14ymedio, Havana, 13 August 2018 – Activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz has been released without any charges, according to a video released Sunday by the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) shortly after the dissident was released from prison. Hidalgo was imprisoned on August 3 together with the leader of the organization, José Daniel Ferrer, who is still in prison accused of the attempted murder of a State Security agent.
“They were forcing me to say that José Daniel was guilty, that he had run over the officer with the car,” the activist explained before the camera. He says that he was interrogated four times and that he was threatened by the agents with keeping him prisoner. “I told them not to pressure me anymore, that I was not going to say anything else,” he said about the agents’ insistence that he confirm that José Daniel’s aggression against the agent was deliberate. continue reading
Hidalgo and Ferrer were arrested after an incident involving the Interior Ministry official, Dainier Suárez Pagán, who was allegedly run over by Ferrer while driving without a driver’s license.
Agent Suárez Pagán is known by the dissidents of Palmarito de Cauto, in the province of Santiago de Cuba, for being violent and attacking the activists. According to the judicial version, Ferrer intended to run over the agent while he was crossing the street, a statement that was denied by the two dissidents shortly before they were arrested.
In the video, Hidalgo explained that he spent six days in the Penal Instruction and Criminal Operations Unit, in the Versalles district (Santiago de Cuba), unable to change clothes and in a cell in terrible conditions, which according to the activist, had hardly any light but had plenty of mosquitoes, rats and cockroaches. He received only a brief visit from his daughter during his prison stay.
Before Hidalgo was released from Micro 9, as the prison where he was held is also known, he was warned that he could not talk at all about the case with relatives.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.
14ymedio, Havana, 7 August 2018 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Jose Daniel Ferrer, completed 72 hours in detention Monday and his case “has passed to the prosecutor,” as the opposition organization’s coordinator, Carlos Amel Oliva, reported to this daily.
They accuse Ferrer of attacking an official from the Ministry of the Interior, according to what Captain Roberto said to his family members. At this time he is under arrest in Unit One of the Santiago de Cuba National Revolutionary Police (PNR). Authorities keep the activist incommunicado, and he has not even been able to receive visits from his relatives.
“Yesterday at ten at night he completed the first 72 hours of arrest. The case has already passed to the prosecutor and now it is necessary to wait another 72 hours in order to get an answer about what is going to happen with him,” said Olive in a telephone conversation with this paper. continue reading
Also arrested with Ferrer was activist Ebert Hidalgo Cruz, who is in the Operations Unit of the PNR (People’s Revolutionary Police). Hidalgo Cruz is also incommunicado.
According to the criminal procedure law, the prosecutor could drop the arrest without consequence, impose a cautionary measure without detention, or revoke or modify the measure ordered by the police. The prosecutor also may propose the imposition of a provisional prison sentence.
According to Oliva, coordinator of the organization founded by Jose Daniel Ferrer, Captain Roberto told the family members that there is an open “file” against the UNPACU leader. In the case of Hidalgo Cruz, he is accused of permitting Ferrer to drive a car without a license.
Ferrer was arrested last Friday night after being implicated in a traffic accident in Palmarito de Cauto, where he supposedly injured the State Security agent, Daniel Suarez Pagan.
The dissident was in the town for family reasons and also planned to visit some of the activists who live in the area. Oliva says that during the journey, the plainclothes agent stepped in front of the Mosovich car driven by Ferrer, indicating for him to stop. Ferrer does not have a driver’s license or a learner’s permit.
After an abrupt maneuver to stop the car, the agent fell to the ground and after getting up went to a medical unit in order to seek a certificate of injury. Several hours later the two activists were arrested.
Some UNPACU activists contacted by 14ymedio say that, “Pagan is not hurt and is working as usual in the town of Palmarito de Cauto.”
Maidolis Oribe, area resident, says that “State Security and the Police with their Criminal Unit specialists have reconstructed the events four times and have pressured people to testify against Ferrer.”
“They want the people to say that Jose Daniel ran over him,” says Oribe, who has witnessed the reconstruction of events by the experts.
“Pagan is the one who throws himself to the ground and plays ’murumacas’” says the woman, who questions the blows he received “if he is able to make those movements.”
Jose Daniel Ferrer is a former political prisoner from the black spring of 2003 who benefitted from an extra-penal license in 2011 after a negotiation between the government, the Catholic church and the Spanish presidency. The extra-penal license, which allows the prisoner out of the penitentiary, can be revoked at the will of authorities.
Translated by Mary Lou Keel.
The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.
Cubanet, María Matienzo, Havana, 23 November 2017 — According to Claudio Fuentes, photographer and human rights activist, he’s started doing something like ten interviews and they haven’t published any of them. Maybe it has to do with that mania he has to be always behind the camera, pointing the lens at the Ladies in White, other activists and even his own friends.
“It’s a simple attraction to photography and nothing else,” he says, justifying himself. “I’ve always had a kind of leadership in the shadow of the people I’m interested in working with, where I know my opinions are heard, but I do not have the imperative need to be making decisions,” and he offers the example of his work with Estado de Sats together to Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Mena.
“I always say that the one who knows the most about something is the one who should have the last word. If I was in a group working on Biology, which was what I studied, or with art, maybe I would have a voice of the first rank. But here I have come last and I am always learning about civil and political rights.” continue reading
However, he does not always assume the role of student.”It’s whatever is needed,” he says. “In the video of the electoral farce in Cuba, Ailer did a test, I did another test, and Antonio said: ’No, man, no, that’s fine’. If it works, they choose me if I’m not behind the cameras.”
The combination of photography and political activism started in 2008, when they tried to imprison Gorky Águila, director of the punk rock band Porno for Ricardo.
“Suddenly and without thinking twice I was an activist for his cause. It was like a fury that I did not care about anything.All that time I had been against the system but without having expressed myself,” recalls the photographer. “I put aside my individual artistic tendencies and contributed everything I had as a tool available to the cause of democracy in Cuba.”
He confesses that he is “crazy for communism in Cuba to end because I do not want to be an opponent one more day. This field fills me with pride,” he says, referring to the time he has spent working with the opposition and the privileged position he has in the history of contemporary Cuba that allows him “to have an overview of what has happened in the opposition starting some years ago, or knowing who is who, who is really in this fight with authentic democratic goals and who are not so much.”
“But I want to make movies,” he adds.
His political position shows a Claudio Fuentes before 2008, a skilled photographer who jumps to the moving image or video in a self-taught way or in courses at the San Antonio de los Baños International Film School; and with that comes the second Claudio, punk and oppositional, who still engages with the fixed image, but who begins to radicalize towards the Civil and Political Rights movement and towards a minimalist documentary image, black background and interview style, with barely any traditional artistic values, supported only in the focus and the denunciations of the actions of the powers that be.
As a photographer and activist, he believes that his process has been organic. “In all the circles in which I have been I have belonged to those that are seen as the most radical. I see radicalism as a necessary thing. I am increasingly radical because in this totalitarianism there is no chance for the path of civic action and I do not enter into any moral questioning, the Universal Declaration [of Human Rights] is there and the whole Western world recognizes it.”
He also talks about the image as passion. “The image impacts me. All the poetics that are behind it, even the crappiest, the most mediocre, I am always reading things there. But if I try now to be a successful artist with my work, I will have to put aside the activism,” and he enumerates what he would abandon and that it would cost him more than “the feeling that my work is still waiting.”
“It would leave many people unprotected, a lot of information would not reach them, or the documentaries that we do that contribute to the civic education of the people or inform exiles and others outside of Cuba of where this is going, and these are my priorities now.”
Although he does not believe that this is his work, he talks a little about the documentary by Olac Garmendia where he was the director of photography and one of the three scriptwriters, or of the shared experience in the documentary Gusano, where he worked as a photographer and editor.
In the latter, he says, “the discussions were exquisite, rude, strong, and I made important decisions in making that film, but with all this what I have learned is to work as a team and not be the artist locked in his ivory tower or the peacock. There are many I have deep differences with even though they are friends of mine, who do not engage in any work from their art to improve the situation in Cuba or have a separate work as activists.”
He has a list of things that he could do with others without “immolating himself” because he does not want anyone to tell him, when “castroism falls” that, “I didn’t do anything, but you didn’t tell me what to do.”
In a list that ranges from recharging the phone cards of political prisoners so that they can make calls, to collecting universal literature to distribute among those same prisoners, to telling his local Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), “I’m not participating in that,” to “things that have to do with kindness, with generosity,” because, like he told a friend who “didn’t want to get into the political game”: “Look, compadre, life gifted us with a dictator who is a tremendous son-of-a-bitch so we’d do things against that; they gave us a lack of freedom so that we could conquer it, it is very simple, you have to sign on.”
He analyzes a phenomenon that artists don’t escape: “What happens is that the majority here is alienated. You don’t participate because the street doesn’t belong to you, you don’t have property, or businesses, and people have a convulsive tendency to complain, and I am up to my eyeballs in complaints. They are people conquered by Castroism long ago.”
As an artist who has dedicated himself to putting a face to politics, he describes what a Cuba without Castros will be like.
“The change I imagine is very similar to what has happened in Eastern European countries, that first there is a turnaround so big that millions of people are going to have to be literate,” dreams Claudio. “There has to be a revolution of learning, in addition to 18 months of transition where new political actors will appear, intelligent people who have prepared in the shadows for fear of repression, who will compete with others who have achieved their legitimacy in the opposition.” He adds to his list of candidates the political exile: “Luckily we have an exile 90 miles away that demonstrated not only its economic capacity but its political capacity. We have Marco Rubio, Carlos (Díaz) Rosillo, Carlos Trujillo, the two Díaz-Balarts, Carlos Curbelo, Ted Cruz.”
His hope includes that, along with the changes, “there are measures of protection for all those who try to compete with this new thing that comes, because nobody is to blame for our being out of control. And the reality is that we are all in the ditch here. ”
Author: Maria Matienzo Puerto: I once dreamed that I was a butterfly coming from Africa and I discovered that I had been alive for thirty years. From then on, I built my life while I slept: I was born in a magical city like Havana, I dedicated myself to journalism, I wrote and edited children’s books, I gathered around art with wonderful people, I fell in love with a woman. Of course, there are points that coincide with the reality of the vigil and I prefer the silence of reading and the hullabaloo of a good movie.
14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2017 — The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, José Daniel Ferrer, was released Thursday after being detained for more than 24 hours. The opponent denounced an “increase in the repression” against the activists of his movement, in a phone call to 14ymedio a few minutes after his release.
“The search of the homes began at six in the morning,” explains Ferrer, who was taken out of his home at eight o’clock in the morning this Wednesday and taken to the First Police Unit of Santiago de Cuba, known as Micro 9.
The former prisoner of the Black Spring explains that the police raided six properties of UNPACU members. They seized “food, a hard disc, several USB memories, two laptops, five cellphones, seven wireless devices, a stereo, a large refrigerator, an electric typewriter and a camera.” continue reading
“I spent more than six hours in an office with a guard,” Ferrer recalls. “Then they put me in a cell where you could have filmed a horror movie for the amount of blood on the walls of someone who had been cut.”
On 18 December at least nine houses of members of the opposition movement were searched and numerous personal belongings seized by members of the Ministry of the Interior
The dissident was interrogated by an official who identified himself as Captain Quiñones, who threatened to send him to prison for “incitement to violence,” in a recent video posted on Twitter. Ferrer flatly denies the accusation.
During the operation they also confiscated medications such as aspirin, duralgine, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
“Most of our activists are in high spirits,” says Ferrer. “This type of assault does not discourage us,” he adds. He says that “from November 2015 to date, there have been more than 140” raids of houses of members of the organization.
On 18 December, at least nine houses of members of the opposition movement were searched and numerous personal belongings seized by members of the Ministry of Interior.
Among those who still have not been released are the activists Jorge Cervantes, coordinator of UNPACU in Las Tunas, and Juan Salgado, both of whom are being held in the third police unit in that eastern city. The whereabouts of opponent Esquizander Benítez remain unknown. In addition, about 50 of UNPACU’s militants are being held in several prisons in the country, which makes the it the opposition organization with the most political prisoners in the country.
14ymedio, Havana, 8 March 2017 — The headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) were assaulted by police forces in the early hours of Wednesday. The troops forcibly entered five homes located in the Altamira and José María Heredia areas in Santiago de Cuba, where they arrested a dozen opponents, according to opposition sources.
Two buildings that operate as UNPACU headquarters and three belonging to members of the movement were the object of a wave of searches carried out by agents of the political police and brigades of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR).
The homes were “looted” simultaneously according to activist Ernesto Oliva Torres, who reported that at the main headquarters the troops confiscated “a refrigerator, a television, two laptops, six cordless phones, among other items.” continue reading
Two buildings that operate as UNPACU headquarters and three belonging to members of the movement were the object of a wave of searches carried out by agents of the political police
The searches were accompanied by arbitrary arrests and the interruption of the telephone communications of most of the UNPACU activists.
Among those arrested on Wednesday morning were Liettys Rachel Reyes, Carlos Amel Oliva and his father Carlos Oliva, Alexei Martínez, Ernesto Morán, Juan Salgado, Roilán Zamora, Yriade Hernández, Jorge Cervantes and his wife Gretchen, David Fernández, Miraida Martín, and the national coordinator of the movement, José Daniel Ferrer.
14ymedio was able to confirm that Carlos Amel Oliva was released on Wednesday night, but several of the dissidents remain incommunicado. Oliva’s telephone line had serious problems that prevented the dissident from communicating with the press.
Liettys Rachel Reyes, 30 weeks pregnant, was under arrest for about three hours and then released. The whereabouts of the rest of the detainees remain unknown.
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 17 January 2017 — Talking with Belkis Cantillo these days can be an impossible mission. With her home raided on several occasions, a daughter about to give her her first granddaughter and the foundation of the new Dignity Movement, the life of this woman is a whirlwind. A resident of Palmarito del Cauto, Santiago de Cuba, the activist is looking forward to better days for Cuba, but she is not ready to fold her arms to wait for them.
With her voice breaking up, Cantillo speaks through the telephone line about her projects and the new organization she has created to support the prisoners who populate the prisons of the Island. She clarifies, to anyone who asks about the origins of the new group, that many of the women who comprise it were part of the Ladies in White. “We were also the group Citizens for Democracy (CXD) and most of us have a great deal of knowledge about this struggle.” continue reading
The activist is looking forward to better days for Cuba, but she is not ready to fold her arms to wait for them
For Cantillo, life is a perennial battle. Last Friday at dawn she crossed the mountain to avoid the police siege and shorten the distance that separates her house from the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Charity of Cobre, patroness of Cuba, whom Cubans affectionately call Cachita. Although she considers herself a devotee of Cachita, this time it was not only her faith that moved her. Some 16 women gathered there to announce the birth of the Dignity Movement.
“The repression was so great that only some of us made it here,” she tells 14ymedio. The fright from what she experienced has not yet passed, but Cantillo is a “battle-hardened” woman. Under her leadership are now grouped around 60 companions of the struggle, three-quarters with a history of activism and experience in opposition from eastern Cuba, the area of the country most tightly controlled by State Security.
“We entered, 14 of us, and later, at ten at night, two more,” Cantillo explains. The surveillance agents also arrived and they threatened them, telling them to withdraw without waiting for Sunday Mass. The women insisted in remaining in a nearby shelter, managed by the church, but in the end they had to return to their homes.
“They didn’t let us eat, nor even drink water. They’d never seen anything like that there, they even called the police to get us out,” she remembered. But the people who were pressuring them didn’t know they had given birth to a new group.
The leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, has words of encouragement for the movement that has just been born. “I see as good every person who fights against the regime,” she emphasizes. “Any movement that is willing to fight the regime, for me, is valid and effective in this fight,” she says. However, she disagrees with what happened on Saturday: “We have to respect the churches, that’s their discipline.”
At the center of her critique is the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” – a “crime” for which it is possible to imprison a citizen on the mere suspicion that they may commit a crime in the future.
Cantillo is now focused on the future. Her effort and that of the rest of her colleagues is focused on the common prisoners, a sector that few speak about and whom many avoid representing. “We chose these prisoners to help them and their families with the social and legal attention they need and do not have,” the woman said. At the center of her critique is the crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness” – a “crime” for which it is possible to imprison a citizen on the mere suspicion that they may commit a crime in the future.
In the middle of last year, the United Nations Development Program estimated that Cuba had 510 people in prison for every 100,000 inhabitants, a figure that places it at the head of the region. In 1959 the island had 14 prisons, the figure now exceeds 200, according to estimates by Elizardo Sánchez, president of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).
For its part, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has denounced that, after El Salvador, Cuba is the country in Central America and the Caribbean with the highest rate of overcrowding in prisons. Between common and political prisoners, the prisons are estimated to house more than 80,000 Cubans, 80% of them black or mixed-race.
The activists are seeking to extend their actions to all provinces but, for the moment, feel comforted to have been able to get this far. “We have succeeded, now we will continue,” says Cantillo, with that direct and brief way of speaking of women accustomed to the rigors of rural life.
“All those who initiated the movement have been threatened by the political police, house by house,” she reports. However, “my family has always been very supportive of me and has had to be strong not to become divided.”
“All those who initiated the movement have been threatened by the political police, house by house”
The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), her husband, knows Cantillo’s determination well. José Daniel Ferrer looks positively on the formation of the new entity of the civil society. “It seems to us positive that women and men, in this case women, are concerned about the problems that most affect our nation, our society.”
“The only thing we had not recommended was to change the name, they already existed as Citizens for Democracy and had been known for two years,” he reflects.
Cantillo also leaves a space for premonition when she says in a firm tone of voice: “Soon my first granddaughter will come into the world and she will be very strong because she has experienced the repression since she was in the womb of her mother.”
14ymedio, Havana, 14 January 2017 — At six on Saturday morning the police raided the house of Belkis Cantillo, leader of the Citizens for Democracy movement in Palmarito del Cauto, Santiago de Cuba. The officers showed up a few hours after about a dozen women of the organization walked to the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, as reported to 14ymedio by Jose Daniel Ferrer, coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).
The opposition leader said that on Friday the activists arrived at the church consecrated to the Virgin of Charity, patroness of Cuba, “with the intention of reclaiming the space that the political police have taken away from us in the Sanctuary.” This morning the police entered Cantillo’s house in the municipality Mella “where elderly people and children live,” says Ferrer. continue reading
“Several witnesses report that the political police arrested a 19-year-old girl who is six months pregnant, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo,” said Ferrer, former prisoner of the Black Spring. He adds that “the telephones of family members have been siezed, so it has become impossible to communicate with them.”
Citizens for Democracy is a group formed by women and founded in September 2014. Its members are residents in the towns of Palma Soriano, Palmarito del Cauto and the city of Santiago de Cuba. The fundamental demands of the organization focus on respect for human rights and civic liberties.
Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary arrests in the country, a figure that “puts the Government of Cuba in first place in all of Latin America,” said the report of the independent organization.
14ymedio, Havana, 13 January 2017 — Matilde sold her home just two weeks ago to pay for the immigration route to the United States. Thursday, the hope of achieving her dreams burst when president Barack Obama put an end to the wet foot/dry foot policy that granted legal residency to Cubans who reached the United States.
The news dropped like a bombshell on the island. “My family is desperate, having put all their hopes in this journey,” the retired woman told 14ymedio. With a son living in New Jersey, the woman planned to travel at the end of this month to Mexico and cross the border “to the land of freedom.”
Since the death of former president Fidel Castro, no other event has so shaken the Cuban reality. The announcement this Thursday affected many who normally live their lives outside politics and official issues. “I feel as if someone had snatched away my lifejacket in the middle of the sea,” said Matilde. continue reading
Attorney Wilfredo Vallín, of the Cuban Legal Association, believes that the decision is “something that belongs to the sovereignty of a State.” In 1995, during the Bill Clinton administration, the policy was approved that today “is considered opportune to change,” but “the repercussions of that in other countries is a problem of other governments.”
“It has been said that these facilities provided by the US Government encouraged emigration and now a part of the argument is over”
The attorney maintains that what happened transcends the issue of migration and touches the pillars of the ideological propaganda of the Plaza of the Revolution. “It has been said that these facilities provided by the US government encouraged emigration and now that part of the argument is over.” For Vallín the decision could “increase discontent among citizens.”
The end of this immigration policy comes at a bad time for the government of Raúl Castro. Last year closed with a stagnant economy that experienced a fall of 0.9% in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). For those most affected by hardship and the high cost of living, the possibility of emigration to the United States was a source of permanent illusion.
However, the ruling party has welcomed a new era. Josefina Vidal, the director general for the United States in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told the national media that with this suspension, “the migration crisis between Cuba and the United States is eliminated.” The end of the wet foot/dry foot policy has been a old demand of the government of the island, which has also pressed to end the Parole program for Cuban health professionals, a measure that was also suspended this Thursday.
“With these measures, Cubans who believed they could find prosperity and wellbeing in the United States will have to find another solution,” reflects opposition leader José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union (Unpacu).
In a telephone conversation with this newspaper from eastern Cuba, Ferrer says now begins a stage of “thinking more about how to obtain freedom, prosperity, opportunities and rights here in our own land.” The scenario that opens “will make us much more responsible and aware that we must take the reins of our destiny as a people and as a nation here within.”
In front of the University of Havana, Ramon, 48, reflects on the possible repercussions of what happened. “Every time the popular disagreement reached a high point, the government managed to calm it by opening up emigration,” he says. “Now we are all unable to get out of this pressure cooker that is always getting hotter.”
“Political refugee status is too serious, too honorable for it to continue to function as it has until now”
Activist Eliécer Ávila, leader of the Somos+ (We Are More) movement, considers it an “excellent” decision. “The refugee status for political reasons is something too serious, too honorable for it to continue to function as it has so far,” he reflects. “Any measure that makes Cubans take more responsibility for their nation instead of fleeing it is something that should be supported.”
For opposition member Manuel Cuesta, a member of the Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD), the elimination of this policy “should have been taken long ago to avoid the type of risky emigration that has resulted in the loss of the lives of young people, children and whole families.”
He acknowledges, however, that the decision is “controversial because those who were preparing their raft to leave early this morning have just been dissuaded in a way that cannot be appealed.” It is likely that “Trump is applauding the measure,” he said.
14ymedio, Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 11 January 2017 — While in the United States Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, made it clear that human rights will be an important part of Washington’s policy toward Cuba, the island’s police forces carried out repressive actions in different parts of the country.
“The increase in repression is due to several causes, among them a push that the government is making in the last days of Barack Obama’s administration to make it clear to Trump that they do not care about the policy change he has announced towards Cuba,” said José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) speaking from Santiago de Cuba. continue reading
Ferrer denounced the arrest of Jesús Romero and Alexis Rodríguez, activists of his organization who were accused of “posting an opposition sign in the center of the city.”
Among Unpacu members recently detained are also its coordinator, Ovidio Martín Castellanos, and the singer Yuniel Aguilera.
“After the death of his brother, Raul Castro needs to increase terror levels to maintain power,” says Ferrer, who says the government is willing to do anything to eliminate any hint of dissent.
“The increase in repression is due to the push the government is making in the last days of Barack Obama’s administration to make clear to Trump that they do not care about the policy change he has announced towards Cuba”
“They know people are tired of the same thing. When in April we mobilized more than 1,000 people the political police told us that we would never do something like that again,” he adds.
At the other end of the island, the editor of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence), Karina Galvez, was the victim of search of her home, which ended up being sealed. Galvez herself, age 48 and an economist by profession, is under arrest for the alleged crime of tax evasion.
The director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, called the escalation against the civic project he leads – including the suspension of a planned meeting and multiple arrests – acts of “harassment” by State Security.
Also arrested this day was regime opponent Óscar Elías Biscet, founder of the Emilia Project, which seeks the change of government in the island by means of a popular uprising. After a few hours, Dr. Biscet, who has spent long years in jail, was released.
Activists Eduardo Quintana Suarez, Jose Omar Lorenzo Pimienta and Yoan Alvares, who belong to the same organization, were also arrested, as reported by El Nuevo Herald.
Activist Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested when she attempted to attend the scattering of the ashes of the recently deceased opponent Felix Antonio Bonne Carcassés. She explained to 14ymedio that her detention lasted until two on Wednesday afternoon.
Opponent René Gómez Manzano told this newspaper that they “appealed” to his sanity so that he would not attend the ceremony where the ashes would be scattered, although he finally succeeded in doing so.
This repressive wave unfolds a few hours after the replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla
According to a press release from Democratic Directorate in the city of Holguín, human rights activist Maydolis Leiva Portelles, together with her three children, under arrest since November 27, 2016, were brought to trial.
The entire family, according to the press release, including two minors, was the subject of an act of repudiation that included “violent raiding of the home, beatings, and robbery of personal property.”
This repressive wave has been unfolding within a few hours of the replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla. Among other prerogatives, the person who controls the portfolio of the Interior Ministry also exercises command over State Security and the National Revolutionary Police.
“With the [previous minister] repression was quite extensive, although it must be said that in Cuba a minister cannot do anything without Raul Castro authorizing it. The policy carried out by Gondín continues with Gandarilla. We will have more repression as the discontent increases,” says José Daniel Ferrer.
14ymedio, Miami, 19 December 2016 — The leader of the Ladies in White movement was released on Monday after being detained for 24 hours. Berta Soler was arrested the previous day in one of the largest raids against the opposition in recent months. Meanwhile, approximately ten activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) remain imprisoned, according to a report by phone from Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of that organization.
“According to the count we have done, some 117 UNPACU activists were arrested on Sunday and nine houses were raided by the police, who seized five personal computers and dozens of phones, flash drives, printers and printed materials,” Ferrer told 14ymedio. continue reading
UNPACU had called for a march for freedom of all political prisoners and solidarity with Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto, and Eduardo Cardet, who were both detained after the death of Fidel Castro.
Six of the houses raided were in Santiago de Cuba, two in Palma Soriano and one in Palmarito de Cauto.
According to Ferrer, the police also seized cash in the houses where they entered, including 370 CUC “intended for the feeding of a pregnant woman and the purchase of things for her unborn child.”
The opponent considers that the government is trying to behead the movement. “They want to capture as many coordinators of UNPACU as possible,” he explains. Almost all detained activists have this organizational role within UNPACU.
This Monday the trial of Lisandra Rivera Rodriguez, accused of the crime of attack, was expected to be held.
“They are afraid of the reaction of the organization, so they are developing a rather large operation in Santiago de Cuba. They have placed police barriers around my house,” says Ferrer. The police again threatened to return him to jail, when he and other left together to seek the mediation of the Catholic Church.
“I was told that I was inciting the members of the UNPACU to commit crimes of public disorder, attack, contempt and espionage,” he commented.
UNPACU is the largest opposition organization in the country, centered mainly in the eastern provinces and with a presence in Havana.
The Ladies in White also reported the arrest of 32 activists in Havana and an undetermined number in the provinces.
“We are now updating the report to have the total number of arrests because many Ladies are still being arrested,” said Eralidis Frómeta, who belongs to that movement, which was founded by Laura Pollán in 2003.
Note: The video was taken surreptitiously and thus is of poor quality.
14ymedio, Havana, 18 December 2016 – Beginning at 6:00 AM on Sunday morning, Cuban State Security forces attacked nine homes of members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU); six in Santiago de Cuba, two in Palma Soriano, and one in Palmarito de Cauto. More details are expected in the coming hours; currently most of the activists’ telephones have been cut off.
Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the organizations, explained to 14ymedio that the “justification” for the harsh repressive operation was a call made by UNPACU for people to come into the streets in protest, in Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The objective of the opposition organization was “to demand the release of the political prisoners and the end to increasingly severe repression against independent civil society groups,” Ferrer said. continue reading
The homes simultaneously attacked were those of Leonardo Pérez Franco, Ovidio Martín Castellanos and Damaris Rodríguez. At the home of Iriades Hernández, who is currently abroad, the police entered and took two laptops. The police also broke into UNPACU’s working headquarters and the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer.
In Palma Soriano the homes of Yenisei Jiménez, wife of political prisoner Geordanis Muñoz, and that of Yeroslandi Calderín, coordinator of the March 18 Cell and a replacement for Víctor Campa who is currently a political prisoner. In Palmarito de Cauto, so far it has only been possible to report an attack on the home of Yasmani Diaz, but it is presumed that there may be other cases.
Among the possessions seized were printed material, discs, audiovisual materials, hard drives, four laptops and several cellphones. In the home of Jose Daniel Ferrer they seized 370 dollars intended to feed a pregnant woman and to buy supplies for her unborn child. As a part of the operation, more than 50 activists in the province of Santiago de Cuba and 10 in Havana had been detained by 1:30 this afternoon.
Some ten of those arrested have been released, among them Jose Daniel Ferrer, who reported the following: “A lieutenant colonel who refused to give me his name showed me a warning notice where it said that our call gave rise to the crimes of public disorder, contempt, attack and espionage. They also warned me that they had been disturbed by my statements about the late Fidel Castro on our website and my modest interpretation or translation of his concept of Revolution.”
Cubanet, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Santiago do Cuba, 29 October 2016 — The top headline in the nightly news on the Castro family’s private television — the only television permitted in our country – on October 28th this year, was: “Cubans are paying tribute to Camilo Cienfuegos on the 57th anniversary of his physical disappearance.” Then we see leaders, the military, workers and students, all of them in the service of the family who own the television and who also own everything in Cuba, – when a few people own everything, the rest don’t even own their own lives – scatter flowers in the sea or in rivers in homage to the brave and much-loved guerilla. Lázaro Expósito, Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in the province of Santiago de Cuba, and his entourage, distributed their flowers in the contaminated Santiago Bay.
Was Camilo lost at sea? Or, did Fidel Castro make him disappear? For most Cubans, the second possibility seems more likely. My father, Daniel Ferrer, fought in Column 9 under the command of Huber Matos, and, with me still in primary school, he told me that Camilo hadn’t fallen into the sea, that that was just a story. He never explained to us why he said that. Since I was a kid I have never wanted to be deceived or used. From the 5th grade on, I never again “threw flowers for Camilo.” They haven’t found any trace of the light aircraft which, supposedly, crashed into the sea. Will we need a diver like the one who discovered the wreckage of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s plane? continue reading
If Camilo was, and I think it is true, a brave, intelligent and sincere man who fought for the restoration of democracy to the Cuban people – the great majority of Cubans who fought against Batista thought that they were fighting to restore the 1940 constitution, never imagining that they were fighting for one family to become owners of the whole nation – it is logical to think that, when he saw the disastrous road along which Castro was leading the Revolution, he would have expressed his disagreement, or, at the very least, Fidel and Raúl would have imagined that it would not be easy to manipulate him and, in either case, would have decided to get rid of him. And if that is what happened, he certainly does deserve flowers, respect, admiration and justice. But not that we should participate in the Castros’ farce of casting flowers on the sea.
If, on the other hand – and I don’t think it’s true – Camilo was another docile instrument in the hands of the Stalin of Birán (Fidel Castro’s birthplace), always ready to obey orders, even though the orders converted his country into a nation of slaves, and he really disappeared in an airplane accident over the sea, after Huber Matos’ arrest, then it’s the best thing that could have happened to him. In that way, he died clean, without having on his shoulders the weight of the tyranny’s subsequent grave and continuous crimes And, if that’s how it was, he deserves neither flowers nor admiration.
But, I do think that he deserves flowers, respect, admiration, and justice. And for that, I do not throw flowers into the sea. One day, we will know where his remains are. I don’t know why, but whenever they speak of Camilo, or of other friends and victims of the Castros, even inluding the Argentinian communist who executed so many Cubans in Havana’s La Cabaña fortress, I remember Lev Trotsky, Sergei Kirov, Lev Kámenev and Gregory Zinoviev, among other victims of Joseph Stalin’s purges.
They say there is no proof that Stalin ordered Kirov’s assassination, or that Castro got rid of Camilo. But what we do know is that Stalin did not like to be upstaged by anyone, and that the Castros even stick people away and out of sight if they seem to be the slightest bit “difficult.” Kirov and Camilo seemed to be malcontents. Those who want to have everything, do everything to control everything, and then they tell whatever whoppers suit them. But, in Stalin’s time, there was no internet.
Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 9 November 2016 – The elections in the United States, with the victory of the Republican Donald Trump and the defeat of the Democrat Hillary Clinton, contrary to the predictions of most polls, has captured the attention of the world’s public opinion in recent hours due to the decisive nature of United States policy in the international arena.
The normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States and the diverse opinions generated by the lengthy diplomatic process and packages of measures aimed at easing the embargo, implemented by current US president Barack Obama, have given rise to a broad spectrum of opinions within Cuban civil society, such that some of the main opposition leaders on the island have expressed their views to CubaNet to the election results announced at dawn on Wednesday.
Antonio Rodiles, coordinator of Estado de Sats (State of Sats) and organizer of the We All March campaign, says: “We expect consistency of those who, within Cuba, maintained a policy against Trump and were confident in Hillary’s victory. (…) Maybe difficult times will come for the process of normalization of relations with Cuba and the continuity of Obama’s program. We expect another direction in the dialogue and a president who places the issue of respect for human rights and freedom of expression as a priority, a determinant, at any negotiating table.” continue reading
Jose Daniel Ferrer, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU, argues that the electoral decision does not mean negative effects on the relations between the two countries: “I do not think the difference is notable. The American people have chosen. The new president will do what suits the citizens of the United States and, as he should, prioritize the interests of his nation (…). The candidate the people believed to be better has won (…). (Regarding Cuba) common sense in the process of normalization of relations will prevail and we expect a strong hand with the dictatorship because (Cuba) is a regime contrary to the interests US, it is a regime that no American candidate would never agree to in the style of Venezuela or China. (…) We expect better relations with the new government.”
The regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque said: “It seems that the American people have passed the bill to the Democratic Party. Many people are concerned about the ways in which Trump has expressed himself during his campaign, but I think that concern should be minimized because surely the Republican Party will take control of the situation. (…) With regards to his impact on the Cuba issue I think there are measures taken by Obama that are irreversible. Especially because America is a democracy, not like Cuba, which is governed by a totalitarian. It will not be easy to give a twist to relations with the island. However, I think this gentleman will be educated by his advisers enough to not make the mistakes of the previous president.”
Eliecer Avila, activist with the movement Somos+ (We Are More), confessed to not having had a previous position in favor or against any candidate, although he said about his expectations: “I didn’t support either of them one hundred percent. In Hillary Clinton I saw very positive support for Obama’s policy (toward Cuba). (…) Donald Trump has shown some strong positions but I do not think that will change the policy of his predecessor but, apparently, will negotiate from other positions.”
The lawyer Laritza Diversent , founder of Cubalex, believes that the elections were a reflection of the opinion of the American people and believes that Cuba will occupy an important place in the policy of President-elect: “The process of normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba is irreversible. (…) There is a responsibility to the legacy of Obama. The United States, with its current policy, is leading positive changes. Many challenges are imposed on the new president. We should also consider the views of the US Congress and other powers in that nation.”
Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, believes it is too early to make predictions about the directions Trump will take regarding policies on Cuba: “We have to wait. I have never preferred one or the other because there is a reality: it is not about the Cuban President but about the President of the United States. Someday I want Cuba to be able to elect a president in a way similar way to that in the United States. (…) We don’t know about Trump, we have to wait. There may be changes but I do not know, I’d rather wait. ”
The election of the 45th President of the United States has not only launched numerous questions in the world’s most important economic sectors. For Cuba, undergoing a process of rapprochement with the United States that could help find a solution to economic stagnation, for the government, or a way for democratization, for civil society, the policies toward the island that will be decisive in the immediate future will be designed by Trump.
14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2016 — Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, after 47 days on a hunger and thirst strike, was transferred on Monday afternoon to Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital. The dissident was discharged hours later because doctors felt that he did not meet the “entry criteria for intensive care,” he told 14ymedio activist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel.
Sources close to Fariñas detailed that the intake occurred at 2:45 pm after he lost consciousness at his home in the neighborhood of La Chirusa. Hours earlier, the daily report on his health issued by members of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), reported severe pain in the “joints, knees, ankles and shoulders.” continue reading
The note also explains that Fariñas was experiencing “dizziness, weakness and fatigue” and said his weight was 151 pounds, according to Dr. Yorkis Rodriguez Cardenas.
The winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is demanding that Raul Castro “publicly state that he will put an end to the beatings of nonviolent opponents,” and that he will schedule a meeting with a member of the Council of Ministers and “representatives of the Cuban opposition,” to explain what the government’s strategy will be “to end the beatings.”
A dozen Cuban dissidents have released a letter in which they call themselves Fariñas’ “brothers in the struggle” and say they share his demands. However, they also state that they need him alive to continue with them “on this path” until they “achieve freedom.”
“We respect you and we are aware of your sacrifice, but we would ask you to put an immediate end to your strike,” says a letter from dissidents Félix Bonne, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Ángel Moya, Félix Navarro, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque and Berta Soler.
Since the beginning, Fariñas has reiterated that, in the event that “Raul Castro will not yield to the demands” he will continue the hunger and thirst strike “until the end.”
14ymedio, Luz Escobar/Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 24 August 2016 – Five years can be a long time in Cuba, when we’re talking about an opposition organization. In the complex kaleidoscope of dissident groups and parties that make up civil society on the island, many are active for only a few months or languish amid repression and illegality. The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) will reach its fifth anniversary on Wednesday with several of its initial objectives completed and others still in progress.
While the Cuban government classifies all opponents as “enemies” of the nation and “hirelings of the Empire,” UNPACU members have preferred to describe themselves in their own words. They consider themselves “a citizens’ organization and a pro-democracy and progressive social movement” interested in “freedom, sovereignty and prosperity.” Their epicenter is the city of Santiago de Cuba and other areas in Eastern Cuba, although they also have a presence in Havana. continue reading
Organized around their leader and most visible head, Jose Daniel Ferrer, UNPACU was born in 2011 after the process of the release of the last prisoners of the 2003 Black Spring, among whom was Ferrer. Ferrer’s prior experience was in the ranks of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), which was vital for his own political development, according to what he has said in several interviews.
Over the years, several faces have stood out in UNPACU’s ranks, such as the young Carlos Amel Oliva, who recently led a hunger strike in protest of the arbitrary arrests and confiscations of personal belongings. However, UNPACU has also suffered, like the rest of the country, the constant exodus of its members through the refugee program offered by the United States Embassy and other paths of emigration.
Among those who have decided to stay on the island, is Lisandra Robert, who never imagined she would join an opposition organization. Her future was to be a teacher, standing in front of a classroom and reviewing mathematical formulas and theories. However, her studies at Frank Pais Garcia University of Teaching Sciences ended all of a sudden when she refused to serve as an undercover agent for State Security. The “mission” they demanded of her was to report on the activities of several activists of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, among them two of her family members.
Today, Robert is a member of UNPACU, and although she started with the group as an independent journalist, with the passing of time she has addressed the issue of political prisoners. “At first it was hard, because the neighbors participated in the acts of repudiation, they wouldn’t look at us or speak to us.” Something has changed because “now they are the ones most supportive of us.”
Among the characteristics that distinguish the work of UNPACU is the use of new technologies. Through copies on CDs, USB memory sticks or external hard discs, Cubans have seen the acts of repudiation from the point of view of the opponents who have been victims of them, and they have even used tools such as Twitter, which they teach in their Santiago headquarters.
“This is a way to bring more people to all the work we do and they receive it with love and great appreciation, because we also include news that doesn’t appear in the national media,” says Robert.
Zaqueo Báez’s face became known during the mass Pope Francis offered in Havana’s Plaza of the Revolution last September. Along with other colleagues, the current UNPACU coordinator in Havana approached the Bishop of Rome and demanded the release of the political prisoners. This Tuesday he told 14ymedio that he felt “very proud” of belonging to the movement dedicating “great efforts” to “social work undertaken directly with people to involve those most in need.”
Jose Daniel Ferrer, on a visit to Miami, said he was satisfied by what has been achieved and feels that “in its first year UNPACU was already the opposition organization with the most activists in Cuba.” The figure of 3,000 members stated publicly has been a center of controversy, such as that sustained between Ferrer and Edmundo Garcia, a Cuban journalist living in Florida. On this occasion, Garcia asked sarcastically, “How many people (from UNPACU) can you introduce me to?”
Garcia also questioned the organization’s source of funding and said the United States government was the main source, through the National Endowment for Democracy. Ferrer openly acknowledged that part of the funding comes from the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF) and what he describes as “generous contributions from Cuban exiles.”
Former political prisoner Felix Navarro belonged to UNPACU, but said he had left the group “without grievance, without separation.” He considers it “the most representative organization in opposition to Castro within the Cuban nation.” In addition, “it is in the street and has created a very positive mechanism from the point of view of the information to immediately find out what is happening every minute.”
For José Daniel Ferrer one of the biggest challenges is to achieve “a capable and committed leadership” because many activists “scattered on the island don’t do better activism because of not having good leadership.” The limitation on resources such as “equipment, disks, printers and the money it takes to bring more people into the work of spreading information” also hinders the action of training, he adds.
The dissident Manuel Cuesta Morua considers UNPACU to be “one of the most active organizations, especially in non-violent protests in the streets, bringing light and giving relief to the demands of ordinary people.” A result of this activism is that in April of this year the number of political prisoners belonging to the organization rose to 40 people.
When Jose Daniel Ferrer was asked if UNPACU can remain active without him in the personal leadership position that has characterized Cuban political movements, he responds without hesitation: “It has been demonstrated very clearly in my absence.”