The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito returned to Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti Airport this past June. No one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the land of her birth.

“It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right,” says the activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US.

The Cuban exile, who lives in Homestead in south Florida, tried to enter Cuba for a second time in order to visit her sick mother in the Sancti Spiritus province. “The first time they turned me away at the Miami airport when I tried to fly to Santa Clara.   On this second occasion, they let me arrive in Havana, but once I was there, they told me I could not enter the country because, according to the system, I was prohibited entry into Cuba,” she says.

Her passport is up-to-date and valid with the corresponding renewals plus the authorization, an entrance permit for which Cubans living abroad pay and that supposedly has “lifelong” validity, although it can be nullified by Cuban officials.

She tried in vain to convince the immigration agents to let her speak with a supervisor or to explain to her by what rationale they impeded her access to a universal right. The answer was always the same: “The system indicates that you are prohibited entry. You must go back,” while they insisted that if she wanted to enter the country, she would have to seek a humanitarian visa.

The practice is not new; from Arturo Sandoval to Celia Cruz, a considerable number of Cubans have had to deal with the all-powerful Bureau of Immigration and Nationality in the last six decades in order to enter the Island. In many cases unsuccessfully as has happened to several people who could not even attend funerals for their parents. Many experts thought that with the new immigration law enacted in 2012, the situation would change, but it has not.

Perdigon believes that this is another sign of the Cuban government’s unscrupulousness as regards the diaspora. “They do not forgive me for the activism that I carried out within Cuba,” she explains.

Receiving no answer about her case, she tried to escape from the room where the immigration officials had taken her, and she was hit and wounded in a struggle. “I tried not to beg for my right but to win it [because] no one is obliged to obey unjust laws,” as Marti said.

Originally from the Sancti Spiritus province, she and her family belonged to several independent movements, joining political parties and initiatives favoring the promotion of human rights.

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)
The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

“On many occasions we were repressed, and we suffered acts of repudiation. One afternoon, my little daughter came running in a fright to warn me that many screaming people were coming. It was an act of repudiation that they had prepared for me in the neighborhood. On another occasion, they gave us a tremendous beating in a town called Tuinucu and jailed us,” she remembers.

Her case is not unique. According to independent statistics compiled by media, dozens of similar stories have happened in recent years. Nevertheless, there are no official data about the number of Cubans who have been denied entry into the country.

“People do not demand their rights publicly, and they don’t denounce these arbitrary situations,” comments Laritza Diversent Cambara, manager of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, via telephone from Cuba. “When we go to review statistics, countries like Canada have more complaints about human rights violations than Cuba, and we all know that is because of ignorance or lack of information about demanding their rights, because if there is anything abundant in this country, it is human rights violations,” she contends.

According to the lawyer, denial of entry by nationals is not contemplated in Cuban legislation. “It is a discretionary decision by State Security or the Bureau of Immigration and Nationality, but there exist no laws that regulate it, so people are exposed to the whims and abuses of officials,” opines the jurist.

“They cannot give the reasons for which they deny entry into the country. They do not argue that he is a terrorist threat or that the person lacks some document or formality. It is simply an arbitrary decision,” she adds.

The practice is not limited only to dissidents, activists and opponents. Diversent says that her office handled the case of a rafter who left the Island in 2011 and who continued traveling regularly, until in 2015 the Cuban authorities told him that he could not enter the country again.

14ymedio has known of similar cases of journalists, members of religious orders and doctors who took refuge in the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) offered by the United States.

Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)
Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)

“One time I made some statements to a local newspaper in Spain about the hardship suffered by the Cuban people, and on return to the Island several officers confronted me in the airport, telling that if I did something like that again, they would revoke my temporary religious residency,” said a Spanish missionary who prefers for safety reasons not to be named.

The methods for preventing entry are as varied as the steps to take for immigration procedures in Cuba. There are people who have been denied passport authorization, as was the case of the well-known visual artist Aldo Menendez. On other occasions, Cubans are turned back at the last minute from the airport from which they tried to fly to the Island, as occurred to activist Ana Lupe Busto Machado, or they wait until they land in Havana after having spent 450 dollars on passport preparation, 20 dollars on the entrance permit or 180 dollars on the renewals, plus the price of passage from Miami which approaches 500 dollars, to tell them that they cannot ever enter their country again.

14ymedio tried to communicate with the Cuban Office of Immigration and Nationality, but authorities refused to respond to our questions.

“This kind of procedure should not surprise anyone,” says attorney Wilfredo Vallin, founder of the Cuban Law Association. “The government has a long history of actions that do not abide by its own law. Until recently wasn’t there in effect an express and unconstitutional prohibition against nationals entering hotels? What about human mobility within the Island? Isn’t that regulated, too?”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Three Key Proposals for Reforming the Cuban Electoral System / Laritza Diversent

Photograph: Red Mi Voz

Havana, Cuba, March 21, 2016 — On February 23, 2015 the Plenum of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC) announced that its VII Congress would take place in April 2016 and that the National Assembly of People’s Power would be asked to amend the electoral process and adopt a new law to govern the general elections of 2018.

Cubalex conducted an investigation of the Cuban electoral system and held discussions involving representatives of independent civil society organizations to identify obstacles to full and equal citizen participation in the political process. We consulted experts in Latin American electoral issues to take advantage of this region’s broad experience over the last 30 years. Continue reading “Three Key Proposals for Reforming the Cuban Electoral System / Laritza Diversent”

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”

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.

Black Woman: Double or Triple Discrimination? / Diario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent

The regime opponents Sonia Garro and Mercedes Fresneda bear the marks of beatings from Castro regime mobs.
The regime opponents Sonia Garro and Mercedes Fresneda bear the marks of beatings from Castro regime mobs.

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent, Havana, 31 July 2015 —In Cuba there is a myth that says that there is no racism here because “all the races and cultures melded together forever in a happy synthesis.”

Nonetheless, in reality, invisibility is on the rise, and a concept of “racial democracies” is maintained.

The invisibility of Afro-descendants’ poverty, along with enduring stereotypes and prejudices, contributes to the perpetuation of historic situations of segregation and exclusion, racism, and racial discrimination. Afro-descendant women, in particular, face major obstacles to the enjoyment and exercise of their rights, be these civil, political, economic, social, or cultural.

Official statistics state that men and women of African heritage on the Island constitute a minority. However, the general perception is that the official information does not reflect reality insofar as the ratio of races is concerned. Continue reading “Black Woman: Double or Triple Discrimination? / Diario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent”

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 Activists Discuss the Diplomatic Normalization with the United States / 14ymedio

Cuban activists in the meeting on Monday at the headquarters of "Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism."(14ymedio)
Cuban activists in the meeting on Monday at the headquarters of “Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism.”(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2015 – Under the title “Diplomatic Normalization and Democratic Normalization,” an even this Monday brought together some 25 Cuban activists of different points of view. The site of the meeting was the “Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism” in Old Havana.

The panel in the morning meeting discussed diplomatic normalization with the United States and the political dialog that the Cuban government is holding with the European Union. Specifically, they dealt with “the effects on the generation strategies of Cuban civil society and the democratic opposition.”

The event was attended by dissidents and activists from several organizations, including Juan Antonio Madrazo, Pedro Campos, Laritza Diversent, Felix Navarro, Jorge Olivera, Tania Bruguera, Navid Fernandez, Eroisis Gonzalez, Boris Gonzalez and Lilianne Ruiz, among others.

The meeting took place a few days before the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, will come to Havana to attend the reopening ceremony of the embassy of that country in Cuban territory. So far Kerry’s agenda on the island has not been made public, nor is it known whether it will include a meeting with activists and government opponents.

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.

Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.

Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. Continue reading “Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio”

Laritza Diversent, the Cuban Lawyer who met with Obama / Cubanet, Manuel Guerra Perez

Laritza Diversent independent lawyer (Internet photo)
Laritza Diversent independent lawyer (Internet photo)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Manual Guerra Perez, Havana, 30 April 2015 — Laritza Diversent is a lawyer and director of the Cubalx Center of Legal Information, an independent office that has offered free legal advice since 2010. She graduated from the University of Havana in Law (2008), she is married and has a 16-year-old son.

What exactly is Cubalex and for what purpose did this project come about?

Cubalex is an office that specializes in human rights issues, focusing on national law and the conventions of international laws, which Cuba supposedly relies on. We try to document violations of Human Rights, but our core business is to provide free legal advice to citizens.

The legal advice is for citizens who are ignorant of the law with regards to disparate issues, topics as diverse as housing, criminal, immigration procedures, in short, the varied issues we face daily. Always in legal terms.

Do you collaborate with lawyers from the collective law firms to represent your clients? Who makes up Cubalex?

Our organization is composed of several lawyers, human rights activists, a medical assistant, paralegal and secretary, here in Havana. We also have offices in Camagüey, Granma and Las Tunas. We received requests from the Isle of Youth and to the East, from Baracoa for example. Continue reading “Laritza Diversent, the Cuban Lawyer who met with Obama / Cubanet, Manuel Guerra Perez”

Barack Obama meets with Cuban activists before meeting with Raul Castro

Laritza Diversent and Manual Cuesta Morua in meeting with Barack Obama
Laritza Diversent (3rd from R) and Manual Cuesta Morua (2nd from R) in meeting with Barack Obama

14ymedio biggerEFE, 10 April 2015 – The president of the United States, Barack Obama, met today in Panama with members of the Cuban opposition and civil society leaders from other countries before his anticipated meeting this Saturday with with Cuban president Raul Castro.

After giving a speech at the Forum of Civil Society, Obama attended a round table, closed to the press, with activist and civic leaders from several countries, among them the Cuban opposition members Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Laritza Diversent, according to information provided by the White House.

Also participating in the meeting were the presidents of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, and Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez.

Cuba: Artist imprisoned for painting the names "Fidel" and "Raul" on two piglets / Laritza Diversent

After 90 days of imprisonment, there is no formal accusation against the artist, Danilo Maldonado.

Laritza Diversent, Havana, 25 March 2015 — Authorities are still imprisoning the artist, Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), who was detained arbitrarily by the police.

Maldonado, 31 years old, is an urban artist and painter who finds himself accused of “aggravated contempt,” a charge that the Cuban State uses to incarcerate people who are critical of the Government. He presently is serving 90 days in preventive custody in Valle Grande, on the outskirts of the Capital.

On the afternoon of December 25, 2014, Maldonado staged a “show” in a spot in the city of Havana, when he was detained by police operatives. They arrested him for having two piglets in a sack. One was painted on the back with the name “Fidel,” and the other, with the name “Raul.”

Both names are common; however, the authorities assumed that they disrespected the Castro brothers, and they could impose on him a sanction of between one and three years of prison. Continue reading “Cuba: Artist imprisoned for painting the names "Fidel" and "Raul" on two piglets / Laritza Diversent”

Appeal against the arrest of graffiti artist El Sexto rejected; prisoner transferred to Valle Grande / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 7 January 2015 — The graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, remains imprisoned in Valle Grande prison after authorities rejected the habeas corpus appeal presented by the Cubalex organization, led by independent counsel Laritza Diversent.

The appeal denounced the “arbitrary detention” of El Sexto which took place when he led two pigs, named Fidel and Raul, to stage a performance in Havana’s Central Park on 26 December. The graffiti artist is accused of “insult.”

Diversent explained to Diario de Cuba this Wednesday that the authorities rejected the appeal “with very subtle arguments” and hid behind an assertion that there was “no legal basis” to consider the arrest as “illegal.”

The independent counsel recalled that her appeal did not cite the detention as illegal but “arbitrary.” Likewise, in her demand she specified that the names of pigs, Fidel and Raul, were “common” and that authorities had to “accept criticism.”

For now, according to independent counsel, there is still no trial date and she hopes that there will be a change of custody, because the events in which El Sexto is involved are a “misdemeanor.”

Also, Diversent said that she had sent information to international bodies so that they will speak out on the situation of graffiti artist.

An Independent Legal Group Files a Habeas Corpus Petition on behalf of El Sexto / 14ymedio

The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (Luz Escobar)
The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (Luz Escobar)

14YMEDIO, Havana, 29 December 2014 — On Monday, the independent group CubaLex filed a petition for habeas corpus in the case of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. In a document addressed to the Provincial Tribunal of Hanvana, the lawyers urge that the arrestee’s rights be respected and also that he be permitted a proper defense. Police have informed the relatives of the prisoner that all trials scheduled for the upcoming days, including that of the artist initially scheduled for next Wednesday, the last day of 2014, are delayed until the new year.

El Sexto was arrested December 25 shortly before carrying out a performance which consisted of releasing two pigs with the names of “Fidel and Raul” in a public square. He is charged with contempt. Continue reading “An Independent Legal Group Files a Habeas Corpus Petition on behalf of El Sexto / 14ymedio”

New Reforms to Emigration Policy? / Laritza Diversent

Although recent legislative changes to immigration laws in Cuba represent a step forward, they still retain aspects that are political and restrictive in nature and in violation of the right to free movement.

The changes to immigration regulations do improve the legal wording and drop any reference to entry and/or exit permits and to the letter of invitation, which had been a tacit acknowledgement of Cubans’ inability to travel from an economic point of view.

In practice the situation remains the same. The requirements of most of foreign embassies located on the island and the high fees charged for travel documents, which must be paid in hard currency, make the possibility of traveling overseas an impossible dream for most Cubans.

However, new policies have been put into effect and new categories have been created. In residential real estate, for example, guarantees are now being offered to foreign residents and their families as well as to owners and renters of real estate on the island.

The state is clearly focusing on sectors with economic potential: foreigners and emigres. The latter are being given the opportunity to reclaim a residence on the island and with it the right to take part in elections, become self-employed, buy cars and homes, etc.

However, the possibility that the Ministry of the Interior might grant this right to Cubans living overseas — to people not physically living in the country — no doubt means that it will choose which emigres shall and shall not regain their rights.

16 June 2014