Archive | February, 2010

Seven Steps to Kill Orlando Zapata Tamayo

24 Feb

I am still suffering the pain over that avoidable death and over the impotence I feel because I am not able to attend the funeral processions due to the impediment enforced upon me by the police, but that has not limited my saying that, either way, what I am about to expose seems to be the final seven steps taken by the repressive mechanism to kill Zapata.

1- Pull together the legal theatrics that transformed an initial sentence of four years for lack of respect, into a 63-year prison term.

2 – The continuous beatings accompanied by obscene phrases and insults towards his ethnicity and the region he came from (“Worthless Nigger”, “Worthless Peasant”).

3 – Locate him in jails very far from his mother (Kilo Five and a Half Prison in Pinar del Rio, and Kilo 8 Prison in Camaguey).

4 – The beatings of November 2009 in the jail of Holguin when they smashed him in one leg and left a mark on his knee, which his mother was still able to see again today when she opened the coffin in her small house in Banes, also discovering that there were numerous other marks made by the blows that he surely received months ago.

5 –  The forced relocation to Camaguey and the stealing of all his belongings on December 3rd, when they confiscated the only foods he ate in prison. This was the act that pushed him to declare himself on hunger strike.

6 – Denying him water for 18 days in the midst of the hunger strike, even after he declared himself on strike but specified that he would drink small quantities of water.

7 – The act of taking him from a hospital in Camaguey to a mental ward in West Havana, a ward that does not have the conditions to take care of a person who is in critical condition.

The power of analysis fails me in this case, but please don’t follow the government saying he died by his own hand.  The execution order came down from the office of general Raúl Castro Ruz.

Translated by Raul G.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo Died

24 Feb

We are in mourning. The pain for the loss of our brother from Holguin only allows us to write this note. Here we want to remind you, that only one person is responsible for his death but there are many accomplices, many accomplices that savagery mistreated him at the Provincial Prison in Holguin, many accomplices that in the Kilometer 8 Jail in Camaguey threw him naked in a cell as punishment for his refusal to wear the clothes of a common criminal, where they denied him the only sips of water that he consented to drink since he started his hunger strike on December 3rd.

Here we have no more words. The pain and the rage are eating us up.

With only one order from General Castro a few weeks ago, Zapata would not be ascending to the heroes’ heaven today.

Translated by: Mari Mesa

The Woman Who Invented a House

21 Feb

Good books continue killing me from love, literally.  I continue surrendering to the stories that captivate and take you from cruel reality to the even more cruel unreality.

I allow myself these play on words because ever since I met Mariela Varona Roque, or “The Female Dog” as we, her friends, know her (Her husband, a rock Guru from Holguin is called “The Male Dog”), she has never ceased to surprise me.

Her latest book, published by an emerging editorial company for novelists in Cuba, and now sponsored by the “Onelio Jorge Cardoso” Center of Literary Formation, has come to be an expulsion of those stories that did not form the body of a more complete text.

From that very small apartment in a workers building, Russian or German, but in the style of the most gloomy of horror movies, she keeps trying every day to paint a picture of a world darkened by the lack of affection of human beings.  Mariela is post-experience, I don’t think she cares about a future for us, her readers, just like her characters don’t care either.  Her fictional creatures range from vulgar suicide, without any existential philosophy, to the mockery of the most absurd death.  Between the pleasure and the disease  which love produces, Mariela reverts to demonstrate the darkest sides of human existence.

Books should also serve the purpose of teaching, but when a book describes what you already have lived, then you realize that it has been excellently written.  The House of the Discrete Farewell functions like a mirror.  It is filled with insinuations to living a loneliness less humiliating, to continue walking towards nothing or to let oneself be taken by the philosophy that friendship is a wolf that attacks you at every step; the book, much like Mariela’s house described in the book which was constructed by prisoners during the 80’s in the past century in Villanueva Complex, invites us to pass by, see, and then close our eyes in order to exist, at the mercy of what we are capable of noticing.

Born in Banes and a professional Electrical Engineer, Mariela Varona Roque has published her tales in various anthologies and even obtained the coveted Cuban Gazette Story Award.  I like her brutal way of narrating, because she does it without any artifices (I have yet to find any) or at least she makes it seem that she doesn’t use any.  At least in her magisterial piece, “Black Dog“, she shows the best of this generation, which, together with Ana Lidia Vega Serova, Ena Lucia Portela, and Oneyda Gonzalez, take the narratives made by women on the island to a level of true interaction with us, her readers, who are her most direct addressees.

I feel like I have only one obligation — that is to discover the best of the generations of Cubans who are saddled with very absurd editorial politics, which authorize publication only for authors who are less problematic.  But even so, there still emerge those who are capable of creating a country, a city, or a house, as Mariela Varona Roque has done.

Translated by Raul G.

Whispering with Beans and Cannons

17 Feb

Every so often, the thugs of the State Security shake the house just to see what happens. A few months ago while standing in line for the Public Transportation that would take me out of Márcane to San Germán, I heard about the new atrocity with the Food Rationing Book, this identity document that punishes the Cubans from the day we are born.

A few months ago they eliminated the few ounces of split peas that they sell through the Food Rationing Book, they were going to sell it without restrictions, the reason why it disappeared from the public stands, because it is good for animal and human consumption

A few months ago they eliminated the few ounces of peas that were sold under the rationing system and started to sell them unrationed and as a result they ended up disappearing from the public kiosks because they served the same as human food or animal food.

Now they have rationed it once again, but this February they did not sell the ten ounces of pinto beans imported from Europe or Canada that were selling as if they were giving them away.  The homemakers have cried to high heaven but the clamor has died down and it has become a low whisper.

Since the historic phrase of General Raúl Castro, saying that the beans were more important than  cannons, to date the Rationalist in Chief has pushed the lever of rationing back and forth, to the breaking point.

The cannons serve little purpose in the face of the consensual looting of the State warehouses to supply the black market. That new military arsenal purchased from Russia has given very little results faced with the decision of few compatriots to gather in a Public Park to demand their rights.

Guns are of little use before the onslaught of those who with the consent of everyone looted the State warehouses to supply the underground market.  This new military arsenal purchased from Russia has accomplished little faced with the decision of a few peasants planting themselves in a public park to demand their rights.

The small farmers bit by bit direct their harvest to the family table, between the bureaucratic missteps, denials from the military junta now in charge, and the lack of interest of the Cuban in the last row, a breach is opening for the definitive explosion of courage, the wish to rebuild a country that lies in ruins

The new year is barely a month old. All that’s lacking is for them to set aside the tiresome sound of the speeches, the tepidness at the idea of letting go of production, and to stop pointing the cannons at my forehead. The citizens are not the enemy, the danger to the regime lies in the twisted maneuvers that it practices on a daily basis against itself.

Translated by: Mari Mesa

Racism: The Same and Different

14 Feb

It can be difficult to find traces of institutionalized racism in Cuba. It’s not in the country’s laws or in the hidden prohibitions (called decrees, those subsections added at the directives of the Commander in Chief) that come out at the last minute to protect the victimizers.

In the eastern part of the island for a long time they spoke, and still speak, of Holguin as having a “strong racist component,” referring perhaps to the majority population. Here in this province more atrocities have been covered up than we can imagine.

The case of prisoners, both common and political, refutes any argument. It’s astonishing that seven out of ten prisoners are of the black race, according to a clandestine poll conducted by an opposition group in 2007. And on the other hand, the first-hand accounts are eloquent.

When they abuse a prisoner, the word “black” comes out with the first kick or blow. Zapata Tamayo, in the Holguín Provincial Prison, was always insulted for being black, and he didn’t know he should thank the Revolution for “having saved him from disgrace.” Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez said, in an interview he gave a south Florida radio station, that this past December 28th he heard from a senior police official in Holguin the worst racial insults that he had ever heard during his career as a  fighter for civil rights.

“Combating racism” is never going to be an effective rhetorical device as long as one personal testimony remains standing.

Translated by: Tomás A.


9 Feb


9 Feb


9 Feb


9 Feb


7 Feb

Twenty-two dissidents had arrived in Las Tunas on February 2 to hold a board of directors meeting of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, a working platform that brings together several civic organizations in the area.  They came from all over the East and at 2 PM started a peaceful march to nearby Maceo Park where they held a public meeting.  They then discussed the uselessness of a document like the constitution of the Cuban republic, which only protects the government victimizers and not the citizens, saying it must be incinerated in front of everyone to call attention to the fact and to explain their actions.

But the sorrow of Reina Luisa for the deplorable state of health of Orlando Zapata in the penal ward of the Amalia Simoni Hospital, made everyone, once they finished the public meeting, decide to go to Camaguey to show support for her pain and impotence in the face of the agony of her son.

It behooves me to communicate that I joined the liberators.

There Reina begged to see her son and to be able to be with him in the hospital, but her petition was denied.  Everyone decided once more to call attention, through the streets of the city, not with a symbolic burning, but with a demand for justice and freedom for The Black Zapata.

The march in Camaguey started on the 3rd at 4 PM, and the participants marched through a central street.  They advanced about a mile.  They told the people of the place that a Cuban patriot was dying in the penal ward in the hospital because he decided not to eat as a form of protest against the human rights violations that are committed in all the prisons in the country.

They shouted, “Down with the dictatorship, freedom for the political prisoners,” and other slogans expressing their rejection of the prevailing government in Cuba.  Not a single citizen contradicted them, attacked them, or insulted them.

But in a remote area at the end of the march, more than one hundred police launched themselves against them.  Some were in plain clothes, that is the well-known political police, others, with military uniforms, and to complete the picture some additional ones were from the rapid response brigades.

I saw how they beat them savagely.  To shut the women up and so they would not call them assassins, violators of human rights, and criminals, they hit them in the mouth and then in the belly to not leave evidence of the blows.

Against the men they more than one hundred police went out of their way to kick them, the same ones who could not manage to convince the public to join in and participate in the feast of the jackals.  The most aggressive were Julio César Bombino González Bombino, the leader of the clash from the Ministry of the Interior, and Julio César García Rodríguez, provincial secretary of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

One of the march participants,  Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, was wearing a t-shirt with some words from Gandhi, “I am willing to die for my ideas, but not to kill.”

That this happened in the streets of Camaguey is a success for the Cuban civic movement, which has now permanently awakened.

On the bodies of everyone the wounds and pain remain, but Camaguey lived two hours of freedom.

Post Script: Today when I had barely finished telling a friend that I had written this report to let people know what happened in Camaguey where there were no accredited journalists from Havana, the jeep of the political police appeared once again in San German.  The order?  I can not leave my house.

Once again I have to appeal to Twitter to leave San Germán.