Henry Constantin and Juan Lorenzo Holmann, Awarded Grand Prize for Press Freedom

Nicaraguan Juan Lorenzo Holmann (left) and Cuban Henry Constantín (right) were the two recipients of the Inter-American Press Association this year. (Confidential)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Miami, 22October 2021 — On Thursday, the journalists Henry Constantín, from La Hora de Cuba, and Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, from La Prensa (Nicaragua), were officially awarded this Thursday with the Grand Prize for Press Freedom granted by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA). The award had been announced earlier this month.

The awards to both, vice-presidents of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, are given in “recognition of all independent journalists from Cuba and Nicaragua who, despite the repression, continue to report courageously,” said the organization’s president, Jorge Canahuati, of the Opsa Group, of Honduras.

The head of the IAPA, an organization that this week celebrates its 77th General Assembly, noted that both journalists have been jailed and that it is the first time in decades that two regional vice presidents of the IAPA have been imprisoned at the same time, which reflects that independent journalism in these countries is going through one of its “darkest periods.”

Holmann, general manager of the newspaper La Prensa, has been imprisoned since August 14 of this year and the facilities of La Prensa were occupied and closed the day before by agents of the Government of Daniel Ortega.

Constantín Ferreiro, director of the magazine La Hora de Cuba , was imprisoned and held incommunicado for ten days after being arrested on July 11, the day of the massive social protests in Cuba, and together with two other journalists from that medium remained under house arrest until August 23. continue reading

Yesterday, the organization also announced its awards for Journalistic Excellence in 14 categories, which reflect a trend towards “collaborative journalism, which is becoming more and more relevant in the disclosure and reporting” of facts, as stated by the President of the IAPA Awards Commission, Leonor Mulero.

This year, the hemispheric body recognized in the caricature category the work George Floyd, by Leonardo Parra, from la Oreja Roja  (Colombia), on racial tensions in the United States; while in the category of news coverage on the internet, the winner was The Employment Crisis, a collaboration between Ojo Público, from Peru, together with La Silla Vacía and Pop Lab, from Mexico.

The news coverage award went to The Survivors , from La Silla Rota, from Mexico; while the Alejandro Miró Quesada Garland recognition of mobile news coverage was for the work Father’s Day, by Ariel Garofalo, of the Ecuadorian newspaper El Universo.

The Oliver F. Clarke chronicle award went to I returned walking to Venezuela, by Luis Guillermo Franquiz, from Prodavinci, Venezuela, while the human rights and community service award went to the work of Ojo Público, Chequeos en Lenguas: the original voices that are fighting lies in the Andes and the Amazon.

Three sweet potatoes, by Sadiel Mederos Bermúdez, from El Toque (Cuba), won the award in photography, and Vaccines against the coronavirus, world hope, from La Nación (Argentina), won for infographic.

In the opinion section, the award went to Media: the unbearable discomfort of ideas, by Ariel González, from El Universal (Mexico); in the data journalism category won Evolution of the pandemic in Argentina , from La Nación , and in journalism Chavismo Inc. , a collaboration of Connectas, Alianza Rebelde Investiga and Transparencia Venezuela triumphed in depth .

A water chief in the Mayan paradise, a collaboration of Connectas in alliance with Aristegui Noticias, Proceso, Ruido en la Red, Univision, Vice en Español and the support of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) was recognized with theRoberto Eisenmann Jr. journalism award on the environment.

In health journalism, the Emergency Department was the winnerLife and death in a waiting shift, from the editorial team of El Tiempo (Colombia); and the Pedro Joaquín Chamorro university journalism award the award went to Ciudadela de Paz: the story behind illegality, by Sophia Cortés Piñeros, Gabriela Arraut Navarro and Rodrigo Eduardo Falquéz Herrera, from the Colombian El Punto.

The 77th General Assembly of the IAPA, which this year was held again in virtual format, will celebrate the last of its four days on Friday with the approval of its reports on press freedom in the countries of the region, conclusions and resolutions.

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Spain’s Foreign Ministry Paid Che Guevara’s Nephew to Bring Computers to Cuba

Guevara Lezica is one of the five children of Matilde Lezica and Roberto Guevara, who in the 70s joined the terrorist group, the People’s Revolutionary Army. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 October 2021 — A foundation of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs paid 529,700 euros in Panama to a company linked to a nephew of Ernesto Che Guevara, as revealed this Friday by the newspaper El Español,  to “give away computer equipment” to the Government of Cuba. The money was covered with resources granted by the European Union (EU) which it uses to finance development projects and the fight against corruption, illegal immigration, terrorism and organized crime in Third World countries.

In January 2020, the International and Ibero-American Foundation for Administration and Public Policies (FIIAPP) summoned companies to participate in a competition for the award of seven contracts for a total amount of 694,000 euros. The winning companies would be in charge of transporting and then installing  on the Island the laptops, memory storage devices, tablets, various servers, printers, scanners, projectors, video cameras and their accessories.

Among the participating companies was Grupo Kapan Internacional, represented by Che Guevara’s nephew, Roberto Guevara Lezica, to whom the FIIAPP awarded six of the seven lots tendered under the framework of the Cuba-EU II Expert Exchange Program.

El Español reveals as a condition for the awarded companies that they “know the complexity of obtaining permits and licenses to import into Cuba” and, among other requirements, that they are “authorized by the government of the dictatorship led by Miguel Díaz-Canel.” continue reading

It turns out that the Kapan International Group  renewed its operating license with the Island in 2016 and is authorized to trade with the regime up to “nuclear reactors,” in addition to food, raw materials and foundry manufactures, according to information from the Official Gazette of Cuba published on November 11, 2019.

The award granted by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs resulted in an injection of capital for Kapan Internacional based in the Parque Urraca Building, on Avenida Balboa (Panama). Currently the company has a share capital of $50,000 and its resident agent is José Roberto Luttrell, who is linked to 2,357 different companies that appear in the Panama Papers.

This precedent did not stop the Spanish foundation from granting a new contract to the Panamanian society last September, now for 132,950 euros to provide computers to the Institute of Physical Planning of Cuba, in charge of managing urban planning.

Kapan Internacional has delivered “technological equipment,” according to the FIIAPP portal, which favored the development of software a??for managing the services of the Single Window of Foreign Investment. It also sent “an electric vehicle to the island for the mobility of official and technical personnel of the institutions.”

Meanwhile, Guevara Lezica is one of the five children of Matilde Lezica and Roberto Guevara, who in the 1970s joined the terrorist group, the People’s Revolutionary Army, which was the “armed wing” of the Revolutionary Party of the Workers of Argentina. In 1981 Che Guevara’s brother was arrested in Mexico for participating in the kidnapping of the niece of the presidential candidate of the conservative National Action Party, Pablo Emilio Madero.

At the time of the award that favored the company represented by Che Guevara’s nephew, the FIIAPP Foundation was chaired by Vice President Carmen Calvo and as part of this body, there were the ministers of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya, and of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo.

Cuba and the EU relaunched their relations with the signing in 2016 of the historic Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement (ADPC). Just over a week ago, Spanish Members of the European Parliament from the Popular Party, Leopoldo López Gil, Ciudadanos José Ramón Bauzá and Vox Hermann Tertsch, urged the community bloc to suspend this agreement with the Island for the “systematic violation of obligations and commitments agreed.”

In Tertsch’s opinion, Cuban leaders have “enriched themselves” with EU funds, which have financed the “whims of a dictatorship.”

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Laritza Diversent Petitions Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Behalf of Cubans Detained on July 11 / Cubalex

Laritza Diversent

Dear Commission Members:

My name is Laritza Diversent. I am the director of Cubalex.

Working in collaboration with the group Justicia 11J [11 July], we have recorded the detentions of 1,130 people since July 11, 572 of whom remain incarcerated. Several people who have been released report incidents of torture and mistreatment including beatings, verbal assaults, threats of sexual violence and the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners. They were forced to undress and shout slogans in support of the Cuban revolution such as “Viva Fidel” and “Viva Diaz-Canel.”

According to our records, at least thirty-three have contracted Covid-19 since being imprisoned due to deplorable sanitary conditions and overcrowding in jail cells. We are concerned for those detainees with chronic illnesses, such as HIV, who have reported being denied access to medication. We draw your attention to the situation of five people with disabilities, who require regular psychiatric treatment.

Several of the protesters were temporarily subjected to enforced disappearance. Cubalex is aware of forty people about whom the authorities have declined to provide information as to where they were being detained. We have learned of twelve cases in which courts never issued rulings on this serious violation, a practice which is systemic in Cuba and that must be monitored to prevent it from becoming more common and acute.

We are concerned about the invisibility of certain vulnerable social groups who lack information of the status of those being detained and the their family members who are afraid to come forward. Although some of these groups are not the most representative, the repression against them has been disproportionate so as to have a deterrent continue reading

effect on their communities. We note that belonging to civil society groups perceived as critical of the government has been a decisive factor in filing criminal charges that carry severe sentences.

We are concerned about the effects of detention on youths and adolescents. At least 326 are between the ages of 14 and 30. There are 159 who remain behind bars, including two minors under the age of 16 who are in correctional centers. There are eight between the ages of 16 and 18 who are still incarcerated. In these cases, the State has failed to comply with its obligation to apply the standards on justice as they apply to minors.

We have recorded detentions of thirteen people between the ages of 60 and 75, six of whom remain incarcerated, among them the political activists Carlos Manuel Pupo Rodriguez and Felix Navarro, ages sixty-seven and sixty-eight respectively.

We have recorded detentions of 185 women, sixty-one of whom remain incarcerated. We draw your attention to the plight of single mothers whose family situations have not been taken into account, especially those situations in which minors or other relatives depend on these women for special care.

According to data we have obtained, of the cases involving people of African descendant, 24% of detainees were released from prison compared to 40% of white detainees. There are five people who have real or perceived [non-traditional] sexual orientations and/or diverse gender identities.

Equally concerning is the treatment on journalists covering the protests, who were attacked in an attempt to restrict the flow of information. Assaults were reported on eighteen journalists — five women and thirteen men — from eight independent media outlets in several provinces. Most of those who have been released are under ongoing, illegal house arrest, a situation made worse by selective and deliberate denial of access to internet services.

Lastly, we draw your attention to the statutory framework adopted by the government to limit freedom of expression on digital platforms. Legal Decree No. 35, which took effect in response following the July 11 protests, imposes massive restrictions on internet access and forces operators and providers of public telecommunication services to monitor content on their sites. Under these regulations, live broadcast of demonstrations and online calls for public protests can be treated as harmful dissemination, cyber-terrorism, cyber-warfare and social subversion. Thank you.

The article “Laritza Diversent Petitions Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Behalf of Cubans Detained on July 11” was first published on Cubalex.

‘The Cuban People Need to Heal,’ Says Dancer Carlos Acosta

Carlos Acosta performs from October 22 to 24 at the Teatro Real in Madrid. (EFE / Eduardo Muñoz Álvarez)

14ymedio biggerEuropa Press (14ymedio), Madrid, 21 October 2021 — The dancer Carlos Acosta, who will return to the Teatro Real this coming October 22, 23 and 24 with his company Acosta Danza, has stated that the Cuban people “need to heal,” urging a “conciliatory dialogue” between society and the authorities of the Island.

“We are all waiting for a conciliatory dialogue and the Cuban people need to heal. I hope we can agree as a country, where we are going to go, as soon as possible, because there are many people in the middle who are waiting for it and are suffering a lot,” the dancer said when asked about the protests and arrests in Cuba last June.

Founded in Havana in 2015 with the aim of showing the world the new artistic talent of Cuba, through a program that combines classical, contemporary dance and Cuban rhythms, Acosta Danza has the collaboration of the Cuban Government. “This project is only feasible with financial support, there are very few independent projects there,” acknowledged the dancer, who also has a close relationship with Spain. continue reading

“I have been regular in my visits since I made my debut here at the Albéniz Theater: I have been with Tamara Rojo, also at the Real, at the Reina Sofía in Valencia, I have done Swan Lake …”, he pointed out, to then highlight his collaboration with Icíar Bollaín in the film — Yuli: The Return of the Prodigal Son — inspired by his autobiography.

“It took me ten years to write it and then it took another ten years to shoot it. It was very hard and traumatic, I wrote that book to heal but I found myself living my past. Still, I have met Paul Laverty and Bollaín, who is a teacher in film themes,” the dancer said.

Acosta, who was the first dancer at the Royal Ballet in London, has been called a “workaholic”. “I have prepared all my life in dance, always trying to learn and evolve. It gives me great joy and now I consider myself responsible for the evolution of my artists,” he said.

In fact, Acosta Danza is a project to bring together the best dancers in Cuba, making them known on international stages. In Madrid, the scheduled show will be divided into several performances, always “trying to search for Cuban roots and join them with the modern: from the folkloric to the conceptual.”

Evolution will open the evening with the choreography of Raúl Reinoso, Satori. In Zen Buddhism this word refers to spiritual enlightenment; Carlos Acosta will take on the interpretation of Mermaid, the creation of the Belgian Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui for the company, on music by Woojae Park and Erik Satie.

In it, contemporary dance embraces the classical to tell the story of a mermaid, in which costumes and light are pointed out as fundamental references. Acosta will dance again in the second part of the program with the choreography Two, by Russel Maliphant.

With Paysage, soudain, la nuit, the Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg is inspired by traditional Cuban music through the rumba and its African roots; and closing the night is Twelve, by the Spanish Jorge Crecis, a dance-sport piece.

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Cuban Regime Sees a ‘Corrupt Plot’ to Favor ‘Patria y Vida’ at the Latin Grammys

From left to right, Descemer Bueno, Yotuel Romero, Randy Malcom and Alexander Delgado, in a moment of the video clip ’Patria y Vida’. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 October 2021 — The Government of Cuba persists in its sleepless nights for the song Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life], whose title became the motto of the protests of July 11 and which has almost nine million views since its premiere, just seven months ago.

The nomination of Patria y Vida for two Latin Grammy Awards, whose gala will be held in Miami on November 18, has reopened the regime’s wound, after the desperate and ineffective official “war of songs” unleashed against the Yotuel song. Romero, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Castillo Osorbo and El Funky, soon became an anthem for change on the island.

And so, on Tuesday the State newspaper Granma newspaper denounced a “network of corruption” within the Grammy organization to “favor a counterrevolutionary song.”

For this, they cite “international media,” which turn out to be just an unknown Mexican websiteBendito Coraje [Blessed Courage]. The site disseminates content related to the Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador and is presented as a “page for the dissemination of news and content to dismantle fake news and the tantrums of the organic intellectuals of the old regime.” continue reading

According to the “investigation” of that medium, which is not signed, Gabriel Abaroa, who is identified as “former president emeritus and executive director” of the group that awards the Latin Grammy Awards (Latin Recording Academy or LARAS), “would have been bribed, for the amount of one million dollars” to favor Patria y Vida as song of the year.

In reality, Mexican Gabriel Abaroa left the executive leadership of LARAS last August and his current position at the Academy is president emeritus.

The Mexican website assures, without naming any source, that said “monetary delivery” to Abaroa “would be channeled through several offshore companies located in the Virgin Islands.”

“The offshore network that stands out in the journalistic investigation known as the Pandora Papers, reveals payments from Atlas Network, the company behind the financing and promotion on social networks of the song Patria y Vida,” the newspaper Granma reprints from the Bendito Coraje site, without adding a coda that the Mexican page does include: that the song “became the ’anthem’ of the protests against the Díaz-Canel government.”

“According to other publications and analysts,” says the official Cuban newspaper without specifying which, “it is sung” [thus, in quotation marks] that the Grammys “will raise the subject of times past as part of the total politicization of an artistic event subordinate to the interests of the extreme right of Miami and the United States Government.”

Granma refers to the song’s authors as “a group of reggaeton artists of Cuban origin living in the Florida peninsula, all subject to a diametric change of political discourse as an inescapable exchange card to be able to perform and earn money there.”

Regarding the subject itself, the newspaper considers that “it is a political construction that talks [sic] about a non-existent reality and country.”

Regarding the subject itself, the newspaper considers that “it is a political construction that talks [sic] about a non-existent reality and country.”

“If you put song of the year, all the nominees come out except Homeland and Life,” it explained in a video. Romero says that he complained to Google and the company told him that they are “receiving demands from Havana” that say that the nomination of that song for the awards is false.

Thus, the artist asks “all Cubans to write to Google telling them that we are nominated, that Patria y Vida is nominated, that although it hurts, we are nominated.” And he concludes his recording: “They may remove the song from Google, but they will never remove the song from the hearts of all Cubans.”

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Havana’s Latin American Stadium Will be Managed by the Private Sector to Revive It

Archive image of the Latin American Stadium. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 October 2021 — The Cuban authorities have opened the door to a privatization of the management of sports facilities that seems imminent. The first of the venues to pass into the hands of the “new forms of economic management,” as the authorities call the non-state sector, will be the emblematic Latin American Stadium, home of the Havana baseball team the Industriales.

This stadium, the island’s main baseball venue, will be the first to experience this change in the near future. The objective is that these facilities “have their financial autonomy and be self-sustaining,” said Juan Reinaldo Pérez, National Baseball Commissioner, speaking this Thursday in Camagüey.

The official told a press conference that it is part of the new policy that the National Institute of Sports, Physical Education and Recreation (Inder) aspires to introduce and “some facilities and academies are going to move to new forms of economic management (non-farming cooperatives, self-employed workers or Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)).”

El Coloso del Cerro, as the Latin American Stadium is known, was built in 1946 and continued for more than 60 years with hardly any modifications. In 2014 it was remodeled to solve some of the most serious problems it had, among them continue reading

, “some surprises, since the sanitary services, the hydraulic system and especially the roof were worse than had been calculated,” said a worker in the works speaking to this newspaper.

New warm-up areas were then created at the bottom of the dugouts, old batting cages were removed, and the foul zone was widened. The Havana Forestry Brigade also got involved, to condition the land with new layers of macadam, stone, gravel and sand, the Havana Water Company had to restructure the hydraulic system and the roof was renewed.

But the complaints continued, especially in relation to the conservation of the toilets. Regarding services, many Havanans lamented the poor good services on offer at a venue that in its time had the best. Individuals already swarmed around the stadium, although only for the sale of popcorn or candy.

The pizzeria and cafeterias were still in the hands of the State and, although the menu items were cheap, their quality was negligible.

The situation is repeated in the sports venues across most of the Island, which may now be transferred to private hands, although we will have to wait to find out who  the Government will authorize to manage these facilities, a type of task that requires multiple hiring in different areas and, therefore, many employees and investment.

To this must be added that, given “the complex energy situation and the poor state of the lights in some stadiums,” in the next National Series “all games will be daytime,” as announced by commissioner Juan Reinaldo Pérez. “However, we will try to progressively replace high-consumption light bulbs with LED technology or a more economical one to return to play at night.”

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Cuba Hid the Death of an Engineer and Now Uses His Name in a ‘Revolutionary’ Act

The official singer Duany Ramos receives recognition from Gerardo Hernández, the national coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), in the act of “revolutionary reaffirmation.” (Radio Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 October 2021 — Almost a month after the death of the engineer Miguel Díaz Sistachs in a work accident, the Central Equipment Company, known as Cubiza, has mentioned his name for the first time in public. It was in an act of “revolutionary reaffirmation” in Havana, with the presence of former spy Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, national coordinator of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR).

Díaz Sistachs, 31, died on September 27, when his crane company was trying to place a pole in the José Martí de Marianao Civic Square, in Havana, for the celebrations for the 61st anniversary of the CDR.

A note from Radio Rebelde this Friday states that in the event of “unconditional support for the Cuban Revolution” a minute of silence was kept in memory of the young engineer, whom they say “fell in the line of duty.”

“The white helmets gave their support to the Declaration of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC) that condemns the destabilizing attempts of mercenaries and annexationists to destroy the Cuban Revolution,” the note also says, without offering further details.

In the photographs offered by the official media, there is no image of the young man who died in the act, but there are portraits of Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel. A painting with the effigy of the three continue reading

leaders was given by Gerardo Hernández to the singer Duany Ramos, of the Moncada Group, as a “recognition”.

The death of Díaz Sistachs was totally ignored by the official press, and Cubiza refused to give an explanation for what happened, after briefly posting on its Facebook page: “Cubiza is in mourning. Goodbye, Migue, we will always remember you as the great young man you were. You will always live up to the times.”

This newspaper contacted Díaz Sistachs’ family and friends at the time, but almost none of them dared to break the imposed silence. Only one of them agreed to speak with 14ymedio, under a false name to avoid identification, and did so to demand an investigation into the circumstances of the accident.

“That the causes are known, that it be reported and that there is compensation for the family,” said the young man, who met Díaz Sistachs when they were studying Mechanical Engineering together at the José Antonio Echeverría Higher Polytechnic Institute.

Cubiza blocked from their networks the profiles that posted on their Facebook wall the link to the 14ymedio article on the case.

A neighbor from the scene of the Marianao tragedy told this newspaper that the flagpole fell from a “tremendous height” when a crane tried to place it. “The crane sheave came loose and that tube fell to the ground,” injuring Díaz Sistachs, who died shortly after being transferred to the Military Hospital.

The witness lamented that, the next day, the CDRs carried out the event “as if nothing had happened” and that Criminalística went to the scene after the celebration.

It was, in the words of the neighbors, “a total disgrace.”

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Las Tunas Joins Peaceful November Marches in Cuba

Protesters on a street in Havana on July 11, 2021. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 October 2021 — Las Tunas joined the initiative for a peaceful demonstration called by the Archipiélago collective for this coming November 20th,[Ed. note: now moved to the 15th] just as Havana, Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Guantánamo, Holguín and Pinar del Río did before.

Archipiélago reported that a group of citizens signed the document notifying the Tunas authorities of the march “against violence, to demand that all rights be respected for all Cubans, for the release of political prisoners and for the resolution of our differences through democratic and peaceful means.”

They also point out that “peaceful demonstration is a human right recognized in the Constitution” and that “violating or preventing the full exercise of this right constitutes a crime.” The group hopes that the authorities “act in strict compliance of the law and respect the dignity” of each participant in this citizen initiative.

“Whatever the defenders of single thought and exclusion say, the Homeland belongs to everyone, and so do its streets,” they conclude. continue reading

In the town of Consolación del Sur, in the province of Pinar del Río, another group of Cubans presented the letter on Wednesday, and the action was recorded in a video shared on social networks.

“Whatever the defenders of single thought and exclusion say, the Homeland belongs to everyone and so do its streets!”

“This is a unique moment in the history of Consolación del Sur,” is heard on the recording, which was made at the entrance to the building of the Popular Power. Yahima Díaz, one of the signatories, explained to 14ymedio that the document was received by Olga Lidia Prieto Blanco, the employee in charge of customer service, who refused to sign the notification, but said that the document would be delivered to the mayor.

This municipality was the second one in Pinar del Río to sign up for the initiative.  The provincial capital had joined earlier. As Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a member of the opposition, reported on his Twitter account, it was dissident and former political prisoner José Cásares Soto who was in charge of delivering the document to the authorities in that town.

In the city of Santiago de Cuba, an attempt was made to deliver a similar document last Tuesday, but activist Dariem Columbié was detained by State Security and the police while on his way to the headquarters of the governments of that province.

Members of Archipiélago also denounced this Thursday that “harassment” was being suffered by several mothers of the organizers of the march. “As they cannot confront us with ideas, they resort to intimidation, defamation and blackmail. Enough of the baseness!” they warned before concluding with the demand that the cowardly harassment of our mothers, friends and other relatives cease immediately.”

“My mother was summoned at work again. She called me crying for fear of losing her job,” one of the signers, who preferred not to identify herself to protect her family, reported to 14ymedio.

“My parents were in tears when they begged me to leave the group and I had to do it. I’m very nervous, this town is very small and everything is known”

The repression of the State Security has also reached universities. A young resident in Sancti Spíritus denounced to this newspaper that they are threatening and persecuting students “for belonging to the Archipiélago group.”

“They have already mentioned several friends of mine. Although they have not mentioned me yet, I am very afraid. They ask them why they are in the group, how did they get in, if they plan to demonstrate on the 20th, and one of them even proposed he come work for them. They touched on the subject of his career and told many that they have to be ‘revolutionaries’ if they want to graduate.”.

“My parents were in tears when they begged me to leave the group and I had to do it. I am very nervous, this town is very small and everything is known,” he said.

Several of the petitioners have suffered arbitrary arrests or are being summoned by State Security for interrogations where harassment and the threat of jail have not been lacking. Cuesta Morúa was arrested last week when he left his house, warning him that they would not allow the march.  The same thing happened to activists Marthadela Tamayo and Osvaldo Navarro.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Havana’s Botanical Garden Reopens but Without Its Chinese Carp

President Diaz-Canel releasing koi, or carp, in 2019 during the reopening of the Botanical Garden.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 18 October 2021 — After many months, the National Botanical Garden reopened its doors on Sunday. Visitors have to first make a reservation by phone. Entry fees are 10 pesos for adults and 5 for children. The first visitors, encouraged by great fanfare in the official press, found a less exciting experience than was promised.

“The Chinese carp weren’t there. I didn’t see a single one,” says Alian Aramis, a young man who was visiting the park with his family. During a visit in 2019, President Diaz-Canel released the fish, which are actually Japanese, from a tank.

“I was surprised not to see them because before they were always around the wooden grove where people used to feed them. I asked a worker who told me that the caretakers had stolen them during the months the park was closed.”

Food choices are limited: three menus which include a main course of roast pork, pork chops, pork liver, rice with black beans, green salad, a root vegetable, dessert and a soft drink for 300, 200 and 150 pesos respectively. There were also some appetizer and beverage choices. “The food was acceptable and the service was good but how much you spend depends on the person, says Aramis. “I was worried but I didn’t see the missing carp on anyone’s plate,” he jokes.

Although several beverages were available, the ice cream shop was continue reading

closed. A soft drink in a glass cost 5 pesos and a liter of beer goes for 120. “You could buy limited amounts of Coral soda for 3 pesos and bread roll with mayonnaise. If there were six people at your table, you could buy ten packets of low-quality candy eggs for 12 pesos a packet, 4 bags of Pellys chips for 35 pesos a bag and bottle of rum for 325 pesos, if I remember correctly,” says Aramis.

“We were able to visit the Japanese Garden. It’s very peaceful, very nice, but several plant viewing pavilions were closed due to repairs,” reports Aramis, who regrets that the children were not able to enjoy the amusement park to the fullest because several rides, though in place, had not yet been secured to their floors and  could not be used.

One of the Botanical Gardens’ main attractions is the Canopy, or tirolesa. Installed at the beginning of last year and opened the following August, the ride is the first of its kind in Havana.*

“I tried to make a reservation but it was no use. They told me it’s booked every day for the entire month of October,” complains Aramis, who could only observe the few lucky souls suspended from a cable beyond. They flew over the almost 800-meter, five-segment course for the price of 300 pesos.

*Translator’s note: The website describes it as “a pulley suspended by cables mounted on a slope or incline…designed so that users are propelled by gravity, sliding from the top of a hill to the bottom on a cable.” 

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The UN Determines the Cases of Denis Solis and Luis Robles are Arbitrary Detentions

Denis Solís, on the right, alongside El Funky, on the day of his release this past July (El Funky/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 20, 2021 — The United Nations issued a statement which concluded that rapper Denis Solís as well as Luis Robles Elizastigui, the so-called “young man with the placard”,were detained arbitrarily. The text, dated October 14th, was published Wednesday by Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD), the organization which denounced both cases before the Arbitrary Detentions Working Group.

The document states that for both men, the deprivation of freedom “is arbitrary, which contradicts articles 3, 5, 8, 9, 10,11 and 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

As a result, the UN Working Group urges the Cuban Government to “adopt the measures necessary to remedy the situation of Denis Solís and Luis Robles without delay, and in compliance with the relevant international norms, including those set forth in the Universal Declaration,” at the same time it requests that it ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The appropriate remedy, it continues, will not only be the immediate release of Luis Robles, but also to allow them both “the effective right to compensation and other types of reparations, in accordance with international law.”

In addition, it urges the regime to conduct “an exhaustive and independent investigation” of both cases and to continue reading

“adopt relevant measures against those responsible for the violation of their rights.”

The UN also made a declaration regarding the treatment to which Denis Solís, the main subject, was subjected–to which other first offenders were also subjected for participating in the protests this past July 11th, notes the CPD–in which the judge may impose sentences “without the presence of a prosecutor, or lawyer, leaving the accused without knowledge of their judicial conviction.”

With regard to this, the Madrid-based organization reiterated that, “during summary procedures in Cuba, which are more than half of all criminal proceedings and the majority are currently political prisoners on the Island, every single one of the principles of presumption of innocence, due process and the right to an effective defense of those accused is violated.”

“Criminal and procedural legislation in Cuba is in violation of the most fundamental human rights, both the exercise of freedom and the right to justice,” it concludes.

For CPD, this determination represents “definitive support for the San Isidro Movement in its hunger strike in November of 2020” and gives “all the moral strength to the people of Cuba as they face the peaceful protests on November 15th.”

A file on Denis Solís, which included all the irregularities of his legal procedures, was sent to international organizations, including the UN, this past January by Prisoners Defenders. That same month, the NGO included Luis Robles on its list of prisoners of conscience in Cuba.

The detention and incarceration of Solís was the basis for the protests of some members of MSI, who held a hunger strike holed up in their headquarters in Old Havana which lasted over a week. From there, they were violently removed by agents dressed as health workers on November 26 2020, which provoked instead, solidarity among 300 artists who the following day gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture to demand an end to the censorship and a dialogue with authorities.

The placard held by Robles when he was detained on the Boulevard de San Rafael in Havana, last December 4th, also demanded the release of the controversial rapper.

Denis Solís was released this past July, after fully serving his eight-month sentence. Robles, for his part, remains in jail, and last week was denied for a fourth time a change of precautionary measures, provisional prison until the start of his trial, postponed sine die due to the July 11th protests.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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11 July Protestor Sentenced to Three Years in Prison in Cuba

Niedas Hernández, 32, defined himself this July as an activist “due to pressure from the regime.” (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio/ Europa Press, Madrid, 19 October 2021 — Luis Mario Niedas Hernández, arrested on July 11 during the anti-government demonstrations in Cuba, has been sentenced to three years in prison, according to Néstor Estevez in the Sancti Spíritus group that he manages on Facebook .

Estevez explained that the sentence was learned this Monday, 18 days after the trial was held, which, according to his testimony, was held under strong security measures and without allowing family and friends access to the oral hearing. A “prestigious lawyer participated in the process, discredited by the regime because not even being innocent did he manage to get his client out unscathed from false accusations and witnesses who are officials of the Sancti Spiritus government,” the activist also accuses.

Niedas Hernández was accused of aggravated contempt, spread of epidemic and instigation of violence and the Prosecutor’s Office had requested six years in prison for him, with the sentence ultimately halved.

Friends and acquaintances of Niedas Hernández maintain that he has been tortured during his stay in the Nieves Morejón prison, where he has also spent fifteen days in a punishment cell.

“Within the tiny space, he had to relieve himself, eat, bathe and sleep. An inhuman treatment that violates all the elementary rights of the human being and that makes it clear that in Cuba the laws and international conventions that guarantee dignified treatment of the inmates are not being complied with in Cuba,” continues Estévez, who has also advanced that the family is not considering appealing the sentence “in order not to extend the circus.” continue reading

“We will survive. We will seek justice, we will build a new society, we will rebuild the nation. That will be our revenge,” claims the activist.

Niedas Hernández, 32, defined himself this July as an activist “due to pressure from the regime.” The San Isidro Movement and 27N (27 November) were at the root of his mobilization, first on social networks, which meant the beginning of a campaign against him from officialdom.

“They expelled me from two work centers, one of them through an act of repudiation, and all for, as I said, supporting a just cause from my social networks,” he claimed.

The case occurred a few hours before the presentation of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report began. In the report the Cuban authorities are accused of perpetrating “systematic” arrests and abuses to contain the “overwhelmingly peaceful” mobilizations of July, in the framework of a “brutal strategy of repression” against movements opposed to the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel.

He wanted to “instill fear among the population and repress dissent,” according to researcher Juan Pappier, after some investigations in which the NGO has interviewed more than 150 people and has consulted documentation, also of an official nature, to determine the scope of what happened.

Cubalex has created a data base of more than a thousand people arrested, of whom more than 500 remain behind bars. A protester, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, died in the town of La Güinera, after a police officer shot him in the back.

In its report, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has identified 130 victims of arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and abusive criminal proceedings and estimates that “many” of the hundreds of people arrested during the protests have suffered “brutal” abuses during their detention and “dozens” have been prosecuted, without a minimum of guarantees.

Among the abuses detected by HRW researchers are sleep deprivation, beatings, isolation without natural light or threats of retaliation against family members. They has also denounced abusive interrogations, also charged with all kinds of threats and pressure.

For Pappier, the judicial processes have been “a true farce” and are part of a strategy that transcends the anecdotal. “The patterns in these abuses show that they are clearly not the result of abusive conduct by a few officers,” he said.

HRW noted the message that Díaz-Canel sent to the “revolutionaries” when the protests began, so that they too would take to the streets. “The combat order is given,” declared the president, in what would mean the start of an offensive by the security forces and other pressure measures such as restrictions on the Internet connection.

The NGO has identified, among the officials involved in abuses, members of the intelligence services, military, police and brigade members known as ’black berets.’ It also notes that judges and prosecutors have limited themselves to acting as a conveyor belt for the executive branch, facilitating “abusive” processes.

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Archipielago Asks to Respond to Repression With Poetry During the 15N Marches in Cuba

The organizers of the march ask to remain calm if violent episodes occur. (Capture / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 October 2021 — The Archipiélago collective has drawn up a list of instructions for those who want to join the Civic March for Change that it has been called for this coming November 15, a march that the authorities have refused to authorize.

The demonstration will run through the areas indicated by the organizers in each province between 3:00 and 6:00 in the afternoon and, as security measures, Archipiélago recommends going out in groups wearing white clothes, with flags of the same color stored in backpacks to avoid being arrested before to reach the designated exit area. In case of not arriving, the organizers call onpeople to protest in nearby parks or areas.

The group invites people to document the development of the demonstration, although there are precedents of cuts in the connection needed to avoid live broadcasts.

“If there are episodes of repression by the forces of order, never respond with violent attitudes, raise your hands and recite the poem ’I Cultivate a White Rose’ by José Martí,” says the organizing group, which insists on the rejection of any violent act, poster or symbol. “Let us be citizens and no authoritarianism will violate our rights.”

Along the same lines, Archipiélago asks for respectful and peaceful expressions to demand the changes, to observe a moment of silence “as continue reading

a sign of the pain that Cuba has lived, through decades of authoritarianism and the absence of democratic spaces,” to have a gesture for the release of prisoners of conscience and leave a flower on a bust of José Martí.

The organizers also recommend that family and friends be informed of the situation, as well as ending with some collective expression of joy that invites reconciliation and hope.

“In the event of an episode of violence, keep calm and try to dialogue with the alarmed person. Any violent attitude moves away from the spirit of the Civic March for Change, since we must always respond to authoritarianism with civility,” closes the statement, released through the collective’s Facebook page.

Faced with this, officialdom continues to try to curb support for the marches. This Monday, a statement by the Cuban Workers’ Central rejects “the most recent maneuvers orchestrated by ’internal political operators, led and encouraged from abroad,’  which ’announce the intention to carry out a march that they have presented as peaceful and lawful, invoking the Constitution’.”

Hours before, Archipiélago had released a video in which several activists from Havana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara and Holguín emphasized that the march has no external economic support and that it only seeks the release of the detainees of the July 11 anti-government protests and political prisoners in general, in addition to demanding political changes through democratic and peaceful means and in favor of the sovereignty of Cuba.

“Far from what is said in the official propaganda against the Archipiélago, this group does not receive or will never receive money from a foreign power or support any invasion. We do not want foreign interference, we Cubans are capable of generating ideas to be able to live in a democratic and sovereign country.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Dollar Stores Suffer Problems Connecting with Banks in Cuba

In line waiting for connection at a hard currency store were seniors who, aware of the store’s frequent problems, had brought their own stools to sit and wait. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 18 October 2021 — The long line to enter the central La Época store was barely moving this Saturday at noon on Calle San Nicolás y Concordia, in Centro Habana. Since nine in the morning, only 30 people had entered, because of the lack of a connection with the banks to approve payments with magnetic cards in freely convertible currency (MLC).

Very early, an employee announced at the top of his voice what everyone feared: “The system is down.” Along with the shouts of discomfort, some laughter broke out at the double meaning of the message. Then the hours passed. When noon arrived, discomfort grew in the line, in which pregnant women and elderly people were waiting; aware of the store’s frequent problems they had brought their own stools to sit and wait.

“There is no connection,” the line organizer repeated to everyone who asked her, as she held a large number of ID cards in her hand. Her clarification did not prevent protests from arising again and again from the crowd. “Again?” Said a young man aloud. “How many times is the connection going to go down today?” he questioned before the widespread support of the crowd.

“If you pay in foreign currency, the service should be better,” said a young woman who had gone to buy a few kilograms of chicken breast with money that her sister had sent her by continue reading

bank transfer. “You can tolerate this in a store in Cuban pesos, but I don’t understand it in foreign currency.”

The authorities have repeated ad nauseam about the Cuban economy’s need for fresh foreign exchange to enter the country. With this objective in mind, in the middle of last year they began selling food and cleaning products in MLC, which has generated a great popular anger among those who do not have access to remittances or payments in foreign currency.

To prevent the circulation of cash, the Government requires that customers pay in these businesses with magnetic cards issued by national banks, or Visa, Mastercard or UnionPay cards issued by foreign institutions, with the exception of the United States. But this requirement often runs into an obstacle: the fluctuations of connectivity between the terminals that read the card and the bank that must authorize the transaction.

Just a few blocks from La Época, at the Roseland store, the problem was also repeated this Saturday. Sales were stopped and people were very upset outside because the communication system with the bank is intermittent. “There is a connection for five minutes and then it’s down for half an hour. I am at the entrance from early and it is two in the afternoon, how is it possible that they do not have something of quality with the amount of money they make with these stores,” commented a woman .

Like a carbon copy, the scene was similar at Capricho and La Filosofía stores. Already in the department of electrical appliances in Plaza Carlos III, people sat on the floor and long faces were observed all over the place. The cashier swiped the card over and over, until a strip of paper came out indicating that the operation failed.

A call to the customer service numbers of the Metropolitan Bank that operates in the Cuban capital offers few details about the technical reasons for so many ups and downs in the connection. “That depends, it could be congestion problems on the lines,” explains an operator when asked by 14ymedio. “But it may also be that we are doing some maintenance, although in that case it is always announced in advance.”

Another employee, from the Banco de Crédito y Comercio in Havana, attributes the problem to the state telecommunications monopoly. “Most of the time the connectivity problems results from Etecsa failures, but of course, people point to the bank. The worst happens with those who have foreign cards, because not only must the store communicate with our branch, but we have to communicate with the bank outside the country.”

“I can only swipe it three times in a row, then I have to try another one,” explained the vendor in the Plaza de Carlos III to the troubled customers. Everyone was waiting to buy the electric rice cookers that they had just put up for sale after several days without showing up.

A young woman came forward and handed him her card: “Try this one.” This time it took a long time for the paper to come out and the girl was encouraged: “Now if it’s going to happen, I know from experience, when it takes time for the paper to come out, it works.” The clerk looked at her and smiled. “You are already an expert, you are right, you qualified!” The young woman looks at the ceiling with her hands outstretched as the receipt comes out of the device, like someone who has just won the lottery.

It didn’t take long for an uproar to form in the place when it was learned that it wasn’t her turn to buy yet, but the lucky customer had already walked away with her pot in her hands.

Outside, word spread that the system “has worked again,” but a few minutes later an employee poked her head out the door and asked for understanding because the connection with the bank had been lost for the umpteenth time.

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I Was Mistaken About the Cubans

A moment during the demonstrations on July 11th in Santiago de Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan E. Cambiaso, Panama, October 18, 2021–In March of 2019, after my fourth visit to Cuba, disillusioned and in disbelief, I wrote an article published in 14ymedio where I said, in sum, that the Cuban people had accepted living with shame and without glory and that they were masochists. I was mistaken, because there were moral reserves and civic virtues, which I was unable to see. May this writing be my mea culpa.

Since then, there is too much water under the bridge.

Raul Castro terminated his mandate and passed the baton to Díaz-Canel, the pandemic hit hard and continues to do so, leaving deep scars in the economy, the social fabric, among families and those affected, and in the psyche of individuals. Poverty increased, employment declined, expectations for a better future evaporated. More pain and less hope. The lack of freedom remained, without the meager compensation that had numbed its absence.

This time, poor management resulted in sick people and those who died of suffocation. Without warning, Díaz-Canel found himself confronting circumstances for which all his experience and training left him unprepared, making evident that he he fell short of the stature of a Castro, and in Cuba those who are not, are cursed.

This is how Cuba arrived at July of this year, when the popular protests showed–as will be shown on 15N (15 November) — that, despite the fact that neither the law nor political powers bestow freedom on citizens, the people will express themselves just the same and build their freedom with blood, sweat and life itself.

Inevitably, these cyclonic forces create spaces for people to shout their demands and display the material and spiritual poverty to which they have always been subjected, with the knees of the same arrogant ones as always on their necks. The comrade mutated into a citizen.

Under a tyranny as deep-seated and violent as the one in Cuba, this bravery has enhanced value. It is heroic. Before us is the redefined concept of the “heroic people of Cuba”. From now on they will be heroic because they will not stop until freedom is regained and “toward victory, always” will mean that the fight for individual freedom is inalienable and never-ending, because excess freedom is better than limited freedom.

The same words, another world; the same people, other objectives; the same country, another destiny.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

‘Pre-criminal Dangerousness’ is Removed from the Cuban Penal Code, but ‘Regulation’ — Being Forbidden to Leave the Country — is Legalized

Associations such as Human Rights Watch assure that those detained in the anti-government demonstrations have not only suffered torture and inhuman treatment, but that justice has not been applied correctly. (Screen Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 October 2021 —  The Cuban Government will eliminate “pre-criminal dangerousness,” a legal definition that it has been used for years to imprison opponents. The elimination of this ’crime’ has been demanded by international organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Rubén Remigio Ferro, president of the People’s Supreme Court, said on Tuesday on the State television program Mesa Redonda [Roundtable] that the measure is excluded in the new Criminal Procedure Law (LPP), which has not yet been approved. “Criminal law only deals with facts that are crimes established in the Penal Code,” he said in this regard.

Until now, this crime has been used as a mechanism to impose penalties before an anticipated future commission of a crime, in the style of the science fiction film Minority Report.

Pre-criminal dangerousness can also be arrived at after receiving several “warning letters,” a wake-up call that is frequently applied against young people who do not have employment, show critical opinions about the Government or, simply, are unlucky enough not to be liked by the Police Sector Chief in their neighborhood.

Among the other legal novelties announced, the magistrate stressed continue reading

that anyone accused of any crime has the right to have legal assistance “from the very beginning of the process.” That moment occurs when the person is made aware of the charges against him and who is accusing him, something that, on paper, should occur within the first 24 hours of an arrest or within five days if the person is free.

In the event that the defendant pleads guilty to a crime and agrees with the charges and the proposed sanction, a trial may be waived and the court will issue the agreed upon sentence.

The new norm will also establish that no citizen can be deprived of liberty except by the competent authorities, in addition to, the judge assures, “strengthening the presumption of innocence and the right to communicate” with one’s family immediately, common practices in Justice in other countries that are currently not in effect in Cuba and that, at least in theory, should begin to be carried out.

“In the case of the provisional prison measure [pre-trial custody],  it is regulated with greater precision regarding when it can be requested. The bill even incorporates judicial control, the option that lawyers have to request the court to review the legitimacy of that provisional detention,” added Ferro.

The law also provides that the victims of a crime are recognized as parties, which gives them rights that until now they did not have, such as being present in the process, appointing lawyers, proposing evidence and claiming compensation.

Ferro explained that the decisions have been made in order to modernize the Cuban Justice and harmonize it with the international treaties Cuba is committed to, and to ensure that the new laws are in accordance with the 2019 Constitution and the guidelines and have the approval of the experts.

Given the triumphalism of Remigio Ferro, and although he did not mention it on national television, in the new norm there are still repressive variables that are arbitrarily applied frequently against opponents, activists and independent journalists, such as home confinement and the prohibition of leaving the country, classified in the new Criminal Procedure Law project as “precautionary measures.”

In addition, the prohibition of leaving the national territory is formalized on paper. This prohibition is popularly referred to as being regulated*, and until now was not in the law, in cases in which the accused is involved in crimes that entail “material reparations or compensation for damages of high amounts”; in acts “of high injury or social repercussion”; in crimes in which “they have caused serious damage to the country’s economy”; and in “any other case in which there are well-founded reasons that they are going to try to leave the national territory to avoid the process.”

The president of the Supreme Court has assured on several occasions since the July 11 protests that judicial procedures are followed in accordance with the law in Cuba, with all the guarantees due under current law. However, associations, such as Human Rights Watch, speaking on Wednesday, said that those detained in the anti-government demonstrations have not only suffered torture and inhuman treatment, but that Justice has not been applied correctly and they have suffered arbitrary detentions and false trials.

This proven fact calls into question the goodwill that may govern the new law, since it is not the first time that the practice of the courts contradicts the words of the Supreme Court.

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba added Remigio Ferro to its list of regime repressors in 2019 after the publication of a tweet in which the senior official mentioned the existence of Law 88, also known as the Gag Law, as an instrument to penalize those who “support, facilitate or collaborate with the objectives of [the United States] Helms-Burton Act.”

*Translator’s note: See also these articles.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.