Somos+ Stands In Solidarity With The Victims Of The Terrorist Attack In Barcelona / Somos+

Somos+, 18 August, 2017 — The political group Somos+ offers condolences and solidarity to the city of Barcelona, in the wake of the recent terrorist attack which left 13 dead and over a hundred wounded, according to official sources.

We grieve the loss of human life caused by this condemnable act. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims. We wish for a quick return to calm for the city and that those responsible are brought to justice

We repeat our condemnation of these kinds of attacks that threaten humane principles. We are part of a community that dreams of an end to this wave of terror and hatred, in the construction of a fraternal, caring society.

Translated by Alice Edwards

Edison Lanza and the Lack of Press Freedom in Cuba / Somos+, Karla Pérez González

Edison Lanza

Somos+, Karla Pérez González, 28 August 2017 — Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for the Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), shares his vision on what is happening in Cuba regarding the violation of a series of elementary rights, already surpassed by the majority of systems that govern the continent.

The Uruguayan, who has held the reins of this department of the CIDH since 2014, regrets the Cuban case, where according to him, at the moment “the modality of repression has changed, but it is still a state that violates the international standards of freedom of expression”. continue reading

“In the last 20 years the rapporteur has been consistently pointed out that, first of all, there is no pluralistic system of political parties in Cuba, there is no system that allows pluralism of opinions and diversity of ideas. Then there is a legal framework restricting freedom of expression, starting from the Constitution that subordinates this right – which is individual – to the interests of the Party and the Revolution. There are an immense series of criminal figures that suppress critical voices. The history of the last 30 years in Cuba has led to situations of exile, or imprisonment for political dissent that forms organizations that are not allowed by the regime. Simply to propose from the Academy a series of transformations in the economy and in the Cuban political system, some were cataloged of subversives and of attempting against the security of the State, and they underwent severe and long penalties of prison”, said the journalist.

Regarding the island of the last five-year period, he explained that “there are sentences of journalists, activists, human rights defenders and journalists are simply being held outside official structures, which can last for 24 or 48 hours. They are then released, or subjected to criminal proceedings that generate a strong inhibitory effect, or destruction of material, subtraction of equipment to prevent independent journalists from performing their work. ”

Internet was the last topic of the interview. It is known the complicated panorama that crosses the common Cuban to “connect”. When in the world this communicative tool is a necessity today, the criollos still have to see it -not because they want to, but because they have no other choice- as a luxury, a petty-bourgeois pleasure.

“Obviously the lack of internet access that today is the platform to disseminate information par excellence and in general Cubans have restrictions to access the Internet, to disseminate. Surveillance also on those who exercise freedom of expression. A journalist who lives guarded, who tries to know his source of information, his contacts by email, etc., is a journalist who is not free. All this scenario makes Cuba a country not free to do journalism.

The Rapporteur has also integrated, led and founded several non-governmental organizations in defense of the right to freedom of expression. He did postgraduate studies on freedom of expression and criminal law at the University of the Republic, and holds a doctorate related to the processes of regulation of audiovisual media in the region at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Buenos Aires.

Edison Lanza is co-founder of the Center for Archives and Access to Public Information in Uruguay. Moreover, this also included the Committee on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information of the Regional Alliance for Free Expression and Information and the IFEX-ALC Alliance for the Defense of Freedom of Expression. He has also offered consultancies to different countries for the development of law projects related to access to public information, freedom of expression and communication media systems, among others.

Translated by: J. Rausenberger (From Somos+ English site)

Cuban Authorities Block Seven Activists From Traveling to Mexico for Democracy Action Meeting

Regina Coyula was not able to board her flight this Monday, like six other activists, to go to Cancun to a Forum on Democracy in Cuba. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 June 2017 – Cuban authorities blocked at least seven activists from traveling to Cancun, Mexico this Monday, to participate in the 4th Forum on Roads to a Democratic Cuba, a meeting of the United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) organized by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS), according to blogger Regina Coyula speaking to 14ymedio.

“When I arrived at the immigration window in Terminal 3 of Jose Marti International Airport, they told me to step back and wait a minute” said the activist. Then she was approached by an immigration official who, after asking for her documents, informed her that there was “a ban on travel abroad” in effect against her.

Coyula demanded explanations for the reasons she was prevented from leaving, but the agent would only say that she “had nothing to do with this” and told her if she wanted more information to visit the Office of Attention to the Population near the Plaza of the Revolution. continue reading

The other activists who were not allowed to board the plane are Rafael León Rodríguez, general coordinator of the Cuban Democratic Project; Hildebrando Chaviano, director of the Center for Analysis of Public Policies of Freedom and Development; Wilfredo Vallín and Amado Calixto Gammalame, members of the Legal Association of Cuba; Erick Álvarez, promoter of the CubaDecide initiative; and Alexei Gámez, activist of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement.

The practice of preventing dissidents from leaving the country has become a repressive method of State Security in increasing use in recent months.

The practice of preventing dissidents from leaving the country has become a repressive method of State Security in increasing use in recent months.

In early 2013 a Migration Reform measure came into effect which eliminated the “exit permit” required for travel abroad. In the first ten months after the approval of the new measures, Cubans made more than 250,000 trips abroad. The opposition also benefited from this relaxation of controls.

However, any time it likes the Government may invoke certain subsections of article 25 of the new immigration regulations that prohibit departure “for reasons of public interest or national security.”

Travel bans are put into practice in a number of ways, including preventing opponents from leaving their home, intercepting the vehicles taking them to the airport, or notifying them at the immigration window at the airport that they are forbidden to leave, as happened on Monday.

Reinaldo Escobar: The Unqualified Cuban Truth / Somos+

Photo taken from the web

Somos+, Leyla Belo, 23 MACH 2017 — Those who ever speak with Reinaldo cannot deny his innate genius, his sense of humor and gentleness of expression. A matter of decorum, isn’t it? That quality which is so scarce among many people nowadays.  He does what he considers to be his duty: to disassemble our Island from within, dreaming that some of us, or all of us together, will fix it. Each one of his writings brims with endless sensibility, while leaving to others the use of easy adjectives and trivial cruelties.  A committed journal¡ist; of the kind of those no longer living, because his commitment is not centered around one man but around his Cuba, his suffering Cuba.

You had nearly two decades of work in official media under your belt. When did you decide to take another path and why?

When I was supposed to graduate from the School of Journalism in 1971, there was a “purge” at the University of Havana which meant the expulsion and punishment of several students. My “punishment,” caused by my “ideological issues,” consisted of working for a year for a tabloid by the name of El Bayardo, which was part of Columna Juvenil el Centenario, a youth brigade (a forerunner of the Youth Working Army), in Camagûey province. I stayed there until mid-1973. continue reading

After serving out my sentence I was placed with Revista Cuba Internacional where, according to my colleague Norberto Fuentes, we were involved in “sugarcoating.”  I worked there until mid-1987, when I transferred to the Juventud Rebelde newspaper, inspired by the Soviet glasnost, and thought that we would be able to engage in a different type of journalism in Cuba. I tried to do so with the best of intentions, and the result was that I was expelled from the newspaper in 1988 and disqualified from exercising the profession on the Island. Thus, some 18 years elapsed between mid-1971 and 1988 when I was engaged in official journalism.

I began working as an independent journalist in January, 1989, which was referred to at that time as “freelance” journalism, and contributed to several European publications by writing about Cuban subjects.

You are the founder of 14ymedio and are its Editor in Chief. How difficult is it to engage in serious journalism in an underground media?

The 14ymedio newspaper is not an underground newspaper. If I were to label it at all, I would rather call it an independent or unofficial newspaper. The best definition is that we are a digital, non-subsidized, non-printed newspaper.

That definition is essential to explain its difficulties. The problem other media have in securing ink and paper is experienced by us in achieving Internet connectivity. The largest volume of information flow is with our correspondents in the provinces and with other associates through the Nauta webmail network, which is slow and government-controlled.

The other difficulty is the scarcity of journalists who meet the appropriate requirements, as the first characteristic is for them to have the professional sensibility to sense everything which is really newsworthy. The second characteristic is to be able to truthfully and appealingly write in any journalistic genre, while checking with reliable sources. The third element is for them to dare to face the risks stemming from the threats by the political police.

At times those threats materialize into specific events which physically render it difficult to perform our job.

Current independent journalism (most of it) does not stem from a “passion” when dealing with the news.

One of the distinctive features of the current, independent journalism is the short distance that exists between many of its reporters and political activism. Arbitrary detentions, beatings, searches, evictions and everything that contributes to a true picture of a typical dictatorship seems to be the only thing of interest to that type of journalism. This can be explained because such news is absent from official media, and to counteract the official media monopoly on information is one of the raisons d’être of independent media. The passion is inherent to the nature of this reporting, hence the (always unnecessary) profusion of adjectives.

Independent journalism should also focus on other matters, such as the growing presence of entrepreneurs, and it should look at those –apparently insignificant– signs of defiance by our plastic artists, filmmakers, writers, humorists and musicians.

Authorized press in Cuba is subsidized by the Cuban Communist Party (PCC). In your opinion, what would be the ideal management paradigm for the media?

I do not think there is an ideal management paradigm for the media.

The issue of media ownership is a complex matter. When it is privately-owned,  under a market system, information becomes one more item of merchandise and “what sells” gains visibility over “what needs to be reported.” When management is in state hands and does not depend on advertisers, the media often becomes boring and doctrinaire. In addition, there is public management, which is somewhat different from state management in that it is governed by the readership.

Even though it is not noticed at first glance, the official broadcasting media in Cuba are privately-owned and are the monopoly of the Communist Party. If we understand that the concept of ownership specifically refers to the decision-making capacity and add to the aspect of material responsibility for what is owned, there is no question that the official media owner is the PCC, which designates the management staff, establishes the editorial line, manages material resources and pays the salaries.

Earnings are not measured in terms of money as under a market system, but in terms of the achieved control over the population, which only finds out about what those media report if they are privileged enough to connect to other media. It is acceptable for a political party to own its own publication, but it not acceptable for that party, having exclusive access to power in the name of the law, to use State funds to pay the cost of its media and, in addition, to take upon itself the right of prohibiting the existence of its competitors.

Eventually, we will have private newspapers and magazines in Cuba, perhaps full of advertisements, police-blotter journalism and trivial news about the world of show business; civil society institutions will manage their own media and perhaps there will be a public TV channel where people will learn about the debates in Parliament.

You interviewed the Law student expelled from Cienfuegos University. How do you define his action?

This young man only exercised his sacrosanct right to free expression when answering the test questions. If a student is asked on a test what his opinion is regarding a specific subject, whoever grades the test has to refrain from his or her political prejudices, otherwise they should pose the questions with more honesty, such as, “What do you think I would be pleased to hear regarding such subject?”

You were detained a few months ago while a Spanish journalist was interviewing you. Was that another violation of the freedom of expression?

During the days of mourning following the death of former president Fidel Castro, I was interviewed by journalist Vicent Sanclemente, from Televisión Española. I do not think I was being followed at that particular time, but “they” were just highly-strung. Maybe the informant who was keeping an eye by the Malecón sea wall thought my answers to be inappropriate. When this young man reported to his superiors that there was a Cuban guy saying strange things to a foreign journalist, the person who got the report was compelled to fulfill his duty. Something “natural” in our environment.

Violating the freedom of expression is expressed in the most acute way when, for instance, our 14ymedio.com newspaper becomes inaccessible to the domestic servers providing Internet browsing service.

The official discourse boasts of freedom of expression in Cuba. Yet the reality is different.

Once, I do not remember the exact date, Mr. Carlos Lage maintained that there was total freedom of thought in Cuba… and it is true. What happens is, as Friedrich Engels used to say, “the word is the material wrapping of thought,” so that it is totally worthless for someone to come up with a political formula if he or she cannot in absolute calmness expound upon it to all of his or her followers.

Freedom of expression, exercised in its public environment, is the best guarantee that all rights to which people are entitled are fulfilled, including, naturally, the right to education, public health and social security.

Translated by: Anonymous

Human Rights Violations: How to Report them? / Somos+

Somos+, 20 March 2017 — During the last session of Academia 10/10, we were joined by renowned Prof. Moisés Rodríguez Valdés, a physicist by profession but one with ample knowledge of human rights and civil liberties.

He is the chief spokesperson in Cuba for Corriente Martiana. Attendees enjoyed this very valuable conference during which, among other important topics, he explained how to formally report human rights violations to the United Nations. The following are some of the major points he shared with us.

Report violations of human rights you have experienced to the United Nations. continue reading

Not doing so encourages the perpetrators’ sense of impunity, even if this is not your intention.

The process is easy and does not take much time, but the effect can be significant if everyone follows established procedures.

We hear reports on a daily basis, through Radio Martí and other broadcasters, as well as through digital and print media, of human rights violations against civil society activists not formally recognized, who are vilified and repressed and, occasionally, are subject to unjustified physical violence.

Using the media to raise public awareness is NECESSARY, BUT IS NOT ENOUGH. That is because UN resolution 1503 precludes the organization from considering complaints based on press reports (see annex, UN Res. 1503).

Some complaints are forwarded to international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others. There is nothing wrong with it, but this is also NOT ENOUGH. UN Res. 1503 establishes that the complaint must be filed by the victims, their representatives or organizations located in the places where the actions were known to have occurred.

Furthermore, it is well-known that complaints by the European Union and even the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), while noteworthy, have proved to be inadequate in stopping systemic and institutionalized violations depicting a persistent situation, which is what triggers UN mechanisms.

Failure to communicate individual facts to this international institution means to forego the one institution that can compel the Cuban government to halt violations committed by state officials and institutions, which essentially means State Security agents.

It is not a question of resolving individual cases but rather that out of all the complaints made it will be possible to put members of the Cuban government on the stand, as was done until prior to 2006, when the Commission on Human Rights was replaced by the current UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

The fact that the Cuban government has served on Council three times, or that it is currently a member, does not preclude us from seeking redress from that government through other channels provided we report each violation we have personally experienced, or that others we know have experienced, whether they are civil society activists or the population at large.

For information on how to go about filing a complaint, we are attaching the text of Res. 1503, which you should review prior to initiating such communication, as well as the sample form to report violations to the so-called special procedures.

We suggest that you begin the process by emailing your written testimony to Corriente Martiana:

corrientemartiana2004@gmail.com

It will be reviewed and forwarded to the UN by people who have years of experience in dealing with these matters. They will also send you suggestions on how to format any future correspondence.

Do not fail to do so, for only in this manner will we contribute to increase the political cost to the Cuban government for its systemic, institutionalized violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which keep the country in a continuous state of crisis, cause the steady exodus of fellow countrymen and keep the citizenry mired in an effort to survive amidst generalized fear and misery, which prevents them from acting as legitimate citizens but rather as accomplices due to their dependence upon the totalitarian regime imposed on our country.

Looking forward that you will carefully assess this suggestion, I remain,

Sincerely,

Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez Valdés

Human Rights Advocate

This document was prepared and distributed by Corriente Martiana, an institution currently focused on the promotion of human rights through face-to-face teaching, distribution of information and teaching material, and implementing pressure strategies on decision-making individuals.

Address: Ave. 45 # 2410 e/ 24 y 26. Cabañas, municipio Mariel, provincia Artemisa. Cuba

Emails:  corrientemartianacuba2004@gmail.com      moises47@nauta.cu

Web page:  www,corrientemartianacuba.org                                    @cubamartiana

Mobile phone:  +53 5 3351152

Annex 1

Procedure contemplated in Res. 1503, reviewed (summary of the main points for purposes of this suggestion).

The fact that a communication is forwarded to the applicable government and an acknowledgment of receipt is forwarded to the author thereof does not mean any opinion as to the admissibility or merits of the communication. When the Working Group finds that there is reasonable evidence to the existence of a persistent sitatuon of manifest human rights violations, the matter will be referred to the Working Group on Situations for review. The Working Group on Situations will consist, as before, of five members designated by regional groups, and due attention shall be given to the rotation of its members.

The Group shall meet one month, at the latest, prior to the Commission’s meeting, in order to review particular situations referred to it by the Working Group on Communications, and it shall subsequently decide whether or not to refer some of those situations to the Commission.

Then, the Commission shall adopt a decision on each particular situation brought to its attention in this manner. Confidentiality.

All initial steps of the process are confidential until a situation is referred to the Social and Economic Council (ECOSOC).  However, since 1978, the Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights has disclosed the names of those countries subject to review. Thus, if a situation of abuses occurring in a given country are not resolved during the initial stages of the process, it can be brought to the attention of the international community through the ECOSOC, which is one of the main UN bodies.

What are the admissibility criteria for a communication to be reviewed?

– No communication shall be admitted which is contrary to the principles of the UN Charter or which displays political motivations.

– Only one communication shall be admitted if, after having reviewed it, it is determined that there are reasonable grounds to believe –also having taken into account all replies sent by the interested country– that there is a persistent situation of manifest, conclusively proven violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

– Communications may originate from individuals or groups claiming to be victims of human rights violations or  from those having first-hand, reliable knowledge of those violations. Anonymous communications shall be inadmissible, as well as those based on media reports.

– Each communication shall describe the events and indicate the purpose of the petition, as well as the rights which were violated. As a general rule, communications containing offensive terms or insulting comments regarding the State against which a claim is made shall not be reviewed.

– In order for a communication to be reviewed all internal remedies must have been exhausted, unless it can be convincingly proven that national solutions would be ineffective or would take longer than reasonable expected to be achieved.

Annex 2

THIS IS THE MOST COMMON COMMUNICATION MODEL USED, WHICH YOU MAY USE:

Communication to UN Special Procedures from CUBA.

(Read the instructions at the end prior to beginning your communication.)

i. Identification of individuals(s) victim(s):

1. Surnames:

2. Given Names:

3. Sex: M____ F____

4. Date of birth or age (at the time of being subject to the violation):

5. Citizenship(s):

6. a) Type of ID (ID from your country, passport or similar).

ID Card

b) Number:

7. Profession and/or activity (if there are grounds to believe that the violation of rights and/or freedoms bears any relation to it(them):

8. Current address:

City:                        Province:

II.  Identification of violation’s perpetrators.

1. Date when violation occurred:

2. Place where violation occurred (please provide as many details as possible):

3.  Alleged perpetrators of violation:

4.  Are perpetrators members of any official institution? Which one?

III. Please provide a detailed description of events and circumstances under which the violation subject to the communication occurred (be brief and concise).

IV. Indicate which rights were allegedly violated during incident subject to the communication.

V. Identification of individual(s) or organization(s) filing the communication:

1. Name and surnames of individual(s) or name of the organization and representative’s name:

2. a) Address of the individual or the organization’s headquarters:

City:                            Province:

b) Email:

c) Telephone No. (landline):

d) Cell phone:

Instructions.

1. If you submit a handwritten communication, please use black or blue ink and write legibly, preferably in block letters.

2. Your communication shall not be reviewed if you use insulting language or political content.

3. Please limit yourself to describing the events in connection with the incident and clearly and concisely provide only the essential details. It is not a questions of evaluating or giving an opinion, only of describing the facts.

4. No anonymous communications shall be accepted.

To clarify any questions, you can contact Moisés Leonardo Rodriguez at:

 

Avenida 45 número 2410 entre 24 y 26, Cabañas, municipio Mariel, provincia Artemisa. CP 34100. Cuba.

 Email: corrientemartiana2004@gmail.com

Let’s do it! That way we will achieve a more favorable environment for the defense of Human Rights!

P.A. Mosés Leonardo Rodríguez

Original Corriente Martiana founder.

 Translated by: Anonymous

Activist Joanna Columbie Deported to Camaguey

Joanna Columbie last Monday afternoon in Vivac when they were taking her to receive a visit. (Somos+)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 June 2017 – The principal of Academy 1010 and Somos+ (We Are More) Movement activist, Joanna Columbie, was deported Friday from the Vivac detention center in Havana to Camaguey province, as reported to 14ymedio by the leader of the Somos+ organization, Eliecer Avila.

“Joanna called from Vivac to say that she was going to be taken to Camaguey on a bus along with other detainees,” the dissident added. “The police have mounted an operation around the bus that looks like they are transporting dangerous criminals,” he said sarcastically.

“They have given her a warning about subversive activity and enemy propaganda,” he added. continue reading

The crime of enemy propaganda can carry “a sanction of incarceration from one to eight years” according to the Penal Code. It applies to those who prepare, distribute or possess “oral or written propaganda” that “incites against the social order, international solidarity or the socialist State.”

At the time of her arrest the opposition leader was carrying with her several compact discs “with material about Academy 1010,” says Avila.

Columbie was arrested a week ago in the Arroyo Naranjo township by State Security just two days after her temporary permit for residence in the capital had expired.

The activist’s permanent residence is in Cespedes, Camaguey where she was a victim of a robbery at the beginning of the year, but the police so far have arrested no perpetrators.

Joanna Columbie’s arrest and deportation add to a series of repressive actions against Somos+ in recent months. The expulsion of journalism student Karla Perez (member of the independent group) from the University of Las Villas and the raid on the home of Eliecer Avila are some of the most recent actions by State Security against this opposition group.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Peru,Thank You for Your Example and Great Strength / Somos+

Eliecer Avila on a walk around Lima’s mountains, with two Peruvians

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, Havana, 21 March 2017 — During those days we observed with deep sorrow the disaster that Peruvians are enduring, with many deaths and thousands homeless due to flooding and landslides. A beautiful country that has overcome some of the most unfavourable historical events, to rise up to one of the continent’s and the world’s emerging economies of our time.

It has reached a stable democracy after more than a decade of civil war, dictatorship, and extreme poverty. It has since started to forge a modern history of sustained growth, advances in social issues, in infrastructure, in telecommunications, with booming business and an unprecedented right-wing state. continue reading

Eliecer Ávila visiting a family-run ice cream factory in Lima in 2014

Still far away from its potential, Peru today constitutes an example of what a Latin American nation can achieve when it advances together and is reconciled in what is necessary. One can appreciate the tremendous efforts of its entire diaspora that has not rested, collecting assistance that will soon reach the hands of their compatriots to alleviate, even if just a little, so much shared pain.

Our movement maintains strong ties of solidarity and cooperation with different institutes and civil organizations in Peru. We have witnessed there the humility, education and immense spirit of work that distinguishes its people. To all our friends, we want to let you know that we are at your disposal to help in everything that is possible.

We are sure that this dark chapter will pass and the immense South American nation will resume even more strongly its path of flourishing and progress. They will achieve it with the same spirit they express, in the motto that accompanies their shield and banner: “Steady and happy for the union.”

Happiness / Somos+

Somos+, Roberto Camba, 21 March 2017 — The United Nations has just launched the 2017 World Happiness Report, coinciding with the World Happiness Day on March 20th. From its first publication in 2012, the world has come to understand more and more that happiness has to be used as the correct measure with regards to social progress and the objective of public policies.

The report is based on statistics collected from the happiness index or subjective well-being, Gross Domestic Product, social support, life expectancy from birth, freedom to make decisions, generosity, perception of corruption (within the government or in businesses), positive or negative feelings, confidence in the national government and in society, the level of democracy and the level of income per household. continue reading

Much of the data is taken from the average of the results of Gallup’s global survey. For example, the “life’s staircase” question: “imagine a staircase, with steps numbered from 0 (at the base) to 10 (at the top). The top of the stairs represents the best life possible for you and the base the worst life possible. Which step do you feel like you are currently at right now?”

“Social support” means having someone that you can rely on during times of difficulty. Generosity equates to having donated money to a charitable organisation over the past month. Whereas, positive or negative feeling relates to questions about whether for the most part of the previous day the individual experienced happiness, laughter or pleasure; or rather did they experience negative feelings such as worry, sadness or anger. The report references its sources and explains the other indexes which negatively influence the perception of happiness such as: unemployment or social inequality.

The 2017 Happiness Report places Norway at the top of its list, followed by: Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden as the top ten.

The US was listed at number 14 and Spain at 34. The best placed Latin American nations were Chile (20), Brazil (22), Argentina (24), Mexico (25), Uruguay (28), Guatemala (29) and Panama (30). The list included 155 countries. Those that have improved the most with regards to their position between 2005-2007 are Nicaragua, Lithuania and Sierra Leone, whilst Venezuela is the country that has slipped down the rankings the most.

And Cuba? It does not appear on the list. The Network of Solutions for Sustainable Development that prepared the report only possesses data on Cuba from 2006. During that time, the average response to the “staircase of life” was 5.4 (which placed it at 69th out of 156 nations), just behind Kosovo. Possibly today many Cubans would answer “where is the staircase to even begin to climb it?”

According to the 2006 data, Cuba appeared to be high in its ranking of social support and life expectancy from birth, but it was the third worst in freedom to make decisions. It was ranked as low for level of democracy, despite the fact that its per capita GDP surpassed China, Mexico, Brazil and South Africa to name some of the prosperous economies in the world*. In the net index of feelings (the average of positive feelings subtracted by the average of negative feelings) Cuba occupied the 112th place, making it the lowest ranked country in Latin America, with only Haiti having worse figures.

This index is the most direct measurement of fulfillment or of personal frustration that influences values and behaviour.

Of course beyond scientific rigour, no statistic or survey is 100% reliable. Subjective happiness or individual perception of happiness is very variable. Replying to these questions implies making a mental comparison. We compare ourselves to our neighbour, to those abroad, to our past or to our previous situation.

who receive manipulated information will not be able to effectively compare themselves. Furthermore, people think as they live: having access to running water could be the ultimate happiness for someone living in Sub-Saharan Africa, but a European or North American considers that they must have that and would take offense if they did not have it.

Cubans do not need a global report to know that there is a low happiness index among the people. The problems seem insoluble, the shortages are growing, personal ambitions have had to be postponed for decades, emigration becomes the only hope. The government quashes individual initiatives and working towards the happiness of its people — or allowing others to do it — does not seem to be in its projections. At Somos Más (We Are More) we believe that a responsible government must have this as its main objective and we will continue to fight to achieve it.

Translator’s note: If the GDP used for this analysis was that provided by the Cuban government, it would likely have been inaccurate. 

The Right of Assembly / Somos+

Somos+, Ezequiel Álvarez, 27 March 2017 — I believe that, in the resistance against the totalitarian, military dictatorship of the Castros, the existence of diverse organizations is essential and necessary. If we fight against a monolithic system, it is indispensable to start from a pluralist base wherein there is room for different ideas. continue reading

If communism’s major flaw is to intend for all the world to submit by force to one ideology, our response cannot be another antagonistic solution of the same kind.

The human being by nature represents a variety of opinions. The democratic system proclaims freedom of assembly, and as proponents of democracy for Cuba, we should accept that other points of view also have a right to participate in the opposition.

Starting from that premise, I propose that we should know how to work together in this phase, and allow the electoral process to decide the democratic route that the nation will take.

Meanwhile, let us continue, each according to his conscience, respecting the same right in others, working together toward the same ideal.

Let us prepare the foundations starting now, so that in the eventual future, we can be ready to prevent a repeat of the current tragedy. An upright structure that will serve as safe passage to a constitutional democracy, with the prior approval of the opposition parties, is a solution that we should explore and work towards making a reality.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Eliécer Ávila, The ‘New Man’ Who Became An Opponent

Eliecer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement (CC).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Walking along the streets with Eliécer Ávila can be a complicated task. His face is well known thanks to a viral video broadcast almost a decade ago. However, before fame came into his life, this young man born in Las Tunas was a model “New Man”: the most finished product of ideological indoctrination.

Like all Cuban children, Avila shouted slogans during his school’s morning assembly, participated in countless repudiation activities “against imperialism” and dreamed of resembling Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. But while, in school, they taught him the social achievements that the Revolutionary process brought to the population, at home reality was stubborn and showed itself to be something quite different. continue reading

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez – the Puerto Padre municipality of Puerto Padre where the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement was born – are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat. A place lost in nothingness, where many families still use latrines for their bodily needs, and live in houses with roofs made of palm fronds.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life did not resemble the official version he was being taught. Born in 1985, in the middle of that “golden decade” when the Soviet Union was propping up the island, he was barely walking a year later when Fidel Castro ordered the closing of the free farmers markets in the midst of the “Process of Rectification of Errors and Negative Tendencies.”

Eliécer Avila reached puberty during what was called the Special Period. With the voracity that still characterizes him, he faced many days of his adolescence with his plate half full, or almost empty. He hand stitched the shoes he wore to school, invented all kinds of “outfits” from his grandfather’s old shirts, and turned off the light when it was time to strip down to his underwear, so no one could see the holes.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life did not resemble the official version he was taught. He was born in 1985, in the middle of that “golden decade” when the Soviet Union was propping up the Island

With a natural leadership quality, in which a certain humor mixes with an undeniable histrionic capacity to narrate anecdotes, the young man made his way through those years without climbing aboard a raft to escape the country or ending up in jail. Those who knew him predicted a future in politics, because of those “fine lips” that helped him in student meetings and in romantic conquests.

A little bit later, luck smiled on him. He was able to enroll in the University of Computer Sciences (UCI), founded in 2002 in the middle of the Battle of Ideas. UCI was located on the site that had once been the Center for Exploration and Radioelectronics Listening, known as the Lourdes SIGNIT Station, where until 2001 Russia – and the Soviet Union before it – had had its largest spy station outside its borders. UCI was a school for trusted young people to become computer soldiers for a Revolution that fears the Internet.

While a student at UCI, Avila led Operation Truth. His task was to monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government. In those spaces, the young revolutionary sharpened his arsenal of tools for political struggle that included everything from hacking to the execution of the reputation of anyone who opposed the Plaza of the Revolution.

Little by little, like acid that filters through the cracks, those anti-government arguments he read on the web began to sink into his mind and mingle with his own disagreements. Restless, in 2008 he took his turn at the microphone during a visit to UCI of Ricardo Alarcón, then president of the National Assembly. The minutes of that public appearance that followed marked the rest of his life.

The video of the collision between Ávila and Alarcón jumped to first place in the hit parade on the clandestine networks that distributed audiovisuals. No one wanted to miss it, especially the moment when the leader of Parliament justified the travel restrictions imposed on Cubans by saying how congested the skies might be, if everyone were allowed to board an airplane.

Avila led Operation Truth while studying computer science; his task was to monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government

Now, nine years later, the young activist prefers not to be called “Eliécer, the one who debated with Alarcon,” but for the rest of his life it will be his most important letter of introduction to millions of Cubans. His challenge of power, with simple questions and a firm voice, has been one of the most accurate and best documented gestures of rebellion in almost six decades of Castroism.

After that, he received his punishment. After graduating, the authorities sent him to a remote Youth Computer Club to purge his audacity. It was the decisive moment in which he decided to cross the red line towards independence. He left the state sector, founded the Somos+ Movement and relocated to Havana. One audacious act after another.

The attacks rained down from all sides. State Security raised the level of pressure on his environment, traditional opposition leaders threw darts at the upstart, and there was no shortage of those who claimed that he was only a mole for the political police disguised as a dissident.

Since then, Ávila has tried to give shape to a civic discourse that uses new technologies and a less politicized language, closer to the concerns of ordinary people. But, like every dissident, he is caught in the grip of charges of illegal action, subjected to constant vigilance and assigned the halo of demonization imposed on anyone who does not applaud power.

Nothing is more disturbing to a system that has played with social alchemy than the fact of a creature from its own ideological laboratory turning against it

The numerous trips abroad that he has made since the Travel and Immigration Reforms of 2013 have allowed him to know the world, only to discover that the most exciting and indecipherable of the territories that await him is located in the future Cuba. That country so many have dreamed of and that is taking so long to arrive.

Recently he went a step further and announced that he was prepared to represent the electors of his constituency as a delegate. A somewhat remote possibility, given the oiled mechanisms of control over the People’s Assemblies maintained by the ruling party where, by show of hands, the attendees must nominate the potential candidates.

This week, the guajiro of Yarey de Vázquez has crossed another line. A public protest at José Martí International Airport has resulted in his house being searched, and him being arrested and charged with “illicit economic activity.” The trigger was the seizure of his laptop at Customs when he returned from Colombia.

Now, it is expected that the siege around the young leader and his Somos+ Movement will continue to close. Nothing is more disturbing to a system that has played with social alchemy than a creature from its own ideological laboratory turning against it. Eliécer Ávila will be doubly punished because power acts with more fury against its own, when it rebels.

More articles in English by and about Eliécer Ávila can be read here.

Police Arrest Activist Eliécer Ávila and Raid His Home

The video shows Eliecer Avila and other human rights activists at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, protesting the confiscation of Avila’s laptop when he returned to the country from abroad.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Some fifty uniformed members of the National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior raided the home of the activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement this Saturday morning. The police seized documents and home appliances, in addition to arresting the opponent, according to detailed information from his wife, Rachell Vázquez, speaking to 14ymedio.

The police search began at six in the morning and lasted about four hours during which the troops did not allow access to the property located in the neighborhood of El Canal, in the Havana’s Cerro municipality. “We were going to eat something when they knocked on the door,” says Vázquez.

During the search, the police were accompanied by two witnesses of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). “All they left us was the TV,” adds the wife. “Right now Eliécer is missing, because no one knows where they took him,” he says. continue reading

Hours earlier, the couple was at Terminal 3 of José Martí International Airport, where Avila staged a protest to demand the return of several of his belongings retained by the General Customs of the Republic. Last Thursday, when the activist returned from a trip to Colombia, his personal laptop was confiscated.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera and Lugareño

The opponent remained at the airport for more than 36 hours and insisted to security agents that he would not leave the place until they returned the computer. Other members of his organization joined in the protest.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera and Lugareño in La Viñora. “He asked me to bring the deed of the house and 1,000 CUP,” says Vázquez, but “the police took the money in the drawers.”

In a video posted on the Somos+ website, Avila is seen in an airport lounge with two activists carrying posters with the phrase “No More Robbery.” The opponent denounced in front of the camera that the authorities “gave no explanations” and have not told him the reason for confiscating his computer.

Police searches and raids on dissidents’ homes have become common in the last year. In its report for March, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced this procedure.

During that month “there were innumerable cases of dissidents deprived of their computers, cell phones and other means of work as well as cash,” the report adds. These actions are aimed “to prevent the work of peaceful opponents and to make them increasingly poor,” said the independent entity.

Several Opposition Leaders Detained On Their Return To Cuba

Eliecer Avila detained at the airport on his return to Cuba (Somos+)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 April 2017 — Cuban opposition leaders were detained at Havana’s international airport on Thursday, when they arrived from Colombia, according to sources in the political movement Somos+ (We Are More) speaking with 14ymedio.

Eliécer Ávila, president of that movement remains “in open protest” at the capital’s airport after the authorities’ attempt to confiscate his electronic devices. continue reading

“Immigration has not allowed us to pass, it seems there are signs on the computers that say: interested in confrontation,” Avila explained in a message addressed to his movement. Later they were allowed to enter the national territory but in the face of the attempt to confiscate their belongings, the opponents rebelled.

Carlos Oliva, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), is being held at the police station in Santiago de las Vegas. Eliecer Avila has said that he refuses to leave the airport without his laptop. The opponent has been there for more than seven hours.

Customs Officer in the process of confiscating the belongings of Eliecer Avila. (Somos+)

The order to seize his computer was issued by Carlos Pons, Chief of Confrontation at the airport.

In the case of Marthadela Tamayo and Zuleidy Pérez, they were subjected to a “rigorous search” and their personal computers siezed.

Requiem For My Havana / Somos+, Grettha Yedra

Island, what happened to you?
Who changed the spring?
Who shut the door?
What ship left you alone?

Island, they have changed your clothes
They have distorted decency
They have trafficked your innocence
They have shit on your equality and mine.

Island, by Lien Y Rey

Somos+, Gretther Yedra Rodriguez, 29 March 2017 — A few days ago I arrived from Cuba. I was there about a month. Havana was where I spent most of my time. I hadn’t seen it for almost two years, two years of not feeling the breath of the Malecon which enchants even the most skeptical. I suffered the spectacle. The most controversial capital in the world felt to me like a Dantesque chaos. In a few years, I thought, it’s going to look like a pile of trash where there once was a city. Cardboard houses proliferate on the periphery and spread throughout the country. Havana, my beautiful Havana, what happened to you? continue reading

I saw something that I had not seen before and that, in the country where I now reside, caused me great sorrow: I saw beggars, tons of them. Beggars and children wandering aimlessly along the Malecon and the historic center. Old people with lost gazes, filled with despair and empty hands. Irritable people, alcoholic men… and even women. State companies in a lamentable state, indolent workers who say NO for the pleasure of saying it.

I saw Havana as a raggedy old man, lying in a doorway while a copy of the Granma newspaper pretends to protect him from the cold.

On my way from Matanzas to the city I could see idle lands, plagued by the invasive marabou weed, and I thought enviously of the Ecuadorian earth, deeply cultivated, filled with cattle, of the rows of plants created by the indians and native people. I thought with sadness that there was a time when Cuban land did not suffer by comparison to the beautiful Andean land. It is not necessary to be a specialist to see the decline in agricultural and livestock, to notice the huge expanses of idle farmland, the volume of imported food continually increasing, making up for the deficit in national production.

While most of the Asian and Latin American countries lagged behind Cuba in the 1960s, they have now overtaken Cuba in the diversification of their economies, the development of competitive manufacturing sectors for export, and the decline in their dependence on a limited group of export products. And knowing this data and returning to Cuba, it hurts. It forces you to rethink many things, to not remain silent when the instinct of self-preservation demands it.

As I was walking along Montes street, I looked in disbelief at how the building collapses multiplied in only two years of absence. A man, seeing my puzzled face, told me: “Looks like they threw bombs, right?” My silence was agreement. And the bombs exploded in my head. Nothing they promised was fulfilled, economic failure has made a beautiful country into an arid land, cold and dirty, where people fight to survive.

How to wake an entire people from their slumber? How to tell them that humanity said “Enough” and got up and walked, and that we should do the same if we want a future?

We cannot remain with the masterful lines of Gabriel García Márquez, where an omniscient narrator asserts that those condemned to a hundred years of solitude do not have a second chance on earth. We are not García Márquez’s fictional Macondo, we are Cuba. We come from the line of Maceo, Gomez and Martí, Jose Antonio Echeverria, Frank and Camilo. Let us honor these men by rescuing what we have all lost. Let us awaken from this lethargy and, without shaking off the dust of the road, let us act. These are times to act.

It would kill me to say that Cubans are afraid, that it is difficult to reveal ourselves to a totalitarianism that constantly represses and annuls. In Cuba today, fear no longer exists, what we lost was faith and with it shame. From the ashes of Havana we must rescue her.

13 March 1957: The Assault on the Presidential Palace / Somos+

Canter with arm raised: José Antonio Echevarria

We trust in the purity of our intention,
May God favor us,
To achieve the Empire of Justice in our country.
José Antonio Echeverría Bianchi

Somos+, Jose Presol, 13 March 2017 — Today, March 13, we celebrate a date that, fifty years ago, could have radically changed the history of Cuba. A date that could have been, but was not. And it was not because of betrayals that, even today, are not clearly defined

That day, according to the policy of the Revolutionary Directorate, was “to attack the head.” A very high “head”: Fulgencio Batista.

From the beginning of the idea, towards the end of 1955, the goal was unity of action between its time.

In 1956, the plan was picked up again and, recalling the pact between the Directorate and the M26J (26th of July Movement) so-called Mexican Letter, Faustina Perez who was heading the “26th” in Havana was contacted, and he refused to collaborate on orders of Fidel. The writer doesn’t know of any reference to the proposal being communicated to Frank Pais or to other members of the National Directorate, on some dates when Fidel was by no means the Maximum Leader. continue reading

Thus, everything was conceived, planned and executed by the joint forces of the Authentic Organization and the Revolutionary Directorate.

Nothing was left to chance. There were enough weapons. Surveillance equipment. Political and military leadership. The leaders were Menelao Mora (for the Authentics) and Jose Antonio Echeverría (for the Directorate). The military commander was Carlos Gutiérrez Menoyo, who had been an officer with the Free French Forces during World War II.

Those who did not participate in the action were intended to: (1) Start the guerrilla action in the Escambray Mountains, (2) Arm and reorganize the Revolutionary Directorate in Havana, (3) Send troops to Frank Pais to be used in the El Uvero combat and to initiate the 2nd Eastern Front.

The plan was complex and simple at the same time: A frontal attack by a group transported in a delivery truck and two cars, which would go up to Batista’s office and take him prisoner or execute him, and that would be supported by men distributed on nearby roofs, to prevent the arrival of reinforcements; others as support and in reserve along the Paseo del Prado; and a main reserve that would arrive from Guanabacoa.

Messages would be broadcast for the uprising of the militants and sympathizers of the FEU and the Authentic Party throughout Cuba. In Havana they had to concentrate on the School of Architecture, where the group that had previously occupied Rádio Reloj would be organized, armed and instructed to occupy their objectives. As for the Army, the officers of higher rank next to the Authentics would take control of the garrisons.

Menelao Mora would assume the provisional presidency, until the arrival of the previous President-elect, Carlos Prío Socarrás, and then the process of elections interrupted by Batista with his coup d’etat would begin.

But, if everything was so measured and calculated, what was it that failed? Well two things:

  1. Batista fled from the Presidential Palace at the moment of the attack through a door the assailants didn’t know about.
  2. Someone sabotaged the action. I base  this on two things.

A. Everything (weapons, communications and vehicles) was checked several times and was in order. On leaving the Presidential Palace a tires of the delivery truck were low in air, affecting the suspension. The driver, Amado Silveriño, insisted on  continuing, promising to get there. Did someone let the air out?  It is not known.

B. The reserves did not receive the order to mobilize. Who was in charge of sending it? Someone who still walks around Havana: Fauré Chomón. The men who had to occupy the access points and those concentrated in Guanabacoa never moved of their collection point.

The result was, apart from the failure of action, the almost total dismissal of the only two organizations that could have cast shadows Fidel Castro’s aspirations: the Authentic Party and the Revolutionary Directorate.

Fidel can be considered the only winner of the failed attack.

Translated by Jim

Numbers, Reason and Principles / Somos+

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 8 March 2017 — Daily, as part of my functions as leader of Somos+ (We Are More), I meet people who are interested in knowing the details of the organization. In theory, these people would become members of Somos+ if there is a sufficient match between their ideas and the ones we promulgate.

It turns out that often, I prepare to explain our proposals, program, explain the logical arguments about the need for changes, etc… but the first question that I ask is, “Come here… and how many are you?”

It never ceases to amaze me, the extreme importance that many people give to the number of people who adopt an attitude that they then adopt as their own. I believe their it would be much more worthwhile to concern ourselves with the number when we acquire some product for our use or contract for some service between the number of people previously satisfied by the same offer could be an indicator of its quality. continue reading

Instead, when it’s about values, principles, ideologies, justice and political positions, I don’t believe that the priority should be the number of people who adopt this or that position.

History abounds with examples in which great multitudes committed the most terrible and horrible crimes. Were they right? No, but they were many, many more joined them and the wave became so immense and unstoppable that opposing it would seem an act of uselessness, masochism or stupidity.

This overwhelming game between majorities and minorities is preferred by revolutions, because they establish in advance what is the “good side” and the “bad side” where people can position themselves, and depending on that decision their lives will be respected or tainted.

For me, democracy will never be described by the reductionist argument of “the dictatorship of the majorities,” because this primitive mentality is the one that always existed and does not necessarily contemplate a civilized advance that guarantees the peace and the participation of the whole society in decision-making. Instead, it will be the “opportunity for minorities” to exist in dignity and to be represented that would distinguish a democracy.

We should not be afraid to be alone or accompanied by few in the place that we consider right. If we think that striking a woman is wrong, we should not hit her to be in tune with the millions of men who do. Or if we believe that animals should be protected, or that corruption affects us all, it is legitimate to say it even though there are probably no de facto crowds chanting in our favor.

It is thanks to the rebels of the past, those who did not care about the number of their followers, that today we have, around the world, less violence, machismo, corruption and oppression than in previous centuries.

A political position is above all a right, but it is also a duty, which should never be exercised by imitation, enthusiasm, or pressure of any kind. It must be an act of responsibility based on abundant or full information, the product of a deep and measured analysis, strictly attached to what we are and what we believe to be just for us, our families, our nation and for all humanity.

Only in this way will we feel full, happy and secure in expressing our opinions or taking action both individually and in groups, voluntarily or remunerated, supported or rejected, blessed or repressed. Learning to think for oneself is to be free.

Numbers, reason and principles always have been and will be three different subjects.