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

Let’s go to La Rampa! / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 7 August 2015 — It’s seven in the evening and at home we’re hurrying to eat early. We decided to try to the WiFi connection on the capital’s La Rampa, a stretch of arterial which extends from the Coppelia ice cream stand to the Malecon. The preparations are the same as for going to the theater or a movie. With the difference that now we have to bring equipment bigger than a telephone, to be able to type with ease and take better advantage of the time.

Bus 174 with its new route favors us this time and before eight-thirty we’re entering the area. We are immediately struck by the number of people gathering on the sidewalks and on every corner, as we walk down the few blocks that make up what we might call the “hot stretch.”

As we brought our computers, we are impatiently looking for a little gap where we can squeeze in, but it’s impossible. Every stone, step, or piece of wall is occupied. Even the sidewalk itself is covered with people sitting and the almendrones – fixed route taxis – pass a few inches from feet with no one noticing. Continue reading

The Visit Of Pope Francis Confronts The Opposition With A New Test / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

 Pope Francis in Quito last week. (Christian Torres / Presidency of Ecuador)

Pope Francis in Quito last week. (Christian Torres / Presidency of Ecuador)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 13 July 2015 – Pope Francis’s visit to Cuba is approaching and the scenario represents 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 been waiting for a long time for a coherent and worthy action be a real force for change.

On previous occasions, when it has been able to exert political influence and have a positive impact on public opinion – and mainly in front of Cubans on the island – someone has always managed to polarize the forces and present us as divided and quarreling, incapable of working together to achieve a minimum degree of strategic consensus. Continue reading

Freedom of Expression in Cuba / Somos+, Eliecer Avila

Eliécer Ávila, 6 July 2015 — With horror and profound indignation I learned what they did to Antonio Rodiles yesterday.

The bloodlust of these characters is no different from what motivated the torturers of the 1950s, those who do not defend the freedom of their people, but brag about ganging up to beat down a citizen whose only weapon is his mind.

Is that being Revolutionaries? Is that being the New Man? God deliver our children from lowering themselves to such extremes. . .

What will they do when the people rise up en masse in the streets? Will they be capable of striking women, children and the elderly? Yet they are already committing these atrocities on an individual, but recurring, basis.

The cowardice of the thugs who attacked Antonio is noteworthy, but even more noteworthy is the passivity of those who observe without reacting to the abuse and the pain suffered by others.

I don’t agree with Antonio Rodiles on various topics, which we have both made clear, but that doesn’t keep me from feeling the same disgust toward his batterers, and suffering that same disgrace to dignity and to life, as if it they had done it to me.

Stay strong Antonio!

In Madrid, Cuban Opponents Analyze the Example of the Chilean Transition / Diario de Cuba

Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)

Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Madrid, 3 July 2015 — Several opposition figures from the Island attended in training for Cuban leaders in Madrid, from 2-3 July, looking at the Chilean transition, which was organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL), under the coordination of the former Minister General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, the economist Cristian Larroulet and Carlos Alberto Montaner, among other intellectuals.

Casa de America hosted the meeting behind closed doors, focused exclusively on strengthening Cuban civil society. The workshop is part of a continuation of those held in July of last year on the Spanish transition and in March of 2015 on the formation of the Democratic Unity Roundtable of Venezuela (MUD).

These events have as an objective, in addition to the formation of Cuban leaders and learning about transitions, to promote and facilitate meeting spaces, coordination and reflection among the participants. The writers Roberto Ampuero and Mauricio Rojas were others invited to join this initiative, with closing remarks on the dialog addressing the convening topic.

Among the Cuban opposition figures were Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Eliecer Avila, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent.

Chronicle of a Visit Postponed to Jagüey Grande / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila


Eliécer Ávila

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 28 June 2015 — Last Friday afternoon, my wife Rachell and I were going to the city of Jagüey Grande in Mantanzas Province. Several friends were waiting for us there to spend a weekend together talking and discussing future projects. We were going to see Alexey, a motorcycle mechanic and computer genius, as well as Carlos Raúl, a young pastor whose temperament and values make him stand out. Nevertheless, our planned getaway ended far differently than we initially intended, and not because of our will.

We were faced with several organizational challenges before we left the house. We had adopted our second puppy the night before and she was in very bad shape. Moreover, Rachell had to work until five o’clock and run like a marathoner in order to meet all her obligations and get home just in time to leave. Nonetheless, luck was on our side and we quickly caught a bus leaving Havana.

Along the way we were also planning on visiting Playa Larga Beach for the first time to enjoy some relaxation. However, a highway patrol car and two State Security agents cut our dreams short when they stopped the bus on which we were traveling as it entered Jagüey Grande. Continue reading

The Job of a Father / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Eliecer Avila speaks of his father (14ymedio)

Eliecer Avila speaks of his father (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 21 June 2015 – When we are children we have an idyllic idea of who our father is. We see him as an invincible guardian, strong, fair, who feels no fear and protects us from all the dangers ahead of us in the world.

With the passing of time, two things can happen. One, you discover with disappointment a weak man, full of shortcomings, irresponsible and fearful who can’t even think, speak or act for himself. And to make it worse, he induces you to do the same, to fake it, to lie for the supposed “benefit of family tranquility.”

The other possibility is that on growing up you can verify that your father is actually what you always believed him to be.

I my case, I feel a profound happiness, because the second is what happened to me. Despite discovering, sometimes with a certain pain, that my father was not perfect, he wasn’t infallible and free of all failures, nor was he a stranger to fear and doubt. Today I can say he is a brave man, powerful in his word and his gaze. Firm in his support for me in the most difficult moments without failing to alert me about every aspect that he thinks I should consider.

Neither one of us can replace the other’s role in our lives. He cannot assume responsibility for and the cost of my actions, nor can I do so for his. But it is always an invaluable guarantee to know that he is there, watching with an experienced eye, supporting the trunk of the family tree so that it will grow straight. Ready to fight any plague or ruthless woodsman eager to cut me down from envy or malice.

It is my job to keep going and hopefully act so that my children will feel the same security I felt. I know that it will be difficult if I want to be his equal. But I intend to try, because I want to form with my own hands brave and free people, who not only belong to the future, but who will help to conquer and build it.

Today I congratulate all the fathers in the world. Especially those who, like mine, deserve to be congratulated.

Cuba Nostalgia / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)

Cuba Nostalgia 2015 was held between 15 and 17 May. (danydiegonews)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 19 May 2015 – On Saturday the 16th, being in Miami, a friend invited me to visit the show Cuba Nostalgia. No one knew for sure what it was about, but the name made ​​me curious. The event took place in the outskirts of the city at the Fair Expo Center near the main campus of Florida International University (FIU).

Upon arrival, we saw a huge parking lot full of cars, from which it was common to see a young person emerge – a son or grandson – pushing a wheelchair or leading by the hand their grandparents toward a roofed space in which they reconnected with a vital part of their past.

Cuban music could be heard from afar. Once inside, the displays of old bank notes, photographs, stamps, medals, books, music albums, brand name products, hats and other attractions completely captured the attention of the visitors who, in some cases, spend a long time looking at a single piece, as if transported back in time to their childhood memories, youth, mischief in the Cuban countryside, or pranks and dancing in the cities, always hectic in those Republican years. Continue reading

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