Gang Warfare In Havana / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Gangs are usually made up of children, often under age 14 (Frame / ARTE)

Gangs are usually made up of children, often under age 14 (Frame / ARTE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 8 February 2016 – A few nights ago my wife and I arrived in an almendrón [old American car in use as a shared-taxi] at the Ceiba little park just before the traffic light at Via Blanca and Lacret, in Havana. We we usually get off there when we are going home from El Vedado, in a line of collective taxes headed to La Vibora.

The unwelcome surprise that night was to find ourselves almost in the middle of a pitched war at 1:00 in the morning. At Bella Vista and Via Blanca two gangs of children – for the most part; many of them weren’t even teenagers – were facing off with stones, sticks, bottles, and some carried machetes nearly as big as they were. Continue reading

Somos+ (We Are More) Holds Convention Despite Police Operation / 14ymedio

A police patrol at the corner by Eliecer Avila’s to prevent the arrival of guests. (14ymedio)

A police patrol at the corner by Eliecer Avila’s to prevent the arrival of guests. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2016 – The Somos+ (We Are More) opposition movement held its national convention Thursday, despite the arrest of several participants and a strong police operation around its site in Havana. The home of Eliecer Avila, leader of the organization, was surrounded by several police patrols at dawn, and only those who entered the home several hours or days earlier were able to attend.

Despite the obstacles, Somos+ issued a statement announcing,”We are holding the convention!” The activists were referring to a meeting held on 14 January to decide on the program ahead of time. The speeches, lectures and presentations were digitized to be able to project them in case their protagonists were not able to arrive at the site.

Groups of government sympathizers, dressed in plain clothes, threateningly warned off any curious person who wanted to take pictures around the site, or access the house on Esperanza Street in the Cerro district, where the event took place. Continue reading

Police Warn Eliecer Avila That Somos+ Convention Will Not be Allowed / 14ymedio

The police enter the home of Eliecer Avila to arrest him.

The police enter the home of Eliecer Avila to arrest him.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 January 2016 – The repressive actions against the Cuban opposition were repeated this Sunday across the country. It is estimated that more than 200 activists were arrested, according to independent reports. The police also arrested Eliecer Avila, the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement, and warned him that they would not allow the annual convention of his organization, planned for 14 January, to be held.

In Havana, the Ladies in White marched as they do every Sunday on Fifth Avenue, in the west of the capital city, accompanied on this occasion by two dozen activists. At the end of the pilgrimage they were violently arrested, according to testimony from witnesses at the scene. Continue reading

Somos+ Prepares for its Convention Under Police Harassment / 14ymedio

Eliecer Avila and the organizing committee for the Convention of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement

Eliecer Avila and the organizing committee for the Convention of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 January 2016 — The independent movement Somos+ (We Are More) is experiencing intense days as its annual convention approaches, due to a strong police operation against its members. The arrest of activist Joanna Columbie last Thursday in Santiago de Cuba, raised the tension around the event scheduled for 14 January several degrees.

Police pressure has included threats to the majority of Somos+’s members living in Cuba, and police warnings that the meeting would not be permitted. The national coordinator of the group, Manuel Diaz Mons, was also arrested and later released, after an exaggerate options in which several vinyl posters with the Somos+ logo were confiscated. Continue reading

A Year That Counts in Our Favor / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Eliecer Avila, 31 December 2015 — To offer a comprehensive summary of the work realized by the Somos+ movement in 2015, we would need the pages of a book. Thus, I will only try, in a strong exercise of memory, to highlight some details and successes of our recent history that characterize the performance and demonstrate the character of our members and leaders at this stage.

Earlier this year, we agreed that for us this would be “the founding year.” Then we adjusted our objectives to consolidate a small effective team of competent and committed people to work in a disinterested way to promote the ideas that gave birth to our organization.

To achieve this, we knew it was necessary to count on information media that was read and respected by a great number of Cubans within and outside Cuba, so that they themselves would become the bearers and diffusers of our message. Only then could we make ourselves known and reach all corners of the country and the world. Continue reading

One Year of Relations. Now What? / Somos+

Eliecer Avila (l.) and his father

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 17 December 2015 — Today marks one year of the historic reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States. At this point, although it’s true that there has been no notable change in the quality of life of Cubans nor the state of their rights, what has been shown is that the only obstacle to achieving development and prosperity in the nation is our own government.

Today, it would be unjustifiable to do what was quite comfortable just yesterday: blaming everything on the Empire of the North. However, the fundamental challenge is for millions of Cubans, who today are convinced about what the problem is, to assume the historic responsibility of working towards the solution and not to continue running away from a reality that will chase us wherever we go, in one way or another. Continue reading

The Inebriated Pupil / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Screen shot of the Cuban television program 'The Amazed Pupil’ directed by Iroel Sanchez.

Screen shot of the Cuban television program ‘The Amazed Pupil’ directed by Iroel Sanchez.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 14 December 2015 – The Astonished Pupil is a recent program on Cuban TV directed by Iroel Sanchez. The show continues the logic that has characterized Sanchez in recent years. Every time the gentleman opens his mouth it is to speak badly of everything modern, free and useful, from the internet and Facebook to denouncing “the great lie represented by Western democracy.” It seems that he and his friends know best about another world of which they don’t have the vaguest positive memory.

Continuing in this theme, his media program has a chaotic script, tries to mix entertainment with the most leftist of propaganda, and broadcasts materials such as speeches by radical separatists in Catalonia. Continue reading

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

At last we met!! / Somos+

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 11 October 2015 — Early this morning we received a very special person. Yohana Columbie, municipal education methodologist, graduate in pedagogy and theology, mid-level technician in accounting and IT, and many other things… She is a young woman who has not lost at all his time despite living in a small town in the eastern part of Cuba. A few days ago we got the news of her arrest by the State Security to prevent her traveling to Havana in order to participate in the National Council of our movement.

Today what was inevitable came true. We were able to meet and talk for hours, listen to each other, get to know each other better, exchange ideas and make sure that we share the same path and dream. Women like her confirm for me that in Cuba if you propose it to yourself, you can be free, think and speak without hypocrisy. It only depends on your convictions and emotional defenses to face the responsibility of being authentic, of not having two faces.

Welcome to the family of Somos+ Yohana!!

Translated by: Y. Rodriguez

Incident at the Airport Yesterday / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 5 October 2015 — Everything appeared normal until I got to the immigration desk. There the official meeting me had a sign on his screen with the word “CONTROLLED” flashing in red. With more or less discrete gestures, the young official started dialing code numbers to his superiors to come to the booth to “deal” with me. In three minutes his boss appeared who indicated I should follow him and who took my passport.

After about half an hour a different official appeared who accompanied me passing through immigration and told me to collect my things… As usual, many people waited about an hour for their bags from the Madrid-Havana flight because they arrived in dribs and drabs… When my suitcase finally appeared, I’d just picked it up when two other officials, this time from Customs, indicated I should accompany them for a “routine control.”

Knowing these things and how they work, I tried to advise my wife who was desperately waiting outside but they told me I could not use my phone. Nevertheless I managed to tell her, “things are looking bad.” Continue reading

Cuban Opposition Gathered In Puerto Rico Support Plebiscite For Free Elections / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana, 16 August 2015 – The Cuban National Conference –  involving one hundred activists from 23 organizations from the Island and 32 from exile meeting for three days in Puerto Rico – concluded this Saturday with a document setting forth a common strategy. The Declaration of San Juan emphasizes the need to work “to achieve full freedom for the Cuban people and genuine Rule of Law.”

Among the points of agreement among the participants were the demand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the repeal of laws that violate fundamental freedoms. The declaration also established as a priority achieving “freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, peaceful demonstration, profession and religion.”

The signers of the Declaration of San Juan made a call to fight for “the participation of all the people in every decision of the nation, the legalization of all political parties, and free and multi-party elections.” During the meeting 30 papers, prepared over the last year, were presented addressing several of the topics that were later reflected in the final document.

The Cuban National Conference urged “work for a campaign for a binding plebiscite in favor of free, fair and plural elections, under democratic conditions, that guarantee the sovereignty of the citizens.” Support for the Agreement for Democracy in Cuba, a document put forward in 1998 by organizations in the diaspora and on the island, was another of the issues agreed to in the final document.

The promotion of the peaceful struggle and “training of pro-democracy activists in the methods of civil disobedience,” is included among the issues to strengthen.

The participants committed to working for the collapse of the “cyber-wall in Cuba and striving so that the internal opposition has the technological resources needed to continue mobilizing the citizenry.” Progress in both aspects will monitored over the coming six months.

The Cuban National Conference, enjoyed the participation of activists such as Guillermo Fariñas, Elizardo Sanchez, Mario Felix Lleonart, Eliecer Avila, Laritza Diversent and Rene Gomez Manzanos. Its realization coincided with the visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry to Cuba.

Cuban Dissidents Meet In Puerto Rico To Seek A Common Position Against The Regime / 14ymedio, EFE

Poster for National Cuban Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico (MartiNoticias)

Poster for National Cuban Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico (MartiNoticias)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, San Juan, 14 August 2015 — Leaders of the Cuban dissidence arrived on the island and everyone met this Friday in Puerto Rico to work towards a common position with regards to the new scenario that is opening with the rapprochement between the United States and Cuba.

The Cuban National Conference brought together in San Juan one hundred dissidents who are trying to achieve a single strategy among all the groups who are fighting against the regime in Havana, with regards to the steps they should follow to bring democracy to the island, according to what regime opponent Guillermo Fariñas told EFE.

“There is a new context with the change in relations – between the United States and Cuba – and therefore it is necessary to achieve unity,” said Fariñas, who emphasized that it can’t be ignored that the rapprochement between Washington and Havana has repercussions on the strategy of the dissidence. Continue reading

The Visit of Pope Francis Presents the Opposition with a New Test / Somos+

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 15 July 2015 — The upcoming visit of Pope Francis sets the stage for a new opportunity for civil society and the political opposition to live up to the expectations of thousands of Cubans inside and outside the country, who have waited for a long time for a coherent and dignified performance by a true force for change.

On previous occasions, when we have had the opportunity to exercise political influence and make a positive impact on public opinion—mainly in front of Cubans on the island—someone has always managed to polarize the effort and portray us as divided and quarreling, unable to work together to achieve a minimum degree of strategic consensus. Continue reading

The Right To Public Debate / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

The video above is in English.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 12 August 2015 – Recently the Cuban intellectual Rafael Hernández, editor of the journal Temas (Topics) and moderator of the debates that take place on the last Thursday of each month at the Fresa y Chocolate (Strawberry and Chocolate) center, gave an interview to the journalist Cristina Escobar for the program Interviews From Havana by the Telesur network.

The interview was conducted in English, and broadcast with subtitles in the early morning hours for Cuban viewers. In it Rafael Hernandez defends some theses that have been put forward for some time in the intellectual spaces tolerated by the government, and he proposed a “new look at the theoretical conceptualization of the socialism we need.”

When asked what to do with the fact that “the enemy press takes any criticism that comes out in the Cuban media to amplify it against Cuba”, the intellectual and responded with emphasis and determination: “We must tell the truth, period,” because he believes that “it is better to have a discussion on any topic in our camp, than to allow the enemy to take us to his.”
Continue reading

Cuba’s Problems Can’t Be Solved Without Its Exiles / 14ymedio, Eliécer Ávila

Lawyer Guillermo Toledo. (14ymedio)

Lawyer Guillermo Toledo. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliécer Ávila, Havana, 5 August 2015 — The Cuban National Conference, which will take place in Puerto Rico from August 12th until the 15th, is generating expectations and controversies. Since its dates coincide with the reopening ceremony of the American embassy in Havana and the visit to Cuba of Secretary of State John Kerry, it poses a challenge for leaders of Cuban civil society who are debating whether to be in San Juan during those days, or to witness the historical moment from within the island.

Guillermo Toledo, a lawyer by trade, and one of the event’s coordinators, explains the summit’s objectives and its significance.

Eliécer Ávila: How did the idea of a Cuban National Conference come about?

Guillermo Toledo: Around two years ago I submitted a proposal in writing to the leadership of United Cubans of Puerto Rico so they could analyze it and give me a response. A few months passed, and my proposal was still going nowhere. So I started insisting. I was then designated coordinator of the Cuban National Conference, the name we settled on after several meetings.

Ávila: Who worked to make it happen? Continue reading