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Different Times, Similar Circumstances

23 May

Again, the prohibitions, the threats for writing without a police permit. My blogs, my pictures and videos, are circulating the Internet. My voice is heard on radio stations where one can say what one thinks and dreams without having their words, their divine words, edited.


I knew that Reyna Luisa, Zapata’s mother, had summoned Boitel and Zapata to their life’s journey;  I knew that many people would try to get to Banes to visit the Queen Mother. so when they mentioned Zapata to me. The Man left me no doubts that for the next two months plus a few days, my travels to the north of Holguin would be forbidden as they were on February 23, when we were getting ready to give him our final farewells.

They let me return home but not before a King’s Herald told me that the package of prohibitions to traveling outside of the municipality had an included clause: Two of us will escort you, even if you only walk around town, go to a store or to church.

Of what happened later I dictated by phone so my friends could post it on my blog. Of what I saw from my haven of prayer and peace I left a sample written and graphic.

– Major Charles from G-2 (machinery of repression known as State Security) and one of the police officers.

– Major Charles this time together with Captain Carlos Otamendi from G-2

– Charles, again

– Charles plus an officer from G-2 whose name I do not know.

– Only a police officer (uniformed).

– Major Cepeda and another civilian that judging by his body language is also watching.

– But not to worry, a uniformed officer came because the political police officers were taking a break.

– To change the subject… others watched

– But to continue changing… I was watched by others.

– Do not get bored with me my dear little friends!

If you have patience continue reading to the end.

What a coincidence they watched me, I bet you can guess who? Well.. The G-2, the political police (without uniforms) and the badly named “National Revolutionary Police” (in uniforms).

– Look at that! Maykel Rodriguez Alfajarrin from the G-2 also came to watch.

-But Maykel did not do his rounds alone, he was accompanied by a sector chief of the PNR.  Gentlemen, it’s for discipline and one pair of every kind.

– Always a shirtless neighbor would go by and to get on the good side of the “poli” as if not on purpose, he would tell some stories, he would smoke a cigarette… pretending to be a revolutionary, recalling the televised series in which the Cuban Secret Agents will be everywhere to save Cuba from a giant located at the North. He reminisced about the time he was in Angola, he listed the accomplishments, stunts and exploits of some of the ones who today are in the military hierarchy, and he complimented the Commandant who directed a tremendous battle from his desk in the island capital.

Six days of been watched went by. You need to be patient with me when I tell it to you.

– In addition, so that I would be clear that the people’s war was not going to stop, a social worker did his job of watching, because “we have to help the warriors, no?”

– Nevertheless, as in Cuba, there is equality of the sexes and women have the same rights and duties as men.  A young revolutionary social worker made her triumphal entrance. I believe they let her study in the school of the social workers because she is a “distinguished combative militant.” I do not know her, but when I go out next week, perhaps I will find her in a store that sells in hard currency, and I will tell her that her jeans fit her very well, and that my wife received a similar pair from the North. I will also tell her that some years ago, I enrolled in the same school that she is in now, but that I was expelled for writing verses that according to the editorial police did not define me as a “good revolutionary”.

– I want you know that among the watchdogs they had helpers from the G-2 (I do not know that if the one who watched me fulfilled the requirements of the unpolluted life, because usually those helpers are of a humble appearance. You can tell that some do it because they are afraid, because they want to  get rid of the ones that watch everything in the CDR (Defense Committee of the Revolution)). They do it so they can sell their quart of milk from their own backyard, the onions, the ounce of coffee and give the appearance that they are combative.

– Gracious me! Some kids thought to visit me. They are good people. I know them, and they are funny. They told me after they lifted the absurd vigilance and I went for a walk, on Monday, as they listened to a foreign radio station, that can be heard on the sly in all the neighborhoods, that I had said that my dignity as a free man would not allow me to go out into the streets accompanied by two gendarmes. It was best to go to my house to listen to stories and to show solidarity with my family, but no way they had to leave, they assured me.

– It wasn’t always necessary that they were more than two. With wireless equipment to notify that “little rogue” had left to go to the arena or that I went to join guerrilla warfare at the Escambray hills. The lone guardsman on his shift could call the others that is how come they left him alone, completely alone. He thought that if I intended to go out, immediately the rangers specialized in search and capture would come. Even the Mayaguaya horse would descend from hell to show them the best access ways to the guerrillas of Osvaldo Ramírez or the Chelito León guerrillas, which according to an informant were the ones that I had chosen.

– Excuse me! I left to another time. The reason being that on these days of captivity I read a book that a friend send me, “Escambray, the story that the totalitarians tried to bury.” I saw a documentary about Porfirio Guillen, that brave young man who left to Escambray in 1960 and who Castro sent to the firing squad. Because he could not allow that other men would think differently than he did and because they accused Castro of being a communist, and my mind wondered to our past history to another time that many of my era do not know well.

Coming back to reality! I will say that if I escape they will come in a JEEP car or in their ZZK model motorcycles that the G-2 officials ride.

– Does the subject bore you yet?

– My family and I are staying put. We can say with certainty that the light that we want for our kids turned on precisely on February 23, the day that Orlando Zapata Tamayo reached immortality

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras and PH

House Arrest for No Reason

17 May

After my detention for some hours on May 11, when they informed me I was prohibited from leaving town until after May 16, I returned to my house, as is logical. I never thought the prohibition would be accompanied by a plan that included hurting my two children. From that moment until Sunday, cars passes by on the street where my house is, “by chance,” filled with military police in plain clothes, and to give proof that there were there they would honk their horns right under the window where my baby girl, sixteen months, sleeps.  They also sent inspectors and sanitary officials to check on I don’t know what. I also had several apparently casual visitors snoop around my house.

The situation also affected my son Malcolm, who would look out every now and then “to see if there were cops outside” and who was frightened by the nightmares of a child.  The elderly people who live with me saw the other face of Cuba, the contemporary, that “Fidel has enforced.”

Nevertheless, my wife, Exilda, and I have not stopped dreaming of freedom. When a police detachment of more that 20 men is put in place to watch one writer and to be sure his writings do not reach the freeways of cyberspace, something is broken in the repressive machine of the dictatorship.  Why such a ruckus to keep a handful of free men from celebrating the birth of a martyr to democracy, in this case, ORLANDO ZAPATA TAMAYO in Banes, Holguin?

I should clarify that during the house arrest of six days we were given, according to G-2, the opportunity to go out only to the streets of San German and then only in the custody of two gendarmes.  I could have walked on the streets but this was not a spectacle that I wanted to perform in.  My sisters, the Ladies in White, are unbeatable in this and my action would be only a minuscule caricature of civil disobedience by comparison.

My Twitter friends from Havana, Canada and Spain recharged my cellphone account.  From Miami and Texas arrived messages of encouragement and more recharges so that I can continue reporting through the use of this organization that has become a cannon ball.

Father Adonis González Betancourt came to my house so that we could strengthen our faith, and feel companionship. The text messages of Father Pablo Emilio Presilla came always without delay from Antilla. Human solidarity is a rubber band; we never know how far it reaches.

Even as we remembered Zapata we sent messages of gratitude to Reyna Luisa alone with her family, since no brothers were allowed to get all the way there. They were many detentions; there will be  more but ZAPATA LIVES, AND ALSO BOITEL

After they lifted the police surveillance of my home, Sunday around noon, we were once again able to hear the street vendors selling plastic paper clips, candy, marmalade, fresh fish, salty crackers…

No one can stop a runaway horse that is bent on its freedom.

“Marti promised to you, and Fidel kept that promise,”  says a verse written by a Cuban poet to praise Fidel Castro as the only savior of the nation.

Translated by: Mari Mesa Contreras and Paige Harbaugh

Orlando Zapata Tamayo Died

24 Feb

We are in mourning. The pain for the loss of our brother from Holguin only allows us to write this note. Here we want to remind you, that only one person is responsible for his death but there are many accomplices, many accomplices that savagery mistreated him at the Provincial Prison in Holguin, many accomplices that in the Kilometer 8 Jail in Camaguey threw him naked in a cell as punishment for his refusal to wear the clothes of a common criminal, where they denied him the only sips of water that he consented to drink since he started his hunger strike on December 3rd.

Here we have no more words. The pain and the rage are eating us up.

With only one order from General Castro a few weeks ago, Zapata would not be ascending to the heroes’ heaven today.

Translated by: Mari Mesa

Whispering with Beans and Cannons

17 Feb

Every so often, the thugs of the State Security shake the house just to see what happens. A few months ago while standing in line for the Public Transportation that would take me out of Márcane to San Germán, I heard about the new atrocity with the Food Rationing Book, this identity document that punishes the Cubans from the day we are born.

A few months ago they eliminated the few ounces of split peas that they sell through the Food Rationing Book, they were going to sell it without restrictions, the reason why it disappeared from the public stands, because it is good for animal and human consumption

A few months ago they eliminated the few ounces of peas that were sold under the rationing system and started to sell them unrationed and as a result they ended up disappearing from the public kiosks because they served the same as human food or animal food.

Now they have rationed it once again, but this February they did not sell the ten ounces of pinto beans imported from Europe or Canada that were selling as if they were giving them away.  The homemakers have cried to high heaven but the clamor has died down and it has become a low whisper.

Since the historic phrase of General Raúl Castro, saying that the beans were more important than  cannons, to date the Rationalist in Chief has pushed the lever of rationing back and forth, to the breaking point.

The cannons serve little purpose in the face of the consensual looting of the State warehouses to supply the black market. That new military arsenal purchased from Russia has given very little results faced with the decision of few compatriots to gather in a Public Park to demand their rights.

Guns are of little use before the onslaught of those who with the consent of everyone looted the State warehouses to supply the underground market.  This new military arsenal purchased from Russia has accomplished little faced with the decision of a few peasants planting themselves in a public park to demand their rights.

The small farmers bit by bit direct their harvest to the family table, between the bureaucratic missteps, denials from the military junta now in charge, and the lack of interest of the Cuban in the last row, a breach is opening for the definitive explosion of courage, the wish to rebuild a country that lies in ruins

The new year is barely a month old. All that’s lacking is for them to set aside the tiresome sound of the speeches, the tepidness at the idea of letting go of production, and to stop pointing the cannons at my forehead. The citizens are not the enemy, the danger to the regime lies in the twisted maneuvers that it practices on a daily basis against itself.

Translated by: Mari Mesa