Economist Karina Gálvez Released On Bail, After Six Days Of Arrest / 14ymedio

The independent economist Karina Gálvez, editor of the magazine Coexistence. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 January 2017 — On Tuesday night, economist Karina Gálvez was released after her family paid a bond of 2,000 Cuban pesos. The editor of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence) thanked the solidarity of all those who denounced her arrest on 11 January, according to her statements to 14ymedio.

The activist met with her family and friends outside the place where she was detained, at kilometer four and a half pn the road to San Juan, in Pinar del Rio. The authorities did not inform her of an upcoming date for questioning or trial.

Gálvez’s release took place a few hours before Dagoberto Valdés, director of the independent publication, was subjected to an interrogation about the accusations against Galvez. continue reading

“Major Odalys led me to an interrogation room with a video camera,” Valdés said at midday. “There she told me that if I lied I could be charged with perjury.” The official told him that he had been summoned to State Security headquarters – at four and a half kilometers on the road to San Juan, Pinar del Río- for being “a witness to an economic crime that has nothing to do with the project of the Coexistence Study Center.”

However, Attorney Wilfredo Vallín, president of the Cuban Legal Association, says that “it is the court that must have the last word about whether or not a statement is true and whether it is a perjury offense.” So “the law gives the person the opportunity to change his statement as often as he understands, but the final statement will be the one he makes before the court.”

The major repeated questions similar to those asked of Karina’s sister, Livia Gálvez, on Monday, and another member of the publication’s team, Idael Márquez, summoned last Saturday. The interrogation happened in the same place where the economist is being held and where Valdes was interviewed by the police last October and, warned that his life was going to be made “very difficult.

“Are you aware of the legal procedures around the sale of Karina’s property? Did you accompany her to the notary’s office to do the paperwork? How much money was given to complete the payment for the house?” These were among the questions asked by the director of the magazine Convivencia, who answered that he knew “absolutely nothing.”

The official blamed Valdés for being behind the transaction to acquire the property, an accusation that the layman rejected, urging the official to define whether the case was an “economic crime” or a charge with “political connotations,” related to the peaceful activism that the members of the Convivencia team maintain from the city of Pinar del Río.

“You have to participate as a witness in the trial,” Odalys told him, an assertion that has raised alarms over a possible cancellation of the right to leave the country for Valdés and other members of the team. Something that could negatively influence the presence of the members of the Coexistence Study Center during the upcoming meeting about education in Cuba scheduled for 28 and 29 in Miami, Florida.

Publisher of ‘Coexistence’ is Incommunicado in State Security Headquarters / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Karina Gálvez, editor of the magazine Coexistence in Pinar del Río. (Alongthemalecon)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 21 January 2017 — The editor of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence), the economist Karina Galvez, is still being held incommunicado 24 hours after a spectacular police raid on her home in Pinar del Río.

Gálvez is accused of tax evasion, something that the editorial team of the Coexistence Study Center precluded in a press release.

“Karina has no business, nor is she self-employed in her work, nor does she work for the Cuban state,” says the letter signed by the team of the first think tank in the western part of the island. continue reading

The members of Convivencia explain that the accusation refers to the sale of Galvez’s home: “All the transactions carried out in 2014 are in order and all corresponding tax payments have been made.”

According to the note, the detainee is being advised by the team of lawyers of the International Legal Consultancy in Pinar del Río.

Karins Gálvez’s house is sealed and friends and relatives are prohibited from entering. According to the official who identified herself as Major Odalys, the house is “occupied” and Galvez will be held incommunicado for seven days, after which she may receive a visit to give her personal cleanliness supplies.

“They have not taken anything from the house, what they have done is pasted on the doors and the garage papers handwritten in ink,” Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the editorial team ‘Coexistence’, told 14ymedio.

According to Izquierdo, after a week, police and state security officials will determine whether they will impose “a precautionary measure, bail or imprisonment.”

The break-in of Galvez’s house came within a few hours of the inauguration of the new interior minister, Julio César Gandarilla, who exercises command of the National Revolutionary Police and State Security forces.

Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, director of the Coexistence Study Center, has highlighted the increase in repressive actions against the center, which has no political affiliation.

“This is part of the harassment that the Study Center has been suffering intensely for months. I was warned that life would be more difficult for us and we are not in a time of maintaining alternative positions,” Valdes said in a telephone conversation with 14ymedio.

“What they have done to Karina Gálvez is a clear violation of human rights and it seems to concern the production of thought for the future of the country, when precisely what we Cubans need sit down around the table and discuss how we can solve the serious problems our nation is experiencing,” he added.

On Christmas Eve, Galvez had been summoned to the Department of Immigration and Immigration (DIE) where she was questioned about her travels outside Cuba.

Valdés himself underwent an intense interrogation last October when she was told that her academic activity represented a danger.

On November 25, State Security banned a meeting of the Center that was intended to address the issue of culture and education in the future of Cuba.

“The repressive wave grows and spreads like we have never seen. We are very worried and we want to make a warning call,” said Valdés.

Cuban Economist and Activist Karina Galvez Arrested And Taken To State Security Headquarters / 14ymedio

A strong police search and the arrest of Karina Gálvez marked this day in Pinar del Río. (Coexistence)

14ymedio, Havana, 11 January 2017 — The economist Karina Galvez, a member of the editorial board of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence) has been arrested and taken to the headquarters of State Security on the Pinar del Rio highway. Her home is sealed and family and friends are not allowed access.

On Wednesday morning the police searched Galvez’s house. Several officers from State Security’s Technical Investigations Department (DTI), officials from the Institute of Physical Planning, and numerous police officers took part in the raid, as reported to 14ymedio by Dagoberto Valdes, director of the independent publication in the city of Pinar del Río.

Livia Gálvez, Karina’s sister, explained that an official who identified herself as “Major Odalys,” told her that Karina was being held under the crime of “tax evasion,” which could be linked to the sale of a property. continue reading

She added that she was told that she may visit her in seven days to bring her personal hygiene supplies.

Yoandy Izquierdo, a member of the Convivencia team, said the police search lasted nearly four hours.

“They have not taken anything from the house, what they have done is to paste notices handwritten in pen on the doors and garage,” said Izquierdo, who witnessed an Interior Ministry official stating that “the house is not confiscated, it is occupied.”

“There is a police car and a DTI car outside the house,” Valdés said in a telephone conversation with this newspaper in the morning. The director of the study center also reported a visible operation around the block of the building.

So far the reason for the search and Galvez’s arrest is unknown.

Karina Gálvez, editor of the magazine Coexistence in Pinar del Río. (Alongthemalecon)

On 24 December Karina Galvez was summoned to the Department of Immigration and Aliens (DIE) where she was questioned about her travels outside Cuba. During the interrogation, two officers demanded that she give details about her participation in a forum on internet governance in Guadalajara, Mexico.

In recent months, members of the magazine Convivencia have been subjected to pressure and warnings. Dagoberto Valdes underwent an intense interrogation last October at police headquarters on San Juan Highway in Pinar del Rio. A uniformed official told him, “From today your life will be very difficult.”

On 25 November, State Security prohibited a meeting of the Coexistence Studies Center (CEC), linked to the magazine, which intended to address Culture and Education in the Future of Cuba: Vision and Proposal.

The Center organizes training courses for citizens and civil society in Cuba. The entity functions independently from the State, the Church and any political group. The magazine of the same name was begun in 2008; it is published bi-monthly and has just released its 54th issue.

Police Question Publisher Of ‘Coexistence’ About Her Travel Abroad / 14ymedio

Independent economist Karina Gálvez, editor of the magazine ‘Convivencia’ (Coexistence). (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 December 2016 – Karina Galvez Chiú, editor of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence) was questioned Saturday about her travels outside Cuba, during a meeting with the Department of Immigration and Nationality of Pinar del Rio. Two interior ministry officials demanded information from the economist about her participation in an internet governance forum in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Galvéz related to 14ymedio that the officers who questioned her identified themselves as Lieutenant Colonel Beune and Major Joaquin. “They tried to act friendly,” says the editor, but warned that police citations could be repeated every time she left the country. continue reading

“The whole time they wanted to make clear that they wanted a dialogue,” says Galvez, who replied that they could not consider it a dialogue when she was forced to attend.

“If they eliminated the white card [former exit permit] and the exit permit why do I have to go through this every time I leave the country,” the activist asks in reference to the immigration reform that came into force in January 2013, easing travel abroad which previously required every traveler to apply for a permit to travel outside the country, which often was not granted.

Recently Galvez also visited Washington D.C., a trip about which the interrogators wanted details.

Also summoned by the police this Saturday was the editor of Convivencia, Rosalia Viñas Lazo, who protested the date chosen. On December 24 many Cuban families gather around for Christmas Eve festivities, especially the Catholic community of the Island.

The officials agreed to schedule the meeting with Viñas Lazo for next Monday.

In recent months members of the magazine Convivencia have been subject to interrogations, pressure and warnings. Dagoberto Valdés, director of the independent publication, was subjected to an intense interrogation in October of this year in the police headquarters on San Juan Highway in Pinar del Río. “From today,” the uniformed officers warned, “your life will be very difficult.

On November 25, State Security prohibited the meeting of the Center for Coexistence Studies (CEC), linked to the magazine, the topic of which was intended to be: Culture And Education In The Future Of Cuba: Vision and Proposal.

Cuban State Security Prevents a Meeting of Pinar del Rio’s Coexistence Studies Center / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Members of the Coexistence Studies Center at a meeting in Pinar del Rio. (Coexistence)
Members of the Coexistence Studies Center at a meeting in Pinar del Rio. (Coexistence)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 23 September 2016 — Tania de la Caridad Reyes and her husbandYosvany Alfonso were intercepted by police in Pinar del Río when they tried to reach the Coexistence Studies Center (CEC) to attend the course “My Neighborhood a Community.” Two police patrols forced them to return to Cienfuegos, where they reside. On Friday the organizers denounced the intervention by State Security, which prevented the realization of the planned activity with various groups of civil society to share ideas on “civic learning.”

“This last month we have had nine interrogations of team members. Finally we had to suspend the ‘My Neighborhood a Community’ program, which is part of the ethical and civic project for the safety of the participants,” Dagoerto Valdes, director of the CEC, explains to 14ymedio.

“Where in the world are people prevented from attending a course that the only thing it does is make them better and more responsible citizens in their community?” asks Valdes. continue reading

Reyes and Alfonso are the ones responsible for “Project New Hope,” which operates in the South Caunao neighborhood, a recently completed residential area on the outskirts of the city of Cienfuegos. According to the couple, under the auspices of the Czech NGO People in Need they do training work with children and youth in the area, organize walks and create networks to promote work in the neighborhood.

“We chose this course because ours is community work and this meeting would allow us to obtain tools to improve our work in the neighborhood,” Reyes told 14ymedio.

According to the activist, when they arrived at the bus station in Pinar del Río Thursday night, three police officers in plainclothes stopped them and made them turn off their cellphones. After allowing them to make a call from a landline provided by the officers themselves, they were driven to the outskirts of the city to send them to Havana.

“They stopped two tractors that make the trip to Havana and sent us separately. They took down the license plates of the vehicles and told the drivers they were responsible for what happened to us,” says Reyes.

When they got to the capital they were left at a gas station from where they had to get to the bus station and get “overpriced” tickets to return to Cienfuegos. (The regular tickets are subsidized and cost about two CUC (about $2 US), but the huge waiting list forced them to buy the tickets under the table).

“When we learned what had happened with the group from Cienfuegos, we decided to suspend the meeting. We advised the ecological group Eco-Social Movement for the Protection of Nation and the Environment (PRONATON), which sent several delegates from Sancti Spiritus, and the Pinar del Rio group Independent and Democratic Cuba, which would also participate in the event,” explained Yoandy Izquierdo, member of the editorial board of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence).

Izquierdo also denounced the presence of several people who were monitoring the place where the course would be held from early in the morning, and making it difficult for the organizers to communicate by phone and text message.

The Coexistence Studies Center organizes training courses for citizenship and civil society in Cuba. It has four main lines of action, ranging from the publication of the magazine Convivencia to the debate of ideas through reflection and study groups. It also has a comprehensive training program and so-called micro-projects. It is a project of the nascent Cuban civil society and its members are totally independent of the State, the Church and any political group.

December 17th, One Year On: Balance and Responsibility / Convivencia

Coexistence Magazine, Pinar del Rio, Cuba
Coexistence Magazine, Pinar del Rio, Cuba

Convivencia, Pinar del Rio, 20 November 2015 — December 17, 2014 opened, without a doubt, a new stage, a new phase in the recent history of Cuba: it was the announcement of the process of restoration of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. Both leaders welcomed the mediation of Pope Francis and of the Canadian Government. On 20 July 20 and 14 August 2015 the respective flags were hoisted and the embassies re-opened. The first visit by a Secretary of State of the United States to Cuba in 70 years occurred.

A year after this announcement we can make a preliminary assessment of what is seen and what is known so far:

1. Diplomatic mechanisms have been created and the first agendas for the normalization process that is announced as “long and complex.” These agendas are organized from the least contentious to the most difficult issues, such as democracy and human rights, which are always on the table, according to statements from US officials.

2. The US government has taken presidential measures that clearly show the will to change its policy towards Cuba. Some have considered these bold and positive, others excessive, others disproportionate, and others mistaken. continue reading

3. The government of Cuba has not reciprocated with the same agility and has not implemented measures proportionate to those of the United States. Some believe that “something” is changing [in Cuba], but that there is no correspondence [between the measures taken by both countries]; others believe that the slowness [in Cuba] casts doubt on the will for real change.

4. The Cuban people, in general, welcomed the announcement with great expectations that have been deflated, to the point that, to some, it is a reasonable to wait, but to others they stampede to leave the country, fearing the disappearance of the Cuban Adjustment Act or a “closure.” Disappointed by frustrations reiterated for over 50 years, there is a part of the Cuban people who have lost the ability to believe and hope before any announced change: they are the skeptics and the indifferent.

5. The Cuban people in general suffer directly from the grave situation of the national economy and the inability to meet basic needs, which has worsened to the point that it is looking increasingly like the 1990s [after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the withdrawal of its subsidies to Cuba], a terrible memory.

6. The gap between those who suffer such hardships, who are the majority, and the few who have access to state businesses with foreign investment or private businesses with family investment, is increasingly visible and more convincing that a system of dubious “social justice” or rather, state paternalism, is perishing.

7. The political system is facing a serious zone of conceptual turbulence where, on the one hand, there is a debate between the empty discourse that is increasingly removed from reality and, on the other hand and at the same time, that same government has decided to open itself to international markets and foreign investment in an attempt to recycle its state monopoly capitalism, without any real labor unions nor respect for other labor and social rights; a system so old, so inhumane and so obscene, that the “socialist” discourse itself denounces it. This type of turbulence is called by some the transition process and by others systemic destabilization.

8. The opposition is also undergoing a process of conceptual turbulence and redefinition of methods and organizational structures. On the one hand, it maintains the necessary denunciation of the systematic violations of all human rights, especially the public repression of every Sunday [a weekly day of mass arrests of the Ladies in White and other activists].

At the same time, the opposition is trying to respond with answers and policy proposals to the new challenges that the scenarios described above and others will present. In this turmoil, which some call a process of maturation — the defining of political and party roles and construction of consensual strategic agendas that respond, above all, to the needs of the nation — while others call this process diversification, and still others consider it disunity.

9. The diversification of roles in Cuban civil society is another sign that this year all sectors of the nation have questioned themselves, and in some sense been dislocated, and that we are in the process of redefining strategies, missions, objectives and working methods, testing Cubans’ capacity for renewal, proposals and creativity.

The incipient fabric of independent Cuban civil society is responding to these challenges and new scenarios, certainly with mistakes and delay, but surely with awareness that growth and social impact depend on two key factors: our commitment and service to the needs of the people, and our organizational skills and vision of the future to determined our specific missions and to focus on one of the many different roles that a prosperous and democratic nation needs.

10. Another sign is the unequal and unfair struggle between the new state enterprises and the private and blockaded small businesses and entrepreneurs. Even without wholesale markets, permitted self-employment activities are ridiculously reduced to a “List of Licenses” that encompass medieval crafts and do not include professional and other production and service companies. Also, the self-employed do not enjoy the security of a legal framework and they are harassed and extorted by a host of corrupt state inspectors. This corruption is the seed of cronyism, extortion, gangsters and viral agents for the perpetration of a failed state. There is still time to reverse this degenerative process.

11. It is clear and legitimate, it is necessary and very convenient, that some civil society groups will find their niche, their role and performance. This civic fabric will be a far more diverse civil society that serves the public. We can see that it is defining itself, increasingly, through the role of independent journalists and their blogs, agencies and media. Consensus building platforms for civil society are being defined. Opposition political parties are defining their own ideas, programs, statutes and actions of social impact.

They have begun to organize partisan political platforms in search of coordinated agendas. They have begun to create systematic spaces of education in ethics and civics for the creation of plural thinking in present and future Cuba. Organizations in defense of human rights are consolidating national monitors, reports, and international efforts. Legal services and their independent organizations are consolidating as competent and professional advisors.

Platforms to demand the release of all political prisoners, a general amnesty, ratification of the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights and a more committed peaceful civic activism through public demonstrations such as marches and national campaigns are being strengthened and publicized.

No one should claim that their service is the only one and exclusive. Everyone is needed and enriches the nation. We need to recognize that all these roles and services are equally valid and necessary and could be a sign of the democratic identity of each person.

12. Family, cultural, academic, political and other kinds of exchanges, although still asymmetrical, are an opportunity and a preview of the real normalization that will not be completed until not only are relations and free exchanges established between the governments, but also between the respective civil societies, and among the same and only nation that lives on the island and in the diaspora.

13. Civil society is undoubtedly taking a step forward, defining its nature, ahead of the Cuban government: all of civil society has chosen, and sustains with its actions, the rejection of violence as a method of struggle and strict adherence to peaceful methods. Meanwhile, the Cuban government still uses, promotes or passively tolerates violent methods of repression. Acts of repudiation are a national disgrace that the Cuban authorities should not display before the world, for the good and prestige of Cuba. Acts of repudiation and repression must stop immediately.

14. Civil society is broader than all this, and extends increasingly across diverse sectors of Cuban society, on the island and in the diaspora. The public debate is an inseparable part of the existence, the work and structures of civil society. New signs of increased civic roles are the ongoing and varied public debates through social networks among different parts of our society.

Just to name some of the most recent, the cultural sector is fully engaged in the “Cremata case” and also in the proposed new Film Law; in the political opposition sector there is a debate between the various actors with regards to marches and other forms of demonstrating dissent; in the business world there is a growing controversy between opportunities for foreign investment and the [Cuban government] blockade on the entrepreneurial initiatives of Cubans; in the religious sector, there is a debate around the role of lay Catholics in the Cuban transition encouraged by the visit of Pope Francis and the upcoming celebration in February of the 30 year anniversary of the Cuban National Ecclesial Meeting (ENEC).

These and many other diatribes are unmistakable signs of a struggle between the new and the decadent. Between change and inertia. Between old and new methods, even to achieve the same ends. They are not signs of decay or division. They are signs of growing pains and the gestation of the new times.

We should not be scandalized by these debates, we must only look to their ethics and veracity. We are not discouraged by the diversification of the roles of Cuban civil society, it is the best sign that the fledgling democracy has come first to those who are most independent. It is just a preview of things to come. So we are attentive to the quality of these gestations because our democracy will be of the same quality.

A year after the 17th of December (“17D”): We have new scenarios; the stage is already set; there are ever more secondary actors coming from the rest of the world to see what is happening and who will have a role in this work. However, the fundamental is still missing: bringing to the stage the script and the principal protagonists. That is, the essence of the work is lifting the Cuban state’s blockade on the freedoms and initiatives of its citizens and the total democratization of the nation. The principal protagonists are: the current government and authentic Cuban civil society. And the plot should be developed through inclusion, negotiation and national dialog.

May the year 2016, which comes with new developments and opportunities, be a time when all Cubans assume the writing of this new national script and rise to the new stage so that no spurious, authoritarian or lone actor steals our work for a free, prosperous, responsible and happy nation.

Pinar del Rio, November 20, 2015
227th Birthday of Father Felix Varela