Arrested: 90 dissidents and Ladies in White Who Protested in Obama Masks / Diario de Cuba

Activists and Ladies in White in Gandhi Park. Havana, 9 August 2015. (AFP)
Activists and Ladies in White in Gandhi Park. Havana, 9 August 2015. (AFP), Havana, 9 August 2015 – Some 60 Ladies in White and 30 human rights activists were arrested this Sunday in Havana where they protested while wearing masks with the image of United States President Barack Obama and carrying photos of political prisoners.

The Obama masks signaled the participating activists’ rejection of the Washington-Havana rapprochement, reported the AFP agency.

The report said that uniformed and plainclothes officers, accompanied by squads of official governmental protesters who were shouting, “down with the worms,” surrounded the dissidents and arrested them at about 14:00 hours (local time) when they were preparing to withdraw to their homes after the traditional Sunday march by the Ladies in White. continue reading

Obama “is to blame for what is happening (in Cuba), the Cuban government has been emboldened by the negotiations” with Washington, declared former political prisoner Angel Moya in front of the other activists on the plaza located across from the Santa Rita Church, where the Ladies in White customarily go on Sundays.

“That’s why we have this mask, because of his guilt,” added Moya, member of the Group of 75 and husband of Ladies in White leader, Berta Soler.

Obama must “put conditions on the Cuban government to stop the human rights violations,” Soler declared to the AFP.

“Really for us it would be very important if, when (US secretary of State John Kerry) arrived in Cuba on his trip for the official inauguration of the United States embassy, he were able to meet with some representation from (Cuban) civil society,” said Soler.

The opponents were aware that they would be arrested at the end of their meeting, and Moya recommended to the other activists that they offer no resistance, the AFP reported.
This is the seventeenth consecutive Sunday of repression against the Ladies in White and the activists who accompany them.

According to a Twitter report by activist Ailer Gonzalez, of the independent project Estado de Sats, accompanying the members of the women’s group were, among others, the grandmother of graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto), who has been in prison since last December without having been brought to trial; paroled writer Angel Santiesteban, artist Tania Bruguera, musician Gorki Aguila and photographer Claudio Fuentes.

Also there were activists Antonio Rodiles, Boris Gonzalez Arenas, Lia Villares, Egberto Escobedo and Camilo Ernesto Olivera.

From Gandhi Park, before the repressive operation, Gonzalez Arenas told DIARIO DE CUBA that 12 dissidents and Ladies in White were intercepted before arriving at Santa Rita Church.

Meibol Maria Sanchez Mujica, mother of prisoner Enmanuel Abreu Sanchez, who has been on a hunger strike for 88 days in a quest to regain his freedom, attended this Sunday’s activities of the Ladies in White.
Abreu Sanchez was sentenced to 12 years after an attempted illegal departure. He was accused of human trafficking, a crime he says he did not commit. Currently he is committed to the National Hospital.
As of this writing, the activists are beginning to be released.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

The Onslaught of Undocumented Cubans Arriving in the US Crashes Social Services / Diario de Cuba, Miami, 10 July 2015 – The increase in the number of Cubans who ae arriving undocumented in the United States due to the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba is so great that Florida’s social services cannot cope; they have crashed and have a waiting list of almost two months, reports the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

This situation slows the settlement of these people in other states, the receipt of work permits and emergency monetary help. Those recently arrived fear that the renewal of diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level will put an end to exceptional immigration laws favoring Cubans.

According to figures from Immigration Services, since the October 1st beginning of the fiscal year, almost 19,000 Cubans have entered the country either by sea or across the Mexican border, a figure equivalent to the total arrivals of the previous year. Two thirds of those arrived since the announcement of the thaw. continue reading

The newspaper relates the case of the Cuban Antonio Mora, 27 years of age, who arrived in Miami after entering the country at Laredo, Texas, a border crossing with Nuevo Laredo in Mexico. He was interviewed, and he presented his case as a Cuban refugee and was admitted in to the country easily.

He immediately moved to south Florida, but he has no relatives there, and he has been homeless. The young man survives in the open in a shopping center parking lot in the city of Doral in the Miami metropolitan area together with three other fellow countrymen.

“We came without money or family. In Cuba it is said that the United States’ government gives asylum to Cubans. Meanwhile, we have to be outdoors,” he emphasizes with a certain despair.

Catholic social service organizations say that they are overwhelmed. “Many are coming. We operate on state programs and private contributions,” say sources consulted by the media.

“But with the crisis, contributions have fallen and funds are exhausted. We don’t have the capacity to process so many people,” explains Amaldo Vicente, one of the volunteers from Catholic Charities, the most important Florida home for refugees, without greater detail because he is not authorized to comment on the issue.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

In Madrid, Cuban Opponents Analyze the Example of the Chilean Transition / Diario de Cuba

Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)
Group photo of the participants in the meeting. (AIL)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Madrid, 3 July 2015 — Several opposition figures from the Island attended in training for Cuban leaders in Madrid, from 2-3 July, looking at the Chilean transition, which was organized by the Association of Ibero-Americans for Freedom (AIL), under the coordination of the former Minister General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, the economist Cristian Larroulet and Carlos Alberto Montaner, among other intellectuals.

Casa de America hosted the meeting behind closed doors, focused exclusively on strengthening Cuban civil society. The workshop is part of a continuation of those held in July of last year on the Spanish transition and in March of 2015 on the formation of the Democratic Unity Roundtable of Venezuela (MUD).

These events have as an objective, in addition to the formation of Cuban leaders and learning about transitions, to promote and facilitate meeting spaces, coordination and reflection among the participants. The writers Roberto Ampuero and Mauricio Rojas were others invited to join this initiative, with closing remarks on the dialog addressing the convening topic.

Among the Cuban opposition figures were Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, Eliecer Avila, Manuel Cuesta Morua and Laritza Diversent.

The Regime Releases Activist After 46 Days On Hunger Strike, Vladimier Ortiz Suarez, Havana, 21 June 2015 — The human rights activist Rolando Perez Morera Yusef was released on Thursday after 46 days on hunger strike to protest his imprisonment.

Pérez Morera, 37, is in very deplorable state of health. Despite being released, his freedom is not complete as they have imposed a fine of one thousand dollars and he continues to await trial. continue reading

The activist was arrested on May 2 in San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, while collecting signatures in support of the Emilia Project, which is led by Oscar Elias Biscet, former political prisoner of the Group of 75; the Project seeks the establishment of a rule of law in Cuba.

According to Pérez Morera’s version, he was led into the interior of the house of the head of the political police of the town, and then charged with “violation of domicile.”

The regime opponent was later transferred to the police station of San Cristobal, in the province of Pinar del Rio, where he began his hunger strike.

The authorities have changed the accusation of “violation of domicile,” and are now accusing him of a “crime against State Security.”

In these types of “crimes” the regime typically includes those actions it deems “enemy propaganda.”

Oscar Elias Biscet confirmed in his Twitter account the release of Perez Morera. “he is very thin, but strong spiritually and morally,” he said.

More than 70 Ladies in White and Activists Arrested / Diario de Cuba

Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita Church on a previous Sunday (fhrcuba)
Ladies in White in front of Santa Rita Church on a previous Sunday (fhrcuba)

Diario de Cuba, Havana, 7 June 2015 – Over 40 Ladies in White and some 27 activists were arrested this Sunday, the ninth of repressive operations in Havana, according to dissidents.

Among those arrested were the musician Gorki Aguila, the director of Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, photographer Claudio Fuentes and artist Tania Bruguera, who has already been released, according to the activist Ailer Gonzalez.

Other Ladies in White and opponents were arrested on leaving their homes, or forced to remain in them, according to the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque. continue reading

Gonzalez, artistic director of State of Sats, said she was able to talk with Antonio Rodiles when he was led into a State Security “paddy wagon,”, along with nine other men, and taken to the criminal prosecution center known as “Vivac.”

“He told me that his arrest had been violent and that they had put him in a chokehold,” she told Diario de Cuba.

Given the continued repression against the Ladies in White and the activists who support them when they attend Sunday Mass at Havana’s Santa Rita Church and undertake their walks down Quinta Avenue, supporters inside and outside the island carried out a campaign on Twitter using the hashtag #TodosMarchamos (We All March).

The initiative seeks to break the silence on the current repression in Cuba despite the regime’s negotiations with the United States and the European Union.

“This is a resistance,” said Ailer Gonzalez about the activities of the Ladies in White and dissidents every Sunday. “Many believe it is exhausting, but it seems to me that it is about the right to demonstrate, not only for the release of political prisoners,” she added.

“With this resistance every Sunday we are demanding the right to peaceful demonstration in Cuba, which is something that they (the government) are terrified of. Therefore they are engaged in this sustained repression, because the day they let us walk more than 10 blocks, they know how many people are going to join in,” she said.

Gorki Aguila Arrested in Front of the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana / Diario de Cuba

"This too shall pass"
“This too shall pass” (Danilo’s artwork from prison)

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 24 May 2015 – The musician Gorki Águila, leader of the band Porno para Ricardo, was arrested by State Security agents on Saturday night in front of the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana.

Gorki Aguila
Gorki Aguila

Águila went to hold up a sign on the outside wall of the museum with the word “Libertad” (Freedom) and the image of the graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, imprisoned since last 25 December, when he allegedly went to Havana’s Central Park with two piglets named “Fidel” and “Raúl,” to stage a performance.

After Águila’s action, recognized repressors from State Security’s Section 21, posted in the area, approached the musician and forced him into a car. Meanwhile, Águila shouted demands for “Freedom for Danilo!”

The repressors were in the area because of the inauguration of a show that presumably was going to be attended by the artist Tania Bruguera, now retained on the Island without her passport because of an attempt to stage her performance Tatlin’s Whisper in the Plaza of the Revolution last 30 December.

This coming Wednesday, 27 May, the Oslo Freedom Forum, a principal world event dedicated to human rights, awarded El Sexto the Prize for Creative Dissidence.

The Revolution and its Functional Illiterates / Diario de Cuba, Jorge Olivera Castillo

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Jorge Olivera Castillo, Havana, 23 April 2015 — According to a close friend, no fewer than half of the graduates of Cuban universities during the last 50 years, have been graduated in vain.”

Such an assertion might be considered distorted and extremist, but the reality outweighs the data that continue to have no place in the official press nor in the other spaces controlled by the State-Party.

From the start, what counted was massiveness. The only insurmountable barrier to higher education is ideological divergences. The slogan about the university being “only for revolutionaries” is kept as current as on the first day it was proclaimed from the platforms and acclaimed by the multitudes. continue reading

Intelligence and suitability became secondary factors to be considered during the university admissions process.

If we add to such follies the regression in teaching methodologies and the limitations in using new technologies, conclusions are easily reached that have nothing in common with the statistics that overstate successes and promote perspectives that are realized, only and exclusively, in the reports by the officials.

In this scenario it is normal for the diploma which documents a university graduation to often be a false trail.

At times, all it takes is a simple conversation to confirm ignorance about key topics in national history and other subjects that taught in junior high and high school.

There are cases in which abilities are limited to a subject studied and do not signify an excellent education.

The future consolidation of capitalism in Cuba is a prospect that generates little enthusiasm for many who display with ill-concealed pride their university degree.

In such a context it will be impossible to cover up the many gaps in knowledge.

What will dictate standards is competitiveness – not participation in acts of revolutionary reaffirmation and other contrivances that exemplify the culture of social parasitism and the institutionalization of fraud as a norm of citizenship in the struggle for survival.

It is a shame to have invested so many material and human resources for such poor results.

The collapse of the paradigms of Caribbean-style socialism is a phenomenon undergoing its final phase.

Among the ruins that exceed their figurative framework to showcase their leading role across the country are those of the Ministry of Education.

In this act of the tragedy, what stands out is the army of functional illiterates coming out of the classrooms of the Revolution.

One of the legacies of a project that failed and whose founders refuse to accept the verdict of history.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The “Opening” by “Granma” / Diario de Cuba, Hildebrando Chaviano Montes

In a passage about today’s elections, the Communist Party newspaper “Granma” says that “every citizen has the right to a single vote […] regardless of [his] political position.”

DiariodeCuba, Hildebrando Chaviano Montes*, Havana, 19 April 2015 — The daily Granma, in its Wednesday, April 15 edition, brings a timid message of opening hidden in an article about the Cuban electoral system.  The mention that “in the process of electing delegates to the Municipal Assemblies the vote is characterized as being:  free, equal, secret, direct, nominal and preferential (Prieto Valdes and Perez Hernandez)” may not call the attention of many readers.

However, the mentioned authors make a contribution to the Constitution of the Republic itself when they explain that “every citizen has the right to a single vote and of equal value, without regard to race, religious belief, skin color, political position.”

The passage, although incomplete in my opinion, obviously is supported and inspired by Article 42 of the Cuban Constitution which says:  “Discrimination on the basis of race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious belief, and any other offense against human dignity is proscribed and prohibited by law.” continue reading

The substitution, however, of the phrase “any other offense against human dignity” by the more specific “political position” is noteworthy for being the first time that there appears in the official organ of the Communist Party an admission that different political positions exist in Cuba and above all, that they have equal value.

The express recognition by the mentioned jurists that Cuban political thought is not a single one but is rich in its diversity, as in any other country on the globe, is the first public gesture that could lead to a lifting of the strict blockade on ideas imposed since 1959.  Some may think that the Government is manipulating a sensitive topic in order to ingratiate itself with old and new friends, but at this point speculating with pretty words does not seem smart.

Moreover, and at the risk of being accused of being a dreamer, naïve and even a collaborationist, this could well be the antecedent of future changes announced in an obsolete Constitution whose roots date to 1917 and which stopped being justifiable many years ago, above all in Latin America, a natural environment in which Cuba seeks to insert itself but where the left is not entirely red but more pink, generally respecting the market economy and democratic institutions.

“Chavista” Venezuela constitutes the exception to the political pragmatism of the Latin American left; taken by the hand of Castro I, it jumped into the abyss into which apparently Castro II does not wish to accompany it; he increasingly distances himself from his predecessor, undoing as he can the inherited absolutist framework.

Triana Cordovi in Economics and Prieto Valdes and Perez Hernandez in Law, are for the moment isolated authorized voices whose academic discourse has nothing to do with the Real Socialism defended with shouts and blows in Panama a few days ago.

All of Cuban society is obligated to force the necessary changes.  In the same way that according to those illustrious professors the votes of those who have a different political position are equally valid, so is the candidacy of anyone who does not profess the Communist faith.

Discrimination on the basis of political ideas is as offensive to human dignity as racial discrimination; a change with respect to the official discourse tempered with the current times would go a long the way to replace the absurd ideological hatreds with tolerance and civilized dialog among all Cubans, for the good of all Cuba.

*Translator’s note: Hildebrando Chaviano Montes is an opposition candidate for the local People’s Power; the regime allowed his candidacy but his “biography” (the only campaigning allowed) identifies him as a “counterrevolutionary… funded by foreign groups.”

Translated by MLK

Monopolies? Neither state-run nor foreign-owned are wanted here / Diario de Cuba, Pedro Campos

Opinions of an entrepreneur in view of the new economic scenario.

diariodecubalogoPedro Campos, Havana, 17 March 2015 — Alex Castro, son of Fidel Castro, declared recently that McDonald’s and Coca Cola are welcome in Cuba. Of course, he must have been speaking in a personal or family capacity, being that he does not hold any representative office.

In this regard it is worth noting that, from the viewpoint of participative and democratic socialism, state-run monopolies harm the economy as much as foreign-owned ones. Both block the development of productive forces and, especially, the decline in costs and prices of raw materials and finished products.

In state-run, centralized economies such as the Cuban one, or in more liberal capitalism, such as that of the United States, monopolies that control economic and market niches are also great sources of corruption, and of the destruction of continue reading

consumer goods in order to maintain high prices.

Examples of the consequences of monopolistic control abound in the economic literature dating back from more than century ago, and in particular in the international press, and in Cuba’s own official media.

Having consulted the owners of a restaurant that serves fast food (and of high quality), they told me they agree that relations between the US and Cuba should be normalized, but that, for obvious reasons, they are not so enthusiastic about the eventual arrival of McDonald’s in Cuba.

One of these young entrepreneurs told me, “Obama promised help for small businesses, and for the empowerment of the people – not an invasion of large transnational corporations which, instead of helping the self-employed and cooperatives, would try to monopolize our markets, and consequently sink us.

“We are against the big monopolies on principle. We believe that the essence of imperialism is in the big monopolies. We are anti-imperialists not because of politics, but for our need to survive,” he said.

“This is not from a fear of competition,” he added. “We can compete in terms of quality and price even with McDonald’s itself, whose hamburgers are actually not mainly made of meat. Our hamburger is indeed nutritious, mostly pork, and is not junk food, as McDonald’s offerings have been internationally declared to be.”

He also remarked that his business does not pay salaries to its workers, but rather a fixed share of the profits, for which the employees perform with a sense of ownership, even though they are not owners. They all work enthusiastically, taking care of the small restaurant’s means and resources, and they strive to provide the best quality and service.

This restaurateur surmises that Alex Castro may have had the opportunity to try McDonald’s. “He must have liked it very much, to have given it a welcome in the name of Cuba, without having taken into account the Cuban population, the majority of which has not had that opportunity,” he said.

It is also possible that Alex Castro has not tried the hamburgers made in the private Cuban restaurants which lend prestige to our national cuisine – unlike those inefficient little state-run establishments – with far fewer resources than that transnational corporation, but with much higher quality.

I should add that if those Cubans who are self-employed or in cooperatives could count on half the access McDonald’s has to the market for acquiring raw materials, and if the National Tax Administration Office and the inspectors of the various government agencies wouldn’t interfere with them so much in search of reasons to close them down, any foreign business would be hard-pressed to compete with our native enterprises in terms of quality and prices.

In fact, among the causes of the State’s non-declared war against the self-employed is the bafflement of the government-run businesses by the private enterprises, which greatly exceed them in quality and service.

“The reasons are simple,” says the Cuban restaurant owner. “We are broadly fluent in commercial techniques, in the new digital and communication technologies (even without Internet access), many of us have attended schools and courses for hospitality management and tourism, we are fluent in other languages, and we know how to compete, as has been demonstrated by the majority of the Cuban workers, technicians and professionals who have left and established themselves outside the country.”

“We Cubans, who have been so exploited by the State, have learned to try to get ahead through our own efforts, starting with producing the best quality, the best presentation, and the best services at the lowest cost. When we were salaried government employees, with miserable wages, we did not put in the same effort that we now do in our own businesses, and we know that the worker cannot be mistreated and poorly paid, because that just encourages workplace theft.”

“For that reason,” he continued, “even though our restaurant is not a cooperative, we apply similar principles. There are workers who with their tips earn more than even we owners do, and this does not bother us, in fact we are glad for it.”

In closing, he expressed, “Cuba is for Cubans. We do not like, we do not accept, foreign businesses coming here to do what we know and can do, but have not been able to develop because of all the bureaucratic roadblocks. We find ways to raise capital, we borrow, friends and family within and outside the country help us, and we have sold many of our possessions, confident that we are going to do good business.”

“In the event that the great foreign capital arrives to try to crush us, we will not allow it. Let nobody forget that we are the generations raised in the spirit of Baraguá and Moncada.”

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison

The Regime Advances in the “Chinese Internet Model” and Creates Its Own Internet Platform / Diario de Cuba

diariodecubalogoDiario de Cuba, Havana, 19 March 2015 — It prohibits bloggers from publishing “content that is illegal, counterrevolutionary, harmful, threatening, harassing, salacious, defamatory, or vulgar,” among other characteristics.

The regime announced this Thursday that it is now equipped with a “solid blogging platform, open to the entire national .cu online domain,” which is accessible outside the country, according to official media. continue reading

“This young interactive space, named Reflejos (“Reflections”), functioning since September, has permitted millions of users to create their own blogs to express their interests and opinions,” said the official news agency AIN.

Kirenia Facundo, a specialist with the Cubava Digital Facilitation Project, explained that the service functions “as a mirror of the national reality, and contributes to the needed technological sovereignty that is proposed for digitizing our society.”

Diario de Cuba was able to determine that the platform requires information such as the national identity card data of any potential blogger.

In addition, the terms of use prohibit bloggers from “transferring, transmitting or publishing content that is illegal, counterrevolutionary, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, salacious, defamatory or vulgar,” among other characteristics.

Raúl Van Troi, director of the Youth Computing Club, indicated in Havana that “the principal policy governing the use of this space is and will always be to promote the truth of Cuba and its Revolution, from a position of commitment and respect.”

Recently, the authorities announced that a “secure” digitization, in keeping with “national priorities,” was underway.

In addition to the blogging platform, other services are being developed, such as La Tendedera (“The Clothesline”) and El Pitazo (“The Whistle”), substitutes for Facebook and Twitter, respectively, which cannot be accessed from abroad.

In this field, Havana follows the Beijing model, which blocks access to the most-used, global digital services.

Previously, the regime launched EcuRed, a type of Wikipedia that is very controlled and scarcely participatory. The China Facebook is called Renren, and its Twitter, Sina Weibo. There are also products that stand in for YouTube, Google, and WordPress.

In China, technology platforms are managed by private companies, but they are strongly controlled by the Chinese Communist Party. Even so, from time to time, controversies are sparked in those spaces.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison