Archive | April, 2012

Detained, Once Again

28 Apr

Editor’s Note:

The Cuban poet, Luis Felipe Rojas, has once again been locked away in one of the “barracks of shame”.  Up to now, we do not know the name of the center where he is being held, but surely he will not want to remember this name when the long and dark night of communism is over in Cuba.

Early this Saturday, April 28th 2012, the Officers of Terror arrived at his home in San German, Holguin and took him away.  As usual, they gave no reasons for the arrest and also did not tell him, or anyone else, which unit he’d be taken to.  His wife was left home, under a species of house arrest, considering that the henchmen stationed themselves outside the house.  For her, after living the experience of “the days of the Pope”, she has no doubt that as soon as she steps out, she will smell the odor of a communist prison cell.

The telephone lines of the dissident couple are completely jammed, and any kind of communication with them is impossible.  Any messages of support and solidarity can be left at the end of this post, and when the poet returns home, he will hear them.

For now, we leave you with one of the poems he has written:

Like a Truffaut Film

The blood will run from the front door to the scaffold

the scene will begin with tricks.  The blood will run

hate will run and so too will the drug of envy.  Which of the two will be stop

which of the two

The girl is a dull shadow.  She is a celestial mask

over the face of the afternoon

Blood will run against us

light grey stains against the white light

Yonniel and Yaima

22 Apr

Yaíma gets off from an Iberia airplane twice a year and sets foot on the Eastern part of the island.  She is young and she aims to eat up the world in one bite.  She does not flee the current crisis, she says, because to her the real crisis is a glass of sugar and water during any given night of the 90’s, or the hours of walking by foot in order to arrive to a rural school where she used to study.  She left Cuba during the height of her career as a speech therapist.  In other words, when she had the opportunity to learn more.  But in Spain, she learned without difficulties and she now steps out of that airplane twice a year, takes a breath, and enters the deep country to spread her sadness or to say that she is not happy, although she may seem to be, she says.

Yonniel won the “new lottery” twice, that lottery for non-comformist Cubans. He traveled to Venezuela as a collaborator of a sports mission (First lottery) and trained adolescents in the Venezuelan state of Barinas to become successful weight lifters, so much so that they offered to extend his contract for two more years (Second lottery).  He has returned to Cuba for vacation twice with some articles for the house, brazilian sandals, a gold watch, the necessary dollars to not stress himself (for a while) and a few extra pounds on him.  He seems to be a happy man as he fixes his new Venezuelan life, without children and with a new woman.

They are two different exiles that are, yet, the same.  Two ways of leaving Cuba to return for different reasons.  They are Cubans that, right now, have taken the country with them in a book bag and have planted it over there, where they think about it from far away.  They are two Cubans of the current times, those who do away with the chains in whichever way they can and try to breath some air far way from the daily vigilance, although they live different oppressions.  Two methods of seeking a position in the list of success.  Two Cubans of Post-Castro life?

Comfortable and Exclusive

21 Apr

A military construction company has attacked the building of the condominiums pictured on the photo above.  The ones on the left that are already painted belong to the S.A Cuban Aviation Company (ECASA), a dependency of Civil Aeronautics.  The ones on the right are property of the Ministry of the Interior (MININT).

A while ago, there was a promotional billboard at the entrance which explained the efforts and the detailes of the project.  Right at the moment of the worst housing situation, and amid the moment in which they have named General Rodiles as the head of the Physical Planning, these brand-new 4 story buildings have been erected.  Once again, the officials of Military Counter-Intelligence, the Heads of Penitentiary Establishments, and the Provincial Delegation of the MININT are the ones that benefit from the facilities which have been given to them, at the expense of the nation.

Neighborhoods such as “El Piti” and “La Fornet” on the outskirts of the Alcides Pino Cigar Factory, and “La Colora”, are the ones which harbor the worst face of Holguin, the so-called city of parks.

Four years ago, a wave of unemployment shook these marginal neighborhoods, also known as “Give and Take”.  At the forefront of these repressive actions was the current Minister of Education, Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, whom is also the First Secretariat of the Communist Party in the province.  The evictions, after all the legal challenges and official propaganda, were held back thanks to the organization of the affected- a celebrated march along with their children through the center of the city, as well as the support and solidarity of various human rights activists who have often suffered beatings, detentions, and confiscations of cameras and voice recorders during that time.

SOS For a Woman from Bayamo

18 Apr

The authorities of Las Mangas Penitentiary in Bayamo are prohibiting that the Cuban political prisoner Ariel Arzuaga Pena, who is serving a sentence of 6 years for the supposed crime of double attempt, receive his medications, according to his wife, Lady in White Yakelin Garcia Jaenz.

“Since the beginning of April, Ariel has not been able to take his medications to treat his pharingitis and chronic gastritis.  He has also not been able to take Captopril for his hypertension”, his wife, notably emotional, told me via telephone during a conversation.  She told me that the culprit of the refusal of medicines is the operational official from the political police known as Major Yoel, “who is in charge of all the orders made by Ariel, but is also in charge of imposing limits of restriction in order to strip him of all the literature he possesses”, said Yakelin.  She also explained to me that the books they have confiscated from him dealt with Christian and environmental issues, and other works of a non-political character, which are prohibited in Cuba.

Yakelin told me that, thanks to the call of a prisoner who phoned in from the prison, she found out that Ariel still had no medications on April 8th.  In addition, a group of other prisoners shouted insults at him, as instigated by the political police of the penal ward.  According to Garcia Jaenz, this happened because Captain Hector removed the phone dial of the prison and, when the prisoners asked about this, he said that it was due to “the rebellious posture, the counter-revolutionary stance of Arzuaga”.  As is logical, this provoked various aggressions from other recluses against Ariel and not against the ones who really are the culprits.

Mrs. Garcia Jaenz is still suffering because of the carelessness of the Provincial Fiscal Office and from all the manipulations of the political police in the city of Bayamo, which, in addition to the instigations against her husband, they also impede her from participating in activities with the Ladies in White.  Because of this, she has been beaten and harassed by paramilitary Rapid Response Brigades and has been arrested arbitrarily for various hours, despite the fact that she is the mother of two small children.

This woman demands, before people of solidarity, that her voice be heard “much stronger and much farther”.  She asked me this, almost desperately, a few days ago and I told her that “a piece of this blog is now yours”.  I have put it on Twitter and various cyber-activists have already joined in solidarity with her, Retweeting each message.

Sometimes a call of consolation reminds us that we are not alone.  Her phone is 53401221.  If we send her a message through Skype or Free Call, reassuring our support, then that helps.  And a lot.

To my reader friends who share this blog as their own, to those who have 30 spare minutes, let us send messages to international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.  Send this post to other blogger friends and independent journalists, in and out of the island.  A pat on the back, an extended hand to show some human warmth, the gesture… she needs all of that right now.

Food at One’s Own Risk

12 Apr

I know the experience very well because I have lived through it.  Each week, we had to buy 30 units of quail eggs in order to provide food for my family, especially my children who prefer this specific plate.  We had read that they are low in cholesterol, high in iron, phosphorus, and calcium, even more than the traditional chicken eggs.  As always occurs, the determination, perseverance, and persistence of my wife Exilda came through.

A friend gave her a large dilapidated bird cage which we fixed up a bit, adding some wires here and there.  The result was a cage which would now go for lots of money on the black market.  I don’t know how we did it.  Her cousins from Santiago de Cuba filled up various flash drives for us with information about the care, diet, and the most basic principles of raising the small birds which are known here as Japanese Quails.  A friend of ours traveled to Las Tunas and bought us 17 specimens (three males and fourteen females) which Exilda began feeding with homemade fodder made of ground millet and corn, shredded egg shells (once they’ve been dried out in the sun), and fish flour made locally for an excellent price.  The rest has been the love which she puts into them every morning upon changing their water, ‘talking’ to them with delicacy, giving them food twice a day, plus that month which she was there, sitting, with all the patience in the world, waiting for the birds to lose the stress of their trip.

When they laid their first thirty eggs, Exilda conserved them in vinegar and she now serves them to us, which my children and I love.  She serves them salted with tomatoes to friends who stop by to visit, and in all honesty, no one can resist such an exotic entree.  Since she gathers thirty eggs every three days, she has sold various units and is receiving orders which we cannot fulfill due to the scarce availability of an increasing demand.

She has already started to collect the inversion produced by the eggs and has recuperated the expenses of purchasing the birds.  We now do not have to buy the 30 eggs each month, which means we save in our home expenses.  Since they are minor sales, we have not had the “graceful” visit of the inspectors.  We have our fingers crossed so that they don’t show up.

This example has surprised me once again, considering that on numerous occasions her passion has taken us (the family and the friends who know the stories) away from a jam when it comes time to serve the table, when a guest visits the house, or when their are no other foods to offer.  It’s an example of what the strength of a woman is capable of when she is determined.  I cannot do anything else but lower my head and offer her my support and respect.

Is it Good or is it Bad?

6 Apr

This question, among others, is shot at me weekly in an international poll about the potential and efficiency of self-employment in Cuba.  Of course, it is not a bad thing to once again have goods produced by your own work-  shoes and other products which disappeared from Cuban homes decades ago.  It is good that thousands of my compatriots have broken away from the chains of bureaucracy to buy or sell a pair of pants.  It’s good that they’ve moved away from the  anti-pedagogical rules of orders and control.

It’s a good thing, and it will always be good, for people to learn how to plan their vacations and that, once and for all, an end is put to the damned meritocracy which has turned the work place into a battlefield of snitches who carry out their dirty work all for a summer reservation in a cabin at the edge of a river, or a ticket to buy a TV made in China.

In the long run, recognizing the weight which subterranean operations have on third world emerging economies, it should be fateful that we will have to sustain ourselves based on illegal extractions in order to strengthen the universe of what tomorrow will be known as the small business.  The costs, the feasibility, and the usefulness are terms which become shreds when we discover that the prices of prime materials fluctuate, not according to internal or external markets, but according to the hands which release them onto the black market.

What is not good is the material shortage due to inflation of prices in the sole provider which exists: the sacrosanct state.  Instead of ceasing to produce or ceasing to continue onward with small producers of goods and services, used for the first time by owners of their lowest fortunes, they prefer to turn their faces and buy the ingredients without finding out about their origin.  That’s how they prepare themselves, also for the disloyal competition of tomorrow.

Articles and reports which appear on the daily (and only) press, telling the self-employer to carry out honest work, to treat their customers well, and to join the national economy which aims to re-fossilize, perfect itself, and tighten its chains to a corset of rules imposed as mandates of sole salvation.  All this means nothing.

A native information technology business (CITMATEL) developed a software to allow the registry of personal data, any taxes or other things applicable to self-employment, and surely, it is not a bad thing.   Of course, they have started to sell it for 250 Cuban pesos (about 12 dollars), with the added difficulty that the  rate of workers in the private sector who actually own a computer is very low, and according to their own announcement, their license would expire in two months.  It’s not a matter of whether if it is a good thing or a bad thing, instead, we ask: for who is it positive or negative what is happening if we continue mortgaging the future?

In the Undertow

4 Apr

It seems that the recent papal visit will be the event of the year in Cuba.  The first Sunday of April has passed amid offerings and arrests, while even more arrests, beatings, and violent acts against Ladies in White and other non-violent human rights activists are being reported from a number of provinces.  In Holguin, Caridad Caballero Batista and her husband Esteban Sande Suarez suffered an arrest while on their way to the Jesus Christ the Redeemer Church, located in the Pueblo Nuevo neighborhood.  According to the testimony of Caballero Batista, they were victims of an exaggerated search, as if they were suspected of possessing weapons or explosives.  They were taken to a detention center and released at around noon.

In the same city, Isabel Pena Torres, Nelda Molina, Rosmelia Gonzalez Pina, and Ana Maria Aguilera Paneque were able to arrive to the mentioned temple, though according to Pena Torres, ever since Saturday they had all received threats of being jailed by the majors of the Confrontation with the enemy Department- agents Chapman and Charles.

In the city of Banes, Marta Diaz Rondon, along with Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez (also a Lady in White) and Oriol Verdecia Evora (Rondon’s husband) were able to make it to the Palm Sunday mass in the Church of Our Lady of Charity, but they were under surveillance by the local G2 (State Security) major known as Evelio.  Evelio provoked them verbally, waited for them to come out of Mass, and followed them all the way back to their homes.

On Saturday, March 31st, various Ladies in White from the province of Santiago de Cuba were stripped from the clothes/accessories with which they march each Sunday, affirmed the member of that group, Ana Celia Rodriguez Torres.  Mrs. Torres, a resident of the town of El Caney, said that because they live in areas far from the El Cobre Church and because their is always looming repression by the political police waiting for them, they take the alternative of traveling one day before.  Both on Saturday and Sunday, the police snatched all their white belongings, including the T-Shirts with the face of the fallen pro-democracy leader, Laura Pollan Toledo.  The detainees protested in front of the Department 21 (G2) Building, located in Ferreiro Avenue of Santiago de Cuba.  They demanded the authorities return their clothes, which did end up happening, but not before being reprimanded.  Those who protested along with Ana Celia were Annia Alegre Pecora, Doraisa Correoso, Adriana Pascual, Kenia Eliot, and Yadi Virgen Ortega Montoya.  In addition to the accustomed demands, they now also demand the freedom of Andres Carrion Alvarez, the Cuban who is detained and held incommunicado in a dungeon of the political police just for screaming anti-Castro slogans this past 26th of March during the Mass which Benedict XVI offered in Santiago.

And, as if it were not enough, during the morning hours of April 2, 2012, more than 20 dissidents were violently arrested after the home of Raumel Vinajera was  raided in the city of Palma Soriano, where they were about to carry out a peaceful and public protest to demand the liberation of Andres Carrion Alvarez, Rogelio Tabio, and Bismark Mustelier.  I was able to speak with Tania Montoya during the moment in which the activists were being detained and she told me “this has been horrible, Raumel’s mother’s home has been completely destroyed.  They beat all dissidents there and also detained one of Raumel’s brothers who is not even a dissident and who only tried to protect my mother in law”.

Tania also told me that “my house was also raided.  This was carried out by the National Police, together with the repressive police of State Security.  The most noticeable thing was that the neighbors did not support the oppressors.  On the contrary, they joined in solidarity with us.  Which is why the agents just beat us even more”.

Seen in that light, everything continues to be the same as before.  The repression is systematic, it is a mixture of measures which attempt to crack individual will, the right of the citizens to actively participate in the social life of the country, and of not having to behave like docile sheep before those who think they are their owners and shearers for ever.

104 Hours in the Darkness

1 Apr

This post was written by Luis Felipe Rojas as soon as he was released from his 4 day detention on Wednesday, March 28th, as Pope Benedict XVI was heading out of Cuba.

I was detained on Saturday, March 24th at 8 AM.  I had just left my house to buy bread for my children, and since I disobeyed the orders of a paramilitary guard from the Rapid Response Brigades of not leaving my home, a jeep of the Operational Guards, along with G2 (State Security) agents, showed up to arrest me.

They have imposed a judicial accusation on me for public disorder.  According to them, I committed that crime because I left my house.  As a protest, I declared myself on hunger and thirst strike until Tuesday, when I awoke bleeding from my throat.  Because of this, I decided to drink water three times a day until I was released.  I slept on the floor of the San German Police Unit.  I did not shower, nor did I carry out my physiological necessities.

As a member of the Marriage Pastoral Group, my wife Exilda Arjona and I were impeded from carrying out a pilgrimage to Santiago de Cuba.  They surrounded her in our house with dozens of officers during those days and they told her she would be immediately detained if she stepped out.

In a few days I will write in regards to the Papal visit and the discourses on both sides- that is if they even repeat them on Cuban TV and I manage to hear them.  Today, I only have strength to think of the hundreds of Catholics and believers who were detained by the Cuban political police to keep them from receiving papal blessings.

I also reflect upon what happened to the family of Delmides Fidalgo in Buenaventura, Holguin,where mobs under the direction of the political police beat his daughters, shattered things in his house, and detained him, a man who professes his Christian faith in a denomination which is not Catholic and who was trying to travel to Havana to solve a personal issue, not to assist the Pope’s Mass.

In radio stations which transmit into Cuba from the outside, I am still hearing of cases of people being injured and threatened by the paramilitary-police apparatus which intends to carry out genocide in Cuba in the near future.  I just hope that the silence of the people and of the Cuban Catholic Church has been shattered by then.