“It is a good time for Cuban independent journalism” / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar

The journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.
The journalist Roberto de Jesus Quiñones.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 November 2015 – He just won the top prize in the Havana Newsprint journalism contest, but Roberto de Jesus Quinones feels that reporting is only one part of his civic responsibility. A lawyer by profession, this man from Guantanamo had to enter the world of reporting, press releases and the difficult search for sources in a country where independent reporters are frowned upon and outlawed by the ruling party.

Reinaldo Escobar. How does it feel to get this award?

Roberto de Jesús Quiñones. I am very happy, especially because the award has come at a time when I felt really badly about everything that has happened to me since October 5. So am doubly pleased, because I also know that participating in the contest were very worthy colleagues whom I respect greatly, such as the columnist Miriam Celaya, the attorney Rene Gomez Manzano and the reporter Manuel de Jesús Guerra Pérez. All of them are journalists of the independent media with years of experience in the profession. continue reading

RE. How did you come to do independent journalism?

RdJQ. I am a graduate in law and when I left the prison (Editor’s note: he was convicted of falsifying documents in the process of buying and selling a home, although it is suspected that it was actually for his role as a lawyer in the defense of regime opponents) I asked repeatedly to be able to return to the practice of that profession, but I could not do it. A few years ago I wrote and have five books of poetry in Cuba, primarily with the Oriente publisher. I also came out with a volume of stories in Miami. It was the jurist Gomez Manzana who got me to contact Cubanet, and I’ve also collaborated sporadically with Primavera Digital.

RE. Are you still a member of the Cuban National Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC)?

RdJQ. No, no. I’m in a process of leaving that group and although I asked to step down, they have not even responded.

RE. In what genre or on what topics do you mostly work?

RdJQ. I’ve done cultural journalism since the early eighties. For about five years I worked with the local media of Guantanamo writing film criticism and I even had a program on that topic on TV in the province. Although I must say I also really like the opinion column.

RE. How do you see the health of independent journalism in Cuba?

RdJQ. Unfortunately, from Guantanamo it is very difficult to read Web sites, as is the case with 14ymedio. Sometimes I can get the content of some of those independent media through bulletins or compilations that I receive via email. There is a great deal of unknown talent in Cuba, people of great intelligence and value who are removed from the official media. It is a pity that the Cuban people cannot more freely access the work of those colleagues, because they are very competent people and extremely good articles published.

RE. When people ask you about not having a journalism degree, how do you respond?

RdJQ. It is true that I did not study journalism, so I found all this work very difficult, but I train myself and try to do my best. My goal is to be objective in each text and seek the truth. On the other hand, doing this reporting has forced me to see the reality of this country and I have learned a lot.

RE. Independent journalism versus official journalism?

RdJQ. Independent journalism has put the bar very high – to use a sports metaphor – for official journalism. The social networks and alternative ways of distributing news has also meant the ability to empower people through information. People spread the news and that has benefited Cuban independent journalism, which is experiencing a good time.

Cuban Police Arrest More Than 220 Dissidents, According To Activists / Hablemos Press, Roberto de Jesús Guerra

The most arrests took place on Sunday in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba
The most arrests took place on Sunday in Havana, Cienfuegos and Santiago de Cuba

Hablemos Press, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Peréz, Havana, 29 June 2015 — Offices of the National Police, the Department of State Security, and other members of the Interior Ministry arrested at least 226 Cuban activists and dissidents this past Sunday, 28 June, 2015.

Police operations were carried out in various provinces of the country to keep activists and opposition members from attending Mass.

Among those arrested in Havana were Berta Soler, leader of the Ladies in White Movement, Antonio G. Rodiles, director of Estado de SATS; José Díaz, of Opponents for a New Republic Movement; photographer Claudio Fuentes; and several of the former political prisoners who were released in January 2015. continue reading

In Havana, the arrests of various members of the Ladies in White and others of the opposition took place as these individuals were departing their residences early in the morning, and they remained surrounded by police officers throughout the day.

Besides Soler, Ladies in White executive committee members María Cristina Labrada Barona and Lismeri Quintana Ávila were among these detainees, along with eight other women.

Another 39 arrests of women activists took place in the area around Santa Rita Church, after the women completed their customary march along 5th Avenue in the Miramar district of Playa municipality, and gathered in Gandhi Park (adjacent to the church) to review the week’s activities. In addition, approximately another 41 activists and opponents–men who accompany the Ladies on their march–were arrested in the capital.

2Algunos de los activistas y opositoresDozens of Interior Ministry agents blocked the streets around St. Rita Church to arrest the Ladies and other dissidents, according to the activists.

The Lady in White Aidé Gallardo Salazar was struck and dragged by female officers. “They hit me on the head and face, and they tried to asphyxiate me,” Gallardo averred.

Other arrests of Ladies in White occurred in these provinces: Holguín (4); Bayamo-Granma (2); and Aguada de Pasajero in Cienfuegos (9). In the last province, additionally, “17 men who accompanied the Ladies were arrested,” according to activist and former political prisoner Iván Hernández Carrillo.

The independent reporter Agustín López Canino also was arrested upon exiting his home in the El Globo district, located on the outskirts of Havana.

“I will continue going there to St. Rita for as long as they’ll let me,” said López Canino when interviewed. “What I do is take down the facts and forward them to various media.”

He adds that, “The repression against the opposition movement has increased extraordinarily within the last six months and cannot be allowed to go on without attention focused on it.”

The former political prisoners Ramón Alejandro Muñoz, Eugenio Hernández Hernández, Ángel Figueredo Castellón, Mario Alberto Hernández, and Rolando Reyes Rabanal were also arrested in Havana.

The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), headquartered in Santiago de Cuba, reported the arrests of 103 of its members when they attempted to travel to the village of El Cobre to attend Mass.

José Daniel Ferrer: 103 arbitrary arrests and a suspicious accident. Yesterday Sunday 28 June, in Santiago province. // Yusmila Reyna Ferrer: #Havana #Cuba: Mireya Ruiz Mesa, Carlos A. Calderín Roca, and Eric Ramírez Alonso of #UNPACU@jdanielferrer are violently arrested.

The agents used violence to detain the opponents, who were transported to police stations and military bases, according to activist sources.

Ladies in White affirm that, “The regime wants to destroy the opposition, but we are prepared to give our lives for the freedom of the political prisoners,” stated Ibón Lemos y Mayelín Peña.

Soler attests that the repression increased 11 Sundays ago, ever since the Ladies in White initiated a new campaign to demand the release of political prisoners, among them: the writer Ángel Santiesteban Prats, the artist Danilo Maldonado Machado (“El Sexto”); and the dissidents Santiago Roberto Montes de Oca, René Rouco Machín, Osvaldo Rodríguez Acosta, Yosvani Melchor Rodríguez, Rolando Joaquín Guerra Pérez, Eugenio Ariel Arzuaga Peña, Yoelkis Rosabal–in total, more than 50 individuals.

The reports received at Hablemos Press included figures totaling 226 opponents arrested across the Island on Sunday, although the actual number may be greater.

Translated By: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Fidel Castro’s “Hardships” in Prison / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

Fidel Castro’s mug shot (photo from the internet)
Fidel Castro’s mug shot (photo from the internet)

“We sleep with the lights off, we have no roll calls or formations all day, we get up whenever (…) Plenty of water, electric lights, food, clean clothes and all for free”

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 15 May 2015 – This May 15 marks the 60th anniversary of the release of the Moncadistas. The attack on the Moncada barracks is characterized by many as a terrorist act. Beyond the adjectives, always debatable, those who have been charged with praising the rebellious generation and denigrating the army officers of the time say nothing about the soldiers killed that Carnival dawn. Nineteen officers fell, but their names do not count for the official historians.

What would happen today if a group of Cubans, tired of political discrimination and abuses, were to attack a military unit? Would they receive sanctions as benign as those applied to the Moncadistas? Would they be allowed to meet in jail and be separated from the regular prisoners? Would they be granted amnesty? continue reading

The “cruel” prison of the Moncadistas

In the articles that the figureheads of Castro Communism have written about the event, it is emphasized how “cruel” the prison was for the Moncadistas during the year and nine months that they were held. It is embarrassing to read that in comparison with what many opponents of the regime later had to — and still — suffer.

In the book “The Fertile Prison,” published in 1980, historian Mario Mencia says that Melba Hernandez and Haydee Santamaria were sentenced to seven months for their participation in that event, a surprising sentence compared to the sentences currently meted out to the brave women who dare to raise their voices against the regime. Suffice it to say that recently Sonia Garro spent more than a year in jail awaiting trial.

Arriving at the women’s jail at Guanajay, Melba and Haydee were not only allowed to make phone calls to inform their families, but they were fixed up with accommodations consisting of a bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and dining room; they were permitted to receive all kinds of books, visits by family and friends, and they were always separated from the ordinary prisoners. I must add that before 1959 only three women were sentenced for political reasons, all during the Batista dictatorship, an insignificant number if we compare it to what happened after 1959.

The 27 Moncadistas were sent to the Model Prison on the Island of Pines and separated from the common prisoners, something that Castro-communism has never done with political prisoners. Mr. Mencia says that jail was a hell because it had 460 cells for 930 prisoners and only three showers and two toilets per 25 men. I would like, if he is still alive, for Mr. Mencia to see the 2C outpost of the Guantanamo prison where I was a prisoner between 1999 and 2003, a place built for 90 men and that at that time came to house up to three hundred, many of them sleeping on the floor with only two holes for defecating and two showers. Or he should see the sealed cells where political prisoners are kept. Would Mr. Mencia write about that?

The Moncadistas – according to Mencia – were allowed to have an electric stove, a library with more than 600 books, to read even after the 10 pm roll call, to play ping pong and volleyball and to form an ideological academy in which they debated all kinds of subjects without intervention by the prison authorities. Fidel Castro had at his disposal a Silvestone brand radio. Sixty years later, no Cuban political prisoner enjoys such benefits.

On page 76 of the book there appears a letter by Fidel dated April 4, 1954, where he wrote: “I am going to dinner: spaghetti with squid, Italian chocolates for dessert, fresh brewed coffee and then an H. Upman 4 [cigar]. Don’t you envy me? They take care of me, they take care of me a little among everyone… They take no notice, I am always fighting so that they do not send anything. When I take the sun in the morning in shorts and feel the sea air, it seems that I am on a beach, then a little restaurant here. They are going to make me believe that I am on vacation. What would Karl Marx say about such revolutionaries?”

The permissiveness of the authorities so encouraged the prisoners that their families bought them a refrigerator.

In another letter from August 1954, page 149, the despot in the making wrote: “Cleaning is for the prison staff, we sleep with the lights off, we do not have roll call or formations all day, we get up whenever; I did not ask for these improvements, of course. Abundant water, electric lights, food, clean clothes, and it’s all free.”

The Supposed Isolation

The supposed isolation of the Moncadistas is another falsehood because the book records that on July 8, 1954, Bohemia published an interview with Fidel Castro with the title “The Political Prisoners on the Isle of Pines.”

The prisoners’ mothers formed the group “Cuban Mothers,” which would become the Committee of Pro-Amnesty Relatives of Political Prisoners. They were never beaten for fighting for their relatives’ freedom, much less arrested or slandered as the most worthy Ladies in White are today by the government.

On March 25 of 1955 Bohemia magazine published a document by the Moncadistas addressed to the Cuban people, and on several occasions they were visited by high officials of the regime. Castro-Communism has never permitted that liberty to its opponents.

The lessons of a political mistake

The mistake by the politicians of that era was to believe that if they granted amnesty to the Moncadistas, they would renounce the violent vocation that the letters written by Fidel Castro from his comfortable prison clearly announced.

The dictatorship disguised as Revolution, which that young man of supposed ideals imposed on us, is now 56 years old. He and his brother learned the lesson very well. Hopefully some day the Cuban people will learn that the best leader of a country is respect for institutions and, consequently, will create the needed mechanisms so that we never again suffer another dictatorship.

About the Author

jesus-quinones-haces.thumbnailRoberto Jesus Quinones Haces was born in the city of Cienfuegos September 20, 1957. He is a law graduate. In 1999 he was unjustly and illegally sentenced to eight years incarceration and since then has been prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He has published poetry collections “The Flight of the Deer” (1995, Editorial Oriente), “Written from Jail” (2001, Ediciones Vitral), “The Folds of Dawn,” (2008, Editorial Oriente), and “The Water of Life” (2008, Editorial El Mar y La Montana). He received the Vitral Grand Prize in Poetry in 2001 with his book “Written from Jail” as well as Mention and Special Recognition from the Nosside International Juried Competition in Poetry in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His poems appear in the 1994 UNEAC Anthology, in the 2006 Nosside Competition Anthology and in the selection of ten-line stanzas “This Jail of Pure Air” published by Waldo Gonzalez in 2009.

Translated by MLK


Estado de Sats… for our Spanish-speaking viewers

Unfortunately we do not have the resources to translate and subtitle all the wonderful videos coming out of Estado de Sats and the Forum for Rights and Freedom, but for our many readers who do understand spoken Spanish, we just wanted to remind you they are there.

This particular video is a discussion of the Americas Summit in Panama.

The Estado de Sats YouTube channel is here.

29 April 2015

Enough with the Charades, Cuba Deserves Free Elections / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

people with L fingers cuba

In order to “elect” there must be different political parties to choose from, and only one is legal on the Island: The Communist Party

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 17 April 2015 – Coming up on April 19 there will be “elections.” Many countrymen ask about the changes that the Electoral Law will introduce.

The most democratic electoral law in the world?

In Cuba there are no elections, just votes. There are no elections because in order to elect there must be different platforms, and here only one is legal. Absolutely all the delegates and deputies respond to this; that’s why it does not matter for whom you vote.

Every time one of the People’s Party (which is the “people’s” in name only) elections approaches, the official media overwhelm us citing the supposed blessings of our electoral law, according to them the most democratic in the world. continue reading

It is an illusion. The only supposedly democratic thing in our electoral system is the election of candidates as district delegates. It’s true that the residents of each of the zones into which the district is divided elect a candidate through a direct and public vote, but that is the visible tip of the iceberg. The hidden part is comprised of the multiple meetings of “the community revolutionary elements” – i.e., Party members, “combatants” (former soldiers), leaders of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), the Cuban Women’s Federation (FMC), etc – where those attending are directed how to block any candidacy unwanted by the regime and who to vote for.

The people that staff the polling stations are subordinate to the government. They count the votes and give the results to the stakeholders who are present at each polling station, but there exists no access by the people to the vote count in the Municipal Electoral Commission, which receives the results from each polling station in the district and reports who was elected.

The delegate as well as his voters lack any real power to make decisions and transform his neighborhood, and it is for that reason that the former has turned into a mere complaint clerk.

Finally, 50% of the delegates to the Provincial Assemblies from the People’s Power and the same percentage of the deputies that make up the National Assembly are not elected by the people but “handpicked” by the official Candidates Commission. In these assemblies there will never be a decent, hard-working and patriotic Cuban who disagrees with Communist ideology. So what is the democracy of this law?

A Cuba “with all and for the good of all”

The Constitution of 1976 in its preamble declares that it is the will of the government that the law of laws be presided over by the profoundly Martí desire to make the first law of our Republic be the worship by Cubans of the full dignity of man.

Article 1 states: “Cuba is a socialist state of workers, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all, as a united and democratic republic for the enjoyment of political liberty, social justice, individual and collective well-being and human solidarity.”

The drafters of the socialist magna carta deemed that such desire was fulfilled. But reality, more stubborn than any triumphalist sentence, proves that the Cuban state is not organized “with all and for the good of all,” as José Martí dreamed, but for the “Revolutionaries.” The other citizens are excluded, jailed and discriminated against. Reality demonstrates that a single political party supplanted the State and controls everything, prohibiting the existence of any other organization of that kind.

In such conditions there is neither democracy nor political liberty. There is no social justice because in order to access certain jobs and higher education, loyalty to the Communist Party and the Revolution is demanded and because increasingly the State abandons the elderly, the disabled and low income people.

There is no individual well-being because workers receive miserable wages and have to buy basic products in a currency other than that in which they are not paid and that is worth 25 times more. There is no collective well-being because public services degrade further every day, and health and education are in a precarious state. There is no human solidarity because there is physical assault and intolerance in the face of diversity, as was demonstrated once again at the recent Summit of the Americas. Of what full dignity of man do the Communists speak?

What many Cubans do want

What many Cubans do want is to enjoy the same civil and political rights that the citizens of 34 other countries in the continent have.

They want to decentralize the State’s absolute power and to build democracy from the neighborhood up because sovereignty lies with the people, and they have to have the means to express it. For that reason it is spurious for a leader who has not been elected by ordinary people to make a decision or to believe that he expresses the interests of an entire people without consulting the opinion of the citizens.

Cubans want to elect people who really represent them at the different levels of government and are not merely uncritically consenting.

They want all the delegates to the provincial assemblies of the People’s Power and the deputies to the National Assembly of the People’s Power to be elected in their districts through direct and secret vote, publicly verified, and that the same occur with those who lead those government organs and other important offices like prosecutors, tribunals and police units.

They want to choose the political program that most satisfies them and to elect their president in multi-party elections supervised by international agencies.

That is the desire of the majority of Cubans, and as long as it is not fulfilled, the Communists should have the decency not to talk about elections or democracy.

About the Author

jesus-quinones-haces.thumbnail (1)Roberto Jesús Quiñones Haces was born in the city of Cienfuegos September 20, 1957. He is a law graduate. In 1999 he was unjustly and illegally sentenced to eight years incarceration and since then has been prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He has published poetry collections “The Flight of the Deer” (1995, Editorial Oriente), “Written from Jail” (2001, Ediciones Vitral), “The Folds of Dawn,” (2008, Editorial Oriente), and “The Water of Life” (2008, Editorial El Mar y La Montana). He received the Vitral Grand Prize in Poetry in 2001 with his book “Written from Jail” as well as Mention and Special Recognition from the Nosside International Juried Competition in Poetry in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His poems appear in the 1994 UNEAC Anthology, in the 2006 Nosside Competition Anthology and in the selection of ten-line stanzas “This Jail of Pure Air” published by Waldo Gonzalez in 2009.

Translated by MLK

The Mariel Exodus: State Terrorism / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

Posters from acts of repudiation during the Mariel Boatlift (1980)
Posters from acts of repudiation during the Mariel Boatlift (1980)

Against the “scum,” acts of repudiation, beatings and humiliations. Against Florida, an invasion of the unemployed

Cubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Guantanamo, 1 April 2015 – On the first of April 1980 a bus was driven through the entrance to the Peruvian embassy in Havana; its occupants entered and sought political asylum. Unfortunately, the non-commissioned officer of the PNR (National Revolutionary Police), Pedro Ortiz Cabrera, lost his life in the event. The event was followed by others extremely traumatic for many Cubans due to their violence. All would be indelibly recorded in the nation’s collective memory and would reveal the terrorist nature of the Cuban regime.

Fidel Castro demanded that the Peruvian government immediately hand over the people who had forcibly entered the diplomatic headquarters. To have pleased him, long jail sentences and execution by firing squad undoubtedly would have been the sanctions applied. But the government of Peru did not agree, and the Cuban regime adopted a measure that, like the others taken in those days, made it seem to their proxies that the ball had been placed in the opponent’s court.

The Measures Taken by Fidel

Fidel Castro ordered the withdrawal of protection and monitoring from around the diplomatic headquarters, inciting all Cubans who wanted to emigrate to enter it. Very soon, thousands of people from all the cities and towns of the country crammed into the place turning it into a tangible reservoir of the discontent that now was sapping society. continue reading

Cuba for the workers. Those who live on our sweat, let them go.
Mariel Boatlift act of Repudiation. “Cuba for the workers. Those who live on our sweat, let them go.” (Left side: “Let the scum go”)

The increase in the number of countrymen who wanted to emigrate was made evident, and the government, with the objective of discouraging the exits that it had sponsored, made terror its deterrent method par excellence. It was the first time that acts of repudiation were applied on the Cuban public stage. The beatings and humiliations abounded everywhere. The masses, encouraged by powerful groups and directed by individuals of doubtful social behavior, violated the most basic norms of respect for human dignity, and the country lived through several weeks of fascist practices that kept it on edge until the international community strongly protested.

The government demanded the refugees in the embassy and all those who desired to emigrate to present themselves at their places of employment or study in order to be given leave. The unemployed had to seek the document from the CDRs (Committees in Defense of the Revolution). That was the indispensable requisite in order to obtain the exit permit, and it would allow the mobs to intercept the petitioners in order to attack them.

Another Shameless Political Action

Some years had to pass to have access to other reports and above all to read and listen to the irrefutable testimonies on Radio Marti and right here, in order to understand the magnitude of the events and the perversity of the government in those demeaning days of our history.

With the single purpose of getting the advantage in a confrontation where he would always be seen as the victim due to the political, military, economic and moral grandeur of the opponent, Fidel Castro took dangerous offenders from the jails and put them in the embassy in order to create chaos, and then he demanded that the boats that came in search of relatives take these people as well. Together with them travelled not a few mentally ill, it was later learned.

It was a clever move, but of ephemeral value and revealing of the unethical essence of the regime whose immediate objective was to discredit the new emigrants, whom the government elite called “scum.” But also it tried to clean out the Cuban jails and export to the US potential disruptive social elements that Hollywood would portray in popular films like Scarface.

Time Relentlessly Passed

Thirty-five years after these events — which came to be known in the United States as the Mariel Boatlift — many of the Cubans who were catalogued as “scum,” thanks to their honest work and a society that is not perfect but that does guarantee all human liberties, enjoy a life in the US where maybe nostalgia for the home country occupies an important place, but one in which they live according to their way of thinking, with dignity.

Act of repudiation against the Ladies in White in recent times.
Act of repudiation against the Ladies in White in recent times.

The Mariel Boatlift was not a success of the Castro regime; to the contrary. One highly placed leader from that time, Carlos Rafael Rodriguez, admitted to a Mexican magazine that the Revolution had nothing to be proud of with respect to what happened. It is rumored that it was the catalyst for the suicide of Haydee Santamaria and the object of analysis in the farewell letter that Osvaldo Dorticos wrote to Fidel Catro before dying from another gunshot. It was a Pyrrhic victory that very soon lost the artificial shine of the trappings that the Castro regime figureheads dished out in order to praise the supposed genius of the leader. His abuses, still unpunished crimes and inequities were unmasked to reveal the fascist essence of the methods used by the mobs encouraged and supported by the police and political leaders.

Since then the acts of repudiation against officially disfavored diplomatic headquarters and the peaceful opposition, especially the extraordinary Ladies in White and the brave members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), are still practiced in the streets and before the homes of those harassed.

This, together with repression and constant vigilance by the state security forces as well as the government’s refusal to respect political and fundamental civil rights, shows that state terrorism is a practice entrenched in the Castro regime. The Americans should not forget it, especially now when, behind the abundant dividends, they try to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

About the author

jesus-quinones-haces.thumbnailRoberto Jesus Quinones Haces was born in the city of Cienfuegos September 20, 1957. Law graduate. He was sentenced in 1999 in an unfair and illegal way to eight years incarceration and since then has been prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He has published the books of poetry “The Flight of the Deer” (1995 Editorial Oriente), “Written from jail” (2001, Ediciones Vitral), “The Folds of Dawn” (2008, Editorial Oriente) and “The Water of Life” (2008 Editorial El Mar y La Montana). He got the Vitral Grand Prize for Poetry in 2001 for his book “Written from Jail” as well as Mention and Special Recognition by the Nosside Juried International Poetry Competition in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His poems appear in the UNEAC Anthology of 1994, in the Nosside Competition Anthology of 2006 and in the selected ten-line stanzas “This Jail of Pure Air” produced by Waldo Gonzalez in 2009.

Translated by MLK

Salaries for Doctors on the Island Will Increase / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

cubanet square logoCubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones, Guantanamo, 16 February 2015 — A rumor is keeping  the medical sector in Guantanamo euphoric, and it provokes immediate outbursts of joy in hospital corridors, in homes and in every place the supposedly good news is known. No one knows the origin of the rumor nor its hidden intent.

According to those who are in charge of spreading it, very soon the government will increase the salary for doctors. And, as happens with every rumor, there are always those who know everything about it and affirm that the new increase will be put into force to try to contain the exodus of physicians abroad by way of continue reading

 a 30-day exit permit, a type of safe conduct that helps them flee.

These experts assure that the new increase will raise physicians’ salaries to 5,000 pesos per month (200 dollars), an astronomical pay in Cuba, but that they’ll only receive it if they agree to sign a document saying they will remain in the country for five or ten years without asking for the exit permit.

However, a few days after the rumor appeared, the voices of others begin to be heard. They speak clearly, affirming that not even with this increase, which would place the doctors in the vanguard of the Castro Communist labor aristocracy — now made up of Party and governmental bureaucracy along with the sportsmen of high performance and the high officials of the armed forces and the Ministry of the Interior — would they be able to contain the massive exodus of these professionals abroad. Above all to Ecuador, a country that doesn’t request visas and where there already exists a developing but prosperous Cuban medical community that has taken care of communicating to its colleagues on the Island the high lifestyle that is rapidly achieved in the land of Eloy Alfaro.

Because 5,000 Cuban pesos are around 200 dollars, a sum very inferior to what any Cuban doctor could earn abroad.

Between the well-being within reach and the promises of a prosperous and sustainable socialism, which no one knows when it will arrive nor if also there is another rumor or a new feverish chimera of the Cuban leaders, you don’t have to rack your brains to decide. Stupid people are more scarce every day, and the ideological teque* has been in intensive care for some time.

I don’t know what the government will do to stop this flight of doctors, which has a direct effect on one of its most trumpeted social accomplishments — currently in a very precarious state, among other things because of the lack of specialists — and on the export of health services, which is perhaps, together with tourism, the most lucrative activity of the Cuban economy at this time.

In case the rumor becomes a certainty, let’s see what happens with the other professionals, because the flight of qualified personnel is not limited to the medical sector. Pandora’s Box is open, and the government doesn’t give any signs that will let us believe it is possible to close it and, above all, to convince us.

*Translator’s note: “Teque” is literally a spinning top, and is used in Cuba to mean old, worn out, political harangues.

Translated by Regina Anavy

“It Is State Policy To Misinform People” / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

Leinier Cruz Salfran (photo by the author)
Leinier Cruz Salfran (photo by the author)

cubanet square logoCubanet.org, Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces, Havana, 13 February 2015 — Raul Castro’s government, in spite of rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, continues the work of keeping people from freely accessing the internet.

On Monday, January 19 Cubanet published a report about the detention of the young Guantanemero Leinier Cruz Salfran on Saturday, January 17 by State Security agents. The reason? Leinier was gathering together a group of young people outside of the Hotel Marti, connecting through his laptop to the building’s WiFi and sharing the Internet with the others present who had also brought their portable computers to the location.

We contacted the young man who agreed to grant us this interview:

Q: Leinier, why did State Security detain you?

Because according to them I was committing a crime of Illicit Economic Activity.

Q: What did you do?

I shared the use of the Internet with other people through Hotel Marti’s wifi continue reading


Q: How many users came to connect to the Internet at the same time because of your initiative?

There was no fixed number, there were days when more than fifty people connected on the ground floor of the Hotel Marti which was generally where I was connected.

Q: What was the typical connection speed when everyone was connected at the same time?

The Hotel Marti has a bandwidth of 6 mbps (megabits per second) which equates to a download speed of 600 kb per second. The speed was sufficient for chatting, participating in a video conference or carrying out an audio session on Facebook. The speed was acceptable.

Later the hotel managers applied a speed limit of 2 mbps for each direct client. Only three people could connect directly to the hotel without interference. If another person connected the speed was divided among the four.

In the end, I had to tell the users that they could not do video conferences because now the bandwidth was insufficient for everyone. Everything was limited to opening pages, downloading email and voice sessions.

Q: How would you rate the internet connection opportunities that exist today in the city of Guantanamo?

There are very few internet access points, just two Internet rooms with 10 computers for a city of more than 150,000 residents. Furthermore, now the Hotel Marti denies Internet access to Cubans, who now cannot even pay a dollar to go up to the terrace which is where they have placed the wifi access.

Also, in the Hotel Guantanamo, the equipment for the point of access used to be in the lobby and now they put it on the second floor and even removed the antennas, which they only put up between 4 and 8 pm. Whoever wants to access the internet has to pay one dollar per hour. This part a decision by the government itself.

Q: The police accuse you of supposed illicit economic activity. Did you charge for sharing Internet access or did you share the cost of the connection with your friends?

I never charged because I knew they were following me. After I started sharing the connection I knew that I had become a dangerous enemy for the authorities and I knew that at some point I was going to confront them face to face, obviously on their terms, so I just shared the cost of the connection.

Q: Is there a law in Cuba that prohibits sharing the connection cost among several users?

I don’t know. During the interrogations they spoke to me of a crime called Violation of Contractual Services, something like that, in which the crime of violating a contract incurs a penalty of up to three years incarceration. Apparently they were convinced there was no evidence of any illicit economic activity, however, they emphasized that I violated the contract with ETECSA (Telecommunications Enterprise of Cuba) by using the Nauta (Internet) service, but in my opinion they did not want to go to the extreme of sentencing me.

Q: Did they return your laptop, flash drives and camera that they took during the search of your home?

No, they still have not told me what they will do with them. They took them from me and have left me disarmed because I am a programmer.

Q: Do you plan to do it again?

No, no I cannot trip on the same rock, it would be stupid if I did that. I think I have to focus my efforts on other artists, other projects that I have in mind until I find a person with strength and the chance of helping me carry them out.

Q: Why do you think they authorities hinder cheap Internet access for young Cubans?

I believe that it is the policy of the State to maintain massive disinformation for the Cuban population, and that is demonstrated by the fact that this government has never permitted free access to information. Here we have no chance of getting computers, mobile devices, access to satellite TV, the Internet, there are no satellite phone connections or access to information technology. What they have done to me proves it.

Q: What is your current legal situation?

Apparently I am not going to have a trial. They told the mother of my daughter who communicates with me to go to the Operations Unit to process the application of a fine, God knows for how many pesos, but I have decided not to go until such time as they communicate it to me as the law provides, through a document. The same way that they came with a search warrant the very day that they arrested me in front of my neighbors as if I were a delinquent and arrested me, that’s how they must do it for me to go there.

(We went to the Hotel Marti, the place where Leinier carried out his supposed derelict activity for which he was arrested. This reporter tried on three occasions to speak with the hotel manager, leaving his address and telephone number with a note in which we expressed that our intention was to bring to her attention what Cubanet published so that she could offer her viewpoint. In spite of our efforts, the lady did not agree to an interview.)

About the author

Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces

Born in the city of Cienfuegos September 20, 1957. He is a law graduate. In 1999 he was sentenced unfairly and illegally to eight years incarceration and since then has been prohibited from practicing as a lawyer. He has published poetry collections “The Flight of the Deer” (1995, Editorial Oriente), “Written from Jail” (2001, Ediciones Vitral), “The Sheepfolds of Dawn” (2008, Editorial Oriente), and “The Water of Life” (2008, Editorial El Mar y La Montana). He won the Stained Glass Grand Prize for Poetry in 2001 with his book “Written from Jail” as well as Special Mention and Special Recognition from the Nosside International Poetry Competition in 2006 and 2008, respectively. His poems appear in the 1994 UNEAC Anthology, in the 2006 Nosside Competition Anthology, and in décimas selections “This Jail of Pure Air” by Waldo Gonzalez in 2009.

Translated by MLK