The Prosecution Requests Long Sentences for Sonia Garro, her husband Ramon Alejandro Munoz, and Eugenio Hernández / Diario de Cuba

soniaindexCuban prosecutors have requested long prison sentences for Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, her husband the activist Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González and the also dissident Eugenio Hernández Hernández, according to the independent Center for Information Hablemos Press.

 According to statements by Muñoz González from Havana’s prison Combinado del Este where he is being held, the regime has asked for 12 in prison for him, 10 for Garro and 11 for Hernández on charges of “assault, disorderly conduct and attempted murder.”

There are conflicting reports regarding the sentences for these opposition activists.  Other sources within the internal dissidence state 12 years for Garro and 14 for her husband.

Muñoz claimed to have in his hands the document produced by the prosecution on Hernández’s case on which the sentence requests for the other accused also appear.

The three dissents have been remanded in custody since March 2012. If the sentences become true, these would be among the longest imposed on dissidents since the imprisonment of the Group of 75 in the spring of 2003.

Garro and Muñoz were arrested during a violent police operation in which the authorities used Special Troops and rubber bullets.  The Lady in White was injured in one leg.

Muñoz said that the Prosecution accuses her of attacking a female police officer and shouting “Down with Fidel and Raul.” He is accused of throwing a television set at a member of the commando that raided his home.

“That is a lie. That is not true. They arrived shooting into the house.  At no moment did we injure anyone.  We were the injured,” replied Muñoz.

“[They did] Not prove that there was (a murder) attempt.  There was an attempt, but from them on us. The only murderers here are the Castro brothers,” he said.

He reckoned that the requests for long sentences show that “they (the rulers) will never forgive the fact that there are men that fight for Cuba’s freedom.”

“The dictatorship has retaliated against peaceful fighters, defenders of human rights […] I think this is one of the greatest injustices against the opposition in the last few years,” said Muñoz.

“We are fighters, and we will continue to be, no matter how long we are in prison,” he assured us.

During the year and a half that they have spent in prison, both Muñoz and Garro have been the victims of beatings and other punishments by the authorities and by common prisoners egged on by the former. Both have passed through punishment cells.

Last month, the Lady in White received a beating by four prison guards that were subsequently suspended.

Activists and relatives have requested in numerous occasions, to no avail, that they be declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Diario de Cuba

17 September 2013

Discrimination Against Women in the Cuba of the Generals / Miriam Celaya

13-generales-okLA HABANA, Cuba, September, Miriam Celaya, –The revolutionary movement that took power in 1959, from its inception kept women in a position subordinated to male leadership.  None of the revolutionary programs included female emancipation.  Moreover, no woman took part in the crafting of the program or gave input about the objectives and social aspirations of society’s feminine sector despite the fact that already in the 1950s they were an important labor and student force, even in the universities.

At the end of the insurrection, no woman had reached higher military ranks as opposed to those who participated in the 19th century wars of independence.

The feminine sector committed to the revolutionary movement followed the patterns established by a strongly sexist tradition, and submitted itself to the always male high command’s decisions, thus being relegated to reproduce –during the war and later on the new social stage– the patriarchal model with its rigid separation of gender roles.

Women’s Front at Sierra Maestra

Nevertheless, Fidel Castro recognized the importance of the feminine force as shown during the brief imprisonment of the attackers of the Moncada Army Barracks when many women mobilized themselves into action to collect 20 thousand signatures requesting amnesty for the young revolutionaries and presented them to the Senate. Castro understood the importance of this force, and therefore created a women’s front at Sierra Maestra –Mariana Grajales Female Battalion (1958)– under the command of the 26 of July Movement lead by him.

Once in power, they created the Revolutionary Women’s Union, the predecessor of the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), to mobilize women in support of the revolution’s social programs.  All republican women’s organizations, including those that had supported the revolutionary struggle, were dismantled to preclude tendencies different from those dictated by the new political power. At the same time, no woman was considered to occupy a position with the decision making circles; only one occupied  briefly the post of Education minister, and Vilma Espín, Fidel Castro’s sister in-law, led the FMC from its creation to her death.

Feminism for idle bourgeoisie

The main objective of the FMC was, in principle, to promote women’s participation in the country’s political, economic and social life, but always dependent on a complete loyalty to the revolution and the new ideology now in power.  Thus, “the FMC described itself as a feminine organization, but not a feminist one since feminism was considered a social movement that took away efforts and attention from the revolutionary struggle, aside from being the ideology of idle bourgeoisie.”  Most women accepted being part of the organization. Eventually, membership became automatic for women older than 14 years of age, so by 1995 around 3 million Cuban women, 82% of the female population, were “affiliated” to the organization.

Feminist ideology was diluted within a “collective revolutionary way of thinking.”  As the civic tools developed during the Republic disappeared, women were definitely left at the mercy of the government’s will.

Paradoxically, paired to the loss of female autonomy in politics, more than 60 percent of professionals and highly specialized technicians are women.  In contrast, most of the leadership positions are occupied by men, and this illustrates the prevalence of male patterns that maintains discrimination vis-à-vis the supposed “conquests” granted from the circles of power.  Despite their alleged emancipation, Cuban women continue to be subjected to discrimination masked by a false egalitarian discourse.

More male business owners

Currently, government reforms that legalize investments in the private sector also show the wide prevalence of men as business owners and entrepreneurs.  Women come to the new economic stage, where male protagonism prevails, at a disadvantage.  There is no political program to equalize the opportunities between the genders for the future of the island, and in the absence of a really autonomous feminine movement, women are left in the most abject civic helplessness.

But full emancipation also requires full civic responsibility.  The strong presence of women within the dissidence and the independent civil society points to an opportunity for the resurgence of women’s struggles in times to come.  Only in a democratic scenario will it be proven whether the necessary foundations for a gender conscience exist in Cuba.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

From Cubanet

12 September 2013

The Donkeys of the Sand Pit / Lilianne Ruiz

Not one lonely statement from the Cuban intelligence services’ spy recently released from US prison after serving out his sentence regarding political prisoners in Cuba. Nothing regarding Kilo 8, Kilo 9, Boniato…[1]

A guy that calls for a campaign to create the illusion that an entire people expects and demands freedom for his 4 colleagues, could well be a man of peace, with empathy with all who are in prison for political reasons. But, it was not like that.

This is the government’s man. He looks like a carnival puppet, but he’s responsible for his actions for he articulates a message, and that message is always on the government’s side, a government that intends to be there always, without really consulting us.

That is why no one should believe that our people have come out to demand the release of 4 spies who tomorrow will ignore their suffering, their hunger, their fear of losing whatever little they have or the nothingness they possess; as does this already released spy, seen in public demonstrations carrying little children. He wants to make believe that this idea of the yellow ribbon was born from civil society, and not the government, as if this human tidal wave that refuses to acknowledge its right to deny itself could also be called a civil society. In slavery there is no power structure.

But, he is there, in that intermediate space. Between the powerless[2] and the State there is the political police, armed to prevent each group from assuming the powers that belong to them.

In school, during the morning assembly of children, a teacher admonished “Tell your parents to put a yellow ribbon in you tomorrow.  They are available for two regular[3] pesos at the neighborhood trinket store.”  I saw people in my building who are waiting for a US visa to leave this misery behind (and they think that they are leaving behind the only misery….but, there are miseries that cannot be left behind)…dressed in yellow.

Lastly, looking at the people dressed in yellow or wearing a yellow bow – people who did not have that air of the functionary trying to get ahead, simple people who do not want to know what they are doing – I remembered what I had been reading the previous night to my six-year-old daughter before bed, Platero y Yo (Platero and I).[4] I had taken in this entire quote of Juan Ramon Jimenez’s magnum opus:

“Look, Platero, at the donkeys of Quemado: slow, bent, with their pointed red load of wet sand in which they carry nailed, as if to their hearts, the green rod of the wild olive tree with which they are beaten…”

[1] These are the names of some of the most notorious Cuban prisons where political prisoners are kept in inhumane conditions.

[2] In English in the original text.

[3] As opposed to CUC or “convertible” peso, the other official currency of Cuba, artificially paired to the US dollar.

[4] Children’s book written by Spanish poet, professor and Nobel Prize laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez in 1917.  It narrates the relationship of a boy and his little donkey named Platero. It has remained extremely popular in Latin America and Spain to these days.


Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 September 2013

Who Are You, Little Virgin? / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

Poor little doll made of tinsel and wood, so battered across the long and narrow stretch of thousands and thousands of kilometers.

Last night, I saw her in Lawton, and it was daunting.

Because of her, and because of the bleak surroundings.  A neighborhood polluted from the disposition of its inhabitants to the sky that hangs above, propped up by the electric poles that shine a poor pasty yellow light. Houses like caves. Light and faces like grimaces. Light and the feeling that none of these collective biographies should be called human, let alone “from God” (amorphous animalia, ignorant by way of amnesia).

Light that only shines from the “Made in China”[1] patrol cars and in the sequins of the motorized traffic brigade.  The light that has an edge, but no faith in the insolent and proactive eyes of State.

At around 7:00 p.m., in winter time midnight begins in Cuba. It seemed like people were willing to shout anyone down, entertainment hysteria to welcome the weekend in style, as if it were a reggaeton concert (the style of clothing of the young people present proved it).

The motorcade barely slowed down under the traffic light although the corner of 16th and Dolores was a sea of bodies. I heard women curse the mothers of the drivers. I saw people hit the hood of the cars (in a remake of the movie Midnight Cowboy). The smell of conflict in the air did not abate, but added a patriotic spiciness to our pedestrian concept of devotion.

We remember the Virgin when she arrives, that is once during each Revolution.

And indeed, in her glass or acrylic shrine, carrying the pillar of our national coat of arms, and between the Vatican flag and our nation’s heroic rag (without Byrne-style[2] romanticisms in the 21st century: our flag represents barbarity, and I do not love it even if they force me to, mostly because it is the source of demagoguery uniting dictators and democrats).

The anonymous insular Mary finally descended on her rented automobile from the chapel kept by the nuns of Concepción Street, far beyond the Lawton bus depot, the now useless railroad lines and the already putrid River Pastrana; in that stretch of sub-industrial forest that invades the capital from the Cordón de La Habana[3].

Mambí Virgin[4].  The crowd running, cars honking, chants, clapping, prayers from the loudspeakers, a rope to keep the faithful in line. Human circles trained in the parishes, aging and semi-alienated men with their particular quasi-military but Christian-inspired speak plus 1970s fashions that include a dress belt up to their belly buttons. How uncool is Cuba!

Raw collage: Help out the Cuban faithful! It is a masquerade in which Cardinal Ortega comes out from under his own sleeves, and walks up B street to Porvenir Avenue, turns right on 10th Street, then speaks. continue reading

Our prelate looks exhausted behind the microphone. The Cardinal knows that Cuba does not love him any longer, first for being a coward and also an accomplice (among other closet secrets handled only by the Office of Religious Affairs of the Central Committee of a godless party).  No one pays attention to Jaime, “no thistle and no caterpillar”[5] he plants.  A drunkard kisses his hand, and the boys of State Security send the sudden devotee flying back to his non-place on the sidewalk.

And it makes sense that the words of an elderly man do not engage (nor fool) Cuba on this night: the superstar tonight is Cachita[6]. Besides, Ortega, since he first appeared on Cuban television without promotion or credits, keeps talking about Antonio de la Caridad Maceo y Grajales, a 19th century Cuban general who, before going out to kill his fellow men (or be killed by them), checked to make sure that he had, in his breast of starched mulatto, a little medal of the Virgin made of noble metal.

Then, the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba stops speaking, and finally is our turn alone with the headless incivility of the island.  And, we shower ourselves in vandalism: against the temple’s iron gates and up the steps, a movie scene not silent but screeching. Hundreds, thousands. Girls, old men. A man whose mother assured me that he had had a heart attack very recently. A lady whom I lifted from the sea of legs that would have crushed her (she was bleeding from her calves). And again expletives, holy debauchery.

The clerics and seminarians screaming with diction too correct to be violent, almost excommunicating their fellow congregants with primary school teacher admonitions like “if you don’t behave, there will be no virgin for anyone in this neighborhood.” We witness an avalanche of soccer finale proportions, or, of course, a concert in CUCs[7] for thugs who understand nothing.

This is our undeniable raw material (you cannot perpetually impose a myth from the minority, be it the Gospels or History Will Absolve Me[8]).  But, this stage set is missing the elite police brigade: the Special Forces units that perpetrate peace in a Special Period[9].

It is obvious that the Cuban state is interested in making the Catholic Church aware that so many processions a year will create a tragedy for them (I saw several women, all of them black, semi-unconscious being carried to different destinations). Let them buffet each other for a bit amid polyphony of laments and curses. But, it is obvious that some other worse curse words cannot be heard here:  “Liberty,” for example.

Right at that moment, some guys chide me because all of my pictures are focused on the people’s fisticuffs. We then argue over the possession of the truth.  I show them my white t-shirt that says “Laura Pollán Lives”[10].  They swirl around me and surround me while a woman loudly asks me from a distance for whom I work (they all have the language of the counter-intelligence TV series “Las Razones de Cuba”[11] and that of the official blogosphere), but I am already inside the temple, and I seek refuge by the main altar to capture the faces blessed by an Italian priests whose smile I cannot call divine, but democratic.

No wonder I have a work credential to shutterclick away without having my camera stolen or shredded “by mistake” or “by chance.”  And the Virgin that mother of all Cubans who precedes even the motherland, what is the Virgin doing here in her own procession?

Each prayer and each tear is accompanied by a picture taken with a cell phone. Our Lady of Charity is therefore a little bit of pop icon amidst so much media fruition (Nokiarity Syndrome). Her disposition seems a bit timid despite her olive skin, so clean and congenial, Cecilially she is a Valdés[12].  And, with a certain wooden modesty, it could be said that our virgin hides in Islamic fashion under her cloak of sorceress queen. Perhaps, it will be difficult for her to discern whether she is worshiped by subjects of God or Nothingness.  Perhaps She knows more than a few things about tomorrow (with that sad grimace of hers). Perhaps she feels very lonely, condemned to carry that baby who does not grow for eternity.

Poor little Cuban virgin, so fragile, surrounded by a flower holocaust, petals with that smell so peremptorily funerary.

Poor little virgin surrounded by the medieval Cuban populace, forced to the insomnia of the donated electric fans, walled behind that music so falsely happy for when death comes to us, egged on like a fugitive by the brown-out looming over the convent confiscated and turned into a school (this is precisely how the totalitarian state imposes its narrative: turning on and off the central switch).

Poor, oh poor, our Cachita, so invisible under the greedy gaze of the mob, willing to be Maceos in exchange for a quality miracle.

Poor, oh poor, my darling, so Cuban and yet no one in Cuba knows it because they are content with lighting some candles to you and asking you for a visa to the United States. No one spoke of love, my darling. No one in this island or in the Exile ever knew who you were. Now, for example, they will charge against me, but you and I secretly know very well that you and I recognized each other at least this once.

Little Virgin without name or history.  Little ephemeral Virgin of my soul that fades already. Little Virgin of Truth.

[1] In English in the original text.

[2] Refers to Bonifacio Byrne, a Cuban poet who wrote a famous poem to the Cuban national flag from the ship that brought him back to the island in 1899.

[3] El Cordón de La Habana (Havana Cordon) was a plan created by Fidel Castro to plant Caturra coffee beans (a Cuban native variety) around the Cuban capital in 1971-73.  Predictably, the plan failed because of soil incompatibility and administrative blunders.  It did manage, however, to successfully eliminate most of the little individual vegetable gardens in the area.

[4] Mambí were the Cuban rebels who opposed and rose against Spanish rule in the 19th century.  Many were devotees of the virgin, and carried her image into battle.  Virgen Mambisa is also the title of a 20th century hymn to the Our Lady that can be heard here:

[5] This is a play on words from Ortega and a verse in José Martí’s poem “Cultivo Una Rosa Blanca” that is in turn part of “Versos Sencillos,” a compilation of poems. The verse reads “cardo ni oruga cultivo/cultivo una rosa blanca”: “neither thistle nor worm I grow/I grow a white rose” roughly.

[6] Cachita or Cacha is a nickname given to women named Caridad (Charity) in Cuba.  The ever cheeky Cubans have given it to Our Lady of Charity as well.

[7] CUC is Cuba’s “convertible” peso, one of the two currencies in use in the island.  It is artificially paired to the U.S. dollar.

[8] History Will Absolve Me was Fidel Castro’s defense speech at his trial for the assault of the Moncada Army Barracks in 1953 in Santiago de Cuba. It was later made into a book, a sort of tropical Mein Kempf (from which it borrowed heavily, including the phrase used as its title).

[9] The Special Period (Período Especial) was the name given by the regime to the period of extreme economic straits following the collapse of the Soviet Union (Cuba’s main political and economic ally and subsidizer) in 1991.  Its end is not very well defined, but seems to have been around the time when the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez started to send oil and money to the island.

[10] Laura Pollán was the leader and founder of the Ladies in White, a group of Cuban women whose husbands and/or relatives were imprisoned during the purge known as the Black Spring of 2003.  They have marched, and still march peacefully every Sunday after Mass carrying gladioli and dressed in white asking, initially, for the release of their loved ones, and, now, that the regime respects the human rights of all Cubans.  They have been subjected to extreme abuse by the regime and its goons.  Laura Pollán died under mysterious circumstances in 2011.

[11] “Las Razones de Cuba” was multi-part a documentary produced by the counter-intelligence services of the Ministry of Interior in Cuba that supposedly unmasked covert operations of “enemies of the people” and revealed how the government has infiltrated the opposition movements.

[12] Another play on words: it refers to Cecilia Valdés the main character in the 19th century novel of the same name written by Cirilo Villaverde.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

8 September 2013

Jose Conrado: “I ask Pope Francisco to be firm with the rulers.” / Ramiro Pellet Lastra

An interview with Father José Conrado, from Cuba, by La Nacion newspaper.

Photo: The Pope, yesterday, leaving the Mass he gave on the day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Photo: AFP

By Ramiro Pellet Lastra  | LA NACION  

José Conrado describes himself as a “small-town priest.” But from his parish in Santiago de Cuba, or in the colonial city of Trinidad, to where he was transferred, he throws verbal darts with a “language of the barricade” against corruption, repression, and other hallmarks of the Cuban government. Close to the dissident movements, Conrado has suffered pressure, aggression and even exile.  But he has continued denouncing the leadership of his country, as in this dialogue with LA NATION newspaper, during a visit to Buenos Aires, after attending the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.

Conrado only set aside denunciation in favor of enthusiastic praise when he analyzes Francisco‘s performance at the head of the Church, a man he trusts, and whom he hopes that “when Dilma, Cristina, or whoever goes to kiss his hand, he tells them the truth.”

How do you see the Cuba of today?

– Cuba is a bankrupt country, economically and morally bankrupt. From a family point of view, it’s an eroded country. There is not a single Cuban who doesn’t have relatives abroad, including Fidel Castro, who has several grandchildren and a daughter outside of Cuba as political exiles. It is a country where everyone, for one reason or another, has suffered the imprisonment of a family member, the death of a family member, in front of a firing squad or in the Straits of Florida. It’s a country with a history of political imprisonment.

-Why in Latin America there are those who still have a good image of the Castro regime?

-I think there is a certain complicity of the Left that wants to see Cuba as paradisiacal paradigm of what Revolution is and what social accomplishments are. There is also an ongoing press campaign on the part of the Cuban government. And there are the visitors to Cuba, because tourists see Cuba from air-conditioned buses and from five-star hotels.

-People came out into the streets to protest in many countries, democratic and non-democratic, but they did not do it in Cuba.

-People in other countries saw a space for freedom that made them decide to forget the spaces of their fear. We haven’t yet gotten to that point. I believe we have a point where this will happen, but we aren’t there yet. In Cuba, a popular saying goes: There’s not one to turn the government over to, but nor is there anyone who can fix it. Everyone in Cuba knows we must have change. It is a silent and unanimous agreement among all Cubans.

Will perhaps a minor incident light the fuse like in the “Arab Spring”?

-Yes, that could happen. I think the government stays away from large crowds.  They don’t have as many large demonstrations as before. I think the government has been very astute to not permit acts of unchecked violence on the part of the police. I think that people would throw themselves into the street [if such acts happened].

-And in this context, what prospects does the government have?

-The seriousness of the situation is forcing the government to think of another way out. Today they are proposing that those whom they always considered their eternal and bitter enemies, Cubans in exile, invest in Cuba..

As a Latin American priest, how did you experience the election of Pope Francisco?

-Francisco is a gift from God for a time of crisis. He is man who is above the conventions of the left and the right, because he goes for the essential, and the essential is God and the people who are suffering. Pope Francisco knows that he is a servant.

-Could he influence not only for Cuba, but for democracies in trouble?

 -I think that he is going to have great influence, because the Church needs a reform from within. How is he going to preach to the politicians not to steal otherwise? A Church renewed from within is an example for these men who have great responsibilities.

-In addition to being an example, could Francisco influence through his discourse, through direct denunciation?

-Yes, of course. I don’t ask the Holy Father to speak the language of the barricade, like I, a small town priest, do, but I do ask him to be very firm with the rulers. That when Dilma, Cristina, or whoever goes to kiss his hand, he tells them the truth.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

1 August 2013

Conspiring With Impunity / Rosa Maria Rodriguez

“Corrupt lawyer and judge. Raúl Castro, help me. Unjust eviction.”

Unfortunately, in Cuba anybody with a Communist Party ID, a title that gives them a substantial amount of power, and personality disorders that will predispose them to abuse their authority, can conspire against any defenseless citizens and strip them of their property. If there are economic or monetary interests involved, these become incentives that speed up such acts.

I found out about the case of Yamile Bargías Hurtado (YBH) in November, and it moved me to write “If it is not rotten, why does it smell bad?.” In it I tactfully tackle a thorny subject of which I do not know all the sides of, as I have not participated in all the hearings nor heard all the plaintiff’s allegations, her defense attorney’s, the affected family’s or any other attorney’s statements. However, as the process to evict Yamile from the apartment that she owns, and into which she moved ten years ago as a result of a house swap with the previous owner, has become traumatic and has extended for five years, it allows us to find out about contradictions, convenient omissions and timely obstructions that stain its adequate transparency and good execution. continue reading


Baltazar Toledo Rodriguez was the manager of the building located at 3rd Street, #355, between Paseo and 2nd and was married to Teresa Luisa Rivero Domínguez. It was assigned to them or they assigned it to themselves, but that is irrelevant, a mini-room in a space adjacent to the building’s garage for this reason. Other apartments have garages, one each beneath them, but it seems that no one cared then for them. With the passage of time, the couple created better housing conditions; the apartment got bigger, as expected, with the expansion of the garage and it ended up being a “modest and miniscule apartment” and I place quotation marks in order to emphasize that I speak of a limited space, not a  property that with the years the necessary institutions recognized as legal and made the couple title holders. Upon the death of Toledo Rodriguez in 1998, grandfather of the plaintiff Eleazar Yosvany Rivero Toledo, his wife who was co-owner, updated her status before the Municipal Directory of Housing and the property was awarded to her as only owner. In 2003 Yamile swapped apartments with the widower and remodeled and expanded her new home with enormous efforts and costs in order to create a bedroom for their daughter. She did it all, tells me the plaintiff, applying for the required construction permits and adding the new space to the property title at the corresponding organization: Municipal Directory of Housing in Plaza. While all the construction activity progressed, the litigant who claims the property as “former heir”, was an eyewitness to the renovations, as he regularly visited the home on top of Yamile’s apartment, considered by those affected as the bank of credit of the process, whose aged protagonists have three children abroad and huge desires to obtain the space for their parents. It was not until 2008 that YBH found out that her house was in dispute since 2002 and her house swap was cancelled in 2009.

“Raúl, I ask for justice”

It is true that at the time  of the home exchange, and according to his identification card, the plaintiff resided, with his grandfather’s widower.  Some witnesses allege that he tricked her into allowing him to stay and register as a co-inhabitant of the dwelling using as an excuse the fact that he had separated from his wife, and had no place to live. If he did not have where to live why he did not sleep under the same roof as his grandmother? Why did he not go to live with her at the Bahia neighborhood? She was the new property owner after Baltazar Toledo’s death and his heiress by right.

In August, YBH tells me, she painted the banner shown in the image on the right, and carried it to the State Council to ask Cuban President Raul Castro to intercede in the injustice against her! She was arrested in the vicinity of the Plaza of the revolution, they removed the rough banner and took her to a police station in which she was kept for several hours.

From November on

In November of 2012, due to the silence of the “deft” national authorities which she had approached, and their immovability, YBH made her cause public and started writing letters to international personalities and institutions. At the same time she approached me and other members of the civil society in Cuba. However the despair and insecurity she has experienced during  these 5 years of unjust and undeserved conflict, have not diminish her sympathy for the system led by the younger of the Castro brothers although she hasn’t received an answer to her letters from their offices.

On December 6,2012 a hearing was scheduled to hear all parties, and to “make it a transparent process.” After the supreme court had already handed down its ruling and the threat of eviction hung over the stability of two families?? I write transparent in bold letters because the close relationship between the plaintiff’s lawyer, the ruling judge and the family that lives upstairs, taints with suspicion any unprejudiced attitude that one would like to have about the case. At the hearing she was told that eviction was to be carried out. Then, why the hearing? To calm things down?

Yamilé withdrew from that circus that ironically sought to legitimize the crooked attitudes of some lawyers. Neither then nor now, was she the object of any reprisal or much less a fine for being in contempt of court for leaving the court without being authorized, and without finishing that judicial theater. Some experts consulted on the case, were scandalized over so much arbitrariness, mishandling, coercion, opportune omissions and convenient obstructions which have stained the safekeeping of the rights of the living and the dead.

The following days brought them closer to despair and helplessness to what in Cuba they call, using a legal euphemism, “forced extraction” to minimize the impact that such methods could have on society. The terminology is made up to avoid the comparison with evictions in other countries — used by Cuban authorities in political campaigns — and to differentiate them from those of which the new regime has historically accused the previous one in their overly exploited propaganda. The one when farmers were evicted from their hovels with all their belongings and families.  Beyond any legal and professional definitions, this legal figure is the sum of all manipulations.


Convinced that the lawsuit would go nowhere, Teresa Rivero Dominguez’s heirs, allowed things to follow their course thinking that it was just a matter of time until the laws were applied correctly.  However, seeing that the courts appeared biased against them and Yamile, and that they had ruled against her, they decided to take action to avoid any further injustice.

In April of 2012, the heirs from the Bahia neighborhood hired a legal professional to begin a process called “The Inheritance Flow” to determine who has rights over the house left behind by the late Rivero Dominguez. It is possible that Eleazar Yosvany may have rights over the property, and be entitled to monetary compensation, but not to the property itself.  The lawyer they hired, violated their contract by transferring the case to another lawyer who presented her case on December 20th, 2012.  For the defendants, this was just another link in the chain of obstacles that prove fraud in the proceedings.  Why does it look like someone has ordered to stop the parallel processed initiated by the heirs? Naturally, if it is demonstrated that Eleazar Yosvany has no rights over the dwelling, the case no longer makes sense, and everything goes back to normal.

 The Day of the Ultimatum

After five years of trying to rob two families of their homes, and after the Supreme Court ruling against YBH, the authorities announced that they would carry out the eviction of Yamile, her daughter and the family from the Bahia neighborhood on February 5th.  The authorities showed up in front of Bargia Hurtado’s house that now shown a message painted on the wall accusing of corruption all the lawyers involved, and asked the — in this case — deaf president of Cuba.

A local apparatchik sent two workers to pain the wall to cover the graffiti that had no anti-government message at all (and even if it did, it is her right to paint it) but in support of justice for the two families. Who sent them?  Why sabotage the work and time invested in creating it, not to mention the cost of the paint that YBH’s family had bought with their own resources?

In the same fashion, the lawyers accused of corruption and present during the “forced extraction,” went upstairs to the home of the ones thought to be moving (green) papers to make a move of which Eleazar Yosvany is only the facilitating pawn. If there were any doubts about their link, that day their relationship with the upstairs neighbors (the lady of the house came out in defense of the lawyers) was made evident. The incredibly passive attitudes of the attorneys were even more suspicious since they did not react at all to the accusations of corruption from those involved. Why?

The interested parties who live upstairs are elderly, but have money and time to think about expanding their dwelling. They already did by taking over the roof, and now they want YBH’s, and in time who knows what else they will want. In their favor they have a letter that states that the old man fought in Sierra Maestra for the revolution. Although no one knows if it is real or not, it empowers them to do harm to others, scare them and trample their rights.

For a while now, YBH and her daughter who studies at university, wonder if the Cuban Lady Justice uses her scale to weigh wads of cash and if she covers her eyes to avoid looking at the problem that affects them.  The two of them sleep, but never really rest, keeping an eye open and an ear alert to try to prevent the authorities breaking into their place at night, as if it were “an organized crime action,” to evict them under cover of night, and without an audience. It is not a baseless fear since they have been told that in similar situations a committee arrives with a locksmith, break into the house even if the owner is not in, put the furniture on a truck, and commit the abuse with impunity.

The malpractice of some of the jurists involved in this case has been denounced in multiple collateral lawsuits and complaints, and there have been calls for others authorities to investigate and intervene to no avail.  The sword of eviction continues to hang over the security and the emotional and physical stability of two Cuban families, and over the prestige and respectability of the laws and civil legal proceedings in Cuba.

Translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

1 March 2013

Mariela Castro’s Day and Conga Line Not Reported in Any Press / Ignacio Estrada

Mariela Castro in red shirt and hat speaking into mic

Havana, Cuba – Once again, the conga line led by Mariela Castro Espín swept through one of the city’s main thoroughfares, this past Saturday, May the eleventh, under heavy security and control measures.

The conga line against homophobia, pretends to reproduce the many marches held around the world in support of the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community. However, the difference between these and those held in democratic countries, according to some that participate in the one held in Cuba, is that here the stage becomes a political bastion.

The event led by the National Center for Sexual Education, tries to paint the Cuban LGBT within the context of an uncertain opening that exists only for those who pay lip service to it in order to obtain juicy rewards from projects like these, leaving it completely abandoned, and without showing a convincing agenda to a community still far from seeing all of its rights fulfilled.

The number of participants has decreased in recent years given the dissatisfaction and the delays of unfulfilled promises by the group in power.  We could add to this the manipulation of the event to support political campaigns like that for the release of the five Cubans jailed in the US for espionage.

An example of this is Mariela Castro’s speech this past Saturday, and the slogans shouted there that only reiterated their political commitment to a government led by her father, Raul Castro.  There were no words coming from the mouth of the self-proclaimed leader of the Cuban LGBT community, that could predict the status of the reforms to the family code introduced in the Cuban parliament by lawyers of the institution that she commands; reforms to the family code that recognize consensual unions, adoption and other benefits for the LGBT community.

The presence of foreign guests was notable, but one most criticized by Cuban attendees was that of Argentinian transsexual Lohana Berkins who used a megaphone brought from her country to shout slogans designed to exalt a government recognized around the world for its abuses against the LGBT community. Only isolated voices repeated her slogans while others, in protest, made fun of her or turned their backs on her.

The exposure of Ms. Castro Espin to the public was sparse and always surrounded by a showy security detail. She was followed from a distance by her current husband, Paolo Tito, who documented the event in photographs.  Some officers of their personal security detail also took pictures and video.

Members of the LGBT community who toe the official line were also present and picked up by the cameras of the national and international press. Some of the civil society projects that participated were The Observatory for LGBT Rights in Cuba, The Shui Tuix Integration Project, The Open Doors Foundation and The Cuban League Against AIDS. These organizations signed a document that was delivered to the vice director of CENESEX, Ms. Rosa Mayra Rodriguez, on the dais to be delivered to Mariela Castro inviting her to participate in a dialogue on equality of Rights for all. The letter was delivered by Lic. Liannes Imbert, coordinator of the OBCD-LGBT.

Ms. Mariela Castro who was expected at midday left the room where the activities were being held for the community she tries to manipulate to go home for lunch. She was seen leaving in silver Peugeot car licensed to a foreign company (HK) driven by her husband, forgetting that her followers were only having a snack.

Before concluding this note I want to emphasize something what many were waiting for and that was the presence of René González, one of the Cubans who was convicted in the United States and who was recently returned to Cuba after being stripped of U.S. citizenship, the person to whom Mariela dedicates last Saturday’s conga. The truth is, as many have already commented, the non-appearance of someone who promised to appear in one of these events, but did not.

By Ignacio Estrada, Independent Journalist

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 May 2013

The Weight of History / Reinaldo Escobar

This Tuesday, in the morning, tens of thousands of Young Cubans will be taking their history exam as part of their entrance exams to higher education.  The main content of the test is Cuban history, and it covers from the wars for independence of the 19th century through the early 21st century. To enter university, one has to pass three exams: mathematics, Spanish and history.  The final score on these tests represents 50 percent of the final score that is added to the other 50 percent formed by the cumulative grade point average acquired through three years of high school. Thus, the final scores are accumulated with which students compete for a place to study the major of their choice.

Very often, the opportunity to study a specific major is lost because of a missing decimal point in the final score. That missing decimal point can be the result of giving the wrong answer on the subsection of a single question.

Tomorrow, tens of thousands of Cuban youths’ future will depend on the way they answer questions like these: “When was the Moncada Program* fulfilled?” “What has been the repercussion of the US Blockade against Cuba?” and others of a similar style in which ideology is most important.

Many will answer what is expected of them because to a great extent their chances to fulfill their vocation depends on it.  Then, they will have to face the “University is only for Revolutionaries” requisite, and they will have to make new choices, such as attending an act of repudiation**, or raising their hands to participate in a meeting, or applauding something they dislike.  But, one day they will laugh at all that, and they will tell their children what they had to do to obtain that college degree hanging on their wall.

Translator’s notes:
* The Moncada Program was a series of demands and measures stated by Fidel Castro in his History Will Absolve Me (La historia me absolverá) speech while conducting his own defense at the trial for his assault to the Moncada Army Barracks in 1953.
** The linked video shows images of an act of repudiation against the author of this blog.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

13 May 2013

God Inc. / Angel Santiesteban

Dios SA


From Monday the 8th at 7pm. Without water, nor clothes, nor toiletries, without light, on a concrete bed.

God Inc.

Imitating my patriotic readings
they suppressed my horizon.
I took hold of your name,
of memory the last station.

Every letter engraved
on the silent walls of my cell,
swiftly came the hummingbirds
to applaud the end of my concert.

The  spit lost its reach,
roaches played on my face,
my mother gave me a one way ticket
although she knew that love wasn’t surrendering.

The train departed with one aboard,
smudging the image on the window,
for an instance two dried up cats
were following the shadow of a dream.

Prison. 1580  San Miguel del Padrón
In solitary confinement and starvation.

Here lies Angel Santiesteban Prats, controversial, patriot, slandered and friend.
He lived and died as he imagined the best novels.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

12 April 2013

Report Following Visit to Angel Santiesteban-Prats in Prison (Updated)

epitafioAngel’s family wants to inform the international community where we stand as of tonight April 12, 2013.

Last week, the regime tried to hide Angel in the Salvador Allende military hospital with the excuse of a dermatological treatment he is receiving, to avoid his having access to talk to the Commission of National and International Journalists accredited to visit La Lima Prison on Tuesday last, April 9. Given the outright refusal of Angel to be taken to the hospital, he was informed that he would be given a pass for a few hours to go to his house. He was even advised in a phone call that they would call indicating what time they should pick him up on Monday.

That call never took place. And after many inquiries it was reported to his friends that he had been taken by force and handcuffed to an unknown destination. It also emerged that Angel tried to resist the transfer — illegal of course — and they would have undertaken in any event on Sunday night. continue reading

The family waited for the phone call that any prisoner is entitled to but that call never came. Attorney Amelia Rodriguez Cala — after visiting La Lima — was informed that Angel had been transferred to the Prison 15-80, The Pitirre, in San Miguel del Padrón, a severe regime facility. She had made all the relevant official arrangements to visit her client and it was agreed she would visit this morning, Thursday, April 11, at 11 am.

The attorney Rodriguez Cala appeared at Prison 15-80 at the set time but was denied the visit. Some officers told that Angel is housed in solitary confinement and is on hunger strike. It is the first time that the lawyer was refused the right to visit a defendant.

None of this has been confirmed because to the unlawful transfer of Angel we must add a new violation of his rights: not allowing his lawyer to visit.

At this time and without knowing anything for sure about Angel, his family, his lawyer and all his friends are extremely concerned. We fear for his safety. We all know that when a prisoner is beaten savagely they will not show him publicly until they can erase the traces of the crime. We fear that this is the case. And to our uncertainty is added the fact of not having the certain knowledge that he is confined in Prison 15-80 and that it could be just one more lie of the regime.

From here, from his blog, this space of freedom that has led to the situation he now finds himself in, wrongly convicted after a rigged trial based on the false allegations made against Angel by the mother of his son — Kenya Rodriguez — his family and friends demand from Raul Castro Ruz that he to enforce all legal guarantees established by law and that Angel be granted the visit of rigor required by law that his lawyer can determine where he is and what is the state of his health.

From here on out we hold the government of Raul Castro Ruz absolutely responsible for what might happen to Angel and we demand his immediate appearance in perfect physical health.

International public opinion through the media and human rights organizations is aware of what they are doing to Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. The mantle of impunity is increasingly slim. And we will not stop until it breaks completely and there is justice for all Cubans.

We also demand that the commission of journalists who are visiting Cuban prisons fulfill their sacred duty to tell the truth and do not lend themselves to being crass puppets in the Castro theater. The life and safety of thousands of prisoners across the island depend on their compliance with the moral imperative and the ethical duty of the journalist. Therefore, we also hold them responsible for what may happen to Angel and all Cuban prisoners, whether political or common.

At dawn on April 12, we are waiting to find Ángel Santiesteban-Prats in perfect health.

Signed: The editor of the blog: The Children Nobody Wanted

Dios SA


From Monday the 8th at 7pm. Without water, nor clothes, nor toiletries, without light, on a concrete bed.

God Inc.

Imitating my patriotic readings
they suppressed my horizon.
I took hold of your name,
of memory the last station.

Every letter engraved
on the silent walls of my cell,
swiftly came the hummingbirds
to applaud the end of my concert.

The  spit lost its reach,
roaches played on my face,
my mother gave me a one way ticket
although she knew that love wasn’t surrendering.

The train departed with one aboard,
smudging the image on the window,
for an instance two dried up cats
were following the shadow of a dream.

Prison. 1580  San Miguel del Padrón
In solitary confinement and starvation.

Here lies Angel Santiesteban Prats, controversial, patriot, slandered and friend.
He lived and died as he imagined the best novels.

Poem translated by Ernesto Ariel Suarez

12 April 2013

Everyone / Regina Coyula

Times are changing in Cuba.  A simple comparison to five years ago will sustain this statement. One of the expressions of this change is the proposal brought forth by a heterogeneous group of citizens (I have grown fond of the term) at Laboratorio Casa Cuba* to discuss a topic of interest to all of us, including those who do not know about the existence of such proposal.

It should not surprise me, but it does surprise me, to see how from the fringes of the political spectrum, Cuba Soñada** (Cuba Dreams)…receives arrows; from each one according to their position and comprehension: each one of them absolute owners of the truth, each one from the meta-reading, each one disqualifying*** (surreptitiously or not) the project.

Now that is fashionable to defend homosexuals, blacks, women, the disabled and any other socially excluded group, a little bit of respect for politically different ways of thinking would not be bad; and, in this, Laboratorio Casa Cuba is ahead of everyone else: laypersons, Catholics, anarchists and communists have taken equal places around the same table. The document may seem scandalous to many –better controversial than anodyne- but they will not be able to attack it for being offensive toward other schools of thought. Cuba Soñada…gives us the opportunity to discuss.  And, I say this to the orthodox within the one (legally allowed) political party and to those who plan agendas for the transition, in and outside of Cuba, and of course, to everyone else.

Translator’s notes:

*Laboratorio Casa Cuba is an initiative born from the Cuban Catholic publication Espacio Laical that has stated its mission as “to study the Cuban institutional framework” and to promote “research, suggestions for change, reflection and respectful dialog.”  It is integrated so far by communists, democratic socialists, anarchists and Catholics.

**The full title of this document, from the Archdiocese of Havana, is “Cuba dreams – Cuba possible – Cuba future: proposals for our immediate future.”

***”Disqualify” is a term used by the regime towards any expression of dissent as a way of dismissing the source. That is, the speaker/actor is told, essentially, “You are not qualified to speak or act because we — the powers-that-be — say so.” Yoani Sanchez described this in a blog post about a meeting with State Security.

Translated by: Ernesto Ariel Suarez

3 April 2013