“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.

Yulieski Gourriel, the Internet, and Other Cuban Demons / Ivan Garcia

Yulieski-Gourriel-y-Fidel-Castro-en-2006-_ab-620x330

Iván García, 7 July 2105 —  In the Cuba of the Castros one thing is certain: the role of the people is to applaud, accept, and await the executive edicts. So long as the boring newspaper Granma does not confirm a news item, then reports about it are false.

The secretive handling of the press by the autocracy has far exceeded the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and its official news agency TASS. If in Moscow it took three days after Brezhnev’s death to announce it to the people, in Cuba some news can take a month to be acknowledged.

In other cases, the people never find out. Cubans know little or nothing about the transfer of weapons to North Korea, or that Antonio Castro, Fidel’s son and playboy of the olive-green bourgeoisie, won a golf tournament in Varadero. As far as the state media is concerned, Rihanna, Beyonce, and Paris Hilton did not visit the island. Continue reading

Human Rights Watch Urges the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) To Respond To Venezuelan Abuses / 14ymedio

New York | June 26, 2014 — The organization Human Rights Watch, in a letter to the foreign ministers of several Latin American nations, today called on the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) “to urge the Venezuelan government to immediately address the grave human rights situation in the country.”

The letter is the corollary to a report by the organization titled “Punished for Protesting: Human Rights Violations in the Streets, Detention Centers, and Justice System of Venezuela,” about the situation in the South American country since the start of the demonstrations on February 12.

“While various international organizations, including human rights rapporteurs of the United Nations and the European Parliament, have expressed concern about human rights violations in Venezuela, UNASUR has not condemned the serious abuses committed by Venezuelan state agents,” said the letter from José Miguel Vivanco, Director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch. Continue reading

14ymedio As Viewed by the International Press / 14ymedio

How the worldwide media reported on the birth of this newspaper and its subsequent censorship on the island

14ymedio, June 21, 2014

Hours before 14ymedio was born, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a column by Gina Montaner, “14ymedio’ against ’55ymedio” contrasting the name of our yet unborn daily with the long years that the island lived submerged not only in a lack of information, but also under institutionalized disinformation. Montaner emphasized one of the challenges to the Cuban press, so different from those faced by the international media: “In Cuba everything is up for grabs and the real revolution—the technological one accompanied by freedom of expression—is one of the great challenges of the post-Castro period.” The Cuban journalist added: “If Cubans get access to ‘14ymedio’, it will be a breath of fresh air compared to the nauseating ‘Battle of ldeas’ of the government media.”

A few minutes after 8 a.m. Cuban time this past May 21st, 14ymedio was visible in all the countries of the world. But on the island it could only be seen for a little over an hour. Then, our website was diverted to another address where they tried to discredit the director of 14ymedio. Continue reading

The Modest Growth of the Cuban Economy Falls Short of Expectations / 14ymedio

14ymedio, Havana | June 23, 2014 — The Cuban economy is growing at a rate slower than the official forecasts, according to data announced by the Minister of Economy and Planning, Adel Yzquierdo Rodriguez. He said that during the first half of this year the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) will increase by just 0.6%, but will improve during the following months to an increase of 1.4% by the end of the year. However, independent analysts question these expectations and believe they are not a realistic reflection of the state of the economy.

The Cabinet last Saturday presented details about “the difficulties that continue to damage the Cuban economy.” Rodriguez blamed the failure of the Plan’s objectives on the “adverse weather conditions” and “the complex international situation.”

The Minister of Finance and Prices, Lina Pedraza Rodriguez, noted a substantial drop in productivity in 124 companies, which had planned a positive balance but ultimately had losses.

At the meeting, the ministers also addressed the issue of monetary unification. The head of the Permanent Commission for Implementation and Development, Marino Murillo Jorge, explained that this measure “will not by itself solve all the problems of the economy,” but requires the implementation of other policies aimed at increasing the efficiency and level of productivity of labor.

In addition, the officials said that, at the end of May, around 467,000 people were self-employed, but they have not provided any statistics on the high number of the self-employed who have ceased their activities.

Translated by Tomás A.