Internet in Cuba: What Iroel Sanchez Didn’t Say to Telesur / Jeovany Vega

Last Wednesday June 5th, at the end of the Telesur programme “Today’s Themes”, our brilliant journalist Iroel Sánchez commented about the “novelty” of the rooms enabling “free” Internet surfing throughout Cuba.  That more than two decades after the Internet became a daily portal for the rest of the world it is even announced in Cuba, with fireworks, that from 118 timid locations in this country of more than 12 million inhabitants will be able to surf “freely”, says it all.

But there are various angles of the issue that Iroel didn’t comment about on Telesur: he didn’t mention the little detail that he himself has had free complete access to the Internet, because it is among the privileges of “official” reporters to access the network from their offices or comfortably from their homes *and* it will be like that as long as he doesn’t  transgress the line of the Rubicon, while Caesar, attentive and scowling, calculates every byte.

Iroel didn’t say that in our case, the connection time is dependent exclusively on the times ETECSA offices are open (from 8:30AM to 7:00PM) in rooms in which between 2 and 6 machines are available — for example in Artemisa, a provincial capital of 800,000 inhabitants, one can only find two — and these tiny pieces wouldn’t be enough if they had conceived of a reasonable price and not an absurd and crazily extorsive one.

He didn’t say that at 4.50 CUC — which is the same as 112.00 Cuba pesos or equal to a third of the average worker’s monthly wages — which would be the same as the charging the average Spaniard 250 Euros for an hour of surfing, but with the additional aggravation in the case of Cuba of living in the most expensive country in the world.

Iroel Sanchez forgot all of these details when he was being interviewed by Telesur.

Meanwhile, this is how I see it: if the Cuban government says it is telling the truth, then why is it so terrified of an exchange of ideas? Because only information, pure ideas, translated into the most simple binary code, can enter the country along an optical cable, and never bombs or rifles. I have the conviction that all the truth, in its natural clarity, is as firm as a rock and can defend itself by its simple presence beneath the sun, for which reason I will never understand why they are depriving my people of something as basic as free access to the knowledge contained in cyberspace.

At times when my country talks about the prospects of transformation, which they are begging for, and on which the government timidly feels its way forward, while the society pleads for faster progress in the changes which sometimes seem more cosmetic than real, at times like that, this is what we get.

I have always said that I prefer a despot to a cynic because the former mocks you to your face, doesn’t hide his natural tyranny, and shows his true colours: yes, I abused you — so what? But the latter, evil at heart, tries to insult your intelligence. Because to claim that such stratospheric charges are affordable by the people, is equivalent to saying that so are the hotels which charge $300 per person — a year’s wages — for one miserable weekend.

Now they are trying to export the illusion that now we Cubans are living happily connected with the world, but they must know that this is a masquerade, as is demonstrated by the empty seats in these embarrassing locations. The Cuban people are awaiting and insisting on real, free, effective and total access to the internet, by way of reasonable contractual terms appropriate to what they can afford and which allow them to explore the virtual world, when they want and full-time.

I want internet in my home in order to explore all truths and weigh them up them against my own … like  Iroel Sánchez but with the difference that I want to have it as a right which I am exercising, and never as an improper privilege. For me that would be the measure that would tell me that finally we are on the path to real changes; as long as we can’t depend upon absolutely free access to the internet everything will be imitation gold and pure fantasy … just a fairy tale.

By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Translated by GH

10 June 2013

Venezuela: Maduro Digs In / Ivan Garcia

The PSUV (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela) brothers have divided the country into two trenches. Their followers — in petrocasas (mass-produced small houses) and medical practices painted in red and white with images of Chavez hanging from the roof — if they show absolute loyalty, gain the right to a position as a minor official, where they can earn thousands of bolivars extra.

Those who are against — half the Venezuelan population — are treated as enemies. Nicolás Maduro is governing in virtually a state of siege. The army in the streets. And his comrades turn up in Parliament with gauntlets hidden in their pockets in case they need to hit their opponents.

Maduro has drawn the short straw. The man has a short fuse. He has little room to manoeuvre. As a statesman, he leaves a lot to be desired. His public speaking is a disaster.

He pulls three or four phrases out of the drawer and repeats them to the point of tedium about his love for Hugo Chávez . It doesn’t look as if the old Caracas bus driver is able to more Venezuela forward with his government drawn from the street, where only his own followers turn up.

A country is not a party. You should govern for everybody. Listen to the others. And respect their opinions in the parliament. Many people believe that the advice that Fidel Castro is whispering from Havana is seeking to polarise and radicalise a Bolivarian revolution which is deflating.

That’s how Castro governed in Cuba. The bearded guerilla humiliated the priests and any religion which was not Marxist. He nationalised all property. And provided an air bridge which allowed his enemies and the middle class to flee to Miami. But that was in the time of the cold war.

In the 21st century, to put together an almost scientific autocracy, with a parliament in the Cuban style in which they vote unanimously, is impossible. Following Castro’s strategies is the shortest route for the PSUV to dig its political grave. For many reasons. One of them: Castro’s government is a monument to inefficiency.

It survives on exile dollars and passing the collection box in Venezuela. Productivity is at rock bottom. Salaries are laughable. The infrastructure is dysfunctional. Even the much-trumpeted successes of the revolution in public health, education and sport are going backwards.

Politically, guaranteeing basic rights and employment while sacrificing liberties will never be worthwhile. Those rights and duties which a modern state must fulfil. Without asking for votes in exchange.

Maduro isn’t Chávez. The man from Barinas had charisma. Ability to manoeuvre, and, in spite of his major screw-ups, with his oratory he was able to convince his supporters.

Maduro creates distrust even in typical Chavistas. The position of President is too big for him. Rushing forward is not the right decision.

Whipping up the political differences between Venezuelans is putting out a fire with gasoline. Entrenching himself in institutions which respond to the interests of his party is not the correct solution.

He should offer political breathing room and participation to the opposition. It represents 50% of the electorate. It’s not a small thing. If you could grade Maduro’s performance in his first month of government on a scale of one to ten, he would get a zero.

As President he has not been up to scratch.

Iván García

Translated by GH

4 June 2013

Thoughts About the Agricultural Problem in Cuba / Dayana Cruz Vega, Cuban Law Association

Lic. Dayana Cruz Vega

Agricultural Problem: These have been two very controversial words down the years, they refer to the unequal distribution of land between the rural population, also the combination of socioeconomic and political conditions, relations and contradictions which characterise the structure and working of the agricultural sector. This problem has been a persistent presence in Cuban political legal thinking even though it was one of the first labour directives after the triumph of the revolution.

The Agriculture Reform Laws acquired a constitutional status which they maintained up until the 1976 Constitution took effect.

On the subject of agriculture there exist bodies of law such as Resolution 288/90 which establishes the regulations for the functioning of the register of land tenure, Law number 36 relating to farming co-operatives, repealed by Law 95/2002, among others which have seen the light of day in recent years, like Decree Law 259 which guarantees the awarding of the right to enjoy land for the purpose of production and number 300 which modifies the extension of lands which the previous one permitted to be handed over.

But in spite of all of this pointing in the direction of the improvement of the living and working conditions of the farming sector, and the increased productivity of the land as the only way to replace imports, they haven’t met their objective.

In this regard it is necessary to stress that the scattered legislation, the legal ignorance of the peasants in relation to their rights and the process of accounting in the various sectors and co-operatives have had their influence of production and productivity, in spite of there being sufficient projects put in place for this function; and, just as important as the above-mentioned, are the occurrence of instances of violation of the generally accepted Principles of Accounting, breach of the System of Internal Control, all of which have encouraged the commission of economic crimes with increasing frequency.

All of this brings us to the point at which we can conclude that the land problem is in need of objective solutions which have the necessary legal backing to turn agriculture into our principal source of income, and not what has in fact happened which is to be converted into an unproductive sector incapable of satisfying our immediate nutritional and economic needs.

Translated by GH

22 May 2013

Analysing What’s Happened / Cuban Law Association, Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

By Wilfredo Vallín Almeida

It’s good news. People like Yoani Sánchez, Eliecer Ávila and Berta Soler find themselves abroad enjoying a right which was denied for fifty years

In the Asociación Jurídica Cubana (Cuban Law Association) we are always happy to receive everything which implies more liberty for the Cuban people, without closing our eyes to the problems which continue to be presented by government decisions, especially when there continue to be unclear or arbitrary legal positions.

Let me explain

In the year 2003, 75 people were accused of crimes against the Cuban state. Tried immediately, they were condemned to different and severe prison sentences. During the following seven years they were all freed.

In relation to that something is happening which I would like to share with our readers, but which will require more than one post, and because of that, in this one I want to set out essential introductory elements to help with this analysis

For someone in jail, who hasn’t completed their sentence, there are two ways of waiving the remaining term and going free. They are:

A reprieve

An amnesty

In the case of a reprieve, they extinguish the criminal responsibility and it is construed as pardoning the penalty which was applied to the person. If it is a complete reprieve, they extinguish the prisoner’s entire sentence. If it is a parcial reprieve, part of the prisoner’s penalty disappears or they change it for more minor sanctions.

A reprieve applies to one individual person. In order for it to have effect, it is necessary to have an administrative act and a firm sentence and you don’t necessarily have to extinguish the preceding penalties of the individual in question. Normally the possibility of a reprieve (also known as “The Law of Pardon”) rests in the hands of important representatives of the State.

As far as an amnesty is concerned, it doesn’t refer to the penalty, but to the offence itself. It relates to all those who have committed it, not to particular individuals, it extinguishes total criminal responsibility and eliminates the preceding penalties in removing the criminal status.

In he case of an amnesty, it is necessary to pass a law in order to arrange it, and it extinguishes the antecedent penalties of the individuals involved given that it covers all who committed the crime and not particular individuals.

The amnesty is used above all for political offences and not normal crimes.

With these elements, we are ready for an analysis of what has happened.

Translated by GH

24 April 2013

Cuba 360 / Rafael Rodriguez

Civic political project “Cuba 360”

For years we have we have been getting on with the opposition movement and we have never left off giving our support, however modest, to the cause of the democratisation of Cuba. It is a constant focus maintained by all those who are involved in the destiny of our country, in spite of the multiple difficulties we have to deal with in developing our work.

It is evident to us how slow it is for our work to actually germinate as a result of the continuous boycotting by the political police, but even so we never stop fertilising and watering our seed for the good of the nation. this time we are drawing up a programme with a multidimensional architecture with the aim of achieving the intercommunication and respectful debate between Cubans and the sustained and total articulation with the civil society in general by way of the executive project “Seedbed”.

With this project we try to outline to people what is our constructive and legitimate message – like all democratic opposition tries to do – to demonstrate to them the different alternatives of hope and reconciliation which exist in and for Cuba.

One option for Cuban society is  simulation, indolence, emigration and irresponsible obedience and, as we indicate in the project, another is the ambitious objective of “transforming each subject into one who acts out his own personal and national destiny.”

Here I leave you with the link to read the promotional brochure of “Cuba 360.”

Translated by GH

1 May 2013

Operation Truth – Video / Eliecer Avila and Yoani Sanchez

Operation Truth Video & Transcript

Site manager: We decided not to subtitle the video itself, given its length and poor sound quality, so a transcript is provided below and can be downloaded here.  The video of Eliecer’s encounter with Ricardo Alarcon is available subtitled in English here.

Yoani Sánchez: It’s a pleasure to be with you and share an interview with Eliécer Ávila. Eliécer is an Information Scientist, but in recent years has been best known for his political and social action in Cuba. He is also the producer of the alternative television program “One More Cuban” and in the year 2008, for those who remember it, in the Universidad de Ciencias Informáticas (UCI) (Information Sciences University).  Eliécer had a question and answer session with Ricardo Alarcón, President of the National Assembly.

(Excerpt of video between Eliecer and Ricardo Alarcon)

Eliécer Ávila: OK, let me introduce myself, I am Eliécer Ávila, Faculty No. 2, leader of the “Technological and Political Surveillance” Project, which is one of the specialties of Operation Truth). What we are looking at here is the constant monitoring of the internet and our mission of reporting and fighting in this area.

Yoani Sánchez: What is and what has been Operation Truth?

Eliécer Ávila: Operation Truth is a project that stems from an “activity” of the UJC (Young Communist League). An “activity” (for non-Cubans here) is a meeting of the key militants and UJC teams of all the UCI brigades, which they hold periodically, about once or twice a year as I recall, in the Palace of Conventions.

The Minister of Culture, Abel Prieto, was invited to one of these activities and, among other things, he explained that currently they were pursuing another campaign of defamation and that kind of thing, and then a student … (after the announcement Prieto played the university card, to use the students to express the Revolution’s opinion on the theme they were discussing. … a student proposed creating a project organized in the UCI,  which was the university most technically able to do it, to send out to the world the truth about Cuba, the truth put forward by the government about Cuba. Also the context of the Five Heroes. The second important objective of the Operation Truth Project was to tell the world about the Cuban vision regarding the Five Heroes.

Roughly in what year was the Operation Truth started?

I think it was 2007-2008

It was exactly in that period, in early 2008, if I’m not mistaken, when the conversation occurred between Ricardo Alarcón and a group of students of the UCI, and you in particular, pretty much in the same time period.

I think the Project had been going some months because it was then fairly well developed and they had gained a lot of experience. There was already a signed document of the Project at that time. It had been in operation for some time. continue reading

And you were running the Project?

No, I was the principal in charge of the Project. I was responsible for a part of the Project, which was very well structured. The Project had about 7 or 9, you could probably call them divisions or sections each of which had to carry out certain functions; mine was technological surveillance, which consisted of, as I explained to you at that Alarcon meeting, knowing at every moment all the information to do with Cuba, with the government, with Fidel, or the main leaders, about what they were up to instantly anywhere. It was practically a 24-hour monitoring.

Only monitoring or also acting on that information?

The Project functioned as an integrated whole. We detected the information and there was another group who were the analysts, which in effect formed part of the whole, but everybody had their functions. There was a group of analysts. They were students who were orally articulate. They provided a bunch of ideas and they came up with the answer that should be given, each time, to everything written in blogs, in websites, in whatever discussions arose, in order that everything should hang together coherently.

That’s very interesting because we are also talking about a period of time when several critical blogs started to emerge in Cuba with known names or rather, without pseudonyms. People began to put in their name, their face, their ID number in virtual space offering criticism so that at the time when you were participating in Operation Truth I imagine that one of the people that you were supposed to monitor was the one who is interviewing you today – correct?

I have already admitted it was you, you were one of the principal people we always had to keep up-to-date on what you were up to, but there was an interesting detail; it was not about reading, interpreting and analyzing what you wrote. It was to do with you as a person, who had all the names given to you (a caricature image typing on a computer, with the sign “cybermercenary”, and with a dollar sign on your head) and so we had to fight you as an entity. It’s important to understand, as I told you, that our role centered on always squeezing the person and in doing this I then understood how it is you operate.

It’s a strategy?

Exactly. I came to read you in depth, to analyze what you said when I left the UCI. Nevertheless, your writings passed through my hands.

There was also a fear of contagion …

No one got into contradicting the facts you presented, because if you say “that structure is falling down”, I could say “that construction is being maintained”. It all turned on discrediting you as a person or intellectual expressing opinions.

There were people there who ran out of ideas and when you read (unintelligible) it was always the basic stuff.

How did they form these Operation Truth groups? On what basis were they selected to be a part of the operation? Was there some academic requirement to be a part of the Union of Young Communists?

The Operation Truth project was one more project of the UCI. It ended up as a productive project, and they measured performance against targets, monthly and weekly. It was a production line. What was the output? A political product: how many report they produced, how many blogs they put comments into, how many debates of forums they participated in and opposed opinions being expressed there. That was in essence a kind of production.

I should also explain that the function wasn’t just political. This is closely related to the technical question; because at the same time another part of the same project was focused on creating technologies which could position our own government web pages much better in the international search engines so that, when someone enters a particular combination of words in a search, the government web pages come up and not other sites.

There is a kind of tool which allows you to arrive at this kind of question on the computer.

OK, let’s see if I understand this properly. Operation Truth was a multifaceted group of people who took turns being so-called trolls in the sites, attacking, insulting, diverting the conversation. Others who wrote up more complex replies to the alternative blogs, independent journalists, people who criticized the Cuban government. And, on the other hand, a group which dedicated itself to promoting and positioning the official sites more effectively in the search engines. That’s roughly what I am understanding.

Exactly. It was a technological-ideological combination, serving the same objective. It also proceeded in steps. If somebody entered a blog or a forum and didn’t feel able to oppose, which is what they were trying to do, the opinions there, or the analysis, then they had to go and consult a group of specialists which was closely linked to the project in order that they could put together much more complex and finished responses.

Was there a confidentiality clause in relation to these people? That’s to say, did they have to promise not to reveal …?

This was built in. Those people who formed part of the project, we can assume, were the most prepared and committed ideologically of all the FEU brigades. The analysis was very political in that sense. And in terms of the project’s technology there were very talented students who were the best the University had (unintelligible).

Did you also have to accept at a given moment that confidentiality clause?

Yes, I was strictly forbidden to circulate messages containing the information we were dealing with. There were only accounts authorized by the professors who, in this case were the managers of the project and I could only send my group’s information to the Party professor who dealt with me in this connection, because the professors were also forbidden to share the information.

They functioned as cells, correct?


Levels of confidence?

It was compartmentalized in that sense.

In total, roughly how many people would there be in Operation Truth?

In total the project ended up with about 300 students involved.

Quite a lot! Out of a total enrollment in the UCI of …?

10,000 students. There were students from all over, plus the professors and the attached specialists.

24 hours a day, or on a rota?

Well, I would say that it wasn’t 24 hours every day, but close enough.

I have noticed as someone who has suffered from this avalanche of “soldiers in the web“ as I call it, that, for example, during vacation months, their aggressiveness is considerably lower, as is the intensity of the trolls, of those who attack the forums, of the individuals who write comments to denigrate the blogger or the writer of the website. I have also noticed that at certain hours during the day, after 4 pm, there is a marked decline in the virulence of these computer soldiers.

Indeed, there were different work shifts, which could take on an intense nature if demanded by the situation, from late at night through early morning. We called these shifts “special periods” (unintelligible). It was an important situation in which the entire operation had to be active; for example say: elections in an ALBA country, any political event, like that call by Raúl to all workers, exhorting them to speak their minds. At the moment those events were taking place, it was essential that we expressed ourselves in a detailed way in public comment threads or that we started a comment thread ourselves and created trends (unintelligible).  And so, we were there the entire time.

Did you have unlimited access to all sites or was your access also controlled?

For my group specifically, which was in charge of monitoring, we had a fairly broad and efficient accessibility and did not have the kind of restrictions that the rest of the students did have. Supposedly, we were ideologically armored.

But I imagine that the attacks were not only against sites that had a different ideological stand to that of the government, critics. There are other sites that have suffered a lot, such as “Revolico,” which simply is a classified ads website. Were these kinds of sites on the spectrum of reaction?

Well, on the spectrum of reactions we had sites that somehow were beyond the mental understanding of our shift supervisor who would be in charge of the project. The project was even followed by someone from the Council of State.


Directly. We would get visits from the Council of State from time to time. It was also under the direct supervision of someone in the university dean; supervision came from the highest levels. Therefore, if anyone anywhere, including official sites, gave an opinion that was inconsistent with the discourse of the Revolution, well…  of course, always in very elaborated responses, according to who was saying it and what they were saying, each would get their dose and would be given an “answer.”

Did you have any cases where you remember seeing anyone contradicted or somehow “infected” with a critical opinion that they had read somewhere? Anyone who began to have doubts?

All the time. I think we all went through that at a certain point. It particularly happened to me a lot, but the thing is that I was always very rebellious, and I was seen as “a rebel within the system.” We even took the arguments to the classroom many times, but they were seen through the following language: “that could be fine, or more or less fine, or more or less bad, but this is not the context to talk about this issue. It has to be said in the Congress of the Communist Youth Union, in the Congress of the University Students’ Federation, in the Communist Party. There are people who already talk about that stuff therefore, there should not be any ridiculing Cuba on the Internet.”

And do you think that the Eliécer Ávila of January 2008 who stood up before Ricardo Alarcón and asked him that very difficult to answer question had already been influenced in some way by what he had read in the internet in those prohibited rebellious sites?

Yes definitely I was influenced in some way because at the end of the day the internet has a life of its own. The internet is something which when you get to know it it changes you. Without doubt, even though you try to maintain a defined profile, because I should tell you that this project was a most important guarantee for almost everything, could be a mission in Venezuela, or what you need to be successful as a student. I believe many people asked themselves questions but they kept on at their work.

And the resources, I imagine everything you needed.

OK, one of the first projects of UCI in which they modernized their techniques was ours. We had very good technology and if we needed it we could use everything that UCI had to print or whatever we had to do. And, if we had to ask for something from the State Council, we did,

Apart from expressing opinions, and opposing by screaming and with not much argument, did you also hack and mount cyber attacks on sites and portals?

Sometimes, because you know geeks are always addicted to the hacking drug and stuff like that; and therefore it occurs to some of them that we should, in total secret “I suggested it and it was agreed subject to these conditions” create a little group of 3 or 4 persons who knew each other very well and at least begin to study and get deeper into that type of question: how to put a particular site out of action, how to interrupt a service.

Because the logic was that we could do it therefore we should have the capacity to be able to do it. More than anything because we were studying a document put out by the US State Department which talked about cyber warfare, of a special group they had created, and many of us started to believe that we were its opposite number and therefore we took more seriously the idea of carrying out a serious attack.

And what sort of sites were listed for possible attack?

I think sites which could have advance critical  information which they could put out at a given moment which could decide specific matters such as the state of opinion regarding Chavez in Venezuela.

We are not talking here about a personal blog nor a straightforward site, but important services?

We made a decision to try and do something with the News 24 site as a test.

I know it … very critical.

It was one of our principal targets because it always carried up-to-date news particularly about those who opposed Chavez’s policies.

Was there ever anyone who said something like “I’m not carrying on, I’m getting off this train, I can’t continue in this matter which seems more like “Operation Lie” than “Operation Truth”?

It happened often, I believe. I was in charge of the highs and lows. (unintelligible) It happened because people believed they weren’t advancing their education. It was a constant complaint; we are supposed to be achieving a certain level of computer knowledge and we are wasting our time in a project which is obviously political and our classmates are getting ahead of us technically; and I think that the majority of them left because they went to a productive project, or at least that was the excuse they gave. “I prefer to be programming stuff which will definitely be my work rather than being here arguing over these sorts of answers”.

All this stuff you have been telling me about has been in the past tense because it was your experience while you were in UCI, but have you any news about Operation Truth continuing?

What I understand is that the project has mutated. They have done name changes, altered the structure and extended it. I have also understood that they have called Youth Club members Operation Truth, and have created replicas in many parts of the country. We should also set out certain details:  UCI is a university with students from all over the country and the proxies which they trained for this type of defense or warfare did not appear on the internet as university students but rather as if we were ordinary people from different parts of the country: rom Las Tunas, from Guantanamo, in order to give the impression that the whole country was responding and it was only a specialized group from UCI to represent Cuba. Also it was able to go out as if from Latin American countries.

That I know because somehow I’ve experienced it with my blog. Do you think that Operation Truth has mutated beyond the point of countering opinions, of trying to hack websites, if not the creation of sites, blogs, portals that pretend to be independent, but are totally controlled by the government? 

At first I said there were about 6, or 7 to 9 groups. There was a group specifically called “Websites,” and there was another group called “Blog Sites;” the same individuals who were in this group (unintelligible) would create a blog and would update it and would have to maintain it (unintelligible).

But, it would be a blog of an apparently normal guy; it would even have some sort of hook to get people to read it; it could be art, music, soccer or anything else that would attract people’s attention, to then get “the message” transmitted. But that was what your job.  How many times have you updated the blog this week? How many visits do you have? They were very strict; they would carry out an analysis when the blog had few visitors. Why are not you getting more visits or better ranking? And that’s how the efficiency of the individuals who were in this group was measured. It was a job.

In recent years, we have seen that the Cuban government has tended to create national versions as substitutes of very well known sites like Wikipedia, and so we have seen the birth of EcuRed, even a Cuban Facebook though I do not know what has become of it. Do you think that this is also was also one of the lines of work of  Operation Truth?

I think it’s all part of the same strategy because after graduating from UCI, I was sent to a Youth Computer Club in Puerto Padre, as everyone knows. It was then when I had the second rough experience as an employee at this Youth Computer Club where I had to write from 8 to 10 articles per month for EcuRed, otherwise it would have an impact on my wage.

On different subjects? 

Almost of anything you wanted. The point was to create an encyclopedia loading it with thousands and thousands of articles on local history… of whatever you could find.

On botany, for example?


And did you know anything about that?

No idea. Besides, what the instructors at the Computer Club complained the most about was: “I am here to do my job, teach computer skills, teach Photoshop. What do I have to do with creating articles for EcuRed?”

But that scares me because EcuRed is being distributed throughout many schools in Cuba. It’s given to our children and teens as a reference, as a database to search for information.

What would they normally do? An instructor who obviously does not have the education and perhaps not even the capacity or, specialty, nor the desire nor the vocation to write any of that, they go to a book that contains the biographies of the October Socialist Revolution and say: “How many do I have? How many do I need to write? 100 biographies? Problem solved with this book.” And they start copying the book.

And in the end, we even ended up copying from Wikipedia….

That’s the worst, and we laughed a lot about that. “What are you going to do? Look what I found here.” That’s how it was: to copy from Wikipedia changing the references.

That was something that did catch my attention since I was a teenager: the issue of why nothing spontaneous could happen in Cuba. Do you need people that defend the country? Then, give Internet to the people, and if the people believe they should defend the country, defend Communism, defend a one-party system, defend an electoral system where they do not get to vote for their president or defend whatever they believe in, then let them do so. I totally agree and will be satisfied with whatever they do, but they must do it under their own will.

And, don’t you think that this fear of letting Cuban citizens connect freely to the Internet, without ideological boundaries, is the reason why the long-anticipated fiber optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela is not working yet? 

I do not think so. I am absolutely sure because I participated in meetings and events where that was the issue that was talked about: “the country had to be prepared technologically,” in case of enemy aggression. Since they can control a so many things, they think they can even control an entire country with this cable, as if that would be possible.

First, they would have it in specialized centers where they could filter it to Cuba, so that it [the information] comes out already filtered; then they have to filter what comes out of Cuba to the world. I think they are going to do that. They won’t build roads, won’t care for our buildings; Havana will collapse, but that [the filtering of information] is definitely going to have all of the support in the world to get it done, and it is unbelievable that they do not realize that it is totally unnecessary.

I remember that one thing that greatly caught my attention was that during the elections in Venezuela we were flooded with almost all kinds of opinions, and people were speaking against Chavéz: “I do not agree with Chávez for this and that reason.” “He is giving things to the lazy, he does not encourage investment, he does not encourage entrepreneurs. The benefits that he gives us are in exchange for an ideological commitment, and so this is why I am not supporting him,” and so on.

However, we had to issue an opinion and turn it into news, starting from having many of us all posting our opinions, and then we had to say the exact opposite sometimes (changing the tone of voice to imitate a debate): “All of us here massively love and support Chávez.”

Sometimes, opinion surveys would also be carried out; for example when Chávez lost, it had been said he was not going to win. It was a operational issue, quickly: Put the surveys in there and sometimes even a name in English was made up, which was the sure winner of the survey referendum.

Distorting reality…

Constantly. That was becoming generalized.

But that is very serious because it is practically an interventionist work, changing information trends… 

But since you, Cuba, change the name of everything you do, it is not  considered interference in internal affairs like guerrillas are not either…

That is called proletarian internationalism… solidarity among peoples…

Like people who are unemployed are called “availables” and policies are called reforms, not social cuts, etc…

Private sector, self-employed… 

It’s the same, but they are called something different.

Looking at it today, how do you view all that stuff you took part in, that you got involved in with Operation Truth?

Well, the first thing I would like to say is that I don’t regret much because at that time I did what I needed to do in the circumstances of my knowledge and education, and I was very aware of what I was doing, and now, in the light of the facts, the information, the arguments, what I have read, what I have known, I am doing what I it seems to me to be rational to do.

Now, in my case, something simply happened; at that moment I was almost certain that the system was not the problem. The problem was all those people who were doing things wrong. Then experience taught me what a coincidence that my best friends, people I admired a lot, after a little while in whatever position of responsibility, weren’t any good as people or managers, or anything! Therefore there must be something which was corrupting them.

It is a cycle of loss of values which is the fault of the self-same system. The way things are, how policies, procedures and laws are designed; and, yes, this certainly has a first name and a last name, but it is at the highest level. And I asked myself, apart from the highest level, from there right down to the bottom, being in the Operation Truth project. But later — because I ended my participation in the project in the fourth year, in order to prepare myself in the fifth for my thesis — they themselves suggested it to me forcefully …

After the Alarcón incident …

After that incident they did not allow me to publish anything at all. And they said to me go off and do your thesis. But being in the UCI I came to question the government in the Youth. Why does Raúl have to be the president of the country? or, Why did Fidel have to be heading up the country for fifty or more years? I would have liked it to have been a someone from Guantanamo, or Pinar del Rio. Why had there not been other talented, morally adequate people in Cuba to participate in elections and to be chosen?

I think that in the UCI I had some things which were a bit ahead of their time.

I felt and I feel great respect for those professors and also the students who formed part of this project because they really were talented people, and there were kids who were dedicated, who lived the way they did in a given context in the university in which they felt they were doing something very useful and important. What I would also like is that those who are right now carrying out this kind of work ask themselves also if it really is worth it (unintelligible)…

A little while ago the Blogazox Cuba meeting occurred. There is a blog group which believes that they are independent and I get the impression that they don’t realize that they aren’t, and that to the extent that these blogs start to evolve, because a human being, no matter how indoctrinated he may be , always has the ability to understand, to learn and it seems to me that even those kids who do those blogs have evolved to some extent and have had to accept a bunch of things which simple reality confronts them with. They would have to cover their eyes to not see them.

I agree with that Eliecer because of the extent to which the government has to create small spaces, little bubbles of connection or of liberty in order to permit expression expression of certain opinions, so as to give the impression that in the Revolution you are allowed to disagree. To that extent, people gain the taste for criticism, speaking, signaling, having their own space in which to speak, and that is an irreversible process. I have known many blogs which started up with very fundamentalist positions, very attached to the official line, and which have changed and evolved into blogs which are truly critical up to the point where one of them has been closed down.

I think that happened recently. I have heard many opinions expressed by those kids from Santa Clara, whose activity has been much reduced, and they have also been suspended.

I think that what’s happening is this: to the extent that the guys sitting behind their desks have become aware that their soldiers are looking at other things and are learning, are listening, are making new friendships, they don’t like it. (unintelligible). that’s departing from the desired objective. And what those soldiers should understand is that in reality they have nothing in their hands; they don’t have connections, nor a personality, nor policy, nor any kind of internet and that they are simply instruments of others who can cut off their water or electricity whenever they think it necessary.

In that same event (unintelligible). I would not take part in any blogger event or whatever I might be banned from participating in where no official representative was invited.

One of the things I take part in are the activities they sometimes organize in the State of SATS where no-one tells you not to come in, not to listen, not to participate. I think there is a difference between the person who says “Let’s include people. Let’s talk” and the other who says “I have nothing to say. I think of the future and of death.” The second position doesn’t help (unintelligible) Doesn’t help those who truly want the best for the country and want to change and reinvent things.

With all my heart what I hope for is that in a future, hopefully not too far distant, I want to argue with free men, discuss with independent people. I want to argue with people who have opinions. People want to open up, no-one wants to shut up and be quiet. People want to share

I believe that in the end they will insist on that because that is truly Revolution.

Without any doubt, and you viewers too who are listening to us, one day, and it doesn’t matter if right now you are working in the lines of Operation Truth or are one of those who are being attacked by those soldiers. It doesn’t matter, one day you will be also be able to be seated on this chair. Thank you very much.

Translated by GH and Chabeli

11 February 2013

90% of the private cars in Cuba don’t offer any protection to drivers and passengers / Anddy Sierra Alvarez

Most of the private cars in Cuba are old, built around 1939, 1941, 1955 etc. None of them have seat belts or airbags, which increases the number of fatalities in an accident.

Private cars don’t have seat belts or airbags at the steering wheel. Also government vehicles are like this too, and their passengers a vulnerable in any accident.

A government driver in the Instituto Nacional de Educación Física y Recreación (INDER), who preferred to remain anonymous says “I have been driving a (Russian made) Lada 2107 for two years and it hasn’t had seat belts since the day they gave it to me.”

A mounted policeman explained that most of the traffic is made up of old cars. “Many of the old cars have brakes which rely on water with detergent in place of proper brake fluid” explained the traffic cop.

Ricardo López, 35-years-old, says he has a friend who places his trust in water and detergent rather than spend money on brake fluid. “The reality is that drivers trying to save money don’t buy brake fluid,” added López

The modifications to the old cars: exchanged motors, transmissions, gearboxes, and even loss of the structure of the vehicle in order to get more people in. These things are everywhere in the streets offering private transport services, “But nobody bothers about safety,” says Carlos Ramírez, aged 42, a passenger.

Adrian González, 32, comments that the car he is driving is a ’52 Chevrolet, “the car has had its chassis modified to carry more people,” says González

An accident in Independence Avenue (Boyeros) is usually catastrophic.

Independence Avenue is one of the roads where you get many old adapted cars, which are made into racing cars and which are driven at excessive speed.

Private cars are mostly ancient machines with a very rigid chassis which in turn adds to the danger because they it do not absorb the force of the impact, while modern cars are designed to absorb the force of impact, as well as having the benefit of seat belts and air bags on the steering wheel.

But not everyone has the opportunity to buy a one- to three-year-old car. The economy doesn’t permit it, the old crates are more affordable in terms of paying back the loan.

Translated by GH

25 March 2013

Easy / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Cubans line up in Havana to pay their respects on the death of Hugo Chavez

The dynamics of modern life offer lots of reasons to reject stagnation in human activity. Because of that historically Cubans emigrate en masse to wherever there are more lively sociopolitical and economic rhythms, although afterwards we complain about the fast pace of life and “how hard you have to work” in other countries. Those who go away email us about the compensations, or they tell us about it with their own voice when they come to visit a relative who has remained penniless in this country. Many of our countrymen say that when they come to Cuba they have the impression that they are flying back in time to an earlier age. “Nothing seems to move forward here”, they say and comment that “whatever they do is so slow that you can’t notice it.” They add that where they have come from everything goes forward quickly and efficiently. Some foreigners are more diplomatic and prefer not to comment about our way of getting along by way of cars pulled by mental horses in the age of nanotechnology.

An ancient lyric of the disappeared musician and composer Ignacio Piñeiro, went “slowly is more enjoyable”. Of course he was using a crafty double reference to Cuban dance music, because in many other respects  – before as well as now – this statement is counterproductive. For example: imagine you are waiting to go into an establishment which prices things in dollars and that the cashier keeps the queue waiting while he or she is counting money. Why are they always doing that in shops in Havana? At different times of day and in different towns they do the same thing: as an indication of contempt they delay all the customers who are keen to buy things and leave. Why do they have to do all this counting? Why can’t they do it at the end of the day? Some suspicious people in the line in a shop the other day commented that they do it to keep on top of things and take money out to make sure they have no surplus in the event of a surprise audit.

I would like to share with my readers and visitors my view that we live “conveniently” slowly at the pace which suits a government interested in its own permanence. It’s always been like that, and the previous president, to aid his personal war against the United States, favoured an irrational obstinacy which ruined Cuba and which today is moving closer to the future annexation which he was supposedly trying to prevent. The change in mentality which they talk about now, in the form of the latest and most manipulative slogan, is just like the education which is provided free at the price of eternal submission, in order to justify what is unjust and badly done. We shouldn’t show impatience  because we are made to wait, if this long oppressive line, after outrages and repeated screw-ups, now looks as if it is beginning to move forward. We’ve only had to wait 54 years.

 Translated by GH

26 March 2013

About Leaders and Responsibilities / Cuban Law Association, Lic. Rodrigo Chavez

Lic. Rodrigo Chávez

In the newspaper Granma, an article published with the title “About leaders and responsibilities”, by Félix López, makes it clear that a well-known old Cuban proverb “the rope breaks at the weakest point” would be ideal for this article.

How many of us who have always been subordinates have carried the blame for something which we had nothing to do with? And I say subordinate because whenever we have a superior, we are inevitably subordinate.

Say to yourself crime, contravention or indiscipline, they categorise and describe actions in this way because they are gathered up in legal regulations, but what’s for sure is that as a general rule, when regulations go unobserved, and are breached, usually the weight of the law falls on or breaks the weakest point: the “subordinate”.

Is it the workers who designate or choose their bosses? That’s as untrue as the belief that in the Management Board of any Employment Centre, the chief feels he is subject to the same conditions as his employees. Going to any Management Council is like being in the presence of a contract of adhesion “take it or leave it” – and to tell you the truth, we can understand even better than the people who work there that the chief has his entourage, incapable of or prevented from disagreeing with the decision of the supremo, except in rare circumstances, which are always viewed with disapproval and in terms of whingeing, trouble-making or out to make problems.

What can you say when a chief takes disciplinary measures against a subordinate and the latter complains to the Employment Law Authority (OJLB)? It would be a bit awkward if the worker were to leave victorious after the confrontation, because both he and the OJLB are employees and who would think of going against the wishes of the chief they will ask  themselves. “Who will guarantee my employment if we let the worker win?” Because although the regulations say that the Authority has to comply with the law when carrying out its functions, when the function of delivering justice gets to the decision, will they continue being employed?

When you get to a work location trying to work and experiencing difficulties, you will find out who is the Chief, Manager, Director, Administator… perhaps you will be lucky enough to see him and hear him from a distance at a meeting, but you also learn that this individual has been shifted out … how is this person supposed to know about the activities he has been asked to run? How are things going to operate? There are lots of unanswered questions, and anybody who is able to answer them does not do so.

Translated by GH

23 March 2013

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

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