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?

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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.

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

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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.

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.

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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.

The Fourth of July and the ‘Ladies of Havana’

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

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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

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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.