Interference / Yoani Sánchez

The radio I got for my last birthday rests on a bookshelf, covered in dust. Because if I turn it on I can barely hear a thing. Not even the national broadcasts can be heard well in this area full of government ministries and the antennas they use to block the shortwave broadcasts that come into the country. I had the illusion I would be able to listen to Deutsche Welle to keep my German language alive, but instead of the hoped-for “Guten Tag” all that comes out of the speaker is a buzzing noise.

We live in the midst of a real war of radio frequencies on this Island. On one side we have the broadcasts of the station called Radio Martí — banned, but very popular among my compatriots, they are transmitted from the United States — and on the other side the buzzing they use to silence it. The radio receivers sold in the official stores have had the module that allows you to hear these transmissions removed, and the police are in the habit of searching the roofs for the devices that help to better capture these signals.

Meanwhile, inside their houses, people look for the place — it could be a corner, near a window, or stuck to the ceiling — where the radio manages to ignore the annoying beeping of the interference. It is common to see someone lying on the floor while they locate the exact point where local programming is overshadowed by what comes from abroad. It doesn’t matter what they’re sending from the other shore, whether it’s a boring musical program, the news in English, or a weather report from somewhere else in the world. What matters is that it is a balm for the ears, that it sounds different, that it is something other than that mix of slogans and prose without freedom that is transmitted daily on Cuban radio.

September 24, 2010

The Novel That Leonardo Padura Wrote for Me / Regina Coyula

Intro

Many years ago – I’m talking about the ’70s – I worked for the MININT (Ministry of the Interior), but my military unit’s official cover was MINFAR (Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces), and therefore to all outward appearances I worked in the military. A minibus would pick me up in the morning and drop me off in the afternoon in Playa de Marianao, and next to the Mare Aperto pizzeria I’d get in line for the 79 and the 179 to return home. Since, for as long as I could remember, public transportation had been in a critical state, I’d steel myself with patience and a book for waiting. One afternoon while waiting in that line I was reading a biography of Trotsky, and I was approached by an officer (they hadn’t yet changed the ranks to the equivalents of those of our late sister [the USSR], so I’m talking about what was then a captain), and in a tone between authoritarian and condescending, he asked me how I could be reading that book. I had heard in my study-circles about this revisionist traitor and I wanted to know more. That’s the reason I gave the captain, who waited for my response with a penetrating stare. Through him I learned that Trotsky was forbidden reading for members of the Armed Forces; as far as I knew, this measure was not applied at the MININT. Some time later I got seriously scared while reading “China, The Other Communism”, when another officer (or maybe the same one, I don’t know) asked me the number of my military unit, concerned, no doubt, about the ideological purity of soldiers, there, where subordinates were so ill-informed of the Index. After that second incident I started making my own book covers.

There’s more.  Around that time and up until 1979, the buses passed 5th Avenue, and many times, from on board the bus, I’d become ecstatic on seeing the royal bearing of those Russian greyhounds being walked along the segment between 42nd and 70th Streets, along 5th Avenue’s wide central promenade, sometimes by a woman who undoubtedly walked the dogs as an obligation; sometimes by a tall man who could have walked right passed me unnoticed if it hadn’t been for the hounds.  It wasn’t until recently that I came to know that those dogs were Ix and Dax, the same ones in my novel, of the novel that Leonardo Padura wrote for me.

Love of Dogs

The Man Who Loved Dogs, like his earlier The Novel of My Life, is narrated in different time periods and with different characters that the narrator conjures with one common denominator: the love of dogs. The choice of historical figures couldn’t have been stronger: Trotsky, — a name spoken in whispers when talking about his writing and out loud when slandering him — seen in the novel as a man beaten but not defeated, who somewhat reminded me of Hemingway’s Santiago, the fisherman.

Mercader, the assassin, a man given unconditionally to the service of a cause, the plaything of an incomprehensible force, but one to which he submits, postponing (or nullifying) all doubts.  An awkward creature who must have left behind unfinished secret inspections, not as a super agent, but rather as a working goal for those who came after. Moscow trusts, but verifies… However, I ended up feeling sympathy for that solitary and undesirable man, quite a potent character; and even more potent, and for sale, his mother.  The mother, from a certain species that, since I don’t understand, I fear: those mothers who, far from protecting their children, expose them, with a peculiar sense of duty.  I’m thankful to the hand that wrote these splendid portraits for me.

The lives of these two men remind me, as only art can, how from such a premature date the Russian Revolution and the communist movement in general became contaminated by human miseries, and the revolutionary concept extends right up to us, falsified and degraded, shackled by immobility, complacency and the cult of personality.  We already know what the disillusion of reason can give rise to.

As if my unease wasn’t enough, light gets shed upon a chapter hitherto unknown to me about the relationship between the secret services of the Soviet Union and the Spanish Republic, one more infamous page which Cuba prefers to keep silent about, under the comfortable philosophy of avoiding the destruction of history.

The third character is Ivan: ahistorical, anti-hero, fearful, fainthearted.  Maybe it’s too many setbacks for just one man, but Ivan is an era, a generation, a country.  His personal story is the history of a collective failure.  He may seem excessive in his disgrace, but so real! With an economy of characters, the necessary brushstrokes are there for an unsuspecting reader, or a prospective reader, to glimpse the shadows of the Cuban Revolution.  Ivan started becoming intimate, familiar, until he became one with me.  I carry Ivan in my DNA.  In an intense symbiosis, Padura put into words all of my disenchantment, the feeling of having been swindled, the sensation of the loss of purity, that emptiness left by the confirmation that there is no Santa Claus.

The plot reaches a crescendo in the style of tragedies, the characters’ fates sealed, condemned to disaster, and doomed and called towards that disaster.

It had been years since I’d sped through a book with that eagerness that in my youth was motivated by (or obligated to) those best sellers, the first I’d known: Papillon, Chacal.  The book that now kept me sailing — and assailed me — I don’t know if I’d categorize it as a best seller, but it’s a book that all of us Cubans who straddle two centuries should read.

And it’s not a perfect book, the Cuban character’s story, the one that most impressed me due to its familiarity, even though to me it’s the least realized, left me with an uncontrollable anguish.  But when one dedicates even one’s sleeping hours to a book, to reach its end, the imperfections don’t matter.  I said it before: I read my book.  For that very reason I can’t avoid my disappointment with Padura when he deceives me with a line that’s only acceptable from Félix B. Caignet: “I felt as if I’d burst if I didn’t wring out once and for all the pus that had become a cyst in the seed of my fear.”  It’s a sentence imposed upon the character and unusual in a narrator who has become known for his clean prose, which he owes so much to his occupation as a journalist.

The edition, borrowed and returned with great heavy-heartedness, is from Tusquets.  I think Leonardo Pardura’s Spanish books have always been available in their Cuban edition.  With this novel, I don’t know, many readers over here are going to gaze over the tops of the pages and ask themselves if it was worth the pain, as did I, who couldn’t avoid, as in the classic tragedies, the catharsis, as these words I write become blurred to me.

Nuevo Vedado-Mantilla, summer of 2010

Translated by: Yoyi el Monaguillo

August 30, 2010

VOICES 2 IS NOW READY… / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

FLYING THE WORLD ON A WHITE HORSE

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

SHITTY SONGS that mark the death of our poor and provincial heart. Trivial ballads of course. Mournful poems that our progenitors interpreted while performing their domestic chores on the weekend or while making mediocre love at night (that other domestic chore).

Bad music. The worst. Inimitable and without equal. Tropical bedroom kitsch. Light boleros and popcorn melodramas of cuckolds and hard women. Stanzas crushed with unforgettable verses, harmonies that will accompany us beyond the Final Judgment before a State Prosecutor or God.

With that soundtrack we sucked on titties and learned the first native words of Spanish, español, ezpañol. Genetic melodies, ringtones, pleasant despite their ingenuity. All of the background of swept neighborhoods under the howls of the baby we were and the oneiric onanisms of the adolescent we aged into without ever being one.

Today Cuba has forcefully muted the cries of condemnation and political demagoguery, theatrical pasture for the masses: the racket of the non-aesthetic end of a Revolution whose little soundtrack no one will ever hum again.

Today we are like zombies in the key of G sharp major, the most boring of the chords. Monotony of a musical staff left with empty microphones. Just as no one remembers the apocalyptic threats of the Premier of our only Party, so no one remembers the lyrics of the latest hit of last season’s ballads.

We delete scenes. Vacate barely at the rhythm of the undertow. Cuba as a perfect paronym of Coda.

And then, when hope finally leaves like an endemic disease, when we know that we are alone in our generation, and that we will not do anything that will be worth the trouble of thinking, then, tired of beating our heads against the suicidal ghosts and the pragmatic functionaries which unknowingly we have become, when the brilliance of the day-to-day becomes a mist passing through our conceptual cataracts of people who stole the time they were called on to live, then, the softness of that music of our Mongolian childhoods is still waiting there, like a visa to save us, like a talisman against dictatorships, totalitarian or democratized, like a pillow on which to to lay one’s neck, to ask love’s forgiveness for how much we chattered in its name and for how little we practiced it.

The entire culture will only make sense, then, in two or three trashy phrases that will express better than any treatise what we were but we ignored. Wretched hendecasyllables of those who had no intention to escape, because among their noxious metaphors, in some of their thousand-and-one honeyed voices (better than the false intelligence of the poets of truth), the secret soul of the final phase of this so-called Cubanness, will resonate.

September 23, 2010

Evidence of the Shipwreck / Yoani Sánchez

Exclusive to the Huffington Post.

Two weeks ago, on a Monday, the State newspaper Granma published a note from the Cuban Workers Center (CTC), the only union allowed in the country. Some thought it would be one of those calls to “work with sacrifice,” or to support the path chosen by the leaders of the Revolution. But no. It was the dreaded news of massive layoffs that would soon throw the first half a million workers into the street; layoffs that are expected, within three years, to see one and a half million workers leave their State jobs. Overnight, the guarantee of full employment – one of the most publicized benefits of the Island’s socialism – has come to an end. And so, their own official propaganda apparatus announced our authorities’ worst nightmare: the day the system collapsed.

The drastic measure was justified as a part of what has been called “the perfection of the Cuban economic development model,” a euphemism intended to mask the growing application of market forces to the workings of the economy.

The panic extends to all sectors, except those traditionally short of labor: agriculture, construction and education. The government’s solution is to move laid off workers to options defined by “new forms of non-state labor relations”; translated, this means launching them into the competition of private or cooperative ventures.

As a palliative for the massive layoffs, Raul Castro’s cabinet plans to create room for private initiatives, expand the number of self-employed, and eliminate several of the absurd prohibitions which function as a straitjacket over the creativity of Cubans. Among the options that will be offered as an incentive to “be your own boss,” is one that will allow the unemployed to earn a living by renting rooms in their homes. It is easy to see, however, given the country’s excruciating housing shortage – where it’s common for three generations to share a tiny apartment – it is highly unlikely that many of these laid off workers will have spare rooms to rent. On the other hand, taxes for the permitted self-employment occupations will be extremely high, possibly reaching 45 percent of earnings.

It is also worth nothing that the herald of this bad news for the working class has been the workers’ own union, the CTC. Not only did it take on the role of justifying the layoffs, this organization wasted not a single word about the fate of the half a million union members it will lose: thousands of Cubans who will not have anyone to represent them before the State boss, which will now impose high taxes on the production of goods or services which they are expected to be engaged in going forward.

These measures, which represent a true shock therapy, are absolutely critical; if the current government leaders didn’t take them they would probably be among the first items on the agenda of those who will come to power after them. Contrary to how it was presented by the regime’s propagandists, the rocks against which the ship of the Revolution is crashing, with all its conquests on board, are not along the far shore where the sirens of capitalism sing, but here, in the illusion of Utopia, on this shore.

September 23, 2010

A New Path / Voices Behind The Bars / Pablo Pacheco

Painting: “Lighthouse” by Seamus Berkley

In no time, life could take a 360 degree turn. Just two months ago my fate was in limbo. I would frequently ask myself, “will I come out dead or alive from this living tomb of men?” I was serving a 20 year prison sentence, of which I had already completed 7 years and 4 months in 3 different maximum security prisons throughout various locations in Cuba. On one unforgettable morning, I heard the voice of Cardinal Jaime Ortega emanating from the phone in the office of the director of Canaleta Prison. The words he told me were very similar to those spoken by the archbishop of Havana to other prisoners of conscience who now live exiled thousands of miles from their homeland. This offer has been turned down by some of the other prisoners who still remain in captivity.

I don’t think anyone has the most minimal idea about how life outside of Cuba is until they get to experience it firsthand. It’s not easy, but my innate optimism is telling me that things will turn out alright. My time in the temporary Red Cross foster center for 2 months has been mixed with questions and stumbles. We now have a new path ahead of us; now my family has official residency in Spain, a work permit, and we are receiving much warmth from the people of Malaga. In a few minutes, I will go out in search of an apartment, enroll Jimmy in school, and try to find myself a job. The latter will probably be the most difficult part, because it is no secret that there are 4 million people unemployed, according to official statistics. Yet, my optimism is multiplying: I should continue onward, carrying the sadness of knowing that Cuba is physically absent from me, but always reassuring myself that she continues living on in my memory.

Pablo Pacheco

Translated by Raul G.

September 18, 2010

The Cuban Model Does Not Work / Voices Behind The Bars / Pablo Pacheco

(“Photo taken from blogforcuba.typepad.com”)

The recent declarations made by former Cuban president Fidel Castro to the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg have started an international media commotion. Within the island, however, the repercussions remained virtually unknown to the population because, save for a few exceptions within the power nomenclature and a minimal number of citizens who have the rare opportunity to inform themselves, barely anyone has heard the maximum leader acknowledge, 51 years after his ascent to power, that “the Cuban model does not work, not even for us”.

It is interesting but I don’t understand it. Why such a commotion over a fact that has already been confirmed? The peaceful Cuban opposition has been stating this for a very long time now, and just for saying that same phrase the authorities sent 75 dissidents to prison in March of 2003, many of whom are still imprisoned, and not to mention the long list of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience that have passed through Castro’s prisons during half a century of totalitarianism.

This whole egotistical show put on by the figure who is still the First Secretary of the Communist Party simply means that only he can speak without censorship. From my point of view, I don’t think that the “revolutionary leader” regrets his sins and that he is starting to ask for forgiveness. His love of power and his need to “represent” are now leading him, senile and all, to make many errors, which luckily for us, display his true personality.

Now, the Cuban government has started to try to adopt measures that distance it from its usual and traditional leftist politics. What will happen now with the “Cuban model”? It’s difficult to predict. Cuban civil society needs free space, and perhaps Fidel’s words can serve as a point of reference so people could start demanding their freedoms. The everyday citizens, who are worn out by ideology and tormented with vital problems, need a viable model that would once again grant them a dignified way of life and would allow them to join global society. They are in need of a country where screaming out what their conscience feels into the four winds is not a penal sin. Those who still live off of the State, hanging onto its every word, have just received a warning. In reality, it wouldn’t cost a thing to toss this “utopian” and archaic Cuban model into the trash can, changing it for a new system where we would all have the access to rights.

Pablo Pacheco
(This essay was written by Pablo Pacheco for the newspaper “La Epoca”)

Translated by Raul G.

September 18, 2010

A Certain Bolaño / Luis Felipe Rojas

It often happens to me with good books the same thing that happens with the best dreams: when they come to me, they are here to stay.

Ernesto, a friend of a couple of friends, came from the warm city of Barcelona and brought this gift to my hands. It’s called The Unknown University, it’s the complete poetry of a complete novelist, the Chilean Roberto Bolaño, the one who surprised us all with the novel The Savage Detectives when we were just waiting for the death of a genre that deteriorated during the nineties to the point of stagnating as of late.

What happens with simple poetry is that it becomes a compass to find the right words. Bolaño’s poetry is exactly that: Ariadne’s thread in the middle of his life. The peculiarity of these almost 500 pages lies in the lack of a visible effort on the part of the author to find himself. Bolaño had a predestined route which was prose, as much in his plentiful novels (almost ten) as in his numerous short stories, and at the same time as a silent yet very visible scaffolding was erected for the seekers of novelty in new literature, he let his thoughts and the search for that other identity which is the human language, fall in poetry.

Poetry served Bolaño to cross the bridge between what is public and what is intimate. Even though some of his poems slipped into magazines and anthologies, at the end of his life, afraid it would get lost in the way, he put together, edited and corrected every page of his whole work, sometimes in prose, sometimes in the most pristine verses one could find. Here it is now, at least for us, readers from these parts of the hemisphere where books arrive several years after publication, the complete works of poetry of Roberto Bolaño, compiled in just one volume by Anagrama in 2007 and which today starts its voyage through the hands, the offices, and the benches where the readers of this island sit, to taste that unknown university that may be life or poetry

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

September 22, 2010

Margarita’s Rescue / Rebeca Monzo

She is not beautiful (at least not according to the canon of dogs), but she possesses the 3 key qualities that convinced me to take care of her: she’s female, flirtatious and abandoned. I could not leave her in the street, and she was interrupting my sleep. However, I could not take care of her and her puppy, because I already have a mini zoo in my house. I spoke to many people attempting to persuade them to keep the puppy, but was unsuccessful. Everyone is too worried about the food, and besides, here in my planet there is no culture of keeping pets.

Unfortunately, ever day one can find an abandoned pet. This pains me. It is also worrisome, that with time, these animals will become disease carriers.

They say that we have a Pet Protection Society. The truth is that, like all of our other things, it doesn’t work. Sometimes I see modern cars with the Society’s logo, but when one calls to report an abandoned animal, they simply reply that there is no room for them.

Today, when I went to take her food, I learned that her puppy had died. I brought her to my apartment and before bringing her up we bathed her and removed all the fleas. My husband, having foreseen her arrival, made a little house for her. Margarita and my other dog Lucky (who came to my house under similar circumstances) smelled each other and barked at each other a little but soon enough it passed. Now they are playing together on the roof. Margarita seems sad, but grateful. She shows it in her body language. When we approach her she stands on her hind legs and wags her tail. I believe that soon she will feel at home, because this is the first time she’s had one. She was brought to the neighborhood by construction workers of energy efficient homes for medical personnel (microbrigades) to be a sort of night guard. She was baptized with that name. Once the project was completed they left and abandoned the dog. As of then, the neighbors began to take care of her.

On Monday the vet will come to vaccinate her and remove parasites. In the end, the pet is one more member of the family. Today I will sleep better after Margarita’s rescue.

Translated by: Lita Q.

September 18, 2010

Yesterday’s Homophobia / Regina Coyula

Several friends who follow the blog have asked me why I haven’t commented on Fidel’s statements about the persecution of homosexuals in an interview with the director of the Mexican daily La Jornada. My casual access to the web makes commenting on any current them delayed. But three years ago I followed with great interest the debate set off by the appearance on television of three officials who were responsible for political homophobia in the cultural environment. The “Little Email War,” called that because the controversy was carried out in emails, is considered the official end of the unsigned statement on behalf of the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC).

The government took note of how volatile intellectuals can be. But despite this unusual protest, followed with careful attention by the majority of the debaters located in Cuba, angry and concerned by the reappearance of the visible face of repression; but taking care to mention the origin of that policy, as if Pavón, Serguera and Quesada, the Turkish heads of the Five Great years, the black decade or the dark half-century — if you prefer — were the managers of cultural politics, where the parameterization, UMAP, (the concentration camps for homosexuals and other undesirables), and the sharply focused search for “ideological deviations,” were only some of its manifestations.

Those who joined in the debate from abroad, feeling freer, pointed upward, and some even rebuked those here in Cuba for being cowards.

It was a space for catharsis, but many also saw in that Pandora’s box the possibility of a critical revision of the cultural politics of the Cuban Revolution.

Despite the fact that their ears must have been burning, having provoked the animated debate, Pavón, Serguera and Quesada had to remain, vilified, in the shade — whether to prevent an outburst, or through the instinct for self-preservation — where they escaped taking part in the “orientations.”

That was in 2007. Now, in 2010, Fidel’s statements appear. It is not good enough to say that he was very busy with some imminent aggression or with the many plans to attack him. It is an interesting approach to avoiding his historical responsibility. and to confront him with his own words, there are his speeches from March 13 at the closure of the Cultural Congress in Havana in 1968. It would have been better to have offered an apology, and not the cliched, “I didn’t know but as I am the boss, I’m responsible.”

This time there will be no electronic debate. Why? Perhaps some encrypted comment among those excluded back then, those suspected of collaborating with the enemy, today almost all are recipients of the National Culture prizes: some “language of the mute,” or those subliminal signals with which those who fear being monitored communicate.

I will leave you with an anecdote.

In my office there was a bookseller who allowed me to meet Luis Cernuda, Bulgakov and Kundera among others. There I also saw an example of Lezama’s Oppiano Licario. The bookseller, as you can already imagine, had “politically incorrect” works.

In 1988, the poet Delfín Prats from Holguin won the Critics Prize with his poetry collection, To Celebrate the Ascent of Icarus, and José Luis Moreno del Toro, a poet and doctor also from Holguin, who worked with me, on the night of the awards brought Delfín to my house. It was a time of celebration and joy, because the prize came to be a vindication for Delfín, a homosexual and poet from a provincial city. But it was also a trap. In the midst of the toasts, after he had inscribed to me a copy of his newly awarded book, I told him I had a present for him and put into his hands, Language of Mutes, his David Prize poetry collection from 1968. Delfín looked at me, looked at the book, and began to weep. It was the first time he had seen his book in print, because that notebook in a landscape format, never circulated, had been turned into pulp for containing homosexual poems.

September 18, 2010

Saturday Night Fever / Regina Coyula

My friend Elena Madan has an employment contract with the National Ballet of Cuba in Guadalupe, a little island in the Caribbean, where she also teaches classes in water ballet and does administrative work at the office of the telephone company. It is a lot of work, and so Elena takes her vacations seriously, but as she has family in Cuba she ends upcoming often. On Saturday Elena invited my sister, my niece and me to a place called Jazz Café.

The first question was what would I wear. I don’t have any clothes, though later I realized this was an unnecessary worry. But we women usually get worked up on that subject. As it turned out, the place was informal and friendly, FRIGID!, nice waiters, and a varied cuisine. I enjoyed seeing live César López’s Havana Ensemble (the poet, not the other one), I shook my bones with the waka-waka, Charanga habanera y Kool and the Gang. At 54, I knew how I could spend a Saturday night with freely convertible money.

September 22, 2010

Mobile-Activism 2 / Yoani Sánchez


How do I connect a mobile phone to Cuban Twitter?

1. First you must connect to the Internet and and get an account at http://www.twitter.com

2. Keep the user name and password you are given in a secure place.

3. Add to your mobile phone address book a new contact named Twitter with the number 119447624801423.

4. Send four messages to that number. Each message will include a command and it is important that you send them in the order listed below, without spaces in front of or after the words, and without putting accents and “ñ”. If you make a mistake you must start again, from the beginning:

start
username
password
ok

5. Of course, where it says “username” put your Twitter username.

6. The four messages must be sent one after another. Before you begin you must verify that you have enough credit on your phone to send all four message.

7. As soon as you are done, you may send text messages (SMS) of no more than 140 characters to the number 119,447,624,801,423 which is already added to your cell phone address book.

8. Every text message sent to that number, once you have completed the procedure above, will be published on the Internet automatically.

9. Each text message sent to Twitter will cost 1 convertible peso, so prepare your wallet.

Source of text: http://twitpic.com/2pqj3q

September 22, 2010

Practical Instructions for Creating an Enemy / Ernesto Morales Licea

At age nine, a fall from a considerable height would give a resounding twist to his life. It would prevent him from ever walking again. He had to endure endless surgeries, which turned his adolescence into a cruel and painful time.

Despite all this, perhaps the God whom he invokes so frequently rewarded him with a spirituality strong enough to prevent his misfortune from ruining his smile. With barely any effort, now forty, he carries an undeniable distinction: enjoying, in his city, a much greater popularity than someone far from power or glory could be expected to achieve.
His name: Carlos Jesús Reyna. His house, located on one of the busiest arterials of eastern Bayamo, is a required meeting place for the most diverse and colorful characters of this city. His circle of friends and acquaintances range from respected doctors and lawyers, to criminals famous for their chronic misdeeds.
He knows that, after many vicissitudes, to be able to count on his legion of friends is an outright defeat for the system he suffered.

Because this man from Bayamos whose image could not pass unnoticed among the loftiest multitudes, with his long hair and his clothes which loudly declare him a fan of Argentine football, has, for almost two decades, suffered the effects of a political marginalization he never deserved.

BACKGROUND

– What was the origin of your political confrontation in this city?

Look, there’s a history to the fact that marked a before and after in that regard. It was a complaint that I made in 1993 against four police officers for abuse of authority.

Until then, I never had problems with any official body.

However, the nightlife I always had with several friends — we stayed until after midnight in some parks — attracted the arbitrariness of the police who, without any reasons or legal basis, expelled us from public places, supposedly because we were potential criminals.

Why? Because they said that someone who works can’t stay out late in the street. If we were out later than they thought we should be, we were antisocials. All of us were studying or working, but that wasn’t good enough for them. They came to arrest us and other times they fined us.

I denounced this situation, and two of the four that I accused were punished by military tribunals. However, as you will understand, with that I earned myself the eternal hatred of the police of this city. It was really a preamble to what would come some months later.

– The accusation of the crime of “enemy propaganda” …

Exactly. They hung me on the cross of being an antisocial who painted subversive anti-government posters.

– Tell me about that incident in detail.

– That was in the early morning of June 13, 1993.

Four of us friends had just arrived at Cespedes park, I think we had been sitting there some twenty minutes when someone called my attention to the benches, near us, where there were several signs written on the granite benches themselves in green crayon. The signs read “Down with Fidel” and “Down with the dictatorship.”

One of the first who noticed them, out of nervousness I think, started trying to erase them but the crayon wouldn’t come off easily. So we decided to leave, knowing that it could create serious problems for us.

– You went to your homes?

– No. It was Saturday and we went to the party at some other friends, not far from there.

I don’t think we had been there ten minutes when a police operation, with three patrol cars and several cops in uniform stopped the party. They arrested everyone, including those who hadn’t been anywhere near where the signs were painted.

For me, because of my physical condition, they sent for a separate patrol car. They took us to the station and put us in the cells without even asking for an explanation. When we asked them, the only thing they said was, “You know why you are here.”

The next day, Sunday, they took us to another station, highest security, underground, where they investigated all os us and processed us for crimes against State Security.

Because of my condition they locked me in a cell for women, because it was the only one that had a mattress. In the others there were only cement beds. In fact, I had spent the previous night in my wheelchair because where they detained us there were only cement beds and to put me there wold have certainly caused me to have sores.

We were in this other station almost 72 hours. They didn’t give us reasons, we had no lawyers nor laws involved. They kept telling us to confess, that we knew what we had done. They interrogated us about every hour, without letting us sleep or rest. They tested our handwriting; we had to write “Viva Fidel” and “Viva la Revolucion” about 700 or 800 times on pieces of paper.

After the third day they themselves feared for my physical state, because I said I wasn’t going to eat or drink water. By the way, I remember that before that, there was a day I asked for a towel to dry my face, and they gave me, like a joke, a rag for cleaning the floor. Then, because of my strike, they took me home, in a kind of house arrest. The rest had to stay there as prisoners for a week.

In those days no one could visit me, no friend nor family member: only the officials who came to interrogate me almost nonstop.

Until one day they found the real author of those posters who had nothing to do with us and confessed his guilt form the beginning. At that time they decided to release all the detainees and declare us innocent. The same State Security decreed us innocent.

– But what was this “decree”? Was it written?

No, they had meetings in the neighborhoods where each one lived, except in mine, to clarify that they had been processed by mistake and that they were innocent.

– What about you?

I was the only one they didn’t do this “act of reparation” with. They apologized to my parents, and to me, but nothing in public. We thought it was all over, when the truth was the real consequences were yet to come.

THE STREETS BELONG TO THE REVOLUTIONARIES

– What were the consequences afterward of that incident on you?

Then real police war against me started. There was a hostility that affected me in everything having to do with public life.

As a result of my complaint against the four officers, I became known among them, because it is rare here that anyone would dare to charge them, so they seized the excuse to discredit me socially, and to keep me in a state of unbearable social pressure.

They threatened anyone who came near me. If a girl stopped on the street to talk with me, they came up and in front of me asked her for her identification, and they told her she was having a relationship with someone cursed and she could be judged for that.

To give you an idea: I couldn’t go to the movies, nor the nightclubs, under the ridiculous pretext that I could provoke an attack in these public places. They would come and take me out of the movie theater with this pretext. Also they wouldn’t let me enter some places where food is sold…

– Such as?

A hamburger joint this city had at the time.

As it was in the middle of the Special Period, the lines to buy hamburgers were endless and the police were needed to organize them.

One of those days I was in the line and an official called Adis Zamora, who is still a policeman today, took me out of the line and publicly embarrassed me saying that I had no right so even eat a piece of bread produced by this Revolution.

Another day, in the Sierra Maestra Hotel, another official also still active, named Rafael Varela Luna, told me I could never enter this hotel. That the streets and all the places on them belonged to the revolutionaries.

Any time I left my house, without five minutes there would be a policeman controlling where I went and who I talked to. They publicly humiliated me: they told me I was crippled, they offended me.

– And at some point this situation started to change?

It changed because of a letter I sent to the Council of State in 1994, asking for a writ of protection from the President of the Republic because in my city I had no constitutional guarantees. My life had no sense or protection, because any officer could threaten me with total impunity.

I wrote another letter to the Commission for Human Rights in Cuba. I even remember that the preist who officiated at that time in Bayamo, Father Palma, prayed for me publicly, and let the Cathedral know about my case.

I began to take on the connotation of being a leader which I had never wanted. I was simply a citizen who wanted his constitutional rights to be respected.

– And was there a response from the Council of State?

They sent two colonels sent to my house to talk to me. They investigated, they found that my report was true, and took some measures with those principally responsible. They guaranteed me that this police harassment was going to stop right then and there.

But by then I had expressed my complete distancing from the organizations such as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), I had decided not to vote in the elections, because I considered myself betrayed and unjustly punished by all the official bodies around me.

I remember that I was no longer afraid of going to jail for expressing my disagreement publicly, because I was being held prisoner on the street just as if I was in prison.

They forced me to confront the system directly. Before they had built this story I was an ordinary citizen and although I had my own ways of seeing what was going on in this country, I didn’t express them publicly.

But when you see that you are attacked and charged with no justice of any kind, and that all the “factors” of society are against you, it becomes impossible to maintain a position far from complaint and confrontation.

BRIEF EPILOGUE

We began our friendship about five years ago. A closeness based on affection, solidarity and mutual interests: music, football. I don’t exaggerate if I say that he is perhaps one of the most original and admirable people I have ever met.

Not only because from his suffering he has built an amazing personality, which appeals to the engineer as much as to the alcoholic, but because he has succeeded, through sheer dignity, in deflating this explosive defamation campaign that had been launched against him.

Most of all, his real merit is shown in that those around him disregard those allegations. Because being true, I must say it: Carlos Jesús Reyna was never able to be the same guy from Bayamo who previously went through the day, in his wheel chair, just like any other regular citizen.

The first time I was investigated myself in the neighborhood where I live, had its origin in my friendship with him. When another friend we have in common was the boyfriend of the girl who is today his wife, they called the mother of the girl to tell her, “Be careful, your daughter is now the girlfriend of someone who goes around with a boy who paints signs against the Government.”

He knows it. We all know it. At this point it is simply material for jokes. Fortunately, as Mahatma Gandhi once said, tyranny and evil never have the last word.

September 20, 2010