Archive | October, 2011

Ideological Concoction, a la Carte

28 Oct

The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) has just made their National Conference document (scheduled to take place on January 28th 2012) public. It is like an extract from a manual containing the recipe to revive the ideological corpse, that political dinosaur that is communism in the 21st century. As if it were a self critique, the document mentions the confrontation of the illegalities, the corruption at all levels and the internal functioning of the partisan organization. In less than 8 pages, the ideological department of the PCC calls on its members to be creative and to allow, for once and for all, the administrators to carry out their primary function: allow the country to move forward.

46 years after re-founding its bases in Cuba, the PCC attempts to remove the brains from its militants, and asks them, almost as if it were a favor they have to do, to attend the base, to make themselves trustworthy among the militants and to make it possible for blacks and women to move up in rankings and levels in order to create an image of non-discrimination when it comes to a persons race, sex, or social class. It seems like the PCC’s Central Committee is trying to sew the old olive green rags, fixing up the old patches.

When a partisan organization (the only one that is legally allowed in the country) prepares itself to discuss topics regarding militants, the internal organization, and its established members nearly a century after its foundation, it is tearing apart its own previous jargon.  If the communist leadership on the island would focus on increasing production and liberating the productive forces without prejudice and would have social well being as a goal, then perhaps there would be at least a glimmer of hope in the dark well we find ourselves submerged in.  But the news coming from the island tells us otherwise.

On Saturday October 22nd, the ideologist of the PCC, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura visited the municipality of San German, located in Holguin province.  Three days prior to his arrival, various homes of dissidents were surrounded by soldiers, police officers, and Interior Ministry officials who claim to represent State Security.

On the afternoon of the 22nd the peaceful dissident Eliecer Palma Pupo was detained in my house, right in front of my children.  He was taken by a strong military operation made up of more than a dozen agents, a Operational Guard Jeep, and a National Revolutionary Police vehicle.  They handcuffed him, pressing his hands against his back, and took him to the political police barracks known as Pedernales.  As I read this note to my editors, he had still not been released.

The same was done to Jose Antonio Triguero Mullet, a 68 year old man who was violently attacked and taken in front of his young granddaughters.  He was released 4 hours later.  Machado Ventura’s visit was preceded by the repairing of holes in the street and the lending of ambulances and fire trucks from Holguin.  As for the workers of the sugar plant, they were exempt that day from their habitual chores, while the market was replenished with some foods, which has not happened for a very long time.

The small town was practically frozen that afternoon.

From War Veteran to Peaceful Dissident

23 Oct

This interview was conducted by Luis Felipe Rojas and published on “Diario de Cuba” on October 21, 2011.

Eliecer Palma Pupo (Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas)

At a very young age, he left his home to combat Angolans who dissented from the regime which governed them. He returned as a hero, with three medals on his chest (Second Class Internationalist, for the Victory of Cuba-RPA, and Distinguished Service). Afterward, he was left without employment because he wrote a phrase which mocked Fidel Castro and his clique. That’s when the real war began for him. Marginalized from Cuban social life, he traversed various obstacles until he became a public dissident. And it was about these very subjects that Eliecer Palma Pupo wanted to chat about with “Diario de Cuba”.

Where were you stationed in Angola? What was your mission there, what did you do there?

I left to Angola in 1987, when I was 18 years old. They stationed me in a place called Matala, in Southern Angola. Later I was transferred to Lubango, in the province of Huila. I became chauffeur for a Lieutenant Colonel of the Radio-Technical Unit of Southern Angola. This soldier was later discharged here in Cuba because he was having an affair, something very common within the Cuban armed forces. I did not participate in combat, but I was in the forefront and witnessed the horrors of war. I lost a friend of mine, he was from my town. Like many Cubans who participated in that war, I went thinking I was going to do something just. In reality,  I went to get myself into something I shouldn’t have.

In 1996 they made me a militant of the Communist Party of Cuba. Years later, precisely on February 24th, which is a symbolic date for many Cubans, I was dismissed from my labor post and from that political organization. They sent me to the street, as if I was some sort of plague.

What were the causes of this dismissal? What happened after?

I worked in the “Urbano Noris” Agro-Industrial Complex of San German, Holguin. I wrote down a phrase on a piece of paper- it was a joke, a question directed to Fidel, asking him when we would eat shrimp and drink some beer. But the writing consisted of 14 letter C’s, which at the same time coincided with the Cuban rulers last name. That was all. The political police was in charge of all the rest. The First Lieutenant at the time, Frank Gonzalez, gave me a citation through the director of the sugar plant and they accused me of promoting ideological diversion, and therefore, they decided to expel me from my position as Chief of Security in the Sugar Production Complex.

The current Major, Rodolfo Cepena, was the one carrying out the post persecution. I was dismissed 8 times from different jobs. Wherever I turned to, they would tell me I was hostile toward the Revolution, and therefore could not administer resources from the State. In fact, in the “Heroes of Moncada” co-operative in 2006, the chief of the Municipal Attorney, Mrs. Maricelis Olivera, sided with State Security and ordered to violate the internal rules of the operation. I was once again left without a job because she pressured those who were in my favor, declaring that my position against the Revolution affected the collective mass of workers.

You were a member of the Association of Combatants of the Cuban Revolution (ACRC), what can you tell us about this organization?

The ACRC is an organization in which you become a member if you are a war veteran, and nothing is supposed to exclude you from that condition, but I was expelled from there. In that sense, I have been stripped of the possible “benefits” I could have been offered because of it- some sort of prebend like having them sell me food at different prices, or that they exempt me from some debts from using those electronic devices which have now been sold to all Cubans.

On the other hand, I was freed from having to pay 10 dollars for being associated to the group, from having to participate in meetings, and other compromises which these people are subjected to. Everyone knows that they do not pay the lest bit of attention to all these so-called “combatants”.

You joined the peaceful dissidence as an active member. Recently, you were seen taking part in the National March for the Freedom of Cuba in Baracoa. Are you aware of what you have done?

Yes, and I would do it a thousand times more. The authorities made me become a public dissident- because in Cuba, many people are against the government but they do not say it, or the political police does not find out. Now I have a debt to the peaceful social protest methods, of confronting the regime, and I do not plan on quitting, despite the many pressures I am being subjected to. I have already gone through arbitrary arrests and have had my house surrounded so that I do not participate in opposition activities. I have already taken a step forward and I have no plans of stepping back. I want to see a free Cuba, and I know what I am exposing myself, and my family, to.

There is a generalized notion that Cuba is changing. Are Cubans changing?

The government has not changed at all towards the Cuban people. Now, there is more repression than a few years ago. There is more poverty, and they are increasingly dismissing workers and leaving them out on the streets. I do not know where those changes some claim to see are, but I don’t see them at all.

In regards to Cubans, I do not think they are changing. The fact that, as they wait in line for a loaf of bread they criticize the government, does not constitute a change. Many people are afraid. Even the regime is on alert in regards to what could happen. Popular discontent, lack of credibility, and the increase of repression: all of this makes up the fact that something is moving, but there is no real change yet.

Editor’s note:  On Saturday, October 22nd, Luis Felipe Rojas published a Twitter message about the communist functionary Machado Ventura and his arrival to San German, Rojas’ hometown.  Because of Ventura’s visit, San German officials painted houses and covered holes on the street, while political police officials were on the move- surrounding and arresting some dissidents, including Eliecer Pupo, who at the time was in the home of Luis Felipe Rojas.  Here is the Tweet:


Police has just taken dissident Eliecer Palma Pupo from my house for putting “Laura Pollan Lives” sign on his home


Being a Dissident

23 Oct

This article was written by Luis Felipe Rojas and published on “Diario de Cuba” on October 14th, 2011.

Policemen and dissidents in the pilgrimage for the Virgin of Charity, Central Havana, September 8th 2011

Let’s suppose that there exists a country where the people could affiliate themselves to the political party which reflects their own ideals, where the government- of an opposing party- does not dedicate itself to attack all those who think differently.
Let’s suppose that on Earth there is another country in which the act of delinquency is not punished beyond the sentence decreed by tribunals, and that the reincorporation of these individuals is not utilized as a pennant to be used each time the rulers wish to play the image of excellent social actors.
But… to be left without employment and without receiving an explanation as to why, being excluded from every social assistance plan, being signaled out by the accusing fingers of neighbors, etc.  These are only three of the hellish paths which Cuban dissidents are condemned to walk by as soon as they step out of the line to speak the truth against those who govern.
The manipulation of ideological stubbornness can enjoy the luxury of carrying out propaganda with the social rehabilitation of citizens, only if these individuals do not challenge their political interests.  The pages of national newspapers fill up with reports of young ex-convicts turned into social workers, paramedics, or repairmen.  With this, they try to shine light on the kindness of the tropical socialist system, but it would be ideal if we could, in those same mediums, hear about  the attacks against people who have been penalized and, in their time behind bars, have decided to support political prisoners, to join the condemnations of human rights violations and, once extinguishing the penal sentence, join the ranks of the non-violent opposition.
There are more than enough example of those who, in jail cells, have collaborated with a dissident so that their journalistic work arrives to good hands, that a family letter or a denouncement of a beating against a prisoner of conscience go beyond the prison walls.  Sure, there have been those who have lent themselves to beat or harass a dissident in prison, but there have also been those who have defended one of those who have been sent to the dungeons just for defending universally recognized rights.
According to the communist Cuban propaganda, the internal dissidence is full of treacherous thieves.  But the real corruption, the violators of so many rights, and those who embezzle the exchequer stem from the Communist Party, the revolutionary elite, and the “organizations of the masses”, but it does not matter when it comes time to the the public taunts, the assignations, and the expositions.
It is a double-faced methodology, the defining trait of a system which abhors informative transparency.

The Boys in Vermilion

12 Oct

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

The remainder of the year threatens to be a difficult time for them.  Very soon they will no longer be among the ranks of what once was one of Fidel Castro’s most promoted projects: the social workers program.  At first, many people mistrusted them as they were used to sniff out Cuban homes under the pretext of carrying out a national census which demanded information of who received financial assistance from abroad, who had a computer, and who could repair a cell phone.  But the spoiled kids of the revolution, those who one night replaced all public vendors in Cuban gas stations, grew far too arrogant and walked down our streets with an insolence rarely allowed for a social group of that age.  From one day to the next, after selling some Chinese televisions, refrigerators, or fans, they stopped trying to look like what they never were: workers, and only carried the label of socials.

One morning, they started to wear name-brand chains and rings, athletic shoes, and all the other knick-knacks which their bad taste allowed them.  A considerable number of them were able to take advantage of the privileges of being able to attend the university and graduate without much rigor.  However, many others saw this opportunity snatched away from them due to the fact that they were on “missions” outside of their hometown, perched aboard a sugar cane truck, or a bus which traveled throughout the country from Havana to Guantanamo, or supervising the comings and goings of cooking oil from one grocery store to another.

Though their splendor began to fade slowly, until very recently they were in charge of recommending someone to a labor center, a scholarship, or they managed a water tank for a specified community.  Now they are in shambles and some gave in and asked to be let go so they could work for themselves as drivers or carpenters, or go to work for the Interior Ministry.  In a few weeks, two months at most, the government will reduce their ranks by 80%, according to what they have been informed during recent meetings.

We will then see them returning home, with the red on their shirts fading more and more each time, and without that slogan which they once carried like rifles slung on their backs: “more Cuban, more human”.

The New Prison, the New School

6 Oct

Numerous facilities which functioned as schools decades ago are now being used as  detention centers in the Eastern province of Holguin. Until recently, in the municipality of San German, some secondary schools were being used to keep inmates which worked in the agricultural programs established by the Ministry of the Interior.  Others continue to still be used as prisons of “less severity”, as the regime calls them.

Prisoners are transferred to such centers from their “major severity” centers like the Provincial Prison, Playa Manteca, and El Yayal (“Cuba Si”) as part of a phase change.  The schools of rustic architecture have been restructured to accommodate such prisoners but facing certain difficulties, including the fact that most these places are situated on or very near small rural neighborhoods such as Los Naranjos, Sabanilla Norte, and Sain, which make up the former “sugar producing colonies” which were also surrounded by the extensive Cauto River.  The inhabitants of these neighborhoods have seen how their safety has deteriorated with the increase of robberies, violence and fights among interns, attempts of harassment, and violations.

These institutions included youths under the title of “scholarship holders” under the principal of combining work and study, but the deterioration of the economy and immigration towards the cities brought a considerable descent in secondary level and middle level enrollments, bringing the decline of rural educational centers.

With this procedure, the Cuban government has not stayed true to one of its fundamental premises which was a slogan they constantly shouted in 1959, that of converting barracks into schools.

My House is Not a Prison

4 Oct

Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

That is a principle held by the activists of the internal resistance in Cuba, who have suffered all sorts of restrictions when they decide to take to the street and the police arrive at their doors and tell them, “either you stay inside or you will be imprisoned”.

Yoandris Montoya Aviles, from Bayamo, told me the same thing when they tried to surround his home, as they routinely do, on a day in which he was going to go out and carry out activities for the National March.  He stepped out to protest the arbitrary measure but was quickly taken to a police unit, later releasing him 24 hours after.

During the beginning of the March for the Freedom of Cuba which took place in the city of Baracoa on this past 12th of September, that idea was among the main points for those of us who set out from our provinces to Baracoa to begin the National Boitel and Zapata Live March.

Many dissidents throughout the country were beaten during this most recent march while others have even been sentenced for Disrespect and Disobedience for the simple act of not letting themselves be treated like fair animals, surrounded and exhibited  before the eyes of impassive neighbors which cannot respond anything to the supposed authorities.  The cases of Caridad Caballero, Marta Diaz Rondon, Esteban Caballero Sande, Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz, Annie Carrion Romero, and Isael Poveda Silva are clear examples of ruthless beatings just for protesting in the middle of the street and saying ‘no’ to the dictatorship.

This new line of disobedience has its fundamental roots coming from Gandhi.  Hundreds of Cubans have practiced it during 52 years of an iron-fist rule imposed on civil society, and it has now gained strength once again.

The repression on behalf of the general’s army is against everyone.  Non-violence, too, is relevant to everyone.