For the Democracy of Cuba

Several days ago the digital site “Rebellion” published an article which bitterly attacked the public actions of a group of men and women in Eastern Cuba who are not incorporated into the country’s Communist system, nor retain ties with any government enterprise or organization.

It was referring to the Eastern Democratic Alliance. Among the names that the journalist offered to “prove his case,” I saw mine, accompanied like the others, with adjectives used by the Cuban regime against those of us who take our time without masks or restraints.

The journalist who wrote it (Percy Alvarado) has the freedom to do so. The members of the Alliance have the freedom through my blog of telling a bit of what they have accomplished over the past seven months in parts of eastern Cuba and Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantanamo. Despite the arrests, beatings, restrictions on movement, and closed-circuit monitoring, they all lived to tell the tale.

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina chairs the Democratic Alliance and spoke to me on their behalf.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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The Impunity of the Police

Sometimes I lose interest in denouncing the violations committed by the Castro regime because they are repeated time and time again.  It wears me out and it wears my readers out, too.

Once again there are house arrests without any official notification because such a legal argument does not exist in the constitution. How does the G2, that repressive sector of the Cuban Communist Party, justify detaining peaceful opposition activists in their own homes every time there is a commemoration service?

This time, they were paying homage to the 16th anniversary of the March 13th* Tugboat Massacre, and numerous members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) wanted to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the sinking of the ship.  Others wished to visit the home of the mother of the Cuban martyr Orlando Zapata Tamayo, so they could all go together to pray before the grave of their fallen brother.  In Banes, Antilla, San German, and Holguin, social workers, veterans of the Cuban wars in Africa, and G2 officers all stationed themselves at the corners of the neighborhoods and homes of dissidents and independent journalists to prevent them from making it to the sites of the pilgrimage and homage.

The last few weeks have been explosive.  Mariblanca Aguila, a slender human rights activist who supports Reina Luisa Tamayo, was beaten on two occasions by three political police officers in Banes.  After the first incident she wound up in the hospital.  The second time, they handcuffed her and kidnapped her, threw her into a car, drove her far from any public places, and even humiliated her.  The shocked woman said that one of her kidnappers, who was dark, tall, and heavy, actually kissed her and said dirty things in her ear while he tightened the handcuffs on her until they left marks on her wrists.  She still has sudden frights while she sleeps and says that she does not know how to free herself from such nightmares where an image of that man comes close to her to force kisses on her.

As for Idalmis Nunez Reynosa, the beating given to her by political police officers in Placetas was so severe that she actually had to be checked into the intensive care unit of that neighborhood.  She tells us that when she was transferred to the observation room so she could rest and recuperate in her delicate state, the G2 actually disregarded the doctors who said she must rest and took her out of the hospital by force and put her back in a police car headed towards Santiago de Cuba.  Idalmis continues telling us that in her own native town, they denied her access to her medical certificates and just hours after she arrived at her own home they once again detained her to raid her house.

Also on that day, Jose Cano Fuentes, a resident of Guantanamo and active member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, went out to try to find out about the state of Idalmis’ health, but once he was heading back to his house he was actually detained near the bus terminal of Santiago de Cuba.  He was also beaten, this time it was carried out by the chief of the sector of the Calle Cuatro neighborhood.  He tells us that later he was taken to Guantanamo and they released him, only to once again detain him an hour later, and without any preface, to once again carry out another beating.  From this last one he still has scars and wounds on his body.

They seem like isolated cases, but they are the result of “Letters of Marque” — official permission to attack at will — received by the Cuban military counter-intelligence section in Oriente, while Cuba pretends to be releasing dissidents, and the world just laughs at the supposed acts of goodwill and the gullible await changes in Cuban society.

Translator’s Note:
*The name of the tugboat was the “March 13th”, the event happened on July 13, 1994.

Translated by Raul G.

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Twenty-First Century Diversions

According to my parents and grandparents, forty years ago circuses would come to the towns and over two or three days present various entertainments to delight children and adults. Today our realities are not of spectacles with fire-eaters, nor magicians, nor trained animals.

Each year for a short season the so-called children’s party arrives. A small group of outsiders, but with papers and permissions from the Holguin provincial government, is installed in a town field with portable equipment, some unknown. Never mind the health warnings about the spread of the H1N1 pandemic, warning people to avoid unnecessary crowds. They settle in because they bring “they say, a provincial program to provide entertainment to children.”

They recently came through my town to hold one of the best parties we’ve seen around here. One that every kind of person could enjoy after they launched the festivities. I was there with my two little ones to see what they offer through their inventiveness and how others develop what God has given them: talent.

Tattoos painted on the skin with acrylics, a machine that is like something out of a local Disneyland, and many more that I didn’t know how to capture. To live, this seems to be the theme of salvation, and as it has been for centuries, here are some examples of human survival.

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Walking on Dark Streets Can be a Crime

I couldn’t help going to visit Idalmis Nuñez Reinosa’s house when I heard that after being hit and kicked by the police in Placetas on Saturday the 3rd, she was “repatriated” by the same police force to her home town, Santiago de Cuba, I found her covered with bruises and scratches on her skin and with sore muscles that barely let her sit down. I could see for myself that the “police men” taught her.

Later on I decided to visit Anderlay Guerra Blanco in Guantanamo and finish a conversation with him that we had left hanging. I was there until Wednesday the 7th, when I decided to return my town. I left in the early morning, at 4 am, and logically I had to walk the streets of the city to get to the bus station, the only place where, at this hour, I could find a ride to another place.

I didn’t make the trip alone. Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina was with me and we tried to travel together through the inevitable streets of the town. We were detained by the police who put us in a patrol car and took us to the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR) station known as Park 24.

Investigation. Police control. Researching our identity. We were there two hours. Long enough to know the Guantanamera night and early morning in a military joint. Two officers from the G-2 or State Security as the political police are called in our country even came, as they didn’t have authorization to let us leave. It became clear to us that if we couldn’t explain our presence on the streets we could be accused of spending the night in dark places and at an hour which, according to them, was dangerous. Along with us, more than six citizens had been detained, all young. According to what they told us the police picked them up in a park because they were talking and drinking alcohol and this turned them into people likely to commit crimes and the cops wanted, this time, to warn them.

It is a repressive system that operates in the nights and early morning in several villages in my country, some acquaintances told me. At least I was a witness while walking, before the break of dawn, through streets that are dark because in my country there are no street lights.

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My Memory, Good and Bad

What you see here is a detail of the “La Coubre” Terminal. Its specialty?: Putting passengers on the Waiting List. Is there a Cuban who hasn’t passed through here? Well, yes, of course, company directors, highest level military, and officials powerful enough to make all their journeys by plane from Havana at the cost of their company or institution.

At times I berate myself for not being more meticulous with some of my accounts, I should have counted the nights I’ve slept at La Coubre waiting for a bus that never shows, meaning that it wouldn’t have been in the itinerary, but that it has failed eighty time on the way, blown a piston, blown a tire, or the drivers have made more than the twenty regulated stops between Havana and Holguin.

I can count the times I’ve had almond ice cream, eaten half a pound of ham, or that I could buy myself a book by Humberto Eco for five dollars: ONCE.

But no way do I remember the number of times the Havana-Santiago de Cuba train has been canceled an hour before departure. I can’t remember because I lost count.

I have to accept my propensity for mental Vaseline. Bad things lead me down the road to amnesia.

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Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta: He Continues to Stand Up to Terror

A few months ago I dedicated a post to Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta.  I made reference to his diseases and briefly mentioned all the injustices that have been committed against the independent journalist from Guantanamo who was jailed together with 74 other Cubans during the Black Spring of 2003.

On June 29 I visited Caridad Caballero Batista in Holguin to see how she was doing after the violent moments she experienced along with Mariblanca Avila, Reina Luisa, and her family in Banes on Saturday June 26.  A call from Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta from a hospital in Guantanamo surprised us both.  He told us that the officials who took him to the doctor allowed him to make one telephone call and that is why he chose to call Holguin to testify to what he was living through in that place where he was taken a few weeks ago as a result of the changes of prisons for some political prisoners after the negotiations between Raul Castro and Jaime Ortega.

We were barely able to record the conversation with an old and beat-up voice recorder.  Cari told him that his conversation would be recorded so that he could say everything he desired.

We transcribed the call because the sound lacked quality due to all the interruptions of the telephone lines:

I was transferred to a polyclinic here in the municipality of Salvador so that I could be attended by a orthopedic specialist to see if they could finally all agree on what it is that I have in my cervical zone.  There are no records of X-Rays, no clinical exams, no information even on all my previous jailings in this same prison in Guantanamo [he is referring to clinical documents that every previously interned patient is supposed to have].  Nothing shows up, so tomorrow I am going to be taken again to the polyclinic, the same way a terrorist is escorted somewhere [here he is referring to the security measures they take with political prisoners from the cause of the 75 who are moved around with handcuffs and chains and lots of security officials around them].  I think that Bin Laden would be treated with much better conditions than myself.  I was completely surrounded by State Security as if I was some sort of assassin.”

“Really, my health situation is worrisome.  It’s been 15 days that I have had diarrhea, and I repeat, my sugar level has dropped, I have constant hypoglycemia, the water here generally is really not potable, even that the people drink.  The situation gets worse because I am under special rules.  I continue denouncing the strict and inhumane regime that is imposed in Cuban jails.”

This is the other Guantanamo that nobody talks about.  The Guantanamo of the other side, the one here in my province, the place where I was born.  It is not the North-American enclave.  This Guantanamo is the one the Cuban government does not mention.

The 26th was the official day designated by the UN as International Day of Awareness Against Torture, and the Cuban government only very briefly mentioned it.

I continue saying that Juan Carlos, here or anywhere else, will continue to stand up against terror.  They must know that Juan Carlos has suffered a lot because, disgracefully, it has not just been the blows dealt him by military officials during these 7 years of prison, but also the brutal pain of a father who lost his only daughter, who lost a friend, and a brother, practically right next to him, Orlando Zapata Tamyo.  (Orlando Zapata, before being transferred on December 2, 2009 to the jail in Camaguey was in the provincial prison of Holguin together with Juan Carlos Herrera, and even though they kept them in separate cells, they discretely managed to communicate between themselves thanks to other prisoners who would pass on their messages.)

“They are using methods of psychological torture and physical torture as well, because being here in my province does not mean anything when my family can only visit me once every 3 months and once every 4 months for the conjugal pavilion.

But then I ask myself, and I ask the government:  “Will they manage to get Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta on his knees?” Nobody will be able to.  And for being like that, he may very well be the next victim.

“I have already lived here for 5 sad years, totally isolated like a savage beast. What I am doing is calling out to the CPJ, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, to Reporters Without Borders, to Amnesty International, to anyone and everyone who can help.  I’m not asking for my freedom because I never should have come to this prison in the first place, I should have never have been a prisoner, not even for a minute, because I have committed no crime.  I have not attacked any military barracks, I have not attacked a single soldier, I haven’t done anything, I have just written down the truth, I have spoken the truth since 1988, more than half of my life doing this.  I will be here defending this grand thing that is democracy and freedom, even if I continue imprisoned.”

Translated by Raul G.

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