Will Cuban President Diaz-Canel Pray in New York?

The event, approved by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who visited Cuba in 2020, is by invitation only and will be covered by the ’National Catholic Register’. (Revolution Studies)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, September 23, 2023 —  President Miguel Díaz-Canel, after giving a speech before the United Nations General Assembly this week, will be at a celebration event this Saturday from five to six in the afternoon at the Church of the Transfiguration, located at 25 Mott Street in Chinatown, Manhattan, New York.

The theme of the event is the life of the Cuban patriot and priest Félix Varela.

The event, approved by Cardinal Timothy Dolan himself, is by invitation only and will be covered by the National Catholic Register, a major religious publication.

When the news leaked, Cuban exiles protested to the US authorities, pointing out the serious limitations on religious freedom perpetrated by the Office of Religious Affairs of the Communist Party. This office is in charge of supervising everything that has to do with the operations of the Church, from permits for processions to the purchase of materials to repair buildings, and passports for priests who wish to travel abroad.

Other Cuban exiles addressed Cardinal Dolan asking him to pray for the Cuban people, for peace and justice on the Island

Last year Cuban Cardinal Juan García tried to visit some dissidents in Central Havana but was intercepted by the police. Las Damas de Blanco [Ladies in White] who attempted to attend Sunday mass in the Cuban capital have frequently been beaten and detained. continue reading

In the midst of the 2021 protests, President Díaz-Canel declared that dissidents would have to “walk over our corpses,” and gave the order on television for Communist Party mobs to take to the streets to beat peaceful protesters.

Some twenty priests distributed a video in which, one after another, after identifying themselves and giving the name of their parish, they repeated a message: “Cuban, do not raise your hand against your brother.”

In addition, other Cuban exiles addressed Cardinal Dolan asking him to pray for the Cuban people, for peace and justice on the Island. In the letter that was released in New York a few hours ago they also asked him to ask Díaz- Canel to stop the harassment of priests, to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross to enter Cuban prisons and the release of all political prisoners on the Island.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

To Maintain Its Control, the Regime Promotes the Departure of Cubans From the Country

Protests in Santiago de Cuba on July 11, 2021. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, August 25, 2023 — The only hope is to get out. This phrase, on the lips of many of those who wait under the tropical sun for the water pipe that does not arrive, for the electricity interrupted hours ago or in line with the ration card in hand is repeated in conversations on the Island, in newspapers, and in exile radio and television programs.

But it’s not true.

It’s not true that the only hope is to leave. The idea that the only option is to emigrate to escape hunger and repression is promoted by the regime itself to maintain its control, and is repeated by thousands of desperate people who have been suffering from ignominy and discouragement for six decades. It’s an idea that ignores the terminal phase in which the regime finds itself, its lack of responses to the national crisis, its discredit before international public opinion and its own people, who once believed in its promises and risked their lives to achieve them.

Hope is before our eyes, because, as in Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the once acclaimed Revolution is in its terminal phase.

The regime needs the opposition to leave, when those who should be the ones leaving are the leaders, who are responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cubans and the disaster that is today’s Cuba.

State Security also wants to convince us that there is no viable opposition in Cuba, that the exiles are mercenaries, that the future is the continuity of what exists and that the streets belong to the revolutionaries.

But no one believes them anymore. continue reading

On the island there are leaders such as José Daniel Ferrer, who was offered release when he was serving four and a half years in prison, on the condition of going into exile with his family, permanent exile, without the right to return.

In 2020, under international pressure, he was placed under house arrest and remained in Cuba leading the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU).

During the massive protests of July 2021, he was again arrested and sentenced in a trial without the slightest procedural guarantees, to four years in prison, for his non-violent opposition to the arbitrariness that occurs in the country, and for believing in the ideas of peaceful resistance of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Vaclav Havel. And, like Martí, he believes in working for a Cuba with all and for the good of all.

But continuity barely exists in the world, and all those who bet on paralysis and inequity always end up on the garbage heap of history.

The more than a thousand political prisoners and the demonstrations of discontent that continue are proof of that “subterranean force” of which Marti spoke, in response to those who proclaimed that Cuba would continue to be Spanish and that separatism no longer had the strength to win.

State Security also says that we are alone, that no one is interested in Cubans. That’s not true either.

There are international organizations, democratic governments and press media around the world that demand the freedom of prisoners, denounce human rights violations in Cuba and look for ways to put pressure on the regime. In the European Union, some deputies denounce the fact that Havana has not fulfilled its commitments and ask for the suspension of the agreement that represents billions of dollars annually.

But the most important hope, which will liberate the Island, is within Cuba. Political prisoners must be the first priority of Cubans with honor, and we must help them.

There is hope is in the miracle of a generation that was born and grew up under Castroism and that, despite censorship and indoctrination, rejects it, protests in the streets, suffers in prison, refuses to participate in any project promoted by the Government and does not leave or shut up.

Political prisoners, their families and the activists who support them are our heroes. The exile community will never turn its back on them. They deserve to be free, like all Cubans.

There is also hope in the rebirth of the Church and in the courage of the parish priests who oppose one Cuban raising his hand against another Cuban, and in the organizations and leaders of exile that in Miami, Brussels, Madrid, Geneva, Warsaw, Washington and in other capitals work tirelessly for the United Nations to expel the regime from the Human Rights Council, as they did with Putin, despite the strong opposition of China, Iran and Cuba; and for the United States to fulfill President Joe Biden’s promise to give free Internet to the Cuban people and to put conditions on remittances so they don’t end up in the pockets of “the oppressors.”

The Biden Administration has responded negatively to Havana’s the campaign and its lobbyists in Washington to remove Cuba from the list of countries that don’t cooperate against terrorism, unless the regime hands over to the United States the terrorists who live on the Island and who murdered Americans and are wanted by the FBI. The United States has also condemned the sending of Cuban mercenaries to fight under Putin’s orders in his criminal aggression against Ukraine.

The hope should not be to “leave Cuba.” Those who must leave are the criminals who misgovern the Island.

Widespread pessimism and distrust among opponents are part of the regime’s strategy. Ours is to live in the truth and maintain solidarity with the the opposition forces and the rest of the Cubans, to advocate for a non-violent struggle and non-participation in the regime’s initiatives. We are all the resistance, and the night will not be eternal. Patria y Vida. Homeland and Life.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cuba: The 26th of July of History and Propaganda

It stands to reason that all the attackers who died did so believing that the action was an effort to restore the Constitution and all liberties. (Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 26 July 2023 — On this anniversary of the attack on the Moncada barracks on 26 July 1953, it is logical to assume that the official statements and the government press conform to the guidelines drawn up by the Communist Party of Cuba, the supreme institution of the nation. Foreign admirers, almost without exception, will accept them as irrefutable truths, and in Cuban universities anyone who dares to ask uncomfortable questions will risk his university career and his freedom.

But in the forbidden books of Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Carlos Franqui, Reinaldo Arenas, Luis Aguilar León and other banned intellectuals, the Cubans of the future will discover another reality. And the Cubans on the Island who today manage to read some of these clandestine texts, or a copy of History will absolve me written by Fidel Castro during his years in prison, will glimpse myths, half lies, mysteries and falsehoods.

Totalitarian regimes write and rewrite history: they eliminate dates, events, names, photographs, letters… It is a sad reality that George Orwell masterfully described in Animal Farm, that other book outlawed in the former Soviet Union and its European satellites, and today highly dangerous in Cuba, China, North Korea, Iran and Vietnam.

But let us go back to that fateful summer morning when the young soldiers were dozing soundly, recovering from the carnival festivities in that barracks in Santiago, the second most important city on the island. The Moncada barracks were more than 800 kilometers away. from then military dictator Fulgencio Batista, who was in Varadero.

What was the reason for that assault? What did those young people, mostly from Pinar del Río, who trusted Fidel, and until a few hours before and knew nothing about the danger they were going to face, intend to achieve? continue reading

Of the nearly 134 attackers – plus the other 28 who on the same day attacked the barracks in Bayamo – 68 died that day and the following, during the “hunt” in the mountains, 48 ​​escaped and managed to hide, 32 received sentences from seven months to 15 years in prison and 19 were found not guilty. Many of the soldiers of the army of Santiago who were killed, were young recruits, as young as 16.

It is logical to think that all the attackers who died did so believing that the action was an effort to restore the Constitution and all freedoms, including multi-party elections, separation of powers, a rule of law and a press that did not fear Batista’s periodic censorship. There are more than a thousand political prisoners in Cuba. now, for asking exactly those same things.

The 26th of July 1953 is far from the official version.

In those days, the future top leader claimed not to be a communist, insisting that his ideals were strictly democratic. For example, in Washington, on April 19, 1959, before the North American Association of Newspaper Editors, Fidel said: “I am not a communist, nor do the communists have the strength to be decisive in my country.” A few weeks later, on May 8, the newspaper Revolución published the following statements: “I don’t know how to speak… Can anyone think that they covered up dark designs, that we have ever lied to the people? Why this determination to accuse our Revolution of what it is not? If our ideas were communist, we would say so here.”

Regarding the nature of republican Cuba, in his defense before the court that sentenced him to 15 years in prison – of which he served 22 months – Fidel said: “There was a Republic. It had its Constitution, its laws, its liberties; president, congress, courts; everyone could meet, associate, speak, and write with complete freedom. The government did not satisfy the people, but the people could change it and it only took a few days to do so. There was a public opinion, respected and abided by , and all the problems of collective interest were discussed freely. There were political parties, doctrinal hours on the radio, controversial television programs, public events, and the people throbbed with enthusiasm. (…) That people had suffered a lot, and if not it was happy, it wanted to be had a right to be. It had been deceived many times, and it looked back with real terror. it wanted a change, an improvement, an advance, and it saw it near. All its hope was in the future.”

On this 26th of July, what better way to honor the Cubans who died that day, 70 years ago, than to reflect on those words. God willing that many Cubans remember that message from Fidel, including opponents on the island and in the diaspora, and the bishops, members of the Assembly of Popular Power, the Armed Forces, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs), the Council of Ministers and publishers of the state newspaper Granma. For the good of Cuba and of all Cubans.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Medical Organizations Around the World Should Investigate Cuba’s Psychiatric Hospitals

The context in which the complaints appear is worrying: the situation of public health in Cuba is precarious. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 17 February 2023 — The complaint on social networks this week regarding 13 patients killed at the Holguín Psychiatric Hospital, if confirmed, reproduces the tragedy of 2010, when 26 Cubans died in the Mazorra Psychiatric Hospital of Havana, which, according to Granma, was due to low temperatures in the capital from a cold front.

What forced Granma to report on the matter on that occasion were the photos that arrived abroad of the victims, reminiscent of those of the Nazi death camps. We will have to wait for what independent journalists, who continue to be harassed by the regime, will report on the situation in Holguín.

But the context in which the complaints appear is worrying: the situation of public health in Cuba is precarious. The regime maintains a medical apartheid system by which foreigners are treated in air-conditioned hospitals, where they lack nothing and enjoy the necessary diet and medicines. Meanwhile, Cubans suffer from all the shortages of food and medicines.

The Island suffers from epidemics of dengue, scabies and other diseases that had been eradicated before 1959, and an extraordinary increase in pestilence, flies, mosquitoes and rats that did not occur before the Revolution, as a result of the lack of maintenance of the aqueducts and sewer systems, the rationing of food and the poor collection of garbage that piles up in the streets of the poorest neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the Government builds luxury hotels for foreigners. continue reading

That the regime has abused psychiatry for political purposes is undeniable. In 1991, the prestigious University of Rutgers published The Policy of Psychiatry in Revolutionary Cuba, a study of more than 200 pages sponsored by Freedom House and Of Human Rights, presided over by Dr. Elena Mederos and the exiled bishop Eduardo Boza Masvidal.

In a devastating introduction, Vladimir Bukovsky, the Soviet dissident and intellectual that the KGB tortured in a psychiatric hospital, wrote: “One cannot be surprised. . . Cuba in this matter is only different in that it achieved in thirty-two years what the USSR achieved in seventy-three. During a single generation, Cuba advanced from ’revolutionary justice’ to ’socialist legality’, from ’the liquidation of class enemies’ to ’political re-education’ and to ’psychiatric treatment’ of ’those disaffected with socialism’.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

The New York Times Publishes a Deceitful Ad in Favor of the Cuban Regime

A paid ad last Sunday in The New York Times in favor of the Cuban regime. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, 5 October 2022 — The New York Times has published an ad asking President Joe Biden to respond affirmatively to the Cuban government’s call for the lifting of economic sanctions for six months “so that Cuba can reconstruct after the hurricane.”

The text contains a catalogue of fallacies and half-truths.

It’s not true, as it says, that the US embargo impedes the purchase of construction material. Cuba buys everything it wants from countries around the world. The problem is that the countries that previously forgave the regime’s millions of dollars of debt now refuse to extend credit to Havana, since the debt won’t be paid.

One of the consequences of the U.S. embargo is that Cuba has to pay cash for what it buys from the U.S., like the tons of frozen chicken it imports from New Orleans. Otherwise, the U.S., like the Spanish, French, Argentinian and other governments, would stop subsidizing the regime.

As for the blackouts and the disaster of the thermoelectric plants in Cuba, to pretend that it’s because of Hurricane Ian, speaking diplomatically, lacks truth. For more than thirty years, the readers of the official newspaper Granma have been informed in which neighborhoods, on which days and at what times the power would be shut off. continue reading

For Cubans familiar with the craziness of Fidel Castro, like the Ten Million Ton Harvest and the closing of most of the sugar mills, which made the spectacular development of the country possible for two centuries, the regime can’t tell them that the blackouts are the fault of the hurricane or the Yankee embargo.

Many years ago, Fidel ordered the removal of stovetop cookers that used kerosene and charcoal and obliged the population to buy electric cookers to replace them. This increased the price of electricity. Fidel gave classes on television to Cuban housewives about the advantages of electric pressure cookers.

Ignoring the analysis of the experts, they used the national oil, which unfortunately has a high sulphur content, in the thermoelectric plants. The result, as in the case of the almost-disappeared sugar industry, is the energy crisis, with or without a hurricane.

The ad alleges that President Trump put Cuba back on the list of countries that facilitate international terror because Cuba was the seat of the peace negotiations for Colombia. But it doesn’t say that the F.B.I., for years, has offered thousands of dollars for information that might lead to the capture of U.S. terrorists who have sought refuge on the Island. Among them is Joanne Chesimard (alias Assata Shakur), an African-American extremist [member of the Black Liberation Army] who received a life sentence in 1977 after killing a New Jersey state patrol officer in cold blood when she was stopped for speeding in 1973. She escaped from prison in 1979 and was granted political asylum in Cuba. Her case isn’t the only one.

And what about the suggestion that Washington should stop basing its policy towards Cuba on the paradigm of the Cold War? Suffice it to point out that, even for Havana’s friends in Washington, it’s impossible to ignore the role of the regime’s propaganda in favor of President Vladimir Putin’s criminal war in Ukraine. Havana was one of the handful of dictatorships that voted against suspending Russia from the United Nations Human Rights Council and tried not to allow the recorded appearance before the General Assembly of the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, who could not attend for obvious reasons.

The Biden Administration has denounced all of the above, while the Plaza de la Revolución is preparing to send “volunteers” to Ukraine under the orders of Russian officers.

There’s more, but even so, President Biden shouldn’t ignore the regime’s request, according to the The New York Times ad. If the president wants to help the Cuban people, he must offer to establish a humanitarian channel with the following conditions:

1. That the aid is clearly marked “Free gift from the people of the United States to the Cuban people. FORBIDDEN TO SELL.”

2. That the aid be distributed in Cuba by staff of the American Red Cross and the Agency for International Development, and that both be allowed to monitor the impact of the aid on the population on the ground.

If not, it’s possible that the same thing would happen as years ago, when a shipment of medicines and food that the Catholic Church wanted to distribute on the Island was sent to Haiti, because some Cuban mothers in Florida had written on the boxes “With the love of your brothers exiled in Miami.” Something similar to the Cuba Decide shipment of humanitarian aid, confiscated in the Port of Mariel in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic.

It’s not true that the sanctions hinder the reconstruction of Cuba after Hurricane Ian, because the blackouts and lack of electricity across the Island precede Hurricane Ian by years. Homelessness, although it has been worsened by the hurricane, is basically the result of more than 60 years of lack of maintenance of the buildings where Cubans live. According to the regime’s priorities, millions of dollars are spent on the construction of luxury hotels for foreigners, while the country’s homes, aqueducts, sewage systems and infrastructure in general have deteriorated disastrously.

The ad regrets the destruction of the tobacco production, pointing out that 5,000 farms have been destroyed. But it doesn’t say that these farmers, if they dare to sell their tobacco to Cubans and not to the state monopoly, are sentenced to prison, like others who dare to sell their chickens, rice or the milk of their cows.

President Biden should order the Administration to implement its promises to provide free Internet service for the Cuban people. And if Havana rejects Biden’s offer, Washington should lead an international United Nations coalition to suspend Cuba from the Human Rights Council, as was done with Vladimir Putin’s regime.

The true friends of the Cuban people in the United States Congress, who are a majority, should immediately address Biden to make sure that the president doesn’t turn a deaf ear to the claim of thousands of protesters throughout Cuba, who don’t shout against the U.S. embargo, but in favor of their own freedom. For doing so, peacefully, there are a thousand young people in prison after the social explosion of Sunday, July 11, 2021.

The sponsors of the ad, as well as the editors of The New York Times, are complicit in omitting these details. Once again, they make the victims of repression on the Island invisible, while they whitewash the face of the human rights violator.

Translated by Regina Anavy


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Tantrum with Gorbachev

During Gorbachev’s trip to Cuba in 1989, he and Castro could not hide, despite high levels of diplomacy, the abyss that separated their ideas. (EP)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 3 September 2022 — Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who wanted to salvage communism with his reforms and openings known as glasnost and perestroika, could not convince Fidel of the pragmatism of these reforms during his visit to Cuba in 1989. Fidel did not like the interest generated by the Russian — younger than he — among Havanans, nor did he like his ideas of renewal.

Now, the state-run press in Cuba has limited itself to succinctly informing about his death, which has been the subject of hundreds of articles and commentaries in the most important press outlets around the world.

In an article this week in the Washington Post, Nathan Sharansky, a human rights activist and former political prisoner in the USSR, wrote that Gorbachev, “expressed regret that the U.S.S.R. had fallen apart, but also emphasized his personal achievements, including the promotion of political and religious freedom, the introduction of democracy and a market economy, and, of course, the end of the Cold War.”

In his book titled Perestroika, published in 1987, Gorbachev — who would become the leader of the Soviet Union the following year — wrote that “the world is not what it used to be, and its new problems cannot be solved by the inherited concepts of centuries past.” Gorbechev did not want continuity. continue reading

Those ideas and his willingness to cooperate with the United States were anathema to Fidel Castro, who always wanted to be the leader of a grand anti-American coalition. The immediate result was that Havana banned the distribution of Russian publications, such as Sputnik and Novedades de Moscú [News from Moscow], and began to repatriate the Cubans who lived in Russia to avoid contagion with the dangerous reformist virus.

Among those who were later disgraced for favoring the reforms were General Arnaldo Ochoa, a national hero decorated by Fidel Castro himself and later executed on the dictator’s orders following a sham trial for drug trafficking.

Regarding Ochoa’s case, the Los Angeles Times stated at the time that “it is possible that Arnaldo Ochoa will be spared from a firing squad by his old friend and leader Fidel Castro, but . . . Castro has decided that his Island’s future lies in . . . Stalinist Communism including purges and show trials for those unfortunate apparatchiks who stray from the party line.”

After the Soviet Union disappeared, Irina Zorina, an intellectual, and a group of Russian dissidents founded the Russian Committee for Human Rights in Cuba and the Russian Embassy in Geneva responded to a call from Carlos Franqui and Freedom House, sponsoring a session to hear the grievances of former Cuban political prisoners who were visiting the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in the Swiss city.

The session was also attended by diplomats, journalists and representatives of human rights organizations. Cuba’s State newspaper Granma ran an editorial commentary illustrated with rats, vodka bottles and American flags, alleging they wanted to convert the Russian diplomatic mission into a tavern.

Sharansky’s Washington Post article comments that during Gorbachev’s, “first trips to the West. . .Gorbachev discovered that the Soviet Union had paid a heavy diplomatic and economic price for its treatment of dissidents. As a result. . .he began to release political prisoners and long-time refuseniks (Jews fighting for their right to emigrate to Israel.) ”

Shanasky also wrote in his book, The Case for Democracy, that “three things are necessary for people to achieve freedom: people on the inside willing to suffer to achieve it; people on the outside to help them; and for democracies to condition their political, economic, and cultural relationships on the regime’s implementation of specific reforms, beginning with the release of political prisoners.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

One Day, Cubans Will Find Out How Cowardly Fidel Castro Was All His Life

Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 13 August 2022 — In the midst of the tragedy of the oil tank accident in Matanzas, Cuban President Díaz-Canel made some triumphalist statements modeled on the speeches of the former Maximum Leader. The declarations almost coincide with a birthday of Fidel Castro, a man whose regime is still in power on the basis of repression, propaganda and the iron control of information.

Unfortunately, many important events in Fidel Castro’s life are not known by millions of Cubans and have never been published in the pages of the State newspaper Granma.

For example, that he never entered the Moncada Barracks. He was in a car that was taking him to the scene to assume command of the attack. He was accompanied by several revolutionaries, including Gustavo Arcos Bergnes, who, upon arriving at the barracks, where the shooting could already be heard, hurried to join the combat, where he was wounded. Years later, Arcos became Ambassador of the Revolutionary Government in Belgium and was later sent to political prison for dissenting from Fidel’s new course.

He swam away, leaving his companions behind who were captured by the Cuban Navy.

That Sunday, July 26, 1953, inexplicably, the future Comandante en Jefe did not get out of the car and did not enter the barracks.

Many of those men died there, obeying his orders, while he fled to hide under the cassock of the Archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, Enrique Pérez Serantes, who saved his life.

It was not the only time that Castro staged a “tactical retreat” by abandoning others.

Two weeks after his 21st birthday, at the end of August 1947, during the expedition to Cayo Confites, where he was training to overthrow the Dominican dictator Leónidas Trujillo, Fidel Castro took to his heels. In other words, he fled by swimming, continue reading

leaving his companions behind, who were captured by the Cuban Navy.

Many years later, in Washington, I had dinner with the former Cuban ambassador to Colombia, Dr. Guillermo Belt Ramírez, and his wife, Cuquita. Belt told me about the events of the Bogotazo in April 1948, the insurrection in Colombia following the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán. According to Belt, Fidel, with his high-sounding speeches, encouraged young
Colombians to assault several police stations, but faced with the offensive by the Colombian Armed Forces and fearful for his life, he took refuge in the Cuban Embassy.

In the midst of the crisis there were no commercial flights from Bogotá to Cuba, but Fidel insisted that they would kill him if he left the diplomatic headquarters. In the end, the ambassador was able to get him on the only available flight: a cattle cargo plane. There, among the mooing cows, the future Maximum Leader departed for Cuba. Perhaps that trauma explains the comandante’s peculiar attachment to Ubre Blanca, his favorite cow. 

According to official propaganda, the commander-in-chief’s bravery was legendary. But not enough for him to get close to Batista’s troops.

According to official propaganda, the commander-in-chief’s bravery was legendary. But not enough for him to get close to Batista’s troops. Hidden in his lair in the Sierra Maestra, between 1957 and 1958, he killed the “casquitos,” young peasants enlisted in the Batista army from far away, with a rifle with a telescopic sight. There are the photos, in the Museum of the Revolution, if anyone doubts it.

As for the unfortunate Argentine Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, when he was surrounded by members of a Bolivian army in 1967, at that time advised by the CIA, and without the support of the peasants or the Bolivian communists, Fidel let him die, without doing anything to save him.

In the fall of 1958, Fidel sent commanders Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos hundreds of miles to capture the city of Santa Clara, while he awaited the outcome of the battle in the Sierra Maestra, where he was caught sleeping by Batista’s flight on January 1, 1959.

Castro lingered a week on a victorious march, much like Benito Mussolini’s march to Rome. Acclaimed by crowds, including nuns, he arrived in Havana on January 8, accompanied by Commander Huber Matos, whom he would later sentence to 20 years in prison for daring to resign due to communist infiltration of the Rebel Army.

In the case of Grenada in 1983, Fidel ordered the Cuban forces not to surrender, to fight to the death. Castro´s press published how those Cubans, following Fidel´s orders, died holding their weapons, embracing the lone star Cuban flag. 

In Angola and Ethiopia, it never occurred to Fidel to visit his troops in war zones, as did American presidents who went to fraternize with their soldiers in Vietnam.

It was not until after it became known that the head of the Cuban forces, Colonel Pedro Tortoló Comas, faced with the overwhelming push of the US forces that invaded that Caribbean Island where they, the Cuban forces, intended to replicate the Cuban revolution, decided to save Cuban lives and ordered their surrender. Due to his common sense, Colonel Tortoló, upon being repatriated, was reprimanded by Fidel and, after being demoted to the rank of common soldier, was sent to Africa to fight for having ignored the whims of the revolutionary leader. Never again did his name appear in the pages of Granma.

I am thinking of the case of other characters, such as Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler or Francisco Franco, who are also objects of propaganda deification. As in those cases, the story of Fidel Castro will one day also be known by the new generations in Cuba.

Translated by Norma Whiting


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Havana’s Fears and Unrealistic Expectations

One of the protests over energy shortages occurred in the town of Los Palacios. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 29 June 2022 — Press reports indicate that the Cuban government is encouraging foreigners to invest in what it calls “private companies” as a means of dealing with the country’s food shortages, blackouts, dengue outbreaks and ongoing protests. It is not yet known when these measures will take effect or if the Biden Administration will agree to them.

If by “investing” the government means foreign companies sending dollars to Cuba, that’s not going to happen. Hotel chains, for example, do sign management and cooperation agreements but the resources for hotel construction are provided by the Cuban government, which it might acquire from money laundering or narco-trafficking.

Some attribute the current crisis in Cuba to the drop in tourism, the decrease in remittances from the exile community, and fewer Cuban-Americans traveling to the island. The decline in tourists has led Havana to sell raffle tickets in Miami.

U.S. airlines that fly to Cuba are being required to act as accomplices in the regime’s discriminatory actions. Cuban citizens and their family members who are not residents of another country, who have their documents in order and their tickets in hand, are not allowed to board return flights to Cuba by order of the regime. Is it the responsibility of U.S. airlines to comply with such abuses against Cuban citizens in violation of Cuban and international law? Are airlines now supposed to treat other people – say gay, black or Jewish people – in the same way to accommodate the demands of foreign governments? Have U.S. senators and representatives raised this issue with Raul Castro? continue reading

The Cuban government might find it in its interests to cease this practice before the U.S. decides to stop airlines involved in this practice from flying to Cuba. If Cuban citizens have violated Cuban laws, the matter should not be dealt with in Florida’s airports but in Cuban courts.

The real causes go much deeper, beginning with more than sixty years of communist dogma, including an internal embargo and the imprisonment of peasant farmers for bypassing the state food production monopoly by selling produce, chicken and milk directly to other Cubans.

If Joe Biden had be able to fulfill his desire that remittances go to their beneficiaries and not to those he calls “the oppressors,” the situation would be different. But the president’s good intentions, along with Obama’s reforms, have not succeeded.

Blackouts have nothing to do with remittances or tourism. On the contrary, they are the result of power plants not being properly maintained for more than fifty years; reductions in petroleum shipments, first from the Soviet Union, then from Venezuela; and the use of Cuban petroleum, with its high level of impurities. This is reminiscent of the destruction of the sugar industry, which used to be the nation’s economic engine.

The regime has reasons to be frightened. Cubans are taking to the streets, screaming “We are not afraid” at the police. A few weeks ago a group of priests shared a video in which they urged Cubans “not to a raise a hand against another Cuban.” Recently, Dionisio Garcia, archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city, publicly called for the lengthy prison sentences handed down to participants in last summer’s peaceful protests to be “rectified.”

Amidst all this, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Union, the United States and other nations continue to call for the release of political prisoners and an end to repression.

The country’s officials fear another eruption of mass protests. Recently, crowds took to darkened streets during power blackouts to shout anti-government slogans and bang metal pots. Though it has acknowledged there is a dengue fever epidemic, the government announced it would only fumigate homes where cases of the disease had been confirmed. Last summer’s protests were not directed at shortages or the U.S. embargo. Instead, demonstrators chanted, “Down with communism. Freedom, Freedom.” Fidel is dead. Raul promised every Cuban a glass of milk, a promise that, so far, remains unfulfilled.

The month of August, with its oppressive heat, is just around the corner.

Frank Calzón is a political scientist and human rights activist. His articles have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post and others.


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.

Cuba: Mother’s Day and Amnesty

Activists and relatives demonstrating in the Juan Delgado Park in Havana, in favor of the July 11th (11J) prisoners tried in the Diez de Octubre court in February 2022. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 8 May 2022 — In the film Nadie Escuchaba [Nobody Heard] about the Cuban political prisoners by the great filmmaker Néstor Almendros, there is a segment of just two minutes with an old woman, which this Mother’s Day makes our hearts tremble. Clara Abraham, Boitel’s widow, recounts with infinite sadness the last days of her son Pedro Luis in a cell in the maximum security pavilion of the Castillo del Príncipe in Havana. The story is also collected by Guillermo Cabrera Infante in his masterful work Vista del Amanecer en el Trópico [A View of Dawn in the Tropics].

Pedro Luis Boitel, was “a student leader who had fought against the previous regime” but in disagreement with the course of the revolution he began to conspire and “was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1960, but in 1972 he was imprisoned” and died without medical assistance.

“I spent twelve years fighting to save my son, so that he would die like a dog… I didn’t know where he was… where he was buried. They beat me up. I was imprisoned for eight hours, when they told me: ’Your son he’s dead, we’ve already buried him’…45 days without medical attention. Do you know what it’s like not to give a mother her corpse? Yesterday we 12 women went to take some crowns and a mob of more than 300 people came out from behind the tombs … they came here in need, I had to throw them out of this house.”

In Almendros’ film, she is asked a question about forgiveness, to which the old woman replies: “I have to forgive. It’s very difficult for me, but I have to forgive.”

Unfortunately, in the history of the Cuban nation there have been other mothers and other prisoners. Leonor Pérez, the mother of José Martí, also knew the impotence of seeing the unjust conviction of her teenage son, and tried to obtain a pardon. To try to alleviate the pain of the sore that would never completely heal, as a result of the shackle they put on his leg, Doña Leonor made him a pillow that Martí remembered all his life. Those were other times, but then the relatives of the prisoners also arranged pardons and were allowed to bring them some supplies. continue reading

In the 20th century, Lina Ruz de Castro got the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba to intercede with the authorities of the Batista regime to guarantee the life of her son Fidel, who was hiding in a farm near the city after the attack on the Moncada barracks. After the trial, where Fidel made the statement that he would later rewrite in prison with the title History will absolve me, his mother dedicated herself to mobilizing the living forces of the country: the bishops, the press, civic, professional, artistic, and cultural organizations, and the senators and representatives of parliament to obtain an amnesty for all political prisoners, including her son who served two years of a 15-year sentence. Several governments, including the United States, welcomed the move.

Is it possible that a similar management can be carried out in today’s Cuba? Will there be bishops, embassies, international personalities, writers, artists, executives of foreign companies with representation on the island, mothers of government officials, members of the National Assembly of People’s Power who ask General Raúl Castro and President Miguel Díaz-Canel to decree a general amnesty so that the men and women in political prison are released and reunited with their families?


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.

Eight Ways to Set Back the Arrival of Freedom in Cuba

Insist that the only solution is an American military invasion, that the protests on the island won’t achieve anything, that the United States has betrayed us, continues to betray us, and will betray us. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, July 19, 2021 — If you want to help delay the collapse of the Castrist regime and the liberation of 11 million Cubans, there are few things more affective to achieve that than the following:

1. If you live on the island and State Security comes to arrest one of your neighbors, and the people of the neighborhood protest, surround the pursuers, and don’t let them take him, you don’t get off the sidewalk, because the government has all the power.

2. If you are abroad and they invite you to a demonstration of support for the 16,000 Cubans recently detained for singing Patria y Vida, don’t go, because you have family in Cuba and you want to go on vacation to Varadero.

3. If you are an opposition leader in Cuba and you don’t receive the media attention you deserve, say that the activists are naive, challenge one to a debate, demand that they publicize how they get appointments with ministers of foreign affairs, senators, and international organizations and why they get interviewed on television. State Security will continue reading

thank you.

4. If you have some experience in the anti-Castrist fight, insist that the dissident youth is well-intentioned but uses a vulgar language and doesn’t have experience, for which reason it should coordinate with you and other persons who are equally knowledgeable about politics. Explain to the young people that yours is the only strategy capable of toppling the regime.

5. Instead of sending reports, letters, and emails to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, the Victims of Communism Foundation, the Interamerican Press Society, the International Committee of the Red Cross, Joe Biden, Justin Trudeau, Luis Almagro, Michelle Bachelet, and others, convince everyone of the uselessness of those efforts, because they are a bunch of villains and you don’t want to sink to their level.

6. Don’t write letters to any newspaper. The press is monopolized by the Marxist left and if, in any case you decide to write to them, let the letter be in Spanish, written by hand, and at least four pages. Complain about what imbeciles journalists are and announce that you’re canceling your subscription.

7. Don’t go to protest in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington or other capitals or in front of the Versailles restaurant in Miami because it’s a waste of time. What must be done in Florida and other states is caravans of cars with Cuban flags blocking the highways. Americans will get annoyed because they don’t know what’s happening in Cuba and that is a way of educating them.

8. Above all, insist that the only solution is an American military invasion, that the protests on the island won’t achieve anything, that the United States has betrayed us, continues to betray us, and will betray us.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


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.

The Schemes of Cuban State Security

A young man is arrested by police and State Security agents in the July 11 protests in Havana. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, July 14, 2021 — In the midst of the enthusiasm, and as a result of the spontaneous and eminently peaceful protests on the island, there is speculation about what should be done to bring an end to the dictatorship that has so badly governed Cubans for more than 60 years.

A growing number of young Cubans, on the island and in exile, continue to demonstrate, demanding the end of the tyranny.

If the opposition on the island, democratic and peaceful, is a reflection of the composition of the Cuban people–men, women, whites, blacks, believers, atheists, homosexuals, artists, independent journalists, priests–the vault of power is not.

As can be seen in the photos published by the state newspaper Granma, the Castro leadership is composed mainly of white, fat, elderly men, some of them soldiers who accompanied Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra exploit.

In the search for ways to the future, Cubans ask themselves: what triggered the protests of thousands of compatriots in many parts of the country? In addition to what everyone recognizes–the prevailing hunger, arbitrariness, and corruption–Cuba undoubtedly entered a new stage with continue reading

the death of the dictator Fidel Castro.

It is the rebirth of civil society, despite the government’s measures, and a new generation that does not want to be like Che, nor leave the Island, and that opposes the state of affairs openly, not clandestinely in the least, the same as the Poles of Lech Walesa, the electrician and union leader of Solidarity, and the Czechs of Václav Havel, the playwright who organized artists, poets and musicians against his Marxist government.

Both are models for the Cuban opposition, whose intellectual forebears are headed by José Martí, who defended freedom at all costs, and wrote that “dictatorship is the same in all its forms.” They are also guided by Mahatma Gandhi, who defeated the British Empire, and Martin Luther King, who ended racial segregation in the American South.

They all have many things in common and put into practice a strategy of peaceful resistance that, precisely for this reason, extended to the populace in general. That has been denied by the Cuban government, which claims that it faces a violent opposition, and tells the international community that these young people from the poorest neighborhoods are Yankee mercenaries.

In this scenario, an understandable reaction has recently surfaced, due to despair, and the lack of knowledge of, on the one hand the nature of Castroism, and on the other the way Central Europeans and others managed to achieve freedom.

Despite the statements of the San Isidro Movement, despite José Daniel Ferrer, despite Cuba Decide, and of religious leaders of all confessions, opposing violence and an armed uprising, in recent hours young people have emerged abroad who say they are preparing several small boats with weapons to “liberate Cuba.”

We must ask those young people, many who act in good faith, to listen to the Patriotic Union of Cuba, and to study how, without shedding Cuban blood, the San Isidro Movement and the song Patria y Vida have put the Plaza of the Revolution on the defensive like never before. Naturally, many of these young people are not State Security agents, any more than were those who many years ago came to the island in commando operations (resulting in a few sugar-cane fields being burned) and were frequently intercepted and killed when disembarking.

Let us remember that the second-in-charge of one of the organizations best known for such actions told the Miami Herald that for years he had been an infiltrator for State Security, that he had worked as a double agent, that the Cuban authorities knew in advance the details of each disembarkation, and that when the diaspora did not provide resources for the purchase of boats and weapons, the funds came from the Cuban Government.

The message, as the most distinguished and courageous leaders of the opposition have recognized, is that, just as in Central Europe, it is the dictatorship that benefits from violence and the use of arms against it.

If that handful of young people does arrive on the island with their initiative, the regime will surely say that they are CIA agents, salaried employees of imperialism, and will imprison them, claiming that the opposition movement in Cuba is part of such nonsense. Hopefully this does not happen, not only to save those lives, but also to deny excuses to Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel in their discrediting campaigns in this country, in the European Union, and in the international press.

Translated by Tomás A.


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.

The Fourth of July and the ‘Ladies of Havana’

George Washington in 1772, in the earliest known portrait of him. (Washington and Lee University)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, July 4, 2020 – In addition to honoring the independence of its country and the founders of the nation, the United States is celebrating prominent foreigners who helped General George Washington in the feat.

Washington, in addition to being the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army that defeated England, was elected President for three terms of four years, and, like Nelson Mandela years later, ignored those who wanted him to remain permanently in power, retiring to live with his wife, Martha, on their farm in Mount Vernon in Virginia, where he died years later.

Among the foreigners who gave aid to Washington in critical moments were the young Frenchman the Marquis de Lafayette and Henry Frederick, Baron of Von Steuben, who after serving under the orders of Frederick the Great of Prussia, offered his sword to the American colonies, instructing the patriotic Americans in the military arts. continue reading

This noble Prussian died in New York in 1794, while Lafayette was returning to his country to participate in the French Revolution and to challenge, risking his head, the French extremists who created power to make the revolution by basing it on tyranny and terror (something sadly familiar to Cubans) .

Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the military engineer who fortified Saratoga and West Point, and another Frenchman, Rochambeau, whom Washington presented as a “work colleague in the struggle for liberty,” also collaborated. Washington had a lot of reasons to appreciate him, because he knew that every army needs a quartermaster as well as good strategies and great soldiers.

In 1781, the situation of the Continental Army was complicated. In the war, which was approaching Yorktown, the British Commander-in-Chief, General Cornwallis, was counting on finally defeating the Americans.

The historian Stephen Bonsal says that Rochambeau wrote in these moments: “The Continental troops are almost without clothing and footwear. They’re at the limit of their forces.” Rochambeau didn’t hesitate to send the young Admiral De Grasse to secure aid from the islands of the Caribbean, as Charles Lee Lewis, another historian, tells us in his book, Admiral De Grasse and American Independence.

“I can’t hide the fact that the Americans had almost no resources,” wrote Rochambeau. According to the author of this book, Jean-Jacques Antier, when De Grasse arrived in Havana, the Spanish flotilla had already left for Spain, and the colonial Governor of the Island didn’t have enough resources to help the Americans. However, public opinion in the city supported the North American cause, and contributions quickly began to arrive. “The ladies of Havana surrendered even their diamonds and managed to collect the amount of 1,200,000 pounds.”

De Grasse navigated to Philadelphia with sufficient money to face the war that was looming, and this time Washington, traditionally very reserved, couldn’t contain his emotion and embraced De Grasse. The battle of autumn 1781, as well as the war, ended with the defeat of Cornwallis in Yorktown, and, as Bonsal said: “The millions donated by the ladies of Havana can be considered as part of the foundation on which the American nation was erected.”

Today, the contribution of Cuban Americans in maintaining freedom is doubtless less important: electing their governors, paying taxes and respecting the laws, like any person in a democratic society who appreciates liberty.

This fourth of July, we Cuban Americans have not forgotten Cuba and the Cubans who are 90 miles away, and we know that the United States is a nation that was formed and is formed with men and women from everywhere, with their sons and grandsons, men and women who chose freedom, and who contributed to its defense with their lives, their fortune and with what George Washington called their “sacred honor.”

On the day of American Independence, millions of Cubans remember the “Ladies of Havana” who helped Washington, and the Damas de Blanco [Ladies in White], who today, like them, defend the cause of freedom.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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.