The Stasi’s Sad Footprint / Hablemos Press, Armando Soler Hernández

Author Timothy Garton Ash
Author Timothy Garton Ash

Hablemos Press, Armando Soler Hernández, 1 August, 2016 — Timothy Garton Ash is a well-known journalist, editorial writer and British researcher. His books on history are notable, above all for their distinctive focus on recent contemporary history.

During the 1970s, Ash became interested in researching the period of anti-Hitler resistance in Nazi Germany. While seeking firsthand information, he resided for a considerable time in what were the two halves of that European nation divided at the time. Continue reading “The Stasi’s Sad Footprint / Hablemos Press, Armando Soler Hernández”

ICHR Accepts Denunciation of #CUBA for Violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s Human Rights / Ángel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban, 30 March 2016 — The denunciation of the violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s human rights has been accepted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The organization has given the Castro dictatorship a three-month deadline to respond.

– The Editor

[A translation of the letter from the IACHR, addressed to Ángel Santiesteban’s editor, Elisa Tabakman, follows below.] Continue reading “ICHR Accepts Denunciation of #CUBA for Violation of Ángel Santiesteban’s Human Rights / Ángel Santiesteban”

The 26th, Again / Fernando Dámaso

moncada
The Moncada Barracks attacked on 26 July 1953

Fernando Damaso, 25 July 2016 — Tomorrow, a new anniversary of the 26th of July–that failed insurrectional action of 1953–will be commemorated. This date, one of the principal ones of the Castro regime’s calendar, served as the title and standard for the political movement that emerged from the event. The province of Sancti Spíritus has been selected as the headquarters for the celebration–not for being the best choice, but rather for being the least bad one.

There will be “popular” gatherings, official festivities, cultural merrymaking, and even speeches with pretensions of historical authenticity. The script is repeated every year, varying only with regard to the secondary actors, being that the principals have remained in their roles for 58 years, despite the boredom they provoke among the spectators.

Throughout the course of a few days the inhabitants of Sancti Spíritus will enjoy abundant beer, one or another foodstuff, and much dance music, in addition to the traditional carnaval. Afterwards, all will return to the usual boring dailyness, with its meager wages, shortages, street violence, abuses, bureaucracy, and many other misfortunes–and the commemoration, as it does every year, will remain forgotten until the next one, if indeed it takes place, in a new chosen province.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Cuban Officials in the Panama Papers / Hablemos Press

PP_Cuba_-1080x670

Hablemos Press, Cuban Journalists and others* (see below), 13 May 2016 — Officials of the Cuban Communist Party hired a Swiss attorney to establish offshore companies for their global business activities, the Panama Papers reveal. The unprecedented leak of 11.5-million documents from the legal firm Mossack Fonseca in Panama exposed the offshore actions and suspicious financial transactions of chiefs of state, government officials and celebrities worldwide.

Cuban law does not include any specific legislation regarding State functionaries and offshore enterprises, however such activities would be questionable in the strictly communist country. Continue reading “Cuban Officials in the Panama Papers / Hablemos Press”

Cuba: A Prosperous and Sustainable Socialism? / Hablemos Press, Leonel Rodriguez Lima

What does "a prosperous and sustainable socialism" mean for citizens who must wait for more than two hours for a bus? Photo/ HP
What does “a prosperous and sustainable socialism” mean for citizens who must wait for more than two hours for a bus? Photo/ HP

Hablemos Press, Leonel Rodriguez Lima, Havana, 16 April 2016 — It has been much-emphasized by Cuban officialdom that we are in the process of constructing an indigenous or distinctly Cuban socialism, prosperous and sustainable. But the phrase could turn out to be a hollow one, being that its realization continues to be delayed as time goes on without any concrete progress being attained to lend it credibility. This concept deserves some analysis.

Time and again there have been attempts to codify, at the worldwide level, a theory of socialism and communism. Hybrid models of the two have been tried, which have concluded in total disaster. With regard to our country, it is not precisely socialist ideas that govern us. From the start this process was distinguished by a strong Stalinist influence on how we faced the future, and whose political totalitarianism contaminated Continue reading “Cuba: A Prosperous and Sustainable Socialism? / Hablemos Press, Leonel Rodriguez Lima”

Inability to Differentiate?…or to Recognize Injustice? / Hablemos Press, Eduardo Herrera

Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute, the research scientist’s workplace. Photo/HP
Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute, the research scientist’s workplace. Photo/HP

Hablemos Press, Dr. Eduardo Herrera, Havana, 16 April 2016 – Juventud Rebelde newspaper, in its “Letters” section—in which they usually publish cases of social injustice or irregularities—ran an article this past 16 March titled, “Inability to Differentiate,” which recounts how a research scientist with the Pedro Kouri Tropical Medicine Institute was slapped with a fine for trying to sell an Argentine national soccer team jersey.

The scientist’s name is Marité Bello Corredor, resident of No. 1714, Seventh Street, between Second and Acosta Avenue, Casino Deportivo district, Havana. At the time of the incident, she was on unpaid leave, caring for her sick mother. Continue reading “Inability to Differentiate?…or to Recognize Injustice? / Hablemos Press, Eduardo Herrera”

A Glossary Against the Deafness of Raul Castro / Luis Felipe Rojas

Elizardo Sánchez. Photo taken during an interview by AFP in Paris on 19 March 2013 (AFP, Samir Tounis). “The repression against all of society, as well as the level of intimidation from the state, continues to be unjustifiably high but difficult to quantify, given its systemic character.” –Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz, president, Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).

Luis Felipe Rojas, 28 March 2016 — With mouths agape and arms extended to the heavens, Cubans of goodwill are still awaiting the night on which Raúl Castro will liberate all political prisoners and fling into the garbage can that judicial aberration which is the current Penal Code.

Meanwhile, Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz, president of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) continues documenting–with an artisan’s meticulousness and well-sharpened pencil–every blow, act of repudiation, police harrassment, and finally compiles the details on every Cuban sent to prison under obscure circumstances that appear to be politically motivated. Continue reading “A Glossary Against the Deafness of Raul Castro / Luis Felipe Rojas”

The Backyard of My House is NOT Special* / Regina Coyula

First Screen:
There have been threats of drastic measures to be taken against any who do not comply with maintenance guidelines, and owners of vacant houses who have not had them fumigated. What you will see here is an open space of state property located just 30 yards from my house. All that’s needed is a light rain.

Last Screen:
Regina Coyula
Theme Music: The Mosquito’s Bite
J. Rudess; J. Petrucci
14 March 2016

*Translator’s Note: This is a take-off from a line in a Spanish-language children’s nonsense song, “The backyard of my house is special: it gets wet when there’s rain, just like the others.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

16 March 2016

A "Privileged" Artist / Fernando Dámaso

Fernando Damaso, 15 January 2016 — Personally, I have nothing against the plastic artist known as “Kcho,” be it against his values or his work–a task I leave for specialists–aside from the fact that his recurring little boats and oars leave me cold.

The reason for these lines is that “Kcho” seems to have become the “preferred artist of the kingdom”: his paintings, installations and other works are regularly presented as gifts from the authorities to foreign and national personalities, as if there were no other national plastic artists whose works would merit this special treatment. Continue reading “A "Privileged" Artist / Fernando Dámaso”

Cuba: From the Black Spring to a Rolling Stones Concert / Iván García

Cuba–Rolling Stones Poster

Iván García, 16 March 2106 — Around 12 midnight on Tuesday, 18 March 2003, I was en route to my apartment in the La Víbora neighborhood when, from the balcony, some incomprehensible signs coming from my mother set off the alarms.

Those were hard years. My mother and I were contributing articles to  the independent press agency, Cuba Press, prohibited by the government, which was led by the poet and journalist Raúl Rivero. We were detained, intimidated or warned by cowboys from State Security with too much insistence.

Fidel Castro, meticulously, had prepared his “crime” scene. Since February 1996, when MiG aircraft shot down four civilian aircraft of the Brothers to the Rescue, and with the turn of the screw to the embargo on the part of Bill Clinton’s administration, the olive-green strongman unleashed his furies upon the peaceful opposition. Continue reading “Cuba: From the Black Spring to a Rolling Stones Concert / Iván García”

Laura Pollán Ladies in White Civic Movement Letter to President Obama

Laura Labrada Pollán, Laura Pollán's daughter
Laura Labrada Pollán, Laura Pollán’s daughter

10 March 2016

His Excellency Mr. Barack Obama
President of the United States of America

I extend to you the most cordial welcome to our country and wish you a happy stay in this land, which you can now feel as your own.

Cuba and the United States of America share a long history of friendship which has not been erased throughout more than 57 years of dictatorship in my country. It is time now that our citizens to meet at the middle of the bridge, and what they feel cannot be separated by any government or group. Continue reading “Laura Pollán Ladies in White Civic Movement Letter to President Obama”

Pro-Castro Foolishness / Luis Felipe Rojas

“There will be no impunity for the enemies of the fatherland, for those who intend to endanger our independence.” — Raúl Castro, 3 August 2010.

Luis Felipe Rojas, 28 February 2016 — Attention, all who rabidly applaud the Obama-Francisco-Castro pact: it is worthwhile to make difficult proposals, ask inconvenient questions, and bother the military beast that has run the Island with the trembling hands of whisky hangovers.

Oh, no? Not in your plans? It must be said again and again, because after the hugs have come the kisses, and who knows what else. Among secretaries of agriculture, lady mayors, aide-de-camps, successful businesspeople, and rock superstars, there must be somebody left with a little shame who will make it known to Raúl Castro that his outstretched hand should go in another direction, he should look the people in the eye and quit posing for a photograph that will take on a sepia tone faster than his egomania can stand it. Continue reading “Pro-Castro Foolishness / Luis Felipe Rojas”

Covering the “Eyes” of Claudio Fuentes / Luis Felipe Rojas

Cuban photographer Claudio Fuentes, arrested by the political police in Havana. Courtesy: Ailer González, State of SATS.

Luis Felipe Rojas, Miami, 15 February 2016 — Cuban photographer and dissident Claudio Fuentes was once again arrested on Sunday, 14 February, by forces of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in Havana. The Castro regime’s gendarmes kept Fuentes from taking part in the peaceful action #TodosMarchamos [We All March], which the Ladies in White and dozens of activists put on in support of Human Rights.

Cuban photographer Claudio Fuentes, arrested by the political police in Havana. Courtesy: Ailer González, State of SATS.

Claudio Fuentes is an independent photographer who has been arrested on numerous occasions for taking part in and photographing peaceful activities of the internal dissidence in Cuba. His photographs reveal victims of beatings, women who express their courage against the threatening actions of the Cuban dictatorship, but he has also photographed in an original manner life in Havana as he has lived it.

The information regarding the arrest of Claudio Fuentes was provided by Ailer González, who in charge of artistic projects for State of SATS, which is directed by Antonio Rodiles. The activist posted various photos in which Fuentes can be seen being detained at the hands of the PNR and officials from State Security. Similarly, González reproached the journalist Fernando Ravsberg and others who blame the Cuban opposition for not bringing together more people.

“…And how do you mobilize them under a totalitarian dictatorship where there are these levels of control, harrassment and repression? Assisted further by the Obama administration, the Vatican and even Kirill, the czar of the Russian mafia?” asked the activist.

For over 10 months, diverse organizations and individual activists have documented 41 consecutive Sundays in which the military forces have violently repressed the Ladies in White during their march upon leaving St. Rita Church, on 5th Avenue in the Miramar neighborhood in the Cuban capital. The Forum for Rights and Liberties (FPDyL) has coordinated support for the women.

Claudio probably is free at this hour, and frustrated because they did not allow him to photograph that piece of Cuba not found in today’s tourist guides. If not, I send him all my solidarity — as on several occasions he did with me, when the henchmen were detaining me and minutely recording my life in a small town of eastern Cuba where the tourists, businesspeople and celebrities did not, and still do not, arrive to stroll impassively while looking the other way.

I will leave you here other marvelous photos taken by Claudio Fuentes.

“Gente” [People]. Photos by Claudio Fuentes.
“Gente” [People]. Photos by Claudio Fuentes.

Lía Villares, Cuban activist. From the series, “Gente.” Photos by Claudio Fuentes.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Academies To Produce Macho-Men In Cuba / Abel Sierra Madero

Card issued by the “National Information Center,” which was tied to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) in the 1960s. This document constitutes a valuable source for the study of vigilance and social and political control in Cuba. On the upper right corner of the card appears the word, “secret,” along with instructions to informants. These should contact the Center when they “know of any instance or indication of enemy activity,” and use a password to maintain “secrecy.” Photo courtesy of María Antonia Cabrera Arus.
Card issued by the “National Information Center,” which was tied to the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) in the 1960s. This document constitutes a valuable source for the study of vigilance and social and political control in Cuba. On the upper right corner of the card appears the word, “secret,” along with instructions to informants. These should contact the Center when they “know of any instance or indication of enemy activity,” and use a password to maintain “secrecy.” Photo courtesy of María Antonia Cabrera Arus.

In the 1960s, close to 30,000 young men were detained in forced-labor camps. The mistreatments that took place in these camps, known as Military Units to Aid Production UMAP, in the name of “social hygiene,” testify to the homophobic component of the Cuban Revolution.

Abel Sierra Madero, From Letras Libras, January 2016 — Between 1965 and 1968, the Cuban government established, in the central region of the country, dozens of forced-labor camps known as Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP), where about 30,000 men were sent under the pretext of the Obligatory Military Service Law (SMO). The hybrid structure of work camps cum military units served to camouflage the true objectives of the recruitment effort and to distance the UMAPs from the legacy of forced labor. Thus the military-style organization and discipline to which the detainees were subjected could be justified. November 2015 marked 50 years since the regime implemented this experiment.

Historians have generally avoided research into state social-control policies based on forced labor, concentration and isolation of thousands of Cuban citizens at rural locations set up during the 1960s. Likewise, they have rejected the usage of such terminology, as if it did not apply to the case of Cuban socialism, or its use was not “politically incorrect.” By the same token, testimonies and narratives produced by former UMAP detainees have almost always been held suspect. A fascination with beards and uniforms on the part of the mainstream press in Europe and the US, along with powerful images constructed by revolutionary propaganda, have up to now overshadowed the testimonies of Cuban exiles regarding their terrible experiences in these camps.

These accounts became part of an anti-communist narrative to which, supposedly, the exiles had to conform in order to survive outside Cuba. At least, that was what Ambrosio Fornet, one of the most recognized intellectuals on the Island, thought in 1984 while giving an interview to Gay Community News. Although he recognized that the UMAPs were a sort of “academy to produce macho-men,” Fornet criticized the perspectives on the repression offered by exiled Continue reading “Academies To Produce Macho-Men In Cuba / Abel Sierra Madero”

A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

What in abundance are those who distort and manipulate the ideology of José Martí (Reuters)
What we have in abundance are those who distort and manipulate the ideology of José Martí (Reuters)

We continue on without wanting to admit that if our “wine is sour,” even if “the wine is our own,” it is no more than that: sour wine.*

Cubanet, Luis Cino Álvarez, Havana, 28 January 2016 — Today marks the 163rd anniversary of the birth of our national hero, José Martí. It is the time to repeat by rote the two or three of his sayings that all of us Cubans learned since grade school. It is but a short time before we again commemorate his death on May 19. Those two remembrances comprise most of the veneration of Martí that was instilled in us from childhood. What a shame! Continue reading “A Hero To Justify The Cuban Failure / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez”