Ivan Hernandez And Felix Navarro Prevented From Leaving Cuba “A Second Time” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo. (Twitter / @ivanlibre)
Ivan Hernandez Carrillo. (Twitter / @ivanlibre)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 11 August 2016 – Cuba’s immigration authorities prevented activists Ivan Hernandez and Felix Navarro from traveling outside Cuba this Thursday. The former prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring were invited to participate in the 2nd Cuban National Conference that be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from 12 to 14 August, but were unable to board their flight at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, where they ran into Reinaldo Escobar, 14ymedio’s editor

The answer that each of the dissidents received on presenting their documents to the Immigration and Nationality official was: “You cannot leave a second time.” Continue reading “Ivan Hernandez And Felix Navarro Prevented From Leaving Cuba “A Second Time” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar”

Both Hernandez and Navarro had received, in March of this year, special permission to go abroad “one-time” after being placed on parole, a condition the authorities continue to maintain since release from prison in 2011. All those released from the Black Spring “Group of 75” who continue to reside in Cuba benefited from a similar authorization.

The opponent Librado Linares, also a former prisoner of the Black Spring and general secretary of the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR), did manage to board his flight on Thursday to participate in the meeting of Puerto Rico, since it was the first time he made use permit leave the Island.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) recently sent a letter to Raul Castro expressing “deep concern” about the “violent treatment” received by the trade unionist Ivan Hernandez on his return to Cuba after his first trip abroad.  He traveled on the same flight as the opponent Vladimir Roca and attorney Wilfredo Vallin, of the Law Association of Cuba.

Hernandez was arrested on July 31 and reported that he received a “savage beating” when he refused to be subjected to a search at the time of arrival. During his trip abroad he met with organizations and activists from Europe and the United States.

Both Hernandez and Navarro cataloged the “injustices” and said they will continue trying to assert their right to travel freely.

The Cuban National Conference is a continuation of one held last year, which involved 23 organizations in Cuba and 32 from exile. It has been convened by the Coordinating Liaison Committee composed of Ana Carbonell, Rosa María Payá, Sylvia Iriondo, Guillermo Farinas, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Rene Gomez Manzano, Mario Félix Lleonart and
 Saylí Navarro

Among the participants in the conference traveling from Cuba are also Eliecer Avila, leader of Somos+ (We Are More) and Boris Gonzalez, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD). The great absence the meeting will be Guillermo Fariñas, who remains on hunger strike in Santa Clara.

In the early hours of Thursday, Lady in White Leticia Ramos Herrería was arrested while traveling from Matanzas to Havana to take the flight that would also have taken her to the conference in Puerto Rico, according to the leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, speaking to this newspaper. The activist was returned to her home where she is under police surveillance.

Event organizers want to use this 2nd Conference to create a “structure of unity of action in diversity,” whose purpose is to “operate inside and outside Cuba, coordinating the efforts of both shores.” In addition, they discussed “the general principles of the new Cuba” desired, an issue that was left pending at the previous meeting.

The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario J. Penton, Miami, 21 July 2016 — With blood-stained clothes and wounds and bruises on her arms, Ana Margarito Perdigon Brito returned to Miami from Havana’s Jose Marti Airport this past June. No one knew how to rationalize that the Cuban government prohibited her, a citizen of that country whose paperwork was in order, from entering the land of her birth.

“It is a form of revenge by the Cuban government towards emigrants. It is a type of blackmail by which, if you behave as they desire – which is to say, without being rebellious – you can enter your country; but if you dare to criticize the regime you may lose that right,” says the activist who left Cuba in 2012 in order to live in the US. Continue reading “The Emigrant Must Earn Brownie Points to Enter Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton”

The Cuban exile, who lives in Homestead in south Florida, tried to enter Cuba for a second time in order to visit her sick mother in the Sancti Spiritus province. “The first time they turned me away at the Miami airport when I tried to fly to Santa Clara.   On this second occasion, they let me arrive in Havana, but once I was there, they told me I could not enter the country because, according to the system, I was prohibited entry into Cuba,” she says.

Her passport is up-to-date and valid with the corresponding renewals plus the authorization, an entrance permit for which Cubans living abroad pay and that supposedly has “lifelong” validity, although it can be nullified by Cuban officials.

She tried in vain to convince the immigration agents to let her speak with a supervisor or to explain to her by what rationale they impeded her access to a universal right. The answer was always the same: “The system indicates that you are prohibited entry. You must go back,” while they insisted that if she wanted to enter the country, she would have to seek a humanitarian visa.

The practice is not new; from Arturo Sandoval to Celia Cruz, a considerable number of Cubans have had to deal with the all-powerful Bureau of Immigration and Nationality in the last six decades in order to enter the Island. In many cases unsuccessfully as has happened to several people who could not even attend funerals for their parents. Many experts thought that with the new immigration law enacted in 2012, the situation would change, but it has not.

Perdigon believes that this is another sign of the Cuban government’s unscrupulousness as regards the diaspora. “They do not forgive me for the activism that I carried out within Cuba,” she explains.

Receiving no answer about her case, she tried to escape from the room where the immigration officials had taken her, and she was hit and wounded in a struggle. “I tried not to beg for my right but to win it [because] no one is obliged to obey unjust laws,” as Marti said.

Originally from the Sancti Spiritus province, she and her family belonged to several independent movements, joining political parties and initiatives favoring the promotion of human rights.

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)
The passport of exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito (14ymedio)

“On many occasions we were repressed, and we suffered acts of repudiation. One afternoon, my little daughter came running in a fright to warn me that many screaming people were coming. It was an act of repudiation that they had prepared for me in the neighborhood. On another occasion, they gave us a tremendous beating in a town called Tuinucu and jailed us,” she remembers.

Her case is not unique. According to independent statistics compiled by media, dozens of similar stories have happened in recent years. Nevertheless, there are no official data about the number of Cubans who have been denied entry into the country.

“People do not demand their rights publicly, and they don’t denounce these arbitrary situations,” comments Laritza Diversent Cambara, manager of the Cubalex Legal Information Center, via telephone from Cuba. “When we go to review statistics, countries like Canada have more complaints about human rights violations than Cuba, and we all know that is because of ignorance or lack of information about demanding their rights, because if there is anything abundant in this country, it is human rights violations,” she contends.

According to the lawyer, denial of entry by nationals is not contemplated in Cuban legislation. “It is a discretionary decision by State Security or the Bureau of Immigration and Nationality, but there exist no laws that regulate it, so people are exposed to the whims and abuses of officials,” opines the jurist.

“They cannot give the reasons for which they deny entry into the country. They do not argue that he is a terrorist threat or that the person lacks some document or formality. It is simply an arbitrary decision,” she adds.

The practice is not limited only to dissidents, activists and opponents. Diversent says that her office handled the case of a rafter who left the Island in 2011 and who continued traveling regularly, until in 2015 the Cuban authorities told him that he could not enter the country again.

14ymedio has known of similar cases of journalists, members of religious orders and doctors who took refuge in the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) offered by the United States.

Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)
Exiled Cuban activist Ana Perdigon Brito marching through the streets of Santa Clara (14ymedio)

“One time I made some statements to a local newspaper in Spain about the hardship suffered by the Cuban people, and on return to the Island several officers confronted me in the airport, telling that if I did something like that again, they would revoke my temporary religious residency,” said a Spanish missionary who prefers for safety reasons not to be named.

The methods for preventing entry are as varied as the steps to take for immigration procedures in Cuba. There are people who have been denied passport authorization, as was the case of the well-known visual artist Aldo Menendez. On other occasions, Cubans are turned back at the last minute from the airport from which they tried to fly to the Island, as occurred to activist Ana Lupe Busto Machado, or they wait until they land in Havana after having spent 450 dollars on passport preparation, 20 dollars on the entrance permit or 180 dollars on the renewals, plus the price of passage from Miami which approaches 500 dollars, to tell them that they cannot ever enter their country again.

14ymedio tried to communicate with the Cuban Office of Immigration and Nationality, but authorities refused to respond to our questions.

“This kind of procedure should not surprise anyone,” says attorney Wilfredo Vallin, founder of the Cuban Law Association. “The government has a long history of actions that do not abide by its own law. Until recently wasn’t there in effect an express and unconstitutional prohibition against nationals entering hotels? What about human mobility within the Island? Isn’t that regulated, too?”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Police Prevent Attorney Wilfredo Vallin From Leaving Home / 14ymedio

The lawyer Wilfredo Vallin, President of the Law Association of Cuba. (14ymedio)
The lawyer Wilfredo Vallin, President of the Law Association of Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2016 – On Friday, State Security prevented attorney Wilfredo Vallin from leaving home to participate in a discussion on the Electoral Law. The meeting, to be held at the home of Eliecer Avila, leader of the independent movement Somos+ (We Are More), was hindered by the police who only allowed two of the participants to reach Avila’s home, according to the testimony of Rachell Vazquez, an activist in the group.

From the early hours, the police forces knocked on Vallin’s door in the Diez de Octubre district to warn him that if he left his home he would be arrested. Continue reading “Police Prevent Attorney Wilfredo Vallin From Leaving Home / 14ymedio”

The professor was to give the first training course for the promoters of the Otro18 (Another 2018) Democratic Platform, an initiative that is promoting a change in the Cuban electoral system.

Esperanza Rodriguez, the lawyer’s wife and also a member of the Cuban Law Association, told 14ymedio that the police did not allow them to meet their commitment. When they tried to cross the threshold of the building where they live, they found themselves “surrounded by an operation.”

To Vallín it is “obvious” that the authorities want to “prevent opponents participating in the Cuban electoral process.”

The Otro18 campaign, supported by 45 independent organizations within and outside of Cuba, promotes reforms of the laws governing elections, associations and political parties. Represented by government opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua, last week in Madrid the promoters of the initiative requested that the international community monitor the situation on the island because “the reform process undertaken in Cuba must address not only the economy, trade and investment sectors, but also the political sector.”

Campaign #Otro18 Holds First Forum in Cuba / 14ymedio

The lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer during the press conference for the #Otro18 campaign. (14ymedio)
The lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer during the press conference for the #Otro18 campaign. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2016 – On Wednesday, the Civic Platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) held a press conference and its first forum in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana under the theme “For Freedom of Choice” with twenty people in attendance. The initiative promotes several proposals to influence the elections in 2018 for a democratic opening in the country.

Several independent media and foreign correspondents based on the island attended the forum from 9:35 in the morning, to the press conference organized at the home of activist Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, coordinator of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration. The activist Boris González Arena presented the initiative and gave the floor to lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer, who explained the legal details on which the project is based. Continue reading “Campaign #Otro18 Holds First Forum in Cuba / 14ymedio”

The meeting with journalists went smoothly and without a visible police operation around the site. The managers of the initiative showed a copy of the proposals presented last 8 March in the National Assembly of People’s Power which was received and acknowledged by the authorities.

The organizers explained that, so far, the intiative’s management group is made up of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU), the Roundtable of the Cuban Youth (MDJC), the Progressive Arc Party, the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, the Center for Support of the Transition, and the Cuban Law Association. The Forum says that it is open to the “incorporation of other civil society organizations and independent actors.”

Among its proposals are: the elimination of current Candidacy Commissions and the Nomination Assemblies (both controlled by the ruling Party); recognition of the right of any citizen to stand as a candidate; and restoration of the election of the president of the Republic by popular vote and secret ballot for a term of four years.

Proposed electoral campaign #Otro18 delivered to the National Assembly of People's Power on 8 March.(14ymedio)
Proposed electoral campaign #Otro18 delivered to the National Assembly of People’s Power on 8 March.(14ymedio)

When asked how they take the accusation made by other sectors of the opposition that the electoral alternative “plays into the hands of the dictatorship,” Amado Calixto suggested reviewing the process of “the Spanish transition, which ended a dictatorship through existing law.” Ferrer, meanwhile, explained that now came a phase of work of building “awareness and popular mobilization to gather support and pressure the government to make the proposed reforms.”

After the press conference, the forum, currently still in session, began with presentations and including Citizenship Revisted: The Plural Vote by Manuel Cuesta Morua; Citizen Mobilization, by Rolando Ferrer; and Election Observation: A Civil Society Monitoring Tool, by Madrazo Luna.

During the day on Tuesday, several dissidents were detained to prevent them attending the #Otro18 Forum. Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, still remains missing after being arrested Tuesday by police in the Cuban capital.

Other members of the opposition were prevented from leaving their province to attend the event, as in the case with Suleidis Perez Velazquez and Pedro Pablo Serafin Reyna, members of Independent and Democratic Cuba.

Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.

Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. Continue reading “Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio”

Among the participants from the island are Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Vladimiro Roca, Laritza Diversent, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Wilfredo Vallin, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Guillermo Fariñas and Boris Gonzalez Arenas.

The first meeting of the event was held last December 2014 in the Mexican capital. At that meeting they talked about the diversity of peaceful means to fight for democracy, the role of exile and the importance of identifying the minimum points of consensus to move forward, if not in the desired unity, at least in arranging purposes.

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference poster for this year’s meeting.

At Any Price / Wilfredo Vallin Almeida, Cuban Law Association

José Triana
José Triana

Wilfredo Vallín Almeida — On various occasions, I have seen a video depicting a meeting between economist Jose Triana from the Center for Studies of the Cuban Economy and officials from the Interior Ministry.

In the video, Triana explains his point of view regarding the necessity of certain changes that, in his opinion, are indispensable to the country’s ruling political system.

In particular, I liked the material that recognizes and tries to explain the imperative necessity of such transformations.  Speaking with others, I have received without a doubt, different assessments of this material: some approve of it, others are critical of it, another third say it is nothing but “more of the same.”

Diverse opinions aside, I believe that, as it relates to an economist, there is something fundamental missing in the explanation which Mr. Triana, in my opinion, does not very successfully avoid, which is none other than the famous and trite cost-benefit analysis to which this important discipline has so often returned since the time of Smith and Richard.

At one moment of his intervention, the speaker says almost literally that the important thing is, despite the errors that may have been committed, (which is to say, without considering the cost), we are here and we will stay here and that is what is important.

Independent of the ways these words can be read, my interpretation is as follows: I agree, there has been a high cost (on occasions exceptionally high because we are talking about the unrepeatable lives of millions of people)… but what has been the benefit for the same millions of people that have paid such a cost?

If the benefit can be calculated obviously in the loss of societal values, in the ruin of our cities, in the demolition of the Cuban sugar industry, in the mass exodus of its citizens, especially the young, in the fraud in educational institutions, in the detention and indictment of judges, prosecutors and lawyers and countless others, of what benefit can we speak?

Who are we apart from the remorse, and should we be content with the way it is?

And, in the case that it was that way, what is very clear is that not everyone is prepared to pay indefinitely some benefit, as satisfactory as this may be…at any price.

Translated by: D. Andrews

23 June 2014

Capitalist Reminiscence? / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

Many events throughout our existence can be forgotten, but others leave a deep memory that does not go away. And these events may have had many demonstrations as they can be taken for granted, a dream, an omission, a sentence, and even a poster.

With the latter two, much relegated to memory, I was suddenly assaulted when I least expected it: while watching a video that a friend had sent me.

The video in question relates to an investigation and several arrests made by the Technical Investigation Department (DTI) of the National Revolutionary Police. The detainees are involved in fraudulent transactions whose amount is a whopping 33 million pesos.

The poster that comes to mind at the moment is one I saw I don’t know how many times over many years. It was a big fence on a broad avenue and on a white background highlighted in red:

The future belongs entirely to socialism. 

It’s a sign that I no longer see, but it was present during the youth of Cubans of the generation of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, when it was assumed that the “moribund capitalism” was terminal and that, who could doubt it?, socialism would be victorious.

The other phrase, I also was reminded of by the sign is:

Crime is reminiscence of capitalist society and will disappear to the extent that socialism advances.

I read that phrase many times in textbooks of law and Marxist texts that college students had to study and examine mandatory.

Watching this film, which ends with the words of General President Raul Castro admits theft where in the country is huge, at all levels and at all levels, and as, moreover, I see it now flourishing and vigorous than ever before in the history of Cuba, I then subtracted one question:

What happened to the “capitalist reminiscence”?

10 February 2014

CUBA IN FOCUS – New Book in English from “Our” Bloggers and Independent Journalists

CUBA IN FOCUS – New book edited by Ted A. Henken, Miriam Celaya, and Dimas Castellanos

Article by Ted Henken, from his blog, El Yuma

Those of you who follow me on Twitter @ElYuma will already know that just over a month ago ABC-CLIO published a new book about Cuba, called Cuba in Focus, that I am proud to have co-edited with Miriam Celaya and Dimas Castellanos. In 2008, I wrote a book entitled Cuba: A Global Studies Handbook, also published by ABC-CLIO.  However, when they approached me three years ago wanting to do a new edition, I responded that I had already said my piece on Cuba but that I would be interested in recruiting and collaborating with a group of Cubans from the island to do a new volume that would give voice to their own analysis of the Cuban Revolution and the heady changes (from above as well as from below) that have taken place there in the last five years.

This volume is the result!

Starting young with Uncle Ted!

We benefitted from the collaboration of a host of perceptive and pioneering authors and activists, most of whom actually live on the island today.  A full list is below in the table of contents, but some of the more notable writers included in the volume are the late Óscar Espinosa Chepe, his wife Miriam Leiva, Yoani Sánchez, her husband Reinaldo Escobar, Armando Chaguaceda, Regina Coyula, Henry Constantín, Marlene Azor Hernández, Rogelio Fabio HurtadoMiguel Iturria Savón, and Wilfredo Vallín.

Of course, Dimas and Miriam did their share of stellar writing as well.

Each of the book’s seven chapters is made much more vivid and memorable by the breathtaking photojournalism of Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, supplemented by photos by Tracey Eaton, Luzbely Escobar, and Uva de Aragón (all provided complementary).

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

You can learn more about the book and purchase your very own copy here and here.

What follows are the book’s PREFACE, ACKNOWLEDGMENTS, and TABLE OF CONTENTS.

***

Writing and coediting a comprehensive reference book on a country with such an intricate history and rich culture as Cuba has been both a challenge and a pleasure. Cuba is literally bursting with a diversity of voices and competing perspectives. However, the internal media monopoly and rigid ideological parameters regulating the island’s writers, artists, intellectuals, and scholars often make it difficult for outsiders to hear or make sense of these many voices. Moreover, outside coverage of Cuba often deals in shallow stereotypes and wishful thinking, uninformed by serious, sustained examination of how life is actually lived on the island itself.

Fortunately, this study has been prepared as the island undergoes an unprecedented period of change—coming both from above and below—challenging traditional limits on critical expression and creating more space for independent analysis. In an effort to seize this special moment, the editors of this book (two of whom, Miriam Celaya and Dimas Castellanos, currently live in Cuba) recruited more than a dozen others to give their independent, internal voice to the many topics examined here.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Apart from the three co-editors, the authors include the historian and political scientist Armando Chaguaceda, the late independent economist Óscar Espinosa Chepe, the independent blogger and photographer Henry Constantín, blogger Regina Coyula, Fernando Dámaso, the independent journalist Reinaldo Escobar, Dayrom Gil, the sociologist Marlene Azor Hernández, the historian Maritza de los Ángeles Hidalgo-Gato Lima, the poet Rogelio Fabio Hurtado, the artist César Leal Jiménez, the activist and independent journalist Miriam Leiva, the photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, the blogger and independent journalist Yoani Sánchez, the historian Miguel Iturria Savón, and the lawyer Wilfredo Vallín.

All of these authors are Cuban and nearly all continue to live and work on the island today. Most are also both experts and hands-on practitioners in the fields about which they write, including history, anthropology, law, politics, economics, migration, religion, racial and ethnic relations, class structure, literature, dance and music, theater, film, civil society, human rights, the media, and the Internet.

The editors would like to recognize these authors who—each from his or her particular point of view—took the risk of making their knowledge and analyses public. Given that their analyses are often at odds with both the “official story” promoted by the Cuban government and the often ill-informed one coming from abroad, their effort to show this other, often hidden face of Cuba while continuing to reside there is particularly valuable and commendable.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Writing a balanced, accurate, and original overview of this unique and fascinating island-nation has been a daunting task. How does one describe the innumerable ways in which Cubans have embraced and, indeed, internalized much of U.S. culture during the island’s century of independent existence, while at the same time recognizing the fact that the United States has often wielded its power and influence in a manner ultimately harmful to Cuban sovereignty?

Likewise, how does one do justice to the enormous initial popularity and impressive social achievements of the Cuban revolution, without ignoring the suffering endured by the Cuban people both on the island and in exile as a result of the Cuban government’s internal rigidity, intolerance, and paternalism?

As Cubans like to say, No es fácil (It ain’t easy)!

Luzbely Escobar

Although writing and teaching about Cuba can be a political minefi eld of sorts, even for the most enterprising and sensitive of scholars, the country of Cuba, with its unique culture, and the people of Cuba, with their contagious charisma, passionate convictions, and gracious generosity of spirit, make the never-ending task of understanding the country and its people inestimably rewarding and enriching.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

This book is the fruit of more than five years of collaboration among its three coeditors and many authors, often thanks to our strategic use of the Internet and social media to share, edit, and translate the book’s various chapters. Thanks are due to the Swedish, Dutch, and Swiss Embassies in Cuba for opening their doors to the Cuban coeditors, enabling the free flow of uncensored information back and forth between Havana and New York necessary to make this book a reality. We even managed to convince a few brave (and happily anonymous) souls to help us by spiriting author contracts and payments back and forth between Cuban and the United States. We thank them here as well.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The volume provides an up-to-date overview of historical, political, economic, and sociocultural development of Cuba from the pre-Columbian period to the present, with an emphasis on the Cuban revolution, U.S.-Cuban relations, Cuba’s impressive cultural achievements, and the country’s current socioeconomic reality. The book contains seven narrative chapters, on (1) geography, (2) history, (3) politics and government, (4) economy, (5) society, (6) culture, and (7) contemporary issues.

Augmented by a total of 76 brief vignettes on various historical, political, cultural, or biographical topics of special interest or importance such as the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, the Platt Amendment, the U.S. Embargo, the writer Reinaldo Arenas, the film director Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, the artist Wifredo Lam, or the human rights activists The Ladies in White. While the history chapter focuses almost exclusively on prerevolutionary Cuba, the bulk of the other chapters are dedicated to chronicling the economic, political, social, and cultural changes that have taken place in Cuban society since 1959 under the revolution.

Tracey Eaton

The editors would like to give special thanks to our two intrepid student translators, Michael Prada Krakow and Natalia Pardo Becerra—both natives of Colombia. With key financial support from Baruch College’s Weissman School of Arts and Sciences, Mike and Natalia worked together with the book’s lead editor and translator—Ted A. Henken—for over a year rendering the various authors’ original Spanish-language chapters into an English that would preserve the content of their ideas and the beauty of their language. We also thank Regina Anavy for stepping in at a key moment with her own expert, emergency, volunteer translation of a few sections of this book. Its readers will judge how well we succeeded.

The editors would also like to thank Archibald Ritter, Yoani Sánchez, and Reinaldo Escobar who first introduced us to one another physically. We also acknowledge M. J. Porter, Karen Chun, and Aurora Morera, whose intrepid, behind-the-scenes work setting up portals to host their blogs allowed us to more easily collaborate virtually. Baruch College professor and top-flight literary translator Esther Allen also deserves nuestros más sinceros agradecimientos (our most sincere thanks) as she was a key link in the translation chain at an early stage of this project.

El Yuma with El Chagua & OLPL.

The writer, blogger, and photographer Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo also deserves our gratitude for graciously allowing us to raid his stunning trove of digital images of today’s Cuba, 15 of which illustrate the book’s pages. Queens-based graphic designer Rolando Pulido assisted with getting these photos camera-ready. Also, journalist Tracey Eaton, poet Uva de Aragón, and Cuban photographer Luzbely Escobar each generously contributed a wonderful photo of their own to the book.

Kaitlin Ciarmiello, ABC-CLIO’s acquisitions editor for the Geography and World Cultures series was especially instrumental in shepherding what unexpectedly became an unwieldy coedited, dual-language, and multi-author project through various stages of completion. Likewise, both James Dare, the book’s illustrations editor, and Valavil Lydia Shinoj, the book’s project manager were exemplars of resourcefulness and professionalism.

Finally, we would like to acknowledge the assistance of Cuban scholars Samuel Farber, Domingo Amuchástegui, and Eusebio Mujal-León, each of whom provided extensive comments on Chapter 3 “Politics and Government.” Likewise, Dafnis Prieto, the virtuoso Cuban percussionist and MacArthur “Genius” grantee, performed a similar service by thoroughly reviewing the section on Cuban music. Arch Ritter kindly did the same for Chapter 4 “Economy.”

We hope the published book reflects some of their extensive knowledge and editorial care. Of course, all errors, omissions, and oversights are our own.

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1 GEOGRAPHY, Ted A. Henken and Miriam Celaya

2 HISTORY, Dimas Castellanos, Ted A. Henken, and Miriam Celaya

3 POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT, Wilfredo Vallín and Ted A. Henken

4 ECONOMY, Óscar Espinosa Chepe and Ted A. Henken

5 SOCIETY
Religion and Thought, by Rogelio Fabio Hurtado and Ted A. Henken
Ethnicity and Race, Class Structure, and Inequality, by Dimas Castellanos and Ted A. Henken
Family, Gender, and Sexuality, by Miriam Celaya and Ted A. Henken
Education, by Miriam Celaya
Migration and Diaspora, by Dimas Castellanos and Ted A. Henken
The Media, by Reinaldo Escobar
Internet, Social Media, and the Cuban Blogosphere, by Yoani Sánchez

6 CULTURE
Language and Literature, by Miguel Iturria Savón and Ted A. Henken
Dance, Music, and Theater, by Regina Coyula and Ted A. Henken
Cinema and Photography, by Henry Constantín and Miriam Celaya
Cuisine, by Maritza de los Ángeles Hidalgo-Gato Lima and Ted A. Henken
Art and Architecture , by César Leal Jiménez
Popular Recreation and Sports, by Rogelio Fabio Hurtado
Popular Culture, Customs, and Traditions, by Regina Coyula and Fernando Dámaso

7 CONTEMPORARY ISSUES
Raúl Castro’s Reforms: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back, by Dimas Castellanos
Agricultural Reforms, by Dimas Castellanos
Political Reforms and Rising Corruption, by Marlene Azor Hernández
Recent Cuban Elections , by Armando Chaguaceda and Dayrom Gil
Cuba’s Demographic Crisis, by Dimas Castellanos
Recent Migration Reforms, by Ted A. Henken
Cuba’s International Relations, by Miriam Leiva
The Catholic Church, Dissidence, Civil Society, and Human Rights, by Dimas Castellanos and Miriam Celaya

Glossary
Facts and Figures
Major Cuban Holidays and Festivals
Country-Related Organizations
Annotated Bibliography
Thematic Index
Index
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We Shall See / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

Some Cuban citizens came to the Cuban Legal Association (AJC) seeking information and advice regarding a current issue: non-agricultural co-operatives.

It relates to forming a cooperative with a group of compatriots who–until now–have been state workers and would become members in this new modality.

But clearly they do not have the slightest idea what it is and they have not been properly informed about it.

It was nice that this morning we had a hearing in the Supreme Court related to legal recognition of the AJC as an independent NGO. The funny thing is that our counterpart there suggested, among its arguments, that all Cuban workers have at their disposal the information possible and necessary with regards to legal issues that affect that or that they would like to know about. And that was another reason that the AJC doesn’t need to exist.

Obviously there is a serious contradiction between our counterpart and the presence of these people asking us for appropriate advice.

Those living in the city, among other things, need to know

What elements are required for the existence of this form of economics, without which we can be in the presence of something, but not of a true cooperative as it is understood in the world.

What is free contracting and how does it relates to the issue of cooperatives.

What are the inalienable rights of workers in the preparation of documents that create the cooperative and its statutes.

What comparative examples do we have as background to have a broader and more accurate range of information on the matter.

What is the concept of cooperative ownership and the use, enjoyment and disposition that cooperatives have regarding it.

And some more that I will not put here so as to keep this brief.

I want to believe that what happened five years ago will not happen now, when the omnipresent and all-knowing came to tell us that WE COULD NOT EXPLAIN to our compatriots the rights which the Criminal Code of Procedure Act confers unto them.

Are these times any different from any previous ones?

We shall see.

Translated by: Shane J. Cassidy

16 October 2013

Where Does That Leave Us? / Cuban Law Association

Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

I was flipping through a magazine. It’s called Current PC. It has caused me some anxiety about a reality I am just discovering: although the magazine is in Spanish, my native tongue, I can barely understand what it says; I don’t know the meaning of countless technological terms.

The person who gave me the magazine to browse receives it regularly at home. He’s not a computer specialist, but someone who wants to keep abreast of new developments in technology in a form that is accessible and understandable for him.

Some of the arrticles are:

– 10 Super Plug-ins for Google Chrome

– Mastering Evernote Completely

– Move from Windows 7 to New Windows 8

– Mega, 50 gigabytes of memory for free

– Obsessed with online security.

– How to leave Instangram.

– Redecorate your home with Home Designer.

Reading (or rather trying to read) the articles, I can’t avoid a troubling question: Where are we Cubans in relation to all this? As technological development advances at breakneck speed, how long will we Cubans be denied the right to have the internet at home?

To try to explain myseslf with an example, I quote the following small fragment of the article “When the Internet is Everywhere” from this magazine:

The future has a poetic name, the Internet of Things … Health is one of the sectors that can benefit from the Internet of Things. The right technology will make many doctor visits unnecessary. And doctors can know — in real time and from a distance, thanks to sensors that their patients carry — blood sugar, blood pressure or heart rate itself …

The article continues with a description that seems to me more science fiction than science fact and current technology.

And in the face of all this, where does that leave us?

3 September 2013

Analysing What’s Happened / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

It’s good news. People like Yoani Sánchez, Eliecer Ávila and Berta Soler find themselves abroad enjoying a right which was denied for fifty years

In the Asociación Jurídica Cubana (Cuban Law Association) we are always happy to receive everything which implies more liberty for the Cuban people, without closing our eyes to the problems which continue to be presented by government decisions, especially when there continue to be unclear or arbitrary legal positions.

Let me explain

In the year 2003, 75 people were accused of crimes against the Cuban state. Tried immediately, they were condemned to different and severe prison sentences. During the following seven years they were all freed.

In relation to that something is happening which I would like to share with our readers, but which will require more than one post, and because of that, in this one I want to set out essential introductory elements to help with this analysis

For someone in jail, who hasn’t completed their sentence, there are two ways of waiving the remaining term and going free. They are:

A reprieve

An amnesty

In the case of a reprieve, they extinguish the criminal responsibility and it is construed as pardoning the penalty which was applied to the person. If it is a complete reprieve, they extinguish the prisoner’s entire sentence. If it is a parcial reprieve, part of the prisoner’s penalty disappears or they change it for more minor sanctions.

A reprieve applies to one individual person. In order for it to have effect, it is necessary to have an administrative act and a firm sentence and you don’t necessarily have to extinguish the preceding penalties of the individual in question. Normally the possibility of a reprieve (also known as “The Law of Pardon”) rests in the hands of important representatives of the State.

As far as an amnesty is concerned, it doesn’t refer to the penalty, but to the offence itself. It relates to all those who have committed it, not to particular individuals, it extinguishes total criminal responsibility and eliminates the preceding penalties in removing the criminal status.

In he case of an amnesty, it is necessary to pass a law in order to arrange it, and it extinguishes the antecedent penalties of the individuals involved given that it covers all who committed the crime and not particular individuals.

The amnesty is used above all for political offences and not normal crimes.

With these elements, we are ready for an analysis of what has happened.

Translated by GH

24 April 2013

From the Wolf, a Hair* / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

Photo: Marcelo López Bañobre

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

Like many compatriots, I sat down to watch the appearance of General of the Army Raul Castro during his recent speech before the National Assembly of People’s Power.

I talked with other lawyers about his words before that forum and, unsurprisingly, some were interested in certain aspects of his speech, while others fixed on different details.

Personally, he caught my attention when he said:

We have to have the Party Congress set the course to update the Cuban economic model and to achieve a sustainable and prosperous socialist society, a less egalitarian but more just society .  . .”

It’s with regards to …”a less egalitarian but more just society”that I want to reflect about. Continue reading “From the Wolf, a Hair* / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallin Almeida”

For many years we have heard of a justice that meant a classless society, and we were witnesses of how those who departed from this scheme were persecuted or segregated.

I remember very clearly that one of the elements that was always reflected in the investigation of a person was their standard of living — whether they had relatives abroad, received outside help, etc. A positive finding of those details was an aggravating factor for their situation.

Until recently, the following paragraph from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was, for the extreme champions of the EGALITARIAN society, a dead letter and condemnable:

“Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of living in larger freedom . . .”

Social progress? Better standards of living? That smacked of ideological deviation.

But time passed, “and an eagle passed over the sea. . .”**

Things change by inner conviction or because there is no alternative. But in the midst of the stagnation that has gripped the country for half a century, the fact that the current head of state speaks in favor of less egalitarianism, may mean that it is already happening somewhat, though still far from what we would want.

But like my grandmother used to say: from the wolf, a hair.*

Translator’s notes:

*The Spanish proverb “Del lobo un pelo, y ése de la frente” can be translated, roughly, “From the wolf [take] a hair, and this from the forehead,” and means, roughly, when you can’t expect to receive good from someone, take whatever little you can.

**From “The Pink Shoes”, a poem by Jose Martí

Translated by Tomás A.

16 April 2013

Tabula Rasa / Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

Tomada de Internet

6-vallin_21 Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

On the 160th anniversary of the birth of José Martí, it occurs to me to say something about two of his writings. The first, extremely well-known: the letter that the Apostle* wrote to his friend Manuel Mercado hours before his death in Dos Rios.

In this letter cataloged by some as his political testament, the Maestro* says:

I lived in the monster and I know its entrails and my sling is that of David.

 This phrase has been repeated countless times by all media in Cuba since 1959, in schools and colleges and has been part of countless political texts. Continue reading “Tabula Rasa / Wilfredo Vallin Almeida”

The objective of dissemination of the phrase — as widely as possible — l seems clear to me. Therefore I want to dwell a little more on this other, which for some unpardonable omission, I have never heard or read in any appearance or any means of education or mass information.

About the independence of Cuba, the Apostle said in an article published in La América, in New York in October of 1883:

“… man is not guilty of being born with conditions of intelligence raised in a fair, heroic and respectable struggle, about other men, that the combined result of genius, natural talent, and perseverance, virtues more valuable to possess than that of genius, cannot respond as to a crime to he who has put to use the power of the mind and the will of nature; nor does one stop to see that whatever might be the systematic attempts at life, enjoyment and common benefits which come as proof of the remedy of evil will never be resigned to men to nullify the mind that populates the highest reaches of the cranium, nor to drown the autocratic and individual passions that boil in his chest, nor to confuse with the confused work of others, that which looks like a piece of his entrails and the wings ripped from his back, and his victory, his own idea.”

These words bring to mind the “brain drain” of the “traitors who leave for economic reasons and not for political reasons,” the Cubans who can not invest in their own country and that the standard of living of many people has always been viewed with suspicion by those who are obliged to know everything, insert themselves into everything and sink into poverty, absurdly, human nature.

At least from it says here, the most universal of Cubans do not seem very comfortable with the idea of making from all Cubans a tabula rasa.

*Translator’s note: Cubans commonly call José Martí “the Apostle” and “Maestro.”

January 28 2013

Santiesteban: The Fundamentals of Law and Reasonable Doubt / Angel Santiesteban #Cuba

1359244819_6-vallin_21Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

The case of the honored and prize-winning writer Angel Santiesteban Prats has been appealed to the Supreme Court by his defense attorney, using the right to appeal to the highest court in the land.

In a previous post I analyzed the facts that were present in the case and now I will do the same with the law that, in my opinion, is also involved in this controversial issue. Continue reading “Santiesteban: The Fundamentals of Law and Reasonable Doubt / Angel Santiesteban #Cuba”

First of all, let me start with what has been called the principle of immediacy. This principle refers to the time that may elapse between the events and the trial and essentially proposes that this time should be as short as possible.

When so much time has elapsed between the events that are going to be addressed in the trial and the holding of that trial (as in the present case because between the events and the trial it was more three years), the passage of time can:

  • Distort memories, erase details, change impressions;
  • Lead to the absence of important witnesses for one reason or another;
  • Other undesirable and disruptive elements of objectivity, truthfulness and accuracy that in a case of this nature should be avoided.

Moreover, article 70 paragraph 4 of the Criminal Procedure Act reads: “When not expressed clearly and strictly in the judgment, the facts are considered proven, or there a manifest contradiction between them.”

And this is the case with Santiesteban: there was a contradiction in the facts given by the court and proved by other evidence presented at the trial and the testimony of several witnesses. Also there is a lack of clarity because of “the omission of essential elements legal significance.”

To add another legal element (I could add others), I will refer to Article 350 of the Criminal Procedure Act itself when it says:

“If some element or circumstance has been omitted that, without substantially altering the facts, can affect the classification of the crime, or if an error has been committed regarding this or the degree of participation of the accused or the aggravating circumstances of criminal responsibility … “

The judgment requires compliance with this article, but the formalities have not been observed.

A final detail (for reasons of space):

The Provincial Court itself recognizes in its judgments the personal merit and prizes awarded to Santiesteban. Moreover Instruction 175 of 21 July 2004 the Governing Council of the People’s Supreme Court directs, when the penalty of imprisonment does not exceed five years, such a penalty can be replaced with one that does not involve incarceration.

However, for Ángel Santiesteban the sanction does not refer to these substitutions, leaving jail as the only option.

Is there some special problem with Santiesteban that has been ignored in this trial?

Cuban Law Association

January 26 2013

End of Year Gift / Wilfredo Vallin Almeida #Cuba

11-AJC

6-vallin_21
Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

One of a country’s most precious things is its traditions They constitute the people’s soul and shape identity and belonging.

And culture and traditions are shaped by the nuances and vicissitudes of popular history over a long period of evolution and development of nationality and personality.

We Cubans have many and they are and very beautiful. For their authenticity, they have remained despite efforts to make them disappear following the dictates of an absurd and dogmatic social engineering.

One of these was the Christmas festivities and, among them, the gifts placed under the tree to be opened on the morning of the birth of baby Jesus, and the pleasant and emotive sound of a Christmas carol.

That was an experience so beautiful as to never be forgotten.

Then there were no more Christmases or New Years, or Three Kings or gifts under the tree or under the bed.

Then came adulthood, after maturity, and it has not crossed my mind that the possibility of a return with a huge cargo of human warmth, familiarity and Cubanness.

However, unexpectedly, they have returned, no less than in these last Christmases, to receive a gift that fills my heart with joy and hope, and it comes from an unexpected place: INTERNET tells us that the Cuban Law Association (AJC) ends 2012 with more than 110,000 visits to its blog.

The fact that a blog of legal issues, often highly technical and difficult to understand, created with much effort as we try to write in an understandable way for those not versed in the law, has reached that impressive figure can only fill us with joy and a sense of accomplishment in a fair fight.

Within Cuba are more than 1,200 entries to the AJC blog. In a country like ours, without INTERNET and where the overwhelming majority of the population does not have a computer, that number is not negligible.

Of course this involves us more, but now, we want to thank from the bottom of our hearts all who come to read to us and give us their comments, which are almost entirely respectful and encouraging.

Thank you all for this delightful, stimulating — and very emotional for us — NEW YEAR’S GIFT.

January 17 2013