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, 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

Cuban Government supporters prevent the meeting of Cuban activists in Panama / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Panama, 10 April 2015 — On Friday morning, several Cuban activists found themselves trapped, unable to leave the Panama Hotel, due to the presence of a large number of supporters of the Havana Government, who with shouts, shoves and slogans prevented them from leaving the site and attending their meeting.

The events occurred during the morning, when the conclusions of the Civil Society Forum should have been being drafted, but whose implementation has been put at risk by the continuous interruptions.
Several Cuban activists took refuge in the hotel’s Salon Topacio, in the face of the threats and attacks by protesters.

Among the insults shouted by the protesters were “Get out, down with the worms,” “CELAC* yes, OAS no,” “Murderers” and “Mercenaries.”

*Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

A United Message to the Seventh Summit of the Americas / Cuban Opposition, Civil Society and Democratic Social Actors

Cuban Pro-democracy Organizations on the Island and in Exile bring:


Cuban Opposition, Civil Society and Democratic Social Actors 

The Summits of the Americas must be the place for participation and representation of all the democracies in the Americas. Of their States and of their free citizens. All this passes through the increasing incorporation of civil society and social actors in the process of the Summits, such that the topics of discussion acquire real significance and it is required of governments that they represent their people.

Here we present: In the roles of the Cuban opposition, civil society and the democratic social actors that we have assumed, after a long struggle of establishment and strengthening, principles of agreement expressed from a rich diversity, in the Agreement for Democracy, in the Points of Cuban Consensus, in the proposals of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, and the Open Forum Four Points of Consensus.

Our shared mission is the defense and promotion of all democratic principles, fundamental freedoms and human rights, that comprise the cultural, historical and political base in this hemisphere, thanks to this rich diversity. Continue reading

In Cuba Drought Wreaks Havoc on World Water Day / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez

Artesian well (14ymedio)

Artesian well (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 22 March 2015 — Spring has officially arrived, but without the rain. Every day the drama worsens in the Cuban countryside, especially in the East. Throughout the length and breadth of the country, the private agricultural sector is experiencing a very difficult situation, because of the precariousness of resources and the lack of methods to transport water.

While the world celebrates International Water Day many farmers look to the sky to try to predict when the rains will come. The year has begun with negative omens. Between November 2014 and the end of January an accumulated shortage of rain has affected 52% of the country. Among the provinces most affected are Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Cienfuegos, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Las Tunas, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.

Camagüey, which provides a quarter of the country’s production of milk and meat, is in a state of emergency because of the rainfall deficit and the low level of its reservoirs. Keeping the livestock fed and the crops irrigated has become an almost impossible task. The problems do not stop there. Continue reading