The Mass and Repression in Revolution Square / Ivan Garcia

Papa-en-Cuba-Misa-y-represión-_ab-620x330Ivan Garcia, Havana, 21 September 2015 — Almost everyone in Cuba remembers what they were doing on January 21, 1998. Stephen, who works in a steel factory southeast of the capital, recalls that he walked more than nine miles to attend the Mass of Pope Wojtyla in Revolution Square, the sacred precinct of the olive-green regime.

“I come from a Catholic family, but when Fidel came to power they stopped going to church out of fear. John Paul II was a kind of personal liberation, the reunion with my church, God, and Jesus. Afterward, travel to the island has become fashionable for the Vatican. The visit of Benedict XVI, like that of Francis I, seemed quite bland to me. More media hype than anything else,” says Stephen, as he goes to Mass with a portrait of the Virgin of Charity, Patroness of Cuba. Continue reading

It Is Time to Demand Our Freedoms / Somos+, Richard Cores

Somos+, Richard A. Cores, 15 September 2015 — In a moment of reflection, I remembered the wise words of a great hero and civil rights leader in United States history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He said “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

I thought of all those Cubans who want to say publicly what they really think, and who cannot because of fear of being persecuted or punished by their own government. Those Cuban citizens who want to be free to express themselves freely, whether in words, in artistic works, and even in books, which germinate in their minds, only to wither and die when they are never published. These rights, which are enjoyed by most civilized people throughout the world, were also recognized by Cuba (at least at the United Nations headquarters in New York) on February 28, 2008, when the Cuban Foreign Minister at the time, Felipe Perez Roque, signed two international convenants on human rights. Continue reading

To the Diaspora / Somos+, Manuel Diaz Mons

”  . . we are a family, a team, our duty is to look out for each other . . . that is the only way to achieve the objective for which we struggle . . .”
Carlos, Somos+

Somos+, Manuel Diaz Mons, 9 September 2015 — I’m sure if Maceo and Agramonte had achieved this feeling during the Ten Years’ War, there would have been no need for a war in 1895, much less the political upheavals that followed. The lack of unity and the failure to gather enough support has cost many lives in this country. But today, despite everything we have lived through, there are those who indulge in dividing, marginalizing, and forgetting.

“Divide and rule” or “divide and conquer” is a control technique of the ruling class that has yielded excellent results in Cuba. The current government does it, Batista did it, and so did many before. This political tactic allows the central power, no matter how small it may be, to dominate millions of people very easily: just by creating disputes between factions a significant deterioration can be provoked between them, thus hindering alliances and and collaborations.

Born in Cuba and organized by Cubans, Somos+ is one of the social movements that has for a little while escaped the government’s virus of unfounded suspicion, and all because we Cubans here inside the island decided to remove the blindfolds from our eyes and reach out to those outside, to the diaspora that we had viewed as enemies, but who are mostly just young people who have learned from the mistakes of Maceo, who above all have read and understood the importance that Martí placed on unity, and who for a long time have been reaching out to us.

A diaspora willing to create, collaborate, and even to sacrifice everything in order to support those inside, a diaspora with modern names like Carlos, Nelson, Titina and Iliana. A diaspora that deserves the respect of all and that Felix Varela would be as proud of as I am.

Translated by Tomás A.

Palliative Treatments / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 2 September 2015 — Several weeks ago it was rumored that the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba (MINSAP) has prepared a series of measures for the benefit of its professionals. Viewed as a whole, these proposals could be seen as a countermand to that other policy from several months ago of widespread reprisals, within the island and throughout the network, which amounted to a stupid and unrealistic frontal assault against those who decided to leave the country for individual contracts that were not part of any official medical mission.

Certainly the previous “circular” from the minister bet heavily on the hardline to discourage individual medical recruitment abroad by all possible means: he began ordering the disqualification of all those working in the sector who left without authorization from MINSAP to work abroad on their own; he shamelessly applied pressure on other governments, including through diplomatic channels, to prevent individual contracting; he even ordered punishment of those who decide to return to work in Cuba after working abroad, including the immediate withdrawal of their passport at Customs (as an official collaborator) upon returning to Cuba, among other crimes previously analyzed in my blog Citizen Zero. Continue reading

Reporters Without Borders to John Kerry: Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard? / Angel Santiesteban

Photo taken from the internet

Open letter to John Kerry: “Isn’t it time for all Cuban voices to be heard?”

Published Thursday, August 13, 2015.

On Friday August 14, 2015, Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Cuba to strengthen the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries. He is the first U.S. Secretary of State to make an official visit to the island since 1945. This is a unique opportunity to address the catastrophic situation for freedom of press and information in Cuba. RSF sent an open letter to John Kerry addressing these fundamental issues.

Paris, August 13, 2015

Dear Secretary Kerry,

On the occasion of your historic visit to Cuba this August 14th, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) asks that during your meetings with Cuban authorities you address the problem of freedom of press and information. As the first high-level American politician to visit Cuba since 1959, you have the duty, and the power, to positively influence Cuban policies.

Cuba ranks 169th among 180 countries in the World Ranking of Press Freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in 2015. The Cuban government maintains a monopoly on information and does not tolerate any independent voices: it prohibits the existence of free media. Only official media are authorized (and the list of them is very short). The media that do not have state authorization are deemed illegal and are censored. Moreover, Cuba is considered one of the countries with the least access to the Internet worldwide. Continue reading

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Asks Maduro to Cease Harassment of the Media / Luis Felipe Rojas

Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

Screen shot of the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) reacted with “profound concern” to the lawsuit filed by the President of the National Assembly, deputy Diosdado Cabello,against the newspapers El Nacional and Tal Cual, and the website It urged national authorities to “cease these acts of harassment that deepen the deterioration of the right to freedom of expression in the country and threaten the media and critical journalists in Venezuela,particularly in an election year.

The case that Cabello filed against the media, and the judicial decisions that several judges have rendered in it—like the one prohibiting 22 executives of the defendant companies from leaving the countryor the one last week seizing the headquarters of El Nacional—worry the CIDH, a body that is aware of the support that the Supreme Court (TSJ) gave the legislator last May when it described as “lacking foundationthe accusations that he was linked to drug trafficking, as had been reported in Spanish and U.S. media, in stories that were republished in the country by the defendants. Continue reading

U.S. Government Snubs the Independent Cuban Press / Ivan Garcia

Obama responding to the news media at the White House. Taken from Zoom News.

Iván García, Havana, 10 August 2015 — The U.S. Embassy in Havana, the State Department, and the administration of Barack Obama, have intentionally mapped out a strategy to prevent independent Cuban journalists from covering the visit of John Kerry and the official reopening of the diplomatic headquarters on Friday, August 14.

For the the four-day historic event, no independent journalist, dissident, or human rights activist has been invited to participate in the ceremony, or the press conference by Kerry.

Since July 22nd I have made a dozen calls to the U.S. Public Affairs Office in Havana to request a press pass that would allow me to cover the event for Diario las Americas, El Periodico de Catalunya, and Webstringers LCC, a Washington-based media communications company, and I have not received a response from any official. Continue reading

“El Sexto” in the Clutches of the Castro Beast / Luis Felipe Rojas

Piece by "El Sexto" (mixed media)

Piece by “El Sexto” (mixed media)

Danilo Maldonado is a Cuban political prisoner who just embarked on the terrible path of committing to a hunger strike. This was confirmed by his family members from Havana late on August 25th.

“El Sexto” (as in “The Sixth [hero]”, referring to the 5 Castro spies who were imprisoned in the United States, and in open mockery of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party) is a restless youth who for months ran Cuban Intelligence ragged in Havana, painting his graffiti art around as he pleased.

The following is a short and intense note posted by Lia Villares today on her blog. She has accompanied him during the months of travail since his apprehension for painting the names “Fidel” and “Raul” on two pigs that he was going to release in a Havana park, as performance art:

From Lia Villares

In a telephone conversation a few minutes ago with Danilo’s lawyer Mercy, she told me that—because she has only been licensed for two and a half months, and is in the midst of family problems—she has “turned over” Danilo’s case to another lawyer. Continue reading

Dreaming in Color / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Havana’s Malecon — quiet — today (Image from Wikipedia offline)

Rosa Maria Rodriguez, 5 August 2015 — On August 5, 1994, the Havana shoreline filled with a human tidal wave that took the capital by surprise and overflowed into international news. The national press, as always, had to wait for the approval of the censor before reporting on the event. Nothing like this had happened in thirty-five years of the Castro dictatorship: a tsunami of people overcame fear, and hundreds of them went to the seaside promenade, driven by rumors that boats from the United States were coming ashore to transport those who wanted to emigrate.

Many thought it was another exodus approved by the authorities, like the Mariel boatlift. When they got there, the unraveling rumors gave way to frustration, and anti-government demonstrations broke out along the length of the Malecon and adjacent areas. Thus was born the event known as El Maleconazo. Continue reading

Raul Castro’s Grandson Expels a Spanish Businessman from Cuba / Juan Juan Almeida

Raul Castro with his grandson, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro

Juan Juan Almeida, 18 August 2015 — Esteban Navarro Carvajal Hernández is a serious, respectable Spanish entrepreneur, who has done business in Cuba for twenty years. He has a trading firm, legally registered with the Chamber of Commerce, and a Cuban family. He lives on 30th Street, between 5th & 7th Avenues, in the Miramar neighborhood of Havana, next door to the Canadian Embassy.

As a good businessman, clever and calculating, he seized the moment and the new opportunities presented. Convinced also that the revolutionary government needs infusions of capital from private enterprises, he expanded his business beyond his commercial ties to several enterprises on the island, and associated separately with three Cuban citizens to create the following companies:

1. Up & Down, the bar-restaurant at the corner of 5th Street and Avenue B, Vedado, Havana, open daily from 3:00 pm to 3:00 am

2. Shangri-La, the tapas bar, party room, and nightclub located on 21st between 40th and 42nd, Playa, Havana

3. El Shangri Lá, in the province of Las Tunas.

And so, like foam, the gentleman entrepreneur grew. During that boom, without realizing he was walking down a dark and slippery path, he met the grandson of Gen. Raul Castro, Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, who became a nightly regular at Shangri-La. Continue reading

The Visit of Pope Francis Presents the Opposition with a New Test / Somos+

Somos+, Eliecer Avila, 15 July 2015 — The upcoming visit of Pope Francis sets the stage for a new opportunity for civil society and the political opposition to live up to the expectations of thousands of Cubans inside and outside the country, who have waited for a long time for a coherent and dignified performance by a true force for change.

On previous occasions, when we have had the opportunity to exercise political influence and make a positive impact on public opinion—mainly in front of Cubans on the island—someone has always managed to polarize the effort and portray us as divided and quarreling, unable to work together to achieve a minimum degree of strategic consensus. Continue reading

National Council Session of the Somos+ Movement / Somos+

Somos+ Press, 11 August 2015 — The National Council of the Somos+ Movement met yesterday, attended by delegates from five provinces. The meeting lasted from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and ran smoothly. Issues vital for the movement were discussed, such as the consolidation of the national and territorial structure, communications, internet access, regulatory documents, management of membership, and internal democracy and transparency, among others.

“Overcoming” was the predominant theme in the discussions, as well as the need for all members to stay well informed. The representatives also received all the financial information of the organization and had access to the current status of the accounts .

Similarly, the importance of teamwork between members living within the country and those who reside abroad was analyzed. It was recognized that the work being done in a consolidated international platform provides the cover necessary for work in Cuba. Continue reading

Taxes and "Glamor" / Regina Coyula

Paris Hilton and Fidel Castro Jr, in Havana

Regina Coyula, 7 August 2015 — The mindless display of opulence bothers me ethically and aesthetically. But I have nothing against enrichment from legal sources and from the effort, talent, or ability of the individual.

The Cuban government takes a hypocritical position. On the one hand it is trying to prevent at all costs the personal enrichment of the emerging private entrepreneur class, subjecting them to restrictions and imposing inordinate taxes. On the other hand—not having ever experienced any of the restrictions suffered by the average citizen—it now aims to attract fresh foreign capital (accumulated in their home countries thanks to the absence of restrictive regulations like those imposed in ours) and also the tourism of the rich and famous, some of whom we have already seen parading through Cuba.

Translated by Tomás A.

What Can Journalists Do For Cuba? / Somos+, Kaned Garrido

Somos+, 20 July 2015 — In 2014 the organization Reporters Without Borders released a list of “100 Heroes of Information.” They are journalists from 65 nations who have denounced crimes against humanity. From 25 to 75 years of age, they report from the most solid democracies to the most authoritarian regimes. They are brave men and women who have suffered gunfire, bombs, and torture in order to show the truth to the world.

Even countries where freedom of expression is respected have produced heroes. Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras displayed to American and British citizens the surveillance methods used by their intelligence services. Continue reading

Cuban Evolution / Somos+

Somos+, 24 July 2015 — After the announcement of Cuba / USA relations on December 17, it is not surprising that some of the major news networks are interested in the evolution of the historic rapprochement. This is the case with PBS, which since last month has been conducting a series of reports in Havana under the name “Cuban Evolution.”

On June 17, the official website of PBS published the video presented below, focusing primarily on the poor internet access on the Island compared to the rest of the Western Hemisphere, the populace’s expectations of change, and control of the mass media by the Cuban government.

Manuel Mons, a member of Somos+ (We Are More) in Cuba, was one of those interviewed.

Original source: PBS,org

Translated by Tomás A.