Cuban Political Police Claim the Power to Vaccinate

The first few minutes with the young medical student were very uncomfortable. She was looking at her cell phone and I was looking at mine. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 July 2021 — Last night I was thinking over and over again that when morning dawned I would have to go to the doctor’s office to receive the third dose of the Abdala candidate vaccine. It would not be a problem for anyone to walk a hundred meters and receive an injection, but for the past 13 days I have had a State Security officer guarding the entrance of my house and preventing me from leaving.

This morning, at 9:40, I tried to leave my house but, when I reached the ground floor of the building, the policeman got up from his chair and repeated, mechanically: “You can’t go out.”

“Today I have to receive my third dose of Abdala so I must and will go out,” I replied. But the agent does not understand explanations. It was like trying to convince a wall. “If you have to go to the office, wait for me to call the patrol right now to take you,” he said.

“There’s no way I’m getting into a police car as if I were a criminal,” I replied. “Then I will go with you,” he answered.

The doctor’s is one block away, I opened the door of the building and went out. The man walked beside me, commented on the weather, and at fifty meters he told me that we had “different ideals.” I didn’t continue reading

answer him.

At 9:45 a.m. I arrived at the doctor’s office, a small room with several chairs and, in the same entrance, a table where a young second-year medical student had the task of taking the blood pressure and temperature of all those who arrive, before registering the name on a spreadsheet.

I asked who was the end of the line, a man answered me and I sat down. The young student told me that it was also necessary to wait at least ten minutes for the person to recover from the exertion of the walk. As I sat down, the officer approached the girl and said something in her ear, she got up and looked for the doctor. The upshot of that conversation was that I was told to walk past the dozen or so people who were waiting.

Annoyed, almost ashamed of having to skip the line, mostly elderly, I went to the doctor who asked for my identity card and vaccination card. After a few brief questions, he jabbed my shoulder with a syringe while I was still dumbfounded and annoyed. Then I was left to wait in another room for an hour to monitor any adverse reactions.

But State Security has its own protocols that do not obey medical or scientific logic. A few minutes after being there, the policeman burst into the room and said: “No, let’s go to your house now.”

The doctor ended up giving in to his pressure, gave me back the documents and again I walked the short distance that separated me from my house, with that impertinent shadow to one side.

Before entering the elevator, the police officer had the nerve to try to make amends for the violation of my privacy and the disrespect he had committed toward the health regulations: “Sorry for the bad time I put you through,” he said, while I was just thinking about my two daughters, trusting that their mother had only gone to “get a jab” and that I would return as soon as possible.

No sooner had I entered my apartment and without being able to process all that, they knocked on my door. On the other side were the State Security officer, the nurse, and the young medical student who had received me at the vaccination center. They asked me if it was possible to “monitor” my physical situation at home. The two women came in.

The nurse left and the first minutes with the young woman were very uncomfortable. She was looking at her cell phone and I was looking at mine. I offered her coffee but she declined, she says she doesn’t like it and she brought her thermos with water. We don’t talk much, we barely exchange a few words, cordial, routine. At 10:45 am the nurse came to pick her up and they left.

The State Security officer is still on the ground floor of the building, and I don’t know how many more days he will stay. Outside at the corner there is a patrol car ready in case I break out in an attack of rebellion and try to leave, despite the warnings. This is the context that surrounds me since July 11 when thousands of Cubans took to the streets to ask for just what I need now: Freedom.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Released and Awaiting Trial, Cuban Chess Player Arian Gonzalez

González receiving a prize in Portugal in 2020. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, July 22, 2021 — The Spanish-Cuban Grand Master Arián González was released this Thursday after spending more than ten days in detention on the island for participating in the protests of July 11, his wife Massiel Hernández confirmed to 14ymedio. The chess player, who faces trial soon, is charged with the crime of “disrespect,” Hernández said.

At the time of his release, González was in La Pendiente prison, in the province of Villa Clara, where he was held after his arrest and carried out a hunger strike for several days.

The 32-year-old chess player, residing in Orense, Spain, arrived on the island at the beginning of July to take care of his mother, who is diabetic and lives in the Villa Clara municipality of Camajuaní. Like so many thousands of others, he joined the demonstrations last week, with the difference that he did it alone, and got no support from of any of his neighbors. continue reading

Regarding González’s arrest, his colleague Leinier Domínguez said: “I know that in addition to being a brilliant and talented chess player, he is an excellent person. Far from being a criminal, he is right at the other extreme, the good one, that of virtue and decency.”

In turn, former world chess champion Garry Kaspárov asked the Spanish authorities on Wednesday to comment on the case of Grand Master Arián González.

“Are there updates on the arrest in Cuba of a Cuban/Spanish citizen, Grandmaster Arian González? He was there visiting his ill mother. Has Spain been silent about the latest crackdown on human rights in Cuba?” he wrote on Twitter.

Kasparov thus responded to another message on social media in which the Ecuadorian chess player Carla Heredia had tagged him. “Our friend and colleague GM Arian González needs us, chess players around the world to speak up. Hopefully Kasparov can send his solidarity to Arian and bring attention to this case,” commented Heredia.

At the moment, different groups and entities have expressed their concern about the situation of the chess player. Meanwhile the Embassy and the Consulate General of Spain in Havana contend that they are limited because he is a person who has dual nationality.

On social media, several chess players criticized the arrests recorded during the protests on the island against the increasing food shortages during the pandemic. One of them, Sandro Pozo Vera, asked “all the people of Camaguey in exile” to share his post “to get our brave brother out of prison,” referring to González.

For its part, the Liceo Academia Postal de Orense club, where González plays, sent a letter to the Cuban ambassador in Madrid conveying its “concern and desire” that “as soon as possible” the chess player can return to Galicia, where He has lived for about five years, after a long stay in Catalonia.

The Spanish Chess Federation also contacted both the Higher Sports Council and the Cuban Chess Federation to check on González’s situation.

The chess player, who won the Spanish University Championship and who combines chess classes with law practice, planned to return to Galicia in August and compete in the Marcote Chess Memorial, which will take place from August 15 to 22.

Translated by Tomás A.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Citizens Mobilize to Help the Province of Matanzas

A part of the medicines and medical supplies collected through these campaigns has reached Matanzas this week. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 10 July 2021 — Cuban citizens have mobilized to help Matanzas, the province with the most serious situation due to COVID-19. Cuban emigrants, opponents, activists and international organizations are compiling donations and also advocating for the creation of a humanitarian corridor to Cuba in the face of the acute health crisis that the country is experiencing.

Dozens of complaints in different provinces, mainly Matanzas, have shown the collapse of hospitals, deaths of covid patients in homes, lack of medicines and medical supplies and insufficient attention from the Cuban health system. With the hashtag #SOSCuba, social networks have made dozens of these cases visible.

For its part, the Council for Democratic Transition in Cuba, recently created in Cuba, issued a Declaration of Humanitarian Crisis this Saturday in which it states that “the chaotic health situation in Matanzas” reflects “a triple crisis” in Cuba: of leadership, of model and of human rights.” continue reading

“It is cruel nonsense that many of our countrymen don’t have the necessary and basic resources to successfully face the COVID-19 pandemic and that the Government prevents others from helping, and even persecutes those who try to help the ones who need it most,” denounced the Council, made up of opponents, activists and independent journalists.

In addition, they expressed their support for the position of the Free Cuban Medical Association that requests “an urgent humanitarian intervention” in Cuba, and for the campaign promoted by Cuban emigrants who “ask the Government of Cuba, solely responsible for this crisis, to create a humanitarian aid corridor to alleviate the consequences of a self-inflicted disaster situation.”

“It is cruel nonsense that many of our countrymen don’t have the necessary and basic resources to successfully face the COVID-19 pandemic”

Contrary to accepting aid from Cubans outside the island, from international organizations or from other countries, “the government continues to be stuck in a mixture of arrogance and immature petulance, believing that only it can face a complex situation.” The result of this refusal, continues the Council, is “the combination of a potential famine with a health crisis on automatic pilot”, denounces the Council.

From Spain, with the tags #SOSCuba, #SOSMatanzas and #CorredorHumanitarioYa, several activists have created, on digital platforms such as Change.org, appeals to request logistical support and diplomatic mediation in the creation of a humanitarian corridor to Cuba. This is the case of the initiative managed by Massiel Rubio to send medicines and medical supplies from Madrid.

According to Rubio, the donations “are used to buy and pay for supplies and shipments that go directly to the neediest people.” He also assures that the aid is reaching Cuba thanks to people who “have donated their kilograms(i.e. luggage weight allowance)” when flying to the country.

Since last April, Rubio, along with other activists and artists, had demanded this corridor from the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel. They demanded the opening of “humanitarian flights” in view of “the serious health crisis, shortages of medicine, food and cleaning products” that Cuba is undergoing.

In midweek, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) advocated for international solidarity and the support of Cubans living abroad, in the face of “the COVID-19 catastrophe in Cuba” that “has exposed the nation’s pre-existing problems and plunged the country into an extreme humanitarian crisis.”

The NGO (Non-Government Organization) calls on Cuban authorities “to enable and support the cohesive flow of material and human resources” of Cuban emigrants and to help implement a “civic and solidarity chain” that includes humanitarian naval flights and transportation. It also affirms that “this tragedy can be an opportunity for everyone to demonstrate in practice their love for the country above their mutual differences. To block shipments would be a crime against humanity.”

The regime’s response has not been long in coming. The official press and voices related to the Government have described these campaigns as “opportunistic,” and consider them an instrument for “discrediting” the Cuban health system.

“The COVID-19 catastrophe in Cuba has exposed pre-existing national problems and precipitated the country into an extreme humanitarian crisis”

Official journalist Arleen Rodríguez Derivet, one of the directors of the Roundtable, insisted that the “#SOSMatanzas” initiative is “a campaign that looks very well organized” and that it tries to “raise alleged humanitarian motives to carry out humanitarian aggressions” and then “military interventions.” Rodríguez made her statements on her program Chapeando Bajito, which is broadcast on Radio Rebelde station.

Johana Tablada, Cuba’s Deputy Director General for the United States in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also posted on Twitter that “the real objective of some who today promote” such campaigns as the humanitarian corridor for Cuba is “to divert attention from the main responsibility of the US blockade that threatens the well-being, integrity, life and health of our population every day.”

This Saturday, at a press conference, Dr. Francisco Durán, National Director of Epidemiology, considered it an “important” measure to extend, from seven to fourteen days, the isolation of travelers arriving through the Varadero and Cayo Coco airports. The provision, which will begin to be implemented on July 15th, was also confirmed by the Civil Defense, which clarified that these travelers are limited to entering the country with only one piece of luggage “to reduce handling.”

Durán also specified that 6,750 positive cases of covid and 31 deaths were confirmed this Friday, figures that represent two new records in these daily reports. Of the total number of cases, 2,657 were registered in Matanzas, the province with the highest number of infections at this time.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban State Security Mobilizes to Prevent a Protest in Favor of Hamlet Lavastida

Young actor Daniel Triana was the only person who could reach the proposed location and was arrested at the entrance of the National Museum of Fine Arts. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 July 2021 — Several independent artists and journalists were detained this Wednesday by Cuban State Security agents to prevent them from carrying out a protest action in solidarity with the artist Hamlet Lavastida, who has been under arrest in Villa Marista since June 26th. The action proposed a sit-in in front of the National Museum of Fine Arts at one in the afternoon this Wednesday.

Artists Katherine Bisquet and Camila Lobón were arrested when they tried to leave their home in Centro Habana, while reporter Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho was arrested near the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Art historian Carolina Barrero was also arrested when leaving her home and she is still being held at the Infanta and Manglar unit, according to the testimony of Valdés Cocho.

“Camila Lobón and Katherine Bisquet Rodríguez are in the Zanja station. I could see them and we made the sign of freedom with our hands. They took me out of Zanja Street so that I wouldn’t be in the same place as them. In Infanta and Manglar I met Carolina Barrero, we were able to intertwine fingers despite a call for attention from the officers who were guarding her,” the reporter said in a post on Facebook after being released a few hours later. continue reading

Bisquet was the one who launched the call to protest, and the text reads: “We call on friends and colleagues to demand the release of Hamlet, taking the pertinent health-protective measures at a sit-in in front of the Museum of Cuban Art this Wednesday, July 7th at 1 pm. The acts of punishment and repression will continue as long as we give up the ground of our rights to the Government. Let’s come together to defend Hamlet, which is to defend ourselves, and defend ourselves as a community. Let us not abandon ourselves.”

The artist also explained that Lavastida’s relatives have not yet received the judicial resolution from the Prosecutor’s Office, a document without which it is impossible to hire the services of a lawyer.

In a short video shared by Lobón and Bisquet on their social networks, can be seen the moment when a State Security officer prevents them from leaving the house and asks two other officers to arrest them for not following his orders

Young actor Daniel Triana, the only person who could reach the proposed protest location, told 14ymedio that he was arrested at the entrance of the Museum, a few minutes after arriving and sitting down. They took him under arrest to the Infanta y Manglar station and released him after a few hours.

“I arrived and they took me within minutes, there was no one else. I saw a colleague go by, but he kept going, it seems that he was investigating. They did not show me a warning sign, only a person from the performing arts spoke to me who said that he was going to attend to me from now on,” says Triana.

In a short video shared by Lobón and Bisquet on their social networks, the moment can be seen when a State Security officer prevents them from leaving the house and asks two other officers to arrest them for not following his orders.

Katherine Bisquet is a poet who has published in Cuba such titles as Something Here Is Decomposing, from Editores Sur Collection, a volume that was mentioned in the Wolsan-Cuba Poetry Prize in 2013. Camila Lobón is a young visual artist who graduated in 2018 from the Arts University, former Higher Institute of Art (ISA) and is collaborator of the International Institute of Artivismo Hannah Arendt (Instar), founded by the artist Tania Bruguera.

Both are among the most visible faces of the last year in the defense of human rights in Cuba, especially after participating in the protest in front of the Ministry of Culture in November of last year which led to the creation of 27N.

Hamlet Lavastida arrived in Cuba from Germany on June 21st, after completing an artistic residency at the Berlin gallery Kunstlerhaus Bethanien. The young man had already completed his six days of regulatory Covid isolation in one of the centers set up by the Government when he was arrested.

He is accused of the crime of “instigation to commit a crime” that can carry from fines of between 100 and 300 quotas* (which can imply between 100 and 15,000 pesos) to imprisonment from three months to a year. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch, PEN America or PEN International, as well as the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien have condemned Lavastida’s arrest and demanded his unconditional release.

*Translator’s note: The Cuban Penal Code sets fines in terms of “quotas” and in this way can change the amount of all fines simply by changing the amount of one “quota.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Dozens of Cubans Demonstrate in Front of the UN to Demand Freedom for Political Prisoners

Among others, journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, teacher Omara Ruíz Urquiola and artists Luis Eligio D Omni, Javier Caso and Kizzy Macías participated in the protest. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 23 June 2021 — A group of Cubans demonstrated this Wednesday in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York to demand freedom for political prisoners, while the General Assembly prepared to vote on the annual resolution against the United States embargo on the Island. It received the support of 184 countries, the US and Israel voted against it and there were three abstentions: Colombia, Ukraine and United Arab Emirates.

The protest that took place near the UN building was attended by, among others, journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, professor Omara Ruíz Urquiola and artists Luis Eligio D Omni, Javier Caso and Kizzy Macías. “We are demanding that all political prisoners be released, that human rights and civic freedom be recognized. These are requirements to achieve a democratic country and to represent all Cubans, wherever they are,” said Cuban Tomás Castellanos during a live broadcast that the magazine El Estornudo aired from that location.

“We have decided today to give visibility to all Cubans who have expressed, in one way or another, their way of thinking that differs of course from the dictatorial Government line and who have paid the consequences for it,” he added. continue reading

The writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez used a reproduction of the Garotte Vil that artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara used to handcuff himself, in solidarity with the leader of the San Isidro Movement. Later, several of the protesters also approached the seat, where they were immobilized by the neck while their hands were handcuffed behind their back.

“The way in which we are here, projecting ourselves towards New York City, is neither gratuitous nor exaggerated,” said the writer in another of the broadcasts. “This is the faithful representation of how people live in Cuba. Cubans live with their hands tied and with a kind of club around their neck and subjugated by a regime that does not respect civil or individual rights.”

In the demonstration, the participants waved Cuban flags and a unique version of the national pennant, the work of Cuban artist Julio Llópiz-Casal. (14ymedio)

Other participants covered their heads with a paper box with the images of political prisoners such as Maykel Castillo Osorbo, Yuisán Cancio Vera, Luis Ángel Cuba Alfonso, Thais Mailén Franco Benítez, Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López, Inti Soto Romero, Yeilis Torres Cruz and Adrián Coroneaux Stevens.

In the demonstration, participants waved Cuban flags and a unique version of the national pennant in blue, black and white, the work of Cuban artist Julio Llópiz-Casal and entitled Cuban flag for the spilled milk.

“The three blue stripes represent the three skies that protect the three Cuban social classes that we Cubans know very well: sky of the rich, sky of the poor and sky of the untouchables (rich or poor),” the artist explains in a manifesto that accompanies the piece. “The two black stripes represent the impurity of national ideals when they are sullied, manipulated, frustrated or contaminated with mediocrity, selfishness and lack of love towards Cuba. The lonely brown star represents the false sovereignty of the country when its destiny is determined by external interests and those of a handful of Cubans, “to which he adds that the white triangle” represents spilled milk: the mistakes made by Cubans in the name of their freedom, whether it was due to naivety or pride, resignation or fear.”.And he concludes: “Cuba is a state of mind. We are going to give Cuba a reason to feel good.”

Speaking to 14ymedio, the artist, who lives in Cuba, said that “we Cubans, who feel that the Island lives under an autocracy which sacrifices and violates the most elementary rights in the name of conserving its place in power, we don’t have much more than to perform symbolic gestures. A peaceful demonstration in the streets of Cuba and this protest at the UN headquarters are just that.”

While this was happening in New York, several artists woke up in Havana under State Security surveillance. Tania Bruguera, Carolina Barrero, Katherine Bisquet and Camila Lobón reported early in the morning that police officers were guarding their homes to prevent them from going out.

At the end of the protest, the participants moved in front of the Cuban Mission to the UN, where they stayed for several minutes and from a truck with three screens, they transmitted images of the repression in Cuba while shouting “freedom,” “homeland and life,” “down with the dictatorship,” among other slogans against the Government. Then they went out in a caravan throughout the city” so that everyone could get the message that there is a dictatorship in Cuba,” artist Douglas Arguelles Cruz explained in a live broadcast.

 

Translated by Norma Whiting
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Reporter Covering the Rape Case of a Minor Arrested for 24 Hours

The journalist was arrested this Thursday around two in the afternoon outside the Western Army Military Court in Arroyo Naranjo. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 18 June 2021 — Writer Jorge Enrique Rodríguez, a journalist for Diario de Cuba and a collaborator of the International Institute of Artivism Hannah Arendt (Instar), was released this Friday after being detained for 24 hours.

The journalist was arrested this Thursday around two in the afternoon outside the Western Army Military Court in Arroyo Naranjo, where the trial was held against six people accused of sexually abusing a child under 13 years of age, which took place in September of last year.

Rodríguez, who had not been heard from in 24 hours, tells 14ymedio that he was taken to the nearby El Capri station. “Members of the family of those involved were outside, and very aggressive,” he says. “All this time, they have said that the fault lies with the girl and her mother because they uploaded the complaint to social networks. When verifying that I was the journalist who was following the case, they got their contacts involved. A patrol car arrived immediately, one of the relatives approached it and the officer apparently called State Security.  A few minutes later a female officer arrived, arrested me and took me to the station.” continue reading

When he arrived at the station, the journalist continues, he asked the reason for his arrest, and they answered that “it was because he was taking photos,” but Rodríguez denies it: “That is false, it was all a story the family of the accused made up.”

The girl’s mother, Cleida García Díaz, tells this newspaper that she herself has now “received death threats”

The girl’s mother, Cleida García Díaz, whom Cenesex (National Center for Sexual Education) contacted to investigate her case after the complaint she made in independent media, assures this newspaper that right now she has now received “death threats.”

“It was around seven o’clock at night when I left at the end of the trial, and all the relatives of the six accused were outside and they insulted me and told me that they were going to kill me,” he says. “The police officers who were there asked me to get in the car quickly, I did so and we immediately left.”

She also says that her husband had to be taken through the back door of the court, “through the exit where the prosecutors leave,” because the situation at that time “got ugly… Immediately, the whole block was full of patrol cars because the family members became very aggressive,” she points out.

The woman, who lives in the municipality of El Cotorro, in Havana, says that she filed a complaint about the threats, so that the police would be aware of everything and record the facts. “Now I rarely go out because I have a newborn baby, but I told them that I was not going to hide. What happened was very serious, they attacked me when I was leaving the court with my baby in my arms and they threatened me, it was horrible.”.

The woman, who lives in the Havana municipality of El Cotorro, says that she filed a complaint about the threats, so that the police would be aware of everything and record the facts

García specifies that the prosecutor’s office is asking for 21 years and six months for the three defendants who were undergoing military service at the time of the attack against his daughter, and 21 years for the other three, but the final sentence won’t be determined until July 5th.

“I spoke the whole truth in court: that my daughter was threatened and harassed by these men. At the trial they reproached me because I made a complaint to the independent press, but I told them that I did it and that I do not regret it, because at that moment all the doors were closed and no one was giving me any answers. Where was my country at that moment that abandoned me like that?” she cries out.

Translated by Norma Whiting
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Maykel Castillo Was Able to Speak From Prison After Eight Days Incommunicado

The rapper Maykel ’Osorbo’ Castillo is accused of attack, public disorder and evading arrest and is in preventive prison in the province of Pinar Del Río. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 14 June 2021 — After eight days in solitary confinement, rapper Maykel Castillo, known as Osorbo, was able to speak this weekend with his colleague Eliexer Márquez Duany, who is called El Funky. Osorbo is imprisoned in the Cinco y Medio prison in Pinar del Río, awaiting trial for the alleged crimes of “attack,” “public disorder” and “evading arrest.”

“I spoke with him on Sunday and also on Saturday, which was his first call after eight days in solitary confinement,” El Funky told 14ymedio. “He told me he was okay and has a lot of faith that he will get out very soon.”

According to the artist, the two communications lasted only five minutes. Osorbo detailed that he had not been able to call because he was not allowed to  because “the officers had orders that he could not make phone calls.” El Funky also said that “the things that the family has sent to the prison are not given to him in full, only the things they [prison authorities] decide.”

“Two packages have already been sent to him and from them they have given him only what they wanted to. They have not given him all the cigarettes, only the food,” El Funky denounced.

The curator Anamely Ramos, a member of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), directly accused State Security, in a Facebook post, of appropriating part of Osorbo’s belongings and also pointed out that they were harassing the people who had supported him by bringing what he needs to Pinar del Río.

“State security and citizen insecurity: Yesterday you let Maykel call after eight days. It was a hasty call, but to guess your steps a person doesn’t have to have a lot of time or be very intelligent,” said Ramos in his complaint.

Osorbo was arrested on May 18 at his home and it was not until two weeks later that he was transferred to Pinar del Río. Before his arrest, he was subjected to a constant police siege of his home that lasted for weeks, in which he was arrested for no reason every time he went out on the street.

The artist together with El Funky, Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno and the Gente de Zona duo launched the song Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life) three months ago , which has become an anthem and slogan in protests against the Government.

On April 4 on Damas Street, in Old Havana, the police tried to arrest Osorbo, but the neighbors helped him avoid arrest. The handcuffs hanging from the artist’s wrist became a symbol of the unusual protest.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

“The Police Have Kidnapped Me in My Home for 60 days,” Denounces Iliana Hernandez

A policeman and a State Security agent guard the surroundings of Iliana Hernández’s house, in Cojímar, Havana. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Miami, 7 June 2021 — CiberCuba activist and reporter Iliana Hernández has been besieged for two months at her home by police and State Security agents. Not only do they prevent her from going out, but they also do not allow any of her friends to visit, and they have cut off her mobile data internet service.

In conversation with 14ymedio, Hernández points out that the last time she was able to leave her home was on April 8, but she ended up arrested on Obispo Street in Old Havana along with other activists. “Since the 9th, I woke up surrounded by surveillance, until today,” she points out.

The journalist assures that in the 60 days that she has been in home detention, she has been “documenting the oppressors… Even at night, when they get close to my home, I record them,” she says. “On Sunday, one of them tried to hide behind a post so as not to appear in the video and in the end, his hiding was useless, because I later caught him around the corner. It is one of the best images I have of this repression.” continue reading

“They brought me to El Cerro in another patrol car and one of the security agents warned me not to go too far,” says Otero Alcántara

This Sunday, artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Art Historian Carolina Barrero tried to visit the reporter and ended up being detained by the officers who were part of the siege. “A block before, we saw a patrol car and we got out of the car we were in,” Otero Alcántara tells this newspaper. “Right there, the policeman told us that we couldn’t go to Iliana’s house and they put us in a patrol car and took us to the Cojímar police station. They brought me to El Cerro in another patrol car and one of the security officers warned me not to go that far.”

For her part, Barrero pointed out that she wanted to go see Hernández “because she has been inside the barricade for many days,” when in reality there isn’t “either a complaint, nor a process, nor a precautionary measure” which will legally prevent her from leaving her home. “I wanted to see her, bring her some things, have a coffee with her, so that she feels accompanied, and Luis Manuel told me that he wanted to go with me because he also wanted to see her,” she says.

Barrero details that the police had her sitting on a bench in the police station for a while, and after some time a patrol went to look for her and left her at her house in Old Havana. “Luckily, no security agent appeared, no one came to ask me anything,” she adds.

In an article denouncing in her social networks the arbitrariness that Hernández has experienced in recent weeks, Barrero pointed out that “the authority” that today is preventing Hernández from leaving her house “is not legitimate” and that “it is discredited for a lack of respect to rights and to the law itself.”

“What I found funniest was that they told me that they were masters of my life and writers of my destiny,” said reporter Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho

Journalist Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho was also arrested this weekend when he tried to visit Iliana. Upon reaching the corner of the reporter’s house, he was put in a patrol car that took him into custody at the Cojímar police station and then he was transferred to Infanta and Manglar, in El Cerro. “They wanted to draw up a warning report for violating a security action but I refused to sign it. They threatened me again by preventing me from going to a training course, confining me at home, inventing a cause to take me to jail,” Cocho complained to this newspaper.

“What I found funniest was that they told me that they were masters of my life and writers of my destiny,” noted the reporter, a contributor to the news portal ADN Cuba.

Iliana Hernández says that State Security would like her to leave Cuba but that they know perfectly well that she is not going to leave Cuba “forever”.

“They know it and that is why they still have me regulated [banned from traveling outside Cuba], they denied me the complaint I made to the Ministry of the Interior, the Supreme Court gave it no place, breaking all the laws because there is no justification for me to be regulated. I am not going to tell them that I want to leave and never return, this is my country and they do not own Cuba. They have kidnapped me but they are not the owners, we are recovering Cuba from the kidnapping,” she declares.

She also stated that right now for her “there is no idea” in her head other than to continue with her activism and her work as a reporter: “My priority is my country’s freedom and they are not going to get me to give up, they can be out there as long as they want, when I need to go out, I’m going to go out.”

On April 24, after two weeks of the police siege, a group of activists who went to visit her ended up being arrested, including Hernández herself who was accompanying them.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Otero Alcantara Leaves Havana Hospital After a Month of Forced Confinement

Screen captures of a video that Otero Alcántara made when he left Havana’s Calixto García hospital this Monday. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 31 May 2021 — “I am relatively well, from a physical point of view but, emotionally, [I am] worried about all my brothers,” Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara told CubaNet Noticias shortly after leaving Calixto García Hospital. The artist announced that health “tests” will be carried out outside the “control of State Security.”

The chronology of what he has lived through in the last four weeks begins to become clear. After arriving at the hospital on May 2nd, he spent a week drinking fluids “so I could be aware of what was happening with me at that time” and “to be able to think,” as he arrived at the health center “despondent,” he clarifies.

“A week after I was there, once again I started my hunger and thirst fasting,” he said. About a week after, he called off the strike and stated that for about 15 days he has been eating again, and that he has also hydrated.

He also said that, before issuing opinions on everything that the political police have published about him during his imprisonment, he prefers to see all the videos that they leaked and what they have said about his family: “I want to see everything that is happening, get updated to be able to judge what went on.” continue reading

“A week after being there, once again I started my hunger and thirst fasting”

In relation to one of the videos where he seemed to be very thin and which caused concern among his friends, he insisted that he spent about eight days without eating and drinking water, and “of course, he was emaciated,” he said.

“All my friends have to be on the street. State Security had a meeting with me before leaving, they warned me of a thousand things, but my friends have to be on the street now… We are connected,” said the artist, referring to the phrase that has become his life motto.

Shortly before, a note from the Provincial Health Directorate had reported that the medical team treating him had decided to “have him discharged from the hospital today.” The official note added that “during his hospital stay, his progress has been favorable, with clinical and laboratory parameters that are all within normal ranges.”

In addition, the note specified that for several days he “has been on a free diet, which meets nutritional needs” and that this has allowed for “weight gain and requirements for recovery of his energy.”

Otero Alcántara’s family was putting pressure on health personnel to achieve this goal. The artist had been held in the hospital for 29 days without being able to communicate with his friends and was only seen through manipulated videos, which were released by State Security.

Family sources confirmed to 14ymedio that the health authorities of the hospital had communicated that this Monday they were going to discharge the artist. At first, the family assumed that Otero Alcántara was going to leave the medical center last Friday, however, “that did not happen.”

The artist had been held in the hospital for 29 days without being able to communicate with his friends and was only seen through manipulated videos

Relatives said they went to Calixto García Hospital but they did not discharge him and the doctors reported that they would do so this Monday. In addition, they insisted that the activist would not return to his home on Damas Street, in the San Isidro neighborhood, Old Havana municipality.

“When he gets hold of a phone, Luisito is going to tell everything that happened, he is going to denounce everything and he will continue to be a plantado (an uncooperative prisoner),” Enix Berrio, who is Otero Alcántara’s close friend, told 14ymedio.

Some family members, Berrio assures, are upset with the actions of State Security and the authorities, who “have manipulated” the situation “at will… Initially, personal experience led them to believe that they were going to help Luisito and that we are the bad guys, that we wanted to drag him to hell, but the family verified that the G2 is a string of manipulators and that they are affecting Luisito,” he admonished.

Otero Alcántara went on a hunger and thirst strike on April 25th to demand that his rights be respected, after a month of police siege to his home. The activist also demanded the return of his artistic works or compensation for those that were destroyed by the political police.

After several days of fasting, in the early morning of May 2nd, he was taken from his home against his will to the Calixto García Hospital.  During his stay at the hospital, he had no communication with his colleagues at the San Isidro Movement (MSI) and very little with his family.

In addition, a police cordon guarded the surroundings of the Havana hospital. Although at the time of his admission the authorities confirmed that he was being admitted due to “referred voluntary starvation,” a few hours later they leaked the results of an analysis that supposedly were his vitals and that described a good state of health, even suggesting that one of the values was high due to high consumption of meat.

The government’s propaganda apparatus has not stopped campaigning to discredit Otero Alcántara, accusing him of receiving instructions and financial support from abroad

 During all the time he was held at the Calixto García, the political police published several videos of the artist, possibly filmed without his consent. At all times they alleged that he was in good health, without giving explanations about the reasons for his hospitalization.

The government’s propaganda apparatus has not stopped campaigning to discredit Otero Alcántara, accusing him of receiving instructions and financial support from abroad, while international organizations have expressed concern over the kidnapping of the artist.

Amnesty International declared him a “prisoner of conscience” on May 21st and urged President Miguel Díaz-Canel to release him “immediately and unconditionally.” They also demanded that he should receive medical care of his choice, periodic visits from his family and friends, not be tortured or suffer any other type of mistreatment, and have access to lawyers of his choice.”

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FDHC) insisted that it is prosecuting “as violent repressors… those people who are cooperating with State Security in inflicting temporary or irreversible damage to Otero Alcántara at the hospital.” The executive director of the NGO, Juan Antonio Blanco, noted that the Cuban regime has already used “corrupt doctors and nurses in the past to torture using electroshocks, drugs and other practices.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Otero Alcantara: ‘The Torture I Suffered Was Psychological’

Otero Alcántara spoke with ’14ymedio’ after being discharged this Monday after four weeks in solitary confinement in a hospital in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 1 June 2021 – Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara does not plan to pause or take a rest in his art or his activism. A few hours after leaving Calixto García Hospital, where he has been for almost a month without hardly any outside communication, he told 14ymedio that he is now ready to demand freedom for the activists in prison as a result of the April 30th protests on Obispo Street in Havana, and for Maykel ‘Osorbo’ Castillo accused of attack, contempt and resistance, who has been in prison since Monday.

“My grandmother died, I came here to be with my family, also because this was where there was a landline phone, arriving at my house Damas Street without a cell phone I was still incommunicado,” says the artist, who had just left the hospital. He went to his family home, in El Cerro, to spend at least two days in their company. Otero Alcántara is clear and begins by confirming that, when they took him out of his home in the early morning of May 2 to take him to the hospital, they did so “by force” and “handcuffed.”

14ymedio. What was your arrival at the hospital like and how did your hunger and thirst strike end?

Otero Alcántara. When I arrived, I let them give me an IV so I could be aware of what was happening, because I was very weak. The next day I started drinking water, they gave me juice and some milk. A week passed and the following Monday I started the thirst strike again, the hunger strike was continuing. Then a fortnight ago, I started eating. Now I’m upset but okay, they are seeing the end. continue reading

14ymedio. What was your daily routine at Calixto García?

Otero Alcántara. I spent all morning drawing or reading and in the morning they took my vital signs. Right now, talking about this is complex. I could say that I was tortured this way and that, but it would be dishonest. The torture I suffered was psychological. They kept the light on 24 hours a day, there was always a military man next to me, and if I spent more than 5 minutes in the bathroom he was knocking on the door. It was terribly cold the whole day and there was the fear that at any moment they can take you to another place. Plus the isolation. All that was torture.

My family was not allowed in when they wanted, when I saw them it was from a distance, like ten to twelve feet away. Of the four or five times that I saw my sister or my aunt it was at that distance, only once were we able to see each other up close and give each other a kiss and a hug, but only for five minutes, no more than that.

14ymedio. Were you always in the same room or were you transferred from time to time?

Otero Alcántara.  I was in the Rubén Batista room the whole time. The three times they took me out was for those famous walks, which were supposedly to catch the sun but were actually for them to film me. The prisoners go out to sunbathe every day, but I was under air conditioning 24 hours a day and they took me out once a week, that was premeditated.

14ymedio. The video in which you go outside with Dr. Ifrán Martínez, how was it arranged? How was your relationship with the doctors?

Otero Alcántara. The video was a conscience act. I understood that I had to send a message to people, I had to say something. The doctors who were there waiting for me were the ones that State Security selected, and valued certain characteristics. They were directed to behave in a certain way, they could not spend much time with me and they recorded on a piece of paper when they arrived and left with their name and position. Those doctors had a certain chance to talk to me. Ifran brought me books, I read 12 books in that month. They also brought me pens and paper and I began to draw pictures. I drew a lot, although with the fear that State Security would take it away from me.

14ymedio. How strict was the operation around you?

Otero Alcántara. Everything was very well controlled by State Security, they were there constantly. Dr. Ifran was concerned because his face had already appeared on television, and here everyone knows that this means he may have 10 days, 20 days or two years left. I feel that they are concerned, because their children do not want their father to be the one who was later found to have tortured Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. I noticed that they wanted to make very clear the difference between them and State Security and to emphasize that they were there because they were given the mission to save me. The hospital was totally taken over by State Security, I think that was the way they found to keep me under control.

14ymedio. How did you come to leave the hospital?

Otero Alcántara. My uncle went to the hospital to get me and a car brought us here. Now I have freedom of movement to go wherever I want. My house on Damas Street still has the police on the corner and I want to cool down (lower the temperature in) the neighborhood. Before leaving, the State Security officials told me that they have my mobile phone, but that they would not give it to me at that time because it had been left in another place and they assured me that they would return it to me, along with the works that they took from my house.

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Six Cuban Activists Arrested on Obispo Street Have Been Transferred to Prisons

The communicator and activist Esteban Rodríguez, together with the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 28 May 2021 — With last Wednesday’s transfer of the communicator and activist Esteban Rodríguez to the Valle Grande penitentiary, there are now six activists jailed awaiting trial for their participation, on April 30 in Obispo Street in Havana, in an act of solidarity with the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. The information was confirmed this Friday to 14ymedio by Rodríguez’s wife, Zuleidis Cepero.

That same day the independent journalist Mary Karla Ares was also transferred to the Guatao prison, according to her mother, Marisol González, speaking to this newspaper. The authorities accuse the peaceful protesters of the crimes of public disorder and resistance, which, according to the Cubalex Legal Information Center, can mean sentences “from three months to five years of deprivation of liberty.”

In addition to Ares and Rodríguez, the activists transferred to prisons include Thais Mailén Franco, Inti Soto Romero, Yuisán Cancio Vera and Luis Ángel Cuza. Last week Amnesty International called for the immediate release of these protesters and emphasized Ares, who broadcast the protest live on Facebook.

For his part, rapper Maykel Osorbo Castillo, who was arrested at his home on May 18, remains unaccounted for. In response to a habeas corpus petition filed in his favor, it was only known that the artist is in provisional prison accused of “disobedience, resistance and contempt,” but the place where he is being held remains unknown. continue reading

In response to this situation, on Friday the United Nations Committee Against Forced Disappearances asked the Cuban Government for news of Osorbo’s whereabouts. “The Committee requires the urgent action of the State [Cuba] to adopt all the necessary measures to search and locate Mr. Maykel Castillo Pérez and protect his life and personal integrity, in accordance with its conventional obligations,” said the organism of the UN in response to a complaint from the NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders (CPD).

The UN letter asks Havana to “inform the relatives of Mr. Castillo Pérez about the place of his deprivation of liberty, as well as the charges against him,” and, appealing to the Convention for the Protection of All People Against Forced Disappearances, also asks that “he can communicate with his family, a lawyer or any other person of his choice and receive their visit.”

The demand is addressed to the Cuban ambassador in Geneva and gives the government of the island until June 11 to respond to their “concerns and recommendations.”

In recent weeks, Osorbo has been subjected to an intense police siege and has been detained without reason on several occasions. The 37-year-old artist, together with Yotuel Romero, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno and El Funky, composed the song Patria y Vida, which has exceeded five million views on YouTube and has become an anthem for the opposition both within and off the island.

This Thursday, CPD launched a manifesto in support of the artists participating in the song Patria y Vida — who have been besieged by the Cuban Government in recent weeks — in which they ask for an end to the repression.

The demand emphasizes the critical situation in Otero Alcántara, who has been in solitary confinement at the Calixto García hospital in Havana for 26 days.

Several European Parliament Deputies also signed a letter requesting that a Delegation of the European Union (EU) visit Otero Alcántara in the hospital. The letter, written by Dita Charanzová, vice-president of the European Parliament, is addressed to Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Prisoners Defenders, based in Madrid, also notes the case of the detainees from the Obispo Street protest and of Eliexer Márquez El Funky, who was also detained for a few hours, on May 18, and subjected to “a precautionary measure that prevents him from leaving his home freely.”

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

“Signatures are not Patrimony,” Insists the Manager of La Bodeguita del Medio

La Bodeguita del Medio, which is sold to tourists as “the cradle of The Mojito,” is located on Empedrado Street, a privileged place in Cuba’s capital city. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 26 May 2021 — The image of La Bodeguita del Medio without the thousands of signatures on its walls, which were part of its character, surprised locals and strangers. A few days ago, Robin Pedraja, creative director of the art magazine Vistar, shared photographs of the restoration of the premises on social networks and wondered who had the idea to erase “all that patrimony.” Many customers showed their rejection of a work that, according to various opinions, has resulted in the iconic place losing part of its identity.

“The signatures are not patrimony,” disagrees José Miguel Pumarada Fernández, manager of the premises, in an interview with 14ymedio. The official maintains that the premises have already undergone three renovations and argues that this intervention was necessary, due to the poor condition of the place.

“There were leaks everywhere, customers were eating and water was dripping on the tables, there was a lot of dampness. Paintings were falling off the walls because the plaster was decayed, the dampness was high and this was part of the complaints from customers who visited the establishment,” he says. continue reading

“There were leaks everywhere, customers were eating and water was dripping on the tables, there was a lot of dampness. Paintings were falling from the walls because the plaster was decayed”

Pumarada explains that three years ago the moment to start the repairs was expected, preserving everything that is considered a patrimony asset, including museum objects. “The signature book, all the framed photos – dating from the 40’s and 50’s – the house structure and its architecture, the wood, all of this was respected.”

The manager, who has been in charge of the emblematic place for seven years, adds that the City Historian’s Office door was the first one they knocked on to start the work, and although for no apparent reason he (the Historian) did not oversee the work, they have “all levels of approval” of the Monuments Commission.

However, a specialist of the Master Plan of the Office of the City Historian  consulted by this newspaper affirms that he was not aware of the remodeling, but considers the elimination of the signatures “regrettable and a violation” and defends that such interventions should be controlled. “If they erased everything, it’s terrible. It’s an iconic place, it’s not just any tavern.”

Salomé García, a graduate of Plastic Arts from the Higher Institute of Art, considers that this intervention is part of “the iconoclastic offensive of the Cuban State” against patrimony

Salomé García, a graduate of Plastic Arts from the Higher Institute of Art, considers that this intervention is part of “the iconoclastic offensive of the Cuban State” against patrimony.

“This is a location of State/public property, and of high patrimonial value. The contracts for these interventions (and for many others) should be public tenders. In addition, these are interventions that should be covered in the press due to their relevance, that way, misrepresentations would be avoided,” adds the specialist, who is currently completing a Master’s Degree in Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Assets at the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

It is not the first time that La Bodeguita del Medio has remodeled its interior. In 1997, there was a physical attack against the facility, along with other tourist places such as the hotels Tritón, Chateau Miramar and the Copacabana, and part of it had to be restored and its walls painted, recalls Pumarada, who stresses that this establishment has been in operation for 78 years.

This year’s repair was necessary, he insists, because the walls had several cracks that needed to be sealed, in addition to adding strength and security. “We used the same color paint as before and everything else remained intact.”

Currently, and complying with the rules to control the pandemic, the La Bodeguita del Medio Bar remains closed, although it keeps open “a little store” on one side of the premises where food is sold.

“Any bite from a seedy inn is better than these. I was hoping they were of higher quality since this place is what it is, but it is a sandwich from a community dining room”

“The only thing they are selling are ham sandwiches at 25 pesos each,” a local resident told 14ymedio. “But they don’t have enough, only 30 loaves. According to what some workers said, whatever is in the inventory is sold,” says the Havana resident who decided to buy four sandwiches and ended up outraged. “Any bite from a seedy inn is better than these. I was hoping they were of higher quality since this place is what it is, but it is a bite from a community dining room.”

La Bodeguita del Medio, which is sold to tourists as “the cradle of The Mojito,” is located on Empedrado Street, a privileged place in the capital, a few steps from the Plaza de la Catedral, in Old Havana. This area belongs to the Historic Center, and in 1982 it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

The property had long since lost the best it had: to become a place for the national bohemian, for the regulars of the patio. Since it was dollarized and became a place with fast food for tourists, it lost its most important asset, and it was not its signatures, but its identity, its hallmark.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The Macabre Performance of Cuban State Security

His captors say that he is in good health but they do not yet explain why they have him hospitalized. (Facebook / Otero Alcántara)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 22 May 2021 — Since Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara fell into the hands of State Security 20 days ago, the narrative of every second of his existence has been under the power of the Government. Luisma, as his friends call him, likes to turn on his cell phone and go live every time he wants to tell something, he does it without first writing the words that he is going to say, without measuring his gestures, full of life.

Luisma’s gestures are great, when he speaks, when he raises an arm, when he laughs, when he dances or kisses, when he hugs his friends. He is spontaneous, his eyes have body, his gaze is intense.

Since he was forcibly removed from his house on May 2nd, we have not seen that spontaneity again. The only thing that the powers-that-be that have him kidnapped at Calixto García Hospital has done is to show it through edited images, first on national television, then on Facebook pages that are instruments of State Security. continue reading

According to this version, he has been seen walking into the hospital on his own, guarded by several doctors, talking to his doctor, and walking through a courtyard at Calixto Garcia Hospital. During all this time, he has not had access to his cell phone or to a hospital phone to call his relatives. He has been kidnapped, his friends and colleagues inform us.

In the last video, released last Wednesday night, the artist looked much more physically damaged than in the previous ones. He looked thin, very thin, his hands between his thighs, his laughter was nervous, and a tray full of food on his lap, although he could not be seen eating anything. This was part of a macabre scene that State Security insists on showing before our eyes.

In the last video that was released last Wednesday night, the artist looked much more physically deteriorated than in the previous ones

Those of us who know Luisma know of his overwhelming strength and what we have seen here, although he resembles himself at times, is far from the friend, the creator who is Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. What are they doing with him? What do they want to accomplish with those videos? What treatment is he receiving that he isn’t already out of the hospital?

His captors say that he is in good health but they do not yet explain why they have him hospitalized. They say that they are complying with what’s established, but they display him without shame, even giving details of his medical files in the official media and lying.

They already tried to take Luis Manuel to jail under the accusation of having committed alleged crimes of outrage to national symbols and damage to property but they could not prove it. They released him after 13 days. On that occasion, the authorities pointed out his disrespect for the flag for his Drapeau performance, in which he proposed to carry, like a second skin, the Cuban flag over his shoulders for a whole month, 24 hours a day. He did not soil the flag, he did not throw it to the ground, he did not “outrage” the national symbol as the authorities claim in their smear campaigns.

At 33 years of age, the artist is the most visible face of the San Isidro Movement (MSI). For this reason, the government’s propaganda apparatus has not stopped campaigning to discredit his image, accusing him of leading a “political manipulation” and of receiving instructions and financial support from abroad.

But the government’s boundary on Alcántara has been tightened even more since last November. The problem is no longer whether he uses national symbols or public space for his performances, now they go into his house, tear off the works that the artist has on the walls and take him away by force. In this violent way it was how they prevented him from continuing with the performance that consisted of being in his living room for eight hours and five days, sitting on a vile garrote, which was also taken from him by the authorities.

This time he was not harassed for making unconventional works of art in public spaces, outside the conventional frameworks of art, such as his actions questioning the removal of a bust of the communist leader Julio Antonio Mella from the ground floor of the luxurious Manzana Kempinski Hotel. This time he has been punished with never-before-seen brutality for doing what is supposed to be art within established limits.

This time he has been punished with never-before-seen brutality for doing what is supposed to be art within established limits

After that arrest, when Alcántara returned home he did nothing but go out every day to demand that the surveillance fence surrounding his home be lifted since November 2020 be lifted, that the confiscated works of art be returned to him or that he be compensated for the damages and that the authorities respect the full exercise of artistic freedom for all creators.

The government not only ignored his demands but also ordered him to be detained every time he went out on the street, until he received death threats from another prisoner in the dungeon. That was why he did not come out anymore to continue demanding his rights.

Alone in his home, completely incommunicado and surrounded by State Security, it was then that the hunger and thirst strike began on April 25th until dawn on May 2nd, when he was taken to Calixto García Hospital against his will.

That is how we got to this point, 20 days in which the only news that has been had from Alcántara is filtered through State Security, a macabre filter that, far from alleviating fears, returns an image that is so disturbing it seems designed solely to instill terror and panic.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Television Censors the Video Clip ‘It’s My Life’

A moment from the video clip ‘It’s My Life’, with Kiriam Gutiérrez in the center. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 19 May 2021 — The video clip ‘Es mi Vida’, (It’s My Life), the first audiovisual directed in Cuba by actress and presenter Kiriam Gutiérrez, a trans woman, was censored on national television, as confirmed to 14ymedio by the song’s author, Jorge Papushi Soto.

On Tuesday, the singer went on to the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) to deliver the work to the Lucas program and when he left, he received a call on his cell phone. “It was the program’s assistant to tell me that they had informed Orlando Cruzata, the program director, that this video was not going to be aired on television, that it had been banned.”

“The most important thing is that they are not telling me is why it is prohibited. It seems that Cruzata had previously been informed of the video, because when they viewed it then, they told me that they did not see anything wrong with it, but that the censorship comes from the channel’s management,” Papushi explained. continue reading

It seems that Cruzata had previously been informed of the video, because when they viewed it then, they told me that they did not see anything wrong with it, but that the censorship comes from the channel’s management”

The composer assures us that Havana Noticiario was going to talk about the video on the 17th, but finally they claimed they didn’t have time. “I guess someone didn’t like the idea of being independent.”

The ban seems to be aimed at the video clip, since the song continues to be broadcast normally on the radio. “It premiered on the radio in position 46 of the Top 100 in Cuba and now it is already in third position,” according to the ratings from the Pista Cubana website.

Kiriam Gutiérrez, audiovisual director, regrets that this censorship episode coincides with the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia.

“I always thought of the video for our community, for all our struggles, for a diverse Cuba, an inclusive Cuba. I never had the idea that it was a commercial video, I did it for people. When Papushi proposed presenting it to Lucas, I was in favor of it. I agreed because it was an opportunity for me to reach more people, but later they told me that the video could not be broadcast on television, without further explanation. I felt very sad.”

Gutiérrez points out that it was precisely agreed to be broadcast on television to achieve visibility that in Cuba is very complicated, since not everyone has the opportunity of connecting to the internet and downloading videos.

“I would have liked very much for it to be aired on television, to reach those people who right now have homosexual, bisexual or lesbian people in their family who are misunderstood”

“I would have liked very much for it to be put on television, to reach those people who right now have homosexual, bisexual or lesbian people in their family who are misunderstood.”  These are people who feel violence against trans and bisexuals, and many would have changed their way a little to think and react to situations like these,” explains the artist.

For this video clip, released on May 17th on her YouTube channel, the director also invited Pupushi Soto and other singers who showed their enthusiasm for participating, such as Giselle Ferrer, Tony Lugones, Vania Borges and Arlenys Rodríguez. Transformistas such as veteran Orianna Sharon, “la Cher de Cuba” also collaborated.

“How many children, how many misunderstood adolescents at this time. It would have been nice to provide a little love, that’s what the video is about. The love of life, the freedom to choose your gender identity, the free choice of our life. It would have been very nice for those minutes of love to come to the family, love with respect for all forms of life, all identities, I do not lose hope,” she says.

As the artist explained to this newspaper, the video was made independently, and the filming was possible thanks to many people’s collaboration, both inside and outside Cuba. Filming ‘Es mi Vida‘ was a pending dream since in 2001 when she filmed the video clip ‘Lola’, from the group Moneda Dura, which was banned on national television because of its having her as the protagonist.

Translated by Norma Whiting

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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Artist Otero Alcantera Imprisoned and Isolated for Two Weeks in Havana’s Calixto Garcia Hospital

The exterior of the Calixto García Hospital, where Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is admitted, continues to be heavily guarded this Monday. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, 17 May 2021 – This Monday, the Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara marks 15 days of forced admission to the Calixto García hospital in Havana, without the freedom to communicate or receive visits. The activist’s fate continues to generate demands and complaints from international organizations.

The San Isidro Movement (MSI), which has denounced the isolation to which the artist is subjected, continues to wait for the Ministry of Public Health to respond to the request delivered on Friday by the poet Amaury Pacheco asking that the actress Iris Ruiz can visit Alcantara in the hospital.

The document indicates that the artist remains against his will in the Rubén Batista room, which, according to this newspaper, is surrounded by police officers. “We know very little about his physical and psychological integrity, since he is being held incommunicado,” emphasizes the MSI 
through its social networks.

In addition, they add that through the relatives who can visit the artist, it has not been possible to have details about the medical treatment applied to him. Alcántara’s aunt told 14ymedio that the last time they were able to visit was “three or four days ago.”

The police cordon around the hospital has prevented the entry of his relatives, including his girlfriend, who on two occasions has been prohibited from accessing the facilities. Others who have tried have been arrested, including Adrián Coroneaux who was arrested on May 4.

In these two weeks, both on social networks and on television, the Government has circulated videos of the artist in Calixto García, accompanied by Ifrán Martínez Gálvez, deputy surgical director of the hospital.

Alcántara was forcibly taken from his home on May 2 while on a hunger and thirst strike to protest the harassment to which the State Security has subjected him.

Political police officers had raided his house and stolen several works of art that hung on the walls of his house, the headquarters of the MSI. The artist asked, with his strike, to end the siege that prohibited him from going out, as well as the return of his works or compensation for those that were destroyed.

When he was taken to Calixto García, an uncle of the artist, Enix Berrio, explained to 14ymedio that they did not notify any family member that they were transferring him to the hospital, and that Otero Alcántara’s sister was surprised when she arrived at Damas 955 and found “a new padlock at the door and a bar.”
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COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.