The Real Parents of the Weekly Packet / Cubanet, Augusto César San Martín and Rudy Cabrera

This video is not subtitled but the images will be interesting to all.

cubanet square logoCubanet, Augusto César San Martín and Rudy Cabrera, Havana, 24 November 2017 — Contrary to what has been affirmed to date, the “Weekly Packet” did not have a creator. The original idea was spontaneous, in the mid-eighties, with the arrival in Cuba of domestic technologies that supported Cubans’ need to avoid the official viewpoints of the two politicized TV channels.

The current digital collection of a terabyte of foreign TV content, software and digital magazines, began to displace Cuban TV when Betamax technology, which entered the market in 1975, arrived in Cuba.

Betamax became popular in Cuba shortly before disappearing, with a format that allowed 2 hours of recording. During its first years of its introduction in the country, few Cubans, outside the ruling elite, owned this home technology, which initiated the alternative circulation of films and documentaries in the U-matic format.

 The pioneers of the Packet and the antenna continue reading

It was through the governmental company, Omnivideo Corporation, located in the residential area of Siboney in Havana’s Playa municipality, that people began to copy, translate, classify, distribute on the island and sell abroad, movies that had been shown in the U.S.

A participant in the corporation, a former Interior Ministry official who offered statements on condition of anonymity, said that Omnivideo Corp. did more than pirate movies.

“The company was created by Tony de la Guardia and then absorbed by CIMEX to sell films in Cuba. Omnivideo not only sold movies, it also distributed to the country’s leaders, through cables, the channels that were captured with a group of antennas that were located in Siboney.”

The same source adds that, by means of a Panamanian citizen linked to the premiere theater circuit in Panama City, the films remained in Cuban hands for less than 24 hours.

“That Panamanian took the premiere tapes to the Cuban embassy, they sent them from there to Cuba, they copied them, and the same day they sent them back to Panama.”

Deep in the enjoyment of capitalism, the socialist leadership did not notice that the era of domestic technology had begun in Cuba. Their piracy formulas would soon be copied by others.

The films of Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone confronting Vietnamese communism invaded the island. Cubans eager to discover everything distant from Russian culture, embedded in the small screen, created small movie theaters around a Betamax to watch the films pirated by Omnivideo Corp. The point of no return of the pirating of foreign images between Cubans had started.

A great number of films not associated with the official piracy began to be added to the nascent popular video cassette exchange. The documentary “Nadie Escuchaba” (Nobody Listened) by Néstor Almendros (1987) was one of the films that had the privilege to come the black and white screens, which still coexisted with the Betamax in Cuban homes.

To compete with the avalanche of Hollywood programming, Cuban television introduced the “Saturday Movie” program, a “healthy” version of American cinema that ended up displacing Russian cinematography from the official collection.

VHS and DVD, the adolescence of the Packet

At the beginning of the 90s, the VHS format arrived in Cuba, which had been on the market elsewhere since 1976. The recording capacity of that stimulated the creation of movie rental banks.

VHS with a capacity of up to 10 hours, in LP mode (Long play), facilitated the compendium of foreign programs that the Cubans took advantage of to create clandestine independent businesses in the style of Omnivideo Corp. In Cuba the EP (Extended play)  format was used in NTSC (30 frames per second), the lower image quality.

The illegal Direct TV and Dish antennas were the alternatives that Cubans found to copy foreign programming. Popular among wealthy citizens, the so-called “Caciques” (chiefs) for years dominated the recording of programs, novels and movies that the film banks bought for a price, which according to how current or recently released they were.

Rogelio Reyes started his film bank that included the Betamax format. In an interview with CubaNet, he narrated his compendium experiences in the different formats, Beta, VHS, DVD.

“Beta lasted just a short time, although I remember that shows were already being recorded (…). In VHS I came to have almost five thousand cassettes, among them soap operas, films and documentaries.”

Rogelio remembers that the Caciques sold the compendium (VHS) for between 50 and 60 pesos. Once acquired, a classification process was carried out, perfected in the current Packet.

“In the bank I recorded in EP format to allow more hours of programming. Sometimes there were varied Packet of shows with soap operas, that was according to what you saw what the clients wanted (…). VHS was outdated the fastest, it did not last two years. Right after DVDs arrived (…) I had to give away all the VHS cassettes.”

The adolescence of the Packet was gaining strength with the format war. In the libraries of the film banks, the DVD with more content and better visual quality was imposed. The extinction of the VHS was extended due to the high cost of the first DVD players, that oscillated between 200 and 250 dollars, in the black market.

While the population updated with the new format, data storage devices appeared, popularized in Cuba during their second generation, launched at the beginning of this century.

Data storage, the maturity of the Packet

The ability to have greater storage capacity and the recopying of the content in the data devices (USB, hard drives), revolutionized alternative programming on the island. Until then the DVD, up to 4 GB, offered limited capacity without the ability to recopy.

The determining factor for the increase of those involved in the business was the arrival of computers, and with them, the television signal capture cards.

Mario Cabrera, who was part of this evolution, explained to CubaNet his participation in the chain of program copiers.

“I had antenna service of one channel. Since I had a TV capture card, I was hired by one of those who copied for the Packet (…) He suggested that I record two shows: Sábado Gigante and Belleza Latina. I remember that, when the program was over, a person would come by and pick up what I had recorded, and he would pay me 5 convertible pesos (CUC) for each program.”

This group paid tribute to a new formula that annihilated the hegemony of the Caciques: the head offices. They began to use computers, hard drives and finally the internet to download and organize the materials contained in the Packet.

Reloj Club (Club Clock) was one of the first head offices that identified the users, created by two young people known as Robert and Mayito.

Alexis Rodríguez Tamayo (known as el Nene), a graduate of the University of Computer Sciences (UCI), inherited Club Reloj when its founders left the country. The engineer who is currently the owner of the Omega house, told CubaNet about his experiences at the beginning of the current Packet.

“The Packet came from the movie banks. The computers opened the door, and the younger ones skillfully saw the way to supply the banks. It was not anyone in particular who created the Packet.”

Alexis Rodríguez recalls that among the best-known head offices were “Paquete de Lachy,” “Samuel” and “Joe PC,” who, in his opinion, “stole all the customers.”

“That boy revolutionized everything, when the novelas were not sold by episodes, he started selling them by episodes. We all had to sell them by episodes or we lost our customers. (…) After that, it shortened the frequency of the weekly collection, to a daily delivery.   There are distributors or head offices that do not wait for the end of the week, they buy the programming that is downloaded daily, to be more current.”

Alexis does not believe that technological advances can eliminate the Packet. About this, he said: “Now with the Internet, I think that when another six months pass, the clientele will weaken. But there are many who will pay for the information because they do not have internet at home, or do not have the time [i.e. cannot afford to pay for it] to download. (…) We download the movies as soon as they come out, the series are downloaded, the games are such large files that we download them in snippets, and if it’s not today, it’s tomorrow.”

 The Packet within the antenna or cable

Then, without the need to store the content, the Packet’s programming was inserted in SNet, an illegal wireless community. What nobody imagined is that this programming would return to the users through its origin: the clandestine service of the antenna.

The antenna or cable that began offering one channel for 10 CUC, now, for the same price, includes thirty-two channels in some areas of the capital city. This variety of channels makes Dish and Direct TV share their popularity in Cuba with channels designed by Cubans with the contents of the Packet. Through the WD Elements Play technology (multimedia hard drive), 2 Tb of programming are broadcast through the illegal antenna.

El Paketito (the Little Packet)

Since the beginning of the current Packet, the authorities of the Island have confronted it with a variety strategies. More variations of official television, creation of the Mochila (“Backpack” — the official packet), police operations and, according to the testimony of officers of the political police, the creation of a group named “Paqueteria,” specialized in spying on the whole chain of creation and distribution.

The country’s vice-president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, publicly expressed his concern: “We aren’t bothered by the Packet as an idea, but with the values, the culture and the ways in which it can be transmitted,” he said. Other government figures attack it as a degrading ideological and aesthetic concept.

To protect themselves, those who make the Packet make the decision to self-censor. They eliminate from the content any information — be it in soap operas, news or websites — that affect the image of the government.

The fill this gap El Paketito (The Little Packet) arose. A compendium of information that adds what is censored to the Packet.

Its creator broke, for the first time, its main rule: Do not offer an interview to the media. Under the condition of protecting his identity for fear of reprisals, he told CubaNet:

“The first thing is that, due to the censorship, the difficulties of accessing the Internet, the publications of independent media are greater abroad. The idea of the Paketito is to take all that censored information to its first consumer, the ordinary Cuban.”

Based on the idea of the Packet, the Paketito was created in February 2015 with a weekly frequency. Its content includes all the information from the platforms used by the independent press, television news programs, documentaries of political content, and animated series censored by the Packet, with radio programs and Cuban image archives.

“It has had good acceptance throughout the country, because it divulges the forbidden,” said its creator, adding. “Cubans want to know what happens on the other side of censorship and we respect that.”

We are very afraid / Cubanet, Augusto Cesar San Martin and Rudy Cabrera

cubanet square logoCubanet, Augusto Cesar San Martin and Rudy Cabrera, Havana, 23 January 2017 – In 2014, Cuban doctor Nelson Cabrera Quinta, his wife and two teenage children were declared illegal occupants of his home located at No. 1705 – 200th Street in the Havana neighborhood of Siboney. The house has been part of the family patrimony for 40 years and they have been been permanently residing in it for 12 years.

Six months after Dr. Cabrera left on an official Cuban medical mission in Saudi Arabia, his wife Bisaida Azahares received a notification from the Ministry of Construction to evacuate the house immediately. continue reading

“In the resolution it says: Leave the house [and go to] to your place of origin. We do not have options and much less a place to go… We are afraid, we have been told so many things about the eviction, that they are very violent people who open the doors, they break them down, they come in and they just put you out and that’s it. Imagine yourself, alone with two children,” says Bisaida.

Dr. Cabrera was warned that when he traveled abroad as a health worker, that they were going to evict his family from the house. For a long time that was the reason he rejected the chance to serve on several collaboration missions, and continued to direct one of the polyclinics in the Playa municipality. The doctor lowered his guard when the municipal president of the People’s Power assured him that while he was on a government mission, there would be no “forced extraction” at his house.

The right to reside in a garage

The resolution of “forced extraction”, the Cuban “neo-eviction,” is the result of a claim filed five years ago by the University of Medical Sciences of Havana (UCMH) against Nelson Cabrera Quintana and his family. According to the institution, the family lives in one of the 17 houses owned by the school in the residential division of Siboney, considered a “frozen zone,” which means the family registered as living in the residence must be “officially verified.”

The Cabrera family resides in the garage of a mansion, divided into three units. One-third of the house was granted in 1979 to the grandfather Gilberto Falcón Darriba, because of his work; he was a founder of UCMH, then the Institute of Medical Sciences of Havana, where he worked for more than 40 years.

Falcón lacked the mental and physical health to claim his property rights when he arrived at the end of 15 years residing in the garage. According to the provisions of the Ministry of Public Health, the houses are granted after having been leased for 15 years, giving the property to the lessee. Librada Arancibia, Falcon’s wife was on the verge of gaining title after her husband died in the United States, afflicted with Parkinson’s Disease.

“My grandmother was not recognized as the owner even though she initiated the process. I have documents from various UCMH lawyers who explicitly say that they were being deprived of the house they lived in for more than 20 years, and that they had paid the bank for in full,” says Nelson.

However, UCMH recognized the right of the elderly woman to live until the last day of her life in the residence transformed into a fortress.

Siboney, residential enclave

Each third of the residence has a different history, tied to its being property of the UCMH. On the main floor of the house, lived Dr. Caridad Dovale, retired from the UCMH, who emigrated to the United States in 2012. According to a document from the university center, her husband stayed in Cuba, managing to obtain the right to the property. In 2016 Dovales returned to Cuba, was repatriated and regained ownership of the house, as a university doctor.

The so-called “part behind,” belonging to the third, was claimed by the educational institution in 2013. Nelson affirms that Armando Hart Dávalos (former Minister of Education and Culture) and his wife interceded for those residents, and managed to get the eviction process cancelled.

The Cabrera family asks: Why if Falcón emigrated to the US, his wife did not get the benefit of housing, like the neighbors above? What has more value in Cuba, citizen rights or a good godfather in the government?

The answer is clear in the ​​Siboney area, a neighborhood full of mansions built before 1959 by the so-called “bourgeoisie,” but which today is dominated by the government upper class.

“I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Laura’s Death”/ Cubanet, Hector Maseda

Title on video: “The most difficult moment was when they tried to accuse me of spying…”

cubanet square, Julio Cesar Alvarez and Augusto Cesar San Martin, 29 July 2016, Havana – Hector Maseda dreamed of designing big ships and hanging his naval engineering degree where everyone could see it, but “since they only built boats here,” he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering.

His excellent grades assured him a post in the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC) until 1980 when the Mariel Boatlift changed his life, as it did for tens of thousands of Cubans who decided to emigrate, but from a different angle.

Hector did not emigrate but lost his job at the CNIC for refusing to repudiate his colleagues who chose to leave the Island. He stopped enjoying the “political trustworthiness” indispensable for working at the center, the “father of science in Cuba.” continue reading

From a scientist with three post-graduate studies and author of several scientific articles, he became a handicrafts vendor for more than a year in order to be able to survive. After going through several different jobs he began to work in the medical devices department in the oldest functioning hospital in Cuba, the Commander Manuel Fajardo Teaching Surgical Hospital.

It was there, on Christmas of 1991, that he began the courtship of Laura Pollan, a teacher of Spanish and literature who would later become a symbol of the peaceful struggle for human rights in Cuba.

The spring of 2003 was a “Black Spring” for Hector and 74 of his colleagues (known as the Group of 75). Sentenced to 20 years in a summary trial for a supposed crime against the independence and territorial integrity of the State, he spent more than seven years in prison.

From that Black Spring emerged the Ladies in White, a group of wives and family members of the 75 dissidents. Laura Pollan, because of the arrest of Hector Maseda, quit her job as a professor in the Ministry of Education and became the founder and leader of the Ladies in White.

“From that moment, she gave up all her pleasures, all her intellectual and social inclinations, etc., and became a leading defender of human rights,” says Maseda.

But Laura would not survive long after Hector’s liberation. A strange virus ended her life in 2011, although Hector Maseda is convinced that the Cuban political police assassinated her.

President of the National Commission of Masonic Teaching and past-President of the Cuban Academy of High Masonic Studies, Hector has traveled the whole road of Cuban Freemasonry.

From apprentice to Grade 33 of the Supreme Council for the Republic of Cuba, he is one of the 25 Sovereign Grand Inspectors of the order which is composed of about 29 thousand Masons spread through more than 300 lodges around the Island.

He has worked as an independent journalist for outlets like CubaNet, Miscelaneas de Cuba and others. His book Buried Alive recounts the conditions of the Cuban political prison system and the abuses of jailers against political and common prisoners.

But he, who at age 15 was arrested and beaten by the Batista police after being mistaken for a member of the July 26 terrorist group and at age 60 psychologically tortured by Fidel Castro’s political police by being subjected to sleep deprivation in interrogations, still has not overcome the death of his wife Laura Pollan.

“I have not been able to overcome that trauma,” says Maseda.

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Twenty Independent Communicators to Consult in Cuba / Luis Felipe Rojas

ndependent Journalism. Illustration from "Another Waves" website
Independent Journalism. From “Another Waves”

Luis Felipe Rojas, 1 February 2016 — This list is not intended to be a “Top Ten,” as is so common on internet publications. The list of names that follows carries the history of the men and women who believe in words and images as a tool of liberation.

The independent journalists that appear below do their work in Cuba under the microscope of the apparatus of repression that we know as State Security.

Most of them suffer arbitrary arrests, they have spent long years in prison, they are violently detained, vilified and — paradoxically — are non-persons in government media. In the case of Jorge Olivera Castillo, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in the “2003 Black Spring,” but he continues, unrepentant, to do alternative journalism. continue reading

Another of those on the list is the blogger Yoani Sanchez who, among numerous international awards, holds the 2008 Ortega y Gasset Prize, given annual by the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Confirming her commitment to the journalism in which she believes, she founded the digital newspaper 14ymedio and 2014.

These are “ordinary” rank-and-file reporters, who get up each morning looking for news and accompany the victims of state bureaucracy — a way of doing journalism that has already gone on for three decades in the country, under the derision that arises from within the regime’s prisons.

I wanted to include here those who have specialized in the genre of opinion, thus helping to clarify what goes on within the country, but also preserving the sharp wit that has been missing for years in the journalism published on the island. The blame for this drought in opinion pieces is due to the jaws that are greased every morning in the offices of the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Good health for free and uncensored journalism!

Here is the list:

Regina CoyulaBlog “La Mala Letra”. BBC Mundo. La Habana.

Iván García. Diario de Cuba. Martinoticias. Diario Las Américas. La Habana.

Augusto C. San MartínCubanet. La Habana.

Serafín Morán. Cubanet. La Habana.

Ricardo Sánchez T. Cubanet. Bayamo, Granma.

Miriam Celaya14yMedio. La Habana.

Alejandro Tur V. IWP. Cienfuegos.

Juan G. Febles. Dtor Semanario Primavera Digital. La Habana.

Yoani Sánchez. Directora Diario 14yMedio. La Habana.

Iván Hernández Carrillo. Twittero. @ivanlibre Matanzas.

Yuri Valle.  Reportero audiovisual. La Habana.

Jorge Olivera Castillo.   Columnista opinión. Cubanet. La Habana.

Luz Escobar. 14yMedio. La Habana.

Luis Cino A. PD. Cubanet. La Habana.

Roberto de J. Guerra P. Dtor Agenc. Hablemos Press. La Habana.

Ernesto Pérez ChangCubanet. La Habana.

María Matienzo. Diario de Cuba. La Habana.

Bernardo Arévalo P. ICLEP. Aguada de Pasajeros. Cienfuegos.

Roberto Quiñonez H. Cubanet. Guantánamo.

Alberto M. Castelló. Cubanet. Puerto Padre. Las Tunas.

Opponents Tried for Common Crimes / Cubanet, Augusto Cesar San Martin

Inmates in Cuban prison (from internet)
Inmates in Cuban prison (from internet)

The preference of trying political opponents for common crimes is not new. Thus is prevented the sullying of the regime’s image while giving cover to those who assert that in Cuba there are no political prisoners.

cubanet square, Augusto Cesar San Martin, Havana, 10 July 2015 – The preference of trying the Cuban government’s political opponents for common crimes is not new.

Attorney Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo, head of the Cuban Law Association (AJC) is in jail in Valle Grande awaiting a new trial and suspended from practice for four years. The lawyer faces a new criminal charge just when his six-month sentence for contempt was ending.

Such charge was imposed on Ferrer during his defense of his wife Marienys Pavo Anate. He demanded a mistrial on her behalf because of breaches of duty by public officials. continue reading

In his lawsuit against the judges, delivered in the Civil and Administrative Courtroom of the same Court, the lawyer from the AJC charged the process against his wife with being a “colossal fraud, with a worthless, corrupt and illegal vote,” as recorded in the judgment.

As a result of such incident, the farce against him ended up revealing itself when the judge from the Criminal Division of the Plaza of the Revolution Court considered “severe” the prosecutor’s request for seven months in jail for Contempt and lowered it to six months.

Lawyer Idilio Hernandez Herrera, legal representative for Ferrer, told Cubanet that the malice is proven by the first sanction, replacing the fine with jail as corrective discipline.

“To refer to my client they used words like corruption, documented falsities highly repudiated by society…irreverent and unethical lawyer. Which is to say the judges can use inappropriate language and prejudge the verdict,” said the defense lawyer.

“They are ordinary prisoners, not political”

The real ‘crime’ of the AJC lawyer is having used the administrative and procedural resources of Cuban law in order to demand the right of association.

The process summoned before the Provincial and Supreme Courts Maria Esther Reus, head of the Ministry of Justice (MINJUS), who delegated to the director of MINJUS Associations to declare in a trial why the AJC is not legally approved.

The next criminal process that Julio Alfredo Ferrer faces aims to eliminate any political or anti-governmental position that his conduct may describe.

He is accused of Falsification of Public Documents during the purchase of his home more than 10 years ago. Even when the notary who conducted the process testified in the oral trial to Ferrer’s innocence, the prosecutor petitioned for three years’ incarceration.

His representative Hernandez Herrera is convinced that the new accusation is a plan that intends to search at all costs for a civil violation so that he will be punished for ordinary crimes [i.e. not political ones].

“After they punish him for an ordinary crime, his defense becomes more difficult in international organizations for Human Rights, the Latin-American Court of Justice and the European Commission that have to do with lawyers,” explains Hernandez.

“This has been a political operative game by State Security with other factors very well organized in order to neutralize any kind of campaign for the freedom of my client,” he adds.

What is certain is that the government will keep the lawyer Julio Alfredo Ferrer Tamayo in jail without sullying the regime’s image and apparently will give cover to those who assert that in Cuba there are no political prisoners.

About the Author: Augusto Cesar San Martin

Translated by Mary Lou Keel

Antonio Rodiles’ House Besieged at Dawn / Augusto Cesar San Martin, Camilo Ernesto Olivera

policias1HAVANA, Cuba  December 10, 2013, Augusto César San Martín / The home of Antonio Rodiles, leader of the independent group Estado de Sats, which from today through tomorrow is celebrating the First International Conference on Human Rights, was besieged by the police and plainclothes agents as the sun rose this morning. Third Street, from the Copacabana Hotel, is closed.

Around nine o’clock in the morning, this reporter was able to see a strong force deployed with the purposed of blocking political opponents, both from within the island as well as those who have managed to come from abroad, from participating in the day.

The director of Estado de Sats and the For Another Cuba campaign has said that this is the first attempt to organize an event of this kind, in which the topic of ratification of the UN covenants on human rights, signed by the Cuban government, will be addressed.

This reporter, in a taxi, tried in vain to reach the house, located in the Miramar neighborhood. The car was diverted. From 3rd and 42nd Streets the police are directing traffic. There are agents on the corners, with civilian staff. State Security cars and minibuses are located at the intersections.

The front of Rodiles’ house is deserted because 1st Street is closed. Cars coming from the Copacabana Hotel are diverted.

The Social/Labor Circle adjacent to Rodiles’ house has speakers playing the music of regime supporter Silvio Rodriguez very loudly.  The audio can be heard from 3rd Street.

The few participants who were able to reach the house days earlier have not been able to leave to avoid being arrested. Among them is the troubadour Boris Larramendi, from the Cuban group Habana Abierta (Open Havana), based in Spain.

Larramendi traveled specifically for the meeting and will close the event tomorrow, December 11.

The event from within

HAVANA, Cuba, December 10, 2013, Camilo Ernesto Olivera / Ultimately, and contrary to expectations, there was no direct police action against the organizer, Antonio Rodiles, who yesterday was accused of a traffic violation that he, in fact, had not committed. The initial session of the First International Conference on Human Rights was held without incident.

The turnout from the public has not been as expected, only twenty participants have managed to arrive, almost none from outside the country. But the foreign media and embassies accredited on the island, such as Spanish Television, have been able to report on the event.

The first panel, led by researcher Walfrido Lopez, was on human rights and the new media. Lopez presented a video on media from abroad which follow Cuba with interviews with directors and newspaper editors

Coming up is a panel on human rights in Latin America, and the another on institutional violence against women in Cuba.

There will also be an exhibition of posters of the event and for tomorrow a concert with Boris Larramendi troubadour, who came from Madrid.

As interference, the government, through State Security and its mass organizations, has mounted a kind of Street Plan in front of Rodiles’ house. They have staged a party with music and snacks for neighborhood children, who did not attend classes today, to justify closing the street to traffic.

Also, the social / labor circle known as La Copa (The Cup), located on 1st and 42nd Streets is being used as the command post by the political police.

Since early morning they have been playing the songs of troubadours who support the government, Silvio Rodriguez and the duo Buena Fe.

The operation recalls the era of General Abrantes, the Interior Minister in charge of acts of repudiation against citizens trying to leave the country. The siege techniques are the same except that no one is throwing eggs.

10 December 2013

Two Fatalities in Building Collapse in Havana / Augusto Cesar San Martin

Rescue brigades extract the bodies from the rubble. Photo: Augusto César San Martín

HAVANA, Cuba , November 29, 2013 , A man and a woman died at noon today in the collapse of a building located at 619 Campanario Street, between Reina and Salud in Central Havana.

The couple lived with seven other families on the first floor of the building declared uninhabitable.

According to eye-witnesses, the collapse began on the stairs of the two-story building. Three of the residents had time to reach the exit. The victims were sleeping when one of the walls on the second floor collapsed on the stairs.

The two children living there were in school.

Fire crews and forensic medicine worked until 4:15 pm to rescued the bodies.

Facade of the affected building
Facade of the affected building. Photo Augusto Cesar San Martin.

One of the neighbors said that last week the neighbors had alerted the local authorities about the danger of the building collapsing.

At 4:30 pm, a second collapse occurred, this one of the roof of a house located at 612 Zanja at Lealtad in the same municipality, alarming the neighbors.

One of the affected who went out to the Campanario Street for help said there were no casualties, during a conversation with the deputy of the Popular Power in the area.

The heavy rains of the last 24 hours have caused the Havana Bay Tunnel to be closed because of flooding, along with San Lazaro Avenue in Central Havana.

Every time it rains non-stop for several days on the capital, old buildings collapse.

Cubanet, 29 November 2013

Food Withdrawn from Political Prisoner Ramon Alejandro / Augusto Cesar San Martin

HAVANA, Cuba, November 18, 2013, Augusto César San Martín Albistur / Ramon Alejandro Muñoz González, husband of Sonia Garro remained without food for three days in the punishment cell of the Combinado del Este prison.

On the telephone call this morning, from prison, Ramon explained that he was confined to the punishment cell for 10 days.

“They took away the food… Forced me not to eat… The guards told me they had to wait for orders from above to give me food,” the political prisoner said.

According to him, he doesn’t accept the prison food. For three days he was deprived of the food his family brings: biscuits and powdered drinks.

Ramón Alejandro explained that when he was incommunicado in the punishment cell he was ill.

“I had a bad flu with a fever over 102. My blood pressure was 180/100 and I had a kidney infection. These papers (medical certificates) I have because, being in the cell, they had to take me to the hospital emergency room,” he said.

The husband of Sonia Garro, also a political prisoner, blames the political prisoner and the prison authorities for the deterioration of his health and the future consequences.

“I am mainly accusing the political police, and the Combinado del Este Prison authorities, led by Rogelio Osorio, Major Miguel, chief of building number 3, captain Emilio, deputy chief of the unit, and René, chief of re-education, and the chief of Internal Order, known as ’Captain Boxing’.”

Ramón Alejandro announced that he intends to send letters of complaint to the United Nations, the vice president of the U.S., the European Union embassies in Havana, so that they will know the risks run by the political prisoners run.

The measurement of confinement in the punishment cell was taken after he read, in the visiting area, in front of other prisoners, an anti-government communication.

Ramon Alejandro Muñoz González was arrested along with his wife the, Lady in White Sonia Garro. Both have been awaiting trial for a year and 8 months, accused, among other crimes, of public disorder and attempted murder.

Ramón Alejandro was demonstrating, from the roof of his house, with proclamations addressed to the government. An assault brigade violently carried out the capture of both. Sonia Garro was hit by rubber bullets and still suffers the effects in prison.

A few days ago, it was announced that there would be a trail, but then suddenly it was cancelled.

Augusto Cesar San Martin

Cubanet, 18 November 2013

Thousands of Unemployed Will Invade the Black Market /Augusto Cesar San Martin

Havana, Cuba, November 2014.  Since the past month the majority of the “Hangers” (points of sale) and rented places in the capital for the sale of clothes have put up signs announcing liquidation sales.

After three years of tolerance, the sale of imported clothes is coming to an end. Passing cuisine, clothing sales is the area where Cubans invested more of their money since Raul Castro announced the new political economy.

In early 2012, the government dealt the first blow to the sale of clothes. They imposed on residents of the island a requirement to pay the customs duties for the import of non-commercial goods in dollars.

Cubans involved in the business struggled with flea market prices in Mexico, Miami, Panama, Peru and Ecuador. They paid the customs demands and the “Hangers” spread throughout the island. The most incredulous opened caricatures of Boutiques or repaired places abandoned by the government in order to rent them.

When appearances indicated government consent with the people’s prosperity, another blow stabbed the self-employed to death.

The Executive Committee of the Council of Ministers set January 2014 as the effective date for the suspension of sales of manufactured clothing under licenses issued for “dressmaking” or “tailoring.”

Talisman, a store liquidating its merchandise, repaired by the self-employed at Belascoin and Zanja. Photo: Augusto Cesar San Martín

According to a note in the newspaper Granma, issued last Saturday, the prohibition is based on “the need for corrections to combat impunity, enforce the law and protect self-employed workers.”

The self-employed feel unprotected

Magdalena Carrero, 47, works as a saleswoman at the fair located on Galeano at the corner of Barcelona in Central Havana. The woman approached me while I was interviewing other sellers and asked me to publish a question to the government.

“What are they going to do with all of us left without work?”

She has two children, 7 and 22. She’s had a better standard of living since she started working in the “Hangers.” Her testimony about better salaries in the private sector coincides with what the other vendors say.

Each of them earns more than 500 pesos ($20)* monthly as a contracted salesperson for the owner or proprietor of the “Hangers.”

Maura Estela, owner of the “Hangers” on Galeano Avenue and her employees also disagree with the ban.

“We have no one to defend our rights… the CTC (Cuban Workers Center) holds a lot of congresses but no one represents us,” declares Maura.

The workers in these places note that the measure will leave a lot of people unemployed. One of them who asked not to be identified said that this kind of work attracted young unemployed people prone to crime.

“Clothing attracts youth… Look how many young people sell here, people who don’t meet the requirements to work in the government stores,” she explains.

The clothing vendors consider that their offers and prices are better than the government’s.  Despite the questionably quality of the merchandise, the island has been able to keep up with international fashions for more than a decade.

“They (the government) don’t have what we offer, neither the quality nor the price,” affirms Maura Estela.

“Selling clothing made in Cuba is impossible, we don’t have resources… They can’t even manage the production of school uniforms… Let Murilla show up with underpants made in Cuba and explain why he wears a Rolex,” she added.

In the Central Havana Municipal Labor Office we talked to an official of the sub-branch. The attorney declared that she was not authorized to offer figures about the “Seamstress and Tailor” licenses or forecast data on the unemployment that will be caused by the ban.

Solutions and challenges

The owners of the “Hangers” pay around 960 Cuban pesos (40 dollars) monthly to the government for the space, social security, workers employment plus 10% of monthly earnings. The salaries of the workers ranges between 500 and 1200 Cuban pesos a month.

Owners and workers agree that raising the taxes would be less unpopular. All of them worked, in recent months, with the hopes that the concept of the “Seamstress and tailor” license would be changed to allow the sales.

More than a few are prepared to challenge the ban

Dunia, a vendor at one of the Galiano Fairs, already knows how to support her children, 5 and 18, in 2014.

“If they prohibit the sale of clothing, I’ll go underground like before. Hidden in the stairwell of my home,” she says.

She confesses to having sold clothes illegally before the government tolerated the “Hangers.”

“I spent years juggling the sector head and the inspectors… at that time I earned more,” she says.

Now, 12 vendors pay the government some 2,500 Cuban pesos (100 dollars) monthly, for a 75 square foot space in a parking lot.

A license holder on Carlos III Avenue in the same municipality, who preferred not to be named “to avoid problems,” declared his intention to abandon the business.

She was fined when she sold from a “key” (underground store) and they confiscated her merchandise.

“In this country it’s impossible to lift your head, I’m leaving when I sell everything” she says.

Another owner of a shop located at Industria and Barcelona streets who also declined to give his name, said, “I’d rather they charged us for the license in dollars.”

He and his wife rented the room of a house where they sold clothes they themselves imported. He said they have all their money invested in a “Hanger” and added, “It’s impossible to sell all the clothes before January. We can deal with whatever measures to regulate this kind of work, but to prohibit it is to throw us out in the street, force us into the black market.”

Augusto Cesar San Martin

*Translator’s note: $20 a month is higher than the average wage in Cuba.

Cubanet, 7 November 2013

Prosecution’s Case Delivered to Sonia Garro’s Sister / Augusto Cesar San Martin

Poster by Rolando Pulido
Poster by Rolando Pulido

HAVANA, Cuba , September 20, 2013 , Augusto César San Martín Albistur / The Preparatory Phase Record (EFP ) No. 9 of 2012 , from the investigative body of the Department of State Security (DSE), against Lady in White Sonia Garro, was delivered this afternoon to the Carlos III Law Collective, to her sister Yamilet Garro.

The digital document has not yet been officially delivered to Sonia and Ramon, who have known informally the government’s case, based on Attack, Contempt and Attempted Murder.

The delivery was made by the lawyer Belkis Maura, in charge of the proceedings of the defense until the arrival in the country of the lawyer Amelia Rodriguez Cala, appointed to the case. The lawyer said that “The time to offer their conclusions is short and the prisons are distant”; this is the reason that the parties do not have the prosecutor’s report.

Maura said that none of the events described by the prosecution rise to Attempted Murder. She considered it an error to give this magnitude to the case.

So far, there is no trial date, but the lawyer believes that it will be in October.

The EFP signed by Vivian Perez Perez, the case prosecutor, includes medical certificates of the police injuries. Perez states that they were attacked by Sonia Garro Alfonso, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz (Garro’s husband), and Eugenio Hernandez Hernandez.

The document states that the accused, plotting together, conceived the idea of creating disturbances on March 18, 2012 at the intersection of 47th and 118th Streets in the municipality of Marianao.

According to the prosecutor’s conclusion for this purpose, the defendants “collected glass bottles, jars, old car tires, TV screen tubes,… fast burning flammable products such as gasoline, oil, lye.”

The report details the objects seized and their destruction, as well as a forensic analysis of fuels found in Garro’s home. According to prosecutors, they were “Molotov cocktails,” prepared for the assault.

In this regard, Yamilet Garro said “the items were for lighting during the blackouts that are quite common in the area.”

The report adds that the Lady in White and Ramón Alejandro were confronted by the Special Tactics Police group. The prosecution claims Aresley Favier Calvo, one of the specialized police  ran the risk of being killed when they threw objects that made him fall off a ladder.

The investigation described in the file refer to statements of the government opponents “against the revolutionary process,” which is mentioned as an aggravating factor.

The prosecution asks for 3 years for Sonia Garro for the crime of Assault, 5 Years for Public Disorder, and 8 years for Attempted Murder, with a combined sentence of 10 years.

For Ramon Alejandro Muñoz , it is asking for 5 five years for Public Disorder and 10 years for Attempted Murder, with a combined sentence of 14 years.

For Eugenio Hernandez, it is asking for 4 years for Public Disorder and 8 years for Attempted Murder, with a combined sentence of 11 years.

The government named as witnesses :

Daylin Nuñez Leal, Lisnay Arriete Durruti, Yurisleydi Almendares Alcalea, Pedro Enrique Alí Álvarez, Arisley Calvo Favier, Argelio Irsula Sastorre, Leonides Rodríguez Pérez, Mario Javier Betancuort, Iván Hernández Hernández and Oleinis Naranjo, members of the Police.

Also called will be: María Cristina Hernández Sierra, an official of the municipal government; the captain of the DSE, Yurisán Almendares Alcalea; and neighbors of the area, Yilian Carballosa Cruz, Josefina Milián Sánchez and Sonia Esther Díaz Reyes.

The Human Rights activist Sonia Garro has been in prison since March 2012.

From Cubanet
20 September 2013

Sonia Garro’s Husband Speaks From Prison about the Accusation of Murder / Augusto Cesar San Martin

Sonia Garro and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz
Sonia Garro and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz

HAVANA, Cuba , September 17, 2013 , In a phone call this morning, from the Combinado del Este prison, political prisoner Ramón Muñoz described as embarrassing the prosecutor’s request for a sentence between 10 and 14 years in prison for his wife, the Lady in White Sonia Garro.

“We are being accused of something we did not do,” said Ramón. “We will prove that this is a lie, there are videos that show the opposite,” he added.

The prosecution asked for 14 years for Muñoz for the crimes of Public Disorder and Attempted Murder. It also asks for 10 years for Sonia Garro on charges of Assault, Public Disorder and Attempted Murder. The trial date has not yet been set.

In this regard, Ramón said, “If there is someone here guilty of attempted murder, it’s them, who come in shooting and throwing stones. At no time did we attack them.”

He said the government document does not mention that Sonia Garro was shot in the leg and the beatings she received.

According to the prosecutor’s request, read by Ramón, the government has 16 witnesses, all members of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), who accuse the couple of Attempted Murder.

Ramón said that Sonia was arrested because she was one of 17 women who would meet with the Pope Francisco in the Bishopric, during the prelate’s visit to Havana during the prelate’s visit to Havana.

“We do not deny the arrest, just ask that Sonia’s arrest be legally documented, something that they never showed.”

The prosecutor’s report describes the Lady in White as socially “undesirable,” with family life issues . The document also lists Garro as a person who “openly demonstrated against the revolutionary process,” the reason why, they say, she “is rejected by the residents of the neighborhood.”

“Sonia was studying for a university degree in clinical laboratory and was never unemployed,” said her husband. “It’s another big lie in the request,” he added.

Ramón Muñoz wrote a public document for all Cubans where he accuses the government of carrying out acts of terrorism to come to power. Also, he denounces beatings of the Ladies in White and the defenders of human rights in Cuba.

He recalls in his statement the executions of the young people trying to leave the country hijacked vessel, comparing it with the assault on a military barracks — the Moncada attack — by those who are still the rulers.

The statement ends with the exhortation to the people to save Cuba from the dictatorial regime prevailing since 1959.

The couple was violently arrested in 2012. Initially accused of Terrorism, until the government changed the accusation for the current one.

A home video with the image of Ramón entrenched on the roof of his house went viral on the internet then. He simply demanded that the his wife be released.

From Cubanet

17 September 2013

Sonia Garro’s Husband to Restart Hunger Strike / Augusto Cesar San Martin

Sonia Garro and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz

Havana, Cuba, 19 August 2013, Augusto César San Martín Albistur/ On a phone call this morning, from the Combinado del Este prison, political prisoner  Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González declared that as of August 26 he would restart his hunger strike.

Ramón says that after writing letters to different government departments about his undefined legal situation, and receiving no replies, he has chosen to go on a hunger strike. He demands legal status through a trial or immediate release.

“I have been in prison for one year and five months without a trial, Muñoz commented. “Our imprisonment [his and his wife’s] is against established law. Or is it that people who think differently don’t exist in the law?” he added.

He explained his choice of 26 August because he wants to have final contact with his family who should be informed of the step and the objectives of the strike.

Ramón Alejandro said he had met with the director of the prison and he confirmed the legal limbo in which he finds himself.

The political prisoner was arrested in 18 March 2012, along with his wife, Lady in White Sonia Garro. Both are in a legally undefined status, first accused of “terrorism,” and some months later of “accessory to murder.”

Muñoz was arrested while blandishing a machete as a symbol of freedom on the roof of his half-built house. From there he was taken by the special police forces.


augusto-cesar-san-martin.thumbnailAugusto Cesar San Martin was born on April 20, 1967 in Havana. He was assigned to the Interior Ministry and studied Criminal Sciences at the Institute Martinez Brothers, where he graduated. Due to disagreements with the military, he asked to be permanently separated from that body, a request that was denied for one year. At that time he contacted the peaceful opposition and was imprisoned in 1994. He was declared a prisoner of conscience in 1996 and on his release from prison worked with the  Cuba Press agency between 1997-1999. In 2006 he founded the José Lezama Lima Information Center.

From Cubanet

19 August 2013