Journalism Student Expelled from University For “Political Reasons”

The 18-year-old journalism student, Karla Pérez González, was expelled Wednesday from Marta Abreu University of Santa Clara for “political reasons”. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 April 2017 — Karla Pérez González was not summoned to the meeting where her future was decided. The first-year Journalism student received a telephone call on Wednesday to notify her of her expulsion from Marta Abreu University in Santa Clara. Her crime? Having contacts with the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement and publishing on digital sites critical of the government, as confirmed by the young woman herself speaking to 14ymedio.

On March 15, Perez Gonzalez was excluded from a student assembly where a video was projected to discredit the independent Somos+ Movement led by activist Eliécer Ávila. “I only found out several days later because they warned my classmates not to tell me anything,” she says. continue reading

On April 10 the situation worsened when the militants of the department’s Union of Communist Youth (UJC) met to present “the evidence” against her, she explains. “Members and leaders of the organization warned that those who were on my side would be investigated. Nor was I not invited to participate.”

On Tuesday, the 18-year-old scientist was summoned along with her parents to the Department of Humanities. “I arrived at 8:30 in the morning and the group of decision-makers were 14 freshmen, 4 professors in the department and 6 members of the management of different organizations, in addition to the dean, Osneidy Leon Bermudez,” she details.

“There were three hours of psychological abuse and they made false charges against me”

The brigade chief of the University Student Federation (FEU), Ney Cruz, proposed the expulsion of Gonzalez from the University. “There were three hours of psychological abuse and they made false charges against me, ranging from recruiting members at the school, to belonging to the leadership of Somos+.”

“I was also accused of manipulating my friends and having a strategy from the beginning of the course to subvert the young, according to leanings of the Somos+ Movement.” The student was also questioned about her relationship with digital sites critical of the Government.

The first secretary of the UJC, Hermes Germán Aguilera Pérez, stood out among “the most violent,” recalls Pérez González. “He used phrases intended to influence the vote” of the students. He told the students that they had the opportunity to demonstrate that they were Revolutionaries because this moment was “your Moncada, Sierra Maestra, Bay of Pigs.” “She is with the enemy,” he spit out during the meeting.

Eight students voted for the expulsion of Pérez González, while six supported her continuing in the department. “Those were the people who really knew my story and who defended me in that hell,” she says.

Later, Perez González appeared before a Disciplinary Commission that inquired about her “projections, actions, membership in organizations and pages in which she published.” The young woman was even asked how much she paid for a rental house in Santa Clara.

“It was a very cordial and respectful meeting [compared to] the string of abuses I had been subjected to,” Karla recalls.

González denounces the political and non-academic motivations for her expulsion; she ended last semester with the maximum score in all subjects except in computer science and also obtained an English certificate that exempted her from attending those classes during her entire program.

The young woman does not plan to make a complaint through university mechanisms, but will “write a letter to the Minister of Education and will denounce what happened to organizations that watch over human rights,” she confirmed to 14ymedio.

The expulsion of Karla Pérez González joins a series of repressive actions against the Somos + Movement in recent days

The expulsion of Karla Pérez González joins a series of repressive actions against the Somos+ Movement in recent days. Last Thursday the General Customs of the Republic confiscated Eliécer Ávila’s laptop computer, which provoked a protest of several members of the organization in Terminal 3 of the José Martí International Airport.

Avila was arrested on Saturday and police searched his home where they seized “hundreds of things from pens, clothes, business cards, books, phone chargers, cables, mirrors, everything they found,” the leader told 14ymedio. Since the raid, he is now being prosecuted for crimes of illicit economic activity and “receiving” unauthorized goods.

This same week the philologist Dalila Rodríguez González, who had worked as a professor for over ten years, was expelled from Marta Abreu University. The academic told the independent press that her departure was due to the university authorities considering her “a bad influence on the students,” in addition to the security forces linking her to her father, Leonardo Rodríguez Alonso, a defender of human rights and an opponent of the government.

Rodríguez González also denounced that she has been harassed by State Security in recent months and clarified that she does not belong to any opposition group and does not participate in activities organized by activists or dissidents.

Last February, a young student of 24, David Mauri Cardoso, was not allowed to enroll in the law school of Carlos Rafael Rodríguez Provincial University, in Cienfuegos, for expressing ideas “against the Revolutionary Process” in a Spanish exam.

Rice Without Pebbles For The Tourists

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marta Requeiro, Miami, 13 April 2017 — I still have a clear memory of the Cuban TV show Cocina a minuto, every Sunday before noon. It disappeared, of course, when it was no longer possible to make the recipes with what the people had at their disposal in the refrigerator or the pantry and and what they were still given – although with a few more alternatives than now – on the ration book.

It was ridiculous that they would broadcast it on television and we would see the host and chef, Nitza Villapol, preparing some exquisite dessert with a can of condensed milk and twelve eggs, when Cubans were only given five eggs per person per month. At home we would say, “But what planet is this woman living on?” Surely this is what provoked the cancelling of the show. continue reading

In June the Varadero International Gourmet Festival will be held, with the participation of ten countries.

The magazine affirms that it will focus on the search for excellence in tourist services, and will celebrate two of Havana’s most famous establishments, the 200-year-old the Floridita restaurant and the 75th anniversary of La Bodeguita del Medio. This is because Washington and Havana enjoy excellent relations at the moment.

Innovations in culinary techniques and vegan recipes will surely grace the tables; but ordinary Cubans, once again, will not know this

Innovations in culinary techniques and vegan recipes, which are trending around the world, will surely grace the tables; but ordinary Cubans, once again, will not know this.

Dinner table conversations will be enlivened with quality cocktails prepared with the real Cuban rum, which enjoys international prestige, none of those rotgut brands that Cubans drink like Chispa Del Tren (Train Spark) or Hueso De Tigre (Tiger Bone). Fine Habano cigars, chocolates and coffee – real coffee, not the one Cubans get that is half crushed peas – will also be part of the feast, enjoyed and appreciated by the experts.

According to data from the Department of Commerce, collected by the United States-Cuba Economic and Trade Council, the island bought a considerable amount of rice (about 700 tons) in February, something that hadn’t happened for nine years.

We already know who is going to taste that exquisite rice and how many dishes will be made with it. It is for tourists, who can enjoy rice pudding or rice with chicken. Instead, the people will continue to eat the rice filled with pebbles and rubbish that you have to spend hours picking out before you cook it.

You Know Why Cubans Flee Cuba En Masse… / Cubalex

Cubalex, 30 March 2017 — Because there is no democracy or rule of law. Nor do the conditions exist to exercise civil, political, economic, social and cultural freedoms. The elite of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), maintains power through the structures of the State and the Government with repressive methods.

Workers have no right to strike nor can they freely create trade unions. The government refuses to legalize any social organizations that do not share the policies of the party elite. Dissidents and human rights defenders are stigmatized, harassed and ultimately imprisoned. continue reading

Opposition to the government can not be organized. There are no legal mechanisms for the existence of political parties. The PCC is the only party recognized in the National Constitution, which was drafted by the founders of this political organization, senior military commanders who have remained in power for almost 60 years; almost sixty years with two presidents, brothers named Castro.

This military elite, does not tolerate opposition, nor pay any political or economic price for harassing and repressing it. They are not open to public debate. Through the Law they harass people who openly criticize them.

They count on making an example of those who oppose them. The rest of society refrains from expressing their political preferences. They fear negative consequences in their lives. They are controlled by social and mass organizations.

The electoral law does not allow political parties to participate in the elections, but the PCC participates in them, through the mass organizations. They control the electoral process. They avoid competition and ensure that the members of this political organization are elected and appointed to hold office in government. Their leaders occupy positions in the highest party and state structure.

As a consequence, people with citizenship and residence on the island cannot run on equal terms. Nor do they have the mechanisms to participate in political and economic decision-making. The election of the members of parliament does not depend on their votes and political preferences.

They are excluded from intervening in the national economy, a privilege only allowed to foreigners. While the country’s economic situation is precarious and worsens, the State limits its ability to generate income. It obliges them, through the exercise of self-employment, to carry out non-professional economic activities with only minimum profit margins.

If Cubans dramatically flee the country, it is to seek better opportunities for their lives, but also to seek freedom. “When the people emigrate, the rulers are superfluous,” is a phrase of José Martí’s that today is fully in force.

Cuba and Venezuela: And God Created Them… / Cubanet, René Gómez Manzano

Venezulean President Nicolas Maduro and Cuban President Raul Castro

cubanet square logoCubanet, René Gómez Manzano, Havana, 5 Abril 2017 — In recent days, the absence of a true rule of law has become evident in the two countries of “Socialism of the 21st Century,” an absence that reached the highest levels of arbitrariness and injustice: Cuba and Venezuela. In the second of these the iniquity took place at the highest level, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.

The brand new Chavista magistrates ruled: “As long as the contempt and invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persist, this Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly by this Chamber or by the body that it designates.” In short, the court replaced the parliament with itself. continue reading

And in passing, the High Court also withdrew immunity from the country’s parliamentary deputies. It was a coup d’etat pure and simple; only not one undertaken by the military or the congressional branch, but by the judicial. Of course, it didn’t happen on the judges’ own initiatve, but because Maduro ordered it, because it is already known that the supposed independence of that power is now a fiction in the homeland of the “Liberator,” Simon Bolivar.

The voices of protest did not hold back: in Venezuela, National Assembly President Julio Borges called the shameful ruling “trash” and ripped it up in front of the television cameras. The protests of students and others who disagree began. At the international level, the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States was convened, and Peru withdrew its ambassador from Caracas. Even complacent the mediators Torrijos, Fernandez and Rodríguez Zapatero rejected the gross maneuver.

But not only democracy supporters weighed in. A character as little suspected of being anti-Chavez as the Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega (yes, the same person labeled the “Eternal Commander” as “the most humanist man that has ever existed on the planet” and totally supported the unjust imprisonment of Leopoldo López) described what happened in his country as a “rupture of the constitutional order.”

Urgently convened, the Venezuelan Defense Council called on the Supreme Court to “review” the statements that left Parliament without functions. The obedient magistrates, in a fulminating manner, applied “what I meant to say was…”

In Cuba, on the other hand, recent illegality had a lower level, in both directions of the word. Lady in White Lismerys Quintana Ávila, also urgently, was subjected to a spurious trial and sentenced to six months in prison — the maximum allowed penalty — by a docile Municipal Court.

As a precedent for this injustice, we must remember the new trick that the political police use against these admirable women: At the outset, they impose a fine for a misdemeanor that does not exist. After the refusal to pay the illegally imposed penalty, the defendant (in this case, Lismerys) is taken to a Municipal Court to be tried.

Now the offense charged is “breach of obligations arising from the commission of misdemeanor,” and is provided for in article 170 of the current Penal Code.Under this provision, “anyone who fails to comply with the obligations arising from a resolution that has exhausted its legal process, issued by a competent authority or official, relating to contraventions” may be punished.

According to the final sentence of that rule, “if before the sentence is pronounced, the accused meets the obligations derived from that resolution, the proceedings will be archived.” The purpose of this, obviously, was not to establish a mechanism to send one more person to prison, but to dissuade her from not paying the imposed pecuniary penalty.

But it is already known that, in Cuba, “whoever made the law, set the trap.” In the case of someone who disagrees and says so, any misrepresentation of the correct sense of the rules is valid for the Castro regime’s authorities. What real chance to pay the fine had Lismerys or her loved ones if she were detained and the latter did not know what her situation was?

We know that the repressor who “cared for her” (who calls himself “Luisito”, but whose real name is known (unusual in itself) — Ariel Arnau Grillette) was truthful in the text messages with which he harassed this Cuban mother. We know what they said thanks to the inventiveness of the brave fighter Angel Moya Acosta: “the desicion to send you to prision is in my hands,” he wrote. A phrase in which we do not know what to admire more: his creative spelling or the confidence with which he says what everyone knows, but usually shuts up about …

However, what is decisive in this case is not what the murky State Security intended, but the submission of a court to the design of that repressive body. This is how the “organs of justice” of Cuba and Venezuela, once again, have become brothers in ignominy.

 Translated by Jim

Cuba Denies the Work of Informal Civil Society in Defending Human Rights / Cubalex

Cubalex, 3 April 2017 — The defense and promotion of human rights in the world depens on the work done on the ground by civil society organzations, documenting human rights violations.

It does not matter whether the internal context of a country is more or less repressive, or whether the regime is more or less democratic. Civil society is the one that monitors the universal and effective applications and implementation of human rights. continue reading

These organizations are the mediators between individuals and the State and an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies and the rule of law. Without civil society, there is no legitimate state.

Lamentably its members often are exposed to dangers. Many times they are tortured and subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment, including murder. They are vulnerable worldwide, due to undue restrictions on freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association.

Of the 43 thematic mandates of the special procedures of the United Nations, the rapporteurs who deal with the exercise of these rights are those who send the most communications to the States. Cuba is no exception. These rapporteurs were the ones that sent the most communications, either individually or jointly, between 2011 and 2016.

However, the Cuban State disagrees with the rapporteurs’ characterization of the people who make up the organizations that defend human rights in Cuba. The State considers it inadmissible that they should be recognized internationally as such and as a part of Cuban civil society.

The State says that these human rights defenders aim to openly transgress the laws, undermine, subvert and destroy the political and social system, the internal legal and constitutional order, established in a sovereign way by the Cuban nation, acting against the purposes and principles enshrined in the International agreements on human rights.

It asserts that they are everything from invaders to terrorists, hiding behind the mantle of human rights defenders. it states that they receive funding from the United States government to fabricate excuses that justify their policy of hostility, blockade and aggression against Cuba.

The government denies the work of defending human rights on the part of informal civil society organizations, and discredits them, to increase their vulnerability.

Lysandra Does Not Want To Be Reeducated

Lisandra Rivera was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment by the Provincial Court. (UNPACU)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 12 April 2107 — Confined for more than 80 days in a punishment cell, without a single contact with the outside, the activist Lisandra Rivera Rodríguez of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) received her first family visit this Tuesday, in the Mar Verde Women’s Prison in Santiago de Cuba.

Lisandra Rivera, 28, was arrested after her home was raided by State Security on 31 December of last year. On that occasion, and despite having been beaten by the agents, she was accused of an alleged criminal “attack,” according to UNPACU activists. Her family had not been able to contact her since 17 January when her trial was held in the Provincial Court and she was sentenced to two years imprisonment. On 18 April she will have served four months. continue reading

She had no access to anything, no right to family or conjugal visits, or to receive calls or food brought in from outside

Her husband, Yordanis Chavez, commented in a telephone interview with 14ymedio that both he and her parents managed to be with her for almost two hours. “As of Saturday she is outside the punishment cell and is in a of maximum severity wing of the prison.”

According to Chávez, from now on they will be able to visit her normally. The next appointment is scheduled for the 17th of this month. “We saw her well, quite strong of spirit. She continues to refuse to comply with orders and or to accept reeducation.”

The authorities of the prison used this refusal to accept the “reeducation” regime as a reason to impose the isolation of a punishment cell on Rivera. “The tried to make her stand up and give military salutes to the jailers who conduct a count three or four times a day. When a high official arrived she also had to stand at attention like they do in the military and she refused to do it,” says Chavez.

During the visit, Lisandra told her relatives that the punishment cell is like that of any police dungeon, pestilent and in very bad conditions, without light. She had no access to anything, no right to family or conjugal visits, nor could she receive phone calls or food brought in from outside. “Every Tuesday I was handcuffed and taken, almost dragged, to the disciplinary council,” the activist told her husband.

UNPACU’s leader, José Daniel Ferrer, fears that, in the midst of the difficult international situation, there could be a repeat of the 2003 Black Spring

Yordanis Chavez explained that they have not appealed the ruling because they do not trust the judicial system. “Lisandra has not committed any crime, it is only because it was an order of State Security as punishment for her activism in UNPACU in favor of freedom and democracy in Cuba.”

José Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU’s leader, fears that, in the midst of the difficult international situation, there could be a repeat of what happened in the spring of 2003, when 75 regime opponents were arrested and sentenced to extremely long prison terms. That crackdown, which came to be known as the Black Spring, coincided with the United States’ invasion of Iraq, a time when the world was looking the other way. At present, more than 50 UNPACU activists remain in prison in several provinces, many of them accused of crimes they have not committed.

For its part, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation announced in its last report, on the month of March, that there had been at least 432 arbitrary detentions of peaceful dissidents in Cuba in that month. In addition, several dissidents were vandalized and stripped of their computers, cell phones and other means of work, as well as cash.

Ice Cream and Kilobytes

The inauguration of a Wi-Fi zone for internet access seeks to revitalize the Coppelia ice cream parlor. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 10 April 2017 – The large and little-used park around the Coppelia ice cream parlor has a new function as of a few days ago. The inauguration of a wifi zone for internet access is looking to revitalize the ice cream stand, as iconic as it is fallen into disgrace. Now, in the absence of those mythical 26 flavors, the customers will have a serving of kilobytes on side, courtesy of the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA). continue reading

Under the inclement sun, some curious came this week came in search of a few hours of “free” navigation as had been mentioned in various official media. The state monopoly only allowed access to the web at no cost during the opening day, and then an hour of navigation again cost the same as in the rest of these wireless parks: 1.50 CUC an hour (about $1.50 US, the equivalent of nearly two days pay at the average wage).

The state monopoly only allowed access to the web at no cost during the opening day and then an hour of navigation cost again 1.50 CUC

During two busy months, a brigade of construction workers installed benches, planters, lights and three reflectors for the security of the netizens. This last is one of the conditions most demanded in other areas where ETECSA offers its Nauta wifi service, where users report frequent thefts of telephones, tablets and computers, mainly at night.

Little by little word has spread and the place is beginning to fill with faces that stare closely at a screen, people who speak animatedly by videoconference and access resellers who, through the application Connectify, offer a plunge into the great world-wide web for half the state price.

It is hoped that soon, among Havanans, the word “Coppelia” will become synonymous with social networks and digital sites, instead of the mythical ice cream parlor that it once was.

“The Politician Of The Week,” A Citizens’ Initiative

The initiative involves people as different as the filmmaker Carlos Lechuga (above) or Cuba’s Minister of the Interior. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 10 April 2017 — Facing the times that we live in can be an unpleasant task. And doing it without discrimination based on ideological viewpoints and with immediacy, takes visions of daring. This is the challenge that the Center for the Application of Political Marketing and Political assumes with the election of the “politician of the week,” an initiative that approaches the Cuban reality from its protagonists. continue reading

The profiles developed by the independent entity are made in collaboration with the site Primavera digital (Digital Spring), the historian Dimas Castellanos and the journalist José Antonio Fornaris, among others. They are distributed through e-mail and several web pages. Their intention is to summarize, with the fewest adjectives, the biography and significant details of those who mark the events of the Island. Those faces that embody the moments most sublime and most ridiculous of the day-to-day.

The “politician of the week” does not evaluate the person, but rather the events in which he or she has taken part and the decisions for which they are responsible. The brief sheet that accompanies their name doesn’t judge, but it does describe. In a country where most of the time the public debate centers on “killing the messenger” instead of understanding the message, this moderate exercise carried out by the Center takes on hints of the historic.

So far this year, the names included in the classification have ranged from officials in the highest ranks of power to opponents condemned for their activism. This wide range of points of view can only be recognized from an independent perspective, given that the official media only gives space to names linked to the government.

Its catalog of personalities is the closest thing to a democratic exercise, in which there is no discrimination or tendency to stigmatize positions

Thus, this civic initiative has described both Jennifer Bello Martínez, president of the Federation of University Students, and Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, a person Amnesty International has declared a political prisoner of conscience. In its entries it has shed light on the life of the new interior minister, Rear Admiral Julio Cesar Gandarilla Bermejo, as well as Carlos Lechuga, director of the censored film Santa and Andrés.

Nor have they missed, in their accounts, figures such as Vice President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, a hard-liner known for his partisan orthodoxy, or Havana’s private taxi drivers who demonstrated their dissatisfaction after the imposition of price caps on their service.

The Center, led by the analyst Julio Aleaga, has given space to Tyrians and Trojans. Its catalog of personalities is the closest thing to a democratic exercise in which there is no discrimination or stigmatizing positions, a posture that in today’s times of polarization, does not stop giving some people hives or provoking indignation.

There are those who are upset to not have been included yet, while others cry out to have their names erased from the list. To the extent that it is list of the protagonists of a reality, the “politician of the week” approaches those who are part of events, but the evaluation of their performance will depend on the opinions of each individual reader.

The Right of Assembly / Somos+

Somos+, Ezequiel Álvarez, 27 March 2017 — I believe that, in the resistance against the totalitarian, military dictatorship of the Castros, the existence of diverse organizations is essential and necessary. If we fight against a monolithic system, it is indispensable to start from a pluralist base wherein there is room for different ideas. continue reading

If communism’s major flaw is to intend for all the world to submit by force to one ideology, our response cannot be another antagonistic solution of the same kind.

The human being by nature represents a variety of opinions. The democratic system proclaims freedom of assembly, and as proponents of democracy for Cuba, we should accept that other points of view also have a right to participate in the opposition.

Starting from that premise, I propose that we should know how to work together in this phase, and allow the electoral process to decide the democratic route that the nation will take.

Meanwhile, let us continue, each according to his conscience, respecting the same right in others, working together toward the same ideal.

Let us prepare the foundations starting now, so that in the eventual future, we can be ready to prevent a repeat of the current tragedy. An upright structure that will serve as safe passage to a constitutional democracy, with the prior approval of the opposition parties, is a solution that we should explore and work towards making a reality.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Ten Years, A Blog

Yoani Sánchez received the Ortega y Gasset award for her work on ‘Generation Y’ in 2008, although she was not allowed to leave the country to receive it until five years later. (El Pais)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 10 April 2017 — Dawn, the sound of the keyboard marks the beginning of the day. I start a blog that will make me experience the most gratifying and terrible moments of my existence. I go out with the USB stick around my neck, climb the steps of the Havana Capitol and mumble a few phrases to get myself into the place with internet access exclusively for foreigners. It is the 9th of April 2007 and I publish the first text of Generation Y… My life has just taken a turn.

A decade has passed since that scene. A time during which I laid bare, post by post, the events that mark the reality of my country and of my own existence. I have filled the pages of this personal diary and left a testimony of the eventful and intense years I have lived. A digital logbook that could well serve as an impressionist portrait of Cuba at the beginning of this millennium. continue reading

There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then. I discovered the immense scope of the written word, the amplifying character of technology, and an authoritarian power’s lack of ethical limits. I owned responsibility for every published phrase and not a few times paid the consequences not for what I said, but for what others believed I said.

I discovered the immense scope of the written word, the amplifying character of technology, and an authoritarian power’s lack of ethical limits

I earned a scolding from a severe leader accustomed to hearing only his own voice, I spent more than one night in a jail cell, and I learned to speak in code to evade the microphones placed in my house. I got used to seeing my face in the official media surrounded by the worst adjectives and lost more than one friend. However, the gratifying moments have far surpassed all the punishments this opinion space has brought me.

I watched innumerable voices be born and gain strength, voices that made the Cuban blogosphere a more plural and inclusive space. I met many, like myself, who in their respective countries grabbed ahold of the new digital tools to try to better their societies. I received the support of my family and discovered the profession that I exercise today: journalism.

Each text that has come out in Generation Y shows that personal path, marked by obstacles and gratifications. If I could go back in time I would only amend the moment when I decided to open this blog. I don’t forgive myself for having waited so long to express myself.

Reflections* From a Glass House

Reinaldo Escobar, 18 June 2008 (Reposted 10 April 2017) — The former president Fidel Castro has just published a foreword to the book Fidel, Bolivia and Something More in which he discredits the internet blog, Generation Y, written by my wife, the blogger Yoani Sanchez.  From the first day, she has put her full name (which he omits) and her photo on the web, visible to readers, to sign the articles which she writes with the sole purpose – as she has said several times – of “throwing up” all that is nauseating about our reality.

The ex-president disapproves of the fact that Yoani accepted this year’s Ortega y Gasset Prize for Digital Journalism, arguing that the prize is something that imperialism favors to blow its own horn. I recognize the right of this gentleman to make this comment, but I allow myself to observe that the responsibility implied in receiving a prize is never comparable to that of bestowing one, and Yoani, at least, has never awarded a medal to a corrupt person, a traitor, a dictator or a murderer. continue reading

I clarify this because I remember perfectly that the author of these reproaches was the one who placed (or commanded to be placed) the “Order of José Martí” on the lapels of the most terrible and undeserving men possible: Leonid llyich Brezhnev, Nicolae Ceausescu, Todor Zhivkov, Gustav Husak, Janos Kadar, Mengistu Haile Mariam, Robert Mugabe, Heng Samrin, Erich Honecker and others that I have forgotten. I would like to read, in light of these times, a “Reflection” that justifies the award of these inadmissible honors – to blow the horns of others – that so tarnished the name of the man we call our Apostle, José Martí.

It is true that the philosopher Ortega y Gasset can be connected to elitist and perhaps reactionary ideas, but at least, unlike those decorated by the prologue writer, he never launched tanks against his nonconforming neighbors, nor built palaces, nor imprisoned those whose opinions differed from his own, nor left his followers in the lurch, nor amassed fortunes from the misery of his people, nor built extermination camps, nor gave orders to shoot those who, to escape, jumped the fence from his own backyard.

*Translator’s note: Fidel Castro’s column in the daily newspaper Granma, is titled “Reflections of Fidel

Site manager’s note: Translating Cuba has chosen to reprint this article, from the early in the second year of Yoani’s blog, in connection with Generation Y’s tenth anniversary.

Men’s Matters

Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 18 June 2008 (Reposted 10 April 2017) — In this Central Havana of guapos* – tough guys – and brawls where I was born, I learned there are certain lines a woman should never cross.  I have spent my life breaking the laughable rules of machismo, but today – and only today – I am going to take refuge in one of them, one of the ones I dislike the most.  It warns, “A woman needs a man to represent her and to go to bat for her when another man insults or slanders her.”

Feeling attacked by someone with a power infinitely superior to mine, more than twice my age, and in addition – as the neighbors of my childhood would have said – someone who is “macho-male-masculine,” I have decided it will be my husband, the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, who will respond. continue reading

I refer to the damaging remarks that Fidel Castro made about me in the prologue of the book, Fidel, Bolivia and Something More.  Not even such a “great” attack convinces me to abandon the premise of refusing to engage in a cycle of rejoinder and self defense.  I am sorry to say I remain focused on the theme called “Cuba.”

Let’s leave it up to Reinaldo and Fidel to do the fighting.  I will continue in my “womanly” labor of weaving together, despite the chatter, the frayed tapestry of our civil society.
The guapos from my neighborhood will know that I learned “something” from them!

* Please do not confuse a Cuban guapo with a handsome man or suitor. That might work in another Latin American country, but here in Cuba the word carries a different connotation, which someone might explain to you  with a slap, or perhaps a stabbing.

Translator’s note: The first sentence is hard to translate because there is a double meaning.  Guapo/guapa is both an adjective and a noun and in common use it means handsome/gorgeous.  In Cuban slang “guapo” also means a tough guy, someone who likes to fight.  It can be used as an insult or to dare someone, that is as the aggressive form of “Hey, man…”  The original footnote explains this meaning for non-Cuban Spanish readers who may not be familiar with it.


Site manager’s note: Translating Cuba has chosen to reprint this article, from the early in the second year of Yoani’s blog, in connection with Generation Y’s tenth anniversary.

Young Cuban Filmmakers Challenge Official History

Young directors present their work in the “Moving Ideas” section at the 16th Young Filmmakers Show of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC), in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 8 April 2017 – Were the events like the books tell us? Is the official story a report of what really happened? The attempt to answer these questions inspires the documentary and two fictional shorts that were presented Wednesday in the ‘Moving Ideas’ section of the 16th edition of the Young Filmmakers Exhibition of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) in Havana.

Under the motto “Forgetting does not exist,” the filmmakers approached collective and family memory to show a point of view often ignored by the epic of Revolutionary discourse. The works probe those memories for what Cubans treasure about moments in national life, beyond the gilded frame that the institutional version attaches to them.

Economic disasters, a war on a distant continent and the drama of family separation after exile, were some of the issues addressed by this new generation of film directors, who show a special interest in looking back. Children of indoctrination and official silence seem willing to shed light on the darker areas of what has happened in the last half century. continue reading

Director Pedro Luis Rodríguez offers the short Personal Report set on the eve of the Revolutionary Offensive of 1968 — when all remaining private businesses in the country were confiscated, down to the last shoeshine boy. It was a watershed moment in the economic life of the nation that brought profound effects on commerce, supply and even the mentality of those born after that massive closure of private businesses.

Were the facts as they are told in the books? Is the official story a report of what really happened?

In less than half an hour, Rodríguez shows the conflicts experienced by Ricardo, an analyst on the Planning Board, who is preparing to present a report to his boss on the consequences of the measure that is about to be taken. The protagonist defends his right to participate in the decisions that are made in the country or at least to be heard, but everything is in vain.

Personal Report presents that look from below on a historical event where the decision was taken “on high.” An offensive about which the government has never offered a public self-criticism, although a quarter of a century later the private sector was again authorized to operate. Today, more than half a million workers are struggling to support themselves despite strong legal limits on their activities and economic hardships.

Screen shot from ‘The Son of the Dream.’ (CC)

In the discussions with the audience after the screening in the Chaplin room, Rodriguez acknowledged that his film is “a wink” at the current phenomenon of self-employment. His desire is that the work serves to “reflect on this present” and to meditate “on participation and the need to be heard and to be consistent with oneself.”

The flood of memories and questioning continued with the fictional short Taxi, directed by Luis Orlando Torres. Taxi addresses another of the many themes barely touched on by the fiery speeches from those in power: Cuba’s involvement in the war in Angola and its aftermath in society; the plot centers on the physical and mental wounds left by that conflict outside the island’s borders.

‘Personal Report’ presents that look from below on a historical event where the decision was taken “on high.”

Torres focuses on the effects on families and establishes a parallel with the internationalist medical missions that now send Cuban healthcare workers around the world, and their consequences here at home. The film develops a suspense story that begins when a taxi driver picks up a passenger in a seemingly casual way. A brief conversation will suffice to call into question moral aspects of a war, one which the Government has always defended as an act of solidarity.

Meanwhile, The Son of the Dream, directed by Alejandro Alonso and filmed in 16 millimeter with a Bolex camera, relives through family letters and postcards the filmmaker’s memories of an uncle whom he was unable to know due to the separation caused by the Mariel Boatlift. The material is the result of a workshop given at the International Film School of San Antonio de los Baños by Canadian director Philip Hoffman.

Beyond the aesthetic and artistic values ​​of each of the projects presented in ‘Moving Ideas’, it is clear that much of the young cinema that is being produced on the Island is not trying to please institutions or accept pre-established truths. It is an uncomfortable, irreverent, questioning and willing movement to belie an epic story that has been shaped more with silences than with truths.

Eliécer Ávila, The ‘New Man’ Who Became An Opponent

Eliecer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement (CC).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Walking along the streets with Eliécer Ávila can be a complicated task. His face is well known thanks to a viral video broadcast almost a decade ago. However, before fame came into his life, this young man born in Las Tunas was a model “New Man”: the most finished product of ideological indoctrination.

Like all Cuban children, Avila shouted slogans during his school’s morning assembly, participated in countless repudiation activities “against imperialism” and dreamed of resembling Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. But while, in school, they taught him the social achievements that the Revolutionary process brought to the population, at home reality was stubborn and showed itself to be something quite different. continue reading

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat

The residents of Yarey de Vázquez – the Puerto Padre municipality of Puerto Padre where the leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement was born – are poor, the kind of poverty that grabs you by the throat. A place lost in nothingness, where many families still use latrines for their bodily needs, and live in houses with roofs made of palm fronds.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life did not resemble the official version he was being taught. Born in 1985, in the middle of that “golden decade” when the Soviet Union was propping up the island, he was barely walking a year later when Fidel Castro ordered the closing of the free farmers markets in the midst of the “Process of Rectification of Errors and Negative Tendencies.”

Eliécer Avila reached puberty during what was called the Special Period. With the voracity that still characterizes him, he faced many days of his adolescence with his plate half full, or almost empty. He hand stitched the shoes he wore to school, invented all kinds of “outfits” from his grandfather’s old shirts, and turned off the light when it was time to strip down to his underwear, so no one could see the holes.

Surrounded by pigs, chickens and tedium, Avila realized that his life did not resemble the official version he was taught. He was born in 1985, in the middle of that “golden decade” when the Soviet Union was propping up the Island

With a natural leadership quality, in which a certain humor mixes with an undeniable histrionic capacity to narrate anecdotes, the young man made his way through those years without climbing aboard a raft to escape the country or ending up in jail. Those who knew him predicted a future in politics, because of those “fine lips” that helped him in student meetings and in romantic conquests.

A little bit later, luck smiled on him. He was able to enroll in the University of Computer Sciences (UCI), founded in 2002 in the middle of the Battle of Ideas. UCI was located on the site that had once been the Center for Exploration and Radioelectronics Listening, known as the Lourdes SIGNIT Station, where until 2001 Russia – and the Soviet Union before it – had had its largest spy station outside its borders. UCI was a school for trusted young people to become computer soldiers for a Revolution that fears the Internet.

While a student at UCI, Avila led Operation Truth. His task was to monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government. In those spaces, the young revolutionary sharpened his arsenal of tools for political struggle that included everything from hacking to the execution of the reputation of anyone who opposed the Plaza of the Revolution.

Little by little, like acid that filters through the cracks, those anti-government arguments he read on the web began to sink into his mind and mingle with his own disagreements. Restless, in 2008 he took his turn at the microphone during a visit to UCI of Ricardo Alarcón, then president of the National Assembly. The minutes of that public appearance that followed marked the rest of his life.

The video of the collision between Ávila and Alarcón jumped to first place in the hit parade on the clandestine networks that distributed audiovisuals. No one wanted to miss it, especially the moment when the leader of Parliament justified the travel restrictions imposed on Cubans by saying how congested the skies might be, if everyone were allowed to board an airplane.

Avila led Operation Truth while studying computer science; his task was to monitor digital sites and blogs critical of the Government

Now, nine years later, the young activist prefers not to be called “Eliécer, the one who debated with Alarcon,” but for the rest of his life it will be his most important letter of introduction to millions of Cubans. His challenge of power, with simple questions and a firm voice, has been one of the most accurate and best documented gestures of rebellion in almost six decades of Castroism.

After that, he received his punishment. After graduating, the authorities sent him to a remote Youth Computer Club to purge his audacity. It was the decisive moment in which he decided to cross the red line towards independence. He left the state sector, founded the Somos+ Movement and relocated to Havana. One audacious act after another.

The attacks rained down from all sides. State Security raised the level of pressure on his environment, traditional opposition leaders threw darts at the upstart, and there was no shortage of those who claimed that he was only a mole for the political police disguised as a dissident.

Since then, Ávila has tried to give shape to a civic discourse that uses new technologies and a less politicized language, closer to the concerns of ordinary people. But, like every dissident, he is caught in the grip of charges of illegal action, subjected to constant vigilance and assigned the halo of demonization imposed on anyone who does not applaud power.

Nothing is more disturbing to a system that has played with social alchemy than the fact of a creature from its own ideological laboratory turning against it

The numerous trips abroad that he has made since the Travel and Immigration Reforms of 2013 have allowed him to know the world, only to discover that the most exciting and indecipherable of the territories that await him is located in the future Cuba. That country so many have dreamed of and that is taking so long to arrive.

Recently he went a step further and announced that he was prepared to represent the electors of his constituency as a delegate. A somewhat remote possibility, given the oiled mechanisms of control over the People’s Assemblies maintained by the ruling party where, by show of hands, the attendees must nominate the potential candidates.

This week, the guajiro of Yarey de Vázquez has crossed another line. A public protest at José Martí International Airport has resulted in his house being searched, and him being arrested and charged with “illicit economic activity.” The trigger was the seizure of his laptop at Customs when he returned from Colombia.

Now, it is expected that the siege around the young leader and his Somos+ Movement will continue to close. Nothing is more disturbing to a system that has played with social alchemy than a creature from its own ideological laboratory turning against it. Eliécer Ávila will be doubly punished because power acts with more fury against its own, when it rebels.

More articles in English by and about Eliécer Ávila can be read here.

Police Arrest Activist Eliécer Ávila and Raid His Home

The video shows Eliecer Avila and other human rights activists at the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, protesting the confiscation of Avila’s laptop when he returned to the country from abroad.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 April 2017 – Some fifty uniformed members of the National Revolutionary Police and the Ministry of the Interior raided the home of the activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) Movement this Saturday morning. The police seized documents and home appliances, in addition to arresting the opponent, according to detailed information from his wife, Rachell Vázquez, speaking to 14ymedio.

The police search began at six in the morning and lasted about four hours during which the troops did not allow access to the property located in the neighborhood of El Canal, in the Havana’s Cerro municipality. “We were going to eat something when they knocked on the door,” says Vázquez.

During the search, the police were accompanied by two witnesses of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). “All they left us was the TV,” adds the wife. “Right now Eliécer is missing, because no one knows where they took him,” he says. continue reading

Hours earlier, the couple was at Terminal 3 of José Martí International Airport, where Avila staged a protest to demand the return of several of his belongings retained by the General Customs of the Republic. Last Thursday, when the activist returned from a trip to Colombia, his personal laptop was confiscated.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera and Lugareño

The opponent remained at the airport for more than 36 hours and insisted to security agents that he would not leave the place until they returned the computer. Other members of his organization joined in the protest.

After being arrested this Saturday Ávila made a phone call to his wife to inform her that he is being held at the Police Station of Aguilera and Lugareño in La Viñora. “He asked me to bring the deed of the house and 1,000 CUP,” says Vázquez, but “the police took the money in the drawers.”

In a video posted on the Somos+ website, Avila is seen in an airport lounge with two activists carrying posters with the phrase “No More Robbery.” The opponent denounced in front of the camera that the authorities “gave no explanations” and have not told him the reason for confiscating his computer.

Police searches and raids on dissidents’ homes have become common in the last year. In its report for March, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) denounced this procedure.

During that month “there were innumerable cases of dissidents deprived of their computers, cell phones and other means of work as well as cash,” the report adds. These actions are aimed “to prevent the work of peaceful opponents and to make them increasingly poor,” said the independent entity.