Archive | August, 2011

Tweet by Tweet, We Will Pave the Path

31 Aug

Luis Felipe Rojas had to upload an audio, with the help of friends in the exterior, explaining why he has not been able to publish a post for 7 days.  He explains, “For now we can only use our voice, and sometimes our phones for an occasional Tweet, to continue onward.  It is because of what I explain here that I have not been able to publish a post for 7 days“.

I went to the Santiago de Cuba Melia Hotel, which I try to go to once or twice a month in an attempt to buy an internet access card.  The ETECSA (phone company) worker told me that there was a temporary restriction, that they now can only sell internet access cards to foreigners or Cubans with foreign passports.  Something similar has been happening in the city of Guantanamo, in the Hotel of Guantanamo, for about two months now.  The service itself is there, but there are no available cards, which is the same thing as if there was no service.  Those of us who live in the Eastern area of the country, all the way to Santa Clara which is right in the center of the country, have no internet access.  There is some access in Baracoa, but we all know that the city of Baracoa is located in the easternmost point of Cuba, so it is difficult to get to.  So, those of us who want internet access are completely disconnected.  Last week I tried again in Guantanamo and they told me the same thing they have been telling me for two months, which is the same thing they have been telling other dissidents from the area.  They tell us that there are no cards.

Liborio Has Internet

31 Aug

The wristband wrapped around the radio reads “Change”

When I wrote the post titled “Liborio and the Internet” for my former blog, ‘Sewer Animal’, I published this photo along with it.  Don’t laugh, but until “the cable” arrives we have no other option but to say the same thing Oscar D’ Leon said when he visited Cuba a while back: “Gimme cable, gimme cable”.

A Double-Layered Denouncement

22 Aug

After half a century of diplomatic slip-ups, sophism, and trifles one reaches the point where they imagine that the Cuban government couldn’t possibly come up with yet another fallacy.  But all it takes is to wake up in the morning and listen to the radio or read the newspaper, and then you will quickly see the injustices.  Ever since mid-July, the main focus of the news is the story of the hunger strike being carried out by numerous inmates in a prison of the United States.   The inmates were demanding better attention from their jailers, the cease of racist practices, and that their living conditions improve- something so natural which must be respected by all human beings.

But what is shocking is how this has made it to the front page of Granma, the communist Cuban newspaper,  for various days, as they pay attention to the demands of hundreds of violators of minors, professional thieves, and assassins without remedy, while nothing has ever been written about the hunger strikes carried out by hundreds of Cubans in the island demanding the same thing, with the difference that the Cubans have been imprisoned due to their opinions.  The skid of Brazilian ex-president Lula de Silva in February of 2010, where he compared Orlando Zapata Tamayo to common criminals from Rio de Janeiro, the silence surrounding the hunger strikes of Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Normando Hernandez, or Pavel Mansfarrol- to name just a few- is eloquent proof of the hypocrisy of that Cuban newspaper.  Only in the cases of Zapata and Farinas have they written a few short paragraphs, but only to vilify them without reason and to deny them, and their relatives, the right to reply.

The hunger strikes carried out by Montonero prisoners or members of the Puerto Rican Macheteros behind the bars have had coverage and unmeasurable analysis in television programs here, in addition to various newspaper articles.  The peaceful protests of Cuban political prisoners, or common prisoners, have been handled with deception and lazy promises in the majority of cases.  For half a century, the Cuban political prisoners have achieved celebrated victories through starvation and abstinence from water, which has resulted in more than 10 deaths.  Those who have been successful have only later returned to being kept in subhuman conditions.

The human crushing machine that is the penitentiary system adjusts its iron corset while the Political Bureau of the Cuban Communist Party is in charge of painting everything rose-colored with their ideological bombardments.

A Hunted Hunter

19 Aug

Lieutenant Colonel Roilan Cruz Oliva (left) and Lieutenant Luis Quesada (Right).  The latter is now being accused of violating a minor in Holguin.

On March 24th 2010 when the political police deported me from Bayamo, Granma to Holguin, they took me directly to the G2 Operations Barrack located in the neighborhood of Pedernales.  Lieutenant Colonel Sabuco, a notable oppressor known for his abuses and his aggression against dissidents, was waiting for me there.

The instructor I was assigned to was Lieutenant Luis Quesada, who at first seemed like a person who wanted to portray an image of a joyful kind of guy in the eyes of others.  He walked in with the technique of trying to win me over, of mentioning two or thee places in Santiago de Cuba where he said he had studied.  He spoke to me about sports and a few other things until he asked me what I was doing in Bayamo.  I responded to him, telling him that the information had a price and that he’d have to extract that confession from me through torture, but of course, he quickly argued that the revolution does not torture anyone.  When we spoke a bit more and interchanged some opinions, he told me that he had been in the home of Cari Caballero in December of 2009.  I told him that everyone knew that, that he had been denounced by everyone for kicking open the door of the house, for taking part in dragging activists who were protesting when Zapata was on hunger strike.  Remember?

Luis Quesada boasted in my face about kicking that door open and perhaps about kicking some ribs as well.

Today, Lieutenant Luis Quesada is being held in that same detention center where he tried to recruit me, where he asked me to tell him who was going to my house and why.  In that barracks of Pedernales, in Holguin, where so many non-violent dissidents have slept on the floor, put up with the rigorous cold, the heat, and the insects, is where Luis Quesada is detained awaiting his sanction for the crime of having violated two minors, a 13 year old girl and a 15 year old girl, a case which is currently under investigation and which has not yet concluded…and perhaps they will never do it.

In the picture I have posted above, one can see Lieutenant Luis Quesada next to now Lieutenant Colonel Roilan Cruz Oliva, who at the time of Zapata Tamayo’s  death was a Major and served as second in command of Department 21’s Confrontation of Enemies section.  He was directly in charge of Zapata.  When the death occurred, at one point he even told Reina Tamayo Danger that the martyr should have never been sent to Camaguey, which destroyed all accusations made by the regime of Havana.  Reina can affirm this.  In the photo, both these men are standing in front of the mob which, until recently, was blocking the surroundings of La Guira cemetery in Banes.  Surely on that morning they saw how the paramilitary troops kicked and insulted (as usual) men and women who long for freedom.

Cuba, the Same Ration of Hate

17 Aug

Photo from Cubaencuentro: Police violence in Havana

This article was written by Luis Felipe Rojas and published on the digital newspaper, Cubaencuentro.

Little time has passed since the conclusion of the VI Cuban Communist Party Congress, and now very few have faith in those promises.  In the spectrum known as Social Political, the government does nothing to truly set these reforms in motion.

The general-president, Raul Castro, has made reference to the prohibition of entering and exiting the country as “prohibitions and regulations issued during another moment of the revolutionary process”, to mask that judicial monstrosity that is the exit (or entrance) permit of the country.  However, nothing is said about the prohibition of traveling freely within the national territory.

What does the local press say about the new flourishing police check points, which were eliminated from the site of human rights inspectors which visited the island during the end of the 80’s?  Nothing.  If anything, a random local newspaper will refer to them but as “revolutionary measures” taken to impede the growth of the black market.

On innumerable occasions Cuban dissidents have denounced the prohibitions of entering or exiting their own provinces.  Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (Antunez) has a police vehicle permanently stationed at the corner of his block in the central municipality of Placetas, Villa Clara.  In the police control check point of Rio Frio, at the entrance of Guantanamo, there is a list with names, photos, and political references of nearly a hundred political dissidents in order to keep them from coming in, or getting out, of the city.  According to Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, member of the illegal Eastern Democratic Alliance, the list is activated or dis-activated depending on specific orders from the political police on significant dates or days in which it is presumed that there will be popular protests.

The beatings carried out against various female dissidents (coming from Moa, Holguin, and Palma Soriano) in Santiago de Cuba during the past month, with the objective of keeping them from assisting mass being held in Catholic churches like the Sanctuary of El Cobre or the Cathedral of the province, proves that the government is the one that drowns its own citizens in a sea of illegality.

Which judicial tools does the National Revolutionary Police hide behind in order to surround the homes of dissidents, blocking off entrances, in order to prevent them from participating in commemorative acts convoked by themselves, but patriotic nonetheless?

One would have to search through Law 88 (or the Gag Law) to try to find out what it is about placing flowers under a statue of Jose Marti, or carrying out a public event in a park, or a meeting in one’s own living room, that constitutes an attempt against national security.

In regards to the promises of reforming the socialist legislation in terms of migratory issues, the general-president cheers on his supporters and gives them the right to defend the 50 year long project.

“This street belongs to Fidel”, or its derivatives like “the streets and universities are for revolutionaries” catalyze hate amongst Cubans.  The consequences can be verified in acts as shameful as the mob repudiation attacks, the public beatings carried out by supporters, or the bombardment of eggs, excrement, and paint against the homes of dissidents.

At the beginning of this year, photos were published on the internet of the home of Sara Marta Fonseca, a non-violent dissident who lives in the Havana neighborhood of Rio Verde.  Members of the Rapid Response Brigade smeared the facade of the house, the front porch, and the side hallway with tar.  When all of this mockery was made public, and when accredited journalists residing in Havana as well as tourists occasionally passed by the house at night to take some photos as if they were trophies, officials from the sinister Department 21 (G2) offered Sara Marta the chance to set up a brigade which would paint the house for her, a proposition which, according to sources from the internal opposition, she declined.

The future effectiveness of Cuban legality will first have to universalize the right of all citizens and rip away all the hate injected into each citizen.  Sooner or later, we will have to dismantle that machine which just hurls insults, kicks, and spit.

Earning One’s Living

15 Aug

Photo by Luis Felipe Rojas

It is an outrageous race, a trip which has no other alternative than to return home with a lump of bread, a bottle of soda, or whatever bit of money to at least go to bed with some dignity.  In this Eastern area of Cuba fortune tellers, herb specialists, and women who clean-iron-cook have swarmed up once again, all for the sake of getting a plate of food or making ten pesos in national currency.  Plumbers, lawn cleaners, and stove repairmen- professions that are normal- are also abundant.  But there have also flourished those who purchase gold watches, silversmiths, and those who specialize in knocking down coconuts from trees.  In cities like Holguin and Santiago de Cuba, neighbors who work in the Immigration offices and who are seeking a bit of money even offer to fill out the countless forms which the countries’ bureaucracy requires be submitted with no errors.

Two of the best cellphone technicians I know are not older than thirty.  A young woman, contemporary in age with them, has a very long line outside her house every day: all those people want to get their computers out of hell, wake the motherboard, speed up its operating velocity, or change the internal modem.  Being a technician who has not yet graduated, she tries to assist them and earn her living.  For some time now in my neighborhood, there is also a young girl going around offering pedicures.  Discrete, clean, and with wholesome values, she assured me that she could only tend to three clients every morning, for there are many elderly people who request her services.  In the afternoon she receives English lessons and at night she helps out women who work during the day.

Musicians, spiritualists, leather workers, dollar traffickers, tobacco makers, and aged rum specialists.  These are some of the services which dodge state inspections. They are a mass of men and women who walk in silence off to their first job of the day, the first hard currency which weighs in their pocket and which assures them a piece of bread, a soap, a pound of pork meat.  They are an army which cannot be detained by walls, absurd prohibitions, or mental barbed wires.

Meurice, the Friend

7 Aug

Photos by: Luis Felipe Rojas

On numerous occasions I have said that this is not a news blog.  Here I can only hope to accumulate my travel reports, to make a map (for me) about the days lived, and on many occasions to be in places but not be visible due to my double condition of capturing an image and then writing about it.   That’s why, today, on this blog, I have posted what was seen and felt on July 31st, when Monsignor Pedro Meurice Estiu was buried in Santiago de Cuba.

On the 30th, the government and the communist rulers of the province celebrated, surely under the orders of the superiors, the Day of the Martyrs.  While it may be true that they celebrate it each year, this time, on the eve of Meurice’s burial, they are saying that it was the apotheosis.  On the 31st, the roads of Santiago de Cuba, covering a diverse range of Eastern entrances, was inundated by uniformed men, as well as those dressed as civilians.  Though this time, save for some exceptions, the majority of those who decided to go out were allowed to arrive.  I had to board two separate means of transportation starting at 4 am until I arrived to the Cathedral of Santiago.  There I saw Laura Pollan and Reinaldo Escobar, among others who had come from Havana.  Also present was Jose Daniel Ferrer, the brave activist Samuel Leblanc, women like Aimee Garces, Tania Montoya, and other democrats from the Eastern provinces.  There was an extreme heat over Santiago.  When the mass commenced, it felt like we were roasting inside the central building, but one had to get in there whichever way possible.  According to some, it was calculated that more than one thousand people were inside and outside in the patios.

A humble man

The words of Monsignor Ibanez, current bishop of Santiago de Cuba, surprised me.  Not because Meurice didn’t deserve them, but because Ibanez is a member of the Cuban Catholic Bishops Conference, a group which usually does not honor those who go against the Castro regime.  There was a moment in which the majority of the attendees remembered, by repeating in unison, the words of Meurice Estiu to Pope John Paul II in that Santiago plaza- one of the few occasions which such a truth has been told to the Cuban nomenclature.  I saw lots of humble people crying when the coffin was taken through the street.  In conversation with local Catholics, many were surprised to see so many non-practitioners of the Christian faith, yet who showed up as a sign of respect.  “Meurice,” someone told me, “was a success”.

Once, during early 2004, I went to a communicator’s meeting in the Sanctuary of El Cobre.  Meurice closed that workshop with such clarity, so much so that to this day many remember it. A day before the meetings came to an end, I went down to the city in the morning.  In the corner of Enramadas and Carniceria I noticed a commotion.  Pedro Meurice had gotten down from his car and was chatting with some well known ladies.  But the conversation kept going, eventually becoming  a chat with the public.  He blessed some kids, gave an appointment to a lady so that she could drop by later to pick up a mattress for her child, and so on, until they practically forced him to get back on his vehicle.

The funeral procession traveled down the hot and narrow streets, down through the poor neighborhoods which surround the Santa Ifigenia cemetery.  People waited for him on their porches and on the sidewalks.  The police did not bother the dissidents which had their fists up, signaling a “V” shape for ‘victory’ and “L’ for ‘libertad’ (freedom).  In the morning, I received news that independent journalist Alberto Mendez Castello was detained in Las Tunas in order to prevent him from assisting the burial.

The truth is that with this death, the authors of the 52-year long oppression can sleep calmly, because for them it is a thorn which has been removed from their throats.  I cannot help but think of the story of when the Cuban bishops visited the Vatican in 1998 and Pope John Paul II told them these words, about the San Luis native (Meurice), while grabbing their hands: “That’s how bishops should behave”.

Luis Felipe Rojas

Premeditated Eviction

5 Aug

Photo/Luis Felipe Rojas

His name is Rubisner Utria Gomez, he resided in La Cuarteria neighborhood of San German, in the province of Holguin.  On the 8th of July he was evicted from his workers’ housing which he occupied along with two other families, due to the overcrowding and precariousness with which he previously lived.  When, on that Sunday, a special operation from the Ministry of the Interior and State Security arrived to kick him out of the place, they first dropped by my house to detain me so that I wouldn’t inform the outside media about the imminent eviction.  Thank God, I had left my house the night before, apparently guided by pure instinct.  If I hadn’t, I would have ended up in one of the dungeons of the thousand demons.

That Sunday, they evicted him and took him, his wife, and their youngest daughter three kilometers outside of San German, to a place known as the “Rabbit Hole,” an uninhabited farm where they once raised these furry creatures, but which is now completely abandoned.  But upon arriving there, not even the soldiers had the courage to drop them off in those roofed cages.

They immediately took them towards some huts which serve as summer resting spots for distinguished sugar plantation workers.  A few days later they moved them again to a half of a rented house, “until we build you a room in a run down building”, he says they have told him.  Two weeks have passed and they still have not even marked his land and he and his family are under strict vigilance.

Fifteen days later I was informed of more bad news, which was expected.  Rubisner Utria Gomez, the night guard of the “Urbano Noris” Sugar Plantation, was fired from his Security and Protection position.  His crime was to become a non-comformist, like those Spaniards which they put on Cuban television each night, as a slap in the face to capitalism.  The only difference is that in the case of Rubisner no one supported him, except for some relatives and opponents of the regime.  The latter, the dissidents, were classified as opportunists and manipulators.

Rubisner Utria Gomez has a small daughter who suffers from congenital brain problems and he has spent all of his money in tending to her and taking her from place to place whenever her convulsions kick in.  He has spent his entire “socialist worker” salary on this, like he told a local police official who is known for his coarseness and violent treatment of detainees.

Now he must embark on an infinite journey between citizen processing offices, writing letters to the Central Government of the nation, and complaints on all sides. It is an ordeal that doesn’t know the hope without which one crosses oneself and prays to God for another Cuban family thrown into the inferno.

August 4 2011