Twenty Independent Communicators to Consult in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

ndependent Journalism. Illustration from "Another Waves" website
Independent Journalism. From “Another Waves”

Luis Felipe Rojas, 1 February 2016 — This list is not intended to be a “Top Ten,” as is so common on internet publications. The list of names that follows carries the history of the men and women who believe in words and images as a tool of liberation.

The independent journalists that appear below do their work in Cuba under the microscope of the apparatus of repression that we know as State Security.

Most of them suffer arbitrary arrests, they have spent long years in prison, they are violently detained, vilified and — paradoxically — are non-persons in government media. In the case of Jorge Olivera Castillo, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the “2003 Black Spring,” but he continues, unrepentant, to do alternative journalism. Continue reading “Twenty Independent Communicators to Consult in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Another of those on the list is the blogger Yoani Sanchez who, among numerous international awards, holds the 2008 Ortega y Gasset Prize, given annual by the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Confirming her commitment to the journalism in which she believes, she founded the digital newspaper 14ymedio and 2014.

These are “ordinary” rank-and-file reporters, who get up each morning looking for news and accompany the victims of state bureaucracy — a way of doing journalism that has already gone on for three decades in the country, under the derision that arises from within the regime’s prisons.

I wanted to include here those who have specialized in the genre of opinion, thus helping to clarify what goes on within the country, but also preserving the sharp wit that has been missing for years in the journalism published on the island. The blame for this drought in opinion pieces is due to the jaws that are greased every morning in the offices of the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Good health for free and uncensored journalism!

Here is the list:

Regina CoyulaBlog “La Mala Letra”. BBC Mundo. La Habana.

Iván García. Diario de Cuba. Martinoticias. Diario Las Américas. La Habana.

Augusto C. San MartínCubanet. La Habana.

Serafín Morán. Cubanet. La Habana.

Ricardo Sánchez T. Cubanet. Bayamo, Granma.

Miriam Celaya14yMedio. La Habana.

Alejandro Tur V. IWP. Cienfuegos.

Juan G. Febles. Dtor Semanario Primavera Digital. La Habana.

Yoani Sánchez. Directora Diario 14yMedio. La Habana.

Iván Hernández Carrillo. Twittero. @ivanlibre Matanzas.

Yuri Valle.  Reportero audiovisual. La Habana.

Jorge Olivera Castillo.   Columnista opinión. Cubanet. La Habana.

Luz Escobar. 14yMedio. La Habana.

Luis Cino A. PD. Cubanet. La Habana.

Roberto de J. Guerra P. Dtor Agenc. Hablemos Press. La Habana.

Ernesto Pérez ChangCubanet. La Habana.

María Matienzo. Diario de Cuba. La Habana.

Bernardo Arévalo P. ICLEP. Aguada de Pasajeros. Cienfuegos.

Roberto Quiñonez H. Cubanet. Guantánamo.

Alberto M. Castelló. Cubanet. Puerto Padre. Las Tunas.

Chronicle of a Free Man’s Arrest / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces

Se-completó-la-operación-de-arresto

They do not show me the arrest warrant. My mother begs me to go; I hug her and leave with them for the police station.

Cubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 8 Cuba 2015 – Five thirty-five in the morning on Monday, October 5, 2015. I get up, go to the bathroom, brush, put the coffee pot on the electric burner. The day seems like any other until some harsh knocks on the door tell me that I may be wrong.

I open the door. A group from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) is in the doorway of my home. Between uniformed and plainclothes officers there are 19 people, not counting those remaining in the surrounding area where there are also special troop members, as I will later learn.

A young military officer who introduces himself as Captain Gamboa informs me that they have come to carry out a search. I ask for the warrant, and he shows it to me at a distance. I try to read it but he quickly withdraws it. Nevertheless, I manage to see that the objective is to find objects related to my “subversive activity.” That’s what they call my work as an independent journalist. Continue reading “Chronicle of a Free Man’s Arrest / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces”

In my room they find my personal calendar and some books, a broken cell phone and one that works, a Canon camera that I have not used for lack of a USB cable and a laptop that my brother who lives in the United States sent to me. In my work room they find a desktop personal computer, property of the Catholic Church of Guantanamo, which my wife, my nephew and I call “the tractor” due to its years of use.

They also confiscate some twenty CDs, four flash drives – among them one of my mother’s, which contains several episodes of “Case Closed” and dozens of chapters of a Mexican soap opera – a music record by Compay Segundo and another of jazz, an issue of the magazine Cuban Culture Encounter and another of Coexistence, a magazine managed in Pinar del Rio by Dagoberto Valdes. Added to the list of ‘subversive objects’ are 700 dollars that I have been saving to repair my house.

At eleven thirty in the morning, they finish. Then I discover that the search warrant is not signed by any prosecutor, but it is already too late; I made the mistake of letting them enter.

The arch-bishop of the dioceses arrives, Monsignor Wilfredo Pino Estevez, and witnesses the moment when I ask Captain Eyder to show me the arrest warrant. He answers that if I want an arrest warrant, he can make it right then. I protest. My mother, a 77 year-old woman, gets nervous. The officer says that if anything happens it will be my responsibility. She begs me to leave, I hug her, and I leave with them for the police station. The street is full of onlookers.

At MININT’s Provincial Operations Unit they bring me prisoner garb and assign me number 777. I tell Captain Gamboa that I am not a number but a human being and that if they call me by that number, I will not respond. “Then we’ll get you,” he says.

In 1999 I spent 49 days in one of these cells. I see that nothing has changed except that now a young nurse takes my blood pressure and asks several questions about my health. Then they take me to the cell that has no water and is equipped with cement beds and a hole for defecating in view of the four inmates who welcome me.

They call for lunch. I do not go. I manage to sleep some. At about five in the afternoon a guard opens the door, looks at me and says: “You, come.” I leave. They photograph me and take my fingerprints. Captain Eyder receives me in the interrogation room. He accuses me of publishing news containing truths but also lies, that I am not a journalist. Later Captain Gamboa and Colonel Javier will tell me the same thing. I answer that between 1986 and 1990 I published film criticism and cultural articles in the Venceremos newspaper, an official publication of the Communist Party in Guantanamo, and no one said then that I was not a journalist, that Cuban cultural history demonstrates that hundreds of writers practiced journalism.

They threaten me with another jail and show me Complaint 50 from 2015 in which I am accused of Dissemination of False News against International Peace because, according to them, my articles seek to disrupt relations between Cuba and the United States. I did not know I was so important.

At one point in the interrogation they assure me that they are not going to return some of my items of property, that it depends on my behavior and that thanks to the generosity of the Revolution, they are going to set me free.

At about eleven at night they give me a Warning that I do not sign because they do not give me a copy. For the same reason I did not sign the Registration Record or the other documents.

I return home. My mother is sleeping under the effect of a sedative but awakens. I feel great pain when she hugs me and cries. Some moments later she asks me: “Did you eat?” and goes to the kitchen.

My children and siblings who live in the United States, where my wife is travelling, call me. They tell me that they learned what happened on the news. They ask me not to continue. I want to tell them that the only thing that sustains me is this freedom, but I remain silent. Such confessions can sound pompous.

Then everything is silent. The day ends as if my routine had been completed.

About the Author

Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones

Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces was born in the city of Cienfuegos September 20, 1957. He is a law graduate. In 1999 he was unjustly and illegally sentenced to eight years’ incarceration and since then has been prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He has published poetry collections “The Flight of the Deer” (1995, Editorial Oriente), “Written from Jail” (2001, Ediciones Vitral), “The Folds of Dawn,” (2008, Editorial Oriente), and “The Water of Life” (2008, Editorial El Mar y La Montana). He received the Vitral Grand Prize in Poetry in 2001 with his book “Written from Jail” as well as Mention and Special Recognition from the Nosside International Juried Competition in Poetry in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His poems appear in the 1994 UNEAC Anthology, in the 2006 Nosside Competition Anthology and in the selection of ten-line stanzas “This Jail of Pure Air” published by Waldo Gonzalez in 2009.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones Arrested in Guantanamo / 14ymedio

Independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.
Independent journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.

14ymedio, Havana, 5 October 2015 — At six in the morning on Monday, a group of 15 Interior Ministry troops stormed the house of lawyer and an independent journalist Jesus Quiñones Haces, in the city of Guantanamo. The troops conducted a thorough search and took the reporter, without specifying the reasons for his arrest or his final whereabouts.

According to his mother, Maria Haces, 77, among those who participated in the operation were men in olive-green uniforms and others in blue and black, plus individuals in plainclothes. The entire search process was filmed with a small camera and they ultimately seized a computer, several disks and documents. The arrest occurred in the absence of the Quiñones’s wife, who is traveling in the United States.

The reporter is also a member of the Corriente Agramontista association of independent lawyers. His reports on events in his province are published by the agency CubaNet and one of his last works denounced the poor state of the road known as La Farola, in the Nipe-Sagua mountain range of Tánamo-Baracoa.

Before turning to independent journalism, he was a member of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) and collaborated with the official press on reviews of the cultural life of his city.

No references of any facts that led to the police action, as it is not the exercise of their professional activities. An official present in the operation said the mother of the detainee no later tonight or tomorrow, Tuesday would be released.

The arrest occurs within hours of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). during its meeting in Charleston (South Carolina, USA), expressing its concern about the situation of the press in Cuba and repression against independent reporters.

Beef, Only for the Privileged / Cubanet, Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

La-Ternera-2-Foto
Cuban butcher shop (photo from the internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 12 June 2015 – Among the list of prohibitions imposed on Cubans from 1959 until today is freely fishing, having a boat and wandering around the island or giving our children an education in non-state schools, among others. Until recently it was forbidden to stay in a hotel, sell cars acquired after 1959, sell housing, leave the country without permission from the government, possess foreign currency and buy in stores for tourists and foreign technicians.

Another unusual prohibition that we Cubans have is that the slaughter of large livestock and the consumption of their meat is penalized with harsh jail sentences. For more than 25 years eating a beefsteak has become the dream of the great majority of Cubans. Here, the only ones who can are the leaders, tourists and those with the money to buy it in the currency stores, or those with enough bravery – and also the contacts – to buy it illegally. Not even in the most distinguished restaurant does there appear the longed-for filet. Continue reading “Beef, Only for the Privileged / Cubanet, Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces”

A purely Cuban – and revolutionary! – ban

The crime of Theft and Illegal Slaughter of Large Livestock is perhaps unique in the history of international jurisprudence. It had its precedent in the 1962 Law 1018 which last March turned 53 years old and by which cattle owners are obliged to sell their meat exclusively to the state, prohibiting them from consuming it.

In his book, “In Kind Crimes,” Dr. Jose A. Grillo Longoria asserted that before 1959 a great percentage of Cubans could not consume beef and that this law would guarantee that all residents of the country could eat it regularly. For such reason, the distinguished professor of Criminal Law warranted that the state’s efforts to increase the production of milk and beef would be useless if it benignly repressed those who slaughtered those animals irresponsibly or because of a desire for profit.

When he wrote that he knew, because of his age, that in Cuba there had always been milk and meat, even in the worst droughts. From living one could realize that this incomprehensible decision has been the main reason that the Cuban cattle population has decreased continuously from 1962 to today.

Today the number of Cubans, including children, who cannot drink a simple glass of milk as well as those who have not tasted a little piece of beef in years, is much higher. It would prove that the cruel sanctions that he defended have not managed to stop the commission of a crime invented by the bearded ones, the implementation of which has caused thousands of Cubans to rough it in jails, sentenced to thirty and even more than fifty years for having butchered a head of cattle.

The Guantanamo slaughterhouse is militarized

Unable to kill their own cattle, to eat its meat in restaurants, or to acquire it in currency stores due to its high prices, the great majority of Cubans have to go to the black market, supplied by butchers and slaughterhouse workers, in order to be able to eat a steak. In the wholesale network a kilogram costs 10 CUC, more than 50% of the average monthly salary.

carnicero-1
Archive photo

According to a source whose identity we withhold since he works in the Guantanamo Slaughterhouse, the manager there is Mr. Gustavo Osorio, a retired colonel of the Armed Services, who believes himself still to be in a military camp based on the methods he uses against his workers.

As members of his team he has named Lioel Cantillo Pelegrin, an ex-police officer who is chief of the slaughter area and Feliberto Espinola, another ex-police officer who occupies the job of Maintenance Chief.

As if that were not enough, Major Liranza, member of the economic police, continually visits the slaughterhouse and together with those mentioned above, carries out suppressive checks of the work stations without these being part of his job. As a result of these actions, worker Manuel Reyes Calderin was surprised last week with 10 pounds of meat in his clothes, which cost him two days locked in a prison cell, the loss of his job and a pending trial.

A steak, which together with some fried plantains and a serving of beans and rice cost some 25 cents before 1959, now joins the long list of scarcities in Cuban homes. Add to that also that risking the great pleasure can involve a solid blow of many years confinement.

And like everything that happens in Cuba, the fault is not with our leaders but with others. In this case it’s the cow’s fault because they do not want to fatten up, increase their offspring or give us milk. Oh, and I forgot it, also the embargo’s fault!

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

Translated by MLK

Cuba Increases Control over Its Doctors / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

cuban doctorsThe government is trying, among other measures, to curb hiring of its professionals by foreign clinics

cubanet square logoCubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 20 April 2015 — The exodus of Cuban health professional does not stop, and the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) apparently has decided to act to counter a phenomenon that is damaging domestic medical services but much more the country’s income.

A document attributed to the senior management of MINSAP, adopted in a meeting held in mid-March of this year, has been making the rounds in the e-mail of health professionals in which the sector’s new policy is expressed. This event was confirmed to CubaNet by an official from the Provincial Management of Public Health in Guantanamo, whose identity we do not reveal for obvious reasons. Continue reading “Cuba Increases Control over Its Doctors / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones”

The document has 18 instructions. The first three are focused on the re-organization of services and the re-location of professionals as a result of the staff review carried out last year.

The other 15 are directed to curbing the exodus of health professionals through private contracts or other avenues and steering the application of the measures in each case.

The document

One of the most controversial, instruction number 4, establishes that Cuban doctors in Angola must be relieved, but without increasing the collaboration with that country, until its authorities stop handing down measures that discourage the hiring of Cuban professional in private clinics or institutions.

Another measure, number 5, directs the withdrawal of the passport, in the airport itself, of professionals who later return from the completion of a mission.

Measures 6, 7 and 8 aim to get the private clinics of other countries to hire Cuban doctors through MINSAP, an agency that claims the right to review the professional’s individual contract, obviously so that the doctors pay the corresponding tax to the Cuban government and in no way receive all the money that is due them from the agreed upon wage.

Measure number 10 requires concluding the process of cancelling the diplomas of the 211 professionals who left service without authorization, and number 11 directs MINSAP’s vice-minister of International Relations to carry out a study of the existing rules in the International Labor Organization (ILO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), as it relates to the migration of the sector’s professionals.

Punishing the “undisciplined”

Rule 12 considers it a serious breach for a health professional to not return to Cuba upon fulfillment of his mission abroad without good cause verified by MINSAP, and it requires final separation from the profession by those who engage in said conduct, with the subsequent withdrawal of the degree.

Meanwhile, Rule 13 orders the creation of records of disqualification for those professionals who violate the established procedures for leaving the country. If any of them repents and returns, Rule 14 directs that they cannot be re-located in their previous workplace but in an inferior status.

Another cage for the army of white coats

Rules 16 and 17 of the document are intended to promote meetings with ambassadors of the countries where Cuban health professionals travel, largely for the purpose of discouraging their being recruited to remain and practice in that country.

The heads of Cuban medical teams and ambassadors have received that same instruction. Besides interfering in the internal affairs of other countries, this shows one of the thus-far-discouraged facets of Cuban medical collaboration, which is none other than exerting pressure over the countries receiving these types of services to make them faithful to the regime’s policy, which is clearly established in instruction number 4 with respect to Angola.

Finally, number 18 establishes a monthly coordination between MINSAP and the Department of Identification, Migration and Foreign Affairs of the Interior Ministry so that it will report to MINSAP on the doctors who leave the country as well as those who have begun proceedings for that purpose, in order to take appropriate measures.

Being a health professional in Cuba, a doubtful advantage

The above measures show the doubtful advantage of being a health professional in Cuba, although the same could be said with respect to other professionals.

Determined to provide the country with qualified personnel, the government never concerned itself with steadily encouraging the efforts of the professionals themselves. That explains their massive exodus to foreign countries and other better paying jobs with the consequential social loss.

At the dawn of the 21st Century, renowned Cuban professionals have been subjected to a financial exploitation that not even the fiercest capitalist would have dared to impose. Paid miserable wages, many times they sign unfair contracts that the government offers for them to work abroad because it is the only chance they have of improving their housing or getting housing, or acquiring a car or having some savings for their retirement.

In doing so, at a sometimes irreversible familial cost, they damage their freedom and self-esteem in service to a government for which they are only a source of income that allows it to continue dominating the people.

About the Author

jesus-quinones-haces.thumbnail (2)Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces was born in the city of Cienfuegos September 20, 1957. He is a law graduate. In 1999 he was unjustly and illegally sentenced to eight years incarceration and since then has been prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He has published poetry collections “The Flight of the Deer” (1995, Editorial Oriente), “Written from Jail” (2001, Ediciones Vitral), “The Folds of Dawn,” (2008, Editorial Oriente), and “The Water of Life” (2008, Editorial El Mar y La Montana). He received the Vitral Grand Prize in Poetry in 2001 with his book “Written from Jail” as well as Mention and Special Recognition from the Nosside International Juried Competition in Poetry in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His poems appear in the 1994 UNEAC Anthology, in the 2006 Nosside Competition Anthology and in the selection of ten-line stanzas “This Jail of Pure Air” published by Waldo Gonzalez in 2009.

Translated by MLK

The Commander Erased from the Currency / Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces

Hubert Matos does not appear on the bill. Photo by the author
Hubert Matos does not appear on the bill. Photo by the author

GUANTANAMO, Cuba, January – www.cubanet.org These days, as every year, young activists of the UJC (Communist Youth), FEU (Federation of University Students) and veterans of the rebel army, reenact the trip from Santiago de Cuba to Havana made by the then young and hopeful commander-in-chief Fidel Castro Ruz with other guerrillas.

The entry into the capital on January 8, 1959 which was called the Caravan of Freedom, was an extraordinary historical event that filled the people of Havana with joy, as it had hundreds of thousands of Cubans along the way to whom they promised the restoration of the 1940 Constitution, the civil and political liberties Batista had taken away, and free elections after the tyrant was ousted.

Huber Matos then
Huber Matos then

Also in these days, the TV re-broadcasts a video about Fidel entering Havana and, although the images have been edited, the informed spectator knows that the guerrilla appearing briefly to the left of Fidel is Commander Huber Matos. Today, few young Cubans know who Huber Matos was, perhaps because he was only referred to with the epithet of traitor from October 1959, which the Cuban leaders saddled him with.

So they ignore that on the back of the One Peso (CUP, not convertible) bill where the screened imaged of Camilo and Fidel appear, there should also be the guerrilla commander in adherence to historical truth, the same one who Fidel mentions in his concept of Revolution. Continue reading “The Commander Erased from the Currency / Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces”

These young people are also unaware of the importance Huber Matos had in strengthening the guerrilla struggle in the Sierra Maestra and in organizing the supply of arms and his decisive influence on the guerrilla victory. They ignore the role played by the Column No. 9 in taking Santiago de Cuba, always minimizing it, and that this Cuban who was born in 1918 was the quickest to reach the rank of commander of the Rebel Army.

Huber Matos now, in exile in Miami
Huber Matos now, in exile in Miami

Also are also unaware that once the revolutionary triumph was achieved, Huber Matos was perhaps the only commander who requested clarification from Fidel Castro about the direction the revolution was taking, as unmistakable signs of Communist penetration in the military and in all structures power of the revolutionary government were already apparent, which was vehemently denied by Fidel Castro in the trial that began in late 1959 against Huber and a group of rebel officers, a few days after the mysterious disappearance of Camilo Cienfuegos.

For the young people today are reenacting that journey of that Caravan of Freedom, they are also unaware how difficult life has been for the former members of the Column No.9 who decided to stay in Cuba, many of them discriminated against for the mere fact of having fought for the restoration of democracy in Cuba under the direction of Huber Matos.

Some day, when all sources are consulted and analyzed and the people have access to them, the history of guerrilla period and period after 1959 can be written objectively. I am sure that then the name of Commander Huber Matos will not be accompanied by an unfair stigma.

A man cannot be accused of being a traitor when he risked his life for the good of the country, not to mention when he remained consistent with the democratic principles that led to the Cuban Revolution and are reflected in the Moncada program and the Covenants of Mexico and the Sierra Maestra.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

Cubanet | 8 January 2014

Teacher Dismissed from Job for Reporting Fraud / Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces

GUANTÁNAMO, Cuba, November, www.cubanet.org – Alain Lobaina Laseria is a mathematics graduate and worked in the Pedro Agustín Pérez Basic Secondary School in the municipality of El Salvador in Guantánamo. However, he has been dismissed from his employment for reporting failures and irregularities related to the education system.

When one teacher at the school went to complete a work mission to Haiti and another transferred to a polytechnic, Alain, who until that point had worked as a tutor, had to teach mathematics and physics to eighth grade students.  Upon receiving the groups he carried out an examination to check the students’ knowledge and the results were disastrous.  In one of the groups no one passed and in the other, from 72 students, only 7 passed.

As the course advanced Alain noticed that the students level of knowledge was extremely low. After carrying out the second test in mathematics, he failed 8 students because they had handed in their exam papers almost completely blank. After reporting the results, the teacher in charge of the grade carried out an analysis and threatened him, saying that he could not fail those students. From that moment onwards his situation in the school became very difficult.

Then he decided to write, under the protection of Article 63 of the Constitution of the Republic, a letter to the government and the municipal Party in which he reported the fraud that had been committed in the school and how he had been pressured to pass 100 percent of the students.

Furthermore, as a response to the public call to the highest levels of government and the Party to combat corruption and all kinds of violations, Alain reported other cases of fraud committed in Polytechnic No. 2, in the San Justo neighbourhood, in the Vocational Computing Polytechnic, in the Pre-University Vocational Institute of Exact Sciences and in the educational centres of the city of Guantanamo.

Shortly after Alain sent his letter, the Provincial Director of Education turned up at the school and read it in front of all the workers.  The purpose of discrediting him in front of his colleagues and making an enemy of him was made clear through the following warnings: “All of this school’s workers can be involved in this….this letter cannot be published in the Venceremos de Guatanamo Newspaper…and we will not tolerate a Gorbachov here in El Salvador”

In the final test, Alain failed various students, being the only teacher who didn’t promote 100 percent of students. In the re-evaluation test he caught a student copying the exam responses from a cheat sheet and reported the incident to the school administration. However, all he achieved was to have the school principal, Angel Velazquez, the secretary of the Party named Leticia, the municipal education teacher leader and the secretaries of the UJC (Young Communist Union) and the trade union reprimand him as if he were the guilty one.

Although Alain was opposed to the fraudulent student sitting another re-evaluation test, the aforementioned people agreed to allow it and they never investigated to find out how, suspiciously, the boy obtained the correct responses to the exam.

Upon starting this school semester, the principal of the school cancelled Alain’s work contract.  All this has occurred after the Granma Newspaper has repeatedly denounced academic fraud and the radio program “Speaking Clearly” of Rebel Radio and the television program “The Roundtable” have adopted similar positions.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

Cubanet, 19 November 2013

Translated by Peter W Davies

New Pastoral Letter from Catholic Bishops of Cuba / Roberto Jesus Quinones

GUANTANAMO, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org – The latest Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops of Cuba, “Hope does not disappoint,” has been distributed to the faithful. Contrary to what happened twenty years ago, when the document “Love Hopes for Everything” was unveiled, so far this letter has led to no reaction from the government or the official press.

Several people attribute this to the fact that conditions have changed significantly. The new document is being made public at a time when relations between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and the government are good, and when the  institution can serve the government as an intermediary in resolving conflicts. The truth is that, without flourishes, the bishops have prepared a thorough and accurate analysis of our reality.

For reasons of space, we could not attempt an examination of all aspects addressed in this new Pastoral Letter. Those interested would find it useful to read it in full. However, by way of advancement, I would refer you to several of its highlights.

For example, in the second section, entitled “The visits of the two Popes mark our history with signs of hope,” the bishops discussed the significance the visits to the Isle of Blessed John Paul II and Benedict XVI have had on the Catholic Church and the Cuban people. Meanwhile, in the third section, “The divine and human word of the Church encourages our hope,” it discusses the role of the Catholic Church in Cuba today.

In the fourth section, “The common destiny of material goods and freedom are a source of hope,” it states that among the different options for the common good, the Church chooses one that defends and promotes the responsible freedom of man. Also in this section it argues that human beings can not seek their own good while forgetting or neglecting or oppressing their brother. And that the structure and organization of societies and governments, both yesterday and today, can generate groups of power that do not always represent everyone and which are not interested in those who are outside their circle of belonging.

Literally, the bishops warn in the fourth section: “No one can claim freedom for themselves and deny it to others, or seek his own good and be indifferent to that of others. The freedom that God conceives for man is a freedom responsible for the lives and the destiny of those around us.”

The fifth section, “The changes encourage the hope of our people,” makes reference to the Pastoral Letter “Love Hopes for Everything,” and how some of its petitions have been met, but not others.

For its part, the eighth section, “The hopes of a better future also include a new political order,” is perhaps the most daring of the entire document. It says that Cuba is called on to be a pluralistic society, the sum of many realities, the nation of all Cubans, with their differences and aspiration, and there must be the right to diversity of the thinking, creativity, and the search for truth.

In the ninth section, “Dialogue among Cubans opens a path of hope,” the bishops insist that this is the only way to achieve and sustain the social transformations taking place in Cuba. While the tenth section, “Cuba in the concert of nations: reasons for hope,” mentions the changes in Latin America and in the world, and commits to the inclusion of Cuba in these contexts, but also reiterates the need to consider the relations of our country with the United States.

In the eleventh section, “The family and youth, hope of the Nation and the Church,” the bishops examine the matter deeply and honestly, based on the assertion that twenty years after the publication of “Love Hopes for Everything,” family life in Cuba is very poor, with severe consequences that affect the lives of individuals and society.

In sum, it is a document that not only responds adequately to the expectations created by the bishops of the Cuban Catholic Church, with their previous pastoral letter of 1993, it also traces the historical role that corresponds to this institution in the complex circumstances of the present and the near future.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

From Cubanet, 14 October 2013

Would They Have Been Like Us? / Roberto Jesus Quinones

GUANTÁNAMO, Cuba, October, www.cubanet.org — Today there were commemorations marking the 145th anniversary of the beginning of our first war of independence. At a celebration on October 10, 1968, the centenary of this historic event, Fidel Castro gave a speech in which he suggested that — faced with the same conditions experienced by those who took up arms against Spanish rule — contemporary Cuban revolutionaries would have behaved in the same way as those distinguished patriots and vice versa. The expression he used was, “Today, they would be like us: back then, we would have been like them.”

In 1968 Fidel was not the feeble, crumpled-over, almost unintelligible old man shown on television on February 3 during elections for delegates to the National Assembly. He was a vigorous, forty-two-year-old dreamer of a man, who took a mocking stance towards the embargo. Without the slightest sense of propriety he imposed his vision of what he thought government ought to be, first obtaining power through force of arms and then creating a cult of personality. He turned Cuba into his own encampment. The above-mentioned expression, repeated over and over, came to be accepted as fact after the news media, educators and government officials actively promoted the claim.

Any reasonably informed person knew, however, that this expression was simply one more speculative tidbit from the comandante’s extensive oratorical collection. A review of the names of those executed during the first few years after the revolution would be enough to indicate that there were many revolutionaries fighting with Fidel against Batista’s dictatorship who were never sympathizers of communist ideology. It was lauded by the astute members of the Popular Socialist Party, who almost effortlessly infiltrated every branch of the nascent revolutionary government. They also managed to convince the young revolutionaries to abandon the Moncada Program, the Mexico Convention and the Sierra Convention, and to begin imbibing the “sweet nectar of power.” (1)

Frank País, José A. Echevarría and Camilo Cienfuegos were no communists. Had the first two not been killed by Batista’s police and had the latter not died under mysterious circumstances shortly after the Revolution, it is well worth asking if they might have ended up facing a firing squad or serving long prison sentences much like Huberto Matos and hundreds of other officials and soldiers from the rebel army. And if it is worth asking in the case of these three young men, the question is even more pertinent when discussing the lives of patriots like José Martí, Ignacio Agramonte and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, especially in light of the comandante’s above-mentioned expression. One of the preferred arguments used by Castro’s ideologists to justify his claim is that these men — of whom I have presented only the three most notable examples — did not live long enough to experience Marxism and, therefore, were not able to express opposition to it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The opinions expressed by Agramonte and Martí as they relate to the ideas of Karl Marx leave no room for doubt. In the case of Martí, one need only read what the “Father of the Country” wrote in the historical document “Acta de El Rosario, Acuerdo del Levantamiento” to be aware of his very deep commitment to democracy, support for liberal ideas and complete rejection of all forms of authoritarianism.

In this document the patriots who take up arms against Spain declared, “To the God of our consciences and to the verdict of civilized nations we appeal. We aspire to popular sovereignty and universal suffrage. We want to enjoy freedom, for whose use God created Man. We sincerely profess the dogma of brotherhood, tolerance and justice, and consider all men to be equal. We exclude their benefits from no one, not even from Spaniards, provided they are willing to live in peace with us. We want the people to be involved in the formation of laws, and in the distribution and investment of their contributions. We want to abolish indemnified slavery for those who have been harmed. We want freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and freedom of conscience. And we are asking for sacred respect for the inalienable rights of Man, which is the foundation of independence and the grandeur of its people. We want to shake off forever the yoke of Spanish oppression and to move forward as a free and independent nation.” (2)

Ignacio Agramonte made eloquent statements in opposition to totalitarianism, among them this one I read recently in the fifth issue of “Vocablo,” a publication of Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa: “A government which destroys the potential for full development of individual action and restrains society from progressive advancement is not one founded on justice and reason but merely on force. A state built on such a principle could at any moment in time declare itself to be stable and unshakable to all the world. But sooner or later, when men realize their rights have been violated and set about to regain them, they will proclaim with canon fire that the state’s lethal domination has ended.”

Biographies of this noted author, however, cannot be found in any bookstore and it is extremely difficult to find them in libraries as well. And what of the writings of our apostle Martí? To add insult to injury, his Complete Works are now sold with the volumes containing his thoughts and critiques on Marxism and socialism removed.

There is no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim that men like Camilo Cienfuegos, many of the guerrillas who fought in Oriente province or members of the Second Escambray Front held communist beliefs either when they were fighting against Batista’s dictatorship or on January 1, 1959. Given the overwhelming body of evidence, we can state the following without the slightest shadow of a doubt: No, Cuba’s 19th century Mambisa warriors would not have been as portrayed by Fidel Castro in 1968!

Footnotes:

(1) An expression used by Fidel Castro in reference to his removing from office the Vice-President of the Council of State, Carlos Lage Dávila, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Felipe Pérez Roque.

(2) This document, known as “Acta de El Rosario, Acuerdo del Levantamiento” appears on page 103 in the book Carlos Manuel de Céspedes by Fernando Portuondo and Hortensia Pichardo and published by Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, Havana, 1982.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

From Cubanet, 10 October 2013

The Diana Buses Are Already Broken Down / Roberto Quinones Haces

Diana bus assembled in Cuba. Photo from internet

GUANTANAMO, Cuba, October 7, 2013, Roberto Quiñones Haces/ www.cubanet.org – I’ve seen them circulating and and I remember that on a news broadcast on National Television they talked about them. They are called “Diana” and from last September, eight of them have to been to Guantanamo to improve public transport.

The new buses bear a lot of resemblance to those mid-sized “Girón” buses, which were also assembled in the Evelio Prieto plant in Havana, and dedicated primarily to student and intercity transport. According to a report from the journalist Raciel Sayú Font on the weekly “Venceremos” (We Shall Overcome) broadcast, put on by the provincial committee of the only Party, the vehicles have a capacity of 42 passengers, 28 seated and 12 standing, although the reader will see that this adds up to 40, not 42 as stated by the journalist.

The vehicle body is Brazilian, the diesel engine is Chinese, and the rest of the components come from Russia. The journalist said that Rodolfo Labadies Limedux, a transportation specialist at the Transport Agency, said that the vehicles passed technical reviews and met the quality and safety standards, but that they were out of service due to breakdowns, according to the report.

The information could not be published earlier because provincial and municipal transportation officials refused to provide details to this newspaper. The journalist is careful in mentioning names, but beyond identifying those responsible, it is obvious that the event shows although hundreds of Cuban Journalist Union (UPEC) congresses have called for an end to secrecy, those who have the last say are not exactly the journalists.

At least, as long as the buses in good condition keep circulating, Guantanamo’s residents will have two routes that have been reestablished after having been out of service for fifteen years. The route crosses the city from south to north and vice versa, but now it costs a peso each way, instead of the usual twenty centavos.

These buses represent a transportation alternative to the horse-drawn carriages, a private service that has helped people a lot in recent years but that dirties the city contaminates it. To completely remove the horses, the coachmen and all they leave behind, with the displeasure and dangers this service carries with it, Guantanamo needs a great many more Diana buses and, above all, for them not to breakdown prematurely.

Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces

From Cubanet, 8 October 2013

Spanish post
10 October 2013