Writer Angel Santiesteban Arrested Again / 14ymedio

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 November 2015 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Havana. A police car drove the activist from Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles’s house, where he was, to a police station, according to Santiesteban himself who spoke to this newspaper at the time of his arrest.

After the arrest, the blogger Lia Villares informed this newspaper that the police told the writer that it was “circulated for a month,” under the alleged “violation of domicile.” This Thursday he could be “tried in the Fifth Chamber of the court,” the same source stated.

Another source told 14ymedio the writer had missed the last time he was supposed to have signed in at the police station, a control measure that he must complete every week, under the terms of his probation. Should certain information arise, the authorities could use this to revoke his parole and return him to prison.

Last July Santiesteban was released after entering prison in December 2012, after a process that was considered by many to be arbitrary and precipitate. At that time he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison also for alleged “violation of domicile and injuries.”

The writer has won significant literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novel in Drawer Prize in 2013; the prize is given to censored writers whose work is, literally, “in a drawer” because they are unable to publish in their home countries.

Ruins for Tourists / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Ruins at Prado and Teniente Rey, the 'in corner.' (14ymedio)

Ruins at Prado and Teniente Rey, the ‘in corner.’ (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 23 October 2015 — Tourists like to portray ruins. They do this at the Greek Parthenon, the Roman Coliseum and the crumbling Mexican pyramids. But Havana’s ruins have “another charm.” As in this picture, where a good telephoto lens can capture a tiled wall with enclosed shower, the bowels of an electrical installation, truncated stairs and, hopefully, even the innocent graffiti a teenager scribbled on the wall of his bedroom.

This is the corner of Prado and Teniente Rey, where until recently a seedy little bar served as a meeting point for the gay community. A hunting ground, where the roles of prey and hunter were happily played out between prostitutes and middle-aged tourists.

Perhaps this desolate landscape will not last as long as others that have become emblematic of the capital city. With its privileged position, facing the National Capitol, it can be expected that the debris will be cleared away very soon. Perhaps at first there will be a parking lot, and with time a hotel, a store, an office complex.

I fantasize that the ground floor will house a café where deputies will finish settling the arguments still pending in the Parliament. I see lobbyists, stalking like new hunters, the most influential parliamentarians and I also imagine that the odd nostalgic tourist will lament the crime of what they did with the beautiful ruins.

Tania Bruguera is Finalist for the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize / 14ymedio

Tania Bruguera during a staged 100 hour reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt, at her home in Havana. (14ymedio)

Tania Bruguera during a staged 100 hour reading of The Origins of Totalitarianism, by Hannah Arendt, at her home in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 23 October 2015 — Tania Bruguera has been selected along with five other candidates as a possible winner of the 2016 Hugo Boss Prize, an award that the Guggenheim Foundation in New York awarded every two years since 1996 in recognition of artists whose work is “among the most innovative and influential of our time.”

Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and ‘Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator’ of the Guggenheim Museum and president of the jury, announced the finalists, chosen by a panel of art critics and curators, on Friday. In the last two decades, the jurors have chosen as finalists influential artists from around the world, recognizing both emerging and established artists of all ages, genders and media.

Along with Bruguera, nominees for the prestigious recognition include the British Mark Leckey, Americans Ralph Lemon and Laura Owens, Egyptian Wael Shawky and South Korean Anicka Yi.

The winner of the Hugo Boss Prize will be announced in the fall of 2016 and will receive $100,000 and hold an exhibition dedicated to their work in 2017 at the Guggenheim Museum.

More Than 250 Activists Arrested During Pope’s Visit, According UNPACU / 14ymedio

Activists detained during Pope Francis’s in the Plaza of the Revolution. (Frame from Univision video)

Activists detained during Pope Francis’s in the Plaza of the Revolution. (Frame from Univision video)

14ymedio, Havana, 23 September — The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) denounced on Wednesday the arrest of 142 of its members during Pope Francis’s visit to the island, concluded yesterday. The total number of detainees from different organizations is between 250 and 300 activists, the report said.

The majority of the arrests (105 arbitrarily arrested and several beaten) was recorded in Santiago de Cuba on the last day of the stay of the pontiff. Five other members of the organization were arrested in Pinar del Rio, 13 were arrested in Havana, 14 Holguin and one in Guantanamo.

UNPACU says in a statement released through its website that prevented more than two hundred activists in the East and another twenty in the West from leaving their homes under threat of arrest.

Pope Francis said yesterday aboard the papal plane flying from the island to the US that he had not been aware that there had been arrests of dissidents who sought a meeting with him during his stay on the island. However, UNPACU asserts that the Pope spoke last Sunday in Havana with one of the members of the organization, Zacchaeus Baez Guerrero, who identified himself to the Pope to deliver a letter and express to him the lack of human rights in Cuba. A Univision video records the moment when State Security struggles with the activist at the sight of the pope and stops.

The leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, and other activists such as Berta Soler of the Ladies in White and Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), reproached the Pope for failing to address in his homilies and speeches the situation of fundamental rights in the country.

Machado Ventura: Neither Young Nor Female / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

Machado Ventura in 2012, at the eighth plenary session of the 1st National CDR Directorate. (JCG)

Machado Ventura in 2012, at the eighth plenary session of the 1st National CDR Directorate. (JCG)

14ymedio biggerGeneration Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 31 August 2015 — If anyone embodies the most antiquated orthodoxy of the Cuban political system, it is undoubtedly Jose Ramon Machado Ventura. With his frail gait and infinite power, the vice president of the Councils of State and Ministers represents the most reactionary and ultra-conservative wing of the island’s government. Thus, the excessive role he has gained in the media in recent weeks worries many.

Machadito, as his elders call him, has starred this summer in activities ranging from visits to sugar mills and a meeting with cattle ranchers, to the speech at the closing ceremony of the Federation of Cuban Women Congress, a day at the 10th Congress of the Young Communist League, and the closing words this Saturday at the National Council of the University Students Federation. All this, although he is neither a farmer, nor a woman and much less young. Continue reading

Declaration of San Juan / Cuban National Conference

Cuban National Conference: Uniting the Two Shores

Cuban National Conference: Uniting the Two Shores

Declaration of San Juan

The first Cuban National Conference met in San Juan, Puerto Rico from August 13 to 15, 2015. Twenty-three organizations from the Cuban archipelago and 32 from the exile participated, duly represented by more than 100 of their leaders. The event was organized by United Cubans of Puerto Rico.

Animating us was the purpose of seeking ways to reconcile the work of the pro-democratic forces with the commitment to restore sovereignty, and all their basic rights, to the Cuban people. To this end, we affirm that to achieve full freedom for the Cuban people and a genuine Rule of Law, the following principles are not negotiable:

  • The unconditional release of all political prisoners and the repeal of all laws that violate fundamental freedoms.
  • Freedom of speech, press, association, assembly, peaceful demonstration, profession and religion.
  • The participation of the people in every decision of the nation, the legalization of all political parties and free and multiparty elections.

The Cuban National Conference also agreed:

  1. To work on a the campaign for a binding plebiscite in favor of free, fair and pluralistic democratic elections under conditions that guarantee the sovereignty of citizens.
  2. To support and sign the 1988 “Agreement for Democracy.”
  3. To promote the strategy of nonviolent struggle, facilitating the training of pro-democracy activists in the methods of civil disobedience.
  4. To work to demolish the cyber-wall in Cuba and strive so that the domestic opposition has the technological resources to continue citizen mobilization.

Presentations were made on several efforts focused on the material and spiritual progress of the new Cuba, which will be detailed in the second National Cuban Conference.

A Coordinating Liaison Committee was established for a period of six months whose primary task will be to follow up on the agreed points here and communicate them to all organizations, in the spirit of uniting the internal and external opposition.

Today, for us, José Martí’s phrase is more relevant than ever and we plan to fulfill it: “Joining together is the watchword.”

San Juan, Puerto Rico, August 15, 2015.

Signed on behalf of their organizations: Continue reading

Cuban Youth Expect Nothing From 10th Congress Of Communist Youth / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

They give the impression that it is enough to simply change the language to be better understood by young people.

They give the impression that it is enough to simply change the language to be better understood by young people. The faces (in the order they appear on the poster) are Julio Antonio Mella, Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos.

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 July 2015 – The extensive preparation for the Tenth Congress of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), to be held in Havana from 17 to 19 July, displays the same old contradictions that hinder this type of event. It is a formula that is repeated, be it a conclave of peasants, artists, women or journalists: it is one thing what the membership from within the organization desires and another what is imposed on each institution from outside by the Party-State.

If this “great event of Cuban youth” meets its stated intention that the organization be increasingly relevant to the young people it represents, it would make a radical U-turn, from changing the name of the institution to renewing its statutes and governing documents. If, on the other hand, it follows the guidelines and “illustrious directions” emanating from the highest authority, it will only modify those details that grind the gears favoring obedience. Continue reading

Barack Obama and Raul Castro Exchange Letters

Barack Obama to Raul Castro

June 30, 2015

His Excellency
Raul Castro Ruz
President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba

Dear Mr. President:

I am pleased to confirm, following high-level discussions between our two governments, and in accordance with international law and practice, that the United States of America and the Republic of Cuba have decided to re-establish diplomatic relations and permanent diplomatic missions in our respective countries on July 20, 2015. This is an important step forward in the process of normalizing relations between our two countries and peoples that we initiated last December. Continue reading

Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

20080405035345-raulcubanet square logoCubanet.org, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 24 June 2015 – Abel Prieto rides again. Not as the author of two little novels whose names I cannot remember. Nor as the ex-president of a union of writers and authors more sold to the powers-that-be than self-help books at the Havana book fair, or reproductions of “Still Life with the Leader” at an art exposition committed to who knows what.

Never ever as that ex-minister of culture, with long hair and little sense, who declared that poets like Raul Rivera could be jailed, but they would not show up shot in the head at the edge of some ditch. Now, such a sad political figure, he rides as the cultural adviser to the Cuban president.

Other “Kultural Pajes”

As the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte said in his article “Kultural Pajes” from the book With Intent to Offend, “The more illiterate the politicians are – in Spain those two words almost always are synonymous – the more they like to appear in the cultural pages of the newspapers.” Continue reading

14 Minutes that Shook the Revolution / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez


Orlando Jimenez Leal and Fidel Castro

Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 29 May 2015 – “P.M.,” that short documentary made by Orlando Jimenez Leal and Saba Cabrera Infante, was the beginning of the end of freedom of expression in Cuban Culture. Conceived in the beginning as a four-minute report that would establish a parallel between the militants who installed canons on the Havana Malecon and the people who entertained themselves in bars during the days previous to the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the film was banned for being subversive.

According to his own words Jimenez Leal wanted to reflect the character of the Cuban who tries to reconcile, at any cost, “his historical responsibility” with the rumba. It was a kind of tribute to the popular wit that occurred when, instead of Fidel Castro’s official slogan of “Homeland or Death,” a mixed-race woman in a bar one night was heard to say, while she was undulating, “Why not ‘Homeland or Minor Injuries’?”

The director of television’s Channel 2 catalogued P.M. as controversial. Surprised by the response, Jimenez Leal decided to show it to Saba Cabrera Infante, and together they turned it into the 14-minute short that shook the Revolution. Continue reading

Fidel Castro’s Former Bodyguard Juan Reinaldo Sanchez Dies / 14ymedio

The cover of Juan Reinaldo Sanchez's book, "The Secret Life of Fidel Castro"

The cover of Juan Reinaldo Sanchez’s book, “The Secret Life of Fidel Castro”

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 May 2015 – Juan Reinaldo Sanchez, Fidel Castro’s bodyguard between 1977 and 1994, died from lung cancer on Tuesday in Miami. The author of the tell-all book The Hidden Life of Fidel Castro, written in collaboration with the journalist Axel Gflden, had left the Island in 2008.

Sanchez, who belonged to the former presidents personal security force with the rank of lieutenant colonel, was the only member of the guard to flee Cuba. After asking for early retirement, he spent two years in prison.

In his book, the former bodyguard told of the luxurious life of Fidel Castro, revealing that he owned yachts and some twenty residences scattered throughout the Island.

The Risks of Journalism / Yoani Sanchez

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 21 May 2015 – If you has asked me a year ago what would be the three greatest challenges of the digital newspaper 14ymedio, I would have said repression, lack of connection to the Internet, and media professionals being afraid to work on our team. I did not imagine that the another obstacle would become the principal headache of this informative little paper: the lack of transparency in Cuban institutions, which has found us many times before a closed door and no matter how hard we knock, no one opens or provides answers.

In a country where State institutions refuse to provide the citizen with certain information that should be public, the situation becomes much more complicated for the reporter. Dealing with the secrecy turns out to be as difficult as evading the political police, tweeting “blind,” or becoming used to the opportunism and silence of so many colleagues. Information is militarized and guarded in Cuba as if there is a war of technology, which is why those who try to find out are taken, at the very least, as spies. Continue reading

From “White Udder” to the seven-legged bull / Yoani Sanchez

Illustration of a cow. (14ymedio)

Illustration of a cow. (14ymedio)

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 5 May 2015 – For a long time the extraordinary, the unusual, was our hope. On this Island which must have been Atlantis, the reincarnation of Alexander the Great was born and there lived a cow who gave the most quarts of milk in the history of humanity. Like all childish people we needed to feel that nobody surpassed us and that the ordinary rested far from our borders. White Udder, the cow that still owns the Guinness World Record, was a sacrificial victim on the altar of this national and political vanity. Gone are the times of those exaggerated ranching achievements, now we can only crow about our anomalies.

Muñeco is a bull with seven legs. The local press just narrated his story, a wild yearling born from two commercial zebu breed cattle, and ultimately adopted by the cattle rancher Diego Vera Hernandez in the Trinidad area. What distinguishes this exemplar from so many others that die of hunger and thirst in the Cuban countryside is that springing from its back, near the shoulder hump, are three additional legs and one testicle. Its anatomy includes everything the official rhetoric needs: on the one hand the inconceivable, on the other, this piece of virility that should not be lacking in anyone or anything that wants to brag about being made in Cuba.

Gone are the times of those exaggerated ranching achievements, now we can only crow about our anomalies.

Muñeco’s three legs have saved him from the illegal slaughter to which so many of his peers succumb due to the needs and poor livestock management displayed by the current system. That piece of another bull hanging from his back has freed him from the middle-of-the-night butcher’s knife because a clever farmer realizes that he has before his eyes a fair animal, a circus creature, to show off to journalists at the agricultural fairs. But there is not much difference from this pet with mischievous genes and that cow that represented all our hopes of seeing milk run in the streets and factories drowning in cheese and yogurt.

White Udder died from the excesses of a leader who needed results, but Muñeco has lived for the pride of this nation burdened by its own malformations.

In defense of our doctors / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

Cuban doctors before leaving on a mission. (EFE)

Cuban doctors before leaving on a mission. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 23 April 2015 — Last night while watching the images of the homecoming of the doctors who participated in the fight against Ebola in Africa I was very excited. I believe that every man or woman in the world who decides to run these risks to save the lives of unknown human beings thousands of miles away deserves total respect and admiration. In my own family there are examples of this.

They are completely mistaken, however, those who think that, because of having different ideas, wanting Internet for everyone, along with real wages and basic freedoms, the opposition is against this solidarity or doesn’t recognize the courage and heroism of our physicians. Nothing is further from the truth. Continue reading