The Trials / Lilianne Ruiz

Gorki Aguila (in glasses) and Porno para Ricardo

Ángel Santiesteban, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, and Gorki Águila have in common that they dissent from the Cuban regime. The first was tried in a court so lacking in due process guarantees that he was declared by his attorney to be in a state of defenselessness, based on Cuban law.

The witnesses for his defense, who could have declared that they were with him at the time when, it was said, the events occurred, were dismissed. His son, a minor, gave a confusing statement that his father wasn’t in the house the day Santiesteban’s ex-wife alleged he had attacked her. (Clearly he was somewhere else, in the Masonic Lodge with his brothers who were later his defense witnesses.)

The first declaration of his ex-wife spoke of a fight, the second day it appeared she had been sexually attacked, and by the end she accused him of nothing short of attempted murder. There was no evidence of any of these three things.

The only prosecution witness appeared in a video confessing that he had been given a mobile phone and some clothes so that he would lie. To they eliminated the charges of rape and attempted murder, but not the one of attack, for which there was no evidence at all.

They called in an official forensic handwriting expert, who said that the slant of Santiesteban’s handwriting indicates a violent personality, and with this the trial ended. continue reading

Santiesteban is in prison, where he has been exactly one year as of this February. The woman with whom he has shared his life for five years never doubted his integrity and visits him in prison. His ex-wife who is the one who accused him is also the mother of his son and everything indicates she acted out of spite and passionate vengeance to the life and successful relationship of her former spouse.

The case of Manuel Cuesta Morúa is recent. He has been charged under the offense of “Dissemination of false news against International Peace.” His trial is pending despite the irrationality of the whole thing.

Gorki Águila, the lead singer of the band Porno para Ricardo (Porn for Ricardo), will be subjected to a summary trial this coming Tuesday. He gave me an interview that was published in Cubanet and also reproduced in this blog some months ago.

In it he said that he was sitting on a wall of a central Havana street in the company of a friend, when a police patrol stopped in front of him and, just like that, said he was being arrested. In his backpack they found two Tradea pills, a medicine for epilepsy, which he has suffered from for 20 years.

At that time at least Gorki was able to get the doctor who gave him the prescription, in Mexico, to expedite a clinical history explaining why he takes this medication. This document was endorsed by all the relevant Mexican authorities and delivered by them to the Cuban embassy in Mexico.

Despite this, the authorities, who are covering up something more sinister, insist on holding the trial. We, his friends, are worried and have no confidence in the summary proceeding to be held against him on Tuesday, 11 February — at the Court at 100th and 33rd in Marianao — because on occasions the judgements are dictated before the trials.

The attorney defending him will only be able to see his case file at the time of the trial, has had to prepare his defense in the abstract. The good news is she is confident that there is no way to prove that the Tradea was anything more than what it is: a medicine indicated for the disease suffered by the accused.

But we are in Cuba. It is a Kafkaesque reality. We are immersed in it; it’s a nightmare we want to wake up from. Many lives have been arbitrarily destroyed. The worst form of the evil complicit with the Havana regime is that contributed by the Leftists worldwide.

Even the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Secretary General of the Organization of American States didn’t have the courage or ethical commitment to look and address themselves to what is behind the discourse of the Cuban dictators, at the recently completed 2nd Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States.

I cling to the hope of a stroke of luck, that would have nothing coincidental about it but when it looks so bad, our liberation has to be possibly precisely because it seems impossible.

7 February 2014

A Year Without the White Card (Travel Permit) / Lilianne Ruiz

HAVANA, Cuba, 14 January 2014, How has the Cuban political scene changed for human rights activists and leaders of the political opposition who have left and returned to Cuba? Is the day after the fall of the Castro regime close? To answer, Cubanet contacted some of the protagonists of this story.

Miriam Celaya (blogger and independent journalist)

Why is immigration and travel reform so important? Well, because we know that until that time you needed a permit to leave; and of course the dissidents, opponents, nonconformists, independent civil society members, anyone ’uncomfortable,’ if you don’t sympathize with the government, they simply forbade you to leave and you didn’t leave.

I believe it’s a positive measure in the sense that it opens up for us the possibility of traveling when we’ve been invited. We have been able to have direct contact with institutions, with other governments and with free societies in the free world. It has strengthened our voices, people have met us personally.

But one can’t overestimate these things, because I don’t think this has substantially changed the Cuban political scene. Yes, we have been able to get solidarity, to find support, there have been groups that have now found sectors aligned to their respective activities, to the spheres where they operate as activists and they are receiving more effective support.

To me, this seems very good. But on the other hand I don’t see that these trips have significantly changed the Cuban political scene. It also tends to focus attention, to give to large a role to what the government does. The measures the government takes, which could mean some real opening on the road to democracy.

I think it’s time for civil society and all of us to understand that what we do doesn’t completely depend on what the government does, because the government is on the defensive: why give them that role?

To the extent that we can’t understand our own political reality, our own position toward the interior of Cuba and occupy a place in the political game of the country… I don’t think that because there is travel it’s going to substantially change the political situation in Cuba; we can’t change outside of Cuba, we change the interior of Cuba.

Guillermo (Coco) Fariñas, winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2010, General Coordinator of the United Anti-totalitarian Forum (FANTU) and spokesperson for the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)

Guillermo-Fariñas-300x150The timid reforms, including the immigration and travel reform, implemented by general-president Raul Castro’s government on 14 January 2013, should not be perceived as an advance of achievement, but rather as the fulfillment of a long postponed or delayed right. We must have the civic courage to demand other rights that they still don’t recognize. continue reading

The significance that the various anti-Castro political leaders and other prominent dissidents have been able to go abroad is dichotomous, because on the one hand we understand that it’s a cynical political maneuver to cleanup the image of the regime and manipulating international public opinions, to stop the pressure for changes toward a State of Law.

On the other hand, it’s a unique opportunity to enjoy exchanges with interlocutors abroad and with allies in the Cuban exile. To invite Cubans on the Island to international forums, where they can talk, denounce, and then return to the bowels of the totalitarian beast as a symbol of courage and resistance for the people of Cuba.

Dagoberto Valdes (Director of the magazine “Coexistence”; Catholic layman and intellectual)

Dagoberto-ValdésIn my opinion, it’s the reform that has and will have the most impact on the situation in Cuba. I have to point out that it is unfair there are still Cubans who can’t enjoy this human right for being on parole, I’m referring to those of the 73 of the 2003 Black Spring who are still in Cuba.

It’s been good for those Cubans who have the economic resources to travel or who have invitations to travel with the expenses paid. For those who travel it’s good because they have direct access to a vision of the world that can’t get through the official media inside Cuba.

It’s also very good for their interlocutors abroad who can get to know face to face the members of civil society, be they opponents, dissidents, bloggers, independent journalists, small businesspeople, and who can hear, without intermediaries, the opinions, criteria and proposed solutions of them in relation to the serious problems Cuba experiences.

It’s good for their families and friends and contributes to strengthening the cultural, family and religious exchange of the Cuban nation, which is unique in being dispersed all over the world. I hope that this inalienable right isn’t considered the property of any government, but an unrestricted freedom of every citizen for the mere fact of being a person.

Marta Beatriz Roque (economist, journalist, former prisoner of the Cause of 75, can not leave Cuba because of the limitation imposed by being on parole).

The political scene here is very complicated, because it is always divided. There is a political scenario toward the exterior and another within. The government has tried with all their measures to change the political image of Cuba abroad, and that’s why they’ve allowed people to leave the country, but they don’t want to saw that people can benefit from this reform because, in the first place, if someone wants to go on vacation in Jamaica, for example, with what money can they do that?

It will be the child of a leader, or someone whose trip is paid for from Jamaica because clearly people don’t have the necessary capital to pay the feels for all the paperwork. It’s one thing to say that in Cuba people can travel, or they can buy houses or cars, or they can work for themselves, but what are the restrictions on all this?

There are the economic restrictions in the case of self-employed workers, and they don’t allowed professionals to be self-employed at all. But abroad, the political scenario has totally changed, because now they have the chance to talk with the dissidents who have traveled abroad.

This indicates that there possibilities of freedoms toward the exterior, but we know that inside Cuba, these freedoms don’t exist. I think that if the particular case of those in my situation, according to Article 23 in the migratory law, those who have pending sanction, can’t travel. They can ask permission of the court that tried and sentenced them. But you just have to remember that the courts here are subordinate to what the government decides, and the government decides through the political police.

Cuba and the United States wouldn’t have to talk about new immigration conventions, simply because the American border guards won’t have to worry about someone coming by sea and people are constantly going by sea. I want to say that the freedom to travel hasn’t been a solution for those who want to leave Cuba.

Elsa Morejon (blogger and freelance journalist, wife of opposition leader Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet)

Elsa-Morejón-300x225The reform is still discriminatory because there are a lot of Cubans who can’t leave or enter Cuba. I have been able to travel in the past and since these changes and the pressure at the airport when you leave Cuba and later return, it’s incredible.

There is no free and democratic country where you are watched by the police when you leave and enter your country. Plus, the reform makes Cubans wait 2 years after leaving the country (as emigrants) before they can return to their own country and this is a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because in all the countries of the world people leave and return to their countries when they see fit.

It’s discriminatory because for one group it’s “yes,” and for another group, “no.” In Cuba, most people can’t afford a ticket to leave. When they get that money what they do is stay abroad.  Others go to work in other countries,; but they don’t have the money to travel and return. It’s very humilliating that we have to depend onsomeone elsoe, on a friend who gives us the money to trael because we can’t earn enough money from our own work. That is, they are making modifications to the laws in Cuba, but Cubans don’t have access to them because our economic conditions are so prcarious.

The opposition in Cuba is peaceful. Though it the people have come to know many things that were unknown because there is no press freedom. And thanks to this strong dissidence that has been here going back years and persisting until today. the government had to make these modifications.

Wilfredo Vallín  (Attorney; President of the independent Cuban Law Association)

There was an external view of the Cuban opposition as an opposition with a low cultural level, people with very little or no preparation, and this has been an opportunity to demystify it. It has been important to give the real picture of the internal situation in Cuba. On the other hand, this has allowed contacts with people who, in one way or another, are interesting and important for is. I managed to meet in Spain with the head of the Spanish Notaries, and had the chance to talk with him for several hours.

In Sweden I talked with the president of the Bar Association. In Costa Rica I got to meet and talk Mr. Oscar Arias, twice president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner. And so, from this point of view, establishing contacts, links, collaborations, courses, for us it is very important. It is also very comforting that the vast majority of Cubans who have now let, have returned to Cuba. This gives a dimension to the maturity the internal opposition has acquired.

Manuel Cuesta Morúa (President of the Progressive Arc Party president and general coordinator of the New Country Project)

In political terms it has allowed several things. The first is visual contact. Not even the social networks substitute for person to person contact, which is what creates crust between interlocutors to confirm and promote initiatives. Another aspect is the perception of others. To leave andmake contact in all environments allows others to get an idea that democratic change is possible.

Prior to January 14 there was a struggle and support that it seemed more heroic and testimonial. We are supporting a community of people who want change for the country, but will they have the capacity and possibilities, really? Because the first freedom of man is not free speech, but of movement; what makes freedom of expression authentic or now, is precisely the possibility of escaping when you express yourself in closed regimes.

For example, in North Korea the fact of freedom of expression is neither effective nor real, regardless of fighting for it, because in the end you can’t escape and you stay in the trap of a brutal regime like this. The ability to flow from one side to another in the porous borders in the world is what gives force to the struggle for democratic change.

The possible impact of freedom of expression and other civil liberties becomes more real; and then the exterior community sees that it is much more viable, that it’s really practicle to work for the democratization of the country. That has had an impact within the country, because these travels have allowed redefine the stage. People begin to be measured with real politics: how to think, what is said, how politics are done, what is language, what are the levels at which the politics are being developed in the world.

Eliecer Ávila (computer engineer, young political leader)

The balance has been positive for activism, despite our inexperience in almost all aspects of diplomacy and ongoing dealings with the media. Then came a crisis from the opinions and attitudes of the different activists; which is normal because each one was consolidating a character and forging an opinion which, fortunately, wasn’t unanimous.

Today, thanks to all those experiences are creating infinitely superior projects and the results will be seen very soon. To have the ability of submitting yourself to the scrutiny of international settings is a great strength and at the same time the greatest professional and moral challenge that anyone can face.

Antonio Rodiles (leader of the Estado de SATS Project)

This is a process where you will not see results in the short, but in the medium term, both inside and outside. Inside, I think has been very favorable first that we were able to go to other forums outside the island and have our voices heard. We were able to communicate directly what’s going on here, the dynamics in the country, what are the needs, what are the weak points, what are some strengths. That was necessary. We were able to interact directly with Cubans outside the island we have seen, we have known. I think that part is obviously very positive. It has meant new experiences, we could see other realities such as occurred in Eastern Europe, and well, anyway, this whole part of trade, flow of information and contacts, I think has been very positive.

The negative part is that one can disassociate from the work being done on the island, if the trips are too long, if we’re not in total contact with the rest of Cuban society, we can weaken that link. Personally, I have tried to travel for short periods, to maintain the rhythm of my work. There has also been a realignment of political activists, thanks to the how they see themselves relative to the exterior and the interior with this new possibility. It seems these are necessary things that have to happen.

With time these rearrangements will settle, and little by little we’ll see what the consequences of these trips are, now in practice. In any event, I do think that the trips are absolutely necessary.  We need now that Cubans who do not agree with the system can come out. The government has sent a clear signal: “Outside the island you can meet whomever you desire, you can talk, you can participate in the forums, but here inside we are the ones who still have all the control, all the power,” and whomever crosses the line they have drawn, they simply have to face the consequences.

This is what we’ve been seeing in practice. I think that it will continue to be the logic of the regime and well, we’ll see what the effect is of the support we receive from the international arena to stop this policy of repression and violations. The effectiveness of our work remains to be seen.

Mario Félix LLeonart (Baptist pastor, blogger, community leader)

Dialog in international forums has made possible a new kind of citizen diplomacy, which represents the people, the civil society that we are rescuing. Until 14 January 2013, diplomacy was only representative of the official voice. In my case, I felt that there would be bridges between Cubans inside and I represented outside; and between churches which, in the past, tried to separate. I felt I occupied spaces that until then were only accessible to the emissaries of the regime.

The official diplomacy, which was all that could exist before, is now confronted by another alternative. There are two versions that are now circulating through the world and are beaten, both in political spaces as well as cultural and academic ones. It will no longer be so easy for the official diplomacy because now they have to face a new version that has come out of the island itself. Also, the distances between the internal and external opponents have been shortened and alliances and cooperation between them are favored.

The faces of the internal opposition have also become known with greater impact within the island, thanks to the media in the world that have covered them, which the media within the island have not, and like a boomerang the coverage has spread within Cuba thanks the informal networks where all kinds of content circulates. Moreover, the travels and the returns of the opponents destabilizes and confuses the acolytes of the regime who for decades have been used to repress and now are surprised to see their usual victims traveling and becoming empowered. Obviously, these repressors lower their levels of obedience.

Reinaldo Escobar (blogger and freelance journalist)

It is perhaps a little premature to evaluate the repercussions of the January 2013 migratory reform, on the atmosphere of Cuban civil society. In fact, Cuba is not longer the island where people can’t leave without permission from the government and that is a  transcendental event. It’s no longer necessary to be “well behaved” to get permission to leave.

Cuba’s dissidents have had the chance to present an image of what’s happening in the country outside the country, which has somehow broken the monopoly the Cuban authorities have to give this sugar-coated and idyllic image of the socialist Revolution “of the humble, by the humble…”

On the other hand, it has changed many people’s opinion of Cuba and this has influenced many people who used to come here only to applaud, and now they’ve come to question, to challenge the Cuban authorities, who have no option other than to give an answer.

One year after migratory reform, the government has lost the monopoly on the dissemination of the reality of Cuba abroad and the opponents and civil society activists have gained in experience and with respect to other scenarios. What

Lilianne Ruiz, Cubanet, 14 January 2014

World Human Rights Day in Cuba / Lilianne Ruiz

Camilo Ernesto Olivera, a member of the team of Estado de SATS, was stopped as he left his home on Dec. 7. Most alarming is how these things are happening in Cuba: going from one moment to another in a state of total helplessness before the forces of repression. I always remember Orlando Luis Pardo when he said that you don’t talk to kidnappers because if the higher order were to take you into the forest outside of Havana to shoot you in the neck, no words would persuade them otherwise.

The fact is that after they searched Camilo, throwing him against the police car, they put him in the pursuing car without further explanation. They drove around La Lisa, until a subject on a Suzuki motorcycle approached them. Without taking off his helmet he looked at Camilo and told police: “Take this one to Melena del Sur.” And what Camilo could do to help himself? These people represent the law, illegitimate though it may be. Resisting, trying to escape, all that will get you is to complicate things further. So absolutely passive in his own “legal” kidnapping he saw himself being driven on an interprovincial journey without knowing how it would end. Nor was he allowed to call his family, though it is written in Cuban law among the rights of detainees.

They left him in a jail cell all day; around 7 PM they took him out of there to free him. At that time Camilo, who originally had gone to see Ailer Mena to bring her up to date on the events of 10 and 11 December on SATS, had to look for a car-for-hire to take him to Havana. He told me himself that luckily they hadn’t “confiscated” his money, because everyone knows people who’ve been robbed of everything, all that they had in their pockets.

To ensure he’d be there on the 10th, he had to hide out in Rodiles’ house from the 8th on. We have already seen the videos of the enormous act of repudiation disguised as a “cultural activity” that the political police staged outside Estado de SATS on the 10th and 11th of December. They took elementary school children, junior high school and high school students to make street paintings with the traditional communist insults against Civil Society like “worms”, “imperialists”, and things of that style.

1386954247_ailer-en-protesta-en-medio-de-la-calle1Here we see Ailer Mena in the middle of the street, seated in the lotus position, opposing with beauty the arbitrary detention of her husband, Rodiles, who’d gone out to protect her.

They also took Rodiles by carrying his weight as ants carry a leaf. They hurt Walfrido in the neck because they grabbed him in that area to carry him away. This bothers me a lot; the impunity with which the political police act in Cuba.

We are not going to stop doing what we do because it’s a question of identity. All those I know who oppose with their work, their opinion, or their protest, all do the same thing: exist.

To exist, and that by itself is a demonstration against whichever form of oppression, call it political, religious, ideological, or against the powers that be. But I think that this is of the worst kind because it assumes control of our humanity, and makes people spit on it while placing some sophisticated shackle on their necks, yes, on the neck. For that, to protect mine, I can only be what I am, be who I am.

Everything shows up on the video of Estado de SATS so that to repeat it is foolishness because a picture is worth more than a thousand words. For that they threw Kissie’s camera (Kissie is from Omni Zone Franca) as if to a pack of dogs. But they couldn’t take the camera. All this was carried out in front of the children they’d gathered there to put on the act of repudiation in a fair-like atmosphere for the Day of Human Rights.

We have to endure hatred when you think that the singer known as Arnaldo and his Lucky Charm donated their singing and yelling of revolutionary, fundamentalist slogans; surrounded all the while by the political police. The strangest fair in the world. It’s said that next week this same act will be in Miami to sing there. They’re pigs.

Not only there; they took the Ladies in White, too. Better said, not only did they let them arrive at 23rd and L, where they’d announced they’d start their march for Human Rights Day, protesting for freedom for Cuban political prisoners. But they might have had an idea: María Cristina Labrada and her husband Egberto Escobedo — who was a political prisoner for 15 years — were detained at the same corner as their house and taken to the Granabo police station.

The Sunday before, they’d suffered a similar kidnapping coming out of Santa Rita Church like they had every Sunday, to join with the Ladies and walk down 5th Avenue. They left Cristina in a jail cell filled with mosquitoes and she recalled Martha Beatriz who almost a month ago was under house arrest — some days are harder than others — and it all began for refusing — completely within her rights — to be fumigated with oil, which is forced upon our homes while the city has turned into a garbage dump.

But totalitarians have always regulated our privacy. Cristina was quite uncomfortable all day and at about 7 PM she was also freed along with her husband. But as she told me, the patrol car in which they were put left Guanabo for the municipality of October 10th without headlights or taillights and it was already night time. She doesn’t know if it was to trigger an accident or to intimidate them. Something similar happened to all the Ladies, supposedly including their leader Berta Soler, who was detained with her husband, Angel Moya, in similar circumstances.

Also in the area of 23rd and L, they gathered some children for a fair that very day. But notice how they operate as one body that keeps society held hostage. I don’t know if mothers who gave permission for their kids to be there knew what all this was about. I think that to speak of emotional blackmail, by the fact of using kids as a smokescreen to hide their acts of repression falls short. It is a hell. Cuba is living the fall of the Castros, and everything indicates that he doesn’t want to die without lashing out with calculated but irrational violence (which is self-satisfying, blind) in his pride. They did not succeed in grafting their damned roots into our humanity.

Freedom and change are stronger.

Translated by: JT

13 December 2013

She Can’t Return to Cuba: She’s on the Blacklist / Lilianne Ruiz

HAVANA, Cuba, December 2013, – Guadalupe Bustos left Houston, Texas on November 27, enthusiastic about her upcoming trip to Cuba. But she didn’t know that she is on the “black list,” delivered to the Miami airport authorities by the Cuban Immigration Office, with the names of Cubans who are forbidden, for political reasons, from returning to their country.

Lupe, as she is known to friends and family, traveled by car from Houston to Miami. She was loaded down with gifts for her family and many friends in Cuba. Some are human rights activists and political dissidents. But she also has brothers and nephews waiting for her. One of her brothers is recovering from a complicated operation and, because of his advanced age, Lupe’s first priority was to visit him.

She arrived in Miami on the 28th. She could barely sleep that night, thinking about everything that she would be doing within a few hours. Early the next day she left for the airport. Upon arriving she presented all her papers in proper order: her U.S. passport, Cuban passport, and return ticket. At the airport they gave her the well-known “Cuban entry card” for her to fill out later, on the plane.

She still had her papers in hand when an airport official hurriedly approached, asking the employee at the window to point out the one named Lupe. Upon being told he said:

“No, stop her luggage. Cuban Immigration just called; they said that she is denied entry for failure to comply with ’immigration requirements’.”

In an email interview Lupe said:

Lilianne Ruiz (l) with Guadalupe Bustos

“I was floored. I talked to the man and he put me on the phone with the head of Cuba flights, who had received the call, and I told him I needed them to explain to me which ’requirements’ I did not meet, and if this were true, then why they had not advised the travel agency and stopped me from buying the ticket, something that the agency itself says that it can’t explain, because when a person does not have permission to enter they must communicate this before the passage is booked.”

The Cuban immigration authorities did not respond to any of the emails sent by Lupe:

“The Cuban government has prevented me from entering my country, my homeland, without any basis, without setting out a single argument against me, as the law requires.”

And she points out:

“They are a disgrace to the world, acting like this to protect their policy of totalitarianism, of opposing all desire for change, for freedom, for improving our people. But I also believe that they are not the owners of a land, and of a history of emancipation that dates back many years. They are not the owners of the children of Cuba nor their dreams of freedom.”

For years Lupe has maintained her solidarity with the Cuban democratic movement. She is the mother of Ernesto Hernández Bustos, editor of the Cuban-affairs blog Penúltimos Días.

The government ban to keep her out of the country coincides with the approach of December 10. Historically that day in Cuba has been characterized by an increase in arbitrary arrests carried out by the political police in order to prevent the celebration of World Human Rights Day, and to impede the emerging civil society.

Lilianne Ruiz

Cubanet, December 8, 2013

Translated by: Tomás A.

Marta Beatriz Roque, Injured by State Security / Lilianne Ruiz

On Tuesday we learned of the beating of Marta Beatriz. They didn’t just beat her, they also dragged her up the stairs, 31 steps, beating her neck and whole body. I did not ask Marta’s age but she is an older woman, perhaps older than 60. She was the only woman in the group of 75 (from the Black Spring of 2003), imprisoned for her activism and for publishing her opinions against the regime.

She, a group of activists and friends, had been standing in front of the Zanja police station to protest the harassment she suffers from some of her neighbors.

That morning Marta had refused to let her house be fumigated with smoke and oil, an invasion on the pretext of doing away with the mosquito that carried dengue fever. There are other methods of fumigation, which here they call “special” that also eliminate the larva and the mosquitoes, but that was not available and the smoke was spreading into the house through the slats of the blinds, and the smoke is toxic for people with asthma and any respiratory problems, like her.

I can’t stand even the noise these smoke machines make and also that any stranger can come into our rooms. Sometimes they must enter our houses along, because if the smoke injures us they assume we have to leave for them to fumigate, and trust they won’t touch any of our personal things.

To me, it seems like a form of violation of our spaces. On the other hand, the city is full of trash dumps and potential breeding grounds for mosquito larva, huge deposits of stinking water. But our houses are preferred by the State.

Marta had spent the whole night in front of the police station, protesting. At 7 in the morning a police car stopped in front of her she was taken by force by two of those rude women who join the Ministry of the Interior — it’s sad to see what they turn into because of their envy and hatred, attacking without scruples any enemy o the government.If the order was to kill they would kill. It seems they have no conscience.

They are the result of ideological propaganda and the zone of ignorance fed to them by the free education of the State. Later you see them coveting any trinket, proudly receiving some jewelry, probably the fruit of Customs forfeitures, as a reward for their cruelty.

The two MININT women were beating Marta the whole way, stopping at the entrance to the building where she lives, on Belascoain, and dragging her out of the car. They continued dragging her up the stairs without allowing her to stand up, the 31 steps to the door of her house.

Since then her home has been under siege by the police. The second day didn’t let her 17-year-old nephew come up to bring her juice. The two activists with her happened to be in the house because they went there to make coffee to take to the Station, and were surprised to see Marta beaten, swollen and bruised, with the veins of her arms and legs on the point of splitting from so much trauma. They won’t let them see her, which seems to be the point of the siege at the house; perhaps they are waiting for the bruises to fade.

But Marta Beatriz hasn’t been able to be seen by a doctor. She is taking anti-inflammatory pills that have begun to damage her stomach. Yesterday they were arresting all those who came to visit.

21 November 2013

“500 Times I’ve Looked at a Place to Hang Myself” / Lilianne Ruiz

HAVANA, Cuba, November 2013, Giraldo Rodríguez Comendador, 76, can’t cross the avenue because cataracts cloud his vision. Every day he has to decide whether to seek the evidence of this 42 working years (to initiate a process that would culminate in a 250 peso pension — Cuban pesos, not the ones convertible into dollars, about $10), or to set himself to the little “errands” — as he calls them — to survive.

Most of the time he’s forced to the second option, not just because hunger is an undeniable fact, but also because he is losing hope.

In 2006, when he retired — from the Ministry of Construction in Las Tunas where he worked as a driver — they told him that his record didn’t appear, that it might even have been devoured by flames. I’ve heard, on other occasions, of people with a problem like his, but until today I didn’t understand that a lost work record multiplied by zero equals the sacrifice of an entire life.

To alleviate his desperation a little, a social worker appeared and offered him the assistance of 142 Cuban pesos, but Rodríguez Comendador expressed his indignation.

“Like me there are a few, at least in Las Tunas, who have demanded and taken the charity given to them. And they are satisfied with that. I am not a beggar. To me they must give what is mine.”

To get “his” he has to go to every place where he worked and get them to sign documents that support his having been on the payroll, and then go to the Collective Law Firm and hire a lawyer to make his claim. One of the inconveniences he confronts is that most of his peers have retired. Others have changed jobs. He says that once he met the boss he had when he was working on the El Cornito dam.

“He said to me, ’Boy, go to Los Pinos, to the human resources department of Removal and Construction, and I’ll send you a truckload of witnesses.”

But the witnesses weren’t enough to authorize paying the pension, which is processed through documents like the work record. They will only certify, in an extreme case like his, that he worked in a specific place for a determined amount of time.

“Seven years ago I was on the ropes. Even my knees gave out when I was walking. I was convinced I’d lost my working years. For nothing, because they mistreated me like they are mistreating me today. I worked to have what’s mine, for myself I don’t worry that there’s a law that obliges children to take care of their parents,” he says.

As for hiring a lawyer, the fee for labor processes isn’t very high. But Rodríguez Comendador asks:

“How amI going to hire a lawyer? I don’t know the medical prescriptions I’ve lost out on because I can’t buy medicines that cost 19 pesos.”

He went out again to look for work, but no one gave him any; because he’s of retirement age he doesn’t have valid documents and can’t do temporary work.

Also, as blind as I am, they put me on the truck to throw dirt, mud, cow manure, and I do it because I need the pesos. He knows that I’m blind, so what he’s going to do is take off. My situation is absolutely terrible situation.”

When asked if he’d been hungry, he remains silent for several seconds. And then answers, like someone who rising above his honor made a stack of old crumpled papers:

“Imagine it; if I tell you no, I’m lying. Charity doesn’t solve the problem: They’ve given me a blanket and I had to sell it to eat, a pair of shoes and I had to sell them to eat.”

So there is no doubt when he says,

“Me, you tell me to take an iron bar to the train station for 10 pesos and I hoist it on my shoulder and I take it.”

But the urgent question is, how long can he continue to take his body to the extreme of exhaustion with such bad nourishment?

This doesn’t seem to worry him more than how he is going to get by day-to-day.

“I’ve caught myself at six in the morning, thinking. And what can a man think when he’s at a crossroads like I am?”

The little light fades and he says,

“I’ve thought about hanging myself, girl. Five hundred times I’ve looked at an iron bar back there where I can hang myself, but I see this fat woman you see sitting over there, that’s my wife, and I change my mind. Anyway, I have to die of something.”

By Lilianne Ruíz

Cubanet, 12 November 2013

These Are Images From the 2nd Grade Reading Book / Lilianne Ruiz

“An exemplary Combatant / Cuban history is very beautiful because it is full of examples of men, women and even children who fought for independence and freedom for our country. The combatant we are talking to you about is an example of one of the young men who shaped part of our history.”

I tell my daughter that being responsible is a privilege. I don’t know from what deep part of me this form of rebellion emerged. I find that it is not something I’m fully aware of. It is not the education I received in school, nor at home, where the most important thing was to be obedient. To be guided by others.

In the blink of an eye she’s turned 7. In the same period that we have spent together — unquestionably the best part of my life — she will be 14, then 21… By then I will have taught her the best I have to give. I’m not sure about having been free. And I think you can only be happy from there.

Amid the crap that goes on in Cuba today, my daughter and I are really lucky that her teacher from the first grade is pretty good. But you can’t teach someone to be free, and so, she can’t be educated to be truly responsible. The teacher, whether by conviction or obedience I don’t know, but undoubtedly because here we all play down the importance, must teach my daughter about other heroes who are not her mother’s, if I ever had any.

And she must indoctrinate her from the time she’s little in the political religion, and I swear no one has ever asked me if I agree with this model of children’s awareness. And it’s taken for granted that if the education is free I have to accept that the values they teach my daughter are the same ones that have brought about the profound crisis in human rights of our country since the seizure of power by the Castros, who have made it a place that most people dream of escaping from.

Can we do nothing other than play down the importance of the the way others, whom we did not choose, educate our children? Content ourselves with their learning to read and write and perhaps one day going the University and becoming members if they annul their consciousness, their will, their responsibility and their freedom? Who comes out ahead with the education offered free from the State. The family or the State dictatorship?

The day my daughter was born I understood that I could not continue to disengage myself from my responsibility. She taught me the rudiments of freedom with her first cries. That day, in the room where we were waiting to be discharged the next day, Palms and Canes was showing on TV, a program from time immemorial, after the State News. And I told myself I did not want anything like that for her, that her life was going to be different from mine, that all the times I had shut up about my small truths, I had lost the opportunity to carve out a future. But I didn’t realize I would have to do my part to give her a better life.

A few years ago I opened the blog Jeronimo, falling under the spell of an engraving by Durer, and in the act of finding my own expression I started to listen to my heart, the same voice that tells her that being responsible is a privilege that she earns and that she should do so, for love of herself.

A country where people are silenced in so many ways, that blocks the path to the internal truth of each person, cannot produce individual growth, flourishing, creativity, wealth, happiness.

“Read: amicably, supportive, long-lasting, revolution, Soviets, happiness. Answer: What did Lenin’s wife ask of the children?”

A friend has a 3-year-old daughter in daycare. She told me one day the girl came home with directions to paint Che’s cap. So she took the black crayons and as best she could painted a cap with a star. The following day the girl was supposed to paint Camilo’s sombrero. And the same thing happened. On the third day, while she was climbing the stairs to the house, the little girl announced that that night she was supposed to paint, for the following day, Fidel’s trousers. My friend looked at her husband and the two of them, in chorus, said, “Don’t fuck with us!”

But outside of pretending to be demented and forgetting a task that carries so much political weight, and arriving late for the morning assemblies which are also political, there’s not much more you can do as long as the school system belongs to the State. Every day that passes I ask myself what is the path to regaining the freedoms our parents sold and without wanting to, postponing their responsibility, they passed it on to us.

“Vladimir Ilich Lenin led the revolution that gave power to the workers. He is one of the greatest men who ever lived. Lenin fought with all his might for the happiness of”

12 November 2013

Sonia Garro, Optimistic in Prison Remains a Lady in White / Lilianne Ruiz

L. to R. Yamile Garro with her sister Sonia Garro in prison
L. to R. Yamilé Garro with her sister Sonia Garro in prison

HAVANA, Cuba, November 1, 2013, The trial of the White Lady Sonia Garro, which had been scheduled for today, was suspended yesterday without explanation by the authorities.

Her lawyer, Amelia Rodriguez Cala, appeared before the People’s Court to finalize the details on Thursday, October 31, and no one could explain the cause of this last minute decision.

Looking for first-hand information, Cubanet spotted Yamilé Garro, sister of the accused, who had visited her that morning in Guatao women’s prison.

According to her sister, Sonia is optimistic about her defense by the attorney Rodríguez Cala, who historically has defended those prosecuted for political reasons.

Remembering what happened on March 18, 2012 — the day that assault troops stormed Garro ‘s house, within a few hours of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the island — the sister of the defendant contends that she did not commit the crimes for which charges have brought by the prosecution.

“It all began with an act of repudiation,” she explained.

Sonia Garro with her daughter Elaine Bocourt
Sonia Garro with her daughter Elaine Bocourt

A crowd organized and led by State Security stationed themselves around the Garros’ house, in Marianao, to repudiate them. The Garro couple reacted by shouting “Down with Fidel!” and placing anti-government posters in the doorway of their home. This provoked the troops to violently storm their house. Sonia was injured in the leg with a rubber bullet.

It’s worth remembering that, on the eve of the visit of the Supreme Pontiff to the Island, all the human rights activists and political opponents ,who State Security and the top leadership of the country thought would attend the Papal mass in the Plaza of the Revolution, were detained.

Garro ‘s lawyer also filed a request Thursday for a change of custody, which would involve the immediate release of her client who is awaiting trial.

In a telephone interview, Dr. Rodriguez Cala, told this reporter, “I place my hopes in the Court. The fact that these people are political opponents should not determine the sentence. Ideally the trial would have already been held.”

Sonia’s 17-year-old daughter, Elaine Bocourt Garro, is waiting for her at home. When asked what she can tell us about her mother, she struggles to hold back her tears and then tells us, “I miss her greatly. I love her, she’s my mother. I need her. Also, they’re holding her on a whim… she hasn’t done anything.”

L. To R.: Daysi Rodriguez, Lady in White, Elaine Boucourt Garro and Yamile Garro
L. To R.: Daysi Rodriguez, Lady in White, Elaine Boucourt Garro and Yamile Garro

Inconvenient for the Jailers

Garro has been in prison without trial for one year and seven months. In all this time, she has experienced very harsh conditions. From being locked up in solitary confinement for 20 days, to the gunshot wound in her leg being infected by Staphylococcus aureus, to suffering beatings by several armed guards.

This latest incident, according to her sister, dates from a few months ago, but she can not remember the exact date. It happened when Garro forgot her card to make phone calls and had to return to the detachment where one of the officers was mistreating a prisoner. Garro said facing the jailer who, if he was in such a bad mood, it would have been better not to have gone to work.

sonia-garro-poster-207x300“It wasn’t even a minute before several guards jumped on her and she was beaten with batons,” Yamilé said.

Incredible as it may seem, she adds, “On the medical certificate which was issued several days later, it said Sonia was the aggressor and she had attacked the guards, who were victims.”

Since a month and a half ago, Garro has been suffering from a kidney infection. She still hasn’t received medical treatment.They just put her on painkillers and send her back to her cell.

The prison authorities tell her sister that they don’t have any budget for this type of medicine.

“This isn’t new. When she was infected with staphylococcus, they said it was due to lack of vitamins and it was just a matter of taking vitamins and iron. Now she had Staphylococcus aureus on her skin and boils erupt periodically,” says her sister.

She also says that, in prison, Garro witnessed and reported an unfortunate event known as “the Mutiny on the Mattresses.”

The guards didn’t allow a group of prisoners to leave the laundry area and they began to protest. The reaction of the guards was to lash out against them. Therefore, the prisoners rebelled burning a mattress.

Lilianne Ruiz, Cubanet, 1 November 2013

The Embargo / Lilianne Ruiz / Lilianne Ruíz

The first 100 yards toward Avenue 26 is defined by the neighborhood bakery. The eternal line of neighbors with their little nylon bags and ration books, waiting for the five centavo bread, sour and with the texture of cement. Most of the time they come out unhappy, laughing at their misfortunes. Why they laugh at what insults them, I don’t know. To stay calm? Many of them haven’t eaten breakfast in a long time, not even a cup of coffee, nor a slice of palatable bread. Their lives are elsewhere. I don’t know where their lives could be.

Following the road to 26th Avenue. The panorama changes in the Kholy neighborhood. The houses, which before 1959, belonged to comfortable families, not have modern cars in front with olive green license plates. When these people restore their houses, they really do it. With an abundance of materials and brigades of bricklayers from some State ministry.

Not like those people in the little house at 216 Tulipan — where you come to walking in the other direction — who put some wooden boards and a cement-fiber ceiling in one of the roofless rooms in the old mansion, with the risk it will fall in on them, and three generations live there who don’t know what breakfast is. Do at least the children under 7 eat breakfast? It hurts to ask the question and not be able to do anything. The grandfather told me that if someone, from charity, gave him some old shoes, he would prefer to sell them to kill the family’s hunger.

It’s the worst lie. Because socialist governments, where the State is the ruler to the ultimate family corner (with the story of free education they shape the conscience of our children) they sell themselves as givers of social justice. And it is precisely this condition as “providers,” as “deliverers of benefits,” without respect for individual rights, which makes them the worst enemies of freedom, of happiness.

The cause of the poverty of the neighbors at 14 Tulipan — who are like the majority of the Cuban people — and the immoral prosperity of the olive-green thieves of the Kholy neighborhood, is not the American embargo. The Island’s government says it is Cuban but is only Castro and is not disposed to listen to the Cuban people’s demands for freedom, without sending their repressive commandos from Section 21, who beat “scientifically” — enough to do damage without leaving too many traces nor causing too much of a scandal — or they send their rented populist mobs in their ignorance or ill will.

31 October 2013

Tulipan 14 / Lilianne Ruiz

We walked down Tulipan Street toward Calzada del Cerro. Victor had said that Manual Sanguily, who I only remember from story books in elementary school, had lived at No. 14 Tulipan and received Maceo there. Tulipan is not that long of a street. After Calzado del Cerro it ends at another street called St. Teresa.

The house was the most beautiful there, despite being in ruins. Luz took photos.

It was then that the lady sitting in the destroyed doorway called out to us. I think she was anxious to tell her story. She let us enter her home, in what would have been, before, one of the rooms in the mansion, and let us take photos. The roots were hanging from the ceiling. That was impressive. The same vitality of the house, where the seeds prospered, is what led to its end.  But with people inside, who have nowhere to go.

And to our surprise, people are convinced that this is the same house we were looking for, Sanguily’s house.

Victor works wonders. He invented a XIX century periodical, he prefers to call it an apocryphal libel. And on page 2, there is stamped an image of the house, the house in the resurrection of the image. Great, right?

See related story of visit to the house here.

25 October 2013

The Pathology of Ethics / Lilianne Ruiz

Heartbreaking, repulsive, are adjectives that describe the act of repudiation of Monday outside the headquarters of the Ladies in White on Neptune Street between Aramburu and Hospital. Many who were mobilized there to shout insults and threats were young university students, members of the Federation of University Students (FEU) and the Young Communist Union (UJC), as they themselves declared as they chanted their their slogans.

An event to verbally assault a women’s Movement fighting for the release of the political prisoners, didn’t seem an obviously wrong act to them. Their sense of what is humanly correct or incorrect was annulled by ideology or by an instinct for self-preservation.

This morning I spoke with a former political prisoner who had been jailed for 15 years, and a good part of those 15 years he spent in Kilo 8 Prison on a maximum severity regimen, which meant greater cruelty and impunity on the part of the guards.

I wonder if there is another place on earth like Cuba, where the confusion, the perversion of the ethical meaning of life is greater. Because I want to think that those people who were there on Monday, in front of the Ladies in White headquarters, supporting a regime very dangerous to the human condition: Do they really know what they are doing?

18 October 2013

The Stinking Havana that Silences Eusebio Leal* / Lilianne Ruiz

HAVANA, Cuba, October 11, 2013, The residents on Maloja Street at the corner of St. Nicholas in the Los Sitios neighborhood (Central Havana ), face the serious problem of the accumulation of garbage in front the doors of their houses.

“We have written to the government and to our delegate to the People’s Power. What they tell us is that they know that this is a mini-garbage-dump, but they have nowhere to put it,” said one of the residents of the place who declined to give his name, fearing reprisals.

The garbage truck takes up to 20 days to collect the trash. The residents of the surrounding streets throw their trash in the containers and on the ground. “This here is a phenomenon. I open the door of my house and I have to jump over the trash to get by. My house is full of worms and cockroaches,” says one of the outraged residents.

When the garbage piles up in front of the containers, the garbage truck passes it by. The workers explain that they have to wait for the brigade that collects the garbage from the ground with shovels. But the production of garbage continues.

The sidewalk and the wall of the house immediately facing the dump were broken when they picked up the trash with a backhoe, when the mound of garbage had grown huge. The owner of the house says, “I accused them. It took them more than a month to tell me they were going to fix the sidewalk and the wall. But they didn’t come and they told me, “You build the formwork and we’ll pour the concrete.” I got two or three men on the block to build the formwork and they still didn’t come. It all got broken up and I lost the money I’d given to people to help me.”

Besides breeding worms, the smell of putrefaction is unbearable. When the situation becomes most critical, the residents leave their house and go elsewhere so they can breath.

The fumigations fail to scare off the mosquitoes, flies, worms, cockroaches and rats swarming down the block.

There is a bodega in the area that the sells sugar, rice and beans that the State assigns to each inhabitant, upon presentation of the ration book, euphemistically called “the supply.”

The animals and insects infest the bodega. The shopkeeper tries to exterminate them, but the plague becomes uncontrollable. “In the bodega are the goods for all the people. Everything gets in there. Ask the shopkeeper,” says one of the neighbors .

At the counter, the shopkeeper smiles resignedly. But he won’t give an interview. All his energy goes into killing the bugs.

Over several days, the only ones who poke through the hill of waste are people looking for things in the trash. In Cuba we call them “divers.” Some old garments taken. Others through a piece of bread or some spoiled foot in a sack. People explain that they are collecting a “stew” to feed the pigs being raised in backyards and on rooftops.

But they don’t look like pig farmers, or people trying to make a living, but rather like people who have fallen into the depths of poverty.

Others come to collect empty cans, which they then take to the “raw material” office. The state pays 8 pesos in national currency for 1 kilogram of aluminum cans (75 cans). And the bottlers pay 1 Cuban peso (about 4¢ US) for a clean glass bottle or 50 centavos for a dirty one.

The hill of garbage in the corner of Maloja and St. Nicholas, growing, leaves the residents to get used to breathing infected air and the sight of the filth as a recurring image.

Lilianne Ruiz

Translator’s Note: Eusebio Leal is the Havana Historian.

From Cubanet

14 October 2013

I Don’t Know What They’re Accusing Me Of / Lilianne Ruiz, Gorki Aguila

Gorki Águila, leader of the punk rock band Porno para Ricardo, was released on bail a week ago, after a People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR) patrol stopped him in the early morning of Sunday, 29 September, and found in his backpack two tablets of a medication for epilepsy, an illness Águila has suffered from since he was a teenager.

What’s your legal situation now?

I’m out on bail now, waiting for a trial with no date. What I have, if I have something, are two pills in a backpack. I made the mistake of signing the bond with the full offense. After they released me, the legal assistance from the Cuban Law Association (AJC) helped to understand what I signed, in order to be set free, I should have written, “for an alleged crime, that has not been proved.”

The crime they put in there was the whole nine yards of the penal code. The full paragraph referring to drugs. But at the time I signed, I didn’t have legal advice, because even though I asked for it, they didn’t let me see a lawyer. If I made a mistake signing those papers so they would release me, it was because I was under a lot or pressure with a violent migraine, I wanted to go home and without legal advice, I did it.

The instructor/investigator told me to sign, that the crime he put (“so this is how it should be put,” he said) didn’t mean they would accuse me of all that, that he was going to wait to see how things were evolving to tell me the crime I would be charged with. That is, they put the full paragraph to choose what crime they were going to put or if they were going to put a crime.

Those are my fears, that now I can’t be sure of what they’re accusing me with. The instructor also told me, “It could be that all this goes in the file and the prosecutor doesn’t approve it. Because if you bring the papers, at best, nothing will happen.” He also told me that it’s possible they’ll take it to the prosecutor and then tell me what crime I’m accused of. I’m in limbo, without any definition of the crime nor a date for the trial.”

Do you have all the medical documentation?

I already scanned the document from the doctor in Mexico who prescribed the Tradea. My family sent it to me, but my family doesn’t know the full process, since the document isn’t legal until it passes through a notary and then through the Ministry of the Interior in Mexico. And ultimately it has to go to the Cuban consulate. To send proof to Cuba that the doctor exists and the notary exists. And then the Cuban Consulate will say that “the whole world exists,” because it has legal force. I’m in this process, but I’m worried, because I don’t have a trial date, they could summon me tomorrow without my yet having the documents that would be my defense. continue reading

The legal document says that I am taking Tradea on a medical prescription. Basically, in a normal country, that eliminates the crime they are inventing of “trafficking and possession,” in two epilepsy pills, for a disease I’ve suffered from since I was a teenager.

I also went to the doctor here to get a clinical medical history where it explains why I take Carbamazepina. In Mexico they prescribed me Tradea, but here in Cuba it’s on record that I’ve been epileptic since high school. The pills are for  epileptic seizures that I don’t get very often. And Carbamazepina and Tradea (metilfinidato) are similar.

How did the police authorities treat you?

The arrest followed the classic treatment you get in those places. They started out by threatening me: “Now you’re going to roast. Are you the guy in Los Adeanos*? You’re being tracked by your Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)…” I told them that in this country everyone is tracked by the CDR. [*Translator’s note: Gorki is not in Los Aldeanos.]

From the beginning, I started to ask for my medication, but they wouldn’t give it to me. Although my girlfriend brought it for me, they didn’t want to give it to me.

I was detained from early Sunday morning — for us it was Saturday night because it was a little after midnight — until 4:30 Monday morning. And I can’t describe the lack of hygiene in a Cuban jail cell. The jail bathroom looks like hell, not to mention there’s no water, you can’t flush. You are constantly breathing a stink of shit and piss. The cockroaches crawl all over everything, the filth of the floor is never cleaned. When a cell is filled with 4 people, everyone is sweating and breathing in the heat, it gets more and more uncomfortable and it makes you anxious to get out of that place.

There was something in particular that made me feel very humiliated. I was sitting on the floor, because I hadn’t eaten. I didn’t want to get dizzy and I had a bear of a headache. And one of them took out his cellphone and shouted at me, “Hey, look over here,” to take my picture.

They wanted to do a urinalysis. Looking not only for “evidence” of the two Tradeo tablets, but also the supposed drugs in my bloodstream. I would never agree to this. They even threatened me, “We’re going to give you 8 years for contempt because this is an order and you have to comply.” I told them, “I’m not going to give you any urine, because I don’t know what you’re going to put in it.”

And then they said, “That’s defamation.” Every time I spoke it was more years… I told them, “Look, if you notice, this medication is sold in Cuba, but not with this trade name. Tradea is metilfinidato. That is sold here.”

It’s the same medication, purchased outside, by medical prescription. I have Mexican residence, I have the right to have my pills. The police told me, “Ah, that’s international trafficking.”

What were the circumstances of your arrest?

We were seated, Renay (the drummer) and I, on the wall of the Obrera Maternity Hospital, in Marianao. It was the night of Saturday, 28 September, “CDR Day.” Before that we had an open-air interview with a journalist, an American university student, in La Puntilla, on the beach in front of the Commercial Center. We talked as a group, about our music, about all the censorship our band has suffered.

I’m not sure if this had something to do with the arrest. We left there, partly by bus and partly walking, to get to the party of a friend. We were relaxing sitting there and suddenly we saw the patrol that stopped dramatically. The police got out, asked for my ID, and told me to show them the entire contents of my backpack. We didn’t have anything to hide, I showed them my things and said, “And this is my medication.” The only thing they have as evidence of a supposed crime they’re trying to involve me in are two “fucking” pills.

Supposedly the police present the facts, not valuations or judgments, because that’s would make them a Court.

Do you think the pressure exerted by the media was crucial in your being released on bail?

I think so. Pressure from the medial is crucial. I thank my friends, the media in Miami, who always respond to this kind of abuse. Every time the media exposes the helpless position of a detainee, they limit the spaces of impunity in the behavior of the repressive bodies. I thank them from my soul. The first thing I advise is to lodge the complaint.

After all those hours locked up, it was Monday and they came to my cell and asked, “Do you have something there to call your family?” I told them, “No, but I need to, because among other things I need Carbamazepina, and you won’t give it to me.”

The police even gave me a card to use the public phone, and told me they were going to “bail me out.” I was surprised, because that right is not usually recognized by the police. I asked, “Did my friends already get me a lawyer,” and they said, “No, we decided among ourselves.” I think it was from the pressure of some of the media, thanks to the journalist Reinaldo Escobar, who was the first to make it known.

But I think they might be waiting to drop everything that has taken shape in the media and at a specific time, when it’s no longer being talked about, they’ll summon me to court and do what they please without any coverage or scandal.

Or, in the event that they see they have very little to arrest me for, and it’s going nowhere, they’ll wait until they have a kilo of cocaine to accuse me with because for two pills they’re going to make the same mistake again, “We know that with two pills we’re not going to put him in prison, let’s put a side of beef in the refrigerator.”

8 October 2013

The Donkeys of the Sand Pit / Lilianne Ruiz

Not one lonely statement from the Cuban intelligence services’ spy recently released from US prison after serving out his sentence regarding political prisoners in Cuba. Nothing regarding Kilo 8, Kilo 9, Boniato…[1]

A guy that calls for a campaign to create the illusion that an entire people expects and demands freedom for his 4 colleagues, could well be a man of peace, with empathy with all who are in prison for political reasons. But, it was not like that.

This is the government’s man. He looks like a carnival puppet, but he’s responsible for his actions for he articulates a message, and that message is always on the government’s side, a government that intends to be there always, without really consulting us.

That is why no one should believe that our people have come out to demand the release of 4 spies who tomorrow will ignore their suffering, their hunger, their fear of losing whatever little they have or the nothingness they possess; as does this already released spy, seen in public demonstrations carrying little children. He wants to make believe that this idea of the yellow ribbon was born from civil society, and not the government, as if this human tidal wave that refuses to acknowledge its right to deny itself could also be called a civil society. In slavery there is no power structure.

But, he is there, in that intermediate space. Between the powerless[2] and the State there is the political police, armed to prevent each group from assuming the powers that belong to them.

In school, during the morning assembly of children, a teacher admonished “Tell your parents to put a yellow ribbon in you tomorrow.  They are available for two regular[3] pesos at the neighborhood trinket store.”  I saw people in my building who are waiting for a US visa to leave this misery behind (and they think that they are leaving behind the only misery….but, there are miseries that cannot be left behind)…dressed in yellow.

Lastly, looking at the people dressed in yellow or wearing a yellow bow – people who did not have that air of the functionary trying to get ahead, simple people who do not want to know what they are doing – I remembered what I had been reading the previous night to my six-year-old daughter before bed, Platero y Yo (Platero and I).[4] I had taken in this entire quote of Juan Ramon Jimenez’s magnum opus:

“Look, Platero, at the donkeys of Quemado: slow, bent, with their pointed red load of wet sand in which they carry nailed, as if to their hearts, the green rod of the wild olive tree with which they are beaten…”

[1] These are the names of some of the most notorious Cuban prisons where political prisoners are kept in inhumane conditions.

[2] In English in the original text.

[3] As opposed to CUC or “convertible” peso, the other official currency of Cuba, artificially paired to the US dollar.

[4] Children’s book written by Spanish poet, professor and Nobel Prize laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez in 1917.  It narrates the relationship of a boy and his little donkey named Platero. It has remained extremely popular in Latin America and Spain to these days.


Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 September 2013

Who Keeps Ernesto Borges Prisoner? / Lilianne Ruiz

Ernesto and his Father
Ernesto and his father, Raul Borges Alvarez

I have lost my little scissors, the ones for cutting fingernails.  For a moment I thought the world had ended because here things are very well kept.  A lot has to change to find good scissors, especially with the characteristics of the ones I thought I had lost.

I was still talking with a friend on the phone about that matter and Ernesto’s call came. He is the son of Raul Borges Alvarez, a well-known political dissident.

Fifteen years ago he was imprisoned for political reasons. In 1998, being still a captain of counterintelligence and analyst in that department, he collected files with classified information about more than 20 baited agents prepared for international espionage, and he tried to get them to a US official based in Havana.

The story was more or less this: He threw the files into the garden, near the front door. With a pole he managed to ring the bell but the door never opened. He was detained for a few hours, taken to Villa Marista and advised that the penalty was death. But that broke up the Wasp Network and the fact is that Ernesto thinks that is why they did not shoot him.

Five years ago he should have been on parole according to the law. Because the prosecutor recognized the family on the day of the trial as being military  and having no criminal background, having been judged by a military tribunal, he would only complete a third of the 30 years to which they sentenced him.

But, although after two hunger strikes last year he received a visit from the Commission to examine his conditional release, he has received no answer. Until a few days ago he was called together with his father and brother to the office of the Combinado del Este prison, where he has spent recent years, and notified that his parole had to keep waiting.

Among the arguments given by the military of Section 21, known also as “confronting counterrevolution,” was that his father Raul Borges Alvarez attended Santa Rita in order to march near the Ladies in White, which is the Movement that most effectivtely works to make visible the situation of Cuban political prisoners, and that continued its “counterrevolutionary” activities. Because father Borges is president of a Christian democratic party.

The second argument brandished to refuse conditional release was that Ernesto Borges had carried out two hunger strikes.

Some few have achieved their liberation with that recourse of the hunger strike, others like Zapata Tamayo and Villar Mendoza (recently, because history has more examples) have died because they have let them die.

Ernesto ends the call reminding me of a quote from The Social Contract, by Rousseau, “When one man is above the law, the rights of others are in danger.” He also tells me that after the second hunger strike, last year, he received a visit from a general, Chief of jails and prisons, who told him that his case was not in his hands but at “the highest management level.” What do you think?

Ernesto Borges Perez before 1998

Translated by mlk

6 September 2013