Guillermo Fariñas Returns Home After Hospital Visit For Fainting / 14ymedio

Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)
Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)

14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2016 — Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, after 47 days on a hunger and thirst strike, was transferred on Monday afternoon to Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital. The dissident was discharged hours later because doctors felt that he did not meet the “entry criteria for intensive care,” he told 14ymedio activist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel.

Sources close to Fariñas detailed that the intake occurred at 2:45 pm after he lost consciousness at his home in the neighborhood of La Chirusa. Hours earlier, the daily report on his health issued by members of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), reported severe pain in the “joints, knees, ankles and shoulders.” Continue reading “Guillermo Fariñas Returns Home After Hospital Visit For Fainting / 14ymedio”

The note also explains that Fariñas was experiencing “dizziness, weakness and fatigue” and said his weight was 151 pounds, according to Dr. Yorkis Rodriguez Cardenas.

The winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is demanding that Raul Castro “publicly state that he will put an end to the beatings of nonviolent opponents,” and that he will schedule a meeting with a member of the Council of Ministers and “representatives of the Cuban opposition,” to explain what the government’s strategy will be “to end the beatings.”

A dozen Cuban dissidents have released a letter in which they call themselves Fariñas’ “brothers in the struggle” and say they share his demands. However, they also state that they need him alive to continue with them “on this path” until they “achieve freedom.”

“We respect you and we are aware of your sacrifice, but we would ask you to put an immediate end to your strike,” says a letter from dissidents Félix Bonne, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Ángel Moya, Félix Navarro, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque and Berta Soler.

Since the beginning, Fariñas has reiterated that, in the event that “Raul Castro will not yield to the demands” he will continue the hunger and thirst strike “until the end.”

UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 24 August 2016 – Five years can be a long time in Cuba, when we’re talking about an opposition organization. In the complex kaleidoscope of dissident groups and parties that make up civil society on the island, many are active for only a few months or languish amid repression and illegality. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) will reach its fifth anniversary on Wednesday with several of its initial objectives completed and others still in progress.

While the Cuban government classifies all opponents as “enemies” of the nation and “hirelings of the Empire,” UNPACU members have preferred to describe themselves in their own words. They consider themselves “a citizens’ organization and a pro-democracy and progressive social movement” interested in “freedom, sovereignty and prosperity.” Their epicenter is the city of Santiago de Cuba and other areas in Eastern Cuba, although they also have a presence in Havana. Continue reading “UNPACU Reaches 5th Anniversary Amid Achievements And Criticisms / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mario Penton”

Organized around their leader and most visible head, Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU was born in 2011 after the process of the release of the last prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, among whom was Ferrer. Ferrer’s prior experience was in the ranks of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), which was vital for his own political development, according to what he has said in several interviews.

Over the years, several faces have stood out in UNPACU’s ranks, such as the young Carlos Amel Oliva, who recently led a hunger strike in protest of the arbitrary arrests and confiscations of personal belongings. However, UNPACU has also suffered, like the rest of the country, the constant exodus of its members through the refugee program offered by the United States Embassy and other paths of emigration.

Among those who have decided to stay on the island, is Lisandra Robert, who never imagined she would join an opposition organization. Her future was to be a teacher, standing in front of a classroom and reviewing mathematical formulas and theories. However, her studies at Frank Pais Garcia University of Teaching Sciences ended all of a sudden when she refused to serve as an undercover agent for State Security. The “mission” they demanded of her was to report on the activities of several activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, among them two of her family members.

Today, Robert is a member of UNPACU, and although she started with the group as an independent journalist, with the passing of time she has addressed the issue of political prisoners. “At first it was hard, because the neighbors participated in the acts of repudiation, they wouldn’t look at us or speak to us.” Something has changed because “now they are the ones most supportive of us.”

Among the characteristics that distinguish the work of UNPACU is the use of new technologies. Through copies on CDs, USB memory sticks or external hard discs, Cubans have seen the acts of repudiation from the point of view of the opponents who have been victims of them, and they have even used tools such as Twitter, which they teach in their Santiago headquarters.

“This is a way to bring more people to all the work we do and they receive it with love and great appreciation, because we also include news that doesn’t appear in the national media,” says Robert.

Zaqueo Báez’s face became known during the mass Pope Francis offered in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution last September. Along with other colleagues, the current UNPACU coordinator in Havana approached the Bishop of Rome and demanded the release of the political prisoners. This Tuesday he told 14ymedio that he felt “very proud” of belonging to the movement dedicating “great efforts” to “social work undertaken directly with people to involve those most in need.”

Jose Daniel Ferrer, on a visit to Miami, said he was satisfied by what has been achieved and feels that “in its first year UNPACU was already the opposition organization with the most activists in Cuba.” The figure of 3,000 members stated publicly has been a center of controversy, such as that sustained between Ferrer and Edmundo Garcia, a Cuban journalist living in Florida. On this occasion, Garcia asked sarcastically, “How many people (from UNPACU) can you introduce me to?”

Garcia also questioned the organization’s source of funding and said the United States government was the main source, through the National Endowment for Democracy. Ferrer openly acknowledged that part of the funding comes from the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and what he describes as “generous contributions from Cuban exiles.”

Former political prisoner Felix Navarro belonged to UNPACU, but said he had left the group “without grievance, without separation.” He considers it “the most representative organization in opposition to Castro within the Cuban nation.” In addition, “it is in the street and has created a very positive mechanism from the point of view of the information to immediately find out what is happening every minute.”

For José Daniel Ferrer one of the biggest challenges is to achieve “a capable and committed leadership” because many activists “scattered on the island don’t do better activism because of not having good leadership.” The limitation on resources such as “equipment, disks, printers and the money it takes to bring more people into the work of spreading information” also hinders the action of training, he adds.

The dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua considers UNPACU to be “one of the most active organizations, especially in non-violent protests in the streets, bringing light and giving relief to the demands of ordinary people.” A result of this activism is that in April of this year the number of political prisoners belonging to the organization rose to 40 people.

When Jose Daniel Ferrer was asked if UNPACU can remain active without him in the personal leadership position that has characterized Cuban political movements, he responds without hesitation: “It has been demonstrated very clearly in my absence.”

Injustices of a Debate / 14ymedio Miriam Celaya

Note: The video is not subtitled in English

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miriam Celaya, Havana 10 August 2016 – The recent broadcast of a television program from Miami with Maria Elvira Salazar as moderator, where there was a heated debate between the well-known Cuban opposition leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, and the also well-known Castro regime panderer, Edmundo Garcia – former presenter from a decadent musical program on Cuban television, before he chose to settle in Miami “for personal reasons” – has sparked an avalanche of wide-ranging comments about the performance of one rival or the other, as well as about the appropriateness or otherwise of the topics introduced by the host on the set.

While the confrontation between an opposition leader living on the island, and a regime defender – but not a “representative” – of the Cuban dictatorship was original, the truth is there are antecedents where supporters and opponents of the Castro regime have faced off before the cameras. Continue reading “Injustices of a Debate / 14ymedio Miriam Celaya”

Almost 20 years ago, on 23 August 1996, Maria Elvira herself participated, along with two of her colleagues, in moderating an unusual debate between a representative of the opposition in exile and a senior official of Fidel Castro’s government.

The memorable and passionate debate between Jorge Mas Canosa, then chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, and Ricardo Alarcon, then president of the National Assembly of Cuba, was recorded simultaneously from both sides of the Florida Straits – Mas Canosa in Miami, Alarcon in Havana – and released by the CBS television in more than 20 countries.

Lasting almost an hour, that discussion made clear the superiority of an opponent who expressed himself with total freedom, in contrast to the obedient servant of a totalitarian ideology, tied to slogans and cliches, who was literally run over by his rival.

An important moment of that program came when Mas Canosa exhibited the dehumanizing nature of the assumptions on which the Castro regime stands, reading Alarcon the text, printed on the back of a Cuban internationalist’s card, with a phrase from Che Guevara taken from his speech during the Tricontinental Conference: “… the revolutionary needs to know how to become a cold killing machine…” There is nothing to discuss.

Saving the differences, the most recent debate between Jose Daniel Ferrer and Edmundo Garcia repeats some elements of that one from two decades ago, namely, the passionate defense of diametrically opposing positions and the adherence of the Castro regime supporter to the same scheme of slogans and repetition of the discourse dictated by the Cuban totalitarian power.

However, a great many of the colleagues and friends who from Cuba and from emigration have shared with me their views on this program, agree that Ferrer fell below expectations, and could and should have been more precise and direct in his responses to the hackneyed postulates and attacks of Mr. Garcia.

They feel, moreover, that the confrontation demonstrated, on the one hand, the ability developed by the Castro regime’s servants in the media to evade positions about the Cuban reality and the continuing violations of the rights under the dictatorial Castro regime, clouding the atmosphere and attacking the adversary with the usual disqualifications that are repeated ad nauseam in the official media of the island; and secondly, the lack of training of the leaders of the opposition in controlling the debate and taking advantage of the many weaknesses of the pro-Castro discourse, even when it is presented by a minor extra lacking any credentials, as is the case with Edmundo Garcia.

Personally, I agree with most of these opinions, but I know, from the times I have been able talk with José Daniel Ferrer, that his ideas are better informed and his discourse is better articulated than that he offered us during his presentation in Miami.

We have to recognize that, like it or not, Mr. Edmundo Garcia, an emigré who defends the olive-green caste from the comfort of a Florida city – which however, he considers a nest of terrorists – dominates the job of disinformation, and misinforms, distorts and disguises truths before the cameras with astonishing tranquility. José Daniel, on the other hand, was visibly uncomfortable. His natural setting is the tribunal of the streets, the passionate call, the colloquial discourse among Cubans; not the media. A limitation that must be overcome.

The use of inexact or poorly enunciated terms on the part of the moderator was not helpful, nor was the poor selection of the video that should have been shown (but wasn’t) of the beatings the political police deal out to opponents. The well-trained and opportunistic Edmundo knew how to use these failures to his favor.

These and other miscues explain how Garcia handled himself and dared to say without blinking and without a blush on his cheeks, that the painful events of the 13 de Marzo tugboat massacre, when a group of innocent Cubans were killed by Castro’s military forces, were the direct responsibility of the victims.

He also downplayed the scandalous hiring of foreign labor on the island, when there are thousands of unemployed Cubans, a fact that Ferrer pointed out to him and that the ineffable Edmundo Garcia considered something “normal.” I can understand that Ferrer could barely contain his outrage in the face of the rampant cynicism of this man, and to a certain extent this explains to me Ferrer’s distraction while responding in the debate.

Another unnecessary altercation between the two was related to the number of activists and members belonging to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), recognized as the largest opposition group inside Cuba. A topic on which Ferrer was left in the dust by Garcia. The latter tried to ridicule the figure and question the veracity of the numbers quoted by the opposition leader, when in reality what is essential here is not the number of members of this or any other opposition party, but the legitimacy and fairness of their demands and their right to exist as an alternative to the powers-that-be.

It is known that, in a dictatorship, the opposition is always a minority, so there is no need to emphasize how many fans support one team or the other. Why play this crooked game of the Castro regime’s servants and make it so easy for them?

But, put in that position, Ferrer coud have, in response, reminded Garcia of the ridiculous membership numbers of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), which the last Congress officially cited as 700,000 – despite the almost 60 years “in Revolution” and the more than 50 of a “single party” – which constitutes barely 6.36% of a population of 11 million people. Isn’t this a compelling piece of data if we are talking about legitimate rights based only on a question of numbers?

Moreover, Ferrer should avoid comparisons between the Castro regime and North Korea, or extemporaneous allusions to the similarities between it and Stalinism, the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler, or other equally criminal regimes.

The Cuban reality, by itself, is sufficiently subversive so as not to have to appeal to historical or geographically distant paragons. It would have caused a better effect to enumerate the many and urgent existential problems and the absence of freedoms in Cuba than to try to describe the fascist nature of the Castro regime, which we all know ad nauseam.

One of the most recurrent vices of the opposition is precisely this, taking every opportunity to characterize the island dictatorship, instead of putting your finger on the everyday problems of the Cubans, or disclosing your own platforms and proposals to reverse them.

For example, the government’s blockade toward prosperity and the happiness of the population is reflected in the continuing, growing and unstoppable emigration of Cubans. Or there is the subject of the laws that have been changing in recent years, with the express ban on Cubans investing in Cuba, or unionizing, or the free contracting of workers, to mention just a few. These are issues that would have been difficult for Mr. Garcia to rebut, or had he done so, he would have done so very badly. Not to mention other sins, such as a lack of freedom of the press, of expression and of information, or the right to strike and other issues of great importance, timeliness and relevance to those they were talking about.

It is clear we must urge finally overcoming the media oversimplification of bad Castro regime and the good opposition. We simply have to engage in effective opposition and if the media over there or everywhere offers the space, we have to take advantage of the opportunity to present our own message, instead of allowing others, from the comfort of the television studios with one eye on the audience ratings, to write the script for a sterile course. It is not reasonable to squander the moral capital of a leader on a mediocre program.

Of course, to achieve this it would have been necessary to have a good script and a better moderator. Maria Elvira pitifully lost control of the program, which at times seemed like a cockfight arena without any order. Although she probably considers this a manifestation of spontaneity and democracy.

She was also truly unfortunate in some of the issues focused on, looking for easy sensationalism – like the Chanel fashion show on the Prado or the arrival of US cruise ships to the Port of Havana – rather than essential questions that really affect Cubans’ daily lives. The right to attend a parade is truly innocuous compared to the pressing problems of Cubans: the total absence of freedoms and the material needs of an entire nation. Frivolity strikes when it comes to politics.

In the end, the moderator repeated to the combatants the exact same question that 20 years ago she asked Mas Canosa and Alarcon: Would you be willing to recognize the triumph of your adversary in democratic elections? And their answers demonstrated once again the moral superiority of free thought: Jose Daniel, as Mas Canosa did before him, said he would accept the decision of the people at the ballot box; not so Edmundo Garcia, who declared that he would take to the Sierra Maestra before accepting the electoral triumph of UNPACU. Perhaps this was the high point of the program.

However, what I really deplored in the end was the fact that a leader of the prestige and courage of Jose Daniel Ferrer would accepted a debate with a character who isn’t even a legitimate representative of the dictatorial regime he defends. In any even, there was nothing to gain. I would say Ferrer spent artillery shells to shoot a mosquito… without success.

In my opinion, the problem of the program-debate in question is not who came out better or worse, or who better defended his position. The truth is that the debate of José Daniel Ferrer versus Edmundo Garcia should never have taken place, because it tends to lend prestige to someone like Garcia, who does not have the least relevance now nor will he later. A political leader must be careful when choosing his opponents.

Either way, I take this opportunity to express my solidarity with Ferrer and my respect for his performance as an opposition leader, his honesty and courage in the defense of that cause that belongs to many Cubans like him and like the members of UNPACU. Know that my criticism is anointed with the greatest good will, so I reject in advance any misrepresentations about it. In any case, opinion journalism is the way some of us contribute to the development of democracy and freedoms. I have reason to have confidence in the greatness and ability of Ferrer to understand this as well.

Wave Of Arrests Against Activists Seeking To Prevent A Youth Congress / 14ymedio

Amel Carlos Oliva, youth leader for UNPACU. (Somos +)
Amel Carlos Oliva, youth leader for UNPACU. (Somos +)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 July 2016 – This Sunday several independent organizations are holding the first Cuban Youth Congress in the city of Santiago de Cuba, under heavy police pressure and after dozens of arrests. Among those arrested is the activist from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) Amel Carlos Oliva, who was arrested last Thursday, according to sources from UNPACU.

Oliva’s family and friends told 14ymedio that they lost telephone contact with the dissident hours after he met in Havana with Eliecer Avila, president of the Movement Somos+ (We Are More), an organization also participating in the youth event. Continue reading “Wave Of Arrests Against Activists Seeking To Prevent A Youth Congress / 14ymedio”

Oliva returned from Washington the same day he was detained and, according to the leader of the UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, was “kidnapped by the repressive forces” as he traveled from the Cuban capital to the east.

Since Saturday some members of both organizations were also victims of arbitrary detention, while others were subject to strong police operations around their homes. However, a few managed to reach the Santiago headquarters of UNPACU, where the Congress is now taking place.

Joanna Columbié, a member of Somos+, was arrested on the outskirts of the meeting. She managed to report her arrest by telephone, seconds before being put in the police car. According to reports from the organizations involved in the Congress, more than a hundred activists have been arrested.

The wave of arrests on Sunday is the continuation of the dozens of arrests from the day before, when several members of UNPACU were violently arrested while protesting to demand the immediate release of Carlos Amel Oliva.

Patriotic Union of Cuba Withdraws From MUAD / 14ymedio, Havana

Joanna Columbié, Eroisis Gonzalez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Rolando Ferrer at a presentation of the MUAD program. (14ymedio)
Joanna Columbié, Eroisis Gonzalez, Jose Daniel Ferrer and Rolando Ferrer at a presentation of the MUAD program. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 June 2016 — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) announced Tuesday its intention to withdraw from the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD), a political association involving at least 42 groups and social projects.

A statement signed by UNPACU’s board of coordinators also explains that the organization will not continue to be involved in the #Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, because at this moment any involvement in “training structures” can affect its “dynamic” and “effectiveness.” Continue reading “Patriotic Union of Cuba Withdraws From MUAD / 14ymedio, Havana”

The text clarifies that the largest opposition organization in the country will continue to enjoy “the best relationship and collaboration” with MUAD, which was defined as a political association “under construction.” UNPACU says that it values the work of the coalition “in favor of a democratic, just, prosperous and fraternal Cuba.”

UNPACU made the decision public a few hours after its leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, presented the democratic project of his group in the European Parliament, according to a press release from the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL).

The UNPACU leader told 14ymedio unity exists and they are in agreement with MUAD’s actions and cooperation. “The problem is that our dynamic is more active will act together to them, or they with us, when both sides believe it necessary.”

Also participating in the presentation to European Union parliamentarians, entitled “Cementing civil society in Cuba,” was Manuel Cuesta Morua, spokesman for the Progressive Arc Party, an opposition party and one of the most visible faces of MUAD.

Ferrer’s visit to Brussels is part of an intensive travel itinerary that has included several European and US cities, in response to the Cuban government having issued the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring a special travel permit allowing him to leave the country “only once.” The permit was granted after intense pressure.

During his stay in Miami, Florida, Ferrer said in an interview that estimated UNPACU’s membership at more than 3,000 activists and supporters, mainly in Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces.

Last week several members of MUAD participated in a meeting in Quintana Roo, Mexico, sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democratic Organization of the Americas (CADO). The meeting served to reaffirm the consensus projects and elect the members of its Executive Secretariat.

Jose Daniel Ferrer Gets a Passport / 14ymedio

José Daniel Ferrer with his passport with a visa for the US. (14ymedio)
José Daniel Ferrer with his passport with a visa for the US. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 18 May 2016 – Government opponent José Daniel Ferrer received his new passport on Tuesday, and will be able to travel outside the country for the first time. The former prisoner of the Black Spring has permission to leave the country only once, according to information from Cuban authorities. During his trip he plans to visit the United States and several European countries, according to what he told this newspaper.

The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) will fly to Florida on Wednesday, where his plans to visit his mother and brother, Luis Enrique Ferrer, also a former political prisoner. “I want to see many good Cubans, especially those who in one way or another support the cause of the democratization of Cuba. I want to hug them,” he said.

Ferrer also plans to go to the Swiss city of Geneva, to appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council, and then he will visit Spain. “If I have the time I want to go to Poland, to the Gdansk shipyards, where the great demonstrations of the Solidarity Union took place,” he told 14ymedio.

Earlier this year, Ferrer received, along with other former political prisoners, the Homo Homini Prize awarded each year by the Czech NGO People in Need, for his contribution “in an outstanding way to the promotion of human rights, democracy and the non-violent resolution of political conflicts.” None of the award recipients were able to attend to the award ceremony because of travel restrictions imposed on them by the Cuban government.

Patriotic Union Of Cuba Launches A Political Program / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

UNPACU leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, believes that a new document integrates the entire opposition. (EFE)
UNPACU leader, Jose Daniel Ferrer, believes that a new document integrates the entire opposition. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 5 May 2016 — Since early this month, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) have begun to disseminate the document Minimum Program and Projections, which outlines guidelines for the actions of the opposition organization, forms of struggle, and a proposal for the country ‘s future.

With the publication of this text, which summarizes the experience of the nation’s largest group of activists, UNPACU is demonstrates maturity and responds to criticisms about the Cuban opposition’s lack of a platform or agenda.

In nine pages, the program underlines the commitment of the opposition to use peaceful means to reach its goals. It also clarifies that the proposals contained are addressed to those living in the country and in the diaspora and proclaims the need for “a free, democratic, just, fraternal and prosperous Cuba.” Continue reading “Patriotic Union Of Cuba Launches A Political Program / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

This inclusiveness is appreciated in a nation that for decades no longer exists only within the island, and where the phenomenon of emigration is growing in numbers rather than diminishing in recent months.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, national coordinator for UNPACU, is optimistic that the program’s reach to date. Speaking to 14ymedio he noted, however, that “the document is not final and is subject to changes or corrections.”

For this former prisoner of the Black Spring, the platform is a “more complete tool” in the work of the organization and has been received “very well,” mainly in Santiago de Cuba. Right now, he says, it is “being distributed throughout the province, we will continue to print it and send it to the rest of the country.”

The text has not been the result of improvisation or a race against time to publish a program. Several activists consulted confirmed that the text originated in March of 2013, when the UNPACU instructed the lawyer Rene Gomez Manzano, its chief legal adviser, to write the first draft.

That initial text was worked on by regime opponent Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz and Ferrer himself, who used as sources for the final wording of the document other texts, including: UNPACU, For The Cuba Of Your Dreams and We Are UNPACU. Only after the recent close of the 7th Congress of the Communist Party, with its disappointing results, did the organization publish its program.

Ferrer explained that the dissemination of the text was preceded by “many days of work and consensus in meetings occurring in several provinces of the country.” Technology was an ally in this effort, as they were also able to share opinions through “emails, Facebook chat and Twitter direct messages,” he says.

The organization describes itself in the pages Minimum Program and Projections as “a pluralistic and ecumenical effort of a union of activists and former organizations.” Its managers collected and summarizes in their ideology components ideology “of Christian belief and the liberal and social democratic doctrines.”

Their main proposal for the country is summarized in “the establishment of a democratic order that combines a social market economy, political pluralism and makes possible greater equity and solidarity between the individuals and groups that make up our society.”

Copies of the program will be delivered to the “different levels of the so-called People’s Power, and, why not, the oppressor Party,” said Ferrer, who is quick to note that the “the main audience is the millions of Cubans tired of living without rights, without freedom and in complete misery. ”

In its project for the economy, the program lists the current situation as “an authoritarian capitalism, combining the worst of a savage market and a state centralism,” and details the main problems affecting items such as wages, food, housing, transport, industry and agriculture, among others.

As a counterpart, UNPAC advocates a social market economy, where “both the State and the markets, open to citizen control and advocacy, serve as mechanisms to generate personal and public prosperity.” It is also committed to “the fertile combination of all forms of property and production: small, medium or large, national, foreign or mixed,” but rejects the existence of state or private monopolies.

The group claims the right of Cubans living abroad to invest and own property in the country and proposes the creation of “genuine agrarian reform that recognizes the full rights of those who work the land.” Detailing the need to respect the properties acquired after 1959, especially those used as living quarters, it intends to seek “compensation formulas” and the right to put forward impartial claims for confiscated property.

In the socio-political approach, the program calls for a new constitution and a new electoral law “to ensure free, fair and competitive elections,” and proposes the establishment of freedom of expression and association and the right to strike and unionize.

The document calls for respect for all religious beliefs and fraternal organizations, and the promotion of Internet access, freedom in art, academic freedom in teaching, university autonomy, the repeal of all laws in force today that violate human rights and the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.

For those who see this emergence of this platform as a possible cause of friction between dissident forces, Ferrer says that, on the contrary, the new text “enriches and strengthens the struggle for the democratization of Cuba.” A clarification that is worth taking into account is that the Democratic Unity Roundtable a coalition of opposition organizations to which UNPACU belongs, is about to publish its own program.

Ferrer does not believe in haste or improvisation, but stresses that UNPACU members do not “like to leave for tomorrow what you can do today.”

“Otro18” Elections Project Presented in Madrid / 14ymedio

Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)
Otro18 (Another 2018) was presented at the Madrid Press Association on Thursday 31 March. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 31 Mach 2016 – Like “a small crack in the Cuban political system” from which an opening coming. Thus did the attorney and activist Rolando Ferrer define the Otro18 (Another 2018) project during a meeting with journalists this Thursday at the Madrid Press Association. Four of the promoters of this process travelled from the island to present in Spain this initiative that promotes reforms in laws addressing elections, association, political parties and others.

Opponents are seeking, with their proposals, to influence a democratic opening that would take effect in Cuban with the elections to be held in 2018. This was emphasized by Ferrer, a member of the Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), as well as by historian Boris Gonzales Continue reading ““Otro18” Elections Project Presented in Madrid / 14ymedio”

, Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activist Yusmila Reyna, and opposition leader Manuel Cuesta Morua. All of the participated in the press conference this morning, accompanied by the exiled journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner.

With the support of 45 independent organizations inside and outside of Cuba, the initiative demands that the international community follow the situation on the island. “The process of reforms initiated in Cuba should address not only the economic, trade and investment sector, but also the political sector,” Cuesta Morua declared this Thursday.

“We have included a candidate’s right to campaign,” declared Ferrer, in response to a question from 14ymedio about a possible reform that would allow candidate to campaign for votes. “We want to facilities the candidates having a work plan, proposals that they could take to the citizens, and we also want to insert independent candidates,” he added.

“Currently in Cuba the only access the voter has is to the candidates’ biographies, through their past, and this is not a program,” added Boris Gonzalez. To publicize the proposal among Cubans, Cuesta Morua believes that they have to try to reach the citizenry, so it will be perceived as a citizens’ initiative.

The proposed electoral reform, Reyna noted, “was already presented to the National Assembly” and now they are awaiting a response. Right now they are “training independent candidates, who are nothing more than social activists who have a certain popularity and recognition, in addition to the slanderous campaign that the government has undertaken against them,” he added.

“The Spanish transition [from dictatorship to democracy] was a process that favored going from the law to the law,” said Cuesta Morua, who has asked for Spain’s involvement in the process. Spain “has supported the process of the restoration of democracy in Venezuela and could do the same with Cuba,” he added. The European Union “in its political dialogue with the Cuban authorities should ask that they respect the will of thousands of citizens who are demanding free, fair, democratic, competitive and internationally observed elections.”

Cuesta Morua, the leader of the “Progressive Arc”, has stated that “this is a political proposal” and a “a project directed to the citizenry,” and he distanced himself from the process of electoral changes “made to order by the power,” which the government is pushing. The promoters of Otro18 are seeking that it be possible that “citizens can choose not only vote,” he said.

The opponents also stressed that the three strategic demands of the project are the demands for “an independent national electoral commission; that citizens can choose without the mediation of the national commission nomination; and at the same time that the President of the Republic is directly elected.”

The management group of the project is currently made up of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), United Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU), Cuban Youth Roundtable (MDJC), Progressive Arc Party, Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, Center for Support of the Transition, and the Cuban Law Association, but its promoters say they are open to the “incorporation of other civil society organizations and independent actors.”

Cuesta Morua insisted that this is a political process, not one more a Latin American revolution, and it is intended to allow the citizenry to assume their rights and choose who will be their representatives.

The opponents did not shirk the thorny issue of the unity of the opposition and organizations that have not joined the Otro18 project, such as the Christian Liberation Movement and the Ladies in White. Cuesta Morua said that “the perception of disunity no longer represents the current reality of how the opposition is organized in Cuba” and called the present time a “mature stage.”

“Today more than yesterday, the opposition is working together, coinciding in many respects and has put any irreconcilable differences in the past to work on concrete proposals for democratic change,” said Cuesta Morua.

The opposition denounced pressures, “threats and the confiscation of working tools” against the promoters of the initiative and cited the arrests that occurred around the first Forum of the initiative, held in early March at the home of an activist in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana.

Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio

Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)
Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, Continue reading “Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio”

the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.

For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.

For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.

“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.

“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.

In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, ​​represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.

Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”

Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.

He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”

Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.

In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.

Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.

Obama Praises The Courage Of Dissidents In An Unprecedented Meeting / EFE, 14ymedio

US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)
US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.

In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.

The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).

“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.

“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.

On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.

The Independent Voices Obama Will Hear From / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Counterclockwise from top left: Jose Daniel Ferrer, Dagoberto Valdes and Miriam Celaya.
Counterclockwise from top left: Jose Daniel Ferrer, Dagoberto Valdes and Miriam Celaya.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 21 March 2016 — A group of government opponents and activists from independent Cuban civil society have scheduled a meeting with President Barack Obama on Tuesday morning. This newspaper has contacted three of them to ask them what they plan to say at that meeting.

Jose Daniel Ferrer is one of the eleven former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring who remains in Cuba and is also the leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), one of the opposition organizations with the most members and one that maintains permanent action in support of human rights. Every time he crosses the capital city he has to do so almost clandestinely because State Security pursues him to deport him to Continue reading “The Independent Voices Obama Will Hear From / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

the province of Santiago de Cuba where he has permanent residence.

“In UNPACU we greatly appreciate President Barack Obama’s gesture of inviting us to a formal meeting at the United States Embassy in Havana and we also appreciate the gesture of solidarity of having invited colleagues from diverse civil society organizations, the opposition and independent journalists who have as a common cause the fight for the respect for human rights and for a free, just, democratic and fraternal Cuba.”

Jose Daniel Ferrer brings a charge from his comrades in the struggle. “This time that we are with the distinguished visitor we will use first to congratulate him for his bold decision to start this process of normalization of relations that has led even to his visiting the island. We are going to also congratulate him for the incredibly novel initiative he took to talk with the Cuban humorist Pánfilo which has had a tremendous effect on the population.”

I will ask that this position of solidarity that he is taking with the Cuban people be maintained even beyond his term as president, because being a high-ranking figure in the world, and even a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he can continue to positively influence relations between the two nations and move others to support the suffering Cuban people who lack rights and freedoms and are living in deep misery.

Dagoberto Valdes is an agronomist who likes to present himself as a “yagüero” for the years he was sentenced to perform the humble work of collecting the “yaguas” (fronds) that fell from the palms in his province of Pinar del Rio. He is the director of the Coexistence Project, and the magazine with the same name, and of a Study Center that professes to be an authentic group of thinkers on Cuban matters.

“In the first place, I believe that the meeting with President Obama puts things in their place. It opens a new stage in which the historic enemy, necessary for these totalitarian systems, is turned into a visiting friend and therefore attention begins to focus on the real problem which is nothing more than the normalizations of democratic relations between the Cuban people and their government,” he told 14ymedio by phone.

He says he does not intend to ask for anything at the meeting. “The time our meeting lasts, at least the part that involves me, I will use to tell the president of the United States about the possibilities, the abilities, the projects with which the Cuban people are capable of being the protagonists of their own history.”

Miriam Celaya worked for a long time as an anthropologist, but obviously was born to be a journalist. She moved into the profession by way of blogs and now her byline is solicited by diverse media who request her penetrating analysis of Cuban society.

She says that the fact of being invited to a meeting of this kind, at this level, is an exceptional opportunity: “In addition to being a historical event, it is an opportunity to share with very valuable people about paramount topics.”

Asked if she has already noted what she wants to say this Tuesday, she clarifies, “I know that others will focus on repression, and the general issue of human rights and many other problems, including mentioning the concern that many have about how this rapprochement has advanced on the American side without seeing advances on the Cuban side. But I would like to concentrate on something that seems fundamental in the work of re-weaving our civil society and that is the issue of freedom of expression.

“It is not about our going there to ask for funding, like the official propagandists believe, but helping us with the desire to raise awareness about the need to support independent Cuban journalism. To empower the people they have to empower themselves with information, to be well informed at this stage when the government has an almost absolute monopoly on the media. And for people to know in depth the real scope of the measures the United States government is taking now, it is essential that an independent press has the ability to reach the citizens.”

More than 200 Activists Arrested Throughout the Island / 14ymedio

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). (14ymedio)
Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 March 2016 — The arrests of 209 activists is the final result this Saturday, a day on which several opposition groups demanded the release of political prisoners. The majority of those arrested are members of Unión Patriótica de Cuba (Cuban Patriotic Union, UNPACU), according to a statement to 14yMedio by its general coordinator, José Daniel Ferrer.

The bulk of the arrests took place in the eastern provinces and in the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud (the Island of Youth, formerly the Island of Pines) when the activists demanded publicly “the release of political prisoners, respect for human rights and the end of repression against the Ladies in White,” stated the activist formerly imprisoned following Cuba’s Black Spring. Continue reading “More than 200 Activists Arrested Throughout the Island / 14ymedio”

Other activists were prevented from leaving their homes during police operations, including Zaqueo Báez, who was arrested on two occasions this past week. A similar situation was denounced by Arcelio Rafael Molina, a member of UNPACU, who has been forbidden to leave his home in the municipality of Playa, in Havana, which is also the headquarters for the western branch of the organization.

The group denounced as well that, this morning, a group of 15 of its members in Havana’s Parque Central (Central Park) was “surrounded by political police agents who threatened them with arrest if they created any demonstration.”

In the eastern part of the country, the bulk of arrests are concentrated in Santiago de Cuba with 147 detained activists, plus 28 in Guantanamo, 16 in Las Tunas and 6 in Holguín.

UNPACU is the largest opposition organization in the country, and it has shown public support for the visit of Barack Obama who will arrive on the island this Sunday. In its communiqués UNPACU has also warned about a possible increase in repression during the president’s stay in Cuba.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

Somos+ Activist Applies to be Repatriated to Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

Iliana Hernandez was the victim of a brief arrest in Cuba on March 8. (Facebook)
Iliana Hernandez was the victim of a brief arrest in Cuba on March 8. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 14 March 2016 – The activist Iliana Hernandez has taken one of the most difficult decisions of her life, to resettle in Cuba after almost two decades living abroad. Nationalized with Spanish citizenship, the dissident has begun the paperwork to return to the island and continue her work in support of a democratic change within, according to what she told 14ymedio.

Hernandez published her decision on the social networking site Facebook, shortly after having been released after an arbitrary arrest on 8 March. The detention occurred when State Security stopped the car in which she was traveling, accompanied by Jose Daniel Ferrer, along 5th Avenue in Havana. Continue reading “Somos+ Activist Applies to be Repatriated to Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

“I had had this idea for years and in January I wanted to do it but I didn’t have time,” explained Hernandez. The activist left Cuba on 13 August 1996, after several attempts to leave the island.

Current immigration legislation states that, after 24 months of an uninterrupted stay abroad, an emigration cannot return to live permanently in the country, nor own property here.

For the repatriation to become effective, the applicant must “have housing in Cuba or be sheltered in the home of a family member.” In addition, they must demonstrate with documentary proof that they have existing financial and housing resources in order to receive, shelter and support the returnee until they get housing and income of their own.

“Now I came for this purpose and I’m not leaving until I get my identity card,” she says. The activist works “online,” and believes she can continue to do so from the island despite difficulties in accessing the web. “They can’t threaten to deport me,” reflects Hernandez, who has served as a financial coordinator for Somos+ (We Are More) as well as being one of its founders.

The activist has visited a notary and presented the necessary documentation to begin the process of repatriation.

“One can not regret the decisions you make in life,” reflects Hernandez, but she says she has “thought this through very well.” The dissident affirms that she has wanted to return to the Island since the creation of the Somos+ movement. “We had a well-organized team on the outside, but now is the time,” she declared.

The Somos+ movement was created in March 2013 by Eliecer Avila, a computer engineer trained at the University of Information Sciences (UCI), and from its origins has been defined as a group focused on developing opinions and ideas with a vision of the future.

Iliana Hernandez was born in Guantanamo and has always been linked to the sports world. Last year the activist participated in the Marathon des Sables, a 144 mile race across the Sahara desert over seven days.

Campaign #Otro18 Holds First Forum in Cuba / 14ymedio

The lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer during the press conference for the #Otro18 campaign. (14ymedio)
The lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer during the press conference for the #Otro18 campaign. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2016 – On Wednesday, the Civic Platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) held a press conference and its first forum in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana under the theme “For Freedom of Choice” with twenty people in attendance. The initiative promotes several proposals to influence the elections in 2018 for a democratic opening in the country.

Several independent media and foreign correspondents based on the island attended the forum from 9:35 in the morning, to the press conference organized at the home of activist Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, coordinator of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration. The activist Boris González Arena presented the initiative and gave the floor to lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer, who explained the legal details on which the project is based. Continue reading “Campaign #Otro18 Holds First Forum in Cuba / 14ymedio”

The meeting with journalists went smoothly and without a visible police operation around the site. The managers of the initiative showed a copy of the proposals presented last 8 March in the National Assembly of People’s Power which was received and acknowledged by the authorities.

The organizers explained that, so far, the intiative’s management group is made up of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU), the Roundtable of the Cuban Youth (MDJC), the Progressive Arc Party, the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, the Center for Support of the Transition, and the Cuban Law Association. The Forum says that it is open to the “incorporation of other civil society organizations and independent actors.”

Among its proposals are: the elimination of current Candidacy Commissions and the Nomination Assemblies (both controlled by the ruling Party); recognition of the right of any citizen to stand as a candidate; and restoration of the election of the president of the Republic by popular vote and secret ballot for a term of four years.

Proposed electoral campaign #Otro18 delivered to the National Assembly of People's Power on 8 March.(14ymedio)
Proposed electoral campaign #Otro18 delivered to the National Assembly of People’s Power on 8 March.(14ymedio)

When asked how they take the accusation made by other sectors of the opposition that the electoral alternative “plays into the hands of the dictatorship,” Amado Calixto suggested reviewing the process of “the Spanish transition, which ended a dictatorship through existing law.” Ferrer, meanwhile, explained that now came a phase of work of building “awareness and popular mobilization to gather support and pressure the government to make the proposed reforms.”

After the press conference, the forum, currently still in session, began with presentations and including Citizenship Revisted: The Plural Vote by Manuel Cuesta Morua; Citizen Mobilization, by Rolando Ferrer; and Election Observation: A Civil Society Monitoring Tool, by Madrazo Luna.

During the day on Tuesday, several dissidents were detained to prevent them attending the #Otro18 Forum. Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, still remains missing after being arrested Tuesday by police in the Cuban capital.

Other members of the opposition were prevented from leaving their province to attend the event, as in the case with Suleidis Perez Velazquez and Pedro Pablo Serafin Reyna, members of Independent and Democratic Cuba.

José Daniel Ferrer Arrested To Prevent His Participation In Forum #Otro18 / 14ymedio

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba. (14ymedio)
Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 8 March 2016 — According to various opposition sources, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, was arrested Tuesday in Havana with two other activists. The former prisoner of the Black Spring was going to to participate on Wednesday in a forum convened for the Otro 18 (Another 2018) campaign, that seeks an electoral solution of the current system.

Ferrer had been in the capital since last Sunday and at the time of his arrest was with the dissident Rafael Alba Macias, and Iliana Hernandez, a member of the group Somos+ (We Are More), who were also arrested. The latter, who resides abroad, was was released five hours later, as confirmed by this newspaper. Continue reading “José Daniel Ferrer Arrested To Prevent His Participation In Forum #Otro18 / 14ymedio”

Ferrer’s arrest coincided with the arrest of Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, who was arrested on Tuesday morning to prevent her from attending the trial of activist Jaquelín Heredia Morales, detained since Sunday 28 February, after participating in the Ladies in White customary Sunday march on 5th Avenue in Havana’s Miramar district; she has been charged with contempt.

The US government reacted to the arrests and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Roberta Jacobson wrote in her Twitter account that she was “Very concerned by reports that the Cuban gov has detailed @jdanielferrer & @bertasoler #Cuba#DDHH”.

The arrests come less than two weeks after the visit to the island by US President Barack Obama, who will arrive on March 21.

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