They Didn’t Let the Rain “Rain on the Parade” / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

American students marching in Havana's May Day parade (Luz Escobar/14ymedio)

American students marching in Havana’s May Day parade (Luz Escobar/14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 1 May 2015 – Right now in the City of Havana, especially in the neighborhoods, families and individuals with fewer economic possibilities are living through hard times. Downpours, normal enough in many capitals in the world, take on a different character here.

A few days ago many were clamoring for a few drops of water to ameliorate the unbearable heat. But when you live with the danger of the roof falling in on you, desires are confused and you end up preferring to sweat.

I know exactly what it means to sleep with fear. I spent my childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood sleeping in a bed-hammock with my grandmother and my first cousin. At the least downpour, the power went out and with the boards creaking, the house moved as if dancing with the wind. Continue reading

The vote of inertia / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

A woman looks at the biographies of the candidates before voting. (14ymedio)

A woman looks at the biographies of the candidates before voting. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 19 April 2015 — “He abused me, but I love him… many years together, I don’t want to leave him.” How many times have we heard this phrase in the mouths of women who suffer domestic violence from their husbands. And how difficult is it for family, friends, specialists in psychology, to convince an abused person to denounce their situation, to take action for their own good, to free themselves.

The victim has developed a deep inferiority complex, feels dependent and doesn’t conceive of life outside the “protection” of her owner. Although she has all the capabilities to be much better off without him. Continue reading

Young Latin Americans call to fight against political apathy / 14ymedio

Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. (14ymedio)

Young Cubans at the 2nd Forum of Youth and Democracy in Panama. Eliecer Avila with the microphone. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 8 April 2015 — Young Latin American leaders gathered Tuesday on the second day of the 2nd Youth and Democracy Regional Forum in Panama and addressed issues such as the rise of populist regimes in the region, and agreed on the need to organize civil society at the hemispheric level to fight against political apathy.

The protagonists of the morning session were Micaela Hierro Dori, president of the Argentine civil association CICES, who acted as moderator; Ricardo Antonio Álvarez Arias, vice president of Honduras; Eduardo Stein, former vice president of Guatemala; Guillermo Cochez, former Ambassador of Panama to the Organization of American States (OAS); Martha Lucía Ramírez, former Minister of Defense of Colombia; Gustavo Amaya, executive director of the Center for Training and Promotion of Democracy (CECADE) in San Salvador; and Carolina Quinonez, a journalist from Guatamala’s Antigua Channel.

Political apathy, according to attendees at the meeting, threatens equally countries ruled by totalitarian regimes and those in which the society assumes that “all is well” or at least “better than in other countries,” because in the latter it can leave the door open to the possibility that populism and other deformations will silence thoughtful proposals to take advantage of what the traditional parties have not resolved. Continue reading

Oscar Arias meets with young Cubans and Venezuelans / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Meeting of young Cubans and Venezuelans with Oscar Arias

Meeting of young Cubans and Venezuelans with Oscar Arias

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, San Juan, Costa Rica, 29 March 2015 — To Costa Rica, that Latin American country recognized for its outstanding economic push, its democratic stability, and its role in the defense of human rights, a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans has come as guests of the National Liberation Party.

Undoubtedly among the Costa Rican politicians most prominent in recent years, Dr. Oscar Arias Sanchez stands out. He held the presidency for two terms, the first from 1986 to 1990, and the second started in 2006 and ended in 2010. Thus, a meeting with him was something not to be missed on the visit’s agenda.

The Arias administrations brought Costa Rica notable advances in different sectors. So much so, that for the most part his compatriots usually refer to him as the “best president” they ever had.

The successful mediation of several international conflicts, among them that of Nicaragua in the 1980s, also turned him into a global paradigm in defense of peace, for which he was honored with the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1987.

On Saturday, the long awaited meeting with Arias took place at his home where he received a group of young Cubans and Venezuelans. The dialogue lasted more than an hour, during which the former president listened attentively to Continue reading

Summit of the Americas: Fear of Others’ Ideas and Little Faith in Their Own / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliécer Ávila, Havana, 19 March 2015 – In less than a month the Summit of the Americas will be held in Panama, on April 10-11. A good part of the world will focus its attention this time on Cuba and the United States, the two countries that have announced their intention to reestablish bilateral relations, ruptured more than 50 years ago.

Many hope that this summit will not be like so many others, but rather a milestone in history, embracing the essential discussion about the only non-democratic state in the hemisphere, a discussion that has been unreasonably postponed for more than half a century.

Before the imminent possibility of no control over all the variables of the meeting, the Cuban government is ever more nervous. One of the plays already seen backstage, is accusing the dissidents of wanting to “undermine” Continue reading

Reentry to Cuba Includes a Conversation with State Security / Eliecer Avila

Eliecer Avila, 26 February 2015 — After having “conversations” like these, I always ask myself is it is worth the trouble to publish an account of them or not. I do not like even giving these people the impression that I have blabbed about everything. But I also believe not publishing such accounts only hurts me. They have cameras everywhere and have demonstrated they have no scruples. They can release a doctored video recordings and use the information to destroy someone’s life

Upon entering the airport yesterday, I was approached by an immigration official. After taking my passport, he led me to a small office for “routine questioning.” Since I am already familiar with these ploys, it did not surprise me to find Lieutenant Colonel “Yanes” and “Marquitos” there in the room. The latter goes by a different name when he is with other people. He was the young man who “looked after” us some time back. It was he who put me and Reinaldo into the patrol car on the day of Tania Bruguera’s performance.

After my phone was taken away, the “chat” began. Though it was extensive, I am Continue reading

Birds of Ill Omen / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

A young man with a tablet

A young man with a tablet

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 28 February 2015 — A topic that is raised for discussion these days is the obsolete argument that some official voices never stop repeating at every opportunity they have to strain relations between Cuba and the United States or rather between Cuba and the Outside World. I am referring to the supposed “need” of implementing “appropriate measures designed to avoid the penetration that the enemy hopes to make into Cuban society.”

Just a few days ago, in the context of the first National Workshop on Computing and Cyber-Security held in Havana, with the physical or virtual presence of thousands of computer engineers, really absurd speeches Continue reading

“It is up to Cubans decide their future” / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

Roberta Jacobson at 14ymedio’s offices

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 24 January 2015 — In October of 2013 I had a conversation with Roberta Jacobson, via a Google hangout (videodebate), on democracy, technology and the role of women in activism. On that occasion, we interacted through a screen in the company of internauts interested in our chat. Now, we talked with a few inches between us, in a visit of the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs made to our independent daily, 14ymedio, in Havana.

Proximity has allowed me to confirm what I had already felt in our previous conversation, that this loquacious woman with an attentive gaze has a profound knowledge of the Cuban reality. It is no wonder that she has led the first round of conversations between Cuba and the United States after the December 17th announcement about the reestablishment of relations between both countries.

Several members of our editorial board along with some collaborators met with Jacobson on the 14th floor of the Yugoslav-style building where our headquarters are located. Following is a transcript of a conversation, where we tried to address a wide spectrum of topics.

Yoani Sánchez: Do we have reason to worry that pragmatism and the politics of rapprochement prevail above all else, and that the issue of human rights and civil liberties will be relegated to the background? Continue reading

US Congressional delegation meets with Cuban activists and independent journalists /14ymedio

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio, Havana, 19 January 2015 — On Sunday afternoon a dozen activists and representatives of Cuban civil society met with the American congressional delegation visiting Cuba. Chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy, the group was able hear diverse opinions in response to the announcement of the reestablishment of relations between the two countries.

A member of the delegation confirmed that the Cuban authorities were aware of the meeting with the activists and had made known to the American side their displeasure with the meeting.

In a relaxed atmosphere, several of those present expressed the conviction that “this opens a new era” and demanded greater transparency in negotiations, according to what they themselves reported after the meeting. Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, gave lawmakers a list with the names of 24 prisoners who, on humanitarian grounds, should be included in an upcoming release process. Continue reading

So we remember him? /14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 8 January 2015 — They say some animals possess the ability to perceive when natural phenomenon will occur. Man, however much he has evolved, is still an animal and retains some primitive characteristics. I don’t know if this sharp sense is present in our DNA. What I do know, is that we have a great ability to read between the lines of what happens around us and to draw logical conclusions and even to predict great events.

These days my neighbors and friends are behaving oddly. They speak softly, and in whispers share a kind of “sensitive information.” In general, they try to connect the dots…

There is a subtle but clear increase in surveillance in the streets, according to some. The press, radio and TV, with equal subtlety, increasingly broadcast more materials alluding to the former president Fidel Castro.

In fact, for days they’ve been airing a series called “Moments of the Revolution.” In this Thursday’s episode they showed a young and vigorous Fidel delivering a speech to the United Nations. The final sentence of the program perplexed me: “So we remember him…”

Nobody has missed Fidel’s silence on the historic events that marked the end of the year for Cuba and its politics. This has been, to my knowledge, the root of opinions and rumors gaining strength as the days go by. The more moderate of these suppositions refer to the historic leader’s delicate state of health. Others are less optimistic and theorize about the political interplay of dates and opportunities, which is typical of those systems that normally prefer mystery over timely and reasonable information.

For my part, I can only attest to an event unprecedented in recent years, at least where I have knowledge. It is, incredibly, nothing more and nothing less than the fact that Fish-for-Fish* has come to the bodega, instead of Chicken-for-Fish*. Yes, the kind that comes from the sea (imported mackerel).

In the face of this novelty that surprises us lately, I imagine that many don’t know whether to be happy or fearful. We’ll see.

*Translator’s note: Fish is supposedly part of the monthly food rations sold at reduced prices. However, as it is rarely, if ever, available, the ration stores routinely announce “chicken-for-fish,” substituting chicken for the fish ration. On the day that Obama and Raul Castro announced the new accords, fish was made available in the ration stores.

Several activists and Reinaldo Escobar, editor-in-chief of ’14ymedio’, arrested / 14ymedio

The police car in front of the apartment of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez. (14ymedio)

The police car in front of the apartment of Reinaldo Escobar and Yoani Sanchez. (14ymedio)

The director of this newspaper, Yoani Sánchez, is under house arrest

14ymedio, Havana, 30 December 2014 – Contacted by phone at her home, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, explained the circumstances of the arrest of her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, and of several other people this Tuesday in Havana. She is under house arrest. Patrol car No. 507 is stationed in front of the building where she lives, while four plainclothes offices are controlling the building entrances. Continue reading

Several Activists and Reinaldo Escobar, Editor-in-Chief of “14ymedio”, Arrested / Cubanet

Cubanet, 30 December 2014 — The activist Eliezer Ávila and journalist Reinaldo Escobar, Editor-in-chieft of the independent daily 14ymedio and husband of the blogger Yoani Sánchez, were arrested this morning at 11:40 am by members of the State Security outside the building where Escobar lives, according to the lawyer Laritza Diversent from Havana.

The source, after a telephone conversation with Yoani Sánchez, added that the patrol officers of car N.328, carried out the arrest violently. So far the whereabouts of detainees is not known. According to Yoani she was not allowed to leave her residence.

It is presumed that the authorities are trying to prevent the attendance of opposition figures at the performance of artist Tania Bruguera to be held this in the Plaza of the Revolution.

Also arrested were activists José Díaz Silva, leader of the Opposition Movement for a New Republic (MONR), and the Lady in White Lourdes Esquivel, according to the Twitter account the opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua.