Islands / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Yesterday I will leave Iceland.

In a slow, gentle, painless way.

Like a little prince.

Between the sleeping volcano and a vision about to disappear.

Pitted against sun and solitariness.

Inspired and ephemeral.

Dweller of insular Europe.

Navigator to the point of nausea through deep steaming bays of delirium and desire.

Tomorrow I left Iceland.

I Love You Not Despite But Precisely Because of the Tyranny / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Not a single Cuban is free in the world. If anything, the freest Cubans are the slaves who still live there, because they have nothing to lose.

Thus, the Cuban passport is the biggest trap in the history of the world: The Cuban passport is our “Little Pioneer” bandana that marks us for life as slaves of the Castro regime (even when the Castros are gone, but not Castroism). Continue reading “I Love You Not Despite But Precisely Because of the Tyranny / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

And this is why the Cuban people are so wise: It is because we are so cynical.

We know that traveling to and from Cuba is not a right. We know that the little trip from and to Cuba must be earned with blows of silence and complicity. We know that we have to behave ourselves like good pupils, before and after this little trip to Cuba. We know that we are servants of the Cuban State, that has taken us hostage outside of Cuba, as within Cuba our families remain hostages.

The best example of this I say to you with my heart in my hand is you. You who flee from me. You who don’t want to give me a “Like” or a “Share” on Facebook. You who pretend that the other side of the screen doesn’t exist.

But that does not make you guilty, you are even more of a victim. Your silence is honored with your presence. I feel close to you, in solidarity with you, intimate. I love you again, Cuban. Your fear honors my voice. Your cowardice makes me humble and more responsible to speak for you, for me.

If I keep doing what I keep doing it is for this, for us as free as perhaps never exists because the tyranny is terrible. But what “we” so free is enough to be happy, to think that we won the battle of the spirits in freedom.

One day, the final member of the Ministry of the Interior will die. Then, my life. Then, my heaven. Then, my love.

11 August 2016

Oswaldo Paya and the Varela Project / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Note: Oswaldo Payá was subsequently killed in Cuba during or after a car crash in circumstances that have never been satisfactorily explained by the regime. The driver of the car, a young Spaniard who survived, said that the car was chased and hit from behind by another car and run off the road. Versions differ regarding whether Payá and Harold Cepero, who also died, were alive after the crash.

Being Saint Louis / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo


The first thing about Saint Louis that hits you in the face are the gusanos* — the worms. Earthworms, twisted and charred. In the gardens, on the sidewalks, segregated on the public right-of-way or in the throes of gentrification. Worm cadavers, fossil worms that minutes ago ate and shat earth to better fertilize the planet.

A Cuban cannot help but notice what happens around the fate of worms. They are becoming extinct. They no longer have any private life. The sun lacking any American midwestern sensibility is cooking them. In a few months there won’t be a single worm left in Saint Louis. In a few months all the worms will have returned to the earth, they will have become earth. And the city will be a graveyard of annelids. An anonymous burial ground of crawling beings. Still crawling in death.

A police car passes by. Two female albino university students jog by. A formidable black man with with a sign goes by. Lacking teeth and not hiding it. A sea of owls passes at the hour when at the end of the night the gardens finally cool down, the public streets where, then, I am the one who goes by. I avoid stepping on the worms. I avoid tripping over them and falling among their twisted and charred flesh.

It is called holocaust.

It is called history.

It is called today.

Translator’s note: “Gusanos” — worms — is a favorite epithet of the Castro regime against its “enemies” and, in particular, against those who emigrate.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 28 August 2016

A Conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo / Regina Anavy

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo with his most recent book, Del
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo with his most recent book

Regina Anavy, Reykjavic, June 27, 2016 — Crossing paths with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo in Reykjavic, Iceland, on June 27, 2016, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with him.

Iceland And Future Plans

Regina Anavy: I understand you are here on a special two-year grant from ICORN [International Cities of Refuge Network].

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo: Yes. ICORN is an NGO based in Norway. They make contact with city governments. They believe that working with cities is better than working with countries. Maybe there is a conflictive immigration policy, but the cities are happy to have you. So in Europe they have dozens of cities, and I think in America now Pittsburgh is becoming an ICORN city and maybe Las Vegas. But after a year [in Iceland], I will be going back to the U.S., to enter a Ph.D. program in comparative literature at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

RA: Are you going to be teaching or doing research?

OLPL: Mainly I will be a teaching assistant in the second year. Continue reading “A Conversation with Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo / Regina Anavy”

RA: Will you be teaching comparative literature in Spanish?

OLPL: I don’t know yet. I guess in both English and Spanish.

RA: Is that a five-year commitment?

OLPL: It could be up to five years to get a Ph.D. in comparative literature. It’s a special track, like a pilot program. It’s called “International Writers Track,” and writers are invited to the department. They know that we are not academics; maybe we don’t work or think as an academic, but somehow the purpose is to give us tools to understand the codes of literary criticism or academic essay. I write literary criticism, but it’s not with literary rigor; it’s my impressions. So it could be very interesting.

RA: So that will give you a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature?

OLPL: If I manage to get through to the end. There are several universities there; this is the one they call “Wash U” because it’s Washington University. I was there for a conference in January 2015. It was like a marathon. I went to an event for human rights in Chicago. There was a lady there, a professor from Poland, who had been following Cuban affairs, so when she found me on Facebook, she told me, “You need to come here. It’s a one-hour flight, and we will pay for you to go back to Brown University” [in 2015, OLPD was an Adjunct Professor of Creative Writing at Brown University]. I went there for a couple of talks, and she asked me about my future, and somehow she had the impression that my future was lost because I was not an American, and she said, “Maybe we can help you here. There is a new initiative going on.”

Finally they nominated me. I didn’t apply for this Ph.D. I mean I sent the documentation but only after I was nominated. Other universities had shown interest, but always you need to start by the phone consult, then the GRI test for mathematics, and maybe somebody assesses you there. But this process circumvented all that, and they were very kind.

They understood that I was here [in Iceland], so there is already one year deferred [for the Ph.D. program]. This is why I cannot defer any longer. So everything came together for Reykjavic and St. Louis, and I was “lost” but then suddenly had two options. I was able to manage, talking openly, to both parties. “I have this option, can I do this? Maybe not for two years, maybe for one; now’s the time to go there [Wash U.] and be a good student after being a bad boy.” I think I will be able to keep on with creative ideas for both these options and at the same time add some discipline, and the writing will be good.

The Future Of Cuba

OLPL: You know I was in Arizona, in April, at the Sedona Forum, with John McCain and the Director of National Security. I saw that they were mainly politicians, people with different positions regarding Cuba, people who have been traveling to Cuba. Usually you talk in front of human rights people who agree with you in a way, but these were people who can really change things.

I was happy to talk there on a panel with plenty of dissidents, and there were Russian dissidents and the realities were terrible, really terrible, and I was somehow trying to put some ideas into this “new cake” about Cuba and how it is not about the embargo but to make sure that we are moving into freedoms in one way or another, not just trying to make money, or like China – the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Are we moving into that or are we making sure from the beginning ….?

RA: Well, that’s what it should be, the human rights situation.

OLPL: Sometimes I become really skeptical and sometimes I push very hard.

RA: Because it’s all about business. It’s all about making money. And “Oh, the Cubans can be entrepreneurs now.” Yes, as long as the Government lets them. It could be taken away tomorrow. There’s no law.

OLPL: The legal space is very limited. Technically, you are not even an owner of your business. You have a license, and you pay a tax. But it doesn’t give you any judicial personality. You’re not registered as a trademark; you don’t have a lawyer for your business, and basically you have no rights. So you are a citizen, who maybe is making a lot of money now, because paladares [private restaurants] in Cuba are making a lot of money, but money is not [the same thing as] rights, and this is why when they close a paladar, nothing happens. Nothing. You’re not a person. But, anyway, it’s a process that is starting now.

RA: The other thing is that the money you earn in Cuba – where do you spend it? It all goes back to the Regime.

OLPL: All of it. You know, even remittances. We all need to help our relatives. We are talking of billions a year.

RA: I know. It’s one of the main things keeping the Government going.

OLPL: What is the option? There is no boycott.

RA: Are there other Cubans here besides you?

OLPL: Yes. That’s another story. The island has been conquered, completely conquered. Maybe there are over 50. I haven’t met them all, but there are stories, and, of course, not all of them are good stories about Cubans here. Legal troubles, violent troubles, our fellow countrymen. But I have met two or three families; some of them have family in Cuba. So there are beautiful stories. There is a young girl here who just had a baby, and she lived 50 meters from my place in Havana. I haven’t met her but my mother knows the family.

RA: How is your mother doing?

OLPL: She’s eager that I return to America so she can visit again, because she came once last year. She has a visa now. It’s a multiple entry visa, so she only needs to buy a plane ticket. Now it seems that shortly she will be able to buy one on American Airlines, maybe for $200. Because the prices are going down; capitalism is bringing down the prices.

RA: Did you request asylum in the U.S.?

OLPL: A green card. Let me mention something about that. The word “asylum” – I have entered America twice, since I left, before the six months, to keep the green card active, and also I have a reentry permit. It’s like a passport for non-U.S. citizens, that allows you to stay even up to a year, but I have been reentering every six months, less than six months, to avoid the bureaucracy.

And both times, it happens sometimes to residents, you are stopped; you are asked more questions. It seems when I show the reentry permit there is no problem, but suddenly something happens. Immediately they come and say, “Come with me, please.” I go to a room. That’s what I’m curious about. They ask no questions. They type all my information again.

I’m almost sure it is very governmental, like tracking a possible political activist, and then once, more than two times, there was a young girl there, a young officer. And I was trying to be gentle with her; it was a little like Cuba, and then I said to her, “May I do anything here while I am in America, because I will be reentering the country several times? Maybe I can save your time; you can save my time, if a document is missing…”

“No, no, no, no, no.” Very Latin, maybe she was telling me a little more than what she had to tell me. “It’s very likely that you will be stopped every time you reenter, but there is no reason; there is no problem, and that’s okay. Because you are a political refugee, no?” I said, “No, not at all.” But that was a bit of information. I am a normal cubanito. I didn’t know what to say so, I just said, “No, no, no, I’m a resident.” I was surprised, and maybe there is some kind of…”

RA: They’ve flagged you.

OLPL: Yes, like “This is a trouble-maker…”

RA: But why don’t you just get in and…?

OLPL: Maybe. But it was not about that. When I was in America, I obtained my residency in 2015.

RA: So you’re a resident.

OLPL: Yes I am. I have a green card. I’m not requesting…

RA: But you don’t want to become a citizen?

OLPL: I cannot do it until 2018. So Cuba will change; I will change. America will change. I don’t know exactly how. I haven’t made up my mind.

RA: Do you think Cuba’s going to change enough by 2018 that you would want to go back?

OLPL: I don’t know.

RA: I doubt it, frankly.

OLPL: Yes, but there is always a biological solution.

RA: Even so, they’re still going to be in charge.

OLPL: I know, I know. It depends also on – I mean, I have been looking for a kind of empowerment, I hate the word because it’s been used now to empower society, but, let’s say I am trying to position myself, not only as a Cuban blogger or dissident, but as something else. Let’s say I’m waiting for a book to be published or to be well-known, maybe something like a Ph.D. or this fellowship for a Ph.D. scholarship, something that makes my name known – a prize, a literary honor, so that when I decide to return, their lowest price is to ban me from reentering, but if they allow me to reenter and harass or detain me, that will have a high political cost for them.

So I am trying. I don’t know how exactly – but in my mind, the scenario is that I think Cuba is not likely to be democratic in two or three years, but I am thinking that the political cost will be high, and then I will be willing to do it, to get a ticket and be stopped. I can even do it without an entry permit. I have a passport, and my passport is good for the next four years.

RA: But you have to keep renewing it.

OLPL: Renewing is like a stamp. Not a passport, I mean. You understand that the expiration in my passport is 2020. But what they call renewal is like a stamp that you pay for, a visa for two years. I need a visa for my country with a valid passport. But even that – I can apply for it, but I am afraid that – another consideration is that you need to deliver the passport.

And Tania Bruguera [Cuban installation and performance artist] three years ago delivered her passport, and they kept it for one year before she could travel to Cuba. So when they gave the passport to her, somehow they felt, “Now you are tamed. You are low profile.” But she was one year without a passport. So I maybe need to go without any stamp and be stopped like that and show the Americans in line, or maybe they will allow me to enter. And then I will be safe from Cuba. If I can do it, every Cuban can do it.


RA: Is there a Cuban Consulate in Reykjavic?

OLPL: Fortunately, not. I feel very, very, very happy. First of all, I met Cubans here, including the one who created a group Cubano Islandia. When the Ambassador comes from Cuba on holidays to visit beautiful Iceland, they prepare dinner. And one of the girls here, in one of my talks at the University of Reykjavic, was very critical. At the end she said, in English, “Okay, I know very well what I am talking about, because I am Cuban!”

When I am in public I’m not completely truthful, because somehow I know this is all about the repercussions – there were many professors there – and I said, “I’m so happy to find you, another Cuban. I wish that we could have this talk at Havana University. For five years I haven’t been invited; I haven’t been published, and you were not claiming for that right of a Cuban. We can have this conversation here, with all that anger; we can quarrel here and then shake hands and go back to our places. And nothing happens. There are no political police out there.”

So that was my answer, because you are talking in English in Iceland, and I really was surprised when she said, “I’m Cuban!” Oh my god, like “I’m Cuban, too!” And then some other friends told me that she had been organizing a dinner with the Ambassador. Everybody wants to be on good terms with the Cuban authorities.

RA: Oh, I think you gave that up a long time ago. Have there been any repercussions for your mother?

OLPL: No. Around the first year, maybe when I was making the decision to finally stay, they went to my neighborhood, to the block. They interviewed several neighbors but not my mother, of course, but my mother knew. “Maria, what’s going on with Orlandito? Something happened.” And my mother was very nervous that day, and they even pressured the young man and my friends who took me to the airport in 2013, to see if he was illegally renting the car. So it was this kind of stupid pressure; I don’t know what the purpose was.

RA: To scare them.

OLPL: And that was a tough conversation that I had with my mother, because when she called, very nervous – maybe that time they were listening – and I said very strongly, “Even if somebody shows you a piece of paper saying Orlando is dead, you don’t believe it, because you are in the hands of Evil. Where they print fake newspapers, where they talk to fake friends.“ I was very strong, and somehow she was more encouraged.

“So you say, ‘If he’s dead, he’s in the hands of God. I don’t care about any information from the Cuban Government.’ like that: ‘No, thank you!’ “ Because she was saying, “Something must have happened to you because they’re here asking.” After that, she was happy to be in America. I took her to conferences, and she was very happy to see a good environment and good people.

RA: Does she understand English?

OLPL: Very little. But at the end she was talking in the supermarket. She likes to buy stuff, food and things, and she was asking for something, and I was buying something else, and she went to a girl and said, “I want rice, white rice.” So she was getting more courageous. She doesn’t know anything, no, but she knows the word “rice,” and she said, “I want rice.” So when it comes to buying food, she was able to use English.

RA: Is there a large arts community here in Reykjavic?

OLPL: Yes, of course. And I would say everybody writes; this is crazy. Poetry, chess, readings.

RA: Are you learning Icelandic?

OLPL: Very little. I was trying to learn more but my time…. I mean, to read 10 hours a day and translate for a course I was taking, and then I said, well, I will not have one year of scholarship, I will have half a year, because I was putting a lot of energy into that, and then I quit. Maybe if I knew that I was going to be here for two years I would make an effort.

RA: It seems like it would be a difficult language to learn.

OLPL: Once you get the rudiments and you know the codes, you understand what is a verb and what is a noun. And then at some point you can incorporate new words very easily. At least I bring them from English, a lot of words. And even they don’t look like language. Many words, on the highway, the signs, because the bridges are only one-way. I don’t know the origin, the etymology.

RA: But you play with language anyway. That’s one of the things you like to do.

OLPL: Yes, I like to do that.

RA: You’re very good at making up words.

OLPL: Maybe in five years I can come here and work on a farm and teach Spanish. I wouldn’t mind being more like a hermit. Once having positioned myself in the literary field as an academic, or maybe publishing my novel that I’m finishing here, I will be more secure, and I wouldn’t mind being here for one year helping on a farm, making a little money. It would be like a spiritual experience, really, living with the landscape, but in a more permanent way than now.

RA: With this fellowship you have now, from ICORN, don’t you have to teach?


RA: Do you have to produce a certain amount of work?

OLPL: The “certain amount of work” can be one word. The application deals with reference letters and why you cannot do your work in your own country. So it is also a human rights organization. ICORN had a Congress in Paris in March this year. Some cities seem very active and push the writer to participate, but here, at the beginning, they told me, “No, you can be quiet.” I have been traveling in Europe because I have arranged that myself, but mainly I am forgotten here. They tell me, “Anything that happens, you call us; we can help.” They gave me some cards to go free to cultural centers, not all of them, but the ones that belong to the City Hall. They facilitate things here.

But I can be here for two years, and they will not be asking me to formally deliver 50 pages, even if it’s been written before. So it’s really a space and also a responsibility, because you are taking the place of someone else, and it’s a privilege. So it’s a good opportunity to move forward, even if I know that at the beginning I will be a little depressed, to be again in a city, surrounded by deadlines and people, but so far I have liked the people I have met here, and there are many reasons to remain.

RA: Is it easy to meet the local people here?

OLPL: Yes. They have a different code, but Reykjavic is really like a small city. So they are very willing to help with anything. At the same time they set limits. They help you and at the same time they say, “Okay, now it’s time to go.”

RA: Did ICORN help you find a place to live?

OLPL: No; it was granted to me. The house belongs to the City Hall. I like the place; it’s very nice. It has one room, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen and a bathroom, just in front of the City Hall.

The New Book

RA: I know you’re leaving for Spain soon to do presentations for your new book.

OLPL: Yes, Del clairín escuchad el silencio, a book of chronicles, some of my writings, my blog writing during the last five years. All of them have been published, but I rewrote every poem. I haven’t seen the book yet, because it’s very expensive to buy it and ship it to Iceland. The book costs $15 on Amazon, and then [I would] pay $30 for shipping [to Europe]. So I’ve decided to wait, but I’m very eager. I want the book.

RA: Can you buy it digitally?

OLPL: Not yet, but I want to talk to the publisher about that. It’s a very small publisher. Believe it or not, I had to buy a number of books. I managed to arrange four presentations in Spain. The publisher is Print on Demand. I said, “Maybe very few people will show up.” They said, “No, it’s vacation, maybe we can get 20 people there, maybe 30, 40.” I don’t know. But we can run out of books. This is very Cuban. So, I bought more books with my savings and forwarded them to the publisher, and those are my books, and so now I have now a packet of books that I will be moving from city to city.

RA: When are you leaving for Spain?

OLPL: Midnight. Tonight. And I will also be in London at the end of this trip, because there is a literary magazine, Litro, that is publishing a dossier of Cuban literature, and they included me. So I am little by little trying to regain the literary spaces that I lost because of politics and my blog. There is a short story by me, a very political story, fiction, and the magazine includes writers from outside and inside the island.

RA: Are you in touch with writers in Cuba?

OLPL: Many of them.

RA: I read Cuba in Splinters. Were those writers all from the island?

OLPL: There are three living mainly abroad. As time flows, that’s one of the things you can plot. You have this center of points within the island, and as time flows, they are scattered, you know? It’s a tendency, no?

RA: You write poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and you do photography.

OLPL: What I feel like writing is fiction, even if it looks like nonfiction. But I also like to write chronicles. Maybe sometimes I like to fictionalize them, or put some opinions there within the chronicle, so they are not pure chronicles.

RA: By “chronicles” you mean novels?

OLPL: No. Chronicles are like a journalistic genre, which is that you write a story, but it should be 100 percent true. I also write here and there some poetry but it’s mainly not really poetry, more like short stories, very small short stories, very narrative, but I don’t take an exalted or high tone. I do not pretend to become lyrical or create a poetic image; I try to be narrative. But the beauty is that it’s short, very well-selected and sometimes has contradictory points between the persons, and that creates an atmosphere of surprise or something that is a little unique like, what’s going on with this voice? It’s a little crazy.

RA: You’ve been compared to Cabrera Infante.

OLPL: I hope so! You know there is a tradition of Baroque writing with masters like Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Alejo Carpentier and José Lezama Lima. After them, together with them but not so well known as the Baroque writers because he wrote many things, Reinaldo Arenas, because with his novel, El mundo alucinante, The Delirious World, he mastered language. He was a guajirito, a country boy, who came to Havana, writing with grammatical and orthographic mistakes, and he wrote many things. He wrote poetry, theater; his first novels were very Baroque, and he’s part of that tradition.

So somehow my tradition is closer to those writers than to other writers that I also love, more realistic ones. So who knows? You start by imitation, by imitating what you love, and maybe little by little I will find a different point. But they used to tell me, when they wanted to criticize me, provoke me or make me nervous, “He’s like Guillermo Cabrera Infante without the talent of Guillermo Cabrera Infante.” I say, “Of course not!” What else can you say? Don’t compare me to Cabrera Infante.

RA: It’s because of the word play, the way you make up words.

OLPL: Yes, of course. Sometimes it’s anonymous commentary, but sometimes I receive that reference from writers in Cuba, who are not friends, and then I say in my mind, Yes. But when Cabrera Infante was alive, and that was until 2005, the Master was not published in Cuba. You were not defending your Master. So it’s better not to have the talent. Because if you have the talent and you are Cabrera Infante, you are talking about him now that he’s been dead for 10 years. And that’s hypocrisy. Forty years without being published in Cuba, and he’s not a genius, he’s a gusano [literally, a “worm,” what the regime called Cubans who left). He was very hated by the officials In Cuba because he was a great intellectual.

RA: I hear you have an article coming out in Smithsonian magazine.

OLPL: This is a story of the famous photo of Ché Guevara and what Ché Guevara means for Cuba. He’s become a symbol for everything, and if you go to Havana you have to take a picture with the photo in front of the Ministry of the Interior, like Obama did with a selfie. But I also tell the story of the photo, and I had to find some information about it, crazy things that happened. How Dr. Korda was not paid during decades for the photo – he managed to get some money at the end – and also about the discovery of the photo. The photo of Ché Guevara is a beautiful image, but it also represents violence and hatred.

The Exile Cuban Literary Movement

RA: How do you feel about being part of the exile Cuban literary movement? What does this mean to you?

OLPL: The last five years in Cuba, I was feeling completely exiled, and, consequently, I was feeling completely and dangerously free. It’s not only about courage, that we were brave. We were really scared of everything. But suddenly, as I started to be censored, not publishing any more with the publishing houses in Cuba, not being invited any more to publish in magazines or to be part of a literary jury, I realized that they couldn’t take anything else away from me.

And then I discovered my blog, which was like a bottle tossed into the sea, and I thought, they’re not going to read this, and I could be as provocative as I wanted, and people would be reading me. I love to be the center of events, but there is no Internet in Cuba. They [State Security] will not be reading the blog. But I got into more trouble because of the blog, thanks to the visibility that civil society and the blogosphere was having, thanks to Yoani Sánchez, so suddenly I found myself writing like an exile and living like an exile.

All my money came from donations or publications that I published abroad, 100 dollars that could last for three months. So my life depended on email, in a country without the Internet. I was trying to find a pirate connection, trying to go to hotels. I was trained to be part of an exile literary writing.

When I came outside I stayed for three years. It was not the original plan. So I have been lucky enough to organize and recover a sense of belonging that I didn’t have in Cuba. The anthology, Generation Zero, certainly needed the distance from myself in order to make the contacts, to push, to sell the story of a non-political generation to an editor in New York. It now has been published as Cuba: Année Zero in Paris, and it’s going to be published in German.

RA: Is any of your work getting into Cuba?

OLPL: Maybe. I tried to publish an anthology in Cuba, and they told me that the publishing houses were not publishing “group aesthetics.” If I wanted to organize an anthology it could be an anthology of new writers, but in many ways these anthologies, Generation Zero and Cuba in Splinters are ghettos, barricados. It’s a place were we are not censoring anyone. We are declaring ourselves and taking a position, and it’s allowed to make war against the Castros, literary war, and so this kind of political literary movement in Cuban cultural fields is not possible.

Now I have been feeling I belong and am able to help my friends and be part of this literary phenomenon much more than when I was inside the island. And besides, when I was inside the island – and this is sad – many writers somehow were considering me a political activist. I mean, State Security declares me a dissident and oppresses me, and my friends know that I am a writer.

I was even a member of the Union of Writers. Instead of saying, “Well, Orlando, I don’t know what you’re doing about politics, but I consider you a writer.” No. They are subdued by the narrative of the State that said I was a dissident, so I was feeling less close and had some hard feelings against writers when I was on the island, and now, from outside, everything goes better with those writers, because they feel safe from me, and on my side I can promote their works – not only the ones in the anthology but other writers.

RA: But can they read you in Cuba?

OLPL: No. It’s difficult. I have been sending the anthology with some of them when they travel, but it’s very limited. With this new book that I have just published, I am very proud. I think it’s our little baby, and it is not only my book but also the book of the blog, so it belongs to all of us, including translators, although it is in Spanish.

Many of these columns are already translated, and this book, although it’s not being commercialized digitally on Amazon, is going to be sent, free of course, to other contacts, including NeoClub Press and Hablemos Press. It’s going to be distributed in Cuba. So it’s a way of putting together my blog, with a cover, with my picture, and distributing it. My expectations are to re-conquer the island, and more than that: My plans are to be born again in Cuba in 2016.

There is a short story of mine in Litro, the literary magazine that is going to be published in London, together with some short stories of writers in Cuba, so when these writers take the literary magazine back to Cuba, they are taking my story there. So I am trying to recover a space that was a little lost and revive my narrative and my way of expressing myself, and my impact or influence. I want to do it again. I disappear for two years, a couple of years. Now I’m back. That’s the headline: He’s back!

RA: So the UNEAC writers will accept you?

OLPL: No, no, no. But that’s good. Let them be in conflict with me. Let Omar Pérez, a poet, take the magazine back. “Why is Orlando in here?” Why? Because he writes here; he belongs here. So it’s a movement. I’m dealing with a feeling of nostalgia, with pain and the feeling of loss. I do not project that, but it’s there. It’s a way of easing, soothing, like an act of a baby with a knife in my hand. I’m writing, I’m cutting people and cutting narrative….

RA: With a pen!

OLPL: Yes, a pen, but a penknife, with ink. So it’s dangerous. Beware: It’s dangerous. Not like the pen of an angel or a bird. It’s the pen of a bird, but with a sharp beak, ready to be a dart at some point. So I’m back. Not an angelic return. It’s like a devilish return, in a literary sense.

The Work In Progress

OLPL: By the way, I have been finishing my novel here.

RA: Yes, tell me about your novel.

OLPL: It’s going to be brief, because I believe in brief form – the post, the blog. I don’t believe in a big work. It’s about me, very biographical. I don’t believe now in the construction of characters. I don’t know what I’m going to do in the Ph.D., but I don’t believe so much in the construction of characters in literary procedure. I believe in writing about myself, even when I fictionalize myself, so it’s not biographical in a way.

I’m talking about Fidel Castro; I’m talking about Oswaldo Payá; and there are very delicate scenes there because I am narrating what happened to Oswaldo Payá. Of course I don’t know what happened. But I was at the funeral, and the novel moves from that point. I was there, and I approached the coffin only very late at night, not at the moment of mourning and giving condolences. I didn’t approach the family. At midnight, I approached his coffin, and the moment I looked at him, he started to bleed.

RA: It was an open coffin?

OLPL: You could see through the glass. And so the moment I approached at midnight, the church was empty. The next day everyone went back and the Cardinal gave a mass; so this was like a very personal moment. I was almost sure before Rosa Maria [Oswaldo Payá’s daughter] said anything. I was almost sure that certain things had happened to that man. I didn’t know what.

And then at the moment I approached, he started to bleed, red. From here, from the left of his face. And I understood that as a sign saying that something unfair, something unjust has happened. I don’t know what it is. I don’t believe in anything supernatural, but something has happened, and I can see here the traces of violence.

So it starts from there. I am trying to project the vision that if a man was killed, then a man killed him. And the man that killed him may be alive or not and is a Cuban or a foreigner.

So there is a certain issue that goes into the novel, and then the novel moves, and I move with the novel: Miami, New York, and it will end in Reykjavic. So I want it to be like a large chronicle. It was going to be entitled Alaska but now it’s not going to be like that. I don’t know exactly. I was thinking of using one Icelandic letter. Guillermo Cabrera Infante entitled once of his books “O,” only “O,” and I was thinking to use the thorn, which is a letter. It’s unpronounceable in Cuban. It’s a runic sign; it’s not commercial.

It’s almost finished. But I don’t understand the ending. I don’t know what the ending is. Or maybe the point is that there is no ending. It’s a fragment, because it’s not a thesis. Because I’m saying that I don’t know what happened. I don’t know, but it’s in my heart. So maybe I can just make the opening and the ending more diffuse. This is one chapter of 200 pages, of a novel that will never be written.

Aesthetically I’m interested in the fragmentary, in the unbalance, so let’s see, and it’s almost finished. And the last part is about Reykjavic and Bobby Fischer, the chess champion. I know he ended his life very full of hatred. He was exiled here; he’s buried here, so I have been able to go to his grave. When I was five, six, maybe seven years old in Cuba, my father talked to me about Fischer, an American hero, who had been in Russia and here in Reykjavic, and the word “Reykjavic” meant something to me as a child. So there is also something karmic.

I didn’t apply for this city. I applied to ICORN, the NGO. You don’t know where you’re going. And they were like, “Well, there aren’t too many options. There are very many applications. We have something, but I promise you won’t like it. It’s at the end of the world.” “What is it? Tell me.” “Well, there is an opportunity now in Reykjavic.”

RA: And they didn’t know that you like cold weather. Why would a Cuban want to go to Iceland?

OLPL: When I arrived the first time from New York, at 6:00 a.m., I was in tears. Now I think I will be returning to this country. Not to a city, as I told you, but to a farm, to help an old family there. I will be happy. But to do that I will need some ground under my feet to be able to have money, to be able to have a profession, to be able to publish more. At least that’s what I think right now. It’s very beautiful, and the winter was very beautiful. Twenty hours at night. I love it. Everybody was warning me: depression.

RA: Well, you sounded depressed.

OLPL: I was posting about depression, but it’s not the same. I was sad for a time. It was the distance. I was channeling that. But not because the darkness was crushing me.

RA: I thought you were having seasonal affective disorder.

OLPL: It’s logical, yes. But I didn’t feel so much like that. I mean, you read my posts and they’re schizophrenic. It’s on purpose.

RA: I won’t take your posts that seriously any more.

OLPL: I spent three days without seeing the sun. I was sleeping during the day, and I would wake up at night, but after that I felt renewed, and I walked almost all day. I was happy, euphoric. Reykjavic is still very new to me. I don’t know the city at all. And I have been traveling a little in the country and saving a lot of Iceland for the future. And in America, too. It will be more repetitive in a way, but the challenge of reading, learning, and writing will be new for me. I don’t have a humanistic education; I was trained as a biochemist. And I’m happy.

Note from Translating Cuba: Regina Anavy has been supporting this project to translate Cubans writing from the island from its earliest days, in 2008. She has translated well over 300 posts (including many that appeared on earlier sites) and has supported and continues to support the project in other ways, not least of which is hosting us in her home.


Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona / 14ymedio, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Panel at the Sedon Forum in Arizona last week. (@McCainInstitute)
Panel at the Sedon Forum in Arizona last week. (@McCainInstitute)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Arizona, 13 April 2016 — On the 8th and 9th of April, along with some fifty other speakers, I was invited to the Sedona Forum which is organized every year by the McCain Institute in cooperation with Arizona State University. So I flew from the democratic volcanoes of Iceland to fall, almost by parachute, among the rusty canyons of Arizona, whose red stones immediately reminded me of Stalinist aesthetics.

This elite event takes place behind closed doors at the Enchantment Resort, a kind of luxury campsite under Sedona’s cliffs and pristine dawns, where the sky is preserved by lighting technicians to make visible 101% of its stars, constellations, comets and Milky Ways.

I sneaked in there, with no qualifications but Cuba in tow, like a conspirator sect Continue reading “Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona / 14ymedio, Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

, side by side with more than 200 personalities from the elite of American and global politics, including the National Intelligence Director, governors, ambassadors, ex-generals, university rectors, editors-in-chief, CEOs of NGOs, and a dozen senators and congressional representatives.

All were entertained on the family ranch of Republican Senator John McCain, a hero of the war against communism in Vietnam where, incidentally, he was tortured and left with lifetime scars by Cuban hitmen hired by the Ministry of Interior, who killed in cold blood several of his colleagues who were prisoners of war (all of which he told me with a hand on my shoulder and a resolute expression of resignation).

Until the sessions are made public on the website of this conclave, we were asked not to say anything of the men summoned there and their controversial statements. But I can reflect a little now on America as such. That word that, notwithstanding the academic left, remains synonymous with the only functioning and stable democracy in our hemisphere: “America” as an apocope of “United States.”

Without falling into apocalyptic aporiae, the American Union seems to stand, in the spring of 2016, just on the edge of one of those red abysses of the desert where the Sedona Forum took place. The United States desperately cries out for water, its eyes caked with the dry sand of freedom on probation. Between fundamentalism and schizophrenia, between fear and manipulation of the masses, between ethnic tolerance and immigration balkanization, between ghettos and wars, between nationalism and the NSA, between chauvinism and pornography, between correction and criminality, between idiocy and ideology, between capitalism and the lack of capitalists, between isolationism and abstention, between the State Department and its fourth floor despotic populism. Finally, between socialism and the wall.

The sessions included testimonies from Russian and Eastern European activists, for example, and they were chilling. For all of them, Putinism – that Mafioso model that Cuba is implementing today among the tycoons of Cuban exiles and the tyrant Raul Castro – mercilessly assassinated a colleague or loved one. Or both. Some of the panelists in my discussion, in fact, were survivors of violent attacks or the posthumous peace of free doses of radioactivity.

All these champions of human rights – including, by sheer luck, me – can or cannot return to our countries of origin some day, but all of us, within or outside of our Cubitas, face the most brutal impunity of regimes that kill professionally as a state policy. Be it in a “dictatorship” or a “democracy,” we all survive in an eternal state of quotation marks: precarious countries with a fancy for the gallows.

I understood then that the democracies of the world are a race in the phase of extinction and that we have been left very alone, like lost souls, despite the solidarity as symbolic as it is insolvent of the ever diminishing governments and institutions of the free world – where now no one declares themselves free – howling like fatally injured coyotes, or perhaps like characters from Roberto Bolaño: losers who are lost in the Sonora desert, just in sight of the Sedona Forum in new-century Arizona of the end of Europe and the United States.

I shared these 48 hours of voluntary seclusion like a half-silly monk amid futility and philanthropy. Still trying not to set off too many alarms in the debates all about this alarming situation. Still trying to seem like a person with perspectives, facing our fossil future or Fidelity ad infinitum. Still playing at being that Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who, in the Isle of Infamies, at a party under surveillance even in our most intimate lives, was an incisive and intolerable writer for the system of the rude masses.

In my talk – and hoping not to violate the sub-rosa Sedona code in saying it – I first diplomatically applauded President Barack Obama’s approach to Cuba. It is not us, free Cubans, who rely on censorship and closure, but we are precisely the victims that have suffered it most. But. I immediately confirmed in public my faith in Castroism as a thing intrinsic to Cubans, as a congenital condemnation that defines us before and after Castro.

So. I told them in the English of my childhood – when the United States was, in Cuba, an illusion that everyone believed in, everyone hoped for, everyone supported – that the heart of Castroism is unwavering and that in consequence, it will end up (and this is already starting) criminalizing the Obama administration’s “opening” and its empowerment of our civil society, far beyond the vile greed of the Chamber of Commerce of an ever more un-united Union, and far beyond the terrible Cuban-American betrayal of a nation that was never born.

In other words. I told them, as a devotee of the barbaric nature of the Castros as an incarnation of Cuban complicity which, in whatever variant, America could emerge even more shutout with its “humanitarian” intervention of bombarding us with dollars and hams and computer clicks and cellphones. Although. I also asked them – among the cackle of American laughter and sophisticated sips of wine – for a civil re-colonization, a civilizing interference that finally makes us people and not subjects of a socialism with no way out, neither by ballots nor bullets. I asked them with full responsibility for a reverse invasion of human beings without anthropological damage, while our poor people escape in a suicide stampede. Curtain.

With or without embargo. With or without engagement. With or without internet. With or without repression. With or without political prisoners. With or without a market economy and the Sugar Kings who will come. With or without the rule of law. I told them that Cuba is and will be only a dynastic tyranny in self-transition, as long as a Castro or a Callejas or a Cardinal or a theatrical etcetera of these remains alive: a caste in the throes of perpetuating itself, not from Law to Law, but from Power to Power. And so. Cubans tremble, tremble like enslaved plebeians, tremble both from the opposition and from officialdom before the specific initiative of a plebiscite as a tool of liberation, as has been proposed by led by Rosa María Payá.

And I offered them this other little tidbit. Dear little friends, American daddies and grampas: the first Cuban opponent or dissident that is inserted into some little post within the institutional machinery of the regime, be it at the grassroots level in the People’s Power or in the National Assembly itself, before or after the post-totalitarian shebang of 2018, this will not be a Cuban opponent or dissident from any Cuba, but an agent planted not in secret but brazenly by the think tanks of the Ministry of the Interior and its intelligence thugs. Full stop.

Why. Without citizen mobilization and participation, the rights of Cubans – on the island as well as in exile – will remain hostages of our national sovereignty, in the hands of a clan that controls the agenda of the secret pacts where the latest guest of horror has been the White House. Please.

Forgive me, compatriots. I went to the Sedona Forum to talk about despair and left despairing. By the same grace, at a Miami foundation in the summer of 2013, a great magnate almost accused me of “doing the dirty work of the Havana Government.” And a radical counterrevolutionary said the same thing (listen to how good it sounds): “the Havana Government.”

My answer three years ago was the same with which I concluded my plea in Arizona on the afternoon of Friday, the 8th of April:

“Better despair than demagoguery.”

Between a Historic Milestone and the Horror of History / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 11.04.32 PM
Raul Castro tries to raise Barack Obama’s arm in a “shared victory” salute. Obama’s not having it. Havana, March 2016.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 21 March 2016 – A “historic milestone”: This is what Americans call President Obama’s visit to the Cuba of Fidel and Raul Castro. That is, the Cuba that has not had a legitimate president for 64 years. And a Cuba that is of the caste of children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren, all named Castro. All of them visible in the neo-Castro selfies, holding key positions in the military-corporate apparatus of the State, looking ahead to the dynastic succession announced for 2018.

The American subculture of spectacles obliges them to invent “historic milestones” of all kinds. Bored to the point of catharsis with the surrealistic encounter with a democratically elected African-American and an octogenarian general with bloodstained hands. Continue reading “Between a Historic Milestone and the Horror of History / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

The White House has specialized in supporting the bloodiest Latin American caudillos: Batista, Trujillo, Ríos Montt, Somoza, Stroessner, Pinochet and a chilling et cetera that culminates with the Clan Castro. The “novelistic” dictator in our hemisphere is in debt to the powerful in Washington, who applaud and abandon the satraps in their own backyard according to the profits in play.

But let’s not be unfair to the Obamacracy: The Cuban Castrocracy has also been blessed by a record three Catholic popes and one Orthodox one, by the populist saints of our region, by American academia with its Revolutionary Oedipus Complex, and by European governments pressured by left-wing intellectuals and right-wing business interests.

Kind-hearted Obama arrives at the last surviving Revolution Theme Park in the Global Marketozoica Era. To exempt him from a mea culpa, he arrives spurred on by the misery of the Cuban exile millionaires, desperate to divide up among themselves the ruins of the island, while some even dream of their own candidacy for parliament or president, ready to return to the homeland the first second Raulpolitik that is declared to be in pseudo-democratic retreat.

Thus, the proletarian Utopia turns into State Capitalism. With the added value of a Communist Party that, according to the Constitution, is the only legal party in Cuba, the character of whose social system is enshrined in the Constitution as “irreversible” in perpetuity. Neither at the ballot box or at the barrel of a gun.

For this Castroism had to assassinate Oswaldo Payá on 22 July 2012, the Cuban opposition figure with the greatest moral authority and popular base, and the first to win the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought for his citizens’ initiative known as the Varela Projects, an authentic alternative for the transition to democracy, unlike the Raulist reforms which confer privileges and concessions from a power that consults no one but itself, and that does not restore and of the rights hijacked from the Cuban people.

An Obama eager to justify his aprioristic Nobel Peace Prize, and a Europe demoralized among immigrants and radicalism, Cuban State Security hired cheap labor to do its dirty work, because the olive-green executioners knew that such an extrajudicial execution would be contrary to the passive complacency and the non-passive complicity of the free world.

And so Rosa María Payá, the martyr’s young daughter, who today is leading the worldwide campaign “Cuba Decides” for the realization of a plebiscite on the island, was coerced by John Kerry’s spokesman at the State Department on 20 July 2015, so that she could not ask even one question of the Cuban foreign minister then present in the United States, after the opening of the Cuban embassy in Washington.

Now we will see if Barack Obama, who will meet with a dozen dissidents in Cuba, has sufficient sovereignty to look Rosa María Payá in the face and mention in public the name of her father, Oswaldo Payá, honoring the memory of this Cuban who belonged to the future. Should he not dare to do so, the visit of the American president to Cuban could be a “historic milestone,” yes, but of a past of horror.

US-Cuba Deal at One Year: Castros Stronger than Ever / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The pact between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro is bearing fruits … for the communists. (The Source)
The pact between Barack Obama and Raúl Castro is bearing fruits … for the communists. (The Source)

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Reykjavik, 15-December 2015 — A non-interventionist US president, a Peronist Catholic pope, and a right-wing military dictator exalted by the Latin American left was bound to be a winning ticket.

And so it has been. One year after a new era in Cuba-US relations was announced, it is evident that the Castro regime has secured political stability, a large amount of foreign subsidies, and debt write-offs. Even a dynastic succession is on track for 2018, when Raúl Castro will hand over all the titles he inherited from his older brother Fidel in 2006. Continue reading “US-Cuba Deal at One Year: Castros Stronger than Ever / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

Let us, then, be humble. The elder Castro was right when he decided to impose his regime through violence. The Cuban Revolution was a historical necessity; capitalism remains a fraud which is doomed to failure; and Fidel Castro has been a visionary this whole time.

Let us also be fair with the Cuban people: we are too skeptical, conformist, ungrateful, lazy, and evasive. We weren’t up to the task of being the chosen people to lead the socialist utopia. As soon as we could, we betrayed the island’s proletariat, those who control the means of production, to seek refuge in air-conditioned Hialeah shops.

It is no coincidence that the US-Cuba rapprochement was announced on Pope Francis’s 79th birthday, December 17. Havana generals and Wall Street bankers will pat themselves on the back since their secret deal is close to fruition. The White House’s ideological blindness has enabled this pact to go forward in spite of recalcitrant critics’ insistence on calling tyranny by its name.

Both in Cuba and abroad, speaking of fundamental freedoms is counterproductive at this point. Those of us who have lived 57 years under a regime with no respect for human rights shouldn’t be so impatient when the transition toward post-Castroism is around the corner!

During the last year, the number of arbitrary detentions, beatings, and imprisonments without charges or trials has increased exponentially. Censorship in Cuba has become so blatant that the regime even targeted officially recognized artists such as Tania Bruguera and Juan Carlos Cremata.

Let’s put things on a balance: both the United States and Cuba now have embassies in each other’s capital. Their doors have closed on Cuban civil society and opposition groups, but this “milestone” has produced a guilt-ridden hysteria among US academia and media-types.

Americans can also send instant messages and snail mail to Cuba (so that the political police can more easily read it with impunity). Meanwhile, Cuba’s Computing and Communications Ministry refuses to offer private internet services. They don’t want users’ money; they want the submission of their thought.

Large cruise ships — Granmas of grand glamour — are soon to arrive in Cuba, but the government still doesn’t allow its citizens to enter their own country by sea. That’s our punishment as the proletariat’s pariahs. Nobody cares about the apartheid of a people ever in diaspora, men and women forced to use the Cuban passport even when some hold dual citizenship. And even with that document in hand we can’t permanently reside in our own country.

The new rules establish that no foreign investor can be of Cuban origin. The Castro gerontocracy has always been motivated by contempt and distrust rather than by profits.

But such details will be ironed out during the orchestrated transition towards a “post-Castro” Cuba. The United States still has a lot to yield to the Castros; Washington still hasn’t turned over Ana Belén Montes, the Cuban spy who infiltrated the Pentagon’s higher echelons and is serving a 25-year term. It should be a piece of cake, since Obama has already released five of Havana’s hit-men, some of them with life sentences.

The first anniversary of Cuba’s deal with the United States signals a new phase in the communist revolution. It leaves the world a wonderful lesson: those who kill more, win; those who win, are legitimate; the dead are just a myth made to fit into the mass-media’s narrative; and those whom Castro doesn’t like, the totalitarian regime will destroy.

Rosa Maria Paya In Venezuela To Observe Sunday’s Legislative Elections / Diario de Cuba

Rosa María Payá Acevedo and Chilean Senator Patricio Walker before boarding their flight to Caracas, December 4, 2015. (ROSA MARÍA PAYÁ)
Rosa María Payá Acevedo and Chilean Senator Patricio Walker before boarding their flight to Caracas, December 4, 2015. (ROSA MARÍA PAYÁ)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Caracas, 4 December 2015 – The Cuban human rights activist Rosa María Payá Acevedo is in Caracas to accompany the Venezuelan youth in legislative elections on Sunday, December 6, the blogger and writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo reported Friday.

Payá, president of the Network of Latin American Youth for Democracy – a position she was elected to during the recent congress of the organization held in Costa Rica – is a representative of Cuban civil society and is in Caracas in solidarity with the youth of the country.

According to a note sent to the to Diario de Cuba’s newsroom by Pardo Lazo, Rosa María Payá Acevedo, promoter of the democratic project Cuba Decides, will observe the Venezuelan legislative elections as a guest of honor of the Chilean Senator Patricio Walker, with whom she flew to Caracas.

Distribute and Act on to Save the Live of El Sexto / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Danilo Maldonado Machado, also known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth) is a graffiti artist in Cuba, imprisoned since December 25, 2014 for attempting to perform an artistic action in a public space.

Danilo has spent 9 months in the Valle Grande prison, charged with the crime of Contempt, and is waiting for a judicial process, where he faces a possible sentence of 1 to 3 years imprisonment.

For six years Danilo has suffered police harassment, successive arbitrary arrests, detentions for more than 72 hours, searches of his home and confiscation of his works and his working materials. He suffers from bronchial asthma and has been affected by pneumonia.

  • We remind the Cuban authorities that the right to freedom is indispensable for expression and artistic creation in virtue of Articles 19 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; protected by Article 15 of the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cuba is a signatory and both of which are considered binding.
  • We insist that the authorities eliminate the restrictions on freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Continue reading “Distribute and Act on to Save the Live of El Sexto / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo”

  • We express our concern because Danilo Maldonado has been detained solely for exercising his artistic activity, and urge that he be released immediately and without conditions, because he is a prisoner of conscience; he has been confined for his peaceful activism in the rescue of fundamental freedoms in Cuba.
  • We insist that the Cuban authorities drop the case immediately.
  • We ask the Cuban authorities to stop harassing and intimidating all the rest of the citizens who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful association.
  • We insist that the Cuban authorities promote and protect the right to freedom of artistic creation, and the right to participate in the cultural life, to access culture and respect for cultural diversity.

Additional Information

The graffiti artist and activist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto” (The Sixth), was arrested on December 25, 2014, when he took two animals painted with the names of Fidel and Raul and was about to drop them off in Havana’s Central Park, usually crowded, for a street intervention. He is formally charged with “Contempt” [1] and is awaiting trial. He faces a sentence of 1 to 3 years in prison.

The right to participate in public demonstrations is not recognized in the Cuban Constitution nor is it legally developed. The Penal Code, protecting individual rights [2] includes the right to demonstrate and sanctions anyone who, in violation of the law, impedes the holding of a lawful meeting or demonstration, or a person from attending them. If the crime is committed by a public official, it is an abuse of office and the penalty is doubled.

However, the legal body [3] itself considers that a crime is committed against public order by anyone who participates in meetings or demonstrations held in violation of the dispositions that regulate the exercise of this right, dispositions that do not exist. Sanctions are tripled for the organizers.

There is no procedure to notify or solicit authorization to hold a protest, nor legal recourses to appeal the refusal. However, there are frequently marches along central avenues, called and organized by the government itself, with a marked political-ideological character. The restrictions imposed on this right by the state, are not provided in law.

The situation of human rights in Cuba has deteriorated sharply in recent months, with ever more repressive practices entrenched mainly against the Ladies in White dissident movement and the activists who support them, and the government’s contempt has become ever more flagrant toward the recommendations made by the States parties before the Universal Human Rights Council during the periodic review, in which the priorities are the ratification and implementation of the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and their optional protocols.

In Cuba, “The educational and cultural policy is based on the Marxist ideology” and is tied to the “promotion of patriotic education and the communist training of new generations and the preparation of children, young people and adults for social life. The State, in order to raise the culture of the people, concerns itself with promotion and developing artistic education, the vocation for creation and the cultivation of art and the capacity to appreciate it.” [4]

In 1961 Fidel Castro marked a limit for the full enjoyment and realization of the cultural rights of Cubans. In his speech “Words to the Intellectuals” his iconic phrase, “Within the Revolution, everything, outside the Revolution, no rights,” paraphrased the dictator Mussolini.

Our Constitution says, “Artistic creativity is free as long as its content is not contrary to the Revolution,” contradicting itself as it continues: “The forms of expression in art are free.” [5]

We believe that the imprisonment of the artist is an excessive punitive measure in response to the peaceful expression of the politically critical art of Danilo Maldonado and it is an attempt to silence and censor even more the artistic scene within the country.

We believe that society has the right for its public spaces to be spaces for creativity, for artistic expression; because they are also collective spaces of knowledge and debate. The public space belongs to civil society and not to governments, corporations or religious institutions.

We believe that it is the duty of the State to protect artists as key actors in social change and to defend their right to dissent, instead of gagging them, persecuting them and imprisoning them, when they have a critical attitude toward the government, which is also part of their role as artists: to question the reality that surrounds them and to be an active part of its evolutionary transformation.

Other government practices that threaten the enjoyment and full exercise of cultural rights and artistic-creative freedom in Cuba are:

  • Institutional censorship with regard to almost all artistic manifestations.
  • The theft of artist identity (in the case of independent festivals) by the State.
  • The right of admission to cinemas, theaters, museums, galleries, theoretical lectures, denying entrance and participation in public spaces to people labeled as dissidents or Human Rights activists.
  • The use of aesthetic criteria as political conditions through official censors charged with justifying censorship.
  • Manipulation of artists and intellectuals committing them to position themselves with exclusively political measures like the execution of three young men who hijacked a boat (2003).
  • The social isolation of the artistic guild from smear campaigns and the intimidation of others.
  • The State monopoly on public spaces and institutions that give authorization to engage in public activities.
  • Discrimination and social cancellation of a person as reprisal for their critical attitude.
  • With all institutions controlled by the State, if there is forced expulsion there is no other institution than can take in the person.
  • Limitations on the freedom of movement: people are blocked from moving to alternative spaces when they suffer from police harassment. Refusal of permission to leave or enter the country, confiscation of passports, arbitrary detentions, etc.
  • Expulsion from schools, workplaces, institutions that protect artists, for political reasons.
  • The application of self-censorship to daily behavior. (People naturally assume it: censorship is ordinary.)
  • Physical violence in arbitrary arrests, home detentions, threats, home searches, confiscation of works and the means of work, police interrogations, prison, aggression against the family.
  • Lack of official response to legal demands and citizen complaints that permit the exhaustion of domestic legal recourses.
  • The right the authorities take for themselves to impose a single interpretation on an artistic work.
  • The lack of legal recourses that permit the public recognition of initiatives independent of or alternative to the Ministry of Culture.
  • Participation in political activities and military training is compulsory in the Cuban educational system.
  • Ideological conditioning in arts education. Forced expulsions.
  • The impact of the Ministry of the Interior in the development and implementation of cultural policies and in the behavior of arts institutions.
  • The use of artist and intellectuals in the spaces of political repression.
  • The promotion and support of the professional careers of artists and intellectuals is conditioned by their demonstrated compliance with official policy (policies related to publication, movie production, exhibition spaces).
  • Independent NGOs are not entitled to receive funding under the “New Law of Cultural Investment,” requiring all financing to pass through the Ministry of Culture.
  • Demonization of financing secured by artists officially discriminated against.
  • Use of art as popular recreation and not as a method of critical questioning and a space for promoting freedom.

Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz
President of the Republic of Cuba Havana,
Cuba E-mail .: (c / o Mission of Cuba to the UN)
Fax: +53 33 085 July 83 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Salutation: Your Excellency

General Abelardo Colome Ibarra
Minister of the Interior and Prisons
Ministry of Interior, Plaza de la Revolution, Havana, Cuba
Fax: +537 85 56 621 (pressed “send” when you hear the voice in Spanish)
Email .:
Salutation: Your Excellency

Dr. Dario Delgado Cura
Attorney General of the Republic
Attorney General’s Office, Amistad 552, e/ Monte and Estrella,
Centro Habana,
Havana, Cuba
Fax: + 537 669485 / + 537 333164
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Maria Esther Reus González
Minister of Justice
Salutation: Ms. Minister of Justice

Hon. Mr. Alejandro Gonzalez GALEANO
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary
Paseo. de la Habana, 194, 28036 – MADRID
Phone: 91 359 25 00 Fax: 91 359 61 45

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cuba to the United Nations Office at Geneva
100 chemin de Valérie, Chambésy 1292
Fax: +41 22 758 9431

Diplomatic Mission of the Republic of Cuba in Brussels
77 rue Roberts Jones
1180 Uccle, Belgium
Fax: + 32 2 344 9661

[1] Article 144.1 and 144.2 of the Criminal Code, Section Three:

  1. Anyone who threatens, slanders, defames, insults or in any way outrages or offends, orally or in writing, the dignity or decorum of a public authority, public official, or their agents or auxiliaries, in the exercise of their functions or on the occasion or by reason of them, shall be punished by imprisonment of three months to one year or a fine of one hundred to three hundred shares, or both.
  2. If the action described in the preceding paragraph is committed against the President of the State Council, the President of the National Assembly of People’s Power, members of the State Council or the Council of Ministers or the Deputies of the National Assembly of People’s Power, the penalty is imprisonment of one to three years.

[2] Article 292 Penal Code

[3] Article 209 Penal Code

[4] Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. Chapter V. Education and Culture, Article 39

[5] Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. Chapter V. Education and Culture, Article 39

Let Us Save the Life of El Sexto Now! / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

sextotattoosOrlando Luis Pardo Lazo, 25 September 2015 — Please, let’s call at all times to Valle Grande Prison, and claim respectfully but firmly for the life of Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (the street artist El Sexto). He has been jailed since December 2014 in Cuba, without trial, and now he is on a hunger strike and he’s being tortured in solitary confinement, with cramps, shivering and headaches.

+ 537-2020406

+ 537-2020407

+ 537-2020417

+ 537-2020418

+ 537-2020609

+ 537-2020748

+ 537-2020797

Valle Grande Penitentiary, Arroyo Arenas, CP 11200, Havana, Cuba.

Writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo Receives Refuge in Reykjavik / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar

The writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
The writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Mexico, 24 September 2015 — The writer and photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo has received refuge in the capital city of Reykjavik, Iceland, through the Network of International Cities of Refuge (ICORN), he himself confirmed to 14ymedio. The Cuban artist also received guarantees of housing and the freedom to create.

He is the second writer received by the city of Reykjavik city under these conditions – the Palestinian Mazen Maarouf was awarded refuge in 2011 – and the second Cuban to be welcomed by ICORN. Before Pardo Lazo, the poet and narrator Carlos Alberto Aguilera, former editor of Diaspora(s) and editor of the website InCubadora, was granted refuge; today he lives in Prague. Continue reading “Writer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo Receives Refuge in Reykjavik / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar”

This network of cities, created in the mid-nineties by Salman Rushdie – then under the protection of Scotland Yard from the fatwa pronounced against him by Ayatollah Khomeini – Wole Soyinka and Vaclav Havel, among others, seeks to help and protect writers who cannot live in their homelands.

Pardo Lazo was born in Cuba in 1971 and graduated as a biochemist from the University of Havana, although he also worked as a journalist and social activist. With extensive work as a photographer, he developed several digital spaces, among them the blogs Boring Home Utopics and Lunes de Post-Revolution (Post-Revolution Mondays). On the island he edited the independent digital magazines Cachorro(s), The Revolution Evening Post and Voces (Voices).

In February 2013, following changes in Cuba’s laws regarding travel and immigration, the writer left the country and would have had to return before 24 months in order to maintain his right to live in Cuba. As he explained to this newspaper, it was at that moment that he chose “no return” and, since then, he has lectured at several universities in the United States on social activism in Cuba and literary censorship.

Until a few months ago he was a member of the International Writers Project at Brown University, where he also served as adjunct professor of creative writing in the Department of Hispanic Studies.

How did the blogger take the news of his refuge in Reykjavik? He answers: “When I was in my country, I was a writer in exile; therefore, now from exile I am much less so.” He concludes: “I have come to the end of the world to reconnect with the intimate and intimidating memory of my sentimental Cuba.”