THE HOMELAND BELONGS TO US ALL – Cuban Dissidence Task Group 1997 – Historic Document


Cuban Dissidence Task Group
Havana City, June 27, 1997



Original in Spanish here

Authors: Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses, Rene Gomez Manzano, Vladimiro Roca Antunez, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Translated for CubaNet by Jose J. Valdes


When you finish reading this document, you will be able to support us if we can agree on this initial assertion:

Man cannot live from history, which is the same as living from stories. There is a need for material goods and for satisfying his spirituality, as well as to be able to look to the future with expectations. But there is also a need for that openness that we all know as freedom.

The Cuban government ignores the word “opposition.” Those of us who do not share its political stance, or who just simply don’t support it, are considered enemies and any number of other scornful designations that it chooses to proclaim. Thus, they have also sought to give a new meaning to the word “Homeland” that is distortedly linked to Revolution, Socialism and Nation. They attempt to ignore the fact that “Homeland,” by definition, is the country in which one is born.

All of this aside, our Task Group has examined the Project Document prepared for the V Congress of the Cuban Communist Party, scheduled to be submitted for approval during this event. Because it is impossible for us to make public our viewpoints here [in Cuba] (given that the [Cuban] news media is in the hands of the state), we have decided to set them down in the hope that they will somehow be made known to Cubans inside and outside the island. By this mean we seek to defend our right to express our opinion, because we are convinced that THE HOMELAND BELONGS TO US ALL.


Of the 11,080 words that the document contains, grouped into 260 paragraphs, more than 80% are dedicated to interpreting history. They wish to convince those that read the document that:

    • There has been only one revolution [in Cuba] since 1868; and
    • The U.S. has tried to seize Cuba ever since the 19th century.

To try to strengthen these assertions, they invoke the name of [the father of Cuban independence, Jose] Marti.

Thereby they persist in the old and absurd argument that the existence of a single political party is based on Marti’s ideas, as only one party was founded by him. There is no known political leader that has created various continue reading

political parties simultaneously. Nevertheless, many distinguished freedom fighters in their respective countries, once independence was achieved, have respected the multi-party system of government. Washington, Mahatma Ghandi and General DeGaulle were among them.

There is no reason to think that Marti, had he survived the War of Independence, would not have done the same given his very positive views on democracy. Point V of the Tenets of the Cuban Revolutionary Party (1892) states: “It is not the goal of the Cuban Revolutionary Party to bring to Cuba a victorious group that will consider the island as its prey and dominion. It is, instead, to prepare, by as many efficacious means as freedom in exile permits, the war which is to be fought for the honor and welfare of all Cubans, and to deliver to the whole country a free homeland.”

Following the war, no patriot argued for the need to have a single party. On the contrary, many actively participated in politics with different affiliations and all respected the multi-party system.

Even though they wish to portray the democratic republic as a series of interrupted failures and treasons, they have to contend with the socioeconomic achievements obtained between 1902 and 1958 which placed our country among the three most advanced nations of Latin America. In some areas, in fact, Cuba was ahead of even major Old World countries such as Spain and Italy. This undeniable reality speaks volumes for the industriousness of Cuban workers and the enterprising spirit of our businessmen— especially as all these true accomplishments took place following a major cataclysm (our glorious War of Independence) and in spite of the terrible socioeconomic crisis of the 1930s. In addition, there are the political successes, such as the revocation of the infamous Platt Amendment in 1934 which the political propaganda does not mention, though its imposition in 1901 is well-remembered.

This twisting of information is also present in the document. If the pre-1959 statistics are consulted, it can be seen that the illiteracy rate among the Cuban population at the time amounted to 16% and not 40% as proclaimed. The statistics are also manipulated when it is stated that 7% of the population voted in the elections at the turn of the century. This implies that the remaining 93% included non-voting women (51%), children, and the great number of foreigners that lived here, as is to be expected in a country that had recently ceased to be a colony.

Regarding the application of due process in the trials held for members of the Batista regime, Castroites have their own interpretation. But it must not be forgotten that—as the document recognizes—those principally implicated fled the country on January 1st, on which date the mass executions commenced. Those that were shot by the firing squads were arrested, accused, judged and executed in less than 24 hours. The rise to power of the current government was sealed by a vicious settling of accounts. The so-called “revolutionary trials” bore no relation whatsoever to due process nor to a true right to a defense. A notorious example was the trial of the pilots sentenced after having been absolved, an event which led to the suicide of Captain Felix Pena.

Every year, by an ever-growing number of votes, the General Assembly of the United Nations demands that the so-called [U.S.] “blockade” be ended. This statement is true, but what goes unsaid is that, with the same frequency, the Cuban government is sanctioned for its systematic violations of human rights.

The October [1962] “[Missile] Crisis” is mentioned, while omitting the fact that the Cuban leadership urged Moscow to deliver the first strike without waiting for the “Yankees” to take the initiative. This is acknowledged by history. A nuclear attack against the United States would have meant a terrible catastrophe for all humanity, but, undoubtedly, Cuba would have been swept from the map. That solution to the crisis was offered by the same party members that are now worried—according to them—that their departure from power would mean the disappearance of Cuba as a nation.

But can we forget the autocratic way in which nuclear weapons and foreign troops were brought into the country? The people learned of the matter only after the problem arose.

As the document well states: “Everything began to change on July 26, 1953.” We should not fail to mention that—in effect—on that date, for the first time in many years, much Cuban blood was spilled. Up to that time, the deaths in the political struggle which occurred under the Batista government could be counted on the fingers of one hand. To find in Cuban history as mournful and fratricidal a day as this, we would have to go back to decades long past. Despite its being such a sad day, it has been made into a holiday and celebrated as such. This, we suppose, meets with the disapproval of even the fallen martyr’s own relatives.

These are but a few examples of the way in which the Communists have sought to INTERPRET HISTORY.


The party insists on unity but forgets that, for that unity to be valid and real (and not a mere parody), it is necessary for a consensus freely reached by the citizenry to emerge. The opposite would amount to a brutish imposition that would be a unity in name only. We the members of the opposition are here to show that in our country there is no consensus.

The text asserts that: “Only the unity of revolutionaries can lead to the unity of the people.” This argument, just like every other perspective on this matter, suffers from what is known in logic as “circular reasoning,” whereby that which is sought to be demonstrated is taken as a starting premise.

The party, declaring itself the representative of the people, prepared the document that warns the citizenry to participate in the meetings to support it. The people, subjected to the pressures of totalitarian power, attend [these meetings], and the fact is portrayed to the world as a plebiscite on Cuban society. This is declared the most evident and irrefutable proof that the party represents all of the people. It is precisely the same premise that was used as a starting point. Although there is talk of plebiscite, the people have felt what it is like to be trampled upon. A latent popular will still exists, just as when General Arnaldo Ochoa and his comrades were sentenced to execution by firing squad. Even though the vast majority did not agree with this sentence, it was officially declared as necessary and the opinions of the masses ignored.

If, as its leaders assert, the citizenry in general supports the Communist Party, there is no reason not to hold internationally-supervised, free elections, which would serve to silence all the detractors of the system.

In the name of unity, the Fist Party Congress considered it legitimate to bestow upon itself constituent powers and approve the final version of the 1976 Magna Carta. This includes Article 5, which proclaims the [Cuban Communist] Party as “a guiding force superior to society and the state.”

We are aware that there are historical precedents for this concept of unity. The Cuban Communist Party, in imposing a single party system, places itself in the unenviable company of Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Trujillo, Pol Pot and Sadam Hussein, among others.

Having called the ranks to order on the matter of unity, the party saw it fit to declare that “the Cuban people have decided to have a single party.” But, in the name of unity, under the concept of shared-guilt for mistakes, we have seen many things that have left their mark on history for having contributed to create chaos and instability in the country. It will suffice to cite a few examples:

  • The attempt to drain the Cienaga de Zapata wetlands;
  • The creation of an “agricultural belt” around Havana;
  • The collectivization of agriculture;
  • The genetic alteration of livestock, in particular of cattle;
  • The authoring of a plan for food rationing and the mass production of “micro jet” bananas;
  • The dismantling of the sugar industry and the attempts to alter cane varieties;
  • The imposition of ideas that entail disastrous investments, such as the Paso Seco Dam, which is a monument to that which should not be undertaken.

Likewise, in the name of unity, a sugar mill was given as a gift to Nicaragua, an airport was built in Granada and, under the mantle of so-called “Proletarian Internationalism,” troops were sent off to kill and die in different countries. To be sure, this was something that was never done under what they call the “subjugated republic,” whose various governments refused to send troops to fight in either of the two world wars or the Korean war. This despite the fact that the “Yankee imperialists” did so. In this, our northern neighbor truly set itself apart from the Soviet Union, which—not practicing what it preached—enabled and financed the sending of Cuban troops to a whole series of countries.

The document, by the way, makes only a passing reference to these “missions” so as to avoid having to explain just what was achieved through that useless effort. Its only significance for the [Cuban] people was the breakup of families, mourning, pain and exotic diseases, among other things. Angola and Ethiopia—to cite only two such countries—exacted a high death toll among our fellow Cubans. At present, over in those strange lands, Angola seeks a national solution with the participation of UNITA and the genocidal general Mengistu Haile-Marian, decorated here in Cuba with the Order of Jose Marti, fled ignominiously from Ethiopia. In addition, when it was considered convenient, unity was invoked to welcome our exiled brothers as representatives of the “Cuban community overseas.” This after families had been keep apart and their mail hindered to avoid any kind of affectionate exchanges.

Because of what it represented for the tattered finances of the country, party members were told that they could welcome into their homes those same people that had been reviled as “traitors” and “worms;” those that had had to endure the egg-throwing and blows of the renowned “popular dignity demonstrations.” The latter subsequently gave rise to the Rapid Response Brigades and the detestable “acts of repudiation.”

In the name of unity, the “captive villages” were created, religious people were persecuted, and churches were practically left without priests. The document points out that: “The Congress approved the admission into the party of revolutionaries with religious beliefs.” This implies that they take pride in a decision that bridles the shame of more than 30 years of persecuting those who profess religious ideas. If we look back, all of this came about, in good measure, due to opportunistic motives, as some members had turned religious just to be let go from the party.

The unity to which the party refers is not about ideas, but about the aim that the people rally around the party leadership.

For the rest, we cannot accept that a government which has dedicated itself to dividing the country can speak IN THE NAME OF UNITY.


The philosophy of the government is not to serve the people but to be their dictator. It is not its main objective to guarantee the citizenry a quality of life which has a minimum of decorum. Power, exercised through totalitarian control, is the end that is being pursued with this political ploy. No longer is anyone fooled by the much-touted call to social justice. The wage rates combined with the stagnation of other economic factors makes the situation of the populace more difficult each day. And the more they deteriorate, the more the economic activities are politicized and militarized.

Something which is truly deserving of a triple-X rating in the meaning assigned to what is termed the Socialist Civil Society. The document’s authors wish to ignore the fact that a civil society is made up of elements outside the control of the state and therefor cannot be socialist or, what amounts to the same thing, “sovietist.”


In a paragraph detailing some of the accomplishments of the government, the following statement appears: “Our country became covered with highways and roads, as well as with waterworks for productive uses. Milking machinery and aerial spraying, previously unknown technologies in rural communities, were put in place.”

However, reality confronts us with the fact that there are no means of transportation on the highways and roads, and that there is insufficient water available to supply the major cities. In particular, there are heavily populated neighborhoods in the city of Havana where there are serious shortages of the precious liquid, and whole provinces—Santiago de Cuba being the prime example—are experiencing irrigation problems.

The cattle population has declined. In 1955 it reached a per capita level of 0.82 heads per inhabitant. Forty years later it was 0.38. The milk that was distributed in the 1980s originated from trade with the former German Democratic Republic. As there are practically no cows left to milk, the automated milking machinery has turned into scrap heaps from lack of care and maintenance. In the long term, far from serving to increase agricultural food production, all of the methods that were indiscriminately and inefficiently introduced have only hindered its development. The old methods at least yielded reliable results and allowed the needs of the population to be met.

Further on, the document asserts that more than three million hectares were handed over to the Basic Units for Cooperative Production (BUCP). The pretense here was to make it seem that this was an innovative production method which would pull agriculture out of its presently critical situation. However, more than three years have passed since their establishment and no results can be seen. The government itself, through its official spokespersons, has declared that only 7% of the BUCPs are even marginally cost-effective. To this we can add that more than 60% of the state organizations have been recently deemed unreliable. It has also been recognized that the sugar mills are not grinding cane in a cost-effective manner but that, as cane production cannot be curtailed, nothing can be done about it.

Allusions are made, in speaking of the changes and the things accomplished up to the time of the Special [Economic] Period, to how the food production program could have been successfully developed. This implies that at present this program is no longer viable. But no alternative is presented; not even the slightest suggestion that could put an end to the severe rationing that has lasted now 35 years—a world record.

After considering the ensuing paragraphs, one may also conclude that there is also no plan for solving the country’s economic and social crisis. For Cuba to partake in the global economy without renouncing its totalitarian ways, the challenge is more than difficult. The stagnation that has characterized the Cuban government’s policies continue to increase its alienation from financial institutions, the assistance of multinational consortiums such as the European Union, and even from the possibility of entering into any bilateral agreements. The foreign financing situation is dismal and it is not possible to continue to pay short-term loans with interest rates of 17 or 18%. However, loans that offer at least low initial rates are difficult to obtain.

What does the Communist Party offer the people? “We will have only that which we are capable of creating,” it tells them. More than a promise, it seems a mournful threat about the proverbial inefficiency of the production system and about the usual limitations which it imposes on the citizenry. The list of problems is enormous. Nevertheless, only material problems are addressed and no mention is made of the spiritual needs of our people, much less about the lack of all sorts of freedoms. For the party, the concrete tasks ahead are clear, but it does not identify for the populace the solutions to the problems, the timetables involved, or the differing view points. It is as if, suddenly, the future were synthesized into that one slogan. Faced with our harsh reality, there is only room for the patriotic and revolutionary code-of-conduct of working more and better.

That past that is portrayed as something so brilliant should not have given rise to the present crisis, as all of those accomplishments and conquests have been touted about since the 1960s. Accepting what the communists allege, it can only mean that they have given nothing to the people in the last 30 years. It is a case, then, of a regime anchored in the past and which lives in the past—and quite a remote past at that.


When on January 28th the U.S. government published its Plan in Support of a Transition [in Cuba], there was no alternative response by the Cuban government regarding the responsibilities identified in the plan to support a transition process. The document issued by the Communist Party is not such an alternative because it offers nothing concrete to the Cuban people. The following matters are still without explanation:

  • the way in which the catastrophic economic situation will be solved;
  • a solution for the ideological vacuum that the current political crisis has created, one result of which has been the use of foreign flags by young people in their attire;
  • what is going to be done to maintain at least the levels of service once attained in public health, education and social security, so as not to increase the painful situation of the population;
  • what the Cuban government will agree to do in order to solve international disagreements and to try to adopt global economic standards;
  • the measures it will take to eliminate the embargo; the means to be used to recover those parts of the Cuban territory occupied by foreign military bases: Guantanamo [Bay], Lourdes and Cienfuegos;
  • ways in which to address the growing number of people that express their opposition to the official political position and to stop the treatment of Cuban citizens as third class people in their own country.

It is no secret that Cuba had the worst performance in the region during the five-year period between ’91 and ’95, and that even though it is said that an economic recovery occurred in 1996, the populace never experienced it. Upon the termination of Soviet-block aid, the inefficiency of the system increased and foreign commerce diminished.

There is no doubt that the socioeconomic policies need to be reformed and redesigned so as to achieve better results. The use of the society and the economy to exert controls has to cease.

Cuba needs a recovery based on high rates of sustainable growth to bring itself back into the realm of intense international competition and dynamic technological change. What the party has set forth is not this. It is merely an attempt to maintain the status quo of obsolete totalitarianism; to entrap us in social and economic backwardness amidst a dynamic and competitive world.

No one wishes a return to the negative aspects of the 1950s, as the government argues. The realities of the world have change and those of our country too. The transition toward democracy that we wish to achieve is based on the fundamental principles of the 1940 Constitution, which establishes social rights that have nothing to do with the influx of neo-liberalism. The current situation whereby foreign companies hire their workers through a state intermediary could be termed neo-totalitarian. Through such an arrangement, the state exploits the workers without even offering them stable employment.

The document does not offer the possibility of establishing a true constitutional state, nor an independent and impartial legal system that would protect the liberties and rights of the individual and the practice of political pluralism.

The government, given its current position, has no chance of stabilizing the economy quickly and without a recession, and this is a necessary pre-condition to effectively achieve an economic recovery and consolidation.


The document states that economic liberalization is linked to the creation of joint-ventures and other forms of business arrangements with foreign companies. But this has not been enough, and is far less than what is needed. What is needed is a process of true economic liberalization, which would entail the democratization of the country. The Cuban community overseas—amounting to a million and a half people—could undoubtedly contribute to a sustained economic recovery. Currently, in fact, the financial assistance that [the exiles] send to their relatives on the island accounts for a substantial portion of the country’s import-purchasing power. This is demonstrated by the fact that the government has gone so far as to as to impose taxes on the receipt of this money.

The Cubans on the island have demonstrated what they are capable of accomplishing if given even a small degree of economic freedom. The self-employed—whom the system has tried to drown because of what they represent from a political perspective—manage to turn any small business they undertake into models of efficiency. In this regard, the Revolution stimulates the creativity of the masses in all fields of endeavor. Innumerable innovations have been introduced to production and service activities. If there is a true desire to stimulate the creativity of the masses in all areas, then they must be allowed to enter the economic arena. Cubans must be allowed to invest, just as foreigners are allowed to. Moreover, to be consistent, this type of stimulus should be extended to the political realm.

It is said that the party demands each and everyone of its members to think with his own head and to express himself freely within the bosom of the party organizations. This means that there are 770,000 persons in the country who are allowed to think and speak freely, while the rest of the population—the ones without a party; the ones that constitute the majority—have no opportunity to express themselves freely. They too need breathing space.

You may find this a curious assertion: “Our electoral system is above political games, fraud, and the buying-selling of votes.” And is this not what is to be expected? It would, after all, be truly mind-boggling for the party to engage in and condone vices to benefit candidates that already follow the party line. It is also stated that: “The party does not nominate, reelect or impeach.” Clearly, it has no need to do so. The entire leadership of the mass organizations belongs to the party. It is enough that these leaders participate in the whole-scale nomination process of the so-called “Candidacy Commissions.” Despite all this, people are compelled to go vote. For something truly novel, they should allow the opposition to form part of the electoral process itself; to be able to rally its own parties, nominate its own candidates and engage in political campaigning—all under the supervision of international observers.

The document does speak of a constitutional state. However, not one of the traits that would characterize as such is discernible. There is no respect for the law, as demonstrated by Decree 217, which violates provisions of the Constitution and the General Housing Law. There is also the case of the systematic disregard of the Law Governing Associations, under which different independent organizations should—as they have repeatedly requested— be made legal.

The state is not at the service of the citizens. Between them there is not even an egalitarian relationship of reciprocal rights and obligations. Instead, the citizen is at the service of the state.

The laws do not respect the rights inherent upon human beings, as demonstrated by innumerable denunciations of the violations of these rights as well as repeated sanctions against Cuba in the United Nations over this issue.

The government should resolve problems such as the matter of the right of Cubans to freely enter and leave the national territory and allowing the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, and his team, into the country. It must also be noted that there is no legal protection in the country, as it has been shown that the laws, and even the Constitution, can be modified overnight. Thus, if other ideologies besides that advocated by the Communist Party were recognized, a Constituent Assembly should be convened with the main goal of modifying the existing constitution. The Constitution of 1940 could be used as a basis for the revisions, with the subsequent aim of holding multi-party elections.

Measures such as this are what the Communist Party should propose to try to avoid a spontaneous outbreak in the near future of incidents of social violence.

It is impossible to continue leading the nation to its ruin without expecting an uncontrolled awakening of the populace in search of a rightful space within a civil society with democratic institutions. That which no one desires could well occur, and thus it is better to discuss solutions now than to plunge our homeland into mourning tomorrow.

Havana City, June 27, 1997

Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses
Rene Gomez Manzano
Vladimiro Roca Antunez
Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

Document distributed by Ruth Montaner of the Cuban Dissidence Task Group.

Translated for CubaNet by Jose J. Valdes

Spanish version here

The Cuban Dictatorship Lives in a Fictional World

Despite the fact that extreme measures have been taken in some provinces, it has not been possible to contain the outbreak of Covid-19 in Cuba in the last month. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 6 February 2021 — There are two major problems that have been present in the month of January: The return — with more force — of the Chinese virus; and the ’Ordering Task’*. In the case of the Chinese virus, the last day of the period ended with 906 positive samples, which implies a significant rebound. From April 15, 2020, a little more than a month after the pandemic arrived, there is an accumulation of 862 positive cases.

The problems in medical supplies, the shortage of PCR Covid tests and the delay in the results from the laboratories that have collapsed, have been defining for this month, in which the inefficiency of the Public Health system has been clear.

To which must be added the lack of ambulances, which means they have had to use public transport buses to move patients infected with the disease; and the reporting of the death of a 5-year-old girl from Matanzas whom they were unable to rush to the provincial pediatric hospital. The ambulance appeared five hours after it was requested and was not properly equipped, and the little girl died two hours later. continue reading

The number of infected children that is announced is also alarming; as well as the way in which the number of deceased has grown. In fact, January has been the deadliest month of the pandemic and Luis Antonio Torres Iríbar, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba for Havana, has said that: “Havana could get worse.”

Despite the fact that extreme measures have been taken in some provinces, the outbreak has not been contained. In particular, the two aspects that most affect the crowding of people are: transport, very scarce; and the lines at the stores and markets, due to the shortages of food and hygiene products.

Without knowing who is responsible for the crazy ideas of the economy, although the public face is Marino Murillo, at the worst moment of the pandemic the government put into effect the ’Ordering Task’* and only 20 days later “President” Díaz-Canel said that the Ordering had to be ordered; in the first place, due to the number of complaints that have been received from the population due to high prices, given the empty pockets of ordinary Cubans.

Order is nowhere to be seen in the first month that has elapsed this year, but there is a lot of annoyance in a society that has had to endure an 11% drop in its Gross Domestic Product during 2020. It is as if the regime was saying to the people: “Whoever can, save themselves.”

In summary, it can be said that the dictatorship continues living in a fictional world that does not take into account the needs of the people and thus violates our elemental rights.

If there was a November 27, now there will be a January 27 in which the figure of the Minister of Culture, Alpidio Alonso Grau, has stood out, beating an independent journalist to take away a cell phone, with which he was filming him.

The protests of the San Isidro Movement and the group of November 27 continue, now demanding the Minister of Culture resign, and noting the National Capitol building as the meeting place.

Inflation continues to be rampant, with unstoppable prices, despite the regime’s threats of fines and seizures, measures it will probably implement shortly, through legal channels.

On the other hand, the religious issue has been on the social scene for several months now. A group of priests and practicing Catholics in Cuba and other countries around the world wrote the document: “I have seen the affliction of my people”, which was published on January 24. Immediately, the official site Razones de Cuba [Cuba’s Reasons] replied on January 28 with the article ’Counterrevolution sheltered behind the cross and the cassock.

It is not necessary to explain that the official response was more of the same, to mention that it was charged that the document was signed by counterrevolutionaries financed by United States intelligence agencies. It also states that for months, several Cuban priests launched themselves to incite the parishioners from the pulpit of their churches, with broad media support from Miami.

Videos showing police abuse are on the rise on the social networks, which are forwarded and become viral. But one in particular has circulated with statements by Colonel Ramón Valle Luna, in which he can be seen boasting that he had three deaths and that Fidel and Raúl said: “Don’t even touch me.” Irrefutable proof of the violation of human rights in Cuba, where all power is concentrated in the figure of the First Secretary of the Communist Party [Raul Castro] in turn.

*Translator’s note: The Tarea Ordenamiento (Ordering Task) is a series of government actions that include ’unifying’ the two currencies — the Cuban Convertible peso and the Cuban peso — resetting wages and pensions, resetting prices, and other measures.

Editor’s Note: This text is the introduction to the Report of the Cuban Center for Human Rights of January 2021, which you can consult [in Spanish] at this link.


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.

A New Organization is Born to Track Human Rights Violations in Cuba

The dissident and independent journalist Martha Beatriz Roque is the supervisor of this new project. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 October 2019 — A new organization has emerged to give continuity to the work carried out for decades by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN). That is the stated purpose of the Cuban Center for Human Rights (CCDH).

In its founding statement it is stated that the objective of the “small group is to collect the testimonies of the human rights violations that the Cuban dictatorial regime carries out throughout the Island; as well as to relate the social problems and those that are becoming the ’coyuntural’ (temporary) crisis the country is currently experiencing. “

At the head of this organization, as coordinator, is Kirenia Yalit Núñez  Pérez, who was formerly Elizardo Sánchez’s assistant at the CCDHRN. Performing the work of supervisor is the former political prisoner Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello. continue reading

In its first report, dated October 1, the CCDH reports in a different way the number and names of political prisoners, arrests, raids, immigration regulations and harassment. It also comments on different problems related to the current crisis in the country.

Speaking to 14ymedio Roque Cabello insisted on how essential it is to maintain the presentation of a periodic report on human rights violations in Cuba. “We are not trying to replace what the CCDHRN was doing but to maintain the principle that this be done from within the Island. This is important for all of the opposition and for that part of the world that cares about us.”

The Center will have its physical headquarters in Roque’s house, located at number 260 Goss Street between Milagro and Santa Catalina in the capital district of Santos Suárez, where it will be open from Monday to Friday during office hours.

Roque Cabello explained that at the end of each month there will be a report with all the complaints or at least most of them and she added: “At this time we cannot wait for people to hear about the facts of the individual complaints as they appear on social networks, without an entity with enough credibility to group them.”

The sources of information to prepare these monthly reports are the same as the CCDHRN’s were, explains Roque Cabello, thanks to the fact that Kirenia Núñez, who is in charge of the work, worked five years with Elizardo and has all that documentation. “The role that I play is to monitor the complaints to prevent the spreading of false news. I have also made my house and my telephone number (+53 76406821) available to this project.”

The information will be distributed by email to those who appear in the database of the CCDHRN, but the Center has the aspiration to enable a web page as soon as it has  the resources, so that it can be visited by the general public.


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.

Martha Beatriz Roque Asks to Return to Prison in Solidarity With Jose Daniel Ferrer

Martha Beatriz Roque during an event in Miami. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 August 2018 — The former political prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring Group of 75, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, was detained for some hours by the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) on Monday morning after leaving her home, activist Tania De la Torre Montesinos confirmed to 14ymedio.

At the time of the arrest, Roque Cabello, an economist by profession, went to the State Security Room of the Provincial Court of Havana to deliver a letter requesting the revocation of her extrapenal license, in solidarity with the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), José Daniel Ferrer.

“They detained her in Santa Catalina street, at the corner of her house, and they kept her for a few minutes in the police car but then released her because she had hypoglycemia and they told her that she could not leave her house,” added De la Torre. continue reading

Roque Cabello, once recovered from the health incident, went out into the street and confronted the officers, telling them that her house was not a prison, according to the testimony of De la Torre. The PNR troops arrested her again and put her in the police car, and as of now her whereabouts are unknown.

According to the acitvist,  an officer who claimed to be called Miguel, prohibited her from visiting the Swedish embassy, where she usually connects to the internet. They also seized the letter she intended to present to the courts.

In the letter that Roque Cabello wanted to deliver to the authorities, the dissident specifies that if they do not revoke the measure of extrapenal leave with which she left prison in 2004, she prefers to face the same fate as José Daniel Ferrer and return to prison.

“At the time it was decided to grant the extrapenal license to the group of 75 we were all released. Ten of us sanctioned on this cause are in Cuba and we are in a legal limbo, but in freedom. If we can not all be together on the street, my personal decision is to return to prison as they have imprisoned José Daniel Ferrer,” wrote Roque Cabello.

José Daniel Ferrer was arrested on 3 August after an automobile accident in which an agent of the Ministry of the Interior was involved. Last Friday, the prosecution filed charges against the Unpacu leader for “attempted murder.” Some opponents consider that the accusation against Ferrer to be a charade to decapitate one of the largest opposition groups on the island.

Roque Cabello was the only woman in the group of 75 dissidents sentenced to long sentences for crimes against state security in 2003, an event that shocked international public opinion, known as the Black Spring. That was her second conviction, as in 1997 she was tried for signing the document La Patria es de todos (The Fatherland Belongs to Everyone) when she was part of the Internal Dissidence Working Group.

With the mediation of the Catholic Church and the collaboration of Spain, the Government of Raúl Castro decided to release the dissidents in exchange for their departure from the country. Roque Cabello, who had earlier benefited from an extra-penal license for health reasons, is part of the group of opponents who refused to leave the island, along with José Daniel Ferrer, national coordinator of Unpacu and Ángel Moya, husband of Berta Soler, current president of the Ladies in White.

Roque Cabello leads the Network of Community Journalists and Communicators, which has collaborators in several provinces of the country.


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

What Do Cuban Dissidents Think About Diaz-Canel? / Ivan Garcia

On Monday, 22 March 2016, during his visit to Cuba, President Barack Obama met in the United States Embassy in Havana with a group of Cuban dissidents, among them Manuel Cuesta Morua (to Obama’s left), and the independent journalists Miriam Leiva (to Morua’s left) and Miriam Celaya (to Obama’s right). Source: Cubanet.

Iván García, 30 April 2018 — Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a 55-year-old Afro-Cuban historian of average height and thin build, is probably one of Cuba’s most intellectually gifted dissidents.

Morúa’s political proposals are based on a social democratic model. He has tried different strategies, looking for a legal angle that would allow him to carry out his projects legitimately. The military dictatorship, however, has thwarted him. He considers himself to be a man of the left, a position from he articulates his ideas.

The arrival of Miguel Díaz-Canel — a 58-year-old engineer from the town of Falcón in Villa Clara province, about 300 kilometers east of Havana — marks the first time someone born after the triumph of the Cuban revolution has ascended to power. He is part of a generation that, for differing reasons, began to dissent from the Marxist, anti-democratic and totalitarian socialism established by Fidel Castro. continue reading

The hardline, diehard generation is passing away. In the current political climate, the most eloquent spokespersons, both official and dissident, were born during the height of the Cold War. They experienced the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the international communist bastion, the former Soviet Union.

The dialectical struggle will not be resolved at the point of a gun. The system will have to reinvent itself, unleash productive economic forces and rely on the private sector if it wants to bring an adequate level of prosperity to Cubans frustrated by the precarious conditions of their lives.

At one time Díaz-Canel, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Luis Cino, Angel Moya and the economist Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello were all in the same ideological trenches. For reasons of their own, they stopped applauding Fidel Castro and began a long, arduous journey aimed at establishing a democratic society in their homeland.

For Morúa, the transfer of power to Díaz-Canel, “can be read in several ways, all of them interesting. The generational change, no matter who is its public face, puts society on a more equal footing when it comes to dealing with those in power,” he says.

He adds, “The only thing left to do now is make demands. Díaz-Canel is an obstructionist president. He has very little legitimacy. He is not a historical figure and he has not won an election. Every person on the street says, ’I didn’t vote for him.’ The government is incorrect when it claims that Cuba holds indirect elections. Elections here are by acclamation. To date, this president has no agenda. He comes off as a clone.”

When I ask him if he thinks it is time for dissidents to change tactics and devise a strategy to reach out to ordinary citizens, Cuesta Morúa responds, “I think it’s time to think more about politics, to offer a clearer alternative. It’s time to step up to the plate, but in political terms.”

In Lawton, a neighborhood of low-slung houses and steep streets on the southern outskirts of Havana, is the headquarters of the human rights group The Ladies in White. Most of its members are mothers, wives or daughters who had never before been interested in politics.

Their dispute with the regime centers on their demands for release of their sons, husbands and fathers, who were unjustly imprisoned by Fidel Castro. Their protest marches, during which they walk carrying gladiolas, were brutally suppressed by agents of the regime’s special services. The Cuban government’s actions led to strong public condemnations from the international community.

After entering into negotiations brokered by the Catholic church and the Spanish government, Raúl Castro’s regime agreed, for the first time, to release some political prisoners and to grant The Ladies in White space along Havana’s Fifth Avenue to carry out peaceful protest marches.

After their release most of the seventy-five former political prisoners left Cuba. The Ladies in White are still subject to brutal repression by the Castro regime, which has denied them access to the space it once gave them permission to use.

The Ladies in White’s main strategy involves street protests. Angel Moya Acosta, the 53-year-old husband of Berta Soler, leader of The Ladies in White, believes “that the Cuban political opposition needs to confront the regime. If we want people to take to the streets, the dissident community has to take to the streets and to actively persuade the people. This is not a problem about unity. Changing the electoral system in Cuba is up to the opposition and — except for some exceptions such as UNPACU, the Pedro Luis Boitel Front and the Forum for Freedom — that is not happening. Anything else is an excuse for not doing anything.”

According to Moya, the selection of Díaz-Canel was expected. “Nothing in Cuba will change. Repression could even increase. Díaz-Canel indicated that major national decisions will still be made by Raúl Castro. And he ended in inaugural speech with the outdated slogans ’homeland or death’, ’socialism or death’ and ’we will win’.”  Everyone on the island knows that real power in Cuba still rests with Raúl Castro.”

Luis Cino Álvarez, 61, one of the strongest voices in independent journalism, says he “does not expect any political reforms from the Díaz-Canel government except, perhaps, some slight fixes to the economy. He has already stated what we can expect: more socialism and a continuation of the policies of Fidel and Raúl Castro. Stagnation in its purest form. I believe that now is the time for dissidents to come up with a better strategy for confronting the regime.”

Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, a 71-year-old economist, thinks that “Díaz-Canel is a person with many illusions. He held a meeting of the Council of Ministers that was illegal, saying that new appointments to the council had been postponed until July. Díaz-Canel feels very comfortable governing. And that is not a positive thing. When they govern, all the word’s presidents feel pressure due to multiple demands from different sectors of society.” She adds,”Cuban dissidents followed the wrong path. They should have taken the road of the people. But with each step they get further and further away from it.”

If there is anything upon which the fragmented local dissident community agrees, it is that the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel represents the beginning of a significant new era. They face two dilemmas: either find a way to motivate thousands of citizens to demand democracy or watch the military dictatorship celebrate the centenary of Fidel Castro’s revolution with a parade though the Plaza.


“None of these women have anything better to do at home” / Martha Beatriz Roque

Site manager’s note: The Cuban opposition frequently posts photos of their repressors — in plainclothes as well as in uniform — sometimes naming them as well.


Angel Juan Moya: Department of State Security (DSE) and National Revolutionary Police (PNR) repressive operation at the national headquarters of the Ladies in White.

Martha Beatriz Roque: None of these women have anything better to do at home.

The Two Marielas / Cubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello

L, An ordinary Cuban woman looking out a bus window; R, Mariela Castro

cubanet square logoCubanet, Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Havana, 14 February 2017 – The story I want to relate has two parts, one is true and the other is fiction. The real one is an event I was involved in at the Carlos III market while in line to buy yogurt, one of the products in shortest supply in this country – despite the fact that it is sold in hard currency – and in this case with a price of 0.70 Cuban convertible pesos (CUC), although there are other yogurts sold in different containers for as much as 5 CUC (1 CUC is roughly equal to $1 US).

In front of me, while we were waiting, was a young woman of around 30 something, but I could see she’d had a pretty rough life. She had the money in her hand, some of it in 5 and 10 centavo coins in CUC and a note for 5 Cuban pesos (CUP) – because, as you know, now the stores have to accept both currencies. All of a sudden she dropped a 10 centavo coin and to her great misfortune it rolled under one of the display cases and although the woman made a great effort to retrieve it, she could not.

She turned to leave the line and I asked, “Are you leaving?” and she said, “Yes, I had the exact amount of money and I dropped 10 centavos under that case.” Without thinking twice I said, “No, don’t leave, take the ten centavos.” continue reading

She accepted with the happiest look on her face and told me, “You have no idea how grateful I am, because my older daughter is sick and she doesn’t want to eat anything.”

From that moment, with the facility a Cuban has to establish communication with another person, even if they don’t know them, we spent the next thirty minutes while we continued to wait in line talking to each other.

She explained that she worked as a teaching assistant at an elementary school, but often had to be the teacher because there aren’t enough educators. She is divorced and the monthly support she receives from the children’s father is 50 Cuban pesos (roughly $2 US). That plus her own salary is not enough to live on and she has to “invent” and go begging to her mother. She told me, literally, “You have no idea what I have to do to be able to feed my kids.”

Like any good Cuban, she lives in a building considered uninhabitable, but she won’t accept going to a shelter because she knows other people who live in those conditions and it is dangerous for the girls, now that they are becoming young ladies. Because her apartment is on the second floor and nothing works, she has no running water and every other day has to carry up 10 or 12 buckets of water to meet highest priority needs, although she says she is grateful to her mother who washes and irons the girls school uniforms.

“Imagine. My mother was a member of the Party (Communist) and worked in the Federation of Cuban Women and as for my my father, may he rest in peace, his surname was Castro, so it occurred to her to name me Mariela [after Raul Castro’s daughter]. Now she regrets it.”

Then she said that she did not listen to her mother and married a man who drank a lot, and when he came home he beat her. It took a lot of work to get out of that torture and now she regrets not having listened to her mother’s advice.

He left them that disastrous apartment where they live in Centro Habana, and now she is stuck because her sister is married and has two children and also lives in the divided living room, which doubles as a room for both her and her sister’s families in the home of their parents.

She confessed to me that she had been so distressed that she takes her daughters and walks along the Malecon. And she said the girls understand the whole situation and do not ask for anything. But they’re growing up and they have to have shoes and school uniforms and something to eat for a snack at school, which is almost always a piece of bread, because at breakfast they eat half of her daily quota (on the ration book).

I think she had a great need for someone to listen to all her problems and saw the opportunity to vent.

With a little imagination, while I was on my way to my house, I began to think about how the other Mariela might live, the one her mother named her after.

At the entrance, everyone can see that other Mariela’s super residence in the Miramar neighborhood even has a pool, always filled with water. There are several cars and they and the house are all beautifully maintained. This is something that you don’t have to imagine, and it is not fiction.

But surely that Mariela Castro does not line up to buy yogurt at 70 cents CUC and much less would she be sad if she dropped a coin, as all her food problems are taken care of without her even having to leave the house.

When she gets up for breakfast she does not “donate” her bread to the children. A maid prepares the food, certainly with ham, milk, bread, juices, etc. She is assured of coffee every day, very likely imported, she probably gets the most desirable brands brought in from Miami.

She doesn’t have to worry about what time the bus will come to take her to work; in the first place because she doesn’t have to mark a timecard and in the second because she has a modern car to take her to work without having to get all sweaty and push her way onto the bus with all the other people.

I could continue imagining things that we all know are part of the standard of living of the high government hierarchy, but I leave it to the reader so we can all share in this fictional (?) part of the story.

Cuba’s New Minister of the Interior Inaugurates His Tenure With a Repressive Wave Across the Country / 14ymedio, Mario Penton

Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla, Cuba’s new Minister of the Interior, has unleashed a fierce crackdown across the country (ACN/ Marcelino Vázquez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Havana/Miami, 11 January 2017 — While in the United States Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, made it clear that human rights will be an important part of Washington’s policy toward Cuba, the island’s police forces carried out repressive actions in different parts of the country.

“The increase in repression is due to several causes, among them a push that the government is making in the last days of Barack Obama’s administration to make it clear to Trump that they do not care about the policy change he has announced towards Cuba,” said José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu) speaking from Santiago de Cuba. continue reading

Ferrer denounced the arrest of Jesús Romero and Alexis Rodríguez, activists of his organization who were accused of “posting an opposition sign in the center of the city.”

Among Unpacu members recently detained are also its coordinator, Ovidio Martín Castellanos, and the singer Yuniel Aguilera.

“After the death of his brother, Raul Castro needs to increase terror levels to maintain power,” says Ferrer, who says the government is willing to do anything to eliminate any hint of dissent.

“The increase in repression is due to the push the government is making in the last days of Barack Obama’s administration to make clear to Trump that they do not care about the policy change he has announced towards Cuba”

“They know people are tired of the same thing. When in April we mobilized more than 1,000 people the political police told us that we would never do something like that again,” he adds.

At the other end of the island, the editor of the magazine Convivencia (Coexistence), Karina Galvez, was the victim of search of her home, which ended up being sealed. Galvez herself, age 48 and an economist by profession, is under arrest for the alleged crime of tax evasion.

The director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, Dagoberto Valdés Hernández, called the escalation against the civic project he leads – including the suspension of a planned meeting and multiple arrests – acts of “harassment” by State Security.

Also arrested this day was regime opponent Óscar Elías Biscet, founder of the Emilia Project, which seeks the change of government in the island by means of a popular uprising. After a few hours, Dr. Biscet, who has spent long years in jail, was released.

Activists Eduardo Quintana Suarez, Jose Omar Lorenzo Pimienta and Yoan Alvares, who belong to the same organization, were also arrested, as reported by El Nuevo Herald.

Activist Martha Beatriz Roque was arrested when she attempted to attend the scattering of the ashes of the recently deceased opponent Felix Antonio Bonne Carcassés. She explained to 14ymedio that her detention lasted until two on Wednesday afternoon.

Opponent René Gómez Manzano told this newspaper that they “appealed” to his sanity so that he would not attend the ceremony where the ashes would be scattered, although he finally succeeded in doing so.

This repressive wave unfolds a few hours after the replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla

According to a press release from Democratic Directorate in the city of Holguín, human rights activist Maydolis Leiva Portelles, together with her three children, under arrest since November 27, 2016, were brought to trial.

The entire family, according to the press release, including two minors, was the subject of an act of repudiation that included “violent raiding of the home, beatings, and robbery of personal property.”

This repressive wave has been unfolding within a few hours of the replacement of the recently deceased Interior Minister, Carlos Fernández Gondín, by Vice Admiral Julio César Gandarilla. Among other prerogatives, the person who controls the portfolio of the Interior Ministry also exercises command over State Security and the National Revolutionary Police.

“With the [previous minister] repression was quite extensive, although it must be said that in Cuba a minister cannot do anything without Raul Castro authorizing it. The policy carried out by Gondín continues with Gandarilla. We will have more repression as the discontent increases,” says José Daniel Ferrer.

Opponents of the Cuban Regime React to the Election of Trump / Cubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang

Clockwise from top left: Eliecer Avila, Antonio Rodiles, Martha Beatriz Roque, Laritza Diversent, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Berta Soler
Clockwise from top left: Eliecer Avila, Antonio Rodiles, Martha Beatriz Roque, Laritza Diversent, Jose Daniel Ferrer, Berta Soler

cubanet square logoCubanet, Ernesto Perez Chang, Havana, 9 November 2016 – The elections in the United States, with the victory of the Republican Donald Trump and the defeat of the Democrat Hillary Clinton, contrary to the predictions of most polls, has captured the attention of the world’s public opinion in recent hours due to the decisive nature of United States policy in the international arena.

The normalization of relations between the governments of Cuba and the United States and the diverse opinions generated by the lengthy diplomatic process and packages of measures aimed at easing the embargo, implemented by current US president Barack Obama, have given rise to a broad spectrum of opinions within Cuban civil society, such that some of the main opposition leaders on the island have expressed their views to CubaNet to the election results announced at dawn on Wednesday.

Antonio Rodiles, coordinator of Estado de Sats (State of Sats) and organizer of the We All March campaign, says: “We expect consistency of those who, within Cuba, maintained a policy against Trump and were confident in Hillary’s victory. (…) Maybe difficult times will come for the process of normalization of relations with Cuba and the continuity of Obama’s program. We expect another direction in the dialogue and a president who places the issue of respect for human rights and freedom of expression as a priority, a determinant, at any negotiating table.” continue reading

Jose Daniel Ferrer, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, UNPACU, argues that the electoral decision does not mean negative effects on the relations between the two countries: “I do not think the difference is notable. The American people have chosen. The new president will do what suits the citizens of the United States and, as he should, prioritize the interests of his nation (…). The candidate the people believed to be better has won (…). (Regarding Cuba) common sense in the process of normalization of relations will prevail and we expect a strong hand with the dictatorship because (Cuba) is a regime contrary to the interests US, it is a regime that no American candidate would never agree to in the style of Venezuela or China. (…) We expect better relations with the new government.”

The regime opponent Martha Beatriz Roque said: “It seems that the American people have passed the bill to the Democratic Party. Many people are concerned about the ways in which Trump has expressed himself during his campaign, but I think that concern should be minimized because surely the Republican Party will take control of the situation. (…) With regards to his impact on the Cuba issue I think there are measures taken by Obama that are irreversible. Especially because America is a democracy, not like Cuba, which is governed by a totalitarian. It will not be easy to give a twist to relations with the island. However, I think this gentleman will be educated by his advisers enough to not make the mistakes of the previous president.”

Eliecer Avila, activist with the movement Somos+ (We Are More), confessed to not having had a previous position in favor or against any candidate, although he said about his expectations: “I didn’t support either of them one hundred percent. In Hillary Clinton I saw very positive support for Obama’s policy (toward Cuba). (…) Donald Trump has shown some strong positions but I do not think that will change the policy of his predecessor but, apparently, will negotiate from other positions.”

The lawyer Laritza Diversent , founder of Cubalex, believes that the elections were a reflection of the opinion of the American people and believes that Cuba will occupy an important place in the policy of President-elect: “The process of normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba is irreversible. (…) There is a responsibility to the legacy of Obama. The United States, with its current policy, is leading positive changes. Many challenges are imposed on the new president. We should also consider the views of the US Congress and other powers in that nation.”

Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White, believes it is too early to make predictions about the directions Trump will take regarding policies on Cuba: “We have to wait. I have never preferred one or the other because there is a reality: it is not about the Cuban President but about the President of the United States. Someday I want Cuba to be able to elect a president in a way similar way to that in the United States. (…) We don’t know about Trump, we have to wait. There may be changes but I do not know, I’d rather wait. ”

The election of the 45th President of the United States has not only launched numerous questions in the world’s most important economic sectors. For Cuba, undergoing a process of rapprochement with the United States that could help find a solution to economic stagnation, for the government, or a way for democratization, for civil society, the policies toward the island that will be decisive in the immediate future will be designed by Trump.

Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique: Farewell to an Exemplary Dissident / Iván García

Photo: Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique. Taken from the Facebook page of Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello.
Photo: Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique. Taken from the Facebook page of Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello.

Ivan Garcia, 5 November 2016 — When I began writing in 1996 as an independent journalist for Cuba Press, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique was no longer working as an economist for Cuba’s Central Planning Agency (JUCEPLAN ) and had already become an opponent of the Castro regime.

In 1991, together with another economist, friend and colleague, Manuel Sánchez Herrero, he joined the Cuban Social-Democratic Party, directed by Vladimiro Roca Antúnez. Later, with Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, also an economist, the three participated in the founding of the Institute of Independent Economists of Cuba. continue reading

The most well-known members of the Internal Dissidence Working Group were Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez, René Gómez Manzano and Félix Bonne Carcassés, and among their closest and most loyal collaborators were Sánchez Herrero and Ramos Lauzurique. These two also contributed their bit to the drafting of La Patria es de Todos — The Fatherland Belongs to Everybody — the document with the greatest national and international reach drafted by an opposition group on the Island.

La Patria de Todos was launched in June 1997, and barely one month later, four principal members were violently arrested (Martha, Vladimiro, René and Félix). On March 1, 1999, in the Marianao Court, the trial took place, one of those big, repressive shows mounted by Fidel Castro and the Department of State Security. The trial took place two weeks after the one-note Parliament, presided over by Ricardo Alarcón, approved the Law of Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba, better known as the Gag Law, which, if violated, provides for a penalty of 20 years or more in prison.

The four were given different punishments, although the only one who served the whole five years of his sentence was Vladimiro (they gave him a stiffer penalty for being the son of the Communist leader Blas Roca Calderío, the ex-Secetary General of the Popular Socialist Party). Quietly, in their own discreet way, Arnaldo and Manuel continued the best they could with their efforts for the Internal Dissidence Working Group.

In those days, Arnaldo was living with his two children and wife, Lydia Lima Valdés, in a one-story house near the old Cerro stadium. Cuba was going through a “Special Period,” and Arnaldo, in order to survive, was buying raw peanuts in an agromarket, roasting them and packing them into paper cones. He went on foot, selling them on the outskirts of the Zoo on Avenida 26 in Nuevo Vedado. Manuel already was in very poor health, with prostate cancer. in 1985, when he still worked at JUCEPLAN, he spent a year under arrest, accused of insulting authority. The motive? A book that Sánchez Herrero wrote about the similarities between Benito Mussolini and Fidel Castro.

But the two (and I know this through my mother, the journalist Tania Quintero, who was a good friend of Arnaldo and Manual), in addition to continuing unabated in their opposition to the regime, often got together to analyze the economic, political and social panorama of Cuba in the international context. “Some afternoons, in 1998, I had the privilege of conversing and debating for a long time with Arnaldo and Manuel. We met in the house of Elena, the daughter of Martha Beatriz, on calle Neptuno. There were tremendous shortages, but Elena always managed to offer us a snack and coffee. And more than once she didn’t let us leave before she had offered us a plate of peas she had just made and a slice of bread, which was then a luxury.”

For lack of money, Arnaldo walked around Havana on foot; his health was good. Manuel was taken away by cancer on May 15, 1999. Because their pockets were empty, Arnaldo and Tania couldn’t send a wreath, but they went to his very modest service, in the Zanja funeral home, the funeral home of the poor. They sat on chairs that allowed them to see the entrance of the funeral home and detect the presence of officials of the political police dressed in civilian clothing.

Tania told me, “We saw Odilia Collazo come in, supposedly a dissident who led a pro-human rights party. She and a woman who accompanied her approached the row where Arnaldo and I were sitting and greeted us. We responded coldly and when they sat down next to us, Arnaldo and I immediately got up and left.”

Manuel, as well as Arnaldo and Tania (and also Raúl Rivero) always suspected that Lili, as they called her, was a snitch. And they weren’t wrong: in April 2003, State Security itself uncovered her as an agent infiltrated into the ranks of the dissidence. Collazo managed to fool several diplomats — among them some at the U.S. Interests Section — and also Cubans in exile in Miami, while she offered her house for meetings with dissidents and then later reported them.

In 2002, Martha Beatriz organized one of the opposition groups that, in my opinion, was more focused on people and their reality: the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba. It was supported by Gómez Manzano, Bonne Carcassés and Arnaldo Ramos, who always was a kind of right hand for Martha, because he was a disciplined and organized person, with great skill in researching information and extreme care when it came to drafting statistical tables, reports or articles.

The Assembly had a short life. They gave it the coup de grâce on March 20, 2003, when they detained Martha Beatriz and some 20 dissidents in the capital and provinces who passed several days fasting, among them a young black man named Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Seven years later, on February 23, 2010, Zapata Tamayo would die as a result of a prolonged hunger strike.

Arnaldo didn’t participate in the fast. His task, on that and other occasions, was organizational and logistical. On March 17, 2003, the day before Fidel Castro — taking advantage of the fact that the international meda gave priority to the U.S. invasion of Iraq — would decide to unleash the most brutal operation against the dissident movement and independent journalism on the Island, Arnaldo and Tania met in the little apartment of Jesús Yánez Pelletier, on Calle Humboldt, around the corner from the Vedado Hotel.

That morning they had come together for a press conference with hunger strikers, and among those present were two supposed dissidents who were part of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society: Aleida Godínez and Alicia Zamora, who, in April 2003, would be “outed” as agents of State Security.

That morning, Tania remembers, Arnaldo had bought a copy of the newspaper Granma from a vendor at Infanta and San Lázaro. “And he showed me an article or an editorial, I don’t remember exactly, and commented that it gave him chills, that the Regime was cooking up something huge against the dissidence.”

Twenty-four hours later, Castro began the ferocious wave of repression that is still known today as the Black Spring of 2003. Among the 75 detained was Arnaldo Ramos, who had just turned 61.

His body paid the price of the almost eight years that he passed unjustly and cruelly incarcerated. But not his strength of spirit as a citizen, economist and dissident. In the three prisons where he was — Sancti Spiritus, Holguín and the last six months in Havana — he went on hunger strikes and protests, with political as well as common prisoners. But the most important thing was that in all that time he didn’t stop reading, analyzing and writing.

On three or four occasions, through his wife or the families of other prisoners, he sent his writings to Tania Quintero, so she could type them and send them out. They weren’t simply hand-written sheets of school notebooks. They were analyses of the socio-economic and political situations in Cuba. Texts that were drafted in the gloom of the cell. Annotations that he made after reading the first and last pages of the official press, the only one permitted in Cuban prisons.

It was very important for Arnaldo that his family, as well as bringing him a bag of non-perishable food so he could survive in miserable conditions, also brought him, although they were back issues, the newspapers Granma, Juventud Rebelde, Trabajadores, and the magazine Bohemia.

In November 2010, Arnaldo Ramos was released from prison, and I interviewed him for the newspaper El Mundo. In the apartment where he now was living, I could see the boxes where for years he archived the newspapers and magazines that he knew how to read between the lines and extract data that allowed him to discover the true economic situation of the country.

“When they detained me, on March 19, 2003, it was around 9:00 in the morning, and State Security spent five hours requisitioning papers and documents,” he told me. I reproduce here the first two paragraphs of that interview:

“He returned home on a Saturday. After seven years and eight months behind the bars of a cell and the squeaking of Chinese padlocks, the economist Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, 68 years old, at 6:30 in the morning of his first Sunday in liberty, sat down in the park situated in front of the modest building where he lives, in the neighborhood of Centro Habana.

“He wanted to contemplate the dawn, breathe fresh air and see ordinary people carrying their bags to do their Sunday shopping. He wanted to feel like a free man. After two hours of meditation, the sun began to heat up the morning, and the noise of the kids with their bats, balls, roller skates and soccer balls broke his personal spell.

“Then he began what was always his daily routine. Standing in the tiresome line to buy the official press at a nearby kiosk. It’s one of his manias. Gathering the daily Cuban newspapers and archiving them in a box.”

This mulato was born May 27, 1942 and died on November 3, 2016 in Havana, his native city. He lived in a tenement and made something of himself, overcoming poverty and prejudice. He managed to become an economist, marry a woman who also studied and graduated as a doctor, specializing in radiology, had two children and grandchildren and formed a solid family. He stays with me in his writings, which can be found on the Internet and in numerous blogs and digital sites.

But, above all, I am left with knowing what an extraordinary human being Arnaldo Ramos was, with incredible memory, simplicity and modesty. He has more learning and talent than most of the dissidents who surrounded him, but he always stayed behind the scenes. He had a humility that the present dissident movement lacks, where there are so many who get off on selfies, headlines and having the title of “leader.”

Photo: Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique. Taken from the Facebook page of Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello.

Translated by Regina Anavy

Guillermo Fariñas Returns Home After Hospital Visit For Fainting / 14ymedio

Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)
Guillermo Fariñas on hunger and thirst strike. (Courtesy)

14ymedio, Havana, 6 September 2016 — Cuban dissident Guillermo Farinas, after 47 days on a hunger and thirst strike, was transferred on Monday afternoon to Arnaldo Milian Castro Provincial Hospital. The dissident was discharged hours later because doctors felt that he did not meet the “entry criteria for intensive care,” he told 14ymedio activist Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel.

Sources close to Fariñas detailed that the intake occurred at 2:45 pm after he lost consciousness at his home in the neighborhood of La Chirusa. Hours earlier, the daily report on his health issued by members of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), reported severe pain in the “joints, knees, ankles and shoulders.” continue reading

The note also explains that Fariñas was experiencing “dizziness, weakness and fatigue” and said his weight was 151 pounds, according to Dr. Yorkis Rodriguez Cardenas.

The winner of the European Parliament’s Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought is demanding that Raul Castro “publicly state that he will put an end to the beatings of nonviolent opponents,” and that he will schedule a meeting with a member of the Council of Ministers and “representatives of the Cuban opposition,” to explain what the government’s strategy will be “to end the beatings.”

A dozen Cuban dissidents have released a letter in which they call themselves Fariñas’ “brothers in the struggle” and say they share his demands. However, they also state that they need him alive to continue with them “on this path” until they “achieve freedom.”

“We respect you and we are aware of your sacrifice, but we would ask you to put an immediate end to your strike,” says a letter from dissidents Félix Bonne, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Ángel Moya, Félix Navarro, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique, Vladimiro Roca, Martha Beatriz Roque and Berta Soler.

Since the beginning, Fariñas has reiterated that, in the event that “Raul Castro will not yield to the demands” he will continue the hunger and thirst strike “until the end.”

“The opposition has not matured,” Laments Martha Beatriz Roque / 14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz

Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Lilianne Ruiz, Havana, 28 April 2016 —  Martha Beatriz Roque has returned from Miami after receiving a permit from the Cuban government in late February, which authorized her to leave the country one time. The activist was one of the seven former prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 who benefited from this permit. She returns with a certain pessimism and a critical impression of the state of the Cuban opposition.

Lilianne Ruiz. You returned from abroad after permission from the Cuban government, which allowed you to make only one trip. What impressions did you bring back from your stay outside the country?

Martha Beatriz Roque. I come back with a tremendous pain in my heart about what I have seen there. In Miami there is the historic exile, who love their country, their fatherland, who talk about democracy, who think about Cuba constantly and who have a great nostalgia for the island, but this historic exile, unfortunately, is getting old and some of its members have died. continue reading

However, many people who are coming to Miami through different countries, including now through Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama, are turning their backs on Cuba, they even want to forget that they are Cubans. These are people who are a part of a social fabric here that is broken, who have no ethics, no formal education and they are contaminating Miami.

LR. What do you think has been the outcome of Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba?

MBR. Obama has his agenda and within it is defending the interests of American citizens, as is natural, because that is his country. He has made it clear that the problems of Cuba have to be solved by Cubans and that is important. The people had a great lesson with Obama’s visit: for the people it has meant hope, which the Communist Party Congress subsequently tried to annihilate.

LR. And the opposition?

MBR. In Cuba there are opponents, but an opposition, as such, does not exist. An opposition exists in Venezuela, because it has been capable of uniting despite its disagreements. We are not capable of something like that yet. Here the unity lasts seconds.

LR. Did the 7th Congress of the Communist Party frustrate you, or were you were expecting something like what happened?

MBR. The Party Congress was going to be postponed to another date but it was held to try to counter what Obama said to the Cuban people, and because of this they didn’t have any finished [guiding] document. Some said, after the Congress was over, “We were right, Obama has achieved nothing.” Others say that the Congress was a way of demonstrating the failure of what Obama is doing, but I would not say that. Much less do I think it is a failure, because there are things that have been accelerated with Obama’s visit.

LR. Like what?

MBR. In the specific case of the eleven members of us from the [Black Spring] group of 75 who remain in Cuba, we were not allowed to leave the country and, at least in this moment, they allowed us one trip abroad. There have been solutions to some problems that you couldn’t say are changes, without the reestablishment of rights. This has to be seen as something satisfactory, not as something negative. In the not so distant future other solutions will have to come, because the economic, social and political situation of the country is unbearable.

LR. Will it be the self-employed who change Cuba?

MBR. The Cuban regime will not allow any self-employed to export, because that, they will say, is reserved for the businesses of the Ministry of Foreign Trade. The United States government is trying to have direct relationships with the self-employed, but that is not going to be allowed. Right now, when some self-employed turn their faces just slightly to the north, they’re going to cut off those businesses they’re going to stop everything.

LR. Can access to the internet help make the changes occur?

MBR. The regime does not allow it because they know that the internet is a source of knowledge, of the transmission of news and possibilities.

LR. What is the Cuban opposition lacking to be able to call forth the people?

MBR. First of all, it lacks leadership. Unfortunately, here everyone wants to be a leader, no one wants to be in the line, everyone wants to be at the head of it. It also lacks the exile,, which is capable of manufacturing a leader and putting forward a project with resources, but this does not solve anything.

LR. Do you see any chance for the opposition to influence the constitutional referendum announced by the government?

MBR. The opposition has not matured, it is still the same, generating documents, projecting itself abroad, meeting abroad, telling people what they have to do. But if the opposition doesn’t take advantage of this moment to work jointly with the people, it’s simple, nothing is going to happen. If they don’t work with the people, if they don’t raise awareness among the people, what does it matter that they go to meet the Pope in Rome, it’s all the same, it is simply not going to solve anything.

Obama Advisor Ben Rhodes Meets With Cuban Activists In Miami, During A “Historic” Meeting / 14ymedio, Marion Penton

 President Barack Obama’s key advisor on Cuba policy, Ben Rhodes, during his meeting with representatives of civil society on the island. (14ymedio)
President Barack Obama’s key advisor on Cuba policy, Ben Rhodes, during his meeting with representatives of civil society on the island. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mario Penton, Miami, 11 March 2016 – President Obama’s top advisor on US policy toward Cuba, Ben Rhodes, met this Friday with representatives from the island’s Civil Society and exile organizations. The meeting took place in Miami, concluding with a chat with Cuban-Americans that the official held at Miami Dade College.

The purpose of the meeting, which lasted several hours behind closed doors, was for Rhodes to listen to the aspirations and opinions of those groups in advance of President Obama’s visit to the island. Several of those attending agreed that the meeting was an “historic moment.” continue reading

Remberto Perez, vice president of the Cuban National Foundation (CANF) in New Jersey, explained that everyone expressed their points of view regarding the national reality before the US president’s visit. “It is a unique and extraordinary opportunity. The fact that we are doing this is a sign that the work of the internal and exiled dissidence has borne fruit,” he said.

Opposition member Martha Beatriz Roque, a member of the Black Spring’s Group of 75, confirmed that she will not meet with the US president, as speculated in some media. “It is not necessary that Obama receive me because I have been able to express my concerns to Ben Rhodes,” and she added, “I am super satisfied with this meeting,” said the dissident, who will not be on the island during the president’s visit because she is going to be traveling to Spain.

Leticia Ramos, a representative of the Ladies in White from Matanzas province, announced that Obama sent a letter to the organization and expressed his desire to meet with them in Havana. “So far we have high expectations and the president has informed us that he wants to meet with us,” said Ramos. Although she said they are “facing an uncertainty” because “the regime is going to prevent it at all costs” and “the arbitrary arrests will be massive to avoid this meeting.”

The Ladies in White have let Rhodes know that the visit should be directed “truly by the Cuban people” and he should try to ensure that “his speech reaches ordinary Cubans.” Initially, the position of the Ladies in White had been very critical of Obama’s visit to the island. With regards to the letter sent by the president, no details are available because “it was sent sealed” to Berta Soler, the representative of the organization.

The youngest activist at the meeting, Carlos Amel Oliva Torres, national coordinator of the Youth Front of the Patriotic Union of Cuban (UNPACU), told this newspaper that “the meeting surprised all of us in the most positive way,” because “we thought we would be coming to explain to Obama’s advisor the reality of the Cuban people, but to our surprise he knows it very well.”

Oliva Torres agrees with the rest of those present that it was an “historic” meeting and, in his opinion, “there was very good communication, great harmony between our approaches and his responses.”

“We are all demanding the same thing: we want the American president to go to Cuba and direct his discourse to the people of Cuba, not to the government,” said the UNPACU member.

The meeting was moderated by Jorge Mas Santos, president of the CANF, who praised the attitude of “these brave men and women (…) who keep alive the flame of hope on the island.” The Cuban-American extended his appreciation to the White House and stressed that meetings like this show that “beyond the Straits of Florida that separate us, we are one people.”

Mas Santos said that “President Obama’s advisor was able to listen to you directly, your dreams, your aspirations, the totalitarian nature of a regime that has oppressed our island for more than five decades, and through your suggested this liberating message can reach the mouth of President Obama on his visit to Cuba.”

Martha Beatriz Roque Believes That The US Should “Straighten Out” The Normalization With Cuba / EFE, 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque. (14ymedio)

EFE/14ymedio, Miami, 4 March 2016 — The Cuban dissident Martha Beatriz Roque told EFE on Friday in Miami that she would like to be received by the US President, Barack Obama, to ask him to “straighten out” the process of normalization of relations with Cuba.

In that process, “the only thing the Cuban government does is demand and it has given very like in exchange,” said Roque, an economist condemned to 20 years in prison in the 2003 “Black Spring” for violating the “independence and territorial integrity of the State,” collaborating and receiving resources from the United States, and trying to undermine the principles of the Revolution. continue reading

Roque Cabello, who was born in 1945 and also has Spanish nationality, arrived in Miami Thursday, on a permit granted by the Cuban government that allows her to travel outside the country one time only.

The dissident, who saw her sister for the first time in 55 years this Thursday, said that she would return to Cuba on 31 March and so will not be there when Obama visits the island on 21st and 22nd, although she would like to be able to speak with him before his trip to explain to him her opinions about the process of normalizing relations announced at the end of 2014.

“Not to be radical, I must say that the Cuban government has given very little. It does only what is required to get the embargo lifted, return Guantanamo, close Radio and Television Marti,” she said in a telephone interview with EFE.

In her view, the United States should “straighten out” this, so that the Cuban government offers something from its side.

Roque said it now is not the time to judge whether Obama was or was not wrong about the agreement he reached with Cuban President Raul Castro to end the antagonism between the two countries, which has already resulted in a restoration of diplomatic relations.

She would like to be received by Obama before traveling to the island to give him her views on the situation in the country and the changes needed, as she did with the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, when he visited Cuba.

Roque, from the Assembly to Promote Civil Society, said that after this “private trip” she will return to Cuba on March 31 and will be subject to the parole conditions she received in 2004, unable to leave the country again.

A large group of those convicted in the Black Spring Group of 75 left Cuba under an agreement between the Cuban government, the Catholic Church and the Spanish government in 2010. Of the 11 who remained in Cuba, only seven have received permission to take one trip outside of Cuba, and of these three are not going to travel, for various reasons, according to Roque.

Seven of Eleven Former Black Spring Prisoners Allowed to Travel for “Good Behavior” / 14ymedio

Martha Beatriz Roque leaving her appointment at the Immigration and Nationality office at Factor and Final Streets in Nuevo Vedado in Havana.(14ymedio)
Martha Beatriz Roque leaving her appointment at the Immigration and Nationality office at Factor and Final Streets in Nuevo Vedado in Havana.(14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2016 — Former prisoners of the Black Spring Martha Beatriz Roque and Arnaldo Lauzurique received from the authorities “a unique opportunity to travel,” Roque informed 14ymedio this Monday, adding that today she will begin the paperwork to apply for a new passport.

On leaving the Immigration and Nationality Office, located at Factor and Final Streets in Havana’s Nuevo Vedado neighborhood, Roque explained that Major Orestes Rodriguez Bello assured her that she will be able to return to the country without problems. He added that this was an exceptional measure because the beneficiaries “have displayed good behavior.” However, their status as beneficiaries of “parole” is maintained, and this is not a change in their criminal status. continue reading

Seven of the eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring who remain in Cuba have been summoned to the Immigration offices, presumably to regularize their situation and allow them to travel abroad before Barack Obama’s visit to the island. So far only two among them have had their appointments and the rest will do so throughout the morning and the afternoon.

In the citation they are summoned “to the section covering immigration and nationality to resolve their immigration status.” The document is signed by Maria Cristina Martinez Bello, according to a report from the dissident Martha Beatriz Roque to this newspaper.

In addition to Arnaldo Lauzurique and Martha Beatriz Roque, those cited so far include Oscar Elias Biscet, Hector Maseda, Jorge Olivera, Eduardo Diaz Fleitas and Félix Navarro.

Those not summoned to appear include Angel Moya, José Daniel Ferrer, Iván Hernández Carrillo and Librado Linares.

The eleven former prisoners of the Black Spring residing in Cuba have been prevented from leaving the country under the legal justification that they are “on parole,” a situation that has been widely condemned by international human rights organizations.

In March of 2003, the government ordered the arrest of 75 dissidents, including 29 independent journalists. They were sentenced to long prison terms. In 2010, after mediation through the Catholic Church, they were released in exchange for their departure to Spain, but the eleven remaining in Cuba did not want to leave the country.