Graffiti Artist ‘El Sexto’ Declares Hunger Strike After Six Days In Custody / 14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez

El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)
El Sexto’s graffit after the death of Fidel Castro. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton & Abel Fernandez, Miami, 2 December 2016 – The Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado, known as ‘El Sexto’ (the Sixth), declared a hunger strike this Thursday, according to reports to this newspaper from his mother Maria Victoria Machado. The artist’s decision comes six days after his arrest for having painted on a  centrally located wall in Havana, the words “Se fue” – He’s gone – in reference to Fidel Castro.

El Sexto’s fast comes amid worsening repression against the dissidence and independent journalists on the island, during the period of national mourning for the death of the former president.

“I had the first interview with the investigator who is handling Danilo’s case today. He told me that as of yesterday my son does not want to eat to demand his release,” Machado told this newspaper by phone. continue reading

Maldonado was arrested on 26 November after painting graffiti on the exterior wall of the Habana Libre Hotel, at the centrally located corner of 23rd and L in the Vedado neighborhood, and publishing a video on his Facebook page celebrating Castro’s death.

On Tuesday, family members of the artist denounced that he had been severely beaten and said he was holding firm against what he considers an injustice.

“Mamá, I have had a lot of aché (luck/blessing) to be a Cuban artist the day that bloody tyrant died and to be able to express myself. I’ll get out of here,” Machado said her son told her at the Guanabacoa detention center to the east of the capital.

According to Machado, her son is accused of damaging state property.

“When I asked the official what my son’s sentence would be for this crime, he told me just a fine, but then he started to talk about ‘historic conditions’ the country is going through and right there I told him that for me the state property demagoguery wouldn’t work,” she explained.

According to his mother, Maldonado has been beaten on several occasions since his arrest.

“He told me himself. In Guanabacoa two officers beat him up,” she explained. The police told her that El Sexto’s phone was given up for lost, but had finally been found in police custody.

Alexandra Martinez, Maldonado’s girlfriend who lives in Miami, said that El Sexto’s detention “shows the cruelty of the Castro regime that continues to violate its people.

“The regime must release Danilo immediately. His life, his health and his safety are in play and we need him,” she said.

Family and friends of the artist are working with three human rights organizations, an international attorney and several local attorneys on the release of the artist, Martinez said.

“This shows how fearful and insecure the Cuban regime is,” she added.

This Saturday the prosecution is expected to rule on El Sexto’s case.

Cuba Will Lose One Million People In Next Decade / 14ymedio, Abel Fernandez, Mario Penton

Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. (14ymedio / Luz Escobar)
Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. (14ymedio / Luz Escobar)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Abel Fernandez and Mario Penton, Miami, 29 April 2016 — By 2025, the Cuban population will be reduced to 10 million. The dramatic demographic change on the island—from 11 million to 10 million inhabitants—is propelled by the low rates of fertility and birth, and an elevated emigration, a group of experts recently explained at Florida International University.

In addition, Cuba will continue to have the oldest population in Latin America. Currently, 19% of its inhabitants are over 60, and forecasts indicated that this figure will reach 30% in less than a decade. continue reading

“Life expectancy is not the same as aging,” said Dr. Antonio Aja Diaz from the Center for Demographic Studies at the University of Havana. In Cuba, life expectancy is high and infant mortality is low. But birth and fertility are also low. These demographic characteristics, Aja said, “are processes that occur in highly developed countries.”

“In developed countries, mortality, birth and fertility are low, but they do not lose population because they receive immigration,” said Aja. “But that is not the case for Cuba.”

Until the late 1930s, the island was receiving immigrants. Since that decade, emigration has been sustained, with large fluctuations during mass exoduses of the past century—the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis of the 1990s—and most recently, the exodus through South America that still continues.

According to Aja, “Cuba could not even compete from the point of view of in-migration with the Dominican Republic,” with regards to attracting migrants. One of the main problems of the island is that people who migrate are generally younger and in the fullest years of their productive and reproductive capacity.

According to Dr. Sergio Diaz Brioquets, another panelist, emigration from Cuba is a phenomenon that will continue. “The Cuban government has for decades promoted emigration of the political opposition,” he said.

As for fertility, between 2010 and 2015 Cuba had an average of 1.63 children per woman, the lowest fertility rate in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The early years of the republic were years of high fertility and population growth, a trend that continued until 1930. Then began a process of decline until the years 1959-1960. In 1978, Cuba fell below replacement level, which is usually established as an average of 2.1 children per woman. On the island, the downward trend has continued to the present.

According to experts, the composition of the 10 million Cubans who will remain on the island in 2015 will bring a number of challenges, among them ethical values and interpersonal relationship. With regards to the family, and in particular Cuban women, they will face a series of responsibilities that will worsen with the aging population. “In Cuba, the job of caring for the elderly falls mainly on the woman,” explained Aja.

On the other hand, wages in the island have decreased to 73% of their real value, said Dr. Carmela Mesa Lago, a renowned expert on the Cuban economy. In addition, self-employed workers, a growing sector of the economy, are at risk of not accumulating pensions and not receiving social assistance.

Former Political Prisoners Say US Failed on Promise To Bring Their Families From Cuba / 14ymedio, Abel Fernandez, Mario Penton

Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera (left) Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirez (right) speak with staff for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (Courtesy)
Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera (left) Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirez (right) speak with staff for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Abel Fernandez and Mario Penton, Miami, 28 April 2016 – Former Cuban political prisoners Niorvis Rivera, Aracelio Riviaux and Jorge Ramirezmet Thursday in Miami with staff for Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for help in bringing their relatives from Cuba.

The three were part of the group of 53 dissidents released as part of negotiations between Cuba and the United States that allowed the return to the island of the Cuban spies still in American prisons. But shortly after their release, the opposition members had been returned to prison. continue reading

Days before US president Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba on 20 March, they were released and taken to US territory in less than 72 hours, which some interpret as a goodwill gesture by Raul Castro’s government, and others as an attempt to hide the presence of political prisoners in Cuban jails.

According to the dissidents, US officials who mediated their release promised them that their families would also leave for the United States in less than a week. But to date, they remain in Cuba.

The opponents are threatening to return to the island “on a raft” if the process of reunification is not accelerated.

“We feel betrayed,” said Jorge Ramirez, an independent labor unionist from Villa Clara who claimed that the American embassy in Havana, the Catholic Church and the Cuban government had all gone back on their word.

“The American staff told us that our families would be here in a week,” commented Riviaux, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), who spent nine years in prison charged with the crimes of assault, contempt and dangerousness.

“It’s been a month since our relatives went to Havana, and this is good. If we do not see any progress, we will be the next rafters, but heading in the direction of Cuba,” he said.

For Jorge Ramirez it’s “a trick” which they played on them to get them to leave the island. According to him, “possibly it involved officials of the American government and even the Vatican.”

According to Ramirez, the main problem is that while the Cuban government is putting obstacles in the way of the families leaving Cuba, they have no way to help them economically.

“Some exile groups have helped us modestly, but this support doesn’t reach our families. We have no official documents that allows us to send money to Cuba. We don’t have permission to work,” he commented.

Ramirez’s wife, Nelida Lima Conde, is also a human rights activist in Cuba, and was self-employed when the release came through. As she told this newspaper, officials at the US embassy promised that she would be with her husband in a week, so she quit her job and took her children out of school.

According to the activist, fifteen days after her husband left for the United Stated she was notified that she should ask the Cuban immigration authorities for her passport, but because she was under sanction by the courts, they didn’t give her one. After the annulment of the sentence, the next obstacle was that her husband had to send permission for the children to leave the island. The document has to be stamped by the Cuban consulate to allow the minors to emigrate.

According to Ramirez, the government is putting these obstacles in their way “in revenge.”

Yudislady Travieso, the wife of Rivera, confirmed that she is in the same situation and that she feels “deceived.”

“What they really wanted was to get them to leave Cuba. They never said anything to us about the permits they’re asking for now,” she added.

Travieso and her four daughters, who live in Guantanamo, spent almost a month in Havana, where they have no family, while making arrangements for the trip, but did not resolve anything.

“They are going from home to home,” Rivera said, adding that the situation is very difficult for his family, who are “humble people.”