Havana’s Beach 16 / 14ymedio

Playita 16 in Havana. (14ymedio)

Playita 16 in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 February 2016 — There has never been a beach, but a piece of coast full of pieces of concrete. However, this part of the Havana coastline that everyone calls “Playita 16” (Little Beach 16) is a place filled with memories for several generations of Cubans. Free, ugly, and lacking food services and bathrooms, this conjunction of rock and sea has witnessed rockers, frikis, emos, the poverty-stricken and countless couples in love.

At a time when most of the social centers along the western coastline were for the military or people associated with institutions, this was a place for teenagers looking for a little piece of freedom they didn’t find at home or at school. There were frequent police raids and the vans “loaded with people” heading to the closest police stations. It was also a departure point for dozens of rafters during the Rafter Crisis of August 1994.

Today, despite competition from other meeting sites such as G Street and the emergence of a nice scene beyond the state establishments, Playita 16 has managed to preserve its status as a “place for everyone.” Nothing in it infrastructure has improved and at night, the regulars complain, “you can’t see your hand in front of your face.” But none of that discourages those who frequent it. Of course, to swim there you have to wear shoes, taking care at the edge of the reef, and keep a sharp eye on your towel because of the ever-present thieves.

Cuban Police Demolish The Roof Of An Evangelical Church In Camagüey / 14ymedio


14ymedio, Camaguey, 8 January 2015 – The police, on Friday, demolished the roof of an evangelical church in Camagüey, according to Fernando Vázquez Guerra, coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in the province. The center of worship, at number 27 Fourth Street in the Versalles neighborhood, is led by pastor Bernardo de Quesada Salomon, founder of Apostolic Move, a Christian movement that separated from the Cuban Council of Churches in 2003.

Police agents stormed the pastor’s house at dawn, and violently arrested him and took him to the police station on Avellaneda Street, near the railroad station, according to the evangelical pastor Alexis Segundo Medina, who lives in Camaguey.

Several independent journalists and activists have reported police raids and cuts to their phone service to prevent them from approaching the Versalles neighborhood, according to Henry Constantin, a contributor to 14ymedio, who commented before he was arrested for trying to leave his house. Continue reading

Obama Will Travel To Cuba In 2016 If He Can Meet With Dissidents / EFE-14ymedio

The US president, Barack Obama. (White House)

The US president, Barack Obama. (White House)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, 14 December 2015 — The US President Barack Obama hopes to visit Cuba in 2016, his last year in office, but he only make the trip if he is assured he can meet with dissidents on the island, he said in an interview with Yahoo released Monday.

“If I go on a visit [to Cuba], then part of the deal is that I get to talk to everybody,” Obama said in the interview, conducted on the eve of the first anniversary of the announcement of the start of the process of normalization of relations between the United US and Cuba.

“I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President [Raul] Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba,” he said. Continue reading

Cuban Activists Celebrate The Victory Of The Venezuelan Opposition / 14ymedio

Venezula's Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition alliance won an absolute majority, according to official data (Fotograma)

Venezula’s Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition alliance won an absolute majority, according to official data (Fotograma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 7 December 2015 – Satisfaction in the triumph of the opposition, words of encouragement to the great loser of the contest, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro: these, respectively, were the reactions in Cuba among democracy activists and the ruling party. While Cuban activists celebrated the absolute majority of the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), Raul Castro took note of the results and limited himself to predicting “new victories of the Bolivarian and Chavista Revolution.”

Cubans were able to listen live to the reading of the first election returns on the Telesur channel, after midnight, in the voice of the president of Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE), Tibisay Lucena.

Cuban Catholic activist Dagoberto Valdes believes that these results are “a great triumph of democracy, a sign of the political maturity of the Venezuelan people.” The director of the magazine Convivencia believes “it is clearly the beginning of a new stage in the life of these people and I wish them progress, freedom and democracy.”

Manuel Cuesta Morua, leader of the Progressive Arc, also refers to the vote on Sunday as a “magnificent exercise in democracy Continue reading

SOS: Angel Santiesteban Arrested

A few minutes ago I received a call from a relative of Angel Santiesteban-Prats to inform me that at noon Angel was arrested again. Upon contact with his family, they still did not know why he was arrested and what he is accused of.

He said he would call later in the afternoon and still they have no news of him.

We imagine that it is a reprisal from Castro’s regime for having denounced the life-threatening danger political prisoner Lamberto Hernández Planas is in, on hunger strike, for having been the victim of a new maneuver by the State Security to revoke his parole and prevent his work as an independent journalist.

Once again, as usual for almost three years now, we hold the dictator Raul Castro responsible for the life and integrity of Angel Santiesteban-Prats.

As soon I have news, I will keep updating.

Thanks for passing this on.

Angel’s Editor

Translated by: Rafael

4 November 2015

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