Interview with Juan Juan Almeida*

Photo: Dagoberto Valdes, Juan Juan Almeida, Yoani Sanchez

Yoani Sanchez: 1. You are an important public figure, especially because you are the son of one of the historic icons of the Cuban Revolution, the commander Juan Almeida Bosque. How have you dealt with these circumstances? Have you taken advantage of them? Have they become a burden?

Juan Juan Almeida: Figure? Importance? Me? I can tell you, one morning in October a General chose me, saying with reverence that I was the favorite son of my commander father, and a few years later, this same General kicked me out, almost literally, from the funeral of my father.

You see, experience is the referent, and what you could have called “circumstance”, has been, is and will be for me, my whole life. It’s in my blood, in my genes, in my surname. I would not be able – nor do I want – to give up what I am. My father is not and was not a burden.

I don’t think much before speaking and I always say what I think. I have already said it, I have thought about it, I reaffirm it: If I were to be born again, I would not want a similar father, I would want the same one.

To say that I took advantage of him, of his position, of his power, excuse me, that would also be relative. By the way, my father had nine children, there are eight of us siblings, why are you interviewing me? I don’t think it’s just because I’m the son of a Comandante.

2. I want to wrap up the topic of your father with this question and then talk about you. The folkloric image of Comandante Juan Almeida is that of a man of the people, fun, down to earth and transparent. No excesses or abuses of power have been attributed to him. Do you agree with that image? How was he as a family man?

Folkloric image? Wow, Yoani, you come up with such phrases!

Well, let’s say that in some ways I agree with that image if “down to earth” means that one is not a complicated person. More than “a man of the people” he was Cuban, very “Cuban” and very human. The day I went to the morgue I went up to him and kissed him. He was on a stretcher, serious, cold – that was not my father. And although it’s difficult for a son to give an unbiased opinion, today I would say that my father’s smile was something incredible, fascinating, the most beautiful one in the world.

I remember when I was a child I loved to run my fingers over the marks that his battles had left on his body and he would tell me proudly, with a smile, these happened here, those happened over there, this one happened in El Uvero. So I know each centimeter of my father’s body, an extremely tender man who paradoxically died without saying “I love you”. Maybe that’s why he took refuge in his songs. He composed one for me, I Want to be a Sailor, and every time I hear it my heart crumples up.

My father was what I would like to be someday: unique.

But that’s enough, let’s change the topic. I get sentimental and I’m terrified of suffering.

3. From reading your book, Memories of an Unknown Guerrilla, and from other testimonies of people close to you, one gets the impression of a certain disastrous quality in your conduct: an undesirable student in several schools, a terrible State security agent, failed businessman and irredeemable bohemian. If you were forced to say something good about yourself, what would you say?

Ah, but were you saying bad things about me? You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. If I had been a good agent for the organs of State Security, I bet you would be criticizing me right now. If I had been a “successful” businessman, would you be complimenting and envying me? And if I were not a bohemian, I wouldn’t know poems and this interview would be a boring antic, flattering and pedantic.

Look at that, it rhymes!

A while ago you called me “an important figure”; now, “disastrous” and “undesirable.” Hell, woman, you’re acting like the General. Look, you know who I am? I am Juan Juan and, by the way, I love saying my name. I am a Havanan by birth and in my heart. When I was very little and the carpets were rolled out, someone would always whisper: “the son of Comandante Almeida just arrived.” Later, when my daughter was a little girl and I would take her to school with her mother, her friends would say: “Indira’s father just arrived.” As you can see, my friend, the same way I am my father’s son, I am my daughter’s father. So that’s what I am: Indira’s father, Consuelo’s husband, Púbila García’s son, Juan Almeida’s son, my siblings’ brother, my friends’ friend. In conclusion, I am a guy who is many things, who loves to live his life and, as opposed to others, does not dream of that image of being an intelligent man. I am not a victim, I am not a hero, I have no pretensions of being a leader and even less a role model; no parties, no groups. I am only a human being with defects and fed up with so many people who have fantasies of fixing the world, which of itself is not even round. I think that a good chaos can be something fantastic!

4. In your youth and because you came from a family like yours, you were involved with that group of young men know popularly as “daddy’s boys”. Are you still friends with any of them? What happened to that pleiad?

Wouldn’t it really sound better to ask what happened to my group of friends? Well, all right, you like “pleiad”, I’ll use “pleiad.”

I am not going to mention their names, but all my friends, like all “friends”, some are here, others are elsewhere, others in the beyond.

Before, I used to talk to them a lot, and would even visit the ones here or elsewhere. But after suffering something as emotional as the persecutions were and are, being followed, arrested, interrogated, marginalized, excluded, etc., one has to learn to live with his present. I see no reason to affect or contaminate or want to convince anyone. My mother used to tell me: Juan Juan, I raised you to be a little man. And that’s it, I believed it.

I separated from my friends in order to protect them all, also from some relatives. I would have been a son of a bitch if I had acted any other way. But let me tell you something, the day I was kicked out of my father’s funeral, immediately after, my whole family left that place, they all got the hell out of the Plaza of the la Revolution. Listen well: All of them, Plaza of the Revolution. It’s not easy. From there I went home and I locked myself in to cry alone. And you know what helped me? The many phone calls, the great number of friends who, like you, know that my phone is always “congested.” Oh, and more than six thousand e-mails. I’m not an angel, I’ve said it, but that seemed to me enough to believe that I’m not so bad and that I had been able to sow a bit.

Did I tell you that a long time ago I removed from my dictionary the words “enemy,” “victory,” “defeat”; and because it rhymes with “combat” [in Spanish], I also removed “debate”.

Suffering terrifies me; so does power. I know them, I have seen them since childhood, they go hand in hand. Whoever prefers power should always understand that definition clearly, in its strictest sense, so as not to commit acts contrary to the duties imposed by the law, nor satisfy the personal interests of those who exercise it by abusing their authority and acting without respect for the law, decrees or constitutions. I don’t want that kind of power, I prefer to smile calmly.

By the way, and in conclusion, “daddy’s boys” is one of the many phrases that only create division and although it may seem funny to you, it’s quite discriminatory and exclusionary toward that “pleiad” that you call “daddy’s boys.” Not everything is absolute, the apple doesn’t look the same from the ground as from the sky.

5. Your current drama is described as one of a sick person who needs health care overseas where, in addition, your family lives, while the regime will not let you leave the country. What reasons have they given for denying you an exit visa? What do you think the real motives are? What do you think you would have to do or what would have to happen for you to finally get on a plane to leave Cuba? Will you return to live in this country if you manage to leave?

First, let’s put this in context: I have a life, not a drama. I was born with a genetic incurable illness, I don’t like talking about it, and I detest acting the victim. In the ’80s my conditions started to cause me pain and periods of being an invalid. I tried the best-known Cuban experts without finding any solution, including calling at the office of my father one afternoon because, and he had told me this, Minister Raul Castro had tried to find some Korean doctors because, among other things, he was also concerned about my case. I went to the Koreans, various sessions of acupuncture and other techniques but they didn’t resolve my problems. Go ask Raul, he must remember it. It was then when, through a decision of a commission of MININT and MINSAP, my medical records were sent to an international conference. I started to go to Brussels to see my doctor and things were going well even thought they were getting worse. The reasons, I don’t know. I received threats, arrests, persecutions, a ton of things; but an explanation, nothing.
Why don’t they let me go? I have no idea. I don’t know my interrogator nor anyone in Villa Marista. Nor can I accept that it’s on account of my father ordering it, because I don’t lack witnesses who destroy that hypothesis.

I have no doubt, that it’s a whim of someone who literally can piss on our Constitution, having forgotten the Hippocratic oath of the Minister of Health, to silence the highest leadership of the Ministry of the Interior and the President of the National Assembly.

Who has so much power? Fuente Ovejuna, señor. It’s because he can liquidate me, make me suffer pain, keep me from my daughter with no regard at all, from my wife, my family, he can put me in a cell in a secret case. But this hard-hearted pride will destroy his prestige because everyone looks and asks, why is the President of the Councils of State and of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba so taken with the idea of fucking over a guy like me? The answer is, I don’t know, it could be pride.

Am I going to return? I’m going to answer the same as I told a Colonel who interviewed me one day: my interest is in coming back — this I’ve repeated — but look, first I have to leave.

That which I’ve made clear is that if I leave illegally, I’ll return illegally.

6. It’s going around that you made at least one attempt at an illegal exit from Cuba. The incomprehensible is that, according to rumor, you guys were caught “red-handed” in a bus? Can you be more explicit?

Yes, but first I have to make clear that it wasn’t one, it was two attempts at illegal exit, or almost three. The first failed because the raft sank, fortunately next to the shore, I have at least two friends that can confirm it.

The second, is that one that many know: one afternoon they called me to say that, if I wanted to leave illegally, I was to show up dressed in white at 7 AM in a cafeteria that is located at the entrance to Lenin Park in the outskirts of the capital.

That I did, on May 6, 2009, out of pure desperation. I already said that I wrote letters, I already said I’d begged, I already said that I’d interviewed, I already said that they ignored me and there was no option other than an illegal exit. Besides, it’s already part of this old and sad story that sometimes seems spent: dreams, cries, frustrations, destroyed families — in the end, I said that on the bus we were 70-and-some-odd people.

Some said that God had abandoned us, and others, that He had simply saved us from a death on the high seas. The fact was that at 9 PM — by luck or disgrace, I don’t know — after hours on the road, the transit police detained the bus at the highway police control point in the city of Manzanillo. They took us to a police station, they took our identity cards and cell phones, they gave us a talking to in a theater, and then they divided us into groups. I remained with those who stayed overnight in that station. They put us in cells, and there, thrown here and there, we spent that first night together.

The next day, early, after breakfast, they took away our belongings, they took our fingerprints, they took statements and then locked us up in the same cells that were open before and to describe that now would be meaningless. At that time I learned that some of my fellow travelers had tried to illegally leave the country so many times and already knew too well the police procedures. After a while they returned all our belongings minus phones and identity cards, they offered us lunch and we rode the same bus, filming us as we rode, to take us to the delegation of MININT of Bayamo. But imagine it, a bus, with sixty-odd passengers tried to leave Cuba illegally; it was a noisy bomb running up the ghoulishly fascinated streets of Manzanillo, maybe that’s why many people in that town wanted to stand on the sidewalks to watch us pass. At first I thought they would throw stones or the like, but none of that, girl, people gave us examples of their solidarity. That was touching.

We got to Bayamo, were interrogated, taken to Havana, secret houses and even a thorough search of my house, a real atrocity. At last, after several days I left that nightmare with a hood over my head and I’m still required for many months to go and sign in at Villa Marista. I’ve said many times, I do not want to go sign, I want a trial, a trial to accept my own guilt, and the guilt of those who, by not answering my letters and leaving me in a legal limbo also becomes clear, they forced me and do force me to choose an illegal option. A situation and a suggestion that both, still, continue.

But what few know is that there was “almost” a third illegal departure, this last I told them personally in Villa Marista, I told them I would call the national and international press, meet them at the Malecon and get into a raft. Before, of course, I would also tell the Miami press that someone, a boat, a coast guard ship, a speed boat, whatever, something needed to come and wait for me in international waters. I have a visa. I’m will not stop asking or trying to get out, legal or illegal, that part doesn’t interest me, I need to go to the doctor, hug my family, because no one, absolutely no one, has the right to trample on my rights.

7. Do you consider yourself a dissident, government opponent, or something similar?

You don’t give me many options! I don’t consider myself a dissident or an opponent and much less “something similar.” I learned to get along, I’m everything and nothing. I have political opinions but I’m not political, I have a blog but I’m not a blogger, I have friends in the army and friends not in the army, friends who are foreigners and friends who are not foreigners, I’m a friend of Ventolera (that skinny lowlife they say is an expert at stealing clothes off the clotheslines) but I’m not a thief, I have a voice but I’m not a speaker, I have many gay friends but… Well, this is a topic we will talk about later.

Did you know that once, just to shut me up, they offered me work in a prominent place with gifts included? Did I ever tell you about the dissident friend who invited me to participate in his party? Did I tell you that in Villa Marista they constantly invite me to behave myself so they’ll give me the exit permit? Did I mention that a few days ago I received a strange message from the mouth of a General?

Oh, God, I consider myself a living being, an animal, a human, a Cuban, a Havanan who pursues only the welfare of my family, my friends, friends of my friends and my country.

I like a poem by my friend Roger Silverio that says something like:
“I’m tired, my Lord, I’m tired, it is a very large load you have given me
And being tired, I have almost forgotten, you promised me a world restored.”

8. Is it true that you have a private room in Villa Marista, the headquarters of State Security? Have you ever been subjected to cruel treatment, physical or psychological tortures? Do they still, at this point, propose that you work with them?

It’s true and interesting that the times they have taken me to Villa Marista and I had the privilege of sleeping on a bed in the same cell … sorry, I meant “the Presidential Suite.” But look, they have changed my number, the agent assigned to me and even my interrogator. Of course, the latter apologized and explained that he had been working outside of Havana. I do not mention his name because he begged me and I respect his privacy.

The treatment hasn’t been bad, no one has hit me, no one has pulled out my fingernails and they’ve even shown me letters. But beware, a cautionary measure that lasts longer than the sentence for a crime I never committed would be a violation, to be imprisoned for no reason could be an abuse, you feel and see yourself persecuted by people and cars, even to have photos of them is harassment, to not allow me to leave to see a doctor could be a kind of physical torture, and the simple and insignificant fact that they have taken me far from my family on a whim and the command of a lord, could be something like a psychological pressure. Especially when this is often accompanied by a polite, “Be good.”

What if they propose I collaborate? No, it is not that they have asked me, but believe me, I’d be enchanted although according to the manuals I remember from the KGB, there are certain characteristics people should have to “be recruited.” I don’t know if I can talk about these issues without violating any law, but now let me say that I do not fit the profile.

9. Lately you have been given to taking to the streets with signs. What does each of them say? What have you been trying to accomplish with the public protest?

Juan Juan Almeida walking with one of his signs.

No, lately no, I’ve always drawn posters. The first time I was just little boy. I was a José Martí Pioneer and I wanted to be like the apostle. On that first occasion, my sign said “I want to be like Marti.” For the record, I had nothing against the Che Guevara nor the Pioneer slogan [“I want to be like Che”]; but they punished me.

Later, I was in high school, I hung a sheet from the balcony that said in black letters, “Teachers, we students are not coming to the field today, we’re tired, please, replace us.” The teachers didn’t understand that I was asking a favor. That week I didn’t get a weekend pass.

For my wife, my daughter, I have filled the house with posters. In the bath, on the mirrors. Anyway.

In 2005 I was at the Plaza municipality immigration office with a poster that said, “I need permission for me and my wife to leave.” They threw me out. The same year I was at the Plaza of the Revolution with a poster that said the same thing. They detained me and confiscated the poster.

Finally, in 2009, they told me in Villa Marista that my case was closed and I could ask for permission to leave, and the next day they told me they reversed that decision, I went to the Plaza with a placard but this time it was blank. That was the problem, the agents didn’t understand and no matter how much I explained they didn’t believe I was thinking of doing it there. Geez, it’s that smart people are always very complicated.

The last and most recent was in December. An official from Villa Marista assured me that on a certain day they would have a definitive solution to my problem. That day came. Nothing, I felt played with, I grabbed my poster and went in the direction of Raul’s house, they stopped me on 5th avenue; that time it said, “Mr. President, respect the law, respect my rights.”

I never intended to disrespect anyone, I’m not a brave man, my posters aren’t offensive, they don’t create public scandals, I just want to get the attention of the people who run things. Nothing more. I already said in Villa Marista that they love to invent heroes, figures, myths, histories, legends, personages and enemies. They are making me into something I’m not.

10. How many weeks ago did you open your blog on the internet titled, “The Voice of El Morro”? What is the content of your blog? What made you participate in the alternative Cuban blogosphere?

I’ve repeated infinite times that for me, they won’t let me leave because of the whim of my “Mr. President,” because I write letters, I try to leave illegally, etc. etc. etc. I got to this point and I know that I’m not an isolated case, I opened my blog to open a window for everyone who wants to scream, to testify and to expose to the world the face of those of us who today are ghosts. It’s not my intention to pick at anyone’s wounds, I just want the testimony of those people who, for reasons or the whim of a “Don Juan of the pen,” can’t travel from this island or leave it. I want to claim all those who sadly share this absurd prohibition, because rather than separate us it unites us.

It’s simple, there is no double standard or hidden meaning. What is surprising is that some prefer the fear and choose to stay silent hoping the government will pardon them for something they never committed. I understand them, it’s their choice, they have written me hiding behind pseudonyms, but I want facts, not stories. To see you, when you get excited, about putting your face on my blog.

Look, I don’t like this name, “alternative Cuban blogosphere,” it sounds ugly to me and I want to clarify that we are not part of it and we don’t agree with it.

Now I want to tell you a story. One morning someone summoned me to a place, and after much talk a person told me that I resembled a certain Yoani Sanchez. I swear, I had never heard that name and started to wonder about her, with the sole intention of knowing who someone might compare me to. Then I read what Fidel Castro had written in the forward to a book [Fidel, Bolivia and Something More] and my curiosity was piqued. So it happened that, and it was after I’d forgotten that little name, one afternoon I was writing in my house and I received a text message saying, “I am Yoani, if you want to meet me I’m at the home of…” (A friend I don’t want to mention.)

I answered the text message, “Of course, I’ll meet you right now and I am going to kiss your feet,” I said, “If you have washed them.” I dropped everything and went there with the dream of meeting a fawning mulata, tall and delicious.

What a let-down, my friend! At my good friend’s house, on the only sofa, was a white skinny thing with nice legs but too demure for my tastes. And this is Yoani Sanchez? I wondered. So I met an enchanting woman and her husband with his captivating sense of humor. You invited me to your house and I went, I got in the elevator and two young people got in with me, I watched them covertly. One of them had a certain arrogant and dreamy look, and because I am indiscreet I paid particular attention to some metropolitan buttocks. And the boy, well the truth is after looking at those buttocks I didn’t notice anything about him. And in this way I met Claudia Cadelo. And because a beautiful woman is not the youngest, nor the skinniest, nor the one with the smoothest skin or the most stunning hair, but the one who with just a smile and a word can light up your life, I ended up being her friend and the friend of that spectacular guy who is Ciro. Later I met Orlando Luis and I also loved him, and Ivan, Miriam, Ricardo and all those who today are part of my family. What’s more, I can tell you this, and I have told you, so started this crazy fable which, more than a fairy tale, is a story and more than a story is now history.

11. If right now the president of the Republic, General Raul Castro, called you on the phone and asked your advice for solving the problems of Cuba, what would you tell him?

This is not going to happen, but if it did, I couldn’t talk to him right now, I’m talking to Yoani.

Interview by Yoani Sánchez.

*Translator’s Note: This interview is taken from Convivencia’s main website where it appeared, rather than from its blog (which is a part of the website). It is much longer than the typical blog post, but of such humor and interest we thought English-speaking readers would enjoy it. The interview was originally posted on March 30, 2010.

The Church and Mediation: Pérez Serántes

Monseñor Enrique Pérez Serantes, born in Galicia, Doctor of Philosophy and Theology, ordained in 1910 and professor of the Seminary San Carlos and San Ambrosio for six years. In the diocese of Cienfuegos he held the positions of Visor and Vicar General, where he founded the St. Paul Council of the Knights of Columbus. In 1922 he he was ordained as a bishop and was appointed second bishop of Camaguey by Pope Pius XI. In 1948 the Holy See appointed him archbishop of Santiago de Cuba.

Pérez Serantes was the bishop most committed to the social problems of Cuba, he called attention to the working world, became the prototype of a missionary bishop and one of the leading apostles of the Cuban church. His activity was inspired by the Rerum Novarum Encyclical (1891) of Pope Leo XIII, who favored the creation of groups, associations and Catholic unions, the germ of the current Social Doctrine of the Church. When the Moncada Barracks were assaulted on July 26, 1953, he assumed an attitude of commitment, as reflected in the circulars with which he assaulted the Batista government, and that involved the Church in the convulsive sitaution in Cuba.

The first circulars were Peace for the Dead, on July 29 of that year, and the Letter to Col. Rio Chaviano, the following day. Later he issued To The People of the East, on May 28, 1957, a pronunciation for social peace; We Want Peace, on March 24, 1958, a new call to seek peace, aimed at mediating between the government and the guerrillas; the circular With Regards to the Explosion of the Powder Keg of Cobre, on April 16, 1958, where he tried to show that those who set off the explosion didn’t think it would cause major damage at the National Sanctuary, avoiding any accusation against the Rebel Army; We Invoke the Lord, on August 22, 1958, issued during the counteroffensive of the Rebel Army; Walk Macabre, on October 7, 1958, where he castigates the parading of the corpse of a young rebel through the streets of the city and calling it a barbarism; and Enough of War, on December 24, 1958, in which he stated that “no one should idly enjoy themselves, while millions of Cubans writhe and groan in the anguish of intense pain and misery.” This position explained that in the act celebrated on January 2, 1959 in Santiago de Cuba, on hearing Fidel Castro for the first time, Monsignor Pérez Serantes was the first to make use of the word.

I heard one version that says Sarría saved him because he was following orders, and Fidel’s wife was the daughter of a politician very close to Batista, who had interceded for her husband. Regardless of which version may or may not be true, the fact that I want to emphasize is that, in the Letter to Col. Rio Chaviano of July 30, Pérez Serantes established his determination to intercede for the fugitives and his readiness to serve as a guarantor for their lives, a decision that allowed him to participate in the transfer of Fidel from the place he was captured to Santiago de Cuba, preventing his assassination. This latter was confirmed by General Juan Escalona Reguera in an interview with the journalist Luís Báez, in which he said that, being in Siboney, near where Fidel Castro was arrested, he could observe the moment when Sarría and Pérez Serantes were talking on the road with Col. Perez Chamont, who demanded that they turn over Fidel Castro, who was in custody.

In May 1960, after Fidel declared the socialist character of the Revolution, Pérez Serantes issued a circular in which he defined the position of the Church with regards to such a definitive turn of events: With communism nothing, absolutely nothing. After an ecclesiastical life, characterized by a commitment to social problems in Cuba, before and after the Revolution, and interceding for the life of Fidel Castro, Monseñor Enrique Pérez Serantes died in Cuba on April 19, 1968.

The contradictions between Church and Revolution were becoming more acute event to the point of open conflict. A proof of the worsening of relations was the detention for several hours in Camaguey — in December 1960 during a return trip to Santiago de Cuba — of the first speaker of the event held on January 2 in Santiago de Cuba, where Fidel Castro addressed Cubans publicly for the first time.

After a prominent ecclesiastical life, characterized by a commitment to social problems before and after the Revolution, and interceding for the life of Fidel Castro, as did other men of the Church in conflict situations in the history of Cuba, men such as Pedro Agustin Morell, Antonio María Claret and Olallo José Valdés, Monseñor Enrique Pérez Serántes died in Cuba on April 19, 1968, at 84 years of age.

Pedro Agustín Morell, Antonio María Claret, Olallo José Valdés and Enrique Pérez Serantes are not alone, but are representative of the importance of ethics, courage, commitment and willingness to confront conflict. The facts, which are part of our history, are little reported and they contain many lessons for the present case of Cuban prisoners of conscience and for many other problems faced at the negotiating table.

The Happiness of the Long Distance Runner

The calendar displays May 20, 2010. It’s half past ten in the morning. In my hometown of Bayamo it’s another hot muggy day that makes foreheads sweat and engenders moods very close to irritation. But that’s outside, in the unsheltered streets. In this office with its inlaid walls where I am now, an air conditioner set into the wall transforms the surrounding reality into something serene and peaceful.

In front of me an official waits, sitting behind his desk. Telephone in hand. Since my entry into the premises he has only interrupted his dialog to say to me, “Good morning Ernesto, take a seat,” as natural as if he had been expecting me to appear. A little later he finishes his conversation, and pressing two numbers with intentional precision, he asks after the presence of some of the institution’s employees. He asks them to come to the office immediately. No one tells me, but I guess: it is the Board members.

The official has a serene expression on his face, no sign of severity. His name: Ernesto Douglas Bosch. His job: Director of Provincial Radio Bayamo Broadcasting, in the eastern province of Granma.

The seconds crawl by, we are alone in his office waiting for the others, the weight of silence forces him to speak.

“Let me tell you something,” he finally says, acknowledging my existence. “You have no idea of the esteem I have for you. First, for your talent, and second, for your attitude as an employee of this Broadcaster, since the time you started more than a year ago now. But there are things that are difficult for me to accept, that I have a hard time believing,” he says, and he leaves the sentence unfinished, as if it’s not worth the trouble to continue.

I listen to him, and although he doesn’t know it, I study the circumstances with an obsessive interest. I have the feeling (just in the last ten minutes since he warned me) that something definitive is going to happen in my life, and I get ready to capture the essence of whatever is said, whatever is breathed this morning.

My arrival at the institution where I have worked as a Cultural Journalist since I finished my university studies in 2008, was marked today by a coercive act I’d never before had occasion to experience.

The receptionist had been prepared; I’d barely stepped foot in the door when she informed me, with great seriousness: the Director was waiting for me in his office. I thanked her for the information. But as I could meet with the director after saying good morning to my colleagues, I chose to go first to my office, understanding in passing that this time it was about something serious. I smelled it in the curt gestures and distance of some of my colleagues, and seconds later, more explicitly, I knew it by the Safety and Security Officer, who was charged with personally taking me to the Board. So there would be no more detours along the way.

So now, when three employees from different areas came through the door almost in unison, and sat down next to me, I had no doubt that I was present at a scene (and in a starring role) for which, to be honest, I’d been prepared, though I hadn’t imagined it would come so soon.

The silence was absolute. Ernesto Douglas limited himself to reaching for a document that (only now did I notice) was conveniently located at his right hand, on the desk. He handed it to me saying,

“Read this. When you’re done we’ll talk.”

My reading lasted much longer than the general patience desired. A comprehensive understanding of this Resolution 12 of 2010, plagued by wherefores, acronyms and legal references, and edited in parts to be nearly incomprehensible, was a real academic exercise.

The essence, however, of what I had in my hands admitted no doubt: By Resolution 12 of this year the Director of the Institution expelled me from the same. Permanently.

Was I taken by surprise? Again, no. My only surprise came from the haste with which this had occurred. And, also, by the reason put forward for doing so.

Let’s see.

Behind this meeting (which although it pains me to do so, I can only classify with one term: repression), figure four names in particular. They are the base of the iceberg. The first three are proper names: Yoani Sánchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Orlando Zapata Tamayo. The third is the name of an artistic group: Los Aldeanos (The Villagers).

Just recently I had published two articles on the internet that centered on these people. First, an article (Revolution in the Village) based on Mayckell Pedrero’s documentary about this rap duo, analyzing musical, social and ideological aspects of this controversial and talented group. Then, under the title, The Death That Never Should Have Been, I published an assessment of the tragedy of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a case increasingly hidden from the Cuban population. And finally, there was an extensive interview, A Limit to All The Hatred, with the blogger of Generation Y and her husband, also a journalist, Reinaldo Escobar.

Knowing the dismal situation of the media in my country, I didn’t have the naiveté to try to publish these articles in some official space, say a magazine, web, newspaper, or website on the national network. And knowing (also) the disregard for freedom of expression in my country, I did not suppose that, after exercising the right of my own voice to critically question the attitudes and decisions taken at the highest level, I would pass unscathed by any reprisals. Cause and effect.

But the reason Resolution 12 2010 cited as serious misconduct on my part appeared to be the fruit of a creative mind capable of emulating the best of George Orwell, and here my adaptation to the absurd, my resistance to astonishment, could only give way entirely.

What was I accused of? That, in my capacity as a journalist with a personal Internet account (only available at my workplace), I had disproportionately, in my navigation, accessed sites I did not have authorization to access, specifically those of a subversive and counterrevolutionary character attacking our country. Make no mistake: the miserable wretch who wrote this letter should sweat ice for not mentioning, expressly, the true cause of my expulsion. But not talking about this apparently was more difficult than it seemed, as the writer yielded to the impulse. He said, “The publication of articles on the before mentioned sites is also verified.” Only that.

Let us, then, clarify the argument: I was not sanctioned for publishing. No way. Doing so would have confirmed certain accusations about the violation of individual rights, freedom of expression and other demons, that it was better not to awaken in these turbulent times. Then, on further analysis, all the masks fall away and institutional anger against a journalist who dared to be true to himself came bursting to the surface, but in the two pages of horrifying evidence, my articles figure only as an argument of fifth-rate importance and are only mentioned in passing.

So then, I was punished for reading.

For reading what other voices, both inside and outside my country, say about a hundred political, cultural and social aspect so connected to the journalism I practice, as to human reason. but in essence and without make-up, I was expelled for reading what I should not. For doing exactly what the overseers in the cane fields forbid the slaves to do, under threat of violent punishment. And also, what the leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro once promulgated as a maxim of the process. “We do not tell the people to believe,” he said back then, “we tell them: read.”

Returning to the Board Room of Radio Bayamo Broadcasting, I finished my risky reading, and faced the same silence, the same dense atmosphere that doesn’t allow anyone present to say a word, or even feel comfortable.

I returned to the document to the Director, and with his, obeying his mental plan, he asked,

“Do you have anything to say?”

I didn’t know if my face betrayed my thoughts, but internally I had to smile. With perplexity.

Racing through my mind at the speed of light are the memories of so many expelled, so many censored in the most recent history of Cuba, which is not studied in any school on the Island. And not the memory of a Virgilio Piñera or a María Elena Cruz Varela in particular. I think of all the ones who say no, the unknowns who stories of abuse against their rights, or reprisals like this one, are never seen, never known.

“Of course I have something to say,” although really, I don’t want to. The size of the injustice, the arbitrariness, I’m at a loss for words.

But, finally, I speak. For the space of twenty minutes. I speak of violations, and of the amnesia my country seems to suffer from. Forgetting the results methods such as these have led to for decades, that we still haven’t come to terms with the shameful and seemingly immortal Five Grey Years, dedicating conferences to it or publishing volumes about it. I speak of my rights to information and free expression. I speak of the legal loopholes that, even without a lawyer, can be detected in a simple glance at this libelous accusation. I speak knowing that my restrained catharsis is nothing more than the right to kick the hangman. And when I finish, after a two second pause, my Director turns to the others present,

“Does anyone else want to say something?”

Heads shake, no. And to my surprise, with no more to-do, the meeting ends, though not without informing me that I have seven days under the law to submit a demand for my reinstatement.

His voice is toneless. His gestures are as indifferent as those he received me with while talking on the phone. And I think, the terrible thing is not that they are directors who give in to the temptation to use their powers in the most arbitrary and brutal way. The terrible thing is, I am sure that later today, Director Ernesto Douglas Bosch will sleep peacefully through the nights, with his wife and family relatively happy.

“You have nothing to say to me,” I ask him before getting up. “You have nothing to say after all the time I spent arguing against this punishment?”

His answer, rigid, now ruthless, comes without thinking,

“I have nothing to say. I heard you but everything that needs to be said is in that document you have in your hands. We’re done. Good day.”

At that very moment, in the second when I look into his passive eyes behind his magnifying glasses, I understand that during the entire meeting his ears remained closed to my voice. His ears, and everyone’s. No one listened to me in this spectral encounter.

Why? How evil of this Director made speaker, whose joviality at times borders on a lack of character and authority? No, I tell myself. The reason is something else. The true reason is that this man with his power to separate me from the entity he directs, is just following orders.

Explicit orders (“Take drastic measures in this case”) or implicit (“If I were you, I would handle this matter intelligently”). Or even worse, interior orders, incorporated into thought, that warns of the risks of not being assertive with a mistaken employee and in consequence being judged as an irresponsible and lazy worker. Orders of a thousand different kinds. But in the end, orders.

So even in this moment as I walk through the hallway to the exit, with the notable perception that those who look at me do with a, (yes, it’s so), humiliating pity, with eyes showing a solidarity that, if there were no danger, could sympathize with me; not even now, when I know that the link has been permanently cut, can I find any animosity against the one whose stroke of the pen it was.

Ernesto Douglas Bosch did not expel me, I think. Whether he recognizes it or not, his sad function is to be the puppet of other minds, minds that at any moment would hesitate to throw him into the fire, just as he did to me today. He is the executor of a firmly drawn direction, but at bottom, I will never know whether or not he agrees. Since none of the thousands of Cubans expelled from their jobs, removed, condemned to work in steel factories or cane fields, will ever know if the one who told him of his exile internally agreed with the measure, or if he had no choice but to carry it out for his own good.

It’s almost noon in Bayamo of my island Cuba. Under the same desert sun I once again wander the city where hundreds of years earlier a fervent and lacerated people sang the first verses of our national anthem. We, and them, we are no longer the same, I think, before losing myself in the busiest shopping street of the city.

And I think, also, that none of the people now passing me, nor those behind me, have been commenting on my case, nor could Director Ernesto Douglas Bosch back in his office with its inlaid walls, understand the state of mind with which I turn my steps toward personal and professional independence. This kind of inner harmony is similar to that of a long distance runner who, apart from the crowd (it doesn’t matter if he is ahead, behind or next to them) runs on air, without others understanding his lightness, and his smile of happiness.

Ernesto’s Blog: The Little Brother

Exclusion, the Real Counterrevolution

The term “revolutionary” has a different meaning in the Cuba of today than we would find in any Spanish language dictionary. To deserve such an epithet it is enough to exhibit more conformity than criticism, to choose obedience over rebellion, to support the old before the new. To be considered a man of the cause, requires one to manage a convenient silence and to watch arbitrariness and excesses March by without pointing them out to the highest levels of responsibility. A word that once gave rise to thoughts of ruptures and transformations, has evolved into a mere synonym for “reactionary.” Paradoxically, those who believe in safeguarding the essence of the “revolution” are precisely those who show a greater political immobility and who promote — with more animosity — the punishment of the reformers.

Esteban Morales, who until recently enjoyed the privilege of appearing live in front of the TV microphones, learned of such semantic mutations by dint of suffering them. A Communist Party member, academic, and specialist on issues relating to the United States, he had the dangerous idea of writing an article against corruption. His questions dealt primarily not with the daily diversion of resources — as we call stealing from the State — which is how many Cuban families manage to make it to the end of the month, but rather the ethical decay that has established itself higher up, in the estates of power, where embezzlement and misappropriation reach lavish levels. He had the unfortunate experience of putting into writing that, “there are people in government and state jobs who are positioning themselves financially for when the Revolution falls.” It is a conclusion anyone can draw just by looking at the fat necks of the managers, the shiny Geely cars belonging to the officers of CIMEX corporation, or the high railings surrounding the houses of the commercial hierarchy, but Morales committed the audacity of pointing it out from within the system itself.

Imbued with the calls for constructive criticism, calling things by their name, speaking openly, Esteban Morales thought his article would be read as the healthy concern of one who wants to save the process. He forgot that others with similar intentions had already been labeled as divisive, manipulated from the outside, addicted to the honey of power, and ideologically deviant. For less than this, journalists had lost their jobs, students their places at the university, and economists, lawyers and even agronomists had been stigmatized. Once punished with an indefinite suspension from the core of the PCC, the previously trusted professor has started down a road that we know well where it starts, but not where it ends. Experience says that the route of sanctions is never traversed in the reverse direction. Those ousted eventually realize that those they used to consider the “enemy,” could at some point prove to be people imbued with the original meaning of the word “revolution.”

To comment on this article please visit:

Yoani’s Blog: Generation Y

Who Benefits From the Release of the Cuban Political Prisoners?

The recent release by the Cuban government of the 52 detained prisoners in the spring of 2003 can be interpreted in several ways. We shall examine some possible strategies or possibilities. And in all of them, the one gaining the most is General Raul Castro’s regime.

Certain national and international analysts think that the release of the nonviolent opponents displaces the fragmented internal dissidence. Maybe they are right.

In any case, the national opposition is weak, with a political project unknown to the majority of the population on the island and it is infiltrated to its marrow by the intelligence services.

To make things easier for the Castro government, in the last decade certain opponents have been focused on strife, nepotism, excessive profanity and an immeasurable protagonist role.

Among so much quarrel, corruption of certain leaders, warlordism and messianic projects that do not correspond with the reality of the country, and serve only so that American agencies give them money, which evaporates into questionable conduct, one can reach the conclusion that the release of the 52 opponents did not score points, nor will it pave the way for a possible dialogue between the government and the dissidence.

The Cuban dissidence is not at its best. It’s a trivial opposition. It hurts to say it, but that’s the way I see it. Its aims and premises are the same that the majority of the Cuban population wish. But its working methods have devalued.

The clever ones who work with General Castro did their math. The death of the dissident Orlando Zapata and the constant walks of the brave Ladies in White, together with the hunger strike of Guillermo Farinas, warmed the track and instigated critics across half the world.

Something had to be done. And it was Raul Castro’s loyal generals who lead the country. All the enterprises which function and generate an income one way or another are controlled by the olive-green entrepreneurs.

The antiquated Russian tanks have been, for many years, falling apart in the underground shelters. Just like the outdated MiG fighters and the antiaircraft guns. In the absence of a war against the North, which will never happen, the Cuban nomenklatura dedicated itself to business.

They learned marketing, costs and benefits. So that they could improve their financial situation on the island, they received big commissions and abundant diets from capitalist entrepreneurs. When they look at themselves in the mirror, they notice how much better they look in tailor suits, rather than in their rough military uniforms.

To these generals, who like to say Sir rather than colleague, who prefer the good table, Spanish wines and Scottish whisky to the sugarcane rums, they are the ones who encouraged Castro II to launch a truce.

They made a deal with the Cuban Church and the Vatican. With Spain, and underneath the table, with some sectors of the Obama administration.

They are willing to talk to any actor inside or outside the country, except with the national opposition, for the simple reason that our dissid

Computing Freedom Threatened

On Wednesday, July 7, while the guests over at the President Hotel in Vedado enjoyed the soccer game between Germany and Spain on the lobby’s screen, I struggled with the internet on one of the computers located in front of the bar.  In a matter of an hour I only managed to check my e-mail and respond to three messages, into one of which I simply copied and pasted a piece of writing I had stored on my Flash Memory stick.

Since I couldn’t attach documents nor view the images sent to me, I called for the specialist of the hotel — young mulata of very few words — who told me that the newly installed program made it difficult to attach, which meant that instead of losing more time and money, the user should instead just open their flash drive and copy and paste on Word what he/she would send, and then just copy it on to the message.

Before these new obstacles I decided to search for other alternatives, although I know that the “Avila Link” installed on various Havana hotels is a malicious program, conceived with the purpose of acting like an agent of the political police, as it forbids the uploading of web sites from The Exile which are censored by the government.

Perhaps that is the reason I cannot access my blog from the hotels in the capital.  Which also explains why I can’t even see Generation Y, Octavo Cerco, Penultimos Dias, or any other blogs written from within or out of the island.  Such installations present risks for tourists and Cubans as they run the risks of possibly having their writings monitored, their passwords recorded, and the use of certain software prohibited.  Even worse — the danger of spam that damages the efforts of so many alternative bloggers and communicators.

We know that running risks is a constant, but it is such madness having to confront these malware products which try to control your servers and install secret programs that record your messages.  Hotels are properties of the State, but the people are neither basic pieces of media nor dogs with muzzles.

If the owners have the right to protect their properties and secrets, we citizens deserve respect for our public images and what we wish to publish.  Adding on to the cost of establishing a connection, we must also point out all the cyber-vigilance we face, all the “gifts” brought to us by spam, and all the combing of our passwords and personal matters.  I think it would be better if they denied us internet altogether in hotels and cyber-cafes, or that they would just abolish all the absurd limitations and authorize connections from home, as is seen in more than half of the world.

That same day Yudeisi, a girl who was not able to chat with her boyfriend in Spain, told me that he had actually bought her a Chinese computer on Paseo and Malecon, and “since he is an expert in computing,” he checked the system inside and out, for “they say that Cuban officials ordered their Asian counterparts to install the filter software known as Green Dam Youth Scort on all computers sold here.”

I barely know any of these new technologies, but my experiences in hotels and cyber-cafes lead me to suspect that information media censors and supervisors still insist on controlling those who search for, and share, information from within Cuba.

Translated by Raul G.

Prison Diary (1) (La Cabaña Prison)

OUTSIDE OF EVERY imaginable world, is the extreme awareness of reality, you live in cell twelve feet by six feet, usually with four inmates, sometimes sixteen who have to stand up, and when it comes time to sleep they fall slowly, like fainting, like sugar canes thrown on top of one another, creating a deformed mass, you couldn’t guess which extremity belongs to whom.

The air is not enough for two, not even one, and the sound of gasping, of shortness of breath, sounds like an instrument out of tune. But this asphyxia turns into chronic asthma, it’s worse than being alone. Many times, according to the treatment, they leave you alone so the madness will come more quickly. In this case, for some moments, the only thing you can see, other than your own body, are some fingers on a hand that disappears, as if it were the product of your imagination, when they open, three times a day, a small rectangular window in the bottom of the door to put the trays in. Then you have to settle for observing, in those few moments, how one or the other hand pushes the tray into your cell and beans or soup spread across the floor, mixing with the rice that you collect with your spoon, because in these circumstance you can’t waste a single grain.

Sometimes you want to touch the hand, hold it, kiss it, ask forgiveness, mercy and that it would be moved and let you out of there, end the anguish; but it’s not worth the trouble, this hand only knows how to threaten, push and hit.

Request for Review Presented to the Minister of Justice

Havana, April 26, 2010

“Year 52 of the Revolution.”

To: Director Maria Esther Reus Gonzalez

Minister of Justice

I, Ines Ramos Napoles, resident of Calle 4, number 119, between 1st and 3rd Playa, Havana, with ID Number 40012108557, in the name of my son, my family and myself, request the URGENT REVIEW of case No. 11/2008 of the Second Criminal Chamber of the People’s Provincial Tribunal of Havana. where Yamil Dominguez Ramos was sentenced to ten years in prison for the crime of trafficking in persons.

Yamil has always declared that he is innocent of these charges. To the court if was enough to judge him based on the initial declaration of Marleny Gonzalez Rodriguez, previously manipulated by an official of State Security, and so to find him guilty and not by virtue of an oral judgment, a declaration that had already been thrown out of court in a previous motion, showing clearly that it had been gotten from his wife under pressure, by telling her that it would benefit her husband.

We appeal for an annulment of the sentence. The Supreme Court overturned the ruling of the lower court and ordered a reconsideration and drafting of a new ruling eradicating the defects identified. (Attached is a copy of the Ruling No. 2929/2008 of the People’s Supreme Court).

However, on returning to the actions referred to the Provincial Court, with a change of date, roll number, and typography of the letter, it drafted the ruling in the same terms as the first and with the same errors. However, when we brought back the Appeal for an Annulment to the Supreme Court, far from questioning the role of the judges sanction by the court in the first place, for having ignored the order given, we found to our sad surprise that this time the Supreme Court, with other judges, ratified the second ruling of the Provincial Court. From then my son has served a sentence for a crime he did not commit. The process of review through an attorney cost us 500.00 CUC that we do not have. So today I am preparing this report to ask for a review of the case and with it, that JUSTICE be done. The decision is urgent, more so when Yamil, in claiming his civil rights which he was cruelly stripped of, has been on a hunger strike since April 14.

To continue, we explain the reasons that Yamil should not have been sentenced and deprived of his liberty:

First: Yamil has no need to traffic in human beings. He is a worker and a good father to his family. He emigrated legally to the United States of America on 7 December 2000, with his second wife and his two younger daughters. When he arrived in that country he worked hard to get ahead. First in a construction company, while studying for a university degree, with the objective, through his own efforts, of owning his own company. This allowed him to be successful financially. From the point of view of economics and finance, I repeat, my son Yamil has no need to traffic in persons.

Second:Yamil had no reason to take his family illegally out of the country. In February 2005, I went to the United States of America which he arranged. In September 2007, my sister and I had a passport visa and in October we received the letter of invitation to return on a visit to the United States, scheduled for the end of the year. In August of that year his elder daughter, from his first marriage, who was 13 at the time, was reunited with him, which he also arranged. By the way, since October 13, 2007, she has been without the protection of both of her parents, because her mother lives in Cuba. From August 24, 2007, he had from the U.S. Department of State, the paperwork for the visa process for Marleny Gonzalez Rodriguez, a visa that would allow his current wife to travel with her son to be reunited with him, so there was no reason to look for illegal means, let me repeat that the visa was already authorized for his current wife from the date previously mentioned and the file is open at the U.S. Interest Section until Yamil’s situation is resolved.

Third: My son has no need to enter this country illegally. He has visited Cuba seven times, four of them through Cancun. At 8:00 in the morning on October 13, according to what he told me on the phone on the 10th, he headed to Cancun on his own boat to participate in a marine event and then was planning to fly to Havana, carrying in his luggage 54 music CDs, a video camera, $1,900 U.S., the documentation for his oat and his passport in order, including the Cuban passport visa good until 2010. Due to two storms on the open sea (the Meteorological Institute of Cuba has confirmed these storms as actually occurring and not merely forecasts as written in the ruling) he sought assistance to enter the International Port at the Marina Hemingway. This was the only reason he approached the Cuban coast.

Yamil was forced into the nearest port by force majeure, which is allowed under international standards of navigation and, although he was not able to give prior notice of his arrival, Article 215, Paragraph 2 of the Criminal Code Act 62, exonerates him from criminal responsibility. On the other hand, every crime must be duly proved, as the sanctioning Board should not rely on the initial testimony of Marleny (his wife), which contrasts with that made Yamil and without a shred of evidence to support it, the reason that the Supreme Court in Case No.2929 signals the trial court; besides, my daughter-in-law accused, prior to the trial, the official of manipulating her and inciting her to declare false testimony, which she stated in oral testimony where she told the reality of the process, as well as the legal paperwork for the fiancée visa with which she could travel along with her son and that, as said before, the court omitted in its ruling, but that should be taken as documentary proof and that I am attaching in the form of a certified copy of this document.

If Yamil really intended to pick up Marleny in the area of La Puntilla (coastal zone separated from the Havana seawall at the mouth of the river Almendares) and, if Marleny really was in that place, why didn’t he do so, if the boat was in perfect physical condition, with two GPS receivers to inform him of his position and the distances of the Cuban boats, with sufficient fuel to get to Cancun or return to the United States? Yamil entered Cuban waters in the area of Habana del Este and traveling west, a mile from the coast, headed toward the Hemingway Marina International Port, being spotted by the Coast Guard ship around the Hotel Triton, where with his engines off he awaited the arrival of the Coast Guard and they escorted him to the international port, an action that corresponds to the testimony of the witness who escorted him. The route followed infers that my son passed through the area where supposedly Marleny was waiting but never came to pick her up. This act shows, without any doubt, that Yamil never had the intention to illegally pick up Marleny.

Fourth: The decision made by the disciplinary tribunal has ERRED IN THE LAW by stating that the participation of Yamil in these events is “proven,” and considering my son an intentional action of the crime of TRAFFICKING PERSONS , sanctioned in Article 348, Subsections 1 and 2, of the Criminal Case, which no doubt has influenced the decision handed down, punishing him with ten years’ imprisonment for a crime he did not commit. On the other hand, the sentence is not consistent with the evidence presented during the trail that might have influence on the verdict.From reading the narrative of events, recorded in the proven evidence of the sentence, it is not possible to understand precisely and clearly, what is the profit motive that is present in the actions allegedly undertaken by my son, or allegedly taken for him? It is evident that if true the argument that seeks to be substantiated in the sentence, such actions would be motivated exclusively by purely sentimental reasons and family reunification, particularly that the tribunal admitted as true in the fifth paragraph of the judgment in question where it says, “…the accused only intended to smuggle out of Cuba his fiancee and sin, not other people, nor did he have any interests other than sentimental and impressionable because he also endangered his own life…”If this is true as stated, I can assert that the facts, reported in the proven evidence, do not meet the legal significance required by the legislature to charge someone with the crime of trafficking, as erroneously charged. In the facts related and the proven evidence for which my son was punished, the element of criminality is not present, perhaps the most important for this offense which is “THE PROFIT MOTIVE.” In the Judgment No.476 of January 17, 2001, issued by the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme People’s Court, published in the pages of the 50 to 58, the Bulletin for the year 2001, the Supreme Judicial Body, ratifying such an approach by saying: “… Traffic in Persons (Art. 347.2 and 348.1 in relation to Articles 9.1.2 and 12.1 of the Criminal Code). The criminal provisions of Article 347.2 of the Penal Code has a body and life itself, its wording is clear and is violated by those who, “without being permitted to do so, motivated by profit, organize or promote the exit of the country people within it to third countries …. ” This ruling itself admits that in classifying this type of crime it can be omitted, including undertaking this kind of effort with no motive to profit, and one of the recitals says: “… assume the specific activities endorsed in these types, which do not fit any association or linkage of people who are in the country with others who are in other countries and vice versa, and much less when engaged in the Trafficking in Persons in violation of immigration regulations, or dedication does not exist, these activities are motivated by profit, because when there is such a connection and purpose with which we participate is to obtain economic benefit or personal gain of any kind, reflecting the broad sense that this term has , the conduct falls within the normal offense against the Immigration …. ” These fragments I have quoted illustrate the error of law committed by the Second Chamber and the Supreme Court in Case No. 2929/2008. From the above I consider that, based on the facts of the ruling of the Second Chamber of the Provincial Tribunal of Havana as “tested” the correct legal description could be then UNLAWFUL ENTRY IN THE NATIONAL TERRITORY. Such a misunderstanding of the Board is of extraordinary significance to the extent of the penalty that was applied (Ten years of imprisonment), for the crime described by the Board, even when made use of the 239 Agreement by the Governing Council of the Supreme Court, has a penalty under twenty to thirty years imprisonment or life imprisonment, while the crime allegedly committed by my son, is a framework of penalties of one to three years imprisonment or a fine of three hundred thousand shares. The adoption of the legal qualification I suggest, on the facts “proven” in the sentence, would bring an invaluable benefit for my son, who, besides being an honorable person, has no criminal record either in Cuba or the United States, and with appropriate consideration of his social and moral behavior there would be a substantial change in the length of the sentence, which would already have been served as he has been in custody for two years and eight months.

However, Yamil Dominguez should not spend even one more minute dispossessed of that which has no price, his freedom, and much less for a crime he did not commit. In addition to being a man of excellent hum qualities, of revolutionary origin, without a criminal record, and even were all the elements declared in the sentence to be “proven” were true, in our Penal Code Article 13.1 it is not punishable when a subject spontaneously avoids the criminal act. From the above it follows that if his intention had been to illegally collect his wife and son, he abandoned, by his own will, that act, and never even entered the area where they supposedly were waiting for him.

In hopes that the truth will win out and an error in the Justice will be amended, before the effects are worse for Yamil Dominguez and, in consequence, for his family.

Inés María Ramos Nápoles mother of Yamil Domínguez, and other relatives.

“In justice there can be no delay: and he that interferes with its fulfillment, turns it against himself.”

José Martí. (Complete works, volume 13, pág.320)

PD: Attached

Copy of the Ruling No. 2929/2008 of the People’s Supreme Court

Copy of the notarized document from the United States Interest Section in Havana attesting to a visa for Marleny Gonzalez and her son.

Copies of the Letters of Invitation from Inés María Ramos Nápoles and Migdalia Nery Ramos Nápoles.

CC: Council of State

The Test Tunnel

If we start from the struggle between the military authorities and the peaceful opposition in Cuba, the first, supported by the Spanish government and the second with the Catholic Church as occasional intermediary, the recent release of five political prisoners and the transfer of six to their home provinces is a first step in the tunnel test, i.e. the search for light on the issue of human rights.

To this type of first-time Goal, we add the announced released o the remaining 47 prisoners of those from the Black Spring of 2003, which approximates a win for the goal of rationality, but is not a definite penalty because it lacks some corner kicks and a lot of pressure on the government to release all the prisoners of conscience and to modify the laws that penalize the opposition and justify the existence of the cards — white, red and yellow — against the thousands of people who try to survive on the margins of the State.

More than 140 political prisoners remain behind bars, not counting those sentenced for defending civil rights but charged with alleged common crimes, such as social dangerousness, assault, or receiving stolen property.

We are looking at a positive gesture from the government, influenced by hunger strikes, the marches of the Ladies in White, denunciations of the human rights violations, the internal economic crisis and the international disrepute of the regime, which seeks legitimacy to get external credits and to get the European Parliament to lift the so-called Common Position, which would improve its image and allow it to concentrate on the country’s basic problems, immersed in collective misery and generalized repression as it is.

But there is a history of prisoner released that eased the humanitarian crisis, without affecting the structure of domination established in the name of a Revolution that hit bottom with the Sovietization of Cuba, in the mid-seventies. From 1977-1979, the prison bars opened to more than 3,660 political prisoners. In 1998 101 prisoners of conscience were freed after Pope John Paul II’s visit to the island.

Such antecedents generate skepticism among groups of exiles and leaders of the opposition, who perceive the prisoner releases as a new media landscape with political purposes and faces far from the real actors: the peaceful opposition facing the military government.

It’s certain that neither the Havana Archbishop — Jaime Ortega Alaminos — nor the Spanish Foreign Minister — Miguel A. Moratinos — suffer the effects of the problem, but their intervention constitutes one point of the island’s political triangle, where the powers-that-be represent the point that exclusively moves the pieces, when they sing songs of protection and their adversary is approaching the goal.

The release of the prisoners of conscience shows the weakness of the Castro regime. Perhaps the beginning of the end, but it is hasty to think that it represents an essential change in the transition to democracy. There are no social changes without internal movements and international pressure. How do we access the highway of freedom without throwing off the blinders of fear and the masks of the group anchored in power? The path of light passes through the test tunnel.


Edith Piaf

July 14th, the anniversary of the taking of the Bastille.  My little homage to France. A portrait in patch-work created by me.

Recently, two Spanish filmmakers I know, commented to me that every time they talk in the street to some native of my planet they comment to them about “the media campaign” of the European Union against our country, and when the filmmakers ask them what this campaign consist of, simply no one is able to explain. I remarked to them, that in general here on my planet, it’s like this. People repeat incessantly what the media manipulate and call news, based on the headlines, but from there to being able to give the details, is a long way! It’s the same whether it’s the Cuban Adjustment Act, the sick people who died in Mazorra mental hospital, or the recent and much-lauded release of the dissidents of the Black Spring, and on and on and on.

With my ears once again glued to the shortwave I heard some news that made me jump to attention. Ingrid Betancourt had withdrawn a demand she’d made to her country to pay her a million dollars. Was it ingratitude or bad memory, I wondered. As far as I know, it was the government of her country itself that freed her from the guerrilla terrorists, who held her hostage for years. To err is human, I have no doubt!

And another thing, here I go again, about the Arizona law. It’s good that the Latin American countries show solidarity when something is wrong in a neighbor’s house, but what strikes me is, no one ever said anything about it when on my planet they go after the native-born from different provinces for being in the capital of all Cubans illegally. There are none so blind as he that will not see!

A couple coming towards me were talking loudly about how nervous they are thinking about the impending war that is looming. I couldn’t help but speak to them, apologizing for having overheard. To reassure them I commented that surely the ones who were really nervous were their respective grandmothers and moms, thinking of the daily war to be waged in the kitchen to put some food on the table.

Fine, that’s enough for now, I’ll say goodbye because I just heard news of the 6.5 earthquake in central Chile (near Temuco), and in truth, what is trembling now is my heart. Remember that I have people very dear to me in that country.

On Olga Guillot’s Death

Olga Guillot has just left us. Another matchless Cuban patriot is gone without having returned to a free Cuba. In Cuba and in exile there is the same feeling, pain and nostalgia. When I received the news of her death, I remembered Celia Cruz, and like those of my generation here in Cuba, I could not nor will I ever see her. I will have to be content with listening to her music and taking pride in her having been born in Cuba.

Her dying without seeing her homeland free, and her artistic life linked to her patriotism, give us one more reason not to falter in this noble effort.

Those of us who continue living and fighting, are depended on by many others, like Olga, in order for them to be able to return to this beautiful and unique Cuban land of their birth. It’s no wonder that our apostle said, “There is no ground more firm than the ground on which one was born.”

Criticism Can Be a Crime (II)

Juan, a commentator, told me he had sent a “Down with Fidel” email to the newspaper Granma, knowing that it is a crime in Cuba. He asked me what sanction they would impose if they found out who he is.

First, I don’t believe that the Cuban authorities are going to pursue him for sending a message. If they can identify him (as a specific person with all his particulars), at a minimum, they will not let him enter the country. I am delighted for this person to know the Cuban criminal law.

The current criminal law protects leaders, officials, and state institutions against negative expressions and opinions of the citizenry. In other words, criticism in Cuba can be a crime.

The Criminal Code regulates various offenses to protect the honor of the people from general forms of defamation, slander, and insult.  But protection against disrespect is given exclusively to the authorities, over and above the crimes mentioned above.

The penalty is a fine or imprisonment of three months to a year to those who “threaten, slander, defame, insult, injure or in any way outrage or offend, verbally or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, public official, or their agents or assistants, in the exercise of their duties or at the time of or because of them.”

The initial penalty against Orlando Zapata Tamayo was for committing this crime. A prisoner of conscience, he died in prison after 86 days of a hunger strike. He was sentenced to three years in prison, because the offense is aggravated when committed with respect to the President or members of the State Council of Ministers and the National Assembly. Thus, it is a common crime strongly tied to politics.

This means that mocking the comrade who reflects,* calling him stupid for his incoherent policies, or labeling the speaker of parliament a cynic, can be interpreted by the police as a crime of contempt.

Juan also asked me how the Cuban authorities could identify him. I don’t know. I am only warning him of the risks.

The commentator is right when he says that “Cuban criminal law is applicable to all crimes committed on national territory or aboard Cuban vessels or aircraft, wherever they are, except as otherwise provided by treaties signed by the Republic” (Criminal Code Article 4.1).

But he must carefully read Article 15.1 of the same law. The rule specifies that “the place of the commission of a crime is where the agent has acted, or has failed to carry out a required act, or where the effects are produced.”

Juan should remember that, although he lives in Spain, when he comes to the island he is treated as a Cuban citizen, and Article 5.1 of the Criminal Code states that “Cuban criminal law is applicable to Cubans and stateless persons residing in Cuba who commit crime abroad, if they are found in Cuba or are extradited. ”

The criminal laws, to our regret, are very general and abstract. Let me explain: they contain very broad descriptions of acts (part of the standard that describes the prohibited conduct). This allows the regime to interpret and apply them loosely and as they choose. In Cuba, the judiciary depends on instructions from the State Council. This is according to the Constitution of the Republic.

If Juan wants to be sure that he will not be prosecuted if he enters Cuba, I recommend that he wait for the time prescribed in the criminal code. That is, the time that starts running from the day he sent the message. According to the sanction that applies to the crime of contempt, it is three years (Criminal Code, Article 64.1, subsection d).

* Translator’s note: Fidel Castro writes a column in Granma that until recently was titled “Reflections of Comrade Fidel.”

Translated by: Tomás A.

The Impunity of the Police

Sometimes I lose interest in denouncing the violations committed by the Castro regime because they are repeated time and time again.  It wears me out and it wears my readers out, too.

Once again there are house arrests without any official notification because such a legal argument does not exist in the constitution. How does the G2, that repressive sector of the Cuban Communist Party, justify detaining peaceful opposition activists in their own homes every time there is a commemoration service?

This time, they were paying homage to the 16th anniversary of the March 13th* Tugboat Massacre, and numerous members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) wanted to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the sinking of the ship.  Others wished to visit the home of the mother of the Cuban martyr Orlando Zapata Tamayo, so they could all go together to pray before the grave of their fallen brother.  In Banes, Antilla, San German, and Holguin, social workers, veterans of the Cuban wars in Africa, and G2 officers all stationed themselves at the corners of the neighborhoods and homes of dissidents and independent journalists to prevent them from making it to the sites of the pilgrimage and homage.

The last few weeks have been explosive.  Mariblanca Aguila, a slender human rights activist who supports Reina Luisa Tamayo, was beaten on two occasions by three political police officers in Banes.  After the first incident she wound up in the hospital.  The second time, they handcuffed her and kidnapped her, threw her into a car, drove her far from any public places, and even humiliated her.  The shocked woman said that one of her kidnappers, who was dark, tall, and heavy, actually kissed her and said dirty things in her ear while he tightened the handcuffs on her until they left marks on her wrists.  She still has sudden frights while she sleeps and says that she does not know how to free herself from such nightmares where an image of that man comes close to her to force kisses on her.

As for Idalmis Nunez Reynosa, the beating given to her by political police officers in Placetas was so severe that she actually had to be checked into the intensive care unit of that neighborhood.  She tells us that when she was transferred to the observation room so she could rest and recuperate in her delicate state, the G2 actually disregarded the doctors who said she must rest and took her out of the hospital by force and put her back in a police car headed towards Santiago de Cuba.  Idalmis continues telling us that in her own native town, they denied her access to her medical certificates and just hours after she arrived at her own home they once again detained her to raid her house.

Also on that day, Jose Cano Fuentes, a resident of Guantanamo and active member of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, went out to try to find out about the state of Idalmis’ health, but once he was heading back to his house he was actually detained near the bus terminal of Santiago de Cuba.  He was also beaten, this time it was carried out by the chief of the sector of the Calle Cuatro neighborhood.  He tells us that later he was taken to Guantanamo and they released him, only to once again detain him an hour later, and without any preface, to once again carry out another beating.  From this last one he still has scars and wounds on his body.

They seem like isolated cases, but they are the result of “Letters of Marque” — official permission to attack at will — received by the Cuban military counter-intelligence section in Oriente, while Cuba pretends to be releasing dissidents, and the world just laughs at the supposed acts of goodwill and the gullible await changes in Cuban society.

Translator’s Note:
*The name of the tugboat was the “March 13th”, the event happened on July 13, 1994.

Translated by Raul G.

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