“Wave of Political and Social Repression” in September, according to CCDHRN / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angela Moya)

Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 October 2015 – This September there were at least 882 arbitrary arrests for political reasons, according to a report by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The figure is the highest in the last 15 months, says the independent entity which also warns about an increase in “physical assaults against peaceful opponents by police agents and their collaborators.”

The cases of physical violence reported and verified y the CCDHRN reached 93, “while there were 21 in August.” The Commission, chaired by human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, points out that “September did not lack many acts of harassment and vandalism, either.” These include “house arrests and extrajudicial bans on movement,” says the text of the report.

As “a true wave of political and social repression” there were “353 arrests of peaceful dissidents to prevent them from participating in massive gatherings” with Pope Francis.

The opposition sector was not the only one that suffered police raids, and the CCDHRN reiterates that “an undetermined number of beggars, panhandlers and other homeless people who seek alms on the streets or search for food or anything else in trash dumpsters were interned without judicial order.”

The case of the three from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who “managed to breach the police cordon and approach Pope Francis” in Havana’s Revolution Plaza, is singled out with interest in the report. Zaqueo Baez, Maria Anon and Ismael Bonet “have been jailed for 15 days, under subhuman conditions, in the hands of the secret political police, without access to defense attorneys and without formal charges.” The CCDHRN “is prepared to propose that they be internationally adopted as possible Prisoners of Conscience.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Two Lies and One Meddle / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 5 October 2015 — Cuba’s government continues imposing three conditions to continuing the restoration and normalization of relations with the U.S.: the return of “illegally occupied” Guantanamo; the lifting of the blockade; and the end of Radio and TV Marti. These are two lies and one impertinence that could even be considered meddling.

First, it is good to clarify that Guantanamo Bay has never been illegally occupied by the United States, but that it is the product of an agreement between governments, signed in 1903 and ratified in 1934. The misnamed “blockade” is nothing more than an embargo, which has been weakening since the Carter days and that the Obama administration has further eased in recent years in Cuba’s favor, except for some portions of it such as those relating to bank loans. As for the requirement that Radio and TV Marti disappear, it is a broadcast station (like many others that exist in different countries, including our own) whose disappearance or continuation depends solely on internal decisions of the U.S. government.

These silly demands seem more like roadblocks imposed by the island regime to buy time so they don’t have to answer to the Cuban citizenry and the world for the absurd measures and the imposition of laws and decrees that plunged Cuba into a complete political and economic disaster, which the current president also participated in is responsible for.

It would be healthy to courageously confront our own successes and failures, to turn that page once and for all and not continue blaming others, to be able to advance the restoration and normalization of relations, which would greatly benefit the country and its citizens, preventing the stampede of escaping Cuban young people.

Translated by Tomás A.

“The Family Unit in Holguín Is Very Damaged” / 14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa

Marcos Pirán Gómez, parish priest of San José Church in Holguín

Marcos Pirán Gómez, parish priest of San José Church in Holguín (Photo Fernando Donate/14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Fernando Donate Ochoa, Holguín. 21 September 2015 — He shares both his faith and Argentine citizenship with Pope Francis, yet Father Marcos Pirán Gómez is not on Cuban soil for just a few days. He has been living on the island for fifteen years, and since 2012 has been the parish priest of San José (Saint Joseph’s) Church in Holguín.

A few hours before the Bishop of Rome travelled to this land of mountains, heat, and seas, Father Marcos met with 14ymedio to discuss his parishioners’ expectations, the difficulties besetting his community, and the role of the Church in finding solutions.

14ymedio: What did you feel when you heard that Pope Francis was coming to Holguín?

Marcos Pirán Gómez: I felt an enormous thrill because of the joy another Papal visit would mean to our people; the third one in just 17 years, such a short period of time. This is a significant event not only for the life of the Church, but also for the Cuban people. Each one of the previous Papal visits have left its mark. Continue reading

Raul Castro in His Worldwide Debut / Cubanet, Miriam Leiva

raul-castro-ONUCubanet, Miriam Leiva, Havana, 30 September 2015 – The organization United Nations organization is celebrating the 70th anniversary of its creation in a big way. The most important players in world politics and the dignitaries from the majority of its member countries met in New York. The 2030 Sustainable Development Summit, where Pope Francis gave his first speech before the UN, took place from 25-27 September, and the Conference on Gender Equality was held on the 27th. The high-level meetings of the UN’s 70th session began on the 28th.

Raúl Castro traveled for the first time to the United States as President of Cuba on 24 September. The General-President wore the halo of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, the reopening of the respective embassies, conversations with President Obama, the constant flow of dignitaries from other countries and American visitors to Cuba, the mediation between Venezuela and the US, and participation in the meeting of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and the chief of the FARC-EP for the signing in Havana of their first peace accord. Continue reading

Freedom of Expression: A Change That Has Been Just Another Strategy / Hablemos Press, Weiner Alexander Martínez

Weiner Alexander Martínez Estepe/ HABLEMOS PRESS.

Weiner Alexander Martínez Estepe/ HABLEMOS PRESS.

27 September 2015, Havana – The flexibilities described by the Cuban government in recent years regarding freedom of expression constitute only a change in its political strategy, the objective being to improve its image before international public opinion and organizations that defend human rights.

Testimonies of various government opponents and independent journalists indicate that repression of their activities has not ceased, but rather that the methods used have evolved, becoming more subtle and imperceptible.

They differ from those in the now distant 1970s and 80s, when the dissidence (and even any person who would dare to express divergent ideas) was dealt a “strong hand.” Continue reading

Were The Firecrackers That Brought the CDRs to Life Spontaneous? / Diario de Cuba, Orland Freire Santana

Creation of the CDRs, 28 September 1960 (Liborio Noval, CubaDebate)

Creation of the CDRs, 28 September 1960 (Liborio Noval, CubaDebate)

Diario de Cuba, Orlando Freire Santana, Havana, 28 September 2015 – Recently a group of friends were talking about the way the Cuban government leaders, during those first years of Fidel Castro’s Revolution, were maneuvering until achieving the establishment of a Marxist-Leninist-type totalitarian system. At one point in the conversation, one of the participants threw out the following question: Could those firecrackers that went off that night of 28 September 1960, when Castro founded the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), been spontaneous, or was it merely a matter of self-provocation?

That year, even without the socialist character of the Revolution having been declared, already the authorities were taking giant steps to annihilate civil society. By that time, the opposition press had disappeared almost completely, and the state’s takeover of the economy would proceed apace through the nationalization of foreign-owned businesses, and the confiscation of large property-owners’ holdings across the nation. But Fidel Castro liked to wrangle with words – that is, to hint that his actions were a response to The Enemy’s aggressions. Continue reading

Raul Castro Tells UN that Human Rights Are ‘a Utopia’ / Diario de Cuba

Raul Castro on Monday, September 28 at the UN General Assembly in New York (MINREX)

Raul Castro on Monday, September 28 at the UN General Assembly in New York (MINREX)

The general stands in defense of Latin American populist governments and criticizes democracies with parties “alien and distant from the aspirations of the people.”

diariodecubalogoDiariodeCuba.com, New York, 28 September 2015 – General Raul Castro affirmed this Monday, in his speech before the General Assembly of the UN, that the enjoyment of human rights is “a utopia,” and he criticized the fact that, according to him, “their promotion and protection is distorted.” “They are used as a selective and discriminatory way of imposing political decisions,” he remarked.

The ruler began his speech with reference to the “unacceptable militarization of cyberspace and information technology.” And he lamented that since the emergence of the fundamental charter of human rights, there have been “constant wars and interventions, forcible overthrows by government forces and soft coups.”

In this sense, he defended the freedom of countries to choose their own political, economic, social and cultural system, and he explicitly defended the governments of Nicolas Maduro and Rafael Correa, respectively. Continue reading

The CDR: Social Control Begins in the Neighborhood or the Village

Photo: CDR in Viñales, Pinar del Río province. Taken from My Travelling.

Iván García, 29 September 2015 — When the bearded guerrilla Fidel Castro on the night of 28 September 1960 founded a system of collective surveillance in every neighborhood, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), civil society in Cuba was annulled until further notice.

Not even Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany, with its full record of social intrusions, had structured a system of neighborhood cooperatives with espionage services.

The most similar equivalent might be Benito Mussolini’s Black Shirts, a paramilitary corps behind numerous episodes of physical or verbal violence and aggression against its political adversaries in Italy during the 1920s. Continue reading

What Human Rights Are They Talking About? / Dimas Castellanos

Dimas Castellanos, 6 February 2015 — The conversations about normalisation of relations between Cuba and the United States, which were held in Havana on 21st and 22nd January, didn’t, as far as we know, advance the matter of human rights, because of differing understandings about the topic.

From the Magna Carta in 1215, up to the international treaties of 1966 — by way of the Act of Habeas Corpus (1674), the English Bill of Rights (1689), the Declaration of American Independence (1776), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789), and the Universal Declaration (1948) — human rights, at least in the west, are universal, indivisible, and interdependent and are expressed in concepts and principles to do with recognition, respect, and observance of judicial guarantees which protect the integrity and dignity of the human being. Therefore, the referred-to difference lies in reasons unconnected with this concept. A quick look at our constitutional history will demonstrate this. Continue reading

A New Treaty Between Cuba and the U.S. for the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 3 August 2015 — In redundant speeches, more rhetorical than combative, the Cuban Government has requested — among other things — the return of the territory where the Guantánamo Naval Base is located.

But given present circumstances, since Washington and Havana have decided to stop being best enemies to become respectful neighbors, it’s worth asking if the U.S., by delivering that territory, would lose control of the zone and its regional influence.

History tells us the Naval Base was established in 1898, when the military occupation of the U.S. on the Island took place, after defeating Spain in what many of us know as the Hispano-Cuban-American War. Continue reading

Many Cubans Were Indifferent to the Pope’s Visit / Ivan Garcia

El-Papa-con-el-Che-de-fondo-_ab-620x330Ivan Garcia, 24 September 2015 — The best news for Celestino Cabrera, retiree, who lives in a neighborhood of low-rise houses and steep streets, was the arrival of half a kilogram of chicken per person at his area butcher shop.

“For a week now we’ve been waiting for the ration-book chicken. Lots of Pope, but zero grub,” he says with a smile while waiting in line at a ramshackle meatmarket on Font Street, in Lawton, 35 minutes from the center of Havana.

Throughout 40 years, Cabrera worked at stowing bags of sugar and wheat flour at the Havana port. His meager pension of 243 Cuban pesos (around 9 dollars) per month is just enough to purchase seven pounds of rice, five pounds of surgar, and the 20 ounces of beans that the State provides monthly via the ration book, a few vegetables, and with the rest of the money, he pays his electric bill. Continue reading

San Antonio de los Banos in Uncertainty / Alexander Perez Rodriguez, Somos+

SOMOS+, Alexander Perez Rodriguez, 24 September 2015 — With the new relations between the U.S. and Cuba the hopes of many went skyrocketing in an alarming manner, principally in the Diaspora, where people dream of returning to their country and prospering there in a dignified way. I already imagined my city as totally changed, with new streets, shops full of everything a human being needs and no ration book to restrict them.

Well, finally the moment arrived to go and visit my family on the island. I remember that on this occasion I exited the airport earlier than usual. I only had to enter Calzada de Boyeros to have all my illusions fall away. Everything, absolutely everything, remained the same or worse than when I was there a year ago. Continue reading

Justice Before Delivering Forgiveness?


Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 24 September 2015 — The recent visit to Cuba of the Bishop of Rome, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, brought a flood of masses and homilies in several different settings, where, among others, two words were often heard in the context of the Cuban landscape: forgiveness and reconciliation. They were all the more curious since they were not evoked at the same time as those other words to which they are unavoidably related: offense, confession and repentance.

In this fashion, Francis urged all Cubans, believers or not, to reconciliation in the abstract and forgiveness of no particular offense, an exhortation so cryptic and watered-down that it well could have been uttered anywhere in the world. Who are the offenders and the offended, what do offenses consist of, whose turn is it to forgive and who will be the forgiven were matters that were left to each individual to ponder. The Pope also spoke of “suffering of the poor,” of “respect to differences” and many other similar phrases that can assume conflicting interpretations according to one’s point of view. Continue reading

Repression of Science

Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard, bio-chemist, researcher for the National Institute for Oncology and Radiobiology, speaks of how he is pressured and prevented from fully carrying out his work because of his friendship with dissidents.

Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard

Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard, bio-chemist, researcher for the National Institute for Oncology and Radiobiology, speaks of how he is pressured and prevented from fully carrying out his work because of his friendship with dissidents.

diariodecubalogoDiariodeCuba.com, Waldo Fernandez Cuenca, Havana, 25 September 2015 — It all started because of a party for his best friend, Ciro Diaz, at the end of 2013. Ciro Diaz, besides being a graduate in Mathematics from the University of Havana, has just one remarkable characteristic: He is a dissident and member of the band Porno for Ricardo. Soon came the threats from State Security to make him a prisoner if he engaged in the activity.

Then came the accusations at work of his being “mercenary” and “annexationist*.” But at no time was this young man, a bio-chemist by profession, intimidated, and he resisted the wishes of his oppressors. Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard has kept his ties of friendship with Ciro and other opposition figures.

Casanella made his case known to the independent project Estado de Sats and was also arrested during the wave of repression unleashed by the performance by activist and artist Tania Bruguera at the end of last year. Since that time his harassment by State Security has continued, principally at his place of employment: The National Institute for Oncology and Radio-biology (INOR) where he serves as a researcher. Continue reading

What Cuban Doctors are Thinking / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, Kaned Garrido, 21 September 2015 — Cuban doctors have sustained everybody’s health for decades. The reason Cuban medicine has such prestige is because of the incredible effort of its professionals. The same as Cuban teachers, doctors earn very little. They spend years and years at their careers, and later in service to the country.

That’s the reason we have quality education and healthcare in Cuba. Not by some magical social politics nor because we want to take money away from the rich, like Robin Hood. It’s because of dedicated professionals and the rest of the Cuban workers who finance the expenses, all with pathetic salaries.

But it’s not easy work to sustain such a good health service in a country with such an unproductive economy. This burden ends up falling on the shoulders of Cuban doctors. Some choose the path of the missions in the Exterior to earn a little more. Others prefer to leave the island. So we need to know what they think.

These are the opinions of doctors who presently work in Cuba.

Doctor R. M. earns 1100 pesos (44 CUC, or about US$50) a month. Her specialty is general medicine. She describes her work conditions like this:  Continue reading