Guillermo Fariñas Returns Home After Hospital Visit For Fainting / 14ymedio

Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)
Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)

14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2016 — Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, after 47 days on a hunger and thirst strike, was transferred on Monday afternoon to Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital. The dissident was discharged hours later because doctors felt that he did not meet the “entry criteria for intensive care,” he told 14ymedio activist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel.

Sources close to Fariñas detailed that the intake occurred at 2:45 pm after he lost consciousness at his home in the neighborhood of La Chirusa. Hours earlier, the daily report on his health issued by members of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), reported severe pain in the “joints, knees, ankles and shoulders.” Continue reading “Guillermo Fariñas Returns Home After Hospital Visit For Fainting / 14ymedio”

The note also explains that Fariñas was experiencing “dizziness, weakness and fatigue” and said his weight was 151 pounds, according to Dr. Yorkis Rodriguez Cardenas.

The winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is demanding that Raul Castro “publicly state that he will put an end to the beatings of nonviolent opponents,” and that he will schedule a meeting with a member of the Council of Ministers and “representatives of the Cuban opposition,” to explain what the government’s strategy will be “to end the beatings.”

A dozen Cuban dissidents have released a letter in which they call themselves Fariñas’ “brothers in the struggle” and say they share his demands. However, they also state that they need him alive to continue with them “on this path” until they “achieve freedom.”

“We respect you and we are aware of your sacrifice, but we would ask you to put an immediate end to your strike,” says a letter from dissidents Félix Bonne, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Ángel Moya, Félix Navarro, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque and Berta Soler.

Since the beginning, Fariñas has reiterated that, in the event that “Raul Castro will not yield to the demands” he will continue the hunger and thirst strike “until the end.”

“The opposition has not matured,” Laments Martha Beatriz Roque / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 28 April 2016 —  Martha Beatriz Roque has returned from Miami after receiving a permit from the Cuban government in late February, which authorized her to leave the country one time. The activist was one of the seven former prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 who benefited from this permit. She returns with a certain pessimism and a critical impression of the state of the Cuban opposition.

Lilianne Ruiz. You returned from abroad after permission from the Cuban government, which allowed you to make only one trip. What impressions did you bring back from your stay outside the country?

Martha Beatriz Roque. I come back with a tremendous pain in my heart about what I have seen there. In Miami there is the historic exile, who love their country, their fatherland, who talk about democracy, who think about Cuba constantly and who have a great nostalgia for the island, but this historic exile, unfortunately, is getting old and some of its members have died. Continue reading ““The opposition has not matured,” Laments Martha Beatriz Roque / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz”

However, many people who are coming to Miami through different countries, including now through Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama, are turning their backs on Cuba, they even want to forget that they are Cubans. These are people who are a part of a social fabric here that is broken, who have no ethics, no formal education and they are contaminating Miami.

LR. What do you think has been the outcome of Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba?

MBR. Obama has his agenda and within it is defending the interests of American citizens, as is natural, because that is his country. He has made it clear that the problems of Cuba have to be solved by Cubans and that is important. The people had a great lesson with Obama’s visit: for the people it has meant hope, which the Communist Party Congress subsequently tried to annihilate.

LR. And the opposition?

MBR. In Cuba there are opponents, but an opposition, as such, does not exist. An opposition exists in Venezuela, because it has been capable of uniting despite its disagreements. We are not capable of something like that yet. Here the unity lasts seconds.

LR. Did the 7th Congress of the Communist Party frustrate you, or were you were expecting something like what happened?

MBR. The Party Congress was going to be postponed to another date but it was held to try to counter what Obama said to the Cuban people, and because of this they didn’t have any finished [guiding] document. Some said, after the Congress was over, “We were right, Obama has achieved nothing.” Others say that the Congress was a way of demonstrating the failure of what Obama is doing, but I would not say that. Much less do I think it is a failure, because there are things that have been accelerated with Obama’s visit.

LR. Like what?

MBR. In the specific case of the eleven members of us from the [Black Spring] group of 75 who remain in Cuba, we were not allowed to leave the country and, at least in this moment, they allowed us one trip abroad. There have been solutions to some problems that you couldn’t say are changes, without the reestablishment of rights. This has to be seen as something satisfactory, not as something negative. In the not so distant future other solutions will have to come, because the economic, social and political situation of the country is unbearable.

LR. Will it be the self-employed who change Cuba?

MBR. The Cuban regime will not allow any self-employed to export, because that, they will say, is reserved for the businesses of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. The United States government is trying to have direct relationships with the self-employed, but that is not going to be allowed. Right now, when some self-employed turn their faces just slightly to the north, they’re going to cut off those businesses they’re going to stop everything.

LR. Can access to the internet help make the changes occur?

MBR. The regime does not allow it because they know that the internet is a source of knowledge, of the transmission of news and possibilities.

LR. What is the Cuban opposition lacking to be able to call forth the people?

MBR. First of all, it lacks leadership. Unfortunately, here everyone wants to be a leader, no one wants to be in the line, everyone wants to be at the head of it. It also lacks the exile,, which is capable of manufacturing a leader and putting forward a project with resources, but this does not solve anything.

LR. Do you see any chance for the opposition to influence the constitutional referendum announced by the government?

MBR. The opposition has not matured, it is still the same, generating documents, projecting itself abroad, meeting abroad, telling people what they have to do. But if the opposition doesn’t take advantage of this moment to work jointly with the people, it’s simple, nothing is going to happen. If they don’t work with the people, if they don’t raise awareness among the people, what does it matter that they go to meet the Pope in Rome, it’s all the same, it is simply not going to solve anything.

Obama Advisor Ben Rhodes Meets With Cuban Activists In Miami, During A “Historic” Meeting / 14ymedio, Marion Penton

 President Barack Obama’s key advisor on Cuba policy, Ben Rhodes, during his meeting with representatives of civil society on the island. (14ymedio)
President Barack Obama’s key advisor on Cuba policy, Ben Rhodes, during his meeting with representatives of civil society on the island. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 11 March 2016 – President Obama’s top advisor on US policy toward Cuba, Ben Rhodes, met this Friday with representatives from the island’s Civil Society and exile organizations. The meeting took place in Miami, concluding with a chat with Cuban-Americans that the official held at Miami Dade College.

The purpose of the meeting, which lasted several hours behind closed doors, was for Rhodes to listen to the aspirations and opinions of those groups in advance of President Obama’s visit to the island. Several of those attending agreed that the meeting was an “historic moment.” Continue reading “Obama Advisor Ben Rhodes Meets With Cuban Activists In Miami, During A “Historic” Meeting / 14ymedio, Marion Penton”

Remberto Perez, vice president of the Cuban National Foundation (CANF) in New Jersey, explained that everyone expressed their points of view regarding the national reality before the US president’s visit. “It is a unique and extraordinary opportunity. The fact that we are doing this is a sign that the work of the internal and exiled dissidence has borne fruit,” he said.

Opposition member Martha Beatriz Roque, a member of the Black Spring’s Group of 75, confirmed that she will not meet with the US president, as speculated in some media. “It is not necessary that Obama receive me because I have been able to express my concerns to Ben Rhodes,” and she added, “I am super satisfied with this meeting,” said the dissident, who will not be on the island during the president’s visit because she is going to be traveling to Spain.

Leticia Ramos, a representative of the Ladies in White from Matanzas province, announced that Obama sent a letter to the organization and expressed his desire to meet with them in Havana. “So far we have high expectations and the president has informed us that he wants to meet with us,” said Ramos. Although she said they are “facing an uncertainty” because “the regime is going to prevent it at all costs” and “the arbitrary arrests will be massive to avoid this meeting.”

The Ladies in White have let Rhodes know that the visit should be directed “truly by the Cuban people” and he should try to ensure that “his speech reaches ordinary Cubans.” Initially, the position of the Ladies in White had been very critical of Obama’s visit to the island. With regards to the letter sent by the president, no details are available because “it was sent sealed” to Berta Soler, the representative of the organization.

The youngest activist at the meeting, Carlos Amel Oliva Torres, national coordinator of the Youth Front of the Patriotic Union of Cuban (UNPACU), told this newspaper that “the meeting surprised all of us in the most positive way,” because “we thought we would be coming to explain to Obama’s advisor the reality of the Cuban people, but to our surprise he knows it very well.”

Oliva Torres agrees with the rest of those present that it was an “historic” meeting and, in his opinion, “there was very good communication, great harmony between our approaches and his responses.”

“We are all demanding the same thing: we want the American president to go to Cuba and direct his discourse to the people of Cuba, not to the government,” said the UNPACU member.

The meeting was moderated by Jorge Mas Santos, president of the CANF, who praised the attitude of “these brave men and women (…) who keep alive the flame of hope on the island.” The Cuban-American extended his appreciation to the White House and stressed that meetings like this show that “beyond the Straits of Florida that separate us, we are one people.”

Mas Santos said that “President Obama’s advisor was able to listen to you directly, your dreams, your aspirations, the totalitarian nature of a regime that has oppressed our island for more than five decades, and through your suggested this liberating message can reach the mouth of President Obama on his visit to Cuba.”

Martha Beatriz Roque Believes That The US Should “Straighten Out” The Normalization With Cuba / EFE, 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)

EFE/14ymedio, Miami, 4 March 2016 — The Cuban dissident Martha Beatriz Roque told EFE on Friday in Miami that she would like to be received by the US President, Barack Obama, to ask him to “straighten out” the process of normalization of relations with Cuba.

In that process, “the only thing the Cuban government does is demand and it has given very like in exchange,” said Roque, an economist condemned to 20 years in prison in the 2003 “Black Spring” for violating the “independence and territorial integrity of the State,” collaborating and receiving resources from the United States, and trying to undermine the principles of the Revolution. Continue reading “Martha Beatriz Roque Believes That The US Should “Straighten Out” The Normalization With Cuba / EFE, 14ymedio”

Roque Cabello, who was born in 1945 and also has Spanish nationality, arrived in Miami Thursday, on a permit granted by the Cuban government that allows her to travel outside the country one time only.

The dissident, who saw her sister for the first time in 55 years this Thursday, said that she would return to Cuba on 31 March and so will not be there when Obama visits the island on 21st and 22nd, although she would like to be able to speak with him before his trip to explain to him her opinions about the process of normalizing relations announced at the end of 2014.

“Not to be radical, I must say that the Cuban government has given very little. It does only what is required to get the embargo lifted, return Guantanamo, close Radio and Television Marti,” she said in a telephone interview with EFE.

In her view, the United States should “straighten out” this, so that the Cuban government offers something from its side.

Roque said it now is not the time to judge whether Obama was or was not wrong about the agreement he reached with Cuban President Raul Castro to end the antagonism between the two countries, which has already resulted in a restoration of diplomatic relations.

She would like to be received by Obama before traveling to the island to give him her views on the situation in the country and the changes needed, as she did with the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, when he visited Cuba.

Roque, from the Assembly to Promote Civil Society, said that after this “private trip” she will return to Cuba on March 31 and will be subject to the parole conditions she received in 2004, unable to leave the country again.

A large group of those convicted in the Black Spring Group of 75 left Cuba under an agreement between the Cuban government, the Catholic Church and the Spanish government in 2010. Of the 11 who remained in Cuba, only seven have received permission to take one trip outside of Cuba, and of these three are not going to travel, for various reasons, according to Roque.

Seven of Eleven Former Black Spring Prisoners Allowed to Travel for “Good Behavior” / 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque leaving her appointment at the Immigration and Nationality office at Factor and Final Streets in Nuevo Vedado in Havana.(14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque leaving her appointment at the Immigration and Nationality office at Factor and Final Streets in Nuevo Vedado in Havana.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2016 — Former prisoners of the Black Spring Martha Beatriz Roque and Arnaldo Lauzurique received from the authorities “a unique opportunity to travel,” Roque informed 14ymedio this Monday, adding that today she will begin the paperwork to apply for a new passport.

On leaving the Immigration and Nationality Office, located at Factor and Final Streets in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, Roque explained that Major Orestes Rodriguez Bello assured her that she will be able to return to the country without problems. He added that this was an exceptional measure because the beneficiaries “have displayed good behavior.” However, their status as beneficiaries of “parole” is maintained, and this is not a change in their criminal status. Continue reading “Seven of Eleven Former Black Spring Prisoners Allowed to Travel for “Good Behavior” / 14ymedio”

Seven of the eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring who remain in Cuba have been summoned to the Immigration offices, presumably to regularize their situation and allow them to travel abroad before Barack Obama’s visit to the island. So far only two among them have had their appointments and the rest will do so throughout the morning and the afternoon.

In the citation they are summoned “to the section covering immigration and nationality to resolve their immigration status.” The document is signed by Maria Cristina Martinez Bello, according to a report from the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque to this newspaper.

In addition to Arnaldo Lauzurique and Martha Beatriz Roque, those cited so far include Oscar Elias Biscet, Hector Maseda, Jorge Olivera, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas and Félix Navarro.

Those not summoned to appear include Angel Moya, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo and Librado Linares.

The eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring residing in Cuba have been prevented from leaving the country under the legal justification that they are “on parole,” a situation that has been widely condemned by international human rights organizations.

In March of 2003, the government ordered the arrest of 75 dissidents, including 29 independent journalists. They were sentenced to long prison terms. In 2010, after mediation through the Catholic Church, they were released in exchange for their departure to Spain, but the eleven remaining in Cuba did not want to leave the country.

People In Need Award Goes To Former Cuban Prisoners Of The Black Spring / 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque believes that work to defend human rights "is becoming more difficult for the internal opposition," in Cuba. (14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque believes that work to defend human rights “is becoming more difficult for the internal opposition,” in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2016 — The Czech organization People in Need has given its Homo Homini Award for this year to the 11 former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring who continue to live in Cuba, as confirmed to this newspaper by several of the laureates. The entity, focused on the defense of human rights, has recognized the work of those who have continued to exercise their peaceful activist for decades, despite the rigors of prison and political repression.

Last year the award celebrated two decades since its founding. The award is intended to honor individuals for their “dedication to the promotion of human rights, democracy and non-violent solutions to political conflicts.” Continue reading “People In Need Award Goes To Former Cuban Prisoners Of The Black Spring / 14ymedio”

Among the honorees with distinction, is Cuban opposition member Felix Navarro who told 14ymedio that he was “very pleasantly surprised with the news” and dedicated the honor to all those who struggle “peacefully inside Cuba to produce the changes that will make Cubans free.” The activist went on to ask whether the Cuban government will allow the winners to travel to receive the award, given the travel restrictions they have endured since their release from prison.

The only woman in the so-called Group of 75, Martha Beatriz Roque, welcomed the recognition for her work “within the country to defend the cause of human rights.” The activist points out that this task “is becoming ever more difficult for the internal opposition” and agrees that it is likely that none of the 11 will be allowed to leave the country, so that “there will be an empty chair, with everything that’s going to mean.”

“Moral and political backing and support,” is how the dissident Angel Moya described the Homo Homini Award, adding that this is a recognition that extends “to all those within Cuba struggling to establish the rule of law”.

For the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, Jose Daniel Ferrer, this is a good time to remember that “the first Cuban to receive it was Oswaldo Paya Sardinas in 1999.” At the time, Ferrer was an activist in the Christian Liberation Movement, who spread ” the news throughout the eastern part of the country.” He added, referring to Payá’s death, “It is now up to us and this award makes us very happy.”

Among the winners from previous years, as well as Oswaldo Paya, are Sapiyat Magomedova (Russia, 2013), Intigam Aliyev (Azerbaijan, 2012), Azimžan Askarov (Kyrgyzstan, 2010), Liu Xiaobo (China, 2008), Su Su Nway, Phyu Phyu Thin and Nilar Thein (Myanmar, 2007), Ales Bialiatski (Belarus, 2005) and Sergej Kovaljov (Russia, 1994), among others.

The NGO People in Need was founded in 1992 and is defined as a non-profit organization ” based on the ideas of humanism, freedom, equality and solidarity.” It has employees and volunteers both in the Czech Republic and in a dozen countries seeking to “provide assistance in regions of conflict and support the commitment to human rights throughout the world.”

Vladimiro Roca: “Many just saw me as the son of Blas Roca” / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

vladimir roca
Vladimiro Roca, in an interview with CubaNet (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 16 November 2015 – Vladimiro Roca Antunez is one of “the old guard” group of dissidents who is still in Cuba. He holds a degree in International Economic Relations, and was a MIG fighter pilot in the Revolutionary Armed Forces. He served 5 years, from 1997 to 2002, in Ariza prison in Cienfuegos, as one of a group of four dissidents who wrote “The Homeland Belongs to Everyone.”

Vladimir will be 72 on December 21. His family, friends and neighbors call him Pepe.

Martha Beatriz Roque: What were your years as a MIG fighter pilot like? Where did you learn to fly these planes?

Vladimir Roca: I have always considered the years I spent as a pilot, both as a fighter and in transport, as the best of my life, because the profession of pilot is entirely vocational. Anyone who doesn’t feel a passion for flying can never be a good pilot, and not just a good one, not even an ordinary one.

Speaking of my years as a pilot is something that fills me with emotion. The day that I flew solo for the first time, it was the greatest feeling of freedom I have felt in all the days of my life. It’s very hard to describe. Continue reading “Vladimiro Roca: “Many just saw me as the son of Blas Roca” / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello”

I studied in the former Soviet Union. I was in the first group of young rebels who studied aviation in that country. We went for a quick course that was supposed to last a year, but then there was a change of plans and they divided up the group of pilots into those who would end up flying the MIG-15, those who passed to flying the MIG-19, and a group that was going to fly the Il-28 tactical bombers. I was in the last group, as a bomber navigator in those planes.

During the Missile Crisis, the bombers were retired. When I returned to Cuba, I went to a base in the Holguin area, which was under the command of then First Lieutenant Rafael del Pino. He put me to flying the MIG-15s.

Martha Beatriz Roque: People associated with politics locate you on the left. From the ideological point of view, what is your position?

Vladimir Roca: It is a definition that comes from our founding of the Democratic Socialist Current, with many people who defined themselves as leftists. As for me, from the practical point of view I define myself more as center left, with a tendency to the center, because according to physics the equilibrium is in the center, and this is precisely what I seek. The extremes are, in my opinion, pernicious.

The Ladies In White Face Another Sunday Of Repression In Havana / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)
Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 October, 2015 – Fifty-nine Ladies in White and 20 activists gathered this Sunday in Gandhi Park in Havana’s Playa district, despite the arrests previous to their traditional Sunday peregrination. After a summary of their weekly activities, the dissidents were detained, according to a report from witnesses at the scene.

From the early hours, the regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque denounced the arrests of 12 human rights activists who had traveled to Santa Rita parish. Among those arrested with the mother and siblings of Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, one of the members of the of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who had approached Pope Francis in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

Others arrested on Sunday included the regime opponents Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez and Felix Navarro. The latter lives in the town of Perico, Matanzas, and traveled to the capital to show his support to the human rights movement.

Blogger Agustín López Canino denounced his arrest and reported that he was handcuffed at the corner of 5th and 30th streets, in the Playa district, together with two other colleagues. The activists detailed that he was “taken to the outskirts of Havana” to prevent his accompanying the Ladies in White during their Sunday march.

Meanwhile, in Colón, Matanzas, independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported ten Ladies in White marched in Colón, Matanzas, for the release of the political prisoners.

The leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler said that Yaquelín Boni, an activist detained since Thursday during a protest outside Combinado del Este prison and accused of “disobedience,” has now been released.

The IAPA Does Not See Progress In Press Freedom In Cuba / 14ymedio

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)
Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 2 October 2015 — Within a few hours of the opening of the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), scheduled between 2 and 6 October in Charleston (South Carolina), regional reports from the Commission for Freedom of the Press and Information were made public. According to the organization, ten months after the beginning of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, journalism on the island continues to be “dogged by censorship in the Cuban Communist Party monopoly over the national media.”

The report details that in Cuba there are still no signs of “economic improvement,” nor an increase in the respect for “human rights, greater freedom of expression, association and the press,” derived from the process of diplomatic rapprochement that both countries are experiencing.

With special alarm, the text includes the threats and arrests made this summer by State Security against the reporter Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, when he tried to document in videos and photos the repression suffered by the Ladies in White. The independent journalist denounced the repressive methods against the exercise of the unofficial press, including detentions for “several days without records of arrest nor of the seizure of our belongings” and the “confiscation of the tools of our work.” Continue reading “The IAPA Does Not See Progress In Press Freedom In Cuba / 14ymedio”

The case of the artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto,” was also highlighted by the IAPA as evidence of the lack of freedom of expression on the island. Nine months after his arrest for planning a performance, the Graffiti artist remains in prison without having been brought to trial. This week Amnesty International named him as a prisoner of conscience.

 

The IAPA report also denounces “the censorship maintained on digital sites, as is the case of sites like Cubaencuentro, Martinoticias, and the digital newspaper 14ymedio, as well as other sites that address the Cuban issue from a perspective critical” of the authorities.

Raul Castro’s government maintains a tendency towards “paramilitarization” of the repressions, with physical and verbal violence but without leaving legal footprints, says the report. This method was demonstrated during Pope Francis’s visit in mid-September, “particularly with the detention of the opponent Martha Beatriz Roque and the independent journalist Miriam Leiva, when both were traveling to accept an invitation from the Aposolic Nunciature to greet the pontiff at Havana Cathedral,” it says.

Civil society wins spaces

Among the achievements of Cuban civil society, IAPA enumerates the first Encuentro de Pensamiento (Meeting of Ideas) for Cuba, hosted by the independent think tank Center for Coexistence Studies in the city of Pinar del Río and the magazine of the same name. Founded in 2007, the publication has already published 45 issues and addresses issues ranging from culture to citizenship.

The opening of 35 WiFi points to connect to the internet also found space in the report, although the text reminds us that Cuba remains one of the least connected countries in the world, with only 5%, which is reduced to 1% in the case of broadband.

Half of Latin Americans Have Internet Access, But Only 5% of Cubans Do / 14ymedio

The reports comments on the parole granted to the writer Angel Santiesteban and transfer to a minimum security prison mid-year of the journalist Jose Antonio Torres, a former correspondent for the Party newspaper Granma, accused of espionage.

The report made special mention of the illegal compendium of audiovisuals and alternative information, known as the “weekly packet.” The IAPA said that the weekly packet “has continued to gain ground among the Cuban population and is causing great concern in the ruling party,” while the official press continues to be characterized by self-censorship and the absence of “a journalism of investigation, that puts pressure on government entities to have greater transparency about their internal workings.”

During the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association, there will be seminars run by the Press Institute that will focus on current issues under the title “Beyond the Digital Transformation.” Other panels will address the growing contribution of women in the media, value added and copyrights, according to information from the organizers.

The meeting will feature Literature Nobelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who will participate in a special session and be interviewed by journalist Andres Oppenheimer.

Regime Arrests Berta Soler and Martha Beatriz Roque When They Go to Greet the Pope / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 20 September 2015, Havana–The government opponent Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested this Saturday in Havana, activist Ailer González reported via Twitter. Sources from the Ladies in White informed Diario de Cuba that Roque was invited to the Apostolic Nunciature to greet Pope Francis upon his arrival.

Also invited to welcome the Holy Father before the Nunciature was the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler. Dissident sources fear that she has been arrested along with her husband, the ex-political prisoner Ángel Moya, said Ailer González.

The activist also denounced “power outages” that opponents’ telephone services are undergoing. Attempts to communicate by telephone with various opponents were unsuccessful.

For his part, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), José Daniel Ferrer, sent word via a communiqué of the arrest of 26 activists in Santa Clara who were intending to travel to Havana to attend the Pope’s mass on Sunday. In the capital, Ferrer said, five members of his organization have been arrested.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Pre-Pope Arrests of Dissidents Underway / Martha Beatriz Roque

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 10.15.23 AM
Lady in White Leticia Herreria arrested Thursday 2 AM in Matanzas whereabouts unknown
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Lady in White Marta Belkis Rodriguez arrested 7 am in her house
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Leonardo Rodriguez member of Convivencia Think Tank surrounded in Camajuani — under house arrest
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Lady in White Gladys Zapote arrested today on leaving her house
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Husband reports arrest of Lady in White Marlen Gonzalez
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Lady in White Maylen Maidike in Ciego de Avila threatened by political police not to go to Havana
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State Security places Librado Linares 75 under house arrest in Villa Clara
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Ladies in White threatened in Matanzas Tania Echevarria, Magra Garcia, Julia Sylvia
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Matanzas Ladies in White arrested yesterday warned they cannot get into vehicles, woman are watching their houses
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Jean Michel Duarte Sta Isabel Lajas from Reflection Movement arrested, warned not to attend Pope’s Mass
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The syndrome of repression around a Pope’s visit is making itself felt in Cuba
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Reports received that dissidents’ houses are under siege by political police and mobs

Ladies in White Denounce Arrests That Began Early Sunday Morning / 14ymedio

Ladies in White in front of the church of Santa Rita, on 5th Avenue in Havana this last June (14ymedio / File)
Ladies in White in front of the church of Santa Rita, on 5th Avenue in Havana this last June (14ymedio / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 30 August 2015 — The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, reported several arrests of opponents and independent journalists beginning early today. Those detained were prevented from attending Mass at Santa Rita Church and from participating in the traditional Sunday march along Fifth Avenue. Despite the strong police operation deployed around the parish, at least 40 Ladies in White and 15 activists managed to arrive at the site.

The blogger and activist Agustín López Canino was prevented from leaving his house by the police car with the number 632 and reporter Juan Gonzalez Febles was arrested before reaching the location of the march, according to sources from the dissidence. This newspaper was able verify the existence of a strong police operation on several streets around the meeting site of the Ladies in White at Gandhi park starting before ten o’clock in the morning.

For her part, the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque reported via Twitter the “troubling proximity between the forces of repression” and the Ladies in White who were able to reach the park. In particular, a rapid response brigade gathered at the corner of 3rd avenue and 24th, as reported by the regime opponent Juan Angel Moya.

As they left the place, the police proceeded to violently arrest the assembled activists. To date their whereabouts are unknown, but in the past the women have been transferred to a processing center in Tarara, east of Havana and men to the place known as Vivac in Calabazar.

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 Other Flag / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

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.

Redefining the Cuban Opposition After 17 December / Cubanet, Alexis Jardines Chacon

Clockwise from top left – Cuban activists: Manuel Cuesta Morua, Antonio Rodiles, Guillermo Fariñas, Berta Soler, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent
Clockwise from top left – Cuban activists: Manuel Cuesta Morua, Antonio Rodiles, Guillermo Fariñas, Berta Soler, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent

cubanet square logoCubanet, Alexis Jardines Chacon, Miami, 7 August 2015 – The First National Cuban Conference will be held August 13-15 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is an event that Cubans United of Puerto Rico have been preparing for a year, inviting organizations from both shores. The meeting hopes to focus on the unity of diversity. What follows explores the nature of the differences and the bases on which unity might rest.

The danger of reformism

When Raul Castro took over the nation after the desmerengamiento* of his brother Fidel in 2008, the opposition, to some extent, had to reinvent itself. A series of measures – outstanding among them being the new law regarding travel and emigration – temporarily left the dissidents without an anchor, because they could now leave the country and return without consequences. But the explosive side of the new law was something else: the dissidents soon were more engaged abroad than toward the interior of Cuba. And, naturally, we didn’t have to wait for a media reaction against this kind of tourist-dissent. Continue reading “Redefining the Cuban Opposition After 17 December / Cubanet, Alexis Jardines Chacon”

The absence of a structured political opposition leaves civil society activism very vulnerable to the impact of Raul’s reforms. When opposition activity is reduced to a package of demands to the current government, any change undertaken by the regime could exceed the expectations of the dissidence itself. The dissidence, for example, was not prepared to assume to the challenges of the lifting of the travel restrictions, while the effect for the government was a revitalization of its impoverished symbolic capital.

It is a fact that ordinary Cubans are more radical in their anti-Castro convictions than a good part of the so-called opposition. And it is at least curious that from the side of the opposition they are asking for reforms in a system that bases its politics in the reforms of its model (of socialism). The paradox is solved when we realize that the logic of reformism is compatible with the dissidence, but not with the political opposition.

The other crushing blow came from the hand of President Obama. A good part of the dissidence and activists were left outside the umbrella of the American government, now interested in those who unconditionally support the process of normalization.

A major campaign is being conducted – inside and outside of Cuba – to sell the bi-tonal (black/white) scheme of what is taking place. It would seem there are no nuances; whomever does not support the Obama pact, Castro places automatically on the side of the extremism and violence associated with the construct of the extreme-right-reactionary-bloodthirsty-living-in-the-past.

This biased and misleading way of labeling does not recognize the current that defends normalization, but with conditions. Rather, it puts in the same sack a broad spectrum of those it considers hostile to both governments, from the activists of Estado de Sats to those of the Miami exile group Vigilia Mambisa.

The hardcore, instead, pass themselves off as open people with a string of virtues: inclusion, spirit of dialog, pacifism and a long et cetera. In short, they see themselves as what sells, what is in fashion and in tune with the current times. This posture, which bears fruit inside and outside of the country, shows no interest in ordinary Cubans.

Their concern is focused on the environment of relations between the Cuban and the United States governments, so they are only interested defending – moderated through the interior of Cuba and extreme pressure groups, such as Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) – dialog with the Cuban regime, masked under the innocuous idea of non-confrontation. And it is clear that when there is talk of conditions, from the other side of the opposition spectrum, it is about dialog and rapprochement in general between the governments of Cuba and the United States and not about the classic and sterile demands of the Cuban government before 17 December, which do not transcend the logic of reformism and would have to abandon taking concrete steps in the physical space, for the same reason that they haven’t worked in all the years of the dictatorship.

My question, then – in accord with the premise offered by President Obama – is: if what doesn’t work is changed, why don’t the hardcore supporters of normalization take to the streets to support, at least, the marches of the Ladies in White? If the majority of the Cuban people are anti-Castro and the weak side of the opposition knows that it has been incommunicado vis-à-vis ordinary Cubans, why not go discretely house-to-house to prepare people for a referendum? These are true opposition actions that do not require funds or immolations.

What is the danger, in short, of reformism? That comes from delimiting a front in which the frontiers between the ruling party, the dissidence and the trusted opposition are increasingly erased? In this scenario, the real opposition turns out to be an obstacle.

The light at the end of the tunnel

It is obvious that rulers who adopt the totalitarian model do so with the express purpose of staying in power indefinitely. If this happens in a country like Cuba the chances of regime change, even in the long term are minimal. There is a cultural issue, in this case, which takes its toll. Personally, I am convinced that if Einstein was resurrected and was standing on a corner in Havana, inside of five minutes he would have in front of him a couple of individuals explaining the theory of relativity. These types – in the unlikely event they would allow the genius to discuss the matter – would end up reproaching him with the argument that “you don’t know shit about physics.”

Then comes the issue of the bodeguita, as a friend of mine defines it: in the face of any suggestion of collaboration, if it’s a question of survival it’s every man for himself. One can imagine how difficult it is to unite the dissidence, activists and opposition around an objective that transcends the expectations of a guild. But, even if we make an abstraction of the anthropological-cultural theme, the principal obstacle would stand: are you interested in the validation of a democratic regime, or in democratizing the current regime? Whatever your option you will achieve nothing without dismantling the one-party system. Therefore, consensus – if it were possible – should not be built on the basis of reformist objectives.

In any event, since 17 December things are becoming ever more clear and it will have to be defined on what bases a lobbying in favor of unconditional dialog with the dictatorship and a resistance interaction with ordinary Cubans enter into the extension of the concept of opposition. In the year 2011 – having recently gone into exile – I came to the defense of Estado de Sats before some accusations of Marta Beatriz Roque branding the projects as dissidence-light, and pondered the logic of the traditional opposition, rooted in ideas of heroism and the barricade. The beatings they gave us was the weighty argument that the venerable opposition wielded against us.

Since then, each in his own way, we have been radicalized. I, who thought more as a dissident, now do so from the angle of the opposition. And I don’t know about the ironies of destiny, only that the issue of Cuba is a GPS constantly being relocated: today Antonio Rodiles, leader of Estado de Sats, is the one who receives the beatings and not a few of the old guard opposition look away when the Ladies in White begin their march every Sunday.

Personally, I believe that the conditions are given. Access to public spaces, to the street, is there in front of everyone. It is not a chimera, it is not impossible. If you are an opponent marching with these untamed women you protect the space that they were able to conquer for all of us. Sacred space, because it is the only thing we really have and the only thing that puts the dictatorship in check. If you are an opponent looking to connect with the people, you go house to house – as the Jehovah Witnesses have done in much more difficult times – with the purpose of making every Cuban see the need to put an end to the one-party system through a popular referendum. If you are an opponent you work to give a voice to the people, the ordinary Cuban.

The combination of these three factors could be the unity of purpose sought by the opposition in the diversity of its ways, namely: support, through one’s physical presence, of the Sunday marches, the individual and systematic contact – face-to-face – with the people in the neighborhoods, the blocks and the homes to get them to vote NO to the hegemony of the Cuban Communist Party in the popular vote of 2016; the consequent need for the people to decide how and by whom they should be governed through a plebiscite. This line and its media support is what, in my opinion, defines the opposition camp in Cuba after the moves of 17 December. The rest is also necessary, but not necessarily opposition. Ergo, if this embassy that will soon open in Havana limits its contacts to the reformist scene, then we will know – at least with regards to the issue of Cuba – who is the boss in Washington.

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Alexis Jardines Chacon

Jardines has a degree in Philosophy from Saint Petersburg State University (Russia) with specialization in History of Philosophy. He holds an MA in Philosophy from the same University and a Ph.D. from the University of Havana, an institution where he taught for more than 15 years and where he attained the highest category as a professor. In 2011 he went into exile in Puerto Rico and works as Professor Lecturer at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. Distinguished Scholar in Residence. Cuban Research Institute, FIU.

*Translator’s note: Desmerengamiento was coined by Fidel Castro to embody, in a single word, the debacle of the Soviet Union. It comes from the word “meringue” and, like a failed meringue, refers to the idea of a complete collapse.

“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.