Archive | October, 2010

Moa, The Promise And The Deception

28 Oct


The eastern half of the country has seen the ghost of development go by in official speeches and in the trains and planes going to Havana or overseas. When a high government official tediously insisted on making promises of economic development, immediately the political machine would start a “shock public works project.” Who doesn’t remember the power plant of Nuevitas, the Nickel factory in Moa, the cement factory in Santiago de Cuba, or the expansion of the hotel capacity in the Guardalavaca zone, in Holguín ?

Not so long ago I went back the Nickel producing region in search of a half-buried story which started there and which is being continued in the Che Guevara plant in Moa, where an unforgiving wind took more prisoners to Villa Marista — the notorious State Security prison in Havana — without any explanations.

Several questions kept going around my head. I knew that I could share all of them with my readers, but I hurried on to those related to the prisoners in February. I delayed the one related to the environmental pollution and respiratory diseases suffered by many over there, but the note about an arrested and jailed manager who was transferred to the oncology ward of the provincial hospital led me to an article written by the exiled journalist Juan Carlos Garcell. It says: “Medical sources reported on a study made in 2002 regarding respiratory diseases in workers exposed to the lateritic mineral dust in the Che Guevara factory (Moa) during a five-month period, and which covered the 926 workers belonging to the seven departments where exposure was the greatest. The study noted that the most prevalent pathology was chronic obstructive lung disease; 83.42% had a normal hematocrit; altered respiratory functional tests were found in a 42.33% of subjects; and 66.33% had acute pulmonary lung disease as a radiological sign.”

I thought about the former manager who had a marginally better life than a common worker, I thought also of the others. The air they breathe over there doesn’t have the name of the one who will breathe it, it’s always polluted.The dust rises and goes along the streets and highways destroying promises without discriminating based on age or hierarchy. Where did they go, the dreams of thousands of young men who moved from Havana and Matanzas to Moa to build a new country?

When some of these megaprojects stopped working as propaganda, the dreams went bust. The ramshackle buildings, increasing cost of food, and deficient local management transformed these so-called “industrial cities” into abandoned cemeteries.

History’s paradox, government’s lies, deceit and false promise, become reality, now raised as a flag by the humblest of citizens.

* The article was published in the illegal monthly journal El cubano libre (The Free Cuban) in 2006, and several of its authors received threats for their part in exposing it.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Letter From Prison: What Juan Luis Rodriguez Desdin (Akiro) Has to Say

25 Oct

Due to the privileged angle of information which the political prisoner Akiro has been able to count on, every once in a while we can shed more light on what prison life is like.  Here, I quote him:

“On October 14th, half a hundred of us prisoners witnessed how other prisoners who work in Holguin’s Provincial Prison’s pantry would distribute rice. This rice was taken from the casseroles which are supposed to be for us, and it was given to the functionaries of Interior Order so that they could feed their swine.  I have seen bags of up to ten pounds of rice or ground beef and vegetables ending up in the hands of the functionaries from the chief group called Polanco (the same one which authorized and carried out the last brutal beating of Orlando Zapata before taking him to Kilo 8 in Camaguey).  They would take such products to the guardian of the keys, who goes by the name of ‘El Pinto’.  Bags, plastic small containers, and other packages filled with all sorts of goods (which could easily feed the prisoners or be used in the cafeteria) are taken out of the jails.  From there, they end up in the homes of the guards, so that they could fatten their pigs.

“According to what I have understood, the henchman Polanco directly suggests that there be a reduction of how much food is given out. And we barely ever hear about this in all the condemnations that are made.  People in the street who are used to the hunger somehow think that this is not a violation of human rights”.

On this occasion, it’s not a beating, or the refusal of medical attention for sick prisoners behind bars.  Akiro has focused on an issue which, due to its generalization and frequency, we already think of as a given.

The same thing occurs in businesses, restaurants, and playgrounds.  Just a few years ago a friend of mine, who worked in the “Delta Las Brisas” hotel located in the tourist zone of Gualdalava, would frequently cry because she was prohibited by the night guard from taking any left over ice cream to her children.  Nor could she hide it anywhere to freeze because the scent-sniffing dog could find absolutely anything.  Then, that Cuban ingenuity inside of her led her to bag the ice cream in nylon bags, and then to put it, hermetically sealed, inside the bags which were destined for the pigs.  Later,  when they were already outside the control area, they would pick them up and take them home.  They couldn’t do this every day, only once a week.  But later the same game and method was applied to olive oil, olives, and sausages.

Now, I doubt that these soldiers are doing this out of necessity.  Instead, I think they are acting like an inverse version of Robin Hood, lacking any morals and ethics while they rob from those who are in need.

Translated by Raul G.

Delayed Tender Offer

22 Oct

Photo/Luis Felipe Rojas

I’m astonished by the pretentious ordinances of those who have power. In a country like this one, where every five years, coinciding with the congresses of the holy Cuban Communist Party, people were encouraged to be efficient and to cooperate in order to make this a better nation, any attempt at economic independence was viewed as a sign of witchcraft. Every peanut vendor, weed clearer, piñata and birthday party supplies maker was watched closely by those who would rather suffer the punishment of an eight-hour work day in an inefficient workplace and looked on with envy to those who dared to break the chains of government control.

Now that they’re about to put out tenders for activities that were once not supervised, I laugh just thinking about how will they supervise the poor eastern Guajira who goes to Havana to take care of an old couple with sons or nephews in Miami: will that have to pay her in dollars? And Mr. Palacios, who cleans the house of a hotel manager on the outskirts of Holguín? How much will they have to pay him for each cubic meter of pruned branches from the gardens of the mansion?

I can’t imagine how my aunt Eloína (may she rest in peace) would have managed, with a room full of women who came to have their clothes sewn. She would mend, embroider, and even make shopping bags. This crazy new Stalinist attempt at supervising seems doomed before it even starts.

Roads and fences repairman, restorer of puppets and other toys, coffee roaster, hairdresser for pets, and many others, summing up 178 jobs that Cubans have been doing openly and unmolested, which now, with thousands of workers being fired from rundown factories and undersupplied workshops, the all-powerful state thinks it can control.

To put out a tender for economic initiatives in order to let society’s efforts flow towards employment and the common good, is fine. But the attempt at protectionism, with the intent to put locks and bars behind the door, when the dam that contains society threatens to break, is an act of hypocrisy that only sullies the face of the Inquisitor.

Translated by: Xavier Noguer

Mechanisms of Ongoing Control

18 Oct

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

How often should a restless dissident be called to the account, how often should the dumbbell of repression fall heavily upon them?  It’s possible that the answers to such questions could be established in the withered manuals of the operations of confrontation with the enemy which the Cuban political police keeps guarded behind various locks.  It could be that they simply are just improvisations of the agents of each neighborhood or municipality.  Whatever the reason is for the harsh banging on the door, the vigilant motorcycles driving through the streets where dissidents live all night long, and the half-open windows of the neighbors, they do not change from one day to another.

When they took me to the police station this past October 9th, I soon found out that the dissident Jose Antonio Triguero Mulet was also there with me, just as has occurred on other occasions.  This is a man who is 67-years-old and has participated in protest marches, has been beaten, and has told the “authorities” more than four phrases that they wish they would have never heard.

Triguero, at an age which is nearly twice that of most of the people who surround him, has slept in parks and terminals in order to evade vigilance, but also to accompany his brothers-in-disgrace.  He gets up on those high trucks to travel from one extreme to another on this Eastern land, and he is always willing to spit out the truth, to tell it like it is to whomever wishes to listen to his reality.  On one occasion he was detained by the henchman known as Rodolfo Cepena at the exit terminal of San German, heading towards Holguin.  He was being accompanied by his three-year-old grandson, and although he asked his repressors to halt such actions in front of the child, they paid no attention to this and sent him back  home.  The discussion changed in tone, and both suffered the shame of it, because they had no other options left.  Many people witnessed this event, and they will not be able to forget about it easily.  Another incident which has marked him is the pain he has felt when the repressors go searching for him at his house, in front of all his daughters and grandkids.  They come looking for him, a man who only does good deeds and simply thinks differently than those who govern Cuba.

One day, he told me that he was raised amid a family who only knew how to work to try to do the right thing.  During each detention, he has told me that they talk to him about the tomb of his parents, but they know that he is not a delinquent.

How often do they have to call a dissident to account? How many weeks or months apart do they have to remind him of the grim faces of the interrogation specialists, with their slaps and their pistols on their belts?

How often do they have to ring the door, hand out their papers crossed in red ink, the deafening whistles, the family shaken awake and let to know that “Security” is still after them?

Translated by Raul G.

New Reports About Operation Nicaro

16 Oct

Rolando Pérez Rodriguez, a director at the René Ramos Latour nickel plant of Nicaro Holguín who has been in custody since February of this year is severely ill and hospitalized and sources close to his family told me.

Pérez Rodríguez, an engineer, is on trial along with other executives from the Holguin nickel industry. The sources told me that doctors say he has pulmonary ischemia, and they have extracted two quarts of liquid from his lungs.

As a patient Perez Rodriguez is in Ward A, Room 10 in the men’s ward at the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin Provincial Hospital.

In conversation with another source it turns out that for months Rolando’s family has been demanding his transfer to a hospital, because of the damp conditions where he was being held in preventive detention. But the prison officials of the State Security Operations Center in Pedernales, on the outskirts of the provincial capital, have refused, alluding to the their need to follow the procedures of an investigation.

The reasons he was taken, as a prisoner, to the hospital are not known, but many presume it was because of his delicate state of health.

Engineer Rolando Perez was exposed to the contamination nickel are in the  mines of the Nicaro processing plant in Mayarí, Holguín.


12 Oct

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

Known by the name “Akiro,” thanks to his martial arts talent and his involvement with combat sports, Juan Luis Rodriguez Desdin has been confined to the provincial jail of Holguin.  There, he has been condemned to suffer two years due to a supposed act of “disrespect,” which in Cuba can be anything from informally addressing a cop, lifting a fist to a G2 official, or mentioning the name of the mother of the “Reflector-in-Chief”* in an unimaginable fashion.

On this past 21st of September, Rodriguez Desdin sewed his lips shut with a wire to protest how the authorities had cut telephone communications with his family members.  He stayed like that, with the wires, until the 23rd when they decided to allow him the mandatory phone minutes.

Some of the denunciations of the violations that were being committed there have to do with the fact that a common prisoner, Eliecer Sanchez Gonzalez, who is 21 years of age and is confined to the same prison, is kept under high security along with him along with various other prisoners classified as maximally dangerous.  Desdin explained that the prison authorities of Holguin have said that the prisoner Sanchez Gonzalez cannot be sent to the center for minors in “La Cuaba” because of his crime, which has been labeled as Theft and Sacrifice of Major Livestock, in other words — he ate a cow.  And this a priority level case.  Sanchez Gonzalez also stated that in the center for minors they have also put prisoners who have been sentenced for 30 years, while they don’t allow them to be among those who make up his age group.

Desdin also adds that the military officers place the prisoners in the areas that correspond, as a benefit or as a regulation, according to convenience, while refusing other cases, which has led to quarrels, abuses, and theft, an act that constitutes a violation of the rights of people who are imprisoned in the penitentiary.

He also told me in a letter that officials from the Interior Order do not want to offer medical attention to the common prisoner called Maikel Sanchez Martinez, who suffers from nervous system issues, and is suffering greatly under prison life.  According to Desdin, Doctor Elvis, who is the director of the prison hospital, is the one who is supposed to order the isolation or hospitalization of the sick Maikel Sanchez.  He then goes on to tell me that Sanchez only receives promises from officials and paramedics that are never kept.  Other young prisoners who live with this 23-year-old have constantly asked authorities to tend to him but they only receive evasive responses.  He also pointed out that the common prisoner, Luis Miguel Arias Cala, a minor of 21 years of age, finds himself confined to a detachment of maximum severity, together with prisoners sentenced under homicides and murders, despite his delicate health.

Arias Cala suffers from a heart condition, with grade 3 arterial hypertension and heart murmurs.  He was moved from the “Yayal” prison (commonly known as “CUBA SI”), and the officials lost his clinical history.  Because of this, the medical professionals in the provincial hospitals refuse to treat him.  Desdin argues in his letter that such a responsibility falls directly to Dr. Elvis, who refuses to proceed as the norms require.

In the same letter, he continues detailing the serious health situation of the prisoner Ramon Herrera Delgado, who suffers from a progressive withering left arm, loss of vision on his right eye, and constant headaches, without any effective medical treatments on behalf of the doctors.

The political prisoner Rodriguez Desdin adds that Herrera was sentenced to 6 years under the pretext of armed robbery, yet he had already been taken to the Axial Computerized Tomography (Somaton), in Santiago de Cub,a when he was sentenced for buying a copper wire to sell in a re-collection store where he used to work.

The officials of the Order of the Interior from the provincial prison of Holguin informed Herrera Delgado that his clinical history had disappeared.  Such lost documents have led the doctors of the V.I. Lenin Hospital of Holguin to refuse to give him any treatments or to carry out any medical exams.  Amid such a situation, Ramo Herrera and his family have spoken out, but Dr. Elvis, the director of the prison’s hospital, has not decided to carry out a medical exam to solve the issue, said Rodriguez Desdin.

Juan Luis Rodriguez Desdin is a delegate of the Political Prisoner Association “Pedro Luis Boitel” in Holguin, and is also an activist of the Eastern Democratic Alliance.

When I finished composing this post, I was informed of the good news that Rodriguez Desdin had been nominated for the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Dignity Award this year.  It is something he deserves; he has more than demonstrated his worthiness.  That prize had been previously given to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, and other brave prisoners from the Eastern region of Cuba, due to their honorable behavior under prison conditions.

Great news for “Akiro.”

*Translator’s note: A play on words referring to Fidel Castro’s regular newspaper column titled “Reflections.”

Translated by Raul G.

Repressive Machine Without a Counterpart

10 Oct

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

On Saturday, I was finishing telling my friends over the phone to upload this post onto my blog, and on Sunday, the 10th, two political police officers show up to my house once again to take me to San German police station.  Like always, the reasons for this detention are unknown to me, and the accusations and threats will swell the “invisible archives” of this “very transparent” region.

Amid detentions, threats, and other coercions from those who wish to oppress me, I did not have enough time to take my complaints to the Provincial Office of Holguin.

On the 22nd of June, as stated on the document I’ve attached to this post, I decided to sue the officials who detained my family and myself by surrounding us with various soldiers and political police officers for 6 days during the month of May.

On July 2nd I went before officer Captain Juan Carlos Laborde to give more details about my accusation.  He told me that I should wait until the investigation was concluded.  On August 2nd I was once again cited and had to wait until 6 pm under the scorching sun since that office is closed off by a grating of bars. There, they checked me before going in, searching for some sort of recording device.  I had to listen to a military officer — who is supposed to serve as the counterpart of the repressive G2 apparatus — tell me that the soldiers had only acted on orders; in other words, they could handle my case without counting on any orders and interrogate me without any official citations.

The argument of this young soldier was based in the fact that “mine” is a national security case, so they have that prerogative.  Basically, this means that if they have to question an assassin, a rapist, or a corrupt functionary, then they would abide by the norms established by the Diligence of Citations and Detentions. The way in which they interpret the law according to ideological or political conditions keeps the Military Office from acting against officials, if the case deals with a dissident or social nonconformist.

The worst part is that this official admitted that yes, it was an irregularity, but that it is the common procedure in regards to a case of hostility against the Cuban social model.  This was all a prelude to what happened next: on Tuesday, August 3rd, one of the largest waves of repression against activists in the Eastern region of the country got underway.

That is their method.  They gave me no written records of these experiences, so for now I will have to continue denouncing this before international organizations — with luck they will believe my words, and believe that I did everything legally in my country, the same country in which, if you are considered “ideological filth,” you don’t have any rights to denounce the crimes committed by those in power.

The oppressive activities targeted and detained 28 people, some of whom already had previous detentions during that same week.

Here is the document:

San German, Holguin, June 22nd 2010
To: Military Office of Holguin
Subject: Denunciation

Through this letter, I, Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal, adult Cuban citizen, inhabitant of 20th Street No. 1303 between 13 and 15, San German, Holguin, and with ID No. 71022122865, with all my mental abilities intact, go before you to expose the following:


– On numerous occasions I have been cited by the police authorities, especially by the instructor Luis Quesada and Majors Charles (who claims to be chief of the operational group DSE in the municipalities of Cueto, San German, and Cacocum) and Rodolfo Cepena Hernandez (who claims to be the head of DSE in San German).

– These men completely ignore the formalities that, for citations, are established by current Law of Penal Procedures which clearly states that any violation of these legal requirements goes directly against the rights provided by the document.

– On various occasions we have been impeded from attending weekly religious services which my wife, my two kids, and I are accustomed to attending. Among the impositions and restrictions of movement which are imposed on us, exists one on going out publicly accompanied by some of my family.

– My 6-year-old son has noticed and resents the strict police vigilance of our family. Other kids ask him why the police watch our house and on multiple occasions he has come home from school in tears.

– On December 25 and 27 of 2009 I was arrested at my house and in no instance did the police officers or the Majors Alberteris or Cepena ever hand me an official citation or arrest warrant, claiming that in such instances none of those documents were necessary.

– On February 21st of this year (2010) I was interrogated by Major Alberto Alberteris who did not show me a single arrest warrant or citation. Similar acts have been repeating themselves for 5 years now without the presence of any legal documents.

– On May 11th, I was arrested in my house once again by Major Charles, who refused to give me a citation document, and when my family demanded one he then alleged that I was not cited but instead that I was ARRESTED. He continued by saying that for an arrest, no document was necessary. In this case, my house was subjected to a public and humiliating surveillance carried out by police officers, state security officials (Cepena, Charles, Captain Otamendi, and members of the Quick Response Brigade (Gimon, Maikel Rodriguez Alfajarrin, the social worker Pedro Capote, and others).


– Penal Procedure Law in articles 86 and 90.
Everything that I sign and mention here.

Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas