The Cuban State’s Fear of a 22-Year-Old Journalist

Pérez had to return to Costa Rica this Thursday after being stranded for several hours at the Tocumen International Airport. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eloy M. Viera Moreno, Havana, 2 April 2021– On March 19, we enjoyed a true media show, when the Director of Communication and Image of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained to Cubans the need for the State to defend itself against a 22-year-old girl, although some details were omitted.

A few hours before, Karla María Pérez González had gone to the Cuban consulate, where she carried out and paid for the immigration procedures. She bought the essential tourist package for her trip, and began her happy return to Cuba without being made aware of any prohibition. Government authorities waited until the flight’s first stopover to inform her of her arbitrary deportation, literally leaving her in migratory limbo: without homeland or country of residence. Indescribable, for the premeditation and treachery of it, it is one more performance of the ever-henchmen.

Regarding this case, let us look at an event that took place in the same migratory field, but with diametrically opposite response on the part of our State: the return to the homeland in the summer of 1939 of Cuban volunteers of the International Brigades participating in the Spanish Civil War, among whom were numerous communists. From the beginning, they started out “on the wrong foot”. The last of them arrived in Spain coinciding with the efforts to withdraw foreign troops from the conflict, starting with the Munich Accords between the European powers, in September 1938. continue reading

What was the performance of the Cuban domestic communists in this situation? Enjoying the freedom of association of the time, they organized the Committee for the Repatriation of Cuban Combatants

At the end of that year and the beginning of the following year, they were part of the half million Republican exiles who crossed the Pyrenees in indescribable conditions, to spend about a hundred days in dismal circumstances at concentration camps organized by France, a country that also failed to welcome them.

The Brigades were organized mainly by international communism (Komintern) and received direct support from the Government of the USSR until a few months before the Republican defeat, when Stalin withdrew his backing because they no longer served his political interests.

In their homeland, Cuban brigade members faced the automatic loss of citizenship for having taken up arms in a foreign nation without permission from the Cuban Congress. This situation was a threat to the integrity of their people and an obstacle for the Government in the event of providing official assistance.

What was the performance of the domestic communists in this situation? While enjoying the freedom of association of the time, they organized the Committee for the Repatriation of Cuban Combatants, chaired by Sarah Pascual (she would later become the longest-serving Cuban communist in the party). Through public events, demonstrations, meetings and other “media shows” (as the Foreign Ministry official would label them today), they managed to awaken Cubans’ humanitarian sentiments, including those of some openly anti-communists, and thereby exerted pressure on the government. 

The domestic communists, through popular pressure on the Government, achieved the humanitarian return of hundreds of Cuban citizens, despite explicitly going against our laws

In response, the State turned a legal blind eye, mobilized its diplomatic personnel for repatriation, contracted maritime freight for transportation, and provided medical assistance in public hospitals to the wounded among the several hundred repatriated Cubans.

A phrase by Eduardo Chibás uttered in those days (he was a supporter of the Second Republic and favored the return of the nationals), describes the humiliation to which the brigadistas were subjected: “If the republicans killed in Madrid trenches could resurrect, they would raise their bloody fist to hit Stalin the Traitor in the face”. 

Cuban communists, through popular pressure on the Government, achieved the humanitarian return of hundreds of Cuban citizens, despite explicitly going against our laws

Karla María is not family to most of those who read this complaint, they don’t even know her. Let’s not, however, do as the poem by German Protestant pastor Martin Niemöller (attributed to Bertolt Brecht) recalls: “When Nazis came looking for the Communists, I kept silent, / because I was not a Communist”, and let’s not forget that, in the end, when “they came to look for me, / there was no one left who could protest”. Today, it happened to Karla Maria, tomorrow it could happen to any one of our children.

At any rate, I confirm the fear and the indecision of the Cuban State against which, with vile and deliberate intentions, it has “defended” itself from a young woman without any antecedent nor potential to turn into a danger to the nation.

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I Am Cuban!

Willy Chirino and Alexis Valdés have created this new song with the collaboration of Arturo Sandoval. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eloy M. Viera Moren, Madrid, 20 March 2021 — A video clip posted on the internet a few days ago shows three young non-commissioned officers wearing uniforms of the Ministry of the Interior performing a song in response to the song Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life). The origin cannot be specified, but judging by the uniform of one of them, even equipped with the regulation whistle with its chain to the epaulette, they certainly seem to be members of the forces of law and order. Such an eyesore would not deserve a comment if it were not for the initial phrase: “Sixty years of this great nation; 62 of this Revolution”.

First, dressing up as police to intimidate by this music those Cubans who think differently is absolutely anti-national, and sounds more like the dogs in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, who disappeared as puppies and then became the dangerous bodyguards of the pig Napoleon when he came to power.

In order to define Cubanness, it is indispensable to turn to Fernando Ortiz. Among his works and articles on the subject, he conceived it as a “condition of the soul” that requires “the conscience of being Cuban and the will of wanting to be Cuban”; no other reference to place of residence, ideological preference or political thought. Likewise, he denounced that “our synthetic intellectual characteristic is ignorance” — an epithet more characteristic of the young authors of the song, to say the least. continue reading

On March 15, the same day on which the laughing stock was released, another piece by Alexis Valdés was premiered, sung as a duet with Willy Chirino, accompanied by a group of Cuban musicians, including a brief performance by composer and performer Arturo Sandoval. As far as I know, the idea arose during the presentation by these and other artists sponsored by several members of the European Parliament in order denounce the hardships of the Cuban people. Sixteen days later it was released, despite the urgency, a true offering to the nation from the feelings of quality and enduring.

With a fusion of genres, it has, however, the flavor of a son Cubano. Sandoval’s virtuosity in his brief solo spiced up the performance in the best tradition of his brilliant predecessors Félix Chapottín, the Louis Armstrong of the son Cubano, or Julio Cueva, who made Paris vibrate with the conga.

All of them outstanding trumpet players, Chapottín had no known political affiliation, Julio was a consistent communist (by the way, he died in Havana in 1975, submerged in anonymity) and Sandoval considers Marxism to be one of the greatest misfortunes suffered by this country in its history. All of them are Cuban and qualify among the most apt to express Cubanness through music.

Our oligarchs, masters of populism, have been capable of erasing genuine exponents of popular music such as Sandoval or Chirino from broadcasting, just for thinking differently. When to this is added an “excessive professionalism” (I quote Ecured, the Cuban official platform), the musician becomes absolutely unknown. Such a qualification is found in the page dedicated to Aurelio de la Vega, universally known as composer, instructor and orchestra conductor, described as “colossus of Cuba and the world” in the Diario Las Américas.

With more than 90 years of active life, he has been forced to spend 62 of them in exile because he considers that Cuba suffers from “a totalitarian communist government with a capitalist business system.” The criticism of his professionalism is due to the cultivation of atonalism as a tendency in many of his compositions, as if the work of Harold Gramatges, who held prominent positions in the communist leadership of culture, were not equally complex.

The ruckus motivated by Patria y Vida has generated, on the one hand, a significant amount of responses from the government, mostly marked by mediocrity; and on the other hand, the aforementioned composition, which was made with skill and professionalism. Disregarding likes, dislikes and even “data mining”, this ideological battle has been lost by the Cuban government.

The reason is that talent cannot be forced (not even with money) to generate lasting works, even less from a false and insubstantial patriotic feeling. An eloquent testimony of this nervousness is the newspaper Granma’s announcement, 25 days after the premiere of Patria y Vida, about the inclusion of the topic “political-ideological subversion on the internet” among the issues to be discussed at the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

As genuine an expression of Cubanness is the work of the communist Julio Cueva with his Tingo talango, as the most elaborate of Arturo Sandoval, to the definitely atonal and complex of Aurelio de la Vega. We are all equally Cuban by the will of wanting to be so, although motivated by a similar diversity of possible worldviews. For the time being, with much good Cuban music still to be heard, I say goodbye, along with Valdés and Chirino: “I am Cuban, and no one will be able to take away my being Cuban”.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Patriotism and Mediocrity

Screen capture from the video clip of ’La Bayamesa’. (Juan Carlos Borjas / Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eloy M. Viera Moreno, Havana, 13 March 2021 — A few weeks ago a group of Cuban artists composed a song under the suggestive title of Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life) and disseminated it through the networks. The Cuban government gave a meteoric response, and in a matter of a few days it has released three songs, with their corresponding video clips, worthy of that “revolutionary intransigence” ordered by the Communist Party in the 1970s.

Of mediocre workmanship and rather bad taste, these productions aim to associate national symbols with our national traditions, without subtlety and with little aesthetic value. When Cubans sang to their nation, did they do it the same way? Let’s look at examples.

At the beginning of the Ten Years’ War, the love song La Bayamesa, composed more than a decade earlier by three young people, Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Francisco Castillo Moreno and José Fornaris, dedicated to the then girlfriend of one of them, was turned into a hymn of praise to our sovereign land in the imagination of our mambises. It was widely performed, both the original and the version with lyrics attributed to José Joaquín Palma and its popularity reached Europe, while inside borders we continue to enjoy it like the first day. continue reading

At the end of the 19th century, a white Cuban just 18 years old and his brother, Eduardo and Fernando Sánchez de Fuentes, composed Tú, one of those “round trip songs”, as habaneras — a popular genre of music — were called then. Soon the emigrants supporting independence appropriated its melody and lyrics, feeling in it the description of the dreamed of free Cuba, especially in its final statement: “Cuba is you.” It is a true “tobacco label turned into song”, according to the journalist Orlando González. Of enduring value, today connoisseurs include it among the three best-known habaneras of all time.

A Dutchman, Hubert de Blanck, who settled down with a Cuban woman, improvised on the piano for six minutes , with the best of his virtuosity, a melody by Perucho Figueredo when even that march was only the promise of a national anthem for a long-awaited country. Such is the excellence of this musical composition, which today resonates permanently in the Tomb of the Unknown Mambí of the recently rebuilt National Capitol, reminding us of genuine Cubanness.

Two black musicians, Lico Jiménez and José White, put their lives and heritage at the service of a nation in need of a homeland. The latter composed La bella cubana, a song frequently sung at many independence parties since the mid-nineteenth century. It had such acceptance that authorized voices consider it one of the three most emblematic songs of Cuba and it was used in the past as a musical theme by the CMBF Radio Musical Nacional station, a distinguished promoter of good music in Cuba.

With the above examples still in the ear, it is difficult to judge the texts of the three “response songs” to Patria y Vida. The songs included barricade jargon, their quality diminished by urgency. Appeals to be intolerant of opposing opinions, as if this land does not belong to all of us, are the continuation of the “revolutionary violence” of the last six decades. To promote this intimidation now is to promote once again acts of repudiation and the actions of the notorious “rapid response brigades”, the result of which would no longer be the same as in other times of citizen meekness.

On the other hand, as far as I know, none of the Black Cubans belonging to any of the multiple sides that fought against discrimination, and for the inclusion of blackness ,ever publicly wore expensive African clothes. Without a foothold in Cuban tradition and history, it seems to me that this visual metaphor, so abundant in recent years, responds to commercial interests. Mixing that clothing with the national symbols and selling the multimedia result as a sample of Cubanness is an unforgivable show.

For the discerning, I answer why I do not also judge the piece Patria y Vida. The reason has nothing to do with the music or its aesthetic appreciation. Quite simply, none of the patriotic testimonies of imperishable quality mentioned were made with public money or under the patronage of any government.

On the contrary, in most cases the money of the authors and performers were devoted to a sovereign and dreamed of better homeland. For the time being, consequently, I criticize those songs made with the resources of the State, resources which would have been better invested in solving the many deficiencies in the lives of Cubans today.

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Education or Indoctrination?

In 1960 the control and unification of textbooks was implemented in Cuba, a tightening of the screw on the pedagogical process. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eloy M. Viera Moreno, Havana, 6 March 2021 — Since the publication of his Aphorisms,José de la Luz declared the importance of teaching for the development of Cubanness: “We have the teaching profession and Cuba will be ours.” He demonstrated it on a personal scale from his school, El Salvador, training future fighters for independence. However, some students indifferent to politics also passed through there, and others were definitely opposed to our sovereignty. This education generated in its pupils their own thoughts and values and the teaching was based on the personal testimony of a life turned into a living gospel.

Later, the democratic experience of nations allowed the formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and a power exercised in the past was conceptualized: “Parents will have a preferential right to choose the type of education that will be given to their children.” To facilitate the exercise of this right, in Cuba there were public, private and religious schools, with different methodologies and styles. From the time of Bishop Espada until 1959, the compass of the Cuban teaching profession was to create a school of science, conscience and virtue, all with a Cuban stamp.

With the turn to Marxism, the teaching profession took the Soviet course applied in all the socialist countries of Europe. The process was accelerated, despite freedom of education being among the freedoms granted by the Basic Law of February 1959, theoretically in force until 1976. continue reading

The campaign to nationalize education met useless resistance from educators and parents. A foreboding phrase from the Diario de la Marina of 1960, in addition to describing the moment, summarizes what happened in the last six decades of our reality: “The nationalization of education is nothing more than the enslavement of science at the service of power and subject to its interests. And this is an infallible tactic of every totalitarian government, beginning with the communist one. Consequently, what should be a simple means of spreading illustration becomes a weapon of a political party, of sectarianism, of personal passions. ”

It all started immediately after the triumph of the Revolution with the so-called education reform. For almost two years, the official speech was full of deception and demagoguery. A convoluted statement in October 1959 by the Minister of Education Armando Hart determined in a hyperbolic way that to use the fear of communism in reference to the Revolution was to go against the popular process; from which the terms “anticommunist” and “counterrevolutionary” were dangerously synonymous. Successive subsequent official declarations promised that private education would not be eliminated, especially Catholic, a treacherous campaign in which Hart himself played a prominent role.

First, in 1960 the regulatory power of the Minister of Education over both types of public and private education was defined, being subject to official orders. The control and unification of teaching texts was implemented, a tightening of the screw to the traditional methodological inspection of the State on the pedagogical process. Subsequently, the function of teaching was declared public and its provision free, and it was established that this function corresponded to the State, a measure from which only religious schools escaped. Later, the Educational Planning Commission began to operate under the direction of the minister and began to discard or modify the previous textbooks. Starting from nothing, communist intellectuals such as Carlos Rafael Rodríguez and Sergio Aguirre began to write the new textbooks to teach the History of Cuba.

The reform ended at dawn on May 2, 1961, when hundreds of militiamen, following Fidel Castro’s directions, occupied the surviving private schools. The Education Nationalization Law was issued a month later. It was officially announced that Russian would become a compulsory subject in our schools, for which a group of 2,300 teachers would be trained. That nonsense was finally unfulfilled thanks to popular resistance, although we were indeed able to study that language through broadcasting.

Today, the discourse of a government – which is the “continuity” of that one — labels independent journalists and opponents of the regime mercenaries at the service of powers beyond the seas. Following that line of thought, let us remember that thousands of miles of land and sea stretch between Havana and Moscow; our commercial relations had been minimal until 1959; our cultural contacts even less so; and the influence of their way of life in our history and national traditions absolutely null. Consequently, the leaders who then promoted the turn to Marxism deserve the same label.

From then on, I repeated at school: “We will be like Che!”, although my mother spoke to me later at home about his violent executions, hoping that her son was not like him. My children also repeated the slogan in their school, while their parents taught them in the shadow of the home all the aspects of the life and work of the “Heroic Guerrilla.” Finally, my first grandson, also a student of those centers of indoctrination, came to ask at home: “Dad, is that Fidel you are talking about, is he the same one they teach me about at school?”

This long chain of several generations indoctrinated by the “reformed” Cuban School, swimming in the depths of double standards, qualifies among the fundamental causes of the current loss of values ​​of all kinds, especially those that promote citizen participation, the construction of the nation.
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Is What Happened After Jose Daniel Ferrer’s Detention The Exception Or The Rule?

Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Cuban opposition organization UNPACU

Eloy Viera, from El Toque, published by Cubalex, 19 November 2019 — On October 1st, 2019, Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the opposition organisation Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU, by its initials in Spanish), was detained by the Cuban police in his home. His family stated that, for a period of several days, they were unable to verify his whereabouts or physical condition.

On October 29th, the United Nations Committee Against Forced Disappearance issued a “request for urgent action” to the Cuban government, asking for, among other things:

To clarify immediately what has happened to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, and where he is.

To inform his family members and representatives … what has happened and where he is, and … permit his family and representatives to make immediate contact with him. continue reading

In the event of his precise location being unknown, to take all necessary actions to clarify where he is and what has happened to him … including the adoption of a comprehensive and exhaustive strategy to find him and to investigate his alleged disappearance.

If his detention is confirmed, to bring Mr Ferrer Garcia immediately before a judge, having informed him precisely of what crimes he is accused, and affording him access to a lawyer.

The United Nations Committee’s pronouncement is based upon the Convention relating to the Protection of Persons against Forced Disappearance. Cuba signed and ratified the Convention in the years 2007 and 2009 respectively, as a result of which, in accordance with International Law, it has assumed the expectations and obligations of that legislation.

According to the Convention, “the arrest, detention, kidnapping, or any other form of deprivation of liberty, whether resulting from the activities of agents of the state, or those acting with the authorisation, support, or acquiescence of the state, accompanied by a failure to recognise said deprivation of liberty or the concealment of the situation or whereabouts of the disappeared person, depriving him of the protection of the law”, is a forced disappearance.

ON WHAT BASIS CAN THE COMMITTEE AGAINST FORCED DISAPPEARANCE ASSUME THAT THE CASE OF JOSE DANIEL FERRER MAY CONSTITUTE A FORCED DISAPPEARANCE?

The legal instrument intended to protect the individual against forced disappearance and arbitrary detention is habeas corpus.

 Habeas corpus in its classical sense provides a direct form of protection for the individual in terms of personal liberty and physical condition.  In order to be able to confirm that a person has benefitted from a habeas corpus process which meets international standards, it is essential that the person detained be presented before a judge as quickly as possible.

Habeas corpus does not just permit the assessment of the legality of a detention or disappearance, but also serves as an instrument by which an impartial entity (a judge) may consider whether the authorities, or those appointed by the state, have respected the individual’s life and physical condition. The physical appearance before a judge of the detainee prevents the location of the detention being kept secret, and protects him against torture or other cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment.

After more than 15 days’ detention, Jose Daniel Ferrer’s family members claimed that they did not know where he was being held, his physical conditions and the crime of which he was accused. For this reason, they lodged an application for habeas corpus before the Popular Provincial Tribunal of Santiago de Cuba.

They hoped to obtain the support which “theoretically” is offered by Cuban law in such situations, as set out in the currently applicable regulations which acknowledge that a judge who is in receipt of such an application may:

Order the authority, or official, having charge of the detainee, to present him, at the time and date specified, before the Tribunal, within a space of 72 hours.

Require the same authority, or official, to provide a written report indicating when and why he was detained.

If the judge is informed that the person in question is not being detained by that authority, he may require anew that it be clarified whether, at any time, he was so detained, and whether he was transferred to another authority or official, indicating their identity.

On presentation of the detainee and the report, he may arrange an oral hearing in order to hear the interested parties and assess the evidence presented. Following this hearing, the judge is in a position to take an informed decision, which may or may not lead to the freeing of the detainee.

Nevertheless, the application presented was responded to by way of Order 39, dated October 18th, 2019, in which the judges declared that the application for habeas corpus had no merit.

The judges, without having undertaken any of the aforementioned procedures, considered that “the application has no merit” because Ferrer is being processed by way of a Preparatory Phase Action initiated on October 3rd, 2019, covered by an Act of Detention, dated the first of the said month. Moreover, they considered that his detention is in response to A Precautionary Measure of Pre-trial Detention issued by a prosecutor on October 7th, 2019.

The unofficial versions of the announcements, which were circulated afterwards by the Committee on Forced Disappearances, and the campaign in favour of the release of Jose Daniel, as well as the nuances which were introduced, do not detract from any of those arguments.

So, in the absence of any official written pronouncement to clarify the current situation of the leader of UNPACU, the assumptions of the Committee Against Forced Disappearances are not unfounded.

IS WHAT HAS HAPPENED WITH THE HABEAS CORPUS OF JOSÉ DANIEL FERRER THE EXCEPTION, OR THE RULE?

The report issued in Cuba on the Periodic Assessment of Human Rights (by the United Nations) in 2018, stated that “there is an immediate right of application for habeas corpus to challenge the illegality of deprivation of liberty and detentions … between 2010 and June, 2017, the tribunals considered 156 applications for habeas corpus. In 8 of them it was agreed the application had merit and the detainee was immediately released”.

These numbers, rather than demonstrating the ethics of the Cuban authorities, and the absence of arbitrary detentions or forced disappearances, evidence the inefficiency of Cuban habeas corpus and its resultant lack of use by legal professionals.

Because of the design of juridical regulations in Cuba, it cannot be considered that “judicial supervision”, which is essential in habeas corpus, is a guarantee for those deprived of liberty or who are detained. In Cuba, the supervision of the legitimacy and legality of such situations is not in the hands of a judge, but rather in those of the party with the principal obligation of investigating crime and representing the state in achieving a judgement: the prosecutor.

The decision proffered by the Provincial Popular Tribunal of Santiago de Cuba in response to the habeas corpus application presented in favour of José Daniel Ferrer, demonstrates this. What the judges did, and do, in this , and in the majority of these cases, is deny the person affected the opportunity of an “impartial” tribunal to assess the reasons for his detention, the circumstances in which it arose, and its legality.

The Cuban regulations consider that all acts of the police and instructions approved by the prosecution are legal, and do not need to be supervised or evaluated by the tribunals. Art. 467 of the Law of Penal Procedure establishes that: “applications for writs of habeas corpus shall not proceed in cases in which the deprivation of liberty results from a sentence or order of pre-trial detention in respect of a criminal act.

That provision allows judges not to analyse the application presented in favour of José Daniel Ferrer, and so, not to require his presentation before them, not to mention the crime of which he is accused, and not to assess his personal circumstances or to define his place of detention.

It would have been good if the judges, rather than hold that the application “had no merit” had expressed what really had happened: that they were unable to decide whether or not the interested party was right. They took advantage of the ability granted them by law and did not seek to establish the details or to evaluate the arbitrariness of a detention which has been described as politically motivated.

If they had done the opposite, then probably the Committee Against Forced Disappearances would not have needed to present its petition for urgent action. Nevertheless, the way most of the Cuban penal process is designed, including that of applications for habeas corpus, detached from international standards of due process, will ensure that there is much to occupy the attention of the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Working Group.

ESTABLISHED LEGAL PROCESS FOR POLICE DETENTION OF AN INDIVIDUAL

The police are aware of a crime, or capture someone in the course of its commission. For this reason, they may detain for 24 hours.

In order to justify the detention, there needs to be a formal report, or it should be prepared immediately afterward.

Following the detention, and once the suspect is in police custody, an Act of Detention should be prepared.

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In the case of offences attracting an award of more than 12 months´  loss of liberty, then, following the 24 hours, if the police decide to continue the detention, the matter must be reported to the instructing body, for the preparation of an Initial Hearing Report.

In the case of offences attracting an award of up to 12 months´  loss of liberty, the police have 72 hours in which to determine the detention and the investigation, and to report to the prosecutor in the event of wishing to extend it.

In the case of offences attracting an award of more than 12 months´  loss of liberty: following preparation of the Initial Hearing Report, a furtheR 72 hour period is available for the determination regarding the release of the detainee.

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If the decision is to continue the detention of the accused beyond the 72 hour period, the Attorney´s office should be requested to validate such decision.

The Attorney´s office has a further 72 hours to decide such application.

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INITIAL 24 HOURS (POLICE) + 72 HOURS (INSTRUCTION) + 72 HOURS (ATTORNEY) = 7 DAYS DETENTION WITHOUT CONTROL OR SUPERVISION BY IMPARTIAL ENTITIES, AND WITHOUT POSSIBILITY OF DEFENCE

Translated by GH

Leonardo Padura: There Was More Fear In The Cuba Of The Nineties Than Now

The Princesa de Asturias de las Letras Prize in 2015, Leonardo Padura has just visited Tenerife. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Eloy Viera, Puerto de la Cruz (Tenerife) November 1st, 2019 — Three decades after he created detective Mario Conde, his most famous character, the author Leonardo Padura thinks that today’s Cuba “is different” from that of the 1990s, among other things, because the Cuba of the past “was much more afraid than today’s”.

Premio Princesa de Asturias de las Letras in 2015, this portraitist of Cuban society has just visited Tenerife to participate in Periplo, the International Festival of Literature for Travels and Adventures, organized by Puerto de la Cruz.

The novelist landed in Tenerife still with the good impression left by his latest novel La transparencia del tiempo (2018), in which he returns to the adventures of Mario Conde, an anti-hero with a critical and disenchanted look, whom Leonardo Padura describes as the grandson of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe and son of Manuel Vázquez Montalbán’s Carvalho. continue reading

Since 1988, when he premiered as a novelist with Fiebre de caballos, Cuba is an essential part and another protagonist of the narrative universe of Padura’s novels.

You’d have to wait two more years to meet detective Mario Conde through Pasado perfecto (translated as Havana Blue), the book that opened the Four Seasons series, which was later completed by the novels Vientos de cuaresma (Havana Gold), Máscaras (Havana Red) and Paisaje de otoño (Havana Black).

In an interview with Efe, Leonardo Padura recalls that the first novels in Conde’s series are set in 1989, a moment before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, “and from there to here there has been a lot of water under the bridge in Cuba and the world.”

He says that, sometimes, “people get the impression that Cuban society is static because it has not had great changes and the political structure and the economic system remain the same”, but “Cuban society has undergone an intense 30 years in which a whole series of positive and negative processes have occurred.”

“It’s my belief that Cuban society is a society that has freed itself much more from fears, repressions, and silences, and at the same time has been further burdened with a lack of urban planning, solidarity and respect for the rights of others,” says the author, who has also been a journalist and screenwriter.

The writer does not believe that “today’s Cuba is better or worse than 1989’s,” but sees it as “different. “And that’s in terms of the personal economy, in their way of life and in the way they see the world”, he explains, although “if I had to choose between better and worse I would say that the Cuba in 1989 was much more afraid than the one today”.

Cuba has breathed new life because for the last seven or eight years Cubans have been able to travel freely without having to ask for permission from an authority – which meant “a very significant step towards liberation in that society” – together with the fact that people can have small private businesses or that Internet access today has improved, although not completely; “elements that are becoming liberating for certain people and the ways of seeing and understanding life”.

Leonardo Padura cannot comprehend his life without that of his literary companion Mario Conde: “It has been an essential piece in my work as a writer and, therefore, in my life as a person,” he confesses.

They’ve spent 30 years together chronicling contemporary Cuban life, and a literary journey has led Padura, in his own words, “from the apprentice writer of Pasado perfecto to a writer to whom things have happened in his literary life that he never would have imagined.”

His latest novel, La Transparencia del Tiempo, is from 2018, but has not yet been published in Cuba. It is supposed to come out next year and “there’s never a better time to say that, at the moment, there is, once again, a very difficult economic situation in Cuba, and one of the areas that is going to be most affected is cultural production and, specifically, publishing,” he explains.

Padura outlines a hopeless publishing scene in Cuba, where large publishing houses have only three or four books in their publishing plans next year because they lack money and paper for printing.

“There is a shortage of materials in Cuba and, sometimes, the political will for my books to be published is not there; they take a long time to come out or come out and do not circulate well; part of the print run is lost and then it appears on the other side… but, fundamentally, the problem would be attributed to economic issues,” he insists.

Padura concludes the interview by alluding to how new technologies in general, among which are cultural distribution platforms such as series, “affect reading a great deal, not so much literature, which is still being done, but consumer spaces, which have been reduced by the tremendous impact of the digital revolution”.

Translated by Rafael Osorio <-Welcome to our new translator!  Thanks so much for your fabulous work here.

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