Any Day Is A Bad Day To Die Alone / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

Cuba could become the most aged country in the Americas

Cuba could become the most aged country in the Americas (14ymedio, Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 23 October 2015 — The National Funeral Home, nine at night. In one of the rooms only one person is found. A woman is rocking in the chair furthest from the coffin. She’s filing her nails. “Who was the deceased?” asks someone from the doorway. “I don’t know; I’m here waiting for my daughter who went to the bathroom,” she answers. When she gets up and leaves, the casket is left alone. No one has come for the final goodbye.

The image of a society where families take responsibility for grandparents until the end of their days has shattered in recent decades in Cuba. The aging population, economic problems and high rates of migration among the young are some of the reasons that many elderly people find themselves without family support or company. Continue reading

Laughing at the Castros, a Mortal Sin / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez


Eleuterio, character in the play “Crematorium” (archive photo)

For the Cuban government, when satire is against the “enemy,” it is useful and refreshing. Otherwise it is subversive

cubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 15 October 2015 – In a country where joking, sarcasm, satire, mockery, in sum, any kind of humor, are more daily than our stunted, acidic, furry and greenish daily bread, the authorities become tense and wage war on any joke large or small that unleashes laughter.

Apparently, political and economic control, leftovers for citizens and other deeds by a Revolution in power, prevent them from chuckling, laughing or even cracking a smile that allows them to resemble a human being and not the miserable lout who fears a raspberry more than the Devil on the cross. Continue reading

Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.

The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.

Activist Arcelio Molina Leyva reported to 14ymedio that “the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was raided, and they stole everything they could,” besides detaining “those who were there.” The dissident detailed that among those arrested were Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Yriade Hernandez Aguilera. Continue reading

Chronicle of a Free Man’s Arrest / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces


They do not show me the arrest warrant. My mother begs me to go; I hug her and leave with them for the police station., Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 8 Cuba 2015 – Five thirty-five in the morning on Monday, October 5, 2015. I get up, go to the bathroom, brush, put the coffee pot on the electric burner. The day seems like any other until some harsh knocks on the door tell me that I may be wrong.

I open the door. A group from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT) is in the doorway of my home. Between uniformed and plainclothes officers there are 19 people, not counting those remaining in the surrounding area where there are also special troop members, as I will later learn.

A young military officer who introduces himself as Captain Gamboa informs me that they have come to carry out a search. I ask for the warrant, and he shows it to me at a distance. I try to read it but he quickly withdraws it. Nevertheless, I manage to see that the objective is to find objects related to my “subversive activity.” That’s what they call my work as an independent journalist. Continue reading

“They Want To Frighten Me and Other Independent Journalists” / 14ymedio

Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones

Journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones

14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 2015 – The Cuban political police intend to prosecute lawyer and journalist Roberto de Jesus Quinones for a crime called “spreading false news about international peace,” according to what the independent journalist told this daily a few hours following his release after having been arrested October 5.

Monday a group of almost 20 people entered Quinones’ home in Guantanamo, presenting a search warrant that authorized the seizure of “means for subversive activities.”

The independent journalist was arrested, and they informed him that a file is being prepared where there appears a complaint against him based on the crime listed in the fifth section of Chapter III of the Penal Code, “Crimes against International Peace and Law.” Continue reading

“Wave of Political and Social Repression” in September, according to CCDHRN / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angela Moya)

Ladies in White during their march this Sunday (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 5 October 2015 – This September there were at least 882 arbitrary arrests for political reasons, according to a report by the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). The figure is the highest in the last 15 months, says the independent entity which also warns about an increase in “physical assaults against peaceful opponents by police agents and their collaborators.”

The cases of physical violence reported and verified y the CCDHRN reached 93, “while there were 21 in August.” The Commission, chaired by human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, points out that “September did not lack many acts of harassment and vandalism, either.” These include “house arrests and extrajudicial bans on movement,” says the text of the report.

As “a true wave of political and social repression” there were “353 arrests of peaceful dissidents to prevent them from participating in massive gatherings” with Pope Francis.

The opposition sector was not the only one that suffered police raids, and the CCDHRN reiterates that “an undetermined number of beggars, panhandlers and other homeless people who seek alms on the streets or search for food or anything else in trash dumpsters were interned without judicial order.”

The case of the three from the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who “managed to breach the police cordon and approach Pope Francis” in Havana’s Revolution Plaza, is singled out with interest in the report. Zaqueo Baez, Maria Anon and Ismael Bonet “have been jailed for 15 days, under subhuman conditions, in the hands of the secret political police, without access to defense attorneys and without formal charges.” The CCDHRN “is prepared to propose that they be internationally adopted as possible Prisoners of Conscience.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Raul Castro Tells UN that Human Rights Are ‘a Utopia’ / Diario de Cuba

Raul Castro on Monday, September 28 at the UN General Assembly in New York (MINREX)

Raul Castro on Monday, September 28 at the UN General Assembly in New York (MINREX)

The general stands in defense of Latin American populist governments and criticizes democracies with parties “alien and distant from the aspirations of the people.”, New York, 28 September 2015 – General Raul Castro affirmed this Monday, in his speech before the General Assembly of the UN, that the enjoyment of human rights is “a utopia,” and he criticized the fact that, according to him, “their promotion and protection is distorted.” “They are used as a selective and discriminatory way of imposing political decisions,” he remarked.

The ruler began his speech with reference to the “unacceptable militarization of cyberspace and information technology.” And he lamented that since the emergence of the fundamental charter of human rights, there have been “constant wars and interventions, forcible overthrows by government forces and soft coups.”

In this sense, he defended the freedom of countries to choose their own political, economic, social and cultural system, and he explicitly defended the governments of Nicolas Maduro and Rafael Correa, respectively. Continue reading

Repression of Science

Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard, bio-chemist, researcher for the National Institute for Oncology and Radiobiology, speaks of how he is pressured and prevented from fully carrying out his work because of his friendship with dissidents.

Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard

Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard, bio-chemist, researcher for the National Institute for Oncology and Radiobiology, speaks of how he is pressured and prevented from fully carrying out his work because of his friendship with dissidents., Waldo Fernandez Cuenca, Havana, 25 September 2015 — It all started because of a party for his best friend, Ciro Diaz, at the end of 2013. Ciro Diaz, besides being a graduate in Mathematics from the University of Havana, has just one remarkable characteristic: He is a dissident and member of the band Porno for Ricardo. Soon came the threats from State Security to make him a prisoner if he engaged in the activity.

Then came the accusations at work of his being “mercenary” and “annexationist*.” But at no time was this young man, a bio-chemist by profession, intimidated, and he resisted the wishes of his oppressors. Oscar Antonio Casanella Saint-Blancard has kept his ties of friendship with Ciro and other opposition figures.

Casanella made his case known to the independent project Estado de Sats and was also arrested during the wave of repression unleashed by the performance by activist and artist Tania Bruguera at the end of last year. Since that time his harassment by State Security has continued, principally at his place of employment: The National Institute for Oncology and Radio-biology (INOR) where he serves as a researcher. Continue reading

Education Launches a New Offensive against the “Weekly Packet” / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma

A Cuban accessing the “Weekly Packet” from his laptop at home (14ymedio)

A Cuban accessing the “Weekly Packet” from his laptop at home (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Orlando Palma, Havana, 25 September 2015 – Under the name To Educate Yourself, the Ministry of Education announced Thursday a collection of documentaries, films and music that it will begin distributing monthly in its learning facilities during the current academic year. In open competition with the illegal weekly packet of audio-visual material, this official rival seeks to establish itself as “an attractive offering of Cuban education” through content of “good taste.”

The compendium is aimed at those among whom the weekly packet is a hit. The majority of Cuban children and teens frequently watch cartoons, video clips, series and films that are distributed on the black market. In order to compete with those materials, the Ministry announces that its offering has “a search engine so that the user is not lost searching among more than a terabyte of data.” Continue reading

3,522 Pardoned in order to Cover Up Cuba’s Sad Reality / 14ymedio, Marlene Azor Hernandez

Map of prisons in Cuba drawn up by the Cuban Human Rights Observatory

Map of prisons in Cuba drawn up by the Cuban Human Rights Observatory

14ymedio, Marlene Azor Hernandez, Mexico City, 18 September 2015 – The pardon of 3,522 ordinary prisoners in Cuba is excellent news, above all for their relatives. At the beginning of July something similar occurred when the Pope visited Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay. In the first two countries, the governments also took the measure with respect to the incarcerated, but it was not of this breadth. In Ecuador 24 inmates benefitted from the measure; in Bolivia there were no pardons, but hundreds of the more than 5,000 prisoners in the most populous jail in the country, Palmasola, would finally be sentenced and be visited by the Pope in his tour of the country.

Ecuador has more than 16 million residents, a penal population of 21,000 prisoners and 24 penitentiaries. In Cuba, for a population of 11 million residents, there are at least 200 jails, and the penal population is estimated at 70,000 prisoners. It seems that the elevated number of pardons is due also to prison overcrowding on the Island. Continue reading

“El Sexto,” on a Hunger Strike and in a Punishment Cell / Cubanet, Camilo Ernesto Olivera

Maria Victoria , “El Sexto’s” mother (photo by the author)

Maria Victoria , “El Sexto’s” mother (photo by the author)

The artist’s mother denounces her son’s treatment, Camilo Ernesto Olivera Peidro, Havana, 17 September 2015 – Danilo Maldonado, “El Sexto,” is being held in a punishment cell, and his hunger strike continues. His mother, Maria Victoria Machado, managed to visit him on Wednesday afternoon in the Valle Grande Prison, located on the outskirts of the Cuban capital.

During these days when the temperatures in Havana get very high, “the jailers give him water only twice a day,” said Maria Victoria to Cubanet. The artist’s mother says that “eight days after the beginning of the hunger strike, Danilo has spent four in the punishment cell. They hold him incommunicado wearing only underwear. He has refused to put on the prisoner clothing.”

“I have no reason to put it on because I have no reason to be a prisoner,” responded Danilo to the officer who informed him that he had to wear the uniform, according to Maria Victoria’s account.

On Tuesday afternoon, two State Security officers visited her. Their objective was to convince Maldonado, using her, to abandon his strike. Maria Victoria’s answer was that “she supports her son and stands firmly by him.”

The agents told her “that he just played into the hands of ‘the enemy’.” But Machado told them that “those whom you label that way, they are the only ones who have helped me in all this time that my son has been a prisoner.”

According to Maria Victoria, her son told her that the hunger strike is “to the end.” He said that he is prepared physically and mentally to sustain it until they give him “an immediate release, because the only other option is death.”

The performance and graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, “El Sexto,” has been a prisoner since last December 25. Police arrested him that day when he was headed to Havana’s Central Park. He was carrying two pigs with the names Fidel and Raul painted on them. His intention was to release them in that central location as part of a performance entitled “Animal Farm.”

His case file was “lost,” according to the prosecution. However, they notified his mother three days ago that the document had been “recovered.”

They accuse Danilo of the supposed crime of “contempt” against public figures of State power.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Twelve Cubans Arrive on Miami Beach by Boat / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miami Beach, 15 September 2015 – Twelve Cubans from Caibarien, Villa Clara, arrived in Miami Beach on a rustic boat this Tuesday a little before noon, after spending six days on the high sea, two of them in a storm.

The group of 11 men, one woman – all young – and a dog named Chiquita, arrived in a tourist area near the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a few blocks from Lincoln Road. Tourists and residents of the area congregated on the arrival of the boaters in order to offer them clothes, water, food and money. “We hear on the news that things in Cuba are improving, but this really shook me to see Cubans still escape from the country via the sea. There is something wrong in that,” said a European tourist to a 14ymedio contributor who arrived at the scene.

Tourists and area residents helped the 12 Cuban rafters who arrived today in Miami Beach. (Oscar Alfonso)

Tourists and area residents helped the 12 Cuban rafters who arrived today in Miami Beach. (Oscar Alfonso)

Oscar Alfonso, a lifesaver for the City of Miami Beach, said that on stepping foot on American soil they all “started to hug and kiss the ground.” One of the rafters had spent 56 days in jail in the Bahamas after having been intercepted by that country’s coastguard. A few days ago he returned to Cuba and when he arrived in Caibarien he decided to once again launch himself on the sea with his friends.

Another of the rafters had tried to cross the Straits of Florida 20 times and on this journey he managed to make it. The group spent three days without food and the last two days, adrift, they had given themselves up for lost.

Alfonso, who was working at his post on the beach when the rafters arrived, said that one of them told him it was “the most exciting experience of my entire life,” and added, “there are things that happen to you, it’s incredible the desperation a person has to have to cross the sea.”

They landed singing Willy Chirino’s iconic song Ya viene llegando (Our Day is Coming) and an American gave them an American flag, which they waved.

A resident of Miami Beach decided to take the boat home to preserve the history of Cuban rafters.(14ymedio)

A resident of Miami Beach decided to take the boat home to preserve the history of Cuban rafters.(14ymedio)

The boat – with a nylon sail and mast made from a guayaba tree – on which the Cubans arrived was moved by local police from the shore to the sand near the walkway. Betty Ortega, a Cuban resident of this city, was on the scene when the boaters arrived and told the police to leave the raft. “I told them that they could not take it because this is part of our history,” she said to this newspaper.

The police granted her request and gave her four hours to get the boat off the beach. Ortega will take it home; she still does not know what she will do with it, but she wants to make sure that this part of Cuban history “is told to the world.”

Since October 2015, 31,000 migrants have arrived in the United States, 30% more than the year before, according to figures from the Office of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP).

Translated by Mary Lou Keel


The Ladies in White Live through Another Day of Repression / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White march through the streets of Havana Sunday (14ymedio)

The Ladies in White march through the streets of Havana Sunday (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Havana, 13 September 2015 – This Sunday, 42 Ladies in White, accompanied by 21 activists from different political groups, walked down Havana’s Fifth Avenue, in the Miramar neighborhood. Finishing their usual route and subsequent meeting in Gandhi Park, next to Santa Rita Parish, the group was arrested by police and other plain-clothes forces, according to reports to 14ymedio by several eyewitnesses.

Together with the women from the human rights movement were other opposition figures such as Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles from the opposition group Estado de Sats. The current whereabouts of those arrested is unknown, and their cell phones give the message “turned off or out of area.” However, the leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, has been set free.

The Ladies in White had carried several banners demanding amnesty for political prisoners. A demand that has been the focus of attention for several opposition groups and that has gained strength before the upcoming visit by Pope Francis to the Island.

This week the Cuban government announced the pardon of 3,522 prisoners on the occasion of the Pontiff’s arrival in Cuba. Nevertheless, the opposition has criticized the fact that the list of pardoned prisoners does not include activists jailed for political reasons.

Elizardo Sanchez, who heads the National Human Rights and Reconciliation Commission, said in an interview with EFE that there are at least 60 people imprisoned “for political reasons or through politically conditioned proceedings.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

A Cuban and His Idea of Success / Cubanet, Iris Lourdes Gomez

IMG_8559, Iris Lourdes Gomez Garcia, 4 September 2015 – Felipe promised himself that this was going to be his year. He was tired of the buses, after so many years of heat, lines, bad smells, pickpockets and arguments, it was time to do something.

Since he could not aspire to anything else, he began by buying a bicycle. The simplest, the cheapest. Although he arrived everywhere in a sweat, it did not matter, because he had left behind everything described in the foregoing paragraph. Now he only depended on himself, his health and his strength.

After some time, he thought again that it was time to improve; after all – according to him – the success of a man is measured by his means of transportation. In due time, he could aspire to the greatest: a Mercedes Benz or a special Audi, but to get to that point, he would have to go step by step. Continue reading

El Sexto Confirms from Jail His Hunger Strike / 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth)

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.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel