Santiago Lorenzo Hernandez Caceres, Another High Ranking Military, Dies in Cuba

In 1957, Hernández Cáceres was part of the 26th of July Movement. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 August 2021 — Reserve Colonel Santiago Lorenzo Hernández Cáceres died this Wednesday in Havana at the age of 82. His death marks the seventh high-ranking military official that dies in Cuba in less than a month. The cause of death has not been released in in any of the cases.

According to Granma (the Communist Party newspaper) Hernández was a founding member of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC). Born in the municipality of San Juan y Martínez, in Pinar del Río province, in a family of modest farmers, and “from a very young age he carried out agricultural work.”

In 1957, he joined the “26th of July Movement,” where he successfully “carried out several missions of clandestine actions and sabotages,” noted the official newspaper.

While in the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR), he worked with the Communist Youth Union (UJC) and the PCC, in addition to directing the political sections of continue reading

the Central and Western armies and being the political director for the military troops that Cuba sent to Angola and Ethiopia.

The passing of Hernández Cáceres comes after the deaths in July of five generals who were part of the Cuban military leadership: Agustín Peña, Marcelo Verdecia Perdomo, Rubén Martínez Puente, Manuel Eduardo Lastres Pacheco and Armando Choy Rodríguez, in addition to Commander Gilberto Antonio Cardero Sanchez.

Martínez Puente died at the age of 79 and is thought to be the one who transmitted Raúl Castro’s order to fire the missiles from Cuban Air Force Mig fighters, to shoot down the Brothers To The Rescue planes in 1996, where four American civilians were murdered. The attack occurred over international waters, although the Cuban Government justified the shooting down of the small planes by claiming that the ships had entered the island’s airspace.

Verdecia Perdomo was Fidel Castro’s bodyguard in the Sierra Maestra, and Peña was the head of the Eastern Army of Cuba. Choy Rodríguez was promoted to commander in 1962, when he was head of the anti-missiles troops, Reserve Brigadier General Lastres Pacheco joined Fidel Castro’s guerrillas in 1957.

Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Youtuber Ruhama Fernandez Arrested Yesterday in Santiago de Cuba

Ruhama Fernández has been a victim of constant harrasment and repression from the police and the state security. (YouTube/Ruhama Fernández)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Last week, Ruhama Fernández delivered, via direct phone call from Cuba, a powerful testimony during a round-table meeting in Miami with GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, legislators from Florida and several influencers, artists and community leaders from the Cuban diaspora.

14ymedio, Havana, August 10th,  2021 — Cuban Youtuber Ruhama Fernández was arrested by Cuban police Tuesday morning, as she was preparing to leave her house in Santiago the Cuba. She was taken to the police station and criminal investigation unit in the Versalles neighborhood. Fernández was scheduled to participate in an online event this Wednesday, where influencers — inside and outside the island — were planning to debate the future democratization process in Cuba.

Venezuelan writer Deivy Garrido, who has been in direct communication with a friend of Fernández who was able to reach the police station to ask about the detainee, reported on his Twitter account that the Youtuber “was to be accused of ’contempt’ and would continue to be detained for 72 hours” until authorities could reach “a decision.”

Relatives of the young woman and social media users who follow her denounced the repressive act as “another illegal” and “arbitrary” detention by the authorities. The legal services NGO Cubalex pointed out that Ruhama Fernández is one of the “most harassed” continue reading

activists on the island.

Ruhama Fernández is constantly reporting  on many of the issues affecting the area where she lives, such as the chronic shortage of food and hardships in which many families survive. She herself has been the victim of harassment and repression by State Security and Police agents, who have not stopped pressuring her to stop doing her work.

For a year now, she has been under constant surveillance from the island’s authorities for for what they call “public interest reasons.” This is a mechanism used by the authorities to arbitrarily restrict the free movement of activists, independent journalists and dissidents and opposition figures in general, a practice that has become a common repressive method.

The debate in which Fernández was going to participate this Wednesday also includes host Alex Otaola, actor Roberto San Martín, Cuban activist Eliécer Ávila, economist Manuel Milanés, the poet Luis Dener, who lives in Norway, and the Youtubers known as Old Hardcore and KarlitoMadrid. The debated was going to be moderated by journalist Gabriel Bauducco. It is sponsored by the Freedom and Federalism Foundation (Fundación Federalismo y Libertad), a private non-profit organization based in Argentina that aims to “promote the values of a free and democratic society.”

In March of 2020, Fernández was one of the winners of the contest for Cuban influencers organized by the Red Cuban Power platform. Recently, she participated in the forum “The role of influencers in the Cuban public sphere,” promoted by the Cuba Program of the School of Politics and International Relations at the Sergio Arboleda University of Colombia.

* Translator’s Update: DEVELOPING STORY:

Fernandez was released in the late night/early AM hours of 8/11/2021, and she posted on Twitter a live audio as proof. She described how 15 agents forcibly entered in her house, confiscated all her video equipment, including her laptop, while filming everything with their own camera man. Fernandez said she will be sharing on social media and live videos soon.

Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cubalex’s Analysis of Filmmaker Anyelo Troya’s Case and Sentencing / Cubalex

Cuban photographer and filmmaker Anyelo Troya.

Cubalex, 23 July 2021 — Anyelo Troya’s* summary trial took place on July 19, 2021, and it was done through the legal figure called atestado directo (summary trial without witnesses/evidence).

Troya was the defendant in a kangaroo trial where the most elementary principles of the criminal procedures and due process guarantees were violated.

They had a legal services contract signed prior to the hearing, and still the judges proceeded to judge the photographer without his defense attorney being present.

This trial should be voided for the following reasons:

1-The hearing did not happen in front of an independent judicial branch.

2- Anyelo could not exercise his right to have en effective defense. He was not allowed to have direct communication with his attorney, and his attorney did not have access to any evidence or part continue reading

of the investigation, or the docket filed with the courts. His defense attorney could not represent him during the hearing.

3- The court reached its ruling and issued an oral judgment on July 20, hearing only the evidence provided by the police, which contradicts the principles of equality between the parties and impartiality of the judges.

4- The allegations could not be corroborated since the defendant was not allowed to present evidence.

5- The judges illegally destroyed the premise of “presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

6- The judges usurped all parts in the legal process, acting as prosecutors and judges.

This trial violated the public principle, since it did not allowed the attendance of more than one family member during the oral proceedings, preventing citizens’ accountability of judges’ behaviors.

This, along with the isolation of the defendant and the fact the sentencing process was done orally, exposed the secrecy of a process that, by nature, must be public.

The court violated all transparency principles of the process and acted in collusion with the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Police.

The prosecution must ensure compliance with legitimacy of the process from the beginning and it failed to do so.It allowed an individual who did not commit a crime to be charged and sentenced, and it hindered the defendant’s opportunity to make the case for his innocence. Nor did it protect the dignity of the defendant and it colluded with other parties to violate the existing criminal procedural law.

The State denied Anyelo his right to an effective legal remedy before the courts, to protect him against the violation of his constitutional rights, after being arbitrarily and violently arrested.

What did Anyelo do?

He is a photographer and was only taking photos on 11 July 2021, near his house, in the Habana Vieja municipality of Havana, Cuba.

This act is not prohibited by any law. Quite the contrary, is a fundamental human right enshrined in the different international and regional human rights declarations, including the Cuban Constitution: the right to freedom of expression.

It is a key right to be able to guarantee the rest of the individual rights and liberties any human being has, and it includes not being disturbed, being able to investigate, receive and disseminate information and opinions, as well as disseminating them without limitation by any means of expression.

Therefore, his actions were completely legitimate, unlike those of the authorities who can only do what is established by law and cannot exceed their powers, as they did.

Troya’s right to work — as established in Article 64 of the Cuban Constitution — was violated by the authorities.

Given his arbitrary detention, a Habeas Corpus procedure was filed with the courts and it was immediately dismissed by an order issued in the tribunal for crimes against state security, acting as criminal court, based solely on the fact that he was detained under a precautionary measure, ordered by the Centro Habana municipal court, in the case 452 of 2021.

The court reached its verdict in violation of the principle of legitimacy, violating his  constitutional guarantees and his rights inherent to his condition of human being when Anyelo’s statement was rejected and his request to have a hearing to present evidence by his defense attorney was dismissed.

The court dismissed the fact that an arrest record was not immediately issued, did not ruled on the physical violence the defendant was subjected to while in custody, nor regarding the violating of his right to immediate communication with his family (which was denied by the police), or regarding the lack of information on the accusation against him, blindly obeying what was said in a report by the National Revolutionary Police, against which an arbitrary complaint had been filed.

The documents provided by the prosecution and the police were considered sufficient to justify the legality of the detention, when the guarantees of the arrest had been previously breached.

This assessment written by Cubalex on the case of Anyelo Troya, a filmmaker sentenced to one year in jail, was first published on Cubalex.

*Translator’s note: Anyelo Troya is the film-maker, residing in Cuba, who did the portion of the video clip from the song ’Patria y Vida’, turned into the anthem from the #11J (July 11) Cuba uprising.

Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria

Social Media Rallies for the Release of Cuban Who Shared First Live Video Of July 11th Protests

Yoan de la Cruz shared the first live video of the July 11th protests. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, July 26th, 2021 — Yoan de la Cruz, who shared the live broadcast of the first protests in San Antonio de los Baños that sparked the demonstrations all over the island, was arrested last Friday, according to reports from his family and friends on social media.

“He is my nephew, a really good kid, whose only crime to record from his house the protest that took place July 11th in San Antonio de los Baños. He has been in prison for two days. My sister and we all are having a really hard time jut thinking in what they must be doing to him,” wrote Ivis Cruz, the aunt of the Cuban young man, on Twitter this past Sunday.

Several friends had already started to share the same message, barely a few hours after the arrest, demanding his release on social media, and vindicating his role in the unprecedented protests that have shaken the island in the past two weeks.

“Yoan de la Cruz, Cuban from Ariguanabo, but even more, the courageous young man whom with a cell phone and a few megas, showed the entire world that San Antonio de los Baños might be a small town, but it is full of brave people like him, that are fed up with continue reading

living imprisoned and took on the streets screaming for ’FREEDOM’. Release him now, cowards! You think you’re all so powerful and a young man with a phone on his hands shakes the house of cards where you live.”

Another friend, a transgender known as Vida Bohemia, has also demanded De la Cruz’s release, and considers it a great injustice that a peaceful individual that has not committed any violent crime is in prison. “He didn’t throw a stone, he didn’t break glass, he didn’t assault anyone, he didn’t yelled ’Down with anything’. Please, release him now. He has a mother, a grandmother, a family and thousands of friends that are suffering.”

Jhans Oscar, a youtuber from the LGBTI+ community, echoed the demands of Yoan de la Cruz friends and family, and this past Sunday what was a mere whisper on social media became breaking news in a matter of hours. “The guy who shared the first live video from the protests in San Anthonio de los Baños that went viral has been arrested. Right now he is wrongfully imprisoned by the dictatorship,” denounced Oscar on Twitter.

“We can’t allow anything to happen to him,” added the content creator.

Alejandro Díaz Jerez, a member of the San Antonio de los Baños Facebook group, also posted about De la Cruz non-violent behavior last Sunday, when the wave of protests started in Cuba. “He is not a criminal, he is not a terrorist, let alone a mercenary paid by another country or organization, as the Cuban dictatorship has labeled him. We demand the immediate release of Yoan de la Cruz, and all those unjustly arrested.”

“The thousands of Cubans who marched on the streets last July 11th, and those who continue to protest in Cuba and in more than 45 cities all over the world, are demanding freedom despite the repression unleashed by the cowards in the armed forces. (De la Cruz) is not a discontented homosexual coming from a broken family nor a problematic traitor as the authorities on this island are trying to make you believe. (People protesting) are good people, with families and trying to make a living, tired of the archaic and obsolete, illogical and utterly failed communist system that has only brought us famine, misery, backwardness and major shortcomings. Its been the maximum expression of indoctrination for more than 60 years. Thank God the theater crashed down, and today the entire world knows the true reality of Cuban communism,” he added.

Fifteen days after the protests erupted, the government has not yet released an official list of the people arrested. The news about arrests or people released are just trickling down informally thanks to the amplifying power of social media.

Up until July 26th, the most updated list compiled from Cubalex included 689 people reported involved as detained or missing: 263 with confirmed arrests, 238 under verification process, 152 were detained and released and 36 reported as still forcibly missing.

Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Flotilla Brings Cuba a Noble Message of Support

On Friday 7/23/2021, Havana residents opted for climbing on rooftops to watch the fireworks from the flotilla. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 24 July 2021 – A strong police-military operation prevented hundred of Cubans from trying to approach the Malecón in Havana last Friday, where they tried to watch, from the seawall, the fireworks from the flotilla that a group of Cubans from Miami displayed from the ocean. The flotilla was an initiative to support people on the island, following the protests that started July 11th. The regime’s forces started cordoning off the Malecón early in the afternoon, and they patrolled an extensive area along the neighborhoods of Centro Habana, El Vedado and Habana Vieja.

The flotilla included five vessels and left in the early morning hours of Friday, heading to the international marine limits between the United States and Cuba. The boats left the bridge from Key Biscayne after 8 am, headed to Key West, where the US Coat Guard inspected them, and sailed another 15 miles towards the international limits with the Cuban shorelines.

In response to the police operation along the Malecón, residents from the shoreline neighborhoods climbed to the rooftops of their multifamily buildings to be able to watch the flotilla of Cuban exiles approaching the horizon and their fireworks display. Despite the strong police presence on the streets, Cubans sought refuge on the rooftops, where it became harder for the police to identify who continue reading

was watching the fireworks or not.

According to several Havana residents, the day was cloudy and overcast since the morning, with a heavy fog that blocked the view of the horizon. Even during the night, while the fireworks were going off, they could see the light flashes but they needed to be really close to the coastline to see better.

The 14ymedio newsroom received reports that on the shoreline of the eastern side of Havana, in the Alamar neighborhood, several people where able to get close to the shores and were able to watch, video and photograph the fireworks.

Not only the Malecón was heavily patrolled by police, though. In the coastal neighborhood of Santa Fe, in Playa, the situation was the same. “There were patrol cars, police officers and military all over the coastline. If you would try to get closer, they’d tell you could not be there due to Covid-19 restrictions. Nobody believed that excuse, I walked around that area every single day without any problem,” said a resident from the area.

Meanwhile in Miami, the flotilla was considered a noble gesture to support the Cuban people who has been protesting on the streets since July 11th, and also, as some sort of generational relay from the Cuban exile community.

Ramón Saúl Sánchez, a known leader in the exile community and one of the flotilla organizers, went out Friday to say good-bye and provide advice to those on the vessels heading to international waters. He told EFE News Agency that, in a certain way, it meant they were passing the torch to a new generation of activists.

Sánchez, who is also the president of the Movimiento Democracia, initially advised against the idea due to lack of timely planning, but later supported the flotilla and said he was relieved to see there were a few boats and that the vessels were big enough, which, he said, “reduces the changes of problems with the wind and waves.”

The activists, who in 23 years has organized around 27 flotillas to the island to condemn the dictatorship, and has had vessels confiscated and been tried for entering Cuban territorial waters, was expecting the Cuban regime would try to prevent people on the island from approaching the Malecón to watch the fireworks display, organized by Cuban American Osdany Veloz.

For Sánchez, the flotillas represent “some sort of spiritual bridge between the two parts of the Cuban people that are divided by the dictatorship.”

The vessels departed the United States waving Cuban and American flags. Veloz told the press gathered that they were bringing a message of freedom and support to people on the island, “so they can keep fighting” for a free Cuba.

The US Coast Guard already issued several warnings, through the local media, that the vessels did not have any authorization to cross into Cuba’s territorial waters and reminded the flotilla that doing so would be illegal.

Cuba’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, Bruno Rodríguez, asked the US government to get “serious” about the flotilla and considered the recently announced sanctions of the Biden administration against the Cuban military to be “irrelevant.”

On Friday, Sánchez also reminded the group that their previous flotillas would sail up to 12.5 nautical miles from Cuba’s shorelines, which he said makes the perfect distance for the “lights of liberty” to be seen.

On Veloz’s Instagram account, several comments of support were gathered, some of them from users in Cuba.

Once their demonstration concluded, the flotilla sailed back to the United States without any incident.

Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Human Rights Group Denounces Manipulation of Elderly to Participate in Acts of Repudiation

Act of repudiation that took place last October 10th, 2020 in Havana, Cuba.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, November 3rd, 2020 – Up to 11 mob acts of repudiation took place in Cuba this past October, according to data published by the Cuban Human Rights Watch Group, OCDH, meanwhile they point out that, “as poverty grows”, the more government repression increases.

Last month, the Madrid-based organization recorded at least 544 repressive actions against Cuban citizens. 152 of them were arbitrary arrests. Lately, artists from the San Isidro Movement have been the most persecuted.

The watch group explains the mob actions, called actos de repudio (acts of repudiation), “are a common intimidation technique organized in front of the homes of human rights activists, and they include physical and verbal violence.” continue reading

“It is always alarming when this mechanism of repression is used, but now more than ever, while the country is going through a very delicate situation due to the pandemic,” denounced Yaxys Cires, strategic director from OCDH. “Even more, it is outrageous that the elderly are being used in these violent mobs.”

In the past few weeks, the watch group reported the decline in the ability of Cubans to exercise their civil rights in the midst of the severe problems to get food. “According to a recent survey, 77% of Cubans said they suffer a severe to moderate food scarcity and 46% said it is very difficult to purchase the minimum needed to survive. Twenty one percent of the families surveyed said they live off less than $20.00 dollars per month, and 21% relies on an income equivalent to $21-$40 dollars per month.”

“The Cuban government got a seat in the United Nations Human Rights Council very easily, but it is utterly unable to solve the most basic problems of its citizens,” added Cires.

Among other abuses, the network of OCDC watchers reported at least 214 homes being besieged by police forces, and hundreds of cases of threats, harassment, public beatings, citations and fines.

Translated by: Mailyn Salabarria


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

The 15th Birthday in Cuba: Dreams and Expenses

The day arrived. On January 30th, Rogelio Sarduy and Maritza López woke up very early in the morning to finish up all the details of Yailén’s – their only daughter – fifteenth birthday party.

Nervous and glad they were running all over Havana. In a little notebook, they had written down the pending to do’s. See if the man in charge of baking the cakes has them ready. Keep calling to confirm the attendance of the TV anchorman hired to be the emcee.

Everything started twelve years ago when, with endless patience, the parents started saving – in the pocket of an old coat – part of the money being sent by their relatives on the other side of the Florida Strait.

“We deprived ourselves of many things, but we always had in mind a huge party for our daughter. And it paid off. She ended up being a good student and very well mannered; she deserves all the sacrifices we have made,” said the happy parents, a few hours before their daughter reached the age of dreams.

It’s a Cuban tradition that upon reaching their fifteen birthday, teenagers are showered with enormous parties that include choreographed dances, dances with long gowns and endless sessions of photos and videos. Even the poorest people work wonders to celebrate that important birthday. That tradition is not followed with male children, though.

A juicy private business has been born surrounding these quinceañeras (the birthday girl), especially in Havana. Now, take notes. The Sarduys paid $110 convertible pesos for two photo albums, shot in two different locations. For six hours in an upscale ballroom in the capital, $150 convertible pesos. Add on $600 in food, beer, appetizers, desserts and the elegant cakes.

As if that wasn’t enough, a week prior to the party, on top of buying sets of clothes and shoes for Yailen, they spent $900 convertible pesos for a weekend in a hotel in Varadero (the famous beach 100 km East of Havana), the three of them together. The young man that created the ball’s choreography for 15 couples charged them $60.00. But the TV anchor ended up being more pricey: $100.00.

The hard currency pipeline didn’t shut down there. Renting several taxis and minibuses was almost $300. After gulping down a big shot of Havana Club Añejo 7 Años, the father smiles. He doesn’t believe the time to sit down and do the math has come. Although, off the record, he says, “Here and there, we have spent $4,000 convertible pesos, all the money we had saved for 12 years.”

Just to put it in context: the equivalent of $4,000 convertible pesos is $100,000 Cuban pesos. That is the money earned by a professional in 14 years of work, assuming he gets paid 600 Cuban pesos a month (around 24 dollars) or about 7,200 a year.

As you can imagine, not everybody in Cuba can do what the Sarduys just did. But, in the name of celebrating their daughter’s fifteenth birthday, even poor families spend what they can not afford, sinking themselves in debt.

It’s the tradition. Maybe in Europe and other parts of the world this could be seen as kitsch and senseless: spending the money they don’t have on superficial parties, where photo shoots with the girl posing as an international top model are common.

There are only a handful of Cuban families who, despite not having enough to eat and having only coffee for breakfast, do not overspend on that day. Other sell valuable items, borrow money and go into debt. Whatever it takes. Anything to celebrate the daughter’s quinceañera.

Next morning, with an empty wallet, a hangover and the happiness of having thrown the best party in the neighborhood, is when life really slaps you in the face. In those moments, the Sarduys resort to a very particular philosophy. “Tomorrow will be another day,” says Sarduy, while he watches, emotionally, the video recording of his single child. “It is worth it. It is a party that you celebrate only once in your life.”

Iván García

Note: This post, published in El Mundo/America under the title “Extravagant fifteen birthday parties in the midst of Cuba’s poverty” has more than 200 comments. While reproducing it in this blog, we enriched with two different chronics on the same topic: My 15 and Yania’s 15.

Translated by Cubanita / M.Salabarria