Hablemos Press, Raul Ramirez Puig, Mayabeque, 25 June 2015 – Residents of the building located on Habana Street and Esquina de Teja, in the municipality of Güines, Mayabeque province, are making known the imminent danger they are facing.
The structure was built in 1735, according to data from the Municipal Library. Other buildings dating from that era, such as the Güines Villa, have not had any maintenance since 1959.
More than three months ago, barricades and signs were put up warning passersby of the danger, but there has been no move to repair the damages.
Güines is one of the most productive municipalities of Mayabeque province. It is also one of the most forgotten.
Hablemos Press, Yixander Doimeadios, Havana, 25 July 2105 – Theft is institutionalized in Cuba. It is a pseudo-culture, endured and practiced from one end of the Island to the other, and the excuses for it are: “I have to live, life is hard….” as if the parasitic “living” were something that must be accepted.
The fees tacked on to products sold in the hard currency stores* are insulting. Discounts on them, even hours before their sell-by dates, are notable in their absence.
And what to say about the private-sale merchandise added to the inventory by the shopkeepers? Nothing is direct from the producer or manufacturer, and everything has a shady provenance because it comes in “under the table.” continue reading
In Cuba, the merchant is asked if he has any under the table cooking oil in stock, or the butcher if there is any chicken available that was obtained through the same supply route – that same route where the dollars go that fall into the hands of the bus driver, or through which the lard is filtered that doesn’t make it into the rationed bread.
The issue here is a mutation in the evolution of the Cuban species, where only the most capable and strongest survive. You either get used to it, or you die, and if you can’t beat them, you must join them.
Everyone seeks a way to recover what the other has stolen from him.
The inspectors extort the self-employed, the housing bureaucrats receive a “gift” for the paperwork they should put through at no cost whatsoever, and anyone who is not generous or open-handed will suffer the consequences of having what should be a simple process take six months or more to complete.
While the winds of change blow above, down in the underworld of the ordinary Cuban, all we can smell is the same flatulence as always, and the only change in the air is for the worse.
Therefore, there is only one way out: if you can’t beat them, join them.
*Translator’s Note: The official name of these stores is “Hard Currency Collection Stores” – meaning that their purpose is to collect, via the sale of highly overpriced goods, the cash from the remittances sent to Cubans from their family and friends abroad.
Hablemos Press, Rafael Molina Rodríguez*, Santiago de Cuba, 10 July 2015 – The message put out by the Holy See that Pope Francis is not planning to touch on political matters during his upcoming visit to Cuba, has left me and my fellow citizens discouraged. We had hoped that the Pope, in his role as Chief of State [of the Vatican], upon visiting with the dictator Raúl Castro, would emphasize to him the need to respect human rights and multi-party democracy.
The announcement that the Pope is coming to Cuba only to bring the message of Our Lord Jesus Christ reminds me of Pontius Pilate, when he washed his hands after surrendering Jesus to the Jews so that he would be executed. continue reading
If the Pope is visiting Cuba only to bring the message of Jesus Christ, this means that he is acting only in his capacity as Bishop of Rome and leader of the Catholic Church—which means that he will not meet with any political leader, including the dictator Raúl Castro, but only with Catholic leaders.
This year is the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the Holy See. A secular state with a Christian system and atheist leaders, I suppose that neither will they speak further about the matter, being that relations with Cuba are diplomatic, i.e. political and not religious. I say this because the Cuban leaders, if not Satanists, are self-confessed atheists.
This announcement makes me reflect on what is written in Matthew 23:15, which says: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. (King James Bible – 21st century).
The Pope knows very well, objectively and subjectively, that the greatest problem facing the Cuban people is not a lack of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather the Castro dictatorship. If the Pope wants to be honest, as was John Paul II, he cannot come to Cuba and meet with the tyrant to speak only of those matters of political interest to the regime, but rather they should also speak of what would benefit the Cuban people, which are civil liberties, democracy and respect for human rights.
I am almost certain that if it were Our Lord Jesus Christ who was coming to Cuba, he would not sit down with Raúl Castro, but rather would exhort him to cease the oppression of civil liberties, human rights violations, and political repression and persecution, and to change his dictatorial politics.
It is now mid-July, and between now and September, the Pope has time to rectify his agenda, and publicize his intention, as a messenger of the Catholic Church, to come to Cuba to preach good news to the poor, to bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and free the prisoners.
*Rafael Molina Rodríguez, member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), collaborates frequently with Hablemos Press.
Hablemos Press, Arian Guerra Pérez, Havana, 6 July, 2015 – Political activist Antonio G. Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS, was beaten this Sunday by Cuban State Security agents, according to activist sources.
Rodiles had to have surgery at General Calixto García University Hospital in Havana because of the fracture, said Ailer María González Mena, his wife. continue reading
More than 80 government opponents were arrested this Sunday in Havana, before and after attending mass at St. Rita of Casia Church in the Miramar neighborhood of Playa municipality, where members of the Ladies in White Movement and government opponents gather every Sunday to demand the release of political prisoners.
Rodiles had left his residence to meet with activists and the Ladies in White at Gandhi Park, which is adjacent to the church, but was intercepted by the agents, who beat and arrested him.
Some 45 Ladies in White were violently arrested after mass at St. Rita. There were also reported arrests of 15 opponents, among them: Ángel Moya, Egberto Ángel Escobedo, Rolando Reyes Rabanal, José Díaz Silva, Pavel Herrera, Ángel Figueredo, Heriberto Pons, the photographer Claudio Fuentes, and others.
The political activist Raúl Borges Álvarez, president of the Party for the Christian Unity of Cuba (PUDC), informed HABLEMOS PRESS that he was arrested on Saturday and released on Sunday. “They freed me this afternoon after having held me under torture for more than 24 hours,” said Borges.
Other arrests of Ladies in White and activists occurred in Cárdenas, Matanzas, Aguada de Pasajero in Cienfuegos, Holguín, Bayamo, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Mayabeque.
Hablemos Press, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Peréz, Havana, 29 June 2015 — Offices of the National Police, the Department of State Security, and other members of the Interior Ministry arrested at least 226 Cuban activists and dissidents this past Sunday, 28 June, 2015.
Police operations were carried out in various provinces of the country to keep activists and opposition members from attending Mass.
Among those arrested in Havana were Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White Movement, Antonio G. Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS; José Díaz, of Opponents for a New Republic Movement; photographer Claudio Fuentes; and several of the former political prisoners who were released in January 2015. continue reading
In Havana, the arrests of various members of the Ladies in White and others of the opposition took place as these individuals were departing their residences early in the morning, and they remained surrounded by police officers throughout the day.
Besides Soler, Ladies in White executive committee members María Cristina Labrada Barona and Lismeri Quintana Ávila were among these detainees, along with eight other women.
Another 39 arrests of women activists took place in the area around Santa Rita Church, after the women completed their customary march along 5th Avenue in the Miramar district of Playa municipality, and gathered in Gandhi Park (adjacent to the church) to review the week’s activities. In addition, approximately another 41 activists and opponents–men who accompany the Ladies on their march–were arrested in the capital.
Dozens of Interior Ministry agents blocked the streets around St. Rita Church to arrest the Ladies and other dissidents, according to the activists.
The Lady in White Aidé Gallardo Salazar was struck and dragged by female officers. “They hit me on the head and face, and they tried to asphyxiate me,” Gallardo averred.
Other arrests of Ladies in White occurred in these provinces: Holguín (4); Bayamo-Granma (2); and Aguada de Pasajero in Cienfuegos (9). In the last province, additionally, “17 men who accompanied the Ladies were arrested,” according to activist and former political prisoner Iván Hernández Carrillo.
The independent reporter Agustín López Canino also was arrested upon exiting his home in the El Globo district, located on the outskirts of Havana.
“I will continue going there to St. Rita for as long as they’ll let me,” said López Canino when interviewed. “What I do is take down the facts and forward them to various media.”
He adds that, “The repression against the opposition movement has increased extraordinarily within the last six months and cannot be allowed to go on without attention focused on it.”
The former political prisoners Ramón Alejandro Muñoz, Eugenio Hernández Hernández, Ángel Figueredo Castellón, Mario Alberto Hernández, and Rolando Reyes Rabanal were also arrested in Havana.
The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), headquartered in Santiago de Cuba, reported the arrests of 103 of its members when they attempted to travel to the village of El Cobre to attend Mass.
The agents used violence to detain the opponents, who were transported to police stations and military bases, according to activist sources.
Ladies in White affirm that, “The regime wants to destroy the opposition, but we are prepared to give our lives for the freedom of the political prisoners,” stated Ibón Lemos y Mayelín Peña.
Soler attests that the repression increased 11 Sundays ago, ever since the Ladies in White initiated a new campaign to demand the release of political prisoners, among them: the writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats, the artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (“El Sexto”); and the dissidents Santiago Roberto Montes de Oca, René Rouco Machín, Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta, Yosvani Melchor Rodríguez, Rolando Joaquín Guerra Pérez, Eugenio Ariel Arzuaga Peña, Yoelkis Rosabal–in total, more than 50 individuals.
The reports received at Hablemos Press included figures totaling 226 opponents arrested across the Island on Sunday, although the actual number may be greater.
Hablemos Press, Eduardo Herrera Duran, Havana, 19 June 2015 — While conversing with a friend, he tells me that his friend told him, “You are speaking with an enemy of the Revolution.” My friend confessed to me that he really does not know who the true enemy is, if it is I, or those who label me that way.
Labels such as these — counterrevolutionary, worm, salaried employee of the empire — and others, are used contemptuously about anyone who expresses a view contrary to the Cuban government. A regime that has been in power for more than 56 years without rule of law and with only one party, controls everything!
Since 1959, the so-called Revolutionary government took power and began fomenting hatred against anyone who was not in favor of it. This divisiveness took over everyone, even affecting families in which some members were not sympathizers of the regime.
Thus did hatred grow, and the rejection of other Cubans who criticize the government and its followers. These Cubans have the right to differing thoughts and opinions, without having their patriotism called into question. Citizens throughout the world, even if they think differently, have the same right.
I see how mistreated are people on the Island who oppose the regime. We have as an example the beatings inflicted on the Ladies in White, and other opposition members, who have their own opinions and express them with courage.
Individuals like them, who demand the reestablishment of true democracy in Cuba — despite the abuse and indifference they endure from many other Cubans — wage an open struggle.
There needs to be a true evaluation of who are the so-called enemies.
Those who join with the government and defend its continuation in power do not consider the miserable salaries and poor living conditions of the great majority of the population.
Despite the propaganda machine claiming that education and health care are “free,” we pay a high cost for them.
Those who call us enemies should stop and think: Who, really, are the enemies?
Hablemos Press, Lisbán Hernández Sánchez, Havana, 19 June 2015 — Despite a show of force, Cuban police did not arrest activists of four different opposition groups who on June 15 took part in an audiovisual workshop.
For the activists, it was strange that there were no reported detentions, as has occurred on other occasions with a smaller number of participants.
The activists attending the meeting were from the Opposition Movement for a New Republic (MONR), the Democracy Movement (MD), the National Resistance Front (FNR), and the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). continue reading
The meeting took place at No. 18406 5th Street, between 184th and Final Streets in the Porvenir suburb, Rancho Boyeros municipality, Havana, where police have arrested dozens of dissidents for attending meetings.
“The audiovisual workshop that took place here in my house, headquarters of our organization, was for the purpose of discussing some documentaries, among them, The Art of War,” said José Díaz, MONR director.
The documentary “shows various strategies for different forms of the struggle,” he added.
According to a note from the organizers of the event, some 47 activists were able to arrive at the organization headquarters, despite the ostentatious police presence in the area.
“Agents of the National Police and the Department of State Security, along with Rapid Response Brigades, were trying to impede the arrival of activists to this event,” explained Mario Alberto Hernández of MONR, affirming that “no arrests have been reported.”
On 14 June, police arrested more than 70 dissidents who were exiting St. Rita Church, alleging that they would carry out protests. During the attack, police beat various women, including the artist Tania Bruguera, and Ada María López Canino of the Ladies in White.
Hablamos Press, Dr. Eduardo Herrera, Havana, 9 June 2015 — It is said that in times of slavery slaves were mistreated and were not free. But the gentlemen slave owners were responsible for feeding and clothing them, providing them healthcare—even for teaching them to read and write, and caring for their small children and pregnant women. The gentlemen slave owners who did this were better regarded by society.
It is also said that the abolition of slavery was a business decision because the time came when the masters could no longer finance all the costs associated with holding slaves. They decided to free them, then employ and pay them, turning the slaves into salaried workers. This way, although the pay was meager, these exploiters were technically complying with abolition, even though they continued being exploiters. continue reading
On a daily basis, I converse with many Cubans who, when we speak of the country’s situation, agree with me that it is very dire. The majority complain that salaries are inadequate, even for providing decent nutrition. Working conditions and the state of their dwellings are deplorable. The lack of products and other items essential to life in this modern era is ever more notable, in addition to the lack of freedom.
But most of them say, “Why should I do anything if nothing gets resolved? I can’t change things by myself. The best option is to try to leave the country.” Others, more committed to the government, argue that “there are many problems, but we will get better, always, with the historic momentum of the Revolution leading the way” — without acknowledging that the revolutionary government has been in power for more than 55 years, and we have almost frozen in time.
All of these pessimistic and submissive behaviors make me think of the history of slavery, when the majority of those in bondage shrank from confronting the slave owners out of fear of punishment and death. They would try to escape, they flattered their masters so as to obtain benefits, and even when they were freed, many preferred to remain in servitude.
Although some came out and fought against slavery, the majority adapted to the slaveholding method of exploitation. Today in Cuba, many have adapted to the regime by trying to subsist however they can, but without claiming the rights that appertain to them. It makes me think that when one lives so long in the condition of slavery, it is difficult to recognize, and demand, the freedom that belongs to us from birth.
Hablemos Press, Eduardo Herrera, 4 May 2015 — In Cuba, the constant emigration of its citizens can reveal what is the standard of living on the Island. Many of those who do not know the reality of life in Cuba should consider this fact and arrive at their own conclusions.
Cubans are willing to go live in countries supposedly poorer and with worse living conditions.
Starting in 2013, a new horizon appeared for those who wanted to emigrate: the requirement for the so-called “white card”—an exit permit for Cubans seeking to travel—was eliminated. continue reading
Even so, there are still obstacles to leaving the Island. These consist of the high prices that Cuban citizens must pay to acquire any type of documentation. Included in this is the passport, which costs about 100 dollars, while the average Cuban’s salary is 20 dollars per month.
Limiters also include the restrictions that other countries impose on Cubans arriving in their territories. Despite all this, Cubans find a way to emigrate, no matter what.
A well-known is example is that of the so-called “balseros” [rafters], who risk their lives. Sailing in rickety vessels, they try to cross the Florida Straits and reach the coasts of the United States.
Not counting those who have left the Island to settle in countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Angola and other. The exit strategy they most often use is an employment contract, or marriage—often arranged.
It is a great mistake when many countries recognize Cuba as providing its citizens a good standard of living. If this is so, why would so many people want to emigrate?
Many of those who leave are hopeless young people in search of a better future for themselves and their families. Those who stay behind are older—one reason that the population is aging and life expectancy appears to be high.
Thus, public opinion confuses the increase in longevity with a higher life expectancy (seen as an indicator of economic development and a measurement of health), but it is not based on reality.
Additionally, public opinion can become confused when discussing free health care and education for the entire population, without taking into considering the poor conditions of both sectors.
These and other reasons are what explain why Cubans emigrate desperately. Although many leaders and personalities may want to recognize that Cuba is doing well or is changing, we could tell them, as we say here, “There is none so blind as he who will not see.”
Hablamos Press, Eduardo Herrera, Havana, 16 May 2015 — In recent weeks, meetings between Raúl Castro and various heads of state have attracted the attention of national and international public opinion.
During his visit to Algeria, Castro met with Abdelaziz Buteflika, who at 78 years of age has been president of his country for 16 years. Later, Castro travelled to Russia to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Second World War. continue reading
Throughout those days of celebration, Castro had exchanges with Vladimir Putin, with whom he committed to continuing the deep relationship that unites the Cuban Revolution with Russia.
Castro then continued on to the Vatican, where he conversed with Pope Francis and expressed gratitude for the Pope’s mediation to promote the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S.
Raúl completed his tour in Rome, where he met with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and, during a press conference, said, “One must be respectful of others’ ideas, even when they do not coincide with ours.” He also referred to the rights of all peoples to self-determination, and to the reopening of relations with the U.S.
Upon his return to Cuba, Castro received French President Francois Hollande, whose visit had generated great expectations of demands for substantial changes in the Island’s politics and respect for civil rights. But apparently, the French leader chose to speak only about business relations.
In sum, there were many conversations with world leaders, including of democratic countries such as France and Italy.
Yet, none of these leaders has taken into account the reality of the Cuban people who, it would seem, will go on not knowing what freedom is, and unable to be happy.
Thus, a form of slavery will continue to be legitimized, even in the 21st Century.
Mayabeque, Cuba. – Cubans immersed in the day to day of survival with a salary of $20 per month do thousands of work-arounds to earn a living. These images captured by my lens reflect the daily life of the inhabitants of Jaruco.
Jaruco is a municipality of Mayabeque province, situated some 30km southeast of Havana. Its norther border abuts the municipality of Santa Cruz del Norte, and on the south, San José de las Lajas [the provincial capital].
Economic activities are based mainly on livestock and agriculture–both of which are impacted by the socialist bureaucracy.