Archive | February, 2010


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.

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Black Cuban They Are Killing

7 Feb

The old saying that a lie always returns as a banner against the one who told it came to pass, and this time not in favor of the current Cuban regime.

The hoax that the revolutionary state of Fidel Castro ended racist practices falls apart before the case of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban political prisoner of the renowned Group of 75.  Zapata was condemned to 25 years, and during the seven years he has been imprisoned he has been summarily tried on several occasions so that with the time added he is now sentenced to 47 years.

Now the authorities, acting together and in collusion with the courts and the attorney general of the republic, have handed down a new sentence that leaves him at 25 years again, but without credit for the seven he has already served. This, among other reasons, is why today he is on a hunger strike and is at the point of death in a room in the Amalia Simoni Hospital in Camaguey.

But … who is Zapata? Why has he been subjected to such torture? Why should his punishment be so long?

Zapata Tamayo is a black Cuban and a front-line opponent of the Castro dictatorship — clear enough reasons for him to be punished. He is a member of the illegal Alternative Republican Movement whose work focused on taking to the streets and explaining person-to-person about the atrocities of the Cuban military regime against its people. But for the Cuban government, all black people, supposedly, ought to pay homage to Fidel Castro, “the liberator of the black race, and the good master who came to free us blacks.” And that was exactly the lesson that Zapata did not want to accept.

Since his incarceration he has led strong protests, which, although peaceful, were intolerable to the prison authorities, and for this he has suffered beatings, humiliation, prolonged solitary confinements, and has since been subject to the maximum prison severity in his first phase.

Before being transferred on December 3, 2009 from the Holguín provincial prison to another special regimen in the Kilo 8 prison in Camaguey he was subjected to a huge beating. He told his mother during a brief visit weeks after the punishment that they handcuffed him and beat him to bring him down; they struck him with an iron bar on the knee where the imprint is still visible. During the transfer he was stripped of his cold-weather clothes, food, water purifying implements and other utensils. Then they threw him in a punishment cell where he was kept without food until he had to be taken urgently to the nearest hospital where he was barely breathing.

On several occasions when they beat him, the guards yelled “black!” as if it they were spitting out an insult. They want to bring him down, but he is still standing proud of the color of his skin – he said- and firm in his ideas about true justice, freedom, and respect for the right of all Cubans to live a different life.

Alcohol, Sledge Hammer and Literature

4 Feb

We live in the forgotten little town of San German, in the Eastern Cuban province of Holguín, and it seems that “nobody is going to notice”.

Suppose that’s what the executives at CIMEX SA, a Cuban corporation that sells cigarettes, alcohol and sundry items to Cubans throughout all of the Cuban archipelago, must have been thinking.

It happens that a synthetically constructed kiosk was installed at the site where before there had been the only bookstore in town, which was moved to a cramped space of 5 meters long by 3 wide, with books stacked and getting wet when it rains, with the threat of a permanent shut-down.

At this kiosk, where they sell domestic beer at a prohibitive one CUC or US $1.20 and the deliciously unique Sabrosuras Bim Bom ice cream (at equally prohibitive prices)  editions of “Cecilia Valdés” or “The Brothers Karamazov ” were once sold for the ridiculous price of half a peso in national currency (the only one in circulation then).

Almost a block ahead in my tiny San  German stands a shiny, glass-enclosed coffee shop selling exclusively in foreign currencies (Carpentier, excuse the superfluous language). Three years ago, they sold an almost impossible to swallow coffee at twenty Cuban cents for an espresso-size cup, but comforting nevertheless to those without class. That was the “deceit” of a hundred or so workers at the sugar cane factory, early rising travelers and sleepless people without dreams of any kind.

One day they came, hammer, cement and tiles in hand and set up a business selling pizza and ready-made, microwavable spaghetti, malts, candy, and condensed milk.

For the last two decades, the executives at CIMEX, SA have been the fortunate vanguard of “Cuba”, the scramble that is poking its head into the houses of all Cubans.

Mid-night motels, boutiques, luxury watch stores and disco nightclubs on the cliffs at the beaches have already been taken over (for now) by this successful construction and investment commercial enterprise.

Like fifty years ago, when they tried to turn the army barracks into schools, today, the advanced totalitarian machine has come, seizing every space to get in tune with the times.

Instead of the old habit of buying a book and going home, the thinking brains of the new, mixed-purpose ventures have imposed this half-metal half-plastic structure where before there was a library, which they erected before the eyes of the citizens like a public offense.

Translated by: Norma