Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio

Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)
Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, Continue reading “Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio”

the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.

For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.

For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.

“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.

“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.

In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, ​​represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.

Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”

Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.

He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”

Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.

In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.

Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.

Obama Praises The Courage Of Dissidents In An Unprecedented Meeting / EFE, 14ymedio

US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)
US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.

In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.

The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).

“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.

“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.

On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.

Cuban Human Rights Group Reports 12 New Arrests Of Dissidents / EFE, 14ymedio

Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)
Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama “Obama traveling to Cuba is not entertainment. No more violations of Human Rights. We All March”. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2016 – At least a dozen government opponents were arrested this Monday in Cuba, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also identifies nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Among those arrested for the second day are the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and some members of that women’s group, along with her husband, former political prisoner Angel Moya, according to Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the CCDHRN, the only group regularly documenting such incidents in Cuba.

Also on Monday the arrest of Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, along with his partner, activist Ailer González, near Continue reading “Cuban Human Rights Group Reports 12 New Arrests Of Dissidents / EFE, 14ymedio”

their home, a family source confirmed.

Elizardo Sanchez said his group is trying to specify the number of arrests on the island since Sunday, when US president, Barack Obama arrived in Cuba.

That same day, some 60 dissidents were arrested several hours after the Ladies in White’s habitual Sunday march.

With regards to the number of political prisoners in Cuba, Sanchez said he currently has in his record to 77 prisoners convicted for political reasons plus one who is serving a sentence of house arrest.

He explained that that group adds the 11 released under a “furlough,” a legal concept that does not annul the sentences imposed during the crackdown of the “Black Spring” of 2003 that led to the jailing 75 dissidents on the island.

Cuban President Raul Castro denied on Monday that there are political prisoners in the country, in the press conference he gave in Havana with President Obama.

Castro challenged a journalist to present a list of political prisoners and assured him that if they really existed they would be freed that very night.

“Give me the list of political prisoners to release them now,” Castro said in answering the reporter’s question.

Ladies in White and Opponents Arrested After Sunday March in Havana / EFE, 14ymedio

Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)
Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 20 March 2016 – Some fifty Ladies in White and other opposition members such as the graffiti artist El Sexto and Antonio Gonzales Rodlies were arrested in Havana today after the usual Sunday march of the female dissident group, which was answered with a counter-repudiation-demonstration by government supporters.

At the end of the usual peaceful march after Mass at Havana’s Santa Rita Church, the Ladies in White tried to walk to other streets away from their route, where the ruling party had concentrated groups linked to the government which began to jeer at them.

The incident, which with varying intensity has been repeated every Sunday for 46 weeks, took place a few hours before the arrival on the Island of the president of the United States, Barack Obama, who during his historic visit Continue reading “Ladies in White and Opponents Arrested After Sunday March in Havana / EFE, 14ymedio”

will meet with members of the dissidence.

The Ladies in White along with a group of dissidents and activists from other opposition organizations gathered under the platform #TodosMarchamos (We All March) and walked some hundred yards carrying a banner with the inscription, “Obama, coming to Cuba is not entertainment. No more human rights violations,” and threw copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on reaching a side street.

At that point they encountered the counter-demonstration of several hundred government sympathizers carrying signs reading “#We All March for a prosperous and sustainable socialism,” and “#We All March for Cuba,” and shouting “Fidel, Fidel” in reference to the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Other male activists who accompanied the Ladies in White were handcuffed and put into police cars.

Even after the arrests, the pro-government group of protesters continued in the area and circled the block dancing to a popular conga headed by a contingent from the University Students Federation (FEU).

Previously, the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, told EFE that her group calls on President Obama during his visit to send “a clear message of support to the people of Cuba, given that the United States has always wanted good things and democracy for the island.”

“We also want to demand that the Cuban government immediately release all political prisoners, enact a general amnesty and to stop police violence,” added Soler.

Soler said that if she can talk with President Obama in Havana, she will him that “nothing has changed here nor is it going to change, he has come to a Cuba that is repressed and he will leave a Cuba that is repressed.”

The first visit by a president of the United States in the last 88 years will begin today with the arrival of Barack Obama, who in announcing his trip said one of its purposes was to influence the situation of human rights on the island, at a time when the dissidence has denounced an increase in repression.

‘El Sexto’ Exhibits the Pigs That Sent Him to Jail in Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

'Raul' and 'Fidel', the pigs from the performance art piece banned in Cuba, were paraded through the Market Gallery in Miami on Thursday. (14ymedio)
‘Raul’ and ‘Fidel’, the pigs from the performance art piece banned in Cuba, were paraded through the Market Gallery in Miami on Thursday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 February 2016 – Last night in Miami Danilo Maldonado (known as ‘El Sexto’, The Sixth), was able to show off the pigs Raul and Fidel, which cost him ten months in prison in Cuba. The opening of the exhibition “Pork,” at the Market Gallery in Miami Beach this Thursday, included the performance art piece banned in Cuba at the end of 2014, in which the two pigs walked peacefully around in an area restricted for their display, while a crowd gathered around and flashes lit up the pigs, who now and then appeared to pose.

El Sexto is an artist of freedom. At times irreverent and iconoclastic, but decidedly sensitive and intuitive. “The only way to find freedom is to go out and get it. I am still looking for it, but only this search is what frees you from a state of repression,” he told 14ymedio while preparing for the opening of his first exposition in the United States.

Enlivened by the well-known and controversial band Porno Para Ricardo, the event welcomed hundreds of participants, especially young Cuban Americans, and was a showcase for the work of the artist imprisoned for his performance art piece in Havana’s Central Park, inspired by Orwell, that never saw the light of day until last night in Miami. Since then, the image of the two pigs painted olive-green with the names of Fidel and Raul on their sides, accompany El Sexto wherever he goes. Continue reading “‘El Sexto’ Exhibits the Pigs That Sent Him to Jail in Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

“For me, the pig chosen by Orwell was the closest thing to the characters I wanted to represent. But in addition, it is the only thing left to us, there is no fish, no chicken… all there is is pork,” he said, to explain his choice.

Maldonado began his artist work painting graffiti on the walls of Havana which he signed underneath with the pseudonym “El Sexto” (The Sixth), as a way of protesting against the huge campaign financed by the Cuban state to demand the release of the five spies considered heroes in Cuba. His social criticism and sarcastic messages were completely unacceptable to the authorities, who interpreted his art as a hostile act.

“I have been a follower of El Sexto for a long time. His work shows the injustice of the Castro regime, the lack of freedom, Valle Grande Prison (where he was held), the hunger strike he was forced to undertake…” commented Sheila Oliva Gonzales, a young Cuban who graduated from the National School of Arts in Cuba and now lives in Miami.

Despite everything, his imprisonment was a learning experience for El Sexto. “In Cuba there is a society that is falling apart, a country that is collapsing and this system has no solutions.”

The trip to the United States has represented a qualitative leap in Maldonado’s artistic career, but also on a personal level. “It helps you to want to transmit what you see to those over here. Here people believe in big dreams, and they are motivated to work, they have a purpose. That makes you fee.”

Ramon Alejandro, one of the great Cuban painters of exile, was present at the exhibition. “I did not know that he was a photographer, or that he painted on fabric, I only knew the drawings that circulated on the internet. He is a very good painter and what he does is very interesting, independent of its social and political implications,” he commented.

Others who were also there were Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, director of the Estado de Sats project. “It’s fantastic that he can have the exposition here, because he couldn’t do it in Cuban. It seems that Raul has bought this name and now it is his property, and the name Fidel as well. Now no one can have it, not even the pigs,” lamented Soler.

Danilo Maldonado, who is very close to the Todos Marchamos (We All March) initiative undertaken by several civil society groups on the island and in exile, has said on numerous occasions that his intention is to return to Cuba in March and to continue attending, along with his mother and grandmother, Santa Rita Church, with the Ladies in White. “The importance of Todos Marchamos is that no one has dared to do this before now, to take to the streets,” affirmed the artist.

Former Democratic congressman Joe Garcia, who was also present at the evening, praised Maldonado’s courage, because he had the opportunity to leave Cuba but decided to say. “This makes him a good Cuba, a patriot. The most heroic acts are those silent acts that people undertake to improve their country. And there are thousands and thousands of Cubans who are doing this every day,” he said in praise of El Sexto.

One of the most moving moments of the night, along with the realization of the performance art piece aborted in Havana, was the moment when El Sexto proceeded to get a tattoo of a declaration asking for the freedom of the Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopez, imprisoned in that country, and the Cuban political prisoners.

Estado De Sats Holds Workshop On Rights And Freedoms / Cubanet, Arturo Rojas Rodriguez

Participants in the first Rights and Freedoms Workshop at Estado de Sats (photo by the author)
Participants in the first Rights and Freedoms Workshop at Estado de Sats (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Arturo Rojas Rodriguez, Havana, 12 February 2016 – On Thursday, members of several opposition groups participated in the first “Rights and Freedoms” workshop. The event brought together twenty participants and took place at Havana’s Miramar neighborhood.

Sponsored by Estado de Sats (State of Sats), those present included Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. In his presentation, Antonio Rodiles, director of Estado de Sats, called for an analysis of the Roadmap for the Forum for Rights and Freedom, taking as a point of departure the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rodiles emphasized, especially, the rights of workers in the private sector. Continue reading “Estado De Sats Holds Workshop On Rights And Freedoms / Cubanet, Arturo Rojas Rodriguez”

Raul Ciriaco Borges Alvarez, president of the Christian Democratic Social Party of Cuba, said that the work of the opposition has to be designed to encourage people, and primarily workers, to know their rights, to demand them, empowering them ever more with the tools that will allow them to “free themselves from the fear that constrains them.”

Agustín López Canino, blogger and freelance journalist, highlighted the role of various organizations and projects within civil society to convey knowledge, using forums, workshops, conferences and other spaces “of vital importance,” which only require a careful attention of those present, so that from their families, communities and frequented circles, they disseminate what they learned.

In response to a controversial debate about the popular discontent over state management and the fear than many profess about saying or doing anything about it, Rodiles pointed out that they need to connect with people and tell them, “look at what’s going on, if you’re afraid and don’t want to protest, at least stop supporting the regime.”

The workshop highlighted the role of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March)), with the participation of the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuban (UNPACU) as cornerstones in the demand for an Amnesty Law and the release of political prisoners, among other actions to achieve a true state of law in Cuba.

Workshop participants agreed on the need to support fundamental actions to promote economic progress with the active role of the private sector and agreed to prepare a document for dissemination and analysis.

Email for Arturo Rojas Rodriguez: leylia815@gmail.com

Cuba, Burma and Obama / Antonio Rodiles

Martin Luther King Jr.: This “wait” has almost always meant “never.”*

Antonio Rodiles, 1 February 2016 — More than a year after the announcement of the restoration of relations between the United States government and the Havana regime, the direction that the political and economic landscape of our island will take remains uncertain.

The administration of President Barack Obama has outlined and is delivering a broad agenda full of concessions to the regime without asking for or receiving anything in return, either for the United States or for the Cuban people.

It is important to note that the violation of the freedoms and political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights of Cubans is provided for in the existing judicial and legal system, which limits, by law, the implementation of any measure that could work to our favor.

The United States government has validated the Castro regime as a political actor, and expects that internal and external sectors, including the opposition, accept this premise and develop strategies based on it. Continue reading “Cuba, Burma and Obama / Antonio Rodiles”

The agenda shows a certain logic and points in common with that established with Burma, although the Cuban regime hasn’t shown a willingness to take even the first steps. It is important to point out that the intentions and scope, particularly in the international arena, of the two dictatorships have been very distinct, as have the environments in which they have developed.

One of the elements that makes the Cuban case unique is the existence of an exile only 90 miles away, with significant human, political and financial capital, which the regime looks on with profound fear. It is no wonder that they have focused in recent years not only on trying to feed off of this exile, but also on seeking agents and spaces of influence to try to control it or at least to link themselves to it. There is no political or social dynamic in the island’s present or future that could effectively ignore the role of the exile.

In line with the Burmese case, some propose elections in Cuba as one possible path to democracy, even within the ironclad totalitarian environment. Endorsing an electoral process within this scenario would end up legitimating the regime and its successors, at least in the medium term, and would also leave in their hands all the economic power and networks of influence for a new political moment. Accrediting neo-Castroism is the path diametrically opposed to the creation of the Rule of Law.

The possible visit of President Obama to our island seems to be presented in terms similar to his first trip to Burma. In that case, the president met with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who on many occasions has been criticized for showing hesitancy in the face of human rights violations. He also met briefly with other representatives of civil society. The visit took place under strong criticism from opponents such as the former political prisoner Aung Din, who called it an act of legitimation of the ruling regime.

There is strong concern that a trip to Cuba by the United States president will be another boost to neo-Castroism. While the president has publically stated that he wants to meet with different sectors of Cuban society, we get the impression that the opposition, above all those who don’t share the current administration’s agenda, could be discounted as has happened in other cases.

Including the self-employed, intellectuals and other actors who remain under the full control of the regime within the definition of civil society tries, and in many cases succeeds, in diluting and diminishing clear and direct discourse about the daily excesses and abuses on the island.

We have heard with great insistence the fallacious argument that the opposition is far removed from the people and their problems. This assertion shows a lack of information and an ignorance of the nature and behavior of totalitarian regimes.

The opposition is a portion of the people, already fed up, who dare to openly and directly point to the regime as the main axis of our problems, and demand our basic rights despite the high cost this implies. To demand the exercise of our rights constitutes the maximum commitment of any opposition movement against a despotic and corrupt dictatorship like that embedded in our country for almost 60 years now.

To admit the legitimacy of the Castro regime implies consent to its crimes and violations, past and present. To accept that neo-Castroism is a part of the future of our nation deeply burdens and condemns us in advance. Those who propose a supposed reconciliation, in which truth, justice and compensation for victims are not contemplated as fundamental elements, are mistaken.

The White House has in its hands to change the direction to a process that doesn’t enjoy the respect and support of broad groups of Cubans, above all those who have paid a high cost for openly confronting such a despotic regime. To insist on an agenda where principles and truth are absent, is to condemn it to failure.

President Obama’s visit, despite the softening of the initial euphoria and expectations, it could bring more legitimacy to the regime and more confusion and bewilderment to Cubans. As on other occasions, all the momentum will end up fading if it is not conditioned on the dictatorship taking concrete steps to dismantle totalitarianism.

The unfavorable impressions of many Cubans left by the visits of Pope Francis and Secretary of State John Kerry are very fresh in our memories. In both cases it was the regime that reaped the greatest dividends, comfortably settled in its intransigence and violence.

Three basic steps that could give a context to the visit, as proposed by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (ForoDyL) are:

– Immediately cease the repression against every Cuban who defends their fundamental rights and freedoms. Amnesty for political prisoners or prisoners confined for acts with political connotations.

– Ratification and monitoring of the implementation of the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights.

– Formal meeting with a representation of the Cuban opposition.

We who demand and defend our rights and freedoms and who, for more than nine months, have gone out into public spaces to exercise them under the campaign #TodosMarchamos (We All March), know well the repressive face of the regime. Despite the costs involved we continue in an effort that we consider vital in this struggle.

In similar circumstances and facing similar challenges and dilemmas, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. declared:

“On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”**

*Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

** Martin Luther King, Jr. A Proper Sense of Priorities. A speech delivered in Washington D.C. on February 6, 1968, on American involvement in the war in Vietnam.

Opposition Marchers Should Change Their Strategy / Ivan Garcia

Ladies in White and dissidents in Gandhi Park on Sunday November 22, 2015. Snapshot Arturo Rojas, taken from CubaNet.

Ivan Garcia, 13 January 2016 — There were more than seven thousand arrests of dissidents in 2015, with most detentions lasting several hours. Beatings, harassment, acts of repudiation and degrading treatment by police are common in Cuba. Political reforms are not part of General Raúl Castro’s agenda.

Despite the repression in Havana there is one city block where democracy is respected. It was not a gift from the regime. It was a victory achieved by the Ladies in White in the spring of 2010. In this area you can protest and march without being brutally assaulted. Continue reading “Opposition Marchers Should Change Their Strategy / Ivan Garcia”

It is located in the Miramar district in the western part of the city. A procession takes place from Fifth Avenue and 26th Street, where St. Rita of Casia Church is located, to a park located on Fifth Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets, a spot formerly known as Prado Park in honor of the Peruvian dignitary Mariano Ignacio Prado and now known as Mahatma Gandhi Park.

After the march a brawl breaks out. Every Sunday at eleven o’clock for eight months State Security has been mounting an intense sting operation in the streets adjoining Fifth Avenue.

Dozens of boorish officers on Suzuki motorcycles from a squad known as Section 21 — a group conditioned to strike first and ask questions later — wait for the demonstrators at intersections or at a bus stop located at 28th Street and Third Avenue.

Every Sunday three or four buses are commandeered from the decrepit public transport system to forcibly transfer the Ladies in White and other dissidents to jail. A phalanx of police cars, an ambulance and cameramen from special services, who are there to film the uproar, round out the scene.

Among those mobilized are civilians from the so-called Rapid Response Brigade, a varied battalion made up of retired veterans, members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and guys inclined towards criminal behavior.

It is not unusual for the regime to employ an enraged mob to deal with what it considers to be “provocations.” The atmosphere on Sundays in this peaceful neighborhood in Miramar is similar to the chaos caused by radical baton-wielding hooligans at soccer matches in Argentina.

The basest instincts come into play. Sticks, metal rods and stones are used to assault compatriots simply because they think differently. The methods are violence, humiliation and verbal lynching. The festival of derision is repeated on subsequent Sundays.

The slogans of these paramilitary groups should strike a palpable fear in anyone who hears them. “Machete them; there aren’t many,” goes one. “Ready, aim, fire” and “mercenaries” are some of the other choruses sprinkled with crude expletives. You can disagree with a political organization’s stategy, but coarseness and intimidation should not be the solution.

Civilized governments put a premium on dialogue and respect. Clearly that is not the case here. On a list published by Reporters Without Borders, the island ranks 169th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom.

Cuba is the only country in the Western world where all political parties, other than the Communist party, are prohibited. And when it comes to human rights, the regime approves only of those by which it abides.

For the military-run government human rights consist of universal public health and eduction, and access to culture and sports. No one would argue that these are not inalienable rights.

But lawful political participation, freedom of expression and freedom of association are rights too. It is a question of whether one perceives the glass as being half full or half empty.

As justification, Castro supporters claim to be under siege, stalked by the United States and choked off by an economic embargo. I don’t buy it.

The conduct of the rulers and their henchmen, handing out punches and imprisoning dissidents, is the result of a genetically predisposed hostility towards democracy. Transparency, dialogue and respect for differences are not part of the political strategies of the Castro dictatorship.

Nearly forty Sundays after the Ladies in White and the Forum for Rights and Liberties — headed respectively by Berta Soler and Antonio Rodiles — began their marches and petitions, the regime’s stance remains unchanged.

The dissident community itself is divided over how to proceed. Some believe that Soler and Rodiles should not be directly challenging the irrational ferocity of the special services and so they do not join in.

The international press barely covers the Sunday beatings and the Western democratic community is concerned with issues that it considers more important. At best, a spokesperson for the White House or the State Department might issue an inconsequential press release.

The problem is not whether the demands by the Ladies or the Forum are reasonable or excessive. They have a right to peacefully protest without being harassed, and not just in a “democratic block” on Fifth Avenue in Miramar.

In my opinion, the dissident movement should consider other strategies. The news media loses interest when routine repression begins to seem trivial.

Unfortunately, the world of mass communication is now driven by excess. For example, if a headline appears in a Swiss newspaper, it is because a dictator or mafia chieftain has opened accounts in the country’s banks, not because its democratic system functions like a Swiss watch.

If there are no dead or wounded, or if an event involves fewer than ten thousand people, the world’s leading broadcasters and major news organizations will continue to ignore attacks against a hundred or so women and men marching peacefully in protest along a stretch of Fifth Avenue to Gandhi Park.

Rather than increasing the number of participants in their marches, the Ladies in White and the Forum for Liberties should take up causes of a populist nature about issues that affect everyone, such as demanding food at reasonable prices and reducing prices in hard currency stores.

Or improving the quality of life, constructing and repairing housing, finding a solution for the more than 130,000 flood victims who now live in makeshift shelters and guaranteeing an efficient public transport system.

Or raising laughably low wages, unifying the dual currency system, initiating a national debate on unchecked migration; launching a campaign against domestic and gender violence, and demanding the repeal of Law 217, which prevents our compatriots from other provinces from moving to Havana.

Petitioning the government to include Cubans under the new Foreign Investment Law and urging it to draft a law allowing Cubans living overseas to participate in national political life. Also, reducing taxes on private businesses, among other concessions.

The list goes on. The Ladies in White could be the spokesperson for those citizens who are now sitting on the sidelines. Changing the focus of their petitions could change the rules of the game.

What would be the government’s reaction? Presumably another spiral of violence. But with broader social demands they would gain supporters among Cubans who only have black coffee for breakfast.

Media Campaign Aims to Discredit Rodiles / Angel Santiesteban

Antonio Rodiles making a statement after his arrest

Angel Santiesteban Prats, 26 December 2015 — State Security is using all the tools in its arsenal to denigrate Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles, who is currently the most uncomfortable thorn in the side of the regime, in the court of national and international public opinion.

Rodiles is one of three organizers of the Forum for Rights and Liberties. In conjunction with the Ladies in White and other human rights organizations, the group promotes peaceful Sunday marches — demonstrations which have been causing great harm to the regime — under the hashtag #TodosMarchamos.

Following mass at St. Rita Church, the group meets — as coincidence would have it — at Gandhi Park, and walks in a peaceful weekly procession along 26th Street to Third Avenue. They do this knowing that what awaits them, Sunday after Sunday, is one of those operations mounted by the repressive forces of the Castro clan to which we have become so accustomed. Fortunately, however, images of every repressive attack are recorded, leaving no doubt as to what is really going on. Continue reading “Media Campaign Aims to Discredit Rodiles / Angel Santiesteban”

The reaction by the regime is clear evidence that Rodiles is hitting them where they are most vulnerable: the nerve center from which they have zealously maintained, for more than half a century in power, social discipline. As usual, they have used nastiness, lies and posturing in an attempt to strip him of his personal attributes, actions which have caused outrage because of the cowardice which they have been concocted.

This is a well-known tactic, one that has been used many times before on other opposition figures. The macabre plan is to first tarnish his image and, once they have sown doubt about him in the public’s mind, to then imprison him, because putting Rodiles behind bars is a longstanding dream the political police will always fight to achieve.

This smear campaign recently began after Rodiles returned from the United States, where he was invited to speak at a congressional debate in Washington on the topic of Cuba. He later met with prominent Cuban-American congressional representatives, who are calling on the government of Raul Castro to respect freedom and human rights on the island as a prerequisite for progress in restoring diplomatic relations. It is worth remembering that, upon returning home from his first such visit last year, Rodiles’ organization was the object of a cyber attack, albeit a relatively minor one.

Those maneuvering to sully human rights activists are working hard to dismantle the Forum for Rights and Freedoms. To do this, they need to get Rodiles out of the way, dismember the Ladies in White organization and remove the obstacles blocking their path to remaining in power, as they have done for nearly six decades.

If the Castro dictatorship reacts this way to someone like Antonio Rodiles, clearly it must be because he is doing something right. Persecuting him is payback for his political activism, for his constant defiance of the injustices that the regime perpetrates against those who oppose its plans.

Neither the defamations aimed at vilifying him — in essence, because of his pride — nor the entire army of followers that the terrorist state uses to harass him will be enough. Nor will plotting to achieve spurious benefits succeed in changing our standards or our ideas. On the contrary, this shameful strategy convinces us even more of the need for a clean and democratic government.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, December 2015, “free” on parole.

Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis / Forum for Rights and Freedoms

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Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.

Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States. Continue reading “Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis / Forum for Rights and Freedoms”

In this case, the regime is pressuring the United States, and involving third parties, in the midst of a process of normalization between the Obama administration and the dictatorship, to win additional concessions from president Obama, without having to take steps to improve the appalling situation of human rights in Cuba.

We condemn the profound contempt, and the indolent and inhumane attitude of the dictatorship towards Cubans. Only a transition to democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms can reverse the misery that exists on the island.

We appeal to international organizations and those involved to be in solidarity with the Cuban people and their right to be free, in the face of his scenario that becomes more complex every day.

Foro por los Derechos y Libertades / Forum for Rights and Freedoms
Ailer González, Estado de Sats
Ángel Moya, Movimiento Libertad Democrática por Cuba
Ángel Santiesteban, Estado de Sats
Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats
Berta Soler, Dama de Blanco
Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats
Egberto Escobedo, Asociación de presos y expresos políticos en Cuba
María Cristina Labrada, Dama de Blanco
Raul Borges, Partido por la Unidad Democrática Cristiana

Other signers
Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba
Lincoln Díaz-Balart, El Instituto La Rosa Blanca
Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, Directorio Democrático Cubano

Writer Angel Santiesteban Arrested Again / 14ymedio

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)
The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 November 2015 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Havana. A police car drove the activist from Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles’s house, where he was, to a police station, according to Santiesteban himself who spoke to this newspaper at the time of his arrest.

After the arrest, the blogger Lia Villares informed this newspaper that the police told the writer that it was “circulated for a month,” under the alleged “violation of domicile.” This Thursday he could be “tried in the Fifth Chamber of the court,” the same source stated.

Another source told 14ymedio the writer had missed the last time he was supposed to have signed in at the police station, a control measure that he must complete every week, under the terms of his probation. Should certain information arise, the authorities could use this to revoke his parole and return him to prison.

Last July Santiesteban was released after entering prison in December 2012, after a process that was considered by many to be arbitrary and precipitate. At that time he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison also for alleged “violation of domicile and injuries.”

The writer has won significant literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novel in Drawer Prize in 2013; the prize is given to censored writers whose work is, literally, “in a drawer” because they are unable to publish in their home countries.

Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)
The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.

The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.

Activist Arcelio Molina Leyva reported to 14ymedio that “the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was raided, and they stole everything they could,” besides detaining “those who were there.” The dissident detailed that among those arrested were Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Yriade Hernandez Aguilera. Continue reading “Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio”

UNPACU had called for a demonstration this Sunday for the liberation of three of its members who were arrested after approaching Pope Francis before his mass in Revolution Plaza. Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet Reni continue in custody and presumably on hunger strike, according to members of their organization.

At least twenty activists from UNPACU were driven by police to the Third Police Unit in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The number of arrests throughout the country has been calculated by opposition sources at more than 200 people.

Hours after his arrest, opposition leader Jose Daniel Ferrer was freed.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

The Ladies In White Face Another Sunday Of Repression In Havana / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)
Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 October, 2015 – Fifty-nine Ladies in White and 20 activists gathered this Sunday in Gandhi Park in Havana’s Playa district, despite the arrests previous to their traditional Sunday peregrination. After a summary of their weekly activities, the dissidents were detained, according to a report from witnesses at the scene.

From the early hours, the regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque denounced the arrests of 12 human rights activists who had traveled to Santa Rita parish. Among those arrested with the mother and siblings of Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, one of the members of the of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who had approached Pope Francis in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

Others arrested on Sunday included the regime opponents Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez and Felix Navarro. The latter lives in the town of Perico, Matanzas, and traveled to the capital to show his support to the human rights movement.

Blogger Agustín López Canino denounced his arrest and reported that he was handcuffed at the corner of 5th and 30th streets, in the Playa district, together with two other colleagues. The activists detailed that he was “taken to the outskirts of Havana” to prevent his accompanying the Ladies in White during their Sunday march.

Meanwhile, in Colón, Matanzas, independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported ten Ladies in White marched in Colón, Matanzas, for the release of the political prisoners.

The leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler said that Yaquelín Boni, an activist detained since Thursday during a protest outside Combinado del Este prison and accused of “disobedience,” has now been released.

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

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

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

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

The organization explained that Maldonado was arrested in December 2014 for painting the names of the two Castro brothers on the backs of two pigs, before an artistic performance he was going to stage with the animals. Continue reading “Cuban Exiles Demand The Release Of Danilo Maldonado / EFE, 14ymedio”

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

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

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

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

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

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