Poverty, the Cuban Dictatorship’s Recourse / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The Revolution is Going Well… Ever Onward! Fidel

Jeovany Jimenz Vega, 12 October 2015 — Doctor A, with 20 years of uninterrupted work to his credit, owes nothing to the little he receives in salary. Besides not being enough to feed his family, it has not allowed him to procure a proper roof and so he still lives in his shabby doctor’s office. After many disappointments, A is now tired of waiting for an improvement that will never come and chose to add his name to his polyclinic’s list of Collaborators: to go work abroad on some official “Medical Mission,” the only alternative he can see to better his life in the near term.

Engineer B works in the Mariel Free Zone and almost never seeks the light of day with his children due to the rigor of his work schedule. He knows that in the Development Zone foreign engineers and technicians receive several thousand dollars a month for the exact same work he does, but at the end of the month he receives some one hundred dollars, more or less; his share of the hard cash that goes directly from the foreign firm to the government coffers in exchange for his labor, without ever passing through his hands, and thus he is exploited by the government. Continue reading

Black Woman: Double or Triple Discrimination? / Diario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent

The regime opponents Sonia Garro and Mercedes Fresneda bear the marks of beatings from Castro regime mobs.

The regime opponents Sonia Garro and Mercedes Fresneda bear the marks of beatings from Castro regime mobs.

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Laritza Diversent, Havana, 31 July 2015 —In Cuba there is a myth that says that there is no racism here because “all the races and cultures melded together forever in a happy synthesis.”

Nonetheless, in reality, invisibility is on the rise, and a concept of “racial democracies” is maintained.

The invisibility of Afro-descendants’ poverty, along with enduring stereotypes and prejudices, contributes to the perpetuation of historic situations of segregation and exclusion, racism, and racial discrimination. Afro-descendant women, in particular, face major obstacles to the enjoyment and exercise of their rights, be these civil, political, economic, social, or cultural.

Official statistics state that men and women of African heritage on the Island constitute a minority. However, the general perception is that the official information does not reflect reality insofar as the ratio of races is concerned. 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

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

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

The Abuse of My Rights and The Repression Reaffirmed My Opinions / Cubanet, Miriam Leiva

The independent journalist Miriam Leiva was detained on two occasions during the visit of Pope Francis (File Photo)

The independent journalist Miriam Leiva was detained on two occasions during the visit of Pope Francis (File Photo)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Leiva, Havana, 24 September, 2015 – I received the pleasant surprise of a brief visit to my little apartment by Msgr. Veceslav Tumir, secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Havana, around 11:30am on 19 September. It gave me great joy to receive the invitation to go to the Nunciature at 4:00 pm that day to greet the admired Pope Francis, who would be arriving there at approximately 5:30 pm. Up until that moment, I had planned to attend the welcome event at 31st Avenue (five blocks from my home) with the community of St. Agustín church, or the one at St. Rita church, and to attend the Mass at José Martí Plaza, as I did when Pope John Paul II (at which time I also went to the mass in Santa Clara), and Pope Benedict XVI came to Cuba.

When at 3:10 pm I was walking along the sidewalk about 20 yards from my home en route to the Nunciature, a State Security official, accompanied by a young woman from the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), told me that I was detained, took my cellular phone and my little camera, and took me in a patrol car to the PNR precinct on Zanja Street. Continue reading

Again With the Blockade! / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 22 September 2015 — The hackneyed topic of the blockade or embargo continues to be among the priorities that the Cuban government demands that the United States of America resolve, the objective being to assure stable and mutually advantageous relations.

However, there is a matter that the American government should solve unilaterally, without trying to achieve any type of accord with the Cuban one, being that it was imposed on the latter. The argument turns out to be rather puerile, if one takes into account that when it came time to revoke the Platt Amendment (also imposed unilaterally by the American government), many conversations and accords  were mediated between both parties. In politics, to dialogue and reach agreements is a common practice, as seen throughout history. Pigheadedness has never led to anything positive. Continue reading

Anybody Can Have a Bad Day / Lilianne Ruiz

Lili under the sea

Lilianne Ruiz, 22 September 2015 — A great friend always tells me, “When something unpleasant happens to you, just say, ’This happens to us because we are alive.’”  I have wanted to be as delicate as a flower but I must admit that life is not like that, and the hard knocks, some of them, are like a box of chocolates. We must have great expectations and be determined to realize them, or, at least, to start on the path to doing so. Over here there are a bunch of decadent people, it is true, but the sun keeps rising every day, and life is so beautiful.

Today, I am gifting myself this poem by Octavio Paz, that appears in Rayuela, and I am sharing it with everyone with whom I speak today, because it has always moved me.


My steps on this street
on another street
I hear my steps
passing on this street

Only the fog is real.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

#PapaEnCuba [Pope in Cuba]: A Shout for Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) / Angel Santiesteban

Danilo (El Sexto) painting one of the piglets for his planned performance.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 21 September 2015 — Today, Monday, September 21, makes 13 days since he has been on a hunger strike inside a solitary confinement and punishment cell. Separated from his family and from all human companionship, for the act and right as an artist of attempting to put on a performance that alluded, according to the political police, to the dictators when he applied two common names, Fidel and Raúl–names borne by many in this nation–on the bodies of two pigs.

He has spent nine months in captivity without due process and will not therefore have a fair trial from the judges. The lawyer I have met with assures me that her intention is to “help,” but that it is not in her power, “because she is a simple attorney, from whom the case file has been kept for several months.”

Danilo’s nights are long, extremely extensive. The dawn seems elusive, while he feels his body coming apart. His faculties are failing, and that mental deterioration which, at times, inserts ideas of desisting–along with the fear of dying, of not ever again seeing his mother and his little dauther, of losing his teeth, of ruining his kidneys, among so many fears–are the battles he fights secretly in solitary confinement.

“This too shall pass” — A drawing Danilo made in prison.

These days we are being visited by Pope Francis, the merciful one who spreads peace for being the messenger of God and who, out of respect, those who say they revere him should interrupt their wicked actions, their pride and the abuse they inflict on the helpless, whose only intent is to be artists who fight for their beliefs.

But the dictators Fidel and Raúl only manipulate the Pope, the presidents, the UN and any international courts where they appear–as they have done throughout their more than half century in power, robbing destinies, destroying futures, extinguishing lives, undoing dreams–and consequently ignoring pleas for Danilo’s release, because always, with dictators, their commitment to evil and to assuring their totalitarian power comes first.

“Peace is a white (dove) knife that is placed in our hands.”

Danilo’s little daughter sobs for wanting to see her father. Danilo’s mother bravely endures the trance of pain not wishing to break down and say goodbye to her son and, at the same time, lives the contradiction of admiring him and respecting his ideas.

Danilo’s grandparents look on with that mixture of despair and sorrow, and one feels that they need to demand, to scream, for someone to show them where to find justice, and we can only respond with our heads bent low or look away so that they don’t see our tears.

The Ladies in White along with the members of the forum for Rights and Liberties, with the hashtag #todosmarchamos [We All March], march every Sunday, for the last 22 weekends, bearing Danilo’s photo along with those of other political prisoners through the streets of Miramar, demanding their release–even when on every one of those weekends, they are subjected to brutal beatings and arrests.

Danilo’s friends accompany his family, trying to give them support in the emptiness caused by his absence. We take it upon ourselves to demand his freedom, to go along on visits to the lawyer, or to deliver letters to the prosecutors’ offices regarding the violations to the law committed against him according to their own judicial laws, which they should respect and to which they should adhere.

The regime cannot, as it always does, arm wrestle with Danilo, and have it affect his health. Their duty, their obligation, must be to free him immediately before greater harm is done, and not add another international crime to their dictatorial records.

Freedom for Danilo Maldonado, Now!

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats,

Havana, 21 September, “free” on parole

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison


The Pope, So as Not to Say Anything, Said Nothing / Angel Santiesteban

The Inverted Pyramid

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, Havana, 17 September 2015 — It always irritates me that it is accepted, ironically, for the Cuban dictatorship to ply its totalitarian propaganda and be visible in foreign countries, via the media and its “solidarity”committees, when not even Cubans themselves in their own country are not allowed to claim freedom of thought, association, and all  the rights contained in the magna carta of the United Nations. Is it just that a country that violates these rights by denying them to its own citizens be allowed the spaces to cover up, manipulate, and lie to international public opinion?

A front-page article in Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, reports “anti-blockade [embargo] tour begins in Washington,” which will include stops in other North American cities and various countries. It also announces a confirmed total of 44 visits to the Congress, 37 to congressional offices, and 7 visits to senators’ offices. Continue reading

The Blessing and Not the Miracle / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez


Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 19 September 2015 – Out of respect for His Holiness, so as not to bring up an unpleasant topic, or whatever — I would prefer not to have to say that — contrary to reports by certain foreign media, I have not sensed hope nor much enthusiasm among my compatriots regarding the visit by Pope Francis. Rather, what I’ve heard are jokes, some quite irreverent, about the potatoes that are not in the markets [jokes based on the fact that in Spanish “papa” means both “pope” and “potato”], and many comments ranging from skeptical to cynical.

And do not speak to me of multitudinous masses; we had them, too, when John Paul II and Benedict XVI came. There is no talk of how we Cubans are mainly Catholics (after our own fashion, but we are). Even, and above all, practitioners of Santería, almost all of whom were baptized and who pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and at least three or four times per year—on the feast days of the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, St. Barbara, St. Lazarus, and the Virgin of Las Mercedes—go to church, despite the displeasure of some priests at what they consider to be “pagan superstitions.” Continue reading

Regime Arrests Berta Soler and Martha Beatriz Roque When They Go to Greet the Pope / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, 20 September 2015, Havana–The government opponent Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested this Saturday in Havana, activist Ailer González reported via Twitter. Sources from the Ladies in White informed Diario de Cuba that Roque was invited to the Apostolic Nunciature to greet Pope Francis upon his arrival.

Also invited to welcome the Holy Father before the Nunciature was the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler. Dissident sources fear that she has been arrested along with her husband, the ex-political prisoner Ángel Moya, said Ailer González.

The activist also denounced “power outages” that opponents’ telephone services are undergoing. Attempts to communicate by telephone with various opponents were unsuccessful.

For his part, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), José Daniel Ferrer, sent word via a communiqué of the arrest of 26 activists in Santa Clara who were intending to travel to Havana to attend the Pope’s mass on Sunday. In the capital, Ferrer said, five members of his organization have been arrested.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Crumbs That Pope Francis Will Eat in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

Cuban prison. Photo from http://www.telemundo51.com

Cuban prison. Photo from http://www.telemundo51.com

Luis Felipe Rojas, 12 September 2015 — Joy came to 3,522 Cuban homes, this being the the number of prisoners serving sentences for (technically) common crimes who set to be released. Indeed, this calls for celebration, as jails certainly do no reeducate anybody, much less in the island’s repressive atmosphere.

Thus, the Cuban government has just offered another gesture to Pope Francis in advance of his visit to Cuba, which will begin on September 19. The Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed its gratitude, as no doubt many Cubans have done, but with no questions asked. As the saying goes, you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. And the meager crumbs scattered in recent months by the Castro’s tight-fisted military regime has left many people dazed and confused. Continue reading