The Controversy Over The Identity Of The Clandestinos Is Growing

The nature of the group that calls itself “Clandestinos” is unknown, and it’s not clear if it really committed the actions promoted on its social networks.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario J. Pentón, Havana/Miami, January 9, 2020 — Doubt, controversy and passion surround the Clandestinos, an anonymous group that through social networks says they have dumped pork blood on several busts of José Martí in Havana. The Government says it detained two of the members on Wednesday but the organization says it doesn’t know them.

The official newspaper, Granma, said the police detained Panter Rodríguez Baró, 44, who had a record, and Yoel Prieto Tamayo, 29, for “the profanation of some busts of José Martí,” but without mentioning the name of the group.

“The offense was a dirty media ploy to create the belief that there is a climate of insecurity and violence in Cuba,” said the article, which was read on the news on television. continue reading

The information, read on Primetime News, also questioned the speed with which the news spread on social networks and independent media. “The photos that showed the busts of the national hero covered in pork blood were posted on the Internet a very short time after it was done,” the text pointed out. “Several alternative media that posted the story support those who try to orchestrate lies about the Cuban reality.”

The Clandestinos immediately denied any connection to those arrested. “We don’t know these people. No member of our organization has been detained,” said one of the members, without revealing his identity, in correspondence with 14ymedio and el Nuevo Herald.

“We’re not a political group,” added a presumed member of the Clandestinos, which claimed responsibility for throwing pork blood on Martí because “his image has been very manipulated by the dictatorship.”

“It’s an outrage that his name is used to reproach and abuse people,” he added. According to his version, the group chose the figure of Martí because “he is loved by all Cubans.”

“He’s our national hero, our apostle, and whatever action is taken with his figure has a great impact,” he added.

Since the beginning of the year, the Cuban internauts have been debating whether their actions were a form of protest or vandalism, or if it’s a strategy of the omnipresent State Security to justify its repression against the dissidents, but up to now there is little evidence and few witnesses.

In a tour by 14ymedio of several places where the Clandestinos said they carried out actions, there are few certainties. On January 4, the fence located on one side of the Ciudad Deportiva, where the faces of José Martí, Fidel Castro and Lázaro Peña can be seen, doesn’t show any intervention or traces of having been changed, although two days before, in a video of the Clandestinos, you can see a red stain.

Bust of José Martí outside the Ministry of Transport. On the left is the photo taken by Enrique Sánchez on January 1, and on the right an image by 14ymedio on January 4. (14ymedio).

It wasn’t possible to find a bust with blood outside the Latin American Stadium, where the group said they poured blood over one of the sculptures. Nor were there traces of any action two days later outside the police station on calle Infanta near Manglar.

Attempts to obtain the exact locations of the stained busts from the Clandestinos didn’t help locate them. In addition, the authorities could have cleaned and painted many of them in the meantime.

The group’s name comes from a Fernando Pérez movie that addresses the clandestine struggle against the regime of Fulgencio Batista and it is careful not to give details that would allow identification of any of its members. One of them appeared in a Facebook video covered with a hood, and the press could only speak with him through chatting, and for a short time.

The official Cuban press has given free rein to its indignation but has been very frugal in releasing information concerning the facts, including the content of the arrest warrant. The personnel of the reviews Bohemia and Verde Olivio, whose writing is close to the buildings that are most emblematic of power in Havana, promote an act of repudiation against the Clandestinos, calling them “vile and unpatriotic counterrevolutionaries”.

According to Bohemia, a bust of Martí made by the now-deceased Cuban sculptor, José Delarra, had to be restored after the group’s action, but they didn’t show any photos of the action.

Vague opinion columns, texts of claims around the figure of the national hero, references to expected sanctions in the Penal Code against those “who don’t deserve to be called Cubans” have appeared in media like Cubadebate and Granma and have been replicated by members of the Government, including Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The Clandestinos assert that the photos give them recognition. “Why would the Government complain about something that didn’t happen?” they said, after many Cubans didn’t believe the photos and thought they were a hoax or something that was photoshopped on the social networks.

Anonymity makes it easy for people who don’t initially have ties to the Clandestinos to join the cause, whether by following or even by imitating them. Some Facebook posts are sharing the slogan “We are all Clandestinos”, placing the group in the predicament of having to claim or refute actions that can be carried out independently.

“We want to send a message to the dictatorship: this is war. We are tired of bowing our heads. And to the people the message is clear: The time has come,” said the supposed leader of the Clandestinos.

The organization has members in Cuba and in exile, added the spokesperson, refusing to reveal the number of militants. But he did say that they were mainly young people who were “tired of the dictatorship”.

One of the few witnesses of the Clandestinos’ actions was the meteorologist, Enrique Sánchez. “I was walking through the area of the Ministry of Transport and what called my attention was the stained, vandalized bust,” Sánchez told this newspaper.

“It was on January 1, in the afternoon, when I saw it. It made me mad so I took a photo in order to complain on Twitter about the lack of punishment for whoever was responsible,” he added. Sánchez stated that he didn’t agree with “desecrating national symbols as a mode of protest”.

A little later, this newspaper could confirm that the bust had been cleaned and painted and that an offering of flowers had been placed at the pedestal.

From Miami, where he was visiting, the dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, spoke about the subject with the América Noticias network. He showed an exchange of messages that he had with an internaut who identified himself as a member of the group. “What they’re doing is exercising the right of rebellion,” said the winner of the European Parliament’s Sakarov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

“It’s a group that doesn’t use our same nonviolent methods,” Fariñas said. “Other dissidents and I go down one path, but the right to rebellion exists, and they can go down a different path.”

Bust of José Martí just outside the Cerro Police Station, one of the places the Clandestinos said it carried out its actions. (14ymedio)

Meanwhile, the journalist and director of the magazine Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, wrote on Facebook, “The problem is that the bust is not alive and cannot defend itself. Martí is one thing, otherwise open to criticism, and the busts and pedestals are another. They speak about who erected them, not only of Martí himself, and they are something dead,” he added.

The dissident, Antonio González Rodiles, criticizes the Clandestinos movement. “In a time where it’s impossible for the opposition to hide anything from the Regime, it will do wonders for showing them as misfits, riffraff, vandals, incompetents–the Government  has always used this line,” he wrote on his Facebook page. Several followers of the dissident said that the actions might be a provocation orchestrated by the Government.

In the last decades in Cuba there have been frequent cases of graffiti on walls and storefronts denouncing the acts of the authorities, with slogans like “Down with Fidel” or “Down with Raúl”. However, actions around the figure of José Martí have been more circumscribed on the artistic scene.

At the beginning of 2018, an intense debate erupted over the censorship of the film, I want to make a movie, directed by Yimit Ramírez. The Cuban Institute of Arts and Cinematography (ICAIC) removed the tape from the ICAIC Youth Show because one of the characters “says something unacceptable” about José Martí, calling him a “turd” and a “faggot”.

“This isn’t something that can be accepted simply as an expression of creative freedom,” said the institution in a statement published on Facebook, which further fuelled the debate over the sanctification of the figure of Martí.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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Opponents of the Cuban Regime React to the Election of Trump / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

Clockwise from top left: Eliecer Avila, Antonio Rodiles, Martha Beatriz Roque, Laritza Diversent, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Berta Soler
Clockwise from top left: Eliecer Avila, Antonio Rodiles, Martha Beatriz Roque, Laritza Diversent, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Berta Soler

cubanet square logoCubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 9 November 2016 – The elections in the United States, with the victory of the Republican Donald Trump and the defeat of the Democrat Hillary Clinton, contrary to the predictions of most polls, has captured the attention of the world’s public opinion in recent hours due to the decisive nature of United States policy in the international arena.

The normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States and the diverse opinions generated by the lengthy diplomatic process and packages of measures aimed at easing the embargo, implemented by current US president Barack Obama, have given rise to a broad spectrum of opinions within Cuban civil society, such that some of the main opposition leaders on the island have expressed their views to CubaNet to the election results announced at dawn on Wednesday.

Antonio Rodiles, coordinator of Estado de Sats (State of Sats) and organizer of the We All March campaign, says: “We expect consistency of those who, within Cuba, maintained a policy against Trump and were confident in Hillary’s victory. (…) Maybe difficult times will come for the process of normalization of relations with Cuba and the continuity of Obama’s program. We expect another direction in the dialogue and a president who places the issue of respect for human rights and freedom of expression as a priority, a determinant, at any negotiating table.” continue reading

Jose Daniel Ferrer, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU, argues that the electoral decision does not mean negative effects on the relations between the two countries: “I do not think the difference is notable. The American people have chosen. The new president will do what suits the citizens of the United States and, as he should, prioritize the interests of his nation (…). The candidate the people believed to be better has won (…). (Regarding Cuba) common sense in the process of normalization of relations will prevail and we expect a strong hand with the dictatorship because (Cuba) is a regime contrary to the interests US, it is a regime that no American candidate would never agree to in the style of Venezuela or China. (…) We expect better relations with the new government.”

The regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque said: “It seems that the American people have passed the bill to the Democratic Party. Many people are concerned about the ways in which Trump has expressed himself during his campaign, but I think that concern should be minimized because surely the Republican Party will take control of the situation. (…) With regards to his impact on the Cuba issue I think there are measures taken by Obama that are irreversible. Especially because America is a democracy, not like Cuba, which is governed by a totalitarian. It will not be easy to give a twist to relations with the island. However, I think this gentleman will be educated by his advisers enough to not make the mistakes of the previous president.”

Eliecer Avila, activist with the movement Somos+ (We Are More), confessed to not having had a previous position in favor or against any candidate, although he said about his expectations: “I didn’t support either of them one hundred percent. In Hillary Clinton I saw very positive support for Obama’s policy (toward Cuba). (…) Donald Trump has shown some strong positions but I do not think that will change the policy of his predecessor but, apparently, will negotiate from other positions.”

The lawyer Laritza Diversent , founder of Cubalex, believes that the elections were a reflection of the opinion of the American people and believes that Cuba will occupy an important place in the policy of President-elect: “The process of normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba is irreversible. (…) There is a responsibility to the legacy of Obama. The United States, with its current policy, is leading positive changes. Many challenges are imposed on the new president. We should also consider the views of the US Congress and other powers in that nation.”

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, believes it is too early to make predictions about the directions Trump will take regarding policies on Cuba: “We have to wait. I have never preferred one or the other because there is a reality: it is not about the Cuban President but about the President of the United States. Someday I want Cuba to be able to elect a president in a way similar way to that in the United States. (…) We don’t know about Trump, we have to wait. There may be changes but I do not know, I’d rather wait. ”

The election of the 45th President of the United States has not only launched numerous questions in the world’s most important economic sectors. For Cuba, undergoing a process of rapprochement with the United States that could help find a solution to economic stagnation, for the government, or a way for democratization, for civil society, the policies toward the island that will be decisive in the immediate future will be designed by Trump.

Biologist Ruiz Urquiola Arrested for Demanding Medicine for His Sister / 14ymedio

Biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola on hunger strike to demand medical treatment for his sister. (CubaNet)
Biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola on hunger strike to demand medical treatment for his sister. (CubaNet)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 November 2016 – On Sunday morning, the police arrested for the third time this week the researcher and marine biologist Ariel Urquiola, who has been holding a peaceful protest in front the National Oncology and Radiology Institute (INOR) since Thursday. He is demanding medical treatment for his sister, Omara Isabel Ruiz Urquiola, who is suffering from cancer.

According to what this newspaper was able to confirm, the specialist remained under arrest until five in the afternoon.

Shortly before his arrest he was received at the Oncological Hospital by its director, Dr. Luis Alfonso Curbelo, who notified him that the drug for his sister had arrived and would be administered this coming Tuesday. continue reading

Urquiola was dissatisfied and incredulous with this response and believes that, given that all this time the patient has been injecting herself, the only thing they had to do was to give her the drug this Sunday or Monday, and so he decided to continue his protest until the matter is truly resolved.

As reported to this newspaper by Oscar Casanella, at three in the afternoon on Sunday, after an interrogation at the police station located in Zapata and C, Urquiola was taken to the emergency room at Fajardo Hospital where he was given a physical examination to determine that he had no injuries.

In communication with 14ymedio, Urquiola’s sister explained that so far he has not been allowed to see his family for the duration of the arrest. “The officer in charge of this case is named Raul with a badge number 03734. I have told them I have nothing to talk to them about until they permit me to see him,” she said, shortly before he was released.

Urquiola’s sister suffers from invasive ductal carcinoma which is treated with two monoclonal antibodies every 21 days. For the completion of this immunotherapy she has lacked Trastuzumab (Herceptin).

The drug, which has been supplied for more than 20 years by the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP), is manufactured by Roche pharmaceuticals. According to the family of the patient the absence of this drug is attributable to the Ministry of Public Health and the representation of the Swiss firm in Cuba.

Since Thursday, Ariel Urquiola has not taken food or drink and has been accompanied days by several civil society activists in solidarity with his demands. Among them are Gorki Águila, Eliecer Avila, Rudy Cabrera, Oscar Casanella, Claudio Fuentes, Antonio González Rodiles, Ailer González, Boris Gonzalez and Yanelis Nunez.

Biologist Ariel Urquiola, D.Sc., was expelled from the University of Havana after being deprived by the administration of his scientific project, arguing that he was not “trustworthy” because of his political leanings.

In the afternoon, the biologist was released, but vowed to continue his hunger strike until the reasons why he initiated it are resolved. However he agreed to withdraw from the site he had occupied in front of the hospital.

Gorki Águila: “The Castro Regime Wants To Mutate Into A Perfect Tyranny” / EFE – 14ymedio

The musician Gorki Águila, leader of Porno para Ricardo. (EFE)
The musician Gorki Águila, leader of Porno para Ricardo. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), 29 September 2016 — The dissident and leader of the Cuban punk-rock band Porno para Ricardo, Gorki Águila, said in Miami on Thursday that the “plan” of the Cuban regime is “to mutate into a perfect tyranny” with an “image much more whitewashed before the world. ”

The government of “the Castros needs a lot of money, and they are taking good advantage of this situation,” Águila told EFE, speaking in reference to an economic opening to foreign investment on the island, at the end of a news conference at the Institute of Cuban Studies and Cuban Americans, at the University of Miami (UM). continue reading

The event was attended by Cuban dissidents, activists from exile and leaders and legislators of the Cuban-American community in Miami who expressed their commitment to the Todos por Cuba Libre/All for Free Cuba campaign, an initiative that will be presented this coming October 11 in Miami to demand “real change… toward freedom”

Águila, like other participants, bluntly criticized the widespread view in the United States that encouraging commercial investment on the island will support openings toward freedom and the restoration of the rights of Cubans.

“The Castro regime is a Mafioso regime and to place real confidence in them is impossible. Their whole lives they have lied and betrayed,” said the activist and musician who asked, skeptically, “How are you going to do business with the Castros and think that freedom is going to be possible at some point?”

He said that the current worsening of repression on the island is not only against dissidents, but also against the self-employed who have shown their discontent with the stifling of and restrictions on their activities by the authorities.

Referring to his own case as a musician and composer, Águila said he is “deeply censored” and watch by a coercive power that bans him from performing in Cuba. “To me, they say it very clearly: you are not going to play in this country,” he denounced.

“I can’t play or even practice in my own home. There is a surveillance camera on an electric pole aimed at my balcony. They have me under total surveillance and I don’t even remember my last attempt to play in Cuba,” he said indignantly.

Despite all these calamities, Águila was “optimistic” about the crucial historical change being pushed by Cubans, what the musician called a “Cuba with two shores.”

For his part, the regime opponent Antonio Gonzalez-Rodiles, director of the critical forum Estado de Sats (State of Sats) stressed the importance of galvanizing the fact that all Cubans are “fed up” with the system at a time when, he warned, the “regime is trying to effect a transfer of power.”

A “transfer” that, according to the press conference remarks of the ex-political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez – known as “Antúnez” – should be called “an intended dynastic succession” of a regime that has imposed a “single, criminal and genocidal blockade for sixty years” on Cuban society.

Antúnez, who is also national secretary of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Resistance Front, was very confident that the Todos por Cuba Libre/All for Free Cuba campaign will be a “great success and give fuel to those fighting for freedom.”

Claudio Fuentes, a dissident photographer from the Forum for Rights and Freedoms, expressed disappointment at the “voices” who express their enthusiasm for opening Cuba to foreign investment, as long as it is obvious that “without freedom there is no prosperity.”

Dissidents Call Meeting With Obama Positive And Give Him A List Of Political Prisoners / EFE, 14ymedio

Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)
Barack Obama meeting with dissidents in Havana on Tuesday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 – Several dissidents who met with President Barack Obama in Havana this Tuesday, assessed the meeting as “positive” and “frank,” and one of them delivered a list of 89 political prisoners recorded by the group he leads.

Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), said Obama was “very clear” and reiterated to the participants at the meeting “his commitment to the cause of human rights and democratic freedoms.”

Sanchez explained that during the dialogue with the US president, he handed him a copy of the list of 89 political prisoners prepared by his group, continue reading

the only one that undertakes an ongoing documentation of these cases in Cuba.

For veteran government opponent, the balance of Obama’s visit to the island was “favorable to the cause of bilateral democracy” but he lamented that far from encouraging an “atmosphere of calm” the Cuban government unleashed “a wave of political repression” which, according to the records of his group translates to between 450 and 500 arrests across the island between Saturday and today.

For his part, the former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring “Group of 75,” Jose Daniel Ferrer, one of the thirteen government opponents invited to the meeting, described as “very positive” the meeting because “it was a show of solidarity with those of us who are fighting for the reconstruction of the nation.

“We talked about the process initiated with the Cuban government to normalize bilateral relations, also about his visit, and we also had the opportunity to make suggestions and give opinions on issues that we believe should continue to be pursued and what should not be done in this case,” said Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).

Miriam Leiva, also invited to the event, considered it “very open” because the president listened to the participants who “could express their views on the current situation of repression and human rights in Cuba” and also he made comments.

“There were some who raised positions contrary to the policies of President Obama, but in the end he expounded on his views about what he is doing and what he can do to benefit the Cuban people,” said the independent journalist.

In her opinion, the fact that Barack Obama set aside a space in his busy schedule of about 48 hours in Havana for this meeting at the US embassy, ​​represented “recognition and support” for the Cuban opposition.

Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the Independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, said the meeting was “very frank” and led to a debate in which “everyone raised their point of view and President Obama heard the different positions.”

Rodiles, critical of the new US approach to Cuba, said he told Obama his doubts about the process of normalization of relations and the “enormous level of violence and repression” in recent times.

He also criticized that “we have not heard from their government a clear condemnation regarding these excessive violations against the dissidence.”

Also at the meeting dissidents and activists such as the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; Guillermo Fariñas; Manuel Cuesta Morua, of the Progressive Arc; and the critical intellectual Dagoberto Valdes.

In brief remarks to reporters about the meeting, Obama said that one of the objectives of the normalization begun with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries fifteen months ago.

Note: Cuban dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists present at the meeting were: Angel Yunier Remon, Antonio Rodiles, Juana Mora Cedeno, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent, Berta Soler, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Guillermo Fariñas, Nelson Alvarez Matute, Miriam Celaya Gonzales, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Miriam Leiva Viamonte, Elizardo Sanchez.

Obama Praises The Courage Of Dissidents In An Unprecedented Meeting / EFE, 14ymedio

US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)
US President Barack Obama meets with representatives of Cuban independent civil society in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio biggerEFE (14ymedio), Havana, 22 March 2016 — The president of the United States, Barack Obama, praised the “courage” of the dissidents and representatives of independent civil society Cuba at the beginning of the meeting held with them at the headquarters of the United States Embassy in Havana this Tuesday.

In brief remarks, Obama stressed that one of the objectives of normalization with Cuba is to be able to “hear directly” from the Cuban people and to ensure that they also “have a voice” in the new stage initiated between the two countries.

The meeting with president of the United States was attended by Berta Soler (Ladies in White), Miriam Celaya (activist and freelance journalist), Manuel Cuesta Morua (Progressive Arc), Miriam Leiva (freelance journalist), Guillermo Fariñas (former political prisoner and 2010 Sakharov Human Rights Prize recipient), Antonio G. Rodiles (State of SATS), Elizardo Sánchez (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation), Nelson Matute (Afro-ACLU president, defense organization for black people discriminated against because of their sexual orientation), Laritza Diversent (Cubalex), Dagoberto Valdes (Coexistence ), Jose Daniel Ferrer (UNPACU), Yunier Angel Remon (rapper The Critic ) and Juana Mora Cedeño (Rainbow Project).

“It often requires great courage to be active in civil life here in Cuba,” Obama said, adding he said.

“There are people here who have been arrested. Some in the past and others very recently,” stressed the president.

On Monday, at least a dozen dissidents were arrested in Cuba, according to the dissident Cuban National Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also counts nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Participating in the meeting with Obama were government opponents who support the new US policy toward the island, as is the case of Cuesta Morua, and others who criticize it, as is the case with Berta Soler of the Ladies in White.

Cuban Human Rights Group Reports 12 New Arrests Of Dissidents / EFE, 14ymedio

Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)
Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama “Obama traveling to Cuba is not entertainment. No more violations of Human Rights. We All March”. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 21 March 2016 – At least a dozen government opponents were arrested this Monday in Cuba, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), which also identifies nearly 90 political prisoners on the island.

Among those arrested for the second day are the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and some members of that women’s group, along with her husband, former political prisoner Angel Moya, according to Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the CCDHRN, the only group regularly documenting such incidents in Cuba.

Also on Monday the arrest of Antonio González-Rodiles, who heads the independent Estado de Sats (State of Sats) project, along with his partner, activist Ailer González, near continue reading

their home, a family source confirmed.

Elizardo Sanchez said his group is trying to specify the number of arrests on the island since Sunday, when US president, Barack Obama arrived in Cuba.

That same day, some 60 dissidents were arrested several hours after the Ladies in White’s habitual Sunday march.

With regards to the number of political prisoners in Cuba, Sanchez said he currently has in his record to 77 prisoners convicted for political reasons plus one who is serving a sentence of house arrest.

He explained that that group adds the 11 released under a “furlough,” a legal concept that does not annul the sentences imposed during the crackdown of the “Black Spring” of 2003 that led to the jailing 75 dissidents on the island.

Cuban President Raul Castro denied on Monday that there are political prisoners in the country, in the press conference he gave in Havana with President Obama.

Castro challenged a journalist to present a list of political prisoners and assured him that if they really existed they would be freed that very night.

“Give me the list of political prisoners to release them now,” Castro said in answering the reporter’s question.

Ladies in White and Opponents Arrested After Sunday March in Havana / EFE, 14ymedio

Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)
Cuban activists marching in Havana hours before the arrival of President Barack Obama. (@Jangelmoya/Twitter)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 20 March 2016 – Some fifty Ladies in White and other opposition members such as the graffiti artist El Sexto and Antonio Gonzales Rodlies were arrested in Havana today after the usual Sunday march of the female dissident group, which was answered with a counter-repudiation-demonstration by government supporters.

At the end of the usual peaceful march after Mass at Havana’s Santa Rita Church, the Ladies in White tried to walk to other streets away from their route, where the ruling party had concentrated groups linked to the government which began to jeer at them.

The incident, which with varying intensity has been repeated every Sunday for 46 weeks, took place a few hours before the arrival on the Island of the president of the United States, Barack Obama, who during his historic visit continue reading

will meet with members of the dissidence.

The Ladies in White along with a group of dissidents and activists from other opposition organizations gathered under the platform #TodosMarchamos (We All March) and walked some hundred yards carrying a banner with the inscription, “Obama, coming to Cuba is not entertainment. No more human rights violations,” and threw copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on reaching a side street.

At that point they encountered the counter-demonstration of several hundred government sympathizers carrying signs reading “#We All March for a prosperous and sustainable socialism,” and “#We All March for Cuba,” and shouting “Fidel, Fidel” in reference to the Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Other male activists who accompanied the Ladies in White were handcuffed and put into police cars.

Even after the arrests, the pro-government group of protesters continued in the area and circled the block dancing to a popular conga headed by a contingent from the University Students Federation (FEU).

Previously, the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, told EFE that her group calls on President Obama during his visit to send “a clear message of support to the people of Cuba, given that the United States has always wanted good things and democracy for the island.”

“We also want to demand that the Cuban government immediately release all political prisoners, enact a general amnesty and to stop police violence,” added Soler.

Soler said that if she can talk with President Obama in Havana, she will him that “nothing has changed here nor is it going to change, he has come to a Cuba that is repressed and he will leave a Cuba that is repressed.”

The first visit by a president of the United States in the last 88 years will begin today with the arrival of Barack Obama, who in announcing his trip said one of its purposes was to influence the situation of human rights on the island, at a time when the dissidence has denounced an increase in repression.

‘El Sexto’ Exhibits the Pigs That Sent Him to Jail in Cuba / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

'Raul' and 'Fidel', the pigs from the performance art piece banned in Cuba, were paraded through the Market Gallery in Miami on Thursday. (14ymedio)
‘Raul’ and ‘Fidel’, the pigs from the performance art piece banned in Cuba, were paraded through the Market Gallery in Miami on Thursday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 26 February 2016 – Last night in Miami Danilo Maldonado (known as ‘El Sexto’, The Sixth), was able to show off the pigs Raul and Fidel, which cost him ten months in prison in Cuba. The opening of the exhibition “Pork,” at the Market Gallery in Miami Beach this Thursday, included the performance art piece banned in Cuba at the end of 2014, in which the two pigs walked peacefully around in an area restricted for their display, while a crowd gathered around and flashes lit up the pigs, who now and then appeared to pose.

El Sexto is an artist of freedom. At times irreverent and iconoclastic, but decidedly sensitive and intuitive. “The only way to find freedom is to go out and get it. I am still looking for it, but only this search is what frees you from a state of repression,” he told 14ymedio while preparing for the opening of his first exposition in the United States.

Enlivened by the well-known and controversial band Porno Para Ricardo, the event welcomed hundreds of participants, especially young Cuban Americans, and was a showcase for the work of the artist imprisoned for his performance art piece in Havana’s Central Park, inspired by Orwell, that never saw the light of day until last night in Miami. Since then, the image of the two pigs painted olive-green with the names of Fidel and Raul on their sides, accompany El Sexto wherever he goes. continue reading

“For me, the pig chosen by Orwell was the closest thing to the characters I wanted to represent. But in addition, it is the only thing left to us, there is no fish, no chicken… all there is is pork,” he said, to explain his choice.

Maldonado began his artist work painting graffiti on the walls of Havana which he signed underneath with the pseudonym “El Sexto” (The Sixth), as a way of protesting against the huge campaign financed by the Cuban state to demand the release of the five spies considered heroes in Cuba. His social criticism and sarcastic messages were completely unacceptable to the authorities, who interpreted his art as a hostile act.

“I have been a follower of El Sexto for a long time. His work shows the injustice of the Castro regime, the lack of freedom, Valle Grande Prison (where he was held), the hunger strike he was forced to undertake…” commented Sheila Oliva Gonzales, a young Cuban who graduated from the National School of Arts in Cuba and now lives in Miami.

Despite everything, his imprisonment was a learning experience for El Sexto. “In Cuba there is a society that is falling apart, a country that is collapsing and this system has no solutions.”

The trip to the United States has represented a qualitative leap in Maldonado’s artistic career, but also on a personal level. “It helps you to want to transmit what you see to those over here. Here people believe in big dreams, and they are motivated to work, they have a purpose. That makes you fee.”

Ramon Alejandro, one of the great Cuban painters of exile, was present at the exhibition. “I did not know that he was a photographer, or that he painted on fabric, I only knew the drawings that circulated on the internet. He is a very good painter and what he does is very interesting, independent of its social and political implications,” he commented.

Others who were also there were Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, director of the Estado de Sats project. “It’s fantastic that he can have the exposition here, because he couldn’t do it in Cuban. It seems that Raul has bought this name and now it is his property, and the name Fidel as well. Now no one can have it, not even the pigs,” lamented Soler.

Danilo Maldonado, who is very close to the Todos Marchamos (We All March) initiative undertaken by several civil society groups on the island and in exile, has said on numerous occasions that his intention is to return to Cuba in March and to continue attending, along with his mother and grandmother, Santa Rita Church, with the Ladies in White. “The importance of Todos Marchamos is that no one has dared to do this before now, to take to the streets,” affirmed the artist.

Former Democratic congressman Joe Garcia, who was also present at the evening, praised Maldonado’s courage, because he had the opportunity to leave Cuba but decided to say. “This makes him a good Cuba, a patriot. The most heroic acts are those silent acts that people undertake to improve their country. And there are thousands and thousands of Cubans who are doing this every day,” he said in praise of El Sexto.

One of the most moving moments of the night, along with the realization of the performance art piece aborted in Havana, was the moment when El Sexto proceeded to get a tattoo of a declaration asking for the freedom of the Venezuelan politician Leopoldo Lopez, imprisoned in that country, and the Cuban political prisoners.

Estado De Sats Holds Workshop On Rights And Freedoms / Cubanet, Arturo Rojas Rodriguez

Participants in the first Rights and Freedoms Workshop at Estado de Sats (photo by the author)
Participants in the first Rights and Freedoms Workshop at Estado de Sats (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Arturo Rojas Rodriguez, Havana, 12 February 2016 – On Thursday, members of several opposition groups participated in the first “Rights and Freedoms” workshop. The event brought together twenty participants and took place at Havana’s Miramar neighborhood.

Sponsored by Estado de Sats (State of Sats), those present included Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White. In his presentation, Antonio Rodiles, director of Estado de Sats, called for an analysis of the Roadmap for the Forum for Rights and Freedom, taking as a point of departure the 30 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Rodiles emphasized, especially, the rights of workers in the private sector. continue reading

Raul Ciriaco Borges Alvarez, president of the Christian Democratic Social Party of Cuba, said that the work of the opposition has to be designed to encourage people, and primarily workers, to know their rights, to demand them, empowering them ever more with the tools that will allow them to “free themselves from the fear that constrains them.”

Agustín López Canino, blogger and freelance journalist, highlighted the role of various organizations and projects within civil society to convey knowledge, using forums, workshops, conferences and other spaces “of vital importance,” which only require a careful attention of those present, so that from their families, communities and frequented circles, they disseminate what they learned.

In response to a controversial debate about the popular discontent over state management and the fear than many profess about saying or doing anything about it, Rodiles pointed out that they need to connect with people and tell them, “look at what’s going on, if you’re afraid and don’t want to protest, at least stop supporting the regime.”

The workshop highlighted the role of the #TodosMarchamos (We All March)), with the participation of the Ladies in White and the Patriotic Union of Cuban (UNPACU) as cornerstones in the demand for an Amnesty Law and the release of political prisoners, among other actions to achieve a true state of law in Cuba.

Workshop participants agreed on the need to support fundamental actions to promote economic progress with the active role of the private sector and agreed to prepare a document for dissemination and analysis.

Email for Arturo Rojas Rodriguez:

Cuba, Burma and Obama / Antonio Rodiles

Martin Luther King Jr.: This “wait” has almost always meant “never.”*

Antonio Rodiles, 1 February 2016 — More than a year after the announcement of the restoration of relations between the United States government and the Havana regime, the direction that the political and economic landscape of our island will take remains uncertain.

The administration of President Barack Obama has outlined and is delivering a broad agenda full of concessions to the regime without asking for or receiving anything in return, either for the United States or for the Cuban people.

It is important to note that the violation of the freedoms and political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights of Cubans is provided for in the existing judicial and legal system, which limits, by law, the implementation of any measure that could work to our favor.

The United States government has validated the Castro regime as a political actor, and expects that internal and external sectors, including the opposition, accept this premise and develop strategies based on it. continue reading

The agenda shows a certain logic and points in common with that established with Burma, although the Cuban regime hasn’t shown a willingness to take even the first steps. It is important to point out that the intentions and scope, particularly in the international arena, of the two dictatorships have been very distinct, as have the environments in which they have developed.

One of the elements that makes the Cuban case unique is the existence of an exile only 90 miles away, with significant human, political and financial capital, which the regime looks on with profound fear. It is no wonder that they have focused in recent years not only on trying to feed off of this exile, but also on seeking agents and spaces of influence to try to control it or at least to link themselves to it. There is no political or social dynamic in the island’s present or future that could effectively ignore the role of the exile.

In line with the Burmese case, some propose elections in Cuba as one possible path to democracy, even within the ironclad totalitarian environment. Endorsing an electoral process within this scenario would end up legitimating the regime and its successors, at least in the medium term, and would also leave in their hands all the economic power and networks of influence for a new political moment. Accrediting neo-Castroism is the path diametrically opposed to the creation of the Rule of Law.

The possible visit of President Obama to our island seems to be presented in terms similar to his first trip to Burma. In that case, the president met with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who on many occasions has been criticized for showing hesitancy in the face of human rights violations. He also met briefly with other representatives of civil society. The visit took place under strong criticism from opponents such as the former political prisoner Aung Din, who called it an act of legitimation of the ruling regime.

There is strong concern that a trip to Cuba by the United States president will be another boost to neo-Castroism. While the president has publically stated that he wants to meet with different sectors of Cuban society, we get the impression that the opposition, above all those who don’t share the current administration’s agenda, could be discounted as has happened in other cases.

Including the self-employed, intellectuals and other actors who remain under the full control of the regime within the definition of civil society tries, and in many cases succeeds, in diluting and diminishing clear and direct discourse about the daily excesses and abuses on the island.

We have heard with great insistence the fallacious argument that the opposition is far removed from the people and their problems. This assertion shows a lack of information and an ignorance of the nature and behavior of totalitarian regimes.

The opposition is a portion of the people, already fed up, who dare to openly and directly point to the regime as the main axis of our problems, and demand our basic rights despite the high cost this implies. To demand the exercise of our rights constitutes the maximum commitment of any opposition movement against a despotic and corrupt dictatorship like that embedded in our country for almost 60 years now.

To admit the legitimacy of the Castro regime implies consent to its crimes and violations, past and present. To accept that neo-Castroism is a part of the future of our nation deeply burdens and condemns us in advance. Those who propose a supposed reconciliation, in which truth, justice and compensation for victims are not contemplated as fundamental elements, are mistaken.

The White House has in its hands to change the direction to a process that doesn’t enjoy the respect and support of broad groups of Cubans, above all those who have paid a high cost for openly confronting such a despotic regime. To insist on an agenda where principles and truth are absent, is to condemn it to failure.

President Obama’s visit, despite the softening of the initial euphoria and expectations, it could bring more legitimacy to the regime and more confusion and bewilderment to Cubans. As on other occasions, all the momentum will end up fading if it is not conditioned on the dictatorship taking concrete steps to dismantle totalitarianism.

The unfavorable impressions of many Cubans left by the visits of Pope Francis and Secretary of State John Kerry are very fresh in our memories. In both cases it was the regime that reaped the greatest dividends, comfortably settled in its intransigence and violence.

Three basic steps that could give a context to the visit, as proposed by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (ForoDyL) are:

– Immediately cease the repression against every Cuban who defends their fundamental rights and freedoms. Amnesty for political prisoners or prisoners confined for acts with political connotations.

– Ratification and monitoring of the implementation of the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights.

– Formal meeting with a representation of the Cuban opposition.

We who demand and defend our rights and freedoms and who, for more than nine months, have gone out into public spaces to exercise them under the campaign #TodosMarchamos (We All March), know well the repressive face of the regime. Despite the costs involved we continue in an effort that we consider vital in this struggle.

In similar circumstances and facing similar challenges and dilemmas, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. declared:

“On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”**

*Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

** Martin Luther King, Jr. A Proper Sense of Priorities. A speech delivered in Washington D.C. on February 6, 1968, on American involvement in the war in Vietnam.

Opposition Marchers Should Change Their Strategy / Ivan Garcia

Ladies in White and dissidents in Gandhi Park on Sunday November 22, 2015. Snapshot Arturo Rojas, taken from CubaNet.

Ivan Garcia, 13 January 2016 — There were more than seven thousand arrests of dissidents in 2015, with most detentions lasting several hours. Beatings, harassment, acts of repudiation and degrading treatment by police are common in Cuba. Political reforms are not part of General Raúl Castro’s agenda.

Despite the repression in Havana there is one city block where democracy is respected. It was not a gift from the regime. It was a victory achieved by the Ladies in White in the spring of 2010. In this area you can protest and march without being brutally assaulted. continue reading

It is located in the Miramar district in the western part of the city. A procession takes place from Fifth Avenue and 26th Street, where St. Rita of Casia Church is located, to a park located on Fifth Avenue between 22nd and 24th streets, a spot formerly known as Prado Park in honor of the Peruvian dignitary Mariano Ignacio Prado and now known as Mahatma Gandhi Park.

After the march a brawl breaks out. Every Sunday at eleven o’clock for eight months State Security has been mounting an intense sting operation in the streets adjoining Fifth Avenue.

Dozens of boorish officers on Suzuki motorcycles from a squad known as Section 21 — a group conditioned to strike first and ask questions later — wait for the demonstrators at intersections or at a bus stop located at 28th Street and Third Avenue.

Every Sunday three or four buses are commandeered from the decrepit public transport system to forcibly transfer the Ladies in White and other dissidents to jail. A phalanx of police cars, an ambulance and cameramen from special services, who are there to film the uproar, round out the scene.

Among those mobilized are civilians from the so-called Rapid Response Brigade, a varied battalion made up of retired veterans, members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution and guys inclined towards criminal behavior.

It is not unusual for the regime to employ an enraged mob to deal with what it considers to be “provocations.” The atmosphere on Sundays in this peaceful neighborhood in Miramar is similar to the chaos caused by radical baton-wielding hooligans at soccer matches in Argentina.

The basest instincts come into play. Sticks, metal rods and stones are used to assault compatriots simply because they think differently. The methods are violence, humiliation and verbal lynching. The festival of derision is repeated on subsequent Sundays.

The slogans of these paramilitary groups should strike a palpable fear in anyone who hears them. “Machete them; there aren’t many,” goes one. “Ready, aim, fire” and “mercenaries” are some of the other choruses sprinkled with crude expletives. You can disagree with a political organization’s stategy, but coarseness and intimidation should not be the solution.

Civilized governments put a premium on dialogue and respect. Clearly that is not the case here. On a list published by Reporters Without Borders, the island ranks 169th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom.

Cuba is the only country in the Western world where all political parties, other than the Communist party, are prohibited. And when it comes to human rights, the regime approves only of those by which it abides.

For the military-run government human rights consist of universal public health and eduction, and access to culture and sports. No one would argue that these are not inalienable rights.

But lawful political participation, freedom of expression and freedom of association are rights too. It is a question of whether one perceives the glass as being half full or half empty.

As justification, Castro supporters claim to be under siege, stalked by the United States and choked off by an economic embargo. I don’t buy it.

The conduct of the rulers and their henchmen, handing out punches and imprisoning dissidents, is the result of a genetically predisposed hostility towards democracy. Transparency, dialogue and respect for differences are not part of the political strategies of the Castro dictatorship.

Nearly forty Sundays after the Ladies in White and the Forum for Rights and Liberties — headed respectively by Berta Soler and Antonio Rodiles — began their marches and petitions, the regime’s stance remains unchanged.

The dissident community itself is divided over how to proceed. Some believe that Soler and Rodiles should not be directly challenging the irrational ferocity of the special services and so they do not join in.

The international press barely covers the Sunday beatings and the Western democratic community is concerned with issues that it considers more important. At best, a spokesperson for the White House or the State Department might issue an inconsequential press release.

The problem is not whether the demands by the Ladies or the Forum are reasonable or excessive. They have a right to peacefully protest without being harassed, and not just in a “democratic block” on Fifth Avenue in Miramar.

In my opinion, the dissident movement should consider other strategies. The news media loses interest when routine repression begins to seem trivial.

Unfortunately, the world of mass communication is now driven by excess. For example, if a headline appears in a Swiss newspaper, it is because a dictator or mafia chieftain has opened accounts in the country’s banks, not because its democratic system functions like a Swiss watch.

If there are no dead or wounded, or if an event involves fewer than ten thousand people, the world’s leading broadcasters and major news organizations will continue to ignore attacks against a hundred or so women and men marching peacefully in protest along a stretch of Fifth Avenue to Gandhi Park.

Rather than increasing the number of participants in their marches, the Ladies in White and the Forum for Liberties should take up causes of a populist nature about issues that affect everyone, such as demanding food at reasonable prices and reducing prices in hard currency stores.

Or improving the quality of life, constructing and repairing housing, finding a solution for the more than 130,000 flood victims who now live in makeshift shelters and guaranteeing an efficient public transport system.

Or raising laughably low wages, unifying the dual currency system, initiating a national debate on unchecked migration; launching a campaign against domestic and gender violence, and demanding the repeal of Law 217, which prevents our compatriots from other provinces from moving to Havana.

Petitioning the government to include Cubans under the new Foreign Investment Law and urging it to draft a law allowing Cubans living overseas to participate in national political life. Also, reducing taxes on private businesses, among other concessions.

The list goes on. The Ladies in White could be the spokesperson for those citizens who are now sitting on the sidelines. Changing the focus of their petitions could change the rules of the game.

What would be the government’s reaction? Presumably another spiral of violence. But with broader social demands they would gain supporters among Cubans who only have black coffee for breakfast.

Media Campaign Aims to Discredit Rodiles / Angel Santiesteban

Antonio Rodiles making a statement after his arrest

Angel Santiesteban Prats, 26 December 2015 — State Security is using all the tools in its arsenal to denigrate Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles, who is currently the most uncomfortable thorn in the side of the regime, in the court of national and international public opinion.

Rodiles is one of three organizers of the Forum for Rights and Liberties. In conjunction with the Ladies in White and other human rights organizations, the group promotes peaceful Sunday marches — demonstrations which have been causing great harm to the regime — under the hashtag #TodosMarchamos.

Following mass at St. Rita Church, the group meets — as coincidence would have it — at Gandhi Park, and walks in a peaceful weekly procession along 26th Street to Third Avenue. They do this knowing that what awaits them, Sunday after Sunday, is one of those operations mounted by the repressive forces of the Castro clan to which we have become so accustomed. Fortunately, however, images of every repressive attack are recorded, leaving no doubt as to what is really going on. continue reading

The reaction by the regime is clear evidence that Rodiles is hitting them where they are most vulnerable: the nerve center from which they have zealously maintained, for more than half a century in power, social discipline. As usual, they have used nastiness, lies and posturing in an attempt to strip him of his personal attributes, actions which have caused outrage because of the cowardice which they have been concocted.

This is a well-known tactic, one that has been used many times before on other opposition figures. The macabre plan is to first tarnish his image and, once they have sown doubt about him in the public’s mind, to then imprison him, because putting Rodiles behind bars is a longstanding dream the political police will always fight to achieve.

This smear campaign recently began after Rodiles returned from the United States, where he was invited to speak at a congressional debate in Washington on the topic of Cuba. He later met with prominent Cuban-American congressional representatives, who are calling on the government of Raul Castro to respect freedom and human rights on the island as a prerequisite for progress in restoring diplomatic relations. It is worth remembering that, upon returning home from his first such visit last year, Rodiles’ organization was the object of a cyber attack, albeit a relatively minor one.

Those maneuvering to sully human rights activists are working hard to dismantle the Forum for Rights and Freedoms. To do this, they need to get Rodiles out of the way, dismember the Ladies in White organization and remove the obstacles blocking their path to remaining in power, as they have done for nearly six decades.

If the Castro dictatorship reacts this way to someone like Antonio Rodiles, clearly it must be because he is doing something right. Persecuting him is payback for his political activism, for his constant defiance of the injustices that the regime perpetrates against those who oppose its plans.

Neither the defamations aimed at vilifying him — in essence, because of his pride — nor the entire army of followers that the terrorist state uses to harass him will be enough. Nor will plotting to achieve spurious benefits succeed in changing our standards or our ideas. On the contrary, this shameful strategy convinces us even more of the need for a clean and democratic government.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, December 2015, “free” on parole.

Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis / Forum for Rights and Freedoms


Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.

Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States. continue reading

In this case, the regime is pressuring the United States, and involving third parties, in the midst of a process of normalization between the Obama administration and the dictatorship, to win additional concessions from president Obama, without having to take steps to improve the appalling situation of human rights in Cuba.

We condemn the profound contempt, and the indolent and inhumane attitude of the dictatorship towards Cubans. Only a transition to democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms can reverse the misery that exists on the island.

We appeal to international organizations and those involved to be in solidarity with the Cuban people and their right to be free, in the face of his scenario that becomes more complex every day.

Foro por los Derechos y Libertades / Forum for Rights and Freedoms
Ailer González, Estado de Sats
Ángel Moya, Movimiento Libertad Democrática por Cuba
Ángel Santiesteban, Estado de Sats
Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats
Berta Soler, Dama de Blanco
Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats
Egberto Escobedo, Asociación de presos y expresos políticos en Cuba
María Cristina Labrada, Dama de Blanco
Raul Borges, Partido por la Unidad Democrática Cristiana

Other signers
Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba
Lincoln Díaz-Balart, El Instituto La Rosa Blanca
Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, Directorio Democrático Cubano