Lynn Cruz is Committed to a Theater of Resistance

Lynn Cruz in a scene of ‘Corazón azul’, a film currently in production. (M. COYULA)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Waldo Fernandez Cuenca, Havana, 15 February 2018 — The theatrical work Los enemigos del pueblo (The Enemies of the People), whose presentation at the independent El Círculo State Security forces sought to prevent, undoubtedly marks a watershed in the career of actress Lynn Cruz. At that time she decided to create, with her partner the filmmaker Miguel Coyula, art in a totally independent and political way.

Lynn Cruz boasts an extensive career. Since 2003 she has worked in several Cuban theater groups, and had an enriching experience in German theater, in 2009. She won the David Suárez Award for Best Actress in Venezuela, and the Cayenne Short Film Festival Award in New York, in 2016, both for her leading role in the short film El niño (The Boy). She was nominated for Best Actress at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2015 for the short film Finales, produced in Ecuador. She has formed part of the cast of Cuban films like La Pared (The Wall), Larga Distancia (Long Distance), ¿Eres tu, papá? (Is That You, Dad?) and the documentary (NadieNo one, by Coyula, censored in Cuba and honored at the 10th Film Festival of the Dominican Republic, in 2017. continue reading

DIARIO DE CUBA talked to her about her beginnings and her constant search for freedom in her professional career.

“In my adolescence I did not have a defined vocation, nor did I know what to do with my life. Since I didn’t want to end up without a university degree, I chose to study for a degree in Geography, which was one of the easiest majors. On that path I discovered that what I really liked was acting,” she explained.

“I ventured into amateur theater groups in Matanzas, where I lived, but I couldn’t make my way there. In the year 2000 I moved to Havana, where I was able to enter a professional group called the Teatro del Puerto. I was there for a year. Then I worked in other theater groups, until in 2009 I traveled to Germany to work with the independent group Pig’s Appeal in that country.”

What was the experience of doing theater in Germany like?

Before that Colombia was the only other country I knew, and it was the first time I was in a developed country. That really affected me as an artist. I started to question my identity, because I worked with German playwrights and actors. I also had to deal with a text openly critical of the Cuban reality, by Carlos A. Aguilera, and my reticence to perform it. That did not mean that I was in agreement with the Cuban political system, because I have always been very rebellious, but until then I identified more with the institutions than with what was outside of them.

The experience of doing theater in Germany was so intense, from every point of view, that it totally changed me. From that moment on, I lost the motivation to work for institutions. Before my trip I had achieved the dream of every actor, which is to play a leading role in a film, in Larga Distancia (Long Distance), directed by Esteban Insausti. But in the end I felt that my life was the same, that nothing had changed. It was then that I begin to think about forming my own theatrical group, independently.

How did you manage to put together the work El Regreso (The Return), which marked the birth of the Kairós Theater in 2011?

The work La Indiana, by the Catalonian Angels Aymar, in which the Catalonian presence in the 19th century is portrayed, and the nostalgia with which those indianos (Spanish emigrants) wrote their letters, speaking of their native land, spurred me to draw a parallel with Cubans who have left and their nostalgia for a lost land. I managed to get the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation to support me financially with its staging. However, the money was not much, and we had to reduce the number of actors, from six, originally, to one.

Then came the opposition by the president of the National Council of Performing Arts, Gisela González, to the work to being presented at the Adolfo Llauradó Theater. But I was determined to stage the work, even if it was in a park. In response to that meddling, the Spanish Embassy secured a space at the Las Carolinas (theater), in Old Havana, but the technicians wanted a bonus to stage it.

This kind of payment is a standard practice when they see you’ve got foreign financing. If you don’t pay it, you pay the price I did: they sabotaged the show. It was a horrible experience because the audience came in ahead of time, because there were no doormen, among other very unpleasant incidents. For practical reasons I could not continue at the Teatro Kairós at that time. I had no money to support it, and I accepted other offers to work in cinema.

How did the play Los enemigos del pueblo (The Enemies of the People) come about. Was it your return to an openly critical and practically solo theater?

The theater director Adonis Milan found out that I had shouted “¡Viva Cuba libre!” at a show where that was not in the script. He told me that he wanted to work with me, and he showed me Charlotte Corday, by Nara Mansur.

When I saw that work, so timid, I felt that I couldn’t do it. “Cuban theatre cannot continue to bite its tongue. It must make a commitment to the era in which we live.” I expressed to him that I would rewrite the text to see how it turned out, and so was born The Enemies of the People, where the main reason why Charlotte Corday [who murdered Jean-Paul Marat during the French Revolution] wants to kill Fidel Castro is because the crime of the March 13 Tugboat has gone unpunished.

And, as the cause of Castro’s death was never announced, I thought I could invent a murderer and, more than Charlotte Corday, it is history that does justice.

I feel like this work was not my choice, but that it chose me, because of the emotional impact I felt when I saw the images and accounts of the survivors of that crime.

Although I had second thoughts, because of the consequences it could mean for me, I felt it was my duty to do it. From that moment on, the feeling of freedom that I have felt makes up for possible losses.

What projects are you currently working on?

For some time now I’ve been writing a series of monologues that I have titled Patriotism 3.677, inspired by the anthology Spoon Rivers, by the American poet Edgar Lee Masters. This work is a discussion about the political situation and the future of Cuba, in which five people talk about freedom, democracy and change.

The Kairós Theatre is shaping up and wants to do political theater, in which the tyranny under which we live is directly criticized. It is a theater of resistance because, as everyone knows, all the other theaters belong to the Government. We have managed to perform The Enemies of the People six more times at private homes. Each stage, because it is different, makes every show unique.

I have also been working for the last six years as an actress, co-writer and producer on the science fiction feature film Corazón Azul, by Miguel Coyula. Shooting this film is like travelling, in terms of time and intensity. Working with Coyula, due to how long it takes to complete his films, becomes a life experience. He is a director who works in an artisanal way, and we were brought together by my conception of theater, with a small team, and independently.

This is related to the part behind the cameras. As an actress I like stylized cinema and, since there is not much of it in Cuba, where more realistic films are made, working with him is a real treat.

In Corazón Azul I play Helena, a mysterious woman who has been part of a genetic experiment carried out by Fidel Castro to create the new man. She is a kind of Helen of Troy, and triggers the main conflict in the movie. We have completed 50 minutes, adjusting to the actors’ time, as the budget does not allow for a traditional production.

Note: This translation is from Diario de Cuba’s English site

‘Cuban civil society fails to utilize the mechanisms to report human rights violations’

Attorney Laritza Diversent, Director of Cubalex

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 30 January 2018 — Forced into exile by the Cuban regime, the Legal Information Center (Cubalex) has undergone a “radical and painful change”. However, reorganized in the USA, it aims to continue along the project’s same line: “to internationally denounce the Cuban State for its human rights violations, and spotlight the situation in the country. ”

Director Laritza Diversent spoke with DIARIO DE CUBA about some aspects of the organization’s work, what it has left behind, and, above all, the reasons for the lines it has drawn and the procedures they will use under the new circumstances.

How has Cubalex reorganized in exile?

Cubalex registered in the state of Tennessee in the USA. We currently have a Board of Directors that governs the organization. The team, which includes me, works online because we live in different states, mostly in Pennsylvania.

What has it meant for the members of Cubalex to have to leave the Island?

It was difficult to accept that you have to start a new life, and adapt to new customs and idiosyncrasies. Everything is missed, especially the aroma of coffee on the terrace where we met up almost every morning to begin our work, and working in the same physical space, and personally receiving those who visited us at the office in Cuba. Today we see each other on a screen. It has been a radical, difficult and painful change. All of us have shed tears of nostalgia. continue reading

Have your relatives suffered reprisals in Cuba?

As long as we continue doing the same work as in Cuba, which is vexing for the Government, and it continues to yield results, as we appeal to international human rights organizations and shine a light on the situation in the country, our relatives in Cuba will be at risk. It is one of the forms of punishment that the regime wields best. We have to recognize it. They are effective. We are powerless in this regard.

What difficulties does having to work from outside Cuba entail?

Obtaining the resources to keep the organization running and including the entire Cubalex team that left Cuba as part of the staff. On another front, making the activists in Cuba understand the importance of reporting, at the international level, the human rights violations of which they are victims, which is a difficulty that we had in Cuba. Thus far we have not managed for many to report the repression to which they are subjected. The record of complaints lodged with international organizations for human rights violations by the Cuban government is paltry.

Has the project had to modify its objectives given this new scenario?

Not yet. We changed the population group that the organization focused on. Between 2011 and 2015 54.85% of the cases we dealt with were related to criminal matters brought to us by persons deprived of their freedom. In 2016, up until the time that our headquarters was searched, 61% of the requests for our services were made by inmates in prisons, 48% of whom presented their cases directly at our offices, through a family member, generally mothers.

After leaving the country, we cannot continue providing counsel in a personalized way, at least not directly. The deficient Internet access on the Island makes it unlikely that we can keep up this pace of work. We are currently focused on monitoring and following up on activists at risk. But, as I said before, it is a difficult task that requires a lot of patience and perseverance on our part.

In Cuba, we assisted 982 human rights activists, members of different civil society organizations who claimed to be victims of arbitrary short-term arrests, repudiation rallies, official citations, as well as searches in their homes. We conducted 96 training workshops for 613 activists in eight provinces of the country, most of them in the east. We also provided legal advice to activists in an individualized manner, but the statistics compiled by our office show that of the vulnerable groups at risk, they are those who least turned to us.

One of the main struggles with activists in Cuba is to get them to follow our recommendations to document cases of violations of their rights, which is essential to carrying out our work at the international level. We are aware of the ignorance in Cuban civil society of the mechanisms for reporting human rights violations at the domestic and international levels. This prevents the development of strategies to mitigate the risks and threats to the activities they carry out.

How is the activists’ lack of awareness of complaint mechanisms, and their importance, evidenced?

In August of 2016 Cubalex prepared basic human rights courses to teach activists from partner organizations. We formally invited 13 organizations, but only 10 responded, of which 7 appointed a representative to attend the course. Then 6 confirmed they would appear, but the course was ultimately attended by 3. This means that there is not only ignorance, but also a lack of interest.

Cubalex has observed that most activists use social media as their favorite means of reporting violations of their rights. At the beginning of 2017 we surveyed 106 activists, and 84.91% said that they defended their rights through this channel. We also monitored the social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) of 72 activists or members of at least 9 organizations operating informally in the country. The information was insufficient to monitor the specific situation and document human rights violations. Example: the names of the victims of the acts committed were not mentioned, who committed them, or when.

Social media, despite being the most used via by activists to denounce human rights violations and get the public’s attention, is not the appropriate way to attract that of international human rights organizations capable of pressuring the Government. These organizations do not use social media as a source of information. It is necessary to document the violations, draft a report, and send it to these institutions. Complaints on the social networks must be maintained, while improving posting strategies to provide more information about the incidents reported, but it should not be the main tool.

How do you get information from inside Cuba?

Directly from the victims, by telephone and by email. We use social media to identify activists at risk or to report violations occurring at the moment. If the person does not offer data to locate him, we inquire through other activists until coming into direct contact with the victim.

What is the situation like for those members of Cubalex who remained in Cuba?

They are awaiting a final decision by the US Government in the political asylum case. We keep abreast of the status of each one, especially Julio Ferrer. We presented his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests while we were still in Cuba, and it worked. He is currently free, although he is not out of danger.

What has happened to the cases that Cubalex was handling? Did the regime’s action have any consequences for those people?

For now, we don’t know. The prohibitive prices of the Internet and telephone calls off the island make it impossible for people to contact us. We, from outside, also have economic restrictions on making calls to Cuba and following up on them. Our long-term plans including creating strategies and conditions so that the population, especially the poor, have access to a free legal advice service.

What lines of work is Cubalex currently pursuing?

We are following the same line. Reporting human rights violations by the Cuban State, and spotlighting the situation in the country. The filing of complaints in accordance with special United Nations procedures is one of the few tools we have to report human rights violations in the country, and the only one that the State officially reacts to. Between 2011 and 2016 the Government received 24 communications from UN bodies, and responded to 21 of them. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, however, reported 44,604 acts of harassment during the same period. Cubalex intends to change this reality.

Cubalex is working on another report on violence against women in Cuba. Why is it necessary to revisit this issue?

In general, women in Cuba, although they have access to education, health, employment, sexual and reproductive rights, and equal pay for equal work, continue to do most of the work at home, and to raise their children, despite the fact that most of them work outside the home too. Even so, Havana does boast high gender standards compared to other countries in Latin America. The Cuban State subscribes to the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, but to date there is no gender law in the country that protects women from violence, and there are no shelters for victims of this scourge.

Added to this phenomenon is institutionalized discrimination, especially through criminal law. For example, the designation of people as “pre-criminal social hazards,” which allows the authorities to categorize and punish people for what they are, and not for what they do, perpetuates prejudices and stereotypes of a racial nature, based on gender, socioeconomic level, marginality, lifestyle, ideology and political opinion.

The “pre-criminal social hazard” measure, in addition to being selective and discriminatory, is an institutionalized form of violence against women. It is wielded against girls between 16 and 18 years of age who engage in prostitution, an activity considered by the authorities to be a socially reprehensible vice. Prostitution is not a crime, but the Government says it “does not tolerate it”. It represses those offering these services, but not those soliciting them, most of whom are tourists.

Many of the women offering sexual services migrate from rural to tourist areas in search of better economic opportunities. They grow more vulnerable when they are forced to submit to the sexual exploitation of pimps, to shield themselves from police repression and corruption. The “pre-criminal hazard” designation linked to prostitution is also used against trans women and other members of the LGBTI community.

Discrimination and marginalization on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation is a widespread phenomenon, but is overlooked even by civil society organizations that describe themselves as defenders of human rights, and whose members are also victims of institutionalized forms of violence and discrimination. This legal mechanism is also used to harass, threaten and prosecute human rights activists, who are stigmatized as “subversives and terrorists”.

Given this situation, what particularities do cases like that of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), who are systematically repressed, feature?

In the case of the Ladies in White, this violence acquires a special significance. They are victims of acts of torture and degrading treatment that places their lives in danger. In 2017 the organization was the target of 54.10% of the acts of harassment reported on the social networks and in other media. Its members constituted 45% of female human rights activists who were victims of repression. They suffered 53 violent attacks, which in 94.34% of the cases occurred during arrests.

The death of Ada María López Canino, a member of the organization, on December 12, 2017, is a wake-up call. In 2016 and 2017 she was arrested 81 times. She received several beatings during operations and acts of repudiation, and she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, the result of cranial traumas inflicted by blows to the head.

This brain injury produces multiple symptoms, including strong and constant headaches, which do not go away by themselves. They can lead to complications over time and cause permanent brain damage. It is also aggravated by repetitive head trauma. Cubalex knows of other Ladies in White with similar symptoms.

The Ladies in White are part of a social group that is doubly vulnerable: as women and as defenders of human rights. They suffer from aggravated forms of discrimination and violence, not only from the authorities, but also from civil society organizations themselves, which find it difficult to accept women’s leadership capacities. However, this organization does not specifically and directly address gender issues. On the contrary, they defend and fight for the rights of political prisoners.

Note: Article taken from Diario de Cuba’s English site which can be viewed here.

Imagine Your Worst Nightmare / Lia Villares

The Cuban activist Lia Villares. (CLAUDIO FUENTES)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Lia Villares, Havana, 6 February 2018 — Imagine your worst nightmare. Imagine that it materializes in real time, what you have intuited so many times, but it is no longer a lucid dream, now it is pure and harsh reality.

Cold and concrete.

The most despicable being, the one you have dedicated yourself to denouncing because he answers to a repressive apparatus in charge of crushing you for telling the truth and persecuting you for defending freedom, imagine him multiplied by an army of Agents Smith, an army of rats ready to sneak in your house and rummage through your things with the zeal of a rodent.

It is the nauseating scene of your life: your privacy, your memories, all your memories preserved over the years in small digital media, discs, all of your life in the hands of minions trained to destroy all your work, your work for years, your personal files and finally to confiscate everything in nylon bags where the words “Criminal Evidence” are read because it is precisely the treatment used, under the weak argument that “you are engaged in a subversive or counterrevolutionary activity.” continue reading

If you have read the novels The Master and Margarita or Doctor Zhivago you can have a clearer idea of ​​what it is like to see your most intimate spaces invaded by a large group of harassing people eager to insert themselves into the depths of your private life.

It is a right too individualistic that communism grants only to the royal family: only they can protect themselves from the eyes of others.

In your complete defenselessness you are exposed even though you have always tried so hard to avoid having secrets, given the circumstances: you have been even more daring in showing yourself an exhibitionist, tremendously narcissistic in a failed act of irreverent protest.

No matter how much effort you put in trying to convince them that you have nothing to hide, that in fact you yourself publish everything, that you have followed the collectivist rhythm of not considering your privacy as a treasure so valuable, because you have to share even your most intimate wishes and your most precious dreams.

Your will is reflected in your actions.

Your movements are quite careless because it has never made much sense nor has it been your true intention, conspiring for “the cause” because you think it must be the same for the few conscious, lucid, clear thinking friends that you have left.

You have left all the groups because you do not find coherence, humility, transparency or simply the real friendship that you have been looking for everywhere.

You have seen so much

You have traveled a lot to reach the same point, again and again.

You have experienced the hatred and humiliation of that sick government, parasitic and blinded by power.

On your journey, your confidence and much of your faith in people went away, contaminated with selfishness and competition in the ridiculous march of a vicious circle.

Your dignity and your hope peer timidly from your gaze, not so innocent, not as clean as before.

In front of you the road no longer splits: there is a single straight line indicating the exit, you can see it clearly but your feet feel heavy and your senses do not respond.

On the table where you previously spent your hours on the laptop that you came to consider an extension of your mind, is the page that you patiently fill by hand trying to breathe and preserve some kind of calm.

In some dark office of Villa Marista are all your projects, await (at worst) a quick reformat, an annihilation, a thorough elimination that can only give you pain.

But you are just another victim, nothing distinguishes you from the previous ones, perhaps even more humiliated before a more painful outrage.

Now you just have to get up again and grab that path without looking back.

‘Cuban civil society fails to utilize the mechanisms to report human rights violations’

Lartiza Diversent, Director of Cubalex. (DDC)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 30 January 2018 — Forced into exile by the Cuban regime, the Legal Information Center (Cubalex) has undergone a “radical and painful change”. However, reorganized in the USA, it aims to continue along the project’s same line: “to internationally denounce the Cuban State for its human rights violations, and spotlight the situation in the country. ”

Director Laritza Diversent spoke with DIARIO DE CUBA about some aspects of the organization’s work, what it has left behind, and, above all, the reasons for the lines it has drawn and the procedures they will use under the new circumstances. continue reading

How has Cubalex reorganized in exile?

Cubalex registered in the state of Tennessee in the USA. We currently have a Board of Directors that governs the organization. The team, which includes me, works online because we live in different states, mostly in Pennsylvania.

What has it meant for the members of Cubalex to have to leave the Island?

It was difficult to accept that you have to start a new life, and adapt to new customs and idiosyncrasies. Everything is missed, especially the aroma of coffee on the terrace where we met up almost every morning to begin our work, and working in the same physical space, and personally receiving those who visited us at the office in Cuba. Today we see each other on a screen. It has been a radical, difficult and painful change. All of us have shed tears of nostalgia.

Have your relatives suffered reprisals in Cuba?

As long as we continue doing the same work as in Cuba, which is vexing for the Government, and it continues to yield results, as we appeal to international human rights organizations and shine a light on the situation in the country, our relatives in Cuba will be at risk. It is one of the forms of punishment that the regime wields best. We have to recognize it. They are effective. We are powerless in this regard.

What difficulties does having to work from outside Cuba entail?

Obtaining the resources to keep the organization running and including the entire Cubalex team that left Cuba as part of the staff. On another front, making the activists in Cuba understand the importance of reporting, at the international level, the human rights violations of which they are victims, which is a difficulty that we had in Cuba. Thus far we have not managed for many to report the repression to which they are subjected. The record of complaints lodged with international organizations for human rights violations by the Cuban government is paltry.

Has the project had to modify its objectives given this new scenario?

Not yet. We changed the population group that the organization focused on. Between 2011 and 2015 54.85% of the cases we dealt with were related to criminal matters brought to us by persons deprived of their freedom. In 2016, up until the time that our headquarters was searched, 61% of the requests for our services were made by inmates in prisons, 48% of whom presented their cases directly at our offices, through a family member, generally mothers.

After leaving the country, we cannot continue providing counsel in a personalized way, at least not directly. The deficient Internet access on the Island makes it unlikely that we can keep up this pace of work. We are currently focused on monitoring and following up on activists at risk. But, as I said before, it is a difficult task that requires a lot of patience and perseverance on our part.

In Cuba, we assisted 982 human rights activists, members of different civil society organizations who claimed to be victims of arbitrary short-term arrests, repudiation rallies, official citations, as well as searches in their homes. We conducted 96 training workshops for 613 activists in eight provinces of the country, most of them in the east. We also provided legal advice to activists in an individualized manner, but the statistics compiled by our office show that of the vulnerable groups at risk, they are those who least turned to us.

One of the main struggles with activists in Cuba is to get them to follow our recommendations to document cases of violations of their rights, which is essential to carrying out our work at the international level. We are aware of the ignorance in Cuban civil society of the mechanisms for reporting human rights violations at the domestic and international levels. This prevents the development of strategies to mitigate the risks and threats to the activities they carry out.

How is the activists’ lack of awareness of complaint mechanisms, and their importance, evidenced?

In August of 2016 Cubalex prepared basic human rights courses to teach activists from partner organizations. We formally invited 13 organizations, but only 10 responded, of which 7 appointed a representative to attend the course. Then 6 confirmed they would appear, but the course was ultimately attended by 3. This means that there is not only ignorance, but also a lack of interest.

Cubalex has observed that most activists use social media as their favorite means of reporting violations of their rights. At the beginning of 2017 we surveyed 106 activists, and 84.91% said that they defended their rights through this channel. We also monitored the social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) of 72 activists or members of at least 9 organizations operating informally in the country. The information was insufficient to monitor the specific situation and document human rights violations. Example: the names of the victims of the acts committed were not mentioned, who committed them, or when.

Social media, despite being the most used via by activists to denounce human rights violations and get the public’s attention, is not the appropriate way to attract that of international human rights organizations capable of pressuring the Government. These organizations do not use social media as a source of information. It is necessary to document the violations, draft a report, and send it to these institutions. Complaints on the social networks must be maintained, while improving posting strategies to provide more information about the incidents reported, but it should not be the main tool.

How do you get information from inside Cuba?

Directly from the victims, by telephone and by email. We use social media to identify activists at risk or to report violations occurring at the moment. If the person does not offer data to locate him, we inquire through other activists until coming into direct contact with the victim.

What is the situation like for those members of Cubalex who remained in Cuba?

They are awaiting a final decision by the US Government in the political asylum case. We keep abreast of the status of each one, especially Julio Ferrer. We presented his case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Arrests while we were still in Cuba, and it worked. He is currently free, although he is not out of danger.

What has happened to the cases that Cubalex was handling? Did the regime’s action have any consequences for those people?

For now, we don’t know. The prohibitive prices of the Internet and telephone calls off the island make it impossible for people to contact us. We, from outside, also have economic restrictions on making calls to Cuba and following up on them. Our long-term plans including creating strategies and conditions so that the population, especially the poor, have access to a free legal advice service.

What lines of work is Cubalex currently pursuing?

We are following the same line. Reporting human rights violations by the Cuban State, and spotlighting the situation in the country. The filing of complaints in accordance with special United Nations procedures is one of the few tools we have to report human rights violations in the country, and the only one that the State officially reacts to. Between 2011 and 2016 the Government received 24 communications from UN bodies, and responded to 21 of them. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, however, reported 44,604 acts of harassment during the same period. Cubalex intends to change this reality.

Cubalex is working on another report on violence against women in Cuba. Why is it necessary to revisit this issue?

In general, women in Cuba, although they have access to education, health, employment, sexual and reproductive rights, and equal pay for equal work, continue to do most of the work at home, and to raise their children, despite the fact that most of them work outside the home too. Even so, Havana does boast high gender standards compared to other countries in Latin America. The Cuban State subscribes to the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, but to date there is no gender law in the country that protects women from violence, and there are no shelters for victims of this scourge.

Added to this phenomenon is institutionalized discrimination, especially through criminal law. For example, the designation of people as “pre-criminal social hazards,” which allows the authorities to categorize and punish people for what they are, and not for what they do, perpetuates prejudices and stereotypes of a racial nature, based on gender, socioeconomic level, marginality, lifestyle, ideology and political opinion.

The “pre-criminal social hazard” measure, in addition to being selective and discriminatory, is an institutionalized form of violence against women. It is wielded against girls between 16 and 18 years of age who engage in prostitution, an activity considered by the authorities to be a socially reprehensible vice. Prostitution is not a crime, but the Government says it “does not tolerate it”. It represses those offering these services, but not those soliciting them, most of whom are tourists.

Many of the women offering sexual services migrate from rural to tourist areas in search of better economic opportunities. They grow more vulnerable when they are forced to submit to the sexual exploitation of pimps, to shield themselves from police repression and corruption. The “pre-criminal hazard” designation linked to prostitution is also used against trans women and other members of the LGBTI community.

Discrimination and marginalization on the grounds of gender and sexual orientation is a widespread phenomenon, but is overlooked even by civil society organizations that describe themselves as defenders of human rights, and whose members are also victims of institutionalized forms of violence and discrimination. This legal mechanism is also used to harass, threaten and prosecute human rights activists, who are stigmatized as “subversives and terrorists”.

Given this situation, what particularities do cases like that of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), who are systematically repressed, feature?

In the case of the Ladies in White, this violence acquires a special significance. They are victims of acts of torture and degrading treatment that places their lives in danger. In 2017 the organization was the target of 54.10% of the acts of harassment reported on the social networks and in other media. Its members constituted 45% of female human rights activists who were victims of repression. They suffered 53 violent attacks, which in 94.34% of the cases occurred during arrests.

The death of Ada María López Canino, a member of the organization, on December 12, 2017, is a wake-up call. In 2016 and 2017 she was arrested 81 times. She received several beatings during operations and acts of repudiation, and she was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, the result of cranial traumas inflicted by blows to the head.

This brain injury produces multiple symptoms, including strong and constant headaches, which do not go away by themselves. They can lead to complications over time and cause permanent brain damage. It is also aggravated by repetitive head trauma. Cubalex knows of other Ladies in White with similar symptoms.

The Ladies in White are part of a social group that is doubly vulnerable: as women and as defenders of human rights. They suffer from aggravated forms of discrimination and violence, not only from the authorities, but also from civil society organizations themselves, which find it difficult to accept women’s leadership capacities. However, this organization does not specifically and directly address gender issues. On the contrary, they defend and fight for the rights of political prisoners.

Note: Translation is from Diario de Cuba

Cuban Regime Frees Activist Lia Villares

The activist Lia Villares. (FACEBOOK / MARTÍ NEWS)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 23 December 2017 — Activist  Lia Villares was released this Friday morning after being detained since Wednesday, activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo said in her Twitter account.

Villares, in addition, was fined 500 pesos by the authorities, according to Martí Noticias.

During the arrest, “her interrogators told her that she had committed crimes, and in order to prove it to her they showed her a photograph that she had taken some time ago with two policemen. In the photo she appears with a fan with the logo of the CubaDecides opposition initiative” directed by Payá Acevedo, according to the Miami media. continue reading

In the cell where she was detained, the activist wrote with a stone on the wall “Art Yes, Censorship No. I am free.”

“They tell me that this is a damage to property and carries a fine of 500 pesos,” she explained.

Villares  was arrested Wednesday along with other artists when they tried to attend the staging of the play Psychosis.

Among those arrested and then released were Tania Bruguera, actress Iris Ruiz (protagonist of the monologue that was to be performed), Adonis Milán (director of the play), poet Amauri Pacheco, art historian Yanelys Nuñez, another person identified as José Ernesto Alonso and the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

The plot of the piece revolves around a person enclosed in a very small space showing obvious signs of madness who wants to leave the place.

The version that was presented was inspired by the events of 2010 at the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, popularly known as Mazorra, where  26 patients died of hunger and cold. In the monologue direct allusions were to be made to Raúl Castro and terms such as “dictatorship” were used.

The independent gallery El Círculo is subject to constant repression by the regime. State Security also closed this independent space in April to prevent the presentation of the documentary Nadie, by Miguel Coyula, which deals with the life of the poet Rafael Alcides.

Likewise, the political police set up another operation last November to prevent public attendance at the work “The Enemies of the People”  directed by the documentary filmmaker Miguel Coyula, which fictionalized the final minutes of Fidel Castro.

Castro Regime Censors Blog Calling Raul Castro Responsible For UMAP* / Diario de Cuba

From the documentary: Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution (From Havana Times)
From the documentary: Mariela Castro’s March: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution (From Havana Times)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 9 February 2016 — A blog on sexual diversity, Proyecto Arcoiris (Rainbow Project), housed in the government-run blogging platform Reflections, has been censored by the regime after addressing UMAP and publishing a text attributing the responsibility for it to Raul Castro, according to the Global Voices international network of bloggers.

Those responsible for censorship alleged that the blog broke the rules for participation on the site and that the text “defamed the Revolution,” explained blog author Yasmine Silvia Portales Machado to Global Voices .

The censored paragraph from the Rainbow Project blog that refers to the Military Units to Aid to the Population (UMAP) is hosted here; but currently readers get a message that says “This site has been archived or suspended.” continue reading

The fragment is part of the text “Cuba’s Mariela Castro and Historical Reparations,” published in December in Havana Times by activist and member of the Rainbow Arc Jimmy Roque Martinez.

Roque called on the General Raul Castro to apologize and accept responsibility for the internment of homosexuals in the UMAP camps.

From his point of view, not accepting responsibility and not apologizing for such acts “are proof of the homophobia” of the current leaders of the island and a sign that they are not repentant.

In the article, the activist says the General and others who are “still alive” as “those maximally” responsible for the camps where dissidents, religious and gay people were defined.

“It’s been 50 years since the creation of UMAP said Roque and not a single official has apologized to the people.”

He also said that “the minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) from that time is now the country’s president,” referring to Raul Castro.

“It is now time for them to apologize for that act of penalization, exclusion and punishment to which they subjected thousands of homosexuals and Cubans with ‘improper conduct’,” said the activist.

Roque demanded that “those responsible, every single one of them, must recognize their error, and ask for a real apology directly to the victims and their families, as the only way of historical reparation.”

The state platform Reflections groups blogs written from the island and is the only one from the island that provides this service. It is managed by the Youth Computer and Electronics Clubs (JCCE), under the Ministry of Communications.

Reflections is accessible from abroad, although it is not possible to create a blog from outside the island, nor to manage it from abroad even if it was created in Cuba. Operating a blog on Reflections requires that the blogger access the blog from a JCCE site.

Yamilé Garro Alfonso: ‘Being a Lady in White has taught me to appreciate the desire for freedom’

Yamilé Garro Alfonso
Yamilé Garro Alfonso

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 10 December 2015 — Yamilé Garro Alfonso was just a housewife, the mother of a baby and a teenager, when regime forces arrested her sister Sonia and her brother-in-law Ramón Alejandro Muñoz in a violent operation on March 18, 2012.

“At the time I knew almost nothing of the opposition,” she said. Two months later, she began to march with the Ladies in White movement her sister belonged to.

“I went to the Ladies in White (…) after I went to government institutions seeking an answer for the injustice they had done to Sonia,” she says. continue reading

“I received no reply from anyone.”

“They were very difficult times. There was a lot of harassment, abuse from State Security. I was completely disoriented. I went to the Ladies in White and they welcomed me and gave me their support.”

The story is similar to those of most of the women who have belonged to women’s organization over more than 12 years. Their lives had been disrupted by the political imprisonment of a family member.

In her case, Yamilé had to take care of her sister’s daughter, who had been left without her parents at just 15. “I tried to play the role of her mother, but it was impossible. I tried to do the best I could,” she recalls. “It was very complex for the girl who was a teenager and needed the guidance of her mother. She did not understand how it was possible that, overnight, her mother was deprived of freedom. It was a very radical change.”

Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz were in prison two years and nine months. The authorities accused them of “attacking, public disorder and attempted murder.” The prosecution asked for long prison sentences, but the trial never took place. Yamilé always maintained that the regime had no evidence and was trying to gain time to build a case.

“Going to prison was pretty hard. I went there and they told me they had suspended the visit, that Sonia was in a punishment cell and they didn’t give me any explanations,” she says. “They didn’t allow me to bring her many things, the visits were sporadic. My sister suffered a lot, she had health problems. When I did manage to meet with her and saw her in that situation it felt horrible.”

After her release the regime continued to harass Sonia, who even reported threats on her life. A few months ago she had to go into exile with her family. Her sister continues marching in Havana with the Ladies in White.

“Being a Lady in White is the best thing that happened to me. I have learned to appreciate the desire for freedom. I’ve noticed so many abuses, so much mistreatment. I thank these women who have given me the opportunity to be among them,” says Yamilé.

“There have been extremely difficult moments. Right now we are in a period when the repression has greatly worsened. The government feels it has a free hand to abuse the Damas de Blanco and other opponents because their international situation has improved with the restoration of relations with the United States,” she says.

“They beat us, insult us and take us to deserted areas and leave us there. No one speaks of it, no one criticizes then, and they feel a tremendous impunity to continue to do what they want,” she criticizes.

A few days ago, Yamilé visited Spain with other Ladies in White.

“I had the opportunity to see a place where freedom breathes, where there is democracy, where people are not abused when they say what they think. That reinforced my desire for my country to be free; for my children, that we Cubans will be able to enjoy the country we deserve.”

Cuban Film Institute: “There can be no place in our forums for the enemies of the Revolution” / Diario de Cuba

Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) headquarters. (CUBARTE)
Cuban Film Institute (ICAIC) headquarters. (CUBARTE)

Diario de Cuba, Havana, 4 December 2015 — A statement from the president of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), published on Thursday on the State website Cubarte put a stop to the recent discussions by filmmakers against censorship, in meetings where, “there can be place for the enemies of the Revolution.”

“The point of view of the debate we have defended has been, is and will be unequivocally Revolutionary,” says the ICAIC directive. “We are working, together with other organizations and institutions, to find a solution to the problems of audiovisual creation, from an anti-colonial, anti-imperialist and socialist perspective.”

The communication has been issued within days of the expulsion of activists and independent Cuban journalists in a meeting where a letter of support for theater director Juan Carlos Cremata was drafted. continue reading

The assembly, which was convened under the name “First Forum of Filmmakers on cultural policy and Cuban audiovisual content,” also had on its agenda the reading and discussion of articles on censorship and self-censorship such as those by filmmakers Enrique Colina and Juan Antonio García Borrero.

“On Saturday November 28 we rejected the presence of several mercenaries at the ICAIC Fresa y Chocolate Cultural Center, where a gathering of filmmakers was held with their institution. None of the organizers had invited them and their presence was a provocation and a premeditated act to use this kind of space as a platform for proselytizing and legitimacy,” the statement said.

The situation became particularly heated when officials from the institution ejected the activist Eliecer Avila, present in the room as a listener to the debate.

“In the face of any attempt to distort the results of the joint work between the filmmakers and the ICAIC, we feel a moral duty to reaffirm our commitment to the Country, the Cuban culture and the Revolution, without which the existence of the ICAIC itself and an educational and cultural work of emancipation would not have been possible, work that is the pride of our people,” the statement continued.

The ICAIC insisted that “it will remain consistent with the cultural policy of the Revolution.”

Rosa Maria Paya In Venezuela To Observe Sunday’s Legislative Elections / Diario de Cuba

Rosa María Payá Acevedo and Chilean Senator Patricio Walker before boarding their flight to Caracas, December 4, 2015. (ROSA MARÍA PAYÁ)
Rosa María Payá Acevedo and Chilean Senator Patricio Walker before boarding their flight to Caracas, December 4, 2015. (ROSA MARÍA PAYÁ)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Caracas, 4 December 2015 – The Cuban human rights activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo is in Caracas to accompany the Venezuelan youth in legislative elections on Sunday, December 6, the blogger and writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo reported Friday.

Payá, president of the Network of Latin American Youth for Democracy – a position she was elected to during the recent congress of the organization held in Costa Rica – is a representative of Cuban civil society and is in Caracas in solidarity with the youth of the country.

According to a note sent to the to Diario de Cuba’s newsroom by Pardo Lazo, Rosa María Payá Acevedo, promoter of the democratic project Cuba Decides, will observe the Venezuelan legislative elections as a guest of honor of the Chilean Senator Patricio Walker, with whom she flew to Caracas.

Teenage Gangs Assault And Rob Residents Of Havana Neighborhoods / Diario de Cuba, Jorge Enrique Rodriguez

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Jorge Enrique Rodriguez, Havana, 24 November 2015 — Two teenage gangs disturb the public peace on the streets of the Havana municipality of Cerro, while the police remain passive. Known as Los Apululus and Los Atormentados, both gangs engage in physical aggression against the elderly, assault and robbery on public streets.

The slums of El Canal, Las Cañas, Carragüao, Pilar and Atarés are among the hardest hit. The victims are stripped of their belongings, especially cell phones, accessories, money and clothing.

For the psychologist Leticia Collado, a resident of Las Canas, “these behaviors are the result of the fracture of the family and the crisis of the ideological education structure, which shows little interest in cultivating civility and socio-cultural principles in children and adolescents. continue reading

“The family is immersed in daily survival exacerbated by the economic circumstances of the country, while the school environment is no longer an attraction or an incentive,” because of the lack of prospects for a successful professional future, said Collado. “These deficiencies are a breeding ground for criminal behavior,” she concludes.

Sayú, a retired teacher and resident of El Canal neighborhood, questioned the role of the People’s Power, the police and so-called “mass organizations” controlled by the government, mainly the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) .

“The People’s Power delegates and the CDR are only interested in ‘Revolutionary tasks’ such as CDR guard duty, volunteer work, or a call to a ‘combatant’ march; they report on how you dress, what you eat and who you associate with,” criticized Sayú.

“But they don’t care about the fact that these teenagers don’t go to school, or what happens there. To make matters worse, the police just wander the streets and when you do see a police car, you can be sure they are after some girl, intercepting old ladies selling peanuts or engaged in corruption. They bring more worry than security,” he said.

However, Cecilia Canteros, president of a CDR and a People’s Power delegate from Las Canas, said “the problem starts inside homes where families barely concern themselves with the upbringing and education of these teens.

“Many here know who the boys are in Las Apululus and Los Atormentados, but no one lodges a complaint for fear of reprisals from their relatives who are also violent people. The state is not responsible for these problems because people do not report them to the appropriate authorities,” said Canteros.

A police source, which cannot be revealed, said that these acts are considered “social indiscipline and not as criminal acts, so the responsibility and solution is left up to the Party and Youth structures.

“The Department for Attention to Minors only acts when there is a criminal process; it barely does any preventive work,” the source added. “There are several reports of these gangs, but the indication from the Party is that they are already dealing with the matter”.

While the Communist Party “deals,” the residents of these neighborhoods live in fear and many citizens have suffered injury as a result of the assaults committed by the two gangs.

“When they kill two or three old people or the godson of some boss for four pesos or a cellphone, that is when someone will pay attention. That’s how things work in this country: there has to be a death for the government to lift a finger,” complained Sonni Diaz, a mother of two.

In the face of the growing phenomenon of violence on the island, the official press is silent. With few exceptions, they always treat it as “isolated incidents,” and alert the population to violent criminal acts, but never when the perpetrators are teenagers.

US Embassy in Havana Denies Visa to El Sexto / Diario de Cuba

"This too shall pass"
“This too shall pass”

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 14 November 2015 – The United States Embassy in Cuba has denied a non-immigrant visa to the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), according to information on Friday from the artist himself, via his Facebook account.

The graffiti artist displayed a document where the embassy said that the decision cannot be appealed, but that it is not permanent. In any event, it recommended that Maldonado wait for one year before submitting a new visa application.

The artist was recently released after spending 10 months in prison without trial for trying to stage a controversial performance in December of 2014. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience.

Gorki Aguila Released After Several Hours of Detention / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 8 November 2015 — The musician Gorki Águila was released on Saturday after being held for a few hours in the 5th police station in Playa municipality in Havana. Águila was arrested with two French journalists who were also released.

As he explained in statements to Radio Marti, the reason for the arrest was his wearing a shirt with the phrase “Down with you-know-you” while he was being interviewed on the street by journalists.

“People (agents) follow me and one of the minions spoke with State Security, so that was why we were stopped,” said Águila.

After two hours in the cells, the musician had an interview with a member of the State Security, according to the artist, and threatened him, “in the form of advice” to stop any kind of activism. “Same as always,” said Águila.

Tania Bruguera: “Cuba needs massive civic literacy in the streets” / Diario de Cuba

Tania Bruguera in the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana (NPR)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Joan Antoni Guerrero Vall, 4 October 2015 — After being held in the country for eight months by the regime, in punishment for attempting to bring her performance Tatlin’s Whisper to the Plaza of the Revolution, Tania Bruguera refuses to give in. She recognizes that even when she was put in the cells at Vivac with Cuba’s repressive machinery fuming to put an end to her freedom of expression, she was happy because she felt herself to be free. She acted according to her principles, despite any action the regime took against her.

In a conversation with Diario de Cuba from New York, the artist recounts these days, speaks about the present and future of Cuba, and considers that the Cuban people have a lot to learn: “We need to help people to understand the happiness produced by things you believe in.”

After eight months in Cuba, what are the lessons you take away from everything that happened? 

I’m still processing a lot of things. I learned that the image of the Revolution is one thing and how it is sustained is something else all together. There is an extraordinary dichotomy between the image of the Revolution and living with it. I also learned that the words we use, such as “solidarity” and “camaraderie,” have lost all meaning. The Revolution has used them indiscriminately and they have been emptied of their emotional functionality, in terms of humanism and activism. continue reading

And what meaning have these words taken under the current system?

I think I had the good fortune to understand solidarity and camaraderie: to believe in the truth of your own principles. In Cuba, we spend our lives saying slogans that we repeat and that have no meaning. They are like a rhetorical construction. They are not even constructions to call to action, in fact they don’t want you to really think about them.

What did the attempt to stage Tatlin’s Whisper in the Plaza of the Revolution teach you?

In this work I’ve done nothing more, and it what I am most satisfied with, that it presents a revolutionary ethic and attitude. I have activated all the concepts and slogans to become part of history, the whole idea of having principles, everything they tell us that, in reality, they don’t let us act on.

In this sense I learned that words are not actions. We Cubans have the right to participate in the history of Cuba. It is a right that has been taken by the Government. This learning is a personal process all Cubans pass through.

What brought about the change?

I came to Cuba knowing what freedom is because I live in freedom. At the beginning, when I left Cuba, it was a huge lie. Because on leaving Cuba everything is a lie: you have to lie about your feelings, your ideas, lie about what you really want in life.

To speak the truth in Cuba is dangerous. It cost me great personal labor and great discipline to understand the value of truth, of experiencing saying it. I still have to be careful, although I have spent hears being a person who doesn’t lie and talking to people who don’t lie.

Because of this I stopped talking to State Security agents. I would like it if people in Cuba could experience how good it feels when you are doing things you believe in, being honest, speaking the truth for once in your life.

Was it difficult being in jail?

It was very difficult, but at the same time I had no problem because I had a much stronger sense of happiness because I said what I thought instead of what they tried to make me do. It is a very rare thing. I learned that injustice has a physical manifestation. You feel it in your body. So I believe that the Cuban body is numbed by the injustice it has had to bear for years. The blood is numb, it is something that is passed down from parents to children. Fear in Cuba is in the social DNA and that is what we must eliminate.

And how can that be done?

We have to make people understand the happiness that comes from doing things you believe in. My emotional spectrum is much broader now: I learned things that I still don’t know how to explain.

I learned that the country has to change and that it can’t continue like this. The Cuban government has the custom of projecting Cubans as a happy people. And how do they demonstrate this happiness.  Because there is a lot of sex, beaches and laughter. But this isn’t happiness, without know that one is honest with oneself. This is what is missing in Cuba.

I want to continue working for it. I learned that art can be a part of history and of participating in an event on a higher scale, beyond the exposition. I greatly enjoyed how everything happened.

Has your perception of the country changed? Any disappointments or surprises?

I always tried to understand who benefitted most from what I did. I was under a lot of pressure to speak badly of artists who didn’t support me. If my project is about freedom of expression, I don’t have the right to judge other artists. If I advocated for the coexistence of differences, I can’t judge those who think differently.

I harbor no anger against absolutely anyone, I have no personal problem with any Cuban artist, whatever position they take. I believe this is a very complicated issues, from many points of view, and nor does political art in every country support it.

I also realize that, being in Cuba, there was a lot of underground work, pressuring me to speak ill of the artists.

By whom?

It could be a Government strategy to support them in isolating my community even more. I know that my separation from the artists’ union was orchestrated by State Security. There were people who received visits from State Security. They told them I was working for the CIA and that if they went to the Havana Biennial and someone asked them about my case, they should say they didn’t know anything about what was going on with me.

They told every person a different story. I have faith and I know it will change. I know Cuban artists are going to join the fight for freedom of expression because art is finding personal freedom. Under all the pressure that came from State Security, the curators, the director of the biennial, there were a lot of people who supported me, perhaps not all of them publicly and person a person helps you by offering you their shoulder, they can help you see the light about something that you’re doing that they think you shouldn’t do.

I love artists very much and they sit down to share ideas with me. I know I’m not alone and that the community of artists in Cuba supports and respects me. Everyone has their time. I think that we have to respect the personal process of each person. I don’t think it’s healthy to force anyone to make a decision when they’re not prepared to make it.

Is Tatlin’s Whisper already a closed action? Are you finished with it with your departure from Cuba? Is it possible there will be new attempts and you will continue challenging the authorities of the island from art?

That depends on State Security, not me. For me, Tatlin’s Whisper is a work of art of conduct. The significance fo the work is in how people conduct themselves. The fact that some people were in the Plaza is a part of the work.

The Cuban Government wants to appropriate for itself all authority through State Security. It is what they always do. Many people say I already knew what would happen. What I knew is that it was a historic moment. In those moments things didn’t function in the same way as always, things could change the meaning. People were outside their comfort zone and reacted in unexpected and different ways. I had this element in my favor.

As an artist, the Plaza of the Revolution seems to me to be a place that is exhausted, an ugly place in the sense that its meaning is very closed. I had thought of a Plan B, of doing it in other places. But after everything that happened around asking permission and I saw everything develop all around me, the art work set aside and the entire Cuban system of repression and control of the masses put on full alert. Then the Plaza of the Revolution took on another significance: it is not a people’s place, it is the center of power, the buildings surrounding it are places where they create the strategies of repression. So it was the place to stage the performance. In that moment I thought it was the place I had to do it.

Throughout the months you have been in Cuba the “thaw” process has continued. There is an evolution toward models of authoritarian capitalism. Do you believe the Government will manage to insert itself into the international community with these “particularities”?

The problem we have in Cuba is the arrogance of the people who are in power. They believe they are the only ones who have the answers to what happens in the country and the only ones capable of fixing what is happening. This is the first problem we have in the country.

The second is that we are going through a transition in which the people are not given a chance to participate, they are converted into receptors of orders. It’s like what you would say to a small child, “This is best for you.” Well, maybe not.

In the model they are following in Cuba — capitalism, feudalism, or what they are inventing — they are giving a disproportionate priority to the economy as the solution to the human problems we Cubans are suffering. I have heard many people, in the opposition and others, who agree that private businesses and creating a strong middle class will resolve the problems. I don’t agree with this.

Yes, there should be an economic blossoming, because the people deserve it, but I believe that the middle class, without a civic education, could be as reactionary a caste as the leaders of today’s Cuba are. Why? Because what it happening is that the egotism of those who have power will be spread a little more.

The Cuban people are a traumatized people, abused, they don’t know what they feel because they haven’t escaped from it. The first thing that has to happen is a massive civic literacy program in the streets so that those who know how to read and write learn to understand what they feel and to express themselves. The second is the Constitution: it has to be changed, but by whom. The new Government? A group of intellectuals?

What has to change is the people. I would love to see a system like in Iceland, where the people were directly involved in the changes. I think it is very dangerous to transition from ideology as truth to money as truth. Now the Cuban people deserve explanations, not orders, they deserve the ability to ask questions have the right to get an explanation and to have their doubts about this explanation and to be respectfully responded to.

How do you see Cuba today and the role of self-employment which some consider the germ of other changes?

With everything that is going there, there has been no improvement in democracy in Cuba. The owners of the new businesses are reproducing in the most intense way the social injustices of the Government. There is no protection for workers in private businesses, there is a reproduction of the mistreatment… you have been abused and now it is your turn to abuse.

I don’t know to what extent the middle class has a social and national conscience, or if it is rather a logical response to this spiritual and economic hunger that they have had for 50 years.

Another question is who can start these businesses, people who have family in the Government or family abroad. It is false that businesses in Cuba are free, they are blackmailed politically.

And what does this context portend for the world of art. We recently saw the censorship of The King is Dying

The strategies of artists from the ’90s, speaking their demands obliquely and metaphorically and using displaced geographic examples to make a connection and to speak about their immediate reality are exhausted. Artists have the opportunity to present what is happening but not to question the cause of everything we are experiencing. No one can make a movie that explores the reasons for the problems.

Their treatment of Juan Carlos Cremata was abuse because it would have been enough to censor his work. But I think it is very important to understand why they took away his institutional right to do theater. They have such a huge fear that they are going to lose control in this transition that they can’t stop and they can’t fix. They are doing what they can to maintain control. They are looking for scapegoats so that the rest of the artistic community will get the message. They are afraid.

Do you think there will be obstacles for you to return to Cuba? On your departure you had a visit with an agent in the airport…

I did everything I needed to do so they would let me return to Cuba. It took me a month and a half to get them to give me a letter where it says my case is dismissed. They do everything illegally. Within six months they closed the case because after that they have to ask for special permission from the Ministry of Justice to continue with the investigation. They took it to the limit.

According to all the lawyers I saw, they have not one single reason not to let me enter Cuba. My only passport is Cuban, I have not renounced my residence in Cuba and I have never engaged in illegality. If when I decide to return to Cuba the government of the United States is still negotiating issues of human rights with Havana, I think they will let me enter to demonstrate that I was wrong and that I had an unfounded fear and to show the Americans that they are not so bad.

If they want to know something. if they need to find something out through an interrogation, that is another reason to let me in. When I return I have no intention of speaking to State Security again because on this trip they came to my house trying to change the way I think. I am taking advantage of this interview with Diario de Cuba — because they read it — to tell them that I am not going to speak with them again because they lied to me, they told me they would free El Sexto on 24 August and he is still a prisoner. And I have said that I do not speak with liars.

Another thing that can happen is that if when I return they feel secure and that they have gotten what they want from the United States, they might not let me enter.

Finally, what would be the best actions to advocate for an inclusive and democratic Cuba?

First, a massive civic literacy campaign. People have to learn that they have something to give and that things can change. What has to happen then is that the Government releases all the political prisoners.

We should enter into an absolutely democratic process where people express the vision they have for the country and hold a kind of referendum about where the Cuban people want to go. Of course, all this derives from a constitutional change.

I would also support a Truth Commission, so that people recognize what was done and as a process of social “clean up.” We have to face the difficult things we’ve experiences, but without condemning people, without revenge.

In addition, it would be good the for a few generations no Castro could be in power. I do not want a third Castro in power. Out of decency and respect for the Cuban people, the descendants of the Castro family can help the people, through foundations, but they should not meddle in politics.

Out of respect for the people and because they are not better than anyone.