IAPA Press Freedom Award goes to Henry Constantin, Director of ‘La Hora de Cuba’

Cuban independent journalist Constantín lives in Camagüey and is the director of the magazine ’La Hora de Cuba’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 October 2021 — Independent journalist Henry Constantín Ferreiro, editor of the magazine La Hora de Cuba, has won the 2021 Press Freedom Award, granted by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). Along with the Cuban, the Nicaraguan Juan Lorenzo Holmann Chamorro, manager of the newspaper La Prensa, persecuted by Daniel Ortega’s regime, was also a winner.

The IAPA said in a press release on Friday that the award winners have had to live through “one of the darkest periods” this year and have also been harassed and imprisoned in their respective countries.

The organization noted that Constantín was imprisoned and held incommunicado for ten days after being detained during the July 11 protests against the government on the Island. Along with the Camagüey journalist, two other collaborators of La Hora de Cuba remained under house arrest until August 23.

“Holmann Chamorro and Constantín Ferreiro represent the struggle and determination of independent journalism to keep the population informed, despite the strong reprisals adopted by the totalitarian regimes of Nicaragua and Cuba against critical voices and freedom of the press,” said continue reading

Jorge Canahuati, IAPA president.

Both are also vice presidents of this same organization in their respective countries, which is why Carlos Jornet, head of Argentina’s Commission on Freedom of the Press and Information, insisted that they will not cease “to raise their voices and denounce the atrocities against them and the dozens of journalists who are persecuted, imprisoned and forced into exile.”

The statement notes that the IAPA conducted two investigations, both in Cuba and Nicaragua, and was able to determine that in these countries “journalists have faced similar repressive practices, including arbitrary detentions and interrogations; threats, surveillance and monitoring; restriction of movement and impediments to leave the country; hacking, control and impersonation in social networks; stigmatization, pressure on family members, news sources and advertisers.”

Regarding the investigation on the Island, it was noted that the regime of Miguel Díaz-Canel “detained 11 independent journalists, and that human rights activists and artists suffered the same fate” and their relatives have also been harassed. Among them are mentioned the cases of Esteban Rodríguez, in prison since April 30, and Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, imprisoned two months later.

The winners of the Press Freedom Award will be honored at a virtual ceremony between the 19th and 22nd of this month, where the chosen winners of the Excellence in Journalism Award 2021 are also invited.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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‘I Didn’t Care If I Died or Lived,’ Says Cuban Rafter Hospitalized in the US

Capote left from Playa Herradura, in Mariel, Artemisa province, along with three other young people who died during the crossing. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 2 September 2021 — After ten days at sea that left him on the brink of death, Cuban rafter Julio Cesar Capote will be able to begin his asylum process on U.S. soil. “I didn’t care if I died or lived,” the 21-year-old confessed to Telemundo 51 on Wednesday.

Capote was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard on August 25 in the vicinity of Fowey Rocks, in southern Florida, while sailing in a precarious six-and-a-half-foot boat. Due to his physical injuries and the degree of dehydration in which he was found, the rafter had to be hospitalized.

“I was thinking a lot of things, if I was going to make it, if I was going to die, what was going to happen to me,” Capote told the television channel shortly after being discharged from Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, from where he left accompanied by family members living in the United States.

The young man had his legs bandaged because of the burns he suffered during the crossing, which he made together with three other migrants, who, Capote himself explained to the Coast Guard, had died on the journey.

About the crossing, the rafter reported that the companions who died were young people. He left from Playa Herradura, in Mariel, Artemisa province, together with his uncle, Chenli Yoan Capote, 21, and siblings
Josue Gabriel, 22, and continue reading

Karen Rojas Pareta, 18. “Three days later, the raft capsized and our food, water were dumped, everything,” he said.

“The sun began to burn us and the girl’s and her brother’s nails began to fall off, their hands began to peel, their ribs began to burn and she said ’I can’t take it anymore’ and jumped into the water with her brother. The brother was worse than her; from the time he left he was vomiting, dehydrated, vomiting blood and everything”, says Capote, who then stayed with his uncle, who “had already started to hallucinate.”

At another point “a piece of the raft fell off” and the uncle jumped into the sea to try to rescue the piece, but “the waves were too big and he was carried away.” He spent about ten days adrift until he was found by a citizen who was sailing south of Florida and alerted the Coast Guard.

Regarding the rafter’s legal options, Immigration attorney Willy Alllen told the television channel that, at the Customs office, there is the possibility of being granted the so-called ’parole’, a document with which, after a year and a day, he can opt for residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

The lawyer also said that they could eventually send him before an immigration judge, but he stated that cases like Capote’s are isolated, because most migrants intercepted at sea are medically treated and repatriated to Cuba immediately.

At the beginning of last August, a Cuban managed to pass the “Credible Fear” Review on the high seas in the United States. The migrant, identified as Ernesto Urgellés, according to his relatives, was a policeman in Cuba and had been intercepted along with other rafters, who themselves were returned a few days later to the island by the Coast Guard.

Urgellés cannot enter the U.S. while his asylum request is being studied, so he must remain at the Guantánamo base or in some third country that will provisionally accept him.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Cuban Government’s Silence is Prolonged in Response to the Request to Authorize Humanitarian Flights From the U.S.

Skyway Enterprises had been planning 20 shipments to Havana from July 22 to September 28. (Skyway Enterprises/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 August 2021 — Cuban authorities have not yet authorized the landing on the island of cargo airlines from the United States with humanitarian aid despite the fact that the island is experiencing a collapse in its healthcare system and despite the voices that are clamoring for a humanitarian airlift to bring resources to families and hospitals.

In mid-August, local media in Florida reported that a group of U.S. executives had requested permission from the government of the island a month ago, but that Havana had not yet responded. A silence that has lasted until now.

“So far we do not have permits to land on the island, which the Cuban government must give,” Rey Gonzalez, an executive of IBC Airways, explained to Cubanet last Thursday. “We are not flying to Cuba because we do not have those permits. Once we have those documents to land in the country then we can work with local agencies to send humanitarian aid. But so far we don’t have that.”

It was in early July when cargo airlines IBC Airways and Skyway Enterprises obtained temporary authorization from continue reading

the U.S. Department of Transportation to travel to the island with humanitarian cargo. The permit, which will be in effect until November 30 and was made public on August 13, includes charter flights “for emergency medical purposes, search and rescue, and other travel deemed to be in the interest of the United States.”

In Miami, organizations such as Solidarity Without Borders (Solidaridad sin Fronteras, SSF), have been dedicated to collecting humanitarian aid. Dr. Julio César Alfonso, president of the NGO, told América TeVé that since the announcement was made, they have not stopped receiving donations, but the arrival of medicines, food and supplies to Cuban homes has slowed down.

SSF also presented last week the web page of its program of “direct assistance” to healthcare professionals on the island, with the aim of sending medicines and medical material, which will function as the main link for aid. They also intend to “coordinate different humanitarian assistance operations directly with all the health professionals in Cuba who voluntarily decide to join our support network,” said Alfonso.

While they continue to collect donations, the IBC Airways executive affirms that at the moment it is not known if the Cuban government intends to grant the permits to the airlines. “Unfortunately, we can’t do anything until Cuba grants those landing permits, and there is no information on when or if they will authorize them,” Gonzalez explained.

IBC Airways requested to fly twice a week to Havana until November. The airline reported that it will carry diplomatic mail and 7,500 pounds of humanitarian aid on each flight, in coordination with the CubaMax agency.

Like IBC Airways, Skyway Enterprises is authorized to operate flights to Havana, Villa Clara, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba and Matanzas. The latter company had scheduled 20 shipments to Havana from July 22 to September 28, after which date it will be able to fly only twice a week to the Cuban capital.

In August of last year, the Trump Administration suspended private charter flights to Cuba as part of a package of sanctions against the island’s government. “The Castro regime uses tourism and travel revenue to fund its abuses and interference in Venezuela,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on his Twitter account at the time, announcing the decision. “Dictators cannot be allowed to benefit from U.S. travel,” he added.

Two months later, the U.S. government vetoed the takeoff of two cargo flights to Cuba that, according to Skyway Enterprises and IBC Airways, were for “humanitarian” purposes and did not fall under the exceptions for the suspension of air connections between the two countries.

The Department of Transportation consulted with the State Department on the procedure to be followed and finally the U.S. Executive concluded that the flights “would not be in the interest of U.S. foreign policy.”

Cuba’s response was swift. Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez described the ban on humanitarian cargo flights as “a ruthless act.” “The Trump administration is stepping up the punishment of Cuban families in both countries right up until now,” he lamented in a message on Twitter.

The silence of the Cuban government is surprising at a time when the country is facing a strong resurgence of the pandemic, aggravated by the lack of oxygen, medicine and doctors, overcrowded hospitals and collapsed funeral services.

In social networks and independent media, photos and videos are circulating showing the deplorable conditions of many hospitals and the complaints of the doctors themselves about the lack of supplies to do their work.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Cuba’s Official Press Plans to Participate in Social and Popular Control

The Council of Ministers has 30 days to propose and approve the functions, composition and structure at all levels of the new agency, which will replace the ICRT. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 26 August 2021 — Cuban authorities want to update their peculiar approach to information transparency. According to their analysis, when they have silenced some uncomfortable news it is because they needed to defend the Revolution from its “enemies,” but times have changed and the strategy must be different, said Ricardo Ronquillo Bello, president of the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC).

On Wednesday, the official appeared with other communication leaders, on the State TV Roundtable program to talk again about the creation of the Institute of Information and Social Communication (IICS), which will replace the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT).

“In a country that has had to be constructed in a trench, subjected to permanent harassment, one of the things that has happened to us is that, not a few times, silence was part of the strategy to confront the enemies of the Revolution. But in the era of convergence, with a dramatic change in the way communication works, you can no longer bet on silence,” he said.

The official argued that the word “transparency” may generate doubts among those who remember it from the “Soviet glasnost.” “However, in recent years it has been vindicated, turning it into a word of the Revolution that should describe the type continue reading

of operation of Cuban public institutions.”

The Institute, he explained, now opens the possibility of building “a press model that has not been built in the world.” Ronquillo Bello lamented that there are those who defend the emergence of a “parallel system in Cuba that has been growing at times with financing from the United States,” making reference to the independent press, which they continue to try to link with the “empire,” whether or not it receives money from Washington.

In his opinion, the private media are not, contrary to the opinions of others, the solution to the problems of journalism in Cuba, which he did not mention at any time, although he did allude to the material difficulties as if they were the most serious of the problems afflicting the state-owned media.

“In discussing with them, I tell them that we can do something that has never been done anywhere in the world: build a press media system that truly becomes part of the mechanisms of social and popular control,” he said in an unusual statement on which he insisted, making it clear that this was not a slip of the tongue.

“[In the Revolution] the press was often part of the mechanisms of political control. Now we have to encourage the press to be part of the mechanisms of social and popular control. This has to be one of the main horizons of the new institute,” he reiterated.

Humberto Juan Fabián Suárez, vice-president of the Cuban Association of Social Communicators, recalled that communication is one of the three basic pillars of government management, and defended the new institute, which will have the rank of a government ministry, about which he revealed some details that did not dispel practical doubts.

The official said that it has taken nine years to create this body and its gestation involved, in addition to journalists, members of associations and official institutions of communicators and journalists and specialists from radio, television and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Social Security and Finance and Prices, as well as the Commission for the Implementation of the guidelines and the Communist Party.

Among the documentation, 82 theses were examined and a comparative law study in communication was carried out, more than 400 people were consulted and 900 opinions were collected, although it is not to be assumed that there was too much diversity in the structuring. “It was not rushed at all,” he added.

Onelio Castillo Corderí, member of the Permanent Working Group for the creation of the IICS, explained that its creation will be accompanied by a body of legislation ranging from a communications law to various decrees and resolutions that will be published in the coming months.

“The Constitution of the Republic defends communication, information and knowledge as citizens’ rights and as a public good of the citizenry,” he said, although in practice Cubans are barred from accessing online any page that the Government considers they should not read, starting with this newspaper or different media from other parts of the world. In addition, in Cuba it is not allowed to practice journalism outside the State and reporters are detained, held in their homes or prevented from traveling for training and attending courses or conferences.

In this context, and when journalism has once again been excluded as an activity that can be exercised outside the State, either as self-employed or in one of the new MSMEs [mipymes = small or medium-sized enterprises], Castillo Corderí argued that the IICS has among its missions “to promote the culture of dialogue and consensus in Cuban society.”

The decision to create the new institute, he insisted, “is a clear expression of the political will to strengthen our democracy based on a higher level of participation of the people in the construction of our economic and social model, in the construction of the destiny for the country we have chosen and the underpinning of the constitutional concept that Cuba is a socialist state governed by the rule of law.”

The Council of Ministers has 30 days to propose and approve the functions, composition and structure at all levels of the new body. Some conclusions can be drawn from the appointments already been made, although it is not expected that the new IICS will bring anything new.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Costa Rica Gave Refuge to 249 Cubans Between January and April, Versus a Mere 48 the Previous Year

Cubans stranded in Costa Rica during the migration crisis of late 2015 and early 2016. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, 24 August 2021 — Costa Rica granted refugee status to 249 Cubans between January and April of 2021, a considerable increase compared to the 48 it granted in the whole of last year. According to the latest figures published by the General Directorate of Migration and Alien Affairs, most of these procedures are filed by people arriving in the country from Colombia, Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Although Cubans historically did not belong to one of the migrant groups that benefit most from refuge in the Central American nation, the rise in numbers may be related to the special asylum category, which began to be implemented in mid-November and which the Costa Rican government decided to expand at the end of last month.

The process takes into account migrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua who “have applied for refugee recognition after January 1, 2010 and before March 18, 2022” and remained “continuously in the national territory during the same period.”

Despite the increase of refugees in the first four months of the year, the Cuban Embassy in Costa Rica continue reading

informed Radio Monumental “that these are not persecuted citizens” and that the migrants left the island legally.

The consular headquarters insisted that the Cubans “are not leaving a nation at war, are not in danger of death, nor do they meet the characteristics to be refugees, but they only seeking to settle in the United States,” the local media quoted the local media as saying.

However, Migración y Extranjería stated last year that the special asylum category was implemented because, since 2014, Costa Rica has registered a dramatic increase in refugee applications from Cubans, a group that is “changing its migratory behavior” and seeking to settle in the country.

With the extension of the special asylum category, Costa Rican authorities intend to provide migrants with legal residence in the country and facilitate the corresponding documentation so that they can carry out work activities.

In 2018, Cuba and Costa Rica signed an agreement on migration matters, in order to enhance cooperation between the two countries in the fight against irregular migration, human smuggling and trafficking, as well as associated crimes.

The Central American country is an obligatory route for Cubans marching towards northern Mexico to cross the border and seek political asylum in the United States. After Joe Biden came to power and announced a more tolerant immigration policy, thousands of Cuban nationals living in countries such as Guyana, Suriname, Uruguay, Brazil, Chile, Peru and Ecuador, have taken the route to North America.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Demonstration in Galicia to Condemn ‘The Criminal Regimes of Cuba and Venezuela’

In July, Oleiros (Spain) was the scene of a rally to demand freedom and democracy for the people of Cuba. (autono.net)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 August 2021 — Dozens of vehicles staged a caravan protest through the streets of the Coruña city municipality of Oleiros, in Spain, on Saturday to demand that Spanish politicians condemn the violence in Cuba and Venezuela and to demand the removal of the statue of Ernesto Che Guevara erected in a traffic circle in this municipality.

The demonstration, which was called by the Soberanía Ciudadana platform, left at 12:00 noon from O Miradoiro Street, near the Nirvana traffic circle, where the Che Guevara monument is located.

This demonstration takes place almost a month after the government of Zaragoza approved, in an extraordinary session, that Che Guevara Street will from now on be called Ana María Suárez (a Zaragoza victim of the jihadist attack in Cambrils), and the park with the same namesake will be named after the Paralympic athlete Teresa Perales.

The cars with Cuban flags circulated to continue reading

the park of Santa Cruz and from there went to the nucleus of Santa Cristina. During the tour the drivers sounded their horns during the march that ended in front of the town hall of Oleiros with a loud honking.

The participants demanded the removal of the “infamous monument” — in allusion to the statue of Che’s face — and of other symbols in the city hall, said Cuban Frank Vega, of the Association of Victims of Castroism, such as the name of Ernesto Che Guevara Avenue. “We ask for the removal of these symbols for being illegal and for constituting a persecution of the victims of Castroism.”

In addition, with the mobilization they seek to “put the political class on the ropes” so that “the violence against the peoples of Cuba and Venezuela is condemned for humanitarian reasons,” reiterated Vega.

“Any Spanish politician who does not condemn violence cannot stay one minute more in Spanish institutions,” the spokesman remarked. Thus, the demonstrators, who also carried flags of Venezuela, Spain and Galicia, joined in the proclamations of “SOS Cuba” and “SOS Venezuela”.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Cuban President Diaz-Canel Misinforms, Comparing Cuba’s Decree-Law 35 with European Legislation

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, compares a European communication of recommendations with his decree. (EFE / ACN / Ariel Ley Royero / File)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 August 2021 — The Government is up in arms against the criticism raised by Decree-Law 35, which is intended to penalize false news in Cuba, its dissemination and the publication of “offensive messages or defamations that harm the prestige of the country”. The slogan now is to allege that there are countries with similar norms, but for the comparison they have chosen the wrong example.

Miguel Díaz-Canel has retweeted a user’s message stating, “They brand the Decree 35 in Cuba as an ’attack on human rights’, for things that operate in practically all countries: the fight against disinformation and cyberbullies. Its equivalent, the Action Plan against Disinformation has existed in the European Union since 2018.”

The president introduced the tweet with the message: “Sovereign Cuba says it, and honest experts from all over the world confirm it: our Legal Decree 35 is against disinformation and cyber-lying.”

The “expert” is Carlos González Penalva, who defines himself as a “stoic communist, philosophical rationalist” and head of Communication of the United Left in Gijón (Asturias). Far from being an expert in the field, the curriculum of Díaz-Canel’s continue reading

referent indicates that he began his studies in philosophy. The rest are from courses and congresses, most of them events in Cuba.

But the problem is not the source, but the content. González cites the Action Plan Against Disinformation that has existed in the European Union since 2018 as “equivalent,” but any resemblance between the two is purely coincidental.

The plan was approved on the occasion of the 2019 elections to the European Parliament and the holding of up to 50 electoral processes of different ranks in the member states. According to the text, its fundamental objective is to prevent interference by other countries in these and future elections, and it cites Russia, having documented its attempted interference on previous occasions.

“According to the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell, disinformation by the Russian Federation22 poses the greatest threat to the EU. It is systematic, well-resourced, and on a different scale to other countries,” it quotes in the text.

In the text, the EU urges the Member States to strengthen their national legislation to the same end and to link up to the European system. As far as disinformation is concerned, the plan foresees that the platforms ensure the control of political advertising, close false accounts and detect fake bots in order to eliminate them.

The text re-emphasizes that the recommendations “are part of a package of measures designed to ensure free and fair European elections (…). The work of an independent media is essential to the functioning of a democratic society,” it adds.

Finally, the document calls on the States to promote literacy in disinformation to the general public, as well as the creation of expert bodies in this field. In no case does it have, as in the Cuban decree, the rank of law nor, therefore, the capacity to sanction. Therefore, it does not work as an example.

In previous days, Cuban authorities have cited other European examples, such as that of France. The French law was born specifically from the EU Plan and was approved in 2018 with this intended purpose: to curb the dissemination of false information.

It was very controversial in their country among the opposition and press associations, which denounced the censorship mechanism that could involve the right to be able to remove “any assertion or imputation of an inaccurate or misleading fact”. The law provides for penalties of up to one year’s imprisonment in the most serious cases (cyberterrorism), but its approval required agreement on an amendment specifying that in order to take serious measures, such as blocking a web page, it must be considered proven that it was done “deliberately” and not only “in bad faith.”

Moreover, before reaching this point, the judge must determine, within a period of 48 hours, whether such false information has been disseminated “artificially or automatically” and “massively.” The intervention of a judge is decisive in the French regulation as well as in the German one (also cited by the Cuban authorities) and the Spanish one, which has not yet been approved due to the parliamentary traffic jam resulting from the pandemic. All these countries have separation of powers and the judiciary acts independently of the government.

The clearest example of this is that the French government itself was affected by its law. The Executive launched a campaign through Twitter to urge the population to exercise their right to vote in the European elections, which was deflated when the social network penalized it with its algorithm, considering that it was massive electoral propaganda lacking transparency (neither the funds nor the sender had been credited).

The governments of European countries that have tried to adopt rules following EU guidelines have all been the target of criticism from the opposition, because the fear of abuse exists and, in fact, there are cases in which people have been brought to trial for offenses expressed on social networks. But most of them are solved with an administrative fine and always depend on the courts, outside the governments.

The Cuban government has not yet specified the sanctions that will result from the violation of the rules of Legal Decree 35, but it has made a bad start by trying to match European legislation. In Latin America there are also laws against disinformation in several countries which imply fines, imprisonment and censorship, from the most obvious cases such as Nicaragua or Venezuela, to others such as Chile, which impose prison sentences for the “dissemination of false news that disturb the social order or cause panic in the population.” But Cuban authorities have not chosen to make that comparison.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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The New Address of the Cuban Embassy in Washington is Oswaldo Paya Way

Caption: Oswaldo Payá Way is in front of the Cuban embassy in Washington. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE, via 14ymedio, Miami, 3 August 2021 — U.S. Senators from both parties approved on Monday the naming of the Washington street in front of the Cuban Embassy in honor of the late Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá (1952-2012).

Cuban-American Senator Marco Rubio said yesterday that the change pays “a tribute to the life and legacy of one of the island’s most important civic leaders who paid the ultimate price in defense of the democratic future.”

For Rosa María Payá, daughter of the deceased dissident, Oswaldo Payá Way will be “a permanent reminder of the urgency of stopping the regime’s impunity.”

“My father’s legacy lives on in the struggle for freedom and the rights of the Cuban people,” the activist told EFE when the project was presented. continue reading

The approval comes in the midst of the protests that have erupted in Cuba since July 11 against the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel and which have been echoed in various demonstrations of support around the world, especially in Miami and Washington.

“Following the historic protests led by Cuban Americans in front of the regime’s embassy in our nation’s capital last Monday, another symbol of the tenacity of the Cuban people in their quest for freedom will be etched for eternity,” Rubio added.

Payá founded the Christian Liberation Movement (MLC) in 1988 to promote democracy and civil liberties through peaceful resistance.

A decade later, the organization created the Varela Project, which sought to advance democratic reforms under a provision of the Cuban Constitution that allowed the public to introduce bills.

Changing the name of the street “is a small but significant step that will force all those who visit or write to the embassy to remember not only Payá, but all those who have challenged the cruelty and oppression of the Cuban communist government.”

Payá’s family has maintained that the car crash in which the opposition leader and dissident Harold Cepero died on July 22, 2012 was caused by agents of the Castro regime.

Payá and Cepero were traveling in a car that went off the road. The car was driven by the young Spanish conservative politician Ángel Carromero, who was sentenced to prison in Cuba for voluntary manslaughter, but was repatriated to serve his sentence in Spain, where he was released within a few days.

In 2012, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution honoring the life of the Cuban opposition leader and calling for an impartial investigation into his death.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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More than 187,000 Cubans Participated in 584 protests During July

A young man is arrested by police and State Security agents during the July 11 protests in Havana. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 2 August 2021- – The massive demonstrations of July 11 “transformed Cuba”. The latest report of the Observatorio Cubano de Conflictos (OCC/Cuban Observatory of Conflicts) is conclusive in this regard: more than 187,000 Cubans participated in a total of 584 demonstrations throughout the island last month.

Not only has the number of protests in Cuba increased, notes the Miami-based NGO, but, above all, the number of people involved in them. The growth is dramatic compared to June, when 1,600 Cubans took to the streets in 249 protests, most of them small acts by a few or one individual.

“The public has been incubating a deep resentment fueled by the indolence of the authorities in the face of growing misery and their disastrous management of the Covid-19 pandemic,” says the Observatory, which notes that the song Patria y Vida “galvanized this sentiment on a national scale and became an anthem of national insubordination.”

Faced with this, the organization denounces, the response was “police and paramilitary brutality… The repressive method is continue reading

no longer a surgical one against organizations and dissidents but a massive one: neighborhood raids, beatings, expeditious sentences,” details the OCC, which includes the figures of detainees from Cubalex and Human Rights Watch: 745 people.

“The military caste has found that the citizenry has lost its fear of the repressive apparatus, so now they turn to terror,” the report says. “This is a war against all the people.”

The Observatory points out that of the protests in July, 435 (74%) were related to political and civil rights, and the remaining 149 (26%) were linked to the demand for economic, social and cultural rights.

It also highlights the “public break of renowned artists with legal trade union institutions (UNEAC), the denunciations of relatives and friends in support of the prisoners and disappeared, as well as the graphic documentation of repressive brutalities” in the second half of the month.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Mexico Will Send Cuba Two Ships With Medical Supplies and Food

SEMAR [Secretariat of the Navy] personnel ready the boats with aid to be sent to Cuba. (Video Capture)
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Mexico, 23 July 2021 — This Sunday, Mexico will send two vessels of the Secretariat of the Navy to Cuba with health aid such as syringes, T-type oxygen tanks with 9,500 liters and mouth coverings, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) said in a statement.

The shipment also includes foodstuffs — powdered milk, beans, wheat flour, cans of tuna, cooking oil — and diesel. The agency said that the assistance sent is “in line with the Mexican Government’s policy of international solidarity.”

The SRE’s announcement came on the same day that the U.S. government toughened its measures towards the island by sanctioning the Minister of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba (FAR), Alvaro Lopez-Miera, and the elite military unit known as the boinas negras [Black Berets], who it held responsible for the repression of the continue reading

anti-government protests of July 11 in Cuba.

In them, thousands of people shouted “freedom,” “down with the dictatorship,” and “homeland and life,” in the midst of an unprecedented economic and health crisis, and hundreds of people, including some minors, were arrested.

The government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has expressed its opposition to the U.S. sanctions and has called for them to be lifted.

Regarding the embargo on Cuba, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, after participating in a meeting of the United Nations (UN) Security Council in mid-July, said: “The blockade on Cuba and other countries where extreme sanctions are applied are causing serious impacts in terms of suffering and humanitarian conditions that we should all respect.”

With the dispatch of the two vessels, the Mexican Foreign Minister pledged to send more oxygen and Mexican-made respirators, used during the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, if needed.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Cuba Is Yours

Demonstration this July 11 in Alqízar, Artemisa. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Federico Hernández Aguilar, San Salvador, 22 July 2021 — Cuba is yours, brother. This island belongs to you, sister. Your face is reflected in its waters. In the blue of its skies, the clouds of your dreams are roaming. But in this island land they have wanted — how redundant! — to isolate you, they have wanted to drown your voice for many years, to muzzle your conscience, to force you to embrace a destiny that was not, is not, has never been yours.

For more than six decades, equivalent to the entire life of a human being, hundreds, thousands of Cubans were born, grew up and died breathing a rarefied air, contaminated by the hegemonic discourse of a group of privileged people who came to believe they were eternally in power.

And yet, sister, brother: do you hear, do you perceive, have you seen how the wind has turned on the coasts, have you observed how intensely the sun has renewed itself on the horizon? On July 11, you turned history upside down. You made your footsteps echo from one corner to the other of the island that was always yours and whose possession you now claim.

They were so determined to instill fear in you that they ended up continue reading

snatching it away from you. They never knew how much strength they were giving to your yearning for freedom when they silenced you, when they locked you in cold dungeons, when they covered you with chains. Today they know. Today the fear is theirs.

You have taken the fear out of your little house and put it in their official residences. You no longer tremble; they do. Their power, once so immense, is now blurred, and you have achieved this by putting your feet on the street, joining the spontaneous march of others who have also discovered that the future belongs to them.

José Martí looks at you from the height of his white statue. His thought, lucid, crosses your memory and makes your lungs expand: “Like bones to the human body, the axle to the wheel, the wing to the bird, and the air to the wing, so is liberty the essence of life. Whatever is done without it is imperfect.”

And you have had enough of the imposed imperfections, of the undeserved poverty, of the hunger that eats away at the entrails, of the yearning, the longing, that eats away at the soul.

Martí watches. He greets your heroic deed with the power of a word that tyranny tried to usurp, but that today recovers its original brilliance in the cries of freedom that make your heart vibrate. That hero thus offers you the warmth of his breath; he affirms your ankles; he pushes you to the unprecedented struggle. And you watch him lean from his pedestal to whisper in your ear: “He who lives in an autocratic creed is the same as an oyster in its shell, which only sees the prison that encloses it and believes, in the dark, that this is the world; freedom gives wings to the oyster.”

And it is true, brother, sister of Cuba: you have grown wings. In vain did they think they were going to turn this island into your shell. In moments you have reached the elevation that Martí wished for the people for whom he bled to death at Dos Ríos. Between him and you there is a real, indestructible bridge, stronger than any ideology to connect your aspirations with those of every man or woman who loves and defends freedom, their own and that of others.

Cuba is yours, sister. The nation belongs to you, brother. It is present in that woman who demands bread for her children, in the rebelliousness of that young man who demands respect for his dreams, in the slogan of that group of poets, musicians, journalists, citizens who, together, shoulder to shoulder, go out today to the public square to chant the pair of words that is burying 62 years of opprobrium: “¡Patria Y Vida!” [Homeland and Life].

And so it is. Do not doubt it. Because life is yours, brother, sister of Cuba, yours will also be the homeland!

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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Cuba Needs a New Political Language, Says Filmmaker Fernando Perez

Filmmaker Fernando Pérez during an interview with this newspaper. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 July 2021 — Cuban filmmaker Fernando Pérez said that to overcome the crisis in Cuba that led to the July 11 protests a “new political language” needs to be built without violence and without the dark “acts of repudiation,” he stressed in an interview with AFP news agency.

The multi-awarded director, winner of a Goya for his film La vida es silbar (1999) and the Biznaga de Oro award for best film for Últimos días en La Habana (2017), considered that with “the social crisis that the country is going through, there has to be an explosion, which I tell you, I don’t know how far it’s going to go”.

During his participation on November 27 in the demonstration of hundreds of artists and creators, which took place in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana to demand freedom of expression, he lamented the breakdown of dialogue. “I felt that something was really changing in our reality,” he told AFP, referring to the fact that the 300 participants in the protest “are asking for what I call a new language.”

For Pérez, a director who is very close to the new generations, they should not be “only of words but of attitudes, of solutions, of radical changes in our country”, for which he considered that they should include “freedom of expression, respect for those who think differently and open independent spaces, not only in art but also in other spheres of reality.” continue reading

The demonstrations, warned the Cuban filmmaker, respond to the “lack of that new language, of that new attitude of a country that has to open up to the participation of these young people, because they are not the future, they are the present”. They are the result of “the pandemic, the new order, the blockade…The phenomenon is there, what I saw in front of the Capitol. It is a rebellious attitude that I share”.

The multi-awarded director took time to talk about the contradictions of Cuban cinema. He defended, he said, the policy of “propaganda” to turn it into a “cultural fact”.

“The development of that policy has faced elements of freedom, of regression, of contradiction,” he said, referring to the so-called ’Five Grey Years’ between 1971 and 1976. A period in which “everything was confused, reduced to an ideological view, really very overwhelming, very closed, which has left very deep marks, some of which are irreparable.”

Pérez has been for many years the standard bearer of the new generations of filmmakers on the island, and in 2012 he resigned as director of the Muestra de Cine Joven, an annual meeting that brings together and disseminates proposals of new audiovisual creators. “Not being able to demonstrate in practice the inclusive coherence that I have proposed for the show, I have taken the personal decision not to continue at the head of it,” he said then and after several acts of official censorship.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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No News of Man Violently Arrested After Shouting ‘Libertad!’ at Official Rally in Cuba

So far, it is only known that Sánchez resides in Centro Habana but there is no information on whether he belongs to any dissident or human rights group. (Asiel Babastro/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 18 July 2021 — A man, identified as Ernesto Frank Sánchez Aguilar, shouted “libertad!” this Saturday shortly before the start of the official ceremony on Havana’s Malecon. The demonstrator was beaten and taken away from the place by several members of the State Security, as seen in a video released by the foreign press.

So far, it is only known that Sánchez resides in Centro Habana, but there is no information as to whether he belongs to any dissident or human rights group. His whereabouts are unknown after he was violently arrested in front of the cameras of the international media accredited at the event.

In a brief video that has been broadcast by several news agencies, you can see the moment in which Sánchez begins to shout and is surrounded by a mob of burly men who beat him and throw him to the ground. Seconds later, the man reappears continue reading

before the cameras subdued by two individuals and with his shirt visibly torn in the neck area.

Sánchez’s shouts occurred at a time when the rally, which began at the stroke of 7:00 a.m., had not yet begun and the sun had not yet risen. The man managed to circumvent the access controls to the rally area, which was surrounded by metal detectors and a strict operation. The students and workers summoned had to wear certain clothing in order to be identified as supporters of the government.

This is the brave anonymous person who shouted “Libertad” (Freedom) right in the middle of the theater they staged this morning on the Malecón…appreciate how peaceful these “revolutionaries” are.

Sanchez’s arrest adds to the hundreds of reports that have been coming out in recent days of arrests following the popular protests of last July 11. Authorities have raided the homes of numerous citizens throughout the country, especially in the areas where the demonstrations were most intense, such as Cárdenas, Havana, San Antonio de los Baños, Alquízar, Bayamo and Santiago de Cuba.

In all the rallies, shouts of “down with the dictatorship” and “freedom” were heard. The government cut the internet connection in the country to prevent Cubans from uploading to social networks videos of what was happening in the demonstrations and that also showed the repression of the participants.

On Monday and Tuesday protests were reported in different parts of the island, but the political police increased repression against demonstrators. Reports of violent house-to-house detentions multiplied on social networks.

On May 1, 2017, the international press accredited on the Island, also recorded in Havana’s Revolution Square, the moment when Daniel Llorente, later known as The Man With The Flag, stood out for his activism after the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States. A few meters from the rostrum where then President Raúl Castro was standing, Llorente raised the U.S. flag and shouted for freedom for Cuba. His run was interrupted by seven security agents who pounced on him and forcibly subdued him.

The opponent spent a few weeks in detention at the 100 y Aldabó prison but was quickly transferred to the Psychiatric Hospital popularly known as Mazorra. After a year he was released and emigrated to Guyana, from where he undertook the journey through several countries until he reached the USA and requested asylum.

Translated by: Hombre De Paz

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‘Lay Down Your Arms,’ Asks General Lopez-Calleja’s Nephew

Rodríguez Halley is an actor and an audiovisual creator. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 July 2021 — Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Halley, nephew of General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, sent a strong message to his uncle and to the island’s power leadership: “Lay down your arms.” The young man called for the beginning of a “process of transition to democracy” after the protests that took place throughout the island in recent days.

López-Calleja, Raúl Castro’s ex-son-in-law, although he has kept a low profile within the regime’s politics, is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, executive president of Grupo de Administración Empresarial, S. A. (Gaesa) and is considered by analysts as the man behind the economic power of the Castro family.

“At the moment I am not in Cuba, I left for fear of reprisals from my own family for projecting myself in my social networks in favor of human rights and continue reading

dialogue between intellectuals and artists with the government,” said Rodriguez Halley.

The young man said that his family is part of the power elite on the island and mentioned that his words were addressed to them, to the Cuban military, and with special emphasis he mentioned his uncle López-Calleja and his cousin Raúl Guillermo Rodríguez Castro, Raúl Castro’s grandson.

“I call for harmony and for them to lay down their arms. Let a process of transition to democracy begin in Cuba. The people have shown that they no longer want you in power, listen to your people,” he added.

Rodríguez Halley called for an end to violence, imprisonment and repression: “do not be responsible for more bloodshed.” The people demonstrated in the streets, he said, “that they do not agree with their government, a failed government that has led to a situation of health, economic, social and political crisis.”

Lopez-Calleja’s nephew also rejected the position of the island’s regime of blaming the U.S. Government for what is happening in the country. The U.S. Administration “has demonstrated that it is not going to intervene militarily in Cuba,” he said.

“Enough repression, lay down your arms. I make a call from the love I have for my family, for my country, for all Cubans and for humanity. Let us not forget that ’homeland is humanity’,” he concluded.

At the Eighth Party Congress held last April, López-Calleja was appointed a member of the Political Bureau. The military consortium Gaesa controls a large part of the tourism business and other strategic sectors on the island. Analysts had been predicting for years the military man’s rise to positions closer to the top of Cuban power.

Rodríguez Halley is an actor and audiovisual creator, and has worked in films such as Caballos, by Fabian Suárez and in 2019 he independently wrote and directed the short film Un chino cayó en un pozo, awarded a Diploma al Mérito by the jury of the Panama Human Rights Film Festival (BannabáFest).

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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I Am Cuban!

Willy Chirino and Alexis Valdés have created this new song with the collaboration of Arturo Sandoval. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Eloy M. Viera Moren, Madrid, 20 March 2021 — A video clip posted on the internet a few days ago shows three young non-commissioned officers wearing uniforms of the Ministry of the Interior performing a song in response to the song Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life). The origin cannot be specified, but judging by the uniform of one of them, even equipped with the regulation whistle with its chain to the epaulette, they certainly seem to be members of the forces of law and order. Such an eyesore would not deserve a comment if it were not for the initial phrase: “Sixty years of this great nation; 62 of this Revolution”.

First, dressing up as police to intimidate by this music those Cubans who think differently is absolutely anti-national, and sounds more like the dogs in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, who disappeared as puppies and then became the dangerous bodyguards of the pig Napoleon when he came to power.

In order to define Cubanness, it is indispensable to turn to Fernando Ortiz. Among his works and articles on the subject, he conceived it as a “condition of the soul” that requires “the conscience of being Cuban and the will of wanting to be Cuban”; no other reference to place of residence, ideological preference or political thought. Likewise, he denounced that “our synthetic intellectual characteristic is ignorance” — an epithet more characteristic of the young authors of the song, to say the least. continue reading

On March 15, the same day on which the laughing stock was released, another piece by Alexis Valdés was premiered, sung as a duet with Willy Chirino, accompanied by a group of Cuban musicians, including a brief performance by composer and performer Arturo Sandoval. As far as I know, the idea arose during the presentation by these and other artists sponsored by several members of the European Parliament in order denounce the hardships of the Cuban people. Sixteen days later it was released, despite the urgency, a true offering to the nation from the feelings of quality and enduring.

With a fusion of genres, it has, however, the flavor of a son Cubano. Sandoval’s virtuosity in his brief solo spiced up the performance in the best tradition of his brilliant predecessors Félix Chapottín, the Louis Armstrong of the son Cubano, or Julio Cueva, who made Paris vibrate with the conga.

All of them outstanding trumpet players, Chapottín had no known political affiliation, Julio was a consistent communist (by the way, he died in Havana in 1975, submerged in anonymity) and Sandoval considers Marxism to be one of the greatest misfortunes suffered by this country in its history. All of them are Cuban and qualify among the most apt to express Cubanness through music.

Our oligarchs, masters of populism, have been capable of erasing genuine exponents of popular music such as Sandoval or Chirino from broadcasting, just for thinking differently. When to this is added an “excessive professionalism” (I quote Ecured, the Cuban official platform), the musician becomes absolutely unknown. Such a qualification is found in the page dedicated to Aurelio de la Vega, universally known as composer, instructor and orchestra conductor, described as “colossus of Cuba and the world” in the Diario Las Américas.

With more than 90 years of active life, he has been forced to spend 62 of them in exile because he considers that Cuba suffers from “a totalitarian communist government with a capitalist business system.” The criticism of his professionalism is due to the cultivation of atonalism as a tendency in many of his compositions, as if the work of Harold Gramatges, who held prominent positions in the communist leadership of culture, were not equally complex.

The ruckus motivated by Patria y Vida has generated, on the one hand, a significant amount of responses from the government, mostly marked by mediocrity; and on the other hand, the aforementioned composition, which was made with skill and professionalism. Disregarding likes, dislikes and even “data mining”, this ideological battle has been lost by the Cuban government.

The reason is that talent cannot be forced (not even with money) to generate lasting works, even less from a false and insubstantial patriotic feeling. An eloquent testimony of this nervousness is the newspaper Granma’s announcement, 25 days after the premiere of Patria y Vida, about the inclusion of the topic “political-ideological subversion on the internet” among the issues to be discussed at the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba.

As genuine an expression of Cubanness is the work of the communist Julio Cueva with his Tingo talango, as the most elaborate of Arturo Sandoval, to the definitely atonal and complex of Aurelio de la Vega. We are all equally Cuban by the will of wanting to be so, although motivated by a similar diversity of possible worldviews. For the time being, with much good Cuban music still to be heard, I say goodbye, along with Valdés and Chirino: “I am Cuban, and no one will be able to take away my being Cuban”.

Translated by: Hombre de Paz

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