Charges Laid Against Manual Cuesta Morua / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

HAVANA, Cuba — On the night of January 30 Manual Cuesta Morúa, spokesperson for the Progressive Arch Party and coordinator of the New Country project, was finally released after several days of arbitrary arrest which was a part of the repressive wave unleashed by the Cuban authorities in relation of the celebration in Havana of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Threats, undisguised persecution in the street, dozens of arrests and cases of regime opponents besieged, were all a part of this escalation that reaffirms the panic of the State that derives from the lack of political and moral reason that afflicts the Cuban leaders.

The opposition leader was arrested on a public street on Sunday, January 26, when while touring the city to finalize details for the Forum Parallel to the CELAC Summit, organized by several opposition organizations in coordination with the Center for  Opening and Democracy for Latin America (CADAL), whose director, the Argentine activist Gabriel Salvia, was arrested on the afternoon of Monday 27 at Havana airport and expelled via El Salvador. Cuesta Morúa was transferred to the Fifth Station of the National Revolutionary Police on 7th at A and 62nd in the Havana municipality of Playa.

For several days the Social Democratic leader underwent numerous subsequent interrogations and threats by several top officials of the political police. According to the testimony of Cuesta Morúa, the law enforcement agents were very irritated by his convening and hosting the Forum in parallel to CELAC, and pressured him to abort the call in exchange for his release. continue reading

On Thursday the 30th, the recently released independent lawyer Veizant Boloy — who has been arrested on the afternoon of Monday the 27th — became engrossed in the development of a Habeas Corpus petition which was finally presented at the Provincial Court of Havana at noon by Gloria Llopiz, Cuesta Morúa’s wife.

In the afternoon several leaders and activists appeared at the Fifth Station accompanied by Cuesta Morúa’s mother, with the intention of gathering information, interviewing the detainee, and pressing for his release. After more than four hours of fruitless waiting without being able to see her son, Mrs. Mercedes Morúa was dismissed with the promise of the quick release of the opposition leader.

Opponents gathered outside the police station remained in constant contact with international media and institutions interested in  Cuesta Morúa’s situation, and propelled the global campaign for his release, not believing the false information supplied by the agents of the People’s Revolutionary Police on the alleged release of the detainee.

Before being finally being released in the evening hours, Cuesta Morúa is informed by his captors that he will be criminally prosecuted in Case No. 5 of 2014 for the alleged crime of “dissemination of false news against international peace,” under the weak argument of several articles and texts published by the opposition on racial and academic problems in Cuba, which, according to the official, distort the Cuban reality and “the work” of the Revolution in support of racial equality.

A precautionary measure was imposed requiring Cuesta Morúa to report his  presence each week at the same police station where he spent several days under arrest, which by the way will prevent his meeting various political and academic commitments abroad. This is an unfortunate consequence of this new judicial arbitrariness, in fact unsustainable by the weakness of charging arguments which fall apart before the Cuban reality and the strength of the increasingly growing challenges in this sensitive and complex issue for the present the future of Cuba.

The unjust detention of Cuesta Morúa generated a worldwide wave of revulsion against the intolerant and hypocritical behavior of the Cuban authorities, who, in the plenary of the Summit of CELAC, spoke of respect for diversity and pluralism, while in the streets they unleashed a frankly fascist inspired repression.

Recently there have been many expressions of sympathy and support that have come in various forms from many parts of the world as a sign of increased sensitivity to Cuba’s complex reality that is generated in the democracies of the world and in contrast to the indolent and complicit attitude of the vast majority of democratically elected presidents at the CELAC Summit.

Cubanet, 31 January 2014,

Mariel: Another Mockery of Cuban Workers / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

HAVANA, Cuba  – The first 700 meters of dock of the Mariel mega-port are inaugurated by the presidents of Cuba, Raul Castro, and Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, in parallel to the II Summit of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

Rousseff ’s government — Cuba’s the second largest trading partner after Venezuela — has funded 75 percent of the works. Four years ago it gave the island a credit of $600 million and is studying whether to award a second. The center of the project is the mega-port. The bay of the capital will be reserved for cruise ships.

These business partnerships with foreign capital appear to be the main option of the Cuban authorities to rebuild its battered economy. A multimillion dollar investment from the Brazilian government assumes the greatest weight in the reconstruction and modernization of the port of Mariel, located several kilometers west of the capital. The investment seeks, in a short time, to turn the port enclave into a space for international shipping.

From the technical point of view, the project includes, besides the port for large Post Pamanax vessels — capable of carrying over 12,000 containers — built by the Brazilian company Odebrecht, an industrial and commercial zone covering 180 square miles, and facilities for the movement and storage of goods, establishment of industrial production plants, formerly known as maquiladoras. continue reading

Beyond the possible success of this new economic salvation that the regime seems to cling to, there are concerns about its human and social implications. Two “socialist” governments have joined together to once again exploit and cheat Cuban workers. On one side, Lula da Silva and the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), and on this side the everlasting Castro brothers, present us a design in which the socialist-impresarios maintain monopoly control, while Cuban workers only receive crumbs from a huge business and, above all, continue to be deprived of basic rights and economic and employment benefits.

Cuban authorities report, without even blushing, on the recruitment of labor through an employment agency and, naturally, with a salary that has nothing to do with their work contribution. Added to this is the absence of union protection suffered by workers here, victims of a single union, which only acts as an instrument of control and manipulation to serve the regime.

According to testimony from workers and neighbors, labor and management inconsistencies that undermine both the business process and the interests of Cuban workers have already begin to manifest themselves. There is already talk of desertion by Brazilian executives and specialists, who, they say, can not stand up to nor understand how Cuban workers can tolerate such poor working conditions.

The fleeting and almost surprise visit in recent months made to the enclave by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, seems to confirm that everything is not going without a hitch in the ambitious project. In any event, investors in Brazil are responsible for their investment and the risks they take to join such bad partners.

Suffice it to recall the example of the huge Canadian company Sherritt, which, after years of economic association with Castro, and investing in Cuba during the crisis of the nineties, at the cost of seeing their executives suffer damages of the United States’ Helms-Burton Law, now do not even know if they can recover hundreds of millions of dollars owed by their Caribbean partners.

It remains to be seen if the expectations of great benefits prevents these Brazilian “comrades” (once militant trade unionists and anti-employers) from seeing how the Cuban government exploits its workers and how it crushes the emerging small businesses with confiscatory taxes and draconian and arbitrary rules. Or how much inhuman indolence their partners demonstrate to the elderly, the unemployed, the single mothers, who have to face the enormous challenges of the current economy without any support, or the thousands of self-employed thrown into helplessness and hopelessness.

We do not know what will happen in the Mariel project in economic terms. Will this ambitious project become another failure and another resounding scam? But what is visible now is the shameful attitude of Brazilian politicians, hardened in social struggles and with obvious achievements in this area, who accept the benefits of a  business where access to labor is politically conditioned.

An attitude so reminiscent of the nineteenth century European colonialists, many of whom were liberals in European culture and monarchists and slave-owners in their American possessions.

Cubanet, 27 January 2014 |

Elderly Cubans, Between Misery and Neglect / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

LA HABANA, Cuba, October, – The authorities have assured us that the aging of the population and the declining birth rate makes us the equal of the developed countries. What cynicism! The latest Population and Housing Census only demonstrates the profound socioeconomic crisis has converted the existence of every Cuban into a difficult ordeal.

The collapse of the totalitarian statist model, the low purchasing power, the high cost of living and the housing crisis, dissuade young couples from having children.

There are many young people who refrain from starting a family because they put all their hopes in leaving the country. In finding, abroad, the personal realization that is closed to them in Cuba.

There are more than two million compatriots scattered throughout the world.

But the hardest hit by our crisis, are the elderly. The weakness of the Cuban economy can not guarantee quality of life for our old people, who after working for decades, suffer poverty level pensions and the lack of social protections.

Our Elderly

It’s shocking to see our elderly and disables thrown into the informal economy, or begging, while the top leadership doesn’t change its discourse of being the paternalistic supreme benefactor.

The frustration comes through in every testimony: Arturo Ponciano, 79, retired from construction thirteen years ago. Speaking haltingly he wonders when he will be able to relax if not in his grave. “So much hard work, so many shocking works, internationalist missions, to have to keep struggling in the street, selling candy, fighting the insatiable inspectors for the needs of the people.”

Aurora, 71, from Havana, says that she still felt strong when she retired from the tobacco factory after 38 years of work… “but I couldn’t take the pressure and the persecution of the bosses to prevent the stealing of materials, or the aggressive behavior of the young people (so different from what we were like).” Aurora feels frustrated that what she earns in retirement isn’t even enough to buy a sweet treat for her grandchildren.

After calming down from her panic, thinking I was an inspector coming to fine her or take her money, Nina, 74, said that she is exhausted every morning after walking miles in the sun as a roaming seller. “If I don’t do it, I don’t know how I’m going to live. As long as I have the strength I will keep pushing the cart of candy, popcorn and “chicharritas” (friend banana chips) that has become so heavy by the afternoon.

Berta Lina, 69, a retired clerk, says that the government talks a lot but in reality abandons old people to their fate after working for so many years, “the police produce nothing, they earn much more than others and they don’t even pay bus fares, the retired don’t even get a discount on that.”

“My younger sister has lived in Belgium for many years and people can’t even imagine the benefits enjoyed by the elderly in that country …  And I, working in private homes, earned in a day more than they pay me in retirement.”

Manolo, a retired teacher and widower of 81, said that his two children are very well positioned occupationally and his daughter living in the United States doesn’t hesitate to help. Manolo says, “My luck doesn’t keep me from recognizing how hard it is to see so many elderly in poverty or trying to sell what they can to survive… I came back from my visit to the United States to see my grandchildren, but they can say what they want, over there you don’t see any old people in this lamentable condition.”

Wilfredo, a retired lieutenant colonel, 73, recognizes that, “It is very hard at the end of the day to accept that this Revolution to which gave his entire life and his efforts proved to be a lie and a failure… Many old people who are still suffering the consequences of that failure refuse to accept the harsh reality.”

There are old people who, at a quick glance, one can see that their poor physical condition is premature. At this point neither the family nor the government seems prepared to face the challenges of such a broad segment of the population entering old age.

Apparently the Cuban authorities are more concerned with the status and socio-economic needs of their sister ALBA countries than with the fate of the elderly of the island. For us, an ever growing share of Cubans are approaching old age that we aren’t prepared for, if there isn’t a miracle, they will suffer more down the road.

Leonardo Calvo Cardenas –

From Cubanet,14 October 2013

They Demolished Their House by Mistake / Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

IMG_3774HAVANA, Cuba, September 23, 2013, Andy Andy Joel Cabrales and Thais Maylen Franco, in an act of desperation, with their two young children on Friday afternoon, positioned themselves in front of the Provincial Court of Havana headquarters to demand a solution to the tragedy they are living.

Ten days ago they inhabited a house in good condition at 315 Muralla Street, between Compostela and Habana in Old Havana, when workers from the Municipal Housing Directorate arrived to demolish a building. And they mistakenly destroyed the bordering house.

Since then, this family of ten people, including children of seven, one, and a baby five days old, all suffering from bronchial asthma, lives among the ruins of what was once their home, now in danger of total collapse.

Given the repeated demands of the victims, housing officials claim that they have no answer for the case. And in the provincial government offices they were limited to “orienting” them requesting a hearing at the Department of Population Assistance, which does not guarantee any solution.

In their desperation, the victims have turned to the Communist Party Central Committee, also with no response. The family reported that no health authority has been concerned about the health conditions of the children, or the young mother, still in quarantine from her recent cesarean.

Several citizens who supported the protest were arrested outside the Capitol building. The municipal director of housing, local government officials and Communist Party verbally committed to solve the case.

Human rights activists, lawyers and independent journalists will follow up on the unfortunate event.

By Leonardo Calvo Cardenas,

From Cubanet: More pictures here.

22 September 2013