14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2015 – In a telephone call this Thursday, artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, confirmed that he is on a hunger strike. From the Valle Grande prison he also referred to his mother, Maria Victoria Machado, whom a State Security agent had told of his “speedy release.” The graffiti artist has made the announcement cautiously because it is not the first time that “they have tricked him with something like this,” Machado told this daily.
On August 24, El Sexto’s family waited outside the prison for hours for his release. Days before, an official from State Security had reported that date as the one on which he would be liberated. However, the prison authorities denied that “an order or paper allowing him to leave” had arrived. The graffiti artist advised that he would declare himself on hunger strike, although until today his situation could not be confirmed.
Wednesday at the Office of Attention to the Valle Grande Jail Population, Machado was assisted by an official who assured her that no one in the penitentiary center was on hunger strike. However, on exiting, relatives of other prisoners advised her that her son together with other prisoners had begun a fast.
El Sexto recently received the International Vaclav Havel 2015 Prize for creative dissidence, awarded in a ceremony organized under the framework of the Oslo Freedom Forum which he could not attend because he was in prison.
The artist has been imprisoned since last December on a charge of contempt for having tried to carry out a performance with two pigs painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul.” Eight months after his arrest he has not been taken before a court.
In recent weeks, State Security had told the graffiti artist that he would leave jail on August 24, news that the jail authorities themselves denied Monday under pressure by relatives who appeared at the penitentiary center to seek explanations.
This Tuesday the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), which has awarded a prize to the graffiti artist for his artistic fight in favor of human rights, demanded his liberation.
“El Sexto is a prisoner for satirizing a family dynasty that for 57 years has arrogated to itself absolute power in Cuba, without holding a single democratic election and repressing any critical expression no matter how inoffensive it might be,” said the president of the HRF, Thor Halvorssen.
“Like the inhabitants of the farm [Animal Farm], in Cuba, artists like Danilo Maldonado, Tania Bruguera and Gorki Aguila, are systematically punished for refusing to live under the capricious tenets of a totalitarian regime lacking any sense of humor and repressing even the least manifestation of liberty,” Halvorssen said.
Translator’s note: Danilo is being held in pre-trial detention, he has not been tried.
The landscape could become very similar to those found in Central American countries where the issue is out of control
Cubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana 20 August 2015 – Hector arrived in Havana at the end of 2005. He was only 15 years old when he had to confront a city where its residents’ greatest ease came from knowing how to survive amid so much uncertainty. Today he is 25 years old, and he knows no way of subsisting other than prostitution, pimping and gangs.
Hector was living in Niquero, Granma Province, when bad luck invaded his home: his father died in a domestic accident while he was trying to re-fill a gas cylinder for cooking. A couple of years later, his mother got sick with cancer, and he had to leave high school in order to go to work on the farm of his paternal uncle who, besides paying him very little, abused him sexually and even forced him to prostitute himself.
Although he was only 12, his uncle took him almost every night to the home of a friend who paid 100 pesos [four dollars] in order to rape the little boy who, with time, came to accept that the world was that evil atmosphere that surrounded him and from which he could not escape but could only adapt in order to survive.
“Here you have to survive in whatever way,” says Hector. He has only agreed to speak with me about his life because he was asked by a mutual friend who is none other than the doctor to whom he has always gone in emergency situations. “He is the only guy for whom I give my life. The only one who has helped me without any self-interest since I came to Havana at age 15.” Continue reading “Gangs in Havana, Crime Gains Ground / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang”
DiariodeCuba.com, Havana, 9 August 2015 – Some 60 Ladies in White and 30 human rights activists were arrested this Sunday in Havana where they protested while wearing masks with the image of United States President Barack Obama and carrying photos of political prisoners.
The Obama masks signaled the participating activists’ rejection of the Washington-Havana rapprochement, reported the AFP agency.
Ultimatum from the political police to musician Goki Aguila, participant in the peaceful marches of the Ladies in White.
Cubanet.org, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro, Havana, 6 August 2015 – Tuesday, August 4, Gorki Aguila, leader of the punk band Porno for Ricardo, was visited at his home by an official from the PNR Sector (Revolutionary National Police). She tried, without success, to get Aguila to accept a badly drafted and irregular summons.
After that visit, on Wednesday at about midday, Gorki heard a knock on his apartment door. On opening, he found two police officers who were bringing orders to arrest him:
Cubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 28 July 2015 – Between the years 2004 and 2007, 65 children from the Los Sitios neighborhood in Central Havana, 7 to 10 years of age, underwent testing in order to determine their degree of lead poisoning. The research, conducted by a team of researchers from the Cuban National Institute of Health, Epidemiology and Microbiology (INHEM), found that 46.2% of the children exceeded the acceptable levels for adults according to the World Health Organization (10.0 mg/dl) and that 67.7% already were demonstrating learning difficulties associated with poisoning from this heavy metal.
According to the scientists, who recommended extending the investigation to other areas of the capital, the group of those affected presented with “diminished reading abilities, more limited vocabulary, poor reasoning, very slow reactions and poor psychomotor coordination.” Also, concern about the long term consequences was raised due to lead exposure being associated not only with reduction in academic performance but with changes in hearing, behavior, low self esteem, suicide attempts, depressive syndromes, aggression, and even mental retardation or death. Continue reading “Cancer from High Levels of Metals in Reservoirs? (II) / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang”
Cubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 23 July 2015 – Although they have not been properly disclosed, in spite of their great importance, numerous studies carried out repeatedly by teams of Cuban scientists have raised the alarm about the critical state of Cuba’s main aquifers.
The detection of high levels of lead and other heavy metals harmful to human health in lakes and reservoirs intended for human use and for work related to agriculture and fisheries suggest that this could be one of the main causes for the increase among the Cuban population of cancer and other illnesses related to prolonged exposure to toxic substances.
While the phenomenon afflicts all the country’s provinces, Havana is the region most affected because, first, it is surrounded by several landfills capable of leaking highly toxic elements into underground waters that feed sources destined to supply the capital; and, second, most industries do not comply with international norms for the treatment of wastes and the filtering of harmful gas emissions, and they even discharge wastes directly into river basins like the Almendares, which crosses the capital and whose waters are used on farmlands. Continue reading “Contaminated Aquifers, Cause for Alarm / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang”
A pandemic of freedom floods our senses.
Juan Carlos Cremata
14ymedio, Pedro Campos and other authors, Havana, 25 July 2015 – It will soon be 62 years since a group of young men headed by Fidel Castro attacked the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba, an event that catapulted that figure to the foreground of national politics and definitively buried the possibility of a peaceful and political outcome to the situation created by Fulgencio Batista’s coup a year before.
The armed struggle prevailed and managed to oust the tyrant from power. But the violent way in which it was achieved marked until today the political fate of Cuba. The Encampment triumphed again over the Republic.
Now that the slogan is economic profitability, what will happen to all the mediocre but loyal intellectuals?
Cubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 20 July 2015 – In that “without haste but without pause”* race to impose a new economic model that might alleviate the ravages of Fidel Castro’s despotism, in Cuba some are wondering if the changes will positively or negatively affect the forms of cultural management to which a majority of writers and artists have been accustomed.
I am referring to the model that has permitted many of them to live, sometimes well, sometimes not, but “without breaking a sweat,” meaning publishing books that no one reads and that will never be sold; receiving prizes and distinctions for a lifetime of submissive work; manipulating competitions; plundering travel allowances or missions to Venezuela; haggling over, in the offices of the Culture Ministry, frequent departures to fairs and events abroad; being the official lapdog who paves the way to court, and turning himself into a character that is half rogue and half leftist intellectual who says he has renounced international success due to his “revolutionary commitment.”
14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Santiago, 23 July 2015 – The builders hurry to give the last touches to building projects, and the communal brigades obsessively clean the streets. A few days before the celebration of its fifth centennial, the city of Santiago is bustling. The imminent arrival of the delegations to the ceremony for the Assault on the Moncada Barracks has also caused the local authorities to gather up the many vagrants of the historic center.
The psychiatric institutions of the city have established monitoring services for the areas surrounding Cespedes Park in order to proceed with the detention of the mentally ill and homeless or those who beg near the tourist destinations. “Everything must be clean,” explains one of the members of a medical brigade that handles such tasks.
For those who reside in the city of Santiago it is evident that something is missing from the landscape of the so-called “golden kilometer” where the first houses, established in 1515, and the Holy Basilica are located. Absent are those figures, often scrawny and in dirty clothes, who stretch out their hands or display a prescription so that the passersby will give them “some help to live.” Continue reading “Santiago Hides Its Indigents / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada”
14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2015 – The human rights defense organization Human Rights Foundation (HRF) thinks that the Cuban government has “direct responsibility” in the deaths of dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero, according to the conclusion of an 88-page report presented this Wednesday at the University of Georgetown (Washington), on the third anniversary of the death of the opponents.
“The accident (…) is the result of an automobile incident deliberately caused by agents of the State,” assert the authors of the report, lawyers Javier El-Hage and Roberto C. Gonzalez, both of HRF. According to the lawyers, there was “intention to assassinate Oswaldo Payá and the passengers who were travelling with him.” The authors of the report also think there was the intention of “causing them serious bodily injury” or that the event “was carried out with negligence and/or extreme indifference – and an unjustified high risk – for the life of the activist.”
The foundation highlights the “errors” and the “contradictions” of the official investigation into the events of 22 July 2012, documenting numerous violations, such as a faulty autopsy of the “most prominent pro-democracy activist in Latin America in the last 25 years,” according to the president of the HRF, Thor Halvorssen.
The report maintains that the evidence, deliberately overlooked by the official investigation, suggests that it was not a traffic accident and implicates the government in the crash between the vehicles.
The organization believes that the Spaniard Angel Carromero, who was driving the car in which Payá was travelling and who is now on probation in his country, was ”obliged” to confess himself to be responsible, and that Cuban Justice paid no attention to the complaints of the dissident’s relatives, excluding them from the trials. Carromero himself, who was then a leader of the youth branch of Spain’s Popular Party (PP), has asserted on several occasions that the accident was an “attack” orchestrated by the Island’s regime. Those responsible for the report insist that Carromero had no access to a lawyer for weeks and that, later, he was forced to be represented by lawyers with close ties to the Government.
“The State of Cuba is responsible internationally for having violated Angel Carromero’s right to an effective legal defense,” says the report, since the authorities refused his defense access to the case file and the opportunity to present new evidence.
“Cuba is not a democratic State in which individual rights are respected or in which there exists independence among the powers of the State,” warns the report, which labels trials that involve dissidents as “a mere formality” in which “all the actors (prosecutor, judge and defense attorney) direct their work towards legitimizing the Government’s decision and not towards the search for the historical truth of events and the punishment of the responsible parties.” The investigation and the later trial in the death of Payá and Cepero were not exceptions, having been carried out in a “context of complete authoritarianism.”
Cuban authorities also did not permit the family of the deceased to speak with the two survivors of the crash (Angel Carromero and the Swede Jens Aron Modig), and three years after the event, they have still not communicated the result of the autopsy. The dissident’s relatives received the clothes that he was wearing the day of the incident already washed which kept them from opting for an independent examination.
“Havana’s authorities believed that it was necessary to destroy my father,” said the daughter of the opponent, Rosa Maria Payá, present at the University of Georgetown. “This report will be an important tool against the impunity of those authorities,” she added. According to the activist, the document “is the end of the first part” of her efforts, and the process to clarify what happened to her father “is only beginning” with “the analysis of the evidence” in the hands of the family.
“We plan to use this report as a tool in front of all the international bodies,” said Payá, who calls on Cuban authorities to release her father’s and Cepero’s autopsy reports.
The authors of the report accuse Havana of having violated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
The preference of trying political opponents for common crimes is not new. Thus is prevented the sullying of the regime’s image while giving cover to those who assert that in Cuba there are no political prisoners.
Cubanet.org, Augusto Cesar San Martin, Havana, 10 July 2015 – The preference of trying the Cuban government’s political opponents for common crimes is not new.
Attorney Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, head of the Cuban Law Association (AJC) is in jail in Valle Grande awaiting a new trial and suspended from practice for four years. The lawyer faces a new criminal charge just when his six-month sentence for contempt was ending.
14ymedio, Orlando Palma and Fernando Donate, Holguin, 11 July 2015 – Broken tombstones, open graves, dilapidated tombs, and, here and there, scavengers that devour shallowly buried remains. This is no scene from a horror movie but images from a video that exposes the serious situation in the Mayabe Cemetery in Holguin.
Released by the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in 2014, the film was produced by journalists Nairovis Zaldivar, Yainiel Diamela Escofet and Rosaida Check, and has been distributed through the illegal “weekly packet” that circulates widely in the province without any official media picking up the story.
Almost a year later, the problem has not been solved; it was caused because the Vladimir Ilich Lenin University General Hospital, the Lucia Iniguez Landin Surgical Teaching Clinic and the Provincial Military Hospital bury their wastes in the place, since their crematoriums are not functioning. Criticism of the mismanagement of biological wastes has been heard at various levels but local authorities have not taken action in the matter.
DiariodeCuba.org, Miami, 10 July 2015 – The increase in the number of Cubans who ae arriving undocumented in the United States due to the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba is so great that Florida’s social services cannot cope; they have crashed and have a waiting list of almost two months, reports the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.
This situation slows the settlement of these people in other states, the receipt of work permits and emergency monetary help. Those recently arrived fear that the renewal of diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level will put an end to exceptional immigration laws favoring Cubans.
14ymedio, Havana, 7 July 2015 – Through the month of June, at least 563 arbitrary arrests of regime opponents in Cuba were recorded according to the report published this Tuesday by the Cuban Commission on National Human Rights and Reconciliation (CCDHRN). In spite of a slight decrease in the number compared to previous months, the total continues to be one of the highest in the hemisphere.
The organization also counted 26 physical attacks and 16 cases of harassment; however, it recorded no acts of repudiation nor vandalism against homes of dissidents.
The report mentions the case of Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, an independent journalist arbitrarily detained last June 3, interrogated by State Security and transported dozens of miles from Havana. After forcing him to kneel looking at the ground, the agents put the barrel of a pistol against his neck, which the CCDHRN classifies as an unofficial mock execution.