Searches And Arrests On The Eve Of Human Rights Day / 14ymedio

Ladies in White arrested in Havana on Human Rights Day 2014.
Ladies in White arrested in Havana on Human Rights Day 2014.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 December 2015 – In the morning hours on Wednesday, the political police undertook a thorough search of the Patriot Union of Cuba (UNPACU) headquarters in the Playa district of Havana. A portable computer and other belongings were seized, a few hours before the start of activities for Human Rights Day.

The owner of the home and activist of the organization, Arcelio Rafael Molina, told 14ymedio that “at approximately 7 in the morning the police started knocking” on his door and showed him a search warrant. After taking the laptop, “a piece of equipment to improve the wifi signal, that we use to send email,” and printed documents, “they did not leave a list of the seized items,” the homeowner said.

Molina is sure they took the signed copies of “the complaints that had been filed with the national leadership of the Police and other authorities, regarding a similar search,” last October. continue reading

During the operation, Jorge Cervantes Garcia and Andro Ross were arrested; both are members of the UNPACU in Santiago de Cuba and they were in the home at the time. To date their whereabouts are unknown.

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, denounced that in the town of Esmeralda in Ciego de Avila province, the Lady in White Yarleni Sanchez was arrested on her way to a medical clinic. The police arrested her because they assumed she was on her way to Havana to participate in the demonstration planned for Thursday at 23rd and L in Vedado, to mark Human Rights Day.

Other Ladies in White, Julia Herrera and Nieves Caridad Matamoros, have reported having their houses surrounded to prevent their going out in response to the call to demonstrate. For the same reason the police detained Pavel Herrera, a member of the opposition movement For a New Republic, at 6.30 in the morning, and Rolando Reyes Rabanat, who was taken from his home this morning.

Opposition Will Gather at 23 and L on Thursday, Human Rights Day / 14ymedio

Gathering in Havana for Human Rights Day 2014 (14ymedio)
Gathering in Havana for Human Rights Day 2014 (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 December 2015 – December 10, Human Rights Day, in Cuba has become a framework for various opposition activities and countless arrests. This year, several independent civil society groups have planned public activities, despite the possible repression. The Ladies in White have issued a call for a peaceful demonstration at the centrally located corner of 23rd and L, in Havana, at one in the afternoon.

Last Sunday, after ending their usual march along Fifth Avenue, Berta Soler told 14ymedio that the activity will promote “the exercise of freedom of association, of expression and of peaceful protest… If we don’t get there, it will be because we have been arrested or because when trying to leave our homes or on our way there they have blocked us from reaching the site,” she said. continue reading

With regards to the organizational details, she pointed out, “We are expecting Ladies in White from other places, although we will concentrate in the capital.” The activist and leader of the movement said that, “this call is not only to the women of our organization, but it is an invitation extended to other human rights activists and citizens in general.”

Other organizations and activists have also proposed activities to celebrate the date. The dissident and blogger Agustin Lopez announced that he will repeat his action of last year, consisting of distributing flyers with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in a central location in Havana.

On that occasion, Lopez was brutally repressed and the moment of his arrest was captured in a photo that was widely disseminated through social networks.

The celebration of Human Rights Day last year resulted in the arrests of more than 240 activists around the country, according to figures provided by opposition groups. Several independent journalists, including two reporters from this newspaper, were also arrested.

Esther Is Nowhere To Be Found / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Esther is the female "star" of a constellation of men trying to drown their sorrows in alcohol. (Luz Escobar)
Esther is the female “star” of a constellation of men trying to drown their sorrows in alcohol. (Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 9 December 2015 — He woke in a doorway and could not remember how he got there. A few yards away, another drunk was snoring on his own urine. The scene was told in front of the national television cameras by the actor Mario Limonta, proof that the debate on alcoholism is winning space in the media, although it is still a long way from reflecting the seriousness of the problem.

Unlike the known actor, Esther not been interviewed on prime-time evening news, nor has she overcome her addiction. In the Silvia bar, on the corner of Vapor and Principe streets in Central Havana, she is the female “star” of a constellation of men trying to drown their sorrows in alcohol. Tourists who pass by take photos of the suggestive façade, a knife painted green and yellow, while inside the air smells of cheap rum and sweat. continue reading

Alcoholism is among the top ten causes of death in Cuba and specialists acknowledge that in the past two decades the consumption of such beverages has increased considerably. The share of men who drink is 47% while in the case of women it exceeds 19%. For females attached to a bottle, the drama is twofold, as they must face greater social rejection: both for drinking and for being women who do it.

Thin and short, Esther isn’t yet fifty years old but she already seems like a old woman. She worked at a downtown hotel in Old Havana for some years. “Every morning she would be all decked out,” remembers a neighbor in her building near the so-called Martyrs’ Park. “Now no one can stand to be three steps from her, everyone scorns her,” adds the lady.

The life of this Havanan sunk in addiction changed when she met Ignacio. With him, “every night was a party,” and at the beginning it was all “glamorous” but as the months went by, “we didn’t care any more which bar it was, as long as they served alcohol,” says Esther sadly, but without shame. Since then she has shared with him hugs and drinks, fights and nights of sleeping in any stairway they find.

She acknowledges she lost her shame the first time she had sex in a dark park with a stranger, just because he offered her a bottle filled with “good rum.” Then came the scandals at home when they didn’t open the door late at night, the fights in the bar because she didn’t have any money and “needed to keep drinking.” She remarked that yes, “in the beginning it is a desire,” but later on “it becomes a necessity.”

Violence is inextricably linked to the consumption of this substance. In Cuba between 20% and 69% of those hospitalized for injuries suffer from some disorder caused by alcohol, making alcoholism into the most prevalent chronic disease of patients with trauma, according to the report Projections of Public Health in Cuba 2015, drafted by the Ministry of Public Health.

To find some exit from the dead-end in which the disease trapped her, Esther’s mother took her by the hand to receive specialized care in a hospital. After receiving treatment and spending days in the hospital, they recommended she visit the nearest Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group. Before going to the first meeting she had a relapse.

The experience of Alcoholics Anonymous in Cuba dates back to January 1993, after the visit of seven members of that organization from San Francisco. They founded the group Sueño (Dream) that started with nine members in some facilities of the William Carey Church in the Vedado neighborhood. A month later 50 Mexican AA members arrived to sponsor Cubans. Today, there are more than 200 groups throughout the country.

It was not until after her third hospitalization that Esther, “the star” of the Silvia bar, arrived at the AA meeting at Carmen Church, a few yards from her home. The first day she was overcome with shyness and found that of the six people who attended, she was the only woman. She notes that then “I let my tongue go” and “talked up a storm,” but confides with pain, resigned, that she has been unable to “go three months without drinking.”

The psychology student Erika Barrios Mancriff, of the Calixto Garcia Faculty of Medical Sciences, wrote her thesis on the testimony of 25 patients between 25 and 60 years of age, in Central Havana, just where Esther lives. An area which has the district’s highest incidence of addiction in the country, as confirmed by official sources.

Barrios Mancriff found, from the results of her research, that “these patients have low self-esteem while rejecting the behavior patterns of their families – many times their parents are also alcoholics – and yet they repeat these patterns of behavior.”

Esther’s parents, however, are like the neighbors everyone wants to have: quiet, saddened by the actions of their daughter, and willing to help her detox. To get to “their little girl” out of the hole she’s fallen into, they need her to start by recognizing that she needs help. For women it is more difficult to accept that they are addicted.

Women who suffer from this disease are more greatly disadvantaged than men. Esther says that “in the world of drunks, women are frowned upon,” adding that “most men lose no opportunity to take advantage.” She adds mischievously, “That’s why I sought a man equally drunken, like me, because even if he is always falling he defends me.”

She has been with him more than seven years, but he has never managed to overcome it with his stints in rehab or visits to the AA group. She suspects that maybe that is why she has never made it out “of the hole… Every time I get discharged from the hospital I go back to the house and there he is, in the same old thing,” she reflects.

Juan Emilio Sandoval Ferrer, president of the Cuban Society of Psychiatry Addiction Section, found that among the major challenges of the public health system is the prevention of alcoholism through education and promotion of healthy lifestyles in the population.

“There is very little talk about it and much less about the risk for women also,” says this graduate in history who spent more than a decade of her life fighting against the temptation to “tipple.” According to her, “the majority of my women friends take pills, like diazepam, chlordiazepoxide and amitriptyline, but nobody is shocked with that … Now, if I have a drink, everyone calls me a drunk.”

Research suggests that alcohol causes more damage in women who have less body water than men. Thus, the level of saturation or condensation of substances in the body is higher and the toxicity of the substance is faster and more intense. And social rejection makes them take longer to ask for help.

On Sunday, Esther did not go to the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting where her companions in rehabilitation were waiting for her. A few yards from the church where the group meets, in the seedy Silvia bar, her uncontrolled laughter was heard all afternoon.

From Little Pioneers To Pioneers Of Entrepreneurship / 14ymedio, Mario Penton Martinez

Panel of Cuban entrepreneurs in Miami, during the 'Emerging Tech In Cuba: Meet Its Pioneers' event. (14ymedio)
Panel of Cuban entrepreneurs in Miami, during the ‘Emerging Tech In Cuba: Meet Its Pioneers’ event. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton Martinez, Miami, 8 December 2016 — “Starting a new business should start with a good financial advice,” says the business card of Marta Deus’s company. After 15 years in Spain, this entrepreneur returned to the island and now advises self-employed workers on accounting. She was in Miami on Monday to attend a technology event where the public was invited to meet the pioneers of entrepreneurship in Cuba, Emerging Tech In Cuba: Meet Its Pioneers.

Cases like Deus’s are becoming more common. Other people are opening the way into the emerging Cuban private sector Cuban, mixing creativity, daring and technology. These pioneers of virtual businesses on the island presented their achievements in the meeting organized by #CubaNow and Techweek in front of an attentive audience, made up mostly of Cuban Americans. continue reading

From the stage were heard stories like that of Hiram Centelles, founder of the popular classifieds site Revolico. The stars of the day were some of the most visible faces of the emerging business community that has converted challenges into opportunities, finding business niches among Cuba’s many daily difficulties. All of them have been trained since childhood, as “Little Pioneers,” in a system that demonized the market, capital and business. But ultimately they have shaken off those prejudices to become entrepreneurs.

Centelles is currently heading up two other projects. The first Yagruma, is a crowdfunding platform for Cuban artists who are waiting for new US regulations to operate without the restrictions imposed by the embargo. The other is Fonoma, which facilitates the payment of Cubans’ telephone bills by family and friendsmabroad and has excellent business prospects, according to its developers.

Others, like Yondainer Gutierrez, are betting on the restaurant industry. Speaking in Miami, he explained the details of the restaurant directory Alamesa, which he created to bring customers to the best paladares (private restaurants) in the country. Started in 2011, there is now an Android app that contains records of more than 600 restaurants in nine provinces, with geolocation and offline maps.

The guest who generated the most excitement, however, was Elio Hector Lopez, also known as El Transportador, who talked about the origins of the “weekly packet,” an illegal compendium of audiovisual and digital content that is distributed on the black market throughout the country, which he has been a part of since the beginning.

With the rule “zero politics, zero violence, zero pornography,” Lopez’s packet has managed to avoid official censorship, although it is not looked on kindly by the cultural institutions which accuse him of encouraging frivolity and bad taste. In recent months the advertising potential of this product has grown, becoming a vehicle for disseminating the work of other entrepreneurs in the country.

The dialogue with the audience addressed the biggest obstacles facing these pioneers of digital enterprise. Difficulties in internet access and the high cost of connections was at the center of complaints. The need for banking reform to enable payments and collections online was also mentioned, as well as the obstacles of the bureaucracy and slowness of some official paperwork requirements.

To the question of how the island has changed since last 17 December – with the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States – the young entrepreneurs agreed that they see it as “an opportunity” to learn about the business model in the United States and also to train tomorrow’s entrepreneurs in American universities and through academic exchanges.

Farmers Installed Electricity Without State Support / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto

Alternative power line in Camagüey. (14ymedio)
Alternative power line in Camagüey. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camagüey, 8 December 2105 – In an act that mixes rebellion and impatience, the residents of Las Casimas in Camagüey have improvised a four kilometer long power line to bring service to their village. After years of negotiations and requests, the farmers did not want to remain in the shadows, and so they have scrounged to connect themselves to the nearest area that receives services from the Electric Company.

This alternative effort includes transformers, insulators and professional wiring, as well as posts made with trees along the alignments whose branches were removed. To finance the project, the families contributed according to their economic resources. In all, the figure reached about 4,000 convertible pesos. continue reading

The community of Las Casimbas, in the Najasa district in the province of Camagüey, is one of those places officially outside the area served by the Electric Company in the district it is a part of. There are 20,000 homes on the island without electric light. This last November, the Minister of Energy and Mines, Alfredo Lopez Valdes, assured that they would have this service in 2017, and that, at the end of this month, electricity would reach 33 settlements – some 1,610 homes – most of them in Plan Turquino and areas difficult to access.

The state company did not want to respond to 14ymedio’s question about the reasons why power has not yet reached Las Casimbas. However, an official of the Electric Company who preferred anonymity said that he was aware of the initiative taken by the villagers in the area to “light their houses and be able to enjoy other advantages of electrical service.” People there are afraid of reprisals from the Electric Company and the biggest nightmare right now in Las Casimbas is that the costly wire they have strung will be cut by orders “from above.”

Despite its simplicity, the structural quality of the engineering work organized by their own efforts is surprising, and supplies electricity to more than 30 families. Residents paid out of their own pockets for teams of professional to optimize the quality of service, according to the project coordinator, a farmer in the area nicknamed Toño.

“The transformers, cables and insulators were used, but in good condition. Some friends of mine who work in the utility bought them,” said the resident. He adds: “In this place, there has never been power. Only wealthy people had the privilege of illumination fueled by oil, but the rest of us were born and grew up with our nostrils blackened by candle smoke.”

Toño owns two caballerías of land – about 66 acres – that he inherited from his parents, but is not considered among the so-called “haves,” because, he says, it takes a lot of work to exploit the benefits of the earth because of “the lack of agricultural products.” The lack of electricity is added to these obstacles, making it difficult to pump water and do other work in the field.

“We pushed for power because it is very necessary, we need it for everything, for light, to watch TV,” says another local resident. Considering that, for decades, people in the village “knew nothing about the world… If someone was talking about a soap opera, we had to remain silent, without being involved in the conversation. This is why people gave the money without protest to buy the equipment and cables.”

“They put solar panels on the clinic and on the little school of San Ramon – a nearby neighborhood – but the houses didn’t have light, or any appliances, except radios and flashlights that use batteries,” says Toño.

In this area, the price of a battery of the kind most used for flashlights and radios is 20 Cuban pesos, the equivalent of two days of work in the field. “Things like the rice cookers and electric pots and ovens that they have been distributing for years mean nothing to us. Here the women cook with wood or charcoal, people don’t know what cold water (from the fridge) is, nor do they have cellphones. It is not out of ignorance, because you go out and see how people live in town, but because without power it’s impossible,” he points out.

According Toño, the new alternative does not solve the entire problem. “The voltage is too low, refrigerators only freeze late at night. We bring the current from a line like this. The transformer is what makes up the voltage, but at peak times it cannot supply all the houses.”

However, the experience of Romelio, another local resident, is positive. “We have improved a hundred percent, we were living here like the indigenous people in caves, in Cro-Magnon times, with no distraction at all, when night came you went to bed,” he explains. He says that without cell phones, when anyone got sick there was no way to call an ambulance or a doctor. “This is a place that is very isolated and so we struggle to live as people.”

The Castros’ Chess Game in Venezuela / 14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca

Venezuelan opposition activist Lilian Tintori, wife of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez, Sunday. (Twitter)
Venezuelan opposition activist Lilian Tintori, wife of the political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez, Sunday. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Hernandez Fonseca, 8 December 2015 — The surprising, though expected, results of the Venezuelan elections have a fairly simple explanation if we consider that it implies the exit from the Venezuelan political scene of Disdado Cabello, Nicolas Maduro’s major enemy and, therefore, also that of the Castro brothers.

President Maduro’s last minute change in attitude towards the electoral process could be an order from Havana with an eye to resolving, with the triumph of the opposition, two aspects that are of major concern to the Castros: the current power of the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, enemy of Cuba and therefore of Maduro; and in second place, avoiding the international blow that would derive from giving the president-elect of Argentina Mauricio Marcri’s a legal basis for his proposal to apply the “democracy clause” against Venezuela to expel it from Mercosur, the southern common market bloc. continue reading

In the final days before the elections we witnessed a radical change in the position of Nicolas Maduro regarding the electoral process. From original messages warning he would take violently to the streets, he switched to an attitude of apologizing for his words saying he “had been misinterpreted” and assuring that the government would accept the results.

He received his (former enemies), the Latin American ex-presidents in the Government Palace (sent – unsuccessfully – to expel Cabello from Venezuela), and allowed opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez to vote from prison, among other clear changes in his posture, which can only be explained if there had been an order from Havana to that effect.

Politics is a complex game of chess. The victory of the opposition in these parliamentary elections is a defeat for Nicolas Maduro, but there is no doubt that the main person defeated is Diosdado Cabello, and that this objective is greatly prioritized in Havana and will be very well received by Maduro. Of course, as the island is already preparing for how to deal with an opposition legislature, because Maduro has another three years in office, there is enough time – from the Cuban point of view – to neutralize it, having gained time.

Venturing a hypothesis, after the Cuban directive to accept the popular will in Venezuela, it could be the current US-Cuba relationship and possible negotiations that led Havana to influence Caracas in this regard, with the intention of initiating a thaw between Washington and Caracas without removing Maduro from power, only Cabello. The current President of the National Assembly is accused of being a drug kingpin in Venezuela, and we have seen Havana’s solution to this earlier, with accusations against Cuban generals (and ultimately the execution of a national hero General Ochoa).

It is still too early to speculate with a reasonable degree of accuracy, but a statement of opposition victory readily accepted by President Maduro – the same man who had previously spoken of “massacres” if this were to happen – merits further investigation beyond saying “he complied with the popular will,” when we know that for the Castro brothers there is no reason other than always ensuring the protection of their interests.

Thus the acceptance of the Venezuelan opposition victory could have been driven by the division within the ruling party and the Cubans’ desire to get rid of a dangerous enemy.

15 Undocumented Cubans Detained in Colombia / 14ymedio

Cubans detained in Saldaña, Colombia. (Ondas de Ibagué)
Cubans detained in Saldaña, Colombia. (Ondas de Ibagué)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 7 December 2015 – Ten Cuban citizens, between 22 and 38 years old, were detained this Monday in the city of Saldaña, Colombia, in a routine search of a bus on the Neiva-Medillín route, according to local sources.

The foreigners, natives of Havana, Cuba, were identified as Yanelis Pacheco Rodríguez, Raciel Hernández Santana, Adrián Rodríguez Blanco, Adrián González Díaz, Manuel Antonio Pereira Clara, Luis Pimentel Fernández, Adolfo José Yero Castro, Álvaro Leosbel Valdez Pacheco, Geonnis Dupuy Betancourt and Vladimir Pupo Gómez. continue reading

The Cubans carried passports with entry stamps for the province of Guayaquil, Ecuador and, according to the police who stopped them, did not carry documents for traveling in a regular way through Colombia. The migrants were taken to the Migration Department, and are waiting there for a solution.

Another five Cubans were arrested on Monday at a checkpoint at the city of Caldas, while travelling illegally on the Estrella-Manizales highway to Medellín.

According to official figures, since the beginning of this year up to the first week of December, more than 600 migrants had been intercepted in Colombia without their paperwork in order, almost 500 of them of Cuban nationality. The remainder of the immigrants were from China, Venezuela, Bangladesh, India, Somalia, Pakistan, Nepal and Ghana.

Chavez Supporter Calls For Maduro And Cabello To Resign / 14ymedio

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and President of the National Assembly of Diosdado Cabello (PSUV)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and President of the National Assembly of Diosdado Cabello (PSUV)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 December 2015 — Javier Antonio Vivas Santana, a columnist for the Chavista site Aporrea, is demanding the resignation of the president of Venezuela in a hard-hitting article titled “Maduro and Cabello must resign!”

The author, who has a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in Education, and who from 2003 to 2012 worked as a teacher at the Sucre Mission, reflects on how “clear and predictable” Sunday’s election results were. Vivas Santana believes that the victory of the opposition in this election “is not only a parliamentary defeat,” but “Maduro received a setback in terms of popular acceptance.” And he recalls, “As in 2013, the elections of mayors were approved by Maduro and now these same people, have told him that his leadership as head of the National Executive has been disastrous, sectarian, corrupt and vulgar.” continue reading

In his column the Venezuelan ruling party is called a “retrograde leadership,” which, instead of taking “urgent measures for the operation of the State,” preferred “to play Russian roulette” in hopes that “oil prices would rise and so it would be able to supply the basic needs of the population.” What happened, said the columnist, was that they exhausted “the monetary reserves in the midst of an economic recession, coupled with terrible shortages and a perverse inflation.” The final result is apolitical, “leading to the accelerated impoverishment of the population.”

The failure of the government’s management should lead Maduro and Cabello to resign, says the writer. Failure to do so could “kill the Bolivarian Revolution,” although earlier he warns, “the people should constitutionally strip them of their functions,” to avoid, “Chavez being erased from the historic, political and social imagination of the Bolivarian people, because of them.”

Targets of the text include the so-called social policy of the government: the fact that “they gave away homes, taxis, electronic equipment, stoves, refrigerators and even food,” creating “a cronyism effect between the government and the voters.” Vivas Santana proposes that the new National Assembly “prohibit by law such donations during election campaigns,” because “supplying resources to citizens from the State budget cannot be used as a political tool.”

For Vivas Santana, the real social policy is one where “education and healthcare are a priority for the state, and where inflation is removed from the economy.” The only way, in his judgment, is to “create a space for wages as a source of social development.” To achieve this there will have to be a mandatory process “of coming to an understanding between the new National Assembly and the Maduro government,” the author reflects.

The article joins a broad trend within Chavismo that sees the management of Nicolas Maduro as a betrayal of the precepts of their “eternal Comandante.” Within this line of thinking is the so-called Socialist Tide, which proposes “avoiding the collapse of the revolution,” and yet that has failed to find support or recognition from the existing ruling party.

“On December 6, 1998, Hugo Chavez came to power by force of the people,” says the writer, who immediately notes that “17 years later the people have spoken again.” The text concludes with a categorically disappointed phrase: “Anyone who has eyes can see it.”

The Marriage Between Venezuela and Chavismo Failed / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (EFE)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (EFE)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 7 December 2015 — This time neither deception nor fear worked. Like a woman long threatened by an abusive husband, Venezuela has slammed the door on Chavismo and done so with determination. From now on, governing will be an ordeal for Nicolas Maduro. With a party at an absolute disadvantage in parliament, Hugo Chavez’s successor can only impose his presidential will by violating his own laws.

The people, the same people that the president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) invoked from the platform to justify his misdeeds, has said no to 21st Century Socialism and the national project promoted by the ruling party. A flat refusal against a political force under whose management the South American nation has been plunged into insecurity, shortages, corruption and unsustainable polarization.

People are fed up. Tired of so much tense discourse, of fear in the streets, of the constant emigration of the young and of the instability that gnaws at everything and that in the last year has gotten worse. The voters also used their votes to penalize a party that hasn’t known how to govern for everyone, but only for a part of society, which has systematically rallied against those who think differently.

With the tool of the polls in their hands, Venezuelans have pushed change in a peaceful way, without stepping into the trap of violence or engaging in an armed revolution. Maduro has reaped, thus, the fruits of his mismanagement. His declarations prior to the elections, among which was the threat of fight from the streets if his party was defeated, only to the determination of a social decision that was already made. With his words, he finished digging the grave of his own executive authority.

Because there is a moment when the abused realizes that the abuser is just another frail human being, someone who can be defeated. That moment arrived for the Venezuelan people this December 6, as they demonstrated with their votes that Chavismo is neither eternal nor popular. What happened confirms the loss of the fear with which a 17-year authoritarianism had permeated the country, the sick relationship of dependency and dread with which it wanted to keep its citizens paralyzed.

The election results also go against the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana. In the dark intricacies of that power that has spent more than five decades without calling elections, the figure of Hugo Chavez was molded, and it tried to do the same with Nicolas Maduro. But the move backfired because it came up against a population that reacted, an opposition that knew how to unite despite its differences, and an international community that closed ranks in criticism of the methods of the PSUV.

The axis financed from Miraflores and symbolized by the political bravado of Chavez and the mediocre arrogance of the current president, is beginning to disarm. Venezuela already sees the way out and is dragging behind itself an island that still does not dare to stop the blows of an abusive government, to close the door and leave it outside the national future.

Police Raid UNPACU’s Children’s Party / 14ymedio

The house in Palma Soriano where police raided UNPACU’s children’s party on Sunday. (Twitter)
The house in Palma Soriano where police raided UNPACU’s children’s party on Sunday. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 December 2015 – Police officers raided a house in Palma Soriano in the city of Santiago this Sunday, where the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was holding a children’s party. At the time of the assault there were “nearly 40 children” in the house, according to José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the dissident organization.

However, the activist Yusmila Reyna confirmed that the children’s party continues, “despite the assault by specially armed troops.” According to the independent journalist, the residents of Palma Soriano “are losing their fear” and several neighbors approached the house to show their solidarity.

Like every Sunday, dozens of dissidents were arrested in different parts of the country. UNPACU said that at least 140 of is members were detained in the East.

In Havana, the Ladies in White walked down Fifth Avenue in Miramar, and met at Gandhi Park with other activists. They were under a strict police cordon before being arrested and taken to detention centers, according to regime opponent Angel Moya.

In its latest report, the dissident Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) reported 1,447 political arrests during the month of November, the highest in years, according to the organization.

Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart

Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina
Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Lleonart, 26 November 2015 — Mauricio Macri won. For those who hope for democracy in Cuba, the best option won. Although the recently-elected President hardly mentioned the island during his campaign, it is clear that the cause of liberty in Cuba will have a friend in him. His references to the situation in Venezuela have also been a wake-up call for the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.

If he manages the transition well in his country, his will definitely be a major mandate. Nevertheless, Macri needs to get himself prepared for governing Argentina, starting off from the disaster left by Cristinismo [ed. note: Cristina Kirchner’s administration], which will signify quite an achievement in view of the obvious boycott by officialdom, which is showing a certain reluctance in handing over power. A gesture far-removed from what politicians who are really interested in the future of the country, and respectful of the popular will should do. continue reading

An indication of Macri’s intelligence and ability is his new cabinet. In the election of each post one can see a genuine intention to get Argentina to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes. The appointment of Susana Malcorra to the chancellorship was accompanied by the news of a top-class team to lead the country from December 10th.

The up-to-now Head of the Cabinet of the General Secretariat of the UN, a position in which he has performed exceptionally well since 2012, has earned public praise from Ban Ki-moon himself. “I have valued his advice, admired his dedication and benefitted from his leadership,” he once affirmed. Praise which is confirmed in Malcorra’s experience, in relation to international relations, an area in which Argentina has been very lacking.

Without doubt, the head of the cabinet could not be anyone else than Marcos Peña, one of the best thinkers in Macri’s electoral alliance, Propuesta Republicana (PRO). He was also one of the principle interlocutors at the time of laying out discussion points when he was head of the campaign. His youth — 38 years of age — is in keeping with the tone of this new party, which has been capable of destroying such a damaging Peronist tradition.

A demonstration that each Minister has been considered with the necessary care is the appointment of the social activist, ex-Buenos Aires legislator and present National Deputy, Sergio Bergman to the Environmental portfolio. This rabbi, chosen in 2011 as legislator for the City of Buenos Aires for the PRO, is an important and eloquent expert in relation to the present global context.

Bergman has been an unwavering opponent of the Argentina-Iran Memorandum of Understanding, signed by President Cristina Kirchner in relation to the matter of the attack perpetrated in 1994 on the headquarters of the Argentina Mutual Association of Israel (AMIA, its initials in Spanish), which resulted in the death of 85 people. His appointment is further evidence of the change of direction represented by Macri’s victory from the terrible course Argentina has been following.

The delay in naming the Minister of Employment also indicates the respect shown in this instance and says much for the care taken by Macri not to make a quick superficial decision on this position which is of such importance to the Argentinians, especially in times of change such as these.

Working with that team, Macri will be able to put behind them the dark times of scandals like the Chavista [ed. note: a reference to Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez and his and the current administration in that country] briefcase transported to Argentina by a businessman to finance Cristina’s campaign or the unpunished assassination of the Public Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, as well as the squandering of public money.

The new government will put an end to the period of justice denied, as in the case of the attack against the AMIA The renaming of the Centro Cultural Kirchner will symbolise the passing from one era to another.

The first target for Macri in the international field will be his participation in the next Mercosur summit, to take place in Asunción in December. He has already announced that he will insist then on the application of the democracy clause to Venezuela “for the perscution of the opposition.”

What has happened in Argentina will probably be reflected in the next few days in the Venezuela elections. The popularist policies urged by the Havana regime remain stuck in the past.

Translated by GH

Vote, What For? / 14ymedio, Jesus Lanz Nelson Fuentes

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and President of the National Assembly of Diosdado Cabello (PSUV)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, and President of the National Assembly of Diosdado Cabello (PSUV)

The author, a militant Chavista, does not want to validate with his vote the ‘continued destruction’ of his country.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jesus Lanz Nelson Fuentes, Caracas, 6 December 2015 – Indeed, vote, what for? This is the question I ask myself all the time trying to come up with a reason to go out and vote in the Venezuelan parliamentary elections on 6 December, but I don’t find any. I know that many will say this is something you must do and that this is not an attitude that should be taken by a socialist fighter like me. As much as I try to come up with something positive to encourage myself to go out and vote, I cannot find it anywhere. The darkness that emanates from the National Electoral Council (CNE) prevents me from seeing anything positive in its system.

As always, I have been and will be a consistent defender of the socialist utopia and will never change my moral and spiritual principles for an illusion created by professional liars and the government’s obscene propaganda system. I will continue the march towards the Venezuela that I have dreamed of my entire life. I know that I am not alone nor will I walk alone on the path that I have followed since my adolescence. It is the path chosen by my father, who died without seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps the same will happen to me, but my life is my own and no one else’s. And as long as I breathe I will continue my fight against this black plague called ”21st-century obscurantism,” run by a mafia gang made up of civilians and military led by Nicolas Maduro and run by Diosdado Cabello. continue reading

In my 70 years, I have only gone to vote when that great dreamer who was Hugo Chavez appeared on the scene and made me fall in love with his charisma and his anti-imperialist and socialist declaration and the love I saw that he felt for our people. I was with him until 2008, when his lies began to surface. And yet I voted for him again in 2012 and for Maduro, who gave his face to the farce. All this was very painful for me, but reality hit me in the face. Chavez was just a fraud with a Venezuelan face and a Cuban body. He handed over the country to two tyrants like the Castros. He surrendered to them, they were the ones who took power in Venezuela, power that they still maintain with the consent of Miraflores.

Chavez was an architect of deception and I recognize that I deceived myself. I believe that all those who dream of a socialist utopia were also deceived. But, as the path is made by walking and, as we walk, the dust often rises up and clouds our vision, it is up to us to clear our eyes so that we will not be fooled again.

The upcoming elections are just that: A fraud, as they have been since 1960. The old and new redder-than-red bourgeoisie have united in an evil pact to continue exploiting and deceiving the working class, trying to extract the maximum added value from their battered bodies, using them as merchandise and nothing more. So then, why go out to vote? I, for one, will not. I will not validate with my vote the continued destruction of my country, because it doesn’t matter who the winners are if everything will remain the same or get worse.

Why go out to vote if, for example, states such as Bolívar, Amazonas, Zulia, Apure and Barinas, inhabited by indigenous, mining and agricultural communities, starved and with no futures, are entities where with 10 votes per district they elect one deputy and, taking as a whole all the districts they make up, they elect 35 deputies who decide the nation’s future under a state of siege. In contrast, urban regions need 100,000 votes for every fraudulent district to elect a single deputy.

And in all these remote areas, the majority of voters are people very easy to manage when they are in front of the voting machine. All of them will be under the gaze of a gun and the witnesses of the new covenant, who will surely guide the fingers of the innocent voters as they mark their cards. The same will happen when it comes time to count the votes with the tally sheets and when the ballots are sent to the CNE.

How can one vote in these conditions? Vote for what, if it is already all arranged? Who can believe in the old parties and their obsolete leaders joined together in the MUD (Democratic Unity Roundtable)? Who can believe in Maduro and Diosdado and their stinking party full of leeches who suck the blood of the people and the vultures anxious to put their hands in the national treasury? Who can believe in the military (“revolutionaries, socialists and chavistas”) whose suns, instead of shining in honor, are obscured by dishonor from so many scandals of corruption and drug trafficking in their ranks?

No, I will not fall back into their electoral booby trap. Chavez deceived me and I learned my lesson and it was very painful because I contributed with my vote to this whole disaster that we are suffering. Those who want to do it, it is their right, but all these votes will end up at the CNE counting center entirely under the power of the government. Votes that CNE president Tibisay Lucena will distribute at her discretion so that the actions remain coupled and the exploiters of the working class will continue to sing their song of misery and death.

Not even the so-called independents deserve my vote. First, who is independent in today’s Venezuela? If you pay attention to their names, most are uprooted from the MUD or PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela). Principally those of Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide), who are still tied to the GPP (Great Patriotic Pole) and who, if elected, will surely be a part of the comedy mounted by the MUD and its old friends.

Possible Regional Implications Of The Cuban Migration Crisis In Central America / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

In Puerto Obaldia, Panama, there are already more than a thousand Cubans. (La Estrella de Panama)
In Puerto Obaldia, Panama, there are already more than a thousand Cubans. (La Estrella de Panama)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Pedro Campos, Havana, 4 December 2015 – Cubans wanting to leave the country for the United States found in Ecuador’s visa waiver a chance to undertake the journey by different routes, but basically traversing a continent via Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico.

Nicaragua’s recent decision to close passage to some thousands of Cuba who made it Costa Rica from Ecuador, and to require visas from the island’s nationals who enter their country, has created an immigration conflict in the region and temporarily closed the doors to Cubans who want to go to the United States via this route.

Have Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador taken into account the many regional implications of these decisions? Let’s look at some of them. continue reading

In Costa Rica there are hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans. In Central America, traditionally the borders are not strictly controlled for the thousands of natives of the region who move informally in the border areas.

Is Nicaragua aware that it is setting up eventual immigration-border conflicts in a region that is experiencing a peaceful era among neighbors, after decades of political violence? Does this attitude have any relationship with Nicaragua’s intentions to create a new inter-ocean canal in open opposition to the one in Panama? Have they thought about how violent repression of Cubans could affect future relations between the two countries?

Has Ecuador noticed that its measure complicates life for thousands of Cubans who aspired to leave Cuba by this route, and that it has affected the supply of clothes, shoes, costume jewelry and other products for thousands of self-employed Cubans who life of this market, and that any Ecuadorian suppliers will also suffer the consequences? Has Ecuador considered the affects on Cuban families in both countries? Has Ecuador thought about the effect of taking this measure on future relations between both countries?

Is the Cuban government behind these decisions by Nicaragua and Ecuador, two of its allies on the continent? Are Nicaragua and Ecuador aware of what this means?

And, lastly, have Cuba, Nicaragua and Ecuador taken into account all the regional consequences that could derive from these actions and situations, including the complications in the Straits of Florida, the relations between Cuba and the United States and others possible between the United States and those two countries for contributing to an eventual complication on its southern border, should a stampede of Cubans heading to the United States by sea develop, which could be considered a threat to the national security of the U.S.?

Does Cuba’s looking for the elimination of the Cuban Adjustment Act divert attention from its disjointed internal situation or is it a complication in relations that buries the advances made so far in this matter, with all the consequences for the island itself and the domestic and foreign policy of the United States?

Is there an express intention of complicating regional relations in the event of the parliamentary elections in Venezuela?

The latest developments point to a partial solution to the current presence of Cubans in Costa Rica, but complicate in the Cuban emigration phenomenon. With regards to a meeting between the governments of Cuba and the United States, the first declared that the United States was politically manipulating the Cuban Adjustment Act, and the United States reiterated that it will not change its immigration policy toward Cuba. Havana criticized the American law that facilities the awarding of visas to Cuban doctors and Cuba just suspended the ability of doctors to freely leave the country, who will now have to obtain permission from the Ministry of Public Health if they wish to travel.

Every sensible foreign policy takes into account not only the narrow interests of the political groups in power, but also those of the entire nation and those of its neighbors, allies or otherwise.

Nicolas Maduro’s Insults / 14ymedio, Luis Nieto

The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro. (OAS)
The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro. (OAS)

Background from Translating Cuba: Uruguayan Luis Almargo, secretary-general of the Organization of American States, sent a letter to Venezuela’s National Electoral Council this November regarding potential irregularities in the upcoming elections and condemning the assassination of an opposition politician at a campaign rally. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro responded by saying, “to call Almagro a piece of trash is an insult to trash.”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luis Nieto, 5 December 2015 – It is not Nicolas Maduro’s insults that provoke sadness, but rather the reaction of Luis Almagro’s compatriots, because the current secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) is a Uruguayan senator from the Popular Participation Movement (MPP), the majority group of the Broad Front (Frente Amplio). If the ex-president and senator José Mujica and the MPP are informed about the Venezuelan situation, it is even more incomprehensible that they can be so hard on Almargo, who is demanding guarantees for the opposition within a democratic system, as required by Mercosur (the Southern Common Market) of its partners. continue reading

Or perhaps Almagro was unknown to ex-president Mujica or was imposter during his tenure as Foreign Minister in Mujica’s administration. What matters now is knowing whether the OAS secretary general will fulfill the duty of overseeing the quality of democracy of the countries that make up the institution that he leads, or will be distracted, like his predecessor José Miguel Insulza was, when he served at the head of the regional institution.

In Venezuela, we have seen the closing of newspapers and the purchase of radio and TV stations with public funds and their subsequent operation by Chavistas; the express dismissal of elected deputies at the will of the president of the National Assembly and the regime’s number two, Lieutenant Diosdado Cabello; the imprisonment on false evidence of governors and mayors elected by popular vote; the detention and prosecution of students simply for demonstrating in the streets; the financing and provisioning of paramilitary groups such as El Picure which, curiously, is now mentioned as possibly responsible for the assassination of the Social Democrat leader Luis Manuel Diaz; use of the Venezuela’s state-owned oil company (PDVSA) for partisan purposes, because none of this could have been done without generous cash.

Venezuela lacks nothing that one would see in any dictatorship, although, it is true, it maintains a very thin crust of democratic formality. Lately we have heard the argument that in the Caribbean the kind of insult Maduro uses to disqualify Almargo is nothing unusual. It is also true that Chavez dispatched insults with pleasure when he wanted to illustrate his contempt toward someone. And in Cuba, as well, the term “worm” is applied to those who oppose the Castro regime.

But wanting to generalize this behavior to the entire Caribbean region is an unjustified excuse not to clearly reject Maduro’s insult to Almagro. He said it one, two, three, several times and from various angles, so as to leave no doubt. He is accustomed to showing the whip to his friends, and has called the Uruguayan vice president a coward. Who’s next?

Almagro isn’t speaking based the politics that drove the president he served under, Mujica, he is the highest authority of the OAS, and it is logical that his opinion represents the plurality of the countries that make up that organization, and which are beginning to tire faced with a regime that only flees forward, indebting the country to China and Russia to disguise its extravagances.

Maduro, a cocky blowhard who doesn’t respond to ridicule as he relates in details the conversations he has with birds, still generates some kind of expectation in the Latin American left. In private, the whole world is laughing at him, but he continues to feed the hopes that this is the path to socialism.

Living in the limbo of political ethics is dangerous, and more dangerous if you occupy important positions, or take advantage of your notoriety to spread the idea that anything goes. In Chavismo there is no possibility of moving toward socialism. None. Rather, the regime seems inspired by “the worse the better,” so any little help in increasing the arbitrariness, the institutional loss of prestige, the loss of the decision-making power of citizens, is welcome.

Fidel Castro had already raised complacent smiles with his use of the term “pluralcrap” to refer to the system of political parties with which Uruguay has built its society. The left let it go, like a vitality that, perhaps, it continues to share.

Maduro’s insult should raise a unanimous and unambiguous condemnation, first of all by Almagro’s partners. When it comes to human rights there is no territoriality, or is there? True or not, Uruguayan deputy Maria Macarena Gelman? You, more than almost anyone, bear witness to the fact that human rights have no country.

The letter Almargo wrote to Tibisay Lucena, Chavista president of the National Electoral Council, is a clear compendium of the unfavorable conditions that the Chavista regime imposes on the opposition, ahead of the December 6 parliamentary elections.

Apart from Maduro’s insulting language, which should be broadly rejected by the Uruguayan left, it is the threat, implying that if the opposition wins he will resist from the streets, and we already know what that means: calling up his civil-military alliance against the Democratic Unity Roundtable of Venezuela.

From the head of the Executive Branch, with the Armed Services at his command, Maduro is announcing that he will take control of the streets and, in this case, he will engage in, among others, the same crimes that he himself invented in order to prosecute Leopoldo Lopez, San Cristóbal Mayor Daniel Ceballos and Mayor of Metropolitan Caracas Antonio Ledezma, among more than one hundred political prisoners. With the aggravating circumstance in this case that Maduro will oppose, with the use of public force, a decision that emanates from the popular vote. An announced coup d’etat, nothing more, nothing less. Does Almagro’s letter to Venezuela still make no sense?

Maduro, and Latin American governments as well, started badly because they were blind to the amount of evidence of fraud presented by the Venezuelan opposition in asking for an audit of the election data. Many of these governments, we must not forget, were recipients of the millions that Chavez stole from Venezuela in order to create an favorable environment internationally for himself. Not only can it be said they were bribes, because they were delivered as solidarity donations with great fanfare, but, how else can one classify the suitcase full of cash that Antonini Wilson took from Caracas to Buenos Aires in a plane belonging to the state oil company, as if everything were Chavismo’s private property, to the shame of his gullible friends?

Did Uruguay not receive, among so many other gifts, the electronic scoreboard for Centenario Stadium, 10 million dollars for clinics, and even what was necessary to remodel the building now occupied by the President of the Republic? Why would the Venezuelan government give Uruguay this money, which belonged not to it but to its people, when today its people don’t even have toilet paper?

When Maduro insults Almagro he insults all those who are following with great concern what is happening in Venezuela, where we have family and friends. He reminds us too much of what we experienced in Uruguay and, as well, of the courageous attitude of the government of the late Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez, the only Latin American government that broke off relations with the Uruguayan dictatorship, following its abduction of Elena Quintero from the grounds of the Venezuelan embassy in Uruguay. The same Carlos Andres Perez against whom, years later, Chavez, Maduro, Cabello and Cilia Flores attempted a coup d’etat. Even if only by the margin of doubt before these attitudes, all Uruguayans should take Madruo’s words as a personal grievance.

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14ymedio Editorial Note: This op-ed was previously published in the Uruguayan weekly Voces. It is reproduced here with permission.

 

Oscar Arias: “Poverty Needs No Passport To Travel” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Reinaldo Escobar interviewing the former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias Sanchez
Reinaldo Escobar interviewing the former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Oscar Arias Sanchez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, San Jose, Costa Rica, 5 December 2015 –Nobel Peace Prize recipient in 1987 for his role in ending the armed conflicts in Central America, former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias received 14ymedio at his home in San Jose and talked about the immigration crisis that keeps thousands Cubans stranded at the gates of Nicaragua, waiting to continue their journey to the United States.

Escobar. Is the Cuban migrant problem an exception in the region?

Arias. The principal problem of the 21st century will be emigration. For a very simple reason: Because the socioeconomic differences among the more than 7 billion people who inhabit this planet increase every day. Poverty needs no passport to travel. We see this in Latin America, especially among Central Americans who risk their lives to reach the United States. We see it with the South Americans, Haitians and, of course, throughout sub-Saharan Africa, to reach Lesbos, Lampedusa. continue reading

Escobar. Is the attitude of the people of Costa Rica and their government toward these “rafters on foot” something new?

Arias. Costa Rica, taking into account its size, is like Germany in Europe. We have been a country of asylum; we are generous, hospitable, supportive of those who for political reasons have knocked on the doors of our country. We are recognized as a nation of asylum, both for our Latin American brothers persecuted for their way of thinking, as well as for immigrants who flee their countries for economic reasons. We have a small colony of Cubans who arrived here in the past. Cubans have contributed greatly to Costa Rica, as have the Chileans who came here in the Pinochet era.

With regards to the Cubans who have arrived in recent weeks, the Costa Rican government has the obligation to provide them a roof, a shelter, as best we can, because they deserve it.

Escobar. Why do you think that these migrants have left the island and have undertaken such a dangerous route?

Arias. Frankly, they are fleeing a dictatorship. The only dictatorship that exists in Latin America, which we have been unable to end.

Escobar. Do you think that emigration could be reduced if there is a democratic change in Cuba?

Arias. This will end the day a Deng Xiaoping appears in Cuba. A man with the clairvoyance, with the vision and also with the courage to say “enough already” and “we are going to change the system, because the system does not work.” Because the system does not meet the expectations of being able to improve the living conditions of the Cuban people.

Escobar. Is it a failure of the implementation of the model or of the model itself?

Arias. Marxism failed and the practice of it ended, except Cuba and North Korea.

Escobar. How can a new migration crisis be prevented?

Arias. If we want these things not to happen again, it is imperative that Cuba open itself, that it open itself to democracy and freedom.