The Arrogance of Cuba’s Political Police

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 17 January 2020 — In the last decade there have been several recordings of police interrogations that Cuban activists have managed to make and bring to light. In many of them, State Security officers are heard intimidating, threatening and behaving themselves like the owners and lords of the whole country, above the law, above human life and above citizens’ rights. But the audio achieved by the photographer Javier Caso during an “interview” with the political police is invaluable as a testimony and as an X-ray of an entire era.

The Cuban, who lives in the United States and is the brother of the renowned actress Ana de Armas, recently visited the island and repeatedly contacted actress Lynn Cruz and film director Miguel Coyula. It was enough for him to meet with his friends of a lifetime to receive a summons from the Department of Immigration and Foreigners. Once there, a script was developed that was well known to dissidents, opponents and any independent journalist who has ever been summoned to this type of police trap.

The audio recorded by Caso, who by the mere fact of recording the voices on a device shows great courage, manages to convey the absurdity of the situation, the arrogance of the interrogators and that atmosphere where the individual is at the mercy of a surveillance device and control capable of ignoring the Constitution, the Criminal Code and whatever legal resolution there is on this Island. The young photographer met two men who personify the true power that controls Cuba, above deputies, ministers and presidents. continue reading

It is a grotesque and cruel face that springs from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades

The officials are ridiculous, they mouth barbarities such as that the Cuban police are the fifth best in the world or dare to decide who can be called an artist or not, although they themselves may not know one iota about creative expressions or contemporary art.

The great triumph of Caso is to take, with apparent naivety but with much intelligence, the conversation to a point where the seguros have to take off their masks and show the true face hidden under bureaucratic formalities and an apparent respect for order. It is a grotesque and cruel face that is born from the impunity of a repressive institution that has been running freely for decades and whose arrogance ends up opening it to ridicule in this conversation.

Since new technologies broke into the Island, there have been many testimonies (photos, audios, videos) that attest to the lack of a framework of rights in which we Cubans live, but this recording has a special merit. In addition to the quality with which one listens and the equanimity of the person being questioned to get the officials to expose themselves, this testimony causes an outrage that is not easily placated. The more we hear of it, the greater is a rage that grows and becomes a decision and a conviction: we cannot allow the political police to continue ruling Cuba.


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.

Cuba’s President is an Android / Lynn Cruz, Havana Times

Miguel Díaz-Canel with Raul Castro. Archival photo

Republished from English edition of the Havana Times

Lynn Cruz, HAVANA TIMES, 17 September 2019  – Photos of Cuban people stranded at bus stops, trying to reach their destination, are really quite outrageous. While the atmosphere in the capital is becoming more and more hostile, a doctor friend tells me that Carnival is being celebrated in Las Tunas.

We’ve had to put up with Fidel Castro’s monologues for sixty years, trying to justify the unjustifiable. And as if that wasn’t enough, after he left this world, the system has rebooted itself announcing the surprise (which is totally contradictory but so real it’s frightening) of a new subject programmed in absolute obedience, to a disturbing degree: “Miguel Diaz-Canel”.

Diaz-Canel has a configured discourse and it is repulsive as a result. He echoes a line that only deceives the few. He wants to carry on brandishing the anti-Imperialism flag, when he represents a power which during the Soviet invasion of Prague, defended the nature of that attack. continue reading

He wants to make us believe that this “new crisis”, which is in fact already old, stems from the US embargo. Sixty years later, Cuba doesn’t even have its own shipping fleet to be able to transport oil. Scientist and former prisoner-of-conscience Ariel Ruiz Urquiola shared a post on his Facebook wall, paraphrasing the Cuban Apostle Jose Marti and what he said about a statesman, or public official’s inability to have foresight, which is condemnable.

What right does the president of a country have to paralyze its people, and have them on standby waiting for an oil tanker? How much longer will the Cuban people have to swallow their leaders’ never-ending monologues, who walk scot-free with the poor decisions they’ve made?

Performance artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara was missing for over 72 hours. This practice is becoming commonplace. Neighbors, witnesses at the time of his arrest, have said that he was beaten by at least 5 men. Fernando Rojas, the current vice-minister of Culture, put on his best cynical suit on Twitter and stated that he had seen him at an exhibition and then rejected the idea that Otero Alcantara was an artist.

Guillermo del Sol, an independent journalist, is currently holding a hunger strike so as to draw attention to psychological torture techniques, known as “white torture”, which are disguised by the illegal term: “Regulado” (regulated). This arbitrary punishment prevents independent journalists and artists who are critical of the government, from traveling outside the country. It normally happens at the immigration control in Havana’s airport. After getting a passport and visa, as well as a plane ticket, they are told they won’t be able to travel.

In Oriente (Eastern Cuba), members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) were beaten and locked up while holding a peaceful protest on September 8th. Ovidio Martin Castellanos was one of them and he was sentenced to 5 months in jail and given a 2000 peso fine, to set an example. Everybody knows that people from the east of the country migrate to the west in search of better economic conditions. It isn’t strange that there is a strong movement of people from this region of the country, given their living conditions, that’s to say, they don’t have much to lose.

This is all going on today and the Cuban government, especially the president, seems to be ignoring the situation because it is unpleasant. Yet his triumphalist statements only feed the population’s unhappiness and create more anger. The government is hijacking civic initiatives such as petitions and taking them as their own, using blackmail at workplaces and state-run education institutions which are the majority. So, the Cuban people will now need to sign in support of their leaders’ shoddiness.

My question is: where will their dysfunctional system lead us? Has anyone in power realized that they’ve gone completely off the rails? Do they care about deforming generations and generations of Cubans in an environment of simulation and violence? Will they understand what it means to lose all of the values that they talk about so much? When will they recognize that this also has to do with the entrenchment situation which they have forced the Cuban people into, in the name of freedom for the few?

I once heard someone say that people have the leaders they deserve. Today, I think the opposite is true: governments have the people they deserve.

Theater in the Name of Freedom / Lynn Cruz

Screenshots from Patriotismo 36-77

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 1 November 2018 – Like the feeling you have when a baby you’ve been longing to have finally arrives, I was overcome by the same emotion after Patriotismo 36-77 made its debut.

More than half a year went past until it could finally hit the stage. The idea for the play was conceived after I suffered an act of repression for the first time, by the police and State Security in April 2017, when we tried to screen the documentary Nadie by Miguel Coyula at the Casa Galeria El Circulo.

That event marked my life, it made me more responsible for my country’s reality and the need arose to create a dialogue via theater, about the State’s psychological and physical violence towards anyone who openly criticizes them. continue reading

It’s no coincidence that the characters this time are: A critical painter (Luis Trapaga), a Humanities student and daughter of a dissident (Juliana Rabelo) and a human rights activist and daughter of a Communist Party member (played by yours truly).

I wrote the script based on the actors’ real-life experiences. Their fascinating personalities and intelligence took the play to new heights every time we rehearsed it. There is a scene dedicated to a select group of Cuban writers in exile and others in virtual exile on the island, which is based on the creative conversations we had with them.

However, financial hardship became a factor we had to wrestle with and so we launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Spanish website Verkami in late July. A digital platform to collect money. It’s a dynamic which stems from poor communities.

Thanks to many friends and people who identified with the project, we were able to collect our target which has allowed us to pay dignified wages to the actors involved, as well as to finish producing the play.

Not forgetting that it’s in the Cuban government’s DNA to decapitalize, just getting by in Cuba continues to be a precarious task.

On the other hand, the Kairos Theater’s philosophy has been solidified further as a result of Patriotismo 36-77. It won’t be easy-to-watch theater. And every play will have to be born in the spur of the moment.

If we used living rooms in homes as our space for Enemigos del Pueblo, this time and as a way to protest Decree-Law 349, we have sought out a public space.

The city is full of ruins, why don’t we fill these places of rubble with art? Why don’t we give them back a bit of the life they once had?

It’s no easy feat to put on a play with formal ambitions in an unknown place, that is to say, storm it. The conditions we faced at the site of an unfinished Art School forced us to be strategic.

We are dedicating this action to everyone who has died in the name of freedom, whether that’s out of desperation, romanticism or irresponsibility.

Cuban Government Fights Another Unfair Battle Against Artists / Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz. Photo by Miguel Coyula

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 7 September 2018 — Even though I have written about the possible causes that led to a decree-law being written up which criminalizes art, and even though I have resisted forming part of an entertainment policy which has made Cubans travel along the tree’s branches instead of going directly to the trunk, I must write again about Law #349.

In my own case, its just about becoming a theater director. In 2011, I started directing with a friend of mine, researcher and anthropologist, Carlos A. Garcia, and I had a group of actors, but the low budget we had meant that instead of putting on a play, it ended up being a monologue.

Now, with my work Patriotismo 36-77, I am able to put on a play that is told by more than one character, played by different actors. continue reading

The foundations of Postdramatic Theater are of particular interest to me, among many other influences, movements and trends. In essence, from all the ideas that I have adopted looking for a language, there is the idea that anyone can become an actor and anywhere can become a stage.

This is why I set out on this journey with visual artist Luis Trapaga, and humanities student Juliana Rebelo joined us later. Both of them have been victims of repression and censorship, which is a key theme in Patriotismo 36-77.

So, when I studied the Stalinist guidebook that has been perversely drawn up against artists, in the so-called reform of a system without a name, I realized that the theater that I want to make isn’t even included in the words in brackets that make up this decree.

That’s to say, I am in a limbo within limbo itself because, among other ambiguities in the text, even when a project isn’t being managed by an institution, you still need authorization to be able to perform your work.

That is to say, you need to be institutionalized. There are no opportunities for independent art. Even when the Council of Performing Arts, which governs theater, has proven itself to be a den for administrative corruption, in spite of the privileges that the institution’s managers already enjoy. However, artists are the criminals here apparently, for being independent quite simply.

An important detail is that in Decree-Law 349, the phrase “services rendered” as well as the word “commercialization” appear over and over again.

Today, persecution of thought in Cuba no longer has anything to do with an ideology, but everything to do with market demands.

As the absolute and totalitarian owner of the Cuban economy, the Cuban government doesn’t want to have any competition.

Independent artists are a threat to state institutions because these survive thanks to them exporting the government’s ideology, which sinks into crisis when outside of these, artists not only enjoy creative freedom but also financial freedom.

I am not interested in having a base for a theater group because my quest isn’t inside a performing space that has been delimited by an institution’s bureaucracy.

The theater that gets my blood running is in the streets. In an old man’s sad face. In a line at a bakery. In the remains of cut-down trees. In Cuban families’ living rooms.

My idea is to continue making mobile theater, which really moves me and steers me towards taking on all of the effort bringing a piece of theater to life entails.

I have just recently finished my creative crowdfunding campaign to get the production money we needed for Patriotismo 36-77. Doing that was a real challenge for me. This is the second time that I have been able to secure funds to create outside of state institutions. Outside of a policy that gives censorship a green light, to crush Cuban intellectual thought.

Note: This post, in English translation, is taken from The Havana Times.

A Creative, Embargo Free Crowdfunding Campaign / Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 8 August 2018  — Verkami, a creative crowdfunding platform, has become very popular amongst independent Cuban artists. The reason for this being that the website is Spanish so it doesn’t run the same risks as other platforms, such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter, which are from the US and the US Department of the Treasury could freeze these funds at any time because they are related to a project being managed within Cuba, which is what happened to filmmaker Miguel Coyula with his film “Corazon Azul”.

Creating a Crowdfunding campaign is basically what we Cubans call a kitty or collection. People interested in the campaign can make their donations on the website over forty days. We have chosen to create ours on Verkami, to collect the amount we are asking for and to finish producing the play Patriotismo 36-77.

We launched the campaign on July 16th. This platform has a special feature which means that if you don’t raise the amount you are asking for, you lose all of the money collected. Of course, in this case, donations are returned to donors, who are called sponsors. continue reading

Seeing as we are making slower progress than most of the projects on this website, I am beginning to get worried. For example, one of the most prominent campaigns on Verkami in 2017 was created by photographer Paco Gomez and expeditioner Hilo Moreno. . They launched the first campaign to explore Antarctica via Whatsapp. And they managed to raise 22,000 euros for their project in just 40 days.

Lynn Cruz

How can a Cuban make their dreams come true, living in Cuba?

Because that’s essentially what we are campaigning for, to make a dream come true. Obviously we need to find similar people who like this dream and that’s where the challenge lies.

Over time, I have seen how much the Cuban political and economic system has affected us, especially when these words are used in the same sentence: “Dreams and aspirations”.

Genetic engineering in Cuba has been to decapitalize us. Cubans quite simply don’t have any credit because we don’t have a bank. In the world today, credibility is governed by accumulated sums in accounts.

How can you trust a second-rate citizen, who is being paid 30 USD per month by their government for being a professional in the sciences, arts or humanities?

I have been with actors Juliana Rabelo and Luis Trapaga here in Cuba. With filmmaker Terely Vigoa, who collaborates from Madrid, because internet access is another problem we face.

While the number of places we can connect to social media have increased on the island, we still have problems not only because of the slow connection, but also because of how much it costs.

We are all working subject to one single idea. Over time, we have realized that the best reward for our efforts won’t be found in a sponsor who contributes a large sum of money (although that could also be the case), but we would like to recover the ritual nature that our theater has lost.

We have discovered that we can make Cuban theater for the world thanks to the internet. Raising an audience’s awareness by choosing a focus that stems from desperation.

We have taken action in our art and to defend our civil rights out of consciousness and this has also brought us consequences. So, why not take our own testimonies as a starting point? This is where the idea for Patriotismo 36-77 came from.

If our project is successful and we manage to bring the most sponsors we can together, we would invite them all to see the play live, on our vimeo channel. We would add English subtitles because we want anyone, anywhere to be able to participate.

We would suggest times that suit both the West and East. People will be able to comment on social media. Write texts. Write a critical analysis which would help us to improve our art.

The livestream of the play will be in HD and the cameraman will follow actors throughout the entire performance, so that everyone seeing it online can enjoy a more cinematic recording.

On the other hand, the audience present at the live performance will see a play, a piece of performance art and the recording of the movie at the same time.

Note: This article, in English Translation, is taken from The Havana Times.

Independent Cuban Films Continue to Make Headway Internationally / Lynn Cruz

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 23 August 2018 – When darkness seems to hang over us a little heavier, there is a truth that shines through: “The essential thing is to work, to create.”

It has been over a year now since our documentary Nadie, which we tried to screen at a private venue: “Casa Galeria El Circulo”, suffered police repression. Then, during the Mar del Plata International Film Festival, we received a strange email to cancel the screening of this same documentary at the festival, after it had initially been accepted.

After hearing our accounts about censorship not only on the island but abroad too, visual artist Tania Bruguera told us about the persecution her own work had suffered and how this had gone beyond seas and borders and that this should be reported. continue reading

This is how the idea for the Cuban Cinema under Censorship exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, MoMa, which was held last March, was born.

A total of 8 movies were shown as part of Bruguera’s project which she put forward with the Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism (INSTAR), which started operating at the end of 2017 in Havana.

Then, in April, Cuban-Lebanese-American Nat Chediak, an intellectual and film enthusiast, founder of the Miami Film Festival, organized the first Independent Cuban Film Festival outside of Cuba under the name, Forbidden Fruit.

From left to right: Angel Santiesteban, Rafael Almanza, Rafael Alcides, Tania Bruguera.

The festival took place at the Coral Gables Art Cinema in Miami, which Chediak is currently responsible for programming, and was also curated by critic Alejandro Rios.

At this time, a new copy of the movie produced outside of Cuban institutions, is headlining at the World Cinema Amsterdam Independent Film Festival which is underway right now and will end on August 26th. It also includes movies which have had protection from Cuban institutions, the most noteworthy being Sergio y Serguei(RTV Comercial) by Ernesto Daranas or Ultimos Dias en La Habana by Fernando Perez (ICAIC).

In this way, it has become evident that independent filmmakers are beginning to become a force to be reckoned with. Bruguera has kicked off a new funding campaign to continue developing Cuban film, which is deprived in Cuba and only survives thanks to filmmakers’ own initiatives.

Today, the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) only produces historical movies. Alejandro Gil’s movie about 8 medical students who were shot during Spanish colonial times is currently in the post-production phase as is Jorge Luis Sanchez’ movie which focusses on the character of Julian del Casal, a poet who represented the move towards modernism in Cuban literature; as well as Rigoberto Lopez who is working on a movie about Ignacio Agramente, a hero of Cuba’s independence wars.

ICAIC doesn’t seem to have any interest in integrating new filmmakers either, and the way scripts are chosen within this institution is still unknown.

In contrast, INSTAR’s deadline for submissions will end on September 8th. Filmmakers interested in taking part can fill out a form online or download one as a PDF file. This is essentially an opportunity to make your first movie.

This opportunity offers a niche for everyone who wants to make their first feature movie, short movie or documentary. It’s a question of thinking about film from its genesis outside of government institutions.

Few outdoors shoots, a reduced technical team, would be strategies that allow these movies to be made.

Now is a good time for Cuban film thanks to these initiatives by Cubans who have managed to pave the way for Cuban film abroad and try to continue developing and offering opportunities to the Seventh Art created on the island, with or without the protection of Cuban Film Laws.

Note: This article, in its English translation, is taken from The Havana Times.

Making a Movie in Cuba with Porno Para Ricardo / Lynn Cruz

Gorki Aguila and Porno Para Ricardo in a scene from “Corazon Azul” (Blue Heart)

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 17 August 2018 – Last Saturday, we filmed a new scene for the movie Corazon Azul (Blue Heart) by Miguel Coyula. This time, we went to the Playa neighborhood in the capital where Paja Recol is located, a recording studio and Gorki Aguila’s home, leader of punk-rock band, Porno para Ricardo.

It’s incredible how the fact that this band can’t play on the island has become second nature.

Like anyone else from this punk genre, he rips every taboo and social convention to shreds. Everything is game for these musicians. Sex, Fidel Castro, a State Security agent, an official or even the outrageous figure of a district representative, who in reality is actually a city mayor. continue reading

It’s best if he doesn’t talk about you, my friend used to say. To be honest, it was the first time I saw this band play live. They played the same part of the song “Tipo Normal” (Normal guy) chosen by Coyula for a scene in the movie, over and over again.

A boundless energy and Aguila’s special charisma, along with Renai Kayrus and Yimel Garcia, filled the room.  In my mind, one question kept going round and around: what’s going on in this country?

I still can’t understand how, in all this time, I’ve only known about their work via USB drives, when they are literally only a few minutes away from my house.

How is it possible that Cubans can’t see these three musicians play, who only rehearse because the Cuban government doesn’t let them play?

The country has been drained over time. Now, we are only left with wrong ways. There is no reason why these musicians continue to be confined to a room in an apartment.

Art doesn’t make sense if it can’t be shown. At this point, we will never know what this band could have been if they had enjoyed full freedom.

They are witty, intense and original. While talking to Gorki about their impact on me, he told me in his humble way: “If you only knew, people have told me this, that they like to see us play.”

Miguel Coyula filming Prono Para Ricardo for “Corazon Azul.”

He also told me that when they were allowed to play concerts, they were always thinking about their performance. One time, they showed a guitar at the beginning and told the audience: “This Soviet guitar needs to die”.

They gradually distanced themselves and ended up becoming radicalized. Having celebrated its 20th anniversary, this band carries the tragic sign of what it means to be ahead of your time.

To be honest, they are missionaries at the wrong time because Cuban reality was greatly marked by the disastrous ‘90s. And in 1998, Porno para Ricardo was founded.

That’s to say, that Gorki, Kayrus and Ciro Diaz Penedo (also a founder) were already in the future. They were singing from the past to a post-revolutionary Cuba.

Nobody on the island had ever dared to mock Fidel Castro before like they did. This is important because eliminating political humor was one of the first changes that Castro made to the press.

The Revolution had to be serious. Coyula’s movies have a special connection to this band. You can see this in his movies Memorias del Desarrollo (2010) and Nadie (2017).

Now, in Corazon Azul, they not only come together with the same energy, but Porno para Ricardois responsible for creating part of the movie’s soundtrack and they will also appear playing on a TV channel, created within the movie’s plot.

Slowly, Cuba’s truly underground and alternative world will come together like a puzzle. Prison, persecution, repression are all constants for the majority of artists in this universe that have an influence, not in the fringes of the city, but outside of the Museum of Cuban Socialism’s political establishment.

Note: This article, in English, is taken from The Havana Times

Persecution of Cuban Artists and Intellectuals Gains Legal Framework / Lynn Cruz

The poet Rafael Alcides and actress Lynn Cruz in the film “Nadie” by Miguel Coyula

Havana Times, Lynn Cruz, 17 July 2018 — Everybody knows that there has been a upswing of repression and censorship of artists here in Cuba. Within its institutions and recently, censorship of the film “Quiero hacer una pelicula” (I Want to Make A Movie) by Yimit Ramirez, during the previous edition of ICAIC’s Young Filmmakers’ Festival.

This led the young filmmakers and organizers at this annual event to protest against the intolerance of Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) officials, who disrespected the program made by the organizing committee by showing the film in small venue so few people could see it.

Now, with the government’s so-called “constitutional reforms”, Decree-Law no. 349/2018 and its Chapter of Violations has appeared, with a new crime of contempt against artists. continue reading

Another attempt to gag Cuba’s artistic community. It’s clear that this new decree-law aims to give a legal framework to the arbitrary measures that were already being carried out by government police and security forces.

The #00 Biennial which took place in May 2018 (an event organized by the Museum of Dissidence and Omni Zona Franca) annoyed government authorities and Ministry of Culture officials because of its financial but also political independence.

Many of those who offered their personal spaces (homes or private studios) were given the same fine that now appears in this “new decree-law”.

It could be deduced then that these were being applied illegally before because this law still hadn’t come into effect yet, or at least nobody had been informed about it. An independent Biennial had never existed before either.

Cuban artists weren’t the only ones who were persecuted, foreign artists who also attended this first independent visual arts event were also persecuted.

In April 2017, the documentary Nadie by Miguel Coyula suffered a police raid and State Security agents prevented the screening from taking place at the La Casa Galeria El Circulo, in the Vedado neighborhood at No. 316 10th street, between 13th and 15th streets. Painter Luis Trapaga and Lia Villares own this space.

During the premiere of my play Los Enemigos del Pueblo, State Security forces and the Police prevented guests from entering La Casa Galeria El Circulo again, where it took place in front of an audience of only two persons. This happened in November 2017.

Artist Tania Bruguera has been harassed, repressed, suffered abuses of power by State Security. All of this as well as her critical path in performance art are a result of her creating the Institute of Artivism which has summoned well-renowned figures from all over the world.

She was recently slandered in Cuba’s official newspaper Granma. Acting with total impunity, the government accused her of being a CIA agent, without giving any proof to support these charges which she has been publicly accused of. Bruguera also received a 1500 peso fine during the #00 Biennial.

Recently, the unfair imprisonment of scientist and writer Ariel Ruiz Urquiola proved how the system oppresses an individual and tries to reduce them to nothing, when the only thing they have done is raise their voice to condemn the government’s injustices.

His release after nearly two months in jail and a year-long sentence also prove Ariel’s brilliance, which are qualities that are much-needed today, and they have made Cubans both in and outside of Cuba aware.

Legitimizing repression is nothing more than a new terror strategy. Obviously, it’s part of art’s job to question an artist’s reality. To exercise their right to be free not only in form but in content too.

Creation can’t exist without freedom, especially if it is created as a means of perseverance and not for lucrative ends. None of these artists I’ve mentioned charge their audience an entry fee.

All of this goes to show the determination of Cubans both on and outside the island, even when they don’t have weapons, governmental or legislative power. We don’t need leaders, but causes. We don’t need to harangue, we need to work.

Cuba’s destiny doesn’t belong to a handful of military men or empowered civilians. Cuba wants to follow the path that Marti once dreamt of for his homeland: “With everyone and for everyone’s wellbeing.”

Note: Text, in English, from The Havana Times

Cuban Poet Rafael Alcides has Left Us / Lynn Cruz

Rafael Alcides

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 20 June 2018 — Yesterday, on June 19, 2018, in the afternoon, 85-year-old Rafael Alcides passed away. The sensualist poet, friend and main character in “Nadie”managed to do what very few can: “Live in keeping with his ideals.”

He spent his last days resting at his home in Nuevo Vedado, after having fought a long battle against cancer.

The end of his journey has left a deep abyss in not only the people who knew and admired him, but in everyone who has fought for their ideas. continue reading

He was ostracized because of his critical thinking. He was such a grand figure that he would always say that he hadn’t been censored, despite his novel “Contra Castro” and poetry collection “Nadie” being banned.

Alcides chose to distance himself from social and cultural life because he didn’t agree with the direction national politics were taking. He was referring to Fidel Castro’s treachery, to the ideas he himself had fought for as part of the underground movement before the 1959 revolution.

He inspired filmmaker Miguel Coyula with his eloquence and gift for speaking leading Coyula to make his first documentary “Nadie” (Nobody) about him. Coyula always says he will keep the film showing (in private in Cuba) for as long as possible, in the face of the poet’s brilliant personality.

Being a free man living in a totalitarian system has meant that this film is still banned, even today. Nobody on the island is talking about it. Not critics, or poets from his own generation, or pro-government press or the news.

However, the poet has had a taste of eternity. Governments and politicians come and go. Those of us who love him will always be “grateful like dogs” for having his work among our literature.

Alcides didn’t have an age. He was brimming with so much passion that he seemed more like a child who was stunned by a world unknown to him.

For those of us who were close to him, we also have the priestly example of how he treated his writings, unwilling to sell out.

As a friend, I know that I will always miss him and that I will have to get used to thinking, what would Alcides have had to say about this?

The poet from Bayamo asked that his ashes be scattered in Barrancas, his hometown.

Note: Translation from Havana Times

Cuban Government Withdraws My Punishment / Lynn Cruz

Click on picture for link to audio of hearing.

Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 21 May 2018 –On Friday May 18th, at the Actuar Agency, the Labor Justice Committee (OJL) informed me of its recent decisions regarding the complaint I filed because this former organization, especially its director Jorge Luis Frias Armenteros, violated my artistic representation contract because of my online activity against government and Party leaders.

This column, where I write and give my opinions about social and cultural subjects normally, seems to have been the reason for my sanction.

Frias not only violated my contract by not giving me 30 days notice, which stemmed from him not wanting to represent me, but it also prevented me from working at an International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos (EICTV) workshop, which still legally belongs to Actuar. continue reading

After several phone calls from the Head of the Committee, Ivan Rodriguez, I went to the meeting: “They ruled in your favor,” OJL members told me. Prepared for the worst, I didn’t get it. I was knocked off my guard by the news and also by the fact that everyone was talking to me at the same time (which happens quite often here in Cuba).

They had to tell me one more time, my punishment had been lifted. I had been repressed, condemned for a violation which I didn’t commit and which I have been fighting since late March not only with Actuar but also with the International Film School of San Antonio del Los Banos (EICTV).

After pressure was created via independent media and social media, the government decided that the OJL would accept my complaint and rule that a violation of Resolution 44 of June 16th 2014 was made, within the artistic sector’s labor regulations.

It doesn’t imply that actors have to have pre-established beliefs or ideologies in any of the four clauses present in Chapter 3, Article 17.1.

Covertly, it appears that Frias has committed another crime against me, protected by articles 8 clause d and 24 of Law No. 83 in 1997. Improper Imposition of a Disciplinary Measure, which is foreseen and punishable in article 297.1 and 2 of our Criminal Code.

Even so, Frias continues to hold his position. In return, my punishment has been withdrawn and I can continue to criticize the government. As a result, the regime has publicly recognized that neither Frias nor I committed a crime, in the eyes of Actuar’s employees. A happy ending for everyone.

And if we are taken to trial, we will both be prisoners of conscience: him for blindly obeying an ideology and me for doing the opposite. This unusual and unprecedented event shows that being on either end of the spectrum is dangerous today in Cuba, which is a great thing for those who fight for their rights.

Of course, while the OJL proved me right, at the same time they informed me that this would be until another “fact”, “element”, “I don’t know what” comes up. Those words mean government, so this is only a momentary victory, I imagine they are trying to let time pass, forget the scandal, to then expel me again.

Translation from Havana Times

Cuban Youth Losing Their Fear / Lynn Cruz


Lynn Cruz, Havana Times, 17 May 2018 — While high-ranking officials were driving their cars and locking themselves into air-conditioned offices, a group of artists realized a project (perhaps the most ambitious to date), the recently concluded #00 Havana Biennial. Outside of Cuba’s institutional establishment, it took place from May 5-15.

Responses from state-led cultural organizations were harsh, along with those from State Security. They have ceased to represent the artists who joined in this project, as well as standing in the way of their right to exhibit their works at state-controlled galleries in the future. Repressive aftershocks also took place in private spaces, where presentations were held.

The government has always questioned the funding independent artists use. Family remittancces are among the main ways hard currency enters our economy today. However, people who send them have been labeled “traitors”, “stateless”, “worms”, “Imperialism’s bootlickers”, and even had eggs thrown at them in the past. continue reading

If the government really wants to establish a dialogue with young artists, it needs to start off by recovering our collective memory, calling things for what they really are and articulate a more coherent discourse, at least. Instead, intolerance and lies continue. White money can’t be the only thing that doesn’t threaten power.

The Cuban regime offers almost nothing to artists, but rebelling against it will provoke it to use all of its resources and forces to crush you. Why? Because of ideology? As a result, this can only be applied to business. Regarding remittances for example, it doesn’t matter whether the relative sending it to you believes in socialism or not, money is the only thing that matters. Therefore, there can’t be another biennial because the Havana Biennial is the established market and is controlled by the feudal lord.

Recently, young filmmakers who were unhappy about what happened at the past ICAIC Young Filmmakers Festival, and they called for signatures for an anonymous campaign called Cardumen. Censorship of the movie Quiero hacer una pelicula, by film student Yimit Ramirez, the lack of officials’ understanding as well as unfair accusations because it was made independently, stirred the critical consciousness of these budding artists.

Tania Bruguera carries on with her Hannah Arendt International Institute for Artivism, INSTAR. Bruguera has managed to develop a space for independent and free art due to her artistic career and international fame. As a precedent, as well as her personal work, she created the workshop: “Arte de Conducta”, where she has discovered and educated talented people, who have now attended the #00 Biennial as guests.

This was what happened with performance artist Ana Olema. In her piece, she sued the State for having made her body disappear. Conceptually-speaking, she also made use of underground movement strategies in Cuba before 1959.

Every big idea starts off as a grain of sand. Between all of these communicating vessels, a super verbal dialogue, one thing is certain like a gem of Cuban culture, critic and intellectual Gerardo Mosquera said recently, who was also invited to the #00 Havana Biennial: “Young people are losing their fear.”

Translation from Havana Times

Cuba’s Labor Justice Agency Nullifies Dismissal of Actress Lynn Cruz

Lynn Cruz (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 21 May 2018 — Cuba’s Labor Justice Agency has ruled in favor of Lynn Cruz with regards to the claim presented by the actress after the Performing Arts Artistic Agency (Actuar) put an end to her contract last April without complying with the mandatory 30-day notice period. The artist was informed of the decision on Friday, 11 days after the five members of the court agreed with her.

The document issued by the Labor Justice Agency specifies that there was a violation of Resolution 44 that regulates labor relations in organizations overseen by the Ministry of Culture.

For Lynn Cruz, this ruling makes clear that Jorge Luis Frías Armenteros, director of Actuar, violated article 297 of the penal code with the “unwarranted imposition of a disciplinary measure.” continue reading

The president of the Labor Justice Agency, Iván Rodríguez, told Cruz that after this ruling, “it did not make sense to go to the municipal court” because Actuar was going to continue to “represent her without problems.”

As of now, the actress could be hired again but after what happened she does not trust that she will be able to return to her work, because she believes that the agency can work behind her back to prevent her name from being chosen by a director who is interested in her work.

For Cruz, there is no way to repair the “psychological and moral damage” this measure has caused her, in addition to the “loss of work” she suffered in this case.

The actress also wonders if this step was taken to protect Frías, that is to avoid a criminal complaint. This Friday, when asking Ivan Rodriguez if the director of Actuar would be sanctioned for his error, the president of the Labor Justice entity replied that the agency “could not sanction its own director.”

“Evidently they are protecting Frías, the procedure he used in my case was clumsy since the contract was violated, but there is an intention to protect him after that blunder he committed,” Cruz believes. Cruz is of the opinion what was decisive in her case — unlike the cases of Ariel Ruiz Urquiola, Oscar Casanella or Yanelis Nuñez — was that she recorded the public hearing and “made the recording public,” a hearing in which the director acknowledged his error in not notifying her 30 days in advance before canceling the contract.

At the public hearing Frías said that Actuar’s decision to terminate her contract had been taken due to the actress’s “demonstrations on the internet” against “the main leaders” of the Party and the government and acknowledged that they had made a mistake” in the procedure.”

Lynn Cruz (born 1977) has developed her career between theater and cinema, although she has also participated in some television shows. She has worked on several Cuban films including Larga Distancia and La Pared.

Cruz has a special performance in the documentary Nadie, directed by Miguel Coyula, which includes testimonies of the poet Rafael Alcides, an intellectual censored on the island. This film was presented at the independent El Círculo gallery with the presence of Alcides himself, without major incidents. However, another presentation was repressed by State Security, which blocked public access.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.