Campaign #Otro18 Holds First Forum in Cuba / 14ymedio

The lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer during the press conference for the #Otro18 campaign. (14ymedio)
The lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer during the press conference for the #Otro18 campaign. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 March 2016 – On Wednesday, the Civic Platform #Otro18 (Another 2018) held a press conference and its first forum in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana under the theme “For Freedom of Choice” with twenty people in attendance. The initiative promotes several proposals to influence the elections in 2018 for a democratic opening in the country.

Several independent media and foreign correspondents based on the island attended the forum from 9:35 in the morning, to the press conference organized at the home of activist Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, coordinator of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration. The activist Boris González Arena presented the initiative and gave the floor to lawyers Amado Calixto, Wilfredo Vallin and Rolando Ferrer, who explained the legal details on which the project is based. continue reading

The meeting with journalists went smoothly and without a visible police operation around the site. The managers of the initiative showed a copy of the proposals presented last 8 March in the National Assembly of People’s Power which was received and acknowledged by the authorities.

The organizers explained that, so far, the intiative’s management group is made up of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU), the Roundtable of the Cuban Youth (MDJC), the Progressive Arc Party, the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration, the Center for Support of the Transition, and the Cuban Law Association. The Forum says that it is open to the “incorporation of other civil society organizations and independent actors.”

Among its proposals are: the elimination of current Candidacy Commissions and the Nomination Assemblies (both controlled by the ruling Party); recognition of the right of any citizen to stand as a candidate; and restoration of the election of the president of the Republic by popular vote and secret ballot for a term of four years.

Proposed electoral campaign #Otro18 delivered to the National Assembly of People's Power on 8 March.(14ymedio)
Proposed electoral campaign #Otro18 delivered to the National Assembly of People’s Power on 8 March.(14ymedio)

When asked how they take the accusation made by other sectors of the opposition that the electoral alternative “plays into the hands of the dictatorship,” Amado Calixto suggested reviewing the process of “the Spanish transition, which ended a dictatorship through existing law.” Ferrer, meanwhile, explained that now came a phase of work of building “awareness and popular mobilization to gather support and pressure the government to make the proposed reforms.”

After the press conference, the forum, currently still in session, began with presentations and including Citizenship Revisted: The Plural Vote by Manuel Cuesta Morua; Citizen Mobilization, by Rolando Ferrer; and Election Observation: A Civil Society Monitoring Tool, by Madrazo Luna.

During the day on Tuesday, several dissidents were detained to prevent them attending the #Otro18 Forum. Jose Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, still remains missing after being arrested Tuesday by police in the Cuban capital.

Other members of the opposition were prevented from leaving their province to attend the event, as in the case with Suleidis Perez Velazquez and Pedro Pablo Serafin Reyna, members of Independent and Democratic Cuba.

Cuban Activists Discuss the Diplomatic Normalization with the United States / 14ymedio

Cuban activists in the meeting on Monday at the headquarters of "Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism."(14ymedio)
Cuban activists in the meeting on Monday at the headquarters of “Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism.”(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 10 August 2015 – Under the title “Diplomatic Normalization and Democratic Normalization,” an even this Monday brought together some 25 Cuban activists of different points of view. The site of the meeting was the “Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism” in Old Havana.

The panel in the morning meeting discussed diplomatic normalization with the United States and the political dialog that the Cuban government is holding with the European Union. Specifically, they dealt with “the effects on the generation strategies of Cuban civil society and the democratic opposition.”

The event was attended by dissidents and activists from several organizations, including Juan Antonio Madrazo, Pedro Campos, Laritza Diversent, Felix Navarro, Jorge Olivera, Tania Bruguera, Navid Fernandez, Eroisis Gonzalez, Boris Gonzalez and Lilianne Ruiz, among others.

The meeting took place a few days before the Secretary of State of the United States, John Kerry, will come to Havana to attend the reopening ceremony of the embassy of that country in Cuban territory. So far Kerry’s agenda on the island has not been made public, nor is it known whether it will include a meeting with activists and government opponents.

Roads to Democracy for Cuba / 14ymedio

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 20 June 2015 — The second edition of the event Roads for a Democratic Cuba is taking place in Mexico from 18 to 23 June 2015 under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Participating in this meeting are dozens of political activists and civil society leaders of the Island and the Diaspora. The event will continue through the weekend and until next Tuesday.

Among the topics discussed on the first day is the impact on the Island of everything related to the talks between the governments of Cuba and the United States for the purpose of restoring diplomatic relations. Other areas to be discussed are the options of the opposition, various proposals before a new Cuban Electoral Law and ways to strengthen Cuban civil society. continue reading

Among the participants from the island are Dagoberto Valdes, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Vladimiro Roca, Laritza Diversent, Juan Antonio Madrazo, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, Wilfredo Vallin, Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Rosa Maria Rodriguez, Rafael León Rodríguez, Guillermo Fariñas and Boris Gonzalez Arenas.

The first meeting of the event was held last December 2014 in the Mexican capital. At that meeting they talked about the diversity of peaceful means to fight for democracy, the role of exile and the importance of identifying the minimum points of consensus to move forward, if not in the desired unity, at least in arranging purposes.

Conference participants gathered in Mexico. (14ymedio)
Conference poster for this year’s meeting.

Women in Battle Dress / Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna

The drag queens warm up Havana with the steam of their bodies. Prostitution has been their lifesaver.

HAVANA, Cuba – Lolita, Alejandra, Samantha, Paloma, and África María are drag queens who stamp their feet on every Havana street corner during the night, while the city sleeps. Some with warrior faces and others as shy princesses patrol the streets and avenues of a broken Havana.

Lady Gaga is not the icon for them anymore. She has been replaced by Conchita Wurst, the “bearded Austrian” who won the Eurovision Festival. They don’t believe in political surgery or the “factory of genders” that the National Center of Sexual Education (CENESEX) proposes, after converting Adela, a transsexual from Caibarién, into the first delegate of Popular Power.

In the stories of these drag queens we find dysfunctional homes, school drop- outs, sexual violation by a relative, and above all, humiliation and rejection since childhood for being different.

As they consider themselves to be in the wrong body, they have transformed it with accessories, paper-mache tits, hormones, or surgery. The will to live has allowed some of them to work in hospitals, as hairdressers, or by singing in small clubs. For others, prostitution has been their lifesaver. continue reading

Africa Maria is an athletic “Negro” of 27 years. Her corn-blonde wig contrasts with her dark skin. With her spike heels and fleshy lips painted red, she goes out every night, from the male chauvinist district of Los Sitios in Central Havana up to the slums of Vedado. Her theater of operation is 23rd Street. Africa tells us, “We have displaced the hookers from the streets. They don’t consider us true women, because the men who look for us know very well who we are. They come in search of a repressed fantasy.

And she adds, “I came out of the closet when I was 17. I didn’t finish sports school since my father, an awesome solider with medals, who was ascending the ranks, kicked me out into the street. And since then I have not stopped selling my skin. And I’m proud, because in Cuba, to be black, gay, and a transvestite, you have to have big balls.”

Samantha, who considers herself one of the most sought-after transvestites of homoerotic Havana, agrees.

“We render a service, we relieve our clients’ tensions. And no one imagines the dangers we face. Cubans have forgotten the fear of AIDS, that we can get infected. But that’s not our greatest fear. The worst is the macho abusers who abuse us. We walk with a pocket knife or a scissors to defend ourselves. Similarly, a tourist or the police can hurt us. We gamble with life. Although sometimes we experience the tenderness of a desperate Negro, who searches in us for the fantasy of enjoying a white women, a pleasure, sometimes unattainable, because of the racial prejudice in our society.”

Lolita, Alejandra, Samantha, Paloma and Africa Maria warm up Havana, with the steam of their bodies. Every day they look at the sea, at the hope of the arrival of a cruise ship full of sailors. They don’t give up. They are “women in battle dress,” who don’t fear the night.

Friday, May 30, 2014, Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna

Translated by: Alberto and Regina Anavy

1 June 2014