Heralds of the End

Jumping out of bed, there’s a loudspeaker roaring outside. I don’t understand what it’s saying, but I wash my face as if it were the last time. Maybe it’s the start of the war so often announced in recent days. My son sleeps late and I have the desire to wake him up and warn him, but I don’t understand the words coming from the loudspeaker and the truck has already moved away toward the avenue.

When are those who terrify us going to give an account of themselves? Those who have spent decades dangling the ghost of the cataclysm in front of our faces. It is very easy to forecast and call for war when you have a bunker, soldiers, a bullet-proof vest. To those heralds of the end, let them try being here, amid the buzzing of the loudspeaker and the child who opens his eyes and asks, frightened, “Mommy, what’s happening, why is there so much noise?”

A Victory for the Cuban Resistance


State Security Agents threaten Reina Tamayo in Banes

For the first time in a half-century of totalitarian oppression, the Castro regime in Cuba has given in to pressure from its victims. For the first time a release of political prisoners was achieved by actors from within, the internal resistance, even though the church hierarchy wants to minimize the strength of an opposition which, across the length and breadth of the country, has said and has demonstrated that “Yes we can.”

It is no secret to anyone with average information and power of analysis that the martyrdom of Orlando Zapata was the trigger that caused internal popular anger and the unprecedented international pressure for the Castro dynasty, as well as the important and high-profile protests by Guillermo Fariñas with his heroic hunger strike, and the Ladies in White, which even forced a break in the way official censorship is out. The writings condemning Zapata, Fariñas, and the Ladies in White, although they outraged us, contributed significantly to domestic public opinion being informed by the knowledge that there are political prisoners in Cuba and especially that the resistance is alive.

Despite all this, we believe that this process of releases from prison – read forced exile – is a ploy to get rid of pressure on the regime. Domestic opposition has just won an important battle that encourages us to not cease until the last of our compatriots is released. Yet there is something that many do not understand, which seems absurd or fanciful: while many prisoners leave prison, while ombudsmen of the church, the Spanish Foreign Ministry, and the dictatorship talk about political prisoners and the human rights situation in Cuba, back in Banes, Holguín, Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger is the victim of constant persecution, repression and harassment, including death threats from the repressive Castro regime, to keep her away from family and other activists who visit the grave of her fallen son. And there in the easternmost part of Cuba, members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance are brutally repressed, cruelly and systematically arrested in brutal retaliation for their courageous pro-democracy optimism.

One More Beating?

This is about José Cano Fuentes, one of the most active defenders of human rights in Guantanamo. His membership in the Eastern Democratic Alliance has put him in the middle of the most talked about repression of recent weeks.

On Wednesday, July 7, when he was returning from supporting Idalmis Reinosa Núñez, who was also beaten and humiliated in Santiago de Cuba, he was intercepted at the Fourth Street Intercity Terminal by the Sector Chief of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) who took him to the cells of the 3rd Patrol Station. Once inside there, where no one could see or hear or serve as a witness, he was beaten again; Cano Fuentes says that thanks to the intervention of a captain they didn’t beat him into a pulp on the floor.

Hours later, battered and bruised he was released.

According to Cano, on returning to Guantanamo the police there realized that the dose of Santiago de Cuba belonged to another province and he hadn’t received one from the Guaso. They caught him right in the street. They took him to the police hell that is the Park 24 Station, and general headquarters of the Technical Investigations Department (DTI). Again, there were no witnesses to what his body received once he was inside there. All that was left to tell the story was his voice and his face as a record of complaint. They kept him there until the next day and then released him without charges, but also with no apology from the military. On July 14 they arrested him again while he still had the marks of the previous beatings. This time there were no blows, just warnings not to leave town.

On July 14 there was other bad news. Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz was forced to return to his native Baracoa. They refused, without any explanation, to grant him the right to visit Guantanamo. Maiky Martorell Mayans, from Manatí, Las Tunas and Asdrúbal Delgado Pérez, from Chaparra in the same province were taken to jail. They also were warned by the police that they would not travel to Holguin and that if they did they would spend several days in jail.

I understand quite well the concern of the authoritarian authorities in my country. At a time when the government in Havana is putting on its make-up and washing its hands of the political prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 through exile, the G-2 in eastern Cuba steps up its repression and turns our houses into temporary prisons.

What drives them to constantly violate citizens’ right to travel, meet and express ourselves publicly? What drives others to applaud them all the time? What makes so many people look away from the Human Rights violations committed by the Cuban leaders?

I don’t have a single answer. I have several.

Love In the Times of the Rocket

MOVIE HISTORY

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

A friend, who is me, told me that he can’t stand to hear Cuban actors act. That there is a tone that precedes any school stage. Like the hollow echo of the test pattern on television. A debris of discourse: a cadence, a family resemblance, a certain inertial ineptitude. And I, who am my own friend, I can’t agree with him.

It’s not the fault of the actors, of course, although it is their fault. The genetic defect is the directors’, who left off thinking about Cuban art at least two decadent decades earlier. In particular, the film directors, like an accomplice social class.

Nor is it the directors’ fault, of course, even though it is their fault. The theatrical interconnection is the film institute’s, with its plastering aesthetic of the scripts for extra-cinematic reasons. Meanwhile more economic comfort, even worse. For Cuban film the crisis suits it, the scavenger’s freedom of the unofficial budget.

And now, once again, a fable in the key of the eighties. One of those imported comedies directed from early Titón, with a certain postmodern Patakín as added value.

They are all stereotypes there (they say the good comedies depend on this common ground). Dialogues that explain too much, or worse, the implausible or unbearable off-screen narration. Characters who say a lot and show little (prudish pornography), caricaturing the film’s plot as a kind of storyboard illustration. The kind of film that could be successfully shot by an apprentice director (his presence on the set is more a question of labor than authorship).

And, as a watermark, the pathetic patriotism dripping loudly despite the irreverent intention of a supposedly solemn historic moment: October 1962, an hysterical milestone and now soon, in August 2010, according to the atomic Reflections of Fidel Castro, what we will live again from the wall of Jerusalem to the synagogue of Havana (perhaps the reason being that the Yankee contractor is still in prison in Cuba, without charges, for repairing our rabbis’ antennas and laptops).

This delayed remake of “Alice in Wonderland” should not be criticized as a work of art, but as a systemic symptom of the paleoindustrial Cuban cinema. He could have spent millions in its making. It can work for a huge audience (although I noted no laughter in Acapulco). It could win rave reviews and a consolation prize from the European left or the Latin American ALBA. But all that paraphernalia, including this commentary, will be a better story when he’s finally given birth to the script, where to top it off there are literary narrators involved in its copyright.

The best thing, like in half of Cuban cinema, whether official or independent, is the special effect called Jorge Molima, who eats cabbages the same as worms as domino tiles who hunts Little Red Riding Hood in the cannibis gulag of San Antonio de los Banos. Even worse, that in the coming season we’ll have more and more of the same in the theater seats, as if Cuba continues frozen in an era capable of giving birth to a heart. As if thematically the 21st Century makes us panic as creators.

And I am not beating a dead rocket. I’m not even complaining. In any case, I’m licking everything with that friend of mine that I am myself.

Proof of Life

The gods do not descend from the ecstasy of the clouds, nor do psychopaths apologize for the consequences of their actions. Sometimes, however, they need to show signs of life, like people who, in an extreme situation, go to the notary to prove their existence in a public way.

Something like this happened with Fidel Castro Ruz, ex-president of Cuba and still the Secretary of the Communist Party, who a few days ago appeared at the National Center for Scientific Research and, as if this weren’t enough given the state of his health, on Monday the 12th he presented himself in the evening on the Roundtable News Program on Cubavision, where Randy Alonso and the camera crew gave a Proof-of-Life of the “retired” leader, who spoke with a certain coherence for more than an hour.

The public intervention of the ex-leader coincided with the beginning of the release of half a hundred prisoners of conscience from the Black Spring of 2003, and the cessation of the long hunger strike of the journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, subjects evaded by Mr. Castro, who was busy predicting, in an apocalyptic form, the start, destiny and the end of the last battles in the war of the hemisphere, and coming down on the side of his allies.

The media vocation of our oracle coming as no surprise to anyone, many assume that the questions is not that expressed by the new oracle a la Walter Mercado of Cuban politics, who said similar things before his little intestinal fit took him to the operating room, if not as a demonstration of his physical existence and relative improvement health-wise, but so that the ill-intentioned can’t say that this island Narcissus has been turned into stone at the source of social inertia.

So fine, we note a Goal of the old Comandante, who instead of writing another Reflection left the laptop and the wheelchair and sat down at the desk of the television cameras. He doesn’t have a lot of energy, but demonstrated his ability to speak, read and misplace the pages of his notes. The message is that the man is alive, he’s put on a few pounds, and he weaves together some ideas.

The Comandante gives a “proof of life” and, in passing, offers a strong signal about the release of the men he ordered confined in 2003. Are they wrong, those who think the bars opened because of his deteriorating state of health and the taking of real power by his little brother? Is F.C. showing that the decisions are based on his personal arbitration or, at least, bear his signature? Is it a display of heatl to overcome the brevity of previous appearances?

People have already speculated on the “I’m here and now” of the Old-Man-in-Chief, who apparently spoke without breaks or editing, even though the program wasn’t live. His followers would have liked to change the Nike logo track suit for the red and black diamonds of the suit of the Comandante. For them it was another sign of eternity.

We still don’t know if Castro I will speak at the Plaza on July 26, or continue his tour around the scientific institutions of the island. For those of use who aspire to seal the source of his inertia, his public appearances are one sign of hopelessness.

Legalisation of Repression

In the second half of April 2003, 75 dissidents were arrested and sentenced after summary trials. These cases were processed under Law No. 88, “For the Protection of the National Independence and of the Economy of Cuba.” The dissidents received sentences varying between 6 and 28 years of imprisonment. Internationally, these events were called “The Black Spring of Cuba.”

According to article 2 of this law (also known as “The Gag Law”), it has a special character and takes precedence over other criminal laws adopted prior to it. This gives rise to a suspicion: How do the authorities decide whether to apply this law or the Penal Code (PC) when both pieces of legislation deal with the same types of crimes, have equal rank and serve the same objectives?

The decision of which norm to apply is left to the discretion of the public prosecutors and the judges and depends on the political will to imprison a person who could not be found guilty if judged under the PC. Meaning that his or her conduct does not fall under any of the definitions of crimes established in the PC.

From both a technical and legal point of view, the elements of the crimes described in “The Gag Law” are formulated vaguely and are designed to sanction any behaviour that, according to the authorities, supports or facilitates the disturbance of the internal peace, seeks to destabilise the country or to destroy the “Socialist State” and the national independence.

In contrast to it, the PC describes types of behaviour that violate or pose a threat to the public life. From this point of view it is the damage to the society, whether potential or actually inflicted, that determines what type of conduct ought to be sanctioned criminally. This means that all citizens are involved in assessing the severity of a given circumstance, precisely because they are the ones affected by it. The judicial system should thus protect the citizens instead of repressing them.

It is inadmissible to make use of the criminal law in order to subjugate citizens and to impose a certain ideology. In other words, the rejection of a given philosophy (communist, liberal, etc.) is not an adequate argument justifying a sentence. There has to be damage to the society.

The punishment of the 75 opponents of the regime, sentenced in accordance to Law 88, showed how its existence serves to legally justify repression under the cover of an alleged public interest. It’s selective application intensified its effectiveness as a warning to others. Indirectly, the regime influenced the rest of the dissidents within the country. It demonstrated its power as well as the lengths it is willing to go to in order to preserve it.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: undef@rocketmail.com

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The Return

Image: El Guama

I don’t know why, nor for what, the obscure reasons and the theories surrounding his reappearance don’t interest me. I don’t think, even for a moment, of trying to figure out Fidel Castro’s return to the cameras. There are things in life that that are only for delight, and this is one of them.

The Twilight of the Dictators is hard not to enjoy in its entirety, since his retirement in 2006, I had a feeling I would miss a good part of the senile finale of the “Cuban Revolution.” I was wrong and I rejoice for my mistake.

I had to satisfy myself with the Reflections, becoming more like science fiction short stories in nickel magazines than anything else, good for a laugh, but infinitely inferior to their graphic versions — it wasn’t for nothing that television flooded the market place in the twentieth century.

It is not the same as reading this:

“The economy of the super power will collapse like a house of cars. American society is the least prepared to withstand a catastrophe like that the empire has created on its own territory from where it left.

We are ignorant of the environmental effects of the nuclear arms, which will inevitably burst upon various parts of our planet, and that in a less severe variant will be produced in abundance. To venture a hypothesis would be pure science fiction on my part.”

Or listening and seeing this.

Gentlemen, without sadness or despair, this miracle of the national comedy calls for a celebration, there is a distinct possibility that this will be the last time we will see it pass by.

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Claudia’s Blog: Octavo Cerco – English

Is There a Law that Allows a Person or Institution to Trample My Rights With Impunity?

I will not go on and on, I don’t intend to bore anyone. My name is Georgina Noa Montes and I live at number 24 First Street, between Calzada de Bejucal and A Street. There is my home and if you want to call me you can do so at (535) 236-1408.

On December 7, 2009, I was granted a visa to travel to the United States as a refugee. On December 14 of the same year I presented my documentation to the Immigration Office, they took the papers and told me to come back after a month. I waited the prescribed time and returned on March 1 and an official attended to me… Well, rather he neglected me because he said neither I nor my family could leave the country.

I won’t deny that it bothered me. I am powerless, knowing that in my country, and this is true for everyone, there is always someone who decides for me. So I counted to ten, took a deep breath, and turned back to ask, calmly, “For how long and why?”

The official said he couldn’t give me an answer because the information is not in the public domain.

Fine, it is not in the public domain, but it doesn’t affect the public.

On June 9, 2010, I wrote a brief letter to the Council of State demanding an explanation. No one has answered me, I am still waiting for a reply. I remind them that it is a violated to refuse to answer the complaints and letters of the citizens.

I understand, and even respect, those who remain silent. But I have no reason to accept this violation of my rights, or that anyone has the right to punish me for exercising my right. Do we or do we not have rights? Are we or are we not prisoners? Are we or are we not hostages? Is there a law authorizing a person to institution to trample on my rights with impunity? No, no there is not; and if there is, we will change it. That is why we are Cubans.

Inn of Death

When she kissed Daylaun, aka el Bola, on Sunday evening, May 30, his mother never imagined it would be the last time she would have him in her arms. Dayluan didn’t return from the disco located in the Inn of Santa Maria del Rosario, to the southeast of Havana, but one of his companions reported the misfortune before dawn. She waited for the body at the undertaker’s in Cotorro, together with other boys, mothers, and cops.

Still, no one knows why Daylaun, a young black man of 22, chubby, absent-minded and very noble, was stabbed. Some say he intervened to protect a neighbor in the La Magdalena neighborhood, where he lived with his mother. Others say he was confused with some thug the killers were looking for.

Maybe it’s pure coincidence, but the Santa Maria Inn, the old Manor House of the Counts of Bayonne, converted into a massive public place with free access, has been turned into a weekend hot spot. Young people who can’t afford the discos in Playa and El Vedado congregate there. Alcohol, music, the desire to socialize through dancing and matchmaking, now generated dozens of injured and some dead. The fights escalate just like at the Bello Palmar, another Cotorro restaurant with disco under the open sky, and the fights are spectacular.

It is known that Dayluan was tried last year for a brawl on bus to Guanabo, one of the resorts to the east of the capital; in the end he paid a fine. Now he pays with his life for intervening in a brawl among friends.

As such events shake the tranquil town of Santa Maria del Rosario, founded in 1732 by the owner of the Inn, some citizens are asking the local government to convert the beautiful colonial mansion into a museum to promote the architecture, history and landscape of the region. So far the proposal has fallen on deaf ears.

Daylaun’s mother mourns the absence of her son who went to a party and lost his life, but last year alone three children were stabbed on the weekend between the town of Santa Maria and the Cotorro cemetery. Others lost an arm, an ear and were victims of contusions and non-fatal wounds.

But all the signs indication that maternal tears are not enough against the desire to socialize and the virus of violence. For now, juvenile bravado and police indolence mark the rhythm of each weekend at the Santa Maria del Rosario Inn, a former manor house southeast of Havana.

The Gag Law

The Penal Code (CP) characterizes and punishes behavior that goes against the security of the state, the economy, public policy, etc. But in a different area of the law there is another criminal provision, which carries the same weight and promotes the same goals: Law No. 88, “Protection of National Independence and the Economy,” popularly known as “the Gag Law.”

But these laws differ in the way their rules are drafted. Law 88 is more confusing and imprecise, which makes it hard to interpret. For example, the Penal Code prohibits conduct that goes against the legal order: public disturbance, incitement to crime, etc. In each of these sections the legislature made clear the factual situation that describes the crime:

“Anyone who . . . yells out an alarm, or utters warnings of a common danger . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 200.1 CP); “A person who provokes squabbling and bickering . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP); “A person who . . . publicly incites another to commit a particular offense . . .” (Incitement to Commit a Crime, Section 202.1 CP).

The character of places where the criminal activity occurs is also explicit: . . . “in public places, shows, or large gatherings . . .” (Public Disorders, Article 200.1 CP); “. . . in establishments open to the public, public transport vehicles, social circles, shows, family or public celebrations, or other events or places where many people gather . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP).

Article 8 of Law No. 88 (Part 1) sanctions “everyone . . . who intentionally disturbs the public order . . .” and “everyone . . . who promotes, organizes, or encourages disturbances to the public order referred to in the previous section” (Part 2).

Article 8 says nothing about the nature of the places where the conduct alleged to be socially dangerous occurs. Nor does it describe the possible acts that must occur to be considered disturbing the public peace. The offense is not defined.

The authorities may consider any action to be a disturbance of public order. This creates a climate of insecurity for citizens subject to the rule.

From this analysis we can derive a lesson and discover one of the strategies of the Cuban political class: drafting laws based on undefined and highly abstract fact patterns makes the interpretation and application of the Gag Law severe and leads to arbitrariness, supposedly in the public interest.

Translated by: Tomás A.

The Same People as Always and With Identical Methods

Placetas, July 19th 2010.

When, in April 2007, I was released after 17 very long and difficult years of captivity, I did not know that I was to face a much more difficult battle than the one I was in before. Assimilating into civil protest would mean dealing with numerous different personalities, temperaments, points of views, and political views.

In that context, my experience was similar to that of the commander Huber Matos, who (through his book entitled “How Night Fell“) described that he reached the Sierra Maestra mountains with an incorrect notion about Fidel Castro, nearly placing him on the same level as the Father of the Nation and other past figures who fought for our independence. To me he seemed to be just like some of those who, here, they call historic leaders of the internal opposition; I had been enamored of more than a few, and I saw them, or more to the point I heard them, as integrity and pluralism personified.

From the beginning, I could not understand the suggestions of living from tales or from having a well-recognized name. Upon leaving prison I could have become a decorative figure behind a desk, spent all my time in meetings, or could have spent my time drawing up and signing documents.

I could have lost my own independence, giving up my points of view and political and ideological ideas, because, one way or another, that was what was going through my head.

I would have had to be a really big hypocrite to then turn my struggle against my brothers in exile, to support politics that consisted of dialogue and close approaches with the tyranny of Havana — this is something I have never supported. Or to be an accomplice of attacks and criticisms against true patriots, in and out of the island, who give the best of themselves for the freedom of the country. Or to contribute to minimizing the importance of that tool of the media which my country depends on, Radio Marti.

It would have been very disloyal of me to not continue promoting the strategy of community work through regional projects, for such programs put one in contact with the true potential for change: the ordinary Cuban. Projects and initiatives are for the people, not for public opinion, they are for the sake of results, not glory or names. True opposition leadership derives from convocation, from sympathies, respect, and admiration from the community one lives in, not from the media, nor from international organizations, despite how much prestige or credibility they may have. In speaking about all of this, I cannot forget to point out the important leadership roles of Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, together with the Assembly to Promote Civil Society and, more recently, the Network of Social Communicators, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva and the Council of Rapporteurs, and Osvaldo Paya Sardinas (although I disagree with him about the Varela Project on a subject as sensitive as that of the political prisoners), I do not let that stop me from acknowledging that the Varela initiative had an unprecedented impact on the population. It is as if the message of freedom and the invitation to defend rights was knocking on the door of every Cuban home for the first time.

But standing sharply against those, and other noble efforts, are the same people as always. Now they sharpen their attacks towards the Central Opposition Coalition, the same way they once did against the Eastern Democratic Alliance and against the Committee of Rapporteurs of Human Rights in Cuba. They are the ones who feed off individuals of few scruples, information, and especially, who desire to be among big names, in order to attack the indisputable leader of the opposition in the center of the country, Idania Yanez Contreras, one of the most pure people with the greatest integrity which the cause of freedom in Cuba relies on. They also try to create a public confrontation between yours truly and the independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández.

I believe that the Castro-ite sectors of intelligence and counter-intelligence should distance themselves from their current methods because they are already worn out and each day that passes they are less and less effective, and to top it off, they perform such methods always with the same people and with identical methods.

Children’s Day

Clipping from the newspaper Juventude Rebele (Rebel Youth), July 18, 2010.

I have always longed for, among the dates and traditions that were amputated by decree, Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings. I used to feel equally happy to give as to receive. It was, in short, a very special day for children and adults.

Now, reading this article from the press of my planet, the following questions come to me:

Whose were the hands, then, that erased from the children’s calendar the day of January 6?

Whose hands signed the order to say that children over three couldn’t have jam?

Were they the same hands that also signed the regulation that only children under seven had the right to receive a daily liter of milk?

I refuse to believe that José Martí also have had something to do with it.

Mamerto

Photo: Orlando Luis

A teacher without much character, I won’t mention her name, who worked in one of the ten elementary schools I attended when my father’s career — he worked as an industrial mechanic — moved our family like circus tumblers all over Cuba, came up with a strategy to maintain calm and discipline among her most restless students. The method was not, indeed, very educational, but it was indisputably effective: with an old broom handle as the backbone, she (or someone) had constructed a rough doll something like a scarecrow. The head was skillfully made with an old paper-mâché ball onto which had been painted a mouth and eyes with watercolors, while an exaggeratedly long protuberance served as the nose in that frowning face. The whole was crowned with an abundance of rope hair, disheveled enough to give the doll a ferocious mien.

This scarecrow, named Mamerto, “lived” in the second grade’s classroom closet and, at least at the beginning of the school year, a single reference to him was enough to subdue the naughtiest of students. The veiled threat was that Mamerto, a really bad guy, was uncomfortable in the narrow closet, so if you misbehaved the punishment would be to take him home to live in your house and to sleep in your bed with you. In those innocent days, when children believed in magic and Santa Claus, no one wanted to be near the terrible presence of Mamerto, much less to share a pillow with him when it came time to sleep. Mamerto had one more curse: obstinate children who earned his antipathy didn’t pass the grade. Yes, in the early sixties we took our studies more seriously, perhaps because subjects, and even entire years were repeated, even in elementary school.

The truth is no one had ever gotten a really good look at Mamerto. All that was required in the lively classroom was for the teacher to invoke his name aloud while opening a chink in the closet door just wide enough to let his tangled hair spill out; the result was a deadly silence in the room with all eyes wide in alarmed expectation. This shared fear was contagious, but also a little incredulous. Deep down, almost all the children sensed that Mamerto was a fraud, particularly the most boisterous and reckless of us, so the teacher was careful never to fully display the bogeyman and always made sure the closet was locked when she left the classroom.

For some of us, however, myself included, the saga of Mamerto had a certain adrenaline-laced charm and inspired a good dose of curiosity. So it was no surprise that one day some of the boldest of my classmates — children have the innate wisdom to join forces in their difficult campaigns — managed to open the closet and discover the true essence of the inanimate and defenseless Mamerto; from that time on, the unfortunate doll became the focus of the antics of the children. He soon appeared propped against some desk in the classroom, leaning against the blackboard, or stripped of his pants, setting off a general hilarity where before there had been fear. Finally the doll became a bore to everyone and was forgotten in his corner of the closet, until one day he disappeared for good. The teacher tried to substitute a cardboard dog and even a stuffed rooster, but in vain. If the whole classroom had vanquished the fear of Mamerto, nothing minor by comparison could take his place.

Somehow, in recent days, certain images appearing in the official press and on TV have called to mind that almost forgotten lesson of Mamerto.

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Miriam’s Blog: Sin Evasion / Without Evasion

The Gag Law

The Penal Code (CP) characterizes and punishes behavior that goes against the security of the state, the economy, public policy, etc. But in a different area of the law there is another criminal provision, which carries the same weight and promotes the same goals: Law No. 88, “Protection of National Independence and the Economy,” popularly known as “the Gag Law.”

But these laws differ in the way their rules are drafted. Law 88 is more confusing and imprecise, which makes it hard to interpret. For example, the Penal Code prohibits conduct that goes against the legal order: public disturbance, incitement to crime, etc. In each of these sections the legislature made clear the factual situation that describes the crime:

“Anyone who . . . yells out an alarm, or utters warnings of a common danger . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 200.1 CP); “A person who provokes squabbling and bickering . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP); “A person who . . . publicly incites another to commit a particular offense . . .” (Incitement to Commit a Crime, Section 202.1 CP).

The character of places where the criminal activity occurs is also explicit: . . . “in public places, shows, or large gatherings . . .” (Public Disorders, Article 200.1 CP); “. . . in establishments open to the public, public transport vehicles, social circles, shows, family or public celebrations, or other events or places where many people gather . . .” (Public Disorders, Section 201.1 CP).

Article 8 of Law No. 88 (Part 1) sanctions “everyone . . . who intentionally disturbs the public order . . .” and “everyone . . . who promotes, organizes, or encourages disturbances to the public order referred to in the previous section” (Part 2).

Article 8 says nothing about the nature of the places where the conduct alleged to be socially dangerous occurs. Nor does it describe the possible acts that must occur to be considered disturbing the public peace. The offense is not defined.

The authorities may consider any action to be a disturbance of public order. This creates a climate of insecurity for citizens subject to the rule.

From this analysis we can derive a lesson and discover one of the strategies of the Cuban political class: drafting laws based on undefined and highly abstract fact patterns makes the interpretation and application of the Gag Law severe and leads to arbitrariness, supposedly in the public interest.

Translated by: Tomás A.


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Everything Changes!

3-tablero-ifaMovement is a universal property: nature changes and society  changes. The difference is that changes in nature respond to  objective laws which operate with or without human involvement, while  history is made by men, allowing them to hasten or delay change, but not to stop it. The  need for social change manifests itself as a permanent dissatisfaction with  what has been achieved, which makes society a perfectible entity.

In Cuba,  the convergence of various factors – internal, external, historical, sociological  and cultural – at a specific time and geopolitical space, led to the prevailing immobility of the recent decades. But these same factors, together with new ones, have placed the limits of immobility on the agenda. A  reality that the authorities of the country, long entrenched in the  idea that Cuba has already changed, have acknowledged in their discourse – the  need to change whatever needs to be changed, or update the model, or both.

Attempts  to homogenize the pluralistic society, changing the citizenry en masse, ignoring  the vital role of rights and freedoms to determine what, when, and  how to do things, first led to stagnation, then to decline, and finally resulted in a  resounding failure with significant material and spiritual  damage.

Although  the infeasibility of the model has brought the economy to the point of collapse, the  system continues to cling to an ideology with no future, to the point that, to  paraphrase Lenin’s definition of a revolutionary situation, the coincidence in Cuba of: the exhaustion of the model; the stagnation of the nation;  public discontent; external pressures; and consensus for change, forms an objective picture showing that those underneath do not want, and those above are not able, to continue as before. In this context, while clinging to immobility and the politics of  confrontation, a series of events happened very early in 2010: the government denied entry to Cuba to a Member  of the European Parliament, the Socialist Luís Yáñez; the  political prisoner Orlando Zapata  Tamayo died following a  prolonged hunger strike; a similar strike was started by the dissident Guillermo  Fariñas; and there were various manifestations of repression against the  Ladies in White, which formed a new scenario at the very time when the  government announced the “update of the model.”

Behavioral  change was manifested in accepting and allowing previously unacceptable acts, such as: allowing Rosa Diez, leader of the Spanish Progressive and Democratic Union, what had earlier been forbidden to Luis Yáñez – to enter Cuba with a  tourist visa and meet with several dissidents; the Cuban foreign minister  meeting with the Troika of the European Union, where they raised the proposal of Cuba’s  willingness to continue dialogue despite the alleged “media campaign  against Cuba”; and the meeting of the Cuban head of state with authorities of the Catholic Church, where they addressed the issue of the  Ladies in White, Fariñas’s strike, and the release of prisoners.

But while this change in behavior does not mean that the political  will exists to democratize Cuba, there is an important practical result: the failure  of inaction, as the issue of the prisoners could be a prelude to other  urgent claims of society. I refer to rights  relating to freely leaving and returning to the country, free Internet  access, or freedom of expression, to name just three of the many needs of Cubans.

If the  government’s tactic consists only in releasing prisoners to change the external  appearance and to gain access to plans of cooperation and funding sources, it is on  the way to a new and resounding failure. To avoid  this it is important that, in the absence of an independent civil  society with the legal recognition to act within Cuba, the international community,  while encouraging the release of prisoners, should place on its agenda with Cuba  the need to ratify human rights pacts signed more than two years ago and put  the domestic legislation in line with those documents. It would be a  grave mistake to implement aid to the government without it demonstrating its readiness to go beyond the liberation of political prisoners, which  did not help either the government or Cuban society.

The desire to change must be demonstrated  with the implementation of human rights, based on the dignity of the person, and the acceptance  that, along with the government’s attempt to update the model, citizens  enjoy the right to propose alternative models, which implies renouncing the strategic interest of remaining in power forever. Citizen participation parallel to that of the State is a requirement of modernity. Cuba has changed  throughout its history and yet we are in a deep structural crisis, one  of the causes of which has been the weakness or absence of civil  society, that place of interaction and coexistence of diverse interests,  where their autonomy and independence from the state constitutes an  irreplaceable instrument for citizen participation.

The demonstration  of the ability to retain power cannot be extrapolated to progress in  the economy, which also indicates that it is insufficient to stop history. Everything  changes, and Cuba is changing.

Translated by: Tomás A.

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