Travelling Without Money / Rebeca Monzo

clip_image002From the moment you know that one of the above mentioned wants to invite you, the Odyssey begins: expensive procedures, paperwork and disbursements, occasionally excessive (in relation to our country), insurance policy if you are travelling to Europe, the cost of the visa, etc. Anyway, all these procedures and payments have to be carried out in CUC, the hard currency, which is precisely not what your salary or pension is paid in. That’s without taking account of the fact that the ticket has to be paid for by the person inviting you.

Many people will say to you before you set off on your outbound trip: listen, when you are over there, take the opportunity and connect to the internet, and bring everything you can, because this is your first trip of the year and here you pay on entering in Cuban pesos.

What nobody tells you and what you have to be very clear about is that you can connect when your host lends you his computer, and that the excess baggage which is very expensive is paid for in the country where you board, not where you arrive. And believe me it would be too unfair to also charge this expense to your hosts’ account!

Generally speaking most of us travel with hardly even any change in our pocket, which can be very worrying. You can be sure that you are going to be waiting around at the airport because with what you’ve got you can’t afford a taxi, as well as the likelihood that any rascal, seeing your worried face, will try to take advantage of you.

Once you’ve got to your destination and having had the happiness of seeing faces you know waiting for you, you begin the other stage of your journey: accommodation. You need to accept your host’s arrangements with a smile on your lips, in order not to put him to more inconvenience or expense.

You will enjoy all the meals and outings which they have planned and you will offer infinite thanks for all the presents they give you, even if you don’t like them or they are not your size in terms of clothing, because you are also thinking at that moment of the friends you have left on your planet to whom you would like to take back something.

Among your excursions there will definitely be included a visit to a big shopping mall, and your eyes will pop when you see the great quantity and variety of things on sale. At that moment you will recognise how wretched you feel about not having the funds to pay for something you have needed or fancied for a long time. Try as hard as possible to resist a visit to IKEA because going there could give you a heart attack.

After enjoying yourself like a little kid who is given presents, you come to the moment when you have to go back to your real world. That’s when the big problem begins. maybe three days before your return date you will feel a stomach pain and will feel nervous or stressed thinking about how you are going to fit in the suitcase they have lent you all the things you have been given. You don’t have the money to pay for excess baggage, and it would be very painful to leave it

… because you need it to buy food on your return. At that moment your coat (if you took your trip in winter)

… which they have given you will be very heavy and you will have to wear it going back even though it’s hot.

Finally, when you arrive, you will suffer with a mixture of impatience and relief, the huge line you have to wait in order to get thru Cuban customs, something you have forgotten about, due to the speed with which you got thru in the other countries.

Some good neighbour will be waiting for you on your arrival, with the loaves of bread, which are entered in your ration book and which he has been good enough to keep for you.

Translated by GH

12 March 2013

Abandon all hope ye who enter here / Lilianne Ruíz

00-hugo-chavez-venezuela-08-03-13-300x200On March 5 Cuban TV aired the speech of Nicolas Maduro, the Venezuelan vice-president, where he announced to the world the death of Hugo Chavez; the perspective of Cubans turned toward the future, one that many perceive as tragic with regards to the economy, and that others perceive as hopeful from the political point of view.

The same thing is happening in Venezuela on a different scale. Cubans today share the only equality Socialism can provide, which is powerlessness against the Socialist State. In the Venezuelan case they have not yet reached the point where it is difficult to reverse; they are still going through the seductive chapter of the process.

In Maduro’s speech he emphasized the word “peace” in the doubtful context of the simultaneous announcement of the “deployment of the Armed Forces and the ’Bolivarian’ Police’” to “protect citizens and ensure peace and respect,” making ourselves into “vigilantes” (of peace). Again Maduro reiterated the same word, inviting people to “channel the pain in peace,” calling for the mobilization: “we shall gather in the squares, the people and the Armed Forces.”

In Cuba, there was not a single statement of opposition to Chavism in Venezuela to be seen. Despite the multi-state TV channel Telesur transmitting 24 hours on the Educational Channel 2 on Cuban television.

The mention of the opposition is always associated with conflict. In the broadcast of the March 7, in response to the question, “How is the country’s security?” a General answered, “On the alert, (the opposition) will always be conspiring,” adding, “all the people are in the street defending the Revolution,” and once more he spoke in terms of “deployment” of the intelligence services and the military.

“The Chavista people are united,” Diosdado Cabello said. While Elias Jaua, the current Venezuelan Foreign Minister affirmed, “The people want to continue constructing socialism.”

Cristina Fernandez, Argentina’s president, told Telesur: “This extraordinary concentration ratifies the massive support for Chavez,” referring to what the broadcaster defined as the “red tide” that accompanied the presidential coffin to the Military Academy where his wake is still being held, for 7 days.

More disconcerting still was the statement made by Nicolas Maduro about Chavez’s body, that “it will be embalmed, like Lenin’s.”

The propaganda of “21t century socialism” affirms that it intends to empower the people, down to the very poorest. For Cubans this hasn’t meant anything other than giving up all human rights, in return for receiving – as the crowning achievement of the utopia – a good ration of food, education teaching you to read and write, but which doesn’t favor your learning to think with liberty of conscience, and medical services.

That is to say, social security – which should be the function of any State whatever its political color – in exchange for liberty. Look at the almost religious exaltation of the leader, the emotional link, the comparison with “a father”, which will guarantee on a long term basis the complicated psychological phenomenon of a people submerged in slavery.

In the same way that in socialism (Leninist, Castroist, Chavista) the right to political freedom ends up exterminated; the same applies to economic freedom, because of their close relationship.

Using an allegory, the inclusion of what is called “21st century socialism” there is nothing other than an opening the mouth of the bag to the size necessary to take in more people and, eventually, the majority of votes in the elections (only when the members of whatever Socialist politburo feel obliged to organize free elections); after which, when everybody is inside the bag, the State terror will start to seal up its mouth and the end product will be comparable with the inscription which appears at the entrance to Dante’s “Inferno”: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here”.

Venezuelans perhaps still can’t understand that the cult of the leader, alive or dead, establishes hideous social relations between those in power and the public which has been shaped to believe, and to ensure that all popular opinion believes, in a false idyll between the two parties, which results in just one power – the State. They still can’t understand that peace is in conflict with surveillance. And that one day they won’t have the freedom to choose.

Translated by GH

15 March 2013

The number of political prisoners in Cuba is doubling: the case of Angel Santiesteban / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban
Angel Santiesteban

By El Manisero (The Peanut Seller)

In this article, our Cuban contributor condemns Ángel Santiesteban’s prison sentence and the grave situation regarding political prisoners in Cuba.

The Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission recently published a report about political prisoners of the dictatorial regime of the Castro brothers, which was made known by its spokesman, Elizardo Sánchez, and in which we can learn that between March 2012 and January 22 of this year the number of political prisoners has gone up from 45 to 90. The report emphasises that in spite of the fact that as a result of the closed character of the political regime the list does not include 100% of those imprisoned in Cuba for political reasons, it is noteworthy that the number of political prisoners has doubled in the last ten months.

This fact puts Cuba in the shameful and inhumane first position in the western hemisphere, and most of the world, for its number of persons condemned for political reasons. In this document, they also make reference to the regime’s change in strategy during the ten years following the Black Spring of 2003 in its effort to put in place, instead of its repression based on long prison sentences, a form of repression called “low intensity”, which consists of thousands of short-term detentions a year. continue reading

Included within this total of sentences, which does not constitute 100% of those imprisoned for straightforward political reasons, we find those who are condemned for common fictitious reasons clearly invented and manipulated by the regime, as is the case with the rigged sentence handed down a few days ago against the Cuban writer Angel Santiesteban, in spite of having been denounced several months ago before the High Commission on Human Rights by the independent lawyers Yaremis Flores and Laritza Diversent, consultants acting for internal opposition groups. These lawyers condemned the accusations of fake offences, which is a common practice against detainees and political opponents.

In the case of Ángel Santiesteban it is his ex-wife Kenia, about whose mental health there are serious doubts, who is utilised by the regime, taking advantage of her non-acceptance of her divorce and her very spiteful attitude, which led her to make a series of accusations which progressed into legal actions.

In the beginning, these accusations were not given much credence by the court, which declared the accused to be innocent, but, on Kenia’s second attempt, when they were linked by the case investigator to the accused’s role in opposing the government, he was found guilty, starting off a legal process of sentences adding up to nearly fifty years.

The final case brought against the accused asked for a combined sentence of fifteen years. After appealing the accusations and the sentence, finally the accused was sentenced to five years in prison; when in fact his only crime is: criticising and denouncing the regime in his internet blog The Children Nobody Wanted, as well as in his general writing and his journalistic work where he is trying to exercise his right of freedom of expression.

All the opposition groups in the island and in exile have supported the writer and have condemned the made-up fairy-tale put together in order to send to jail an innocent person whom the regime finds a nuisance through one of the most cruel injustices: a politically motivated sentence.

Cuba Ya Twittea, a project strongly supporting liberty in Cuba by means of giving dissent back its voice, has published in its blog, as a last and desperate move, a collection of information which includes an interview with one of the principle witnesses who denounces the Castro regime’s farce against Ángel Santiesteban and although there is a summary below of what actually happened, the reader can see and hear this more completely in the following YouTube video.

The facts

Kenia D.R.G accuses her son’s father of rape after several years’ separation, but she declines to go to a legal medical centre to corroborate that she really has been raped; later she accuses him of stealing family jewellery, but when the case investigator asks her to provide details of the items supposedly stolen so that he could verify with the family members and friends that she really possessed them, she retracted the accusation and alleged that what he really took was bank notes in various currencies: American dollars, euros, etc.

Finally she asserts that she was hit by her son’s father, attempting to demonstrate this with a photo she had with her, in which you can see some scratches on her skin, with additionally the diagnosis of a doctor who later on in the investigation does not remember the case nor having attended to her, according to his testimony which appears in the record of the investigation.

The examining magistrate notes Kenia’s incoherence, summons the accused, brings up the records, producing witnesses who corroborate his plea of absolute innocence and, without any other intervening measures, he is free to leave.

A month later a fire occurs in the entrance to Kenia’s house. Of course, what better opportunity could there be to level a further accusation against her child’s father, who presents reliable witnesses from the place he was at on the day and at the time of the occurrence. He was allowed to remain at liberty without any kind of bail.

Five months later Kenia went to the Federation of Cuban Women to declare that being a single woman with a child, she was not protected by the police and successfully persuaded that organisation to send a letter to the National Police requesting her ex-husband’s arrest and an investigation with a view to the accused being condemned.

Immediately the accused was summoned and bail is set at 1500 pesos. A report was issued to Captain Amaury, who does not set about investigating and reaching the truth, but rather looks for anything which can incriminate Angel, nor does he go to original sources of information, like neighbours who would be able to offer impartial evidence. Neither did he understand that it was necessary to approach the doctor who in the following days attended Kenia when she checked into a psychiatric hospital and showed that she could not come to terms with the death of her grandmother and the loss of her marriage.

The investigating magistrate by contrast set about bringing forward the false accusations which started off the process, succeeding in extending the list of alleged crimes committed by the accused: rape, robbery, wounding and attempted homicide, on the basis of which the prosecutor, without insisting on evidence showing guilt, applied fora sentence with a total approaching fifty years in jail, with an associated fifteen years, against the accused.

It is worth stressing that the Provincial Court rejected nearly all the testimonies presented by the defence and those accepted were subject to political pressure. It also needs to be emphasised that the accuser Kenia, following her son’s father’s refusal to authorise the child’s exit from the country, assured him that she would lodge as many further accusations as necessary against him until he changed his mind.

The accused, finding unacceptable the wishes of Captain Amaury in clarifying the facts took advantage of the opportunity presented by the evidence of Alexis Quintana and decided to record this video where, in a live interview, the evidence demonstrates the farce upon which all the accusations are based.

International support

Cuba YA Twittea declares in its blog: we have the evidence to prove that it’s all a fiction in order to deprive Angel of his liberty. And here we present the proof and request that everyone circulates it through as many media as possible, in order that some international court will take action on the case and not permit the dictatorship to continue committing with impunity all these violations of human rights now and in the future.

In the face of the great injustice perpetrated against this Cuban intellectual, whose works have been recognised by various national and international prizes and who has been published over half the world, I join in condemning the anti-freedom system of the Castro brothers’ dictatorship and their indiscriminate sophistry, as every human being who respects law and justice, and freedom of expression, has the duty to do.

Justice for Ángel Santiesteban whose innocence merits international investigation in order to clarify and put in place the whole truth of what really happened.

Translated by GH

January 31 2013

Waiting Patiently for What Never Comes / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

IMG_0530The last time I was in the farmers’ market, a couple of days ago,I saw various things on offer which I don’t recall seeing since I was a kid. It was in the mid-80’s that this market – at least in Artemisa, where I live – had its “golden age”. But the economic strategists disrupted the prosperity of the most entrepreneurial and consistent producers and they stopped right then and there, so that the ability to largely meet public demand which was the case a few years previously, was, at the beginning of the following decade, past history. continue reading

During the years following that brief period, the farming sector saw itself, most of the time, prevented from expanding its production as a result of laws which already effectively limited its productivity and threatened the results of its hard work. Up to the present day laws remain in force which give the Prosecutor’s Office the power to confiscate, without much ado, the estimated gains of a producer who is doing too well – and it is obvious what effect this has had on the enthusiasm of those who find themselves at the wrong end of this process.

Several attempts to sort this out were tried by the state — the “Food Plan” of the ’90’s included — among which the wobbly Credit and Services Cooperatives stood out — including their “stronger” variant — which never managed to guarantee a constant, stable supply for the people, as normally they were unprofitable and unviable, falling most of the time into net losses.

Along with the mismanagement of these organisations throughout the country, there also existed another enormous obstacle to produce arriving on the Cuban table: the proven inefficiency and irresponsibility of the state supply company.

The Cuban state monopolised the process of supply in a single company, and in its war against intermediaries eliminated the entire chain for transporting the harvest, leaving this activity almost exclusively in the hands of an entity which, citing lack of fuel, tires, transmissions, or whatever consumables, year after year, has left thousands and thousands of tons of food to rot in the fields.

Inevitably this had profound consequences: the markets continued to be without supplies and with prices going through the roof, production was depressed and plates waited anxiously for food which never arrived.

Now it is not about again taking on the intermediary that transports commodities from the field — because that is just one more activity, that all the producers cannot take on because their activities are so time-consuming.

In order to combat speculation they should create mechanisms that regulate, dynamically and realistically, price policies. But before that the Cuban state has a serious account pending with its people: first of all it should lead by example and adjust its irrational and hostile pricing policy perpetuated in the retail trade and not empty our pockets on collection days.

I have here an excellent first step to take in order to try to normalize everything! Only as the prices imposed by the State stop being scandalous will the peasant have an incentive to lower prices, as scandalous as those, at his stand at the market.

But apparently Raul Castro’s policy, slightly more pragmatic, has already yielded some fruit with regard to the food supply, although it has not happened with all due haste. As I am not an authorized voice, it would be worth listening to the producers’ criteria on this matter, but, judging at first glance, the circumstances today seem different, although the situation is not the same across the country and not all townships have the “privilege” of Artemisa — I have confirmed the great affluence of the regulars from the municipalities surrounding my town’s market.

To the extent that we move away from the capital, the more we look to the east, the more obvious is the deterioration in the quality of life and the greater the decline in agricultural products.

I think everything here is above all a matter of focus, the way to meet our demands could be much shorter than supposed as the example of China demonstrates: from the time Deng Xiaoping determined that the ability to hunt mice was more important than the color of the cat,very few years elapsed before there were tangible results in food production.

The same thing happened in Vietnam — looking at production schemes similar to ours — they substantially increased production when they opened the doors to the small family business.

Ah! But something happens in such cases which is fundamentally different from what happens in ours: Vietnamese producers can go abroad when they need to buy their own supplies and a Chinese businessman may, no one should be shocked by that, amass a personal fortune if he does it by legal means.

And that is what it’s about: it would be much better for the Cuban state, rather than trying to supply all our products, something that has not achieved, so it has had to authorize them to be imported directly as needed, when it has the means to do so, it would be much better to accept that “… to get rich is a duty, whenever it is done by lawful means …” Those are the words of José Julián Martí, not mine, and consistent with his thinking we should reshape our thinking so that we will no longer see all the fruit we cultivated for years with our own hands evaporate overnight.

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Translated by GH

January 30 2013

Kafkaesque Chronology in the Island Utopia / Angel Santiesteban #Cuba

1359151216_Angel-Santiesteban
Ángel Santiesteban

By Wichy García Fuentes | Originally appeared in Revista Replicante

A Cuban writer has just been sentenced to five years in jail for a crime he never committed. He has just been sent again to the galleys for that bad obsession that some have to wish that a hundred, fifty, ten, five or one person should have the same right to think and choose as the other millions of Cubans.

It was ten years ago that Ángel Santiesteban appeared at the International Book Festival of Guadalajara, where he was taken by the Cuban cultural authorities after winning the Alejo Carpentier Prize for his compilation of the stories The Children Nobody Wanted. continue reading

Ten years ago Ángel Santiesteban dared to be the discordant voice in a delegation which, on being asked constantly by university students about the human rights situation in Cuba, could only repeat the Fidelist refrains which, for half a century, have accused anybody with his own ideas of being “an imperialist mercenary”, and, not being able to tolerate this, that brilliant narrator born in 1968 said publicly that “a hundred, fifty, ten, five or one person have the same rights to think and choose as the other millions of Cubans”, receiving the applause of the young audience, an applause which greatly irritated the government representatives at the FIL (International Book Festival), and with the result that for the rest of the event, they deliberately detached themselves, without trying to hide the fact, from the programmed activities.

Ángel Santiesteban had received the Carpentier Prize, after obvious skirmishes with the Casa de las Americas, which he finally gained after two attempts in which the jury came under pressure from the authorities to put him to one side to make room for others — on those two occasions (1992 and 1994) the winners were, according to Amir Valle, “two of the weakest books to gain prizes in the history of that competition in the story category” — and although by 1995 he was able to win the UNEAC (Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba) prize and the Carpentier in the 2001 competition, it was onlyin 2006 that he was recognised by the Casa de las Americas, in a half-hearted recognition, which was not free from pressure on the jury, and which hardly allowed him to enjoy the controlled publication of Happy are those who mourn.

Nevertheless, his books, mostly published with a mediocre presentation, immediately sold out in the Book Fairs in Havana. They flew off into the eager hands of the same readers who left the most officially-favored volumes to gather dust on the bookshelves.

Ángel Santiesteban had already suffered imprisonment. Although absolved after a tribunal recognised that there had been no crime in seeing off his sister on the coast – she illegally left the island – he just the same had to suffer fourteen months in jail before it was recognised he was innocent of the supposed crime of a “cover-up.” From that experience emerged literature, translation into the written word of the hunger and inhumane treatment in the Cuban prisons.

But the NeoStalinist regime could not permit what happened next. Ángel, who had already made clear his ethical line on officialism, opted to write his opinions and to publish them in the nascent independentCuban blogosphere. An old friend, the poet Camilo Vanegas, instructed him in internet avatars and Blogspot. Like a good Cuban, half-literate in 2.0, he hit the net and brought out the blog The Children Nobody Wanted, taming the limitations of connectivity on the island and posting whenever he could his written criticisms, his truths and his explicit risk.

At the end of 2011 Ángel had a legal process to face, a Kafkaesque mechanism with the intention of seeking to sentence him to fifty years for alleged crimes of rape, robbery, attempted homicide, threats, harassment, injuries, and running over a child on the public highway. All of this in a very badly written script in which his ex-wife banded together with an official of the political police in order to cause him the greatest possible damage.

The false evidence was falling apart little by little and only terminatingat the end of 2012 — and after the writer and other peaceful activists were brutally detained opposite an office of the State Security in Havana, beaten up and locked up for several days — the dreadful process started up again and Ángel Santiesteban, once again without evidence and with sufficient witnesses in his favor, is brought before the “revolutionary tribunals” and sentenced to five years prison for the shamelessly fabricated offences of housebreaking and injury.”

He isn’t, by a long way, the first Cuban to bestitched up by false accusations, clumsily put together by the Castro dictatorship. Many others have been systematically discredited by official publicity, sent to jail on unlawful charges, but until recently the dissent moved compulsively into areas of physical protest, with little thought of philosophy or sociological analysis.

Ángel, in his role of prestigious storyteller, joined in the debates that another intellectual, Antonio G. Rodiles, had arranged in his house. Estado de Sats refers to that space for integration, conceptualisation, civic projection, which is so much-needed by the new generation to share their differing thoughts.

The government has not been able to show a relationship, even superficially, with the CIA or with the United States Interests Section in Cuba. It hasn’t been able to find a way to demonstrate “imperialist mercenary”, so as to impose an unofficialpunishment. The false accusation of aggravated crimes could be the answer, since among so many alleged crimes something is likely to work. And it worked.

A Cuban writer has just been sentenced to five years in jail for a crime he never committed. He has just been sent again to the galleys for that bad obsession that some have to wish that a hundred, fifty, ten, five or one person should have the same right to think and choose as the other millions of Cubans.

Young university students applauded Ángel Santiesteban Prats ten years ago at the International Book Fair in Guadalajara. Today, the writer needs them, and the Mexican intellectuals who can still distinguish between the revolutionary utopia and the decadent obstinacy of a totalitarian regime which cons all of us equally.

Given that the media and the limited virtual network in Cuba remain under the strict control of his captors, Ángel Santiesteban needs international help, needs the solidarity of his colleagues and as many decent people as can join together in the social media to demand his freedom.

Published by Revista Replicante

Translated by GH

January 25 2013

Unprotected Widow / Odalina Guerrero Lara #Cuba

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALic. Odalina Guerrero Lara

Neida Lafita Moreira, Cuban citizen, housewife, 53 years old, who, because of her state of health, hasn’t any ties to employment, permanent resident of San Antonio de los Baños, widow since 21st August 2012, turns up, in desperation at the AJC for legal advice or support, as her husband, when he died, had a work connection with the Héroes de Yaguajay Agricultural Production Co-operative in the Municipality of Alquízar, in Artemisa province. continue reading

Let’s look at the treatment she received as a widow. Her nearest relatives appeared before the managers who had been designated to look at her case; fifteen days passed, she personally attended, and the President of the cooperative inappropriately told her “Madam, we don’t give out check books here,” and then the person dealing with matters to do with social security handed over to her the employee’s work record, claiming he couldn’t do anything for her, as well as other matters which supported the administration’s position.

Having regard to the vulnerable state in which Neida Lafita Moreira finds herself, without the ability to contract legal services from any law office in order to be represented in making a claim, she takes the petition forward, representing herself, on the basis of:

Cuban Communist Party’s Employment Objective, Guideline Number 16.

Require and confirm that in institutions and in the Party itself, complaints and reports and other matters brought forward by the people are to be dealt with promptly and properly and the responses are to be provided with due accuracy and speed.

Backed up by:

The Constitution of the Republic of Cuba, which stipulates:

ARTICLE 47 – By way of the Social Security System, the State guarantees adequate protection to all employees unable to work as a result of age, infirmity or sickness.

In the case of the employee’s death, similar protection is guaranteed to his family.

Law No. 105 of Social Security.

ARTICLE 1 – The state guarantees adequate protection for the employee, his family and the population in general by way of the Social Security System, which comprises of a general system of social security, a system of social assistance, as well as special systems.

For the deceased having been an employee of an agricultural production co-operative, he is subject to the provisions of special systems. At the time of his death, all provisions of the Legal Decree 127 of 1991 were wholly in force, as a body of law applicable to the case of the widow Neida Lafita Moreira.

In November 2012 reports were presented containing the pertinent claims to the following bodies in Alquízar:

  • President of the National Association of Small Farmers
  • Public Service Specialist of the municipal Administrative Council
  • Cuban Communist Party’s Specialist dealing with Co-operatives
  • Head of the Social Security Department
  • Legal Adviser of the Héroes de Yaguajay Agricultural Production Co-operative.

Neida Lafita Moreira continues to be UNPROTECTED by the Social Security

 Translated by GH

January 26 2013

Legal Relationships in Cuba / Argelio M. Guerra #Cuba

25-cartel con bandera

By Argelio M. Guerra

Is it possible to file a legal claim against someone to whom you have given your car to carry out some bodywork, paying him something in advance, who has not carried out the work in question, and where there is no contract documentation? How can you enforce the contractual obligation?

Is it the case that a piece of paper, containing the personal details and reciprocal obligations to which those who agree to provide a service in return for payment commit themselves, constitutes, when the occasion requires, an element of proof for the purposes of a Tribunal when making an application for completion of a contractual obligation?

There are thousands of questions, like the ones above, which are raised by Cubans when, as happens, legal relationships, which should be created in accordance with provisions of the law and good faith, lead to a sorry outcome with the bitter experience, for one or both persons, of being jailed for what ought to be and should proceed as a satisfactory legal relationship.

And this ominous outcome is, not infrequently, the result of various elements which are to be found in legal relationships, conspiring against their normal development; ignorance of rights and how they are to be applied within the social framework; little or no dissemination of information by the mechanisms and institutions which are there to guarantee the exercise of those citizens’ rights, little publicity about the requirements and best options for those wishing to enter into a legal transaction with adequate guarantees, a legal vacuum in relation to the regime governing defined options for the self-employed. These and other limitations are part of the legal reality of present-day Cuba, at the same time as they are of potential assistance to those trying to make a living by way of cheating and extorting from others.

Although the decentralisation of the State monopoly on employment has been accepted and welcomed, what is also needed is an effective strategy to ensure the legal protection of the citizen.

The growing scale of the non-public economy, taken with the ever-more-necessary reduction of prohibitions and restrictions which muzzle the life of Cuban people, takes us inevitably in the direction of an increasing quantity of legal relationships, and the urgent need to dispel the air of mystery, as far as many Cubans are concerned, which has surrounded them for years.

Translated by GH

January 10 2013

Who is Pestering Whom? / Ernesto Vera Rodriguez #Cuba

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Lic. Ernesto Vera Rodríguez

 

In any other country in our continent, the police look after public and private property, and their mission, with rare exceptions, is not concerned with politics. There, the police have an important role to fulfill. Here, on the other hand, things are different.

The greatest number of infractions of the law occur in the central areas of the city of Havana. And it is there where the ordinary citizen is most defenceless in the face of the arbitrariness and ignorance of the cops, who have as a weapon the ignorance and fear of their victims.

The lawyers and other agents of civil society ought not to confine their activities to the area in which they live, but should also cover areas like Habana Vieja where every day dozens of persons are handcuffed and humiliated just on the basis of mere suspicion, often based on the color of their skin or the way they speak.

A few Sundays ago, in Parque Central, I witnessed how they violated the rights of Antonio Loriste de la Cruz, whose ID number is 73110129509. He has black skin, and his only offence was to cross Parque Central at about 11:53 am. I was able to obtain these details from him and before he was handcuffed by his pursuer no.744, I was able to give him a document which set out the rights which applied to him from the moment of his detention, in accordance with the Law of Criminal Procedure.

Although I was assured by the officials who detained him that we were dealing here with a hustler, with someone who is pestering tourists, I can say, as someone who works in this precise location and looks out for the rights of people like Antonio, that I haven’t seen him pestering anybody, but that he was a suspect based on the color of his skin which in Cuba is an indicator of being a thief, a stigma, a cross which he will bear until the day he dies.

Antonio Loriste was found sitting in the shade on a bench in Parque Central, sheltering from the stifling heat, and there he was bothered by two uniformed police, who asked him for his documents, a very common form of invasion of privacy in Cuba.

Antonio Loriste was taken to the premises in Calle de Dragones, an office they euphemistically call “for recognition.” Where they will take him is uncertain.

Translated by GH

January 7 2013

The Cuban Style of “Dumping” / Ivan Garcia #Cuba

cuba-construccionIn the south of Havana, underneath a burning sun, half a dozen men are working in a precarious workshop making blocks using a machine made up out of odd bits and pieces. It’s hard work. For twelve hours a day they put in cement, stones and clay, filling up a mold which the Frankenstein machine then, with tired wheezing noises, coughs up again as blocks for use in construction. In a typical month they earn 1,600 pesos (64 cuc – Cuban Convertible Currency). Four times more than the average Cuban salary.

In theory, these precarious factories, put up in a hurry in a deserted recreation area or in the middle of a field, close by heavy industry, could be the key to increasing production of construction materials. For many families, it allows them to repair their dilapidated houses, especially now, following the passing of the devastating hurricane Sandy through Santiago de Cuba and other eastern provinces.

Alfredo’s target, working in the improvised workshop, is to produce 8,000 blocks a month. He usually manages that, working at half-speed, in the space of 10 days. The rest of the blocks he produces, between 750 and 900 a day, are carefully stored in an old state warehouse.

In accordance with the instructions of their senior manager, those blocks aren’t mentionedin the monthly report. They are for “under the counter” sales. If you add the more than 20,000 blocks which Alfredo’s workshop can produce — and there are hundreds of these little mobile establishments throughout the country — to the output ofheavy industry, it is reasonable for people to ask themselves why then are the prices of bricks and building blocks so high.

Each one costs 10 pesos on the black market (0.5 cuc). Demand exceeds supply. And if you go to try to buy them in one of the state flea-markets, you never find any. Nevertheless, the yards of several stores are overflowing with cement, paving stones, aggregate, bricks and blocks.

According to an official of the Ministry of Internal Trade, managers in companies and stores collude in artificially maintaining the scarcity, in order to keep prices up. And that doesn’t only apply to construction materials.

Acopio, whose role is to acquire 80% of the harvests of co-operatives and individual farmers, has transformed itself into a stronghold of predatory corruption. Factories and branches of Internal Trade selling products for hard currency have set up aformidable mafia profiting from the prices of food products.

The regime is in the habit of favoring and turning a blind eye to this sort of activity. A can of beer, a soft drink, or a malt-whiskey, for example, including shipping and unloading, doesn’t cost more than 10 centavos in cuc. But then the foreign currency tax collectors see to it that the shops sell them with a 10-fold markup on the price.

The double currency has created a closed market in the national economy, above all in the companies which sell oil, mayonnaise, tomato paste, soap and detergent, which are among the most profitable, thanks to the elevated income from sales in convertible pesos

These mafia groups, which have taken hold in the local commercial and distribution channels, have amassed fortunes. Information is circulating in the internet about the case of the manager of a factory producing preserves, who has a cupboard full of dollars in his house. Nearly all the corrupt people are bureaucrats. With a red party card in their pocket. And when they speak, like robots, in everything they say they repeat two or more times the words Revolution, Fidel and Raul. An absolute bunch of opportunists.

They make up a compact group, with a monopolistic control over the prices of food, and essential items. Someone who used to work in a state-owned grocery store told me that in the month ofApril last year they received instructions from the provincial government to supply all the state outlets with black beans at the price of 8 pesos a pound.

Good news for the mafia rings. At that moment in the non-state farms, a pound of black beans cost between 15 and 18 pesos. The answer was to delay the distribution. By the back door, trucks full of beans started to deliver to private houses, which were converted into temporary stores. Then later, the beans went out again from these houses to supply the private farmers’ markets.

They sold the beans wholesale to private sector agents for 12 pesos a pound. And with the profit, 4 pesos a pound, they oiled the wheels of corruption: truck drivers, stevedores and senior managers. In this way they sold tons of black beans. And in official reports it was recorded that a pound of beans was selling for 8 pesos — which it never was.

Apples are another good example. In the hard currency shops, they cost between 35 and 45 cuc centavos each, according to size and quality. Right now you can go around the shops and cafes in Havana and you won’t find any apples for sale. Nevertheless all over town hundreds of people pushing barrows are offering apples at 15 to 20 pesos each.

Behind all this Cuban-style “dumping” there exists a clockwork mechanism which carefully manages the availability of foodstuffs and prices. General Raul Castro has created an army of anti-corruption inspectors, headed by Gladys Bejerano, Controller General of the Republic. The idea is to put the brakes on this multi-headed monster which affects the life of the whole nation.

But for every vermin’s head that Bejerano gets close to, five more spring up. It’s totally evil. People think that we are dealing with something quite weak. They only go after the low and mid-level swindlers and crooks. Certain individuals, referred to as the “bosses of the bosses” carry on in their air-conditioned offices, calmly and unconcernedly watching what’s going on.

Iván García

Photo: Collecting bricks from a building which collapsed in the path of Hurricane Gustav in Havana in August 2008

Translated by GH

January 14 2013

“Being held” or illegally arrested? / Veizant Boloy #Cuba

1355868031_veizantBy Veizant Boloy

Last 24th September, Angel Moya, ex-prisoner of conscience of the Spring of 2003, and a group of activists, were arrested for three hours by police agents and the State Security, for having handed out copies of the petition Por otra Cuba (For a different Cuba).

According to Moya, the agents involved in the arrest told him he was not being arrested, but “temporarily held.”

“They didn’t take us to jail as they usually do,” commented Moya. But, can a Cuban citizen be “held”?

According to Spanish law, the ability to hold can only be exercised in relation to goods. It is defined as a means to assist someone to extend his possession of something by way of security. The counter-intelligence people, the political police in the island, in order to avoid any legal or civic constraints, use the status “held” to justify arbitrary arrest.

The term “hold” doesn’t exist in the criminal law process. The agents of the State Security and the police are not authorized to hold anybody, as this term does not exist in the criminal legislation.

The International Treaty of Civil and Political Rights, in Art. 9, First Part, establishes, and I quote: “Every individual has the right to liberty and personal security. No-one may be subject to detention or arbitrary arrest. No-one may be deprived of their liberty, except for reasons defined in law and by way of the relevant established procedure.”

Moya was not “held”, he was arbitrarily arrested, in breach of the precept of Art. 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed by the Cuban state in 1948: “No-one may be arbitrarily arrested, nor imprisoned, nor exiled.”

Translated by GH

December 18 2012

The Consumer and His Rights / Veizant Boloy #Cuba

20-derecho consumidor

by Lic. Veizant Boloy

In shops in the capital where they sell things for foreign currency, they offered various food products and things for the home at reduced price, which pleased the people living there. Jams, packets of biscuits, boxes of caramel powder, packets of fried tomatoes, custard, alarm clocks, and other things costing no more than one CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso).

Both customers and retailers took advantage of the discounts and bought as much as they could afford. “This is a bargain,” said one of the retailers.

The vast numbers of customers didn’t spot the flaw. Some, who took the precaution of turning the product over to note the expiry date, read the information: best before the month of August 2012. Others didn’t notice this until they got home.

The shop assistants told them to try the products, but they wouldn’t accept any returns. The nonsense was that, in the case of the clocks, they didn’t have any batteries so you couldn’t try them. In various parts of Havana there are shops which are skilled in selling faulty products, but this wasn’t the case here. These products had passed their sell-by date and others were just useless.

Selling date-expired food to people constitutes a commercial and public health offence. The offence is the greater when most of the consumers of the jams are children.

The consumer’s rights are set out in the regulations issued by the public authorities intended to protect purchasers or users in the market of goods and services, which bestow and regulate certain rights and duties.

In spite of the fact that the consumer’s rights are not an independent branch of the law, fundamental aspects of the relationship between producers and consumers are to be found in Commercial Law, Civil Law; others in Administrative Law and also Procedural Law.

In Cuba, there are legal regulations which protect the purchaser’s rights, but they are not heeded. The inspectors look the other way. The people are on the whole unaware of their rights, and, in a time of scarcity, accept these infringements of their rights as consumers.

The best advice to Cuban consumers is to check before you buy. And insist on it.

Translated by GH

January 3 2013

Law or Violence / Wilfredo Vallin Almeida #Cuba

19--legalidad o violencia

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

I always thought that on the day in which things in Cuba would become as they are today, the people in power would behave with much more good sense and flexibility.

Those of us who now have grey hairs, do not forget the nationalisation without compensation of many properties, the compulsory separation from families who have gone abroad, the persecution for religious belief, the Forced Labor Camps (UMAP), the banning of the Beatles, the notorious “warning” to the intellectuals, the very dangerous installation of nuclear missiles, etc., etc.

All of this, plus the accumulation of five undelivered five-year plans, have worn out the patience of the citizens whom they asked to sacrifice their time and their lives in return for the future of the New Man.

Now we see, for example, the open letter attributed to a group of surgeons from the Calixto Garcia hospital circulated on the internet, where you can read:

The deficiencies in the medical service are so serious … that we cannot provide medical attention which is ethical and which our people deserve, which is our sacred duty.

For how long are we going to be grateful to the centenary generation for having done their duty … while our generation waits to carry out its duty to develop and to give our families and children the life they deserve?

I also never thought that we would be the citizens who use the revolutionary and socialist laws to indicate to those in power (and also to international organisations – why not?); that those who once told us “we are all equal before the law” would put themselves outside the law and allow themselves to disregard it.

It’s what happens when:

– They handcuff and throw in jail a lawyer who has gone to a police station to inquire about the legal position of a prisoner.

– They tell us that “from now on, lawyers will not be allowed into police stations.”

– They tell the activists of the campaign For Another Cuba:

These Agreements are all very nice, but, what you don’t know is that, behind all this is the hand of the enemy who has other aims in mind…

(Please note the implication that Cubans never do anything as a result of their own convictions, but we are always programmed and led by foreign enemies).

– They use violence against people without any basis in law and with the manifest contempt on the part of the political police for peoples’ legal rights as recognised in the nation’s own Magna Carta.

– They send a message to the people which reads:

The only possibility of independence and national sovereignty resides in ourselves. There is absolutely nobody in the 11 million Cubans who has more ability than ourselves to guarantee that sovereignty, as well as the right to stay here all our lives.

Violence only leads to more violence. Many people have already died for that and others have been close to dying for the same reason.

Unfortunately, possibly some more Cubans have to die before this sad story ends. It’s just that those of us who feel love for this country always bet on the first of the two choice in this absurd binomial alternative: law or violence.

Translated by GH

December 30 2012

Santiesteban, the Facts and Reasonable Doubt / Angel Santiesteban, By Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallin Almeida

The questions mount up in the criminal case of the celebrated writer Ángel Santiesteban leaving the legal officials in Cuba looking very bad in terms of transparency and legal techniques and leaving us with a certain taste of injustice. The case is a good demonstration of that and gives rise to something which in the past used to be unacceptable to legal practitioners; deciding a penalty while doubts persist.

IN DUBIO PRO REO (the accused has the benefit of any doubt) is what they used to say, but this seems to have been excluded from Cuban legal practice.

In criminal law and criminal procedure, the events which give rise to offences normally focus, in terms of process, on two basic aspects:

  1. the facts in themselves (the grounds of fact), and
  2. the relevant legal principles (Articles of Law, Resolutions of the Governing Council of the Supreme Popular Tribunal, legal doctrine, interpretation, etc.)

Let’s start of by indicating some of the irregularities (there are more) in terms of grounds of fact which are evident in this complicated and lengthy business;

The only direct evidence shown in the process is that of his ex-partner, who is the one accusing him. But what we have ended up with is that during the various declarations offered by her in the long-drawn-out preparatory stage, the accusation has repeatedly changed, to such an extent that the Prosecutor had to disregard and ignore some of them on the grounds, as far as we could see, of being ambiguous and hardly able to be taken seriously.

Can you have confidence in the evidence of a person who keeps changing his or her testimony? In the same case, this lady again contradicts herself, this time in terms of the medical certificate she presents, which does not accord with the injuries she claims to have received.

In her testimony, the claimant says that after having been brutally hit, she was raped by the accused. The Prosecutor nevertheless did not take into account this important element in the case.

Prior to this matter, Angel and his ex-partner had been through another case where she accused him of having threatened her. In this case the defendant was found innocent.

The appearance of the teacher and school director of Santiesteban’s son, Eduardo Angel , was important. She testified that the child told her that his mother obliged him to say things against his father. This evidence was also disregarded by the Tribunal.

Obviously, these were not all the issues of fact: I have referred to only some of them – sufficient in my opinion to illustrate to those not well-versed in such matters, what is the meaning of REASONABLE DOUBT.

Translated by GH

December 20 2012

…I became a teacher, which is like making myself a creator / Jorge Hojas Punales #Cuba

10-me hice maestro

By Lic. Jorge Hojas Puñales

The Bible is a great book, maybe many people have it in their homes, and from time to time they read it, trying to teach themselves, without really moving on from just reading it. It is clear that they need someone who knows about it, who can explain the teaching which it contains.

A law, a decree, a resolution, or whatever legal instrument, is of no use in our hands, if we don’t have someone who can guide us, explain the contents in a reasoned manner, who can teach us every precept and help us understand the scope of its application. Just as with the Bible, legislation has to be preached or taught, and even better, with examples. Disobeying it amounts to sacrilege.

It’s no good if knowledge of the law which applies in our state is reserved exclusively to legal professionals, to those organisations and institutions charged with its development and endorsement, or those who are required to work with it. It becomes more and more necessary, and indispensable, to have at least some knowledge in order to live, live with others, in the Rule of Law in a civil society

The most basic rules for living together, are modified by Law, in accordance with the society in which they are sorted out. It would be wonderful if someone designed them in a spontaneous, honest and disinterested way, teaching the law, bringing it within reach of everybody, without distinction. What great satisfaction he would feel, knowing that he had contributed a grain of sand to add to the spreading and enrichment of the legal culture and the good of the people!

Possibly the conditions for this to occur don’t exist, but the desire to do it is something many people feel.

Translated by GH

December 22 2012

Police Behaviour / Regina Coyula #Cuba

In a gastronomic food shop which only takes foreign currency, situated at 3rd and 8th in Miramar, a little more than a week ago, a known customer, who is a doctor at the Polyclinic at nearby 5th Ave., instead of asking for something in a discreet manner, as required, shocks the shop assistant by his drunken behaviour. The doctor is upset by the telling-off he receives, and starts using abusive language and the macho body-language well-known to Cubans. The employees decide to eject the drunk. Having been thrown out of his happy hour he returns to 3rd and 8th with reinforcements. The fight with the employees starts up right away. They call the police, who turn up quickly, but all they do is watch, until the moment when someone collapses and there is blood spilt. The doctor’s son is knifed.

Last Thursday in the same part of Miramar, but at 18th and 1st. A woman by herself, holding two signs, with the word VIOLENCE on one of them, is detained with the sign and without any preamble is put into one of the two police cars which promptly turn up.

These accounts are given to me by direct witnesses, people uninterested in politics, but in each case the way the police acted was unacceptable. It isn’t that the image of the police throughout the world has to be about helping old ladies cross the road or catching pickpockets in the act. The police should always inspire respect. But respect is one thing, fear and repulsion are something else.

Regina Coyula

Translated by GH

December 14 2012