Archive | November, 2010

We Have Received These Messages From Rolando Lobaina’s Twitter

28 Nov

Early this sunday morning, we were expecting to receive an e-mail with an entry for the readers of “Crossing the Barbed Wire”, but instead what we received was this message from Rolando Lobaina’s Twitter (@LobainaCuba) coming from Guantanamo:  “The writer, Luis Felipe Rojas, his wife, and 2 children have been detained by the political police at the entrance of Guantanamo.  His current whereabouts are still unknown.”

Up to this moment, Luis Felipe Rojas’ cell phone continues to be “turned off”.  It cannot receive any messages, and he has therefore not been able to send out any messages either to his friends.  Much less a tweet.

Translated by Raul G.


Abel Remembers the Last Days of Zapata in a Prison of Camaguey

24 Nov

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

The following is a testimony from Abel Lopez Perez who, a few days before the 3rd of December, was transferred from the Provincial Prison of Guantanamo (in his native city and where he served a political prison sentence) to the horrid dungeons of a prison in Camaguey, where Orlando Zapata was also taken.

In that prison, there was a group of more than twenty political prisoners and common prisoners who supported Orlando Zapata in his civic protest — the hunger strike. The situation in the prison became complicated for the jailers, and they resorted to countless vile deeds in order to try to make the prisoners, and Zapata, give up.

Abel Lopez was released months later with an extra-penal license due to his delicate state of health. He returned to his home in Guantanamo, but the police authorities informed him that he now must comply with certain restrictions. Among them, the principal one is that he cannot travel out of his home municipality — and if he does, he will once again be arrested and sent back to prison.

He has still not been able to visit the cemetery where the remains of the Cuban martyr, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, lie.

I leave you all with his experiences, the same exact way in which he told them to me a month after his release from prison.

“I got to see him within the first days.  When we saw each other, I was also carrying out a hunger strike.  The guards casually made a mistake and walked him down the same corridor I was in.  He recognized me by the tattoo of Marti that I have on my arm, and he said, “Abel”.  I responded, “Yes, Zapata.  We must continue”.  Even though prisoners tend to keep silent and harbor lots of fears, deep inside they have a free person longing to see their country in freedom.  And they also keep each other informed, and they did the same with me, informing me of everything that would happen with Zapata.

Before Zapata was checked into the hospital, he was regularly taking some vitamins.  He was in a weak state of health.  A military chief known as ‘Gordo’, who was the one responsible for ordering all of Zapata’s things to be taken out of the cell and to stop giving him water, also took his bottle of vitamins and poured all the pills down a drain.  He told him, ‘Those who are in protest here don’t drink vitamins.  I think those are pills sent to you by the Yankees so you can continue your hunger strike.’  Those were the exact words said to him, I verified them.  His vitamins were taken away, as were any other medications.  And they stopped giving him water for a while.

When they saw that Zapata was determined to reach the last consequences, they changed their strategy.  They rushed him to the hospital.  During Zapata’s stay in the hospital, a security guard visited me and told me, ‘Abel, someone has to talk to Zapata.  Would you be willing to go talk to him?’  I flat out told him that I wasn’t.  I would not talk to Zapata.  Zapata knew what he was doing, and I was not one to try to influence his decisions.

That was a method of operation used by them to try to discredit him, to try to get people, one by one, to talk to him and convince him to leave the hunger strike.  Once in the hospital, he and I were finally able to talk.

Many prisoners who surrounded him, like Otero, and Frank Alvarez (a young man with a life sentence who resided in the cell next to where Zapata was being held), told me that a few days before being taken away, Zapata stood up and shouted, ‘People, don’t let yourselves be lied to.  Don’t believe anything that they tell you.  I’m not demanding a kitchen or any of the things they took away from me.  I’m demanding an improvement of treatment for all prisoners, and so you all know, I am going to die for it.’  I remember the day when we received the tragic news of his death.  A few prisoners came running to me and told me, ‘Come here, hurry’.  We walked into the small room where there was a television*.  There, the young man who was telling me this started to cry and told me, ‘My friend, I was there.  Abel, I’m a witness of it all, of his death.  Zapata was not demanding any of this’.

I must say that the Granma newspaper committed a crime by saying that Zapata was demanding absurd things like a telephone, a kitchen, a personal room, and a television.

But within that prison itself, I am a witness that in the hospital* section there is a “revolutionary prisoner” who stole large amounts from the state.  He is treated differently, and exclusively.  While they said that Zapata demanded absurd things, which were just pure lies, this other prisoner enjoyed a “suite”.  That prisoner was the one who was at the forefront of managing the hospital of Prison 26.  For more than 20 years he has been taking money and resources from there.  One day, they casually told me to go visit the hospital, and I actually accepted.  That same prisoner resided right in front of Hospital 26.  He has a room, a telephone, a radio, an electric kitchen, and even a heater.  When I saw the State Security Major, Bombino*, I told him, ‘How is it that Granma tauntingly says that Zapata demanded these things.  How is it possible that right there in number 26 resides the engineer, the prisoner in charge of the construction of the hospital and he has all of these things?’  He responded, ‘Well, that is the engineer who is in charge of the hospital.’  And I looked at him and said, ‘But he is a prisoner.  Isn’t he supposed to be confined to a high security prison, just like the rest of us?’  He simply told me, ‘No, no, he can have all that stuff.’

And while the newspaper mocked Zapata, this was occurring.  Goes to show you the differences between a “revolutionary” prisoner and the rest of us, the defenders of human rights.

And I must repeat: those were very grim days, filled with sorrow because of Zapata’s death.

*they told me:  Abel is referring to those who would report from prison that they had taken Zapata’s water and vitamins.

*the hospital: Referring to the Camaguey Amalia Simoni Civil Hospital which has a waiting room for those who are sentenced.  They check in prisoners from various jails in the province in this hospital.

*the television: Referring to the images played by the Cuban Television in which they discredited the hunger strike of Zapata where Raul Castro, together with the Brazilian president, referred to “some prisoner who died”.

*Bombino: Refers to the political police guard by the name of Julio Cesar Bombino, one of the figures deeply involved with the fate of Orlando Zapata in Camaguey.  He is one of the highest ranking State Security officials in that province.


Translated by Raul G.

November 24 2010

Just for Expressing Disagreements

21 Nov

Brauilio Cuenca Cruz was the one who told me about it. He said he was fined in the amount of 30 pesos just for publicly expressing his nonconformity with regards to the Cuban health system. This occurred during the meeting of Popular Power, which took place in the small town of Antilla, where he claimed his right to criticize the skyrocketing cost of the neonatal services in the municipal hospital of that town.

Braulio added that there were leaders of the party and of the government present in the meeting. At the conclusion of the assembly, he was approached by a police officer who imposed a fine on him for “supposedly” wanting to sabotage the government meeting.  A native of Antilla, Cuenca Cruz, assured me that he will not pay the fine and he knows that because of this he will run the risk of having the fine increased. He says he is doing it to be persistent, and that for believing in justice he will have to go to trial to demand his rights. He feels that he has the right to freely express himself, even if it is in front of those who run the country and the municipality.

I did not tell him my opinion about his intention to speak out against the fine, because I don’t find it appropriate that I induce people to make certain decisions. I remember that, not too long ago, my wife took some “legal” (if you can refer to something in my country in that way) steps. We turned in some formal demands to the Provincial Fiscal Office, and in a matter of little time they cited me to appear at their hermetical offices of Holguin. The results of that citation are known to my readers, for I described it here on my blog.

But since I do not want to feel guilty for not warning the rest, I read the report which the Guantanamo native Anderlay Guerra Blanco posted just a few weeks prior in the blog El Palenque.

Dolin Dachao Alexander expressed his sentiments against the Cuban dictatorship from the roof of his house itself during an Assembly of Popular Power which took place in his hometown. He began to shout, “Down with the dictatorship! Down with Fidel Castro! Down with Raul Castro!” in front of all those who were present.

He was immediately detained and shoved into a police car, which would take him to the provincial unit of State Security operations.  In the popular tribunal of that city, they carried out a trail for him because of supposed lack of respect in the cause of 20/2010.  When they sentenced him with 10 months of forced labor, Dolin responded with the same exact words which got him jailed in the first place.

On the 13th of April of this year, a new trial was carried out for Dolin at the theater of the Combinado Prisons of Guantanamo. This time, he was being tried for disrespecting those at the tribunal due to the words he spoke against the regime during the last trial.  His relatives were not present. Only soldiers presided over the Roman Circus. They added 10 months more to his punishment, this time to be served under imprisonment. Dolin was not frightened, and he once again shouted, “Down with the dictatorship! Down with Fidel Castro! Down with Raul Castro! Justice for the Cuban people!”

I remember all the times my wife has shouted those same phrases to the police when they have come to detain me. She knows the risks she runs, and yet she does not hesitate to express what she thinks of them. I recall the stories of Caridad Caballero, Marta Diaz Rondon, Idalmis Nunez, and all my compatriots from the Alliance, Rolando and Cristian Toranzo, when they all detailed to me what they lived through within the “instruction centers” of Pedernales, where they also screamed for freedom at the top of their lungs. The women showed me their bruised lips, products of beatings against them intending to shut their mouths.

I remember Reina when she told me, “With a piece of cloth soaked in gasoline they covered my mouth, for they were trying to asphyxiate me so I would not scream ‘Zapata lives, and the Castros murdered my son.'”

Translated by Raul G.

Murmurs Only from the Nonconformists

17 Nov

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

Alberto Vega Mackensi, who just a few months ago was a bread distributor in Holguin, told me that the sector chief of the National Revolutionary Police, Alfredo Ortiz, has summoned him on various occasions, demanding him to look for work in the construction or agricultural field.  If he fails to do so, the officer has notified him that he could then be accused of social dangerousness.*

Vega commented to me that this time they simply warned him, but that he now only had a few weeks to start searching for employment.  If he fails, then he will have to go before a court.  They have already spoken to him about accusations, and in my country that translates into imprisonment for more than a — and that’s if he is lucky.  Vega then told me that he knows a few young men who have been threatened during the last couple of days by these same police whose sector belongs to the third unit of the city.

Meanwhile, other people, who have asked to remain anonymous, assured me that he Chiefs of the Police Sectors and “Chiefs from the Commission of Social Prevention” have called a meeting with the unemployed people of the labor sector to force them to work, a contradiction which affects many, especially when the government authorities have announced massive lay-offs in sectors like public health, interior trade, the sugar industry, and some administrative dependencies.  They confess that they do not understand such contradictions.

A few days ago, I traveled out of San German.  I left behind the murmurs of the nonconformists, complaining about the news of so many lay-offs, about the monitored meetings to be held in each neighborhood, and the very limited options for future employment.  But in the places I traveled to, I heard no other subject.  Artists from the different theatre, music, and painting groups, along with workers from the House of Culture will all have to go through the difficult process as well, according to what a friend of mine told me.  People who work in offices, cafeterias, education, and a number of health workers also complained.

What I did notice, however, was that no police officer mentioned that they had been laid off, nor a single member of the Communist Party, or the government, which is called here the “Popular Power”.  None of these people mentioned that the situation was “not right”, and that they would have to go work in agriculture, unless they wanted to be considered socially dangerous.

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

*Translator’s Note: “Social dangerousness” is a crime defined as the potential to commit a crime, and carries a 1 to 4 year prison term.

Translated by Raul G.


15 Nov

Photo/Luis Felipe Rojas

this is my word
this is the music by which I have to die

they are going to rip out my tongue
to avoid a song:
I who hate stews
and slogans
the flags of dry holes

they are going to tie my hands
others will feel my fear.

they’re going to cut my rotting tongue:
I only want to cross the barbed wire

Making Them Value Citizen’s Rights

12 Nov

Despite the fence and police surveillance that I’ve won by being a disobedient Twitterer, I was able to go to Guantánamo on November 8. I knew that Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, José Cano Fuentes and Yober Sevila were already back home after their arrests and beatings from October 31 in Banes, and their confinement in the cells of G-2 until November 2 in Holguin.  There Rolando tells me that while I was traveling to the other end of the island to deliver to X the recent issues of the Valencia Solidarity Project journals, that would be placed in the virtual village in their traditional PDF format, he was charged with total discretion to compose another story.

Rolando as Coordinator of the Eastern Democratic Alliance was articulating the methods for how to carry out his call to pay tribute to Orlando Zapata Tamayo and give the honor of Mother of all Cubans to Reina Luisa Tamayo. It had to be there in the place where they buried the Cuban who marked, with his death, the last days of the dictatorship. But getting to Banes seemed almost impossible because on Thursday they closed off the town, with the G-2 soldiers everywhere with a list of names and a catalog of photos in hand to identify anyone trying to come into the town, so there had to be a change of plans. While he was doing it he didn’t tell me and I didn’t ask him. I just heard his version of the events and I am posting here a portion of the transcript of his account, as I promised earlier in the post Pieces of an Assault:

“The march was in progress and we were in the cemetery. Once we were at the foot of the tomb of Zapata, everyone started to come, all of them in droves. Hundreds of soldiers were divided into three blocks. A block came into the cemetery from the rear, another block occupied the right side of the cemetery exit, and a third block arrayed themselves on the left hand side with the buses and patrol cars located where we would have to exit.

“Once we saw that the assault was imminent, we decided to link ourselves together, locking arms, and put the women in the middle and leave in a block like that. When we got to the bottom of the cemetery they fell on us. They were pulling, taking us out of the cordon, beating and kicking us. One of them used martial arts on me, around my neck, nearly breaking it. And when I was locked in that position another one came and gave me several punches to the ribs, the body, and so they savagely, brutally, forced us into the buses that were also full of officers from State Security. They pushed us in there. I saw them beating Ramoncito from Mesa de Banes, and Rogelito, Zapata’s brother, it all happened too fast to deal with it.

“Reina was in the middle but I don’t know why as they were pulling on us as we tried to protect her, everyone was in the middle of the floor because we started to sing the national anthem and all that, but I can say we were brutally repressed with kicks and punches and thrown violently onto the buses. And in the buses, between them shouting ‘Viva Fidel’ and us shouting ‘Down with Fidel!’ and ‘Down with Communism’ and ‘Down with the Dictatorship’ and all these things, they drove us to the headquarters in Banes.

“First they took the people from Gunatanamo and took us out and put us in a convoy of patrol cars, and then took us to Pedernales (The G-2 Training Center in Holguin). There in Pedernales we learned from the same soldiers that since early in the day there had been a platoon of patrol cars going to Banes, so the contingency was already prepared. So they broke us up and put us in different cells on the double. It was very full of police and guards there at the center of criminal investigations, of Pedernales operations. So  there we were shouting slogans.

“They kept us there until Tuesday when they took us to Guantanamo in police cars, but not before giving us a series of police warnings and threats. They talked about applying Law 88 to us, the well known Gag Law, and tried to get us to sign the warnings but as always we refused to sign this paper because we have not committed any crime and they have committed them in violating our rights as citizens. This time when we refused they brought video cameras to film the moment in which they extended the document to us and we said we wouldn’t accept it. They said making this video recording would constitute proof to the authorities.

“We were from different provinces but in our case it was three from Guantanamo and two from Baracoa. I don’t know any more about what happened with the women or with the other brothers who were arrested and beaten. On Tuesday night they took us back to where we live. In the case of Rodolfo Barthelemí and Francisco Luis Manzanet who live in Baracoa, they took them but didn’t leave them in the town but rather they dropped them on a road where cars rarely pass at night. They told me that they weren’t able to catch a ride and go back to their hometown until morning.

“That day there were several messages on Twitter about what was happening there, and some calls made to call the attention of the free world to what was happening when we left the cemetery, and we managed at least to basically cross the cordon. I thought about the repercussions of what had happened and because thousands of people knew about the aggressions and arrests and that the G-2 cut all telephone and cell service so that no one could call, so that there wouldn’t be a repeat of the incident too soon But on Sunday, the 7th, when I got my phone back, and Reina’s and yours had lost all ability to receive or send calls, I realized again that those beasts had invaded Reina’s home. We have to keep going into the streets of Cuba to make them value our rights.”

Here is some evidence of what we are talking about, although I transcribed the complete conversation.


8 Nov

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

My telephone battery runs down twice a day.  Every three minutes I receive local calls, which, of course, I don’t respond to.  On occasion, when I have responded I have received insults, threats, and attempts to destabilize me.  As for the usual restrictions which the repressive forces exercise against me, we now see the shady complicity of the Telecommunications Company, together with the vandalism of the G2 official, Saul Vega, and his assistant, snitch, and fellow rat, Maikel Rodriguez Alfajarrin (shown in the photograph with the striped shirt).

Rodriguez Alfajarrin is the Chief of the Confrontation Brigade in the Municipal Housing Unit of San German.  His job consists of detaining those who rent out houses illegally, carry out construction without permits, and those who buy land, or transfer it from one family member to another to avoid turning it into the state.  Among the informal accusations of the citizens, which in the end turn out not to be very well heard, is the statement about the high standard of living of the state inspectors, which receive a hefty salary.

Their repressive job also consists of harassment over the phone.  In fact, I surprised them in such an act when, this past Wednesday, they called me from a public number and I searched the last two missed calls, later calling myself from that telephone to prove it was them.  Cynicism and shamefulness.  A supposed official acting like a midwife, lingering around at home all day paying close attention to all the details of the lives of those who surround her.

Thanks to CUBACEL, more than 15 cellphones ceased working at the same time on Sunday, the 31st, when they were beating the dissidents in Banes, along with Reina Luisa.  In the same vein, this past weekend my cell phone’s text messaging and twitter service stopped working yet again, ever since Friday.  On the screen of my phone, it read “limited service.”  Caridad Caballero Batista, an independent journalist in Holguin, filed a complaint at the ETECSA Territorial Manager’s Office.

The young ladies from the CUBACEL customer service department, especially Niurka, jumped into a real tongue-twister.  She kept going back and forth while I was asking about the connections between the political police and the company she worked for.  She asked me if I had perhaps dropped my phone, and I responded that the only time it got hit was when two technicians, working in the service of the G2 at the company she works for, decided to mess with it.

Now, such an outrage has gotten even worse in regards to all the thefts committed to Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, Jorge Ceballos, Nestor R. Lobaina, and many others.  Their phones have not been given back to them.  Caridad Caballero herself, when they confiscated her phone, went all the way to the commercial office, once again reporting it as lost — and that was it, everyone went back home as if were nothing.

The G2 steals our phones while CUBACEL sells you connection lines again!!!!

Temporary suspension of service lines, harassments over the phone, offensive messages being sent from unknown numbers, confiscation and breaking of cell phones, restrictions on sending out international messages, and the prohibition of being able to receive “re-charges” from abroad.  These are just some of the obstacles which a business with double-moral, such as ETECSA, which relies on investments of Mexican, Italian, and other capitals, offer to their customers, all the while abiding by the rules of the olive-green leaders.

Very nice promotion, excellent offers.  A model of corporate Cuban perfection.

Translated by Raul G.