For years I tried to imagine his face, but it didn’t appear anywhere. He had been erased from the national history with meticulous cruelty. They airbrushed him out, even in one of the most iconic images of the Revolution, the one where he and Camilo Cienfuegos accompany Fidel on top of a Jeep, during the victorious entry into Havana.
In the middle of the last decade, Huber Matos was visiting Santo Domingo and they invited me to a meeting with the heroic commander. He was already a fragile cornflower, but kept intact his stature and his strength. When we shook hands he pressed mine firmly. I felt gripped by the bones in his hands.
It was hard for me to ask for the floor, I was intimidated by his glance and the weight of the history he carried on his shoulders. “I would just like to ask your forgiveness, commander,” I said to him. Then I told him of the hatred I had felt for him as a child. “To my generation they instilled in us that you were a traitor to the fatherland and responsible for the disappearance of Camilo [Cienfuegos].”
He stood up and gave me a hug. Again I felt myself gripped. “Thank you, son,” he said, very moved, almost in my ear. Although they couldn’t shoot him, they assassinated his reputation, which is the most cowardly method Fidel Castro has used to annul his adversaries. Because of this the young people in my country know very little about one of the bravest leaders of the Revolution.
The man who died today was one of the first Cubans who warned that that popular feat would turn itself into a shameful dictatorship. The day when history can tell it like it was, Huber Matos will once again climb up on that Jeep from which he never should have been removed. Then, without erasing anyone else, it will be perfectly clear who betrayed whom.
Camilo Venegas from his blog El Fogonero
27 February 2014
Letter from Hubert Matos to Fidel Castro
Camagüey, 19 October 1959
To Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, Prime Minister, Havana
Today I have sent to the Chief of Staff, through regulation channels, a radiogram regarding my position in the Rebel Army. I am assured that this matter will be elevated to you for your solution and consider that it is my duty to inform you of the reasons why I have had to request my discharge from the army, explaining to you the following conclusions:
First: I do not desire to make myself an obstacle to the Revolution and I believe that having to adapt myself or cut myself off so as to do no harm, the honorable and revolutionary thing is to leave.
Second: From an elementary modesty I must relinquish all responsibility within the ranks of the Revolution, after learning of some of your comments in the conversation you had with the compañeros Agramonte and Fernández Vilá, Provincial coordinators in Camagüey and Havana respectively: while this conversation did not mention my name, you were thinking of me. I also believe that after replacing Duque and other changes, anyone who has been talking frankly with you about the communist problem should leave before they are removed. Continue reading
Former commander of the Cuban revolution Huber Matos Benítez, one of the most important figures of the opposition to the regime of the Castros, died early Thursday morning in a Miami hospital, reported his organization Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID). He was 95.
Matos (born in Yara, Granma province, on November 26, 1918) had been admitted two days earlier to Kendall Regional Hospital “where he was diagnosed with a massive heart attack” according to the CID report.
“On the 26th he asked to be disconnected from breathing equipment because he wanted to say farewell to his wife María Luisa Araluce, his children and grandchildren,” it added.
The organization said that during his hospitalization Matos received call from Cuba from the principal leaders of his party, “who affirmed that the organization would not rest until the island was free.” Continue reading
Huber Matos died on the morning of 27 February in Miami. On the 25th he was admitted to Kendall Regional Hospital where he was diagnosed with a massive heart attack. On the 26th he asked that they withdraw his respirator because he wanted to say goodbye to his wife María Luisa Araluce and to his children and grandchildren. During the day he received calls from Cuba and the main leaders of his party, the Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID) movement, who assured him the organization would not rest until the island is free.
Activists in Holguín sang the national anthem to him and members of the organization throughout Cuba were notified of the situation and of the commitment of their leader. His last words were: “The struggle continues. Viva Cuba Libre!”
Huber Matos left a political testament and a letter to Venezuelans. There will be a service for him in Miami on Sunday, 2 March, and he asked to be taken to Costa Rica, the country that sheltered him when he went into exile the first time during the Revolutionary struggle in 1957. It was from Costa Rica where he left for the Sierra Maestra to join the guerrilla war, and to this nation that he returned after spending two decades in prison in 1979.
“I want to return to Cuba from the same land whose people always showed me solidarity and affection, I want to rest in the earth of Costa Rica until Cuba is free and from there go to Yara, to accompany my mother and reunite with my father and with Cubans.”
Huber Matos Benítez was born in Yara, Cuba, on 26 November 1918. He was a schoolteacher turned Revolutionary from his opposition to the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. In 1957, during one of the rebels’ logistical support operations, Matos was captured by Batista’s army in the Sierra Maestra area, but he was able to escape and go into exile in Costa Rica.
There, with the support of president José Figueres, he raised arms with which he landed in a cargo plane in the Sierra Maestra. These arms were decisive for the triumph of the small and poorly equipped Rebel Army against the offensive launched by Batista in 1958. For his courage and leadership in the guerrilla struggle, Matos was the rebel who rose most quickly to commander, as head of the Antonio Guiteras Column 9.
The frequent battles and triumphs of this column converted Huber Matos and his men into a legend. Column 9 was in charge of the siege, surrender and taking of the city of Santiago, a deciding action in the final victory of the revolutionary movement. Photographs of Fidel Castro’s triumphant entry into Havana show Huber Matos and Camilo Cienfuegos at his side.
In 1959 Matos was named Army Commander in Camagüey province. After having discussed several times with Fidel Castro the growing alignment of the process with Communism, he renounced it, stating that this constituted a betrayal of the democratic principles of the Revolution as they had been promised to the Cuban people. In response, Castro ordered his arrest on 21 October 1959.
A week after his detention Camilo Cienfuegos, who shared Matos’ concern, mysteriously disappeared with his plane and pilot and they were never found.
During the summary trial for sedition in December 1959, Matos insisted on denouncing the deviation from the objective of the Revolutionary Movement for which he and so many others had risked their lives. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison, which he served in rebellion until the last day in 1979.
When he left prison, a representative of the Costa Rican government traveled to Cuba to accompany him on his trip to Costa Rica, where a large group of Cubans met him at the airport, along with the president Rodrigo Carazo, José Figueres and Oscar Arias.
From exile, he worked tenaciously to denounce the Castro regime. This led him to found, in 1980 in Caracas, Venezuela, the Independent and Democratic Cuba movement (CID), which today has a large membership organized in delegations throughout the entire island. Members of the CID are frequently harassed, imprisoned, and at times tortured by the Cuban authorities.
In his autobiographical book “How the Night Came,” which has sold more than 100,000 copies and which circulates clandestinely in Cuba, Matos relates the details of his participation in the Revolutionary army and his subsequent imprisonment, in which he was subjected to every kind of torture.
As Secretary General of the CID, from his base in Miami, Florida, Huber Matos engaged in intense activity reporting and campaigning in the United States, Latin America and Europe. In 2002 his social-democratic party published the Project of the New Republic, which has five key programmatic fundamentals:
1. Independence and sovereignty
2. Multiparty democracy
3. Free market economy
4. Human rights and social justice.
5. Latin American and continental integration
In addition, in 2011 the CID published a draft Constitution that guarantees the exercise of democratic freedoms and respect for human rights for all the inhabitants of the island, and includes a variety of provisions on education, social welfare, the economy and the environment.
Commander Matos qualified as a teacher in Santiago de Cuba and received a PhD in Teaching from the University of Havana.
Rogelio Matos Araluce 1-321-759-8066, firstname.lastname@example.org
Huber Matos Garsault 1-305-906-1950, email@example.com
27 February 2014
SANTA CLARA, Cuba.- Members of the Cuban Independent and Democratic Party (CID) paid tribute to Laura Inés Pollan Toledo on the 66th birthday, 13 February, at one of their sites in the city of Santa Clara.
Ada Olimpia Becerra Fuentes, who represents the CID, in the Brisas del Oeste neighborhood in that city, said that 16 opponents met and shared memories of the deceased Laura, with a framed photo and a bouquet of gladioli.
In commemoration of her they sang the National anthem, held a minute of silence in her memory, and read a document referring to the leader of the Ladies in White written by her husband, Héctor Maseda.
14 February 2014
Site manager’s note: We have been receiving news of a large protest in Holguin since yesterday but this video from CID (Independent and Democratic Cuba) is the first direct visual evidence we have seen.
Following is a translation of the notations as they appear on the video.
0:00 Self-employed workers in Holguin march from their businesses to the government offices.
0:21 – “… we want to work… we want to work.” The protest was organized by the workers themselves.
0:31 – Finally they gathered in front of the local government where they were repressed.
0:43 – In the early hours the independent workers were already gathered in front of the government offices.
0:57 – The police started to beat the leaders of the protest who defended themselves.
1:13 – Minutes later the strongest nucleus of the protest continued defending the Cuban flag they were carrying.
1:29 – They included the members of the CID who were recording the protests.
1:35 – With more than 500 self-employed people members of G2 (State Security) in plainclothes asked for reinforcements.
2:00 – Plainclothes police tried to grab the camera from members of CID who were recording the events…
2:14 – “… the people want justice, that is what you get… you’re defending this for 3 pesos… and a little bag [a sack of “goodies”such as shampoo, soap, etc.]…”
2:32 – Osmel Cespedez Artigas. CID member who recorded the videos.
2:44 – MININT (Ministry of the Interior) official approaches to grab the camera but is overcome, tries to back off.
2:59 – “Look, the people here are watching, you’re going to beat me? Who are you?”
22 January 2014
Blanco Gil was arrested in front of the Reparto Hermanos Cruz supermarket carrying 100 copies of the weekly, which were seized by the repressive agent known as “the dwarf”, badge number 11804, and the sector chief, badge number 11869.
After putting handcuffs on him they put him in a patrol car and took him to the bus terminal sector. There he was interrogated and threatened by State Security Official Yoel, who said he would go to prison if he continued to distribute enemy propaganda, and who threatened that he would not be allowed to deceive people and disparage the Revolution.
After being detained more than 7 hours Blanco Gil was released.
Santa Clara, 14 January 2014 – CID activists Yoel Fonseca Machado and Olga Lilia Gonzalez Barroso, said they were beaten and arrested by police officers, while trying to support a strike self-employed workers tried to carry out in 14 January in Santa Clara.
The police officers gave Yoel a strong blow to the head and he lost consciousness. Olga Lila also had bruises and abrasions on her body; she said they were places in a cell at the 3rd Police Station.
The activists explained that went to Barcelona Street between Cuba Street and Paseo de la Paz, at the request of some self-employed that were to be deprived of the site where they had been selling things for several years.
Yoel Machado Fonseca and Olga Lilia Gonzalez Barroso, liveat number 161 A Toscano Street, between Martí and San Vicente in Santa Clara, and are members of the Independent and Democratic Cuba Party (CID ).
By Elena Yesmi, 14 January 2014
In a meeting held December 28, 2013, at the CCSF Rigoberto Fuentes cooperative in the San Juan y Martinez municipality in the Pinar del Rio province, the directors threatened to take land from farmers if they do not participate in the monthly assembly and in the political events convened by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).
Some of the many problems that the cooperatives face throughout all the national territory is the low participation of their members in the assemblies that are held every month in order to offer a solution to the problems that the farmers present.
The farmers have lost interest in these meetings because no solution to their problems is presented, and they realize that everyone agrees that the problems are just going to end up in a drawer. They are simply tired of listening to the same lying discourse. Continue reading
Yilian Lucia Orama and Alexander Rodriguez, her husband–activists for the Independent and Democratic Cuba party (CID) in Santa Clara–were detained at 2 pm January 8 in the municipality of Camajuani, Villa Clara province.
Yanisbel Valido Perez, delegate from CID in the province, reported via telephone that the activists traveled to that municipality with the purpose of buying a pair of shoes and on their return were arrested by ten uniformed police officers who demanded to search them in the public roadway. As both refused they were transferred to a police station by Cesar, a repressive agent.
After they were stripped of their clothes and absolutely nothing was found, each was fined 30 pesos, national currency, for charges of “Public Disorder,” that is, for not letting themselves be searched in public. The CID activists did not accept the charges and refused to pay the fines after they were freed.
Translated by mlk.
12 January 2014
Beginning improvements in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: The approved proposals were aimed at shaping a modern revolutionary Foreign Ministry to ensure more efficient performance of the organization and the concentration of the resources and efforts in the priorities of Cuban foreign policy.”
Under the slogan of “Combating the blockade as our principal mission” in the diplomatic sphere, lies perhaps in the modification of the existing legal mechanisms, which allow Cubans (especially the most powerful Cubans, who are those of the Government of Havana) to interact with foreigners (governments or companies) interested in the new direction that Cuban political economy seems to be taking.
Should this be the case, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) would be undergoing a transformation similar to that of other State agencies and entities: to accommodate the game at the convenience of the ruling class, who want to economically restructure the country while still having absolute power over it.
All this can also be related to the winks that come from the leadership of the country to the prosperous Cuban community in the US. They have made declarations (onthe part of Antonio Castro, son of Fidel Castro and the true “owner” of the Cuban baseball team) that it would be good if the Cuban ballplayers in the U.S. major leagues returned to play under their flag: which was denied to them the day they “deserted” and were called “traitors.”
Certainly, with the changes within the country there will also come changes toward the exterior. MINREX will not be the exception.
Víctor Ariel González
14 November 2013
“Cuba is not the place of origin, transit or destination of human trafficking”. This was declared by Isabel Moya Richard, the director of ’Editorial de la Mujer’ (A Cuban Women’s Federation publisher) on November 1. However, later in the article it is stated that in 2012 fourteen people were convicted of trafficking. So, the phenomenon does exist.
The aforementioned director recognises that it is important to prevent these practices through an orientation towards healthy sexuality, implementing “sexual education in all levels of education”.
She adds that “another key matter is the work of the Ministry of Tourism to avoid campaigns that could associate Cuba with ’sexual tourism’”. The matter “is not easy” given the advertising image of a paradisaical beach (main natural resource for Cuban tourism) upon which usually walks a woman whose figure indirectly offers to the visitor the possibility of finding sexual pleasure. This aesthetic concept implies a distortion of the female image and its association with a product that sells. Paradoxically, this phenomenon, equally common in western market economies, has been criticised by the Cuban government, that for reasons of “avoiding turning women into merchandise” has gone so far as to prohibit the possession of pornography.
In various civil independent society publications, foreign as well as Cuban, accounts appear that bear witness to the sexual exploitation of Cuban adolescent victims. They speak of families that agree to “offer” their daughters to a foreigner who promises to take them with him to give them a better life and in this way the girl is able to help those who she leaves behind.
Prostitution is a hidden subject in Cuba. The critical economic situation has contributed to the growth of this phenomenon in recent years to never before seen levels.
In respect to human trafficking we can also include those who are victims of irregular migratory trafficking. Although it is not necessarily related to prostitution, conditions in Cuba also give rise to a high number of illegal immigrants, those who pay exorbitant prices to arrive to the U.S.A. by sea or via third countries such as Mexico. The price of a “ticket” is above 8,000 CUC.
By Victor Ariel González
16 November 2013
Translated by Peter W Davies
My name is Maireni Saborio Gonzales, I am 23 years old and I live in city of Caibarien, Villa Clara. I left as a boat person or rafter on September 25, 2012 and I was jailed for 11 months in the Carmicheal Center located in Nassau Bahamas, where later on I was deported back to Cuba on August 21, 2013.
While in Bahamas, I psychologically suffered very much. I was the woman who was raped by the immigration officer in Bahamas.
I am very afraid to be in this country – Cuba – because I declared myself as dissident on some United States’ radio stations, on the internet and I repudiated wanting to return to Cuba in all instances.
I am under a lot of tension due to all the things that have happened to me; I also had to denounce the Bahamian authorities because of their lack of protection during the time I was imprisoned, due to the sexual assaults that I suffered on several occasions and I am under pressure too because I was returned to a country where I haven’t been able to find a job and I feel that I am under surveillance at all times.
I was one of the women who stitched their mouths shut; I surrendered my beauty and I shaved my head to collaborate with my compatriots, 24 Cubans completely bald. I did two hunger strikes, one that lasted 18 days and the second one that lasted 16 days, and there were men on strike too.
The Bahamian government detained me because I tried to kill myself due to the psychological stress that I was under. They detained me and took me to a mental institution in which around March I took a mixture of 20 different medications so I could take my life. Afterwards, they took me to the Silent Hospital, another medical institution which the Bahamanians have on the island of Nassau to treat the mentally ill.
As I said before, there they gave me medications and wouldn’t tell me anything about what was going to happen with our situation and I was extremely stressed.
We witnessed beatings, we saw our compatriots be beaten, the video that is going around the world is not a lie, this video is real and we lived it and we, the women, decided to go through everything that happened because nothing that you see in those photos and on the internet is a lie and we decided to do it because we were tired of these things and of existing under those horrific conditions in which we found ourselves where we didn’t even have drinking water and we had to sleep on the floor and we couldn’t communicate with our families and we were continually sexually harassed.
In addition to seeing how they mistreated our compatriots, we had no human rights, no one we could count on and we lived in this place in this concentration camp that was horrible and what we wanted was for the whole world to see what was happening and what happens with all these Cubans. We were a little more than forty Cubans who were in the detention center, we aren’t criminals and the only thing we were looking for was a window to freedom and I ask, please, that everyone who sees this video knows what is is real and help us so that one day we can see the freedom we so greatly desire.
Translated by – LYD and RST
13 September 2013
The compatriot José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre, known as Father Conrado, Catholic but above all Cuban, visited Argentina and among his activities he met in Buenos Aires with a group of Cubans and Argentinians who carry Cuba in their hearts.
I went to the meeting with great interest because the Father Conrado — who has been free to come and go from Cuba for years — knows the Cuban problem from different perspectives. The meeting lasted several hours, during which we talked about the Cuban Catholic Church, the opposition and the regime.
Father Conrado expressed “concern about the current situation of the Cuban people, social pressure has been increasing,” and he does not rule out the possibility of an explosion. According to what he said, this concerns the government, given the question of changes. On lifting the embargo the Father Conrad said, “we need some preconditions .”
On the role of the Catholic Church, he said that Francisco, “is a Pope we have been waiting for, the church removes the superfluous and comes down from the altar, the church is needed in Cuba. It is the church I want because I’m a priest of the people.”
He said Bishop Jaime Ortega and the Church have always been on the side of the Cuban people and that,”Bishop Jaime is really worried.” Father Conrado also referred to Jaime’s forthcoming retirement and his confidence that the Pope will bless us with the election of a new Cuban bishop; it seems that this is a question of months.
In his opinion, the place for the Cuban opposition is on the island where the people will have the last word. He highlighted the “opposition groups and leaders who today are making a move with perspectives of the future, members of UNPACU and opponents such as Jose Daniel Ferrer, Coco Guillermo Fariñas, Antonio Rodiles and the talented young Eliezer Avila.
He made a special mention of Yoani Sanchez for whom he “keeps a personal affection, along with her husband Reinaldo.” He spoke of the talent and dedication shown by Yoani, whom he considers a charismatic leader with a future within the island.
He didn’t address the potential for the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) nor a mulatto doctor that one of those identified as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, nor did he mention the extensive organization of the Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID) in Cuba. I left that memorable meeting with the impression that the Father Conrado has already chosen his political activism.
Karel Becerra is the Deputy Secretary of International Relations and Coordinator of the blog CID Cuba Advisory
24 August 2013