Vicente Botín, the Spanish Journalist Who Can’t Get Cuba Out of His Mind / Mario Lleonart

At either edge of this photo, Mario Félix Lleonart and Yoaxis Marcheco; in the center, María Werlau, between Vicente Botín and his wife.

Mario Lleonart, 24 September 2016 — During this past July 28-30, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2016 meeting of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy, held in Miami, as part of the panel discussion,”Transitional Justice and the Longed-For Cuban National Reconciliation.” My paper was on “The Longed-For National Reconciliation: Challenges, Realities and Hopes.” However, it is not my paper to which I will refer here.

During this timeframe, on Friday, July 29, a special luncheon took place that provided a pause in the midst of the 18 interesting panels and their debates. For this occasion, the Spanish journalist Vicente Botín, who also served as the special guest commentator on the panel in which I took part, gave a talk that was thought-provoking for all present. Continue reading “Vicente Botín, the Spanish Journalist Who Can’t Get Cuba Out of His Mind / Mario Lleonart”

Botín is a journalist and writer who specializes in international politics, particularly in Latin America. He has produced numerous documentaries in many countries as the managing editor of a well-known television program, including one in Cuba for which he interviewed Fidel Castro. He served as a correspondent for Televisión Española from 2005-2008, and later published two books about Cuba: “Castro’s Funeral,” followed by, “Raúl Castro: The Flea That Rode the Tiger.” Today he is a columnist for El País, El Mundo, and other Spanish newspapers, and resides in Madrid.

His words made so much sense to me regarding the Cuban reality that, upon the conclusion of his remarks, I congratulated him and sought his permission to post them on my blog–receiving from him a most cordial assent–but which unfortunately I have been unable to do until now because of technical problems on my blog which I have only recently been able to resolve.

But, because Botín’s voice still resounds so vibrantly in my mind, with words that have not lost one iota of their relevance–quite the opposite–I share them now with great pleasure so as to place in cyberspace these thoughts which are so sympathetic to the catastrophe of the Cuban people, by someone who also has been directly immersed in our reality, and who cannot get us off of his mind, nor out of his heart.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Ivan Hernandez And Felix Navarro Prevented From Leaving Cuba “A Second Time” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo. (Twitter / @ivanlibre)
Ivan Hernandez Carrillo. (Twitter / @ivanlibre)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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 2nd Cuban 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

The answer that each of the dissidents received on presenting their documents to the Immigration and Nationality official was: “You cannot leave a second time.” Continue reading “Ivan Hernandez And Felix Navarro Prevented From Leaving Cuba “A Second Time” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Both Hernandez and Navarro had received, in March of this year, special permission to go abroad “one-time” after being placed on parole, a condition the authorities continue to maintain since release from prison in 2011. All those released from the Black Spring “Group of 75” who continue to reside in Cuba benefited from a similar authorization.

The opponent Librado Linares, also a former prisoner of the Black Spring and general secretary of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR), did manage to board his flight on Thursday to participate in the meeting of Puerto Rico, since it was the first time he made use permit leave the Island.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) recently sent a letter to Raul Castro expressing “deep concern” about the “violent treatment” received by the trade unionist Ivan Hernandez on his return to Cuba after his first trip abroad.  He traveled on the same flight as the opponent Vladimir Roca and attorney Wilfredo Vallin, of the Law Association of Cuba.

Hernandez was arrested on July 31 and reported that he received a “savage beating” when he refused to be subjected to a search at the time of arrival. During his trip abroad he met with organizations and activists from Europe and the United States.

Both Hernandez and Navarro cataloged the “injustices” and said they will continue trying to assert their right to travel freely.

The Cuban National Conference is a continuation of one held last year, which involved 23 organizations in Cuba and 32 from exile. It has been convened by the Coordinating Liaison Committee composed of Ana Carbonell, Rosa María Payá, Sylvia Iriondo, Guillermo Farinas, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Rene Gomez Manzano, Mario Félix Lleonart and
 Saylí Navarro

Among the participants in the conference traveling from Cuba are also Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos+ (We Are More) and Boris Gonzalez, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD). The great absence the meeting will be Guillermo Fariñas, who remains on hunger strike in Santa Clara.

In the early hours of Thursday, Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herrería was arrested while traveling from Matanzas to Havana to take the flight that would also have taken her to the conference in Puerto Rico, according to the leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, speaking to this newspaper. The activist was returned to her home where she is under police surveillance.

Event organizers want to use this 2nd Conference to create a “structure of unity of action in diversity,” whose purpose is to “operate inside and outside Cuba, coordinating the efforts of both shores.” In addition, they discussed “the general principles of the new Cuba” desired, an issue that was left pending at the previous meeting.

Observing the Elections / Mario Lleonart

@mauriciomarci vs. @danielscioli The cards are on the table! (Note: This post refers to last year’s elections in Argentina)

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”

Beyond the pros and cons, beyond who wins, the value of my experience is witnessing the possibility of a country to enforce Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: The right to democracy! The right of everyone to participate in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives!

I could be in a nation which manifests and asserts its will as a basis for granting authority to a government expressed in genuine elections by universal suffrage conducted by secret ballot. I’m not just having the experience of witnessing but also to serve as an observer accompanying some of the prosecutors in several schools in the city of Rosario.

And as if I were a child, which I am in many respects, I felt an immense curiosity before these first democratic elections I’d observed in my 40 years. We have never had this in my whole life in Cuba. But I hope that we will experience it soon. And I agree with many political scientists who affirm that the results of today’s elections are going to echo across the entire continent.

Today may be the beginning of the end of the fateful rise of populism in Latin America. And if the flutter of a butterfly in Hong Kong can cause a storm in New York, we can say that there will be effects from these elections in Argentina today for those on 6 December 2015 in Venezuela, and next year in Cuba.

They are already having an effect on me!

Cuban Opposition Deplores Secrecy of Cuba-EU Negotiations / 14ymedio, Mario Felix Lleonart

Conference on European Union-Cuba relations held this Tuesday at the European Parliament in Brussels (ALDE)
Conference on European Union-Cuba relations held this Tuesday at the European Parliament in Brussels (ALDE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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”

Also present at the meeting, organized by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), were Ben Nupnau, official from the European Foreign Service Division for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and Pavel Telicka, vice-president of ALDE.

Nupnau expressed Europe’s good intentions for the positive effects that the cooperation agreement could have on democratization and respect for human rights in the Cuba. Nevertheless, the Cubans present argued that the Island’s government had not given the EU any expectation of guarantees about human rights and democratic freedoms, given the persistent signs of verifiable repression in 54 Sundays of harassment of the Ladies in White and the monthly statistics of arbitrary detentions produced by Cuba’s Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission.

The Island’s delegation pointed out the secret character that so far tarnishes the agreement and questioned the fact that neither European nor Cuban citizens had been able to express opinions about its contents.

The delegation also encouraged the EU, if it is in competition with the United States with respect to Cuba, to also compete in support of civil society. The panelists emphasized that, in spite of pressure by Cuban negotiators, the US had not given up doing so, while the EU only supports civil society as conceived of or endorsed by the government in Havana, the very one that has tried to muzzle it.

The EU, according to participants in the meeting, must be aware of the close relations that the Cuban government has with enemies of Europe and of democracy such as North Korea, Russia and Belarus.

The Cuban ambassador in Brussels, Norma Goicochea Estenoz, declined the invitation to participate in the meeting and sent an email to explain that she could not meet in the same place as “mercenaries.” The diplomat acted consistently with the intransigent position of the Cuban government, capable of sitting down to negotiate with the biggest powers, even when, as in the case of the United States, it has to do with its historical enemy, but refusing to engage in dialog with its own people, whom it thus insults and denigrates.

On Wednesday, the official presented a complaint to the European Foreign Service about the ALDE conference. Some supposed that it was going to make clear that its embassy had nothing to do with certain attendees who took advantage of public intervention time in order to question the legitimacy of the panelists, matching the views given in her email. It is supposed that those who suspect that may be right, given that the reason for her urgent visit to the European chancery was to again lash out against the panelists and, in turn, also against Telicka and ALDE.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Pastor Mario Félix Lleonart Detained on Leaving His Home in Villa Clara / 14ymedio

On Sunday, Pastor Mario Félix Lleonart Was Detained As He Tried Leaving His Home (Photo 14ymedio)
On Sunday, Pastor Mario Félix Lleonart Was Detained As He Tried Leaving His Home (Photo 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

A few hours before his arrest, Pastor Lleonart sent a statement to this newspaper’s editorial board. In it, he denounces the harassment to which he was being subjected. Here below we publish excerpts of his account. Continue reading “Pastor Mario Félix Lleonart Detained on Leaving His Home in Villa Clara / 14ymedio”

The Cuba Barack Obama Will Find

By Félix Mario Lleonart, Taguaybón

The excitement of the past few days has given way to all types of news reports about Cuba. Apart from the ceaseless and flagrant violations of human rights that those of us on the island must endure, we are also aware that Cubans living abroad are having their rights violated as well.

It is no secret that the Communist Party is conducting an all out mobilization of its members in order to fill the Latin American Stadium for the baseball game between the Cuban National team and the Tampa Bay Rays. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, is expected to attend.

While this mobilization is under way, many people are being pressured to not even leave their homes. Moreover, genuine aficionados of our national sport, who always claim “not to care about politics,” because they are “just sports fans,” this time around are being forced to “sit out the game.”

We have also learned that (Cuban-American) Ana Lupe Bustos has been banned from entering Cuba as a reprisal for her work with the Ladies in White. This stands in complete contrast to an experience I had when I came across an émigré while walking around my hometown. When I greeted him, his response was akin to an act of repudiation. This man, who had been president of his Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, was still a genuine CDR supporter, regardless of the fact that he had left the country.

Furthermore, as of Saturday afternoon, numerous State Security and National Revolutionary Police agents have surrounded a property belonging to the Association of the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba. The Ebenezer Baptist Church, where my wife and I serve as pastors, and where our daughters live, is located on said property.

For weeks now we have been warned that we would be kept from moving around freely during Obama’s visit to Cuba. These warnings are now being put into effect. As declared by the United Nations, today is the International Day of Happiness, coinciding with Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week observances. I will probably be arrested, although I have no plans of going to Havana.

Translated by José Badué

If We Are Talking About Terrorists / Mario Lleonart

Photo: with friends Roberto Pisano and Leonardo Delgado

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”

While I was doing this, the political police made appointments with or visited people who know me in Cuba, who take part in forums of the Instituto Patmos, parishioners, collaborators, friends, neighbours and family members, to warn them that it was dangerous to have anything to do with me, inviting them to cooperate with their secret services, and to turn them against me. After I returned to Cuba some of them dared to tell me about these contacts, pressures, harassment and threats. One of the reasons put forward by the Cuban Gestapo, without any support, was that I had met terrorists in the USA.

In the afternoon of the 20th, I visited Leonardo Delgado, a one-time political prisoner, in his house in Tampa. He has been battling lung cancer for five years. With him was Roberto Pisano, one of his prison companions. His stories about the ancient Cuban prison are shocking.

That morning I had received some mail from Cuba, testifying to the arguments put forward against me by the State Security. Listening to Pisano and Delgado’s stories made me think how ridiculous it was that someone in Cuba would say that I had met terrorists in the US, since it was in fact the opposite.

I replied to the mail saying that if, by any chance I had had a meeting, without knowing it, with terrorists in the USA, it would have been if I had unknowingly met an undercover agent, one of the hundreds illegally infiltrated into the US by the Cuban political police. Like those involved in the shooting down of the four Brothers to the Rescue pilots, or those who specialise in assassinating without leaving any traces.

Translated by GH

The "Che" of Argentina / 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.


Macri Victory Encourages Cuban Democrats / 14ymedio, Mario Lleonart

Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina
Mauricio Macri, new president of Argentina

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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”

An indication of Macri’s intelligence and ability is his new cabinet. In the election of each post one can see a genuine intention to get Argentina to rise again like a phoenix from the ashes. The appointment of Susana Malcorra to the chancellorship was accompanied by the news of a top-class team to lead the country from December 10th.

The up-to-now Head of the Cabinet of the General Secretariat of the UN, a position in which he has performed exceptionally well since 2012, has earned public praise from Ban Ki-moon himself. “I have valued his advice, admired his dedication and benefitted from his leadership,” he once affirmed. Praise which is confirmed in Malcorra’s experience, in relation to international relations, an area in which Argentina has been very lacking.

Without doubt, the head of the cabinet could not be anyone else than Marcos Peña, one of the best thinkers in Macri’s electoral alliance, Propuesta Republicana (PRO). He was also one of the principle interlocutors at the time of laying out discussion points when he was head of the campaign. His youth — 38 years of age — is in keeping with the tone of this new party, which has been capable of destroying such a damaging Peronist tradition.

A demonstration that each Minister has been considered with the necessary care is the appointment of the social activist, ex-Buenos Aires legislator and present National Deputy, Sergio Bergman to the Environmental portfolio. This rabbi, chosen in 2011 as legislator for the City of Buenos Aires for the PRO, is an important and eloquent expert in relation to the present global context.

Bergman has been an unwavering opponent of the Argentina-Iran Memorandum of Understanding, signed by President Cristina Kirchner in relation to the matter of the attack perpetrated in 1994 on the headquarters of the Argentina Mutual Association of Israel (AMIA, its initials in Spanish), which resulted in the death of 85 people. His appointment is further evidence of the change of direction represented by Macri’s victory from the terrible course Argentina has been following.

The delay in naming the Minister of Employment also indicates the respect shown in this instance and says much for the care taken by Macri not to make a quick superficial decision on this position which is of such importance to the Argentinians, especially in times of change such as these.

Working with that team, Macri will be able to put behind them the dark times of scandals like the Chavista [ed. note: a reference to Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chavez and his and the current administration in that country] briefcase transported to Argentina by a businessman to finance Cristina’s campaign or the unpunished assassination of the Public Prosecutor Alberto Nisman, as well as the squandering of public money.

The new government will put an end to the period of justice denied, as in the case of the attack against the AMIA The renaming of the Centro Cultural Kirchner will symbolise the passing from one era to another.

The first target for Macri in the international field will be his participation in the next Mercosur summit, to take place in Asunción in December. He has already announced that he will insist then on the application of the democracy clause to Venezuela “for the perscution of the opposition.”

What has happened in Argentina will probably be reflected in the next few days in the Venezuela elections. The popularist policies urged by the Havana regime remain stuck in the past.

Translated by GH

Another Prisoner Swap? / 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.

*Translator’s note: The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst convicted in 2003 of spying for Cuba and sentenced to 25 years in prison. See, e.g. “New Revelations About Cuban Spy Ana Montes.”

Translated by Tomás A.

PIGS! / Mario Lleonart

Drawing by El Sexto (Danilo Maldonado) of the piglets he intended to release in a street performance in Havana.

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”

When Christ cast out the legion of demons in Gadara, they took over a herd of pigs that rushed into the sea, and there could not be a better judgment against the Roman Empire. Jesus himself called Herod “FOX!” The theological symbolism in the sacred texts whenever pigs are mentioned, with their classification as unclean animals, is well known.

The young graffiti artist El Sexto, detached, and sometimes even rejected from self-righteous church circles, has dared to do what all Christians should have done a long time ago—shout prophetically! But he has given new meaning to Christ’s words: if you are silent, the stones will cry out.

God bless all those who in an upcoming round of the #TodosMarchamos campaign will raise their voices for all political prisoners or prisoners of conscience who like El Sexto are victims of all kinds of harassment in Cuban prisons. God bless even more those like Danilo who dare to shout “pigs” at the tyrants. God have mercy on those who are silent and become accomplices by their silence.

Quo Vadis* Francis? / 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”

When those repressed in Cuba met months later, on February 11, 2013, the date of Joseph Ratzinger’s resignation, something which hadn’t happened for almost six hundred years, we speculated that among all the reasons why the Pope took this momentous decision, even if the smallest of all, was his silence about what had happened to us.

Before the announcement of the new Pope’s visit this time, many of us thought the story would be different. As an indication of this, on July 16, 2015, Cuban Civil Society Open Space sent a letter by way of the Apostolic Nunciature to Pope Francis suggesting that he “receive a representation of Cuban civil society, as had happened during your recent apostolic trip to Latin America, in a private audience during the busy schedule of your anticipated next visit to Cuba. This symbolic gesture could mean the inclusion of all Cubans, especially those of us pushed to the margins of society and treated as second-class citizens because of our way of thinking or for proposing peaceful, non-violent alternatives.” This letter was delivered in person that same afternoon by Father Jose Conrado, accompanied by the prominent Catholic layman Dagoberto Valdes, and me, and was received by the Secretary of the Nuncio.

Regrettably, our letter did not receive a positive response and the Pope did not hold private meetings, except with Fidel Castro, the victimizer, to whom he extended a harmful and very undeserved legitimacy. To make matters worse, and contrary to that spirit, what actually happened was that across the length and breadth of the island at least 250 peaceful activists were arrested. The four activists who managed to break through police cordons to try to reach the Pope to respectfully express their feelings and deliver a letter were seen live by the entire world, and to date they remain in a maximum security prison. In addition to this there were hundreds of illegal house arrests and communication blockages similar to those enforced during the 2012 “Vow of Silence” operation when Benedict XVI visited.

Weeks in advance the regime began preparing this crackdown, using international media to defame and circulate false information in order to create confusion. An interview with agent Raul Capote by Russian media was disseminated worldwide. Agents employed by the regime did the same on social networks with apocryphal stories on Twitter trying to instigate religious hatred and bias the Catholic clergy against Cuban civil society, warning of phony “sabotages” against the papal visit.

In his homily the Pope expressed messages of mercy and peace worthy of being taken seriously by Cuban society and by those who misrule. But the latter did not give any sign of receiving the message, and even exploited his visit, as they had that of Benedict XVI, to carry out, as usual, something quite the opposite. While representatives of the regime sported  guayaberas and hypocritical smiles, their henchmen returned to execute behind the scenes, as in 2012, a genuine witch hunt.

Still the Vatican and Pope Francis could help greatly by issuing some statement acknowledging the above facts, which we never got from the pontificate of Benedict XVI. But maybe Francis agrees with the former president of the National Assembly of Cuba, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada, who when interviewed by Jackie Nespral of NBC said dismissively that “the Pope is a busy man and cannot waste time with people and issues that are not important.”

*Latin for “Where are you going?” The reference is to an apochryphal encounter by the Apostle Peter, fleeing persecution in Rome, with the risen Jesus. When Peter asks Jesus this question, Jesus answers “To Rome to be crucified again.” In response, Peter returns to Rome, and his own subsequent martyrdom.

**16th-century Spanisn cleric who championed Native-American rights.

Translated by Tomás A.

Spanish post
25 September 2015

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

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.”

A new case of fraud shakes Cuban universities / Mario Lleonart

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.

Translated by GH
9 July 2015

“Paya Was An Example Of Dedication And Persistence” / 14ymedio

Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)
Oswaldo Payá holding the Transitional Program for political change in Cuba. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

Father José Conrado

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.

Martha Beatriz Roque

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.

Jose Daniel Ferrer

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.

Dagoberto Valdes

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.

Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart

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.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez

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.

Miriam Leyva

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.