Sui Generis

I don’t know what lesson to draw from this boring celebration of the 57th anniversary of the attack on the Moncada and Carlos Manuel de Céspedes military bases, an action which is considered something of a Genesis for neohistorians. Beginning at midnight, in the first moment of July 26, I was very surprised they didn’t stop the regular programming on TV to read the usual congratulatory statement for this date. At seven-thirty in the morning, amid choral singing, the official event started. The showings of local culture continued with a poem declaimed and some troubadours. And then the Party Secretary for the province hosting the event remarked on the achievements and the tirelessness of the locals, and president Raúl Castro handed rewards to the winning provinces; the high point of the event was the speech by Venezuelan minister Rodríguez Areque. Thanks to this speech I found out that the next war will not be in Asia, but in our own backyard, between Venezuela and Colombia. At the end, the speech by Vice-president Machado Ventura, clearly written by himself, demanding more sacrifice and exalting the unshakable friendship between Cuba and the Bolivarian Republic… does it sound familiar ? Yes, it sounds familiar!

At eight-fifty-five, after the July 26 anthem, it was over. It was the first time we’ve seen such a brief and lackluster celebration. As I said before, I don’t know what lesson to draw from this. Should I try to see anything new in the loquacity of Fidel and the terseness of Raúl ?

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Hunger Strike

The prisoner Luis Alberto Rodriguez Camejo declared himself on hunger strike this past July 20th in the detachment known as Pending Trial No. 6, in cell 14 of the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila. Rodriguez Camejo is 43 years old and is a resident of 1st street on No. 75 South, between Honorato del Castillo and Paseo (in the central city neighborhood of Ciego de Avila). He finds himself rejecting any foods as a form of protest against his alleged conviction of armed robbery in a plastic arts warehouse. The actual thief, however, confessed to the crime and yet he is out in the street under a fee and owes 6 years of conditional freedom. He also has 9 other armed robberies under his belt that can be confirmed. It seems that the thief was released from accusations because his skin color is white while Rodirguez Camejo’s is black.

According to Luis Alberto Rodriguez Camejo, he only did him the favor of watching over the frames without even knowing that they were robbed. He actually has witnesses that have told stories that benefit him. The wife of Rodriguez Camejo finds herself in City of Havana trying to help with her husband’s situation but they have only sent her from the General Prosecutors of the Republic to the State Council.

This report is by: Pedro Arguelles Moran from the group of the 75 of the Black Spring of 2003 . Provincial Prison Cell in Canaletas, Ciego de Avila.

ETESCA Down on its Luck

One day before collecting their bonus in convertible pesos, known as CUCs, which the Cuban government usually pays to certain institutions, close to sixteen thousand employees from ETECSA, the only telecommunications company on the island, got their second piece of bad news for the month of July.

In the previous days, the company had already started discreetly “downsizing.” This is a nice way of saying they started firing the first few hundred employees so that, according to the company’s executives, “it becomes more efficient and streamlined.”

This new unemployment shock – euphemistically known in Cuba as “relocation” – is part of the plan for strengthening the economy drawn up by General Raúl Castro, the country’s president, who in April during a speech to the Congress of Young Communists, said it would affect more than a million workers.

The unemployment phenomenon, which is vehemently denied by high officials in the government, is nothing new. In 2002, the last year for which there is data, unemployment was 3.3%, but independent economists say the real rate was much higher and is currently over 25% of the Cuban workforce.

Years ago, the government used to pay 60% of their last salary in Cuban pesos to the unemployed during the first 3 months, and offer them training courses. Now, according to the recently downsized employees from ETECSA, they’ll be paid 60% of their former salary just for one month, and then they’ll be on their own.

Besides “downsizing,” the other piece of bad news arrived the day before they collected their CUC bonus, when a memorandum notified them that due to a coordination failure, starting in April, the needed amount of convertible money had not been assigned to ETECSA by the responsible government institutions.

Until July the company had been able to make payments drawing from its reserves of hard currency. But in July there was nothing left. Many employees are angry. On the island, the convertible peso is essential when it comes to buying the basics, such as food, cooking oil, and clothes.

Alejandro, 32, tells how discussions between the workers and their bosses have turned into arguments. “Insults, openly criticizing the government, and calls to stop work until we are paid in hard currency.”

A white collar ETECSA worker earns between 400 and 800 Cubans pesos plus 27.50 in hard currency. Adding it all up it’s less than 60 USD per month. Until the year 2009, the company was a joint venture between the State and an Italian partner.

The Italian partner paid all salaries to a government institution, in hard currency. “For instance, for an engineer the government received up to 2 thousand euros from its foreign partner, and then the state paid 50 the equivalent of fifty CUCs in a combination of hard currency and Cuban pesos. If that is not exploitation, I don’t know what is.”, says Diana.

But it might not be as bad as all that. Company executives have taken notice. According to office rumors they expect there to be a meeting in August where the government would give them the hard currency.

Together with the Tourism Ministry and the Institute for Civil Aviation, ETECSA forms the small group of Cuban institutions which make a profit. This is the reason many employees can’t understand the lack of money to pay their July salaries. The don’t know if they’ll ever be paid either.

Ivan García

Picture: ETECSA main office, in Aguila y Dragones, La Habana. Built in 1927, this building housed the Cuban Telephone Company.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Simpleness and Solidarity

They took me to a scenic park in the city of Holguin. I accepted the offer of a natural orange juice and we sat at the table. They were two young guys, most likely about thirty years of age. They lived through the hell of the rafter crisis and had returned in solidarity with the Cuban blogosphere.

She pulled out a small bag with some Flash Drives while he pulled out some blank DVDs, “So we can fill them up with whatever we like.” That is enough for them, they think, that is enough, I know it’s true. Carrying a few gigs with prohibited movies and documentaries to pass from hand to hand. That is well worth it.

“What else can we do”, she asks me. And the question remains lingering and contaminating the air of conspiracy and secrecy.

Many things can be done to help a blogger.

This example of ingenuity and simpleness is enough in itself.

Translated by Raul G.

Liberation or Forced Exile?

A press release from the Archdiocese of Havana on July 8 announced the release, over the course of three to four months, of 52 of the 75 political prisoners convicted in summary trials in April, 2003. Twenty-three had already been released on medical parole.

The releases were the result of an unprecedented dialogue between President Raul Castro and authorities of the Catholic Church in Cuba. Weeks earlier the cardinal, Jaime Ortega, had taken steps for the release of a sick inmate and the transfer of several others to prisons near their homes and families.

The events were described as “great news”, despite the lack of official notice about them from the Government. The subsequent diplomatic agreement with Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos omitted to say under what legal basis the releases would occur, the most significant since the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998.

It is inappropriate to talk of liberation while the criminal judgment imposed on the prisoners has not been extinguished. Otherwise, their departure from the country is forced.

Neither parole nor probation extinguishes criminal liability. In light of this, it would be advisable to anticipate the risks of serving the sentence outside of prison, but within the national territory. And under any pretext, they could be returned to jail.

Seen this way, it is not difficult to understand why the relatives of political prisoners prefer to leave the country. According to the note by the Archbishop of Havana, in the process of release, they took into account the proposals previously expressed to Cardinal Ortega by the families, eager to leave behind the ordeal experienced in the last seven years.

The criminal guilt of prisoners of conscience, according to the existing criminal law, could be extinguished by amnesty, pardon, or acquittal in review proceedings.

If they really intended to liberate, the Council of State would issue an official note, at the proposal of its President, who is in turn the Head of State and Government of the Republic of Cuba, pardoning all prisoners arrested and prosecuted in 2003.

The Council of State may order the Supreme Court to undertake a special review procedure and acquit those accused in the so-called “Black Spring”. Constitutionally, it has the power to issue instructions to that judicial body.

The National Assembly could also do its part. The supreme organ of the Cuban State could declare at its meeting to be convened on August 1st a general amnesty for all political prisoners. This power is recognized by the Constitution of the Republic.

Even more could be done. The parliament can declare the 1999 Law No. 88 (“On protection of national independence and the economy,” also known as the “Gag Law”) unconstitutional, for restricting the right of free expression, information and opinion, as it was used against most of the released prisoners.

According to the Spanish Foreign Minister, who traveled to Havana to join the dialogue between the Church and the Government, the released prisoners who travel abroad, once out, will require government authorization to return, while their family members may do so whenever they want. Fifteen of them are in Spain, awaiting political refugee status or assisted international protection, a special category provided in Spanish asylum law.

If the political prisoners who have agreed to travel to Spain or another country need authorization to return to the island, this means that entry and exit permits will continue in effect, and the confiscation of the property of Cuban emigrants, measures imposed by Law No. 989 of 1961.

This should not be confused with a humanitarian gesture, with a willingness to change. The unfolding of events shows that the Cuban Government has not the slightest intention of removing restrictions on the freedom of movement of its citizens. Is this a breakthrough in human rights?

Moratinos also told the international press that the Cuban government committed not to “expropriate” the homes of dissidents, among other unspecified rights. But during the negotiations there was no legally binding written agreement that ensures that the Cuban State will comply with its verbal commitments. In the national legal system there is no rule that allows making such concessions.

As a general rule, the Cuban authorities declare a permanent abandonment and proceed to confiscate the property of citizens who choose to reside permanently outside the country, unless granted the Permit of Residence Abroad (PRE). Permission is granted to Cubans who marry foreigners. But in the released prisoners are not in this category.

The fact that they talk of liberation, but not of the actions by which their release must be legally formalized, suggests that the Cuban government is trying to cover up the forced exile of political prisoners who agree to travel to Spain or other nations.

This is an illegitimate act and a violation of the rights of those people. No government action recognized by law may force a Cuban to leave his or her own land.

Laritza Diversent

Photo: AFP. Lester Gonzalez shows his passport shortly after his arrival in Madrid.

Translated by: Tomás A.

Too Much Uncertainty to Claim Victory

Recently the Archbishop of Havana announced the release of 52 political prisoners over the course of three to four months. A rather strange act, this being a secular state. In turn, Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that those released will travel to his country, and once they are out of Cuba, they will require government authorization to return, while their family members may do so whenever they wish.

We should not be misled. Do not confuse a humanitarian gesture with a willingness to change. If those who are released need permission to return to the island, then the government does not have the slightest intention of removing restrictions on the freedom of movement of its citizens. Is this a breakthrough in human rights?

If they do not eliminate the entry permit, it means that they will continue to confiscate the properties of Cuban emigrants – measures imposed by the same legal provision, Law No. 989 of 1961, that also governs permanent abandonment.

Moratinos also said that the island government agreed not to “expropriate” the homes of dissidents in Cuba, among other unspecified compromises. Some doubts remain. Under what legal assumptions will the Cuban state fulfill the concessions?

The government declares a permanent abandonment and proceeds to confiscate the property of nationals who choose to reside permanently outside the country. Permission to reside abroad is given to Cubans who are married to foreigners, which does not apply in this case.

Will there be a legal formulation about this? What guarantees do these people have that, once they are abroad, the government will fulfill a commitment made by the representative of a foreign state? Who will compel it to comply? What will happen when it asserts the principles of state sovereignty and non interference in internal affairs? There is too much uncertainty to claim victory.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

Cold Air or the Fridge Up in the Air / Regina Coyula

On Mother’s Day last year, my niece gave my mother a refrigerator as a gift. My mother was delighted, since in spite of being larger, the new refrigerator consumes less electricity than the former one.

And everybody was happy in my mother’s house until this New Mother’s day. First the refrigerator and then the freezer stopped working. As the refrigerator had a guarantee of three years, the following day my sister decided to find out how to repair this important piece of equipment. Now things began to get worse; the fridge stopped being cold. My sister spent all morning on the telephone trying to find the Copextel shop that was supposed to maintain the sick refrigerator. When she finally got through, the young person on the phone who receives complaints told her to expect the visit of the technicians between three days and a week. Ten days later, they appeared, and in one glance diagnosed a fault in the source of the manufacturing lot and said the sick refrigerator couldn’t be cured. It should be exchanged.

“Now?” Hopeful, my sister began to ask about the conditions for the replacement.

“No, señora. Two technicians will come from the other shop to certify that there wasn’t a fraud and that the refrigerator should be replaced.”

“A fraud?”

“Yes, so that we don’t exchange a repaired refrigerator under the table for a new one.”

“And how many days will this take?”

“Between three days and a week.”

Improving on the record of the former visit, the new repairmen appeared within two weeks. They lingered, more in hopes of getting coffee than because my mother ordered them to certify the broken refrigerator. More cautious than before, my sister asked:

“And now what?”

“They are coming from the Division with the new refrigerator.”

“Yes, but how long will it take?”

“Between three days and a week.”

Ten days later, my sister again found herself on the phone calling all the workshops of Copextel. In her latest telephonic escalation, my sister talked with the workshop chiefs, the head of public relations, and the head of the division. A kind of smokescreen existed there. And always the same words:

“Don’t worry, we’re going to solve the problem.”

She called so many times that now they knew her case. But – big surprise! – one Friday she got a call saying they were going to bring the new refrigerator on Monday morning. Finally she could stop leaving packages of food and water at the neighbors. But it wasn’t until the following Thursday, after 65 days, that the new refrigerator arrived. Finally! it took the place of the defunct fridge.

Translated by Regina Anavy

With Shame, But No Glory

Another celebration, more evidence of lack of spontaneity which we have all become so accustomed to.

As always, many expectations were created, especially for those who continue to refuse to accept the cruel reality. My grandma would always say, “The worst blind man is he who does not want to see”.

The event took place very early in the morning, almost at sunrise. The person who most used, or abused, speech was an alien from our sister republic, later the maximum chief of the party in the province, and the closing act was done by someone whose name reminds us of two disastrous personalities of my small planet.

It was expected. What was the point of the second one talking if the first one has already said everything. Nothing people, I have said it in other occasions, this is just like a bad marriage under the church: Until death do us part.

Translated by Raul G.

Libertation or Exile?

The announcement of the liberation of 52 political prisoners was described by some as “great news”, while others received it with caution and even suspicion. However, the legal grounds for the release, an event considered to be the most significant of its type in a long time, remained unclear.

It would be incorrect to speak of liberation until the government has formally endorsed the release. Without this, the prisoners’ departure from the country would be the result of a coercion. In other words, we would be looking at an act of exile.

Let us take the procedural status of the released prisoners as a starting point in order to understand the issue at hand. Neither a furlough nor a parole would dismiss their criminal responsibility. In this sense, it would be helpful to envisage the risks of lifting their sentence, with their being out of prison but still within the country. The smallest risk is that they might be returned back to jail under some pretext.

From this point of view, it is not hard to understand why the relatives of the political prisoners preferred to leave the country. According to the statement of the Archbishop of Havana, the earlier suggestions made by the prisoners’ relatives to cardinal Jaime Ortega were taken into account during the release process. What remains doubtful, though, is whether the proposal truly originated from the relatives.

Let us think like the government for a moment without entering into details about the ranking of the priorities of its motives: A hostile international environment from an economic perspective because of the financial crisis and political isolation due to the international pressure demanding the liberation of the prisoners of conscience and respect for human rights within the island.

The act itself serves it well considering the internal situation, which grows more troubled every day because of the precarious economic development. Women dressed in white marching silently through the streets with gladioli in their hands, enduring insults and humiliations, demanding the release of their husbands and sons is not a conduct conforming with the model of social behaviour desired by the government.

Let us add that the prisoners’ release and their definitive, that is permanent, departure from the country together with their relatives would relieve the government from the presence of the group of women, called The Ladies in White. These women rejected the opportunity to convert their group into a civil movement when they distanced themselves from the “Damas de Apoyo” (The Ladies of Support). After the release of the prisoners the reason for the existence of their group will be gone.

Furthermore, the government would not be pleased if people approved of a group of citizens or families that had confronted it, managed to hold out against it and could walk free to tell the story. To put pressure on them in order to make them leave the country is the most convenient measure.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by:

Laws in Lemon Juice

There are certain Cuban laws that, from the looks if it, have a quality as native as it is original. A peculiarity so ours, it even takes us back to the rebel periods, when it was necessary to send subversive messages in absolute confidentiality. It is all about the laws that seem to have been written with lemon juice: at first sight, they are impossible to read. Nobody can affirm they have ever been stated. Perhaps, because in order to do so, it is necessary to add some warmth.

With lemon juice was written the law that forces doctors, nurses, x-ray technicians, dentists, or lab workers, to stay in Cuba for five years after requesting permission to leave the country. That wide population sector associated with the Health Department knows the process very well: after requesting permission to leave, you must prepare a piece of wood, just like ship crews, to mark off one by one, the 1,825 days (some more, some less) that await you before their immigration process takes effect.

Who, as naïve or uninformed they may be, doesn’t know that today in Cuba, this is already a ritual practice, from which families are planned and couples’ ties are destroyed? However, has anybody ever seen the written law, the official ordinance that justifies it?

With lemon juice is written the law that prohibits all Cubans to contract for the same internet services available to foreigners residing in the island. The ordinance that justifies on rational grounds (or really, what are laws then?) why a foreigner that lives in my country can pay 80 convertible pesos for 60 hours of internet at their house, and a Cuban born here who has the same amount of money in their pocket can’t. Nobody has been able to verify this law and yet, has anybody doubted its power?

If the agent, official, or enthusiast knew anything about the power that stopped and questioned, right in the street, the authors of the documentary Que me pongan en la lista (Put me on the list), they may not have seen these deeds but they don’t doubt their existence. Although  the critics are notoriously scarce in our grocery stores, there will always be reservists to write these laws.

Because, yes: someone who, I repeat, seems to belong to a sector empowered to impose “order” and ask for identification, without even wearing a uniform, had done very well by the youngsters from the Instituto Superior de Arte who, camera in hand, went out to the streets of Havana asking what their fellow citizens thought about the function of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (Comites de Defensa de la Revolucion, CDR). The incident was reflected in the work Que me pongan en la lista (Put me on the list), a documentary that recently won prizes in various Cuban audiovisual contests. The energetic compañero forgot that just because the camera has been lowered from the shoulder, it hasn’t stopped recording.

At the moment of informing them, in all honesty, in a very threatening, unbalanced tone of voice, that they were not authorized to be asking those kinds of questions, one of the filmmakers had the initiative to investigate the law that prohibited them from doing it. The answer was without a doubt delicious for its denigration: “Don’t come to me talking about laws, don’t talk to me about laws because if you do we’ll end up on other matters…”

Yes, this one was knowledgeable. This one knew that a legal basis exists. But to be able to see it, warmth needed to be applied to it.

I think also written with lemon was the modern exile that is tactically practiced today in Cuba. The algorithm is somewhat like this: A professional leaves to go work outside of his country. In the bellicose vocabulary of my island, this is known as “serving on a mission.” They leave to work: as physiotherapists, surgeons, or English professors. There they meet the woman of their dreams, or the country that best satisfies their desires. There, they decide to drop the anchor. Alright: they’re automatically marked with the Scarlet Letter of “deserters” for whom the doors of the tropical castle are forever closed. An invisible law dictates it.

I speak almost by personal experience: someone very close to me lost her father last New Year’s Eve. She has lived in Jamaica for six years without being able to come back into Cuba. This time, not even the International Red Cross was able to assist her in attending her own father’s burial.

Too much darkness, too much invisibility. What I have mentioned are only a handful among the hundreds that today condition our reality. I want to believe that they are verifiable, well founded laws, but I find myself incapable of declaring faith in these matters: I need to see them. I need to prove they exist. I am not afraid to be labeled as ignorant just like the ones who kept quiet before the King’s nudity, without daring to tell Their Majesty that the tailor had fooled him: he was naked. No, I will bear that stigma if necessary.

It’s already time that they respect a little our right to be governed by the laws that we can look at, touch, and above all, confront. Let them use the lemon for that most Cuban dish, red bean soup (many homes in our country will appreciate that) and write our laws with ink made up of honesty.

To comment on this article please visit:
Ernesto’s Blog: The Little Brother.

They Order Punches in Response to Solidarity with @reinaozt

It happened on Wednesday night, they told me yesterday, June 22nd, and I give this alert because I do not know what other incident might happen today, which marks five months since the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

It started when Caridad Caballero Batista and Mariblanca Avila were in a car headed for Banes to meet with other friends and the family of Reina Luise, mother of the martyr of our generation, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Cari tells the story: Two days before the 23rd we went to help Reina make arrangements at Zapata’s grave and to attend on the 23rd and pay tribute at the end of five months, but we couldn’t reach the family’s house. They stopped the car when it came to Banes. Several policemen ordered us out. I asked why, but there was no answer, just another order, “Get out!” We continued to refuse and told them to explain before all the passengers why they were ordering us to get out. No answer. They attacked Mariblanca and several others and me. They grabbed us, pulled on us, and forced us out of the car. They dragged us along the dusty road and put us into the police car a few yards away. Then they took us down the road to Holguín, but further away to a dark, isolated place and detained us for hours. We were left locked in the car, and when I tried to get my phone to notify family, they saw me. They returned to the car. A new flurry of punches. I have bruises on my breasts and arms because they beat those parts of the body covered by clothing and that generally do not show in public. Then they left and did not stop until we reached the headquarters of Holguin. There I lost sight of Mariblanca. I don’t know if they returned her to her home town, Velazco, or if they kept her in jail. After midnight they returned me to my house. In the morning two policemen were standing guard at my door. They say that even after the 27th I cannot leave. And I know that if I do they will drag me back again to the filthy cell at the G2 operational headquarters.

From Banes, Reina Luisa told me a few hours ago: “Today we went to paint the grave of my son and prepare everything in the cemetery for the 23rd, to bring flowers, pray for his soul, and say there ZAPATA LIVES! ZAPATA LIVES! ZAPATA LIVES!

I do not know if they will stop me from praying at the grave of my martyred son. Here in Banes they have arrested those attempting to come to my house. Everyone be alert because what @reinaozt needs most is solidarity.”

From Holguin I offer this, my solidarity. It is the only option left to those of us who live in the interior of the island, where no microphones or foreign journalists show up to witness the ordeal that Reina Luisa lives through every Sunday and every 23rd.

Translated by: Tomás A.

Shadowy Scenario

The release of 52 political prisoners, who had been sentenced in 2003 to between 6 and 28 years, caused joy on the one hand, and skepticism on the other. The Archbishop of Havana issued a communique, and Miguel Angel Moratinos, Foreign Minister of Spain, gave statements to the press. What is missing is the official government announcement on the matter. Clearly the scenario remains shadowy.

According to Moratinos, there is no reason to continue Europe’s “common position” after the releases. He said he felt satisfaction from “the possibility of definitively settling the question of the prisoners,” when in fact this resolves only a circumstantial situation. The issue of human rights on the island is not summed up by the release of political prisoners. Not at all.

This demonstrates some naivety by the Foreign Minister of Spain. Or perhaps he is only concerned with resolving the most immediate problem, which benefits only the government of the island. So far the existing leadership has made no public commitment and has given no assurance of compliance.

It is no secret that the Spanish minister requested an extension until September for his European Union counterparts to decide whether to reaffirm or repeal the Common Position, which since 1996 has conditioned its relationship with Cuba to progress in human rights.

Does the future of Cubans not matter? What will happen afterward if the “Common Position” is modified because of this gesture by the Cuban government? This should not be blurred by the release process. I recognize it is a positive step, but it in no way represents an improvement in matters of human rights. Not while laws that criminalize the exercise of freedom of expression and opinion are in force.

Moreover, it is suspicious that a state, constitutionally declared to be secular, issues it orders through the Catholic Church. Even more that a representative of a foreign state becomes spokesman for the government on the island, whose foreign policy is uncompromising on the principle of state sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

To comment on this article please visit:

Lartiza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Legal Advisor.

A Little Bit of Everything

Patch-work of Valle de Viñales.

Thanks be to God who gave me the gift and my family who helped me to cultivate it, aside from being a teacher, I learned many practical things for life.

The year 1959 arrived, and with it, great changes. I lost my job as a substitute teacher but soon afterwards I started working at the Department of Foreign Trade, where I stayed for fifteen years.  Later on I worked at a branch of Foreign Relations and, when I couldn’t take it anymore, I realized it was time to go home and do what I loved and had been doing for free my whole life: arts and crafts.  I was already a member of the Association of Artisans and Artists (ACAA) and that is how my professional life started.

My first works were on cold ceramics, later on embossing copper, but this aggressive material destroyed my hands and it was affecting my health, so I had to stop, even though I liked it so much.  So I started working on patch-work, that is what I have been working on since 1998.  This work has allowed me to have some expositions inside and outside of the country.

The pieces, which I have shown on my posts lately, and which a dear friend has explicitly asked for, are totally handmade.  I have specialized in faces and believe me, it entertains me, keeps my mind fresh, my spirit calm and overall it brings food to my table, because even though I have family outside the country, they don’t send me any help,  first, because they can’t afford to and second, because I never ask.  I feel much happier supporting myself with the work I do with my own hands, and not being a burden on anybody.  I rather wish I was able to send them something that would make them happy.  Also, with this and other techniques I manufacture cushions, bags, angels, table runners and small cases for eyeglasses, cell phones, etc, which I call fast food because they’re cheap and as soon as I sell them I run to the nearest store to buy food.  As you can see, a little bit of everything.

Translated by: Angelica Betancourt

Complaint Against the Justice Minister Advances

On July 7, The People’s Provincial Tribunal of Havana responded to the group of independent lawyers who filed suit against the Justice Minister, Maria Esther Reus González.

In the response (which was delayed because of a backlog in the chamber) the judge, Alfaro Guillén, Esq., and the lay judges, Núñez Valdés and Figueredo Ramos, required the members of the Cuban Law Association (AJC), to modify the terms of the judicial petition, within 10 days.

The court found it “improper” for Wilfredo Vallin, Esq., president of the organization, to act in the name and on behalf of a legal entity that is not currently constituted. The notice requires the lawyer bringing the action to proceed in his own name.

The Cuban legal system will not recognize an association that does not appear on the rolls of the Register of Associations. The law provides penalties of incarceration for up to three months against a person enrolled in a non-registered association. The punishment is tripled for the promoters or directors of an illegal association.

For its part, the Law of Associations (Law 54 of December 27, 1985) and its regulations, does not impose any legal formality for creating an association. It is sufficient that interested people form a group to achieve a goal. Then they can ask to be recognized by the state as a legal entity.

The highest court of justice in the capital also ordered that the facts of the complaint be reformulated. It does not accept the term “denial of authorization for Constitution of Association”, considering it inconsistent. It asserts that the Justice Ministry (MINJUS) did not respond to a request for certification.

On April 7, 2009, the AJC asked the Register of Associations of MINJUS to certify that no non-governmental association (NGO) existed in the country with the same name and purpose as the association of attorneys. The document is essential to continue the legal process for setting up the guild.

The state institution did not issue the certification. In March 2010 the group renewed its request and received no response. The lawyers appealed to the Minister, Reus González, raising a complaint for breach of the required legal formalities, which also was ignored.

On June 24, the lawyers filed a complaint with the Second Chamber of the Civil and Provincial Administrative Court in the capital, against the Minister of Justice, for denial of the authorization (by administrative silence) for the legal constitution of the guild.

The legal petition was filed in the Court on June 29, under case number 338 of 2010. It seeks to challenge the decision of the Department of Associations of MINJUS. It is the first time that a dissident organization has brought suit against a government representative.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by: Tomás A.

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Lartiza’s Blog: Laritza’s Laws and Legal Advisor.

What the “Wind” Took Away

Here in my small planet, it hasn’t exactly been the wind which has taken everything–or almost everything–away. It seems to be the work of a crazed tornado. And what remains is in such a poor state that it is nearly unsalvageable.

In 1897 Cuban cinema took its first baby steps. Along with its appearance, the first posters were born, then handmade on small printing presses, and photography was also developing. Then movie theaters quickly started appearing, receiving us on their doorsteps with flashy posters or photographs, which gave us an idea what was going to be projected inside. It was a clear invitation to enter. Cinemania was happily taking hold of most of us.

In 1959, we already had more than one hundred thirty movie houses, many of them very modern and comfortable, like the Warner Theater (later called Radiocentro, now renamed Yara), the America (also a live theater), Acapulco, Riviera, Los Angeles, Payret, Miramar, La Rampa, etc. etc. etc. All this, to the delight of about a million people who lived in the capital at that time. We also had three modern drive-ins. Moviegoers had to run to see the more than four weekly releases that were shown.

Half a century later, with almost two million people, only a dozen theaters are operating, most of them in an advanced state of disrepair. Neglect turned many of them into ruins, others have become shelters for various families. Each year, except for the month of the Film Festival, there are fewer options – the films shown are old and many of them have already been seen on television. The wind can still take away what little remains, if nothing is done to stop it.

Translated by: Joe Malda and Tomás A.