Chronicle of a Visit Postponed to Jagüey Grande / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

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Eliécer Ávila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 28 June 2015 — Last Friday afternoon, my wife Rachell and I were going to the city of Jagüey Grande in Mantanzas Province. Several friends were waiting for us there to spend a weekend together talking and discussing future projects. We were going to see Alexey, a motorcycle mechanic and computer genius, as well as Carlos Raúl, a young pastor whose temperament and values make him stand out. Nevertheless, our planned getaway ended far differently than we initially intended, and not because of our will.

We were faced with several organizational challenges before we left the house. We had adopted our second puppy the night before and she was in very bad shape. Moreover, Rachell had to work until five o’clock and run like a marathoner in order to meet all her obligations and get home just in time to leave. Nonetheless, luck was on our side and we quickly caught a bus leaving Havana.

Along the way we were also planning on visiting Playa Larga Beach for the first time to enjoy some relaxation. However, a highway patrol car and two State Security agents cut our dreams short when they stopped the bus on which we were traveling as it entered Jagüey Grande. continue reading

A highway patrol car and two State Security agents cut our dreams short

They ordered us off the bus and forced us into a Soviet World War II ambulance with a sign reading “Maintenance.” We were then transferred back to Havana as we sat on toolboxes. Before that, all our belongings were taken from us, as they uttered the only phrase they echoed throughout the whole journey: “There won’t be any Somos más in Jagüey Grande.”

We experienced moments of both fear and love inside that steel box. It felt like it was falling apart every time it hit a pothole, while its back doors were barely kept shut with wire. The return trip took two hours, but there were moments when adrenaline helped us surmount the hunger, the discomfort, and the abuse we were enduring. Nothing bonds people like sharing a just cause and enduring the ensuing consequences.

We were then taken to the police headquarters of Havana’s Cerro district, and there began the agonizing process of confiscating of all our belongings. Underwear, toothbrushes, deodorant, lipstick, phone chargers, and of all things, two sanitary napkins were confiscated. In short, an endless list of “tools of delinquency.”

The police officer in charge of this painstaking search did not hide his discomfort at having to inventory all that stuff. He was from Guantánamo Province, a large, pleasant, polite man. His attitude towards us undoubtedly troubled the State Security Agents. The same occurred when I was detained in Santiago de Cuba, and the police officers who recognized me tried to greet me, but the head honcho in charge that day ordered them to stay away from the detainee.

After the seizure of our possessions was complete, they took Rachell to a one-person cell, and they put me in a group cell. It was packed with men who seemed like they had been there for several days, sharing the unbearable heat and darkness. It did not take more than five seconds for the obligatory question: “What are you in for?” “Because I think” I replied.

He reiterated, “The Communist Party here has created mechanisms for people to express themselves and complain about anything they want.”

The youngest man there approached me and said: “Oh wait! Wait! That’s why your face looked familiar! You’re from the UCI [University of Information Sciences]!” And he added: “Man, you really let him have it!”* He gave me a friendly embrace and started laughing. He later told me he was in a rock band, and that they ended up fighting the police on “G” Street in Havana because they would not allow them play their music there, while constantly harassing them for identification papers. It was a short conversation, because once the others joined in, the officer in charge of political crimes ordered that I be taken to a one-person cell.

A while later I was transferred to an office so that an individual who introduced himself as Captain Marcos could “have a talk” with me. This young man said the most absurd things one could ever hear. “Eliécer! In that absurd democracy you like, there are thousands of Houses of Representatives, Senates, and Congresses! So to make any decisions, they all have to agree! That’ll never happen here! Can’t you see what they’re doing to Obama?”

Captain Marcos reiterated: “The Communist Party here has created mechanisms for people to express themselves and complain about anything they want.” He also sarcastically asked: “Have you seen any demonstrations? Don’t you get it? (…) The people support this Party and the Constitution. So you and the four little crazies who follow you, and we know who they are, aren’t getting anywhere. You don’t represent anybody,” he stated authoritatively.

I managed to respond that if things were as he said, that no one listens to us or pays attention to us, then why don’t they leave me alone and let the people decide? Why do they keep the people of Jagüey Grande and the whole country from knowing who I am? Of course, he would not answer my questions.

Instead, Captain Marcos repeated that it is they who will always be in charge in Cuba, to which I replied: “That hasn’t happened anywhere in the world.” I further provoked him by assuring him that, “One day there will be a democracy here.” He responded with the threat that I would be thrown in jail. While I showed Captain Marcos that I wanted to be a young man of today, he spoke like an old man of yesteryear. While I was trying to help repair Cuba, he was amazed that I would think there was anything political to fix.

Exasperated with me, Captain Marcos ordered me back to the dungeon. Now it was Rachell’s turn. Surely the interrogator thought it would be easier to pressure a woman, but instead, at one o’clock in the morning, Rachell – who had not even had a cup of coffee all day – gave him a lesson on courage and convictions. I overheard when they returned her to her cell, accusing her of disrespect. I blew her a supportive kiss from behind iron bars as they led her past my cell.

An hour and a half later, all our belongings were returned, and we were released.

In closing, I would like to tell Raúl Castro that it was a great honor for me to have been sent to one of his dungeons because of my beliefs. If he recalls the past, he will know what I mean, and that I will not give up.

Luckily, history never stops.**

Translator’s Notes:

*In 2007, Eliecer who was then a student at Cuba’s University of Information Sciences and actively engaged in coordinating support for the Castro regime on the Internet, was chosen to engage in a dialog with Ricardo Alarcón Cuba’s former ambassador to the United Nations and then president of the National Assembly. A video of this event later went viral worldwide; a version with English subtitles is here. Ultimately, Alarcon lost his post in the National Assembly. Eliecer’s account of his subsequent transition from regime supporter to democracy activist is here.

**Eliecer is referring to Fidel Castro’s speech at his trial after leading the assault on the Moncada Barracks in 1953. Entitled La historia me absolverá (History Will Absolve Me), in his speech Castro said it would be an honor for him to endure Fulgencio Batista’s dungeons, that he would not give up, and that unstoppable course of history would inevitably prove he was right.

Translated by José Badué

The Siege of Tania Bruguera Is Lifted / 14ymedio

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The artist Tania Bruguera at the front door of her home. (Yania Suárez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2015 — Last Friday, June 26th, a police official paid a visit to Tania Bruguera to inform her that the charges against her were being temporarily lifted. The artist refused to sign the offer, and demanded that the charges be permanently lifted, without any restrictions on her returning to her own country.

This information was made public by a message sent through the #yotambienexijo (“I also demand”) platform nearly six months after Bruguera was detained while preparing to give a performance in Havana’s Plaza de la Revolución. At the time of her arrest on December 30th, the authorities also confiscated her passport, without which she cannot leave the country.

Bruguera decided to launch the Hannah Arendt Artivist Institute during the Havana Biennial. For more than one hundred consecutive hours, she led the reading, analysis, and discussion of Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. The event was ignored due to relentless police pressure, a very noisy street repair right in front of the artist’s home, and the subsequent arrest of Bruguera and several companions.

In the text published last Monday on the #yotambienexijo platform, the artist explained that the deal offered her “is unacceptable blackmail, whose intention is to control my art and silence me as a citizen.” Meanwhile, she is suing the Cuban Ministries of Culture and of the Interior for damages incurred during last December’s events.

Links to #yotambienexijo sites:
Restaging of Bruguera’s Tatlin’s Whisper 6 in Times Square in NYC
Twitter
Facebook

Translated by José Badué

Diary of an Alcoholic / 14ymedio, Hector Reyes

Patients’ beds in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital (Photo: Héctor Reyes)
Patients’ beds in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital (Photo: Héctor Reyes)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Hector Reyes, Santa Clara, 13 June 2015 — His story starts with a bottle and ends in a psychiatric ward. More precisely, it ends in the rehab ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital. With the help of pills and shots, Néstor will try staying for 21 days in order to escape alcoholism’s downward spiral.

The room where the young man is hospitalized does not have a refrigerator, or a television, or lockers to store his belongings. It has only one bathroom without water. Once in a while, one of the six men confined in that small space with only a one working fan, asks out loud “Why?” but nobody in that “cage” answers him. continue reading

Routine is part of the treatment. Wake up, take medications, doze off until breakfast, wait for the meeting with the therapist, snack time, lunch, and more medications. Everyday is the same for three weeks in order to prevent any attempt to fill in the hours with rum and hard liquor. The drugs used to combat addiction range from Carbamazepine to one dose of dextrose per day.

Treatment also requires isolation. Psychiatric patients have the right to freely visit their homes, but alcoholics can only leave the premises if accompanied by a medical staff member. Roque Tejera, another patient hospitalized in that same room believes that being locked up and medicated seems to help. Meanwhile, from a bed at the far side of the room, Lian Morales says that psychotherapy is what gives him the most strength not to relapse.

“I’ve been here six months, and every time I get out, I go back to getting drunk,” explained Orly Ferrer, as he shooed away the flies buzzing all over the room. His story is corroborated by the testimony of doctors and nurses who have seen many patients promise not to drink anymore, and then end up hitting the bars.

Alcoholism ranks among the ten top causes of death in Cuba, and according to official statistics, 45.2% of the population above fifteen years of age consumes alcohol, especially those between 25 and 42.

Alcoholism ranks among the ten top causes of death in Cuba, and according to official statistics, 45.2% of the population above fifteen years of age consumes alcohol

A few months ago, psychiatric expert Dr. Carmen Beatriz Borrego Calzadilla told the official press that the consumption of alcohol is most prevalent among the youth. The health professional stated: “Among adolescents, the consumption of alcohol is often associated with self-determination, fun, entertainment, and modernity.”

Some enter rehab because of family pressure, from families undone by the ravages of alcohol and violence. Others, such as Néstor, sought medical advice in order to be admitted to rehab after a disastrous drunken spree. The Psychiatric Hospital’s emergency room policy states that if a patient arrives on his own will, he will be admitted, if there is a bed available.

They come because they have consumed everything, from rum bought with convertible pesos to homemade concoctions. Noel Ponce, another alcoholic in rehab, says that one of his methods consists of pouring concentrated honey in a sealed tank with a valve. He explained: “You attach a coil to it and heat it up until it bubbles and secretes alcohol.”

Alcoholics from the lowest economic strata, such as retirees and the unemployed, rely on all types of moonshine to quench their daily thirst for alcohol. For many, even the mouthwash available at pharmacies ends up being a way of getting plastered.

Alcoholism is rarely discussed in Cuba, and when the domestic media does focus on it, it almost always does so superficially. The majority of television spots on this issue emphasize its connection to traffic accidents. Programs with a more psychological bent, such as Vale la pena (It’s worth it), attack consumption without mentioning the reasons behind it.

Alcoholism is rarely discussed in Cuba, and when the domestic media does focus on it, it almost always does so superficially

In many Cuban television series and movies there is often an alcoholic, a funny character zigzagging as he urinates from one lamppost to the other. Conversely, the documentary Havana Glue tackles the situation in all its extent and gravity. This movie, directed by the young filmmaker Lupe Alfonso, takes in the opinions of artists, intellectuals, and the average citizen about the consumption of alcohol in Cuban society. It has yet to be broadcast on national television.

In order to help the patients out of the situation they find themselves in when they enter the rehab ward, doctors also recommend physical exercise. Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital has a room fitted with exercise machines that improve physical and mental health, apart from keeping the patients busy. One of the room’s attendants said: “This space is too small. They should give us the space used for the emergency room.” Due to lack of space, they cannot use the treadmill or the rowing machine.

The other part is made up of psychotherapy, based on the approach of Alcoholics Anonymous, a program that began in 1935 with a New York businessman who began talking to other drinkers about his struggle with sobriety. Today there are more than 100,000 AA groups in about 150 countries.

“Personally, psychotherapy overwhelms me, it depresses me,” commented one of the patients who shares the room with Néstor. Some of the stories shared during sessions raise important issues, while others are heartbreaking or hilarious. The volume increases as the minutes go by and the patients vent.

Since the medical authorities refuse to release statistics, the weight of the problem in rural areas cannot be measured. Six young rural men have just ended up in this small, hot ward of Santa Clara Psychiatric Hospital. When they get out of here, they will return to their small towns, where due to a lack of recreational options, the bottle has become an inseparable companion of social interactions.

Translated by José Badué

Inventory of Differences / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)
Talk about the lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. (Marc Gautier / Flickr / CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 26 June 2015 – To talk about a lack of unity within the Cuban opposition has already become commonplace. Among the causes of these lamentable circumstances are enumerated some peculiarities rooted in the greatest depths of our history, whose paradigmatic example is warlordism.

However, there are also rational reasons because opponents gather in separate airtight rooms. First of all, in political vocations. Liberals, socialists, Christian democrats, anarchists, social democrats and other less profiled denominations assume positions about certain topics that can become irreconcilable.

The mere fact of recognizing these nuances sparks commentary from all sides that the most important thing is to dislodge the tyrants from power and that such minutiae can wait until democracy is achieved. But it is not enough to make the immense sacrifice of overlooking future programmatic differences. The spokes in the wheel, the weights, the headwinds, the points of honor that hinder or prevent reaching agreement usually arise from unexpected places.

Here are the most common obstacles to consensus: continue reading

The Cuba-US Dispute

Before December 17, 2014 the discussion centered on whether or not the US economic restrictions toward the island should be maintained, what some call “the blockade” and others “the embargo.” The mere choice of one of these words has prevented prestigious leaders from signing a collective declarationen masse. On this plane we also find the issue of Americans traveling to the island, the reopening of embassies and eventual normalization.

Some are betting that the rigidity of the Cuban system cannot be maintained in an environment of good economic and diplomatic relations with the neighbor to the north. Others believe that the commercial interests of the United States could take precedence over human rights and in the end would award the Cuban Government the benefit of undeserved legitimacy.

The recognition of the reforms made by the Government

Between those who think that, “As long as what has to change isn’t changed, nothing has changed here,” and those who believe that “In this house of cards the slightest movement could lead to the collapse,” there is a large gradation.

This has led some to consider self-employed people as accomplices to the dictatorship, because with the payment of their taxes and their growing habits of consumption they sustain the dictatorship. While others see them as the most dynamic part of the population, who by empowering themselves economically could point the way to political emancipation in defense of the middle class.

The reluctance at every step of the reforms, adjustments, or whatever they prefer to call them, awakes in some the suspicions that it is all about an operation of recycling to maintain themselves in power – a fraudulent Change – and in others hopes that behind every little change there could be lurking a tropical Boris Yeltsin.

In the event that the announced but not yet proclaimed legislation opened the tiniest crack for the participation of the opponents, the divisions would become more pronounced

The attitude toward elections

Not going to vote, voiding or leaving the ballet blank and, more recently, casting one’s vote in favor of a lesser evil or for some malcontent who has managed to get past the controls, are the different attitudes with which some want to demonstrate their disagreement.

The Government’s announcement that it will formulate a new Electoral Law has given the issue new scope for disagreements, as there are those who believe it makes sense to disseminate proposals that could open a space to something like a multiparty system; on the other hand, those who see in the new law another maneuver by the regime to buy time or who call for an independent plebiscite.

In the event that the announced but not yet proclaimed legislation opens the tiniest crack for the participation of the opponents, the divisions would become more pronounced between those who accept involving themselves in the hard-fought elections, and those who consider participation in them as something that gives the game to the dictatorship, and even as a betrayal.

In the street or indoors

Although a consensus is seen in the opposition for the renunciation of violent methods, especially weapons or terrorism, there is a clear difference between those who have chosen to express their differences by going out into the streets, and those who express their critiques through documents, programs or opinion columns. From both sides there are sincere calls to weigh as valid the methods chosen by each grouping or individual, but still, in isolation, expressions appear that label a posture as uselessly provocative proposals of victims, and another as a convenient methodology, free of risk and displaying little solidarity with those who dare to receive beatings.

We are not willing to easily give way before a semantic dilemma; we all agree that it would be easy for the other to accept our terminology

Terminology

I have left for the end an element that affects the text that I am writing. The difference between use the labels Government or the authorities, and others who use the terms regime, dictatorship or tyranny, is perhaps one of the most frequent differences in the opposition endeavor. Other incompatible binomials enter there, like the already mentioned embargo-blockade, or election-voting reforms-cosmetic changes, exile-diaspora, not to mention how difficult it is to classify someone as an opponent, dissident, activist, or independent journalist.

To this is added the generational definitions, which mark a dividing line between those who have spent “more than thirty years in the opposition,” and the recent arrivals; or the contrast between having suffered a prison sentence versus having been detained for only a few hours.

We Cubans depend too much on orality, and are not willing to easily give way before a semantic dilemma. Moreover, we all agree that it would be easy for the other to accept our terminology.

Of course this is an incomplete inventory, I could have mentioned the way in which the role of the churches is seen in the problematic Cuban politics; the choice between remaining on the island and leaving for exile; the relentless pursuit of “doing something” or the patient resignation that time and biology will do its work; with or without dialog with the Government; resisting arrest or letting them take you prisoner; accepting financing from foreign organizations or rejecting it on principle; attending a government-sponsored “Rendering of Accounts” to channel complaints, or not attending to deny its legitimacy; going abroad to participate in events or declining invitations to not miss even a minute of the main struggle, and so on, until we run out of imagination in choosing the very colors of our arrogant identity.

Juan Abreu: “Executions in Cuba Are an Untold Story” / 14ymedio, Yaiza Santos

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)
Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 27 June 2015 – Painter and writer Juan Abreu (b. Havana, 1952) has taken on the inordinate task of painting, one by one, all those executed by the Castro regime. The work in progress is entitled 1959 but encompasses 2003, the year in which Lorenzo Capello, Barbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martinez were sentenced to death in a summary trial, accused of “acts of terrorism” after trying to reroute a passenger ferry to escape to the United States. They were the last executed by the Cuban government. “Let it be known,” says Abreu.

The project emerged, he says, recently, by chance: “I was doing some paintings that had to do with the firing squads in Cuba, because I was struck by the character, the loner that they are going to kill. I had seen some paintings by Marlene Dumas of Palestinians and then I approached the subject. When I started researching, suddenly the faces of all these people began to appear. I began to look at the faces and read, and suddenly I realized that I was going to have to paint this. Not only as a kind of pictorial adventure, which it is, because of the quantity of portraits and the complexity of the genre, but also because it seems to me that I have a certain moral responsibility.” continue reading

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Carlos Baez’ (born in 1937, shot in 1965), fragment (oil on canvas, 27 x 35 cm)
Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Carlos Baez’ (born in 1937, shot in 1965), fragment (oil on canvas, 27 x 35 cm)

Of the executions in Cuba, he continues, “It is an untold story. Not only untold, but also they have tried to hide it, and when they have spoken of it, the effort has always been to discredit the protagonists, branded as outlaws or murderers. These accusations lack any kind of historical evidence. They were people who rebelled, the same as Fidel Castro rebelled against Batista, they rebelled against Fidel Castro.”

The death penalty, explains Abreu, was not contemplated in the 1940 Constitution which the Revolution originally claimed it would restore: “They [the Castro regime] imposed it. The trials completely lacked any kind of safeguard. Sometimes even the lawyer spoke worse of the condemned than the prosecutor did. They were Soviet-style trials: you already knew you were guilty as soon as they caught you; you knew that they were going to kill you or put you in jail for thirty years.”

In order to gather as much information as possible, he contacted some of the few people who have devoted themselves to the topic in the United States, like Maria Werlau, from the Cuba Archive, or Luis Gonzales Infante, a former political prisoner who sent Abreu his book Rostros/Faces, where he compiles names and photos of those dead by execution, from hunger strike or in combat during the El Escambray uprising, those seven years that historians like Rafael Rojas consider a civil war and that Fidel Castro called a “fight against bandits.”

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Other documents he has found easily on the Internet, like videos from the period and photographs from the free press that still existed in Cuba when the Revolution triumphed. Hence, the executions of Enrique Despaigne, doubled over by two shots at the edge of a ditch, or Cornelio Rojas, whose hat flew together with his brains against the execution wall. Abreu confesses that what impacted him most was “the gruesomeness and cruelty” of some of the cases.

Like that of Antonio Chao Flores, who at 16 years of age fought against Batista – the magazine Bohemia had him on its cover as a hero of the Revolution – and at 18 years of age he fought against Castro, and was required to drag himself from his cell in the La Cabana fortress to the execution wall without the leg he had lost in combat because the guard took his crutches from him. “It is from the savagery of the system’s punishment mechanism that one feels fury that all this that has happened has been forgotten. If I was Chilean or Argentinean, this would immediately demand attention.”

Abreu says that the project is becoming gigantic and that he cannot stop. For now, he has painted some twenty of the 6,000 total that he estimates were executed in Cuba in that almost half-century. Via a Youtube video [see below] he seeks photographs from all who may be aware of any victim.

No one has answered him from Cuba – “There, to have a relative who was a prisoner or who had been shot, was anathema, because of the amount of false propaganda against them” – but people have answered him from the United States. For example, one sent him the photograph of her neighbor in Cuba, whom she knew from childhood, who used to greet her kindly and whom she eventually learned was made a prisoner and executed. It was when media control was complete, and an absolute silence, when propaganda was not served, covered these kinds of cases.

“The death penalty in Cuba has always been used as a means of social threat. When they ask me, “But why has the regime lasted so long?” I answer: It has lasted for many reasons, but among them because it is a system that kills. You know that they will kill you. And there is no safeguard: There is no judge or lawyer who can defend you, and if they decide that you have to be killed, they will kill you. And if you do anything against the system, they will kill you. Death is a very effective deterrent.”

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Man Alone,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 35 x 27 cm, collection of Carles Enrich)
Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Man Alone,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 35 x 27 cm, collection of Carles Enrich)

Forged by the generation of his friends Reinaldo Arenas and Rene Ariza, Abreu says that “kind of strange fury” that he feels about Cuba has not abandoned him since he left the Island with the Mariel Boatlift, and that after so many years, he has decided to stop fighting it. “Towards Reinaldo (Arenas), for example, it seemed to me a great betrayal. In our last conversation, two or three days before he killed himself, we were talking about that precisely, and he told me, ‘Up to the last minute. Our war with those people is to the last breath of life.’ It surprised me a little why he was saying that to me, but of course, he already had his plans. Maybe I like lost causes, but I will continue infuriated.”

By way of poetic revenge, he hopes that his project 1959 – which he calls “completely insane” – ends up one day in a museum. “Because a hundred years from now, when no one remembers who Fidel Castro was, these paintings will be here and people will say, ‘And what about these, so pretty?’ And that, truthfully, is very comforting.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDmzdQFbBtE#t=101

“Literature Does Not Matter. Many Other Things In Cuba Matter More” / 14ymedio, Yaiza Santos

David Miklos, Ahmel Echevarría and Carlos Alberto Aguilera inthe meeting organized by CIDE in Mexico City. (14ymedio)
David Miklos, Ahmel Echevarría and Carlos Alberto Aguilera inthe meeting organized by CIDE in Mexico City. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 22 June 2015 – The Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) in Mexico City organized from 16 to 18 June, the meeting “Poetics of the Present: Narrating Cuba 1956 to 2015,” opened by critic Christopher Domínguez Michael and closed by the journalist Homero Campa. It was a meeting between young writers living on the island and intellectuals of the same generation living in exile.

The first group included the narrators Jorge Enrique Lage and Ahmel Echevarria, members of what has been called “Generation Zero” of Cuban literature; for the second there was Walfrido Dorta, a researcher of the City University of New York,Waldo Perez Cino, an editor living in Leiden (Netherlands), and the poet, novelist and essayist Carlos Alberto Aguilera, co-founder of the journal Diaspora(s), who is currently living in Prague.

At the end of the session, in which  the Mexican writer David Miklos and the Cuban historian living in Mexico Rafael Rojas also participated, 14ymedio spoke with five special guests. Their answers are a sample of the different approaches and fruitful dialogue that took place during those three days. continue reading

14ymedio, Yaiza Santos. In a society where the free market exists, the relationship between writers and readers can clearly be seen, for example, in how many books are sold. Those of you on the island, how do you observe your relationship with your readers?

Jorge Enrique Lage. I don’t observe. But it is because there is no physical media in Cuba, no space for criticism. There is no infrastructure that allows you to think in those terms: has my book sold, how successful has it been… I don’t expect criticism, and the feedback with readers comes when you talk to them. But reading reviews or knowing that all the books sold in a bookstore, I’m oblivious.

Nor do I care. Because the problem of lack of space is critical, but not for literature. Literature doesn’t matter. It is critical for everything else. Lacking space for journalism, truthful journalism, current commentaries on politics and economics. And when there is space for all that, it will at some point include space for literary criticism.

Ahmel Echevarria. I think this relationship is mostly displayed in the presentation of a book, and a literary activity or simply in a party with friends, because I don’t believe that at the level of the State – well, to call it the State is to say everything, because everything belongs to the State – there are devices that are analyzing that.

When the book fair is analyzed statistically, there are numbers that I’m not very sure reflect what actually happens: there are a number of people attending the book fair, but in reality, of those hundreds or thousands of people, how many people are consuming literature? So, like Jorge, I don’t expect this statistic for me. What interests me in thinking about literature, making literature, is having fun, talking with friends, and the rest, if it comes it comes.

Question. Has nothing changed with the digital landscape? I think, for example, that you, some on the island, some outside, as has been mentioned in this symposium, keep in touch via the Internet.

Carlos Alberto Aguilera. It is that one doesn’t write for the readers. Who are the readers? The readers don’t exist. I’m not saying that a reader doesn’t exist, that head that can connect with your literature and in some way is going to understand it or recycle it, or do something with it.

This happens in very determined micro-communities. But they are not the readers. There is no way to write for the readers: it is too large a mass, too heterogeneous. If my book can sell or not, it’s not a question for me: it’s a question for the publisher. It doesn’t interest me, and it has never been a constraint to the way I write.

“That what we call Cuban literature, the less Cuban it is, and the less literature as an institution is, the better.”

Waldo Pérez Cino. I agree totally with Aguilera, but invert the point of view: he says for an author, the readers don’t exist, but for the readers, the authors do exist. And from this point of view, the Internet has produced a kind of de-territorialization, of circulation of the book, of circulation of texts, and of the way the visibility of authors circulates. What Carlos said is true, but if you look at it in reverse, effectively there is a chance for the readers, for those potential readers, who even when they have not read a particular author, they can identify a name, a mark of style or an attachment. Thirty years ago, it would probably have been impossible to circulate references to as many authors as today.

Walfrido Dorta. Look, right now I’m reading the last column of Gilberto Padilla in On Cuba, which is just about online literature and the phenomena of literature produced starting only from what the reader asks for. A model totally opposite to that offered by Aguilera. Padilla speaks of those teenagers who write novelas in installments and continue with what their readers are asking for. With this, clearly, online literature is moving in diametrically opposed patterns.

Question. What specific thing would you like to happen tomorrow, for example, to improve the state of Cuban literature?

Carlos Alberto Aguilera. Which was totally destroyed. Seriously. I think that what we call Cuban literature, the less Cuban it is, and the less literature as an institution is, the better.

Walfrido Dorta. That there would be independent publishers. That the State not be the only source of any kind of initiative. That will greatly threaten the state of things. Beyond that, improving writing, and in terms of intellectual networks, this is the first thing that will have to fade into the past.

Jorge Enrique Lage. I would not ask for anything. Literature is one of the centers of my life, but in Cuba there are so many things lacking, that to ask something for literature would be irresponsible. Literature doesn’t matter. Many other things in Cuba matter now, and we are talking of thousands, millions of people, for whom literature in their lives means nothing and they need so many other things.

So I would separate Cuban literature in relation to the “Change” [in the Cuban political system]. I see it as two separate spheres: although at some point they connect, but literature has nothing to do with the Change. The Change is for other reasons, other needs.

In Cuba, many things other than literature matter now, there are millions of people for whom literature in their lives means nothing and they need so many other things.

Ahmel Echevarria. For me, if anything, that they fix the streets.

Waldo Pérez Cino. I think that for literature, neither for the Cuban nor the Icelander, you cannot do anything institutionally. Literature is what is, or it is not what it is not, period. It exists to the extent that it is written, and that it is produced. What could be done, perhaps, is for distribution (or circulation, although that’s used more for periodicals than books), but, well, that would not be for literature. And much less for literature marked with a national seal.

Question. For those who live outside Cuba, do you see yourselves returning to Cuba, living in Cuba, working in Cuba, at some point?

Walfrido Dorta. No, not right now. But to throw stones at yourself is irresponsible and uncertain, then I don’t know. One has very fresh in one’s mind the limitations, the traumas, and the impediments that are still there; they weigh heavily when it comes time to decide.

Waldo Pérez Cino. In my case, at least, a “final” return, to use a Cuban government adjective – “final” exit – no, I don’t see it at all. But I can perfectly imagine, not now, but indeed in the future, a kind of coming and going, of in some way being in Cuba, of spending seasons in Cuba and seasons outside.

Walfrido Dorta. When one hears the question, you think now about the “final,” which was my answer. Coming and going, yes, I see it, clearly. Because for example, if one chooses an academic career in the United States, the links with Cuban institutions are almost inevitable.

Carlos Alberto Aguilera. If you are talking about something final, it is not a question I ask myself, and it is not something final… I have never been back, and I have refused to be published inside Cuba, even in journals I admire, such as “La Noria,” as long as there is this regime. And it is a personal question. If I see myself returning to Cuba, coming and going, I think I would only go to Cuba if the worst happens – my mom lives in Cuba – otherwise, no.

 

Nearly 2,800 Cubans Have Tried To Reach The US Coast Since October / 14ymedio

Cuban boat people rescued by the Mexican Navy. (Secretariat of the Navy of Mexico)
Cuban boat people rescued by the Mexican Navy. (Secretariat of the Navy of Mexico)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 23 June 2015 — A total of 2,796 Cubans have tried to or have arrived in the United States by the maritime route in the first eight months of the 2015 fiscal year, according to figures from the US Coast Guard (USCG) published by Martí Noticias.

The statistics, covering the time between October 1, 2014 and June 22, 2015, equals 76% of the number of Cubans who tried in the previous fiscal year (3,677) and includes operations of interception and disruption conducted in the Strait Florida, the Caribbean and the Atlantic, and the so-called “dry feet” that touched American soil. continue reading

The figure, published by Martí Noticias is an increase of 84 people compared to those reported by the by the USCG on June 18, when the repatriation of 32 rafters intercepted between June 6 and 10 was reported.

Back in October, the Coast Guard demonstrated concern about the increase in Cuban rafters arriving on the coast of Florida, which some Miami voices call a “silent exodus.”

A total of 3,940 migrants were intercepted at sea or managed to touch land in the 2013/2014 fiscal year, double those recorded in 2012 (2,129 Cubans) and even higher with respect to those of prior years: 2011 (1,870 Cubans), 2010 (1,976 Cubans) and 2009 (1.740 Cubans).

However, in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 a total of 7,866 Cubans and 5,766, respectively, attempting to arrive by sea to the United States, much higher than the figures of the last fiscal year.

Cuba Aims It Will Have 110,000 Tourist Rooms For 2030 / 14ymedio

Tourists in Havana. (14ymedio)
Tourists in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 June 2015 – Those who want to reserve a room today in a hotel in Varadero, Cayo Coco or other tourist areas hear frequent warnings of “it’s full” or “there are few rooms.” The increase in international tourism in the first quarter of the year, coupled with greater summer season demand by Cubans on the island, is forcing authorities in the tourist industry to plan an increase in lodging that could reach 110,000 rooms by 2030.

Experts gathered in Havana at the 10th International Seminar on Journalism and Tourism, being held at the Jose Marti International Journalism Institute, also addressed the importance of foreign investment in the sector. continue reading

At the meeting on Monday, the Ministry of Tourism’s business director, Jose Daniel Alonso, delved into the details of “The 101 new business opportunities for the expansion and diversification of infrastructure,” in hotels, included in the portfolio of opportunities directed to foreign investors, according to the official press.

Alonzo stressed the strengthening of investments in the southern area of Cienfuegos-Trinidad, north of Camaguey, Las Tunas and Holguin, although he did not rule out the possibility of making investments in other regions. The official said that by 2020 it is expected that 85,000 rooms will be completed and by 2030 the projected number is 110,000.

The facilities for deep sea diving and nautical recreation, as well as city tours and nature tourism are among the options Alonso described with “great untapped potential.” He also addressed real estate investment associated with tourism, which with the implementation of 13 projects expected by 2020, all of them under the new regulations of the Foreign Investment Act.

The event was attended by 70 industry professionals from 12 countries, including the United States, Ecuador, Colombia, Italy, Panama, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras. This seminar is held annually under the auspices of the Cuban Journalists Union and with the participation of the tourist press circle.

Cuban Customs Detected 29 Drug Cases So Far This Year / 14ymedio

Watching a report broadcast by the main news about the work against drugs at customs.
Watching a report broadcast by the main news about the work against drugs at customs.

14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 June 2015 — The General Customs of the Republic (AGR) has detected 29 drug cases since early this year, as published on Thursday in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). In the past six months, according to official media, they have seized about 51 kilos combined of cocaine, marijuana, hashish and synthetic cannabinoids.

The most common practice for introducing substances into the country is hiding them inside flashlights, cars and spare parts, swivel chairs, TV screens, soap, screws, boxes of food, religious objects, shoes and other articles. continue reading

Among the cases detected, in at least 23 of them the narcotics was in supposed gift packages, according to the traffickers. However, Customs clarifies that saying that the article in which the drugs are hidden “belongs to a friend, or someone who paid them to deliver it to their family, does not exonerate the passenger from the responsibility enshrined in Cuban law, which is intransigent before the importing of drugs and psychotropic substances.”

Customs also has detected attempts to take large amounts of Cuban medications out of the country, as well as smuggling of cash and precious metals. Since January, they have uncovered 293 cases of taking out tobacco, raw materials and cigars. Also high are attempts to take protected wildlife species out of the island.

The drugs are often hidden inside flashlights, cars, religious objects. shoes or other items

At a press conference, José Luis Muñoz Toca, Customs Technical Director specified that as of May 31, there were 73 cases involving arms smuggling. In addition, “We also detected media and equipment hidden in suitcases intended to support subversion activities in the country,” the official explained, without giving details of the nature of goods confiscated.

More streamlined customs procedures

Cuban Customs’ most pressing objective is arm itself with international standards before the eventual avalanche of tourism expected from the normalization of relations with the United States.

Without referring directly to this issue, the head of the AGR, Pedro Miguel Perez Betancourt emphasized that among the key priorities is to satisfy all passengers and that the Customs service performed at the border is exercised “Within the frame and law conferred by law for any processing, operation or baggage screening.”

The official said that efficiency in the offices has improved and that, “The time spent in customs procedures at airports has decreased considerably, from 45 minutes in 2011 to 25 minutes in 2015.”

Among the difficulties faced by Customs is corruption, because employees are constantly submitted to the pressures of bribery. Concern about maintaining the integrity of the employees in the airport terminals is most intense in regards to drug trafficking cases.
The officials explained that they are trying to do a better job on three parallel tracks: improving technological capabilities, the professional development of the workers and a greater degree of rigor in the controls on the part of the leadership.

Implementation of clearance by weight to reduce the number of times luggage is opened and implementing a new automated clearance system is still being tested and could reduce the time per passenger.

Muñoz Toca, director of Technical Customs, said they have reduced procedural errors and stressed that, “Most of the complaints and disagreements arise from delays in clearance and inappropriate behavior of employees at that time.”

According to officials, most complaints stems from the delays that arise from delays in clearance and inappropriate behavior of employees

He added that the complaint system has been perfected. “Today international airports have offices for reception and processing of complaints with groups to investigate and clarify the complaints and a subsequent evaluation in the legal commissions,” he explained.

He also addressed the commitment of Customs to, “Simplify and streamline procedures starting with the introduction of new control techniques and information technology which should contribute to supporting the commercial management of the country.”

At the press conference, no reference was made to the repeated complaints of the harassment to which civil society activists and political opposition leaders are subjected to, in a selective way, usually being minutely searched and having equipment and documentation seized on their return to the island.

Eight UNPACU Activists Who Recorded A Video Remain Detained / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Santiago de Cuba, 24 June 2015 — Eight of the 15 Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activists from the Altamira neighborhood in Santiago de Cuba who were arrested Monday while filming an independent video remain in jail, the leader of the organization, José Daniel Ferrer, said Wednesday/

In a telephone call with 14ymedio, Ferrer said that among those still detained include singer Omar Sayud Taquechel, Fernando Vazquez Guerra and Romualdo del Risco Martin, who continue to refuse food at the police station known as Micro 9. In another detention center in the city, commonly called “the motorized,” Héctor Velázquez Gómez, José Roberto Núñez, David Fernández Cardoso, Anibal Ribeaux Figueredo and Franklin Álvarez Fernández are in jail.

A video posted on UNPACU’s YouTube channel, with hundreds of visitors so far, caught the moment when security forces violently fell on young people who were involved in filming on a Santiago street while carrying a flag Cuban.

Emigrating in the Third Age / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

An old man. (Silvia Corbelle)
An old man. (Silvia Corbelle)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, 23 June 2015 – The building where I live is like a diminutive Cuba, where the larger country appears represented with its vicissitudes and hopes. Fourteen stories that at times offer a biopsy of reality or a representative fragment of life outside. For years, the emigration of young people has marked the life of this ugly concrete block, constructed 30 years ago by some optimistic microbrigadistas* in order to put a roof over their children’s heads. The majority of these children, now men and women, do not live on the island today. However, the exodus has also spread to a worrying extent among those of the third age.

A few weeks ago in the hallway I stumbled upon a neighbor whose children left some time ago for the country to the north. Between postcards at Christmas, visits every now and then and nostalgia, the family has tried to overcome separation and the pain of absence. The man of the family, now retired and almost 70, commented to me that he was selling his apartment. “I’m leaving,” he said, smiling from ear to ear. Another retiree who overheard, spat out derisively, “You’re nuts! Why are you leaving if all that’s left to you are ‘two shaves,’?” alluding to the possible brevity of the existence ahead of him. continue reading

Not to be outdone, the mocked one replied, “Yes, it’s true, all that’s left for me is ‘two shaves,’ but I want them to be with a Gillette.” With a pension of barely 20 CUC a month, a home that every day shows the passage of time and the lack of resources to repair it, the future emigrant won’t be stopped by gray hairs or old age. What is making so many seniors choose to relocate abroad despite age, health and the uprooting of their lives? They also feel the lack of opportunities, the day-to-day difficulties, and – most significantly – end up concluding that the social project to which they gave their youth has defrauded and abandoned them.

They feel the lack of opportunities and the day-to-day difficulties, and have ended up concluding that the social project to which they gave their youth has defrauded and abandoned them

“All I want is a peaceful old age, without having to stand in line all the time,” the determined old man explained to me. For him, his country is synonymous with shortages, problems getting food, an old age of racing to get potatoes and fighting against those who want to get ahead of him in the line to buy eggs. The apartment he built with his own hands for the enjoyment of his children now has peeling walls and a clogged toilet. “With my pension I can’t arrange to get things fixed,” he detailed.

Even the elderly are packing their suitcases on this island… and from the scale model that is this Yugoslav-style building, old people are also saying goodbye.

* Translator’s note:
For more information about microbrigades see page 26 of this report by Cuban architect Mario Coyula.

The Job of a Father / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Eliecer Avila speaks of his father (14ymedio)
Eliecer Avila speaks of his father (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 21 June 2015 – When we are children we have an idyllic idea of who our father is. We see him as an invincible guardian, strong, fair, who feels no fear and protects us from all the dangers ahead of us in the world.

With the passing of time, two things can happen. One, you discover with disappointment a weak man, full of shortcomings, irresponsible and fearful who can’t even think, speak or act for himself. And to make it worse, he induces you to do the same, to fake it, to lie for the supposed “benefit of family tranquility.”

The other possibility is that on growing up you can verify that your father is actually what you always believed him to be.

I my case, I feel a profound happiness, because the second is what happened to me. Despite discovering, sometimes with a certain pain, that my father was not perfect, he wasn’t infallible and free of all failures, nor was he a stranger to fear and doubt. Today I can say he is a brave man, powerful in his word and his gaze. Firm in his support for me in the most difficult moments without failing to alert me about every aspect that he thinks I should consider.

Neither one of us can replace the other’s role in our lives. He cannot assume responsibility for and the cost of my actions, nor can I do so for his. But it is always an invaluable guarantee to know that he is there, watching with an experienced eye, supporting the trunk of the family tree so that it will grow straight. Ready to fight any plague or ruthless woodsman eager to cut me down from envy or malice.

It is my job to keep going and hopefully act so that my children will feel the same security I felt. I know that it will be difficult if I want to be his equal. But I intend to try, because I want to form with my own hands brave and free people, who not only belong to the future, but who will help to conquer and build it.

Today I congratulate all the fathers in the world. Especially those who, like mine, deserve to be congratulated.

March Of The Ladies In White Concludes Without Arrests This Sunday / 14ymedio

Activists supporting the Ladies in White Sunday on 5th Avenue. (Luz Escobar / 14ymedio)
Activists supporting the Ladies in White Sunday on 5th Avenue. (Luz Escobar / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 June 2015 – During the day, this Sunday, the Ladies and White held their traditional peregrination along Fifth Avenue in the vicinity of Santa Rita Church. Unlike the previous ten occasions, today no arrests were reported after the march, although at least 5 women belonging to the movement and 7 activists were detained to keep them from getting to the site.

In total, some 50 Ladies in White managed to get to the church and were accompanied on this occasion by 27 activists and independent journalists. Berta Soler confirmed to this newspaper that “there were no arrests after the Mass,” and that this Sunday they only “marched down Fifth Avenue, with the gladioli and the photos of the faces of the political prisoners,” but “out of respect for Father’s Day, after we finished each of us went to our own homes.”

Independent journalist Yuri Lazaro Valle Roca also reported to 14ymedio that there were no acts of repudiation nor the violent arrests that had characterized the previous Sundays.

Although there was a visible police operation in the area, the repressive forces did not proceed to arrest those who made it there.

Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.

Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. continue reading

Among the participants from the island are Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Vladimiro Roca, Laritza Diversent, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Wilfredo Vallin, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Guillermo Fariñas and Boris Gonzalez Arenas.

The first meeting of the event was held last December 2014 in the Mexican capital. At that meeting they talked about the diversity of peaceful means to fight for democracy, the role of exile and the importance of identifying the minimum points of consensus to move forward, if not in the desired unity, at least in arranging purposes.

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference poster for this year’s meeting.

“I feel like a war reporter” / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca. (14ymedio)
Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 20 June 2015 — A couple of weeks ago, the neighbors crowded onto the ground floor of a twelve-story building near Tulipan Street. “He committed suicide … They say he hanged himself with his own belt,” ran the rumor among them, while pointing to the apartment marked with number 1. The police presence in the area and patrols around the site confirmed that something had happened.

Some men in civilian clothes who were a part of the operation detailed it for the curious, “He was the nephew of Vladimiro Roca.” The information would take hours to be refuted, and many still don’t understand that the false suicide hid a raid to keep Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca from going out to do his work as an independent journalist. The bad taste with which the political police handled the matter, lying about the death of a man, competes in this case with the abuse of his rights. continue reading

Last Saturday, the reporter and activist sent a letter to representatives of the Inter American Press Association and Reporters Without Borders. It not only condemned the repression suffered by him, but also that against the “Ladies in White, opposition activists, journalists, bloggers, independent journalists and photojournalists committed to the struggle for civil rights.”

Friday, 14ymedio spoke with Valle Roca at his home to learn the details of his situation and the reasons that led him to write that letter.

14ymedio/Luz Escobar. When did the harassment against you begin?

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca. Starting from when I begin to cover the news about the Ladies in White and I captured on video the arrests and beatings they received every Sunday. Starting from that moment I have been subjected to beatings, they have beat me on the legs and one time they fractured a rib. And State Security officials have told me very clearly, we do not want you to go to go to Santa Rita Church anymore, we do not want to see published any more images or recordings under your name, YuriTv, we don’t want you to put anything else on YouTube.”

14ymedio/Ruiz. The worst moment?

Valle Roca. On May 9, they threw me in a car here at Avenues 26 and 41. It was about ten at night. I had gone out to buy cigarettes. Later was the eighth Sunday of repression for the Ladies in White, who woke up in my apartment surrounded. From two in the morning there were police there and they justified their presence by telling the neighbors I had hanged myself. In reality, I was inside the house with two Ladies in White, as it was easier to get to Santa Rita Church from here. So we were going to go together.

14ymedio/Ruiz. Was it very hard to hear the news of your “own death” from the mouths of others?

Valle Roca. I see that as the story of “a death foretold.” I found out because the journalist Reinaldo Escobar called to ask what was going on. He said he was concerned because he had got the news from someone who passed by and asked. After the statements I gave him, then Radio Martí also called me and countless people, but it was all false.

14ymedio/Ruiz. And last Sunday you were again a victim of repression?

Valle Roca. The political police intercepted me on 28th Street between 7th and 9th in Playa. It was a very spectacular arrest; without explaining the reasons, I was immobilized, handcuffed and they threw me back of the car. After several turns they took me out in Coyula Park and put me in another car with four other men. When I figured out where I was I was in Villa Marista [a State Security prison]. Where I was warned by a senior official, and finally they took me in a car to a deserted grassy area.

He put the gun to my head and then kicked me in the side and told me, “You already know what’s going to happen to you.”

The one on my right got out, opened the door and drew his weapon. He put the gun to my head and then kicked me in the side and told me, “You already know what’s going to happen to you.” They got in the car and from there threw me my cellphone and backpack. I got out and tried to orient myself until I managed to reach Via Blanca where, thank God, a truck stopped for me. The driver asked if I’d been left stranded and I made up a story about having been assaulted, I thought if I told him the truth he would be afraid. He left me off near Sports City.

14ymedio/Ruiz. How did the idea come up to write a letter?

Valle Roca. I didn’t do it for me but for all my fellow journalists who are suffering the same thing. For example, for Enrique Díaz and Vladimir Turró Páez who are also being threatened with death. We want to document all these allegations of threats on video, a video with all the journalists who are in danger. Journalists in similar situations include Agustín López Canino, Juan González Febles, Luis Serafin, Rubén Dario Garcia and Angel Moya, who make videos and also bring to light a lot of information about the Ladies in White. It’s for all of them that I wrote the letter.

14ymedio/Ruiz. Has the repression limited the work of independent journalists?

Valle Roca. Not at all, we continue working. They believe they’ve discredited us a little, but we continue denouncing what goes on. When I can’t leave my house, I report by phone, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles is also collecting testimonies. Of course, sometimes they affect us because they take our cameras or phones and they erase all the recorded contents, but we continue to work.

They believe they’ve discredited us a little, but we continue denouncing what goes on

14ymedio/Ruiz. What journalistic techniques do you use in your work?

Valle Roca. Especially photography and video. I film and shot photos with my cellphone. Then I have to edit and convert them for uploading. I edit them in Adobe Premier.

14ymedio/Ruiz. What reaction do you expect to your letter?

Valle Roca. That solidarity with reporters will increase and that there will be a statement to help us to continue to make known what is happening and that a commitment on the part of the government is achieved. I feel as if I were a war reporter, under constant threat.

14ymedio/Ruiz. Do all your neighbors now know that the suicide story was a lie?

Valle Roca. They have been very supportive. With our humor, we Cubans can laugh at anything. Now in the neighborhood they call me “the hanged man.” That Sunday on the underground lottery played in our area the numbers that came up were 79, which is exactly “hanged man,” and 7 which is “shit and police.