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.

Open Letter to Amnesty International / Elsa Morejon

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and his wife Elsa Morejon, April 2011
Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and his wife Elsa Morejon, 11 April 2011

I am Elsa Morejon Hernandez, wife of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet González, president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba. My letter is intended to report to you and to the world the injustices that to my husband and a group of Cuban ex-prisoners called the Group of 75 are being subjected to.

Two years ago, the prisoners of Cuba’s 2003 Black Spring of Cuba, were removed from prison by the Cuban government and placed on so-called parole. My husband is among the prisoners who chose not to accept exile and to stay in Cuba, the country he has vowed never to abandon. For this reason he has been deprived of his civil and political rights.

On several occasions, the Cuban government has denied him permission to visit relatives in the U.S., people working in human rights in Europe, as well as the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, who has invited him on several occasions to travel to that country.

The so-called parole means that, although he is at home, he has to continue to fulfill the unjust punishment of 25 years in prison with a high risk of being returned to prison for refusing to leave the country for good.

Although currently the reasons that these prisoners of the Cause of the 75 do not exist, the Cuban government has refused to legally release them. Instead they use this unjust legal concept as psychological pressure and personal threat.

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet is a peaceful man, a lover of God and a defender of life. He is an ardent promoter of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. My husband does not pose any threat to his fellow citizens, his citizens projects are open, democratic and for well-being of the people of Cuba.

Both my husband and I are Christians who feel immense love for family and community. However, the political police in Cuba spy on our privacy from outside my house, both electronically and with law enforcement personnel.

Recently my husband was subjected to personal surveillance and persecution by the political police on motorcycles through the streets of the community where we live, for no apparent reason, with the intention to intimidate him. According to my husband, one of these policemen threatened to return him to the cells in which he was crowded for more than 12 years.

The summary political trials where the prisoners of the Cause of the 75 were sentenced are examples of dark Cuban judicial system. I still remember the words of a defense counsel of one of them: “Justice is not politics.”

The physical and psychological integrity of my husband is the responsibility of the government of Cuba. They are responsible for anything that might happen to him.

Therefore: I want to thank, in advance, Amnesty International and all Human Rights NGOs in the free and democratic world and dignified people for demanding that the Cuba regime grant total and unconditional freedom to all political prisoners of conscience, including total freedom for Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and all prisoners of the Cause of the 75.

March 19, 2013