Cubans in Costa Rica: Hardship and Waste / Ivan Garcia

Photo from Deutsche Welle.

Ivan Garcia, Costa Rica, 9 December 2015 — Following the guide dictated by a relative who in the Spring of 2015 pointed out the Central American route of eight countries up to the frontier of Laredo in United States, Norberto Fumero, 34-year-old truck driver in Cuba, since his departure from Ecuador has always traveled in small groups.

But now in Puerto Obaldía, in Panama, or en route through Costa Rica – considered by Fumero as “a truce from all the extortion by the police, the ‘coyotes’ and the murderers” – acted with more liberty of movement. continue reading

A rainy morning arrived in Paso Canoas, a quiet and level town in Costa Rica at the edge of the border with Panama. “In the march through Colombia we were 14, 11 men and three childless women. Children are an impediment. They make the trip slow and dangerous. Already in Paso Canoas I left the group and I joined four people with enough money to cover a stay that can be extended longer than expected,” says Fumero at the entrance of a hostel in La Cruz, a town about 12 kilometres from the border with Nicaragua.

When he arrived in Paso Canoas, soaked by rain and hungry, he stayed in El Descanso, hotel with corrugated roof tiles and more than 80 rooms.

“I was there three nights. I paid 9 dollars per day and between lunch and breakfast spent about 12 dollars a day. I was traveling with the money hidden within a small battery radio. More or less 8 thousand dollars. By text message from relatives in Miami I heard about the crisis on the border of Nicaragua. Along with four friends, a Costa Rican friend took us from Paso Canoas to a farmhouse on the outskirts of the Cerro de la Muerte,” he recounts while he insists on reading a letter that he and his partners have written to the press.

“We went from the extreme heat in Paso Canoas to a beastly cold during the march via Cerro de la Muerte. We made the trip by stages. When we arrived in Liberia, a town that looks like a city, we boarded a bus to La Cruz, where we awaited the outcome of our cases,” says Fumero.

The steep Cerro de la Muerte has an own microclimate and its legends in tow. Jorge, a Costa Rican cabbie, in a low voice told them that by night, on the Hill people with hoods hiding their faces pass by and the cries of women are heard.

But Fumero and his friends were not going to listen to fables. “It’s a place like any other. We traveled at night in the back of a pickup truck. Never in my life I’ve been so cold,” he recalls.

While they wait for lunch, Fumero reads enthusiastically a letter written in pencil which, pretentiously, requested the authorities of Costa Rica to adopt the following strategy:

“Point one: enable a ship to skirt Nicaragua in order to arrive in Honduras. Point two: establish humanitarian flights from Costa Rica to Honduras. If not possible, at least allow the Cubans who can afford the ticket to travel to Honduras,” he reads with tenor voice while his friends nod their heads.

In the town of La Cruz there are four shelters. In a rundown alley, next to a lookout point with a spectacular view, is the highest capacity shelter, located in the gym and classrooms of a high school.

The shelters have a schedule and a handful of standards. Until ten in the evening the Cubans walk from one end to another the settlement of La Cruz. They also sit in an airy and broad park in the center of the village, where they see a Real Madrid football match at the Bella Vista hostel.

In the group of more than 4 thousand Cubans stranded in Costa Rica there is a segment with roomy pockets who can rent rooms in hotels and even cars or motorcycles to visit nearby beaches.

But they are the few. When evening falls, some come to a rough bar to take a drink of Peleón rum or a couple of Imperial beers. And every journalist who arrives at the hostel is eager to address them with questions about a possible solution to the immigration crisis.

Scattered on rubber foam mattresses they spend their time sending messages by cell phones, sitting in front of the TV or getting in long lines at the Western Union Office, to receive money orders from relatives from Florida.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 25, local authorities set up a children’s party which included a clown. Lunch that day consisted of white rice, red beans, and a beef hamburger.

Nayda Cosset, a telecommunications engineer who fled Cuba with her boyfriend, said that “the food is scarce and bad. Only when journalists visit or visitors from the Red Cross come does the quality improves. The treatment is good. But we are going crazy wanting to move ahead.”

At the entrance of the shelter at La Cruz they have placed portable toilets and in the back showers have been set up. Only a single Costa Rican watchman, unarmed, enforces calm.

“Despite their dislike for not be able to continue their march, their behavior is good. There have been cases of disputes and complaints because of what they consider poor treatment,” points out the custodian.

The Cubans who are interviewed blame Nicaragua or accuse the authorities of Costa Rica of mishandling their case. Very few point to the real culprit of the crisis: the autocracy of the Castro brothers.

In passing, they allege that they left Cuba because of its precarious economy and a future labeled with question marks. But still, so far from their homeland, the fear and the inner police that many Cubans carry inside prevent them from speaking freely before the cameras.

If the worst happens and they must return to the island, they say, the government may retaliate. And so they establish a pact of silence. Which very few break.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

The Cuban Evangelical Churches Face Future Democratic Elections / Mario Lleonart

Mario Lleonart, 30 June 2105 — A paper I presented on Monday, June 29, at the event “Paths of Transition”, in Havana (a theoretical conference concerning on issues of democratic construction in Cuba).

In the present order of things, the Cuban State boasts about how some of its deputies in the National Assembly of People’s Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular) are evangelical pastors, or have some other leadership position in the Protestant religious environment, which is an evident attempt at necessary auto-reaffirmation of that constitutional change which took place in 1992 of declaring a hitherto religiously atheistic State to secularity was more than a simple change of letter.

These exceptional cases of Protestant leaders that the Government boasts about, as in the case of other minorities, such as women, with regard to sex, or blacks, with regard to race, have helped soften the image which from all appearances is monolithic clearly from the ideological point of view that characterizes this body from its first organization. It is a sort of, “You tell me what you boast about and I’ll tell you what you lack.” continue reading

Indeed, three or four names, of peoples characterized by their unconditional surrender to system, were on loan to rent out their cassocks and sweeten of the lack of democracy in the current Parliament. The same faces can be seen in similar condition on other fronts where they were sent to represent the archaic system, as it was in evidence at the recent 7th Summit of the Americas in Panama, when some of these “religious” people were even able to participate in the so-called acts of repudiation against representatives of Cuban civil society, only to later affirm that they felt the presence of God there.

It is classic cohabitation of the princes and the false prophets. Regardless of the efforts to make people believe through the official propaganda that these individuals are heads of the Cuban evangelical churches, it is known for sure that they have actually been, are leaders of the so-called Cuban Council of Churches (Consejo de Iglesias de Cuba, CIC) after excelling in denominations of limited membership or historically vulnerable to government interference.

The CEC, notwithstanding the efforts made by the Office for the Attention of Religious Matters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), in conjunction with a manipulated Registrar of Associations of MinJus (Ministry of Justice), has failed to bring together the diversity of Evangelical and Protestant churches of Cuba.

Its membership lists do not reach half of religious institutions which possess legal personality, so if we also take into account the huge group of churches and religious movements without legal recognition, despite attempts to procure it, then we arrive at the conclusion that only a minority within the minorities that constitute the Protestant and Evangelical churches have been represented, not to say abused, by such opportunists.

In this context, one might think that even with pseudo-parliamentarians, at least the Protestant minorities might have had some experience, and that even have taken the lead over the Catholic Church, whose clergy have been notoriously absent, while [the evangelicals], in the end, in some way, have been present in the National Assembly. But in the future this actually might be reversed in a negative way for the evangelical minority, for two reasons at least.

On the one hand, the Catholic Church, whose political ambitions have never been a secret and which surely will seek representatives from its clergy in Cuba, when there is finally a genuine Parliament, could appeal to its current withdrawal, as advantage moral to get votes for having not lent names to a spurious Assembly.

On the other hand, the majority of evangelicals, by their negative reaction against the current undemocratic conditions, and perhaps even by rejection of the positions of “their representatives”, adopt a negative position, that is the extreme of rejecting the political, of alienation, by confusing the political with the current situation.

It is the social burden of false political position known as ’neutrality’, which is so necessary to question because, in addition to its real non-existence, is incompatible with the “subversive memory” of the Christian message, and which is by their apathy, an accomplice of so many excesses, is extremely dangerous, especially for the future of Cuba.

It is imperative to recognize that essential aspects of the evangelical mission, whatever arises, in the field of social, political, educational, economic, unfortunately remain excluded today, and what is worse, sometimes so far as rejected, either by fears of a State that has demonstrated its repressive character of “leftovers”, or by negative reaction to the aforementioned negative procedures.

It turns out to be extremely reductionist that the powerful message whose powerful influence has been demonstrated in Western culture, and the history of America, with roots even in the huge differences of today between the North and South; that this force, in the words of theologian and German martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “frees from everything which oppresses and overwhelms”, be understood in Cuba as exclusively religious and cultic categories, even if they include the commendable knowledge of practices, beliefs, membership, attendance, etc.

It is undeniable that in Cuba in the present reality, evangelical churches have become what the Swiss sociologist Christian Lalive called The Refuge of the Masses; these communities, in their exponential growth, have become family, hospital, shelter, consolation for the unprotected masses of the island, and this has its positive side, but if you want to provide a greater good to Cuba it is necessary a go further if they really wish to contribute to their nation as a source of leadership and influence, and not remain as a mere reservoir.

The bad example, the negative face of those who pretend to represent them has have given currently to a foul play could be reversed with genuinely evangelical members of parliament in the future, contributing to a new Cuba where real justice, real democracy and respect to the most vulnerable groups, better distribution of wealth, which is in sumo a nation with good rulers, which coincides with the biblical ideal that these minorities preach.

It is time, not to withdraw into one’s shell or hide like the ostrich, but to first of all break to their core the myths and taboos put in a manifesto in a mutilated fulfilling of the mission.

Cuba needs that these powerful minorities get involved too, and participate in order to transform their reality, it needs a church that understands that both evangelism and social action are components in equal measure of its mission, that its good news constitutes a comprehensive message that knows no boundaries of any kind and that is addressed to every human being, considering all the reality of the person: the physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, social, and political.

In this context it is necessary that the evangelical leadership, if it is responsible and if the destiny of Cuba really interests it, begin to exchange this sterile culture of the rejection of the political, inherited as much from the anthropological damage infringed against all of society, as by the negative attitude of those who have lent themselves to the game of a false democracy.

Pastors, theologians, and other leaders of the Cuban Protestant churches must open up to the need for what we might call an integral evangelization for Cuba.

And it’s not necessary to sit and wait while others dedicate themselves to changing social conditions and generate the creation of a genuine Parliament, able to represent all the interests of the nation, without ignoring the minorities, in which group the evangelical churches are represented.

All Cubans; including evangelicals, in accordance not only with their path throughout the world, but in Cuba itself since their arrival in the 19th century; we are called to be proactive agents that we begin to generate the change-before-the-change. The analysis of the results of the latest constituency elections is extremely interesting, even if the results are taken from the official statistics.

On the one hand is the historic 20% that expressed their opposition whether through its absence from the ballot box (11.7%), by voiding a ballot (4.92%), or by leaving it blank (4.54%).

On the other hand are those who took the courageous position of going even further, trying to get candidates and even in two very unusual cases managing to dispute the elections in order to obtain the support of more than four hundred electors who dared to vote in favor of those who, in violation of the very Constitution, were called with the pejorative and intimidating label of “counter-revolutionaries”.

In the midst of this panorama I am interested in wondering how much the evangelicals contributed to each of these percentages. And I am even more excited to imagine the positions in which they will be able to decide the fate of Cuba, not only the evangelical leaders, but that number of electors that reaches their churches more and more, the evangelical mass, when they come to be aware of how much good they can do for the nation, in keeping with their faith, if it is genuine, and if this wish is verified by more than simple attendance at church: in living standards, in democratic decision-making, in the satisfaction of justice, in the common good of all.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

Raul Castro, what are you plotting?

Abel Prieto, Raul Castro advisor leading the pro-Castro demonstrations in Panama
The sign reads: “Get out Che’s assassin”

Today, April 9, 2015, we are just 19 days away from the date in which the dictatorship of the Castro clan should have granted probation to Angel Santiesteban-Prats, a prisoner wrongfully for crimes he did not commit as has been widely attested.

So within days of him being about to be released, we have learned that they have planned to move him again. We don’t know where or why.

We have also found out that on the last visit he received, he was monitored by cameras set up for this occasion. continue reading

Barnet, also leading pro-Castro mob

This Friday, April 10, he should again receive a visit, and this visit coincides with the Americas Summit in Panama City, where Raúl Castro will be with his entourage. There will also participate members of civil society, a fact that – after having done the impossible – he has not managed to avoid, and for days, their henchmen have not stopped trying to disqualify and detract them.

The Panamanian state collaborated with the dictatorship of Castro, harassing and arresting dissidents just as they were arriving in the country, and in the last hours there have been acts of condemnation and beating of Cubans, organized by the embassy and Panamanian groups of solidarity with Cuba, against opponents who have been invited to Civil Society Forum of the summit, a thing really embarrassing, although it was predictable.

Pro-Castro mob in Panama

We hope that this new transfer of Angel Santiesteban-Prats, and the recent cameras that violate the privacy of his visits, have nothing to do with the Summit and is not an attempt to silence his voice on this issue.

Pro Castro mob attacking independent civil society members in Panama

Whether or not Angel gets to send his opinion pieces on the subject — and especially on the dictatorship — we know what he thinks, and know better still that he is imprisoned just for thinking thus.

We warn again that all eyes are on Angel and we will not wait a second to denounce new abuses that can be prepared for him.

Angel’s editor

1428570213_angel-santiesteban-prision-militar-de-jaimanitas

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

Breaking the Censorship / Angel Santiesteban

Angel Santiesteban Prats,Jaimanitas Border Patrol Prison, Havana, 12 February 2015 — Today February 12, 2015, precisely the day of opening of the Havana International Book Fair, various officials have come to me noting one of the recent complaints concerning the slavery of the prisoners in Cuba, their cheap labor, and the inhumane conditions with which they work twelve to fourteen hours a day, including the weekends or public holidays or non-working days.

To make matters worse, they work with boots and torn and patched clothes, which they cannot even buy with their minimal, token salary — which sometimes doesn’t arrive on time — and they have to wait until the following month to cash it. Prisoners, like almost always, are fearful for reprisals when continue reading

the inspection officers depart, since they hinted to them of the deprived circumstances in which they survive their sentence.

I am pleased that, somehow, the blog fulfills the role for which it was created, which is nothing more than make justice prevail for the destitute, the fearful, or those who are unaware of the way in which their voices influence society.

My generation, the vast majority, got tired of receiving the topics about which we should write, when the repressive government sends them through cultural officials.

The truth is that somehow they will give you new boots and adequate clothing. They will not send them to work sick or beaten. Nor, or at least I suppose, while I am nearby, will they allow them to work well beyond the established hours. And they noted down in their agendas the type of job they perform and the fair payment that should receive, since the officials confirmed that prisoners are being swindled by their employers.

We know that, unfortunately, a large part of Cubans do not have access to the Internet, but apparently the government is paying attention to a part of my complaints. I’m happy for them, but they do it only to conceal them, we hope they will be eradicating them.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

4 March 2015

Those Who Were Born Slaves / Angel Santiesteban

“…one is what one does, and not what one writes.” José Martí

Angel Santiesteban, Jaimanitas Border Patrol Prison, Havana, January 2015 — Ever since we were born, we heard our parents offer their political opinions in a low voice when they were of criticisms against the government. It was an act that we learned by imitation, something natural spawned in us as cultural training. Silence began to be part of our being. Look both ways before expressing a problematic point of view, this was a spontaneous act that was borderline continue reading

naivety, but was actually a survival instinct.

When I started to lose the fear, friends got frightened. They didn’t want to understand that even the word “political” in the mouth of an intellectual, was something completely contradictory because if the dictatorship had taught us anything, it was that it was using the national and Latin American artists to wave flags in their favor. But when it came to expressing discontent, it was an aberrant, demented act that – in clear words – was nothing more than hitting the wall with one’s head, and that seemed logical to no-one.

For this the same “logic” with which they fertilized us across generations, we have endured more than half a century of dictatorship. It has been the most effective weapon of the regime against the Cuban population. First they enslaved our souls, then they have made us know the rigors in the body.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

2 March 2015

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, from Cuba / Mario Lleonart

Photo of the author

Although today [15 January] is a holiday only in the USA, I also in my own way celebrate it in Cuba. Why not join in the celebration of the birth of the Baptist pastor and fighter for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr.? His life is inspirational for many of us, including me, who every day seek freedom and equality for human beings, all creatures of God.

 His existence is one of my answers to those who in Cuba who question why I combine theology with social activism. I have not invented anything new. It is the most natural thing to combine ideas and actions, and this was what happened in the life of the Reverend King. His sermons, his philosophy, his methodology, his strategy of nonviolent struggle, his life and his martyrdom are an example to follow in any dark corner of the world, and also in the illuminated places, to prevent anyone ever to darken them.

The last time that I mentioned his name to those who are responsible for repressing me in Cuba was on October 26, when I arrived from Poland, two agents from State security awaited me at the airport for questioning about my statements in the land of Lech Walesa and my subsequent activities and position in Cuba.

According to them my pastoral ministry should be confined to the four walls of a church to which they would gladly cloister me. My answer was that in addition to the unsurpassed example of Jesus Christ, I admired and tried to imitate, except for the distances, transcendental beings such as the Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Catholic priest Jerzy Popieluszco and the Baptist pastor Martin Luther King Jr.

To which one of them, with the obvious threat that the same thing could happen to me, he riposted: What a coincidence, that all of them are martyrs!

Hopefully just like in August 1963, when he achieved that historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in Cuba soon we will be able to realize something similar of our own in Havana, which, as the successful artist Tania Bruguera demonstrated in the recent events on December 30, so far remains forbidden to the people.

In the midst of our Cuban reality of continual violations civil rights, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of our luminaries.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

Spanish post
19 January 2015

Raul Castro’s Few Options / Juan Juan Almeida

Presidents Barack Obama and Raúl Castro shortened the 90 longest miles of all history, and it begins to melt the ice in the Cuba Libre [lit. “Free Cuba”] also the name of a drink served over ice]. It is a historical conversation that tries to put an end to years of confrontation and zoom in or zoom out, depending on the approach, to the day in which we Cubans can finally decide our destiny. continue reading

The news was welcomed with satisfaction by several personalities. The wind of cordiality blew so strong in South America that in less than 24 hours, the guerrilla group FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army) announced a unilateral ceasefire for an indefinite period starting on December 20.

On one side of the political scale, this is the wish that we Cubans all have of enjoying a country free from tyrants. A dream which, to some extent, we have not been able to achieve due to our disunity, the lack of strategies, and an excess of posturing. On the other hand: It is that to improve the bilateral climate between the two warring nations, an isolated Russia with financial problems, and a changed relationship with Africa and Latin America — especially with certain extremist groups and the ALBA countries (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America) — with the United States.

It is no secret that the global energy map has changed, that the current price of oil has dynamited the political capacity of Venezuela, and with the Port of Mariel Megaproject wavering from lack of investors, Raul remained without options; he has none, other than to get aboard the train and open up to investment, trade, and American tourism.

In logical reaction, the pendulum leaned towards rapprochement. Whether we like it or not, I understand that the circumstances and the life lived by each one of us define the way in which we approach certain things; but realpolitik, which deals with practical interests and concrete actions, unfortunately does not pass through human rights, nor a multi-party system, nor civil liberties.

The images have been very eloquent; the physical condition of the three Cuban spies is far from that of Allan Gross, including dental care, which clearly in the Cuban penitentiary system does not exist.

What’s next?

The increase in tourism and trade between the United States and Cuba will create new sources of revenue which, undoubtedly, will benefit rank and file Cubans, especially those who do not have relatives abroad. A new outbreak of bricklayers, gardeners, restaurant owners, bartenders, tenants, taxi drivers, etc.

But in the current circumstances, with the import permits in the hands of State-owned enterprises, no Cuban can market products for his private business; no entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector can import farm implements or quality seeds to increase their production, or animals for breeding stock; no cuentapropista [self-employed entrepreneur] in the field of construction or mining, can import any machinery. And that’s not going to change; at least for now.

Other freedoms will be opened up, yes; but I see little chance of General Raúl Castro permitting any political opening. He gave the speech dressed as a General from his old office, located on the 4th floor of the MINFAR [Ministry of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces]. Impressive symbolism.

The government will fight to maintain control, increase repression, and the methods and resources of its repressive forces.

No, it is not the end of the Castros, but the beginning of a stage in which all Cubans have to learn how to fly using our own wings.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

23 December 2014

The Sword of Raul Castro / Luis Felipe Rojas

Lady in White Aideé Gallardo, recently released from prison. Photo taken from the page about Cuban matters, Martinoticias.com

All said and done, more than half of a list of 53 political prisoners that nobody knows are already free, completely secret and that nobody we ask clarifies for us. Of the fifty who were out, I have the list of 36 prisoners who were surprised to be free again, without formal charges and under different conditions for their release: immediate release, probation, and extra-penal freedom (the latter is awarded regularly after inmates suffering from illness that prevents them from staying in the difficult prison conditions on the island).

continue reading

The partial list I have taken from the independent website 14Ymedio.com, directed by Yoani Sánchez:1.Alexander Otero Rodríguez 2. Alexeis Vargas Martín 3. Ángel Figueredo Castellón 4. Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga 5. Anoy Almeida Pérez 6. Aracelio Ribeaux Noa 7. Ariel Eugenio Arzuaga Peña 8. Bianko Vargas Martín 9. Daniel Enrique Quesada Chaveco 10. David Piloto Barceló 11. Diango Vargas Martín 12. Emilio Plana Robert 13. Enrique Figuerola Miranda 14. Ernesto Riverí Gascón 15. Haydeé Gallardo Salazar 16. Iván Fernández Depestre 17. Jorge Ramírez Calderón 18. José Lino Ascencio López 19. José M. Rodríguez Navarro 20. Julio César Vegas Santiesteban 21. Lázaro Romero Hurtado 22. Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz 23. Miguel Guerra Astie 24. Rolando Reyes Rabanal 25. Ruberlandis Maine Villalón 26. Yohanne Arce Sarmientos 27. Yordenis Mendoza Cobas 28. Wilberto Parada Milán 29. Mario Alberto Hernández Leiva 30. Leonardo Paumier Ramírez 31. Miguel Ángel Tamayo Frías 32. Ernesto Tamayo Guerra 33. Vladimir Ortiz Suárez 34. Roberto Hernández Barrio 35. Rubisney Villavicencio Figueredo 36. Carlos Manuel Figueredo Álvarez 37. Alexander Fernández Rico 38. Miguel Alberto Ulloa 39. Reiner Mulet.

It goes without saying, we are happy with these releases, they are people, young people mainly, who never should have been prisoners. What is striking is that the majority will remain as hostages, if there is no further pressure in the coming days. These dozens of outlaws in that violation of human rights, will follow the course of some ten political prisoners who were released between 2010 and 2011, when the Catholic Church served as a mediator for such releases.

The prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 who decided to stay to live and fight in Cuba cannot leave the country until the years of their sentence end or until a doddering finger from the State Council eliminates this arbitrariness. José Daniel Ferrer García, Oscar Elías Biscet and Jorge Olivera Castillo, to mention just three, have been invited to travel as a defender of human rights, physician and writer, respectively, by political parties, national congresses, democratic governments and official institutions to visit the world and publicize the horror that they and an entire people live through. The Havana regime has refused, alluding to the false legal figure of the restriction of movement for ‘release on parole.’

We should be attentive, these people who are just out of prison have over themselves the ‘sword of Damocles’ of General Raul Castro. Not all have been promoted internationally, and reading their names one discovers that they are anonymous people who one day did not shut their mouth or stayed home, detained, taken out, to where the repressive forces of the Security of the State want to have them.

I was able to speak, hours after his having been freed, with the rebellious rapper Ángel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, known as El Crítico (The Critic). He thanked all those who have promoted the cause of Cuban political prisoners, and immediately he told me, that in addition to his cause of liberty, he was worried that, “My house is destroyed, brother. My young wife hasn’t been able to handle such a burden and the harassment by the police every day of this unjust lockup. Now I have to take on the two houses, this and the other,” he said, referring to the wattle and daub of the country where we were born.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

The situation of religious liberty in Cuba / Mario Lleonart

The delegation from Instituto Patmos, invited by United for Human Rights to the celebration of the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

During all of 2014 this blog, Cubano Confesante, I examined the best part of the thirty questions that doubt the supposed religious liberties in Cuba, which were launched in September of 2013 during the trip we took to Washington, invited by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

These analyses were the object of discussion in forums and workshops convened by the Instituto Patmos in various sites in Cuba, and at times also some of those posts were the fruit of these. This contributed to sharing these contents in an island where access to internet is difficult. continue reading

Arriving precisely at the end of the year we arrived in the said review at the middle of those questions, the fifteenth, having realized that the majority of them, lamentably, far from being no longer applicable, had maintained or had increased. Only in the case of two can we breathe more easily:

Why the failure to account for the wave of repression that took place during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI during which hundreds of people were arbitrarily detained or threatened, and of whom still remain in prison and threatened with severe penalties Sonia Garro and her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz*?

It continues still without giving account about the repressive wave, not the regime in Cuba that triggered it, nor the Vatican that tolerated it, have given explanations in this regard. But at least Sonia Garro and Alejandro Ramón were let out of prison on December 9 to be prisoners in their own homes as a home detainment. We will continue arguing this question until there is accountability concerning the repression which attracted representatives of civil society in Cuba in the March 2012 visit of Benedicto XVI. And until Sonia and Ramon have the freedom they deserve.

Why not free the United States citizen Alan Gross, who was left a prisoner in Cuba for supporting with technology the Jewish Cuban community and who serves as a warning to anyone else who decides to be supportive with any other existing religious communities?

Fortunately since December 17, Alan Gross is free. It ended an outrage that lasted five years and which clearly was a kidnapping that the regime in Cuba used in order to pressure the Government of the United States to release their five spies discovered as part of the Red Avispa network, which was operating in its territory.

Throughout the year we were publishing, among others, a series of posts dedicated to reviewing the thirty questions whose validity is unfortunately preserved almost in its entirety. [Note to English readers: as not all these posts were translated the list is not reproduced here.]

*Translator’s note: Since this post was written they have been released.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

28 December 2014

Cuba and the United States will resume their relations… alea jacta est* / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

1419224626_989708By Jeovany Jimenez Vega

The decision by the governments of Cuba and the US to normalize diplomatic relations could go down in the record books as the news of the year – and among the most momentous world news of the century so far. The more than 50 years of litigious relations – one of the longest disputes in human history – will justify every headline, column, or essay that will be devoted to this topic.

But it is worthwhile to reflect objectively on the possible consequences that this decision will have on the Cuban people – a decision made without taking into account the internal opposition voices that for years have been sounding alarms about the potential dangers of repealing instruments of pressure such as the US embargo and the European Union Common Position – without the Olive Green government having, at least, ratified and implemented the International Covenants on Human Rights that it signed in February, 2008.

A lifting of these coercive mechanisms without a minimum guarantee that these agreements – as well as other demands made by Cuban civil society – will be implemented, would imply the definitive and certain recognition of legitimacy that this dynastic government so badly needs – right when it knows itself to be crushed by historical evidence, and seeks, desperately and at any price, some escape route. continue reading

For a long time I have counted myself among those who opt for the end of the embargo, because I have always thought that without this great excuse, within a very short time the Havana totalitarian regime’s economic inefficiency, a purely endogenous evil, would definitively be shown for the sham that it is. I am still today convinced of this argument, but the coincidental timing of a series of very specific circumstances, in the midst of an unprecedented context, has made me question several points in this regard.

There is one essential difference between this particular moment in time and any previous phase of this Stalinist regime. By now it is quite clear that the old guard of the Sierra Maestra has run out of time. The failure of their proposition is no longer something yet to be proved; it is established historical fact.

These octogenarians know full-well that the days of free petroleum that Moscow provided for 30 years will never be seen again; that for now, China might be smiling, but in business matters, a deal’s a deal, payment will be required, and then, what will they do?

Cuban officials also know that under the conditions that were in force until this past 17 December – and despite their much-vaunted Foreign Investment Law – they would be unable, given their well-deserved reputations as petty con-men, to deceive any important foreign investor with half a brain in his head. Besides, they know that Cuba’s tourism industry will never take off because it cannot compete with all the surrounding excellence in the region – and that they lack the financial resources to repair this mega-disaster.

On top of it all, they know that their main source of revenue – the exploitation of public health professionals – is in imminent danger of a major setback if its principal market, Venezuela (which appears about ready for the death sentence) succumbs. In addition, the ever-increasing emigration of qualified personnel from this sector augurs the potential downfall of this dirty global money-laundering operation.

For all those reasons, the Castro regime strategists long ago looked towards the brutal and disordered North that despises them and fixed their hopes on that lifeline that Obama is now casting to them just when they were exhaling their last breath…

Now, the generalship (which in another time might have been intransigent) will once again open its legs (as it did for that community of beaten-up gusanos (worms)** in 1980, when it ran out of money in the 90s). Now “The Enemy,”*** which presumably is the same one to whom not even an inch can be given, is suddenly transfigured (to the surprise of some and the rage of others) into the floating piece of wood remaining after the shipwreck, the lifesaver for an eternal Robinson Crusoe who had already wreaked as much damage as possible upon his lost island.

In spite of all this, I remain a supporter of the lifting of the embargo but only – and this is non-negotiable – if this act is accompanied by, or is conducive to, the unconditional deference to the human rights of my people by the low-lifes…I’m sorry, I meant to say, by the apex of the Cuban establishment.****

However, once this decision is made, two unavoidable consequences appear on the immediate horizon. On the one hand the Cuban government will breathe easy, receiving in the short-term a respectable income stream that otherwise would have been out of reach (or, and it’s the same thing, it will feel safe and more secure than ever to refine new repressive strategies).

On the other hand – and this is their favorable edge – this totalitarian government has finally run out of its principal justifying argument against its “perpetual enemy” and can no longer maintain its stance as “a besieged people” (or, and again, it’s the same thing, from this moment on, the world will judge that our economic ruin is really due to the stubbornness of the Cuban leadership that kept this country stuck in the past).

In case things remain as they are portrayed to us, the Cuban people will continue being deprived of such basic civil and political rights as that of opinion and freedom of thought, of assembly and association. The regime will continue vetoing our right to access the uncensored Internet.

In the Castros’ Cuba, the existence of one, single Communist and despotic party – perhaps even more despotic and autocratic than ever – will continue to be legal, as well as one official press subject to the same censorship as always. The world will continue to hear ever more frequent and violent news reports of repressive government actions against an opposition that will continue to be officially unrecognized, and of elections that will continue to be a total farce – with the only possible sleight-of-hand coming from the Plaza of the Revolution.

This is what very likely would occur starting now, assuming that in this mise en place all the pieces have been shown to us. I say this because I do not discard the possibility that between both governments there has been a much deeper and more ambitious roadmap drawn up than what has been publicly announced. At first glance one has the impression that the US gave up too much for the little offered by Cuba – and that if both parties have demonstrated anything in common, it is how obstinate they can be when they think are right.

The evident asymmetry of the proposals is surprising, even suspicious. On the US side, there is so much that reflects a splendidly generous Obama. As for Cuba, we have a grey Raúl Castro focusing on the return of the three prisoners, while relegating the end of the half-century embargo to an aside, as though speaking of baseball season playoffs.

From this I infer that there is much more to these proceedings than meets the eye –especially if we consider, in all its weight, the direct intervention of Pope Francis.

Also, I do not discount the megalomaniac instinct of the Castros requiring that all announcements be issued progressively, in a scattered manner – slowly but relentlessly, in Raulist language – so that there should be no ugly impression that in the end they surrendered before the evidence that Fidel Castro publicly recognized years ago, that the Cuban economic model doesn’t work.

To accept this proposal would not be at odds with the pragmatic North American spirit, for which the only important thing is to achieve the stated goal, even more so if the sole obstacle is something so fragile and simple as the injured macho pride of some little old decrepit men.

But in the end, the die is cast: From now on, Cuba and the US will be good and respectable neighbors. Obama and Castro announced it barely a week after thousands of Cuban opposition members and civil rights activists were threatened and/or beaten and/or detained – but certainly all repressed – this past 10 December, International Human Rights Day, scarcely 90 miles from the North American coast.

However, to let Mr. Obama off the hook, it must be recognized, that 90 miles of open sea is too far for the President to be able to hear the cries of helplessness and the din of the crowds; to be able to perceive the intangibles of fear, pain from beatings, and the taste of blood.

This agreement being the prelude to the imminent implementation of the European Common Pact, we must face this certainty: As of today, we are left alone vis-a-vis the Monster. The fight is being observed by the world at a prudent distance. From now on, the liberty of Cuba will be, more than ever, our task alone.

Translator’s Notes:

*Latin for “the die is cast”
**“Gusano” (worm) is an insult hurled by the Cuban regime and its supporters to any person who has opposed the regime in any way, or who has left the country to escape it. The term has become a symbol of pride among opponents and exiles.
***”El Enemigo” (The Enemy) is a common epithet used by the regime, the state-run media, and supporters, when referring to the US.
****The writer is making a play on words, offsetting the Cuban slang word 
crápula (low-life) against cúpula, which literally translates as “dome” but is commonly used to denote those at the highest level of power.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz and Alicia Barraqué Ellison

22 December 2014

Declaration of “Convivencia” Magazine on the Restoration of Diplomatic Relations Between Cuba and the U.S.

Convivencia (Coeixistence) magazine salutes the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America.

We hope that this climate of dialogue and negotiation is also established between the Government of the Republic of Cuba and independent Cuban civil society, with a respect for unity in diversity, the right to self-determination and the exercise of citizen sovereignty.

Convivencia magazine is glad for the release of political prisoners, and believes that all political prisoners must be released, including those who are on parole in Cuba.

In the same way, all repression for political reasons must cease. The Cuban Government should ratify the United Nations Human Rights Covenants and the conventions of the International Labor Organization, as they claim the four points of consensus identified by a growing and significant group of Cuban civil society. continue reading

Convivencia magazine is grateful for the mediation by his Holiness Pope Francis in the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America.

Likewise, we hope that the Church can continue to offer its service of mediation in an achievable and necessary dialogue between the Cuban Government and independent civil society in Cuba, with the consequent recognition of the latter as valid interlocutor.

Convivencia magazine believes that the restoration of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and the United States of America removes a serious obstacle so that the fundamental dispute can be clearly seen as being between the Cuban Government and its citizens, not between Cuba and the United States. Thus can it be understood that the most important thing for our people is inclusion, civil and political, economic, social and cultural freedoms and the exercise of an ever more participatory democracy in Cuba.

Convivencia magazine hopes that this historic event and the lifting of all blockades, especially the one that the Cuban government uses against the initiative and entrepreneurial nature of its citizens, will create the necessary conditions so that the Cuban people are the principal actors of their own history, and so lead the nation — including all our compatriots on the Island and in the Diaspora — towards a future of peace, freedom, progress and social justice.

The Editorial Board

Translated by: Hombre de Paz, with some assistance from Alicia Barraqué Ellison

18 December 2014

Message from Cuba from the Cuban Democratic Project / Rafael León Rodríguez

Taken from Wikipedia.org

The latest developments in negotiations between the authorities of the Cuban government and those of the United States augur interesting expectations for peoples on both sides of the Straits of Florida in the coming year of 2015. The announced normalization of diplomatic relations at the level of embassies will certainly strengthen the creation of new and significant bridges for both societies.

To what extent this new political context will help the empowerment of civil society in Cuba will depend, primarily, on whether Cubans will be able to continue working peacefully to achieve Cuba’s return to democracy, freedoms and the rule of law.

The Cuban regime must recognize, finally, that human rights constitute an indivisible whole. The ratification and implementation of the International Treaties on Civil and Political rights and Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, signed by the government of the island in 2008, and they are still a crucial unresolved issue this, they must endorse the law.

If the blockade or embargo of the United States against Cuba is one more violation of the human rights of the Cuban people, this hiding behind the adoption of a Constitution in 1976, now disregarded, to legitimize a singular government party and discriminate against political plurality, is also. Both violations must cease.

We so-called Cuban political minorities have inalienable rights that must be respected by the authorities of the regime, which, after 56 years of totalitarian power, show that in the interior of the country the only things “updated” are the poverty, hopelessness, failure, corruption and escapism.

Many people in the world, because of goodwill, accompany the Cuban people in an attempt to facilitate the recovery of their freedoms and improve their situation through dialogue and negotiation. Pope Francis sublimely represents all of them. We thank you.

We are confident that the coming year will bring Cubans to the so long-awaited national reconciliation, with justice and peace. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a bright New Year 2015 of our Lord.

Rafael León Rodríguez, General Coordinator
Cuban Democratic Project

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

24 December 2014

The Case of Angel Santiesteban: Legally Dismantling the Farce

The Cuban Legal Association, through several of its specialists, legally dismantle in this video the farce mounted against the writer Angel Santiesteban-Prats, who is currently serving a prison sentence in a high-security Cuban jail.

Here are analyzed, from the perspective of the law, the numerous legal and procedural and police violations perpetrated by the Cuban dictatorship to silence the powerful critical voice of the literary laureate, who since he is already known internationally, was sentenced to five years of imprisonment, in a trial rigged by the Cuban political police, condemning him with impunity and shamefully for a crime he did not commit.

It’s one more proof of the impudence, arrogance and lack of humanity of the Castro dictatorship when it comes to suppressing those who dare to exercise their right to express themselves freely, the only “sin” committed by Angel Santiesteban.

 (Video is in Spanish)

Note: On the date when this video was edited in Cuba, Angel was on a hunger strike but now no longer is.

Translated by Hombre de Paz

7 May 2013