“I Use My Visibility to Make the World Understand That in Cuba There is A Dictatorship”

Saily González:, owner of Amarillo B&B, in Santa Clara, and creator of the Telegram channel for entrepreneurs Amarillo y Medio. (Facebook / Saily.de.Amarillo.BandB)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 October 2021 — Just a few days ago Saily González announced the closure of her private business. After more than five years of service the Amarillo B&B, a hostel in Santa Clara, stopped offering its tasty breakfasts. The reason is neither the pandemic nor the difficulties in obtaining raw materials, but the lack of freedom.

This was not a final goodbye; González placed a condition on the reopening–that in Cuba “the rights of all Cubans to think and to speak  be respected.” On this occasion, she talks to 14ymedio about the causes for such a drastic decision, her activism, and the call to march on November 15th.

14ymedio. Since the easing of restrictions on self-employment in the 1990s, many have pointed to the private sector as conservative, static, and at times “complicit” with the ruling party. Do you also see it that way? Why do you think most business owners are so wary of national politics?

González. I cannot speak about the entire period since the 90s, but, rather, since I started in this world, in approximately 2014, when I became aware that I really was an entrepreneur. Most business owners are very cautious when it’s time to speak; they take great care, because they know that they operate on the margins of legality. It has always been this way and will continue to be despite the new law allowing micro, small and medium enterprises. Because legally obtaining necessary supplies and materials to carry out any type of entrepreneurial initiative is a headache. It is very easy for them to question you either because you are carrying out an activity that is illegal, or because the materials or supplies that you are using for your production are illegal. And so far there is no functional wholesale market that allows you to justify what you need for production.

14ymedio. Engaging in activism in Havana is one thing – there are embassies, foreign reporters and a growing number of independent organizations – but being a critic of the system in a provincial capital or in a small town is something else, much harder. What has been your experience?

González. I engage in political activism in Villa Clara because that is where I live; I would have done it similarly whether I lived in Mayarí Arriba or in Havana. It is not about doing it because you live in a specific place, it is about doing it for the rights of all Cubans, no matter where they live. Doing it here is difficult, but I have been a serious continue reading

entrepreneur for years, and in that sense I can count on a lot of support from the community.

What happened after July 11, when they began to tell that string of lies on national television, is what led me to engage in hypercritical activism

14ymedio. Saying goodbye to an entrepreneurial project that still has a long way to go is like “pulling the rug out from under” in the middle of this crisis. What was your internal process when making the decision to close Amarillo B&B?

González. My economic situation is not among the worst in Cuba at the moment. If something really hurt me, it was having to say goodbye to the workers, people I have been with for five to six years. One of them is a single mother of three children, and her only job is as a cleaning assistant in the Municipal Assembly of the People’s Power, where she makes just 1,900 pesos. That shocked me. However, I received their support, and I made a commitment to them to find other ways in which they could make money, for example by recommending them to other businesses that remain open in Santa Clara.

On the other hand, I consider the way I act and my vision at the moment to be fairly coherent. I try to use my visibility to make the world understand that there is a dictatorship in Cuba and that without rights we cannot live or carry out any activity of any kind.

14ymedio: What was your path to arrive at this civic attitude? Do you remember a day, a moment or any circumstance that made you cross the red line and engage in visible activism?

González. At the beginning of this year, they decided to limit economic activity in Santa Clara. At that moment I began to strongly question the municipal and provincial government. These questions earned me the occasional appointment with the State Security, in which they questioned my position; not so much because of the things I said, but the way I was saying them, when I’d call them “asses with claws,” or when I rebuked them saying that a particular cadre within the Party is not prepared to lead.

But fundamentally, what led me to speak so directly and to engage in hypercritical activism, basically with the aim of telling the truth which they do not allow, was what happened after July 11, when they began to tell that string of lies on national television and I heard one neighbor tell another that those who had taken to the streets were vandals and criminals. That seemed very unfair to me and I felt that I had to tell the truth. Once you enter into this there is no going back, you can do it and say I am not going to talk anymore, but I feel that it is my right because I feel free and it is necessary for us in Cuba to finally understand and perceive ourselves as citizens with rights and act accordingly. Within that recognition of our rights lies the end of the dictatorship and our ability to achieve democracy.

On the other hand, I feel supported following recent events, which occurred at the international level in the political sphere, such as President Lacalle’s words at CELAC and the European Union’s declaration regarding human rights in Cuba

14ymedio: Since you took on that position, what have been the personal and family costs?

González: I am lucky to have friends and family who in a certain way share my thinking or at least respect it and do not question it. I have only had one confrontation with a relative, but coincidentally it is one of these people who say that families do not subtract or divide, but rather add and multiply, and we left it there. My friends, either completely share my thinking and what I say, or they respect it and keep it on the sidelines, but without refusing to interact with me or anything like that.

The fundamental cost is the guilt: the guilt that my mother cannot have a normal life as  she did before July 11th, the guilt of seeing her worried or sad because my brother is also in danger. He just graduated medical school; he is an excellent person and very dedicated to his profession, but he is also in danger of being questioned because of the things his sister says. He of course defends me, although he is among those who think that no one can topple this.

14ymedio: 15N [November 15] is already causing nervousness in the regime, but it [the regime] also seems to be preparing “all in” for a confrontation. Aren’t you afraid of a massacre, an unpredictable social conflict or a new Black Spring?

González: Perhaps due to my low perception of risk, which is innate in me, the fear dissipates more and more. Also because I feel protected by all the visibility we are getting at the international level, by all the press coverage we are getting, for example, this is one of five interviews I have today, all of them mainly about 15N. We are receiving a lot of support from independent Cuban media and foreign media. On the other hand, I feel supported following recent events, which occurred at the international level in the political sphere, such as President Lacalle’s words at CELAC and the European Union’s declaration regarding human rights in Cuba on September 16th, and more things that keep coming up.

Work is being carried out from within Cuba, but also from outside. In other words, I perceive a willingness of the Cuban diaspora, of the Cuban exile community to support us with their own political activism, perhaps some more than others, but they support this 15N initiative, and that greatly protects us and will prevent a possible massacre, because the world is waiting.

14ymedio: What are you afraid of when you think of 15N? What excites you most about that date?

González: My greatest fear is that they will not allow me to leave the house that day, and in that sense I think it is dangerous, because even as we appeal to people to march as a recognition of their rights, there is this kind of caudillo mentality which is chronic in Cuban society. What excites me most, on the other hand, is that  whatever happens in Cuba on 15N will be a victory for civil society, for citizens, because either the march demanding their rights will go well, or it will be a good demonstration that there is a dictatorship here that does not permit minorities to have right, which is the reason to demonstrate on 15N, we have rights.

Only with rights and freedom can we make Cuba a prosperous nation, because these necessarily lead to democracy and this is what will allow Cuba to never again be ruled by inept people.

14ymedio: Leave? Stay? Any advice for a restless entrepreneur eager to prosper and also have civil liberties?

González: The only valid advice for any Cuban seeking prosperity, whether an entrepreneur or even a state worker, is to fight for their rights, to raise their voices, less fear and more solidarity. Fear condemns our people, solidarity is saving us, it is helping us to achieve rights for all. Only with rights and freedom can we make Cuba a prosperous nation, because these necessarily lead to democracy and this is what will allow Cuba to never again be ruled by inept people, as it has been for the last 62 years.

14ymedio: You use the word “yellow” not only to name your business: you also have a Telegram channel called Amarillo y Medio [Yellow and a Half], why?

González. The story is not that interesting; it’s basically because we had yellow items in the house and we liked that word and so we decided to use it. I speak of “us” because it is a business that I share with my boyfriend, Antoine Hernández. In August 2019 we decided to register amarillo [yellow] with the Industrial Property Office (IPO) and we have been in that process ever since.

The Telegram channel is fundamentally for entrepreneurs, and I named it Amarillo y Medio [Yellow and a Half] because it’s a communication channel for Cuban entrepreneurs. I believe that until then, with the exception of two or three initiatives, which I do not trust much as they are too close to the dictatorship, entrepreneurs did not have their own space. Then, after July 11th, I decided to include space for debate, because most of the entrepreneurs who participate in the channel are interested in issues related to citizenship. “Saily de Amarillo,” because I’m Saily from the Amarillo businesses, and also, it just sounds good.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.

‘Imperialist Agencies, AFP and EFE Incite a Social Uprising’ in Cuba

The Cuban government intends to prevent 15N (November 15th) from becoming the new 11J (July 11th). (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Cuba, October 14, 2021–Three European media outlets have been added to the list of imperialist press headed by CNN. British media chain BBC, the Spanish agency EFE, and the French France Presse “do not tire of inciting from within their pages a social uprising that would justify the much desired military intervention from the White House,” signaled the official newspaper Granma this Thursday.

The state-run press, which now intends to deactivate 15N (15 November) by broadcasting the message that it does not have support from within the Island, accused these international media outlets, which also include the Miami-based daily, el Nuevo Herald, of “legitimizing the provocative actions of internal mercenary ‘pacifists’, blind with hate and vengeance”. In addition, Granma classifies these agencies and television chains as mainstream, despite the fact that in Cuba communications channels are controlled by the State and the dominant press is theirs.

In the same, rather long article titled, The counterrevolutionaries will not have a platform in Cuba, the daily uses various testimonies of farm workers who oppose the marches and praise the Revolution and Fidel Castro.

“We will not allow them a new July 11th,” begins the text. The phrase is attributed to a farmer from Playa, in Havana, although it sums up the authorities’ decision to impede the civil marches organized by the Archipiélago collective for the 15th of November, moved forward as the initial date–November 20th–coincided with National Defense Day.

Several messages shared on social media maintain that the Government intends to mobilize Cuban citizens against the marches through two means: continue reading

virtual and physical. Archipiélago published several screen grabs that presumably show messages from university group chats attempting to organize an online strategy to support other efforts.

On Whatsapp, users carefully study the speech of artist Yunior García, one of the organizers of the marches, and also an organizer of Archipiélago itself, to “deconstruct his speech.” The objective, according to one message, “is not to prevent the march but to prevent more people from joining”.

Another screen grab circulating among organizers contains messages from a young high school student who confirms that in his school they have been obligated–though he adds that he and one other student refused–to join “rapid response groups” which will carry sticks to defend themselves. In the exchange, the student maintains that they were told that on the 15th, they should also wear an armband.

Though the source of both messages is unknown, at Archipiélago they do not doubt their veracity and though they fear the regime’s response, they will maintain their position to the end. “On November 15th our personal decision will be to march civilly and peacefully for our rights. Facing authoritarianism we will respond with civility and more civility”, they said on Wednesday.

The idea is to demotivate those who are questioning whether they will join the march, at least, that is what is all over today’s Granma article. With other testimonies they intend to add the support of laborers and farmers, united for the Revolution.

“The primary mission of farmers, to wave our flag and our accomplishments very high, is to continue producing food. That should be how we resolve our problems today,” signaled one of the producers of the Havana-based cooperative. Its president joins the discussion. “With the victory of ’59 our sector gained rights, prestige and morale. Now it is our duty to comply with the Revolution, producing, offering nourishment to the people.”

The sector is held as an example by Granma that true patriots are those who work to feed cubans, thus they highlight that this cooperative has surpassed its production target this year, achieving 123% of the planned production.

“The majority of us are in favor of revolutionary work. I am convinced that our young people have the same opinion. Twenty or thirty young people who work with me share my ideals because we’re all trained under the wings of our socialist society, with its defects, but essential,” says the cooperative’s large-scale milk producer, although this product is scarce and in Havana, for example, they’ve had to restrict access to milk and dairy products.

The Communist Party’s daily paper also approached the National Center for the Production of Laboratory Animals, where it apparently encountered many others opposed to the demonstrations on 15N from laborers to whom “the much-demanded march seems shameful, nothing more than another strategy with no benefit for the people.”

“They tried to defeat us in Girón (Bay of Pigs) and they continue trying to this day, with the economic blockade and all their measures, but they have not been able to handle us. They’d choose to ignore our years of history, as a result, they don’t learn that Cuba will never surrender,” says the chief of the company’s Technology Surveillance Department.

Granma has also found a young woman, 24, who, in contrast to many of her generation who have chosen to leave the Island, chose to praise the State model imposed for more than six decades. “As militants, as workers who have seen the revolutionary actions and vocation which the Cuban people have maintained for more than 6o years, we will always follow the ideals of Fidel.”

According to the text, all these voices “are not a manipulated minority”, but just in case, the government won’t divulge which side the majority supports.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.

Cuba: On 15 November ‘We Will March Civilly and Peacefully for Our Rights,’ Responds Archipielago

People peacefully demonstrating on July 11th, 2021 in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, October 12, 2021–“On November 15th our personal decision will be to march civilly and peacefully for our rights,” responded Archipiélago to the Cuban Government’s decision to reject the Civil March for Change scheduled for that day, considering it “illegal” and a “provocation for regime change” on the island.

“The regime’s response demonstrates, once again, that rights do not exist within the Cuban State, that they are unwilling to respect even their own Constitution and violate the human rights of the Cuban people,” adds the collective in a message published this Tuesday on its social media platforms.

Members of Archipiélago also insisted that the authorities’ decision “has ridiculed their own president of the Supreme Tribunal, who said that Cuba would respect the right to demonstrate,” for which they classified the government response as a “crime” and branded it “full of falsehoods, defamation, and lies”.

Through the municipal assemblies of the cities that were notified in writing of the march by members of Archipiélago, officials announced this Tuesday their response to the demonstrations.

In the document, the regime confirmed that it does not recognize the “legitimacy of the reasons given” for the peaceful protests. Furthermore, they repeated the standard argument of the foreign “enemy” by stating that the organizers of the march maintain “ties” with subversive organizations or agencies that are continue reading

financed by the United States Government, and “have the stated intention to promote a change to the political system in Cuba”.

Upon learning of the Government’s position, Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos (OCDH) condemned the prohibition of the marches and “reclaimed the right of Cubans to demonstrate”.

“The official argument itself makes clear the antidemocratic nature of the current system in Cuba and that the ink is still wet on the Republic’s new Constitution, created without endorsing fundamental rights and the few it confers are denied arbitrarily by executive powers,” stated the organization in a communication disseminated this Tuesday.

OCDH called on the European Union, “to condemn this clear violation of human rights in Cuba, which are incompatible with the Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement between Cuba and the European Union.”

In the document, OCDH also demands that the Government of the Island accept, “the challenge of listening to its citizens.”

“It did not do so on July 11th, when the president called for combat and confrontation among Cubans, and it is not doing so now as it prohibits the civil march scheduled for November 15th.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 Dissident, Jose Daniel Ferrer, is Held in an Isolation Cell Despite Health Issues, his Family Denounces

The meeting took place “under the custody” of prison guards. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, October 9th, 2021–Dissident, José Daniel Ferrer is currently held in isolation and is suffering health issues, according to his son, the only family member who has been able to visit him since July 11th when he was arrested and subsequently transferred to Mar Verde prison in Santiago de Cuba.

José Daniel Ferrer Cantillo, the son of Union Patriótica de Cuba’s (Unpacu) leader, was able to contact the former Black Spring prisoner last Friday during a 20-minute visit “under the custody” of prison guards, the dissident’s sister reported, Ana Belkis Ferrer García, on Facebook.

“Around 5 pm yesterday, Friday, October 8th, 2021, they allowed a brief visit by one family member; thanks to God and the demands of so many supportive people to whom we are eternally grateful, we confirmed that at least for the moment José Daniel is alive”, she wrote.

She added that her brother is currently locked in a “minuscule isolation cell, where he remains under inhumane and degrading conditions, semi-nude as he is only allowed undergarments,” denounced his sister, who alerted that Unpacu’s leader is “in very poor health”.

Ferrer is suffering from “extremely high” blood pressure and “could barely speak to his son” because, since the day before the meeting, the dissident has been experiencing “severe headaches, chills, body aches, and shortness of breath to such a degree that continue reading

he requested another Diclofenac [an NSAID] injection.”

With the support of human rights activists, a few weeks ago the dissident’s family initiated an intense social media campaign demanding that authorities provide “proof of life” of Ferrer García. His sister also insisted that the life of the dissident is in the hands of Raúl Castro and Díaz Canel.

José Daniel Ferrer is serving a four-year prison sentence imposed by a tribunal in February of 2020 for the alleged crime of “injuries and deprivation of liberty” against a third person. Up until the moment of his arrest, Unpacu’s national coordinator had been serving his sentence as amended, in 2020, to allow him to serve it under house arrest instead of in prison.

The Popular Provincial Tribunal of Santiago de Cuba justified its decision, on the grounds that Ferrer maintained an “attitude contrary to the requirements to which he must comply” because he had not secured employment and, on various occasions engaged in, “incorrect and defiant behavior toward authorities who were fulfilling their functions.”

The dissident has been subjected to permanent repression for many years and has been recognized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which awarded him the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.

Last August, Amnesty International (AI) named him a prisoner of conscience along with artists Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Hamlet Lavastida; independent reporter Esteban Rodríguez; activist Thais Mailén Franco Benítez; and rapper Maykel Castillo Osorbo. Lavastida and Franco Benítez were both freed in recent days; however, Otero Alcántara, Rodríguez and Osorbo remain incarcerated.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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.

This is How the Cuban Government Repressed its People on October 10th / Cubalex

Cublex, 11 October 2021 — October 10th, which commemorated the beginning of the battles for Cuban independence in 1868, was converted by the Ministry of the Interior into one of the most repressive days in recent years.

Unlike October 10th of last year, when we documented the arrest of 21 people in Havana, yesterday we documented 29 incidents that resulted in a deployment of MININT agents in several provinces, including Havana, Matanzas, Pinar del Río, Camagüey, and Villa Clara.

Below, we present details of incidents we’ve documented through our monitoring.

Havana (23 incidents, detailed by area below)

Playa (2 incidents)

The police captain showed up at Ariel Maceo’s house to summon him to an interrogation. He was interrogated and threatened. Surveillance of Yunia Figueredo’s home.

Revolution Square (4 incidents)

In their homes, Luz Escobar, Oscar Casanella, Héctor Luis Valdés and Eralidis Frómeta are under surveillance by police operatives and State Security.

Old Havana (1 incident)

Ányelo Troya is besieged and under surveillance in his home.

Boyeros, San Miguel de Padrón and East Havana (11 incidents)

The homes of José Díaz Silva, Juan Lamas Martínez, Anyell Valdés Cruz and Lourdes Esquivel Nieto and the headquarters of MONR on Alamar and San Miguel de Padrón are besieged and under surveillance, a joint operation continue reading

of the police and State Security.

Members of MNOR Tomás, Ramos Rodríguez, Frederit Otero Angueira, Rolando Díaz Silva and Ohauris Rondón Riveros have been arrested.

Osmani Pardo is under surveillance at home.

Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez and his daughter, Leticia Rodríguez Iglesias, both member of Corriente Martiana, are under arrest.

Cotorro (2 incidents)

Manuel de la Cruz is under surveillance at home.

Richard Marchante García was summoned by police to an interrogation scheduled for the following day.

Guanabacoa (1 incident)

The police summoned Yonatan Valdez Vego to an interrogation.

Other locations (1 incident)

Manuel Cuesta Morúa’s home is under surveillance.

All week (3 incidents). Havana: The homes of Iliana Hernández, Carolina Barrero and Camila Acosta are besieged and under surveillance at home.

Matanzas (1 incident)

Cárdenas: Leticia Ramos Herrería is besieged and under surveillance at home.

Pinar del Río (1 incident)

Pinar del Río: Alexeys Blanco was summoned by police to an interrogation after attempting to deliver a letter to authorities in Briones Montoto requesting permission to peacefully march on November 20th.

Camagüey (2 incidents)

Camagüey. State Security summoned Ailex Marcano Fabelo, the mother of a young man detained on July 11th, who uploaded a viral video on social media denouncing the conditions under which her son is being held.

Villa Clara (2 incidents)

Saily González Velázquez is under surveillance at home. The State Security agent on watch threatened a person who recorded him with a cell phone. “It will cost you dearly. You’ll remember me,” he said.

Santa Clara. Leidy Laura Hernández and Omar Mena are under surveillance at home.

Así reprimió el gobierno cubano el 10 de octubre, was first published on Cubalex.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

Date for Civic Marches in Cuba Moved Up to November 15 to Avoid Coinciding with Military Maneuvers

Protesters in Havana on July 11, 2021. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 October 2021– As a result of the Cuban Government’s declaring November 20th “National Defense Day,” Archipiélago announced this Friday that it has decided to reschedule for November 15th the march that was originally scheduled for that day.

During an eventful press conference, in which the participants suffered telephone and internet interruptions, Yunior García, the architect of the initiative, managed to say that as soon as they learned of the regime’s announcement to schedule the Moncada Exercise for the 18th, 19th and 20th, the activists felt taken for granted. “We knew we had to respond.”

So, he says, they got together to determine what decision to take. Cancel the march, he assures, “we did not contemplate.” “Since more than a thousand people have joined,” he continues, in Havana, Holguín, Santa Clara, Santiago de Cuba, Guantánamo, Cienfuegos, Las Tunas and Pinar del Río, they could not suspend it. Thus, “the first decision was that we had to move ahead.”

This presented another dilemma, reported by another participant, when Yunior García’s communication was cut off: move up the date of the demonstration, maintain it or delay it. After four hours of deliberation, the meeting reached a consensus: the march will be brought forward to November 15th.

Keeping it the same day, Garcia had said, entailed a “great responsibility on their shoulders.” It would be throwing, he asserted, “young people in the middle of an army, something extremely risky.” As a result of the new date announced, this morning the artist himself delivered a new request for the Civic March for Change to the headquarters of the National Assembly.

Although the promoters of Archipiélago did not allude to having considered delaying continue reading

the demonstration to November 27, the anniversary of the spontaneous demonstration of more than 300 artists in front of the Ministry of Culture asking for dialogue and freedom of creation, the suggestion was made by multiple commentators on social networks.

When asked by 14ymedio why they did not choose to reschedule the march for November 27, Leonardo Fernández replied that they chose November 15 “out of necessity,” due to the urgency of expressing discontent through the march.

In addition, that is the day when the Cuban Government plans to fully reopen the country after almost a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic. “To delay the date was to give in to pressure,” said Fernando Almeyda. Moving it up, on the other hand, seems to them “sensible and firm.”

They also suggested wearing white to the protest, in the peaceful spirit of the demonstration.

Of course, when he rejoined the call, Yunior García vehemently addressed the leftists of the world, “Stop the hypocrisy, a dictatorship is a dictatorship.” We are “in a crisis of three parts, and you have to call things by their names.”

And he also alluded to attempts by the regime and the official media to discredit the group. “Though they call us mercenaries, they know that we are not paid by anyone,” he said. “Let them prove that a foreign government is telling us what to say. They can’t, because they know it’s a lie.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 Prosecutors Seek Eight-Year Sentence for Streaming Protests from San Antonio de los Banos on July 11th

Yoan de la Cruz streamed a live feed of protests on July 11th. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Cuba, October 4, 2021–Cuban prosecutors seek an eight-year prison sentence for Yoan de la Cruz, a young man who on July 11th streamed a live feed of the first protests in San Antonio de los Baños, considered to be the start of the anti-government protests throughout the entire country. The information, the details of which are unknown, was shared by his mother via several activists.

The young man is being held in the Melena del Sur, Mayabeque prison, practically incommunicado and due to COVID-19 restrictions, he is only allowed to call his family by phone, according to his aunt, Odalys Hernández Rizo speaking to 14ymedio.

“They were accusing him of public disorder, but eight years for that is ridiculous,” said Yoan’s aunt, who emphasizes that the three appeals submitted to date have been rejected by the Cuban justice system.

His mother confirmed that, in addition, he is being charged with contempt. “He did not do anything to deserve that many years. All he did was film. Now they accuse him of contempt. He is a good young man. The entire town loves him,” she shared in a message on the social media accounts of various groups: those in favor of the protests on July 11th and those of the city of San Antonio de los Baños.

The request for eight years in prison for those who protested on July 11th is becoming the norm in cases that have yet to be tried. Initially, dozens of protesters who were processed in summary trials this summer received fines and less severe sentences.

Last week, for most of the 16 Cubans who protested in Placetas, the Public Ministry sought a similar number of years behind bars for charges of disorder and contempt. Among them are twin sisters, Lisdany and Lisdiany Rodríguez Isaac, facing 10 years because local prosecutors are charging them with two counts of assault.

To our knowledge, the most severe sanctions are against Robert Pérez Fonseca, accused of two counts of assault and two counts of contempt, in addition to instigating a crime and public disorder. In his case, the prosecutor sought 12 years; his family attributes this to his ripping a photograph of Fidel Castro during the marches in San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque.

The peaceful presence of Yoan de la Cruz has been confirmed by various people on social media. “Yoan de la Cruz, a Cuban from Ariguanabo, but much more; a brave young man who, with a cell phone and a few megabytes, showed the entire world that in San Antonio de los Baños there is a small town full of brave people like him, who have had enough of living imprisoned and took to the streets to shout, ’Freedom!’ Free him already, cowards! They think they are so big to feel that a young man with a phone in hand makes them tremble in the house of cards where they live,” said one of his friends a few days after his detention.

“He didn’t throw stones, he didn’t break glass, he didn’t strike anyone, he didn’t yell down with anyone. Please, release him already. They are making a mother, a grandmother, a family and thousands of friends suffer,” said another of his many colleagues who advocated for his release, which almost three months later, seems less certain.

The list of people detained in Cuba for protesting on July 11th surpassed 1,000 and more than half remain in prison.

Authorities confirmed that all those detained following July 11th are processed according to the country’s legal and penal codes; however, this is completely contradicted by the testimonials of those who have been released and their families as well as Cubalex, a law firm that is following these cases.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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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 Artist Lavastida Downplays Document Signed Under Pressure in Villa Marista: “They dictated to me what to say.”

Artist Hamlet Lavastida, left, during his interview with writer Carlos Manuel Álvarez. (Capture)]

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 29 September 2021 — This Tuesday, Hamlet Lavastida denounced that during his time in prison in Cuba he was pressured to sign documents which portrayed him as a collaborator of State Security. In an interview with writer and journalist Carlos Manuel Álvarez, conducted from Warsaw, where he flew on Saturday after being released from prison, the artist spoke about the psychological violence to which he was subjected during the three months he was in Villa Marista prison, headquarters of the political police in Havana.

Lavastida explained that the agents always create characters and set up “a theater” to interact with the detainees, and for this reason he also began “to put on a series of dramatizations.”

“I began to make the famous act of repentance and retractions, to write that I never wanted to participate in political life, in any activism group,” he said, and recounted that he was presented with a paper which stated that he collaborated with them. “I remember that officer Darío suggested it to me and basically dictated what I had to say,” Lavastida declared during the interview, which was broadcast live on the Facebook page of the magazine directed by Álvarez, El Estornudo.

The artist decided to go ahead and tell all before State Security uses those signed documents against him. “It doesn’t really affect me much, because my real commitment is to creation, you can use that against a person who wants to have a political career,” opined Lavastida, who stressed that in his life “he had never had anything to do with the Police or with Security” and that everything he experienced was “new” to him. continue reading

Writing those “texts of self-repentance,” he found, was the “slightly more noble” way to get out of jail

Writing those “texts of self-repentance”, he found, was the “slightly more noble” way to get out of jail. “Doing it by denouncing others seemed less honorable to me and self-incrimination, of course, was not going to help me.”

His prison cell in Villa Marista was an “excessively small” place that he shared with four people, he said. “I was trying to walk those six steps, trying to do something with my hands, from the nervousness of not knowing what was going to happen with my case.” The food, he points out, “was not bad but was very scarce”, to the point that some prisoners “counted the spoonfuls” every day.

Regarding the interrogation sessions he experienced in those days, he recalled that they asked him all the time to help the agents “clarify the situation” and that they insisted on the story that he was “sent by the State Department.” The phrases most often repeated to intimidate him were along the lines of: “your mother is going to suffer a lot” or “you get 15 to 20 years for incitement of a crime.”

That was the offense of which he was accused, as reported by State Security to his family after he was transferred to Villa Marista. Lavastida had returned to Cuba from Germany on June 21, after completing his residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien gallery in Berlin. Five days later, after fulfilling the regulatory period of isolation (for potential Covid exposure) in a center arranged by the Government in the Flores neighborhood of the capital, he was arrested.

The accusation was based on a conversation in a private group chat of 27N  (27 November) on Telegram, which was filtered and analyzed at the moment by official presenter Humberto López on state television.

The artist is currently in Poland with his girlfriend, the Cuban poet Katherine Bisquet, with whom Carlos Manuel Álvarez announced he will interview this Wednesday.

During the conversation, Lavastida alluded several times to the number assigned to him in prison: 2,239. His life will be marked by it for a long time, said the artist.

Translated by Silvia Suárez
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Cuba: On the 61st Anniversary of the CDRs, is This Goodbye?

Gerardo Hernández Nordelo highlighted the work of the elderly in the CDRs. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elias Amor Bravo, Valencia, 28 September 2021 — The CDRs reach 61 years of age and carry the same problems as any organization that reaches that age. An article in the State newspaper Granma addresses it. The CDRs need young people, and above all, to be updated, to catch up. The old paradigm was left hollow, empty, and is not up to the standards of these times. Will they succeed?

The demographic change occurring in Cuba compromises the CDRs ability to stay afloat. It is logical. The original leaders of the blocks who joined Fidel’s initial call are no longer there. Their children are likely old. And here is the issue: their grandchildren or great-grandchildren, who are my age, are interested in other things. The youngest disregard organizations that lack a future, and that do not provide a relevant activity. It is the law of life.

Furthermore, young people are not interested in protecting a Revolution that has also become old, but rather, they desire change. On July 11th, they shouted “Freedom” and “No to communism” in the streets. Someone should take note of these proclamations, because they will come back even stronger. Young Cubans have made the leap and do not want to find themselves caught up in the same web as their parents or grandparents, in which the prize was a jabita – a little goodie bag with groceries or personal hygiene products. On the contrary, they dream of spaces open to freedom and progress, built on different foundations. continue reading

Young people are not interested in protecting a Revolution that has also become old, but rather, they desire change (14ymedio)

The young people compare themselves with members of the CDRs and find no common ground. They are different generations in which the so-called revolution’s demagogic pressure is continually shrinking thanks to social media, the internet, information and communication. Young Cubans have discovered the “big lie” much better than their grandparents or parents. That story of closing a country to external influences is over. Cuban communism struggles to preserve a space for propaganda. However, similar to other authoritarian regimes throughout history, little by little it is left with nothing to say.

It no longer inspires pride, it never did, to belong to a CDR. Nor does it offer any advantage, under the current political conditions on the island. Belonging to a CDR is to distance yourself from the community, to be forced to fulfill certain obligations, almost always problematic, and to live a life of ideological obedience that does not lead anywhere. Could any 25-year-old want that?

Hence, the leaders of the organization are wracking their brains to see how they attract young people to the CDRs. Because as the old guards retire, many of these repositories of information about accusations are closing forever, and they disappear as if they never existed. This ends up being much better, because thousands of Cubans have been harmed, in one way or another, by some activity carried out by a CDR in “defense of the revolution.”

Seeing them disappear, like any of the buildings in the center of cities that collapse due to inclement weather, might end up being the best ending. Young people do not want to be the successors of a poisoned inheritance, one which, most likely, in a democratic and free country, should be brought to justice for its misdeeds. Who would want that?

Interestingly, Granma says that “the CDRs offer a perfect trench for those who want to transform their community and their environment, and work towards solving the problems of the neighborhood”; empty words, thrown to the wind. Young Cubans, highly qualified and with a clear desire for solidarity, know that helping others has nothing to do with acting as the block’s CDR. Luckily, this is also over. The population pyramid has buried the CDRs.

If the non-renewal of the population by the base is problematic, it is more complex to not know what to do with the CDRs and, above all,  which activity they should focus on in 2021

If the non-renewal of the population by the base is problematic, it is more complex to not know what to do with the CDRs and, above all, which activity they should focus on in 2021. The strategy.

Though this effort is pending, it seems the directors of the organization are not paying it the attention it deserves. To think that the CDRs should continue to “defend the revolution” is to force them to be against the vast majority of a society that has already sent its first, very clear messages about the urgency of the changes.

The facts. Putting the CDRs to care for the environment and animals, as the organization’s top leader, Hernández Nordelo, told Granma, is surprising to say the least. The vague and undefined announcement that the organization will take on new tasks, including inciting the population to keep watch from their communities as a way to preserve itself, is at best cryptic and complex to understand. What do they want to preserve with the CDRs, perhaps the buildings, or the streets, which we’re not allowed to be in right now?

It would be unfortunate if the CDRs end up chasing stray dogs or stopping the felling of trees. Of course, there are things that are better left unsaid so as not to end up being hilarious. For those who played a key role in the origins of the revolution it was a great social effort to destroy the life and property of citizens by preparing a report of alleged criminal activities, often false and based on rumors. In the movie The Lives of Others, the East German state security spy ends up delivering print ads to homes when communism disappears forever. It could be a good ending for the day after, luckily, it is forthcoming.

It would serve the CDRs very well to disappear in this way, without making noise, closing the embarrassing and painful files that never should have been opened. (14ymedio)

Hernández Nordelo, who enjoys this canonry at the head of the CDRs as a reward from the communist regime for his spy activities (he could have obtained director general position in some joint venture in the state with much better pay and privileges), said “We must ask ourselves which CDR do Cuba, the Revolution and the Cuban CDRs need, and continue working in that direction.”

Well, he should ask himself, and do it as soon as possible, because as has already been pointed out, in a matter of years, not many, the people he will have at his disposal will be an army of grandparents willing to play a game of dominoes, keep an eye on the pig in the yard or harvest a pumpkin in a corner of the park. And little else.

Conclusion. The CDRs have already fulfilled their role and must pass. They’ve used up all the energy Fidel Castro gave them and passed through the phase of contempt and decadence Raúl Castro gifted them. They have neither renewal nor mission, and any organization that suffers from these ills must say goodbye. For the good of society, for the good of history. It would serve the CDRs very well to disappear in this way, without making noise, closing the embarrassing and painful files that never should have been opened. Nobody, absolutely nobody, will miss the CDRs in Cuba, not now and, of course, much less, later. It is time to say goodbye and forget an experience that has left in its wake much more damage than social benefit.

Translated by Silvia Suárez

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This text was originally published on the blog Cubaeconomía.

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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.

Yunior Garcia Takes on Activism Against the Totalitarian, Abusive Power of the Cuban Regime

Artist Yunior García was one of the leaders of protests by intellectuals in front of the Ministry of Culture on November 27; he was also violently loaded onto a State Security truck during the historic events of 11J. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, Cuba | 27 September 2021 — For many years, Yunior García Aguilera has not been satisfied with just being a playwright. Since 2016 when he stood up at a meeting of the Hermanos Saíz Association and asked 15 questions that upset the authorities, the artist, who was born in Holguín in 1982, has not taken a seat in any comfortable position.

He was one of the leaders of the protest by artists and intellectuals in front of the Ministry of Culture on November 27 (27N). He was also violently loaded onto a State Security truck during the historic events of July 11th (11J), when he protested with other colleagues and friends in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television.

These days, the spotlights are on him as the most visible face of the peaceful demonstrations scheduled in various cities for November 20 (20N).

All this has happened without interrupting the work he does with his theater group. Without losing the smile that always accompanies him, he talks with 14ymedio about 20N, his hopes, and persecuted art in Cuba.

Luz Escobar. What has it been like to take the step of saying publicly what you think?

Yunior García. I believe that all artists and intellectuals have social concerns and somehow need to participate in the reality of their country. The problem with Cuba is that perhaps there are too many prejudices continue reading

within the intellectual, academic and artistic world, in part because many need to feel like a valid interlocutor before the authorities, the institutions, the power, and that fills you with limitations. Over time, I have tried to shed those prejudices; to not accept those impositions they have tried to sow in our minds, that it is not possible to speak with certain Cubans, that they have no legitimacy; to forget about all the labels that are placed on the traditional opposition or on the Cubans who have decided in one way or another to take on dissidence, activism, in the face of a totalitarian and abusive power.

“I have tried to shed those prejudices; to not accept those impositions they have tried to sow in our mind, that it is not possible to speak with certain Cubans, that they have no legitimacy.”

Colliding with all the limitations, with State Security, with surveillance, with having gone to jail, with not being able to leave my house sometimes because agents prevent me, with having my internet cut off; these are things most artists and intellectuals have not experienced, which is why they view this type of situation from a distance, sometimes from a comfortable distance.

Escobar. Many may say that you have been radicalized.

García. The proximity of these realities of which I spoke has been very uncomfortable, which  makes it increasingly transparent in the essence of what I am seeking. It is not about portraying the most moderate image possible so that some, who have not yet understood the Cuban reality, do not reject my speech, but rather assume the truth and behave honestly. Rather than radicalism, I would like to call it total transparency, not wearing masks.

Escobar. How much has the treatment received from the government’s repressive apparatus changed in recent months?

García. The discourse of power has become quite clear in recent times. At first they treat you as if you are confused, they try to approach you as someone who is perhaps surrounded by bad company. They try the discourse of the good cop who pretends to help you, who wants you to continue doing your work as an artist without it affecting you too much. But when you maintain a firm position, to continue thinking as you have decided and acting in accordance with the way you think, the pace of surveillance increases, the pressure on you increases and then there is now an officer who attends to you and they start limiting your rights.

The first time was shortly after November 27th, when an agent named Jordan prevented me from leaving my house and said that he was coming on behalf of the Cuban people. But now, for example, that same agent has already approached relatives and friends trying to pressure them, always with a speech in which he purports not to position himself as an enemy.

“Now, for example, that same agent has already approached relatives and friends trying to pressure them, always with a speech in which he purports not to position himself as an enemy.”

With their clumsiness, they help you define yourself as an artist, as a citizen, as a Cuban. You start to truly see all the repression, all the abuses, the lack of freedom and you begin to live it closely, no longer in a book or in an interview.

Escobar. How much has your relationship with arts institutions changed in the last year?

García. I want to continue being an artist, I would love to be able to continue doing theater, making movies, even television. It is something that I would never give up because it is the essence of who I am, but of course I also want to continue engaging in activism, functioning as a human being, as a citizen of a country. Sometimes people tell me, “dedicate yourself to writing”; as artists they have always instilled in us that if you have a talent you must exploit it and if you are an artist “you must speak through your work.” But I wonder: would they have said the same to José Martí, who was an excellent poet, who was a playwright? How would Lorca or Brecht or any other artist have reacted? We live in a concrete reality and one does not spend one’s entire life being an artist; most of the time you are a citizen and you have to go stand in a line, be at the bus stop, move around.

With the institutions it has been a bit tough. Right now the theaters are closed, my group is still open, they continue to pay us a salary, but we don’t know if when the theaters open they will let us present our works. For example, I have received some refusals: a telenovela project that I was working on will no longer be possible. I don’t know if from now on I will have to write under a pseudonym.

What I do know is that I could not continue belonging to an organization like the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Uneac) after their complicit silence with regard to the repression and abuse which followed July 11th. An organization that perfectly accepts a power that represses its citizens and violates their rights, imprisons people for exercising their right to demonstrate and does not direct a single word to the citizenry, one whose speech is in favor of that abusive power, is an organization to which I cannot belong. That’s why one of the first decisions I made after July 11th was to give up my membership.

What I do know is that I could not continue belonging to an organization like the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Uneac) after their complicit silence with regard to the repression and abuse which followed July 11th

Escobar. How was the group Archipiélago born and how would you define it?

García. As a playwright, I obviously have a constant dialogue with the work of Virgilio Piñera. That notion of him on the Island is a reference for me, the unfortunate circumstance of the water everywhere, it is something that has always also evoked in me a slightly dissident response. Yes, okay, we are an island, but we really are an archipelago.

From the poetic point of view and from the political point of view, the notion of the island has been extremely present, of being separated from the world, of reacting like a monolith, of that false unity that is nothing but exclusion, because that unity is about excluding anyone who does not accept the official discourse. That is why, in contrast to Virgilio’s idea, I prefer to think in terms of an archipelago rather than an island.

We are different islands, we have the right to think differently, to propose different notions of a country, but in the end we have to live together in the same space. It is a concept that does not deny the difference.

We want to build a diverse country where differences are respected and where there is space for dissent, not only for the different ideas that already exist, but for new ones that may arise. Establishing a dogma, a single standard, an immovable model seems to me anti dialectical, something irrational.

Escobar. Why the November 20 march?

García. In all of history, those who are discriminated against have never obtained rights by gift or grace of the group in power. Rights have been conquered and they have been conquered through civility, through social participation, through marches, and through struggle in the streets. This is what happened with minority communities, with all those groups or people who have been discriminated against in the history of humanity, therefore marching is a right, demonstrating is a right which definitely must be conquered in Cuba.

In more than 60 years, an anti-government demonstration has never been allowed and we believe it is time to finally conquer that right, which is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the Cuban Constitution itself.

In more than 60 years, an anti-government demonstration has never been allowed and we believe it is time to finally conquer that right, which is in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We are living in a moment of crisis which perhaps has seldom been experienced in the history of Cuba, a crisis in all sectors. There is a popular dissatisfaction and discontent that grows daily. It is not about taking advantage of that discontent, it is about showing solidarity with it, taking it on as our own, because we are part of that dissatisfied society, which needs to change the reality of Cuba; and perhaps the most obvious way to do that is by demonstrating, going out to the streets to tell the government that we need a new social pact, that the one they have imposed on us has expired, is inefficient and has failed.

Escobar. How do you experience the smear campaign launched by various official sites and groups against you following your call to march?

García. What I have felt is a lot of solidarity from people who no longer subscribe to these types of attacks and who realize they are defamation campaigns to dehumanize you. When they have no way to attack you, they invent. They have to link you to the CIA, or call you a “mercenary” or “annexationist,” which is a ridiculous 19th century idea. I don’t believe any Cuban currently thinks of annexing the country to any territory, we are doing everything within sovereignty, we do it without any type of economic interest. No one is paying us to organize this march; those who oppose us have nothing to say, therefore they have to lie. What it also shows is that this no longer works for them: a large part of society realizes that this is manipulation. On the contrary, every day the messages of support grow, the people who say I am with you and I am going to march and see you on November 20. That old discourse is over, they failed, they have lost the battle ideologically and socially, they no longer fool anyone.

There are things one cannot fully understand until you experience them in your own flesh. When they use the same lies against you that they already used against others, you realize that they were lying when they stigmatized those people, and that also generates a feeling of solidarity with those who, before you, have been fighting for their ideas and have been demonized by those in power. I believe that this has also made us unite perhaps as never before. We are reaching a consensus that may be unprecedented. There is a general feeling of respect that we do not think alike and we have different strategies for the country we want to build, but it is time to unite.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Cuban Artist Hamlet Lavastida is Released from Prison and Travels to Poland

Hamlet Lavastida is interviewed on Polish television shortly after landing at the Warsaw airport. (Courtesy)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Cuba | 26 September 2021 — Hamlet Lavastida was released this Saturday and taken to José Martí International Airport in Havana, where he boarded a plane bound for Poland. After more than three months of detention in Villa Marista prison, the artist left the island along with his girlfriend, poet Katherine Bisquet Rodríguez, as confirmed to 14ymedio by the artist’s family.

State Security took it upon themselves to manage Bisquet’s consular procedures, she said. The young man “was driven to the airport and guarded by more than twenty agents until he boarded the plane, telling him it was a ‘one-way trip’ without possibility of return.”

According to this same source, Lavastida and Bisquet would be making a stopover in Madrid and are expected to arrive in Warsaw in the next few hours. “It was all done with a lot of secrecy by the political police and we are waiting for Lavastida to be in free territory so he can recount more of the details,” they added.

Upon arriving in Europe this Sunday, Bisquet published a post on her Facebook page in which she said that their exile was the “only option for Hamlet’s release from prison.”

“They have violated us, they have expatriated us, they have murdered us, they have imprisoned us, they have censored us, and it has all been done quietly, closely, in our backyard, in our own house”

The poet explained that Lavastida was taken by State Security to the airport Saturday afternoon, from a protocol house where he had been isolated since September 20 “and the location of which is unknown” because “he was transported there with his head between his legs.”

She said she was also transferred to the airport terminal by the political police “without allowing my father and family to take me there and bid me farewell.” State Security was in charge of all her immigration procedures.

“There is no justification that can even come close to disguising the macabre plan that their political power has unleashed over our lives. They’ve named this plan ‘political rationality’. On several occasions I’ve heard more than one agent say that it was not useful to have Hamlet imprisoned and that, as a result of this ‘political rationality’, they decided to release him on the condition that we both leave the country,” she wrote.

Bisquet said that they both have “many things to do, many things to build.” She took the opportunity to announce that “after a brief recovery” from everything they’ve experienced, they will be providing their testimonies.

“They have violated us, they have expatriated us, they have murdered us, they have imprisoned us, they have censored us, and it all has been done quietly, closely, in our backyard, in our own house,” she said, but she also said that today in Cuba “the people are alive” and in “these last few months something has changed “,” there is a growing force. A force that is accumulating within us.”

“Nothing will go unpunished. Every act of repression and every humiliation against our lives will have a translation in an important part of my literature. Every detail, every word, every gesture, every body,” said Bisquet.

Lavastida had returned to Cuba from Germany on June 21st, after finishing his residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien gallery in Berlin. After completing the regulatory period of isolation, he was arrested on June 26th as he exited the government isolation center in the Flores neighborhood of the capital, and transferred by State Security to Villa Marista prison. The authorities informed his family that he was under “investigation” for the alleged offense of “instigating a crime.”

The 38-year-old artist, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, is one of the most relevant creators of his generation

The 38-year-old artist, declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, is one of the most relevant creators of his generation and in recent months has maintained a confrontational discourse against the regime by denouncing the repression his Cuban colleagues experienced, especially since November 27th. Between 2011 and 2015, he resided outside the island and was prohibited entry into the country as a result of public statements that upset the authorities.

State Security made it known that he was being investigated for an exchange that took place in a private group chat of opposition artists–27N–on Telegram, where he proposed marking banknotes with the logos of San Isidro Movement and 27N, an initiative that did not come to bear.

Known for his critical works, the Cuban government believes Lavastida “has been inciting and calling for acts of civil disobedience on public roads, using social media networks and directly influencing others,” as published on Razones de Cuba, a government website.

Human Rights Watch, PEN America and PEN International all condemned his arrest and demanded his unconditional release, as did dozens of artists and activists inside and outside the island, including Lester Álvarez, who stated that the only reason Lavastida was under arrest was for “freely expressing his opinion on the authoritarianism of the Cuban government.”

During the artist’s imprisonment in Villa Marista prison, he was denied four requests for a change of precautionary measures and three complaints. Furthermore, he was infected with COVID-19 and transferred to an isolation center without notifying his family.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Under a Strong Police Operation, Cubans Venerate the ‘Patroness of the Incarcerated’

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 24 September 2021 — Surrounded by metal fencing to control entry and with a strong police operation reinforced at each corner, this is how the Church of La Merced in Old Havana looked on Friday. Despite the rigors of the pandemic and the rain, hundreds of devotees came to this temple to place a candle before the “Patroness of the Incarcerated.”

Located in the neighborhood of San Isidro, the church is frequented by both the Catholic faithful and those who worship the greater orisha Obbatalá, with whom Our Lady of Mercy is syncretized in Santería. Dressed in white, the faithful arrived early on September 24 to pray specifically for those locked up in prisons.

The location of the church could not be more perfect. San Isidro has been the center of Cuban rebellion since Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and other activists founded the Movement that bears this neighborhood’s name and that has led loud, rebellious acts. Today, the artist is in prison, as are other members of the group, and the State Security closely monitors the area.

For many Havanans, this impoverished section of the Cuban capital is considered the site where the spark that fueled the popular protests of July 11th started. Although the first demonstrations took place in San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa, civil disobedience had begun to take shape much earlier, in a humble house on 955 Damas Street near the Church of La Merced. continue reading

San Isidro has been the center of Cuban rebellion since Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and other activists founded the Movement that bears this neighborhood’s name and that has led loud, rebellious acts

San Isidro is also a neighborhood where a thin line stands between any young person and prison. Poor, largely dedicated to the illegal market, and with fewer economic opportunities than those in other more prosperous municipalities, many neighborhood families have one or more relatives who have been convicted by a court.

In a country with more than 90,000 incarcerated people, this is not unusual; in proportion to its population, Cuba has the largest number of prisoners in the world. Increasingly worrisome, the regime has unleashed massive arrests and judicial prosecutions following the demonstrations calling for “Freedom” and the end of the current system.

Hence, so many have come today to the altar of the patroness who “liberates, consoles and protects” all who are deprived of their freedom, on this her first Feast Day after the events of July. This is also why the police appeared so nervous around the Church and why the plainclothes officers patrolling the building looked questioningly at anyone who approached.

Along Cuba Street, the fencing, patrol cars and police motorcycles blocked access to vehicles from two blocks away on either side of the Church, although these areas were open to pedestrian traffic. “They are there watching because they know that during these religious events anything can happen, such as requesting freedom for the prisoners and more so now,” a young man commented to this newspaper.

Along Cuba Street, the fencing, patrol cars and police motorcycles blocked access to vehicles from two blocks away on either side of the Church

After crossing the police fence, visitors were required to form a line to place flowers and candles on a railing at the chapel. Church staff then arranged the offerings closer to Our Lady of Mercy. It was possible to enter a second queue to get closer to the statue but “without taking photos”, clarified a young man to whomever he saw with the mobile phone in hand.

In any case, it was of little use to try to send an image or a video as the internet connection barely worked. “As soon as I arrived, everything got very slow, I couldn’t even send audio,” commented a young man who was waiting to leave his flowers. “I don’t know if it’s because it’s cloudy or because they have deliberately slowed it down in this area, in case something happens,” he added.

Along Cuba Street, the fencing, patrol cars and police motorcycles blocked access to vehicles from two blocks away on either side of the Church (14ymedio)

For those who could not reach the chapel, there were always gestures of remembrance and veneration in their own homes and on social media networks, which this Friday were filled with photos of candles, white clothing, and cotton candy or rice pudding, foods traditionally offered to the African orisha. Calls for amnesty for political prisoners also abounded.

One of those who spoke out for the incarcerated was the singer Haydée Milanés: “Today, on the day of the Mercy, Obbatalá, I ask for peace for all Cubans. I also ask for freedom for political prisoners. Incarceration, persecution, repression, censorship, will never be the way. May Obbatalá’s blessing reach us all.”

Text of Tweet: Surrounded by metal fencing to control entry and with a strong police operation redoubled in each corner, this is how the Church of La Merced in Old Havana looked on Friday. Hundreds of devotees came to this temple to place a candle before the “Patroness of the Incarcerated”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Cuba: When They Hijacked the Applause

Blackout in Havana, where government buildings are the only ones that remain illuminated. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 24 September 2021 — The blackout on Tuesday night was brief, but as soon as it got dark a man’s voice was heard shouting, “Why don’t you clap now?”

He was speaking directly to neighbors who at nine o’clock “honor” the doctors engaged in the fight against the pandemic. To clarify, in this neighborhood these are the only neighbors who, in addition to clapping forcefully, shout, howl and hit metal objects, as if instead of entertaining the health workers they were provoking an enemy.

In addition to clapping forcefully, they shout, howl and hit metal objects, as if instead of entertaining the health personnel they were provoking an enemy

Twenty-seven years ago, when I was writing a column titled Letters from Havana in the German weekly Wochenpost, I published an article for foreigners, explaining the meaning of a blackout. At the time, I did not consider myself an independent journalist, but as a freelancer, which seemed more elegant to me.

I began my dissertation by narrating the joy that erupted in any neighborhood the moment the lights come on, forgetting about people trapped in elevators, interrupted television shows whose viewers had not been able to see the end of the day’s episode of their favorite novela, students who could not do their homework and, of course, people who were unable to cook because their cooking appliances were electric.

On one occasion I recounted an incident involving impatient neighbors who threw bottles and garbage from their balconies at midnight because the electricity had not been restored according to schedule. To conclude, I added, continue reading

“But that happens very rarely.  Almost never. What always does happen is the chorus of relief, perfectly coordinated like a gigantic orchestra, with which the people of Havana console themselves when the lights come on.”

Today, that text, which would be taken as confrontational from the official angle, seems to me light, complacent, folkloric.

The same view of Havana, in this case illuminated. (14ymedio)

I am not saying that people aren’t happy when the electrons resume their travel through conductors, that is, when the lights return. Of course they are, but the enthusiasm is not the same and neither is the anger manifested the moment the blackout arrives.

The chauvinistic vanity that convinced us that we are part of the “civilized world” also made us believe that we were not to be compared with the 780 million people on this planet who currently live without electricity.

Those are “the others,” we live in the Northern Hemisphere, also in the Western one.  As if that were not enough, here we created a socialist revolution with our sight set on that Leninist definition that “communism is the power of the Soviets plus electricity.” According to statistics, our access to electricity is 99.8%, but they fail to add the adjective “guaranteed” to the noun “access.”

The last one was short and partial. The houses in the neighborhood were dark, but in government buildings, generators were activated immediately. In the Plaza de la Revolución the lights remained on

From our balcony on the 14th floor you can appreciate the magnitude of the blackouts. The houses in the neighborhood were dark, but in government buildings, generators were activated immediately. In the Plaza de la Revolución the lights remained on.

The forecasts are not favorable. Power plants suffer from lack of maintenance and technological obsolescence; the fuel that powers them threatens to become more scarce every day and even the cables show signs of fatigue.

The irritation caused by these blackouts undermines citizen enthusiasm. Furthermore, it even diminishes the desire to applaud the sacrifice of doctors, because among other things, in a subtle but evident way, the propaganda has politicized this tribute, extending it to those responsible for the darkness.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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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 Organizers of the Peaceful Marches on November 20th (20N) Expect 8,000 People in Holguin and Santa Clara

Poster announcing the marches planned for November 20th

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23September 2021 —  This Thursday in Villa Clara, about twenty citizens joined the Archipelago collective in its call to peacefully demonstrate on 20N. In addition, the thirty signatories joined the initiative this Wednesday in Holguín.

As playwright Yunior García did in Havana, citizens from Villa Clara and Holguín submitted a document notifying local authorities of their intention to march peacefully “to demand that all rights of all Cubans be respected.”

In the text they also request “the liberation of political prisoners” and that a resolution to differences in their ways of thinking be achieved through “democratic and peaceful means.”

As detailed in their requests, shared on the Archipelago’s social networks, in Holguín the march would last about three hours and would begin at two in the afternoon. Around 5,000 people would participate, marching from Loma de la Cruz to the city’s statue of José Martí. In Villa Clara, the demonstration would go from the Train Station – where, they say, “José Martí will be offered flowers at his monument” – to Loma del Capiro, passing by the church of Carmen. Some 3,000 people would participate. continue reading

In their requests they also point out that they expect “the right of the press–national and international, official or independent–to inform adequately and truthfully” be respected.

“We request that authorities guarantee: the full exercise of our human and constitutional rights; the protection of protesters against those who try to prevent peaceful demonstrations; and the normal telecommunications service during the march,” write the signatories of both texts reiterating that there is “no law that prohibits, regulates or limits the full exercise” of this type of activity on the island.

In their requests they also point out that they expect “the right of the press–national and international, official or independent–to adequately and truthfully report on the organization and development of the march.”

The group insists that the demonstration is taking place “after extensive and in-depth discussions with various members of civil society” and after the Government’s decision to open the country to international tourism on November 15. It clarifies that, therefore, the planned security measures “promote the peaceful and civic nature of the march, with absolute adherence to public order and the health measures imposed by the covid-19 pandemic.”

By sharing the documents on their social networks, they announced that in the coming days “citizens of the entire country will present similar documents to the authorities of their locality.”

The initiative to march on 20N began in Havana last Tuesday when a group of artists and intellectuals — known as Archipelago — who participated in the spontaneous demonstrations on July 11 (11J), requested authorization for the peaceful protest. The document was delivered to the capital government and in addition to García Aguilera, was also signed by filmmaker Raúl Prado Rodríguez, actor Reinier Díaz Vega and editor Miryorly García Prieto, among others.

Hours after the plans for the 20N march were made public, the regime called for a new, world-wide caravan to “demand the end of the US blockade” against Cuba.

Officialdom reacted quickly. This Wednesday, hours after the 20N march was announced, the regime called for a new, world-wide caravan to “demand the end of the US blockade” against Cuba and “the lifting of the sanctions that punish the Cuban people.”

As reported to the official press by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples, the caravan is promoted by Cuban émigré Carlos Lazo. Lazo leads the Puentes de Amor (Bridges of Love) initiative, and recently traveled to the island from the United States, where he resides, to meet with Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The Government also mobilized State Security to defame Yunior García Aguilera through a letter on its Facebook page “Razones de Cuba” in which they call the playwright “egocentric,” “hypocritical,” “lacking national values,” “an instrument of the enemy” and “ungrateful for all the projects “the Revolution” that “he wishes to overthrow” has subsidized and awarded him.

García Aguilera, a native of Holguín and a resident of the Cuban capital, was one of the 30 artists who, on November 27 following a spontaneous demonstration in front of the Ministry of Culture, participated in the meeting with Vice Minister Fernando Rojas.

The playwright has been very critical of the regime’s repression on social media since July 11, showing solidarity with those detained after the protests. “How similar are all dictatorships! It doesn’t matter with which color they are presented to us or with which hand they give the orders!” wrote the playwright who was also arrested that Sunday along with other creators in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television.

After being released, he made public his resignation as a member of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Uneac) by stating that he could not “continue to belong to an organization that turns its back on a considerable part of the people and chooses to show obedience to an abusive power of attorney. ”

As a result of July 11, García Aguilera met with singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez after urging him through an “open letter to the owner of a lost unicorn.” Following the meeting, according to the playwright, Rodríguez promised to “advocate for the release of all the prisoners who participated in the protests,” something characterized by the singer-songwriter himself in a later writing, where he referred to the “non-violent.”

Translated by Silvia Suárez

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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.