“I Knew That Killing Fidel Castro In A Play Was My Social Suicide”

Lynn Cruz says she was recently denied access to a workshop at the San Antonio de los Baños International Film School and the Actuar agency stopped representing her. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 10 April 2018 – She was a “vanguard Little Pioneer” in her childhood, later earned a degree in Geography, and now Lynn Cruz has ended up an independent and censored actress. Born in Havana, in 1977, but raised in Matanzas, the actress is convinced that State Security is determined to end her artistic career.

Cruz says she was recently denied access to a workshop at the San Antonio de los Baños International Film School and the agency Actuar has stopped representing her, without explaining a single reason for the rebuff. All this comes after the artist participated in several creative projects that disgusted the cultural authorities.

“After everything that has happened to me, I feel more free,” says the artist. Last November, harassment by State Security blocked almost the entire audience from attending the staging of her work The Enemies of the People in an alternative space, an event that was preceded by her participation in the exhibition of the documentary Nadie, inspired in the officially damned poet Rafael Alcides. continue reading

Long before arriving at her current situation, Cruz worked for television in detective shows and her face is known to moviegoers through films such as Larga Distancia and La Pared. A few months ago, when she had not yet become a radioactive actress, she finished filming Eres tu papá, a film yet to be released.

Lynn Cruz recently responded to a few questions from 14ymedio.

Luz Escobar. How has your professional life changed since you are under the eyes of the authorities?

Lynn Cruz. Now I am in a limbo. They are erasing me little by little to make me into a non-person, which is a way of using me to teach a lesson to others. State Security goes around to all the places to let them know that they are deleting the files and now, if a director requests my work through an agency, they can tell him that I am not in the country or they can say directly that I am a ‘mercenary’ [in the pay of the “empire”, i.e. the United States].

Escobar. What were the first signs that something like this was coming?

Cruz. Since I made The Enemies of the People I knew all this could happen, but it is not the same to imagine the outrage as to be outraged. I can’t live worrying about the consequences of my actions, I simply take action because at that moment I am convinced. I did that work because since I started researching the sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat (1994) and I heard the testimony of María Victoria García Suárez, who lost her 10-year-old son, I felt the duty to do something with that.

For the actor it is possible to evade censorship because she is interpreting what someone else wrote and the censors are always searching for the author. However, in this piece I also became an author, which implies a greater responsibility. I came to writing because most of the time I am an unemployed actress and that is the way to release the things that happen to me.

Escobar. Have you received any signs of solidarity since the censorship?

Cruz. Most of the actors did not know what was happening and many people of my generation have gone to live outside of Cuba. I can’t say that I felt either antipathy or sympathy because it was as if it had not happened. When I talked about it, some people looked surprised because they could not believe that I had killed Fidel Castro in a play.

I knew that by doing so I was performing my own social suicide.

Escobar. Does your acting career end here and now?

Cruz. I’m working with Lía Villares and Luis Trápaga on the work Patriotismo 3677, a work I wrote a while ago where I take a tour of prisoners of conscience of these 60 years. It has testimonies from Sonia Garro, Maria Elena Cruz Valera, Nestor Diaz de Villegas and other writers of the diaspora. It is the way I have found to maintain hope and to be able to continue living in Cuba even in the midst of these situations that I am facing.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Paya Prize Awarded Without Honorees, In An Event Cuban Government Calls a "Provocation"

About twelve people were able to attend the Payá Award, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The Oswaldo Payá prize was presented this Thursday, in a symbolic way, to the IDEA initiative, after Cuba refused entrance on Wednesday to the presidents of Colombia, Andres Pastrana, and of Bolivia, Jorge Quiroga, who came to receive the award in an act seen by the Government of the Island as a “provocation.”

Pastrana and Quiroga were to receive, on behalf of the Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas (IDEA) — an organization made up of 37 former heads of State and Government — the prize that bears the name of the late dissident Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012), which was first  awarded last year by the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, directed by Rosa María Payá, daughter of the late opponent. continue reading

In the absence of a reaction from the government, the official press, which frequently serves as a state platform to publicize its position, emphasized on Thursday that the presidents knew in advance that they were not welcome in Cuba, and they were intending to participate in what the press called a “failed anti-Cuban provocation forged from Washington.”

“Only a dictatorship feels provoked by the fact that two democratically elected ex-presidents would come to receive an award for their work in favor of democracy, invited by free citizens of that country,” said Rosa María Payá in the symbolic award ceremony at his family home, where none of the international invited guests were able to be present.

According to Payá, at least six guests — among them IDEA legislators and former presidents, as well as the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro — tried to travel to Cuba, but were not able to enter the country, or to board their planes or even to obtain a visa.

Within the Island there were also people who were not able to attend the event. The artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, told 14ymedio that he woke up this Thursday with police surrounding his house to prevent him from attending the award ceremony. A text message from his mobile phone had previously been sent inviting several people to the ceremony.

About twelve people were able to attend the event, among whom were diplomats from the US Embassy in Havana and also from the Czech Republic. The activist Iliana Hernández, the opposition Librado Linares, former prisoner of the so-called Black Spring, the blogger Lía Villares and Sayli Navarro, an activist of the CubaDecides initiative, also attended despite the measures taken by State Security.

Agents were also stationed outside the home of Iliana Hernandez but the activist was able to deceive them to get to the event by car.

Rosa María Payá (right), promoter of the dissident group Cuba Decides, explained that the award to IDEA award is for their “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people. (Facebook)

Payá, promoter of the dissident group CubaDecides — which is part of the Latin American Network — explained that the award to IDEA is for its to its “direct action” for the rights of the Venezuelan people and to spread democracy in Latin America, which has seen a “setback” in recent years due to the “interference of the Cuban regime, especially in Venezuela.”

“Ending the threat that the Cuban intelligence system and Castroism represents for democracy throughout the continent is an urgent task that begins with supporting democracy in Cuba,” said Payá, speaking about CubaDecides, which demands a binding plebiscite on the Island to change the political system and achieve “free, fair and plural elections.”

Despite not being able to attend the award ceremony in Havana, Pastrana sent a message of thanks in which he expressed the commitment of the former presidents who are members of IDEA to join with the Latin American youth of the Network to “continue fighting to defend and promote the democracy.”

In this second edition of the “Oswaldo Payá: Freedom and Life Award,” the Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma — exiled in Madrid for months — received a special mention and also sent a message of gratitude that was read this Thursday at the event.

The former mayor of Caracas explained the reasons for his absence in Havana: “In my case, the guardians of the Venezuelan regime would have turned me over to their cronies to submit me again to the torture of a rigged judicial process.”

Luis Almagro, who was recognized with the Payá Prize last year in his first edition, was also unable to attend that year’s event, when the Cuban authorities denied him permission to enter the Island.

This year he again asked for a visa, but as of Wednesday he had not received a response, so he chose not to travel to Cuba, although he also sent a message to the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, in which he praised its work for freedom and human rights.

“The worst form of interventionism that exists in the international community is to give impunity to a dictatorship, to silence the voice of the people, to prevent them from deciding their future, and  revolutionaries or leftists do not do this,” said Almagro.

In his opinion, “the left that is a reference is the one that faced dictatorships demanding the rights of the people,” while accusing the Government of having “stripped its citizens” of the fundamental principles of freedom and independence that their independence heroes defended.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Defending Freedom is Not a Profession / Lia Villares

Ailer Gonzalez, Antonio Rodiles, Angel Santiesteban, Lia Villares, Luis Trapaga, TBD, Claudio Fuentes

Lia Villares, 5 February 2018 — The low blow of a sudden search of a dissident’s home, orchestrated by members of Cuba’s counterintelligence “with the objective of seizing objects of illicit origin” and using this to accuse us, to charge us with a common crime (“illicit economic activity”), even if only for political motives, is just a warning to those closest to you, whether or not they are involved in this “subversive activity” that they say you perform “illegally” – charging that all your work is based on “CR content material” (“Counter-Revolutionary”) – and it is also an outrageous and cruel mockery of all those hands offered in solidarity, people who, in spite of everything, continue to help us.

Defending freedom is not a profession, it is a principle. Rising up from our trampled dignity and continuing on the path, and doing it with the selfless help of people committed to human rights, to truth, to freedom and democracy, out of the most basic principles of humanity, is not a matter of beautiful speeches or political allegations: to live our lives being persecuted and attacked by a repressive counter-intelligence apparatus is the sacrifice, the price, that we must pay in a shared way for aspiring to that most fundamental freedom, with a clear conscience in the face of the apparent advantages of the impunity and arrogance of the henchmen. continue reading

Ignorance or incomprehension, fear, prejudices, have made us a conforming and inferior society with an enslaved economic structure, dependent, with the colonial heritage that made us weak and cowardly: a mentality made for servility. We are the ones who resist and we openly speak against a system that disguises itself as the socialist left in the name of national sovereignty and does nothing but crush its own citizens with the most atrocious injustice, denying them every dream of prosperity and of a future.

This is the price. To live in your home, without the tranquility that belongs to the concept of home: for suddenly it is invaded by these dark characters, these minions eager to rummage exhaustively through every intimate detail of your life, repeating the excessive operation they have carried out numerous times – surrounding you, harassing you and threatening you for trying to live fully and freely, for trying to breathe, just for existing – all of this is now inside your home: a parade of despicable aliens trampling through your private spaces, turning over and photographing every note, every piece of paper they find, it doesn’t matter if it is your literature, your diaries, your personal letters; every corner is raided and emptied with despotism and arrogance, with all the impunity of those who know themselves to be powerful and with the most extreme lack of ethics and respect.

Your home is no longer a place of shelter, it disgusts you to even sit down where earlier invading hands “seized” all your things, your means of expressing yourself through art, your creative projects turned into dust, these things that they insist on calling “enemy projects against the general interests of the nation,” because you are not “of the people,” you are nothing (as the ingénue Daisy Granados said to Sergio de Memories of Underdevelopment), you are being expelled from this island under the pretext and cowardly justification of an “exit restriction” for nine months, even though for years they have violated all your rights, one after another, and now finally they steal your privacy and immobilize you even more, sending you back to the depths of that maze you have already run over and over to the point of exhaustion.

Totalitarianism does not admit criticism, nor disaffection, nor parties that speak of plurality and inclusion. Much less people who are free within themselves. That is why in the end they make us the unquestionable protagonists of critical times, infinitely dark. Victims of their own infantilism, they make themselves ridiculous with their linguistic euphemisms writing down things like “20 booklets with drawings of two subversive pigs,” making crystal clear with the most absolute brazenness the real objective of their laborious search, their canine tracking.

Not content with the “positive” humiliation that leaves them only half satisfied, they lock us up in cells and write “CR” in our arrest records under “reason”; all executed in the most arbitrary manner, claiming to be acting under the statutes of a supposed legality, under the shelter of an absurd and ridiculous law that demonstrates its foolishness with every prisoner of conscience, with every person unjustly imprisoned.

In the dungeons we are now stripped of even our rings, earrings and shoelaces. Here and now we no longer have anything else to lose. We do not need any food or liquid because our human sense of inner freedom, the strength of our free and transparent spirits, continues to nourish and hydrate us. Our commitment to the strongest desire of every human being. The ragged but true cry of free beings, our truth is reflected behind these bars, unable to contain us.

“They’re Using You”

The creators of the play Enemies of the People denounce that State Security called the piece “subversive” without knowing anything about it. (@liavillares)

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 5 February 2018 — I recently read Tania Bruguera’s statements about an artist’s rights. One of them referred to the artist’s right to dissent.

Within an authoritarian system, the artist begins to live a double dissidence, first in art, then in society.

Having your own voice is always grounds for suspicion among members of your artistic community, but when it’s the Government who has the last world with regard to a phenomenon which only concerns art, like deciding who is a revolutionary and who isn’t, then this does put us in a delicate position. continue reading

The two times I invited my closest colleagues to the alternative venue: “Casa Galería El Círculo,” (led by artists and activists Luis Trapaga and Lia Villares), some have told me: “I don’t go to those places.” Others have just respond with silence or stop calling you. And if worst comes to the worst, they repudiate you.

There were actors, theater directors and filmmakers among those I had invited to watch my play “Enemies of the People.”

After the scandal (produced by the presence of State Security forces and police at the home/gallery’s doors, saying that it was a counter-revolutionary play), an actor I had invited, who ironically also makes theater at his home, called me to say that: “He felt used by me.”

He was quite frankly terrified when he saw himself in a video that the house’s owners and a journalist had decided to film, as their only form of defense and way to denounce this injustice.

Plus, this actor is someone who has strong opinions about Cuban reality, who I had always had an open and straight-to-the-point dialogue with before the event. I even told him that something similar had happened at this same place when the documentary Nadie was scheduled to be screened, which the creator, filmmaker and theater director Miguel Coyula, couldn’t even attend.

Even so, he had a scornful attitude towards me: “I feel used.”

What do these words mean in our context? If a lie is repeated enough times, it becomes the truth. Fidel Castro transformed the Cuban people into an army, whose soldiers didn’t fight against an enemy, but fight each other instead, while he took all of the glory.

The subtext that lies between the lines of this phrase: “They’re using you” is “Let me be the only one to use you.” Thus, artists who are condemning or approving slander campaigns against their colleagues, who are being persecuted for defending the right to make political art, become pawns in a game of established power which isn’t only being played by arts institutions, but by the Cuban government itself.

“Enemies of the People” deals with an event that continues to go unpunished today: the sinking of the 13 de marzo tugboat on July 13, 1994.

Back then, Castro condemned the US Government instead of the captains of the attacking boats (encouraged by him even?), the real ones responsible for the genocidal event which caused half of those on board to die from drowning, including children. However, survivors’ testimonies are pristine proof of the event.

However, Article 3 of the Cuban Constitution states: “In the Republic of Cuba, the sovereignty resides in the people, from whom all of the power of the State emanates….” it goes on to say: “All citizens have the right to fight, using all means, including armed struggle, when no other recourse is possible, against anyone attempting to overthrow the political, social, and economic order established by this Constitution”… and ends by saying: “Cuba shall never return to capitalism.”

This explains why the people responsible for the sinking were labeled “heroes” and haven’t been sentenced to this very day. We mustn’t forget that the brains behind this system were the brains of a lawyer.

Note: English translation from the Havana Times which also published the original in Spanish.

Imagine Your Worst Nightmare / Lia Villares

The Cuban activist Lia Villares. (CLAUDIO FUENTES)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Lia Villares, Havana, 6 February 2018 — Imagine your worst nightmare. Imagine that it materializes in real time, what you have intuited so many times, but it is no longer a lucid dream, now it is pure and harsh reality.

Cold and concrete.

The most despicable being, the one you have dedicated yourself to denouncing because he answers to a repressive apparatus in charge of crushing you for telling the truth and persecuting you for defending freedom, imagine him multiplied by an army of Agents Smith, an army of rats ready to sneak in your house and rummage through your things with the zeal of a rodent.

It is the nauseating scene of your life: your privacy, your memories, all your memories preserved over the years in small digital media, discs, all of your life in the hands of minions trained to destroy all your work, your work for years, your personal files and finally to confiscate everything in nylon bags where the words “Criminal Evidence” are read because it is precisely the treatment used, under the weak argument that “you are engaged in a subversive or counterrevolutionary activity.” continue reading

If you have read the novels The Master and Margarita or Doctor Zhivago you can have a clearer idea of ​​what it is like to see your most intimate spaces invaded by a large group of harassing people eager to insert themselves into the depths of your private life.

It is a right too individualistic that communism grants only to the royal family: only they can protect themselves from the eyes of others.

In your complete defenselessness you are exposed even though you have always tried so hard to avoid having secrets, given the circumstances: you have been even more daring in showing yourself an exhibitionist, tremendously narcissistic in a failed act of irreverent protest.

No matter how much effort you put in trying to convince them that you have nothing to hide, that in fact you yourself publish everything, that you have followed the collectivist rhythm of not considering your privacy as a treasure so valuable, because you have to share even your most intimate wishes and your most precious dreams.

Your will is reflected in your actions.

Your movements are quite careless because it has never made much sense nor has it been your true intention, conspiring for “the cause” because you think it must be the same for the few conscious, lucid, clear thinking friends that you have left.

You have left all the groups because you do not find coherence, humility, transparency or simply the real friendship that you have been looking for everywhere.

You have seen so much

You have traveled a lot to reach the same point, again and again.

You have experienced the hatred and humiliation of that sick government, parasitic and blinded by power.

On your journey, your confidence and much of your faith in people went away, contaminated with selfishness and competition in the ridiculous march of a vicious circle.

Your dignity and your hope peer timidly from your gaze, not so innocent, not as clean as before.

In front of you the road no longer splits: there is a single straight line indicating the exit, you can see it clearly but your feet feel heavy and your senses do not respond.

On the table where you previously spent your hours on the laptop that you came to consider an extension of your mind, is the page that you patiently fill by hand trying to breathe and preserve some kind of calm.

In some dark office of Villa Marista are all your projects, await (at worst) a quick reformat, an annihilation, a thorough elimination that can only give you pain.

But you are just another victim, nothing distinguishes you from the previous ones, perhaps even more humiliated before a more painful outrage.

Now you just have to get up again and grab that path without looking back.

Cuban Police Detain El Círculo Gallery Artists Villares and Trapaga for 24 Hours

The authorities informed Lia Villares and Luis Trápaga that they are “in the middle of an investigative process.” (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 February 2018 — A police search of Havana’s independent El Círculo Gallery, managed by the activist Lía Villares and the painter Luis Trápaga, ended with the seizure of computers, cameras and video cameras, several hard drives, USB drives and cell phones.

The authorities informed Villares and Trápaga, the owner of the house where the gallery is located, that they are “in the middle of an investigative process,” the activist and blogger told 14ymedio, after being released on Saturday night.

Officers of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), State Security agents and two witnesses from the neighborhood, as required by law, participated in the search. They all entered the house showing a search warrant. continue reading

“They did not allow me be present, only Luis, they had me the whole time and I could not see what was happening,” says Villares. “I sensed the flashes of the photos that they took as they went were room by room, from the kitchen to the terrace.”

The search of the four room house began at 10:00 in the morning and ended after 3:00 in the afternoon.

“They took at least six hard drives, which have all my work from over the last ten years and the most recent material for a documentary I’m doing called Free Art vs. Totalitarian Censorship,” laments Villares.

On the drives are the interviews that the activist has done with several censored artists. The officers also took the printer, three laptops, several compact discs, USB memories and two new phones.

Luis Trápaga says that at the end of the search he was given a copy of the list of confiscated objects that he signed. Both activists insist that they will demand justice for all the equipment to be returned.

At the end of last year the El Círculo gallery experienced several episodes of censorship by the PNR and State Security for the activities it organizes. In some cases, the authorities prevented the guests from entering and at other times arrested the artists themselves.

According to the testimony of Villares, the people participating in the search were the same ones who have carried out the repression against the plays of Lynn Cruz and Adonis Milan.

“There were all those who appear in the videos, there is a lieutenant colonel who sounds familiar to me of the case against El Sexto (graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado) and Lieutenant Colonel Kenia María Morales Larrea, who seemed to be in charge of the operation,” she says.

The activist also remembers other officers like Captain Efrein. An officer who calls himself Luis Miguel took a statement about the origin of the equipment, printed matter and stickers.

Villares was also questioned about her links with the distribution of stickers and documents about the Cuba Decides campaign, which promotes the holding of a plebiscite in Cuba to change the political system of the island.

At first after the search, Villares was taken to the 21st and C Police Station, in Vedado, and Trápaga was taken to the Zapata and C station. On Friday night she was transferred to another station in San Miguel del Padrón.

Villares was released a little before 8 o’clock on Saturday night and Trápaga a few minutes later. “They spent all their time asking me where I had gotten everything from and what I was going to do with the Cuba Decide pamphlets,” says Villares.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Regime Frees Activist Lia Villares

The activist Lia Villares. (FACEBOOK / MARTÍ NEWS)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 23 December 2017 — Activist  Lia Villares was released this Friday morning after being detained since Wednesday, activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo said in her Twitter account.

Villares, in addition, was fined 500 pesos by the authorities, according to Martí Noticias.

During the arrest, “her interrogators told her that she had committed crimes, and in order to prove it to her they showed her a photograph that she had taken some time ago with two policemen. In the photo she appears with a fan with the logo of the CubaDecides opposition initiative” directed by Payá Acevedo, according to the Miami media. continue reading

In the cell where she was detained, the activist wrote with a stone on the wall “Art Yes, Censorship No. I am free.”

“They tell me that this is a damage to property and carries a fine of 500 pesos,” she explained.

Villares  was arrested Wednesday along with other artists when they tried to attend the staging of the play Psychosis.

Among those arrested and then released were Tania Bruguera, actress Iris Ruiz (protagonist of the monologue that was to be performed), Adonis Milán (director of the play), poet Amauri Pacheco, art historian Yanelys Nuñez, another person identified as José Ernesto Alonso and the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara.

The plot of the piece revolves around a person enclosed in a very small space showing obvious signs of madness who wants to leave the place.

The version that was presented was inspired by the events of 2010 at the Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, popularly known as Mazorra, where  26 patients died of hunger and cold. In the monologue direct allusions were to be made to Raúl Castro and terms such as “dictatorship” were used.

The independent gallery El Círculo is subject to constant repression by the regime. State Security also closed this independent space in April to prevent the presentation of the documentary Nadie, by Miguel Coyula, which deals with the life of the poet Rafael Alcides.

Likewise, the political police set up another operation last November to prevent public attendance at the work “The Enemies of the People”  directed by the documentary filmmaker Miguel Coyula, which fictionalized the final minutes of Fidel Castro.

Lia Villares’ Husband Luis Trapaga Also “Disappeared”

Luis Trápaga, husband of Lia Villares, has been incommunicado for 5 hours. He does not answer his phone nor respond at home. Today at 7:30 PM he was at the police station at Zapata and C, waiting for them to tell him WHERE IS LIA! Lia has been ‘disappeared’ for 36 hours by the military dictatorship.

Cuban State Security Blockades a Play in El Círculo Gallery (Updated)

The creators of the play Enemies of the People denounce that State Security called the piece “subversive” without knowing anything about it. (@liavillares)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 November 2017 – Cuban State Security managed to limit attendance to just two people to last night’s premiere play The Enemies of the People. The police cordon set up around the El Círculo gallery in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, where the play was going to be performed, worked as a method of pressure to intimidate would-be audience members.

Activist Lía Villares, owner of the house that that provides the premises for the theater, related via twitter what happened when members of the political police were stationed in the vicinity of the Villares’s house and pressured the numerous guests to not enter. “Everything that happened yesterday in the presence of witnesses and neighbors demonstrates the agonizing situation of cultural rights and freedom of expression in Cuba,” denounced Villares. continue reading

Despite the pressures, the activist said that actress “Lynn Cruz could not have given a better performance.”

The work, interpreted by Cruz and directed by filmmaker Miguel Coyula, offers “a timely vision of Cuban society subjected to a dictatorship,” explain its organizers.

Cruz reincarnates Charlotte Corday, a famous character of the French Revolution and who murdered Jean-Paul Marat. On this occasion, however, instead of Marat, Fidel Castro is the target of her action.

In her Twitter account Lia Villares said that the staging “almost starred the henchmen of Section 21,” the Department of State Security that deals with surveillance against opponents. “They did not allow anyone to enter” the El Círculo Gallery, lamented the activist.

The piece also has an incognito character, played by the musician Gorki Águila who delivers an emotional reading of the list of names of the 41 victims of the 13 Tugboat 13 de Marzo, sunk in July 1994 by four official boats that used water cannons to attack the boat on which the victims were trying to flee the country.

The seats were empty and photographed to denounce the absence of the audience who felt pressured and left without seeing the work. (14ymedio)

Those killed in the tugboat incident were between the ages of 6 months and 50 years. After a week in which the official media silenced what happened, Fidel Castro described the performance of the crews of the boats that attacked the tugboat as a “truly patriotic effort.”

The independent El Círculo gallery is a frequent target of police operations. Last April, a large deployment of troops prevented the public from attending the screening of the documentary Nadie (Nobody) directed by Coyula, which presents the life of the poet Rafael Alcides, censored in the official publications.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Lia Villares Finally Makes it to the United States

Lia Villares is considered a “persecuted political” who is “under paramilitary harassment”. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 May 2017 – The independent activist Lia Villares finally traveled to the United States on Wednesday, as confirmed to 14ymedio by the dissident musician Gorki Aguila.

On Tuesday, Villares was not able to board her flight to the US, after being detained by the police on her way to the airport. The activist called the action a “kidnapping” and “forced disappearance” in a post that she published on her Facebook page hours after her arrest. continue reading

Villares explained that she took a taxi from the door of her home with the intention of traveling to the airport, in order to attend the concert of her friend David D Omni ZF at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. A few blocks from her home, a State Security agent who identified himself as “Jordan” stopped the car and forced her into a National Revolutionary Police (PNR) car, according to her note.

Villares says she was taken to the Tarara detention center (east of Havana), a very long way from her home in Vedado, and the agent insisted that she hand over her cell phone. “They left me for three hours inside the police car, waiting for the time to pass so I would miss my flight,” she denounces.

The activist said that she remained “silent” in response the questions of the agent who, before leaving her at home, pointed out that from that moment on he would become her shadow

The activist said that she remained “silent” in response the questions of the agent who, before leaving her at home, pointed out that from that moment on he would become her shadow.

According to her testimony, this is the same officer who had been monitoring her home on Saturday April 15, coinciding with the screening of the documentary Nadie, by Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula, which was supposed to have been screened at the El Círculo Gallery, a venue coordinated by Villares.

After being released, Villares asked about her legal situation and demanded to know why she had been prevented from taking the trip she had scheduled, but the agent only replied, “Why not.”

“This impunity enjoyed by agents and officers who lend themselves as accomplices [to the regime] can not pass unchallenged,” says Villares, who is considered a “persecuted political” and is “under paramilitary harassment.”

Police Block Activist Lia Villares From Traveling to the United States / Cubanet

cubanet square logoCubanet, 2 May 2017 — Independent activist Lía Villares missed a flight that would have taken her to the New Orleans Jazz Festival after being “abducted” by police on Monday morning.

Speaking to CubaNet, Villares describes that two patrol cars under the command of State Security Agent “Jordan” were waiting for her near her home this morning when she was left to go to José Martí Airport. Villares had taken a taxi to go to the air terminal, but the vehicle was intercepted and the activist arrested.

The young woman describes how she was taken by the agents to Tarará, at the other end of the Cuban capital. The delay caused her to miss her flight, apparently the primary objective of the operation against her. Villares has a passport to travel, and permission to enter the United States.

Hours later, Villares was released without charges. She said he would try to buy a ticket and travel again because the authorities did not give a legitimate reason for her arrest.

Gorki Aguila Detained and Interrogated Returning To Cuba From US / 14ymedio

Musician Gorki Aguila (Photo EFE)
Musician Gorki Aguila (Photo EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 March 2016 — Gorki Águila, a musician with the band Porno Para Ricardo, has denounced that he was detained and questioned Thursday at Jose Marti airport in Havana, on his arrival from the United States.

Speaking to 14ymedio, Aguila said that the State Security agents who interrogated him initially presented themselves as immigration officers, and were even wearing those uniforms, but when he told them they were from the political police they put him in a room where he was threatened, telling him, “If you up the ante, we’re going to raise it higher still.” continue reading

Aguila said that, after the interrogation, on collecting his suitcases, he found that his luggage had been searched. “They read it item by item, inspecting every piece and they really concentrated on anything with writing, like T-shirts with the group’s logo. They took photos of everything, placing a sign with a number next to every item.”

“They detained me and threatened me in every way they know how. They did an exhaustive search, very exhaustive at Customs,” said the musician, in a phone interview with Radio Marti News.

Aguila, a regime opponent as well as an artist, was held for 4 or 5 hours and T-shirts were messages such as “Todos Marchamos” (We All March) and “Boitel and Zapata Tamayo, assassinated by Castro” were confiscated.

“State Security asked me if I had plans to go and see the Rolling Stones,” Gorki added. The rocker accused the authorities of having threatened his daughter and with not being allowed to travel any more.

When the musician was asked why he thought this situation happened, he replied, “They are very concerned with President Obama’s visit to Cuba. They want to try to show a peaceful country, they want to put on a show, a circus with happy and contented people.”

The activist Lia Villares, who arrived on a later flight, also was detained for nearly three hours at airport customs, her luggage and carefully checked and several CDs of the group Porno Para Ricardo were confiscated, along with T-shirts with slogans such as “Down with you know who.”

Martí News reports that several opponents claim Villares is continuing to be held.

Mick Jagger Meets with Gorki From Porno Para Ricardo in Havana (NOT) / Fake News

2015-10-07_05.52.54Arsenio Rodríguez Quintana, Barcelona — On Sunday, October 4, after visiting the Cuban Art Factory in Havana, the Rolling Stones singer was walking with the rocker and Cuban government critic Gorki Aguila Carrasco along 5th Avenue, where the Ladies in White meet every Sunday and march in support of human rights in Cuba. Cuban State Security blocks Gorki from going to meet them, but last Sunday, the day of Orula, an orisha venerated in Cuba, the miracle happened. Gorki was wearing an El Sexto T-shirt that interested Jagger, who asked about El Sexto’s state of health after his hunger strike, and offered to buy some of his artworks to support him.

They also spoke about the possibility of Gorki opening for the Rolling Stones should the conversations with the Ministry of Culture for the Stones to play in the Karl Marx Theater bear fruit.

Now that so many American rock, pop and jazz musicians are coming to Havana, it is worth remembering that this city where I was born had home grown impresarios (from 1910 to 1959) that brought the best American or European musicians of their times to Cuba: Enrico Caruso, Nat King Cole or Lola Flores, for example.

The person who cut this ebb and flow between Havana and the world was Fidel Castro. For more than 50 years – except in 1978, another USA-Cuba political rapprochement, and in 1999. The Castro regime not only censored jazz and rock so that it would not come into Cuba, but also censored and imprisoned those who played it.

Jagger, regrettably was in Havana but he didn’t meet with Gorki, the news is false, but my dear friends Ailer and Lia Villares will perhaps smile at my autumn dreams from Barcelona.

Friends of ‘El Sexto’ Ask the Pope to Intercede for His Release / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The social media campaign under the hashtags #FreeElSexto #LibertadParaDanilo continues to gather steam. (Causes.org)
The social media campaign under the hashtags #FreeElSexto #LibertadParaDanilo continues to gather steam. (Causes.org)

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mexico, 13 September 2015 — Fifty friends of Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto (the Sixth), signed a letter to Pope Francis on Sunday, asking him to intercede for the release of the artist. The letter, published in the digital site Causes, states: “We come to you with the hope that you can intercede to repair the injustice against this young artist.”

The signatories to this letter describe El Sexto as an artist who decided “to express his dissatisfaction with the Government through graffiti and handing out flyers.” They explain that for this reason “he has lived under constant police vigilance and harassment.” A pressure expressed through innumerable arrests, “arbitrary searches of his home and confiscation of his paint cans.”

The initiative, promoted by his friend and colleague Lia Villares, explains that “for more than eight months he has been held in custody without a trial or formal accusations [and thus] we, Danilo’s friends, are demanding his unconditional release and that our most essential freedoms be respected.” The text also makes “a call for genuine and transparent tolerance.” continue reading

El Sexto was arrested last December 25, while preparing for a performance that would have dropped two pigs in a Havana square with the names Fidel and Raul painted on their sides. Currently he is being held in the Valle Grande prison, accused of disrespect, a crime which could result in a sentence of from one to three years in prison, although to date he has not been taken to trial.

The letter also conveys the fear of many activists that there will be a possible wave of repression during the days of Pope Francis’s visit to the Island. “Know that many of us will be incarcerated for the sole reason of your visit to Cuba,” it warns. “Our telephone services will be illegally cut off to prevent our attending the Mass at Civic Plaza*.”

A strong police operation was carried out against peaceful dissidents and opponents during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Cuba. Between March 26 and 28 in 2012, when he was in the country, the authorities carried out dozens of arrests of activists, house arrests and massive cuts in the mobile phone lines belonging to representatives of independent civil society.

The signatories of the letter concluded that “the right to freedom of expression and artistic creation deserves respect and value,” such that “our government must protect critical artists, not persecute them.”

In recent weeks, several independent groups have sent letters to Pope Francis in advance of his arrival in Cuba. Among them are the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), the United Anti-totalitarian Front (FANTU) and the Cuban Civil Society Open Forum. Almost all messages agree in the request for the release of political prisoners and to intercede with the Government of Cuba for greater freedom and dialogue.

*Translator’s note: “Civic Plaza” is the pre-Revolution name of what is now called the “Plaza of the Revolution.”

More Than 50 Activists Arrested Sunday In The March Of The Ladies In White / 14ymedio

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at the Gandhi Park at the exit of the church of Santa Rita (Photo Luis Lazaro Guanche)
The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at the Gandhi Park at the exit of the church of Santa Rita (Photo Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 August 2015 – This afternoon, after Sunday’s march of the Ladies in White on Fifth Avenue in Miramar, Havana, 40 members of this organization and about 15 activists were arrested.

The arrests came after a massive act of repudiation against the Ladies in White, as reported to 14ymedio by several witnesses present at the scene. Among those detained are the blogger Lia Villares, the government opponent Raul Borges and independent journalist Juan González Febles.

The Ladies in White have denounced the increased repression around the walk organized every Sunday at the conclusion of Mass in the church of Santa Rita, in Miramar. This time most of the arrests occurred on the 28th Street at the corner of 3rd, when the activists had left the immediate vicinity of the parish.

Meanwhile in Colón, Matanzas province, nine Ladies in White carried out their march for the freedom of political prisoners under a strong police operation. So far there have been no arrests reported in the province.