Contaminated Aquifers, Cause for Alarm / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

High levels of lead and other metals harmful to health have been detected in reservoirs intended for human use

cubanet square logoCubanet.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.

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

The Ejercito Rebelde dam receives wastes from the nearby Antillana de Acero (photo from the internet)

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.

A study published in 2013 conducted by a team of specialists from the Laboratory of Environmental Analysis, part of Cuba’s Higher Institute of Applied Technologies and Sciences, reported the levels of highly toxic substances in the soils of and produce grown on 17 farms dedicated to urban agriculture, all located within two kilometers of the 100th Street landfill to the west of the capital.

According to the research, the soil of half the farms exceeded the ranges at which heavy metals, like lead, are usually found in Cuban agricultural soils, while a high percentage exceeded levels considered toxic according to some international standards. Similarly, 12.5 per cent of the vegetable samples collected exceeded the maximum permissible limits of this contaminant in foods intended for human consumption established by Cuban regulation NC 493 of 2006.

One of the areas that most worries those who are familiar with this phenomenon, about which nothing is said in the official press outlets, is the Ejercito Rebelde dam, built in 1976 south of the capital and considered one of the largest stores of “potable water” in the western region.

Surrounded by highly polluting industries like the steelmaker Antillana de Acero and giant dumps like Cotorro, the lake has been singled out by several scientific groups as a danger to human health since analyses of its sediments as well as of its flora and fauna have revealed lethal concentrations of heavy metals and other harmful substances.

In spite of the released warnings – almost always by digital academic publications of limited circulation – state fishing cooperatives that sell their products in the capital’s markets continue to operate there, while the regional authorities do very little to prevent the area’s inhabitants from coming to fish, swim or wash cars at the banks of the reservoir.

The oil stains and countless accumulations of rubbish that surround the dam speak for themselves of the government’s lack of control and the ignorance of the people about the danger to which they are exposed.

A scientific study from 2005 had already detected high levels of lead, zinc, cadmium and copper in the so-called “Almendares-Vento” basin as well as at the Ejercito Rebelde dam.

In its report, the team of analysts from Cuba’s Higher Institute of Applied Technologies and Sciences explained that such levels of contamination were due, in large measure, “to inadequate hygienic-sanitary coverage and industrialization without regard to protective measures for the environment.”

In order to have an idea of how terrible it could be now as well as in the future just for Havana, the Almendares-Vento watershed (which also includes the Ejercito Rebelde dam), provides almost half of all the potable water that the city’s populace consumes and a good part of its food. The heavy metals are extremely toxic even in relatively low concentrations, they are not biodegradable, and, to the contrary, they accumulate through the food chain.

To understand the gravity of the situation – both because of the discharged contaminants in our waters and the authorities’ willingness to conceal or disinterest in the matter – it suffices to refer to the body of research that, although carried out by Cuban institutions and experts, almost exclusively circulates outside of the island in foreign digital scientific media, while domestic publications keep their distance from what already constitutes a real silent tragedy.

The appalling hygiene and sanitation conditions of the capital influence the contamination levels (photo by the author)

The appalling hygiene and sanitation conditions of the capital influence the contamination levels (photo by the author)

Tables and info-graphics from several studies of the aquifers of Havana and the San Juan and Cobre rivers in Santiago de Cuba, among others, show the accumulation levels of heavy metals comparable to heavily industrialized areas of Europe. Chemical contaminants have also been found in species captured in the Guancanayabo Gulf and at the Hanabanilla dam in Villa Clara. Investigations by the Metallurgical Mining Institute of Holguin also have detected elevated concentrations of sulfates, nickel, chromium, manganese and iron in the groundwater of Moa.

http://www.revistaaquatic.com/aquatic/art.asp?t=p&c=231

Antillana de Acero and other industries near the dam do not comply with environmental regulations (photo by the author)

Graph from one of the studies showing levels of contamination in Havana’s water

Graph from one of the studies showing levels of contamination in Havana’s water

Oil stains line the Ejercito Rebelde dam in Havana (photo by the author)

Oil stains line the Ejercito Rebelde dam in Havana (photo by the author)

Small dumps skirt the dam (photo by the author)

Small dumps skirt the dam (photo by the author)

Drivers wash trucks and cars in the reservoir (photo by the author)

Drivers wash trucks and cars in the reservoir (photo by the author)

EPC448.thumbnail (1)Ernest Perez Chang

 

 

Translated by MLK

Restore Sovereignty to the People If You Want To Avoid another Revolution / 14ymedio, Pedro Campos

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks  in 1953was the opening move of the Revolution

The Moncada Barracks. An attack on the barracks on 26 July, 62 years ago, was the opening move of the Revolution

A pandemic of freedom floods our senses.
Juan Carlos Cremata

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

That same character who organized and led that assault and who then headed a rebel military movement capitalized on the popular triumph of the 1959 Revolution, made and supported by the great majority of the Cuban people in order to restore the democratic system.

The small group close to Fidel and Raul Castro leads, now for more than half a century, an authoritarian Government that never re-established democratic institutions, structured on the basis of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” according to the principles of Stalinism, which has nothing to do with Marx or with the founders of socialism.

All very well done to keep the little group in power. All very badly done according to the interests of the people and workers.

Injustice today still openly and violently represses different thought, prevents a few women [the Ladies in White] from marching with flowers on an avenue seeking liberty for political prisoners, imposes on the nation its own Communist Party and political economy that they decide and negotiate with the US Government, behind the backs of the Cuban people, an effort to save their monopolistic State capitalism with an alliance with the foreign capital that could lead to the virtual economic and geo-political annexation by the neighbor to the north.

The failure of monopolistic State capitalism imposed on Cuba in the name of socialism, the Revolution and the working class is more than evident in many of its main results:

1-Destroying the country’s economy. 2- Impoverishing workers and Cubans in general. 3- Covering the word socialism in mud. 4-Dividing and scattering the Cuban family. 5-Discouraging the Cuban people from working. 6-Distorting national history and de-nationalizing the Cuban nationality. 7-Retarding for almost half a century revolutionary progress in Latin America with its encouragement of violence.

The constant violation of the civil and political rights of the Cuban people is found today in the most recent absurd attacks by the bureaucratic system against artists of great national and international prestige such as Tania Bruguera and Juan Carlos Cremata

Another recognized achievement is international solidarity, which has been the work of the Cuban people, but some part would have to be celebrated, another part discussed and much re-evaluated as counterproductive and even reprehensible. Education and health in reach of all, with all its deficiencies and limitations, are the little improvement that it has achieved, but both were conceived for the skilled and continuous exploitation of salaried statism.

That is the concrete thing we have today. What happened before 1959 is ancient history for new generations, who are brought up in absolutism around the power established and recognized in an obsolete Constitution, copied from the former USSR, a constitution that the Government itself violates every day.

The constant violation of the civil and political rights of the Cuban people is found today in the most recent absurd attacks by the bureaucratic system against artists of great national and international prestige such as Tania Bruguera and Juan Carlos Cremata, attacks which constitute offenses against the whole national culture and prove that the

Encampment does not back down in its outrage against the Republic.

If different expressions of art and national culture cannot be freely demonstrated, if they cannot creatively represent our contemporary national reality, then the old slogan “Within the Revolution everything, outside the Revolution nothing” has been turned into: The ‘Revolution’ is no longer ‘everything,’ rather it is ‘nothing.’

A nation is its culture and if it is not respected, it is nothing more than a group of empty symbols.

The most sacred thing that a human being has, what permits him to live, to be fulfilled and to build a family, is his work, his creative capacity, his physical and intellectual aptitudes, which are materially translated into remuneration for his efforts and results.

The right to payment for work is perhaps the most important right, which permits in turn the realization of other rights.

And the supposedly socialist State is violating that right since it appropriated and nationalized all the factories, lands, big, medium and small businesses, theaters, cinemas, parks, beaches, cultural and social centers, dance halls, etc., and converted everyone, even artists, into salaried employees of the State. Today they receive miserable salaries and pensions, the same as 50 years ago but devalued 50 times.

That desecration of the value of work, the main basis for any economy, has destroyed the productive forces of the nation, especially the most important, the human workforce, which has been demoralized and corrupted by the high level of exploitation to which it is subjected with extremely low wages. How can they ask people to be productive, to take care of the means of production and to feel master of them?

If they do not respect the workforce, art or the citizens’ civil or political rights, what mess are we facing?

We already told the General [Raul Castro] that it was time to close the Encampment and to open the Republic. But like all our messages to power, this one did not reach receptive ears either. It was ignored.

Do the current rulers really believe they can ignore with impunity the demands of other revolutionaries and citizens with different thinking? Do they believe that I gained this by shooting and by shooting they will have to take it from me? Why were those shots fired? To gain access to power eternally and return to the people trampled dignity and sovereignty? To keep themselves in power by means of violence? Do some still believe that it is preferable to sink the Island in the sea than to lose their power and privilege?

From the democratic left the government has been warned many times: if they continue forgetting the original contents that gave life to this process and continue to violate the rights of Cubans, the unchanneled discontent could overflow.

They go so slowly that they are becoming paralyzed. Everything has its limits. Patience, too.

Today repressive actions against the peaceful opposition do not stop not even with the approach of the pope’s visit. If anything, they increase in number and intensity in an effort to stop the inevitable progress of the democratization demanded by almost all of Cuban society, parts of which are equally inside and outside of Cuba, the worker, the fledgling entrepreneur, the student and the soldier, the communist, the indifferent and the dissident. We are all parts.

I recently demanded an end to the spiral of violence, which is the fault of the repressor State. The opposition no longer places bombs or makes attacks. It assumed the path of peaceful confrontation. The world today is different than that of the Cold War. Not realizing these changes and continuing with violence is good for no one.

As some opponents demand: Judge for yourself the repression’s direct actors.

From the democratic left it has been warned many times: if they continue forgetting the original contents that gave life to this proc overflow.

If they do not want people protesting in the streets or wherever or however they can, they must do things right: stop the repression, free the political prisoners, permit freedom of expression, association, election and economic activities. Start a dialogue with everyone. Move towards a new democratic Constitution, a State of law and a new electoral law.

We do not demand that you surrender or submit, but that you permit the democratization of Cuban society

Set reasonable internet prices. Eliminate obstacles to self-employment, cooperativism and state trading monopolies. Deliver state enterprises to the collective management of the workers. And free yourselves from so much blame.

Without peace, democracy and freedom, there will be no development or any socialism.

This is, once more, a plea from the political forces that emerged from the revolutionary process itself. From people who devoted the best years of their lives to fighting for the socialism in which they believed and who today see their poor families torn apart and their children and grandchildren risking their lives at sea or in the jungles searching for well being. Bringing people to desperation is the worst politics. Prevent violence from growing and spreading.

We do not demand that you surrender or submit, but that you permit the democratization of Cuban society or let others do what you espoused and were incapable of doing: achieving the complete happiness of all the Cuban people.

Do that last service for the Revolution that you began and that long ago you should have put into the hand of the sovereign people, and then no one will bother you. In any case, you would pass into history as those who righted the stray path.

Let the people decide, restore to them their sovereignty. Because of that and for that they supported the Revolution that you lead 62 years ago. Don’t provoke another one.

Translated by MLK

Official Writers: The Good Life is Over / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

Miguel Barnet and Abel Prieto may be exempt, but what will happen to others like Pablo Armando Fernandez?  (photo taken from the Internet)

Miguel Barnet and Abel Prieto may be exempt, but what will happen to others like Pablo Armando Fernandez? (photo taken from the Internet)

Now that the slogan is economic profitability, what will happen to all the mediocre but loyal intellectuals?

cubanet square logoCubanet.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.”

Many questions arise now that all those who have lived off of – and even thrived from – the “profitability” of those false loyalties are on a leaky boat in the middle of a stormy sea. Continue reading

Santiago Hides Its Indigents / 14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada

Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)

Raw material collectors have been warned “not to appear” until the festivities have concluded (Yosmani Mayeta)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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

Human Rights Foundation suggests “Direct Responsibility of the Cuban Regime” in the death of Paya / 14ymedio

Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)

Presentation of the HRF about the death of Oswaldo Payá. (@RosaMariaPaya)

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.

Translated by MLK

Opponents Tried for Common Crimes / Cubanet, Augusto Cesar San Martin

Inmates in Cuban prison (from internet)

Inmates in Cuban prison (from internet)

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 square logoCubanet.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.

Such charge was imposed on Ferrer during his defense of his wife Marienys Pavo Anate. He demanded a mistrial on her behalf because of breaches of duty by public officials. Continue reading

Holguin Hospitals Throw Away Biological Wastes in the Cemetery / 14ymedio, Orlando Palma and Fernando Donate

Broken tombstones in the Mayabe cemetery, Holguin.  (14ymedio)

Broken tombstones in the Mayabe cemetery, Holguin. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

In the investigative work the errors committed by the medical institutions depositing the remains from surgeries, abortions, amputations and tests, without proper precautions, are laid bare. For months, those who have visited the grave of a relative in the cemetery have been overwhelmed by carrion birds and other animals that helped themselves to the hospital wastes barely covered by a little dirt. Continue reading

The Onslaught of Undocumented Cubans Arriving in the US Crashes Social Services / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiariodeCuba.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.

According to figures from Immigration Services, since the October 1st beginning of the fiscal year, almost 19,000 Cubans have entered the country either by sea or across the Mexican border, a figure equivalent to the total arrivals of the previous year. Two thirds of those arrived since the announcement of the thaw. Continue reading

At Least 563 Arbitrary Arrests in June, according to CCDHRN / 14ymedio

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 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.

Translated by MLK

Killing for a Dwelling / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

A usual scene in Reparto Electrico, whether Holy Week or not

A usual scene in Reparto Electrico, whether Holy Week or not

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 1 July 2015 – A daughter killed her mother, dismembered her with the help of her boyfriend and then reported her missing in order to be able to inherit her humble apartment in a slum where they both lived. It may seem the plot of a horror movie but it is a real story that barely a year ago shook the community of Reparto Electrico.

It was not the first time I heard such chilling news as that; but more than the blood relationship between the victim and the murderer, the motive of the killer was what accentuated the absurdity, the insanity, especially when in the streets, while the crime was being talked about, equally disturbing stories emerged about family conflicts related to the difficulties in wrangling a place to live.

Before and after that bloody episode, I learned of other similar scenarios, and, according to Orlando Asdrubal, a lawyer who has followed several cases in the Arroyo Naranjo township, the bloody events within families are increasing, all related to housing property rights. Continue reading

Juan Abreu: “Executions in Cuba Are an Untold Story” / 14ymedio, Yaiza Santos

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)

Juan Abreu: ‘1959. Fall from Grace,’ fragment (oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yaiza Santos, Mexico, 27 June 2015 – Painter and writer Juan Abreu (b. Havana, 1952) has taken on the inordinate task of painting, one by one, all those executed by the Castro regime. The work in progress is entitled 1959 but encompasses 2003, the year in which Lorenzo Capello, Barbaro Sevilla and Jorge Martinez were sentenced to death in a summary trial, accused of “acts of terrorism” after trying to reroute a passenger ferry to escape to the United States.They were the last executed by the Cuban government. “Let it be known,” says Abreu.

The project emerged, he says, recently, by chance: “I was doing some paintings that had to do with shootings in Cuba, because I was struck by the character, the loner that they are going to kill. I had seen some paintings by Marlene Dumas of Palestinians and then I approached the subject. When I started researching, suddenly the faces of all these people began to appear. I began to look at the faces and read, and suddenly I realized that I was going to have to paint this. Not only as a kind of pictorial adventure, which it is, because of the quantity of portraits and the complexity of the genre, but also because it seems to me that I have a certain moral responsibility.” Continue reading

Politicians by Decree and Illiterate by Submission / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

20080405035345-raulcubanet square logoCubanet.org, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 24 June 2015 – Abel Prieto rides again. Not as the author of two little novels whose names I cannot remember. Nor as the ex-president of a union of writers and authors more sold to the powers-that-be than self-help books at the Havana book fair, or reproductions of “Still Life with the Leader” at an art exposition committed to who knows what.

Never ever as that ex-minister of culture, with long hair and little sense, who declared that poets like Raul Rivera could be jailed, but they would not show up shot in the head at the edge of some ditch. Now, such a sad political figure, he rides as the cultural adviser to the Cuban president.

Other “Kultural Pajes”

As the Spanish writer Arturo Perez Reverte said in his article “Kultural Pajes” from the book With Intent to Offend, “The more illiterate the politicians are – in Spain those two words almost always are synonymous – the more they like to appear in the cultural pages of the newspapers.” Continue reading