“I do not know if it makes much sense to try to legalize the Hispano-Cuban Foundation on the Island” / 14ymedio, Marta Beatriz Roque

Martha Beatriz Roque, the new president of the Cuban Hispano Foundation. (14ymedio)

Martha Beatriz Roque, the new president of the Hispano-Cuban Foundation. (14ymedio)

14YMEDIO, Havana, 18 July 2013 — The Cuban economist Martha Beatriz Roque has just been named president of the Hispano-Cuban Foundation (FHC). The institution has tried to “promote the presence and relevance of the FHC in the island.” 14ymedio was able to speak with the prominent dissident to get her impressions about the new appointment and her immediate plans.

QUESTION: How do you feel to have been chosen for this position?

ANSWER: It is a tremendous responsibility, because when the board members of the FHC decided to choose me for this position they based it on some expectations that I must now meet. A challenge of this nature, one always takes it as a challenge, with a bit of fear too, because I know it will not be easy.

Q. What are the first steps that you will take starting now?

A. First I must organize the Cuban side. The patronage in Madrid is very well defined, but here there are some steps that need to be taken in that regard. The first is to legalize the situation at the Embassy of Spain in Cuba and then there will be many other steps and concrete actions. But contrary to how Raul Castro thinks things must be done in Cuba, when he advised doing everything slowly and gradually, we will try to make our plans a reality as quickly and swiftly as possible.

Q. Do you intend to try to legally register this entity in the Register of Associations of Cuba?

A. In Spain this foundation is legalized, it is based in Madrid and is well known in the European Union. Legalize it in Cuba? …? I don’t know if it makes much sense even to try.

Q. Will you continue as usual with his work as head of the Community Communicators Network and the Institute of Independent Economists?

A. Yes, of course, one has nothing to do with the others. All tasks that come starting now with this new responsibility will be in addition to what we do every day. I hope I have the time and energy.

Community Network Journalists Arrested and Beaten / Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

And so the violence starts

And so the violence starts

Juliet Michelena Díaz, José Antonio Sieres Ramallo and Billy Joe Landa Linares, were stopped on San José between Belascoaín and Manrique, talking with me, on the balcony, which they’ve dubbed “The Ferns,” an allusion to the Cuban telenovela, when Patrol Car No 767 appeared to arrest them. They wanted to take the two men and leave the woman. She opposed it.

In this patrol they took Yuleidis López González and Juan Carlos Diaz Fonseca

In this patrol they took Yuleidis López González and Juan Carlos Diaz Fonseca

At that moment, officials from State Security officers and two women in uniform with the rank of Major arrived. They jumped on Billy Joe and Juliet. At first they beat him by squeezing his testicles, and injected something in his left arm, near the shoulder.

When he was released, he had to be transferred to the Poze Bernardo polyclinic of San Miguel del Padrón, where he was supplied oxygen. He didn’t want to go to the hospital to avoid being subjected to the political police.

Juliet was dragged by the two officers and a third woman dressed in civilian clothes. They gave low a low blow and hit her in the mouth when she screamed. The public intervened, saying, “Don’t hit her, she’s a woman,” “Don’t be abusers.” Only one woman shouted “Viva Fidel,” and “Down with the worms,” but it didn’t have any resonance. Also arrested wereYuleidis López González and Juan Carlos Diaz Fonseca, who were driven out to Guanabacoa and abandoned there.

One of the cooperators with the political police

One of the cooperators with the political police

Barbara Fernandez Barrera and Misael Aguilar Hernández, arrested in San Antonio de los Baños, were taken to an unknown place, and had to walk 3 kilometers alone until a truck picked them up and took them to Quivicán in the province of Mayabeque.

In front of my balcony those cooperating with the police hid behind a column so we couldn’t take their picture, but we did.

Wherever the people are concentrated, the regime acts repressively. They can not allow the street to heat up from the “Balcony of the Ferns.”

Cubanet, 13 February 2104, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Husband-Wife Human Rights Defenders in Imminent Danger: “Don’t allow them to kill us.”

Antunez & SraUrgent Alert

List email from Cuba, from Martha Beatriz Roque, 2/13/2014, 2:15 PM (translated from Spanish): “Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez just called to tell me that his house was invaded for the third time, his wife was arrested, and he regained consciousness while laying on the street next to a patrol car. “Don’t allow them to kill us,” he told me in a groggy voice.”

Martha Beatriz then followed with a message to Cuba Archive: “He sounded like he was in a very bad state, exhausted from feeling un-supported. I am very worried that they will kill him and nothing will happen. He is now all alone and in hunger strike.”

“Antunez,” and his wife, Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, are leading members of Cuba’s peaceful opposition movement. They went on hunger strike the morning of February 10th to protest the violent repression to which Cuban authorities have most recently subjected them –-detentions, violent home invasions, and confiscation of their belongings. Their telephones have been cut off and since January 24th  their home has been surrounded by security forces.

The couple lives in in Placetas, which is approximately 200 miles from the city of Havana in the province of Villa Clara.

Read remarks Antunez delivered at Georgetown University on September 16, 2013 here.

Antunez13 February 2014

CELAC Summit Passed Like a Storm / Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Informers on guard at the corner of my home — Martha Beatriz Roque

HAVANA, Cuba — There is not a single time that the phone rings for good news; these days every conversation is based on arrests, beatings and demonstrations, an eloquent way to carry out the Summit of CELAC (Community of Latin-American and Caribbean States) which turned into a parody of the famous novel “Wuthering Heights” by Englishwoman Emily Bronte.

But although the meeting was held in Havana, the capital was not the only place where these situations were produced.  In other sites as distant as the eastern provinces also there were moments of tension because of the repressive work of the political police.

In Manzanillo, Granma province, on January 28, some members of the Cuban Community Communicators Network could not leave their homes, as, for example, Xiomara Moncada Almaguer who wanted to visit her ill six-year old grandson; when she came out of her house, six women armed with parasols attacked her in front of State Security officer Camilo Mandiel (alias The Joker), who permitted them to hit the peaceful woman.

Leonardo Cancio Santana Ponce tried to leave his house — on the same day — on bicycle and was impeded by Captain Napoles, Sector Chief, whom he found in the company of four State Security officers, among them Alexis Guerra and the older Able Guevara. Cancio explained that they lifted him and threw him inside his house, together with the bicycle. A drunk neighbor, by the name of Pedro, defended him, yelling “abusers,” and they arrested him.

Also, the house of Tania de la Torre Montesinos, in Manzanillo, was under surveillance by political police, and they did not allow her daughter Ariuska Marquez to go out to the street, in spite of the fact that she is not a dissident activist.

In Holguin province, at two in the afternoon, a demonstration against Doctor Ramon Zamora Rodriguez began at his house on Avenue of the Americas 66 between Comandante Fajardo and Playa Giron in the Ramon Quintana Division; it lasted until 9 at night.  The cheerleaders broke the fence of the house, the windows and the door by stoning and body slams; but what is most regretful is that they hit his 13-year-old son. When they withdrew, those in the dwelling tried to fix some of the damage, but they had to put furniture behind the door in order to be able to sleep with some security.  The next day, several dissidents went to try to repair all the breakage done by the mob.

In the basement of my home

On the 29th — like one more Wednesday — no one was permitted to enter my home, and I was under house arrest. A mob of some 10 or 12 people on the stairs, some of them neighbors who were paid in the morning to dedicate themselves to those functions, did not let anyone up. Our collaborator Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique asked them to identify themselves in order to learn with what authority they were doing this, and one of the repressors, by the name of Juan Carlos, (a well-built man of about 35 years of age), who in April 2013 beat me inside my house, went up to Arnoldo, and the State Security officer there had to intervene so that he would not hit him, because he surely had orders to do so if something occurred. You have to remember that Arnoldo is a man of 73 years of age who suffered 8 years in prison.

From this unclean practice the following community communicators were arrested: Evelyn Pineda Concepción, Laudelina Alcalde, Maritza Concepción Sarmientos, Blanca Hernández Moya, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, José Antonio Sieres Ramallo, Juliet Michelena Díaz, Billy Joe Landa Linares, Julia Estrella Aramburu Taboas (seized two times because they jumped on her when she returned), Juan Carlos Díaz Fonseca and Judit Muñiz Peraza.

The first three women in this regard were transferred in a patrol car — the same as everyone — but with the special feature that they left them in the township Melena del Sur in the Mayabeque Province. When they arrived at that place, a clearing, they told the police that they were not going to get out there, and they said they were complying with orders, that if they did not get out of the car, they would get them out by force.*

Also, Julia Estrella Aramburo Taboas, in her second effort to enter her home, was arrested and taken by patrol car past the town of Santiago de las Vegas.  She resides in Central Havana township and found herself alone.

If the protagonist of Wuthering Heights saw the specter of a woman, in the Cuban parody we are in front of a ghost that has turned into a nightmare for the opposition, but unfortunately no president of the democratic countries of Latin America, who have just visited Havana, have seen it.

*Translator’s note: A popular tactic now is for State Security or the police to simply pick up dissidents and drive them to ’the middle of nowhere’ and abandon them, never recording any arrest or detention.

Cubanet, January 30, 2014, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Translated by mlk.

31 January 2014

Building Collapse in Havana: One Dead and Serious Injuries / Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Rosario Álvarez. 96, victim of the collapse

Rosario Álvarez. 96, victim of the collapse

Rosario Alvarez, 96, who died in the collapse, had repeatedly complained to the authorities that her home was in the process of falling down.

HAVANA, Cuba. – At 6:30 in the evening on February 7, the partial collapse of a three-story residential building at No. 5 San Carlos, between Morell and Iznago in the Santos Suarez neighborhood, 10th of October municipality in the city of Havana, caused the death of Mr. Rosario Alvarez Alvarez, age 96, who was sitting in the dining room of her apartment when the incident occurred.

The original information was provided to the Network of Community Communicators by the victim’s great granddaughter, Jessica Almeri Canal, age 14, a junior high school student, who was in another room in the house and was unharmed.

According to the source, the dining room floor of the apartment on the top floor gave way and fell on Alvarez Alvarez’s apartment and, as a result of the impact, she fell into the garage on ground floor of the building.

Álvarez Álvarez remained under the rubble for five hours before being found dead by rescuers. Her lifeless body covered with bruises was taken directly to Legal Medicine for the autopsy. The family members of the victim were doubly outraged because the official cause of death, according to the Legal Medicine authorities was a “heart attack.”

The was a wake for the body at the Santa Catalina and Juan Bruno Zayas funeral home, in the Havana neighborhood of Santos Suárez, and burial was scheduled for 4 pm on Saturday.

More serious injuries

Sitting in the room where the collapse occurred was a young woman, family of the victim, who miraculously suffered no serious injuries, and her son Diego Rodríguez Antonio Amador, age 2.

The boy suffered serious injuries to his face, knocking his eye out of its orbit and his cheekbones were operated on. As of now he is in intensive care at Juan Manuel Marquez Children’s Hospital, located on Ave. 31 and 76, Marianao, Havana, and his condition is reported as serious.

Another victim who was in the building is Bárbara Danay Canal Aramburu, whose scalp was torn off and who suffered fractures in her left arm. Canal Aramburu had emergency surgery and remains hospitalized at the Calixto Garcia Hospital, Havana, reported as serious.

Also in the room was in Mrs. Lidian Juana Quevedo Quevedo, 54, grandmother of the child, which is also at Calixto Garcia Hospital.

The Director of Calixto Garcia and the President of the municipal government, who presented himself at the Hospital were talking to the victim’s great-granddaughter — source of this information — to inquire about the situation.

We have not been able to obtain images of the disaster because the place is occupied by officials and senior military and access to the site is not allowed.

Background

On 17 January this year, Julia Estrella Aramburu, a reporter for the Network of Community Communicators, had published in Redecilla, the Network’s newsletter, a note of complaint warning that this building was in the imminent danger of collapse.

The complaint was made by the victim who is now dead, in the hopes that the authorities would stop ignoring her pleas for help and do something about it before the disaster, which happened yesterday, finally occurred.

Following is the full text of that report in Redecilla :

Partial Collapse

By: Julia Estrella Aramburo Taboas

The lady of 96, Rosario Álvarez Álvarez, living at No. 5 San Carlos Street between Morell and Iznagas, in the neighborhood of Santos Suárez, 10th of October municipality, wanted to tell us her sad story.

She is a pensioner and has repeatedly complained to the President of the government of the municipality about the condition of her, which is in danger of collapse: already there has been a collapse with the roof of one of the rooms falling in. As a result of this the neighbor on the top floor fell, but fortunately was not injured.

The answer I got last December 22 was that they would go to visit in early January to see what they could do with her case, but so far nothing has happened and the house of the the elderly lady Rosario is slowly collapsing.

8 February 2014

Detained Half an Hour on Marta Beatriz’s Stairway / Lilianne Ruiz

Community Communicators' Network on the ground floor of the building -- Courtesy of Marta Beatriz

Community Communicators’ Network on the ground floor of the building — Courtesy of Marta Beatriz

HAVANA, CUBA — This last Wednesday, I was walking quickly through Belascoain, disgusted by the odor of urine from the doorways. Every once in a while a peddler called his wares. On arriving at Zanja, crossing the street, the area was deserted. Three men in plainclothes blocked the door of building 409, where Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello lives.

I tried to ignore them and continued. The door was locked.

“Where are you going?”

“Who’s asking?”

The man, with an eastern accent, responded while putting in front of my eyes an identity card with initials in red: DSE.

“State Security Department, my dear,” he said with that lack of professionalism that one cannot imagine.

He did not clarify what it was all about. He again asked me the first question, and I told him that I was going to see Marta Beatriz Roque.

He took my identification and led me inside the building. He called one of his minions, a black man about two meters tall and more than 50 years of age, whom he called “brigade-ist.” And he told him, “Keep her here, she cannot go up to see Martha Beatriz.”

A thermos of coffee on one of the steps of the wide staircase betrayed the complicity of some neighbors with the political police.  Two uniformed policewomen appeared on the scene.  The “brigade-ist” charged one of them with watching me. Continue reading

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello Detained for Three Hours

beatriz_roque_01-300x200Pro-democracy activist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello went to the Provincial Court of Havana today in order to have the state of siege she is subjected to daily lifted, but got no response from the authorities and was placed under arrest for three hours.

State Security took charge of the former prisoner of the so-called Group of 75 (those arrested in 2003 Black Spring), taking her to the Zanja Street police station in Central Havana. There, Roque Cabello was guarded by three policewomen who stripped her of her personal belongings, including her cellphone.

After three hours Major Mario from the political police appeared, and indicated what measures the repressive bodies would continue to take with her.

In the words of Major Mario, neighbors of the activist will continue to beat her physically and harass her in a general way. In addition, she will not be allowed to have visitors, nor may she leave her home, they told her.

In a phone conversation with Cubanet, Roque Cabello stressed the lack of competence of the courts in Cuba, given, she said, that they are subordinate to the political police.

At the time of this writing, the building where Roque Cabello lives was surrounded by the police and her collaborators from the Cuban Community Communicators Network, an independent group led by former prisoner of conscience, were not allowed to visit her.

From Cubanet, 20 January 2014

I’d Rather go Back to Prison / Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

martha-roque-300x226HAVANA, Cuba, January www.cubanet.org – The building where I live has 42 apartments and three floors. Most of the time did not see anyone in the hallways. However, on January 13, at 9 pm, for the second time since the last beating I received (November 19)  a group of about 8 or 10 neighbors stood at the door of my house to tell me that “they will not allow more meetings.”

Act two, they then began a rally of repudiation in front of my apartment with a television they placed and videos, apparently about the opposition and myself. Since November, when the dictatorship decided not to allow meetings at my home, they have filled the corridors, the stairs and the wall opposite my apartment with pictures of Fidel and Raul Castro and banners and a mural in which there’s is newspaper Granma with a picture of me and offensive words.

During these months, Wednesday after Wednesday, the political police have been at the entrance to the building, accompanied by the National Revolutionary Police and two or three of the neighbors have stood at my door to prevent entry to people who want to access to my house, and even to arrest or kidnap them, with the idea of leaving them stranded far from their homes*.

It is impossible to live with the political police harassment of me. I practically can’t open the windows since they boldly look inside. They have taken a common area that gives access to my house and have put a locked gate, which means I can not even clean the outsides of the windows.

They let the water run under the door to the apartment, also in the kitchen window overlooking the courtyard of one of the members of the Rapid Response Brigade, just to point out some of the situations that I experience in the day, although it is known that in April 2013 they beat me and sprained my left shoulder. Continue reading

Downpours Emphasize the Chaos / Martha Beatriz Roque

HAVANA, Cuba, December 2013,  www.cubanet.org.- . It’s frightening the number of housing collapses that have occurred in Havana, up to the end of November and in the first days of December. Officially, there have been 227 collapses, including 26 which were total and the rest partial. 627 individual families have been affected. They haven’t listed the localities where they occurred, to enable one to check the accuracy of the figures, and whether those identified by human rights organisations are included in the official government report.

In most of the neighbourhoods of the capital, including Miramar, which is crossed by 5th Avenue, the sewage system doesn’t work. When there is a downpour, the streets flood and the traffic is affected. But the drains appear so clogged as if they were cemented up, and some houses at a higher level also flood, because the gutters in the roofs have no way to run out onto the streets.

There are streets which remain full of mud and debris. That makes getting about difficult, including on the pavements, which are already affected by trees, whose roots break the concrete and form potholes which make it difficult to pass. In some municipalities like Centro Habana, Habana Vieja and Diez de Octubre it is dangerous to pass down the streets because the balconies are at risk of collapse, and the buildings too.

Given such government apathy, most of the streets have dumpsters crammed full and overflowing, with great mountains of solid rubbish. The divers, which is what they calll the people who rummage in the dustbins, spill the rubbish and the surroundings are converted into focal points for possible disease. And when it rains, like in recent days, this trash flows down the streets with the water.

Although you don’t see cats in public spaces, because they end up as the main course on the dining table of the Cuban poor, the dogs are all over the place, covered in scabies, near food shops. They also enter into some shops and annoy the customers.

The bicycle taxis go the wrong way along the streets, especially in Central Havana, endangering the lives of passers-by. The mobile salespeople also, in accordance with their custom, move their carts along different streets, and park them on any corner, dumping the waste from their sales. Both situations produce problems when it rains.

It’s very hard to find a public toilet in the city. If there is one, there is someone there who charges for its use, and because of that many people have used rubbish bins on the corners, out-of-the way columns, and other uninhabited places, as toilets. Even worse, those that have some sort of shelter, because they have walls, have been converted into accommodation for sexual acts.

The water falling washes away substantial quantities of urine and excrement from those sites.

The list of problems is endless, but the most unbearable is that there won’t be a solution, not even with the 10 million guidelines of the Cuban communist party, because solving the problems requires financial resources and political will, and both things are absent in the government’s programmes.

18 December 2013

Translated by GH

The Political Police Intensify the State of Siege Against Martha Beatriz Roque

The siege situation against political opposition leader Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello has reached extreme tension.  Today her apartment continues cordoned off by the State Security (political police) and supposed neighbors insult her through a megaphone, calling her “traitor” among other affronts.

In a telephone conversation with this Paper, the pro-Human Rights activist and former prisoner of the so-called Group of 73, exhibited an alarming state of nerves. They do not let her move from there and they do not let anyone pass to visit her. On her door they have placed a photo of Fidel Castro and another with the five Cuban government spies who form part of the Castro campaign.

Neighbors who visited her yesterday at 6 in the afternoon told her that they could not permit counterrevolutionaries to go to her house because that damages the elderly and children.

Martha Beatriz wants to pursue a legal claim on the grounds that what they are doing is unconstitutional.  A lawyer has already interviewed her.

In the midst of her desperation, she has asked that if they do not leave her in peace, they should return her to jail, since, she says, she is a prisoner in her own home.

Today eleven members of the Cuban Community Communicators Network, an independent press agency that she organizes, were arrested.  These reporters were trying to get to her house.  Of the eleven arrested, six were taken to the Guanabacoa township and released. Of the other five nothing is known.

It also transpired that the political opposition leader Arnaldo Ramos Lazurique, recently arrested when he visited Roque Cabello, was freed at the Dragones police station.

What they are doing now to Martha Beatriz brings to mind the sad episodes that occurred in Cuba in 1980, when citizens who were leaving the country forever were persecuted, beaten, stoned, humiliated openly in public and their houses were besieged.

Cubanet, November 27, 2013

Translated by mlk

Mariel: A Port For If And When They Eliminate the Embargo / Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique and Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Havana, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org – This coming November 1st the legislation published in the Official Gazette regarding the Mariel Special Development Zone will go into effect. As usual with the regime, the Council of State and of Ministers, and the Ministers of Science, Technology and the Environment, or Finance and Prices, of Interior and Labor, and of Social Security will also issue their corresponding regulations. A more than 30-page binder of regulations, very difficult to assimilate, even by the writers themselves.

But what it does make clear is that Cubans living on the island have no right to invest, they can only serve as workers.

There are some features which are obvious and which ensure that the Zone is not intended for now, but for the future; there appears to be something like a  hope for an understanding with the Americans, because it could be a base for ships to enter the United States of America, coming from Panama Canal.

However, it does not address how they are going to attract a massive infusion of capital, technology and the transfer of goods to the nearest principal market, the U.S., without having resolved the embargo.

Will it benefit ordinary Cubans?

The Zone covers 180 square miles and could be determined only by persons having a knowledge of cartography, on a map, that in order to show the site details a footprint consisting of points, which in turn are coordinates. The municipality of Mariel is only 150 square miles, ranking 139th in the country in size, and the local population that would benefit would be very few, since the whole of the province Artemisa has just over half a million people.

Perhaps the reason for choosing this Zone was to reduce the impact on the population of such a large area of foreign businesses, although thinking that no immediate development is expected.

The payment for a workforce will be agreed upon between the designated Cuban entity and the concessionaire in Cuban pesos (CUP), considering jobs of similar complexity in the demographic area of the foreign user, salaries paid to workers in Cuba and the expenses incurred by the employer in management to guarantee the supply of a qualified workforce, which involves recruitment, selection and training among other aspects.

Separating Cuban workers from the money they earn is guaranteed, when it’s stated that wages paid will start from a minimum, equivalent to the average wage at the end of the previous year in Havana province, at the time negotiations occur. It is clear in the legislation that neither the workers nor the unions will participate in these negotiations, as there isn’t the slightest attempt to address the working class and its representatives.

The Zone is subordinated directly to the Council of Ministers, giving them wide autonomy, and making no specific reference to its command structure. Presumably, it’s principal leaders are already designated, because the chief is equivalent to a minister, with great power; but nothing has been disclosed.

We can get an idea of the decision-making power of the Chief of the Office, at the national level, in the fact that he has the power to summon the bodies of the Central Administration of the State and of the governing bodies of each of the activities that take place in the Zone; and relations with the Provincial Assembly of Artemis and local governments are not subordinate, implying that these governing bodies lose almost its jurisdiction in the Zone.

Although we will have to wait to find out the extent all these changes will have on that Zone, it is clear that within it the the long road from socialism to capitalism is circumvented, which as we know well is not built.

Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique and Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

From Cubanet, 22 October 2013