Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio

Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)
Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, continue reading

the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.

For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.

For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.

“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.

“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.

In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, ​​represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.

Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”

Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.

He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”

Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.

In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.

Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.

Obama Praises The Courage Of Dissidents In An Unprecedented Meeting / EFE, 14ymedio

US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)
US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.

In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.

The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).

“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.

“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.

On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.

Cuba’s ‘Super Tuesday’: US Dollar ‘Freed’ and Havana Plants a Ceiba Tree / 14ymedio

An American flag flies on a pedicab Monday in Havana. (EFE)
An American flag flies on a pedicab Monday in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 March 2016 — It was an open secret that the United States would approve a new package of relaxations before Barack Obama’s official visit to Cuba. However, the new measures that widen Cubans’ access to the dollar and the ability of Americans to visit the island have taken some by surprise, among them the official press which, two hours after making the information public, still hasn’t reacted.

On the streets the rumor is just starting to get out that “the yumas (Americans) opened up the fulas (bucks),” a reference to the authorization to use the U.S. dollar from Cuba, and the new ability for residents of the island to maintain bank accounts in the United States. Amid the daily hardships, many cling to the hope that “Obama’s package-attack,” as it was baptized by a taxi driver this morning, will improve their lives.

Among the amendments that are beginning to spark the most excitement is the possibility that United States companies can engage in transactions “related to sponsorship or contracting with Cuban citizens to work or provide services in the United States,” a measure that benefits athletes, artists and other professional sectors.

Moises is 39 and drives a horse-drawn carriage for tourists around Havana’s Central Park. “I just heard about it because a customer heard it on TV in the hotel,” he told this newspaper. He has a degree in mechanical engineering, and hopes “to get a pinchita (visa) to come and go… I don’t want to stay permanently, but I would like to earn some money over there and live over here,” he explains.

Near the Plaza de Armas, the booksellers only have time to think about their own problems. The authorities in Old Havana have warned them they can’t set up there between 15 and 23 March. “It’s all about Obama’s visit,” complains one who sells books from the fifties and sixties. His daughter, who works in the food industry near the airport has also been told her workplace will be closed until after the visit of the US president.

Despite the inconvenience and the loss of money it means, the bookseller is happy with the new measures. “At last some good news, thank God, because the truth is we’ve had a tremendous bad patch of problems,” he says, cheerfully. Next to him is Osmel, another bookseller who has been selling there for more than a decade. “For my business this is very welcome because it means more trade and probably more tourists. Maybe now they’ll bring more greenbacks to the country,” he speculates.

Among members of the independent civil society, opinions have not been slow in coming. Dagoberto Valdes, director of the magazine Coexistence, believes the new relaxations are consistent “with the policy put in practice in Washington.” However, he demands that “in return, the Cuban government should now end the tax imposed on the dollar, which they justified by the difficulties that existed (in exchanging it) until today.”

Manuel Cuesta Morua, leader of the Progressive Arc, also applauded the gesture. “This is excellent news that indicates the acceleration of the normalization process and it will allow Cuba to better integrate itself into the global economy,” he says. A regime opponent and coordinator of initiatives such as the Otro18 (Another 2018) campaign, Cuesta Morua believes that “the world opening itself to Cuba implies the United States opening itself and that is what is happening.”

“The house of cards constructed by the government over the last fifty-some years to prevent Cubans from connecting to the world is falling down,” added Cuesta Morua.

Activist Miriam Leiva consider it “timely and positive” that Cubans can now use the dollar in banking transactions, because that opens the opportunity for American companies to buy in Cuba companies and also Cuban citizens can import or export goods, not just the self-employed. “What I think is important is that the Cuban government open the possibility to Cubans to enjoy the new measures, that is that it be not only useful for the state, but also for citizen transactions. In short, it is necessary that there be reciprocity with this measure,” she adds.

Satisfaction among the tourists was also evident this morning, as bit by bit they heard the news. Dominic, a German photographer who was waiting for the planting of the new ceiba tree at Havana’s El Templete, believes that news like today’s before the coming of Barack Obama is a hopeful sign. “I’m happy to be in Havana on a historic day, I hope that when I return the economic improvement resulting from a decision of this nature will be noticeable,” he adds.

An artisan on Obispo Street said he didn’t know if the news coming from Washington will be good or bad for Cuba. “To comment on that you have to be an economist, but for me it would be good if, in addition to the Americans ending the ban on using their currency, the government here allowed it to circulate freely and the currency exchanges gave you the real value for it.”

However, skepticism also abounds. “No one can fix this”, said a man who, broom in hand, was trying to remove fallen leaves around the statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, in the center of the square. Near him some were throwing coins – Cuban pesos or Cuban convertible pesos – into the hole where the ceiba will be planted in Havana this Tuesday.

Forty Years Later, What Does The Cuban Constitution Need? / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

The current Cuban Constitution was adopted 40 years ago, in 1976 (EFE / FILE)
The current Cuban Constitution was adopted 40 years ago, in 1976 (EFE / FILE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 23 January 2016 – Forty years in the life a nation is a short time in the long span of history. In politics, on the other hand, three generations are enough to measure the significance of accomplishments that mark a specific period.

With the Socialist Constitution of Cuba turning 40, we are left with the feeling that 1976 was an insignificant year for the institutionalization of the country. The seminal date continues to be 1959, in which the nature and dynamics of power – anti-institutional – were expressed, and not 1976 in which the Cuban Revolution supposedly institutionalized a process of inclusion of the whole society within fundamental rules that are the same for everyone. continue reading

The distance of 16 years between the Revolutionary event and its political institutionalization established and stabilized a particular habit that is typical of pre-modern politics: command by those who triumphed. And the triumph was one of a party above a nation. And so, before 1976, there was the First Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 1975, which was the year when those few who came to dominate the destiny of everyone were institutionalized.

The Communist Party is the origin of the 1976 Constitution. It goes without saying that the origins of the Cuban Constitution were anything but democratic. Its conception and drafting were not the work of a group of notables chosen for their diversity and representative of society, but a rather of a small appointed group consisting of militants of the old Socialist Party, specifically directed to copy the outline of the Bulgarian Constitution from the Socialist era, which in turn was a facsimile of the Soviet Constitution of 1936.

Thus, Cuba backtracked almost four years, if we take 1940 – the year Cuba’s pre-Revolution Constitution had been adopted – as a point of departure for a rich constitutional history that responded to the foundations of a modern constitutional state: limitation of power, fundamental freedoms and separation of powers.

Without prior public consultation, the 1976 Constitution inverts sovereignty and crystalizes two sovereign dimensions over society. In this it exceeds, so to speak, the socialist world that it imitates and where it constantly seeks legitimacy. The inverted sovereignty makes it clear to everyone that the source of law for the acts of the Government is not in the people but at the top of the pyramid: in those who rule in their name. The double dimension of this recovery of the concept of sovereignty that precedes the French Revolution warns us that above us is the Communist ideology and above it, and everything else, including international law, is the Revolution, the source of law in Cuba.

The history of the country over the past 57 years is one of tension between the hegemony of the Communists and the hegemony of the Revolutionaries who are active in the Communist Party and who, owners of everything, rule outside of them and the constitution they copied.

But there are two other basic tensions: that which occurs between the Revolutionaries and the country in which they reign, combining caprice and hormones; and that which is born from the clash between the will of the powers-that-be, and constitutional life.

These two tensions push sporadic reforms and counter-reforms of the Constitution to adapt to social and economic reality, that resists the structural and systematic blows of power, and the needs of survival in the face of this same reality. The 1992 reforms, reasserting the secular character of the Constitution and national sovereignty are in the first sense an adaptation. They were reforms to the extent that they put an end to official atheism, a form of State religion, and deleted the article that thanked the former Soviet Union for the very existence of the Cuban State.

In 2002 there was the counter-reform that once again evidenced the dominion of Revolutionaries with card-carrying Communist credentials. To any doctrinaire Communist, not to mention the rest of society that was emerging in all its plurality, it declared the irreversible character of socialism at the exact moment when evidence suggested the complete contrary. Nothing was irreversible nor had history come to an end: neither that proclaimed by the Communist Manifesto of 1848, nor that proclaimed by the American intellectual Francis Fukuyama in 1980 in his book The End of History and the Last Man.

The 2002 counter-reform indicated, however, a more important fact: the Cuban Revolution managed to institutionalize itself as habit precisely because it denies the constitutional life of the country. Cuban has been governed since 1976 in the same way it was in the 16 years between 1959 and 1976: by force of will and wishful thinking. This seems to tell us that the fundamental and necessary changes in the country can only be achieved through the triumph of another revolution.

Is this advisable? In my view, no. Someone said it superbly: The ends are nothing, the means are everything.

Cuban society has come to maturity through the blows of failures and there is already awareness, across all of society, that the country’s progress will be associated with clear and precise rules of the game that avail everyone and that are above everyone in the sense only that no one is above them.

The Constitutional Consensus project, promoted by various organizations of civil society and politically independent emerged from this awareness. For it what is essential it to define the what before the who and to return sovereignty to its only legitimate owners: the citizens. A prosperous and sustainable country can only grow within clear rules. Also moving in this direction are the proposals of the Cuba Possible project and the Coexistence project.

Similarly, the #Otro18 (Alternative Cuba 2018) project does the same, specifying and seeking to recover sovereignty through civil proposals for a new Electoral Law that guarantees plural participation without mediation of all Cuban citizens, leaving behind the single political subject recognized and legitimized by the powers-that-be: the revolutionary.

Important constitutional reforms of at least four articles of the Constitution are key to move in this direction. These are:

Article 3: Which has to do with the exercise of sovereignty and in which, for these involuntary derivations of the popular rhetoric, it is recognized that the people can exercise direct political power;

Article 5: Which awards hegemonic and implicit superiority to the Communist Party, whose reform extends to;

Article 62: Conceived to limit the exercise of the few recognized citizen rights, and;

Article 137: Which clearly defines the legal subjects with the capacity to reform the Constitution, and specifically excludes the citizens from this capacity.

These constitutional articles taken as a whole proportion the typical shielding of the State from society and the citizenry, and reveal the conceptual distortions in the contractual nature that are at the origins and foundations of constitutional law.

The Cuban government has realized that a profound constitutional reform is necessary. It has raised, on several occasion, that it is working on it, and is doing so clearly behind the backs of the citizens, as it develops a proposal for a new electoral law.

Unfortunately, 40 years later, the same spirit prevails: power is attempting an adjusted reform of its measure without prior public deliberation. A weak logic for the institutional future of the country.

Spanish Lessons for Cuba / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

Citizens choose ballots to exercise their vote in elections at the polling station located at the University of Barcelona. (EFE / Toni Albir)
Citizens choose ballots to exercise their vote in elections at the polling station located at the University of Barcelona. (EFE / Toni Albir)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 28 December 2015 — The general elections held in Spain this 20 December (20-D) contain a number of important lessons for Cuba and for Cubans, as we look ahead to the electoral process in 2018. Here is a reflection on these lessons, at a distance of space and time.

I participated in 20-D as a kind of international observer in the role of representative of the initiative #Otro18*. In the Principality of Asturias, where I was invited – and which I would like to thank, not only for the beauty in miniature of a city like Oveido, but also because the workings of the political systems can be better observed far from the major metropolitan cities – I observed on my arrival the calm bustle in which all the competing political groups prepared, in various ways, for the important exercise of choosing among the diversity of parties and between the four major faces: Mariano Rajoy (Popular Party, PP, in power since 2011), Pedro Sanchez (Spanish Socialist Workers Party, PSOE), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos, (We Can)) and Albert Rivera (Ciudadanos, (Citizens)). continue reading

Upon my arrival I was quickly driven to the House of the People in Oviedo: an exquisite and well-preserved example of the architecture of the 18th century which once served as a home for Catholic nuns and now is home to the PSOE. Being held there, and this is the first lesson for us, was the most fortunate of those typically boring meetings we humans commonly hold. It was the usual meeting, prior to the election cycle, of the different political groups among what they call auditors and guardians: a troop of party members who, on election day, monitor the transparency and fairness of the process.

The meeting included: a rereading the manual updated for the elections; a recounting of the incidents and problems associated with previous elections (the municipal elections held in May throughout Spain); a reminder, in the case of old auditors and guardians, and guidance in the case of new ones, of their duties and rights on the election day; a discussion in detail of what constitutes, according to the code, an electoral offense; and the locations of the local polling stations, among the total of 23,000 to be opened in throughout Spain. All of this was part of the necessarily boring night meeting in one of the PSOE headquarters. I learned there that this also was taking place among the other political parties.

This boredom of this process is a fortunate thing for a political exercise as important and complicated as elections. We should grasp the need for it because it is the only way to tackle one of the key axes of democratic systems: the nervousness that spreads among the political class faced with the uncertainties of citizens’ votes.

The second lesson is that, when it comes to elections in pluralistic system, we must be prepared for surprises. It is not always what you expect, whether it is the trends that mark traditions, or the currents expressed in opinion polls, that do or do not coincide with what happens in reality. In the 20-D elections there were several surprises: a clear end of bipartisanship — that is the dominance of two major parties; the emergence of new parties in Congress (Podemos and Ciudadanos); the dissolution of the arrogant majorities; and a return to the culture of dialogue and agreement needed to advance public policies.

The third lesson is that democracies cannot be hegemonic and respect the rights of minorities. One complaint I hear constantly is that majoritarian systems unleash the temptation to ignore the needs and interests of the minority, to manipulate the mass of voters and to turn the opposition into a noisy species unable to reverse pernicious decisions legitimated by the weight of the majority. Ultimately, and this is a modern element relevant to at least all Western countries, globalized societies are highly fragmented by a multitude of minorities – religious, political, ideological, ethnic or cultural – so that democracies should encourage coalitions that take into account the interests of all. For Cuba this lesson is urgent.

However, the most important lesson for us Cubans is the tolerance and respect for diversity displayed in a society like Spain’s, despite the bitter tone of political debate.

*Translator’s note: #Otro18 refers to the citizen’s initiative “AlternativaCuba2018”, which anticipates multiparty democratic elections in Cuba in 2018, the year in which Raul Castro has announced he will step down as president.

Revolutionary ‘Plattism’* / 14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua

The inevitable contamination of the United States can only be assimilated in a Cuba faced with the exhaustion and advanced age of the Revolution, and the cultural failure of “We will be like Che.”
The inevitable contamination of the United States can only be assimilated in a Cuba faced with the exhaustion and advanced age of the Revolution, and the cultural failure of “We will be like Che.” (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 23 October 2015 — During the State-sponsored 12th Forum of Cuban Civil Society Against the Blockade, which ended last Friday at the Ministry of Public Health’s auditorium in Havana, a unique paper was presented. Under the title “The Blockade: Methodology for Calculating Costs,” Pico Nieves, and expert from the National Institute of Economic Research, presented findings that deserve political attention, but not economic.

After listening to the presentation, one question lingered in the air. What logic does the Cuban government follow when it demands compensation for the costs of a voluntary war and, moreover, one that it did not win?

There are at least six arguments that challenge the proposal from Pico’s research:

Political: Two enemy States do not negotiate. Nothing in international practice or in the literature on States in conflict shows or demonstrates that the friend-enemy relationship, according to the German political theorist Carl Schmitt, involves trade in goods and services between them. The goal motivating such a pair is the disappearance of the other, not business relations. continue reading

Economic: The structure of the Cuban economy is not compatible with the American economy. Goods and services that Cuba could offer are not in the “market basket” of the American citizen, and, with regards to what Cuba could receive from the United States, which is everything, there is no Cuban monetary or wage structure, unless it was reproduced, since the 1970s or ’80s, of the type of a central or peripheral economic relationship that supposedly justified the Cuban Revolution.

Ownership structure: A privatized economy such as that of the United States does not fit with an economy as nationalized as that of Cuba. What would be the State partnership of Cuba with a country like the United States where there isn’t the most remote possibility for a role like the State’s in the Cuban economy, except with regards to trade relations?

Creating wealth: If the Cuban economic model of production was always one of State capitalism, there is a key difference with the American model. There the economic model is one of openness and plurality par excellence, and in Cuba, on the contrary, we are faced with the most closed and centralized economy. This leads to an increasingly important difference, the technological differences which are enormous. In this sense, the only option would have been for the United States to give international organizations political license to flood Cuba with credits. But again, we encounter the obstacle that we are enemies.

Economic policy: The sectors that could be attractive to the United States, for example tourism and cultural sectors, were only opened up in Cuba in the nineties and then only reluctantly.** In the 1970s and ‘80s allowing Yanke tourism in Cuba, the only potential area of economic ties, would have run up against that era’s most important concept of political control: ideological diversionism. US tourism would have brought the American Way of Life, inconceivable in that time.

Ideological: The inevitable contamination from the United States can only be assimilated in a Cuba faced with the exhaustion and advanced age of the Revolution, and the cultural failure of “We will be like Che.” What’s left of that model supposedly superior to and incompatible with capitalism?

In reality, the only chance of economic relations with the United States, in conditions of political peace, would have been through the facilitation of credit and then we would have had a problem not only with the Paris Club, but also with the Washington Consensus and the vulture funds. The inefficiency of the Cuban economy cannot be solved with money.

There is no analysis that could reconcile the Cuban Revolution being in a normal economic relationship with the United States. The Cuban Revolution is a “permanent revolution.” Permanent revolution is war, although it was a cold war, with the United States.

But the government’s insistence on compensation for a voluntary war with the United States, far beyond the political necessity of balancing the accounts for the uncompensated nationalizations, reveals the subconscious of those in power in Cuba: If the model of the command economy was possible with a war mentality, it is only sustainable in relation to the American economy. The Revolutionary “Plattism*” of the better.

Translator’s notes:
*The term “Plattism” refers to the Platt Amendment passed by the US Congress and subsequently adopted into Cuba’s first Constitution in 1901 as a condition for the United States removing its troops from the island. The Amendment gave the United States authority to intervene in Cuba’s foreign affairs, an “occupation without occupiers.”
**After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of its massive subsidies to Cuba, the State was forced to seek other sources of foreign exchange.

An Interview of a Friend / Lilianne Ruiz

Lilianne Ruiz, 9 October 2015 — Oscar needs visibility to get them to stop bothering him in his work just because he is the person he is and because he defends his identity. Typical of those systems where they try to prevent any participation, initiative, voting, creativity. Imagine what kind of hell it is when those who are violent, idle, less intelligent, those who repress, restrict the freedom of the rest.

This interview with Oscar Casanella, my friend, is late appearing in other media and so I am publishing it in my blog.

Oscar Casanella Saint-Blancard has a degree in Biochemistry and is a researcher at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiobiology (INOR). He is also an adjunct professor of Immunology with the Faculty of Biology of the University of Havana, where he has taught without receiving wages since 2006. Despite all the services he offers to society, Casanella has been continually harassed by the political police from Thursday 5 December 2013, when he planned to throw a party to welcome home Ciro Javier Díaz Penedo, a graduate in Mathematics from the University of Havana and a musician in the punk rock band “Porno para Ricardo,” who has been his friend for twenty years and who was returning to Cuba. continue reading

In 2008 Casanella won a scholarship in bioinformatics at the Complutense University of Madrid for 2009 to 2011, and received training in bioinformatics at the Swiss Institute of this specialty in the city of Lausanne. He is currently studying the National Collaborative Curriculum PhD Program in Bioinformatics coordinated by the Virtual Center for Bioinformatics.

Ruiz: When did the harassment against you in your work start?

Casanellas: Both the Deputy Director of INOR, Lorenzo Anasagasti, as well as Pedro Angulo Wilfredo Fernandez Cabezas, both members of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), despite my reputation of 10 years of good work in the INOR, believed the lies of the political police officials that my friends and I were mercenaries, terrorists, annexationist [i.e. want Cuba to become part of the United States] and I continued to maintain friendly relations with Ciro and friends in the opposition that I had met through him. Anasagasti removed me from the post of Executive Secretary of the Forum of Science and Technology of INOR, and he has prevented me from participating in research projects with the centers of the Havana Scientific Center.

He also coerced my colleagues to give him copies of my legal documents, which contain the facts and items violated by the State Security and their collaborators and the letter sent by me to Raul Castro, with an attachment documenting the excellent opinions of me from my colleagues, my neighbors and my students at the University of Havana, claiming that all these documents are enemy propaganda.

 Ruiz: What is your work situation at the moment?

Casanellas: The most recent events are the constraints Anasagasti Angulo is putting on my colleagues. He demands that several laboratory chiefs at INOR’s research department block my access to them with the argument that there is a rule at the center that restricts access to the labs. However, he demands that this apply only to me, not to the rest of the employees who, although they don’t belong to a laboratory can freely enter any one of them, so I feel discriminated against.

I am one of the professors of the molecular biology module, a subject that is taught to doctors who are doing their specialty in oncology, and the person responsible for coordinating the instruction said something very sad to me–distressed and with tears in his eyes–that Anasagasti demanded that I not enter his laboratory, not even to work. This person is very psychologically unbalanced by all the pressure from Anasagasti and is thinking about asking to step down from INOR due to the ethical, professional and personal dilemma, because in addition to the working level we also have a strong friendship.

Anasagasti told another person that he preferred he not do a thesis on which I did the bio-statistic analysis. Despite the pressure, this person allowed and recognized my collaboration on his thesis.

Last year I had planned to teach a course on bio-informatics for researchers and interested workers from INOR and for students from the Biology Faculty at the University of Havana. I obtained authorization from my immediate boss, a classroom was reserved with the teaching department, but Anasagasti didn’t give me authorization. I asked him for a response regarding this negative and he told me, “Oscar, get it into your head that I am going to do everything possible so that you will not have a future in this institution, and I am going to make every step you try to take difficult.”

That is, for the deputy director, his work as a collaborator with State Security — applying the psychological war against me, which has as a secondary effect of a war against my colleagues as well — is more important than researching cancer, teaching and improving the medical and non-medical work of the INOR.

Ruiz: Have you heard anything about the deputy director doing the same thing to other workers?

Casanellas: Yes, Anasagasti showed up with the State Security agents “Victor” and “Mario” on a Sunday last August at the home of Dr. Carlos Vazquez, chief of peripheral tumors at INOR to intimidate him because of his friendship with Manual Cuesta Morua, leader of the Social-Democratic Progressive Arc Party.

Ruiz: Do the conditions at INOR guarantee the best development for the research projects?

Casanellas: I can tell you that many supplies and materials are arranged for personally by the workers. They aren’t provided by the institution. For example, INOR does not provide us with water of the quality required to carry out the experiments. Personally, I have had to go to the  Center of Molecular Immunology in my own car with my own gasoline to look for several gallons of water for INOR research labs, as this center does have the necessary equipment for the purification process.

Years ago we transported cell lines on public buses between INOR and the Scientific Center. The funny part of the story is that in a crowded bus people opened a space around us as a result of my spilling some liquid nitrogen at 196 degrees below zero, which instantly evaporated. People said we were terrorists who were transporting acid.

Imagine that I am doing a PhD in bioinformatics and INOR won’t give me internet access. The chiefs have it. Internet access can already be considered a human right. But here this tool is prioritized for the political cadres, not for the researchers. So I consider myself an off-line bio-informatics specialist.

We recently had the opportunity to publish an article on brain metastases in the World Journal of Oncology Research. The magazine editors ask authors of the selected articles for around $200 USD for the right to publish. When I discussed it with my work colleagues they thought I was crazy, that INOR would never give that amount.

Thanks to my sister, who lives abroad, who paid this amount, we could publish and now INOR’s name appears in an international scientific journal. Everywhere in the world there are institutions that pay the publications who publish their researchers in magazines. In addition, outside of Cuba institutions pay for their workers to have access to scientific journals. We have to ask for help from friends abroad who work in research centers who download items of interest to us and email to them.

Ruiz: Any other anecdotes?

Casanellas: On Tuesday, December 30, 2014 at 11:40 am, I was kidnapped in the INOR by agents from State Security and the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police). Several members of the INOR leadership left their offices to let the agents use them as they were trying to interrogate me because I had invited several friends to Tania Bruguera’s performance in the Plaza of the Revolution, which for us would have recovered a little of the character of the Civic Plaza [its former name] with the completion of performance.

After an hour, the directors of INOR allowed my kidnapping during work hours and without a warrant. Three police cars took me along with my wife, Eleanne Triff Delgado and my cousin Walter Saint-Blancard Valdes to Tarara. Later after another hour of uncertainty they took us to the Guanabo Police Unit.

I was interrogated by several political police agents, among them agents Victor and Mario, until 9:20 PM. Agent Mario sent us off telling us to be careful because it was night, and the end of the year and there were a lot of accidents.

On the return trip my wife, my cousin and I felt that my cousin’s car, which had also been taken on this journey, had a sound in one of the tires that hadn’t been there before the trip to the PNR Station. When we got to my house we checked it and realized that the bolts that hold the wheel on were making the noise because they were loose.

Czech Prime Minister Receives Cuban Regime Opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua / 14ymedio

From left to right, the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Ondrej Ojurik and Manuel Cuesta Morua.(14ymedio)
From left to right, the Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Ondrej Ojurik and Manuel Cuesta Morua.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, September — Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka met Wednesday with Cuban dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua–leader of the Progressive Arc and promoter of several citizen projects–during the last day of the 19th version of Forum 2000 in Prague. In the conversation, the head of state was interested in the political and economic events in Cuba and especially the situation with regards to human rights.

Sobotka, who delivered a speech during the last day of the forum on the promotion of democracy and education for development, welcomed the first signs of opening from the current regime on the island. The prime minister said that the Czech government was going to continue its long tradition of supporting the political liberalization and acceptance of human rights in Cuba. continue reading

Cuesta Morua is one of the five Cuban delegates who participated in Forum 2000, an annual event that started Sunday, bringing together activists and democrats from all over world. The initiative, founded in 1996 by president Vaclav Havel, the Japanese philanthropist Yoheim Sasakawa and the Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Weisel, promotes democratic values, respect for human rights, development of civil society and the strengthening of religious, cultural and ethnic tolerance.

One of the panels most interesting to the Cuban delegation was the debate on the perspectives with regards to relations between Cuba and the United States, according to the Baptist pastor Mario Feliz Lleonart. “We also had an excellent opportunity for exchanges with delegates from around the world and with personalities who now have more elements to evaluate the situation in our country,” added the fellow activist.

The main presentations of this panel were made by Cuesta Morua and another Cuban, the writer Francis Sanchez, with moderation by the Venezuelan Enrique ter Horst. Also participating in the discussion were Barbara Haig from the United States and Marin Palous, representing the European Union.

With regards to the process of normalization between Washington and Havana, pastor Lleonart recognized that more than the differences between the two Cuban panelists, “the idea prevailed that, at the end of the day, the fate of the island must be shaped by Cubans.”

At the close of the panel, Cuesta Morua said that “the triangle is definitely closing,” but that for this to happen, it is necessary that “the United States and the European Union send the same message.” In his opinion, “then it will be the Cuban Government that is isolated, not the people.”

The Other Flag / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, in his Friday meeting with dissidents in Havana
Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, in his Friday meeting with dissidents in Havana

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 15 August 2015 — Six hours after the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy along the Malecon, a similar ceremony occurred on 150th Street in the Cubanacan neighborhood where the official residence of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, charge d’affaires of that country, is located.

All of the heads of the United States Interest Section have lived in this mansion in recent years, and there is a flagpole in its garden. Across from it, congregated hundreds of guests who did not physically fit in the small space where hours earlier American and Cuban officials had witnessed the symbolic act that opened the US embassy in Havana. continue reading

The celebration at the residence was attended by diplomats, representatives of civil society, clergy, intellectuals and Cuban artists along with the large delegation that accompanied John Kerry in his trip to Cuba, including the three Marines who, 54 years ago, lowered the flag when the countries broke off relations, who given the honor of participating in the raising. The US Army Brass Quintet played an international repertoire, with no shortage Cuban pieces such as Guantanamera and Manisero.

In a half-hour meeting, representatives of civil society shared with Kerry their concerns and expectations

In the official residence John Kerry held a half-hour meeting behind closed doors with representatives of civil society activists and independent journalists, including Dagoberto Valdes, Elsa Morejon, Hector Maseda, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Martha Beatriz Roque, Miriam Leiva, Oscar Elias Biscet, Yoani Sanchez and Reinaldo Escobar. Those present shared with Kerry the concerns and expectations generated by the restoration of relations between the two countries and presented an overview of the different projects they are engaged in.

Although the official media did not mention this activity on the busy schedule of the Secretary of State, it was one of the moments that marked the character of the Kerry’s visit to Cuba because it was the only thing that could provoke, and in fact did provoke, friction and controversy.

The Cuban leaders were annoyed because they would have preferred a distancing between the highest US official to step on Cuban soil in half a century, and this part of the non-conforming Cuban citizenry, persecuted, slandered and discriminated against by the government.

Others who shared this annoyance were some opponents, such as the leader of the Ladies in White Berta Soler and activist Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, who declined the invitation they received because they believe that the US government has betrayed them “to establish relations with the dictatorship.”

If there is no progress on the issue of human rights in Cuba, there will be no lifting of the embargo, Kerry said plainly

At the meeting there was nothing that deserves to be classified as secret talks or as parallel agreements. The Cuban guests offered a general explanation of the four points of consensus from civil society, promoted by the Civil Society Open Forum, expressed the need for the United States to unblock all brakes it applies today on internet access for Cubans, and mentioned different initiatives such as developing proposals for a new Electoral Law, creating a “think tank” on Cuban affairs, and the civic actions of different political platforms.

Similarly, guests expressed the concern that main beneficiary of the restoration of relations is the Cuban government, and that the Cuban people will continue to suffer just as if nothing had occurred. Perhaps most important was the response of Kerry on this point. The Secretary of State committed to maintaining his government’s interest in advances on issues of human rights in Cuba. If no steps are taken in this direction there will be no lifting of the embargo, he said plainly.

In Madrid, Cuban Opponents Analyze the Example of the Chilean Transition / Diario de Cuba

Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)
Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Madrid, 3 July 2015 — Several opposition figures from the Island attended in training for Cuban leaders in Madrid, from 2-3 July, looking at the Chilean transition, which was organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL), under the coordination of the former Minister General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, the economist Cristian Larroulet and Carlos Alberto Montaner, among other intellectuals.

Casa de America hosted the meeting behind closed doors, focused exclusively on strengthening Cuban civil society. The workshop is part of a continuation of those held in July of last year on the Spanish transition and in March of 2015 on the formation of the Democratic Unity Roundtable of Venezuela (MUD).

These events have as an objective, in addition to the formation of Cuban leaders and learning about transitions, to promote and facilitate meeting spaces, coordination and reflection among the participants. The writers Roberto Ampuero and Mauricio Rojas were others invited to join this initiative, with closing remarks on the dialog addressing the convening topic.

Among the Cuban opposition figures were Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Eliecer Avila, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent.

Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.

Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. continue reading

Among the participants from the island are Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Vladimiro Roca, Laritza Diversent, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Wilfredo Vallin, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Guillermo Fariñas and Boris Gonzalez Arenas.

The first meeting of the event was held last December 2014 in the Mexican capital. At that meeting they talked about the diversity of peaceful means to fight for democracy, the role of exile and the importance of identifying the minimum points of consensus to move forward, if not in the desired unity, at least in arranging purposes.

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference poster for this year’s meeting.

Mass in Cuba for Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero / Cubanet, Ignacio Gonzalez and Osmel Almaguer

cubanet square logoCubanet, Ignacio Gonzalez and Osmel Almaguer, Havana, 13 May 2015 – A Mass for the deceased Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, opposition leader, and Harold Cepero, activist, was held this afternoon at the Church of Los Pasionistas in Havana, with Rosa María Payá in attendance. Rosa María, daughter of the Cuban human rights activist and recipient of the European Union’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, arrived from the Miami Airport to Cuba on the morning of May 11, to reunite with her family and friends and to honor the memory of her father.

The Mass was attended by activists of the Estado de Sats project, Antonio Rodiles and Ailer González, and by Manuel Cuesta Morua, leader of Progressive Arc, among others.

Barack Obama meets with Cuban activists before meeting with Raul Castro

Laritza Diversent and Manual Cuesta Morua in meeting with Barack Obama
Laritza Diversent (3rd from R) and Manual Cuesta Morua (2nd from R) in meeting with Barack Obama

14ymedio biggerEFE, 10 April 2015 – The president of the United States, Barack Obama, met today in Panama with members of the Cuban opposition and civil society leaders from other countries before his anticipated meeting this Saturday with with Cuban president Raul Castro.

After giving a speech at the Forum of Civil Society, Obama attended a round table, closed to the press, with activist and civic leaders from several countries, among them the Cuban opposition members Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Laritza Diversent, according to information provided by the White House.

Also participating in the meeting were the presidents of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, and Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez.

Staging Civil Society / 14ymedio, Manual Cuesta Morua

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Havana, 2 April 2015 — The Summit of the Americas is the best opportunity for Cuba. For the first time since 1959, our country has and will take advantage of the occasion provided by the international community to put itself in sync with the world.

Let’s review. In 1985 the Cuban government had an excellent moment to link the country to the height of what was coming. Instead it decided not to take advantage of perestroika and the opportunity it opened, at some point, to stop the country’s structural crisis, although to do so they would have had to recognize the structural crisis of the country’s model.

In all likelihood it would not have saved socialism if the government had used the occasion to transform itself, but if would have saved, for example, the sugar industry. By not making the necessary changes, we’re left today with neither socialism nor sugar. continue reading

This second opportunity is better and distinct. Distinct, because it continues the gradual process of returning to our natural geopolitical space. Better, because for the first time the entire country is invited to this process of integration.

None of the forums in this part of the world engage Cuba in its entirety. Neither the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), nor the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) think about Cuba when they use the mail to open their doors to the country. For them it is about “thinking of the heights,” which only recognizes our nation through the State. No more, no less.

With the VII Summit of the Americans, everything changes. The Americas, half reluctantly among its Latin part, accept that those who disagree with the regime and those who support it against all common sense are on an equal footing.

This is a formidable challenge. Fundamentally for the democratic civil society. There we can do what we have been taught from a young age at all possible levels of education and what is projected almost daily in the Island’s communication media and from the corners of official politics, in those most hidden places of the Island. We can scream, offend, exclude and continue to focus onmoral destruction of the adversary, rather than on rational discussion of the arguments. We can also say, as the political narrative in use accustoms us to do: them no, us yes. That is, we can project ourselves in a negative way, adding impropriety to the complaint. But this is not recommended.

Panama is giving us the opportunity to close the cycle of a long transition from uncivil language to civic language

The Seventh Summit of the Americas will surely be a space of wider exposure and a more intense light than we have had for years. Surely it can be considered the greatest visibility for Cuba at any time since 1962.

And we must take advantage of this in several ways: first, to vindicate an image. The Cuban government has effectively sold, especially in Latin America and more than a few U.S. circles, the idea of an incapable people, kind of rundown without purpose or goals, just asking for benefits, and doing it directly now that we can travel.

Second, to refine the language. The language learned for too many years in Cuba is not a civil language of the civilized. They raised us on insults, on low attacks, on the primary stories of tangled and foul politics that are the ultimate negation of the civic that can’t be understood without moderation, the choice of appropriate words, tolerance and respect for the differences that make the world and civil society. Civil society is basically this: the difference that coexists with independent judgment and from social autonomy. The only thing that makes depersonalization of the conflicts and the same differences possible. Panama is bringing us the opportunity to close the cycle of a long transition from uncivil language to civil language. It brings to the Cuban government the chance to start this same transition. The faster the better.

Third, to calmly assume the legitimacy of Cuban society itself. A misconception, based on the political distortion that many States, particularly Latin American ones, make of social life is that of introducing the concept of representation, which is typical of parties, corporations and assemblies, within the values or requirements of civil society. Civil society can be managed by its representatives, but it is not more or less legitimate because it represents sectors or grups. Its legitimacy comes from the expression of different projects within society. Thus, the nature of civil society is its diversity. The more diverse it is, the richer it is. Thus, quietly: a voice is civil society even though it does not have an army behind it.

We must leave behind the language of the complaint and pain, moving to one where ideas and proposals prevail

Fourth, to send the best message of a civilized civil society: that of inclusion. We have experienced firsthand a fifty-year exclusion, which we repay in kind. A coherent defense of civil society is only possible when we include others. This assumes the risk, like that assumed by Yoani Sanchez, of including the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), an organization formed to destroy the civil nature of coexistence from the most basic level, between neighbors and families, within the vast concept of civil society; which means for the CDRs the challenge of supporting citizens without spying on them.

Fifth, and finally, to leave behind the language of complaint and pain, moving to one where ideas and proposals prevail. Possibly the representatives of Revolutionary civil society, which answers to the regime’s discourse, be it in their critical or contemplative vision, will have an idea in one hand and stick in the other, aimed at our heads. But the best thing for us is to have two ideas, one in each hand, to share in a space where many, if not all, will be attentive to our staging. This must be worthy of the best theater.

US Congressional delegation meets with Cuban activists and independent journalists /14ymedio

Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)
Patrick Leahy, Debbie Stabenow, Chris Van Hollen and Sheldon Whitehouse entering their hotel in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio, Havana, 19 January 2015 — On Sunday afternoon a dozen activists and representatives of Cuban civil society met with the American congressional delegation visiting Cuba. Chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy, the group was able hear diverse opinions in response to the announcement of the reestablishment of relations between the two countries.

A member of the delegation confirmed that the Cuban authorities were aware of the meeting with the activists and had made known to the American side their displeasure with the meeting.

In a relaxed atmosphere, several of those present expressed the conviction that “this opens a new era” and demanded greater transparency in negotiations, according to what they themselves reported after the meeting. Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, gave lawmakers a list with the names of 24 prisoners who, on humanitarian grounds, should be included in an upcoming release process. continue reading

The leader of the movement Somos + (There are more of us), Eliecer Avila, said on leaving that he told the visitors that “Throughout this time there has been talk about the agenda of the US government or the agenda of the Cuban government, but the most important thing to consider is the agenda of the Cuban people.” According to the activist, “Before December 17 people said ‘no one can fix this,’ now the expression most heard in the street is ‘let’s see what happens’ and the great challenge for the civic forces is to get people asking, ‘What can we do to change things?’”

Manuel Cuesta Morua said that he had shared with Leahy and the rest of the group that, “This is a historical event and it is very difficult to have a perspective on something so close.” Nevertheless, he reaffirmed that “A new era is opening for Cuba.”

Several participants in the meeting noted the expectations that the December 17 announcement had awakened in the Cuban people. José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, expressed the appreciation of the activists of his movement who had been released from prison as a result of the negotiations between the two governments.

Berta Soler, for her part, reaffirmed the position of the Ladies in White against the negotiations and questioned whether the Cuban people would benefit directly from relations between the two countries. The activist cited the continuation of the repression and police harassment against the women who belong to this human rights movement. Her position was echoed by Antonio Rodiles, director of the opposition group Estado de Sats (State of Sats).

Yoani Sánchez, director of 14ymedio, emphasized that “The Cuban government is not willing to negotiate with its own people and yet has chosen to negotiate with the American government.” Hence, “Given the absence of the people’s voice at the negotiating table, it’s important to pressure the authorities to allow freedom of expression and of the press, as this will be the way we disseminate our demands and programs.”

Others present at the meeting confirmed the positive nature of the new scenario and the need for the Cuban civic movement to exploit the advantages it offers, and to be the people who to determine their own future.