The Cuban government has cracked down hard on dissidents who dared to go out on December 10th, the day when the world celebrated Human Rights Day, according to sources from the island who have posted on the social networks.
In Baracoa, Jorge Feria Jardinez and Roneidis Leyva Salas, activists with the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and the John Paul the 2nd Movement, were arrested while distributing leaflets about this issue, said Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, ADO Coordinator, in his Twitter account (@ Lobainacuba).
On the same social network, Lobaina reported arrests, beatings, and acts of repudiation in locations around Buenaventura, with the detention of Nelson Avila Almaguer, Ramón Aguilera, Jorge Carmenate, and Nirma Peña, all four with ADO. He added that activists were stationed in front of the town’s police station demanding the release of their brothers in the cause. In the same province, but in the village of Velazco in the municipality of Gibara, paramilitary mobs in coordination with State Security and the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) attacked the house of activist Damaris García, fired tear gas, and beat and arrested peaceful activists.
Among those arrested with Damaris were Marta Alina Rodríguez Pérez, Walfrido Pérez García and Gelasio Pupo Verdecia, all from the same opposition alliance.
In the capital arrests occurred when activists, artists, and other members of the independent civil society tried to reach the headquarters of the Estado de Sats Project, led by Antonio Rodiles. According to the twitter account of Ailer María (@ ailermaria), his wife and arts coordinator of the project, they had learned of more than a dozen arrests that occurred starting on December 9th when participants in the 1st International Conference on Human Rights tried to approach the site. The venue was harassed by an act of repudiation, a military siege, and a “revolutionary act” by the well-known orchestra “Arnaldo y su talisman,” according to reports arriving from Havana. Other groups suffered persecution, harassment, and abuse at their homes.
Bertah Soler, leader of the Ladies in White and 2005 Sakharov Prize winner, was arrested along with her husband, Angel Moya Acosta, when she had summoned her members and the entire civil society to march and gather on the corner of 23rd and L, across from the Coppelia ice cream parlor. Those who made it were violently arrested and transported to remote places; Soler was taken to the village of Tarara.
On the morning of December 10th, President Raul Castro attended the funeral of South African president Nelson Mandela. He was greeted with an unanticipated “handshake” by U.S. President Barack Obama, who said in his speech: “There are leaders who support Mandela and do not tolerate dissent,” a clear allusion to the Cuban dictator and to the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, also present at the gathering.
Translated by Tomás A.
11 December 2013
Men who believe themselves to be free manage to break the bars imposed on them by authoritarian regimes. The Cuban Writers Club (CEC), established in Havana in May 2007, is an initiative that arose from the desire for free literature, poetry out loud, and a way to rub up against life as if they were living in a free country. A couple of weeks ago I had the good fortune of having lunch and chatting with one of these free men, Víctor Domínguez. Armando Añel delivered him through the crazy Miami traffic.
“A group of writers, some of the members of the official National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), others from the Hermanos Saiz Association (AHS), but all of us marginalized from the institutional spaces because of ideological problems, realized we needed our own independent space. We are more than fifty writers from the whole county, and twenty of us have published works, which is an accomplishment,” says Victor Manuel Dominguez, co-president of the Club.
Dominguez is one of Havana’s veteran independent journalists who survived the hardships, arrests and police harassment. “Twice they have expelled Jorge Olivera Castillo and me from literary and cultural meetings we were attending — once it was in the Cuba Pavilion — and we have to say that we are here and we are going to continue doing our literary work despite the repression and censorship,” said the author of the banned and still unpublished novel, “Operation Cauldron.”
The fruits they already taste
Jorge Olivera Castillo is one of the independent journalists who has survived hardships of every kind. He is the founder of Habana Press, a banned press agency born in the long past year 1995; he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the well-known Black Spring of 2003, and today has nearly a dozen books published by helping hands around the world.
“It was prison that made me turn to literature, and especially being at the side of Raul Rivero, unfortunately now in exile. I was in solitary confinement for a year, in a cell in Guantanamo, six hundred miles from my home in Havana, but literature helped me to survive,” Olivera Castillo said with pride.
The award of the Franz Kafka Novels from the Drawer Prize to Frank Correa Romero in 2012 for his work “The Night is Long,” and that fact that 2010 was “a great year” for Olivera Castillo, made them realize they were beginning to reap what they had sown.
Jorge Olivera Castillo has published nearly a dozen books of poetry and prose. Publishers from half the world have helped him, not because of his having been condemned to 18 years in prison in the 2003 Black Spring, the only criterion is the quality of his writing. Olivera saw his book of poems appear almost a decade after they were written: “Lit Ashes” (Polish-Spanish, Lech Walesa Institute, 2010), and from Galen Publishing (French-Spanish) “In Body and Soul,” which had been published in 2008 by the Czech Pen Club.
The world, all the worlds
In Havana, the Swiss, German and Czech embassies have opened their doors to these bards to develop their literary gatherings, blocked by the authoritarian regime. The German Romantic Period, the work of A. Von Humboldt, the dramas and poetry of Polish writers, as well as readings by their own members, are part of this unique Writers Club.
The digital magazine Puente de Letras (Literary Bridge) contains all of this flood of creation: the list of its members, the prizes they have won, fragments of works half done and on their way to publication, are part of the mission of this attractive digital site.
Authors such as Luis Cino Álvarez, Juan González Febles, María del Carmen Pino or Manuel Cuesta Morúa have presented their stories, poems or essays on the Puente de Letras magazine and website.
Looking ahead, they have made this bridge to the future. “This is a source of feedback, you write and life gives you these prizes: the books, the friendship, the sharing,” Olivera concluded.
2 December 2013
The Association for Freedom of the Press (APLP) is an organization to disseminate the work of independent journalists in Cuba. Recently I spoke with José Antonio Fornaris, one of its officers, and with Juan Carlos Linares Balmaseda, manager of public relations and it’s well worth taking a tour of its site.
Recently they gave out the awards for their contest: Newsprint. The winners were Augusto César San Martín, in the genre reporting; Filiberto Perez del Sol, chronicles; Ernesto Santana (member of the government-sponsored Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba), in interviews; and Dimas Castellanos, in op-ed. Special mention went to Sergio Esteban Vélez in interviews.
The prize for the winners consisted of a certificate, 250 convertible pesos ($225) and a statuette carved in wood, which — according to the artist Iley of Jesus — its Greek column represent democracy, the wings represent freedom and the pencil, freedom of expression. For the honorable mention the award consisted of the certificate and the statue.
In conversation with the public relations person, Linares Balmaseda, he said: “We are driven primarily by desire to tell the world what is happening in our environment, in a dictatorship that blocks our right to freedom of information. But most important is to say it from within the island, because they are the ones who are reporting on the changes that must occur on the road to democratization, that is what makes the APLP,” he said.
12 November 2013
My beautiful son Malcom and I in front of the bluest sea, from Miami to Cuba (in the far distance, of course!).
10 November 2013
Once again the graphic artist Rolando Pulido echoes the suffering of Cuba and has prepared a poster calling for solidarity with Angel Yunier Remon Arzuago, who as of Thursday has completed 22 days on hunger strike, in protest of a prosecutor’s request for an eight year jail sentence, for a supposed attack.
In conversation with the wife of the controversial rapper, Yudisbel Rosello said that they had put a tube in the rapper’s neck to feed him, because he could no longer bed fed through tubes in his arm.
The young woman also reported that Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Provincial Hospital in Bayamo, where her husband Remon Arzuaga has been admitted, is completely guarded by police and State Security.
The organization NetForCuba called a protest: Thi Friday, 8 November, at 7:00 PM we will gather at the Versailles Restaurant in Miami to protest for the release of the rapper Yunier El Critico.”
7 November 2013
It is exactly one year ago to the day that I left Cuba to enter the other Cuba. They gave me a kick, manu militari, and so I came to fall on this side of the lost country.
Miami gave me the opportunity to speak in the tongue of my grandparents, to return to the preferred palate of my grandparents. I have achieved the dreams of my grandmother Maria: I drank Jupiña, I tried Materva and I ate again the guava pastries that my godfather Mayaguez used to make. In that sense the nostalgia machine is still oiled, as always.
Here I have been bored since the police don’t ask me for my identity card nor do they ask for how many days I’ll stay in Little Havana. My children Malcom and Brenda don’t have to put their hands to their foreheads in each school activity and say that they want to be like Che, that Argentinian fan of multiple and foreign deaths, foreign lands, foreign women, foreign families, to live a borrowed life, to jump from melancholic guerrillas to adolescent T-shirts. My children are free because they are learning how to be.
It’s been a year since I came to a country that is a lot more generous than it is described to be, from the hand of Lori Diaz and the International Rescue Committee (IRC, “Ay-Ar-Cee, how can we help you?”). I came to a Miami even more generous, where civil society is so organized that there was no need for a campaign for a foreign lady to give me the first $40 in her checkbook for the month and she treated us in a café. From the hand of Ivon, Berta, Idolidia and Mario we all went through the first and hard hurricanes of red tape and we came out sane and happy, thanks to God and to them.
Miami gave me back my bicycle and a pain in my calves the first months; the bus and the fright of the next stop. Here again I published a book and read poetry without demand for political ideology affiliation, at least that’s what Idable and Armando have shown me. Miami gave me a microphone and a website so I can talk to Cuba at every second as if I was a ubiquitous man, Borgian, and I have been able to interview people from Baracoa, Puerto Padre or Jaimanitas without being afraid of the police attacking my house.
For the past year I’m happy playing dominoes and war. Twelve months I’ve been lounging on Saturdays in the grass with my wife Exilda, (at Tropical Park) looking at the sky to give thanks and ask for another wish: like two children, or two fools, but happy as never before.
P.S: There are other names and beautiful sunsets to mention, but no thanks.
Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy
25 October 2013
I had to let a year pass in order to compose this ode (fuck) which is not for Enrisco and his refrain of throwing it all to hell. This is the story of a one-eyed but happy man. I was in the Havana room of my friend Roberto Gonzalez, eating bread and tons of ice cream because there was nothing else, while I read ”We Will Always Have Madrid”.
I did it in one go, as the best jokes are read and about every twenty pages La Chipi would appear with the jugs of ice cream. I believe I’d returned to the best of Marcos Behemaras, to the most spicy Zumbado that was taken from us “by accident” and all that was seasoned with the Madrid stories which will never be ours (nor Enrisco’s) and a Havana that was no longer mine because I was leaving Cuba.
But no sooner had we followed the food and that digital version, than it occurred to me to write to the “prof” and give him the bad news that his book was already being pirated between the corsairs and the cyberpirates, in a capital that wouldn’t recover, this Havana simultaneously virgin and whore.
“We will Always Have Madrid” is a linear story, since humans at the end always come back to the scene of the crime, or of ridicule, and the value of this book is that, in not stopping to laugh at the misfortune of the cold, the naiveté of a just arrived immigrant, or the sons of b… that destiny reserves for us at each step. The turbulent Havana of the 90’s is like an old movie, fading into black but without credits.
When this character, who years later will delight us in “Encuentro de la Red” with those disparate stories, left the Cuban capital, a half-Cuba missing the best and the worst of the so-called “Special Period,” and to sympathize with us Enrisco and his troops walk alone in a Madrid of a thousand demons
I will not share with you any of the jokes that are related to loneliness and estrangement to the point that on some occasions our respective tears fall. If anyone decides to buy the book or the books, I’d recommend that you do it right now. I wanted to look like a “yuma” or a “pepe” — a foreigner — and I bought “wine, bread and sausage” and went down the hill until I came to the end. What a good time.
*Translator’s note: In Spanish “ode” can be turned into “fuck” with the addition of a single letter.
2 October 2013
“On October 4, they had me in a choke hold, it was the Special Brigade. There were men, I was talking to one of the big men, they took me to the door of the house, inside the house. They came with their uniforms. Some men dressed in overalls painted the house in asphalt, five times they have done it, without taking into account that there are minors here,” that is the testimony of Damaris Moya Portieles, President of the Central Opposition Coalition, resident of Santa Clara.
Violence against women, dressed in white or not; with or without gladioli in hand has become recurrent all over the island. It has to do not only with the hate sessions like the Acts of Repudiation, the physical mistreatment and the torture are “a piece of cake” in the containment measures against the opposition. Damaris herself relates: ”Some months ago I was admitted into the Arnaldo Milian Castro hospital, the result of a beating that the State Security officers dealt me,” she says, and offers the name of the oppressors: ”Yuniel Monteagudo Reina, Erik Francis Aquino Yera and Ayor vigil Alvares, plus Pablo Echemendia Pineda,” she concludes.
Fourteen Sundays Under Rocks and Words
She is a hardworking woman and always likes to prepare the best dishes for her family; one day she decided to do it for the poor. Caridad Burunate hosts each week in her home some twenty elderly and destitute people to give them a little ration of food. She does it under the project “Capitan Tondique,” and the name of the anti-Castro guerrilla fighter has cost Burunate, in Colon, Matanzas, the well-known acts of repudiation, beatings, arrests and the painting of her house black.
“The mobs prepare, they are criminals, and they cuff us, fight us. Even prisoners have been brought from the Aguica prison, because they tell them that they are going to give them passes, they even kick us. When we arrive at my house from the walks (every Sunday with the Women in White), they wait for us with bags of rocks, eggs, they even painted my house because they wrote, “Long live Fidel, Long live the Revolution” and I wrote to them on top of that: ”Down with the Revolution” and “Down with Fidel.”
The president of the People’s Power, Dignora Zenea Sotolongo, brought a jeep full of eggs, which are non-existent, people do not have them to eat, and they threw them at my house; and of course, she has almost all her family in Miami. This house they bathed in eggs and asphalt. They give eggs to children for them to throw. I made myself an opponent because we have no rights, and because I have always enjoyed expressing what I feel, I did not do it just for myself, but also to help others,” she concludes.
A Violent Beginning
Tania Oliva Chacon resides in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba. She received the first beating “in March of this year,” when she joined the Ladies in White. ”On October 10 I found myself at a friend’s house and we were about to watch the class they broadcast on TV every day, but the house was surrounded since early morning, and when we were about to sing the national anthem, they threw themselves on us like beasts, like animals.
They knocked me down with a kick to the leg, and injured me. They immobilized me for 21 days, but I had no way to heal. The one who kicked me is Captain Arsenio, the chief of the sector Police. One of my companions was badly hurt, they got him in the ribs and he is still in a very bad way. On many occasions they come dressed as special troops in order to impress us. I was in my last year of studies for a Bachelor’s in History, but as I began to demonstrate and to tell about the thefts that were happening, then I “fell ill” and could not finish. My son has graduated and has not been able to get a job,” she said.
Translated by mlk.
21 October 2013
Under the heading “Protect Internet Cafes in Cuba. Julian Assange Bungles It,” the website http://www.lasingularidad.com offers good advice for Cuban citizens and digital non-conformists wanting to get around censorship restrictions.
Every time that I receive questions from activists in Cuba about the internet browser rooms, I never tire of repeating the phrase “Begone, Satan”, “Good riddance”, “Take them winter wind”, or any other interjection I can think of at that moment to make it clear that they should run as though from the devil himself. Like moths to a flame, they are designed to attract the unwary, who are bedazzled by its radiance.
The Cuban regime took its time designing these “booby traps” and — in what it considers a masterful sleight-of-hand — is attempting to make itself look good in the eyes of the modern world, which increasingly considers internet access to be a basic human right.
In fact, it has already reaped some rewards this week by successfully recruiting a “figure” of no less international stature than Julian Assange to proselytize politically on behalf of the Cuban regime. This is a completely surreal and incomprehensible development since, supposedly, the hacker’s code of ethics mandates fighting for free access to information.
His support for one of the world’s most repressive communist dictatorships — one known for restricting access to the free flow of ideas on the internet — is a senseless action that will very probably cause Assange to lose face in the eyes of the hackers who support him. Will Assange turn out to be one of those typical useful, misinformed fools or an opportunist looking for free vacations in the Caribbean? Whatever the answer, the betrayal of the ideals of hackers like Anonymous will not go unnoticed.
Why is Nauta a trap?
1 – Price censorship.
The cost of one hour of access to the internet in these rooms is 4.50 CUC, some $5 US if we convert it. Considering that the average salary in CUCs is approximately $20 per month, we can calculate that one hour of internet use costs Cubans close to 25% of their monthly salary. In a country where the salary is barely enough for one or two weeks’ worth of food, very few can afford to visit these rooms. By way of comparison, if in the United States or Europe one hour of internet cost more than $1,300, social network sites like Facebook would be very bleak places…
2 – Total lack of security, privacy and basic functionality.
To be able to buy a Nauta card, users have to display their identity cards. Their names, addresses and surnames, together with the identification code of the cards sold, are registered in a database. In this same database all their activity is stored: the sites they visit, passwords they enter, screen captures and general captures of all that they type (keyloggers).
The computers available are in fact thin clients* running a modified and highly restricted version of Windows Xp, an operating system so antiquated that it will soon be discontinued by Microsoft, which will no longer issue updates for it.
It is not permitted to right click with the mouse. This reduces functionality for those who are used to cutting and pasting text using menus and eliminates all the information that right clicking in Windows provides. Hint: You can use the keyboard shortcuts ctrl+C to copy, ctrl+X to cut and ctrl+V to paste.
It is not permitted to run any programme from USB memory sticks.
It is not permitted to run any programme from command lines (CMD.exe).
Task Manager is disabled, the Ctrl + Alt + Del and don’t even dream of administrator access in order to install some program that you may need.
The number one rule is : If you can avoid it, DO NOT USE IT. In Cuba, there are many other alternatives: Access from work centers, much less restrictive network dial-up access, illegal accounts shared by foreigners, friends who can send your emails as a favor, and of course access to offline internet content like the Web Packets Weekly Mulitmedia Packets that reign across the island.
If you have no other option you can protect yourself using these simple tips:
1. Use disposable email accounts, ask your contacts to do the same if possible. The value of your messages lies not only in their contents but also in those to whom they are directed and from whom and from where you receive them (Metadata). Never use your name or personal information to create an email account or to search websites on the Internet. If you use false data and a fake name it will be much more difficult for government analysts or their spy programs to determine if your mail or user profile is worth the effort of analyzing. These spy programs are used by almost all governments, including the United States and, of course, Cuba.
2. Mask “complicated” words in your messages by using spaces, repeated letters and punctuation signs at random. This will prevent automated software or analysts that search for key words from being able to flag your messages or profile as being of interest for analysis. For example, instead of writing “the dissidents screamed liberty at the demonstration” write “the di. Si-dde :ntes shouted lib. ee.r t y in the demi. str *ati-on” A text search for the words “dissident” and “demonstration” will not detect your messages. Government agencies in other countries like the C-I. A and the N-S. A will not appreciate this advice, either.:)
3. Mask your messages by excess information. For example, began your email with several paragraphs of weighty poems and by prior agreement let your recipient know in which paragraph will be the true message. The poor analyst that has to read your email will simply go to the next when he sees your long poem. The idea is to make his work difficult all the time. Remember to mask words as explained above.
4. Be aware that everything that you type and capture on-screen is being recorded on your user profile. If you are forced to use a personal password, mask it with random fillers that you will then remove with the mouse and the Delete key. For example, if your password is “freecuba123,” write “iwantfreecub123456.” Then select “iwant” and “456″ with your mouse and hit delete. This is not 100% safe with advanced keyloggers but it will make it hard for the analyst who is watching your information to discover which is the true password. There exists no completely secure protection in the world of information nor in the real one. It is like protecting your home: the more difficult you make it for the thief, the less likely your house will be the one in the neighborhood that gets hit.
5. Use PHP proxies for accessing web pages whose navigation is censored and that you do not want to be kept in your navigation history. Write on Google: ”php proxy list” to access web pages that keep lists of proxies that constantly change in order to prevent them from being blocked. These proxies will permit you to navigate as if your were in another country and will hide the website addresses that you visit. Nevertheless, remember that your screen is being recorded and if you do something that calls attention they might check your user profile.
6. Https is your friend. Always prefer web pages in which the URL or address begins with https. This means that all traffic between your navigator and the web page server is automatically encrypted in a secure way, hence the letter “s.” However, remember that what you type is being recorded so you cannot stop using the tricks listed above or better still, if you can avoid it, do not enter your search information on any page from Nauta.
If you have other ideas and suggestions for the protection of privacy and security of users in browser rooms in Cuba, write them in the comments below.
Archived in Cuba
*Translator’s note: Computers or computer programmes which depend heavily on other computers (their servers) to fulfill their computational roles.
Translated by Shane J. Cassidy, mlk
30 September 2013