Giron or Bay of Pigs: The Same Pain

A couple of years ago I wrote about an event I learned of from someone very close to and emotionally attached to it, about how two Cubans who had fought on opposite sides at the Bay of Pigs, this sad military conflict between brothers, with the passing of time had reunited outside our territory, one as a member of Brigade 2506. and the other as a pilot at Playa Girón, as the event is called in Cuba.  By then both of them were exiles.

These two Cubans melted in a forgiving embrace in Miami and one of them, years later, died in the arms of the other. This is the reason that I decided to re-post fragments of this story because I find it so touching. Some of the offspring of both protagonists live now in Florida.

“One night, during one of the usual occasions when they would get together, as they were all seated at the table having a delicious Creole meal, the pilot became ill and excused himself to go to the bathroom.  A few minutes later, the host ran to the bathroom after hearing a noise.  When he got there, the pilot was on the floor. He gently held the pilot in his arms and watched him die.”

All these events, with the passing of years and the frustrations suffered by each other, have made us reflect about how much we were manipulated and how much history has been distorted. For decades, they tried to “sow” in us a false sense of hatred and resentment, which even if it did exist at some point, was dissipated with our everyday lives, with the disenchantment, and especially with the sad experience of having fought for a “future” that never came, watching ourselves forced to separate from our families and friends, an issue that ultimately has been the most painful, in the balance of all that has happened.

“Many years had to go by, many confrontations, disagreements, misunderstandings and defamation campaigns, so that finally two Cubans who no one should have ever converted into enemies were united forever in an embrace.  Two twists of the same flag.”

Translator: Post quoted was translated by Hank.

17 April 2013

Communicated from the Front in solidarity with the prisoners in Palma Soriano / Jorge Luis García Pérez Antunez

The National Orlando Zapata TamayoFront of Civil Resistance and Disobedience condemns the brutal and arbitrary arrests of those who inrecent days have beenvictimized includingtwo of the most important leaders of the internal Cuban Resistance. I refer to former political prisoners Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and Angel Moya Acosta as they were getting ready to join the historic National Boitel and Zapata AreAliveMarch. Our coalition of coalitions is supported by these and other brothers who have been arrested in identical circumstances.

This front, which like the arrested promotes civil disobedience as a strategy of struggle, demands freedom for Moya Acosta and Ferrer Garcia and holds the bodies of political repression responsible for what might happen.

Brothers Angel Moya Acosta and Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia you are not alone, the Orlando Zapata National Front of Civic Resistance helps and supports with you.


Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo, city of Havana, National Spokesperson

Raúl Luis Risco Pérez, adviser to the Front, Pinar del Rio

Eriberto Liranza Romero, coordinator in the West

José Díaz Silva, adviser and director of the Independent Libraries Project Front

Idania Yanez Contreras, coordinator in the central region

Ricardo Pupo Sierra, coordinator in Cienfuegos

Pastor Alexei Puerto Gómez, coordinator at Sancti Spiritu

Julio Columbié Batista, coordinator in Ciego de Avila

Santos Fernandez Sanchez, one of the coordinators in Camagey

Yoan David Gonzalez Milanes, director of the Front in Camagey

Caridad Caballero Batista, director of the Front in Holguin

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, national coordinator, Guantanamo

Yoandri Montoya Avilés, director of the Front in Granma

Marino Antonomarchit Rivero and Reinaldo Rodríguez Martínez managers and coordinators Front in the province of Santiago de Cuba

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez, general secretary of the Front.

Translated by: Hank

December 6 2011

What is the Job of an Attorney in Cuba? / Laritza Diversent

I have been asked this and other questions. I do not know what the work of a lawyer in Cuba is, however there are some aspects that are noteworthy:

“The bullet entered the body of Izquierdo Medina in the left buttock. It destroyed the femoral vein crossed to reach the kidney and lung. Death was almost instantaneous. The funeral home gave the family a death certificate that certified cause of death, acute anemia. Despite the demands, Legal Medicine never gave the autopsy report to the family.”

Known: the existence of the shot and its lethal effect, so the death certificate is a falsehood.

So I ask the following questions: 1. Is there a crime of falsifying documents in Cuba? 2. If so, is there a judicial procedure to process to the funeral home?

“To date, the whereabouts of the former official are unknown.”

It is clear that, an innocent person having nothing to hide, his flight betrays him.

1. Could his flight be incriminating evidence at his trial?

“The mother of the victim, Raiza Medina, believes they want to exclude her from the trial of the murderer of her son.”

1. Is there no lawyer representing the mother?

2. Does the mother have the right to be assisted by counsel at the trial. Or to ask the same question in another way: would the mother be represented by a lawyer at the trial if she were an important person?

We mustn’t forget that Cuba is a socialist state. I understand perfectly that Laritza Diversent cannot answer the questions, because of her difficult internet connection. However, the questions have been posed.

First: Even I do not know the mission of a lawyer in Cuba. I was with the family of the teenager, they wanted me to be their lawyer of course, but I was there as a mere spectator, looking on and without the power to say anything. You can not imagine how frustrating it was for me to be in that courtroom as a spectator, not only trying to pass unnoticed, but to witness it all and I have to admit, I can do more as a journalist than as a lawyer.

Second: There is a crime of forgery in Cuba. The problem is that the funeral home did not give a false opinion. I was present at the trial. I heard the coroner address the court and affirm death as caused by acute anemia. Then explain that the bullet entered the body of the teenager in the lumbar region, crossed the left kidney, the aorta, the right lung and exited the right shoulder.

Like you, I can not relate the acute anemia with a murder, that opinion is not related to a gun shot, it seems that this is the diagnosis of a chronic disease, what’s more you can relate it to a hemorrhage, but if you look at all the vital organs that the missile destroyed it is beyond all doubt that the teen had died from loss of blood, in fact the death was almost instantaneous.

Third: In Cuba, the victims are supposedly represented by the prosecutor, or, and it’s the same thing, the State. They do not need a lawyer’s representation at trial nor to appear assisted by one. If they are not satisfied with the sanction they have the right to make appeals or to appeal through the prosecutor.

In the case of Raiza, the teen’s mother, she was not invited to trial, the prosecution barely notified her of the decision, in which case it will be very difficult for her to appeal the court’s decision.

Angel Izquierdo’s family is unhappy with the prosecutor’s request, 17 years in prison for a crime that has a standard sentence of between 15 and 30 years. The State asks for more if you kill a cow. They protested at the same trial. Of the whole spectacle, what touched me most was the anger of mother, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, all cried tears of helplessness. They asked me if they could appeal. I told the truth. We must await the decision of the court, however it is unlikely that the prosecution would seek a penalty greater than what it asked for in its own petition.

You asked more questions, I think with these comments I have responded to them all.

Translated by: Hank

January 19 2012

Trial of a Former Policeman Who Shot a Black Teenager / Laritza Diversent

The trial of Amado Interian was held on the afternoon of December 13th in Courtroom Number 7 of the Havana Court.  He is a former police officer who shot a 14-year-old teenager named Angel Izquierdo.  The trial had been suspended on December 9th due to a nonappearance by the defendant.

Amado Interian was dressed like an inmate, but it was not possible to find out in which prison he was being held pending trial.  The former policeman exercised his right to testify but he did not answer any questions.

The former policeman, in open court, cried and testified that he did not intend to kill anyone and he asked the victim’s family for forgiveness.  He also showed the court all of the injuries he received while serving in the police force.

The hearing began at 1:00 pm when the defense attorney arrived.  It lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, with disorder and commotion in the courtroom.  The teenager’s family showed their disagreement with the trial and the charges brought by the prosecution and the way they tried to reduce his liability.

In its report, the prosecution acknowledged that Amado had no reason to fire his weapon at these helpless kids and kill one of them.  However, they only asked for a sentence of 17 years in prison for murder, a crime which is punishable by a sentence of 15-30 years in prison, or death.

Interian, who is 54 years old, underwent a psychiatric examination and was determined to be mentally fit and that at the time of these events, he had the capacity to understand the measure and extent of his actions.  However, there was no explanation during the hearing as to why he still had a license to carry a firearm even though he retired five years ago.

The police officer lives and works in the Montecito estate, in the village of Lajas in the Mantilla district of the municipal capital Arroyo Naranjo, where the events took place.  In the trial it was said that the estate belonged to him yet no reference was made to a deed which authorized his right to the property.

Nevertheless, it was made clear that the fruit tree was some distance from the residence of the accused and that the victim was up the tree when he was shot.  Marzo, as one of the witnesses identified themselves, owner of the estate neighbouring the ex-soldier’s and who witnessed the events, did not see when Interian fired his Colt, the murder weapon.

The witness told the court that on the afternoon of 15th July 2011 he went towards Interian’s house looking for his livestock.  He heard some voices.  He went running, machete in hand, and the ex policeman put on his shoes, shirt and took his weapon.

Interian’s neighbour first arrived at the bush where Ismael, 17 years of age, Angel and Yandi, both 14, were climbing.  All boys were of black ethnicity.  He ordered them to climb down when he heard the first shot.

Whilst the boys got down he heard the ex-policeman uttering profanities and asking his neighbours to ‘kill a black boy and f*** them up’.  Marzo heard the second shot and one of the teenagers groaning.  Angel became tangled in a branch and fell upon the impact of the bullet.

The medical expert testified in court and reasserted that the cause of death was acute anemia caused by the impact of the projectile.  The bullet entered the victim’s body in the lumbar region, went through the left kidney, the aorta and the right lung before exiting the shoulder.

The defence lawyer insisted that it was a simple case of homicide, that he was anticipating a sentence of 7 to 15 years, and that the court took into account the previous good conduct of the ex-policeman.  He also presented the medals that Interian had received during his 30 years of service in the National Revolutionary Police Force.  Maria Caridad Jiminez Medina, first cousin of the victim, exploded with rage as the defence gave its closing statement.

Immediately after, Lacadio Izquierdo, Angel’s uncle,  stood up to block the ex-soldier who moved away, guarded by more than a dozen uniformed officials of the Prisons Service of the Department of the Interior.  The officials, on more than one occasion, prevented relatives from reaching the accused.

The ex-policeman was chief of the area where the victim lived and is described as a violent and abusive man.  ’In this country you get 20 to 25 for killing a cow and for killing a child this man got 17′, said Nidia Medina, aunt of the murdered teenager.  ’We’re not going to resolve anything here, here there is no justice’ said others trying to calm the most upset.  The protest paralyzed the trial and continued in the street.

Translated by:  Hank, Sian Creely

January 5 2012

Reason to Bid Farewell to 2011 / Regina Coyula

This is about a beautiful clip a reader of mine in Brazil sent to me.  In it, you see Joshua Bell, the virtuoso violinist.  He is playing his Stradivarius in the New York Subway while the hurried crowd ignores him. This act, and what is newsworthy about it, is that we don’t appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.  Read whatever you want into this. I wish everyone: friends, acquaintances, detractors, enemies and those of you who are unknown, happiness.  (Oops!  I hope I didn’t sound corny, I still mean it.)  Until next year.

Translated by:  Hank

December 30 2011

Two Views of Juan / Regina Coyula

The Movie Poster

My son and I both saw Juan of the Dead at different times. This is a Cuban movie that has just been awarded a Popular Award at the 33rd Latin American Movie Festival. Rafael loved the profusion of bad words, with the “role” of the female blogger played by White Rose White; the “little groups of dissidents at the service of the government of the United States” and the humorous scenes throughout the footage. For Rafael, Juan of the Dead was a lot of fun. Rafael’s mother, as you know, likes to look a little beyond what you see — in Juan of the Dead she saw a zombie country.

This is an unusual B movie within Cuban cinema, which is so focused on social issues. And from the co-producers, Oh, the co-producers! Who are almost always stuck on the inevitable topic of prostitution. This work of Alejandro Brugués connects immediately with his audience and from this base filled with humor — the scene of the dance of the wives is memorable — (I’m not going to tell you the story of the movie so you will go see it), he constantly prods at our society. Look, I don’t go to see films to critique them, it’s an amusement, but brought to trial, Brugués would not be absolved. Although a spontaneous campaign would immediately be organized to call for his release.

Translated by: Hank

December 14 2011

Wild Capitalism / Regina Coyula

Taxis in front of the Hotel Cohiba. Internet Photograph.

For those who doubt that things here will get worse, I inform you that the first to set up the Chinese Model have been some of those in the emerging private sector. Since they are obligated to pay high taxes for their operating licenses, in addition to salaries and benefits for their employees, they tighten things up by putting pressure on the people at the bottom. Employees without a fixed salary are only paid a fraction of total revenues. In that way, new businesses never lose. Whoever doesn’t like it is free to leave because there will always be someone else desperate to take his place.

To my amazement, when I thought this post was complete, I found out that something very similar exists in the state sector. The drivers of the new taxis that roll through the city, which are identifiable by their white and yellow colors, must pay a daily fixed tax — on top of the costs they pay for gasoline and maintenance. If the driver fails to pay this tax two times, the taxi is handed over to another driver whose name is on a long waiting list.

Unwritten laws of a new labor scenario and an absence of labor unions to protect the interests of the least favored reminds me that a long time ago a revolution took place so that things like this would not happen.

Translated by: Hank

December 16 2011

New Graffiti / Regina Coyula

This grand wall at 19th and 42nd survived for a long time displaying the graffiti of El Sexto* with its pink criticism and his trademark star all the way to the walls of El Vedado. Apparently, the pink lacquer he used has been extinguished because last week it was covered up — as you can barely make out in the photographic image. Now, it is yellow over black and you notice it more than ever. There’s nothing like censorship to get your attention.

*Translator’s Note: “El Sexto” is a Cuban graffiti artist.

Translated by: Hank

December 1 2011

The Havana Tribunal will judge a former military man today who shot a teenager / Laritza Diversent

Various witnesses were called by the Havana Tribunal to participate in a murder trial which began this morning, December 9th, against Amado Interian, a retired police officer who is accused of shooting a black, 14-year-old teenager on July 15th of this year.  The teenager’s name was Alain Izquierdo.

According to Ismael Suarez Herce, a 17-year-old cousin of the victim who is an eyewitness to what happened, Interian (also known as “El Pinto”) caught the two of them climbing a mamoncillio tree on a farm.  The approximately 60-year-old man got mad and said to them “Hey, negro, you’ll see what’s going to happen to you,” and then he shot his 45 caliber revolver.  At the time of these acts, the former military man had a license to carry firearms.

The bullet entered Izquierdo’s body through his left buttock.  It destroyed his femoral artery, passed through his kidney and reached his lung.  Death was almost instantaneous. The funeral parlor gave the family a death certificate stating that the cause of death was acute anemia. Despite the demands of the family, the coroner never gave them any autopsy information.

The farm where this happened is located in Las Lajas, in Mantilla, a marginal neighborhood with a predominantly black population of low means which is relatively dangerous.  Suarez Herce said that they dared to go there in order to jump into the Abelardo dam in Calvario to swim.

The former policeman, Amado Interian, was the head of the police sector in various localities in Arroyo Naranjo, the poorest and most violent municipality in the Cuban capital.  Neighbors and family of the victim describe Interian as an angry man who was trigger happy.  As a retired military man, he will be tried under the civil penal code which provides a penalty for the crime of murder of up to 15 to 30 years of incarceration.

The current location of the former official is unknown.  He was being held in Valle Grande, the same place where the older brother of his victim was, awaiting trial.  Prisoners residing in the Mantilla zone are sure that he is not there or in Combinado del Este, the maximum security prison located in Havana.

The victim’s mother, Raiza Medina, believes that they want to exclude her from participating in the trial of the man accused of killing her son.  She has not received any summons as an affected party.  An official named Aiza, who attends to victims at 100 and Aldabo, told her that affected parties are not summoned.  She recommended that Raiza contact the official in charge of the case.  As of today, no one in the criminal investigation division has responded to her calls.

Translated by:  Hank

December 9 2011

Makeup / Regina Coyula

A day just like today, twenty-two years ago, Cuban television transmitted the arrival of the remains of deceased Cubans from distant wars.  Some of them arrived many years after their death.  That impression gave birth to Makeup, a story you can read by clicking on the tabs above [in the original blog in Spanish].

Translated by:  Hank

December 7 2011

Tomorrow the Havana Tribunal will try the former military man who shot a teenager / Laritza Diversent

Tomorrow, December 9th, the Havana Tribunal will hear the case against a former military man named Amado Interian who is accused of having used his 45 caliber pistol to shoot a teenager named Alain Izquierdo Medina — a black 14-year-old who was coming down from a fruit tree on his property.

Translated by Hank

December 8 2011

“That Old Newspaper Yellowed With Age“ / Yaremis Flores

Yaremis Flores Marín

A few days ago I read in Granma, the official mouthpiece of the Central Committee of the Party, an article about the end of the debate by the Parliamentary Commission, in whose mind they had analyzed among other things, the effectiveness of the economic model.

What they were saying to the population was “we are working for…, we are analyzing…, we are satisfactorily completing…”

To summarize, all of the Commissions inflated in one way or another, efficiency; and those that did not meet some parameter, they justified with those empty slogans which we have become accustomed to — that they work to achieve the development of the country and the satisfaction of the people.

A few days ago, dusting off memories, my grandmother found an edition of Granma dated Wednesday, July 12, 1989. It was yellow with age. She had saved it as though it were a relic. I was just a girl back then.

The first thing that surprised me about that old edition of Granma was the size of the publication (twice what it is today). Aside from that, on its first page it talked about the subjects that were to be debated during the 5th National Assembly. From that day forth the subjects of construction, public services and worker protections were all on the table.

Moving forward to the present, the failure is evident. The housing situation is precarious; the shortage of building materials; public services in decline; and don’t even talk about the protection of the workers, when today we’re all threatened by the era of “availability”, which is simply a word that tries to put lipstick on what I prefer to call “unemployment.”

So I ask myself, do I have to wait another 20 years to read another edition of Granma which will capture the same thing?

Translated by: Hank

December 6 2011

Work in Progress / Laritza Diversent

Roberto Lopez arrived early at the Arrroyo Naranjo Property Registry. His plan was to divide his house. One part of the house was to be donated to his only granddaughter and the other was to be sold. He is 70 years old and he needs resources to live. He was number 10 in line that morning, but when it was his turn, they told him that he could not register his house.

As of the enactment of the new norms decreed by the Council of State, which modifies the law regarding housing, Cuban property owners are running en masse to the Notary of Property Registration in order to comply with the new laws required to place their titles in compliance with the new legal standards.

The now traditional lines in front of these institutions start in the early morning, and by the end of the day there are always people who have not been seen. Not all has been resolved. Time ran out to get things done, but the government does not provide an adequate infrastructure or sufficient personnel to deal with the demand required by the new laws.

It doesn’t matter, Cubans are used to it. With incredible patience, they wait for their turn to be attended to. There is, however, no shortage of people who lack the right paperwork. After waiting four hours in line, it is not easy to deal with not achieving your goal simply because of omissions or errors that are not your fault but which are the fault of the office that granted the title to the property in the first place.

“You need to update your title in order to sign up your house on the Property Register,” the specialist tells Roberto. The procedure is required for those who want to sell, trade or donate their houses. “What does that mean?” asked the old man disconcertedly.

“The measurements, boundaries and also the area are missing in the description of your house,” responded the lawyer who was looking over his documents. An omission that most of the property titles written before 2003 suffer.

“First you should go to the office of the community architect and request his services to carry out a technical opinion and an appraisal, then, with the architectural document, you need go to the notary so they can rectify the omissions, and last return here to request the registration of your property,” added the specialist.

It sounds easy enough, but the process would require getting up early and losing a day of work to stand in line at the architect’s, another day at the Notary’s, and yet another day at the Property Registry. That’s without counting the time that each step would take. “It looks like my plans will take at least three more months,” commented Mr. López without much enthusiasm.

The buyer for Roberto’s house is not disposed to wait. He plans to pay to speed up the process. Haste is valid in all parts of the world, but it signifies corruption for the Cuban government, one of the aggravating battles of life on the inside.

That’s how the island’s recently approved regulation has begun to be applied. It permits the buying and selling of houses and eliminates one source of illegalities. It also increases the workload of the state functionaries without increasing their salaries. No doubt the corruption and prevarication of those workers remains as a work in progress.

Translated by: Hank and Scott

December 3 2011

An Act of Repudiation from Within

The sun beats down hard on the grey and white building located on Aguila street at the corner of Dragones, next to Chinatown in Havana. On that piece of real estate which was long ago given up by the Cuban Telephone Company, are the offices of ETESCA, the Empresa Cubana de Telecomunicaciones (the Cuban Telecommunications Company).

On his morning walk (a brief revolutionary act), the section leader chooses a group of workers to take part in the siege on Laura Pollan’s house next Saturday.  She is one of the key members of the Damas de Blanco (the Ladies in White), who this spring of 2010 have aroused fear and loathing within the agents of the government.

The marches by the Damas, who demand freedom for their imprisoned loved ones, has driven the regime of the Castro brothers to mount a permanent operation in front of Pollan’s house.

To deter the Damas, they use shock troops made up of employees from the stores and workplaces located near Laura Pollan’s house at 963 Neptuno, between Aramburu and Hospital, in Central Havana.

The story I am about to tell you happened two weeks ago.  A group of workers from ETESCA, almost all of them youth or communist party militants, were chosen to prevent the Ladies in White from leaving Pollan’s house.

In order to get out of having to participate, some of the women in the group claimed that they were sick or had family problems.  They just wanted to evade the issue.  But they are people who are prepared, with access to the Internet or illegal cable antennas in their homes.

They have seen what happens.  The offenses and the violence.  The boss gets strict:  “You all represent the organizations of the Party and the youth at the core, this isn’t a favor we are asking of you, it’s an order.”

They go without really wanting to.  For Lucrecia, a young woman recently graduated in telecommunications engineering, its an adventure of sorts.  She’ll see for the first time the “mercenaries” who make the news that she stealthily reads on the Internet.

The people who have been chosen for this task walk to Pollan’s house with feelings of anxiety.  If there’s a row, they won’t know what to do.  Rosario has never hit anyone in her life.  Much less women who demand freedom for their husbands, sons or brothers.  “If a family member of mine were being held prisoner, I would do the same thing they are doing,” she confesses.

More than hatred, they feel a certain admiration.  Some of them, the most uninformed, say that the Ladies in White are paid 20 dollars for each march.  “If that’s the way it is, some day I’ll join them,” says Elena smiling.

A dark-haired obese female, reminiscent of a Sumo Wrestler, leads the women. “She looked like a thug, with thick features, and never smiled,” remembers Lucrecia.

Other women who work in the neighborhood gather around the female employees of ETECSA.  Not a single man is around.  “What happens if there is a fight?” asks a girl.  The female soldier dressed in civilian clothing responds: “That’s our problem.” Referring to the security forces.

They are there for twelve hours sitting around the fence in front of Laura Pollan’s house.  Soldiers dressed as civilians moving about on Suzuki motorcycles constantly telling people where to go.

After three in the afternoon, when they are very hungry, some soldiers arrive with cardboard boxes containing disgusting cold black beans and rice with a boiled egg on top for the women.  Most of them protest.  “This is a mess, if all we get for participating in this shit and risking being hit is this crappy food, don’t count on me anymore” says one of the women.

An official tries to calm them down.  “Please, remember the difficult economic situation our country is experiencing.”  Just about all of the women throw the food in the garbage can.  As night falls, they mobilize.  The next day, the Damas de Blanco did not go out or do their march.

The next day all the ETESCA employees who took part in the harassment at Laura Pollán’s house complained to their bosses. “Don’t even think about asking me to go back for another act of repudiation; don’t count on me, go yourselves,” says one of them, insulted. The bosses are silent in the face of the flood of curses. They have no choice.

The government wants to sell the image that the people, acting spontaneously, are the ones who suppress the Ladies in White. Many people participate out of fear and for various considerations. Whether they are political or want to maintain that appearance. Nobody in a major company wants to be identified as “disaffected with the government.” Everything is staged. In the best Cuban style.

Iván García

Translated by: Hank and Tomás A.