Saint Fermin Whom the Cuban Political Prisoners Will Not Forget

Saint Fermin, the patron saint of Pamplona, is not a saint of devotion in Cuba.  But this July 7, 2010, the 52 political prisoners of the Black Spring of 2003 and their relatives will never forget him.

After many days of prayers and uncertainties, today something has happened.  A statement by Raul Castro himself has declared that the Spanish chancellor, Miguel Angel Moratinos, has been informed that the 52 prisoners that remained from the Group of the 75 and which were jailed 7 years ago, will be released.

The news that has been going around the world, while I write this post, had not yet been known to the majority of the internal opposition nor to the remarkable Ladies in White.  A very important part of this victory is due to them, and also to the name of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, which we will dedicate it to his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo.

And if this news came just in time for someone, it is for Guillermo Fariñas, who we hope will abandon his hunger strike and will commence the slow recuperation process of his damaged body.

The names of the political prisoners who will leave Cuba are still unknown, as is whether it will be immediately or within the next few months, and if they will leave alone or accompanied by their closest relatives.  But today, in a telephone call from his son Jimmy, 11.

In and out of the island there have been, and will continue to be, many different opinions, in favor and against the negotiations between the government, the Catholic Church, and Spain.  Debate is healthy.  Let us continue debating.  Let us draw lessons from this and let us attempt to leave irreconcilable divergences aside, both in the opposition and in the exile.

Differences aside, for the family members of these 52 prisoners, July 7, 2010, the day of Saint Fermin, will be unforgettable.

In order to reach the end of a long path, it’s not always the best option to run.  Most of the time it is better to walk slowly.

Step by step.  And today, whether we like it or not, Spain and the Catholic Church, along with other mediators, have taken the first steps to empty the jails of this island of Cubans whose biggest crime has been to think differently.

Ivan Garcia

Photo:  joseliusgildela, Flickr.  Saint Fermin in the Cuesta of San Domingo in Navarra, Spain.

Translated by Raul G.


As a child, I remember the great commotion that erupted with the discovery of oil on the beach in Guanabo. The enthusiasm was such that it seemed that our need for crude would be solved with these wells. In the best native chauvinism, it was as if we would to prove to the Americans and Soviets that we didn’t need them. Many years later the Guanabo oil is remembered for the filth and stench of sulfur that it left on the beach. Nobody talked then of analyzing the cost/benefit relationship. That was a time when the term environmental pollution had not appeared.

I wouldn’t be thinking of this anecdote if I hadn’t seen, along the coast between La Habana del Este and Cojimar, a tower and several oil rigs, right on Route 58 (Bus Station = Reparto Bahia); I heard there would be more because the Chinese are investing.

Now that we are indeed familiar with terms such as environment, ecosystem, environmental licensing, and related pollution, I wonder if we analyze the cost/benefit. I am no specialist, but is it worth it to get oil out of the city and run the risk of death damaging its deteriorating but beautiful heritage?

Let’s call a spade and spade, and a dictatorship a dictatorship

On Tuesday night, June 29, in the city of Pinar del Rio, we delivered as part of the jury, the prizes in the contest of the independent magazine Convivencia (Coexistence).

Upon entering the house of Karina Galvez, one of Dagoberto Valdes’s most fervent collaborators on their publishing project, we were welcomed to what was left of her home, because by providing office and meeting space for citizens she earned a visit one morning from several State officials, escorted by the police, who invaded her property and destroyed the back wall, splitting the house in two.

From the street you can see the double wall now dividing the house: one of concrete and one of metal plates, which serves, of course, as a blackboard to capture the drawings and free thoughts of her visitors.

Ultimately, the officials are not guilty of carrying out their disagreeable role. We know that later, as in the Nuremberg Trials, they will say they were just following orders and if they refused they would have lost their jobs and in the end, others would have replaced them. These murderers have no conscience — and neither does it the country’s police hierarchy, which ordered this action in violation of the several of the most elemental human rights — so their conduct, rather than angering us, causes us pity, as that in our eyes they are so unhappy and miserable. However, as I said publicly to Karina, I feel so proud of her and her family, and even envious. I am afraid I’m not up to her level, as in spite of everything she hasn’t lost her constant smile.

History has shown us that “walls” are demolished. This wall is a symbol that the sacrifices of Dagoberto Valdes, the editorial team of Convivencia, and the participants in the civic education workshops, are necessary.

Walking on Dark Streets Can be a Crime

I couldn’t help going to visit Idalmis Nuñez Reinosa’s house when I heard that after being hit and kicked by the police in Placetas on Saturday the 3rd, she was “repatriated” by the same police force to her home town, Santiago de Cuba, I found her covered with bruises and scratches on her skin and with sore muscles that barely let her sit down. I could see for myself that the “police men” taught her.

Later on I decided to visit Anderlay Guerra Blanco in Guantanamo and finish a conversation with him that we had left hanging. I was there until Wednesday the 7th, when I decided to return my town. I left in the early morning, at 4 am, and logically I had to walk the streets of the city to get to the bus station, the only place where, at this hour, I could find a ride to another place.

I didn’t make the trip alone. Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina was with me and we tried to travel together through the inevitable streets of the town. We were detained by the police who put us in a patrol car and took us to the People’s Revolutionary Police (PNR) station known as Park 24.

Investigation. Police control. Researching our identity. We were there two hours. Long enough to know the Guantanamera night and early morning in a military joint. Two officers from the G-2 or State Security as the political police are called in our country even came, as they didn’t have authorization to let us leave. It became clear to us that if we couldn’t explain our presence on the streets we could be accused of spending the night in dark places and at an hour which, according to them, was dangerous. Along with us, more than six citizens had been detained, all young. According to what they told us the police picked them up in a park because they were talking and drinking alcohol and this turned them into people likely to commit crimes and the cops wanted, this time, to warn them.

It is a repressive system that operates in the nights and early morning in several villages in my country, some acquaintances told me. At least I was a witness while walking, before the break of dawn, through streets that are dark because in my country there are no street lights.

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Luis Felipe’s Blog: Crossing the Barbed Wire.

Freedom to Decide? (I)

To consent means to express, explicitly or implicitly, agreement with something. A decision that is legally binding, because one assumes rights and obligations. This way, the consent becomes a requirement of the capacity to act.

The capacity to consent is subject to restrictions. Principally, when the consent is given by a non-emancipated minor, a deaf-mute person unable to read or write, or a person who is mentally ill. The consent granted in these cases is not considered to be the result of free will and deliberation.

The Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR) is an organisation which joins together the majority of social groups in the country. Article 7 of its statutes stipulates that “the request to join the organisation is an individual and voluntary act (…).” One of the requirements for entry is to be 14 years of age or older.

In Cuba the age of majority is 18 years and from this moment on a person attains his or her full capacity to act. As an exception to this rule, also considered emancipated are married females older than 14 years and married males of age 16 and above.

Adolescent persons, at 14 years of age, are neither fully responsible for their actions nor are they free to fulfill the requirements for joining the CDR. Much less are they capable of assuming the obligations implied by membership. Do they possess the economic resources to pay for their share in the self-financing model of the organisation?

The case of persons legally declared incompetent is very similar. I am speaking of deaf-mute or mentally ill persons who are registered members of the CDR. Did they consent to agree with the Revolution and to be prepared to defend it? Did they accept the statutes of the organisation? Are they able to behave in accordance with the ethic and the principles of the Revolution?

In Cuba, the mass social organisations register the citizens as members without asking for their consent. This fact is a violation of the individual rights of the people.

Laritza Diversent

Translated by:

A Common Prisoner Dies

During the night hours of this past June 26th the common prisoner Roberto Rodriguez Ramos died of a heart attack in the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila. The functionaries of the Order of the Interior of the jail took Rodriguez Ramos to the provincial hospital Antonio Luaces Iraola after the prisons doctor checked him, according to the source which prefers to remain annonymous due to fear of reprisals.

The source added that the prisoner, 54 years of age, died in the clinic mentioned above. Roberto Rodriguez Ramos was a resident of the Cuban capital. In addition to this now deceased prisoner, there is a group of over 100 Havana residents that find themselves in this province under the indication of the National Direction of Penitentiary Establishments which goes directly against the will of the prisoners themselves and their family members. Roberto Rodriguez Ramos was jailed in “Tarea Confianza”, the prison adjacent to Canaletas.

We must also remember that in a matter of 20 months, 5 men have comitted suicide. Among the victims are the blind Rautel Fernandez Prieto. The source concludes this leak of information by stating that this very jail has one of the highest rates of suicide and self-affliction in the entire country. They add that this very well could be the reason why Colonel Reinerio Diaz Betancourt, the ex-director of Canaletas, was removed from his position.

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia

Chronicles of a Cuban Prison

“Galley 43 has exploited, and in the area of recycling”, a common prisoner told us. “It is hell to work with meat and not even being able to eat a steak,” answered Charon. Even if it may not seem that way, the common prisoners come together in solidarity whenever a crime is committed against one of us. Such chronicles may seem funny but the reality is quite the opposite.

The authorities of this penitentiary chose a large group of prisoners last year to work in a factory adjacent to the provincial prison of Canaletas in Ciego de Avila. Everything is indicating that the cruel realities of this jail (and what goes on in those factories) will be masked and hidden before the eyes of any high ranking international personnel , especially if it is someone from the United Nations. The mentioned factory specializes in numerous things like carpentry, construction, plastic jar making, and the recycling of clothes.

On other occasions I have written about the anomalies in the salaries of the prisoners, but today I am specifically referring to those who work in recycling, and according to them have received 300 pesos in national currency- 12 CUC a month. During this time, the men who have worked in recycling have been caught stealing brand name clothes. They then go on to be astonished prisoners and are removed from their positions. A prisoner is a prisoner.

In many occasions I have heard stories about the recycling sector. Civil workers and soldiers have been known to steal on the side. They get caught, are surprised, but then everything continues. That is where the gist of the problem lies. I don’t think that it will be difficult to sell some of those items, which they themselves took, to the prisoners and later sell them to stores. The captive should be encouraged and be able to buy clothes that go from hand to hand with their modest salary. “It is very, very difficult to work with shit and not get stained with it,” one recluse said.

Although recycling is not the only place where this occurs, one of the most lamentable cases occurred on June 14th when Henry Veitia Valdivia lost one of his legs when he suffered an accident with the mechanical cementer machine, thanks to the very minimal security measures emphasized by the authorities. This young man was in and out life and death and we currently do not know about his state of health. Well, just like a Ruben Blades song so perfectly says, “With the salary that I am paid, I will not risk the life that God has given me”.

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia

Cuba as Vicepresident of the UN Human Rights Council

Samuel Bak- “Luna”

Upon receiving the news that Cuba has been elected Vice-president of the UN’s Human Rights Council for the next period of the international organization’s sessions, all of us who defend human rights in whatever part of this planet called Earth have been left astonished, I would say.

I acknowledge the governments that make up this council, which is the same as the now defunct UN Human Rights Committee, which time and time again condemned the authorities of Havana with resolutions that the regime ignored each time, playing the role of the innocent one, just like a 7 year old kid that carries out acts of mischief behind his parents back. But, now, should the United Nations eliminate this dependency, or should they just give up the true purpose of an organization of unified countries? This question will be up to the countries that make up the UN to answer.

It is truly an insult to the intelligence of even the most mediocre of men. It is true that many other countries step over individual rights, including the right to life which God has granted us. I do not refer only to the classic violators, but also to the United States and the civilized Europe. The prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, along with others, that the George W. Bush administration, and currently Barack Obama, have continued to maintain open for supposed Talibans for an undefined period of time. It is funny, I remember that the Taliban regime was not considered as perverse as it is now when it used to confront communist soviet expansion.

As for the old continent, we receive daily news that are targeted against immigrants. In sum, there is lots of dirt to uncover. But people, it’s not the same to live in a country where human rights are violated. Those responsible of such absurd determinations forgot, in the midst of their desire to contradict the West, that here, in this country, a group of peaceful women who simply demand freedom for their jailed loved ones (due to reasons of conscience) were dragged and beaten out in the open street in the Cuban capital by soldiers and mobs which were directly ordered by the offices of the Political Police.

Despite the attempts by Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, archbishop of Havana and whom I unconditionally support, we political prisoners and prisoners of conscience still remain under harsh conditions- most of us with severe diseases which we have acquired in prison. In fact, the only one from the group of the 75 that was released as a product of the negotiations has been Ariel Sigley Amaya, on June 22nd, and I am immensely happy about this. The entire world, through the eyes of the foreign media, along with his friends and family members, have been shocked to see the frail rag of a man that has been made of him. Of course, I am referring to physical deterioration but his ideas are still going strong and firm.

The colleague which I chatted with about this subject (Cuba and the UN), believes, and I wouldn’t disregard it, that this may turn out to be a double-edged sword for the government of Raul Castro Ruz. Holding the vice presidency of the UN Human Rights Council usually means a compromise to uphold our natural human rights. In honor of the truth, I openly express my doubts in respect to such interpretations, for I think the government of Havana will fulfill no such thing, and I also doubt the confidence that other member countries have granted Cuba with. What fulfillment? I am still waiting for a fulfillment. I am still waiting for the official publication of the social, economic, and political accords which the governmental authorities signed more than 2 years ago. Time is and will be the best witness of all these outcomes.

Pablo Pacheco, Prisionero de conciencia

Moratino’s Airplane

There is a lot of speculation these days about the possible release of the political prisoners. The official press, as always — half asleep between growth statistics and old speeches taken from the files — neither confirms nor denies these rumors. A careful reading of the daily paper, Granma, tells us that Spain’s Foreign Minister has arrived on the island to condemn the American blockade, talk about climate change, and to try to get the European Union to abandon its Common Position* against Cuba. If we let ourselves believe what the announcers, with their throaty voices and striped ties, say, nothing is happening here… Or almost nothing. But we all know that in the dark recesses of diplomacy, in the high political terrain woven on the backs of the people, things are moving.

Whispers come and go. In them, the word “liberation” has been stuck to a term with nefarious connotations: “deportation.” “They will go directly from the prisons to the planes,” a gentleman who keeps his ear glued to the radio told me, based on what he hears on the prohibited broadcasts from the North. Forced expatriation, expulsion, exile, has been standard practice to get rid of dissenters. “If you don’t like it, leave,” they tell you from the time you’re small; “Get up and go,” they spit at you if you insist on complaining; “Why’d you come back?” is the greeting if you dare to return and continue to point out what you don’t like. The ability to rid themselves of the inconvenient, the skill to push off the island platform anyone who opposes them, this is a talent in which our leaders are quite adept.

Moratinos would have to have a very large plane to fit all those who obstruct the island’s authoritarians. Not even a jumbo jet could transport all those potentially at risk of going to prison for their ideas or their civil actions. A veritable airline with weekly flights would be necessary to remove all those who don’t agree with the administration of Raul Castro. But, as it turns out, many of us do not want to go. Because the decision to live here or there is something as personal as choosing a partner, or naming a child; it is not permissible that so many Cubans find themselves caught between the walls of prison and the sword of exile. It is immoral to force emigration on those who might be released in the coming days.

One question, simple and logical, jumps out at us with regards to this issue: Wouldn’t it be better if the ones they carried on this plane were “them”?

P.S. A link to the Archbishop’s statement is here.

Translator’s note:
European Union Common Position on Cuba: Adopted in 1996, it makes cooperation with the communist regime conditional on improvements in human rights and political freedom. The text can be read at this link

The Shame of Others

Reading the declarations formulated by Dr. Caballero in the newspaper Granma about the  state of health of the dissident Fariñas, and the attention paid to it, I can only feel pain and embarrassment for others.

How is it possible that a gesture as selfless and courageous as the voluntary hunger strike of this dissident, be talked about as if he had just on a whim decided not to eat?

The only thing that Coco has called for all this very long time has been the release of twenty-five prisoners of conscience who are in poor health, and serving sentences passed down some  years ago, simply because they dissent from the regime, and express it publicly.

Did they not think they could have saved all these costs they’re talking about having to incur to try to save the life of Fariñas, by simply agreeing to his fair request?

The life of this citizen, and the responsibility for his imminent death, as he himself expressed today, rests exclusively on the Cuban government.

Distinguished leaders, time is running out!


The workers of Ali Bar took exploited people by adulterating the products and prices. Those of the consulate of Spain by selling citizenships. Those of Rio Zaza by stealing from the Treasury and other et ceteras. The high school teachers exploited the students of the high school Comandancia de La Plata by selling exams. Housing inspectors of the Plaza municipality by accepting bribes. A cosmetic surgeon in Ameijeiras Hospital by converting a new bathroom in his house into implants in the operating room. The Party secretary of Havana by influence-peddling … And so on.

The denominator of this conglomeration is corruption. A phenomenon that has metastasized in our country, sometimes facilitated by government figures or government structures, sometimes without the government able to avoid it. The truth is that we have become a people of swindlers,receivers of stolen property and related crimes, because the morality of survival is permissive and semantic trickery disguises a guilty conscience.

Those who steal are said to “fight,” to divert resources is to “resolve.” We will have a democracy when the laws of biology take effect, but it will be difficult to return to people the perception of where evil deeds begin. The laws may be violated not only by taking the bills from someone’s pocket or the application of violence. Those born after 1959 have never known it, though perhaps they heard of it, and understanding what the rule of law is and moral learning will take time.

I’ll know things are progressing when one can purchase milk or cement in the same market at an affordable price relative to incomes.

Good Faith or Bad Intentions?

Written by: Yadaimí Domínguez

Since Monday 14 June, a colonel in the Ministry of the Interior (MINIT) who, according to him, is named Lazaro Martin Diaz, began to visit my brother in the hospital at Combinado del Este. The details of the first conversation they had I will not reveal, given that Jamil gave his word that it would not be published.

Visits of this officer continued. His insistence that my brother should take yogurt, juice, milk or ice cream “seemed” to be his goal, but even so we have our doubts. Not Yamil nor we, his family, have any confidence in the good intentions of the officials of this body. What is this man trying to do with his request? The review of case # 11 / 2008 of the Provincial Court of Havana, which unfairly punished my brother, is a right that any citizen has as a RIGHT in the whole length and breadth of legal science. Meanwhile, unless his demand is met, he does not intend to abandon his peaceful protest.

This Colonel, on presenting himself to Yamil, said he should look on him as a father, and hinted that if he abandoned his position he could be enjoy better prison conditions, and as a citizen of the United States he wouldn’t necessarily have to complete his ten year sentence in Cuba, maybe just five years, when he could be released on probation. What kind of offer is this for a man who should not be punished. What are they trying to hide and what do they fear to extend that attitude to Yamil? I doubt that, at any time, this official has watched over my brother as if he were his son, because a father does not ask a child to pay for a crime he did not commit. A father never asks a son to abandon his word because that is the definition of a man.

On Friday, June 25, the colonel met with Yamil again but this time the “conversation” was much more tense. He said that Yamil’s hostile attitude was not going to break this government. What hostile attitude is this colonel talking about? Who said that demanding a right with good reason and with it justice is an attempt to break the government?

I keep all the paper and digital documents that are filed in the case of Yamil, and all the letters and inquiries we’ve made to the domestic courts since my brother was arbitrarily arrested at an International Port on October 13, 2007. Some of the documents, especially those that express the obvious injustice against Yamil, appear in the Legal Documents section of this blog. Mr. Colonel has not harassed my brother any more. Don’t take advantage of the weakness of the human condition in which Yamil finds himself to achieve his particular purpose.

When you are sure of what you are defending, when you know your rights and assert them above all, when the truth is in your hands, then there is no room for fear or coercion. Let those who lie tremble, let all the liars who defend their positions at any price tremble. The case of Yamil Dominguez is for many one of the major violations of human rights in Cuba in recent times.

Why instead of harassing my brother doesn’t he suggest and order a family visit with him, whom we haven’t seen for a month?

Why doesn’t he take care of the urgent orders for a medication (NUTRICON) so necessary for Yamil but “sold out in the hospital”?

Why, when he has the ability which we know he has, doesn’t he intervene in the streamlining of the review procedures of the case?

With these actions, he would more closely be able to pretend to be a father with a son. You can offer your small contribution to this miscarriage of justice and so achieve your claimed objective of getting Yamil to start eating.

We have walked on the paved roads. We bring trust but then they disappoint us, and we are already tired. Therefore we need to walk carefully. We know that beneath any stone, a toad may be hiding.

Cuba, Born Again!

On the night of June 22, in the Cotorro municipality in Havana, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the coming of the Evangelical church to this country.

At Villa Rosa Baptist Church the different denominations of the town were brought together: Church of God in Christ, God of Prophecy, Assembly of God, The Open Bible, First Pentecostal, Full Gospel Church, Brethren in Christ, Free Baptist and Western Cuba Baptist. Also represented were churches from the cities of Atlanta, Georgia and Houston, Texas, in the United States of America.

It was the Western Cuba Baptist church that started the missionary activity in El Calvario in 1930. And so the pastor of this church gave the sermon. He called for the unite of Christians. For living in harmony with the faith, and firmly defending the unity of the family. And to boldly keep all the good that God has given us.

I remember that in the decade of the seventies the evangelical seminaries were closed and the students were put in forced labor camps. The law of Obligatory Military Service was also established and those who for reasons of their faith refused to take up arms were put in prison.

Therefore it was gratifying to confirm that it works to eliminate the traces of hatred and resentment. The young guides will convey to their congregations a message of peace, love and family unity. They will seek to rescue the values that years of materialistic atheism destroyed.

We know that the struggle for civil rights led by the Rev. Martin Luther King was conceived and developed in the evangelical churches of black communities. These people were brought together by their faith and shared way of life, which enabled them to act as one to fight for full integration into society.

In our country, for decades, they have promoted hatred, violence, and confrontation between people. And so it is commendable to see preachers reclaiming, peacefully and with strength and determination the inherent rights of human beings. To instruct people in education programs and to train people in programs for non-violence forms the future leaders of our community and government.