Archive | June, 2011

Once Again, the “Brave” against Jacquelin and Ariel

26 Jun

Recently, I published a post in which Jacquelin details the physical blows she received at the hands of combined forces from the political police and the trained mobs who broke into her house to take Ariel Arzuaga, her husband, to prison and leave her full of bruises and with a fractured arm.

During the time I completed that post Ariel was imprisoned and was being accused of unimaginable charges.  After beating all those present in that humble home, the police cynically accused the man of attempting to hurt the soldiers.  In addition, they accused him of a list of other absurd things which, out of respect for the family, I will not even mention because I don’t think that repeating them will help in any way to remove the 8 years of prison they are supposed to sentence him on this June 24 in Bayamo during what, in Cuba, they call “municipal tribunals”.

At four in the afternoon I tried to reach them via telephone to find out how the false “trial” went but I could not get in touch with anyone in the family.  After countless attempts I was finally able to get in touch with Yoandri Montoya who told me, “Yes, today was the trial but we were not able to get to the tribunal because the police surrounded the place and anyone who tried to get through was detained.  The trial is over and we still do not know how much time Ariel was sentenced to because the entire family was arrested.  So you can imagine how far the injustice went that the entire family carried out a protest and the repressive forces were used on them as well”.

Everyone in the family has been arrested.

“Well, at least his wife…,” I told him.

“No, the wife has been detained since Monday in Santiago de Cuba.  It happened while she was on her way to show support and solidarity with the family of Jorge Cervantes.  She was captured together with other women and up to now she has not yet been freed.  They told me that it seems that she was beaten so bad that they still have not released her because they are waiting for the bruises and scars to go away”.

When I am finally able to talk to Jacquelin I will let you all know more, but I could not let another day pass without reporting that this week the injustice and cowardliness of the dictatorship’s soldiers has been once again practiced in this region.


Two Intolerant People are Enough

26 Jun

Translator’s note:  Luis Felipe Rojas published this article in the digital magazine “Diario de Cuba”, under the title of “Con dos intolerantes basta” (‘Two Intolerant People are Enough’).  It can be read, in spanish, here.  The translation is as follows:

Silvio Rodriguez

The final episode of “Two People in Love is Good Enough”, a show which consisted of interviews done by singer-songwriter Amaury Perez Vidal to figures from the cultural elite on the island (or better said, in Havana), aired on Cuban television this past June 21st.  In reality, spectators would have preferred less of a focus on the capital and a  more national approach.  In any corner of this island they could have found a musician, painter, dancer, or scholar of respected connotation and that was not a friend of the host and lived in Santa Clara, Jatibonico, or Manzanillo.

For the grand finale of his series, Amaury Perez invited Silvio Rodriguez, the troubadour known as much for his songs as his adhesion to the “revolution” and his stories about how he was censured back in the beginning of his artistic career.

In front of the cameras, Silvio looked like a cheerful and contracted man at the same time.  Amaury was bent on exhausting the patience of the viewers with his ridiculous laughter which he used in each program to mix with complicity, and which this time was even more recurrent.

When asked why many considered him an official pro-revolution artist, Rodriguez responded by stating that when it came to the Cuban revolution and its leaders (Fidel and Raul) he felt no shame about this and proudly accepted any such labels.  And, up to that point, his discourse could seem reasonable, for there have always been intellectuals at the service of tyrants.

Silvio, however, went even further and displayed an intolerance at the same level of his subservience.  He accused “those who sang for Bush” of being the real government-sponsored ones.  For him, those who disagreed with the Cuban revolution and its leaders were “officialists” of a different kind than his.  The term could be used disparagingly.

But what Silvio Rodriguez did not explain in front of the cameras was that a Cuban exile could sing for president Obama today but four years later his adhesion will end, if there was any in the first place.  He also did not explain that those who sang for George W. Bush could never do it again (at least while  being president) because there exists a 200 year old constitution which prohibits this.

Another one of those political mysteries led Silvio Rodriguez to assume that public disapproval of the Cuban revolution automatically meant that the person approves the tacit bombardment of Iraq or the supposed attempt by North American troops to invade Libya.

The program, produced by the “Cubadebate” website (the newest cultural platform belonging to the ideological department of the Communsit Party) began to quickly descend in terms of interest and consistency, so much so that at one moment they preferred to interview the Dominican Sonia Silvestre, the current cultural diplomat of her country in Cuba.  (Without a single ounce of shame, the singer confessed how, through her influences, she sent her son to study science while she became the diplomatic representative).

Few countries- Cuba included- consider any form of dissent against a system which has perpetuated itself in power for more than 50 years a crime.  But, in the spirit of a good Cuban who surpasses physical and spiritual hunger, during the month of January a joke was going around the neighborhoods and even in the hallways of the Central Cuban Communist Party.  When someone would ask what the new year would be dubbed, the reply was a parody of the Amaury Perez program title and aims to give two old men what they deserve: “Two dead would do just fine”.

In Times of Trouble, the Opportunists Win

22 Jun

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina is my friend, and because he refused to leave Cuba a few months ago he has been condemned to suffer various unsuspected dangers which constantly lurk around him.  A few days ago I received this letter written by him and I wish to share it with my readers.

———–

Lately, I have been thinking about the journey my brother Nestor and I embarked upon against the Castro dictatorship. We both carried out numerous civic demonstrations against totalitarianism here in Cuba. The last demonstration we both participated in was the campaign dubbed “What are Human Rights?”, which was held in accordance with International Human Rights Day celebrated on December 10th 2010. But the day before, my brother was taken to prison as part of a political police strategy to force him to leave the country as finally did occur on April 7th 2011.

Thinking back on that event I also recall that on that December day Eriberto Liranza Romero (who had already substituted my brother Nestor as president of the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement) was also detained. Eriberto told me that during those days the Chief of Section 21 of State Security in Havana assured him that my brother and I would soon be arrested. Sure enough, months later, on March 16, 2011, I was detained by the National Police while on the road from Guantanamo to Baracoa and then taken to a military barracks and later transferred to a State Security interrogation center located in the province where I was arrested for 3 days. While I was being confined to a prison cell, an ostentatious search with modern search techniques was being carried out in the home of my mother in Baracoa, under the direction of the MININT Delegate, the maximum representative of that organization in the province. The objective was to confiscate a satellite antenna system that provided internet connection access which had been lying somewhere in my mother’s house for months, and which I had never got around to using because it was missing pieces, along with the fact that I did not know how to operate it. And because of that device they wanted to accuse me of espionage and other strings of “legal” violations which the police resort to when they want to involve someone in some sort of scandal.

I was released under the condition that the investigations against me would continue, would be processed, and that one day I would be sent back to prison. At that moment I did not understand the condition but as time passed it made sense. It was all a scheme designed to make me leave my country, something that I refuse to do.

During those days my imprisoned and isolated brother awaited his departure from the country along with his family and they allowed me one visit. He informed me that the police and the G2 were pressuring him to convince me to join the group of relatives headed for exile in Spain. My brother informed me that the political police had assured him that I was going to spend long years in prison if I did not leave the country.

In that family visit, which took place in Havana before Nestor’s exile, all the relatives who would also leave for Spain were pressured as well to convince me to hop on that “flight” with the rest of them. The words used by the uniformed officials were “we’ll turn him into dirt”.

But I committed the “sin” of refusing the offer. I believe a few rebels should stay here and make the lives of those who run the totalitarian system impossible.

Because I have chosen not to leave the country and because the regime apparently has a muzzle on in regards to prison terms for dissidents, logic indicates that the path they will most likely take is that of trying to morally, psychologically, and physically destroy me, as they have done with the country, lives, and hopes of all Cubans. I am convinced that I am not the only one.

They resort to any possible method to implement this. They create “dissidents” who attack or question me in order to win a “white card” which would allow them to leave the country and they send delinquents in an attempt to start a complicated situation with me so that they could find a reason which would justify what the political police need in order to imprison me. In recent days I have received harassing calls, reproachful messages, threats of physical aggression and other, no less alarming, suspicious messages having to do with the opposition. It’s as if they want to return to the era of violence in the universities during the decade of the 40′s of the past century.

At this point in all the provocations, I know that I am confronting an enemy which is capable of making ashes out of anyone. I know that the regime is not on good terms at all with the people and if they seek to do away with the political scene of the island then they should know that this will not occur with me. I suppose that they included various criminals in the list of political prisoners deported to Spain in order to tarnish our images, the images of those political prisoners, the reasons for which the Cuban people fight for, and the civil movement which has been going on for more than 20 years before the eyes of national and international opinion. Or perhaps those other people in my country who, when it comes to the opposition, lend themselves to collaborate with the oppressive forces in order to receive gifts of white cards or exit permits from the country, all the while becoming loyal to the slogan “when the river overflows then there are earnings for the fishermen”.

It’s not the first time they resort to campaigns which degrade our images in an attempt to exasperate the legal bases of our cause, whether it be accusations of improper handling of funds which are aimed at assisting pro-democracy programs on the island or some other bad-intentioned ruse. I denounce ETECSA (Cuban telecommunications company), which is a business run by no other than Ramiro Valdes, Castro’s strongman, when it comes to controlling communication and internet in Cuba. He is also an accomplice of stealing 5 cellphones from my home, which was part of a political police operation against me, seizing my belongings to study them in a criminal forensic lab.

I have always said that we Cubans, those of us in or outside of the island, will fix our country. But we must start right now. That is why we must find how to make our struggle more effective without shifting our attention from the pillars which move society, maybe even the refugee program should be an option so it won’t serve as a trampoline for the heartless, with all due respect for all those who are politically persecuted. I will never forget that I am one of them.

Now, more than ever, is a decisive point for the future of Cuba, and it will not be through paternalism or dietetic romanticism that we will achieve freedom for our country. It is clear that the regime is trying all in its power to diminish the street confrontations between the opposition and the oppressive forces. But it will not be successful in its attempt to stop my activism because I have a responsibility with my people.

I must remind my enemies that the freedom cause in the island has its foundations in all the fecund deaths which sowed the seeds which would pass on to future generations, based on the morals of Varela, Marti, Jose Antonio Echeverria, Boitel, Zapata, and Soto. And continued by so many like Farinas, Antunez, Liranza, Sara Marta, Caridad Caballero, Marta Diaz Rondon, and many others out of a list of names (of humble people) impossible for me to mention in this small piece of civic resistance called “the digital world”.

Let me be clear: If something happens to me, only the Cuban government is responsible. For those who are analyzing the direction of the measures which favor them, it’s time to step aside. It is crucial that we all help to create awareness about the importance of the struggle for democracy on the island”.

A Friend of Mine Sent Me This Letter and Photo of Harol Brito

18 Jun

At the time of his death, Harol Brito was only 39 years old. He had spent 16 years of his life in prison because of ‘disrespect’ against the Commander-in-Chief, threat, resistance and disobedience against the authorities. State Security began to investigate him when he was 13 years old due to ‘ideological diversion’. While he was serving a sentence in the provincial ‘El Tipico’ prison of Las Tunas for supposedly robbing someone violently, he died handcuffed in a room of the Che Guevara Hospital at 1:30 pm on February 12, 2011.

Letter from Hell
by Harol Brito Parra


January 26th 2011-
“I, prisoner Harol Brito Parra (number 35166), am locked away in cell # 4 of Hallway H of Detachment #15 of the Provincial Las Tunas Prison for being a political persecuted pacifist who, ever since I was a child, proclaimed myself an enemy of the Castro tyranny which, for 52 years, has oppressed and subdued our Cuban nation, killing, torturing, and terrorizing without the least bit of remorse.

They jail us, they disappear us, they harass us, they insult us, and I really think that there are no words adequate to describe so much criminality.  And the nations, governments, and humanity in general, around the world do nothing to put an end to so much pain and suffering.

I am 39 years old, and I have spent my life in prison.  I spent approximately 14 years in prisons of maximum security and 2 years in the prisons which apply forced labor.  These consisted of subhuman conditions, thriving with diseases such as HIV and Aids, tuberculosis, bronchitis, leptospirosis, bronchopneumonia, as well as famine, rats, cockroaches, fleas, and other bugs.  God knows this is true.

The prisons of the Castro tyranny are hell on earth.  They refuse us medicines and on top of that they take away our medical attention to hand it out among the terrorist buddies of the Castros throughout various countries of the world.  And of course, as the saying goes ‘there is no one more blind than he who wishes to not see’.  Neither nations nor the world want to take a look at the suffering of the Cuban people.  And I am not saying this without facts and proof.  I have been victim of everything I said I have suffered, and much more.  My intention is not to speak lies, I have much proof to show of what my life has been like, and proving that all I say is true.

In 1996, while I was imprisoned in the punishment cells of Detachment #47 in Combinado del Este in the city of Havana, I became sick due to the excessive humidity and the subhuman conditions.  I suffered from bronchopneumonia, and my left lung was heavily damaged, and I am convinced that it was God who saved me.  And I say that because the doctors said I was miraculously fine after they saw that the liquid which had gotten into my lung and ribs had disappeared by giving me medicines.

After suffering this disease, my health did not improve, for I never was able to get back to my normal weight.  My body has been sick, so much so that words cannot describe it.  Last year, in April, I nearly died.  Or better said, they did all in their power to let me die.

Thanks, first of all to God and his will, many members of the opposition and many independent journalists worked together to not let me die: Jose Daniel Ferrer, “Papito”, Caridad Caballero, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Alberto Mendez Castello, Ana Belkis Ferrer, Roberto de Jesus, and many other people and various churches from my village (Puerto Padre) prayed for my health, offered me food and medicine, something which the “New Pines” Church, which my mother attends to meet with Jesus Christ, did as well.

When the guards had no other option but to let the doctors tend to me for so many reasons and so much pressure, then they were not able to get pleasure from seeing me die little by little.

I had a very large tumor in my throat and suffered from ganglionic pneumonia which affected all my organs and all my body.  Once again they had no other option but to isolate me and give me medicines.

I am writing this letter to denounce to the world that the medicines given to me did not cure my disease.  I took the 100 doses given to me during a period of 6 to 20 days, the 60 doses of 14 pills day after day, and the 40 doses of 7 pills on Mondays and Thursdays for 4 months and 20 days.  Not once did I refuse those medications.  I took all the pills that were given to me.  And I am not lying about what I am going to say:  They released me without having been cured.  On November 4th, the pneumonia specialists told me they were going to take me back to prison.

Since that day, I have been in the prison of Las Tunas  living in conditions which are truly subhuman.  I have told my relatives, my brother dissidents, the independent journalists, my friends, and everyone that I am fine.  Having much faith in God, and confiding in him and trying to prevent those who love me from suffering.  But everything has its time and everything under this sky has its day.  The time has come to, with much valor, tell the world that I am slowly dying because of my lung disease.  And it must also be said that neither the directors of this prison nor the health workers of the prison have done what they are supposed to do and are letting me die.  In December, because of my demands, the prison authorities were forced to do a sputum test on me and x-rays.  The results of the sputum exam were not shared with me or my family.  Why do they hide the results?  The x-ray appeared in one of the thousands of drawers of the prison, but not as something that was being filed, but something that was being hidden.

Thank God I was there the moment they took it out, because, thank God I knew that it was there where they were hiding it.  Why was  it not sent to a pulmonary specialist and why was it being hidden?  Why do they hide it?  Please, someone on earth, upon knowing of my situation, please intercede for me so that I do not die little by little, like the Castro dictatorship wants”.

One Day, They Will Not Return

12 Jun

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

The automobile pretentiously came to a stop and interposed itself in front of the four individuals dressed in civilian clothing.  Suddenly, two more vehicles arrived and took away one woman and a man.  Nobody protested, everyone was astonished by the arrest.  Those being detained screamed slogans against the government, but no one dared get involved with the protest, or what for the rest of the world is better described as a kidnapping.

A neighbor from the “Hilda Torres” Holguin neighborhood was the one who described the scene to me.  Those arrested were Human Rights activists who, this past May, were protesting against the government’s behavior towards their ideological counterparts in the center of the country.

“Only one young man protested and they took him away”, said Fidel Garcia Roldan, former political prisoner and victim of that kidnapping.

For some time now, we have been seeing some changes in the behavior of the political police in various regions of the country.  Caridad Caballero Batista and Mari Blanca Avila were locked in a car and savagely beaten, according to testimonies offered to this blogger.  Jose A. Triguero Mulet was taken to a “security house” in the municipality of Mayari in 2010 and during his entire arrest there none of his relatives received any news about him.  Journalist Alberto Mendez Castello was taken from his work place in Puerto Padre and kept in a “comfortable hotel room” with a hood over his head for a few hours while they warned him.

Caridad Caballero herself was locked away in a small cell of the political police unit of San German for three days.  Her young under-age son was alone at home the entire time and did not receive any response from the authorities.  Various friends living outside of Cuba called the number 53-243-81-323, the office of the police unit, and they were redirected to 53-243-80-480, which is supposed to be the office of the MININT Delegation. In each of these cases, the officials swore that there was “no one there by the name of Caridad Caballero”.

On February 2008, a green Lada vehicle stopped at the door of my house while the driver, who claimed to be called Douglas and who claimed to be the 1st official of Confrontation with the enemy in the province, assured my wife that I was going to be taken to the local police barracks but he quickly turned the wheel in the first street corner and I found myself in the G2 Operations Barracks.  My family waited for hours outside the unit until a clumsy official assured them that I had been taken to Holguin.

Now, the repressive forces have alternated between kicks and punches and scaring the family.  There has been an abrupt turn towards what, in the Central America of the 80’s, was considered a “kidnapping”.  Now, we are insulted when people do not believe our testimonies.

Our names or identities are not registered in the Penal Control record books, we are never listed as detainees, and the operational G2 officials, the police officers, and the Military Prosecutor lawyers all lazily assure, over the Penal Code and the Constitution of Republic of Cuba, that “they do not need summons or citations to detain us”.  “We do not have to add you in the book of detainees”, I was assured on August 4th 2010 by Juan Carlos Laborde, the attorney of the Ministry of the Interior of Holguin, located in Marti and Narciso Lopez.   Captain Laborde, didn’t you assure me that there, in that unit, positive responses were always given to the PEOPLE?  “And you are not one of the PEOPLE”, he replied to me in front of another castroite official.

Cuban police units are reservoirs of people who bitterly stare at those who are detained and scream slogans against the dictatorship.  While one is sitting in the bench at the waiting room, the functionaries dressed in blue stare at you out of the corner of their eyes as they try to relate you to some sort of robbery or violation of norms.  But those claims are hammered onto us by the men from the G2 dressed in civil clothes when they deal with us.  Then we become food for “the fattest of the fish”.

Photo taken from Cubanacan Press Blog

Removing the Corset

9 Jun

Days and weeks rush by while people keep waiting on a miracle.  The Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Cuba is entranced before the mirror.  Their makeup has to be perfect; 52 years of wrinkles are not easy to hide.

The show has begun, the audience begins to cheer at the top of their lungs, but the main actress still does not appear on stage.  The falsettos from rehearsal remain behind the backdrop.  Seeing as the tickets have all sold out, one suspects that it will be a long and terrible night in this grand theater where they have promised marvels but where, instead, disaster lurks behind each and every crack of that old building.

Many furiously searched through the resolutions presented by the Lineaments to see if they could find some sort of consolation, but nothing can be done amid hieratic discourses and medieval immobility.  Lineaments 278 and 286, referencing the relaxation of purchasing, leasing, or selling of homes and of automobiles, are some of the most searched for and awaited for pieces of legislation.  Finally, the slave will be able to sell his small plantation, finally the everyday citizen can sell his or her old motorcycle which they brought over nearly 30 years ago from former Eastern Germany or Czechoslovakia.  Some see this as permission to be able to breath, blink, or sleep when one is tired.

Despite the fact that massive media sources of information (or “dis-information”, as a friend of mine says)  publish reports each day of supposed debates which only their journalists pay any attention to or of a supposed public approval of these measures, nothing is said about eliminating clear and absurd impositions applied to the right of a large number of Cubans (who go against the ideology of the communist apparatus)  from entering or leaving the country.  As if these human comings and goings would not produce income for the only slave owner.

Despite the winds that seem to be blowing, the neighborhood Cubans continue to return their self employment permits.  The drought which whips across the Eastern region of the country has impeded the sowing, recollection, selling, and earnings cycle which many agriculture workers were awaiting for during this time of the year.  Meanwhile, the watchdogs of social life tighten their grips, and increase the fines and constraints.

Against Homophobia VS the Slogans

6 Jun

I have spent days waiting to see if the official press is going to publish a report, or a snippet, mentioning the fact that Miss Mariela Castro was in Santiago de Cuba as part of the Cuban campaign against homophobia.

Since this is not a news blog (and knowing that even if it was I do not have the ability to cover all the developments around me) I have had to wait.

On May 17th, the date which Cuba celebrates Farmworker Day, an enormous fair took place in Santiago de Cuba where souvenirs, posters, and pamphlets dealing with homophobia were distributed.

Miss Mariela Castro, with an entourage of SENESEX specialists, presided over the activities.  In the emblematic Plaza de Marte, in the general barracks of the large baseball crowds (epitome of machismo) pamphlets were handed out, songs were performed, and certain people who, in one way or another, have felt excluded or singled out because of their sexual preference had hours of escape.

However, the campaign was not mentioned in the official media.  Many people, upon seeing the diverse multitude of excited people under the protection of the General-cum-President’s daughter, watched with shocked faces.

The key of the discord due to so much fuss seems to be that Miss Castro (Mariela) shoots up into the air and makes allusions without properly pointing out those who, through official procedures, committed the worst homophobic acts in the nation’s history.  But it’s clear that she would have to ask the heads of her family: Why so much intolerance?

For a moment, it’s as if she were accusing the flags and the origins of so much hate towards gays and lesbians in Cuba.

Below, I’m sharing photos of her and others which her group of body guards allowed me to take. There was a foul mood in the air, with so many people laughing, as if it was a fair, and shocked while “daddy’s little girl” traveled throughout the island with a slogan which people will soon forget.

What we would have to counteract would be intolerance, of any kind of preference whether it is sexual, nutritious, dress, economic, sport, environmental, political?  Did I write political?  No, I must be dreaming.  Miss Castro (Mariela) would not go so far.

Photos: Luis Felipe Rojas

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