Do Obama’s measures promote democratic change on the Island? / Antonio Rodiles

Diario de Cuba, Antonio G. Rodiles, Havana, 28 January 2015 — The recent visits to Havana by American legislators and by Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, have reawakened controversy over the transparency in the process of political dialogue between the Obama administration and the Castro regime. So far, the aim of furthering a previously determined plan has been evident, as well as raising the profile of those political actors who support and conform to this policy.

Indispensable voices from the opposition movement have been conspicuously absent from the meetings held. Equally apparent was the reluctance to have a balance of opinions in these contacts.

On multiple occasions, in support of the new policy, the Obama administration has posited the premise that the Cuban people should be the ones who guide the process of change on the Island. This pronouncement implicitly seeks approval for the new measures and opens the door to strong criticisms of those of us who reject the unconditionality — and the notable lack of transparency and consensus — that have characterized the start of this process. Continue reading

Alan GGross / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

The Silence of Alan Gross

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

We live not in the civilization of media, but of the mediocre. And from there directly we inhabit the miserable.

Cubans desperately need witnesses to our tragedy. In the absence of politicians on the Island, we pin our hopes on any alternative voice: bloggers, musicians, graffiti artists, performers, etc.

Just recently a supposed North American hostage has been released. Alan Gross completed his role in the democratic-totalitarian theater of legitimization of the Castro dictatorship. He is now free, but he remains stuck in the labyrinth of his lawyers and the six-figure compensation with which they have invited him to recuperate and remain reticent. In the United States, he will not for one moment stop being a true hostage. Continue reading

Angelito Santiesteban Does Not Believe Himself the Center of the World / Luis Felipe Rojas

Graphic: Sonia Garro Alfonso, recently freed Lady in White. Collage over a piece by Rolando Pulido.

The writer and blogger Ángel Santiesteban Prats, from the prison where he is serving an unjust sentence, just published–thanks to the help of a friend on Facebook–a brief post expressing his thoughts about the recent releases of political prisoners. As always, Angelito is filled with Light and strength. May my embrace reach him though the faithful reproduction of his text.

Ángel’s post:

I have received the expressions of pain from many friends, my publisher, and my relatives–some stupefied, others offended–over my exclusion from the list of prisoners recently released by the Cuban government.

Upon completing almost two years of unjust imprisonment, I can assure everyone that never have I asked the correctional authories or, even less, the officials from State Security who have visited me, when I will be released. I will never give them that satisfaction, just as I have never inquired whether I will be given the pass* which is granted to all “minimum severity” prisoners like me, who am sentenced to five years. Continue reading

If it were up to them, they’d shoot me / Angel Santiesteban

  • Warning: The regime in Havana has prepared a new legal trap for Ángel.

As is already public knowledge, Ángel Santiesteban has been held in a military border patrol base in Jaimanitas since August 13. He was placed there after several days of detention in the Acosta Police Station, following his surrender after having taken 5 of the 15 pass days that he had accumulated since his incarceration in the Lawton prison.

The night before taking his days, on 20 July, Ángel used his blog to denounce the great rumors circulating about his imminent transfer to the border patrol base for purposes of isolating him. This was after his son had declared, on Miami’s TV Marti on July 15, that as a child he had been manipulated by his mother and State Security to force him to lie and hurt his father. Continue reading

Cuba is the Black Sheep of Human Rights / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar & Elizardo Sanchez

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 December 2014* — Coinciding with the observance of International Human Rights Day today, we spoke with Elizardo Sánchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) in Havana to review the current situation on the Island.

Q:  Today the whole world commemorates Human Rights Day. What is the situation in our country at the close of 2014? Do we have reasons for hope or for worry?

A:  The general scene of civil, political, labor and other fundamental rights continues to worsen. Although the rate of detentions for political reasons has diminished in recent months, this is because the government has understood that this type of arrest portrays a very negative image. It did the same before when it decided to reduce the number of political prisoners, which is currently at around 110 persons.

Nonetheless, the government has not reformed any laws, and it has not given up its repressive and threatening mission against all of society. Therefore, it cannot be said that the situation has improved. Unless a miracle occurs, it will continue to worsen.

Q: What are the repressive methods which are most used at this moment?

A:  There has been a metamorphosis insofar as repression for political reasons is concerned. It no longer consists of lengthy prison sentences, or even of extended detentions. Instead, what occurs frequently are short-term arrests with the added element of other forms of intimidation, such as vandalism, including rocks being thrown at houses or residences being ransacked. There are also physical aggressions, which have increased throughout the year, be they overt or covert. Continue reading

Look at Me, Miami and, If You Value Your Death, Don’t Cry / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Alan Gross, like every North American who comes in contact with the Castro regime and defends it even from within a captivity of little lies — attacking his own government with million-dollar demands — is a bad man. Gross’s little suicide threats, his lack of solidarity with Cubans in exile and civil society on the Island, his backward religiosity of psalms and miracle-mongering, his complicit silence as to the assassinations committed by the Castro regime while he was supposedly in prison, his lawyer subsidized by Havana, his support of the lifting of an embargo that had not appeared to be his concern when he was contracted by USAID, his servile flattery of President Obama, his admiring loyalty to the sacrosanct balls of Raúl, his suspicious loss of dentition at the record pace of one tooth per year, his (and his wife’s) insipid leftist pose, in short, what a fossil, what fealty, what Submerged States of Fidelity…

Meanwhile, the triumphal return to the Island of the 5 deadly spies, with their muscles worthy of hand-to-hand combat, their vacant stares of those who know themselves to be puppets of a dismal power that can pulverize them at any time, with their exaggerated dentitions, surrounded by a people who for decades have not been even plebes, a perverse and impoverished populace, terrified in their fear that swings from meanness to mediocrity, jabbering with the neighbors in a language that we free Cubans do not know because it is a jargon of the stable, of the State.

My Fellow Cubans, let us not kid ourselves. The stupidity of our country can be reined-in by taking advantage of this umpteenth criminal juncture in our history. We will never live in liberty. The Earth is cursed against our volatile beauty. The race that inhabits the Island is infected and cannot be decontaminated. The lucid ones, the virtuous ones, escape without ever looking over their shoulders, or else they will pay the brave price of being martyrs killed in cold blood, like the holy souls Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá. Continue reading

Activists present proposals for the next phase of US/Cuba relations / 14ymedio

From L to R, top row and then bottom row: Antonio Rodiles, Félix Navarro, Berta Soler, Ángel Moya and Ailer González are some of the activists who signed the roadmap with proposals for a new stage between the United States and Cuba.

From L to R, top row and then bottom row: Antonio Rodiles, Félix Navarro, Berta Soler, Ángel Moya and Ailer González are some of the activists who signed the roadmap with proposals for a new stage between the United States and Cuba.

14ymedio, 16 January 2014 – This Friday, almost 300 activists, artists, journalists, academics and trade unionists representing diverse groups within the Cuban opposition presented a roadmap of proposals for what the civil society movement hopes to see beyond the reestablishment of US/Cuba diplomatic relations.

The statement by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms was presented on Thursday at the headquarters of Estado de SATS in Havana.

The principal objective of this initiative is to enable Cubans to be the lead players in the changes that lie ahead for Cuba, and to ensure that the new relationship with the US will bring real changes to benefit civil society on the Island.

“We find ourselves facing two options,” the document states. “One is to accept the mutation of the regime to one of authoritarian capitalism, wherein Cubans will have to resign themselves to pittances, while the heirs of the Castro regime dispose of our rights and assets. The other choice is to demand concrete and measurable changes that will lead to the formation of a true democracy.” Continue reading

The Communist Party in the New Cuba / Cubanet, Rafael Alcides

“There is only one option: Fatherland, Revolution, and Socialism”

“There is only one option: Fatherland, Revolution, and Socialism”

Cubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 13 January 2015 — Following the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, Havana has become a cauldron of ideas about how we could have elections by secret and direct ballot – an exciting thing to contemplate. Many here see it happening right around the corner, maybe within a few years, three at the most. Others completely deny it. They speak – not in favor, but they do speak – of the Chinese method as the successor to Raul Castro socialism.

Would the Communist Party participate in such elections? This is one of the topics for debate. Some would prefer not to even hear of this. Others – myself included – believe that it would be impossible to exclude the Party: because we are democrats, because otherwise the elections would be invalid, and because, still, the Communist Party holds the reins of power.

However, upon the new government’s establishment, there would be a movement to seize and recover all of the Party’s properties. All. That means, guest houses, workplaces, office furniture and equipment, yachts, recreational facilities, means of transportation, bank accounts, etc. The idea would be to start over, on a level playing field, with the other political parties in existence then. And if by means of the Constituent Assembly this recovery could take place prior to the elections, even better – more democratic.

The consensus appears to be unanimous to prevent the current leaders from occupying public positions in the new government. Well, now, would these personages, civilian or military, have the right to run for office? There is no agreement about this, but based on what I have been able to detect from conversations on the street, the public for the most part does not see a reason to oppose this.

There is even talk of a Senator Mariela Castro and a Mayor Eusebio Leal. I do not doubt that they would win. With the appropriate official support, of course, Ms. Mariela Castro Espín has done commendable work—work that in no way diminishes the historical responsibility of her relatives in creating the tragic UMAPs—and this work has gained her a place in the social struggles of her country.

For his part, Eusebio Leal – “St. Eusebio,” as some call him — has shown how much can be done, even without plenipotentiary powers, for a city. Understandably, one hears talk of forgetting the air-kisses which the Maximum Leader, during his speeches, would covertly or overtly blow to Leal. That was, they say, the price the saint had to pay – but thanks to him, they also say – Old Havana exists today. Therefore, generally speaking, the future “dream” electorate of Havana exists because of Eusebio. And because of Mariela.

Well, now, what of the non-recycled candidates, i.e. the new blood, the candidates of the democracy? There lies the great unknown of the moment, the question without an answer among those who already see themselves before the ballot boxes, flags flapping away in the city covered in leaflets and palm leaves. Because they have had no place in the public life of the country, the dissident leaders are not known by the public. The government has never mentioned them – not during their almost-daily detentions, nor upon their releases. Prematurely aged as they enter and leave the jails, and well-known abroad; but in their own country the dissidents are no more, at most, than names heard in passing.

But, fine – it is said – the candidates will appear, the important thing is that elections are around the corner. In the organizing process of the parties, the fighters of old and the new ones, the ones yet to appear, will be known. Upon uttering these words the future elector is seen to sigh and assume an expression of, “Finally! At last! We will have a President and Congress that emanate from the will of the people.”

It is a joy not without its worries. Will free education and hospital care disappear with a democratic government? Here starts the guessing once again. Will the house one lives in have to be returned to its former owner? What about the plot of land granted by the government? As the Russians did, will the current rulers retain the enterprises created by the socialist State?

All of this is fodder for discussions on the street corners, but the joy is so great at even talking about democracy that the conversation veers again towards elections and the media that will facilitate them: radio, TV, the printing of leaflets, etc.

Nevertheless, those who had already been planning to leave the country are still packing their suitcases. And, those who claim to know very well that what is really coming is the Chinese method, sorrowfully spit through their fangs. Raúl and his generals are uninterested in hearing talk about these things, they say. Elections?? And they point to the recent events concerning the artist, Tania Bruguera.

Ultimately, whether these killjoys are right or not, Hope has come knocking, and it is impossible not to let her in.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Hope for a prosperous 2015 for Cuba / Cubanet, Miriam Leiva

A religious Cuban woman

A religious Cuban woman

Cubanet, Miriam Leiva, Havana, 6 January 2015 – The psychological barrier utilized by the Cuban government to keep its citizens subjugated was broken on the 17th of December. The surprising announcement that Raúl Castro would deliver a speech on US/Cuba relations, on live television, set off a tense anticipation of bad news. For 56 years, the US was the enemy aggressor, supposedly the cause of all problems in Cuba, and an excuse for repression.

The General/President went from the traditional reminder of the confrontation to a smile upon announcing the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the US. Continuing the surprise was the immediate broadcast of statements by US President Barack Obama. The following day both announcements were published in the newspapers and the news has been highlighted in year-end reviews on television as the most important event of 2014. Continue reading

Cold War, Hot Motors / Cubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro

autos-chevrolet-cover1

  • Is the Cuban government considering declaring as “heritage assets” the classic cars that roam the streets?

Cubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro, Havana, 2 January 2015 — Apropos of the imminent reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the US, General Motors (GM) recently expressed interest in exploring the possibility of doing business on the Island. Perhaps they see it as a promising market to sell parts and pieces for the cars that this automotive super-company produced during the 1940s and ‘50s.

As the old-timers tell it, US car manufacturers would test their products in Cuba, assessing whether the cars could withstand the harsh conditions of our tropical climate. American cars of such makes as Cadillac, Buick, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth, Packard and Ford, rolled around – and continue rolling today – throughout the cities and towns of the Island. Continue reading

Granting the Cuban Child the Ability to Travel / Dora Leonor Mesa

Granting Visas to those younger than 18 years old during the School Year

By Lic Dora Mesa Crespo* and Lic. Odalina Guerrero Lara*
(Mesa Crespo is the Coordinator of the Cuban Association for the Development of Child Education (CADCE), an NGO.)
(Guerrero Lara is an attorney with the NGO Cuban Legal Association)

The obligation to study is specified in Cuban law (1) long before 1989, the year in which the Convention of the Rights of Child was signed. The Convention is an international treaty of the United Nations by which the signatory states recognize the rights of those younger than 18 years old.  Currently thousands of Cuban families residing in the country have Dual Nationality, which is laid out as a conflict of interests and loyalties for the holder. Continue reading

Neighborhood Circus / Rebeca Monzo

December has for decades always been a month of circuses, but, in the economically failed regimens, the circus is always present: “If there’s no bread, give them circuses*,” says an old refrain.

The principal actors at this year-end have been the unstocked farmers markets which, upon closing their doors, have given way to improvised fairs where, in place of food, police have abounded.

Yesterday on Monday, when I went to take a turn using the Internet, I took the P3 Bus, at the 26th and 41st stop, the closest to my house. The bus had barely made it past the next two stops when all of us passengers who were traveling to Playa** had to get off at 26th and 25th. The route was detoured due to an agricultural fair that was taking place on 24th and 17th, next to the farmers market at that location — which, by the way, was empty and closed off.

Three trucks filled with sweet potatoes, plantains and tomatoes made up the fabulous offerings at the fair. A line of naive customers waited their turn among dirty puddles, squalid stray dogs, and more law enforcement officials.

A friend and I, due to the absurd diversion of the only route, were returning in the afternoon, walking from the recently-restored iron bridge, searching for the P3 stop so that we could ride the bus back to our neighborhood. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the morning’s detour was still in effect. We were forced to continue on foot until we reached our respective homes in Nuevo Vedado.***

Upon nearing the trucks that bore the agricultural products on offer, I overheard the following comment: “Such a fuss over a tomato that’s more expensive than at the farmer’s market!”

Translator’s Notes:
*Literally, in this post, “A lack of bread, circus.”
**Playa is a municipality in the city of Havana.
***Nuevo Vedado is a neighborhood in the Plaza de la Revolucion municipality of Havana.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison, and others.

31 December 2014