Former President of Costa Rica Requests that the Cuban Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca be Freed from Prison

Óscar Arias, former president of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner, in a moment from his video appeal on behalf of Cuban journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca. (Screen capture)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 3 November 2022 – Former President of Costa Rica and Nobel Peace Prize winner Óscar Arias demanded on Wednesday the liberation of Cuban journalist and activist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, condemned to five years in jail in July for “continuous enemy propaganda”.

“Those of us who live in freedom and democracy must raise our voices for the liberation of Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca”, the former leader said in a video message. Via this message Arias offered to be “the voice” of Valle Roca, as part of a campaign by the Casla Institute, a Czech human rights NGO.

“You cannot attain noble ends via ignoble means. Because when you torture and imprison men and women who oppose your regime, you are not going to silence the voices of those who have lost their freedom in their fight against dictatorship”, he said.

“Cuba isn’t some kind of special democracy, nor have the Cuban people chosen the path that it has taken. Cuba is plainly and simply a dictatorship. And that is painful for those of us who love freedom”, the former president said.

Arias, who stressed that “political prisoners don’t exist in democracies”, was twice president of Costa Rica: between 1986 and 1990, and later, between 2006 and 2010. continue reading

Valle Roca, along with three other dissidents, was jailed in July by the Popular Provincial Tribunal of Havana – the journalist’s wife, Eralidis Frometa, has reported on social media.

The Tribunal considered it proven that the four accused, members of an “illicit” NGO, shared political pamphlets with “a point of view contrary to the current social and political system in Cuba” as well as pro-democratic announcements.

They were condemned also for organising a demonstration, filming it, and posting it on social media.

The case of Valle Roca, 60, was mentioned in the biannual report on Cuba of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), presented in April. A number of NGOs have condemned the verdict.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

IAPA Asks for Suspension of New Cuban Penal Code Which Punishes Press Freedom

The IAPA’s declaration is consistent with the 2022 Chapultepec Index on press freedom issued by the organisation during its General Assembly. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 2 November 2022 — The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) denounced the “systematic repression of the independent press in Cuba”, in a resolution published during its 78th General Assembly in Madrid from 27 to 30 October.

The document exposes the “incessant harassment” by the Cuban government of anyone who defends freedom of the press and expression, and points out the lack of respect for foreign journalists.

The IAPA considers it urgent that the regime desists from going ahead with its new Penal Code, which will come into force on 1 December, and forsees the “categorisation of new ’crimes’, custom-made for their repressive policies”. This act will be an even further assault on the practice of independent journalism”, they add.

The denouncement was preceded by a number of considerations on the plight of independent reporters on the Island, in particular that of Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, detained in 2021 and condemned to 5 years in prison for “continuous enemy propaganda, and resistance”.

The IAPA considers that Valle Roca’s “grave state of health” is a consequence of the “severe punishment given to critics of the government”, which will only get worse with the implementation of the new Penal Code. continue reading

The organisation also mentions the extortion of journalists: agents of the Ministry of the Interior  propose an “exit from the country in exchange for a public renunciation of the independent media”;  those who refuse are prohibited from leaving the Island.

Another means of government repression is the imposition of “onerous fines” for internet or social media reporting of any events which are problematical for the government.  They say the digital sphere has become a centre for spying and censorship by the state communications company”, Etecsa.

Also, they say, “the arrest of journalists continues to be the order of the day”, a situation exemplified by the case of Camagüey reporter Henry Constantín, director of media company La Hora de Cuba and regional vice president for Cuba of the IAPA. They note also the frequency with which house arrest is practiced, and the hounding of journalists and their families.

Finally, they detail the gravity of the political and social crisis on the Island, the huge exodus of Cuban people, and the reinforcement of repressive apparatus, from the police force to the legal system and surveillance.

The IAPA declaration is consistent with the 2022 Chapultepec Index on press freedom, published by the organisation during its General Assembly, in which Cuba occupied twentieth place, near the bottom of the list, surpassed only by Venezuela and Nicaragua. The three countries are the only ones marked out as being in the category of “no freedom of expression”.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Why Should This Code Worry Us as a Society? / Cubalex

Cubalex, 20 October 2022 — The Cuban government wants nothing to escape its supervision. Nothing, that might shake its power, has been left unregulated or uncriminalized.

Why should this Code worry us as a society?

#1 It categorizes criminal behaviour in a broad, ambiguous and discretionary manner.

#2 There are around 32 ’crimes’ which threaten freedom of expression.

#3 The use of cyberspace as an aggravation of criminal responsibility.

#4 The ’crime’ of practicing independent journalism.

#5 It maintains the death penalty.

#6 The use of ’therapeutic’ security measures.

#7 Age of criminal responsibility is maintained at 16 years.

#8 No recognition of femicide as a specific crime in its own right.

#9 Criminalization of the illegal transmission of satellite, television, radio or similar signals.

#10 Electronic surveillance is sanctioned.

#11 Monopoly of criminal action on electoral conduct, which should be processed in non-criminal ways.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso 

Patmos Prize Awarded to Protestant Pastor Lorenzo Rosales, Imprisoned for Protests of 11 July 2021

Pastor Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo has sent his thanks for the award, from prison.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana 31 October 2022 — Lorenzo Rosales, the Cuban protestant pastor condemned to seven years in prison after joining the 21 July 2021 anti-government protests, has been awarded the Patmos prize, which is given out annually by the Cuban Institute of the same name.

The annual award, now in its ninth year, is presented every 31 October in honour of a Cuban follower of the faith on the Day of the Protestant Reformation. Rosales, who is serving his sentence at the maximum security prison in Boniato, Santiago de Cuba, gave thanks for his award by letter. Previous recipients have been: José Conrado Alegría, a Oscar Elías BiscetDagoberto Valdés HernándezEduardo Cardet ConcepciónRoberto de Jesús Quiñones HacesMartha Beatriz Roque Cabello and Ernesto Borges Pérez.

“It’s a privilege, on a day like today after more than a year of unjust incarceration in a maximum security prison, to receive this award. I don’t believe any human being would ever be able to get used to being in this place. Prison life is very hard, and it’s worse when you know it’s an injustice, but I’m not afraid”, Rosales wrote after hearing the news.

The award, said the pastor, means a lot to him. “It tells me that I haven’t been forgotten in this hole I’m in, not by God, not by yourselves. I know how much you are fighting for my freedom. Thank you, to every brother in the faith community for every prayer, support and material assistance; your Christian love for me and my family has been boundless. You are all in my prayers”. continue reading

Rosales went onto the streets on 11 July last year to support those who were demonstrating for more freedom and crying out against the health emergency and the crisis of basic supplies suffered on the Island. He was immediately arrested and taken to El Energético — a detention centre based in a former schoolhouse — along with his son David Lorenzo, 17.

Two days later he was beaten, whilst being transferred to the Investigations Unit in Versalles, to such an extent that, as he reports, he lost consciousness. After a habeas corpus application was rejected, in August the pastor was transferred to the prison in Boniato, where he is held amongst ordinary prisoners.

At the beginning of May his sentence was made public — seven years, for incitement to commit crime, ’disrespect’, and violent attack. The trial had taken place at the end of December.

The Patmos Institute has denounced the restrictions placed on the pastor’s religious rights, as he is not given the appropriate attention he requires and on Saturday 9 April he was not able to attend a service held by evangelical chaplains, authorised by the government. In the face of his complaints about this exclusion Rosales was locked up for five days in a punishment cell just before Easter week.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Press Suffers ‘Constant Repression’ Says Inter American Press Association (IAPA)

Cuban opponent Yuri Valle Roca, currently in jail, during an arrest in 2019. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE/14ymedio, Havana, 30 October 2022 — the Cuban press is suffering “constant repression” and “control of their telecommunications”, and is living through “the greatest exodus in history”, according to a report released on Sunday during the 78th General Assembly, in Madrid, of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

The document reveals that journalists on the Island are subjected to constant “harassment” and “threats” from a government-driven “repressive framework against press freedom”, which in the past year has significantly increased its relentless crackdown on independent reporters, on the diffusion of news content on social media channels, and on any digital media not under the control of the Communist Party.

In many cases this ends up with police summonses, and, in the worst case scenario, imprisonment, according to the IAPA.

The organisation recalls that the Cuban journalist and activist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca — detained since June 2021 — was condemned to 5 years in jail for the crimes of “continuous enemy propaganda, and resistance” and remains imprisoned despite his “grave state of health”, according to the association.

These sanctions will be reinforced, according to the organisation, by the new Penal Code — approved in May — which comes into force on 1 December and which severely penalises the practice of journalism outside of the official media.

Through this Code, “Every aspect of journalistic work will be persecuted, anyone critical of state officials will be punished by imprisonment and the authorities will have guaranteed impunity”.

One of the punishments being considered by the Code is that of 10 years in prison for the “receipt, possession and use of foreign funding”, which would put maximum restriction on the financing of any media outside of the state ’bubble’. continue reading

Otherwise, journalists not imprisoned will be subject to “police summons, house arrest, and cutting off of internet”, the IAPA added.

House arrest without judicial mandate “may last from several hours to several weeks”. In a similar manner, the government is putting pressure on house proprietors to evict any tenant who is a journalist critical of the government, such as the photographer María Lucía Expósito.

Another form of repression, notes the report, is the imposition of lofty fines on journalists. Ismario Rodríguez was fined 4,000 pesos for “illicit economic activity –a justified punishment for those who practice journalism without permission”.

This is similar to another case – that of journalist Camila Acosta – fined 1,000 pesos for “public disorder”, “accused of trying to cover the 11 July 2021 protests”.

The report also covers the role of the state Telecommunications Company of Cuba, SA (Etecsa). The internet network “is spied upon and censured” and, on many occasions, jammed during events such as the 11J anti-government protests.

In addition, the IAPA makes the point that the “state monopoly (…) blocks the websites of tens of independent news media organisations, and of various human rights NGOs”.

According to the IAPA, some 20 reporters, photographers and illustrators gave up working for the independent press after six of them were prohibited from travelling to an event”. The text alluded to the El Toque media case.

Last Thursday, a programme broadcast during the peak schedule of Cuban television lashed out at this media outlet and showed video of El Toque reporters admitting having received foreign funding. They had to make a public renunciation in order to continue contributing to this media outlet.

In addition to journalists of the Cuban independent press, the report also looks at situations such as the dismissal of “Armando Franco, director of the official magazine Alma Mater, for publishing information about 11J detainees”.

Similarly, “accredited members in Cuba” of international agencies “AP, Reuters and EFE denounced limitations on their work”.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

‘El Nino y la Verdad’ (The Child and the Truth) Denounces Cuban Cultural Authorities’ Censorship Against It

Emilio Frías accuses the Ministry of Culture and the Cuban Institute of Music directly of censuring him. (Facebook/El Niño y la Verdad)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 27 October 2022 – The Cuban singer Emilio Frías, leader of the band El Niño y la Verdad, described on Thursday as “censorship” a number of measures taken, without “clear and precise” explanation by the Ministry of Culture  and the Cuban Institute of Music, against the band.

In a Facebook post to his fans, Frías complained that since his return from Mexico on 9 October, his concerts have been postponed and television programmes recorded several months ago have not been broadcast or have been removed from the listings “for now”.

“There’s no other word for this than censorship”, said the musician, whose performance on 10 September at the Casa de Música in Central Havana was interrupted by security staff of the venue. Frias has become increasingly critical of the situation in Cuba, which he encapsulated in a song Cambio, released a few days after the incident.

The singer made it known that he had asked for an explanation from the cultural authorities, who told him that he wasn’t “prohibited from working, nor from appearing on Televisión Cubana”, but, he added, the reality for the band is very different in practice.

“We have fought a pitched battle and it’s been an odyssey to try to get to perform on the Island but even then we’ve had no success”, Frías lamented. “It’s obvious that there’s an unofficial command that has brought this about, or that some cultural executives are behind it”. continue reading

The artiste emphasised that he has been “prudent” and has retracted some of his statements, but that he finally felt pushed to the limit when he received no answer to his enquiry as to whether he would be allowed to perform next Saturday at the El Sauce venue. Neither did they offer any clarification as to whether his interview on the CheFarándula programme would be shown.

Frías detailed how the 23 people who work for the band, including the engineers, technicians and producers, are the ones who are suffering most from this uncertainty, as it is preventing them from being paid their regular salary.

“I’m not going to beg for what is my right — to play in Cuba”, affirmed the musician, who insists he will stay on the Island and won’t go into exile. “I won’t lower myself to ask forgiveness, nor will I backtrack, because I haven’t done anything apart from sing ’The Truth’”.

He added that he would stay in the country, even whilst the Island is living through its “most difficult moment”. “Thank you for all the love and affection, and the reception you’ve given me throughout my 16 year career, in which my only mission has been to make people dance, to bring happiness to the Cuban people, who really need it, and to be a chronicler of my generation through my songs”, he concluded, with the promise that “we will see each other one day”.

Frías’s post generated a multitude of support from various followers and musicians, among them the singer Yotuel, one of the writers of the song Patria y Vida, who posted that: “dictatorships are afraid of the truth”.

In September, El Niño y la Verdad released Cambio, a song which exceeded 147,000 views on YouTube. The artiste presented it as “a song which is necessary for the times that Cuba is living through”, as it deals with the theme of exile, in a country which is undergoing a grave crisis of migration.

Frías had promised to return to Havana this month, after the band’s performances in Mexico, and to look for a venue in the capital that was “really cool and really neutral” for the premiere of Cambio.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Real Cuba Inspires More Terror Than any Halloween Witch

The whole place, like so many other premises these days, is decorated, like they do in America, to celebrate the night of the witches. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 28 October 2022 — This weekend, customers of the private restaurant Rey & Gaby (on G y 25th, El Vedado) are being welcomed onto the premises by a special ’doctor’. He wears a white hospital gown, but all splashed with red — resembling bloodstains and guts hanging out of his body. The whole place is decorated, like many other premises on this date in the calendar, in the way they do it in America — to celebrate the night of the witches, Halloween, on 31 October.

Skulls, cobwebs, scary clowns, vampires… all made from paper maché, even the round pumpkins, which are native to the neighbouring country to the north, with their terrifying faces carved by hand, but which are non-existent on the island.

It’s clear that they’ve gone to town with the decorations at Rey & Gaby, but what’s really scary is the reality which is everywhere. Firstly, their prices — one piece of cheesecake, another distinctly American product, costs more than a thousand pesos: enough to bring on a heart attack in even the most stoical of people.

In the same restaurant, it’s the ‘hipbreaking’ transport inspector who is more feared — pushing crowds of people onto buses, like tins of sardines.

For months now, the population has seemed guarded, when not short-tempered or straight out violent. continue reading

Further out, the ruined houses of what used to be the richest neighbourhood of the capital rise up threateningly, columns in precarious equilibrium, faded and worn facades, invaded by the wild vegetation.

Even worse, in recent months the darkness caused by planned power cuts has increased the tension in the streets: the gloom being favourable to all kinds of assailants, much more alive than any zombies.

And all that’s not to mention the horror stories that run around the suburbs. According to one, in some areas of the city there are these two certain police cars, in reality unmarked vehicles, that turn up by surprise at the street corners where street-sellers are to be found, and, with no pity, fines of thousands of pesos are handed out.

Even more sad than souls in purgatory are the relatives of the thousands and thousands of Cubans who have abandoned the island over the last year in an unprecedented exodus, leaving behind them nothing but ghost towns.

Certainly, in current times, Cuba is itself more terrifying than any Halloween witch.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso  


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Mexican Company Magnicharters Denounces Theft of Luggage from Their Flights to Cuba

A letter has been sent to Cuban Airports and Airport Services, and to the authorities at José Martí International Airport Terminal 3. (México Destinos)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 22 October 2022 – The tourist operator Bojórquez has sent a stern letter to the Cuban airport authorities, denouncing the misplacement of suitcases, removal of belongings from passengers’ luggage, and the substitution of waste matter for passengers’ property, in flights operated by the Mexican airline Magnicharters. The company considers these matters to be criminal and is even threatening legal action.

“Our airline takes seriously the care and protection of our passengers’ belongings”, warns the letter, dated 19 October, which has been seen by 14ymedio. “Every day we see an increase in this activity”, it emphasises, alluding to the interference with, and theft from, luggage. The letter, signed by Armando Bojórquez Patrón, president of the tourist operator Bojórquez, details some of the troubling discoveries they have made.

“Misplaced suitcases, suitcases broken, opened, with damaged locks (padlocks, cable ties), removal of contents, substitution of contents with other items in order to keep the baggage weight the same, broken items left inside cases, empty perfume bottles, used and soiled items of clothing”, explains Bojórquez.

The letter, sent to Cuban Airports and Airport Services and the authorities at José Martí International Airport Terminal 3, explains that the airline “backed the Cuban destination, under the conditions of the travel agents charter”. This season, in addition to carrying passengers between Cancún, Mexico City, Mérida and Havana, as well as on the new route of Cancún- Holguín, the company is transferring Cuban migrants who have been deported from Mexico. continue reading

“That is to say, in an active way it is maintaining its services to Cuba not only in a tourist capacity but in a governmental one”, Bojórquez emphasises. The company operates these routes with a fleet of Boeing 777’s, each with capacity for 136 passengers. Although Magnicharters “takes seriously the care and protection” of its passengers’ belongings, “it is becoming impossible” to maintain its standards on its routes to the island.

The airline, which flies mainly to Mexican beach destinations, had 12 aircraft in 2016, but with the arrival of the pandemic it was forced to keep a number of them grounded. There is a hold-baggage limit of 25kg plus 20kg hand luggage on the Cancún-Havana route, which makes the company a perfect choice for Cuban ’mules’.

The ticket price of 278 dollars makes the route between the Cuban capital and the Mexican resort an attractive proposition for those importing goods for resale on the black market in Cuba. “They are flights loaded with purchases — white goods, clothes, footwear and other products — carried for later profitable sale at the highest price”, admits an employee of the General Customs Service who works at terminal 3 of Havana airport.

Bojórquez’s letter demands that the Cubans do more to protect luggage: “It’s our intention to ensure that all parties are able to activate the mechanisms for security and protection to which we are duty-bound, in the handling of passengers’ luggage, and that we don’t lose, through being lax, the prestige that we have all earned in our daily operations”.

Last April, Magnicharters cancelled their flights between Havana and Managua, Nicaragua, a route which had been particularly profitable given that each ticket sold for over 3,000 dollars. This cancellation came in shortly after conversations about migration had been held between the Cuban and Mexican governments, in which they pledged to maintain an “ordered and secure” migration.

The letter ends by calling for the “minimisation of these unfortunate incidents” and the company offers its “collaboration in avoiding these occurrences, already happening repeatedly on Magnicharters’ flights” to Cuba. The document has already had an impact in the baggage section at José Martí airport, where management are looking to evade responsibility and are seeking out the culprits.

This very week several tour operators arrived in Havana on Magnicharters flights, at the invitation of the Cuban tourist authorities. “When they arrived at their hotel they noticed that their luggage had been partly interfered with and stolen from”, an airport source told this newspaper, who blamed the incidents on the Mexicans themselves. “They seem to have occurred back there at the airport of departure, but we haven’t been able to verify that yet”.

However, other employees consider that what is happening fits with a “type of theft which is unique to Cuban airports where the workers are paid a very low salary and are put in daily contact with luggage containing belongings that are worth more than a whole month’s wage”, a worker connected to the main Cuban airport terminal told 14ymedio.

There are frequent complaints of luggage theft at Cuban airports and among victims’ testimonies are repeated accounts of broken locks, removal of items such as clothing, shoes, perfumes etc, as well as substitution of these items with old clothing, newspaper and even stones.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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 Iranian ‘Patria y Vida’, A Song That Unites Havana with Teheran

Both countries live under dictatorships, allied together as declared enemies of the USA, both having begun with “malevolent” revolutions. (Screen capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Anna Mahjar-Barducci, Jerusalem, 20 October 2022 — On 19 October 2022 a ’mash-up’ of two tracks: Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life] and Baraye (For the sake of…) was uploaded to the Azadi channel on YouTube. The former was performed by Cuban rappers Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo Castillo, El Funky, and the group Gente de Zona; the latter by the Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour.

Patria y Vida [Homeland and Life] was associated with the 2021 demonstrations against the Cuban regime and the Communist Party. In a similar way, Baraye has become the hymn of the protesters currently demonstrating against the Islamic Republican regime in Iran.

“For dancing in the streets (dancing in public is prohibited in Iran), for every time we were afraid to kiss our lovers, for the shame of having empty pockets, for the longing after a normal life, for women, for life, for freedom (the protesters’ slogan). For liberty”. So read the lyrics of Baraye — which have been put together by selecting extracts from Iranian social media messaging.

Both songs are hymns to liberty. In fact both countries live under dictatorships, allied together as declared enemies of the USA, both having begun with “malevolent” (according to Patria y Vida) revolutions. The 1959 Cuban revolution brought Fidel Castro to power, and exactly 20 years later the 1979 Iranian revolution toppled the Pahlavi dynasty, replacing it with an Islamic Republic under the government of ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. continue reading

After the death of Khomeini in 1989, Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei became supreme leader of Iran — to date, the longest-ruling dictator in the Middle East.

It’s worth pointing out that singer Hajipour was arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard after sharing Baraye on Instagram, because similarly, the Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo ’Orsorbo’ was sentenced to nine years in prison, and the artist and dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (who also took part in the video for Patria y Vida) was condemned to five years behind bars.

This ’mash-up’ demonstrates that the demands for liberty continue to resonate, from Havana to Teheran, hoping that the world might finally take notice of them.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Released From Prison, Two Young People Arrested During the Protests in Calle Linea in Havana

Rosmery Almeda, ’Alma Poet’. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 October 2022 — Two of the protesters arrested on 2 October in a popular protest on Havana’s Calle Línea were released on bail on Wednesday. Rosmery Almeda (Alma Poet) and Danilo Martínez have been able to return home after more than two weeks detention, relatives of the two young people have confirmed.

“Alma Poet is home now, she’s lost three kilos, her smile is hollow, her gaze is sombre, she’s just really empty. But she’ll revive, I am sure she will, she will revive,” wrote activist Arián Cruz, known as Tata Poet and partner of Almeda, on Facebook. “She doesn’t yet have her phone back, but when she does, she will thank everyone so much for their love and support — with her own voice”,  he said.

“The five other guys from Línea y F aren’t back home yet, explained Aylín Sardiña, girlfriend of Martínez. “It’s lovely to have Danilo and Rosmery out on bail but it’s only thanks to everyone who fought for it and to the defence lawyer”. The young woman considers that “they should never have been in there”, referring to the detention centre known as 100 y Aldabó in Havana.

In the early hours of the Sunday on which both protesters were arrested, the locals closed the central avenue at the intersection of Calle F on the route through which traffic joins the Malecón. They blocked off the traffic with upturned rubbish bins, tree branches that had come down with Hurricane Ian that had lashed the island the previous Tuesday, as well as other objects.

A human chain also moved into the road, which was lit by streetlights, and they chanted slogans like “Freedom!”, “Put the power back on!”, “Put the electricity on!”, a demand that was met a short while later by the arrival of a bus and lorries full of shock troops in civilian clothing to oppose the protesters.

According to data provided on Tuesday by the organisation Justicia 11J, since 29 September the number of Cubans arrested in the whole of the island during the power-cut protests has already risen to 52. Since the 11 July 2021 demonstrations at least 1,753 Cubans have been detained for peaceful protests.

For their part, the independent Proyecto Inventario registered more than 200 protests against daily power cuts between 14 July and 15 October. This week alone Cubans have ventured onto the streets in the suburbs of Vista Hermosa in Santiago de Cuba, Buena Vista in Las Tunas, and in San Andrés, Holguín.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Up to 10 Years in Prison for 14 Demonstrators at the 11 July 2021 Protests for Trying to ‘Destabilise’ the Cuban State

Pictures broadcast by Cuban state television, of the 11 July demonstrations in Havana municipality San Miguel del Padrón. (Captura)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 October 2022 — A total of 14 people put on trial for going on the streets on 11 July 2021 in San Miguel del Padrón, in Havana, have been sentenced to almost 10 years in prison for crimes of public disorder, criminal contempt, violent affront and incitement to crime. According to news agency EFE, who claim to have had access to the sentencing (pronounced by the municipal tribunal of Arroyo Naranjo on 30 September) two were given five years ’correctional labour’ instead of a custodial sentence.

The judges decided that amongst the proven facts, those who were sentenced (not named by the Spanish agency) had protested in a “violent and aggressive” manner, had thrown stones at police and had called on others to join them, “principally through social media”, in order to “destabilise the rule of law and social justice”. In addition, reads the text, they “shouted disrespectful and offensive phrases and slogans” against the president, Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The public prosecutor had originally called for sentences of up to 14 years in prison, but, as in other judgements on the peaceful 11 July protests which have been carried out on the island since the end of 2021, and which have been denounced as “farcical” by a number of international organisations, the tribunal slightly reduced their demand for higher sentences.

Immediately following that Sunday last year, the official media attempted to discredit the country-wide demonstrations, calling them “riots”, and accusing the demonstrators themselves of being “criminals”. As far as the protest in San Miguel del Padrón itself is concerned, a state television broadcast showed an interview with a supposed victim of the stone-throwing, who reported having “suffered all manner of shouting and counter-revolutionary chants”.

In videos posted on social media, a number of youths can indeed be seen throwing stones, but with their targets well out of reach.

Prisoners Defenders, in their most recent report, published on 10 October, put the number of prisoners sentenced at 739, some of them with up to 30 years in prison. In total, the NGO, based in Madrid, had verified 1,026 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Cuba. For their part, the independent Proyecto Inventario has registered around a hundred detentions since 29 September. continue reading

Despite the repression, the protests have continued on the island, the main driving force and motivation over most recent weeks being the scheduled power cuts.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

A Small Child is Killed and Three Others Injured in a Building Collapse in Old Havana

Rescuers and police in front of the building which partially collapsed in Old Havana. (EFE/Felipe Borrego)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 17 October 2022 – A child died and two women and another child were injured in the latest building collapse in Old Havana on Monday. The four were trapped beneath the roof, which had fallen down onto them in the early hours of the morning in their home on Calle Sol, between Egido and Villegas.

A crowd which had gathered in front of the police cordon applauded, just after 9.30 am, as the emergency services rescued the girl alive, but hours later the People’s Assembly of Old Havana reported her death. “We regret the loss of life of the minor under 5 years old named Ismary Orozco Castellanos, as a result of the collapse that occurred this morning in building No. 466 in Old Havana,” read the official statement. The woman and her four year-old son had been rescued earlier and taken to hospital.

“I was saying only yesterday, that roof is going to come down, that roof is going to come down”, one neighbour tells this newspaper, adding that he had warned the residents but that they hadn’t done anything. At the same time, he explains, recreating the scene, “This roof only has three wooden joists, that’s all, and there’s one missing here, and here, and here”.

Although many families are aware that they live in collapsing homes, they avoid evacuating for fear of their belongings being stolen or other people occupying their property.

Another neighbour adds that they’d been complaining for a long time about the dangerous state of the the building but that no one had taken any notice of them. “They’re all here today, the ones we complained to. They come along now, but they never did before“, she grumbles. continue reading

Yet another neighbour agrees that the building had been “bad” for a long time, and that she’d managed to “sort out another property” to move to, but for other people there was no alternative.

In addition, the neighbors complained to the Spanish news agency Efe that the cistern that supplies water to the building has been reported for contamination for more than a month to Public Health and the state company Aguas de La Habana, and “no one has come here to solve anything”.

The collapse happened in Calle Sol, between Egido and Villegas in Old Havana. (14ymedio)

Very close to where this building collapse occurred, in Calle Luz between Curazao and Egido, a stairway fell down last June and injured an elderly man who remained trapped until the fire service arrived.

At the beginning of this month, due to the intense rain that affected the west of the country, there were 60 reported building collapses in Havana, one of which caused the deaths of two people.

Central Havana suffers just as many building collapses, or partial collapses, as Old Havana does, but the authorities, who invest huge amounts of money in the construction of luxury hotels, do nothing to address the problem in this zone, where precarious housing conditions threaten the lives of hundreds of families.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Cuba Archive Asks Embassies in Cuba to Mediate in the Case of a Political Prisoner

Carlos Manuel Pupo Rodríguez, 67, was sentenced to six years in prison for participating in the huge demonstrations of 11 July 2021 (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 October 2022 – On Thursday the Cuba Archive organisation requested the international community to mediate in the case of the political prisoner Carlos Manuel Pupo Rodríguez, national coordinator of the Union for a Free Cuba Party.

In their petition: Why does it ’not matter’ that Cubans are dying of hunger?, the organisation urges ambassadors and high-ranking representatives of distinguished international organisations on the island to make an appearance at the hospital where the prisoner is currently interned, and demand updates on his medical condition.

Pupo Rodríguez, who is serving his sentence at the Kilo Cinco y Medio prison in Pinar del Río — where the anti-establishment rapper Maykel Osorbo is also being held — was given an emergency transfer this week to the Provincial Abel Santamaría hospital where, after pleas from his family, he dropped his hunger strike.

“They have kept him locked in a small cell, deprived of water, medical help, telephone calls and family visits”, says the NGO, which has its headquarters in Washington; this must therefore qualify his case as one of cruel punishment on the part of State Security. continue reading

In the document, Cuba Archive also requires, from specialists on torture and cruel treatment at the UN, from the International Red Cross and from the inter-American Commission on Human Rights, that they demand the immediate release of Pupo, and of all political prisoners in Cuba. In addition, they ask that all these international agencies carry out inspections in detention centres without prior notice.

Similarly, they ask that the Cuban media reflect on the realities of what’s happening in the prison system, and that public servants safeguard any archives which evidence the abuse of human rights. In their message, the NGO recapitulates that since the start of the Castro dictatorship, there have been at least 1,748 registered deaths of dissidents in custody, 27 of them through hunger strikes.

The organisation also mentions the case of another Cuban prisoner Andy Reyes, a 27 year-old who went on hunger strike after being sentenced to 25 years for a crime he insisted he was innocent of. “He died on the fifty-second day of his strike, demanding a lawsuit review in the face of a judicial system which is subordinate to a one-party communist regime and which lacks legal guarantees”.

Likewise, they remind us that the Council for Reporting on Human Rights in Cuba has estimated that “over a thousand prisoners have lost their lives in the past decade through beatings, torture, ill-treatment, inhumane conditions and lack of medical attention”, a situation which brings some political prisoners to declare hunger strike.

Pupo Rodríguez is one of the political prisoners in particular danger. He has been on hunger strike twice, most recently for 21 days after being sentenced to six years for taking part in the 11 July 2021 demonstrations in San Antonio de los Baños (Artemisa).

Besides calling for democratic nations to cease all actions which legitimise, finance and support the Cuban dictatorship, and instead to impose sanctions upon all of the agents of repression — including judges, attorneys and police — Cuba Archive demands that the Cuban regime “dismantles their repressive apparatus and allows for a peaceful transition to democracy”.

The NGO rebukes the Cuban regime, not only for the fact that it enjoys “complete impunity”, but that it occupies seats in distinguished organisations, for example its elected membership on the UN Council for Human Rights (2021-2023) and the Executive Council of the Panamerican Organization for Health (2020-2023).

Neither the Red Cross nor any other international body are able to monitor compliance to human rights law in the more than 100 large prisons in Cuba, just as they not able to do so in the 150 smaller penitentiaries and 300 police centres. Nor does the Cuban government even provide information to families of detainees or families of those who die in prison.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Garcia Lorca in Cuba: Diary of a Resurrection

Lorca, with swimmers from the Havana Yacht Club, 1930. (Federico García Lorca Foundation Archive / FGL Centre, Granada)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Manuel Llorente, Madrid, 14 October 2022 — Federico García Lorca’s first adventure in the Americas could not have been more beneficial for him. The young man who, with a broken heart, embarked for the United States in 1929, bore no resemblance to the man who returned to Cádiz on 30 June 1930 aboard the steamer Manuel Arnús. While in the United States, he wrote A Poet in New York, a book which he handed over to José Bergamín shortly before he was assassinated in 1936, and which Bergamín published in 1940. With this collection, and in this collection, Federico extended himself further than in any other of his collected works.

In New York he witnessed the stock market crash and was protected by friends, but it was in Cuba where he began to smile again. Lorca spent 98 wild and intense days on the island, a period which the writer and journalist Victor Amela unpacks in his novel If I Should Become Lost (Destino), a title which makes reference to a fragment in a letter from 1930 in which Lorca wrote: “This island is a paradise. Cuba. If I should become lost, look for me in Andalucía or in Cuba”.

Why write about these three months? “Because Federico García Lorca had confessed, upon leaving Cuba, that he had lived the best days of his life there. It had been from March to June of 1930. Lorca was dynamic, happy, in full enjoyment of his senses, and the sumptuousness of Cuba had afforded him every sensory pleasure: the negro son music, the rum, the ice cream and the Havana cocktails, the exuberance of the landscape and the beauty of the men and women of all skin colours. Behind the tragedy and sorrow of his murder, I wanted to get to know more about this tropical, party-animal Lorca. And then to tell his story”, Víctor Amela told La Lectura.

If I Should Become Lost, by Víctor Amela, is published by Destino.

To begin with, Lorca had travelled to Cuba in order to give three lectures during the course of one week, but he ended up delivering nine in those 98 days, during which he also attended cult ceremonies, enjoyed himself by day and by night, and he wrote and sketched. “He frequented the roguish Teatro Alhambra, which encouraged him to complete El Público (The Audience) there — a homosexual drama in which he makes peace with his intimate self”. And La Leyenda del Tiempo (The Legend of Time) which Camarón de la Isla later made popular. continue reading

“Lorca lost himself in Cuba and then found himself again, discarding all the old worn out prejudices. He gave tribute to the talents of the island in his musical poem Son, written during a voyage of discovery by train, crossing the island by night from Havana to Santiago (’I shall go to Santiago’)”.

One particularly important poem in the Lorca canon – Ode to Walt Whitman – was also completed in Cuba, recalls Professor and Doctor of History of Art, José Luis Plaza Chillón, author of the recent study El Apocalipsis según Federico García Lorca. Los dibujos de Nueva York (The Apocalypse according to Federico García Lorca: The New York Sketches) (Comares).

A completely different man then, from the one who had arrived in New York in 1929 — a man who’d been abandoned by his lover, the sculptor Emilio Aladrén, who had preferred a woman to him, and who’d been “snubbed by his intimate friend Salvador Dalí, for having gone to Paris with Buñuel and for having criticised his Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads). Lorca had sunk into a depression, and in order to distract him from his sorrows, and fearing he might commit suicide, his family had put him on a transatlantic voyage to New York, accompanied by Fernando de los Ríos as guardian”, claims Amela.

But what he finds there in that great American symbol of modern progress isn’t good. “New York greets the unhappy Lorca with the suicides that result from the crash of 1929 — such a terrifying sight. He is nauseated by the crudity of modern capitalism and the Anglo Saxon protestant coldness, and can only identify with the suffering he finds among the black people of Harlem, the children, and the poor”.

That journey is very important in the overall radical trajectory of his poetry. Ian Gibson, one of the greatest authorities on the poet of Granada, analyses it thus: “Before he goes to New York he’s already entering the orbit of surrealism, with pressure from Dalí and Buñuel in Paris. The screenplay he writes in New York as a response to Un Chien Andalou — titled Journey to the Moon — is clearly already surrealist. And the poems, often diatribes against the cruelty of the modern world, have an immense power. In these poems, apart from the odd exception, Spain hardly ever appears. As far as theatre is concerned, it seems that he began writing El Público — his most surrealist play — in New York, and it would be completed in Cuba”.

After 10 months in New York, on his way back to Spain he stopped off in Cuba, “where he gets back his beloved language, the sunshine and the colours, his Catholic virgins (combined with Yoruban/Nigerian saints), sensuality and beauty… In that sparkling Cuba, Federico felt more at home and back to his roots than he’d ever felt”, notes Amela.

Cuba, where he turned 32, entered into all of his pores, it saw him coming. Not only the climate and that outdoor life. With his gift for making friends he discovered well-known people like the Loynaz family who lived off the private income of their millionaire mother in the the finca ’Casa Encantada’, where they preferred to use carbide gas lamps over electric light. Enrique Loynaz used to sleep in a coffin, Dulce María (who was awarded the Cervantes Prize in 1992) besides being a lawyer collected teacups and teaspoons, Carlos Manuel would tie up one of the family dogs to the piano so that it would listen to his recital… And Flor, homosexual and poet, Federico’s favourite. He called her “my Cuban virgin”.

They both loved religious imagery, and together they would travel at high speed in an open-top Fiat 1930, driven by her, with Federico dressed in a 100% cotton drill white suit. Their relationship was so strong that the poet agreed to include various suggestions of hers in his play Yerma; he even ended up giving her the original manuscript as a present. Dulce María and Flor, with Fidel Castro in power, went on to draw a state pension. Flor ended up on her own, with a shotgun (for fear of being axed to death like her maternal grandparents) and 40 dogs.

“Lorca had many romantic flings in Cuba and he had great freedom to be who he was. There, he liberated himself from everything, it would seem. His lectures were an instant success and everyone wanted to have their photograph taken with him. There are thousands of anecdotes, many of which I heard myself sur place when I was there in 1986 preparing the second volume of my biography of the poet”, says Gibson.

Lorca with a newspaper seller in Havana. (Federico García Lorca Foundation Archive / FGL Centre, Granada)

Lorca even spent one night in a cell after a binge. He was rescued from there by Luis Cardoza y Aragón, a Guatemalan writer, who had been working for barely a few weeks at his country’s embassy in Havana, according to Víctor Amela. Lorca even had one or two moles operated on in the Fortún y Souza clinic in Havana.

In Cuba he met a young poet and student of law, José Lezama Lima, who also stretched language to its limits. Years later, that same author of the immense hieroglyphic that is Paradiso recalled of Lorca, that, after attending his last lecture in Havana: “His voice took on a deep intonation like that of a bell being struck by a finely-tuned clapper that all of a sudden stopped the excessive prolongation of the echoes”. Luis Cardoza was more direct: “His laughter was a naked girl”.

On the eighth of March 1930, the day after his arrival in the port of the Caribbean capital onboard the steamer Cuba, the poet wrote to his family: “My arrival in Havana has been quite an event, because these people are extravagant like no other. Havana is a marvel, both the old and the new. It’s like a mixture of Málaga and Cádiz, but much more cheerful and relaxed for its being in the tropics.

Weeks later he gave an account of a crocodile hunt. “I saw a fantastic number of crocodiles four or six metres long”; but he didn’t comment on the fact that he’d attended a demonstration against the installation of telephones, as the Cuban Telephone Company had installed fruit machine “one-armed bandits” with their shop-based apparatus, from which the business owners earned nothing.

Lorca’s stay in New York and Cuba was in reality an escape which José Luis Plaza Chillón compared to those of other exiles: André Gide in Tunisia, Jean Genet in Morocco, Pierre Loti in Turkey, E. M Forster in India, Henry de Montherlant in Spain. “The literature of the twentieth century written by homosexuals often presents the theme of exile, most commonly one which entails a personal banishment. Lorca, like other great artists exiled in modernity (Gauguin, Rimbaud, Kafka) becomes a prototypical creator for understanding part of the quest of the twentieth century”.

Son’ of the Cuban Negroes

When the full moon comes

I shall go to Santiago de Cuba

I’ll go to Santiago,

In a car of black water.

I’ll go to Santiago.

The palm roofs will sing.

I’ll go to Santiago.

When the palm wishes to be a stork,

I’ll go to Santiago.

And when the banana tree wishes to be a jellyfish,

I’ll go to Santiago.

I’ll go to Santiago

With the blonde head of Fonseca.

I’ll go to Santiago.

And with the pink of Romeo and Juliet

I’ll go to Santiago.

Oh Cuba! Oh rhythm of dry seed!

I’ll go to Santiago.

Oh warm waist and a drop of Madeira!

I’ll go to Santiago.

Harp of living trunks, croc, tobacco flower!

I’ll go to Santiago.

I always said I’d go to Santiago

In a car of black water.

I’ll go to Santiago.

A breeze, and alcohol in its wheels,

I’ll go to Santiago.

My chorus in the shadows,

I’ll go to Santiago.

The sea drowned in the sand,

I’ll go to Santiago.

White heat, dead fruit,

I’ll go to Santiago.

Oh bovine coolness of the reed grass!

Oh Cuba! Oh curve of sigh and mud!

I’ll go to Santiago.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on 10 October 2022 in the cultural supplement La Lectura of the Spanish national daily El Mundo. Reproduced here with permission.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso  


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.

Stones, Doorknobs and Excrement Thrown at Police in Guines

In Güines, on Monday, locals set fire to three rubbish skips

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 October 2022 – One of the most talked-about protests of Monday night took place in Güines, Mayabeque, where locals from the areas of El Reparto and Leguina came out onto the street to demand the restoring of electricity — accompanied by the banging of pans and insults shouted towards the Cuban government.

At one particular point the demonstrators closed-off one street and set fire to three rubbish skips.

“It all grew quite ugly”, said one witness to 14ymedio, withholding his identity because “you already know how they’re going after everyone at the moment”. He even deleted a WhatsApp video of the protests that he’d been sent, for fear of being detained.

“You couldn’t hardly see anything, but you could hear the shouting: ’put the power back on, you prick!’ ’Diaz-Canal asshole!’ and stuff like that”, said the man, who added that the police arrived with “a truckload of special troops, but they couldn’t get out of the vehicle”. What awaited them, according to his account, was a mob with machetes in hand, who threw rocks, glass doorknobs and excrement at them.

After the retreat of these troops, he continues, another vehicle arrived, with “kids from the Servicio Militar, dressed in civilian clothing and with big sticks in their hands”, to whom the people shouted: “Come on then with your sticks! We’re going to kill you right here, just like they did in the time of the mambise guerillas! Shoot, assholes, shoot, ’cos no one here is scared anymore!” This contingent also “had to retreat”. continue reading

Another neighbour tells of how they pushed him into one of the trucks on one side and he escaped out the other side, but that the forces “took away a lot of people”.

This neighbour says that there hadn’t been any power for the whole day, and he warned that: “If they cut it off as night falls you know what’s gonna happen here. Because things are already overheated.” And he showed his outrage with the authorities: “There has to be nothing left for them now, something’s got to give, the moment has to finally arrive for them now.”

Translated by Ricardo Recluso


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 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.