‘We keep searching for you, Homeland’* / Antonio Rodiles

December 17 is a watershed in the recent history of our country. It is the break point between those who are betting on neo-Castroism or who are willing to participate in its moves, and those of us who argue that our nation should rebuild itself around the basic premises of freedoms and fundamental rights.

No nation has to assume our burdens and resolve our conflicts, but undoubtedly the measures taken by President Barack Obama will provide great benefits to those who intend to mutate to this new authoritarianism. It has been a grave error to set aside the many voices and stories that have so much to say about Cuba, and to listen only to the Castros and to a handful who pretend to know how to transition to democracy.

In parallel, they have tried to show that those who advocate an unbending position with regards to full respect for fundamental human rights are retrograde and extremist people, obsoletes who revel in pain and lack a vision of the future. What a naïve and dangerous game they propose as an exit strategy from totalitarianism. Can they ignore so much history and fail to understand that in a transition there are actors who cannot be omitted?

The longest dictatorship in the hemisphere has destroyed our country materially and profoundly damaged the Cuban soul. The reconstruction of the nation requires more than investment, cellphones and flash memories. Cuba is not a computer on which new software can be installed to make it become socially functional.

We need a consciousness and memory of what has happened to us, our frustrations and pains, what we do not want to repeat or never again perpetuate. Without this recognition we will continue to be a dispersed and broken nation, without the spirit to be reborn. Cuba needs to be re-founded with a fresh impulse, full of strength and a sense of freedom. Starting from clear demands to return the dignity, the pride, and to allow the design of a future without the burden of the Castro regime.

There is a great deal for us to rethink: projection, messages, strategies and even aesthetics. But the hope of shaking off an elite that has shown the most profound contempt for Cubans is a genuine sentiment that steers us. A political solution is only possible if it is based on full respect for the human being.

The current United States administration has to change course if it wants to be an agent of credible change, and it must pay attention to the demand of thousands of Cuban citizens who from within and outside the Island insist on a solid and firm commitment to human rights. The ratification and above all the implementation of the United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should be a key tool as a precondition to move us forward in the Cuban dilemma. The European Union has already paid attention to this demand, adding the International Labor Organization (ILO) standards. A clear and firm repositioning is the only way to give credibility to a process that began with profound mistakes.

What is needed is a strong push to infect with desires of freedom Cubans who, in the face of survival and evasion, have lost faith. To find a solution to our long conflict, it is a premise that all political actors, from within and outside the island, must participate.

It is no longer about the Castro regime, the Castro regime is dying. The conflict is between accepting a neo-Castro authoritarianism, or moving to a true democracy.

The phrase that is the title of this article is a quote from Reinaldo Arenas.

We Shall Fight to the End for the Liberty of Cuba / Cubanet, Ernesto Garcia Diaz

From left to right, Guillermo Fariñas, Antonio G. Rodiles, Félix Navarro and  Ángel Moya (Photo: Ernesto García Díaz)

From left to right, Guillermo Fariñas, Antonio G. Rodiles, Felix Navarro and Á”ngel Moya (photo by author)

  • Leaders of the opposition call Obama’s reconciliation with the Cuban government a “betrayal” during a press conference in Havana

Cubanet, Ernesto García Díaz, Havana, 18 December 2014 — From the headquarters of the Estado de SATS project in Miramar, on Wednesday afternoon (12/17/14), Cuban opposition leaders held a press conference for national and international media, to make known their positions regarding the new political stance of the United States towards Cuba.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, winner of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought and Coordinator General of the United Antitotalitarian Front (FANTU), referring to the steps taken by the governments of Cuba and the United States, stated the following:

“We can applaud the release of Alan Gross, who really was used by the Island’s government to blackmail the American administration. But Obama has been inconsiderate with the civil society that is challenging Cuba’s tyrannical government In Miami, back in November of 2013, Barack Obama promised Bertha Soler and me that any action he would take with respect to Cuba would be consulted with the civil society and nonviolent opposition. Obviously this did not occur. These actions are now accomplished facts, they are reality, and Cuban democrats were not taken into account. Continue reading

Campaign for Another Cuba Delivers Request to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Antonio Rodiles delivers Campaign for Another Cuba documents to Ban Ki-moon

Antonio Rodiles delivers Campaign for Another Cuba documents to Ban Ki-moon

The director of the independent project Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, delivered documents for the Campaña por Otra Cuba (Campaign for Another Cuba) to the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this Wednesday in Costa Rica. The Campaign demands that the Cuban regime ratify and implement the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights signed by the regime at the United Nations in 2008.

The meeting between Rodiles and Ban took place at the National Theater, where the UN Secretary-General was attending a dinner with the with the president of Costa Rica Luis Guillermo Solís and his wife Mercedes Peñas, according to activists of the Campaña por Otra Cuba.

They added that Ban received the documents “with interest.”

During his visit to the Island last January, during the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), Ban called on Raul Castro to ratify the Covenants.

Complaint and Petition

The activists of campaign, on the other hand, have asked that the implementation of the human rights covenants to be included in the current negotiations between the European Union and Havana for a bilateral agreement.

Campaña por Otra also promotes the use of legal action of complaint and petition on the part of Cuban citizens, as a way of demanding a response from their government

“Cuban citizens can file the complaint and petition the State Council, either personally or by certified mail. Those who reside outside the Island can also participate in the campaign by directing their complaint to the nearest Cuban Consulate,” activists explained in a note sent to Diario de Cuba.

Interested parties can use a model complaint and petition posted online by the campaign in PDF format.

Activists who have submitted a demand to the regime can also send a copy to info@porotracuba.org.

Mailing address for the campaign:
Por otra Cuba
Estado de SATS
La Habana 11300

31 July 2104

Judge or Divide? / Antonio Rodiles

HAVANA, Cuba – The debate set off by the letter from more than 40 personalities asking for the relaxation of restrictions towards the Havana regime letter from more than 40 personalities asking for the relaxation of restrictions towards the Havana regime has been copious. Those who support, as a premise, that Cubans must regain their fundamental rights and freedoms have responded with intensity and been very explicit in declaring that it would be members of the regime who would have the most to gain from these measures. Meanwhile, the silence from the Island of those who support this document is striking. I haven’t read a single article defending it.

Amid the controversy, today I came across an interview on the new site of Yoani Sanchez, who in the past has expressed support for the agenda of Carlos Saladrigas, one of the principle promoters of the anti-embargo missive. The interview refers to the debate and its headline caught my attention. I quote:

“The proposal has unleashed passions and speculation, also fueled by the imminent arrival in Havana of representatives from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Cuban society, however, seems to remain out of the headlines, the hot articles, the replies — or support — like the so-called “letter of the 40” already circulating on the networks and in emails. Thinking about this uninformed population submerged in the big problems of everyday life, I did this interview with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who received me in Washington a few weeks before the launch of 14ymedio.”

Cuban society has not remained “outside,” and more and more one hears the opinions of citizens of “this uninformed population submerged in the big problems of everyday life,” who openly  acknowledge that it is not the embargo that is responsible for so much hardship, but a dictatorship willing to continue preying on the country. Continue reading

“All discussion with the regime should be based on the issue of fundamental rights and freedoms” / Antonio Rodiles

Antonio Rodiles. (AILER GONZÁLEZ)

Pablo Diaz Espi: How do you read the current moment inside the country?

Antonio Rodiles: I daresay we are experiencing today the transfer of power from the “old guard” to their heirs, who are desperately seeking legitimacy and agreements. Facing a Cuba without their progenitors won’t be an easy task and they can’t wait for this time to begin establishing themselves inside and outside the Island.

Cuba citizens every day have to deal with a power that demands more obligations and which, in exchange, grants very few rights. Living conditions are degrading with special emphasis on the vulnerable sectors, such as old people. The so-called new entrepreneurs are swimming in a sea of corruption and the informal economy and the stampede to leave the country continues to be the objective of thousands and thousands of Cubans, especially the young. Continue reading

Dissidents: “It implies an ignorance about how things work here.” / Manual Cuesta Morua, Antonio Rodiles, Jose Daniel Ferrer

Letter to Obama: The internal opposition questions that it doesn’t address human rights on the Island.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa, president of the Progressive Arc Party

“It is not very viable to address the proposal directly to self-employment in Cuba since it implies an ignorance of how things work here . It is the government which grants and takes away the license, which doesn’t allow loans from international banks, and which monopolizes the importation of goods and commodities. So the impact of these potential resources will always be limited.

“I find it interesting that this initiative is based in the United States and not Cuba. It is dangerous for Cuba, like the hug of a bear, because Cuba is very weak as a nation. Nor do I see in this letter a clear defense of human rights and freedoms, and that makes me a little suspicious.” Continue reading

Why the United Nations Covenants? / Antonio Rodiles

fac2imagesOn 28 February 2008, the Havana regime signed, as a propaganda maneuver, the United Nations Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. At that time Raul Castro was seeking to legitimate his figure in the international arena and to project himself as a future option for the country.

Six years later, Raul Castro can no longer be taken as a reformist. He now sells himself as the person who can close a chapter in Cuba’s history, offering the international community and the country’s allies a supposed controlled transition and offering his heirs as the only option for “governability” and “stability.” However, the hereditary group represents only the extension of a decadent system plagued by corruption.

Backed by this logic, a new anti-embargo offensive is gaining traction. Several actors and influence groups in the United States are seeking a blank check for the ruling elite and their beneficiaries. Elite who bear the main responsibility for the national disaster and the systematic violation of fundamental rights and freedoms. The offensive is also passing through Europe and Latin America. In the latter case, the main chess piece is beginning to be Brazil, now that Venezuela, in its decline, ceases to be a partner that guarantees stability in the medium term.

However, the recent “desertions” of Cuban professionals from the Brazilian “More Doctors” program, and its possible legal consequences, are evidence that the Brazilian situation is very different from that of the “Bolivarian brother,” and that it could quickly become more complex than expected. Brazil, with its ambition to establish itself as a regional power, is focused on a much longer term scenario. In order to sustain and widen its business presence, it needs a smooth transition process on the island, resulting in at least a stable free market system and full reestablishment of relations between the government in Havana and the United States. Continue reading

Between the “Collectives” and the “Rapid Response Brigades” / Antonio G. Rodiles

8500-fotografia-gState violence has been the Cuban regime’s principle recourse for maintaining power for over 55 years. Beginning with the insurrection against Fulgencio Batista, executions, as a method of punishment, were used relentlessly. Anyone who wanted to show their loyalty had to deliver the coup de grace and take part in executions. A mix of the Communist brutality of Mao’s China and Stalin’s Soviet Union, with doses of the Mexican Revolution.

Watching the revolutionary courts, the shouts of “to the wall,” the ruthless political imprisonment, and the continued executions ratified and defended by Ernesto Guevara on the dais of the United Nations itself, instilled a feeling of helplessness within a great part of Cuban society.

The so-called Cuban Revolution has a violent history that it will never break free of because it is part of its nature. The infamous “acts of repudiation” in the ‘80s led to the more frequent use of vigilante groups, known as “rapid response brigades,” who doled out beatings and followed orders with the objective of instilling terror in citizens.

These rapid response brigades have been transformed in content and action according to the circumstances and needs of the regime. In the ‘80s they focused on those Cubans who wanted to leave the country; starting in the ‘90s they used them against human rights defenders; until finally coming to focus on any opponent or activist.

Today, these groups for the most part are made up by paid agents of the Interior Ministry, working surgically to prevent the spread of outbreaks of discontent or free thought within the Cuban population.

chavez_-_fidelWith the coming to power of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro’s influence in Venezuela became visible. After the failed coup d’etat against Chavez in April 2002, the Havana regime increased its influence in issues of security and its military presence became increasingly notable. Of course the “rapid response brigades” were also exported from Cuba, now called “Bolivarian militias” or “collectives.” Since then, they have concentrated on arming and preparing them to respond with violence and terror in the face of possible democratic demands.

The reaction of these violent vigilante to the protests of recent days has made clear that the “collectives,” in coordination with the police forces, have orders to stifle any protest through the excessive use of violence. Terror must be part of the Venezuelan imagination for the full functioning of the regime-under-construction.

The Chavista strategy has been to wrest away democratic spaces, fragment them, and even to dismantle not only democratic institutions, but also civil society organizations. Cuba’s ruling elite knows that a change in Venezuela implies enormous pressure on the island and the certain end of the Castro regime. They know that ordering or driving indiscriminate repression in Venezuela has no legal consequences for them, but rather for the regime in Caracas. They would prefer a thousand times over to cling to the oil no matter it costs, rather than coming to a massive repressive crackdown on the island.

The Venezuelan military should know that Havana will lead them to the brink without the slightest hesitation, but at the same time they should understand that the Castro regime’s codes are not those of the present century — in this century they can often be counterproductive and extremely dangerous.

What is happening in Venezuela should raise serious concerns on the continent because it opens the door to a social dynamic with unpredictable consequences. To create and institutionalize urban vigilante groups, which, to sustain power enjoy perks and impunity, creates an extremely complex scenario in a region where the Rule of Law remains a dream yet to be achieved.

In a region where organized crime, marginalization and poverty are part of the reality, the spread of Cuban methods of social control should set off alarm bells. The violence and cynicism of the Castro regime can still do a lot of damage in Latin America. The Cuban pattern is disastrous. To spread it would undermine the still weak Latin American democracies.

It is essential, therefore, to offer major support and solidarity to the efforts of Venezuelans. Not only is the return of democracy and fundamental rights being decided there, but also being decided is putting the breaks on the introduction of state violence through the use of criminal gangs and urban vigilantes as a norm in the region. Those of us who defend democracy, have a commitment today to Venezuela.

Antonio Rodiles, Havana, 22 February 2014

A Moment of Zen in the Midst of Chaos / Ailer Gonzalez [Video]

Please click on the image to watch the video

Please click on the image to watch the video

After the violent arrest of her husband, Antonio Rodiles, at the Human Rights Conference sponsored by Estado de Sats, Ailer Gonzalez chose a moment of non-violence in the midst of the madness. As children, still in their uniforms and taken out of school to spend the day harassing human rights advocates swirled around her, Ailer sat quietly under the Havana sun…

Note: At the beginning of the video in the bottom left Antonio’s mother (green dress and cane) can be seen walking back to the house after the arrest with one of the conference participants who then turns back to talk to Ailer. The other adults in video are primarily plainclothes State Security agents working for the Ministry of the Interior. The flag the children are waving (other than Cuba’s) is Venezuela’s.

Repression at Estado de SATS (Video)

This video was taken in the street outside the home of Antonio Rodiles, which is also the headquarters of Estado de SATS, where a Conference on Human Rights was being held in honor or World Human Rights Day.

The man in the blue shirt with glasses is Antonio Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS. The woman appearing next to him in a black dress early in the video, and sitting on the street later in the video, is Ailer Gonzalez, Antonio’s wife and also one of the active coordinators of Estado de SATS. The older woman in the long green dress holding a cane is Antonio’s mother.

The children (in and out of school uniform) were taken out of school to spend the day “repudiating” the Estado de Sats Human Rights Conference (a government spokesperson claimed they were having a “sports day” on this residential street and that Antonio was abusing the children when he was arrested).