Salesian Father Bruno Roccaro Dies at 100, ‘A Living History of the Cuban Church’

Bruno Roccaro was ordained a priest in 1949 and arrived in Cuba when he was 50 years old. (Raúl Ernesto Gutiérrez García)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 November 2020 – The priest Bruno Roccaro died on Tuesday in the city of Santa Clara from cardiac arrest, the Agencia Católica de Informaciones reported. The Salesian missionary, who on July 23 turned 100 years old, had been admitted Monday for a hip fracture.

The Salesians of Cuba Facebook page confirmed the news in a post, echoing a message from Arturo González Amador, Bishop of Santa Clara: “Father Bruno Roccaro has just passed away from cardiac arrest. Rest in the peace of God. Yesterday he was admitted for a hip fracture and waited in very good spirits for tomorrow for surgery. A friend is in heaven!”

Among the many comments of condolences, that of Father Jorge Catasus stands out, who said: “A wise and holy priest. How much do many of we Cuban priests owe him. Together with the venerable Father René David he was one of the saviors of Seminario San Carlos and San Ambrosio, in times of crisis. Thank you for your transparent priestly testimony.” continue reading

For the Salesians of Cuba, Roccaro was like the “living history of the Cuban Church” and they emphasized that he evangelized the island for 50 years. “Italian by birth and Cuban by vocation. And one of the creators of the historic Cuban National Ecclesial Meeting/Encuentro Nacional Eclesial Cubano of 1986,” they noted.

During the celebration of his last birthday, the missionary stated, “If I am what I am, what little I have done in my life, I have not done it alone, it is not my work, but that of the many who have helped me, and first of all, God.” He also said that it was necessary to build bridges between the Catholics themselves, adding: “I find it very difficult to think that two people of the religious life cannot agree, that they are enemies, opponents.”

Bruno Roccaro was born on July 23, 1920, in Scorzè, Venecia. He was ordained a priest in 1949, and arrived in Cuba as a missionary at the age of 50.

During his stay on the island he organized study programs in Humanities and Philosophy, in addition to his work for a quarter of a century at the Seminario San Carlos and San Ambrosio in Havana.

“I believe that a missionary in Cuba has to be a happy man, one who has also found the source of his happiness,” the father told Vandor Producciones. “He has to be a courtier, that is, when he sets foot in the territory to which he is destined here in Cuba, he cannot forget the past, but neither is it a thing of nostalgia for him. He has to feel Cuban, he has to love the nation where he is.”

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Cuba Archive Broadcasts Video Testimonials of Relatives of Victims of Extrajudicial Executions

Gerardo Fundora, Marta González’s cousin, was shot in October 1960 at Limonar’s shooting range, Las Villas. (Captura)

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14ymedio, Havana, 2 November 2020 — Moíses was 24 in 1961 and a leader of the Matanza resistance when, one night, after the tip-off by someone he trusted, hooded government agents went to pick him up at his house and executed him alongside three comrades, Bernardo and Orlando Barrabí and Orlando Rodriguez. All four were shot in the cemetery of Agramonte and buried in a mass grave.

Stories like this try to put faces to a large list of victims of the two Cuban dictatorships of the twentieth century, that of Batista from 1952 onward, and that of Castro. Archivo Cuba / Cuba Archive works on the testimonies of the stolen lives of at least 11,303 missing Cubans, in an ongoing database. The organization wants to go beyond the numbers, and asks relatives or witnesses of those killed o narrate their personal trauma.

“These are people, real human beings, whose lives have been stolen prematurely by political violence, directly or indirectly. These unjust and often brutal losses have impacted many more people: family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc., and have had a broad impact on the nation,” the organization says. continue reading

This is also the case of Gerardo Fundora, shot in October 1960 at the firing range in Limonar, Las Villas. Marta González, his cousin, recalls the story of this 32-year-old trade unionist, a member of the resistance against Batista who opposed the Castro brothers and formed a group of rebels in Palenque, Matanzas. After being captured with some members of his group and tortured, he was executed without trial after being accused of shooting at a girl. Before shooting him, he was exhibited in the city as an “example” of what could happen to any opponent.

According to data from Cuba Archive, 3,045 people were shot by the Castro regime, in a list that is still being updated.

The project incorporates many other murders, such as that of political prisoner Ernesto Díaz Madruga in 1964, recounted by the former political prisoner Armando Valladares. The event happened in the prison of Isla de Los Pinos in an attack by the guards with bayonets. Another victim was José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, whose death at 61 his sister Lucy Ramón recalls.

His death was caused by hepatitus contracted in a Cuban prison in 2018, a date so recent that it recalls why it is still necessary to bring back to the memory of the nation the lives that intolerance has claimed.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

On the Failures of Central Planning in Cuba

The bad condition of the buildings and the ruins of the city are among the favorite snapshots that foreign tourists love to take as a souvenir — and are among the many failures of a centrally planned economy. (14ymedio)

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14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 28 October 2020 – I do not think I am wrong in saying that, in Cuba at this point, there are still those who believe in the feasibility of central economic planning, even after 61 years of continuous failures.

Central planning means giving the state superior power to direct, according to its political criteria, the decisions of economic operators, thus breaking with market efficiency as an instrument for resource allocation. The ethics of centralized economic planning are unacceptable. This even, thinking that its chances of success increase, since there are no private property rights in Cuba.

Between the two extreme positions, central planning and market, there are countless points where a favorable result can be achieved in terms of well-being and quality of life. continue reading

But in Cuba it is still thought that the comprehensive transformation of the development management system can be successfully undertaken through central planning as its main element. This idea, rooted in the revolutionary principles of communist orthodoxy, refuses to use other instruments of economic policy, such as regulation, public policy management, governance or economic control, among others.

Perhaps that is why planning was established as a benchmark in the so-called Conceptualización del Modelo [Conceptualisation of the Cuban Socio-Economic Socialist Development Model], approved during the seventh Communist Congress. It was approved, that the planning-based management system should establish a mandatory relationship between the Plan Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social [National Economic and Social Development Plan], the State Budget and the monetary and financial balance, all in line with fiscal, monetary, exchange rate, credit, wage and price policies.

The Cuban economy, under such conditions, does not depend on the free and motivated action of private and public economic operators, but rather is centralized under absolute control of the state, which, moreover, owns most of the resources and means of production. Contrary to official doctrine, which considers this scenario to be a strength, it makes sense to think just the opposite, considering what the results of planning have been at all levels.

If in the free market economy the adjustment between the decisions of the operators is made in the market, through supply and demand, in Cuba this process goes through the hands of bureaucrats holed up in a government “ministry,” who make decisions based on their alleged superiority over the rest of the citizens and companies.

While the market produces efficient results, despite its failures, the second is a scenario of failure, and one after the other. And the bad news is that the Cuban communist authorities cling to planning, as if it were the only thing that can help overcome the serious obstacles of the economy.

Centralized planning is the source of numerous problems, because it limits, conditions, and, in some ways, coerces the behaviors of the economic operators of consumption, investment, savings, production, etc. Decisions that in any economy of the world are freely made by their stakeholders, in Cuba are directed “from above” and there is no room for your questions. Then, when what is planned doesn’t come to pass, no one is answerable for their failures. And it all begins again.

Over the years, the Cuban communist experience in centralized economic planning has served to prove the real impossibility of a state or government efficiently conducting its economy. The enormous centralization of decisions in the Cuban economy and the total absence of democracy in the processes, determine that the population is facing problems in order to exercise their role as consumers, investors, savers or simply to devote hours to leisure. Centralized economic planning intervenes in micro space, where operators maximize their well-being with income constraints, and therefore the Cuban economy is systematically distorted.

For example, central planning explains why bankrupt state-owned enterprises, which produce at very high prices, and therefore need state budget subsidies to adapt prices to the low purchasing power of the population, are kept in operation. Numerous examples of investment, foreign trade operations and even decisions on what to produce and how could be cited. Those responsible for central planning in Cuba have never negotiated to achieve a consensus, but have imposed their decisions, setting objectives that, most of the time, were simply impossible to meet.

By identifying central planning as the central axis of the economy, together with the key role given to state-owned enterprises, the Cuban communist régime regresses 50 years, to positions that in the global and modern digital world and in transition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, are unthinkable, and which will eventually cause its own demise. The foundations of this model of economic organization, based on numerous failures and mistakes, are weaker than the authorities think and at any moment, the house of cards will fall apart completely.

Could monetary and exchange rate be the setting for the crisis of the model? Of course it could. As now planned, with a central role of the state in controlling the wage and price process after the devaluation of the Cuban currency, anything can happen. Without the need for “shock therapies” or avoiding “leaving anyone helpless,” the tensions that will occur after the devaluation and the effects on prices, wages and consumption will make it very difficult to anticipate the results, no matter how much planning is done.

Companies fear that they will not be able to pass their higher costs on through prices, consumers fear that they will not be able to buy the products they want to consume because of their insufficient wages and pensions, commodity producers do not know the impact of the devaluation on their supply, the export options are unknown, the utilization of installed production capacity remains low. The uncertainty and risks ahead are so high that many wonder, what’s the point of centrally planning the economy, when there is no confidence in the authorities in charge of its leadership.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

They Will Resurrect Fidel Castro in Havana / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro placed the urn with the ashes of Fidel Castro in the mausoleum of Santa Ifigenia cemetery. (EFE)

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 September 2020 — On November 25th, the day when one more anniversary of Fidel Castro’s death will be commemorated, a museum will be inaugurated in his memory in Havana.

Located on Avenida Paseo between 11th and 13th streets in Vedado, Havana, the historic gallery will exhibit paintings, gifts, photos, belongings and other odd junk that former dictator Fidel Castro used in life; this will actually violate the last will of the late commander.

It should be recalled that on January 3, 2016, General Raul Castro publicly affirmed that — in view of the express wish of his brother, the recently deceased leader of the Cuban communists — he was advising the National Assembly that the name and figure of Fidel Castro not be used in any public place, nor that statues or busts or public squares be raised in his memory. continue reading

It is also worth noting that – according to sources close to the brood of the late commander-in-chief – the objects displayed in such a bombastic manner, were not donated by the relatives, but sold.

At a cost that already exceeds 700 thousand dollars (USD), the museum will be inaugurated by November 25. Among the strangest of the attractions of this sort of Church, where the venerated image will be that of the only Saint who wears glasses and a green outfit, there will be presented a small audiovisual: there, among other things, you will see for the first time the culinary recipes preferred by the legendary Ex-Commander, who passed on from his residence “Punto Cero,” to reside, Encased in Stone, over in the necropolis of Santa Ifigenia in the historical city, Santiago de Cuba.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

Cuban Prosecutor asks for 12 Years Imprisonment for the Nurse who Vaccinated the Girl Paloma Dominguez

Little Paloma Domínguez Caballero, who died in October 2019, after having been vaccinated in Havana.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 October 2020 – Yaima Caballero, mother of the girl Paloma Domínguez, announced that the trial of the nurse who vaccinated her daughter was held on Friday. After the vaccination the little girl, only 1 year old, died on October 9, 2019.

“They have already tried the nurse who killed Paloma; she acknowledged that she did everything wrong, although she hardly said she was sorry, but that she was very sorry because she had opted for the right to remain silent if she wished…,” Caballero posted on her Instagram account.

“The prosecutor is asking for a 12-year sentence of deprivation of liberty, for murder and injury,” the mother said, reporting that she did not have all the details of the trial, although she went on to say that the defendant’s representative did not agree with the prosecutor’s request. continue reading

“Her lawyer appealed, because she says five to seven years would be correct, because she’s the best nurse in the world. We have to wait six business days to see what they say, this nightmare is not over,” she said. “Do you have any idea, how they changed laws, 12 years ago?” the mother questioned at the conclusion of her message on the social network.

The trial was scheduled to start on last August 14, but was postponed by Havana’s health situation following the reemergence of the new coronavirus. “I can’t go, you know if I go back they won’t let me out,” the little girl’s mother said to 14ymedio a month before that first date.

She explained that she would not be able to attend because she was not in Cuba, but in Mexico. “It’s all very complicated, what more could I want than to be there.” Caballero confirmed that the trial was attended by several of her friends, in addition to her parents, Paloma Dominguez’s grandparents, her brother and her paternal aunts.

At a meeting with health authorities before leaving Cuba, State Security, present at the meeting, warned the mother that she could go to prison if she persisted in making “unfounded accusations,” against Cuban Public Health. The situation led her to go into exile with her husband on Mexican territory.

Yaima Caballero’s life turned around a year ago when she took her daughter to get her PRS vaccine (MMR, against mumps, rubella and measles) at Polyclinic Enrique Betancourt Neninger, in Alamar, Havana. A few days later, the little girl passed away.

“They killed my daughter,” was her complaint on social media from the first moment, and then she also made public her disagreement with the results of the investigation that was released by the Ministry of Public Health a month after Paloma’s death, and which pointed to a “bad handling” of the vaccine.

According to the health authorities, the severe reaction presented by the little one was caused by “violations of the standards established for vaccination” and “negligence during the process of conservation, preparation, handling and exposure of the syringe used.”

According to those results of the investigation, the nurse who vaccinated Paloma was punished with a firing from the National Health System, along with disqualification from the practice of the profession and the criminal investigation process.

Since then, Caballero has waged a personal battle to thoroughly investigate what happened, so that it might not happen again. Although she never complained about the medical care received by her daughter, on the contrary, she thanked the doctors, but soon came the retaliation against her for raising her voice.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

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).

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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