Charges Laid Against Manual Cuesta Morua / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

HAVANA, Cuba — On the night of January 30 Manual Cuesta Morúa, spokesperson for the Progressive Arch Party and coordinator of the New Country project, was finally released after several days of arbitrary arrest which was a part of the repressive wave unleashed by the Cuban authorities in relation of the celebration in Havana of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Threats, undisguised persecution in the street, dozens of arrests and cases of regime opponents besieged, were all a part of this escalation that reaffirms the panic of the State that derives from the lack of political and moral reason that afflicts the Cuban leaders.

The opposition leader was arrested on a public street on Sunday, January 26, when while touring the city to finalize details for the Forum Parallel to the CELAC Summit, organized by several opposition organizations in coordination with the Center for  Opening and Democracy for Latin America (CADAL), whose director, the Argentine activist Gabriel Salvia, was arrested on the afternoon of Monday 27 at Havana airport and expelled via El Salvador. Cuesta Morúa was transferred to the Fifth Station of the National Revolutionary Police on 7th at A and 62nd in the Havana municipality of Playa.

For several days the Social Democratic leader underwent numerous subsequent interrogations and threats by several top officials of the political police. According to the testimony of Cuesta Morúa, the law enforcement agents were very irritated by his convening and hosting the Forum in parallel to CELAC, and pressured him to abort the call in exchange for his release. Continue reading

Mariel: Another Mockery of Cuban Workers / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

HAVANA, Cuba  – The first 700 meters of dock of the Mariel mega-port are inaugurated by the presidents of Cuba, Raul Castro, and Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, in parallel to the II Summit of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

Rousseff ’s government — Cuba’s the second largest trading partner after Venezuela — has funded 75 percent of the works. Four years ago it gave the island a credit of $600 million and is studying whether to award a second. The center of the project is the mega-port. The bay of the capital will be reserved for cruise ships.

These business partnerships with foreign capital appear to be the main option of the Cuban authorities to rebuild its battered economy. A multimillion dollar investment from the Brazilian government assumes the greatest weight in the reconstruction and modernization of the port of Mariel, located several kilometers west of the capital. The investment seeks, in a short time, to turn the port enclave into a space for international shipping.

From the technical point of view, the project includes, besides the port for large Post Pamanax vessels — capable of carrying over 12,000 containers — built by the Brazilian company Odebrecht, an industrial and commercial zone covering 180 square miles, and facilities for the movement and storage of goods, establishment of industrial production plants, formerly known as maquiladoras. Continue reading

Elderly Cubans, Between Misery and Neglect / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

LA HABANA, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org – The authorities have assured us that the aging of the population and the declining birth rate makes us the equal of the developed countries. What cynicism! The latest Population and Housing Census only demonstrates the profound socioeconomic crisis has converted the existence of every Cuban into a difficult ordeal.

The collapse of the totalitarian statist model, the low purchasing power, the high cost of living and the housing crisis, dissuade young couples from having children.

There are many young people who refrain from starting a family because they put all their hopes in leaving the country. In finding, abroad, the personal realization that is closed to them in Cuba.

There are more than two million compatriots scattered throughout the world.

But the hardest hit by our crisis, are the elderly. The weakness of the Cuban economy can not guarantee quality of life for our old people, who after working for decades, suffer poverty level pensions and the lack of social protections.

Our Elderly

It’s shocking to see our elderly and disables thrown into the informal economy, or begging, while the top leadership doesn’t change its discourse of being the paternalistic supreme benefactor.

The frustration comes through in every testimony: Arturo Ponciano, 79, retired from construction thirteen years ago. Speaking haltingly he wonders when he will be able to relax if not in his grave. “So much hard work, so many shocking works, internationalist missions, to have to keep struggling in the street, selling candy, fighting the insatiable inspectors for the needs of the people.”

Aurora, 71, from Havana, says that she still felt strong when she retired from the tobacco factory after 38 years of work… “but I couldn’t take the pressure and the persecution of the bosses to prevent the stealing of materials, or the aggressive behavior of the young people (so different from what we were like).” Aurora feels frustrated that what she earns in retirement isn’t even enough to buy a sweet treat for her grandchildren.

After calming down from her panic, thinking I was an inspector coming to fine her or take her money, Nina, 74, said that she is exhausted every morning after walking miles in the sun as a roaming seller. “If I don’t do it, I don’t know how I’m going to live. As long as I have the strength I will keep pushing the cart of candy, popcorn and “chicharritas” (friend banana chips) that has become so heavy by the afternoon.

Berta Lina, 69, a retired clerk, says that the government talks a lot but in reality abandons old people to their fate after working for so many years, “the police produce nothing, they earn much more than others and they don’t even pay bus fares, the retired don’t even get a discount on that.”

“My younger sister has lived in Belgium for many years and people can’t even imagine the benefits enjoyed by the elderly in that country …  And I, working in private homes, earned in a day more than they pay me in retirement.”

Manolo, a retired teacher and widower of 81, said that his two children are very well positioned occupationally and his daughter living in the United States doesn’t hesitate to help. Manolo says, “My luck doesn’t keep me from recognizing how hard it is to see so many elderly in poverty or trying to sell what they can to survive… I came back from my visit to the United States to see my grandchildren, but they can say what they want, over there you don’t see any old people in this lamentable condition.”

Wilfredo, a retired lieutenant colonel, 73, recognizes that, “It is very hard at the end of the day to accept that this Revolution to which gave his entire life and his efforts proved to be a lie and a failure… Many old people who are still suffering the consequences of that failure refuse to accept the harsh reality.”

There are old people who, at a quick glance, one can see that their poor physical condition is premature. At this point neither the family nor the government seems prepared to face the challenges of such a broad segment of the population entering old age.

Apparently the Cuban authorities are more concerned with the status and socio-economic needs of their sister ALBA countries than with the fate of the elderly of the island. For us, an ever growing share of Cubans are approaching old age that we aren’t prepared for, if there isn’t a miracle, they will suffer more down the road.

Leonardo Calvo Cardenas – Montesinos3788@gmail.com

From Cubanet,14 October 2013

They Demolished Their House by Mistake / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

IMG_3774HAVANA, Cuba, September 23, 2013, Andy www.cubanet.org.- Andy Joel Cabrales and Thais Maylen Franco, in an act of desperation, with their two young children on Friday afternoon, positioned themselves in front of the Provincial Court of Havana headquarters to demand a solution to the tragedy they are living.

Ten days ago they inhabited a house in good condition at 315 Muralla Street, between Compostela and Habana in Old Havana, when workers from the Municipal Housing Directorate arrived to demolish a building. And they mistakenly destroyed the bordering house.

Since then, this family of ten people, including children of seven, one, and a baby five days old, all suffering from bronchial asthma, lives among the ruins of what was once their home, now in danger of total collapse.

Given the repeated demands of the victims, housing officials claim that they have no answer for the case. And in the provincial government offices they were limited to “orienting” them requesting a hearing at the Department of Population Assistance, which does not guarantee any solution.

In their desperation, the victims have turned to the Communist Party Central Committee, also with no response. The family reported that no health authority has been concerned about the health conditions of the children, or the young mother, still in quarantine from her recent cesarean.

Several citizens who supported the protest were arrested outside the Capitol building. The municipal director of housing, local government officials and Communist Party verbally committed to solve the case.

Human rights activists, lawyers and independent journalists will follow up on the unfortunate event.

By Leonardo Calvo Cardenas, montesinos3788@gmail.com

From Cubanet: More pictures here.

22 September 2013