’s File)

EFE, Miami, 29 September 2015 — The Assembly of Cuban Resistance in Miami on Tuesday demanded the release in Cuba of artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), who has spent 22 days on a hunger strike to demand his freedom after nine months of detention.

According to the Cuban exile group, the graffiti artist is in “critical condition” in the Cuban prison of Valle Grande, in the province of Mayabeque, along with the activisits Zaqueo Báez, Ismael Bonet Reñé and María Josefa Acón, detained in Havana and also on hunger strike.

The organization explained that Maldonado was arrested in December 2014 for painting the names of the two Castro brothers on the backs of two pigs, before an artistic performance he was going to stage with the animals. continue reading

The group called on human rights organizations and the international community to “show solidarity with this cause.”

“No trial has yet been held and the reason is that he simply wanted to stage a performance,” the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance said in a statement today.

The organization said that the three other human rights activists belong to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and were arrested on 20 September during the visit of Pope Francis to the island.

“We call on the international community to support these defenders of human rights whose lives are really at risk,” Antonio Rodiles said in a statement; Rodiles is one of the coordinators of the Forum on the Rights and Freedoms.

After more than five decades of enmity, Cuba and the United States re-established diplomatic relations on 20 July.

The White House said this Tuesday that President Barack Obama “reaffirmed” before his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, his “commitment” to ensure that the Government of the island “does a better job” in protecting the human rights of its citizens, following the participation of both presidents on Monday at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Soup Under the Eclipse / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). "Down with the blockade." (small sign in the window) Boulevard de San Rafael, Central Havana. (14ymedio)
Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). “Down with the blockade.” (small sign in the window) Boulevard de San Rafael, Central Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 28 September 2015 — On the night of a red moon eclipse, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) celebrated the 55th anniversary of the founding of their organization. Updated reports state that more than 8,500,000 people (91% of the population over age 14) are enrolled in the CDRs, of which there are 136,000 registered throughout the country.

In a common pot the broth is cooking, with root vegetables, a pig’s head or some rib bones. There is music, rum and a statement is read at midnight. The youngest dance, while the oldest repeat the same jokes from the year before and there is always someone who asks about someone else to which the response is “they passed to a better life,” which means they left the country. continue reading

This organization, ubiquitous in the ‘60s and ‘70s, no longer represents the threat that terrorized so many people. It is strange, at least in Havana and other provincial capitals, that the CDR surveillance continues, a task that was presented as the original and main work of the committees. On the other hand, membership in the CDRs has become ever more formal and meaningless, as the only thing demanded from each member is that they pay the dues, which allows them to aspire to a job that requires them to be trustworthy, because they can identify themselves on the forms as a CDR member.

As a part of the attempts to “civilize” the tough forces of the CDR, political persecution is now disguised as “the fight against crime, illegalities and social indiscipline.”

One of the most common difficulties for the organization now is to complete all the assigned tasks. That is why at the beginning of the year a campaign was developed to attract young people to infuse fresh blood. According to official reports, currently 42% of the leadership positions are held by people under 35.

Another novelty is trying to revive the lost vigor of the CDRs by calling them non-governmental organizations, dedicated to acting on behalf of the community, with voluntary blood donations, organizing sporting activities and the beautification and cleaning of public areas.

In this regard, Carlos Rafael Miranda, National Coordinator of the CDRs, said in a recent interview in the national press, “We have to ensure that every CDR has its own content, that implies that its members become involved in the transformation of the community for the good of neighbors. The organization has to be useful for the neighborhood. And it is essential to our core mission, which is the unity of revolutionaries in defense of the Revolution.”

As a part of the attempts to “civilize” the tough forces of the CDR, political persecution is now disguised as “the fight against crime, illegalities and social indiscipline.” In this way they propose to give it a preventive character, even when it comes to such sensitive issues as trafficking in and using drugs. In this aspect great importance is given to the 308 “Detachments Watching the Sea,” which are dedicated to investigating and collecting drug caches that are thrown overboard along Cuba’s coasts by drug traffickers before they are captured.

All efforts to mask the repressive face of the institution become useless when the highest levels require the immediate mobilization of the “rapid action brigades” to confront any opposition demonstration. Then, the community’s guileless benefactors go from being willing to donate their own blood, to willingness to shed the blood of others, and the vocation to work together to improve the neighborhood becomes a fierce intolerance of divergent thinking.

The eclipse on this night of celebrations is not announcing anything good.

Raul Castro At The UN, From Delirium To Sanity / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Cuban President Raul Castro. (Flickr / Summit of the Americas)
Cuban President Raul Castro. (Flickr / Summit of the Americas)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 26 September 2015 — On Monday September 26, 1960 Fidel Castro gave a memorable speech at the United Nations General Assembly of nearly 5 hours. The anti-imperialist rhetoric of the bearded leader shocked representatives of Third World countries with lapidary phrases such as, “Let the philosophy of plunder disappear, and be gone the philosophy of war!” or that other one, “to his lordship the delegate of the United States, I take advantage of this opportunity to say that there are many mothers in the Cuban countryside and many mothers in Cuba, still waiting for their telegrams of condolence for their children murdered by American bombs.” In his defiant speech the commander mentioned the name of his neighbor to the north 148 times.

Fifty years and three days later, on another Monday, Raul Castro will rise to the green marble podium where his brother railed against president Eisenhower and the presidential candidates Nixon and Kennedy. But this 28 September the Cuban president’s tone will be less bellicose and, without a doubt, much briefer. The blockade, the Guantanamo naval base, compensation for the damages and injuries and an end to the broadcasts of Radio and TV Martí will be the high points of his agenda as conditions for the normalization of relations with the United States.

Most likely among all those present none are left of those who witnessed Fidel Castro’s marathon dissertation, nor have his promises survived continue reading

The Soviet Union no longer exists and Cuba is the only dictatorship in Latin America, where the last guerrilla has promised to lay down his arms. There are no colonies in Africa, and the greatest danger facing the developed countries of the western world is not communism, but Islamic fundamentalism. All the world’s leaders are closer than ever to reaching a global accord to save the planet from its environmental hazards. It is a different world today and Cuba cannot remain the same.

The meeting, which will last three days and includes the participation of 150 heads of state and government, has as its goal to discuss the new objectives of sustainable development; it opened with the speech of Pope Francis and in the course of it the proposals of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama will be heard.

The presence of Raul Castro interrupts a 15-year absence of a Cuban leader in the General Assembly and will be the prelude to what will happen next month, when this forum of the United Nations again votes a resolution against the American embargo of the island. It has been speculated that the US delegation will abstain, which would be unprecedented in American foreign policy.

Most likely among all those present none are left of those who witnessed Fidel Castro’s marathon dissertation. Nor have the promises made that day, to make Cuba an island of hope, survived. The task of Raul Castro will be to erase the delirium and demonstrate sanity.


Education Launches a New Offensive against the “Weekly Packet” / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

A Cuban accessing the “Weekly Packet” from his laptop at home (14ymedio)
A Cuban accessing the “Weekly Packet” from his laptop at home (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 September 2015 – Under the name To Educate Yourself, the Ministry of Education announced Thursday a collection of documentaries, films and music that it will begin distributing monthly in its learning facilities during the current academic year. In open competition with the illegal weekly packet of audio-visual material, this official rival seeks to establish itself as “an attractive offering of Cuban education” through content of “good taste.”

The compendium is aimed at those among whom the weekly packet is a hit. The majority of Cuban children and teens frequently watch cartoons, video clips, series and films that are distributed on the black market. In order to compete with those materials, the Ministry announces that its offering has “a search engine so that the user is not lost searching among more than a terabyte of data.” continue reading

The new product will include courses and tutorials for the self-study of foreign languages, computation, agriculture, and masonry, as Barreto detailed. Some materials will be accompanied by animated graphics and a tool to display video, text and photos at the same time, reported the official.

However, the official announcement did not address how copyrights will be managed on To Educate Yourself. Cuban television and national media frequently overlook payment for rights to films, concerts and musical recordings, especially those coming from the United States, which are the majority.

Divided into folders, like its rival alternative, the file will contain a section called Learn to Look with “expert commentaries and interesting facts so that the young form critical judgment about what they are watching,” Barreto specified.

The Cinesoft manager added that a second packet aimed at teachers and entitled The Teaching Library will also be distributed every fifteen days and will consist of books, articles and theses.

Given the serious material problems which plague labs in many of the country’s learning centers, To Educate Yourself will include a collection of virtual labs for Physics, Chemistry and Biology so that “when [the students] truly perform the exercise, there will be less risk that they will break some implement or spill a substance.”

This is not the first time that the government has tried to compete with the weekly packet. Distribution in Youth Clubs of the Backpack, a collection of audio-visual materials, began in August 2014; so far it has had a poor popular reception.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Nearly 300 Cubans Detained This Weekend Trying To Enter Honduras / 14ymedio

It is becoming more common to hold Cubans at the Migrant Center in Choluteca due to the increased migration flows. (La prensa)
It is becoming more common to hold Cubans at the Migrant Center in Choluteca due to the increased migration flows. (La prensa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 22 September 2015 – A total of 281 Cubans have been detained this weekend while trying to enter Honduras through its southern border, according to what immigration authorities of that Central American country reported this Monday. In addition to the Cubans, there were two Pakistanis, four Africans (without specifying the country), four Bangladeshis and 10 Romanians.

“In all, 301 foreigners were detained as they passed through the south zone, among them 10 minors, aged between three months and seven years,” Jose Luis Lozano, regional director of migration, told the local press. Lozano added that this is the largest detention recorded so far this year, which had never exceeded 200 people. continue reading

Those detained declared that it is likely other Cubans would continue to arrive in the country in the coming days, as several groups left the island simultaneously with the intention of reaching the United States, according to El Heraldo.

The flood of Cubans was so great that the Migrant Center in Choluteca was too small to accommodate the detainees, who had been staying in a hotel in Tegucigalpa and will have to pay with their own month for the rooms. “In the hostel there were only the migrants from Pakistan, Romania, Africa and Bangladesh,” the official told reporters.

Lozano also said that in August alone, 2,235 people were stopped coming in, mostly from Cuba. Before reaching the country, the detainees spent several days in Nicaragua, and according to the authorities they had left the country three months ago.

The passage of Cubans through Honduras has increased in recent years in line with the increase of the migratory flow to the United States for fear of losing the privileges enjoyed by natives of the island due to the Cuban Adjustment Act. In 2014, some 4,249 Cuban citizens were found without documents in Honduras, while in 2015 so far there are more than 9,000.

Honduras provides humanitarian safe conducts to Cubans who step on its territory, therefore, the migrants come to the office of Choluteca to obtain the permit allowing them to stay in the country for five days and then continue on their way to their real goal: the United States.

The land route to the northern neighbor starts for most Cubans in Ecuador, a country that does not require a visa or a letter of invitation to enter its territory. From there begins a long and dangerous journey that includes passing through seven countries: Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

Entry through Mexico has also skyrocketed in recent times. The number of rafters rescued by the Mexican Navy off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula has increased tenfold in just two years. From January to August 2015, a total of 208 Cubans were picked up at sea, according to figures the Secretary of the Navy provided to 14ymedio, compared with 74 in 2014 and 26 in 2013.

‘El Sexto’ Writes A Farewell Letter From His Cell / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'El Sexto'. (Claudio Fuentes)
Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’. (Claudio Fuentes)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 September 2015 — The artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), wrote a “farewell letter” from the Valle Grande prison where he has been detained since last December for trying to organize a performance at which he would have released two pigs painted with the names Raul and Fidel in a public place. The letter, dated Sept. 16, was published by the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) on its website. [An English version of the letter is here.]

The graffiti artist, imprisoned without trial or sentence, has maintained a hunger strike since 8 September.

Writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo Receives Refuge in Reykjavik / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
The writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mexico, 24 September 2015 — The writer and photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo has received refuge in the capital city of Reykjavik, Iceland, through the Network of International Cities of Refuge (ICORN), he himself confirmed to 14ymedio. The Cuban artist also received guarantees of housing and the freedom to create.

He is the second writer received by the city of Reykjavik city under these conditions – the Palestinian Mazen Maarouf was awarded refuge in 2011 – and the second Cuban to be welcomed by ICORN. Before Pardo Lazo, the poet and narrator Carlos Alberto Aguilera, former editor of Diaspora(s) and editor of the website InCubadora, was granted refuge; today he lives in Prague. continue reading

This network of cities, created in the mid-nineties by Salman Rushdie – then under the protection of Scotland Yard from the fatwa pronounced against him by Ayatollah Khomeini – Wole Soyinka and Vaclav Havel, among others, seeks to help and protect writers who cannot live in their homelands.

Pardo Lazo was born in Cuba in 1971 and graduated as a biochemist from the University of Havana, although he also worked as a journalist and social activist. With extensive work as a photographer, he developed several digital spaces, among them the blogs Boring Home Utopics and Lunes de Post-Revolution (Post-Revolution Mondays). On the island he edited the independent digital magazines Cachorro(s), The Revolution Evening Post and Voces (Voices).

In February 2013, following changes in Cuba’s laws regarding travel and immigration, the writer left the country and would have had to return before 24 months in order to maintain his right to live in Cuba. As he explained to this newspaper, it was at that moment that he chose “no return” and, since then, he has lectured at several universities in the United States on social activism in Cuba and literary censorship.

Until a few months ago he was a member of the International Writers Project at Brown University, where he also served as adjunct professor of creative writing in the Department of Hispanic Studies.

How did the blogger take the news of his refuge in Reykjavik? He answers: “When I was in my country, I was a writer in exile; therefore, now from exile I am much less so.” He concludes: “I have come to the end of the world to reconnect with the intimate and intimidating memory of my sentimental Cuba.”

To Enter The Game of Heberto Padilla / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The Salvadoran journalist Roque Dalton with the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla (left) in Havana in 1966. (Wikimedia)
The Salvadoran journalist Roque Dalton with the Cuban poet Heberto Padilla (left) in Havana in 1966. (Wikimedia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 September 2015 — Some biographies record it as September 24, others as the 25th. I haven’t been able to confirm it, what is known is that it is now 15 years since the death of the poet. To a person as irreverent as Heberto Padilla, surely he would have been amused by the confusion that reigned among the lovers of anniversaries when it came to deciding between today and tomorrow to publish something about the anniversary.

I have no right to say I was his friend, but I’m honored to have known him personally during the years when he was exiled within the island in his apartment on Humboldt Street. continue reading

One day in 1970, he poked his head around the door of my classroom at the University of Havana’s Journalism School, asking for me by name. He came to return a notebook that I, in my infinite youthful daring, had given him with the intention that he would read what I then thought were poems.

Germán (I omit his surname out of common decency), who was already an informer for State Security and sat behind me, asked me where I knew him from and all I could think to say was, “He is a neighbor of my brother-in-law.”

Today I don’t know what I should repent of more, my boldness in having given him those tasteless verses to read, or of having denied him in such a cowardly way. In compensation, I have spent all these years spreading his poetry among the young who have no access to his work, and shamelessly quoting him whenever the occasion allows it.

Let others undertake the exegesis of his verses, the analysis of his behavior, the chronicling of “his case,” which was a watershed in the romance between the intellectuals and the Revolution. Here I just want to mention him with a free interpretation of the first two lines of his book Fuera del Juego (Out of the Game): “The poet remembers, he has a lot to do here!”*

*Translator’s note: Padilla’s poem, Out of the Game, reads: The poet! Kick him out! / He has no business here. / He doesn’t play the game. / He never gets excited / Or speaks out clearly. / He never even sees the miracles.

Obituaries: The Guardian, The LA Times

Activists Arrested for Approaching the Pope on Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

Activists detained during the Mass of Pope Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. (Still from a video)
Activists detained during the Mass of Pope Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. (Still from a video)

14ymedio, 24 September 2015 — The three activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) arrested on Sunday during Pope Francis’s Mass Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana remain on hunger strike, according to a Thursday statement from UNPACU.
The regime opponents, who were arrested as they approached the Pope to denounce the situation of human rights in Cuba, are being held at the police station known as 100 y Aldabó in the capital.

“From the day of their arrest, Zacchaeus Baez, Maria Josefa Acón and Ismael Bonet have been on a hunger strike,” the statement says, adding: “As of yesterday the decided that it would also be a thirst strike.” The activists, according to the statement, “belong to the UNPACU Felix Varela Cell in Calabazar” and Ancon is also a member of the Ladies in White.

The opposition group has begun “a campaign in support of the three detainees,” according to its leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer. The first actions are aimed at “informing the public through disks and printed matter about the action in the Square.” The former political prisoner says that the organization is posting notices “on poles, walls and other sites with photos of the three and explanations of what they did.”

Under the theme of “The three who reached the Pope” UNPACU has also organized marches in the east of the country, in Camagüey, Havana and Pinar del Río. The statement warns that, “if they are not released, the next step in solidarity with the three could be a mass hunger strike in public places.”

Dreams of a Cuban Catholic / 14ymedio, Jorge Guillen

Pope Francis during his homily at the Mass celebrated in Holguin. (Video capture)
Pope Francis during his homily at the Mass celebrated in Holguin. (Video capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Guillen, 23 September 2015 — Pope Francis left Cuba and left us several important messages. He spoke to us of service to others, mercy, love, humility. However, more than words, his ideas also came with gestures and attitudes. After hearing and seeing him, I wondered: Could this man help to transform the attitudes and the language of our leaders?

We will have to wait a little to find out, but the seed is planted and it’s up to us to fertilize and water it to fruition. We cannot allow ourselves to continue bleeding in this sterile struggle. Cuba belongs to all Cubans, no matter how they think and no matter how they live. Those who run the country have the obligation to guarantee the peaceful coexistence and social friendship of all the people. continue reading

For many years, we Cubans have been engaged in one of those phases of the third world war mentioned by Pope Francis. In our case it involves the infamous Battle of Ideas, the main ingredient of which is feeding hatred and violence among Cuban themselves.

While this is happening in the interior of the island, the official delegations that attend international events like the ALBA and CELAC summits make speeches where they squander solidarity, commitment and love.

I dream that this government’s foreign policy would also apply to the Cuban people.

That attitude was also perceived in the Cuban television journalists who covered the papal visit. Francis repeated phrases and tried to link all the positive things he said to the Cuban Revolution, while the negative he laid on the rest of the world. He gave the impression, in his words, that in this island everything is fine and that is the rest of the planet that is very wrong. They did not want to recognize that although the Holy Father addressed his remarks to everyone, he did so in a way especially to Cubans: from the government, the religious, regime opponents and even non-believers.

Inspired by the messages of Francis, civil society must work together in building a new Cuba, in a culture of encounter and dialogue, justice and love. There also needs to be an end at the information monopoly of the Communist Party and give recognition to civil society, regardless of ideological differences and points of view. It’s time to stop being “a light on the street and dark at home*,” and to work within our country for love and humility.

*Translator’s note: The old expression “Candil de la calle, oscuridad de la casa” (a light in the street, darkness at home) means that a person is effective (“lit up”) away from home and with others, but useless (“dark”) at home.

Pope On Dissidents In Cuba: “I Did Not Give Audiences To Anyone” / EFE, 14ymedio

Activists detained during the Mass of Pope Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. (Still from a video)
Activists detained during the Mass of Pope Francisco in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. (Still from a video)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Aboard the Papal plane, 22 September 2015 — Pope Francis said Tuesday that during his stay in Cuba he had no plans to grant audiences to “anyone,” on being questioned about why he had not held a meeting with members of the Cuban dissidence.

On board the papal plane the pontiff added that he was not aware that there had been arrests of dissidents who had sought a meeting with him during his visit to the Island, which ended today in Santiago de Cuba.

“What I want to say is that I do not know,” the Pope told the international media, among them EFE, on the plane traveling from Cuba to the United States where he will complete the second part of this tenth international trip. “I do not know if they were or not,” he said after recalling that he greeted many people during his public events in Cuba and he wasn’t aware whether among them were any dissidents because “no one identified themselves.” continue reading

“In the first Nunciature it was clear I wouldn’t give audiences to anyone, because they asked,” admitted Francis, who revealed that among those who asked to have a meeting with him “was a chief of state,” whose identity he did nor reveal.

But asked if he would be willing to meet with Cuban dissidents, the Pope answered, “I like to meet all the people, I believe that first of all every person is a child of God and has the right” to it. “Dealing with another person is always enriching,” added Jorge Bergoglio.

The lack of a meeting with members of the political opponents of the Cuban regime was a matter the Vatican was asked about during the Pope’s visit to Cuba, but the Holy See insisted that there had never been a plan to have a formal meeting.

The Vatican did say that telephone contacts with dissidents were held to explore the possibility of some of its members greeting the pope, but in the end this did not happen.

Berta Soler, leader of the dissident movement Ladies in White, and the former political prisoner José Daniel Ferrer reproached the pontiff for failing to address in his homilies and speeches the situation of fundamental rights in the country.

“Truly, we know he is not the liberator of Cuba, the Pope came as a missionary of mercy and to discuss the approach of the Church with the government, which he said very nice words about in his homilies, but words such as respect for human rights and freedom were lacking,” Berta Soler told EFE.

Ferrer, coordinator of the opposition Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), lamented that there were no “clear statements” in the “timid” papal homilies, while “today there have been between 80 and 100 arrests of activists in Santiago de Cuba and neighboring municipalities to prevent them from attending Francis’s events.”

“We have not heard the term ‘human rights’ anywhere and we regret that the Pope has not spoken directly about the difficult situation in Cuba in this area,” he said. Nevertheless, former political prisoner Marta Beatriz Roque considered that the pope’s visit will bring “contributions,, as happened with John Paul II in 1998 and Benedict in 2012.

Roque, like Soler and independent journalist Miriam Leiva, were detained for some hours in the first two days of the papal visit, they complained, when they tried to attend events presided over by the Pope in Havana, at the invitation of the Apostolic Nunciature.

Leiva told EFE that although she could not meet with the Pope, she praised as “very positive” the fact that she had been invited because “it was a way to meet and listen to the opposition in Cuba” through them, and “to recognize a part of civil society that is ignored because the government does not listen.”

“The Pope’s pastoral objective was to share his message of mercy and its importance is that he came to the people with love, reconciliation and forgiveness, which are much needed in Cuba in the rescue of social values,” he said.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said that Francis’s visit has “special significance” for its “renewal” message of “hope” for the Cuban family and church-state relations. He also said that he respects the “pragmatism” and “wisdom” of the Catholic leader, who avoided the issue of human rights in Cuba.

However, Sanchez criticized that the Cuban government celebrated the presence of the high Vatican official with “a lot of political and social repression as is a constant.” His organization, the only one on the island documenting arrests for political reasons during the papal visit, recorded between 150 and 200 arrests on these grounds, including home arrests and short-term confinements in police stations.