14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 August 2016 – Cuba’s immigration authorities prevented activists Ivan Hernandez and Felix Navarro from traveling outside Cuba this Thursday. The former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring were invited to participate in the 2ndCuban National Conference that be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 12 to 14 August, but were unable to board their flight at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where they ran into Reinaldo Escobar, 14ymedio’s editor
Mario Lleonart, 22 November 2015 — The winds of God, that blow and lift me, have brought me to the epicenter of a democratic battle, of the ballot in Argentina, the second round of the electoral contest between two candidates for the presidency of the Republic. The plane that brought me to Buenos Aires landed on Sunday November 15th at the very moment when the first presidential debate took place in the history of Argentina. During a very intense week I lived for the first time in my forty years the passionate effervescence of a nation that can settle at the polls today the final decision of a people. Continue reading “Observing the Elections / Mario Lleonart”
14ymedio, Mario Felix Lleonart, Brussels, 1 June 2016 – Cuban representatives who participated in the conference in the European Parliament held last Tuesday in Brussels about relations between the European Union and Cuba were skeptical about the cooperation agreement that will be signed by both sides at the end of the year, or at the latest, at the beginning of 2017.
The Island’s delegation – Rosa Maria Paya, promotor of the Cuba Decides campaign; Pedro Fuentes Cid, spokesman for the Historical Center of Political Prisoners; and the author of these lines, a Baptist pastor and manager of the Cuban National Conference – lamented that civil Cuban society has not been taken into account in the negotiations for the agreement that will substitute for the European Union Common Position which, since 1996, has delineated relations of the twenty-eight EU countries with the Island. Continue reading “Cuban Opposition Deplores Secrecy of Cuba-EU Negotiations / 14ymedio, Mario Felix Lleonart”
14ymedio, Havana, 20 March 2016 — Mario Félix Lleonart, a Baptist minister, was detained on Sunday as he attempted to leave his home in the town of Taguayabón, Villa Clara Province. A strong police presence had surrounded his home since Saturday. According to Lleonart’s wife, Yoaxis Marcheco, he was forced into a police car the moment he stepped outside his house.
Mario Lleonart, 29 January 2016 — A few days ago (January 15th and 16th) I took part in a gathering in Miami of the Coordinating Liaison Committee of the Cuban National Meeting, of which I am a member, along with eight others. On the 18th, on Martin Luther King Day in Saint Petersburg, Florida, I paid tribute to King, joining in the parade in his honour distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On the 19th I visited locations in Sarasota and Manatti, Florida, which had been pounded by tornados early in the morning of the 17th. Continue reading “If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart”
Mario Lleonart, 19 December 2015 – Although I arrived in Argentina under the assumption that the common notion of Ché Guevara would be the romantic, absurd idea of the mythical nonexistent hero, and not the executioner and murderer that Cuba got to know in La Cabaña, I can’t deny that I was surprised to discover that I was wrong. And I discovered this in nowhere else but Rosario, his city of birth.
My first surprise was finding out that in the house where he was born, an insurance company now resides — and not just any insurance company. It’s MAPFRE, a Spanish multinational that works in the insurance and reinsurance sector, has a presence in 49 countries, and whose stocks are listed on the stock exchanges of Madrid and Barcelona.
The only homage to Ché’s birth is found on the sidewalk, because the property is now completely dominated by capitalism. I understood that even in Santa Clara, Cuba, the Argentinian guerrilla fighter had become a piece of sales merchandise for tourists, but what I hadn’t imagined was that even here in his own birthplace, the system that he fought so hard against was the dominant one.
But my biggest surprise was that, during the days I spent in Rosario, just blocks from there, in a park where he is honored, someone had tossed paint on an image of him, and below that an immense piece of anarchist graffiti declared: “Ché is dead”. And no one seemed to care.
14ymedio, Mario Lleonart, 26 November 2015 — Mauricio Macri won. For those who hope for democracy in Cuba, the best option won. Although the recently-elected President hardly mentioned the island during his campaign, it is clear that the cause of liberty in Cuba will have a friend in him. His references to the situation in Venezuela have also been a wake-up call for the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana.
If he manages the transition well in his country, his will definitely be a major mandate. Nevertheless, Macri needs to get himself prepared for governing Argentina, starting off from the disaster left by Cristinismo [ed. note: Cristina Kirchner’s administration], which will signify quite an achievement in view of the obvious boycott by officialdom, which is showing a certain reluctance in handing over power. A gesture far-removed from what politicians who are really interested in the future of the country, and respectful of the popular will should do. Continue reading “Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart”
Mario Lleonart, 30 October 2015 — Once again the name of Ernesto Borges Pérez returns to the public arena, generating new expectations about his release. He has served more than seventeen long years of the thirty to which he was sentenced, after his death sentence was commuted at the prosecutor’s request. Ernesto’s advance disclosure thwarted the illegal infiltration into the U.S. of twenty-six Cuban spies, of the hordes frequently sent there. But at the cost of seventeen unrecoverable years from Ernesto’s valuable life. Everything indicates that he is the bargaining chip long set aside to trade for the spy Ana Belén Montes.*
Ernesto may finally go free and benefit from his heroic action, which by any measure was invaluable, whatever the price paid. I hope that the answer to the prayers we have raised for so long finally arrives. Ernesto’s parents Yvonne and Raul, elderly and ailing, can still experience the greatest happiness of their lives. His brother Cesar, and Paola, his only daughter, in exile, can laugh again. And he, with his tremendous human virtues, strengthened in prison, can still be of great benefit to a world greatly in need of heroes like him.
Mario Lleonart, 18 October 2015 — For the second time they have lied about a release date for prisoner-of-conscience (so designated by Amnesty International) Danilo Maldonado, better known by his artistic name “El Sexto” (The Sixth). First they announced his release for August 24. Then for September 15. But now we know they lied disgracefully on both occasions.
The regime’s own behavior regarding this prisoner of conscience shows the relevance of the performance that he intended to put on when they arrested him last December: “Animal Farm.” They behaved like pigs, just as he thought. His crime was to have the courage to label them with exactly that description: PIGS! There is something Biblical about this! Continue reading “PIGS! / Mario Lleonart”
Those of us who lived through the repressive crackdown that took place in Cuba in 2012 during the visit of Benedict XVI have never received a response from the Vatican, although it was informed of the facts. Jose Conrado—the priest who is a maverick within the Catholic Church in Cuba, like a modern-day Father Bartolome de las Casas**—met with many of us on March 29, 2012, in the home of Ismael de Diego, to share experiences of what happened during the papal visit to Cuba, the police crackdown called “Operation Vow of Silence.” The priest expressed regret and personally delivered letters and videos to the Apostolic Nunciature. But they didn’t even give him the courtesy of a response. As a result of this crackdown some activists were detained for more than two years without even the formality of a trial. Continue reading “Quo Vadis* Francis? / Mario Lleonart”
14ymedio, 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.
A new case of academic fraud this Thursday has shaken the universities. A group of first year medical students in Villa Clara province were able to see in advance the answers to the morpho-physiology exam, which was sat Thursday July 2nd. According to various witnesses, the sale and circulation of the test was so widespread that it occurred in other venues, such as Sagua la Grande.
The immediate solution they are going to arrange is to get all the first year students to repeat the exam next Monday July 13th. At this stage it is not known whether any penalties will be applied to those who committed the fraud, nor whether they have made public the source of the leak. The only details which are known have come from those who have to retake the exam, with some students complaining they are paying for the guilty ones.
This type of scandal in the academic world has occurred frequently in all educational levels. In July last year this daily paper reported the leak of various final tests in Medical Faculty Number 1 in Santiago de Cuba. On that occasion 23 students were directly involved in the leak and distribution of the contents of the second year anatomy and statistics exams, 4th year English, and the so-called State Test. On that occasion, the Teachers’ Board at the centre called for a sanction of two years’ suspension from higher education for the students involved in the act.
14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 — Three years after the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, 14ymedio has collected the opinions of some Cuban activists who knew the leader of the Christian Liberation Movement. They is people who shared with him projects and risks, who admired or were inspired by his civic labor. Let these seven testimonies serve to approach the legacy of a man who devoted his best years to achieving greater rights and freedoms for the citizenry.
He has left us a testimony of life, a consistent life in service to his people, a courageous life that knew how to respond to the difficulties and the circumstances of the times. A life true to his convictions of faith and his love for his country until his last moment. It is a testimony that we will never forget and at the same time something to be deeply grateful for, because men like him are the ones who are needed, men like him are those who build a people from within.
It is very difficult to summarize in a few lines his life and the legacy he left us. First of all we have to note his actions as a father, a husband and a member of the Catholic Church. He knew how to pass on an excellent education for his children and to sow love in his family. Now we have Rosa María [his daughter], who is continuing his struggle and also persevering in seeing that justice is done for those who murdered him. His life’s companion, Ofelita, is doing the same thing.
Payá witnessed in favor of democracy and his legacy is reflected in the continuity of his work. These men who have acted with dignity in life, in times as difficult as those we Cubans have had to live through, one can say they have not died, they continue with us.
I always had great respect and great affection for him, and joined in with the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) for many years, especially on Project Varela. I would like to highlight one way he is remembered in the eastern region, especially in the province of Santiago de Cuba. The term that we are referred to by, whether we are members of UNPACU, of CID, of the Republican Party, the Citizens for Democracy, or any other organization, is “Varelistas” [“supporters of Project Varela”], and not because of a direct relation to Felix Verala, who well deserves it for his contribution to Cuban nationality, but precisely because of Project Varela, which not only collected thousands of signatures at that time, but also left a lasting impact.
So that is what people call us there and, on occasion, even our worst enemies do. So every time they call us Varelistas, they are remembering Payá.
The first thing I want to point out about the legacy Oswaldo left us is the integrity of one person who throughout his life remained consistent with what he thought and believed. Secondly, he left us what in my view is the most important civic exercise of the last decades: the Varela Project. Third, he left us the perseverance of a man who believed in the cause of freedom and democracy for Cuba and who dedicated his entire life to it.
His legacy goes far beyond even the Christian Liberation Movement he founded. His precious heritage belongs to Cuba and is found in the shared yearning for democracy and respect for human rights, for all individuals who think as he thought. For this he will always be respected. When Cuba can enjoy democracy, he will not be with is, but his teachings will be.
He was a great leader in the peaceful Cuban opposition because he accomplished what no one had been able to accomplish, which was to collect those thousands of signatures supporting Project Varela and doing it within the very laws of Cuba.
Still today I feel I see him, with the enthusiasm that characterized him, seeking unity among Cubans so that we can manage the change in a peaceful way, so that the people would be the owners of their own opinions and be able to put their rights into practice. It fills us with great satisfaction to have been able to be at the side of a man like him at those moments before the Black Spring of 2003, and to continue working with his daughter Rosa María today.
He was a very self-sacrificing person who was characterized by believing in what he was doing. He was convinced that he could fight for a better life for Cubans to achieve progress and democracy for Cuba. He was a practicing Catholic and also a tireless worker. In his specialty, medical equipment repair, he was acknowledged and respected, not only in his workplace but in all public health facilities where he went to provide services.
Payá was an example of self-sacrifice and above all persistence, so his legacy extends beyond the MCL and Project Varela; an example as a human being, as a Cuban. That is what remains in my memory and I appreciate all the years I knew him in the midst of such difficult situations.
Mario Lleonart, 30 June 2105 — A paper I presented on Monday, June 29, at the event “Paths of Transition”, in Havana (a theoretical conference concerning on issues of democratic construction in Cuba).
In the present order of things, the Cuban State boasts about how some of its deputies in the National Assembly of People’s Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular) are evangelical pastors, or have some other leadership position in the Protestant religious environment, which is an evident attempt at necessary auto-reaffirmation of that constitutional change which took place in 1992 of declaring a hitherto religiously atheistic State to secularity was more than a simple change of letter.
These exceptional cases of Protestant leaders that the Government boasts about, as in the case of other minorities, such as women, with regard to sex, or blacks, with regard to race, have helped soften the image which from all appearances is monolithic clearly from the ideological point of view that characterizes this body from its first organization. It is a sort of, “You tell me what you boast about and I’ll tell you what you lack.” Continue reading “The Cuban Evangelical Churches Face Future Democratic Elections / Mario Lleonart”