“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.

Cuban Young Filmmakers Exhibition Gives Award to Director Criticized by Government

Poster for the short film ‘Eternal Glory’.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 9 April 2018 — After the controversy arising from the exclusion of Yimit Ramirez’s film I Want To Make A Movie from the Young Filmmakers Exhibition, on Sunday Ramirez won the prize for the best fictional film for his short Eternal Glory, a work that reflects on the historical myths in a totalitarian society.

The short, starring the actors Lynn Cruz and Mario Guerra (who play the characters Haydée and Julián), addresses the sanctification of heroes, which is the same subject that led the censorship of Ramirez’s feature film, which the authorities considered “disrespectful of José Martí.”

Yimit Ramirez’s work has been at the center of the debates and comments in this year’s Young Filmmakers Exhibition, an event focused on promoting film creation among young people under the age of 35. In recent years the event has been marked by several scandalous episodes of censorship and exclusion. continue reading

The Exhibition awarded the prize for Best Documentary to two films “on equal terms”: The Dogs of Amundsen, by Rafael Ramírez, which also won for Best Director and the Best Original Music, and Music of the Spheres, by director Marcel Beltrán.

The mentions in that category were awarded to the directors Daniela Muñoz for What Remedy? The Parranda, and Adriana Castellanos for Two Islands.

The Special Jury Prize went to Alejandro Alonso for his documentary work The Project, which is a nod to “cinema within cinema.” The peculiar script, through pure photography and without a single word of dialogue, narrates a story that mixes fiction and reality and begins when the young director tries to film inside high schools and boarding schools in the countryside but the authorities deny him access.

With the thread of the prohibitions and obstacles that appear in the way of any film project, Alonso manages to convey the states of uneasiness, doubt and commitment that the filmmaker goes through in order to complete his dream.

With that same work, Lisandra López won for best script, while the Best Animation award recognized the work Mamiya CR7, by Danny de León and Eisman Sánchez.

Parallel to the exhibition, the Cuban Association of Cinematographic Press award went to The Dominant Species, by Carolina Fernández-Vega. The National Center for Sexual Education and the Oscar Arnulfo Romero Reflection and Solidarity Center awarded the work I Love Papuchi, by Rosa María Rodríguez; the International Film and Television School of San Antonio de los Baños awarded its prize to Cosplayer, by Orlando Mora Cabrera; and the Faculty of Art of the Audiovisual Media chose The Project.

The documentary Two Islands, by Adriana F. Castellanos, also won an award from the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation of Nature and Man, while the Sara GómezNetwork of Cuban Performers and Televisión Serrana awarded What Remedy? The Parranda. The Audience Award went to Human Thirst, by Danilo C. París and Gabriel Alemán, a film that also won the award for Best Photography.

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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 Young Filmmakers Exhibition Starts in the Midst of a Debate About Film Censorship

The first hours of the 17th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition took place this Tuesday in an almost empty theater at the Chaplin cinema, in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 4 April 2018 — The first hours of the 17th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition took place this Tuesday in an almost empty theater of the Chaplin cinema, in Havana. The event began in the midst of the scandal over the the exclusion of the film I Want to Make a Movie, from director Yimit Ramírez, an incident that continues to generate conflicting opinions among officials and filmmakers.

The Exhibition was inaugurated with the screening of The Two Princes, a short film inspired by the homonymous poem by José Martí. The choice of the film was interpreted by the audience as a response to Ramírez’s film, which the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) criticized for including “disrespectful” dialogue about the national hero. continue reading

The afternoon and evening session on this first day was enlivened a little more with the welcome offered by the organizing committee to the young filmmakers at their new headquarters on 23rd Street. Two exhibitions, Hair of the Wolf, by the artist collective Chambelon Network, and Vero de perro, by Manuel Almenares, completed the day’s program.

Also presented on the opening day was the feature film not part of the competition, The Wolves of the East, filmed in Japan and directed by Carlos Machado Quintela, known for his film The Work of the Century (2015)about the failed Cienfuegos Nuclear City project.

However, the main protagonists of the day were the absentee I Want to Make a Movie and its director, who were at the focus of the conversations among exhibition attendees, especially because, hours earlier, the Presidency of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) issued a harsh statement against the film.

UNEAC’s statement adds to an avalanche of articles and comments published in the official press and on the websites of institutions that criticized the words of a character in the film, who refers to José Martí with the terms “mojón” and “maricón” (turd and faggot). UNEAC believes that the exclusion of the film from the program is an incident that has been “magnified” by the “anti-Cuban press.”

“We share the indignation of youth who follow Martí in the face of this attempt to tarnish the memory of the Apostle,” said the Presidency of the pro-government association. The statement, however, did not mention the public solidarity shown by much of the film industry with Ramírez.

“To those who seek to undermine the founding values ​​of the Cuban nation, we say: Don’t involve José Martí!” UNEAC said in its statement, in a tone that many filmmakers and film critics have considered threatening.

On Tuesday night, the Exhibition continued with the screening of the documentary short films Movies and Memory by Jorge Luis Sánchez and Notes on the Shore by Luis Alejandro Yero. In addition, the fiction short film Rocaman, by Marcos Díaz, and the animated Decomposition, by Jarol Cuellar, were screened.

Like last year, the Exhibition suffers from a shortage of works in the animation section, with just three this year. In addition to the films in the competition, the event also includes a Bonus section for non-competition pieces, known as the Moving Ideas space, along with the usual conferences and the pitching of movie themes in the Making Cinema section.

Among the most anticipated is the screening of Alejandro Alonso Estrella’s documentary, The Project, which presents the concept: “A filmmaker is forbidden to film an old school converted into housing. Years later, he decides to remake the Project.”

Also in the documentary category, the filmmaker Marcel Beltrán competed with the work The Music of the Spheres, inspired by a family history.

Despite the censorship applied to his latest film, Yimit Ramírez is represented with a short film from 2017, Eternal Glory, which tells the story of Julián, an “outstanding worker” worthy of an award he has always wanted, but “at the moment he is nominated, his mind is filled with great conflicts.”

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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.

Cuba Prevents Activists From Traveling to Lima Summit

Adonis Milan (left) and Gorki Aguila (right)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 4 April 2018 — Two more activists were victims of restrictive measures that prevented them from leaving Cuba on Wednesday. They are the playwright Adonis Milan and the musician Gorki Águila, both of whom have been invited to attend the Forum of Civil Society and Social Actors that will be held in Lima, Peru, on the 10th and 11th of this month, an event parallel to the 8th Summit of the Americas also being held in Peru.

Milan, a member of Cuba Decides, was not allowed to not board the plane that would have taken him to Argentina. The immigration authorities cancelled his boarding pass and acknowledged that he was “regulated” by Cuban State Security Counterintelligence, he told 14ymedio. continue reading

The playwright, who has recently been expelled from the Hermanos Saíz Association and who suffers the permanent harassment from the political police, was intending to travel to Buenos Aires as a guest of the “cultural exchange of the Center for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL).”

At the conclusion of that meeting, the activist had planned to travel from Argentina to Peru, without going through Havana, to attend this month’s events parallel to the 8th Summit of the Americas, as a guest of CADAL and the Center for Journalism and Technology Networks of Peru.

This morning, musician Gorki Águila, a member and leader of the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, was also prevented from traveling, in his case to Miami. Once in the American city he also intended to travel to Peru to attend the Summit.

Theindependent civil society activists suspect that it is a strategy of the Government to prevent the arrival of the opponents in Lima.

“The government wants to avoid the meeting up of forces that occurred in Panama [in 2015] and therefore will not let any of the guests traveling to the Lima Summit leave the country,” the musician said, referring to the attacks against independent activists by of members of the official delegation that occurred that year.

In recent days, the vice president of the National Union of Jurists of Cuba, Yamila González Ferrer, said she would not share any space “with mercenary elements and organizations,” in reference to dissidents who have been accused of responding to the interests of “the empire.”

In the last year, State Security has increased the pressure against activists and dissidents, preventing them from traveling abroad. In most cases the refusal of the right to travel is not permanent, but arbitrary and circumstantial, which makes it difficult to report to international organizations. This strategy is in addition to the arrests, confiscations of personal belongings, the raids of homes and the imposition of legal charges.

In January 2013, Migration and Travel Reforms came into effect that eliminated the “exit permit” previously required for travel abroad. In the first ten months after the approval of the new measures, Cubans made more than 250,000 trips abroad, a record number compared with previous years.

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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.

Pads, Rags or Menstrual Cups?

Women line up at a pharmacy in Cuba for menstrual supplies. (Video Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 26 March 2018 — Marta María Ramírez was given her first tampons in 1991, when she got her first period at age 15. The country was experiencing the deepest days of its economic crisis and sanitary pads were not available. Some 27 years later the situation is little changed and Ramírez, now a journalist and producer, promotes the use of alternatives among Cuban women affected by the shortage and poor quality of sanitary napkins.

Each woman between 10 and 55 years old receives, through the rationed market, a monthly package with 10 “intimates,” as samitary pads are popularly called. The product, manufactured by the state monopoly Mathisa under the brand name ’Mariposas’ (butterflies), is sold at a subsidized price of 1.20 CUP a package, about 5¢ US, but has an impressive record of negative opinions among its users. continue reading

The poor quality of the pads, their poor ability to absorb, the defective glue that prevents them from being firmly fixed to the underwear, in addition to the irregularity in their supply, are some of the most common complaints heard when women are asked about ‘intimates’ on the streets of the country.

Alternatives are available in stores that sell products in hard currency, where several types of pads are sold, from the thinnest for light days to others for days of greater menstrual flow. But at more than 25 CUP a package, which for some can be the equivalent of a full day’s wages, the price is prohibitive for many pockets.

Ed. Note: Apologies for not having subtitles for this video.

“A woman’s menstrual cycle last three to seven days,” gynecologist Niurka Rodríguez tells this newspaper. “I recommend that my patients change their pad, at a minimum, every six hours, but most of them tell me that in the days of greatest menstrual flow they can use up to eight pads” on a single day.

“If you have a period for four days, taking the average, and you change every six hours, then you will need 16 ‘intimates’ for one cycle and the package that is distributed in the ration-market pharmacies only supplies 10 a month, which is not enough,” laments the physician.

However, “very few women who come to my practice use another alternative, such as tampons or a silicone cup that is inserted inside the vagina and manages to collect the flow,” adds Rodriguez, who works from a clinic in the 10 de Octubre municipality. “The cup can be worn for a longer time without great risks and lasts for years.”

The cups are made with medical silicone or TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) and are designed to be used also by those who have allergies, because they do not contain any chemical additives. They do not hurt, nor do they dry out the vaginal walls and they do not leave behind any bits of fibers, as traditional tampons can do.

In none of the more than 20 stores, pharmacies and supermarkets in Havana visited by this newspaper that sell feminine hygiene products in hard currency, were menstrual cups available, and there was only one pharmacy where tampons were available, for a price of 8 convertible pesos (CUC– roughly $8 US) for a box of 20.

Gynecologist Niurka Rodríguez believes that the limited use of these other options among Cuban women is due to several reasons. “The lack of information is vital, because many do not know that these products exist, but also the high prices at which tampons are sold in some pharmacies in CUC prevent them from becoming popular.”

“There is also a lack of information among us, health professionals, because most of my colleagues have never seen a menstrual cup and can not recommend something they know nothing about,” she says. “I am informed because I have a sister who lives in Sweden, where it is very popular.”

“When I use all the pads from the pharmacy I turn to rags,” says Mariela, a 23-year-old Havana woman who learned that habit from her mother, who “lived through very diffcult times, like the crises of the 70s and the 90s.”

“She taught me how to cut a towel into pieces, that I wrap and fill with a bit of cotton, which helps me replace the pads,” she explains to 14ymedio. “The problem is that afterwards you have to wash them very well and hang them in the sun to dry so there is no residue on them  that could affect your health.”

This method is very widespread among Cuban women and became practically obligatory during the most critical years of the so-called Special Period. “At that time everyone went around with their rags in their bags and the worst partwas when you removed one it had to be carefully stored, to take it home and wash it.”

Prejudices also contribute to “the pad remaining the first and most widespread choice among women” on the island, says Dr. Niurka Rodríguez. “There are many popular legends that using a tampon is dirty because the woman has to touch her genitals or that it may end up stuck in the vagina, but these are the result of ignorance.”

“With the tampon I felt liberated,” Marta María Ramírez tells 14ymedio. “Despite the risks (toxic shock syndrome and other longer-term ones that I heard of), I enjoyed being free,” she says.

Toxic shock syndrome is caused by a toxin produced by some types of Staphylococcus bacteria. Although its prevalence is very low (from 1 to 9 cases per 100,000 people) it is estimated that around half of the cases are associated with the use of tampons, particularly among women who leave the product in their vagina for a long time.

Other than that risk, that is explained in every tampon container, women interviewed insist that it is a better option than sanitary pads, because it performs better with regards to “how long it works, cleanliness, mobility and safety,” according to opinions collected by this newspaper.

On March 8, for Women’s Day, Ramírez published 42 demands of Cuban women on her Facebook account. These included the promotion and sale of tampons and menstrual cups in the country at prices that any woman can afford.

A few years ago, Ramírez learned about the work of Feminist Economics, a space that promotes “on this side of the Atlantic, the MenstruAcción campaign, asking the Argentine Congress to pass a law to provide menstrual products free of charge and tax exempt,” she said.

“There I found out about the battles of women in other parts of the planet and I decided to include the mentrual cup in my first book “SurvivalKitForWomen,” which lists objects that all women must carry in their purses.

Ramírez tested the menstrual cup thanks to a friend who bought it for her abroad. “It is safe, hygienic and more economical, having a useful life of up to three years. And in addition, it’s better for the environment,” she explains.

Now, she is disseminating her experiences because “Cuban women need access to information” on these issues “in order to be able to choose and to demand that the government set aside the absurd paternalism that ignores issues that would make us happier.”

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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.

Independent Newscast Faces Censorship

Ignacio González, journalist and director of En Caliente Free Press. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 21 March 2018 — The first memory that many have of Ignacio González was seeing him up to his waist in water reporting on the floods in Havana. Over the years, this independent journalist has narrated innumerable events of the Cuban reality through his YouTube channel and now he has released a newscast.

This week González launched En Caliente (In the Heat of the Moment), a self-financed news program that will be broadcast through social networks from the island with a weekly frequency. The space will address national and international news, but also topics of potential interest for young people, such as technology. continue reading

The director’s objective, as he explained in conversation with 14ymedio, is “to help Cubans see the news that is denied in the official media” and “to contribute a grain of sand to the information balance needed in every society.”

En Caliente aspires to be “its own product, prepared from the independent press and by those outside officialdom,” Gonzalez said, while adjusting the final details of the launch this Wednesday.

En Caliente will try to distance itself, through a modern and fully digital approach, from the sober official newscasts in which the speakers address the audience as if they were on a dais.

Years of work as a reporter have led González to take on the omitted topics, the rumors that try to fill the gap in news on many local and foreign topics.

The journalist is aware that poor internet connectivity, high costs and censorship contribute to Cubans’ misinformation. “It is very difficult and expensive to review one by one the news reports on the network or circumvent the censorship on the national servers against the independent press sites such as Cubanet, CiberCuba, OnCuba and 14ymedio in which there is abundant news, but are almost all blocked,” he laments.

The reporter aspires to offer a weekly summary, a kind of press review, with the most outstanding reports from these independent newspapers collected “in a brief and analytical way.”

The broadcast of each newscast will probably last between seven and eight minutes. González is committed to the viral distribution of material, through mobile phones and USB flash drives capable of counteracting the “computer illiteracy” of many who do not know “how to download a file from the network or how to use a VPN or a proxy.”

“The idea is to show something that is fast, striking and engaging,” says the director, optimistically.

The reporter will appear seated at a virtual table in setting different from what the audience knows now, more on-the-street and urban. Still with much left to “polish” in his new role, Gonzalez has in his favor that no director dictates what he can say and what he can not. It is, in its entirely, a newscast without scissors.

“This first edition is experimental to measure the reactions of the viewers,” says González. Infrastructure problems and the limited resources of a self-financed newscast for the moment, despite its being low cost, complicate the path.

“Little by little, the way the news is presented will be improved and changed, adding a dose of analysis and freshness,” he says, still optimistic.

En Caliente will be developed responding to on-line comments,” he says. “He who does not take risks does not achieve his goals.”

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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.

Film Considered Disrespectful of Jose Marti Rejected By Cuban Film Institute

Cuban filmmaker Yimit Ramírez partially financed his film “I Want to Make a Movie” through crowdfunding. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 March 2018 — The film “I Want to Make a Movie,”  by filmmaker Yimit Ramírez, was excluded from the Special Presentation section of the Young Filmmaker’s Exhibition by officials of the Cuban Institute of Art and Film Industry (ICAIC), who said that the dialog during a scene of his trial was not very respectful of José Martí, who “is sacred.”

The scene that has generated discomfort among the censors has been published by Marta María Ramírez. In it, one of the characters declares himself to not be a follower of Martí and describes the Cuban hero as a “mojón” and “maricón” (turd and faggot). continue reading

The film was to be screened at the 23rd and 12th Cinema in Havana on 3 April, in the Special Presentation Section, followed by a discussion between the artists and the public.

However, the initial program, designed by the exhibition team, was not approved by the ICAIC authorities, which excluded the film from the section and moved its projection to the small Terence Piard Room, recently inaugurated in ICAIC’s headquarters in 23rd Street, in Vedado.

The idea of projecting the film came from the Exhibition itself, but two weeks after the invitation, its developers knew that the ICAIC officials had to “give the go-ahead” to the film before projecting it in one of the rooms.

“It fell to me to talk to Octavio Fraga Guerra, an official I have known for a long time and who, armed with flash memory, demanded that I copy the film so that he could watch it with the president of ICAIC,” Ramírez explains in a post he shared on his Facebook account.

The post also states that his lack of trust in giving ICAIC a copy of the film on a flash memory came mostly from fear that the film would be “leaked as has happened with other works of Cuban filmmakers” that have been entrusted to that institution. Despite his resistance, the official warned him: “If you don’t give me a copy, if won’t be shown.”

After repeatedly telling him that he would take responsibility if the copy was leaked Ramirez agreed. Three hours later his response was that the film would not be screened in the planned section because the official “had not liked a phrase from the film,” while Fraga Guerra clarified that the ICAIC director had not yet seen it.

“I Want to Make a Movie” is the first feature film by Ramírez, who finished it with an 8,000 euros budget obtained through a crowdfunding campaign. The journalist Marta María Ramírez, who designed the communication strategy for the campaign on the Internet, explained to this newspaper that the new screening room “has only 24 seats” and is “small” for the planned showing.

Ramírez explains that the filmmakers “have made tremendous noise with that film and created many expectations” and that it makes no sense to hold a screening where there is only enough space for the team that made the film to attend. “The interesting thing would have been to open a debate with the public,” he says.

“We were asking that it not be a premier because it is a first cut and not the finished film, we wanted to connect with people and talk about other forms of financing, such as crowdfunding, which we don’t know a lot about because we don’t have the internet connection we need,” he says.

The organizers of the show insisted the institution include the film in the planned section with a showing in the 23rd and 12th Cinema, but Roberto Smith de Castro, director of ICAIC, responded categorically that “Martí is sacred” and that the alternative if they wanted to show the film was the Terence Piard Room.

The team putting on the exhibition disagreed in a note posted on their Facebook account, where they said that the decision was made under criteria that they do not share and described as “totally inappropriate” the option to exhibit it in another room.

The outstanding filmmaker Fernando Perez resigned his position as director of the Exhibition in 2010 after a similar maneuver by the ICAIC, when they excluded the documentary made by the filmmaker Ricardo Figueredo about rapper Raudel Collazo, from Escuadrón Patriota. “Not being able to demonstrate in practice the inclusive coherence that I have planned for the Exhibition, I have made the personal decision not to continue at the front of it,” said the director.

Yimit Ramírez, director of the film, is not surprised about what happened and says he expected it. “We did not count on them to make the movie, and we did it, completely independently. It would be nice to see it in the cinemas, but the truth… The truth is that they control only the movie theaters here, there are many other formats in which people can see it.”

In addition, the director has praised the figure of a José Martí that he considers more real than the one promoted by the institutions. “The Martí I love is more human, some like it and others do not, it’s that simple, like the verses,” he said, referring to José Martí’s poetry collection titled “Simple Verses.”

The film team told 14ymedio that the production company will present the film to all competitions in Cuba wherever they are, including the Havana Film Festival, the Nuevitas Hieroscopia Festival and the Almacén de la Imagen  in Camagüey. “Otherwise we will give it away and project it where we can. It’s the price of independence.”

Film critic Dean Luis Reyes expressed his solidarity with the film’s team: “Martí will be a God for some people, but art has to do with doubt, religion is about something else.”

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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.

At 71, Moises Leonardo Prosecuted for Promoting Human Rights at the UN

Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez has been accused by the authorities of “clandestine printing.” (Hablemos Press)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 February —  Promoting Human Rights and advising civil society groups has cost the activist Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez an accusation from the authorities of “clandestine printing.” After a spectacular police search of his home last Tuesday, and the confiscation of several of his tools of the trade, the opponent was released on Wednesday.

In conversation with 14ymedio, Rodríguez, 71, explained that a State Security official attributed his detention to the advice he has given to eight civil society groups “to submit reports to the [United Nations] Universal Periodic Review (UPR),” which the Cuban Government must pass in May.  Through this system, the international organization evaluates the quality of human rights in its member states. continue reading

The activist, coordinator of the Corriente Martiana*, also offered his experience so that a dozen independent organizations can jointly present a report on violations of their rights, which will be part of the documents presented to the UPR.

He explains that, in addition, when asked about the reasons for the search, the agents mentioned the work promoting human rights carried out by Ernesto Guy Perez, focused on teaching and training in the preparation of these reports according to UN standards. “This has annoyed them greatly,” he said.

“On Tuesday after nine o’clock in the morning, six individuals dressed in civilian clothes arrived at my house with a search warrant searching for counter-revolutionary objects and documents,” he told this newspaper.

The activist related how among those who searched his house was an investigator from the Ministry of the Interior, named Iturralde. Two supposed neighbors [as required by law] who live in Cabañas (Artemisa), witnessed the operation. They confiscated “a laptop, a computer tower, a USB stick, a printer and even a blackboard.”

The uniformed agents also took “United Nations documents and others submitted to the Government of Raúl Castro, such as the proposal Para una Cuba Martiana.” The search was so intense that the agents did not hesitate to take even the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, according to Leonardo Rodríguez.

At the end of the search, the activist was taken to Artemisa’s police station along with his youngest daughter and his wife, Ileana de los Ángeles, who accompanied him on a voluntary basis. During the more than 24 hours the detention lasted he refused to drink water, eat, take medications or talk to the agents.

A police investigator assured Rodriguez that they will not return any of the papers found in his house and that he was being prosecuted for the crime of “hiding of printed matter,” which sanctions the preparation or dissemination of publications that do not indicate the place of printing, or that do not specify the identification of their author or their origin.

“They warned me that my eldest daughter, who lives in Havana, could not travel outside the country and that, in my case, I will never travel.” Leticia, his daughter, is also an activist and for the government opponent it is clear that these prohibitions “are issues that State Security imposes outside the law.” Among the illegal actions are threats against his family, something that worries him “extremely.”

The Office of the UN Human Rights Commissioner condemned the “illegal arrest” of the activist on his Twitter account. The entity was concerned about a “pattern of short-term arrests” against Cuban activists and the “confiscation of equipment to limit the exercise of fundamental freedoms.”

The crime of “clandestine printing” of which Rodriguez is accused can be punished, according to the Penal Code, with a sentence of “deprivation of liberty from three months to a year” or a fine of 300 CUP.

Earlier this month, four members of the Pro Press Freedom Association were questioned by State Security after sending a report on press freedom to the UN last December. The document includes the pressures, arbitrary arrests and confiscations of tools of the trade against independent journalists during the last year.

*Translator’s note: Corriente Martiana [(José) Martí Current] describes itself as a ’patriotic, humanitarian and cultural organization in service to Cuban civil society.”

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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 Authorities Confiscate All Copies of a Book About Rap at the Havana Book Fair

The Guantanamera imprint seeks to disseminate the works of Cuban authors. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 13 February 2018 — A book of testimonies and interviews, Rapping a Utopian Cuba by writer Alejandro Zamora Montes from the Spanish publisher Guantanamera, was withdrawn by the authorities from the recently concluded Havana International Book Fair, an act that activist Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna labelled as censorship in statements to 14ymedio.

Madrazo visited the exhibition stand of the Sevillian publishing house in La Cabaña fortress, home of the book fair, where he was informed that on the second day of the Fair, 2 February, authorities from the General Customs Office of the Republic (AGR) confiscated all copies of the book. Several other sources confirmed this confiscation to this newspaper.

Rapping a Utopian Cuba is a collection of interviews conducted by Zamora Montes with singers and promoters of the urban genre. It was published by Guantanamera in March 2017, although its first presentation on the island was delayed until this February. continue reading

“Shortly after one of the publisher’s representatives had given the author four copies of his book, a Customs official appeared without any papers or anything and took them all,” said Madrazo.

One of the young women who worked at that stall told Madrazo Luna, “This book can not be distributed.” The dissident and the directors of Guantanamera tried to get more details at the book fair, in order to submit a complaint, but received only the timid answer, “We’re not looking for problems.”

Daniel Pinilla, director of the publishing house, told 14ymedio that “there was a problem with Customs due to an administrative issue and it was one of the books they considered to be a problem and so it could not be presented.”

Despite the inconvenience, Pinilla reiterates that the editors of the imprint, which was created to disseminate the works of Cuban authors, are continuing the project “with the hope of achieving good visibility for the catalog in 2018, through a literary prize with the prestigious Carmen Balcells literary agency and other initiatives.”

The author, Alejandro Zamora Montes, declined to make a statement to this newspaper about the incident, saying he was not in a position to talk about it.

The book includes an interview with the rapper Aldo, from the duo Los Aldeanos, a group censored in the official media of the Island. This may be the reason for the withdrawal of the book from the Fair.

Several anonymous sources of the Cuban Book Institute (ICL) consulted by this newspaper suspect that Zamora Montes’s book was excluded from the presentations and commercialization during the recently concluded Book Fair precisely because of that interview and other interviews with voices critical of the government, such as the musician Silvito El libre.

The interview with Aldo took place in 2014, shortly before the publication of an Associated Press (AP) report naming several figures of the Cuban hip hop movement who receive support from a program of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The AP said that the project sought, through urban music, to “lead Cuban youth to oppose the Government of the Island.” After the publication of that report the duo Los Aldeanos was accused in the official press of receiving political instructions from Washington and the siege of censorship closed even more tightly around the musicians.

The book also includes the testimony of graffiti artist Yulier Rodríguez, who has recently been arrested and is facing police pressure to force him to erase his graffiti from Havana facades. Rodriguez, however, was not aware that Rapping a Utopian Cuba was going to be presented at this year’s literary event.

For Madrazo the withdrawal of the work weighs heavily on readers because “the book is a humble example that only seeks to dignify what has been an underground movement of alternative urban culture. It takes the pulse of more than 20 years of hip hop culture in Cuba.”

According to the activist, the speech of these musicians is still “annoying” to the authorities who believe that “rap is war.” However, the urban genre has helped to “unmask the racism in which we have been educated and how the fear of blacks operates as an instrument of power in Cuba today.”

The decision to remove the book came as a surprise to its author who commented in an interview, at the end of 2017, that his book would appear at the next Havana International Book Fair. Zamora Montes hoped that the compilation would provoke “a positive debate” and would continue the opening of a discussion around Cuban hip hop.

Hip hop has been a target of Cuba’s cultural authorities since its inception, especially the work of those singers and composers whose lyrics openly criticize the government and narrate the social problems that are often ignored by the official press.

Racism, violence, police repression, drug use and lack of freedom are some of the social issues addressed in the lyrics of this urban genre that gets under the skin of officials of the Ministry of Culture.

The moment of greatest friction occurred in 2011 when the government appropriated the Rotilla Festival, an event organized by the independent Matraka project.

Guantanamera is a project of Lantia Publishing that was started under the direction of Pinilla in 2016 who told the EFE agency that it is “a loudspeaker in search of talent” on the island.

The editorial director of the Spanish imprint Guantanamera, Daniel Pinilla (second from the right), the Cuban writer Daniel Burguet (right) and the directors of Lantia Publishing, Enrique Parrilla (left) and Chema García (second from left), in the 27th International Book Fair of Havana. (EFE)

It is the second time that the Seville publisher has participated in the Havana Book Fair. Last year it arrived with its first catalog of 40 works and it now has more than one hundred Cuban titles. Guantanamera publishes books by young authors such as Daniel Burguet and Ariel Maceo Téllez, as well as by older writers such as Eduardo del Llano and Esther Suárez Durán.

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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.

"Censorship Has Been A Constant In My Work," Laments Chinese Writer Yu Hua In Havana

A poster for Yu Hua’s works at this year’s Havana Book Fair, which is focused on China.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 8 February 2018 — The young woman walks among the booths selling Chinese literature at the Havana Book Fair in search of works by this year’s star attraction, the writer Yu Hua, who finds a passionate readership on the island. With his criticisms of the censorship imposed on his work by the Chinese government, the novelist also defies the Cuban authorities.

The writer, who feels most at ease up close and personal, joined six other authors on Friday speaking to a group of students from the Confucius Institute, at the spacious headquarters of the educational institution inaugurated in Havana’s Chinatown in 2015. During the event they asked him the question that always hovers over Yu: “How have you managed to get around censorship in your country?” continue reading

Before the astonished glances of some officials present at the encounter, the writer got right to the point: “Censorship has been a constant in my work,” he said. He criticized with particular harshness the film adaptation of his work To Live, taken to the screen by the director Zhang Yimou, which won of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes in 1994.

“[The movie] did not represent what I wrote because so many aspects had to be deleted and changed because of censorship that it was unrecognizable,” he lamented in front of the students of Chinese Language and Culture. The writer believes that the “scissors” applied were stricter because at the time the film was made the officials who controlled the cinema were very severe.

Whether because of his skill as a writer, or the discomfort he generates among his censors, Yu’s work has enjoyed great popularity in this year’s Fair. His writing has brought a spirited touch to the event, one in which many Cuban authors are striking by their absence, particularly those who live in exile or who, although they continue to reside on the island, are not looked upon kindly by officialdom, for example the novelist Wendy Guerra.

“They sold out the first day,” responds the staff tending the stalls where Yu’s works “flew off the shelves.” A teenager who asked if the author was going to attend the Fair was very disappointed by the response: “He’s already been here.”

Yu seems to have a lot of experience in gracefully wriggling out of the stilted ceremonies, official honors and autograph signing events. He is one of China’s most important living authors, having sold millions of copies of his works around the world, and has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature on more than one occasion.

His best-known work, To Live, narrates a raw and sublime history, which spans the time from the fall of the Chinese Empire and the fratricidal struggles, until the arrival of the Cultural Revolution. Fugui, the protagonist, is both a witness and a participant in the brutal and accelerated change that is shaking his country. The novel explores the limits, or the absence of limits, of the human being in a context where he is overwhelmed and forced to act.

His other books, including Chronicles of a Blood Merchant (1998), Cries in the Drizzle (2004), Brothers (2008), The Seventh Day (2013), and China in Ten Words (2012), have had to deal in one way or another with official objections.

“China will change, the Communist Party will not always govern, there will come a day when China will be truly democratic and free,” the author repeated in his interviews, reinforcing his dissident image in the eyes of the Beijing regime.

The son of a surgeon and a doctor, Yu Hua, who had to work as a dentist in an era when few could choose their profession, is an exception in the midst of the boredom of the Fair, whose Guest of Honor this year is China. His works have outshone those volumes with their ubiquitous red covers that detail the politics of China’s Communist Party, filled with pages that sing the praises of the current economic health of the Asian giant.

The irreverent author has ended up eclipsing the other 200 writers, intellectuals and officials of his country who landed on the island, accompanied by nearly 7,000 copies of classic and contemporary works published in Spanish, English and Mandarin.

On Wednesday, few readers bothered to visit the immense space of nearly 4,500 square feet where you can find in Spanish the second volume of Xi Jinping: The Government and Administration of China , which addresses the policies of China’s current president. Readers are only interested in looking for Yu’s works.

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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.

An Arab Sheikh ’Offers’ 5 Billion Dollars for Cuba

Four friends discuss the offer of an Arab Sheikh to buy Cuba in Eduardo del Llano’s short film. (Still)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 5 February 2018 — How would the inhabitants of Cuba react if suddenly a Dubai millionaire wanted to buy the island for 5 billion dollars? That is the question the filmmaker Eduardo del Llano asks in his short film Domino, a part of the series Los cuentos de Nicanor (The Tales of Nicanor), which he has published on his YouTube channel under the label of Sex Machine Productions.

The story of the short, which revolves around four friends who interrupt the routine of their domino game on hearing this unusual news, overflows with critical humor about citizen misinformation, decision making without popular consultation and the question of what, really, is Cuba.

From this absurd opening emerge different positions and interests that reflect both the fears and doubts that assail the four men before the tempting offer to sell their own country. continue reading

The premiere of this piece, number 14 in the series, has arrived a year after the start of its filming. The director says he wanted to capture “the different types of Cubans” around the table and to weave a plot that is a example of “deep Havana.”

“There is a sense that things are happening, that decisions are being made, that domino pieces are being played and no one knows until after it has already happened and that feeling is always disturbing,” Del Llano emphasizes, speaking about the context that led him to shoot Domino.

The well-known character Nicanor O’Donnell, played by Luis Alberto García, after learning that the nation is going to be bought, starts to calculate — with the other three players La Ciencia (Néstor Jiménez), Sangremono (Omar Franco) and Pepe, El Víctima (Miguel Moreno) — how much money will be paid to each inhabitant once the transaction is done

Arithmetic that replaces any kind of the nationalist outburst and the comments that spring from the table have more to do with the pragmatism of survival than with any patriotic pose. The country is up for auction with its human beings included and in the acceptance of that situation there is no pain or bitterness, only pragmatism.

The actress Lola Amores makes a brief appearance as the same character she played in Santa and Andrés, Carlos Lechuga’s movie censored by the Cuban authorities. The seconds she appears in the screen work as a nod towards the viewer and in solidarity with the young filmmaker.

The men’s first calculations of earnings lead the players to think that each resident on the island will receive 10 million dollars when the purchase of the national territory is completed, an illusion that passes quickly because El Sciencia (Science) is in charge of correcting the mathematical error; he confirms that they will only get 500 dollars per capita.

The calculation opens the way to reflection on the egalitarianism that has ruled many aspects of the national economy and the political discourses, on introducing the possibility that the distribution will be a function of need.

There is also no shortage of irony in reference to the external enemy. “And if all this is just a CIA maneuver (…) it would be a simple way to end communism,” whispers Pepe El Víctima, suspicious, but he recovers immediately: “500 dollars is crap but it’s a lot more than half of all Cubans have ever seen in their damn life.”

Without pain or nostalgia, the concerns of the friends run the gamut, including whether they will have to embrace the Islamic faith or emigrate after the sale of the country. “What is Cuba, us or the land?” The question triggers a doubt about who will be included in the distribution, touching on exiles, government opponents, the terminally ill and Cubans about to be born.

The friends are also incredulous that the capital might be used in collective works: “They can no longer grind us down with all that talk about how they are going to invest in social plans.”

The sparkling dialogue shows Del Llano’s skill in filmmaking where he combines the irrational with sharp and real criticism. “Typical. They are talking about selling the country and no one tells us anything, they don’t even consult us,” complains Nicanor, for whom “there is no journalist, not one” who dares to report what is happening.

The mockery goes one step further until it touches on the authorities. “When they get that money and they’re left with no territory to govern, does the government stop being a government?”

Without tears or lamentations, in the tenement passageway and while slapping down the dominos, the four men express their conviction that the decisions will be taken in a place very distant from their opinions. All they can do is wait for the Island to pass from one hand to another, and so it has been for as long as they can remember.

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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.

Minors Fly Solo on the Social Networks

Many children connect in the company of friends, classmates or alone. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 1 February 2018 — “Señora, can you help me get a recharge?” asks the little voice of a girl clutching a pair of convertible pesos in her hands. The customer goes to Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) to fulfill the request and the girl, thanks to the women’s help, is happy to chat on Facebook from a Wi-Fi zone and post photos on Instagram, outside the control of her parents.

The number of minors going onto social networks in Cuba is increasing. There are no official statistics on the number of children using these platforms, but it is enough to observe one of the wireless navigation zones installed in squares and parks to confirm the constant presence of little kids attached to cellphones or tablets. continue reading

ETECSA regulations require customers using the internet service in wifi zones to be over 18. In addition, it does not sell recharges to children and in its navigation rooms users under 12 must be in the company of an adult.

However, the phenomenon of children using social networks without surveillance has grown in tandem with the growth of connectivity on the Island. Across the country there are 370 public sites for wireless Internet access and more than 630 navigation rooms, according to information offered by the Communications Minister, Maimir Mesa, to the deputies of the National Assembly in July 2017.

Many children connect in the company of friends, classmates from school or alone. They can access the network using an adult browsing account or buy an access card good for a few hours, or get on with the help of an adult. Once inside the vast digital territory they are exposed to more dangers than they can imagine.

Karolina is 15 and publishes on her Facebook wall every day. She opened the account by claiming an age she has not yet reached and her profile photo shows her in short shorts with a blouse that reveals her entire abdoman. On her wall other users have put shameless and lusty emoticons.

The young woman, who lives in the city of Camagüey, enters the networks through a domestic connection assigned to her father, a specialist in a hospital in the area. “When I come home from work, she is hooked up to the computer and sometimes she eats with the plate in her hand so as not to be separated from the screen,” says her mother.

The computer does not have any parental control filter enabled and the teenager spends most of her time on Facebook chat. “Sometimes I talk to my friends and sometimes I talk to someone who shows up,” she tells 14ymedio. She can’t say how old the unknown people are she exchanges greetings with, although she infers that they are about her age.

One of the dangers minors are exposed to on-line is so-called grooming, which consists of an adult posing as a minor to interact with children. The perpetrator seeks to win the friendship of the child for his benefit, asking her to send pictures with nudity and, in the worst case, it may end with a sexual assault if the adult manages to contact the victim in person.

Outside an office of ETECSA, the Cuban state phone company. It is common for children to ask adults to buy them recharge cards so they can surf the internet at public wifi points. (14ymedio)

The inexperience of Cuban Internet users, who for years remained oblivious to the existence of the Internet, the lack of a public debate on these dangers and the moral relaxation that runs through Cuban society aggravate the fragility of these children before virtual predators.

Services such as Facebook and Twitter are subject to the law for the protection of children’s privacy (COPPA), which governs companies based in the United States. The rule prevents a minor from having either an email address or a social network profile, but the ways to circumvent the obstacle are many.

Neither of her parents reviewed what Karolina published on social networks and both were surprised when a neighbor commented on what was going on. The teenager had uploaded photos of herself in poses of different types and had published intimate details about her life and family. In addition, she made public her personal address and landline number.

“We almost had a heart attack,” says her father the doctor. A reprimand was the answer, but the teenager continues to post on her wall. “What can we do about it if she entertains herself there?” the mother justifies.

“There is no practice in using parental controls and in general in Cuba there is a lot of permissiveness with children, who access any type of digital content,” says Amaury Velázquez, a designer and developer of web applications. The professional has worked in the programming of several digital tools focused on the youngest users.

“They don’t only see it on the Internet, but most of the children watch sex scenes in the movies their parents are watching without checking that there is a child in front of them. They are aware of the adult stories of soap operas and the sex jokes that are made in front of them,” says the computer scientist.

Experts warn that children under 14 should not have social networks and several child psychologists consulted by this newspaper even suggest that they should not have access to a mobile phone before that age. “Not even a cell phone without a fixed line, because then they use Zapya to exchange content,” adds a specialist in the field consulted by 14ymedio and who preferred anonymity.

The popular application is used by many Cuban children and teenagers to share photos, songs and videos via Bluetooth. “I have treated several children with symptoms of stress because they have been victims of ridicule from their classmates because of this,’ adds the psychologist. “One teenager I treated had terrible anxiety over a half-naked photo of her that was shared in Zapya.”

Twelve-year-old Neily lied when she opened a Facebook account and said she was born in 1999 although her profile picture betrays her as being younger. In her preferences she marked that she is interested in trap music, is a fan of Bad Bunny and shares selfies in which she throws a kiss to the camera with her lips painted intensely red.

“When there are temporary cards to recharge an hour it is better because I can ask anyone in the line to buy me one and then I can surf,” the young woman explains to a friend as she waits for a new customer to arrive at the ETECSA office in the centrally located Focsa building. This Tuesday Neily went out with several friends after school, intending to “go for the wifi,” the new preferred destination for children this age.

The girl boasts to her friends that she has connected with her musical idol Bad Bunny on Facebook and says he said hello to her: “Thank you very much, Bunny” was the brief message she received. It does not occur to her that maybe it was not her favorite singer who was writing to her. And her parents, they know nothing about it.

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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.

IAPA Condemns Cuban State Security’s Threats Against ’14ymedio’ Journalist

Gustavo Mohme, president of the Inter-American Press Association. (Congress of the Republic of Peru / Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 January 2018 – Cuban State Security’s threats against Luz Escobar, a journalist with 14ymedio, were condemned on Tuesday in a statement by the Inter-American Press Association (SIP); the organizations said that the threats “show that restrictions and challenges continue to confront the exercise of freedom of the press” on the island, as they have since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

“We are concerned that this new harassment of an independent journalist only reflects the government’s intolerance and lack of will,” the president of the IAPA, Gustavo Mohme, said in the note.

Last Monday, 14ymedio published an article in which it made known that Luz Escobar, who has been working for this medium since its founding in 2014, had been summoned in Havana by agents of the political police, who invited her to collaborate with the Government and thus “influence the editorial line” of this newspaper. continue reading

During the hour and twenty minute meeting, and before the professional had received and rejected the offer, the agents threatened to prevent her from leaving the country, said they would pressure her family members, and would accuse her in front of her neighbors of being a “counterrevolutionary.”

In a recent article framed as a letter to the journalist, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, openly stated her support for Luz Escobar. “They, without planning to, have given you the best argument to continue your career in journalism, because they have shown you that ‘up there’ nothing remains of respect for the citizen, for ethics, morality, sincerity, integrity… and much less for COURAGE. Of which you possess oceans,” she told the journalist.

The president of the IAPA has reiterated that what is happening in Cuba “continues to be a priority issue” for the organization he presides over. The statement also mentions another incident that occurred on January 11 in which the authorities detained journalists Sol García Basulto, Inalkis Rodríguez and Henry Constantín Ferreiro, members of the magazine La Hora de Cuba  in Camagüey.

IAPA continues to emphasize that this action by Cuban State Security against the journalists of La Hora de Cuba was due to the presence of President Raúl Castro in Camagüey, since he was visiting the city. ” Constantín Ferreiro and Garcia continue to be prohibited from leaving Camagüey, where they reside,” the statement reads, noting that they had been accused of the crime of “usurpation of legal capacity” because, according to the government, they have not been “duly authorized” to practice as journalists.

In its latest report on Cuba, the IAPA denounced that the lack of press freedom on the island worsened in 2017. The non-profit organization said that this was due to an increase in “the aggressions against independent journalists and even their relatives, and against users of social networks by police bodies” with the collaboration of the Ministry of Justice.

In the Human Rights Watch’s 2017 Annual Report published on Thursday, the organization notes that the Government of Cuba “detains, harasses and threatens independent reporters” among other serious violations of people’s rights and freedoms.

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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.

Letter to a Threatened Journalist

Luz Escobar has worked for 14ymedio since its founding in 2014. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 17 January 2018 – Luz, you have had an incredible “privilege”: To see up close the true face under the Fantômas mask.

In your police interview this Monday those State Security agents showed you, with complete self-confidence, who they really are, what is hidden behind the discourse of supposed ‘Revolutionary ethics’ and ‘defense of the country.’ In reality, under their clothes they are ‘mafioso’ whose methods mimic the worst style of the Camorra.

They have threatened you, they have warned you that the people closest to you will pay the consequences, they have even asked you to become one of them to betray your colleagues. All this, using the only tool they know: repression.

Your life will become more difficult from now on. Many friends will stop calling you, others will cross to the other side of the street when they see you, dozens of acquaintances will say you’ve gone crazy or that you are brainwashed, others will advise you to leave the country as soon as possible, to shut up, to stop writing. Some relatives will tell you to think about your daughters, while the fence around your house, your neighborhood, your person, will become suffocating.

They themselves, with the characteristic abuse of power, will spread the word that you are a ‘mercenary’ or, in the worst case, that you work for the ‘apparatus’ as an ‘undercover agent’. Distrust will rise like a wall around your work. These campaigns of defamation and demonization will affect every detail of your existence, from who knocks on your door to sell you a little milk, to the phrases the teachers repeat in your daughters’ classrooms.

However, from today, you will also feel a strange lightness, as if a weight you had been carrying on your shoulders for years has been lifted. They, without planning to, have given you the best argument to continue your career in journalism, because they have shown you that ‘up there’ nothing remains of respect for the citizen, for ethics, morality, sincerity, integrity… and much less for COURAGE. Of which you possess oceans.

Welcome to your new life. Enjoy it and be free.

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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.

Turmoil Previously in Front of US Consulate in Havana Moves to a Quiet Street in Miramar

Part of the strict security routine that was deployed around the US Embassy is being transferred to the Colombian consulate. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 11 January 2018 — Jimena yawns and says she has barely slept since leaving San Juan y Martínez, in Pinar del Río province, to be on time Wednesday at the Colombian consulate in Havana. The quiet street in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood where the consulate is located has become a hive of activity this week.

Quick off the mark, the residents around the diplomatic site have not missed the opportunity to put together a network of businesses to meet the needs of the hundreds of Cubans who arrive every day. From the water sellers, the residents who charge a fee to use their bathrooms, to those who rent simple accommodations, all are doing a brisk business in this ’off-season’ of the year.

Since Washington drastically reduced its diplomatic staff in Cuba and canceled the handling of visa processing in Havana because of the alleged acoustic attacks, thousands of Cubans have been left in limbo in the middle of a process to emigrate or visit the United States. continue reading

The despair set off by the interruption in processing visas is now felt in every inch of Calle 14 between 5th and 7th in Havana’s Playa municipality, near the Colombian consulate. People are arriving from all parts of the Island, hoping to travel to the US Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, where they must go to get their permission to enter the US.

Every face is one of anguish as they wait more than 50 yards from the consulate entrance. The police have placed an improvised set of fences and gates to keep the applicants away from the embassy entrance. The street is closed to traffic and no vehicles are allowed to park in the block.

The authorities have also deployed personnel from State Security, who, although dressed in civilian clothes, are easily identified by those waiting based on their military hairstyles and the way they constantly observe the line, which grows as the morning progresses.

“Our routine has been destroyed,” laments José, a retiree who works guarding the entrance of a prosperous house that rents rooms to tourists. “Customers can’t get here by car and when they come from the airport they have to get out of the taxi in the next block and lug their suitcases,” he laments.

The neighborhood, with several embassies and diplomatic residences, is experiencing a shock. In several places people have put down cardboard to sleep on through the night so as not to lose their place in line. “They urinate in the garden,” laments José, for whom the most difficult part is that “the police are everywhere and now you can not even buy an egg ‘under the table’.”

The line for US travel documents ordinarily formed in the park at Calzada and K, in Vedado, a place that traditionally had hosted “the line to leave,” jokes José.

Now, the sea of people has moved to this street in Miramar, where the well-oiled infrastructure of services created by local entrepreneurs around the US embassy does not yet exist. The commercial network ranged from coffee shops to places where self-employed workers charged people to fill out the forms for the visa process.

In the new location everything seems improvised and disconnected, beginning with the small number of personnel in the Colombian consulate that is trying to manage the avalanche of people, the haphazardness of the space for people arriving and waiting, and the lack of food services for those who must wait for hours, in a neighborhood where things generally cost more than they do elsewhere in Havana.

“An egg sandwich cost me 3 CUC in a private coffee shop, because almost everyone who lives in this part of the city has money, or earns it from renting [to tourists] or is a foreigner,” complains a man who says he arrived from Remedios, in Villa Clara. “If I have to stay another day here I’m going to have spent all my money,” he says.

Beside him, a woman describes the journey she made from Las Tunas and complains loudly that for the second consecutive day she has not been seen. “I have all my papers and my appointment for the US visa is scheduled for the end of the month in Bogota, but the doorman says they are only serving those who are traveling this week.”

The guard raises his arms and asks for silence. The human chorus of laments and demands is silent for a moment. The man, overwhelmed, clarifies that only requests from those with the earliest appointments in Colombia are being processed.

“You must be calm, as far as we are concerned, a great effort is being made and so far nobody has been unable to travel but it is important to organize the entrance, which can only be by date of the first summons,” says the man without managing to calm the spirits.

He then selects the group that will enter the consulate. Several policemen accompany the official and are in charge of stopping the vehicular traffic on the cross street so that people can cross to the other side. The line of the chosen ones covers the distance in silence, while those who remain outside watch them with a mixture of envy and resignation. The conversation breaks out again when the police move away.

Manuel Perdomo says he wants to see his son in Miami. He shares with the others what he knows about the procedures in Colombia. “It is necessary to take a certificate of vaccines and a summary of your clinical history to facilitate the medical check-up,” says the man, who expects to receive a US residence premit under the family reunification program.

“Anyone who is missing a vaccine is going to have to pay for it there,” he says, with his finger pointing to that distant and dreamed of place that Bogotá has become. Perdomo exchanges advice on what awaits them in Colombia because he believes they should help each other. “We are the ones affected,” he says.

This video is not subtitled, but gives a sense of the scene around the consulate

A few yards away, a neighbor on the block charges 5 Cuban pesos for access to his bathroom. “I have toilet paper, soap and a little cologne for those who want to clean up,” he promotes his service. “If someone wants to take a shower you can do that too, but that costs more,” he clarifies.

The bathroom is small and the mirror over the sink is broken. Near the sink, on some tiles that lost their shine years ago, they have stuck a sign that announces that in a nearby house “forms are filled out.” The splashes of water have blurred the phrase, but you can still read the house number and a telephone number.

The most common complaint heard alludes to the lack of information about the new procedures. Jimena is worried about having to connect to the internet to complete some form. “They told me that they will give me the printed forms here, but what if it’s not true?”

Her son has warned by a fellow resident of Pinar del Río not to pay 20 Cuban convertible pesos for the service to fill out the consular documents. “He told me that he is going to take care of everything from Miami, because I do not have the slightest idea of how to connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot,” she says.

“You can not be here, señora, you have to go to the corner and wait for the official to review the papers,” a uniformed man tells a woman. The man turns and yells at an independent journalist, telling him that photographs are not allowed. He also tells a young woman to turn off her phone before entering the room.

Little by little, part of the strict security routine that was deployed around the US Embassy is being transferred to the Colombian consulate.

Jimena’s fears do not end in Cuba. His biggest nightmare is to arrive in Bogotá and be asked for a document she does not have. The mere idea that she might have to return to the Island to look for a paper robs her of her sleep. “Just in case, I’m taking everything, even what is not necessary,” she says, and shows a pink folder cluttered with papers.

At noon, the the nearly fifty people still standing in line wilt with fatigue. The rest have gone to have lunch or doze under nearby trees.

The guard, who until last December yawned in his booth overcome by  boredom, stares at the line. “Señora you can’t be here,” he warns a Cuban woman living in Miami who approaches the consulate door to try to enter. The woman complains that she has come to help her daughter obtain the Colombian visa and that everything is very badly organized.

At several points, employees have posted a sign with an email to clear up doubts and get an appointment, but most of those who arrive prefer to be “present in body.” The anguish that they have lived for weeks, since the relationship between Washington and Havana began to get complicated, is not calmed with an email.

“I’m staying here until the Colombian visa is stamped on my passport, so I have to sleep overnight in the street,” says José Carlos, a Havana resident who has been waiting for two years to reunite with his children and his wife “on the other side of the puddle.” And he adds, “Anyway, I already sold my house so I’m renting and no one is at home waiting for me.”

As evening starts to fall pessimism falls over the line. “There are no guarantees that the United States will grant us the visa,” says a female voice that comes from a corner of the group. “All this can be for nothing and a tremendous loss of money,” she adds. José Carlos silences her: “Do not be a wet blanket, when you get to Yuma you will not remember any of this.”

The guard continues to watch the group closely, while darkness settles over busy Calle 14 in Miramar.

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