The Cuban Embargo: Another Resolution? Or Elimination of Internal Obstacles? / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellano, Havana, 23 May 2021 — The embargo enacted by the U.S. against the Cuban government in 1962 was ridiculed for its ineffectiveness until the Soviet subsidies disappeared. As of that moment, it was described as the primary cause of all ills, including sexual rights, according to the words of Manuel Vázquez, Deputy Director of CENESEX, on May 13, 2021. Since then, year after year, Cuba has presented resolutions before the United Nations General Assembly to force its elimination.

When Cuba presented the first resolution in 1992, 59 countries voted in favor. In 2016, with diplomatic relations re-established, it presented the twenty-fifth resolution, without a single vote against it, since Israel and the U.S. abstained. With those results, the maximum possible at the UN, it exhausted the resolutions route, as compliance with them is not mandatory; at the same time a new scenario was launched with the Obama Administration.

In contrast with the ten administrations that preceded it (Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush), Barack Obama did not demand as a premise the democratization of Cuba. In its place, he expanded travel permits, eased commercial restrictions for private enterprises and smallholder Cuban farmers, increased the limits on remittances and donations, expanded commercial exports of goods and services and provided commercial telecommunications and internet services at low prices.

These measures resulted in increased travel to Cuba, the arrival of cruise ships, the resumption of flights and direct mail transport, the establishment of agreements with telecommunications companies, and negotiations between other countries and Cuba. For its part, the Government of the Island limited itself to allowing Cubans to travel abroad without requiring permission from the Government, and to sell their cars and houses; measures indicative of how far Cuban rights had declined, but nothing that favored their empowerment.

With previous administrations there weren’t any arrangements because they demanded conditions; with Obama’s, which did not make demands, there weren’t any either: U.S. changed its policies, Cuba did not.

In that context, during his electoral campaign, Donald Trump announced that he’d revise the established policy toward Cuba. Once elected, in June 2017, he signed the “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States toward Cuba.” And in November of that year, the Departments of Treasury and Commerce, through their offices of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), and the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) rolled it out.

Lost was the opportunity to negotiate; in 2017 the Cuban government presented the twenty-sixth resolution against the embargo and criticized the National Security Presidential Memorandum. That line, which was not edited in 2018, 2019 nor 2020, will have a new episode next June when Havana presents its thirtieth resolution with the same arguments, “the blockade is illegal, immoral and constitutes a major obstacle to Cuba’s economic and social development.”

A different point of departure requires one to consider two of the primary reasons for the embargo: the elimination of private property in Cuba and the guerrillas in Latin America. continue reading

The first began by eliminating the large estates (1959), it continued with the elimination of properties owned by large American businesses (1960), and it ended by sweeping the tens of thousands of small establishments that had survived the wave of confiscation (1968).

The second reason manifest itself since the first days of the revolution with the training of guerrillas to export the revolution, the first episodes of which took place in Panama, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua and Paraguay.

Both events, by affecting American interests, resulted in the rupture of diplomatic relations and support for the Bay of Pigs landing in 1961 and the embargo in 1962.

The actions and reactions of both parties resulted in a confrontational escalation which included the installation of Soviet mid-range missiles in Cuba and the naval blockade in 1962, and other actions to date.

In the midst of this confrontation rights and freedoms, which reached their peak in the Constitution of 1940, and placed Cuba among the countries with the highest standard of living in Latin America, disappeared from the Island. With power concentrated in the leader, power in the State and independent civil society replaced by one created and subordinate to power, inefficiency took shape. The government response was limited to introducing reform measures with a predetermined border: state property, the single party, and the conservation of power; which are the primary causes of the Cuban nation’s structural crisis.

The hopes of the Island’s authorities for a change in policy with the new administration in the U.S. are gone with the wind. Four months since taking office the message from Washington has been, “Cuba is not a priority for the U.S. any change goes through human rights and the Biden Administration is not Obama’s.”

After proving that the Cuban government cannot determine the U.S. policy and that resistance has its limits, only one path remains: internal change.

The U.S. does not prohibit dealing with private Cuban business owners. Thus, if the Government of Cuba allows its citizens to legally create small and medium enterprises; hand over or sell land for use by producers; eliminate the monopolies held by Acopio and Comercio Exterior so that Cubans may freely buy and sell; eradicate the Foreign Investment Law so Cubans may invest in their country, then the enomony and services would gradually eradicate the shortages. . . But most importantly, the arguments for maintaining the embargo would be dismantled and the U.S. Congress would be free to proceed with eliminating it.

The Cuban authorities, instead of continuing to present resolutions, could do what is within their reach: eliminate the ideological or other obstacles, stop clinging to nationalization, centralized planning and the absence of freedoms which constitute the primary reasons for the Cuban crisis. It is not about an act of surrender before the “enemy”; but rather a gesture toward the nation and toward the people the Government supposedly represents. It would be like adding content to the cliché “thinking as a country.”

It has nothing to do with utopia. The U.S. unleashed upon Vietnam triple the number of bombs used during World War II; 15% of the population perished or was wounded; 60% of towns in South Vietnam were destroyed. At the end of the war, Vietnam faced a U.S. embargo. Instead of presenting resolutions at the U.N, Vietnam introduced a market economy. As a result, the embargo was lifted. In 2010, Vietnam achieved its goal of joining the group of middle-income countries; in 2014 it was the twenty-eight largest exporter in the world; and in 2016 it was en route to becoming an industrialized nation.

If the Cuban government did not take advantage of the opportunity offered by the Obama Administration and the economy continues declining, why don’t we think like a country and as a result eliminate the internal blockade? What is the reason for not doing so?

El Blog de Dimas

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

Cuba: Saily González is Freed After Covering Up the “Free Maykel and Luis Manuel” Slogan on Her T-Shirt

Saily González wore this t-shirt as she was arrested. (Twitter/SailydeAmarillo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 June 2022 — Saily González Velázquez was freed on Tuesday night, after spending several hours in the custody of State Security, which detained her as she marched down a Santa Clara street demanding freedom for Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Osorbo.

They told several family members who were waiting for her at the door of the police station that they’d release her if they provided another T-shirt for her to wear over the one she was wearing, which contained the hand-written slogans, “Free Maykel Obsorbo” and “Free Luis Manuel.”

“They freed Saily González. She is on her way home now!” informed blogger Boris Sancho on social media. The message was shared on the accounts of several activists who also confirmed that a patrol car dropped off the Villa Clara-based activist at home and that the political police also interrogated her mother.

The measure is part of a government policy denounced by the Madrid-based Cuban Observatory for Human Rights which sent a report on Tuesday to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that detailed how family members of those arrested are used as part of the harassment.

“The government strategies consist of surveillance, interfering with or suppressing the use of internet by family members to silence them or reduce their presence on social media and independent news media; exhorting them not to organize defensive legal actions before national and international organizations; infiltrating agents or trusted subjects; and offering legal benefits conditioned on forced exile,” they warn.

Until now, the young entrepreneur and former moderator of the Archipiélago platform had not made any public statements beyond demanding freedom for Carlos Ernesto Díaz González, aka Ktivo Disidente. The rapper from Cienfuegos was arrested in April after he launched an antigovernment diatribe while standing on a wall in Havana.

“All I want to say is that if I’m home, Ktivo must also be. Both of us protested similarly in a public street. Both equally demanded freedom for political prisoners, because those prisoners are also my brothers,” said González adding the hashtags that are being used for the trials against the July 11th (11J) protesters and the trial of Otero Alcántara and Osorbo. continue reading

The video she recorded while she marched, described the government as “terrorist” and “fascist” for “all the injustice and arbitrary actions” it commits. González added that the regime “cannot handle the free souls,” which is why “they want them in prison.” “Disrespect against patriotic symbols?” she asked alluding to the charges against Alcántara for his performance Drapeau, to which she responded, “That is when I see Miguel Díaz-Canel standing alongside a Cuban flag.”

At that moment, a State Security agent violently pounced on her and said, “You know you can’t do that. Give me the telephone. You know you can’t do that. What is that for?” The individual took González’s telephone and interrupted the livestream while he admonished her for her behavior.

The court day on June 1 was also expected to be intense, as the appeals of several 11J protesters in Las Vegas were expected as well as the appeal of Abel Lescay, who was sentenced to six years in prison for his participation in the July 11th protests in San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque.

Singer songwriter Silvio Rodríguez came to the musician’s defense, asking for transparency during Lescay’s trial and a higher level review of his sentence. “I do not have faith that the system will correct itself. As I have said before, it continues to be a very small circle of people, practically a sect, which makes decisions,” he said despite everything.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Cuba: Confusion Over Andy Garcia’s Return to Prison Following his Release

Andy García Lorenzo on Monday in a video where he criticized the trial of Otero Alcántara and “Osorbo”, shortly before his re-arrest. (SailydeAmarillo)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 31 May 2022 — Andy García Lorenzo, one of the July 11 (11J) prisoners released in Santa Clara last Wednesday, was newly arrested on Monday and his situation is confusing, although, according to the latest information, his transfer to an “open regimen”* was revoked and he must return to prison.

His sister, Roxana García Lorenzo, explained yesterday on Facebook via an unstable connection, that in the morning a summons which arrived at the house stated that Andy García must appear at the tribunal to be notified of the date on which he must appear at the camp to serve the rest of his sentence. The same message also reached the others released on the same conditions.

Andy García went to the designated location where they communicated that on Tuesday at 2 pm he must report to El Jabú, the labor camp where he was to continue his sentence. Shortly after, the young man went to the Guamajal prison accompanied by his father, Nedel García Pacheco to pick up some belongings which were still there. On his way back home, on motorcycle, both were detained “to talk” and they took them to the 5th unit in Santa Clara, according to activist Saily González Velázquez.

Roxana García, who went to the detention center seeking an explanation, denounced that she was treated “like a dog.” “After this, my brother came out barefoot, handcuffed with several police officers. Barefoot, that was incredible: all of them, quiet. My brother was the one who began to tell me ‘they revoked me, they revoked me.’ It is the only thing Andy was saying to me, with tremendous anger,” she said.

“I’m okay because soon your time will come. Your family will go through all of this because of you. What happened for Andy to be in the infirmary? Before all of this, Andy had to get some tests done due to kidney-related health problems. He is urinating blood. They didn’t even allow him to get the tests done,” she confirmed. continue reading

Pedro López, Roxana García’s father-in-law said, “this is Patria y Vida [homeland and life] until it’s over. The trial was a circus, they had to reduce his sentence because they realized they didn’t have any evidence against Andy and look what they do now: they arrest him arbitrarily and they take him. Then they don’t want us to say that this is a dictatorship. It is a dictatorship, it has no other name. We live in a dictatorship.”

Twenty-four-year-old Andy García Lorenzo had been sentenced to four years in prison on January 10th along with 15 other protesters who went out to the streets on July 11th.

Following an appeal, he was “released momentarily” on Wednesday, while awaiting “the completion of his sentence in an open prison,” announced his family who at that moment had warned that although they were happy he was by their side, they knew the struggle was not over.

In an interview shared by Cubanet, García Lorenzo had denounced that the few days he’d been on the street he was being subjected to constant surveillance, “Tracking! A caravan. They follow me everywhere. It’s incredible how they waste resources,” but he seemed proud of his participation in the 11J protests.

“How could I regret the act I’m most proud of in my life, that of all Cubans, the happiest day in history, the day in which the people rose up against the oppressor,” he said.

Hours before his arrest, on a video shared on social media, the young man also spoke of the trial of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Osorbo, which began on Monday and is expected to conclude today, Tuesday. “That trial is more than done. Injustice reigns in this country. Those of us that have been through those trials, that is a mockery. They will try to intimidate the people with that type of trial.”

“The San Isidro Movement has been an inspiration that, in the future, things can happen, future movements to finally create a party that will truly take on the communist Castro regime until there is multi-party system in this country. Freedom for my brothers and hopefully justice will truly be done and they will be released,” he added.

*Translator’s note: An “open regime” is similar to a labor camp, versus incarceration in a “regular” prison.

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.

Arrests and Threats for Cuban Activists During the Trial of Alcantara and Osorbo

Caption: Police control access to the tribunal where the trial against the artists will take place in Havana. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 30 May 2021 — On Monday, May 30th, an impenetrable operation guarded the Tribunal in Marianao in Havana, where the first day of the trial was held for Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel Castillo Osorbo.

Some witnesses who were able to attend the oral arguments relayed to 14ymedio that, based on the behavior of the Tribunal and the Prosecutor, they sensed that the trial ended on Monday, though officially it is planned to last two days. Outside the building where the trial was held, the operation the regime maintained in the afternoon was impressive.

Patrol cars, ambulances, buses, countless undercover State Security agents and uniformed police remained in the surrounding area, confirmed artist Julio Llópiz-Casal, who attended along with painter Lázaro Saavedra, called by Alcántara’s defense.

Saavedra’s wife also attended but was unable to enter the tribunal. Without looking at a list he had in hand, she said, a State Security agent let the first two pass after looking at their faces and prevented her from entering.

According to Llópiz-Casal, who was only able to enter the courtroom where the trial was held when it was his turn to testify, the space was large and from where he was seated, he was unable to make eye contact with Alcántara. While he was testifying, the questions centered on emphasizing “his basis for endorsing [the activist’s] artistic trajectory.”

Moreover, the political police arrested actor Daniel Triana, reported independent journalist Claudia Padrón Cueto. Triana himself shared a video in which he declared his intention to leave his house “in protest” and solidarity with the prosecuted artists. Before crossing the threshold, he passed the phone to his sister, Amanda, who filmed how the agent that “attends him,” Adrián, attempted to block the actor and attack him and the young woman. “Call the patrol car because I’m going out,” Triana says to the opressor; he [Triana] managed to walk a few steps from his house and get lost in the distance.

Similarly, Camila Acosta was arrested while leaving her house. “Two police officers and two women dressed as civilians stopped me and put me, without explanation, into patrol car No. 786. I was headed to a meeting with my lawyer,” the journalist posted on her social media. “The State Security official let me go some 20 minutes later, when he spoke with his superiors, though not before warning me that my criminal case was still pending and I was under house arrest, and that “any crime” committed would aggravate my situation,” she explained, referring to the public disorder charge against her for reporting on July 11th. “I have not paid the fine they imposed last week,” Acosta explained. She recalled, “I signed an act of freedom, I am a free person (though in a dictatorship). Any arrest or preventing my public movement is a violation of my human rights.”

Dagoberto Valdés, director of Convivencia magazine, also received threats; he stated that a chief of police summoned him on Monday at 2 pm “in the sector” in Pinar del Río. continue reading

Since the early morning hours, part of 14ymedio‘s team in Havana has been without internet conection. On the ground floor of Luz Escobar‘s building, which is also without internet, there is already a guard to prevent her from leaving. Afrika Reina, a close friend of the artist and a member of the San Isidro Movement, has also denounced that an officer arrived at her house at 6:21 to tell her she could not leave nor go to the courtroom as she had intended. The journalist and activist María Matienzo is also under surveillance.

A white vehicle transported a Swedish diplomat who attempted to cross the police perimeter, but the agents did not allow it. (14ymedio)

Access to the Marianao Tribunal is closed and unauthorized vehicles are not allowed, as confirmed by 14ymedio. A white vehicle transporting a Swedish diplomat attempted to cross the police barrier, but the agents did not allow it. Outside it, international media, such as AFP and diplomats from Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands remained.

“We simply want to enter to observe the trial and until now we have not received permission,” said a German diplomat in statements made to international media, picked up by EFE. The diplomat added that they will continue placing “much attention” on the case and assured, “We want human rights to be respected in all places and countries.”

This daily counted at least one hundred agents guarding the location and several points under surveillance on 33rd street. Neighbors in that area added that, next to the nearby playground there was a rapid response brigade vehicle and there were undercover State Security agents at the street corners. The only cameras in the area were those of the state-run national television and the traffic is building, since the block is closed off.

Access to the Marianao Tribunal is closed and unauthorized vehicles cannot pass, as this newspaper confirmed. (14ymedio)

The trial began around 9:00 in the morning and during the previous days both opponents have been subjected to new arbitrariness by the authorities.

The artist and leader of the San Isidro Movement has been punished and not allowed to make phone calls for having released an audio recorded on May 17th and shared by Claudia Genlui. In it he spoke of the repression he has suffered in the last years, the regime’s offer to release him in exchange for exile, which he rejected; and of the fighting spirit he wishes to transmit to his son and all Cuban people. Otero Alcántara has been in Guanajay prison since July 2021 when he was arrested before he was able to join the protests on the 11th of that month.

For his part, Osorbo has been punished with a change of attorney a few hours before his trial and all the damage that could entail. The information was provided by Anamey Ramos, who on Friday explained that the rapper’s attorney, Ginett del Solar Vega, was disqualified by authorities.

These events occurred the day before when, during a visit to Villa Marista prison, where Maykel Castillo has been transferred after a year in detention, she was informed that “she had had some problems at the law firm and they had restricted her from trials until August 1st.” As of now, Yoilandris Savón is in charge of his defense.

“An act such as this is very suspicious, just days before the trial. For us it was pretty obvious that it was a new trap set by State Security, to which the Cuban judicial system lends itself. It is odd that an attorney is removed from trials that are already scheduled, in any case new contracts, and less than a week before the trial,” said Ramos who demanded answers from the law firm and again requested that foreign press, diplomats on the Island and foreign governments cover the proceedings which began on Monday.

About twenty Cuban exiles met at Callao plaza in Madrid, among them Yunior García Aguilera, Mónica Baró, Hamlet Lavastida, Carolina Barrero, Yanelis Núñez and Heidi Hassan. (Facebook/Alicia Fernandez Acebo)

This morning, some Spanish media outlets extensively covered the start of the trial.

On social media, the San Isidro Movement has also requested support from the population, through the promotion of hashtags #freeMaykelOsorbo #FreeLuisma and #LibertadParaLosPresosPoliticos. Furthermore, several actions are planned abroad. In Miami, at 6 pm, a human chain will be formed outside the Hermitage of Our Lady of Charity, while in Madrid a similar activity took place outside the Sun Gate at 7 pm.

On social media, the San Isidro Movement has also requested support from the population, through the promotion of hashtags #freeMaykelOsorbo #FreeLuisma and #LibertadParaLosPresosPoliticos. The small protest in the Spanish capital was attended by about twenty Cubans, among them Yunior García Aguilera, Mónica Baró, Yanelis Núñez, Heidi Hassan, Hamlet Lavastida and Carolina Barrero, who met at Callao plaza and marched along Preciados street to the Sun Gate.

Otero Alcántara is facing seven years in prison for aggravated contempt, public disorder and instigating a crime while prosecutors seek for Osorbo ten years for assault, public disorder and evasion by a prisoner or a person under arrest.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a joint statement requesting support from the international community for what they consider a trial for “exercising their human right to criticize their own Government… Latin American governments should not remain silent when artists are threatened with prison sentences, a demonstration of extreme intolerance typical of the brutal dictatorships that governed the region in the past.”

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.

Remnants of the Cuban Censor Who Attends Me

Xavier Carbonell in a debate last month in the Tenerife Noir Film Festival, the Atlantic Festival of the Noir Genre, organized each year in the Canary Islands. (Facebook Tenerife Noir)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Xavier Carbonell, Salamanca, May 22, 2022–Those who think that all ciberclarias* are slick and anonymous are mistaken. Some come with pedigree and martial ranks. There is a group of ever-loyal comrades, trained in military or Party schools, who do not understand the Five Grey Years, nor the special periods, nor have they foreseen crises other than capitalism.

Antonio Rodríguez Salvador belongs to this caste of commissars, censor by vocation and certainly by trade. Last week, I came upon an article by this subject where he demonstrated stupefaction at one of my statements, published in this and other dailies: that the Italo Calvino Prize for Novels — one of Cuba’s most prestigious — had been awarded to me last year and I rejected it in favor of another literary award offered in Salamanca, where I now live.

With more reluctance than skill, what Rodríguez Salvador suggests is that the author of this column must be unhinged, a pathological liar, and that the news outlets that interviewed me, among them El País and 14ymedio, displayed lack of professionalism by speaking with a deranged man.

My first reaction was compassionate laughter, because I understand that the business of defending Castroism is ever more difficult and everyone has to make a living. I understand that Humberto López’s yapping and that of the so-and-so from Con filo — I never remember his name — eclipse the humble trade of censoring in writing, in La Jiribilla or in Granma. continue reading

The nonsense of this CDR [Committee for the Defense of the Revolution] member — inconceivably, a reader of independent news outlets — not only implicated me, but also a colleague at this daily. Thus, to dispel any of my censor’s doubts, I will clarify a couple of points about that day when I received two awards for a single novel.

Toward the end of October 2021 a dark personality called me from Uneac (National Union of Writers and Artists in Cuba) — I don’t plan to identify him, but Rodríguez Salvador must know who I am speaking of: “Don’t act like you don’t know,” he said, “you won the Italo Calvino.” My interlocutor assumed that the Uneac officials in Santa Clara, where I lived and worked, had already spread the rumor. But they were miraculously discreet and I only found out during that phone call. “We do not have a way to get you here, so figure it out.”

Then he read to me the remarks of the judges, which included Roberto Méndez, Carlos Zamora, and Gaetano Longo, which included beautiful and very generous words about the novel. If they are gentlemen and honorable, they will say whether I lie.

On that day I received two missed calls from a Spanish number. I responded and it ended up being the office of the mayor of Salamanca, who on the following day gave me the news of the other prize. When I presented the situation to the person at Uneac, his words were these, “The Spaniards will take the money back when they find out and furthermore you will cause political issues for us with the Italian Embassy, which funds the one here.”

Due to copyright, I could not accept both awards. I opted for the Peninsula’s award, and not for metaphysical reasons: it offered more money and would allow me to leave an oppressive, castrating country where those who travel, live, and triumph — paid by the Government — are the commissars like Rodríguez Salvador, who takes photos of himself “strolling in Buenos Aires” during that country’s book fair.

“Well,” clarified the person from Uneac when I communicated my decision, “we’ve reached a new agreement and there is no problem with your resignation. Send it to me in writing.” His tone, always vulgar and now evasive, had changed since our last conversation. “You know,” he said before hanging up, “that if you say anything, we will categorically deny it.” The prize was awarded in November to writer and finalist, Dazra Novak, who undoubtedly deserved it.

They knew the results since the beginning of 2021. Uneac kept it a secret because the pandemic restrictions prevented Italians from traveling to the country with the 4,000 euros. The fact that one novel on surveillance, paranoia, and censorship had won the prize is a symptom of how weary they, the commissars themselves, are of the game, the act, and the secrecy.

Paradoxically, Uneac opted to hide everything, begin from scratch, and “categorically deny.” The Association’s panic of the “irregular” explains why Antonio Rodríguez Salvador does not have the slightest idea of what happened and accused me of post-modern piracy.

Among other finesse of intellect, the Sancti Spiritus-based writer rambles on about my opinions of the Pope, spiritual fulfillment, and life on the island. “It may be that for this author it is less profitable to publish his works in Cuba than portray himself as censored by the regime,” he concludes.

Rodríguez Salvador forgets — conveniently — what I said in that same magazine and now repeat. I am not interested in playing the role of a censored intellectual (although I was and many times); I am not a writer of political literature (though I am a citizen with the right to criticize the Government of his country) nor do I dramatize exile. I care about writing and living, freely and  decently, and that is impossible in Cuba.

“On the conscience of glorified ciberclarias like Rodríguez Salvador are the young prisoners and exiles of the Island. Those who die crossing borders to escape their country. Their families. The censors, for cowardice, money or the inherent malice of mediocrity, are the dictatorship’s most sordid accomplices. If they weren’t so dangerous and infamous, they’d only evoke pity.”

*Translator’s notes: The so-called “cyberclarias” are accounts that hide behind false identities and photos to defend the actions of the Cuban government on Twitter and attack criticism made by dissidents or activists. (Source)  

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 Father Whose Minor Son was Convicted for July 11th is Silenced with Two Years in Prison

Ángel Rolando Castillo Sánchez, father of Rowland Jesús Castillo, jailed for the July 11th (11J) protests. (Cubalex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 May 2022 — Ángel Rolando Castillo Sánchez, father of Rowland Jesús Castillo, one of the minors in prison for his participation in the 11J (July 11th) protests at the corner of Toyo, Havana, was sentenced to two years in prison this Wednesday in an express trial, according to statements made on social media by his son’s mother, Yudinela Castro. The process took place with a public defender and the family was notified just hours before.

Castillo had been in jail since May 5th, when he was accused of coercion by a friend of Rowland, Giuseppe Belaunzaran Guada. This child, the grandson of a Cuban official, had also been convicted for 11J, but was not sent to prison, serving his 10-year sentence under house arrest.

According to Castro, the young man, not only a friend of her son, but also of other protesters, made a video defending them but his mother accused Castillo of pressuring Giuseppe to film it.

Castro stated that the case had been fabricated to put the brakes on Castillo’s protests demanding freedom for his son and other 11J protesters. At the end of April, the man spent several hours at the police station in San Miguel del Padrón along with Brandon David Becerra Curbelo’s mother, Yanaisi Curbelo, and Lázaro Noel Urgellés Fajardo’s mother, Maylín Fajardo. They were all headed to a march to demand rights for their children and ended up being arrested. continue reading

Since his last arrest in May, Castillo has remained in the Vivac penitentiary, where he was on a hunger strike and refusing medical attention.

Rowland Castillo was 17 years old when he went to the streets on 11J to protest and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sedition. His mother, Yudinela Castro, has also had to face an arrest at the end of April and was accused of contempt, but after being held for 15 days in Villa Marista prison, she was freed on provisional release on March 10th.

A few days later, the woman, who has leukemia, was admitted to Julio Trigo hospital in Havana after attempting to take her own life. Family sources told 14ymedio that she was recovering and was receiving psychiatric treatment.

“It is difficult to accept so much cruelty, like what we are experiencing,” said Castro on Wednesday, after hearing the news. “As Rowland’s mother, I will go wherever I need to go and do everything I need to do through legal means. Freedom for Ángel Rolando and Rowland Jesús,” she demanded.

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.

Competing with the ‘Mules’: The Cuban Government’s Complicated Goal for Remittances

Under the current rules of the game, remittances are more profitable through informal channels. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 18 May 2022 — Ending the limits on remittances sent from the U.S. to Cuba — one of the measures announced by Washington on Monday, in addition to resuming flights — seems to be one that could have the greatest impact on the Island. It is for the benefit of Cuban families, which are going through hardship, but it is feared that the regime will take advantage of the situation to regain a major source of income, second only to the medical services it commercializes in many countries.

“We must remember that half of the remittances arrive by ‘mulas’ [mules]. No one in their right mind wants to do it through legal means. The official exchange rate is at 25 pesos to the dollar whereas in the street it is at 100. Who should send dollars legally?” explains Emilio Morales, of the Havana Consulting Group.

A search on social media is enough to see where things stand. “In the U.S. for $110, they deliver in Cuba 10,500 pesos, or for $115 they deliver $100.” “Deposit $130 abroad and we will deposit 100 MLC* [into your account] or, if you prefer, 11,000 pesos. For every 100 dollars, receive 10,000 pesos, for 130 dollars receive 100 [dollars in your account].”

The list of offerings is infinite, but the quantities are similar. In the parallel market, intermediaries or mules charge up to 30% commission, but the money received is golden, since, on average, it is at four times the official exchange rate. continue reading

Official foreign currency exchange business has been partially stalled since 2019, under orders from then President of the United States, Donald Trump, who imposed a limit of $1,000 per person per quarter. Furthermore, he also prohibited business deals which involve Cuban military personnel.

This was the case for Fincimex, included on the U.S. Treasury Department’s black list in June of 2020. Up until that point, the entity managed the flow of currency, mostly through Western Union, which decided in October of that same year to close its outlets when faced with the sanctions that would apply if they continued operating. The permanent closure took place at the end of November.

The events coincided with border closures due to the pandemic, which continued for part of that year and 2021 and affected the amount of currency received by the Government. According to data from the Havana Consulting Group, in 2019 deliveries of currency sent in cash exceeded $3.171 billion, while deliveries of merchandise were about $2.9 billion, a combined total of $5.071 billion. In 2020, this declined by more than 54%, with a combined total of only $2.967 billion. In 2021, currency received barely exceeded $1 billion, 70% less than two years ago.

The Cuban government made an important move, which will allow it to regain some income, removing the military from the equation, but it has systematically maintained control over a portion, which amounts to more than 6% of the GDP, according to several independent organizations. Some associations proposed that the deposits be centralized in a European entity, in a trust that would guarantee it would not end up in the hands of the regime. But this solution was not considered either.

In February, the Gaceta Oficial published a resolution of the Central Bank of Cuba, which authorized a new entity, Orbit S.A., to “manage and make international transfers from abroad through its own infrastructure.” The company had one month to present its registration, but nothing has been heard about it since, much less who is hiding behind that name.

Another attempt, from abroad (Canada), was RevoluPay, an app from RevoluGroup, created by Emilio Morales himself, which promised to circumvent the military, but which was not without controversy and mistrust.

In the interim, other things have happened. Implementation of the so-called ‘Ordering Task’** in January 2021, which assumed, among other things, that unifying the currency would maintain the exchange rate between the local peso and the dollar at 24 to 1. That has never been realistic and the measures had not yet taken effect when economists began to warn that the informal currency market would dictate the dollar’s true value.

Since then, the value of the American currency began to increase at a steep pace and six months later it was trading in parallel markets at 70 pesos. Half a year later, in January 2022, it had exceeded 100.

Companies that send remittances have not announced any plans following Biden’s announcement. Their commissions have been between 5% for Western Union and 10% for AIS Remesas, the option recommended by the Government until it temporarily stopped offering services in October 2021 and no updates have been provided since then. The regime used to charge a 10% commission for the service and an additional 3% for dollars, however that route has been on hold until now. Other options were to send Canadian dollars from Canada or euros from Europe, though these were the minority.

Nonetheless, the reopening of borders has put the mulas, once again, in the market and their service is more acceptable — including the large amount of cargo they bring to the Island to nourish markets — despite the high commission, because the currency can be sold at rates 4 or 5 times higher than the official rate. The ball is in the Cuban government’s court to create a better alternative if it wants to recoup a very juicy business.

Translator’s notes

*MLC (Moneda Libremente Convertible) is freely convertible currency, that is foreign currency such as dollars or euros.

**Tarea ordenamiento: The [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and many other measures related to the Cuban economy.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

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Cuban Parliament Approves a Criminal Code which Prohibits External Support for Independent Press

In contrast to the Family Code, this project will not be put to a referendum. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 15 May 2022 — On Sunday, Cuba’s National Assembly of the People’s Power (ANPP) approved, in an extraordinary session, Cuba’s new Criminal Code, which includes penalties of up to three years for those who insult senior public officials and prohibits foreign financing for media outlets.

The delegates approved the project in a session attended by Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the country’s former ruler, Raúl Castro (2008-2018).

Activists and opponents believe this reform will silence social protest and independent journalism.

Its proponents, on the other hand, describe it as “providing guarantees” and updated, since the previous version — from 1987 — did not include environmental crimes, cybercrimes or gender-based violence.

Originally, the project should have been voted on by the ANPP in April, but for unknown reasons, its passing in the Legislature was delayed.

The new code, which takes effect 90 days from its publication in the Gaceta Oficial de la República, includes 37 new crimes such as “public disorder” to penalize “disturbances of that nature produced in groups or individually.” continue reading

The president of the People’s Supreme Court on the Island, Ruben Remigio Ferro, stressed as he presented the law at the Parliamentary plenary that it strengthens the rigor of the penalties related to corruption.

Thus, he stated that it establishes the maximum penalty of life in prison and maintains the possibility of applying the death penalty, as an exception in 23 types of criminal cases.

It also includes penalties of up to ten years in prison for anyone who, “supports, encourages, finances, provides, receives or has in their possession funds, material or financial resources,” of non governmental organizations or international institutions that could be used to “pay for activities against the State and its constitutional order.”

The new criminal code has not received as much state media coverage as the Family Code, a reform which is also currently being processed in the ANPP after a three-month public consultative process during which the content of the document was explained.

In contrast to the Family Code, this project will not be put to a referendum.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 

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Cuban State Security Prevents Farinas from Leaving Santa Clara After His Trip to Europe and the U.S.

Fariñas was arrested on Tuesday at the airport, upon his return to the Island, and was released after hours of interrogation. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 12 May 2022 — Cuban opponent, Guillermo Coco Fariñas, explained on Wednesday that he has been freed after being interrogated for several hours by security forces upon his return to Havana from a trip to Europe and the U.S.

The 2010 recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought stated on Facebook that it involved a “cohersive interrogation” and that the “punishment” for his political tour will be that he will be unable to leave his city, Santa Clara.

“For those of us who struggle for democracy and freedom in Cuba, it is a right to conduct politics in this way,” said Fariñas, despite his sanction.

The opponent confirmed that State Security agents accused him of influencing U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision not to invite Cuba to the Summit of the Americas.

They also criticized his contribution to the recent declaration of the European Union on Cuba. “For them, that was intolerable,” he added.

Finally, according to Fariñas, they believed that the opponent was behind the coordination of various generations of Cuban exiles and the involvement of business owners in pro-democratic activities on the Island. continue reading

Fariñas was arrested on Tuesday afternoon, as he was leaving Havana’s José Martí International airport, where he had just landed after his international trip.

The opponent was returning to Cuba following a two-month trip — “successful” in his judgement — which took him to the U.S. and Europe, where he met with various political representatives and activists to talk about the situation in his country.

During his trip, the leader of the United Antitotalitarian Front (Fantu) denounced the repression in Cuba, especially as a result of the antigovernment protests of July 11th.

The Sakharov Prize winner stated that the social situation in the country is “a pressure cooker without an escape valve” and that new protests are possible. Fariñas had planned the trip for mid-January, but was unable to travel because he received the Cuban-made vaccines, which are not recognized in the U.S. A month later, he was able to fly.

In recent months, Fariñas had denounced several detentions, sometimes held in a hospital in Santa Clara, where he lives, for unsolicited medical treatment.

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.

‘We Should Have Kicked You Out Long Ago’: How the Director of Alma Mater was Fired by Cuba’s UJC

Armando Franco Senén began as director of Alma Mater magazine in 2019. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 10 May 2022 — Armando Franco Senén, former director of Alma Mater magazine, has broken his silence two weeks after the controversy generated by his dismissal from the publication. In an extensive Facebook post published on Tuesday, the journalist stated that his silence was converting him into an accomplice of the decision by authorities to relieve him of his duties. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Franco presented his version of the events, highlighting that his account is not his opinion, but rather a retelling of the events, which he reproduces in an almost notarial fashion.

On April 26th, the journalist was summoned to a meeting in the office of the Director of Editora Abril, Asael Alonso Tirado, which gave way to an Extraordinary Board of Directors meeting, during which they communicated  his “liberation.” In charge were Nislay Molina (Ideologue of the National Committee of Young Communists (UJC)) and Alonso himself, who far from being open to dialogue, communicated that he should await his reassignment.

Only at his insistence did they tell him that “the decision, approved on April 20th, was the result of continuous errors in the magazine’s editorial work.” Franco stated that both looked at a document in which contained the supposed errors, all of which were corrected at the time, according to the journalist, before stating that the rest were the bulk of the magazine’s best pieces during his leadership, he claimed.

“We should have kicked you out long ago, there is nothing more to say, we are doing you the favor of liberating you. You may do as you wish, it is our decision,” was the response the official gave him while Alonso agreed arguing that he had already alerted her to his errors.

“It is a decision that has already been made, we only came to inform,” added the official. continue reading

Faced with the situation, Franco met with his team to inform them of what had occurred and they decided to post on the magazine’s social media the note that publicly announced, without details, his dismissal.

Nislay Molina’s foresight was to call one day later, on Wednesday the 27th, a meeting of Alma Mater staff to inform them, but the director of Editora announced to the magazine’s sub-directors that the meeting would not take place — a decision of the National Bureau — because “there was nothing more to say.” That way of proceeding was what led the bulk of the team to leave, a personal decision, according to Franco, and that affected everyone with the exception of one journalist and the editorial secretary.

Franco emphatically denies the implicated organizations, the Federation of University Students (FEU) and UJC, which attributed his dismissal to a “natural renovation process.” The journalist ensures that he had communicated, with plenty of notice, that he’d leave the magazine in November, after serving for in his position for three years, and that the publication was preparing for that transition, as it was only five months away.

“It does not seem like a natural renovation process as it did not include a new position for me nor a new director for Alma Mater, which did not guarantee the continuity [CHECK: I used this instead of “work”] of the magazine after my release. It does not make sense to make changes for “natural” reasons, while the Editor experiences a crisis of directors and journalists,” he states.

Another one of the big revelations Franco makes is that the version he was told was that FEU, or rather its president Karla Santana, was the one who “provided elements against” its management. It seems they did not like Alma Mater’s “inattention” to the student organization, which the journalist emphatically denies, which the magazine itself serves as proof that universities and university students have been its priority. “Of course, from the point of view of our team.”

Since he was not aware of a single complaint, not even FEU has issued a statement about the events, but they have received support from the university community, the journalists doubts that version. “It is worth asking, to which FEU did Alma Mater fail to respond?”

With regard to UJC, Franco recalled that Aylin Álvarez, its first secretary and a delegate in the National Assembly commented on the matter on her social media. As the journalist explains, almost nothing of what she said is true. Later, Rogelio Polanco, chief of the Ideology Department of the Central Committee of Cuba’s Communist Party (PCC) and Álvarez met with him, as the official recounted on her social media along with an outdated photograph which suggested a good relationship, though it was from months ago.

According to Franco’s version, Álvarez was surprised, blamed the events on those who criticized her management and praised the magazine’s good results. After the UJC leader’s message was published, in which she added that he had been offered another position.

“It is true that in mid-April UJC proposed I leave Alma Mater to join a new communications project, however, as the first secretary knew, I responded that my intention was to remain at the magazine until November,” he stated.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, a meeting of the outgoing team was held with Álvarez and which they requested that Karla Santana, Nislay Molina and Asael Alonso be present, but they refused. “During the discussion, Aylin Álvarez acknowledged errors were made due to a ’loosening of personal issues’ and she committed to address the issue. As of now, we have not been notified of any results with regard to that.”

As for the PCC, Polanco indicated to the journalist that there wouldn’t be a problem with him and that he would be promoted. “During the last exchange, last Friday, Rogelio Polanco offered me a position, which I respectfully declined, despite it being an option that has a lot to do with my professional intentions,” he stated.

Franco ended his statement thanking those who have supported him and wishing Alma Mater future success. However, he adds that the “current state of the magazine” hurts and he does not understand how or why it reached this point. Franco says that, despite everything, the team has voluntarily collaborated with various media on coverage of the explosion at the Hotel Saratoga and that, moving forward, each will chose his own path. “I only aspire to grow once again, to find reasons to continue trying,” he concluded.

Franco’s exit was very controversial because under his leadership the magazine had experienced a moment of splendor, appreciated by readers and prizes, in which diverse topics, some of which made the government “uncomfortable”, according to some versions. Among its defenders was singer songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who lamented the position taken by the current authorities.

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.

A Three-Hour Interrogation for Cuban Mother who Denounced the July 11th Trials at the UN

Ángel Jesús Véliz Marcano, 27 years old, was arrested on July 18, 2022 and sentenced to six years in prison. (Justicia 11J)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 3, 2022 — R turning to Cuba from Europe — where she denounced the situation of her son who was sentenced to prison after July 11th (11J) –has not been easy for Ailex Marcano, mother of Ángel Jesús Véliz Marcano. Authorities subjected her to an interrogation for three hours and confiscated 3,000 pesos, according to the account she gave Radio Television Martí from Camagüey, where she lives.

Marcano was in Madrid and Geneva, invited by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, where she denounced the situation of Cuban prisoners before the Spanish press and the UN. The feeling of solidarity and support she received in Europe disappeared when she stepped foot in Havana’s airport.

“They asked why I went to Spain, if I went by invitation, the purpose of my trip, who I met with, what the results were, whether I believed my situation would be resolved. I told them that I had not been listened to here, that the law was not being upheld because my son is not a violent person, nor aggressive and he is currently serving a six-year sentence for assault and public disorder, that I’d continue to do what I had to do for my son’s freedom because he should not be there,” Marcano told the news outlet.

For her return to Camagüey, Ángel Jesús Véliz Marcano’s mother was carrying 3,000 Cuban pesos, which were confiscated at the airport for exceeding the current 2,000 limit in Cuba. In mid-April, the Central Bank of Cuba approved an increase to the maximum amount that can be imported to the country to 5,000 pesos but the resolution stated that it would go into effect 30 days after being published in the Gaceta Oficial [Official Gazette].

Marcano confirmed that a man dressed in civilian clothing took her before the lieutenant colonel who interrogated her. As she exited, when she was entering the car to return to Camagüey, a police officer asked the driver for identification and documents. The vehicle was detained along the route at a check point where her luggage was searched, in her view, looking for a T-shirt or other article of clothing with an antigovernment message. continue reading

Despite the trouble, Ailex Marcano feels “super strengthened, with more energy.” In Europe she has seen “the enormous contrast between one society and the other. I mean, there I am welcomed, they help me, they empathize with me and I return to my country and I am a stranger, I am terror, I am accosted, I am limited,” commented the woman, who has been one of the most firm voices denouncing the incarceration of the July 11 protesters.

Her 27-year-old son was arrested on July 18, 2022 and sentenced to six years in prison, which he is serving in the Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey, after passing through other facilities. Marcano has revealed that in the coming days he will be transferred to another, lower-security facility.

“My son participated voluntarily and spontaneously in the demonstrations, no one incited him. It is sad, what we family members are going through only because our children participated peacefully in the demonstrations, which were necessary,” she said in Madrid.

Marcano requested “international support” for families and mothers of the prisoners and reproached “national organizations” which refused to listen to those affected. In particular, she referred to the Federation of Cuban Women, which “is not sensitive to” the prisoners’ mothers, while in other countries they are “worried and concerned” for them.

“They are doing the work of listening and supporting, we don’t have this on the Island,” she added.

Despite the harassment she experiences from the Government, Marcano assures that she will not give up for her son, with whom she was able to speak upon her return to Cuba, as she revealed to Martí Noticias. “Mama I am very proud of you, you really have taken off,” he said.

The woman did not stint on words of praise for her son and those, who like him, went out to the street once they understood “the reality… Those young people, perhaps have innovative ideas that will lead us to live in a better world and make their dreams a reality. They have made us what we are today, we have awakened, we know the reality, we no longer believe what was written in the text books.”

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.

80 Acts of Repression: This is How Cuba Celebrated May Day

Source: Cubadebate

Justicia 11J (via Cubalex), 2 May 2022 — Cubalex and Justicia 11J have observed an increase in repressive events against activists, opponents, journalists and family members of people held in detention for political reasons. Between April 26th at 6 pm and today, May 1st, we have documented a total of 80 events, disaggregated as follows:

    • Summons/interrogation: 12
    • Surveillance/police perimeter: 28
    • Arrests: 13
    • Forced disappearance: 5
    • Warning at home: 8
    • Fine: 3
    • Other forms of repression: 11

Based on testimonies of the victims, we have verified that this deployment was mainly related to the State’s concern that the traditional celebration of International Workers’ Day, in provinces throughout the country, could have been “destabilized” by the presence in the streets of dissenting voices, in a context of growing popular discontent and the loss of the authorities’ symbolic power.

Added to this are the actions related to two public protest events that took place in Havana in recent days. The first (on the 27th), was carried out by relatives of three of the minors who received long prison sentences for their participation in the July 2021 protests. The second (on the 28th), was led by activist Carlos Ernesto Díaz González (Ktivo Disidente), who remains in detention. continue reading

Although the first of the aforementioned events was thwarted by the presence of the political police near the agreed location for the protest, the signatory organizations view it as a milestone on the path to channeling the demands for freedom in the public space by relatives of the protesters.

Likewise, we point out the state’s response in order to prevent future similar events, through the arrest, in San Miguel del Padrón, of the participating relatives: Yanaisy Curbelo (mother of the minor Brandon David Becerra), Rolando Castillo (father of minor Rowland Castillo) and Maylín Fajardo (mother of minor Lázaro Noel Urgellés), who were held at the 11th unit of the PNR.

On the first anniversary of the Demonstration on Obispo Street on April 30, 2021, during which 13 people who expressed their solidarity with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara were arrested and faced up to 8 months of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, the organizations that have signed this report point out how the strength of Cuban civil society has been increasing as it struggles to recover the civic space.

And in this sense, we highlight the perseverance of activists such as Ángel Cuza, protester of Obispo Street, who was detained on the 28th, when he appeared for a summons to be interviewed by State Security officials, and held until today in the afternoon.

Likewise, we observe with concern the police’s liberal interpretation of the crimes defined in the Cuban Criminal Code. In particular, the excessive use of the crime of sedition, which has recently been directly related to freedom of expression, which, far from being a crime, constitutes a fundamental right, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in article 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.

We stress that, due to the alleged crime of sedition, 169 of the July protesters could serve up to 30 years in prison (according to the current regulations), and for which soon (when the preliminary draft of the Penal Code is approved on May 14), Cuban citizens could be sentenced to life in prison, or even the death penalty (article 121 a).

We denounce the practice of forced disappearance, which in the days covered by this report has been documented on 5 occasions, as well as the repressive manipulation of the truth of the island, which the Cuban State maintains before international institutions such as the Committee Against Torture (CAT), before whom it recently denied, once again, that this international crime was practiced in Cuba, a violation of the most basic human rights.

We also denounced the political violence exercised against women. Of all the registered events (80), 30 were practiced against them. We condemn the event of physical violence against nurse, and member of the Free Cuban Medical Guild, Welsimys Cruz Pérez, who this morning was attacked by five political police officers, until she bled.

A similar concentration of repressive events in just a few days had been documented by Cubalex and Justicia 11J in November of last year, related to the call for a peaceful march, in the context of the Civic Day for Change. In those days, 93 people were arrested, 8 of them remain in jail to this day.

We reiterate our commitment to demanding the immediate release, acquittal and dismissal of charges against those detained for political reasons. We will continue our work of documenting, denouncing and accompanying, as well as supporting family members and other civil society actors. As Ktivo Disidente, we understand that “all Cubans have the right to participate in the political life of the country.”

80 Acts of Repression: This is How Cuba Celebrated May Day first appeared on Cubalex.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

According to Amnesty International, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara has Lost Sight in One Eye while in Cuban Prison

Otero Alcántara in front of Havana’s capital during a day of protest. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 29 April 2022 — Cuban opponent and leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, has lost sight in one eye in the prison where he has been held since the antigovernment protests last July, denounced NGO Amnesty International (AI) on Thursday.

Erika Guevara, Director for the Americas for London-based AI, denounced via her Twitter account that the dissident — who ended his three-month hunger strike in March — has not received medical attention and demands his immediate release.

“Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s situation in Cuba should be a source of shame for the Cuban government and of complete indignation for those of us who witness his decline,” said Guevara.

At the beginning of this month, activist and artist Claudia Genlui Hidalgo denounced on social media that the leader of MSI had been denied specialized care to tend to his vision problems. On April 6th, the United States Government also demanded that Cuba offer Otero Alcántara “immediate medical attention.”

“We urge the Cuban authorities to offer immediate medical attention to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who remains seriously ill while in detention,” expressed the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols. continue reading

After ending his hunger strike on March 11th, sources close to the dissident communicated that he would opt for a trial, after six months in the Guanajay jail, 45 kilometers west of Havana.

The Island’s Prosecutor requested seven years in prison for Otero Alcántara — who AI considers a prisoner of conscience–for aggravated contempt, public disorder and instigating a crime for going out into the street in front of the San Isidro Movement headquarters in Old Havana to sing Patria y Vida among neighbors on April 4th, 2021.  Maykel Castillo Osorbo, for whom they seek 10 years in jail, is on the same docket.

Also weighing on Alcántara is the charge of insulting patriotic symbols, for carrying out his art work, Drapeau. The date of his trial is as yet unknown.

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.

Outrage Among Cuban Officials Over the Dismissal of Alma Mater’s Director

Armando Franco Senén became director of ’Alma Mater’ magazine in 2019. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 27, 2022–On Tuesday Alma Mater, the Cuban university magazine, was left without its director, Armando Franco Senén, a decision of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), in a clear interference by the university publication’s partisan organization.

The news was delivered by Alma Mater itself on its Facebook page, where it shared the short statement which left much to be desired by nearly 900 users who joined. “By decision of the National Bureau of the Union of Young Communists, Armando Franco Senén was relieved of his duties as director of the magazine.”

Franco, who graduated with a degree in journalism in 2016 and was a professor in the School of Communication in Havana, took charge of Alma Mater in 2019. The publication had won the favor of many people — close and not so close — to the state for its more modern treatment of information, the openness to topics rarely covered by other media, and, of late, its coverage of July 11th (11J).

The magazine focused heavily on information about the protesters who were arrested, many of them students, which is very unusual for a channel of the regime. Alma Mater clearly advocated, in some cases, for the release of those arrested or the  cancellation of the judicial proceedings to which they were subjected.

On Tuesday, the magazine published an interview with Cuban Chancellor Bruno Rodríguez Padilla, which centered on the issue of migration and relations with the U.S. with regard to that topic. Some believe it to be coincidence that Franco’s exit occurred immediately afterward, however there does not appear to be a reason to link them, as the questions did not cause the minister any discomfort, and he was given plenty of space for his discourse. continue reading

Those close to the journalist attribute the dismissal to the timid revolution in form and content that Franco brought to the magazine.

This year Alma Mater celebrates its centennial and it is one of the oldest publications in Cuba. The magazine has always been characterized by its independence and its ability to reflect the sentiment among university students. Following Fidel Castro’s rise to power, it slowly lost its autonomy, but even then tried to maintain its mark. The decision to dismiss its director left many perplexed as it a reflection of the control that the youth organization of Cuba’s Communist Party has over the magazine.

“He revitalized something that for years, no university student had read and others didn’t even know existed. I will proceed to remove my “like” from its page because I already know what’s coming!!!” said one of the hundreds of readers who expressed their rejection of the news.

Another commenter, who knew Franco in high school, praised his character from when he was young and defended causes. “A leader is born, not made, and he was born with that quality, which he further developed during his life. Years later, he became the director of Alma Mater magazine and returned to me a habit I had lost long ago, reading the news; but this time, I was reading something very different to what I was accustomed and that should be appreciated, that is what we need, that is what we have to encourage, it is what we need to defend,” they added.

“I don’t know the reasons, but taking into consideration the journalism that Alma Mater was doing under the direction of Armando Franco, the UJC Bureau should analyze this. Do they know the type of journalism Cuba’s youth need? Without words. It hurts,” laments a third commenter.

The majority have demanded that the reasons be made public with clarity and that the magazine’s autonomy be returned. “And how can the organization which represents reolutionary youth dismiss the director of the magazine and the most revolutionary example of journalism I’ve read in a long time?”

With its refined satiric humor, El Lumpen could not pass up the comparison and has shared the news and images of the former director of the newspaper and the Spanish dictator titled: Alma Mater Rectifies and Franco Returns.

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.

Standing on a Wall in Central Havana, an Activist Asks for Freedom for Cubans

The citizen began to carry out his peaceful protest a approximately 8:47 am. (Camila Carballo/INSIDE/Capture/YouTube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 April 2022 — “If you want Fidel to live, well let Fidel live, that is your problem. I do not want to be a communist!” The phrase was spoken very loudly early on Thursday morning on San Rafael boulevard in Havana. Some stood and watched, others filmed with their cell phones.

The clamor came from a lone man, Carlos Ernesto Díaz González (known on social media as Ktivo Disidente), standing upon the walled entrance of a playground located on the corner of San Rafael and Industria, a busy pedestrian walkway that includes numerous businesses and connects the municipalities of Centro Habana and La Habana Vieja. A few meters away there is an MLC* store which only takes payments in freely convertible currency.

“There doesn’t need to be violence, there doesn’t need to be bloodshed but they must allow us to participate in the political life of this country,” he demanded. “Whoever is a communist, let them be, but they must respect whomever does not want to be,” continued the activist in a spiel that continued for five minutes.

At several points during his presentation, the man stated, “All Cubans have a right to participate in the political life of the country, be they communists or not.” Díaz González is a member of Archipiélago and was arrested last November, on the eve of the Civic March for Change, for putting up protest posters in Cienfuegos. continue reading

“Soon they will place two or three there so that they can conduct an act of repudiation, to a Cuban who is raising his voice. But it will continue to be that way until we do what we have to do and demand what we need to demand because it is ours, because we have the right to have rights,” he said referencing the daily repression of the Cuban regime against opponents or regular citizens who criticize the government.

On Wednesday, a few hours before climbing on the wall in Havana, Ktivo Disidente had uploaded a video in which he invited Cubans to a march in favor of freedom for political prisoners.

During his speech, the man received shouts of disagreement from some people who demanded he be quiet, but he was not daunted. “The people are scared , the people have been terrorized: citations, the sector chief on your back, a snitch on you. How long will we live like this?” he insists.

“Yes, you can buy there,” he warned another who requested silence from the line to enter the hard currency store — where the line had begun to form early in the morning — and where they sell personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies for the home.

The man demanded freedom for Cuban political prisoners and again insisted, “All Cubans deserve to participate in the political life of the country. They must count on us. Inclusion! An inclusive homeland! We are not obliged to be communists or socialists. Wherever communism has passed is a disaster. They are going to turn us into a North Korea.”

Police began to congregate around him, but their intervention was hampered by the height of the location from where the man shouted. Finally, more than ten uniformed  policemen around the corner ordered the passers-by to turn off their mobile phones or move away from the area.

Later the man came down without resisting and, according to witnesses, was handcuffed and placed in a car. “I know nothing more of this sad story,” said one of those present.

Street protests have a recent history. On 4 December 2020, young Luis Robles protested on that same boulevard in Havana, a few meters from where Thursday’s events occurred. At that time, the activist peacefully protested, raising a placard which sought freedom, an end to repression and the release of protest rapper Denis Solís.

In March, Robles was sentenced to five years in prison and in the sentencing document, the judges justified their decision because the young man maintained a “marked interest in creating an environment to destabilize the social system and domestic economic development.”

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.