Archive | March, 2010

The Way of the Cross of Coco Fariñas

30 Mar

From that photo I keep the warmth with which he embraced me and my wife Exilda. He drew us near a table where they were drinking natural juices and then immediately asked us about our son, about the stones that could be heard hitting the windows in those days when they bestowed upon us an act of repudiation.  It was very distressing.

Several times we tried to inquire about his health, but then the zipper of his pocket got stuck, making it difficult for him to take out a copy of the book by Mario Vargas Llosa, La Fiesta del Chivo, to give us, and then he did not pay attention to our question again. He wrapped the book in a plastic bag, knowing that this small gift was greater than any other object of value.

Coco has been hung on the cross that many Cubans did not how to carry, or which fear does not permit us to carry. His fight is not a self-flagellation, because he is not carrying it out as a kind of penitence, but as a liberation from that fear which was so well described in X-ray of the Fears in Cuba, that excellent edition that Voices of Change prepared some time ago.

Now the Cuban government is again against the wall.  A single man has made the old propaganda machinery in Havana work overtime, doing “voluntary work” and using the reservists of the polygraphic Granma in the struggle to disinform the people 24 lies every second, as if we had not seen this movie before.  Except that today’s viewers are outside in the fresh air and don’t have to buy a ticket to enter the theater whose walls have been broken down by the whirlwind of truths that are revealed to the public.

Translated by ricote

The “Puppies” of ’21

27 Mar

For nothing in the world would I mean to offend or refer in a despotic tone to these little animals that are so famous for being man’s best friend.

When I say dogs, I mean those wretched guys, capable of killing if necessary to look after the role of assuring the security of the state in Cuba. The 21 refers to the department that is dedicated to confronting the enemy in Havana but which has regional offices in the entire country.

A doctor, a psychologist, a writer, a bricklayer, a seamstress, a pre-school teacher, in short any citizen swelling this diffuse mass that, for the totalitarian power, constitutes the enemy.

For a sick and contagious system, that drags behind it the hatred of its countrymen, the main task is to preserve power at the expense of the heads that need to be placed in the public pillory.

Although it sounds rhetorical to some, there is no better way for the State Council and its gang of speechmakers in the Communist Party Central Committee to communicate than through the insult, discrediting the public, the act of repudiation, beatings, imprisonment, arbitrary detention, shootings, death by “accident” or exile in the most Solomonic of solutions in order to get rid of an opponent in question.

The renewed army of boys who watch on street corners in every neighbourhood, informing on every pound of sugar that enters or leaves the house, every bicycle tire, each banned book or the most discreet of family gatherings with a political tinge, all of it is reported or monitored with animosity because according to them it has the stinky ‘hint of conspiracy’.

Cuba has become a nation with a malignant tumor growing inside it, covered by the breath of violent speeches and hatred towards all things that contradict the political command and control.

Like hounds, those glorious fighters believe in state security, sniffing every corner of the island to poke their noses where a Cuban man or woman might have given up thinking with their stomach or a departure card from the country permanently or temporarily.

The accompanying photo strip to my post is visual testimony against those who prevented me from leaving for the funeral of Orlando Zapata Tamayo that fateful February 24.

Days will have passed, weeks perhaps, before I can get this to the light, but patience will be needed: there are around seven hundred kilometers of Internet between St. Germain, Havana and the world.

Note dictated today.

Once again I was imprisoned, they arrested me again, only not in St. Germain, but at dawn at a friend’s house in Bayamo. Once again I was taken by political police to Bayamo general headquarters where, after the usual threats (Gag Law, Writing for my blog, in order to do independent journalism), they sent me to the general headquarters in Holguin known as Pedernales but freed me six hours later.

Once again I had to phone to ask those who help me to add this note to the post ‘The puppies …’ that had been sent before. I say! this is almost up to date with events from ‘inside the country’ and real life elsewhere!

Translated by: CIMF

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Under Rain and Death

23 Mar

Amid the drowsiness and misfortune, the day of Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s wake, the sky opened above the town of Banes. Just dusk and clouds settled themselves to soak the humble neighborhood located next to the cemetery La Guira.

A patakín (legend) of the Yoruba religion says that the orichas gave humans a gift. This time it rained on the Banes, Holguin and Cuban night. Eyes filled with tears because of the helplessness and pain for the brother who was leaving, but still, the next day, when the first birds sang at dawn a constant downpour cleaned the streets of Banes. It was the first rain in months.

The dead began to leave the cauldrons of Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger to accompany the body of black Zapata to the old cemetery of La Guira. In other parts of eastern Cuba it began to rain very early.

When it stopped raining about mid-morning, Cuba had a different face.

Zapata was leaving with the enfumbis (the dead) to run along the trails that he cleared as a child.

Translated by: MRZ

A Book for a Cuban Blogger

19 Mar

I already know, you’re going to say it’s one more campaign, but I never tire of settling down with any vestige of civilization; I’m positive that in a few years when the prehistory of my children’s generation is written, they will understand how desperate their parents were during the tropical socialism of that time.

A couple of days ago I received, intact, through ordinary mail, three books: two novels I had been seeking for some time, and a small collection of essays that is a gem.

When the mailman arrived with the three little packets I thought it was a joke from the “Island Gestapo,” a letter-bomb the big boys of Villa Marista had prepared for me. But I was completely wrong and setting aside paranoia I decided to open them.  From Germany, Raquel sent me “Tiempos íquidos” by Bauman; from Manzana, Horacio Pesquera passed on to me, from Madrid, the novel “La Casa del silencio“, by Orhan Pamuk and Miguelito, from Manhattan, who had stolen it for himself, gave me “El salón del ciego“, containing the lovely well-executed prose of Carlos Victoria.

And I think that yes, this has been a victory. These three examples have the distinction of being books used by the first owners, or purchased on a special summer discount and forgotten in a corner of the house, but the senders know that a ruthless devourer of books is going to taste them in Cuba and they will be passed on to his peers as if they were the elixir of eternal youth.

They sent me the books by ordinary mail, but they say that there are other ways, CubaPaks, DHL and others that, although more expensive are safe, but it doesn’t matter.  To those who have asked, I have said, don’t stop: send literary magazines, used books that don’t fit on your shelves, paperbacks, or anything someone coming by plane can bring. For now, they arrive. Grab them and send them to the blogger or to your friends, send them as you would water in a time of natural disaster, or as blessings when the man condemned to death must enter the dark tunnel and never return to the light, as this is an island so fastidious in opposing books and information.

Ask the bloggers and independent journalists for their addresses, here is mine:

Calle 20, No. 1303, entre 13 y 15. San Germán, Holguín. Cuba. CP 82800.

Medical Negligence in Holguin

14 Mar

Text: Luis Felipe Rojas R. / Photos: Caridad Caballero Batista

My colleague Caridad Caballero Batista put this story in my hand.  She gave me the photos with an anxious heart because the case is an emergency.

In 2005 Alberto Laguero Castro was buying a case of beer at a kiosk at the Holguin carnival. Since then his life has been an odyssey that is shown here at his request and in these images. The policemen Hector Luis Perez Osorio and Frank Ochoa Angulo beat him along with many others in the mob scene to buy beer, and took him into custody at the police station know as “The Ring” before it was the First Unit located at Martí and Narciso López, Holguín. Within a few hours he started screaming from the severe pain but they paid him no mind, until the pain increased and at his insistence decided to take him to the Lenin Hospital in the same city.

Alberto, now 31, was then working as a custodian at the Security and Protection company, said that they confirmed he had an injury to the spinal cord. He was hospitalized for six months until his parents took him to Havana for treatment for more competent specialists. His mother complains, “My son was tortured by these thugs and still today they’ve done nothing, the Council of State wrote to me saying the police are not guilty, they were acquitted at trial, nothing happened.”

Some time later they built a small room with a bath but his mother says, “The social workers don’t come here, the doctors don’t come,” and she adds “I have had to nurse him, go looking for drugs at the clinic, and bring him to the hospital because they never send an ambulance.”

On top of this, Carmen Luis Castro Masabó, the mother of the young man who was tortured, has mentally retarded twins whom she has had to send to live with her ex-husband because she has to go to work and leave Alberto alone. “He is on his own the whole day because I am a special education teacher and I had to go back to work because I get no help from the State and if we go on like this we are going to die of hunger,” she says, and concludes, “I hope that if there is no justice from the government at least God will send justice for this terrible thing that has been inflicted on my son, no one deserves this. I am completely desperate, there is absolute impunity.”

A Blogger’s Rhetoric

11 Mar

Title: InfoMed: Organization of the National Network

The Internet connection is slow.  Today they aren’t selling the cards for the cell phones because the girl that sells them is taking a break from work.  That friend of yours who always lends you a hand with the foreign deliveries is suffering from “water pressure” up to her neck and does not want to continue.  The foreign currency stores ran out of re-writable disks.  Even more, Holguin and San German are very far from Havana, from America, and from the rest of the world.  Our e-mail doesn’t work.  You’ve never seen a single article published in the press about new technologies or about the blogosphere.  They brought you books but because they weighed too much they stayed in the desk of the customs officer… HA! And they raised price of USB memories again.

Here come the Police, hide your cameras.  When they pass then you can take them out again.  You write a post and since two weeks have passed since you sent it out, the subject is old and the other restless kids got ahead of you.  This year, Martha from Holland is not coming:  Goodbye external disc burner that she was going to bring me!  The customs lady once again recorded the price of the imported equipment…

My soap went bad.  The lights went out again.  There won’t be water for a week.  The reggaeton blasts from the speakers of my neighbor.  The lotto number you chose was not the lucky one.  Aroldis Chapman left.  Another reflection from the Commander in Chief.  Another Round Table.  A little piece of dirt fell in my eye.  That police car parked in front of my house again and two political police officers have come to tell me that I can’t leave my house during the next three days.  I don’t have funds in my phone to send a twitter saying that I was once again cited by the G-2.  Sometimes I think not even I can stand myself.  I am rhetorical and sentimental.

Translated by Raul G.

Telephonic Manoeuvres

8 Mar

Nothing seems to stop the control engineers and their deceptive inspection of Cuba’s citizens. Both the mobile phone company (CUBACEL), and the well-known ETECSA provide services to State Security to play tricks on their clients.

Officer Diorkis of the Political Police sends provocative, offensive and threatening SMS messages to Raudel Avila Lozada, who lives in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba province, since they gave him the mobile number of that dissident.

On a trip to Placetas, they sent messages to  Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina from the mobile of another regime opponent, Martah Díaz Rondón. Sometimes they do it to find out where they are and sometimes to create confusion leading to misunderstandings and the consequent worry.

The mobiles remain without service and without coverage or the messages and calls begin to connect when the official operatives of the political police and CUBACEL’s regional management agree.

The same Rolando Rodriguez, his brother Nestor Leuven, Cristian Toranzo Fundichely, Caridad Caballero Batista and many others have fallen victim to the seizure of their mobile phones, with the only communication being that their equipment had been temporarily seized, according to the accounts of confiscation that the police investigators and instructors try to make the victims sign.

The sad part is that there is no clause in the sales contract explaining that State Security will maintain control of the equipment, nor, of course, is it clarified that it is this repressive organ who will tell the telephone companies to suspend calls, knock out service to customers and then later, in the interrogations, the officers in charge will blackmail victims with all the details of their conversations through the apparatus.

The stunned secretaries and clerks that CUBACEL and ETECSA have employed for customer service are sometimes overwhelmed with complaints. In others, as happened to me in the city of Holguin, they explain with all the cynicism of the world that the management reserves the right to whether or not to engage in this type of approach — that is eavesdropping — when one of the indicted “is charged under National Security” (SIC).

The indolence is public, the perpetrator pulls his cap down over his eyebrows, adjusts his sunglasses and rubs his crotch as a sign of total impunity.

Monguito the Water Carrier and the Bureaucracy

5 Mar

Monguito’s wagon retraces the streets of San Germán, this dusty place where God has brought me, looking for customers, evading the inspectors and also the road home.

An unhealthy place without running water could be the best place for Monguito and his four or five cart drivers dedicated to selling the vital liquid. But, as the saying goes, the drunk thinks one thing and the bartender another.

The water carriers who bring the water to the houses for six pesos a tank, must pay an inspector one peso, in national money, for each trip. But in addition they have to have all their documents in order for that army of voyeurs who peer into the individual lives of every citizen, the State inspectors. The water carriers have to carry a document that attests that they are self-employed, another that swears their cart belongs to them, another assuring their horse (or mule or mare) is in good health, and so on, enough to bulge in the small portfolio bulge which Monguito keeps warily on one side of his waist.

But most amazing is that these humble workers must pay each year to renew accreditation, at a cost of ten pesos,that certifies that the horse is theirs. Yes, that’s what I said and it’s not a play on words. The property owner must renew the ownership of the animal, or else lose it.

San Germán is less than twenty kilometers from the Cauto River, its inhabitants live in poverty and a constant lack of water, and yet the authorities allow themselves the luxury of harassing those who try to alleviate these or the most urgent needs.

I follow with my bucket on my shoulder, until the snitches hide and the bureaucracy takes off, at least for a while.

Standing Up Alongside Juan Carlos Herrera

1 Mar

He had been calling me for weeks to respond to my questions over the phone, but it has been impossible for me to continue speaking with Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, that Guantanamo native that has been lost between the bars which they gave him as a gift, for 20 years, during the Black Spring of 2003.  That young man, well raised by the shades of the Guaso river, wanted to study journalism and dedicated himself to denouncing the injustices of the olive-green power and tried to have a family, which he lost almost two years ago in a tragic accident (his 15 year old daughters and his ex-wife).

Juan Carlos writes poetry according the demands of his inspiration that have remained to ease him.

From the provincial prison of Holguin, where I spent my mandatory military service watching from a look-out post to make sure no convicts escaped, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta wrote that his greatest pain is not having seen his daughter and played with her in the park.

They have interrupted our conversation more than once and I have had to go back to the recordings where he recounts how the prisoners physically harm themselves because of lack of medical attention, food, and improvement in prison life.

In a report by the Cuban Democratic Directory, I saw his personal biography where these diseases are listed as having been contracted while in jail:  Ischemic Heart Disease with the blocking of the limbs, Arterial Hypertension, Cervical Degenerative Osteoarthritis, Sacrolumbalgia, Duodenal Prolapse, Gastric Disorders, Asthma, Allergies, Kidney and Liver problems, Second Level Hypertensive Retinopathy, Immunodeficiency, consequences from the Hemorrhagic Dengue Fever which he had twice, Malnutrition, Vitiligo, Dermatitis, a Herniated disc, and a chronic case of Gastroduodenitis.

Herrera Acosta’s voice cracks when he hears or says the word “freedom” and even though he is behind bars, he is still a free man.  He is an beacon for the soldiers and other prisoners of the jails where he has been, they know that he is a guy unafraid to say anything, and that is why his motto is spread through the corridors of the jail as if it were a blade.  The Director General of Prisons issues a warning each time he hears Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta say “Stand up Against Terror!”

Translated by Raul G.