Writer Angel Santiesteban Arrested Again / 14ymedio

The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)
The writer Angel Santiesteban with the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, just outside the church of Santa Rita. (Luis Lazaro Guanche)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 November 2015 — The writer Angel Santiesteban was arrested on Wednesday afternoon in Havana. A police car drove the activist from Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles’s house, where he was, to a police station, according to Santiesteban himself who spoke to this newspaper at the time of his arrest.

After the arrest, the blogger Lia Villares informed this newspaper that the police told the writer that it was “circulated for a month,” under the alleged “violation of domicile.” This Thursday he could be “tried in the Fifth Chamber of the court,” the same source stated.

Another source told 14ymedio the writer had missed the last time he was supposed to have signed in at the police station, a control measure that he must complete every week, under the terms of his probation. Should certain information arise, the authorities could use this to revoke his parole and return him to prison.

Last July Santiesteban was released after entering prison in December 2012, after a process that was considered by many to be arbitrary and precipitate. At that time he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison also for alleged “violation of domicile and injuries.”

The writer has won significant literary awards, including the Casa de las Américas Prize in 2006. His book The Summer God Slept received the Franz Kafka Novel in Drawer Prize in 2013; the prize is given to censored writers whose work is, literally, “in a drawer” because they are unable to publish in their home countries.

Another Sunday of Repression of Activists Throughout the Country / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)
The Ladies in White on their walk this Sunday in Havana (photo Juan Angel Moya)

14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2015 – A new round of repression against activists was experienced in Cuba this Sunday. The arrests began in the early morning hours in order to prevent dissidents from participating in the march on Fifth Avenue in Havana, which on this occasion included a tribute to the late leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollan.

The march through this downtown street was joined by 57 Ladies in White and 21 human rights activists, in addition to the mother and grandmother of artist Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto. The walk began in Gandhi Park, next to the Santa Rita Parish in the Miramar neighborhood. Later several dissidents were arrested, among them the blogger Lia Villares and dissident Antonio G. Rodiles.

Activist Arcelio Molina Leyva reported to 14ymedio that “the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) was raided, and they stole everything they could,” besides detaining “those who were there.” The dissident detailed that among those arrested were Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Ovidio Martin Castellanos and Yriade Hernandez Aguilera. continue reading

UNPACU had called for a demonstration this Sunday for the liberation of three of its members who were arrested after approaching Pope Francis before his mass in Revolution Plaza. Activists Zaqueo Baez Guerrero and Ismael Bonet Reni continue in custody and presumably on hunger strike, according to members of their organization.

At least twenty activists from UNPACU were driven by police to the Third Police Unit in the city of Santiago de Cuba. The number of arrests throughout the country has been calculated by opposition sources at more than 200 people.

Hours after his arrest, opposition leader Jose Daniel Ferrer was freed.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

The Ladies In White Face Another Sunday Of Repression In Havana / 14ymedio

Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)
Ladies in White during the pilgrimage this Sunday. (Angel Moya)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 October, 2015 – Fifty-nine Ladies in White and 20 activists gathered this Sunday in Gandhi Park in Havana’s Playa district, despite the arrests previous to their traditional Sunday peregrination. After a summary of their weekly activities, the dissidents were detained, according to a report from witnesses at the scene.

From the early hours, the regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque denounced the arrests of 12 human rights activists who had traveled to Santa Rita parish. Among those arrested with the mother and siblings of Zaqueo Baez Guerrero, one of the members of the of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) who had approached Pope Francis in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution.

Others arrested on Sunday included the regime opponents Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, Ailer Gonzalez and Felix Navarro. The latter lives in the town of Perico, Matanzas, and traveled to the capital to show his support to the human rights movement.

Blogger Agustín López Canino denounced his arrest and reported that he was handcuffed at the corner of 5th and 30th streets, in the Playa district, together with two other colleagues. The activists detailed that he was “taken to the outskirts of Havana” to prevent his accompanying the Ladies in White during their Sunday march.

Meanwhile, in Colón, Matanzas, independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported ten Ladies in White marched in Colón, Matanzas, for the release of the political prisoners.

The leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler said that Yaquelín Boni, an activist detained since Thursday during a protest outside Combinado del Este prison and accused of “disobedience,” has now been released.

Cuban Exiles Demand The Release Of Danilo Maldonado / EFE, 14ymedio

Danilo Maldonado, 'El Sexto' (The Sixth). (Artist's File)
Danilo Maldonado, ‘El Sexto’ (The Sixth). (Artist’s File)

EFE, Miami, 29 September 2015 — The Assembly of Cuban Resistance in Miami on Tuesday demanded the release in Cuba of artist Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), who has spent 22 days on a hunger strike to demand his freedom after nine months of detention.

According to the Cuban exile group, the graffiti artist is in “critical condition” in the Cuban prison of Valle Grande, in the province of Mayabeque, along with the activisits Zaqueo Báez, Ismael Bonet Reñé and María Josefa Acón, detained in Havana and also on hunger strike.

The organization explained that Maldonado was arrested in December 2014 for painting the names of the two Castro brothers on the backs of two pigs, before an artistic performance he was going to stage with the animals. continue reading

The group called on human rights organizations and the international community to “show solidarity with this cause.”

“No trial has yet been held and the reason is that he simply wanted to stage a performance,” the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance said in a statement today.

The organization said that the three other human rights activists belong to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and were arrested on 20 September during the visit of Pope Francis to the island.

“We call on the international community to support these defenders of human rights whose lives are really at risk,” Antonio Rodiles said in a statement; Rodiles is one of the coordinators of the Forum on the Rights and Freedoms.

After more than five decades of enmity, Cuba and the United States re-established diplomatic relations on 20 July.

The White House said this Tuesday that President Barack Obama “reaffirmed” before his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, his “commitment” to ensure that the Government of the island “does a better job” in protecting the human rights of its citizens, following the participation of both presidents on Monday at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Cuba Awaits the Pope in Record Heat and Repression / Ivan Garcia

Berta Soler when she was arrested... Taken from ABC

Ivan Garcia, 17 September 2015 — For Nicolás Sarmientos, 73, making his usual rounds between the farm market, the bodega and the carters who sell fruits and vegetables in Havana is almost an extreme sport.

Although in theory we are knocking on the door of autumn, in Cuba the thermometers are soaring. The Meteorological Institute announced that the temperature in the capital exceeded 100 degrees, a height never reached.

Under a blazing sun and a numbing humidity, Nicolas searches the stands at the farm market for meat and beans to take home.

“The pantry and the fridge are empty,” he says, while looking at a poster of the Argentine Pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio with a Cuban flag in the background, attached to a column splattered with the red earth of the farms. continue reading

Long ago, Nicolas was a Catholic who attended Sunday mass, his children were baptized and made their first communion.

“But the world takes unexpected turns. I had to stop going to church, because I was working in a State ministry and one day a security guy told me to choose between work and religion. Now everything has changed. The Catholics can even be in the Party and we have a relationship with the Yankees. I’m waiting for a public apology from the government for making many people, like me, renounce our beliefs and customs,” he says.

Despite everything, Nicolas wants to go to Pope Francis’s first Mass in the Plaza of the Revolution on Sunday, 20 September.

Over the last 17 years, three Holy Fathers have visited the island. Since that winter in 1998 when John Paul II said that “Cuba should open itself to the world and the world open itself to Cuba,” some things have changed. But the absence of political freedoms continues, the State administer justice, controls the media and confuses democracy with loyalty to the Castro brothers.

Cuba opened itself to the world, including reestablishing relations with the United States, simply for survival. The economy is a disaster, productivity is in the toilet and the agriculture just can’t get its act together.

Fidel Castro ceded power to his brother Raul and the bragged about changes are not of the depth required to develop the country. The GDP will not grow dramatically with little family businesses that offer pizzas and bread with mayonnaise.

People, it’s true, have more space, despite the continued violation of the inalienable rights of free people. With enough money you can buy cell phone service, stay in a five star hotel or travel abroad.

But the Castro regime maintains an iron blockade on citizen initiatives, economic investments and political rights. The role of the Catholic Church, and the rest of the various religious denominations, has been uneven.

On January 1st, the Yoruba Association of Cuba — 70% of the island’s population practices Afrocuban worship — in its Annual Letter predicted important changes. And the following morning performed a rite under a hundred-year-old ceiba tree for the health of the dictator Fidel Castro.

In pursuit of greater social space, the Catholic Church works with the engine on low. Pastoral letters that dissect the terrible inertia of the society, like “Love can do everything” in 1993, and outspoken bishops, such as the late Pedro Meurice or Jose Conrado, are contrasted with the sinuous strategy of Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

The Cuban dissidence will be forever grateful to Ortega for his mediation with General Raul Castro for the release of the 75 political prisoners in 2010. Probably under the table and without publicity, the national Church asks the regime’s repressors for restraint, the repressors who, every Sunday, beat up dissidents in Miramar, a neighborhood to the west of Havana.

Just ask Berta Soler or Angel Moya about the brutal repression they suffer for demanding democracy and freedom for 60 political prisoners.

“There have now been 22 consecutive Sundays of savage beatings of women and men when we are protesting in a peaceful manner. Last weekend they arrested 34 Ladies in White and 17 men. Berta (Soler) asked for a meeting with Pope Francis to describe the repression first hand. So far the Church has not responded,” said Angel Moya, one of the leaders, along with Antonio Rodiles of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms.

The dissidence asked the Catholic Church for greater support in the struggle for democracy. Moya thinks that “we need the solidarity of all the people and institutions who want a better country. If something has emboldened the regime it is the silence of the Catholic Church and the foreign press.”

And he asks the Pope to take note of the presidential pardon of 3,533 common prisoners. “In prison there are still about 60 prisoners for political purposes, some of them with more than 20 years in prison. This pardon is a typical maneuver to comply with certain formalities before the papal visit. Many of the pardoned could be used as shock troops to repress the opposition,” says Angel Moya.

The systematic beatings of the Ladies in White by the government special services contradicts the campaign against gender violence waged by the United Nations, of which Cuba is a member.

The dissidence just demands a legal space and respect. Within 72 hours of the third visit of a pope to the island, ordinary Cubans will continue their daily effort for survival.

The retiree Nicolas Sarmientos, a devout Catholic, wanders the markets in search of food for his family. Berta Soler and one hundred Ladies in White and dissidents demand democracy in the streets. It remains to be seen if Pope Bergoglio listens.

Opponents Denounce Arrests And “Social Cleansing” Before The Pope’s Visit / 14ymedio

March of the Ladies in White.
March of the Ladies in White.

14ymedio, Havana, 18 September 2015 — The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) expressed Friday in a statement its “deep indignation and concern about the operation of ‘social cleansing’ that the government has developed in recent days” in Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba. The spokesman for the organization, Elizardo Sanchez, stressed that thousands of paupers, beggars, bums, mentally ill and other wandering homeless people, in their great majority elderly people who have no place to live, have been interned before the Pope’s visit, that begins tomorrow.

The communication argues that the objective of “social cleansing” undertaken by the secret political police is to put these people out of sight of pilgrims, foreign journalists and other visitors. The organization stresses that the internments have been executed without judicial order and without disclosing the whereabouts of the victims. The CCDHRN asks the Pope to intervene for their immediate release.

The executive secretary of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, has also circulated a message to publicize the arbitrary arrests of peaceful opposition within hours of the arrival of Pope Francisc.

Thousands of beggars have been detained in Havana, Holguin and Santiago de Cuba

Ferrer says at least two members of his organization, Alberto Valle Perez and Walter Reinosa Morales, were arrested yesterday in Havana, as well as Roberto Ferrer, a member of Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID) arrested with violence on La Palma, Arroyo Naranjo.

According to the UNPACU leader, in Santiago de Cuba and Holguin there is strong vigilance and mobilization of Interior Ministry troops, “ready to act against peaceful activists, defenders of human rights.”

The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has reported the detentions of some 17 members of the organization in Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Santa Clara and Pinar del Rio “to avoid” their attending the Masses that will be celebrated by the Pope on the island.

Among the detainees are the activist Leticia Ramos and her husband. Antonio Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS opposition group, has contacted their family and has said through his Twitter account that they are “confined in a room riddled with cockroaches.”

The Ladies in White Live through Another Day of Repression / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White march through the streets of Havana Sunday (14ymedio)
The Ladies in White march through the streets of Havana Sunday (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio.com, Havana, 13 September 2015 – This Sunday, 42 Ladies in White, accompanied by 21 activists from different political groups, walked down Havana’s Fifth Avenue, in the Miramar neighborhood. Finishing their usual route and subsequent meeting in Gandhi Park, next to Santa Rita Parish, the group was arrested by police and other plain-clothes forces, according to reports to 14ymedio by several eyewitnesses.

Together with the women from the human rights movement were other opposition figures such as Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles from the opposition group Estado de Sats. The current whereabouts of those arrested is unknown, and their cell phones give the message “turned off or out of area.” However, the leader of UNPACU, Jose Daniel Ferrer, has been set free.

The Ladies in White had carried several banners demanding amnesty for political prisoners. A demand that has been the focus of attention for several opposition groups and that has gained strength before the upcoming visit by Pope Francis to the Island.

This week the Cuban government announced the pardon of 3,522 prisoners on the occasion of the Pontiff’s arrival in Cuba. Nevertheless, the opposition has criticized the fact that the list of pardoned prisoners does not include activists jailed for political reasons.

Elizardo Sanchez, who heads the National Human Rights and Reconciliation Commission, said in an interview with EFE that there are at least 60 people imprisoned “for political reasons or through politically conditioned proceedings.”

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Chilean Congressman Among Those Arrested In The March Of The Ladies In White / 14ymedio

Chilean congressman Felipe Kast (center right) and Antonio Rodiles (center) marching together in Havana. (14ymedio)
Chilean congressman Felipe Kast (center right) and Antonio Rodiles (center) marching together in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2015 – This Sunday 49 Ladies in White and 15 activists marched along Fifth Avenue in Havana’s Miramar neighborhood, surrounded by a strong police operation. At the end of the pilgrimage they were arrested and sent in a bus to whereabouts unknown.

Among those detained was the Chilean member of congress Felipe Kast, from the EVOPOLI party, who accompanied the march. The incident happened hours after the Chilean Foreign Minister, Heraldo Muñoz, ended his official visit to Cuba along with a Chilean delegation made up of officials of the Chilean government, and representatives from 35 businesses and trade associations.

According to what a source close the Chilean congressman told 14ymedio, Kast was detained for several hours before being released, around 4:00 in the afternoon local time. One released he was taken to Jose Marti International Airport where he left for Santiago de Chile that same afternoon.

Beginning early in the morning, the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque warned of “a police deployment around Santa Rita Church.” The activist detailed that the “repressive forces” were positioned on 3rd, 7th and 31st streets, to block regme opponents from accessing the place.

Meanwhile, the regime opponent Angel Moya denounced that there had been 20 arrests of the Ladies and White and other activists, hours before the beginning of the Sunday march.

In the town of Colón, Matanzas, independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported that 10 Ladies in White marched “for the release of political prisoners, followed by plainclothes police,” with no arrests reported.

The Other Flag / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, in his Friday meeting with dissidents in Havana
Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, in his Friday meeting with dissidents in Havana

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, 15 August 2015 — Six hours after the hoisting of the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy along the Malecon, a similar ceremony occurred on 150th Street in the Cubanacan neighborhood where the official residence of Jeffrey DeLaurentis, charge d’affaires of that country, is located.

All of the heads of the United States Interest Section have lived in this mansion in recent years, and there is a flagpole in its garden. Across from it, congregated hundreds of guests who did not physically fit in the small space where hours earlier American and Cuban officials had witnessed the symbolic act that opened the US embassy in Havana. continue reading

The celebration at the residence was attended by diplomats, representatives of civil society, clergy, intellectuals and Cuban artists along with the large delegation that accompanied John Kerry in his trip to Cuba, including the three Marines who, 54 years ago, lowered the flag when the countries broke off relations, who given the honor of participating in the raising. The US Army Brass Quintet played an international repertoire, with no shortage Cuban pieces such as Guantanamera and Manisero.

In a half-hour meeting, representatives of civil society shared with Kerry their concerns and expectations

In the official residence John Kerry held a half-hour meeting behind closed doors with representatives of civil society activists and independent journalists, including Dagoberto Valdes, Elsa Morejon, Hector Maseda, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Martha Beatriz Roque, Miriam Leiva, Oscar Elias Biscet, Yoani Sanchez and Reinaldo Escobar. Those present shared with Kerry the concerns and expectations generated by the restoration of relations between the two countries and presented an overview of the different projects they are engaged in.

Although the official media did not mention this activity on the busy schedule of the Secretary of State, it was one of the moments that marked the character of the Kerry’s visit to Cuba because it was the only thing that could provoke, and in fact did provoke, friction and controversy.

The Cuban leaders were annoyed because they would have preferred a distancing between the highest US official to step on Cuban soil in half a century, and this part of the non-conforming Cuban citizenry, persecuted, slandered and discriminated against by the government.

Others who shared this annoyance were some opponents, such as the leader of the Ladies in White Berta Soler and activist Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, who declined the invitation they received because they believe that the US government has betrayed them “to establish relations with the dictatorship.”

If there is no progress on the issue of human rights in Cuba, there will be no lifting of the embargo, Kerry said plainly

At the meeting there was nothing that deserves to be classified as secret talks or as parallel agreements. The Cuban guests offered a general explanation of the four points of consensus from civil society, promoted by the Civil Society Open Forum, expressed the need for the United States to unblock all brakes it applies today on internet access for Cubans, and mentioned different initiatives such as developing proposals for a new Electoral Law, creating a “think tank” on Cuban affairs, and the civic actions of different political platforms.

Similarly, guests expressed the concern that main beneficiary of the restoration of relations is the Cuban government, and that the Cuban people will continue to suffer just as if nothing had occurred. Perhaps most important was the response of Kerry on this point. The Secretary of State committed to maintaining his government’s interest in advances on issues of human rights in Cuba. If no steps are taken in this direction there will be no lifting of the embargo, he said plainly.

US Expresses “Deep Concern” Over The Arrest Of Dissidents In Havana / 14ymedio

During the march of the Ladies in White on Sunday August 9, some demonstrators wore masks of Barack Obama. (Twitter /ForoDyL)
During the march of the Ladies in White on Sunday August 9, some demonstrators wore masks of Barack Obama. (Twitter /ForoDyL)

14ymedio biggerEFE, Washington 10 August 2015 — The US government on Monday expressed “deep concern” about the detention for some hours of about 90 dissidents in Cuba, including a group of members of the Ladies in White, and insisted that it will continue to work to ensure respect for the right to demonstrate in Cuba.

“We have seen the reports, and our staff at the embassy in Havana confirmed these arrests,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the State Department, in his daily briefing.

Kirby stressed the “deep concern” of the US government over these arrests. continue reading

“We are going to continue to pressure for the rights of peaceful assembly, associate and freedom of expression, and we are going to continue expressing our support for an improvement in the conditions of human rights and democratic reforms,” he added.

Those arrests come just days before the US Secretary of State John Kerry travels to Havana this Friday for the formalization of the raising the flag over the embassy in Cuba, opened last month, and within the process of normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries which remained suspended for more than half a century.

The spokesman referred to the arrests Sunday, several hours after a demonstration in a Havana park, with some carrying photos of political prisoners and others wearing masks with images of the US president, Barack Obama.

The opponents Antonio González-Rodiles, his partner, Ailer Gonzalez and Angel Santiesteban told EFE that they were arrested and taken into a police car to a detention center after meeting with the Ladies in White, after the usual walk that this women’s movement undertakes on Sundays after Mass in a church in the neighborhood of Miramar.

The three said they were detained for a few hours and they knew of other dissidents in the same situation as in the case of Aliuska Gomez of the Ladies in White, who was already released.

Gonzalez Rodiles, who leads the independent project Estado de Sats, explained that they carried the photos to “signal that repression has intensified against opposition activists” as part of the campaign “We All March” which they have undertaken to advocate for the release of political prisoners.

According to the latest report released by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), during July there were at least 674 temporary political arrests on the island, the highest level since June 2014, and 21 cases of physical attacks during the arrests.

Redefining the Cuban Opposition After 17 December / Cubanet, Alexis Jardines Chacon

Clockwise from top left – Cuban activists: Manuel Cuesta Morua, Antonio Rodiles, Guillermo Fariñas, Berta Soler, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent
Clockwise from top left – Cuban activists: Manuel Cuesta Morua, Antonio Rodiles, Guillermo Fariñas, Berta Soler, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Laritza Diversent

cubanet square logoCubanet, Alexis Jardines Chacon, Miami, 7 August 2015 – The First National Cuban Conference will be held August 13-15 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is an event that Cubans United of Puerto Rico have been preparing for a year, inviting organizations from both shores. The meeting hopes to focus on the unity of diversity. What follows explores the nature of the differences and the bases on which unity might rest.

The danger of reformism

When Raul Castro took over the nation after the desmerengamiento* of his brother Fidel in 2008, the opposition, to some extent, had to reinvent itself. A series of measures – outstanding among them being the new law regarding travel and emigration – temporarily left the dissidents without an anchor, because they could now leave the country and return without consequences. But the explosive side of the new law was something else: the dissidents soon were more engaged abroad than toward the interior of Cuba. And, naturally, we didn’t have to wait for a media reaction against this kind of tourist-dissent. continue reading

The absence of a structured political opposition leaves civil society activism very vulnerable to the impact of Raul’s reforms. When opposition activity is reduced to a package of demands to the current government, any change undertaken by the regime could exceed the expectations of the dissidence itself. The dissidence, for example, was not prepared to assume to the challenges of the lifting of the travel restrictions, while the effect for the government was a revitalization of its impoverished symbolic capital.

It is a fact that ordinary Cubans are more radical in their anti-Castro convictions than a good part of the so-called opposition. And it is at least curious that from the side of the opposition they are asking for reforms in a system that bases its politics in the reforms of its model (of socialism). The paradox is solved when we realize that the logic of reformism is compatible with the dissidence, but not with the political opposition.

The other crushing blow came from the hand of President Obama. A good part of the dissidence and activists were left outside the umbrella of the American government, now interested in those who unconditionally support the process of normalization.

A major campaign is being conducted – inside and outside of Cuba – to sell the bi-tonal (black/white) scheme of what is taking place. It would seem there are no nuances; whomever does not support the Obama pact, Castro places automatically on the side of the extremism and violence associated with the construct of the extreme-right-reactionary-bloodthirsty-living-in-the-past.

This biased and misleading way of labeling does not recognize the current that defends normalization, but with conditions. Rather, it puts in the same sack a broad spectrum of those it considers hostile to both governments, from the activists of Estado de Sats to those of the Miami exile group Vigilia Mambisa.

The hardcore, instead, pass themselves off as open people with a string of virtues: inclusion, spirit of dialog, pacifism and a long et cetera. In short, they see themselves as what sells, what is in fashion and in tune with the current times. This posture, which bears fruit inside and outside of the country, shows no interest in ordinary Cubans.

Their concern is focused on the environment of relations between the Cuban and the United States governments, so they are only interested defending – moderated through the interior of Cuba and extreme pressure groups, such as Cuban Americans for Engagement (CAFE) – dialog with the Cuban regime, masked under the innocuous idea of non-confrontation. And it is clear that when there is talk of conditions, from the other side of the opposition spectrum, it is about dialog and rapprochement in general between the governments of Cuba and the United States and not about the classic and sterile demands of the Cuban government before 17 December, which do not transcend the logic of reformism and would have to abandon taking concrete steps in the physical space, for the same reason that they haven’t worked in all the years of the dictatorship.

My question, then – in accord with the premise offered by President Obama – is: if what doesn’t work is changed, why don’t the hardcore supporters of normalization take to the streets to support, at least, the marches of the Ladies in White? If the majority of the Cuban people are anti-Castro and the weak side of the opposition knows that it has been incommunicado vis-à-vis ordinary Cubans, why not go discretely house-to-house to prepare people for a referendum? These are true opposition actions that do not require funds or immolations.

What is the danger, in short, of reformism? That comes from delimiting a front in which the frontiers between the ruling party, the dissidence and the trusted opposition are increasingly erased? In this scenario, the real opposition turns out to be an obstacle.

The light at the end of the tunnel

It is obvious that rulers who adopt the totalitarian model do so with the express purpose of staying in power indefinitely. If this happens in a country like Cuba the chances of regime change, even in the long term are minimal. There is a cultural issue, in this case, which takes its toll. Personally, I am convinced that if Einstein was resurrected and was standing on a corner in Havana, inside of five minutes he would have in front of him a couple of individuals explaining the theory of relativity. These types – in the unlikely event they would allow the genius to discuss the matter – would end up reproaching him with the argument that “you don’t know shit about physics.”

Then comes the issue of the bodeguita, as a friend of mine defines it: in the face of any suggestion of collaboration, if it’s a question of survival it’s every man for himself. One can imagine how difficult it is to unite the dissidence, activists and opposition around an objective that transcends the expectations of a guild. But, even if we make an abstraction of the anthropological-cultural theme, the principal obstacle would stand: are you interested in the validation of a democratic regime, or in democratizing the current regime? Whatever your option you will achieve nothing without dismantling the one-party system. Therefore, consensus – if it were possible – should not be built on the basis of reformist objectives.

In any event, since 17 December things are becoming ever more clear and it will have to be defined on what bases a lobbying in favor of unconditional dialog with the dictatorship and a resistance interaction with ordinary Cubans enter into the extension of the concept of opposition. In the year 2011 – having recently gone into exile – I came to the defense of Estado de Sats before some accusations of Marta Beatriz Roque branding the projects as dissidence-light, and pondered the logic of the traditional opposition, rooted in ideas of heroism and the barricade. The beatings they gave us was the weighty argument that the venerable opposition wielded against us.

Since then, each in his own way, we have been radicalized. I, who thought more as a dissident, now do so from the angle of the opposition. And I don’t know about the ironies of destiny, only that the issue of Cuba is a GPS constantly being relocated: today Antonio Rodiles, leader of Estado de Sats, is the one who receives the beatings and not a few of the old guard opposition look away when the Ladies in White begin their march every Sunday.

Personally, I believe that the conditions are given. Access to public spaces, to the street, is there in front of everyone. It is not a chimera, it is not impossible. If you are an opponent marching with these untamed women you protect the space that they were able to conquer for all of us. Sacred space, because it is the only thing we really have and the only thing that puts the dictatorship in check. If you are an opponent looking to connect with the people, you go house to house – as the Jehovah Witnesses have done in much more difficult times – with the purpose of making every Cuban see the need to put an end to the one-party system through a popular referendum. If you are an opponent you work to give a voice to the people, the ordinary Cuban.

The combination of these three factors could be the unity of purpose sought by the opposition in the diversity of its ways, namely: support, through one’s physical presence, of the Sunday marches, the individual and systematic contact – face-to-face – with the people in the neighborhoods, the blocks and the homes to get them to vote NO to the hegemony of the Cuban Communist Party in the popular vote of 2016; the consequent need for the people to decide how and by whom they should be governed through a plebiscite. This line and its media support is what, in my opinion, defines the opposition camp in Cuba after the moves of 17 December. The rest is also necessary, but not necessarily opposition. Ergo, if this embassy that will soon open in Havana limits its contacts to the reformist scene, then we will know – at least with regards to the issue of Cuba – who is the boss in Washington.


Alexis Jardines Chacon

Jardines has a degree in Philosophy from Saint Petersburg State University (Russia) with specialization in History of Philosophy. He holds an MA in Philosophy from the same University and a Ph.D. from the University of Havana, an institution where he taught for more than 15 years and where he attained the highest category as a professor. In 2011 he went into exile in Puerto Rico and works as Professor Lecturer at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. Distinguished Scholar in Residence. Cuban Research Institute, FIU.

*Translator’s note: Desmerengamiento was coined by Fidel Castro to embody, in a single word, the debacle of the Soviet Union. It comes from the word “meringue” and, like a failed meringue, refers to the idea of a complete collapse.

Antonio Rodiles Arrives in Miami After Being Unable to Leave Cuba for 8 Months / 14ymedio

Antonio Rodiles, interviewed by Marti Noticias on his arrival in Miami. (MartiTV)
Antonio Rodiles, interviewed by Marti Noticias on his arrival in Miami. (MartiTV)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 4 August 2015 – The director of the alternative project Estado de Sats, Antonio Rodiles, arrived in Miami this Monday after 8 months during which the Government prevented his leaving the island. Hours earlier he had learned that the authorities would finally allow him to renew his passport, along with the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Solar, and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez known as Antunez. The three traveled to the United States to attend a meeting with Cuban exiles.

“We came to talk with friends, with the exile, to try to create the greatest possible solidarity at this time. I believe there is a lot of concern for the reality we are living in and we have to speak with everyone and coordinate with each other inside and outside the country,” Rodiles told MartiNoticias on his arrival in Miami.

The opponent, who has been unable to leave Cuba for months, has experienced acts of repudiation and episodes of violence that required him to have emergency surgery after suffering a fracture of the nasal septum and a perforated ear drum in an act of violence.

“There has been a great increase in repression and especially in the violence,” he stated in front of the cameras. A statement that was affirmed by Antunez. “It’s noteworthy that around the corner from the new US embassy in Cuba they are savagely repressing the Ladies in White movement and the opposition. They are emboldened, bringing in mobs on buses, trucks full of military repressors, which shows they have a radical and open opposition to us.”

Berta Soler said that the group does not oppose negotiations between the United States and Cuba but they want them to be “conditioned” on decreasing the repression against those who peacefully defend human rights.

Antunez added that their trip to the Miami comes at a time when Cuba’s destiny is in play “with Kerry’s visit to Havana, the preparations for the Pope’s visit, and the regime trying to manage its fraud change.” According to Rodiles, there is no such change, given nothing has changed with regards to human rights, nor are there any changes economically.

The activists will return to Cuba before John Kerry visits the island on Friday, August 14.

Antonio Rodiles’ Passport is Renewed / Cubanet

Antonio G. Rodiles (file photo
Antonio G. Rodiles (file photo

cubanet square logoCubanet, Ernesto Garcia Diaz, Havana, 2 August 2015 — The Cuban government has renewed the passport of political activist and coordinator of the project State of Sats, Antonio Rodiles. In contrast, Ailer Mena Gonzalez, artistic director of this project, remains under immigration regulations, that is, is not allowed to travel.

Rodiles told Cubanet, ” State Security lifted the restriction they had on me, I was about to renew my passport a few hours ago, I can leave the country. In fact I will in the coming hours. But I’ll be back soon to continue, at the side of the Ladies in White, the peaceful struggle for the liberation of political prisoners. The government is afraid of the public space we have conquered. It is no wonder they repress us. We want to rebuild the nation and will not allow them to dehumaize us, even when the call in repressive mobs.”

The activist also said: “I’ll be back before August 14 when John Kerry will Cuba and hoist the flag of the United States embassy. Hopefully he will demand that the Cuban government end the repression against the Ladies in White and we will have a different mentality. ”

Author: ernestogardiaz@gmail.com

About 70 Ladies in White and Activists Arrested Sunday / 14ymedio

The Ladies in White in Gandhi Park on a previous Sunday
The Ladies in White in Gandhi Park on a previous Sunday (Americateve)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 19 July 2015 — This Sunday has led to the arrest of forty Ladies in White and thirty activists, at the conclusion of their usual march on 5th Avenue in the Havana neighborhood of Miramar.

After Mass in the church of Santa Rita, the Ladies in White gathered together with several activists in Gandhi park. There, from the speakers of a car, was heard a composition by the rocker Gorki Aguila, that pays tribute to these women and their human rights movement.

Gorki Aguila told 14ymedio  the song that just premiered, was produced in the studios of La Paja Records, managed by the group Porno for Ricardo. In addition to the melody of a cello, the musical theme includes strings, guitar, bass, drums and a solo by Aguila himself.

According to the artist “the intention was to give to the Ladies another song, to encourage other artists to make artworks to them, they deserve it.”

The renowned musician was taken to the so-called Vivac de Calabazar prison with Jorge Moya, Jorge Luis Antunez, Claudio Fuentes, Egberto Escobedo and Antonio Gonzalez Rodiles, among others. The women may have been transferred to a detention center in Tarara, east of Havana, where they are routinely detained.