Archive | Translator: Raul G. RSS feed for this section

“Akiro”

12 Oct


Photo: Luis Felipe Rojas

Known by the name “Akiro,” thanks to his martial arts talent and his involvement with combat sports, Juan Luis Rodriguez Desdin has been confined to the provincial jail of Holguin.  There, he has been condemned to suffer two years due to a supposed act of “disrespect,” which in Cuba can be anything from informally addressing a cop, lifting a fist to a G2 official, or mentioning the name of the mother of the “Reflector-in-Chief”* in an unimaginable fashion.

On this past 21st of September, Rodriguez Desdin sewed his lips shut with a wire to protest how the authorities had cut telephone communications with his family members.  He stayed like that, with the wires, until the 23rd when they decided to allow him the mandatory phone minutes.

Some of the denunciations of the violations that were being committed there have to do with the fact that a common prisoner, Eliecer Sanchez Gonzalez, who is 21 years of age and is confined to the same prison, is kept under high security along with him along with various other prisoners classified as maximally dangerous.  Desdin explained that the prison authorities of Holguin have said that the prisoner Sanchez Gonzalez cannot be sent to the center for minors in “La Cuaba” because of his crime, which has been labeled as Theft and Sacrifice of Major Livestock, in other words — he ate a cow.  And this a priority level case.  Sanchez Gonzalez also stated that in the center for minors they have also put prisoners who have been sentenced for 30 years, while they don’t allow them to be among those who make up his age group.

Desdin also adds that the military officers place the prisoners in the areas that correspond, as a benefit or as a regulation, according to convenience, while refusing other cases, which has led to quarrels, abuses, and theft, an act that constitutes a violation of the rights of people who are imprisoned in the penitentiary.

He also told me in a letter that officials from the Interior Order do not want to offer medical attention to the common prisoner called Maikel Sanchez Martinez, who suffers from nervous system issues, and is suffering greatly under prison life.  According to Desdin, Doctor Elvis, who is the director of the prison hospital, is the one who is supposed to order the isolation or hospitalization of the sick Maikel Sanchez.  He then goes on to tell me that Sanchez only receives promises from officials and paramedics that are never kept.  Other young prisoners who live with this 23-year-old have constantly asked authorities to tend to him but they only receive evasive responses.  He also pointed out that the common prisoner, Luis Miguel Arias Cala, a minor of 21 years of age, finds himself confined to a detachment of maximum severity, together with prisoners sentenced under homicides and murders, despite his delicate health.

Arias Cala suffers from a heart condition, with grade 3 arterial hypertension and heart murmurs.  He was moved from the “Yayal” prison (commonly known as “CUBA SI”), and the officials lost his clinical history.  Because of this, the medical professionals in the provincial hospitals refuse to treat him.  Desdin argues in his letter that such a responsibility falls directly to Dr. Elvis, who refuses to proceed as the norms require.

In the same letter, he continues detailing the serious health situation of the prisoner Ramon Herrera Delgado, who suffers from a progressive withering left arm, loss of vision on his right eye, and constant headaches, without any effective medical treatments on behalf of the doctors.

The political prisoner Rodriguez Desdin adds that Herrera was sentenced to 6 years under the pretext of armed robbery, yet he had already been taken to the Axial Computerized Tomography (Somaton), in Santiago de Cub,a when he was sentenced for buying a copper wire to sell in a re-collection store where he used to work.

The officials of the Order of the Interior from the provincial prison of Holguin informed Herrera Delgado that his clinical history had disappeared.  Such lost documents have led the doctors of the V.I. Lenin Hospital of Holguin to refuse to give him any treatments or to carry out any medical exams.  Amid such a situation, Ramo Herrera and his family have spoken out, but Dr. Elvis, the director of the prison’s hospital, has not decided to carry out a medical exam to solve the issue, said Rodriguez Desdin.

Juan Luis Rodriguez Desdin is a delegate of the Political Prisoner Association “Pedro Luis Boitel” in Holguin, and is also an activist of the Eastern Democratic Alliance.

When I finished composing this post, I was informed of the good news that Rodriguez Desdin had been nominated for the Carlos Manuel de Cespedes Dignity Award this year.  It is something he deserves; he has more than demonstrated his worthiness.  That prize had been previously given to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, and other brave prisoners from the Eastern region of Cuba, due to their honorable behavior under prison conditions.

Great news for “Akiro.”

*Translator’s note: A play on words referring to Fidel Castro’s regular newspaper column titled “Reflections.”

Translated by Raul G.

Crossing the Barbed Wire with the Blue Bird

6 Oct


I spent the night of September 30th traveling, and part of October 1st on the expressway of Farola in order to get to Baracoa.  The 7th session of the committee of the Eastern Democratic Alliance was to be held in Maisi, but the detentions began on Friday and did not cease until Sunday. The grand total of detentions was 19, with 6 deportations to Camaguey, Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, and las Tunas.  There weren’t any beatings and there was less confrontation than other times, but it was still a mass operation which included the extensive search of the beaches which they thought we would try to escape by in order to get to Maisi.

In my case, I was detained along with 5 other human rights activists.  Amid all of this, I noted something interesting: we spent various hours stationed on the outskirts of the road waiting for a military transport to take us to the police unit in Baracoa.  When we got there, a political police officer ordered for us to be removed from the barracks immediately, a much different scenario than the usual, where we are nearly always put in cells instead.  While we traveled aboard the olive-green jeep I thought that I was the king of the internet, for I was using Twitter to report the names of those who were detained, in order of the news I was receiving.  I could already picture myself turning into a blue bird and flying to the homes of friends outside of Cuba and telling them the news.

But what a fiasco, none of my 140-character messages arrived at their destination, yet each and every one of them was charged to my account.  The list of the detainees was the same as always: Rolando and Nestor Lobaina, Idalmis Nunez, Omar Wilson, Jorge Corrales, Belkis Barbara Portal, Virgilio Mantilla — in sum, 19 peaceful dissidents who were impeded from freely walking towards the lighthouse of Maisi, the eastern-most point of the island. There, we were planning to read the calling for the Unity in Diversity document which the Democratic Alliance had launched, but since such acts were impeded two days later, while we had been released we re-grouped in a central area of the city.

Early that day, we silently walked more than ten blocks, all the way to the bust of Marti where we placed a floral gift and sang the anthem before the eyes of hundreds of Baracoa natives.  The Cuban G-2 (secret police) watched us during the entire process but did not impede the march.  I’m starting to think that they did not want to repeat the macabre spectacle which they carried out last August when they took part in the condemnation mob against the Rodriguez Lobaina family.  During those days, I could easily notice the air of disgust towards the political police which permeated among many locals after the beatings and barbaric acts which were carried out in the home of the brothers, where they used rocks to shatter the windows of the apartment where their father lives, and when they beat up some inhabitants.

To top it off, my old Sony digital camera ceased working, and seemingly forever.  This is why I haven’t been able to take a single photo as I am used to doing on any of these trips.  This time, you will all have to just settle with these bunch of words, believing or disbelieving what I say.

Today, many of us who report from this eastern cave have our cell phones blocked from making calls to places outside of Cuba.  Meanwhile, Cubacel still continues charging us their draconian rates. The police continues to restrict our movements, shoving gags in our mouths so we won’t speak up, and strictly spying on us wherever we go. And as if that wasn’t enough, Twitter has just shut off the only ray of light we had left upon their shutting down messaging through the phone.  In which direction are we headed?  Reporting what really happens in Cuba, which is ignored by the popular media outlets, will become a rare privilege if the Great Blue Bird does not come back.

* Friends who have showed solidarity and who have found out about the difficulty of sending messages through twitter with our cell phones have opened a provisional account, which we dictate through the phone, to cross the barbed wires from Holguin to Guantanamo.

@alambradasCuba @RRLobaina @jccpalenque

 

Translated by Raul G.

At the Doors of a New School Year

4 Sep

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

The multi-grade classrooms receive about ten or so students of different ages and from different remote regions where the low population rate does not make the area eligible for the establishment of regular schools.  But, at the doors of the new school year, parents of these students from multi-grade classrooms from different regions of San German, in the province of Holguin, are worried because education and governmental officials have announced that they will not be opening these educational centers this year.

Their children are supposed to attend schools which are several kilometers from where they live, in the midst of a terrible transport crisis and with the presence of teachers who lack the appropriate preparation to teach the tens of kids.

For this school year there is talk about other changes in other levels of education.  They have mentioned once again opening Schools that Shape Teachers, which had previously disappeared and were later replaced by the schools with “emerging teachers” (that is teenagers with very brief training in education).  In addition, they have also already announced the reduction of staff in the municipal offices of education, and many of those professionals must return to the classroom after various years of inactivity in the field.

Just over 20 years ago Fidel Castro predicted that Cuba would become a medical power and also eventually reach an outstanding ranking in educational standards; now a friend of mine who works in the education sector is hesitant about the fact that she must return to the classroom, which she left it behind 20 years ago.  She thinks that she has a few days yet to come up with a way to take part in the initiative which the government has proposed to “tackle” the social crisis which plagues us, to which the only response in San German up until now, has been to allow self-employment for barbers and hairdressers.

Translated by Raul G.

The Digital Playpen

1 Sep

ETECSA telepoint with Internet access only for foreigners

As I look at a map of Cuba, I can’t help but wonder about how, in the 21st century, an island that is so close to the country which exhibits the greatest digital advancement, can be traveling in the opposite direction. From Villa Clara to the tip of Maisi there are only two hotels which offer internet service for Cubans who do not have foreign passports, in other words for Cubans with ID cards.  These locations are found in Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo, and their rates are 6 CUC per hour.  They have very low connectivity and some sites, which the government considers harmful, are blocked.

The attentive receptionists in the famous tourist spot of Guardalavaca in Holguin explain to me that in all the dozens of hotels and Bungalow Villas of my province I do not have the opportunity to connect to the internet if I’m not staying in these lodges.  But, if I were to be checked in to one of these resorts, with the magical passport and foreign residence card, I’d have to pay no less than 50 CUC for just one day.

There is also no luck in the hotel chains known as Club Amigos, Las Brisas, or Costa Verde, which are symbols of international hostels which particularly exclude Cuban citizens from any rights to enjoy warm sands, computer rooms, or basic cafeteria services.

Every city on the island has Points of Tele-Selection with the ETECSA companies.  They are commercial offices which also reserve the right to only admit people who possess some documents that prove foreign citizenship or residence.  However, about a little over a year ago they opened a locale which has proven to be surprisingly busy.  In them, you can see a long line of guys and girls who await their turn to exchange e-mails with foreign friends whom they have met in the hotels previously mentioned.

Let me explain:  For 1 CUC they are allowed to open an e-mail account from a national server that will not have well known extensions like g-mail or yahoo, but which will have the .cu extension, from which they will only be able to read and respond to their almost always flirtatious remarks.  There, they cannot use any sorts of devices like flash drives or CDs.  For 0.50 cents CUC they can spend an hour trying to exchange messages with the outside world under very strict vigilance on the part of the information functionaries which ETECSA and the G2 position there to watch over the users.  Those girls could pass with their foreign boyfriends and friends to hotels, make them spend a fortune on internal services, but when they leave, they have to return to the tourist apartheid.

The game is tight, as the saying goes.  Now, Cubacel holds the right to allow, or not to allow, people to use Twitter through cell phones in Cuba.  Those of us who are nonconformists and chose to protest, are also bound to lose this time around.

Translated by Raul G.

Thirteen Hours of Punishment

29 Aug

Photo:  Luis Felipe Rojas

On Monday, August 16, at 6:45 AM, the political police burst into my house to detain me.  I was forced to sit in a chair in the lobby, where everyone passed by, of the police station in San German for thirteen hours.  It was a punishment, I was nauseated, I had a constant migraine, and muscle pains that lasted for days.  I was unable to do anything, anything but pray during the intervals between both of the interrogations, and wait for my release or that they would finally put me in the general prison barracks that the G2 has in the Pedernales neighborhood.

I returned to the love of my relatives after 8:00 that night.  One day, I will not return home so quickly, I know it.  Now, I write while I can.  My wife also suffered her par, spending the entire day in front of the Police Station, informing the press by phone, leaving voice-mails and being on the lookout to see if they sent me back to Holguin.

The week before I had posted the report about human rights which the Eastern Democratic Alliance released that week and which they also published on various web sites or sent to various organizations which monitored human rights in countries which violated them.

I saw it coming, I even had a premonition dream about it (it has happened more than once to me).

I have searched the Human Rights Covenants, including the one about “Principles for the Protection of All People Subjected to Any Form of Detention or Prison.”  In paragraph a) it says: ” By ‘arrest’ is meant the act of apprehending a person who has supposedly committed a crime or by an act of authority.”

Amongst the different norms about torture, and cruel or degrading treatment, there is nothing about sitting a person for 13 hours in a chair without access to any food, simply because in a specific place in the region where I live, they were going to undertake a peaceful activity, or for divulging the testimonies of horror that I have seen, as it seemed was my case.

Their arguments seem to run out quickly, the corporal punishments assume the morality of those who have the power.  This reminded me of when I was a child and I misbehaved, like now. I have always been irreconcilably disobedient, I don’t think I will change at this point in my life.

On Monday the 23rd, I hadn’t even gotten up from bed when I once again heard some loud banging on my door.  I had to live through the same police story, only with the difference that now they told me about reports denouncing human rights violations, about my blog, and about the independent journalism which I do.  They reminded me that to write, like I do, many others spent much time in prison since 2003.  They told me about the Gag Law which mentions something about 25 years behind bars.

I could only think of Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina, of his brother Nestor, of Enyor Diaz Allen, Roberto Gonzalez Pelegrin, and Francisco Luis Manzanet Ortiz who were all imprisoned incommunicado, over there in olive-green Guantanamo.  They were paying for the crimes committed by the police of Baracoa.

Now I wonder, what will the regime consider my next prank to be.  I think about the path that has brought this country the totalitarian power that is eating away at itself.  What will be my next punishment?

Note:  This post was delayed 15 days from being published on “Crossing the Barbed Wire,” but it was finally able to be posted.

Translated by Raul G.

Impunity, an Order from the General

10 Aug

Photos:  Luis Felipe Rojas

Before General Raul Castro had even finished giving his discourse before Cuban legislators on August 1st, his armies had already rushed on more than twenty human rights activists in the Eastern region of the country.  The indiscriminate hunt had arrived.  The purpose was so that these activists would not reach Holguin, get close to Banes to the house of Reina Tamayo, and to prevent them from leaving their homes.

The phone did not stop ringing with people calling us to inform us about the detentions.  Some even thought of it as a Black Summer.

There were some house arrests.  Anni Sarrion, Aurelio Morales Ayala, Martha Diaz Rondon, and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez were all beaten when they tried to get to the house of the independent journalist Caridad Caballero Batista in Holguin.  Caridad, her husband, and her son were all dragged on the floor and the officials tried snatching their photo camera.

Omar Wilson, from Moa, was trying to get to the house of a friend in Holguin when he came under attack from the military operation.  He felt it so intensely that he experienced tremors from a disease he suffers from.  He went from the street to detainment in a hospital and he spent more than 48 hours there in a very delicate state of health.  Francisco Luis Manzanet and Carlos Manuel Hernandez, both of whom were trying to help, ended up spending two nights in the cold jails cells of the G2 (Secret Police) of Holguin.

In some of these cases, the arrests lasted until the afternoon of August 5th.  And, on that same day, 5 activists were detained in Santiago de Cuba after they commemorated the tragic events of the Maleconazo in 1994.

The Cuban president has incited a tainted war among Cubans.  He has returned to the rhetoric of not allowing impunity.  The ones who act unjustly are the political police and their civilian helpers, those dressed in olive-green, or that very police unit which claims to call itself National and Revolutionary.  It is to the point that all streets are just being watched.  They are just waiting for a protest or any display of nonconformity, waiting for the whistle that will go off in the headquarters of the G2.

Translated by Raul G.

The History of Amnesty International

8 Aug

Photo by:  Luis Felipe Rojas

It’s called Like Water on the Rock and it was written by Jonathan Power.  It’s a book full of insinuations about the saintliness that Amnesty International represents for many suffering people. I rarely walk in to Cuban bookstores that sell books in dollars, but a friend of mine convinced me to do so, telling me that there were sales, books for about one convertible dollar.  I found a biography of Churchill, a novel by Henry James, and this portrait of AI, that group of Human Rights that is on the verge of its 50th anniversary.

The book was prepared in honor of its 40th anniversary, and if it weren’t for its laudatory tone, it could have been a true jewel.  Two of its best chapters are dedicated to China and Northern Ireland: precise, full of facts and testimonies that remind us of the best of English journalism, but also suffering an attack of unforgivable forgetfulness. Cuba is only mentioned once, on page 160 out of the more than 400 pages in the book, and it is only mentioned while it is being accused of supposedly assisting Latin American guerrillas.

It’s difficult to believe that a book that recounts four decades of the most prestigious human rights organization in the world fails to dedicate a single page about the oldest dictatorship in this hemisphere.  Legal records, case studies, and fieldwork made up Mr. Power’s research of different AI committees.  His mission was to verify all sorts of diverse assassinations and violations, and there is not one single mention of the country that has generated a shocking number of exiles, physical and mental tortures, political prisoners, and the heaviest set of information gags that this country denies.

It is a book published nearly nine years ago for the paper known as Debate.  And now they sell it for almost the same price as a pound of pork costs the average Cuban.

It is a systematic forgetfulness, a State strategy.  Soon, they’ll probably let us purchase the Bible, The Illiad, or History Will Absolve Me (LHMA)….we must be attentive.

*LHMA:  The accusatory text which Fidel Castro had the opportunity to defend himself with when he violently assaulted a military barracks under the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1953.

Translated by Raul G.

In the Voice of the Victims

7 Aug

Thanks to friends of mine, I leave you with this:

The voices of Caridad Caballero Batista, Marta Diaz Rondon, and Mariblanca Avila.  The three women have been victims of police brutality in Holguin and Banes.  In the cases of Cari and Marta, what they are narrating in this clip occurred on August 3rd.

Mariblanca, in just one month, was victim of police beatings three times.  Here she recounts the worst of the three times.

Here is the text:

Voice of Caridad Caballero Batista: Marta Diaz Rondon from Banes, and Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez, also from Banes, were walking towards my house when State Security officials impeded them from entering and dragged them on the street and threw them in a car.  When I tried to intercede for them, my husband and I were then also dragged and beat.  My husband, Esteban Sandes (?), and my son Eric Esteban (?), 17 years of age, and I, all tried to intercede for Marta and the agents of State Security dragged us all, beat us, and they threw me to the ground and they brutally continued to beat me and drag me.  The same thing happened to my son who is full of scratches and bruises because he was shoved up against a fence.  And well, they took Marta with them, and we were further victims of offensive words shouted at us by the agents of State Security.


Voice of Marta Diaz Rondon: Gertrudis Ojeda Suarez and I were on our way to the house of Caridad Caballero and there were some cars parked nearby, there were a few, I don’t remember how many. In those cars was Commando 21, whose members looked like giants.  When we arrived right outside Cari’s house, they rushed up towards us and began to brutally push us and dragged us to the car.  I’m full of bruises everywhere on my thighs and my legs, as is Gertrudis.  Cari rushed out of her house in defense of us, when she saw us she began screaming anti-governmental slogans and they also dragged her on the ground, while some of the agents jumped on her and covered her mouth.  We screamed “assassins”, and “down with the dictatorship” when we saw this, and they locked the doors of the car to prevent us from running out and defending Cari, for they were now beating her.  They took us to a penitentiary (?) center and kept us in a cell from 6 pm to the next day at 2 pm.  We protested, we didn’t eat anything, and we continued protesting.  They accused us of public disorder.  Public disorder is what they did because they were the ones who attacked us.


Voice of Mariblanca Avila: I think they are like an army (?).  The dirtiest man in the world that any mother could have given birth to was that man.  While we were driving towards Guardalavaca, that man took advantage that I was hand-cuffed, harassed me, and told me, “I am going to kiss you”, and then he kissed me on the neck, and the more I screamed the more he took advantage.  He squeezed hard down on my left arm.  I now have an incision there, my arm is swollen.  The dirty things he told me scared me.  There were 3 others in the car with us, but that man put the cuffs on me and went in the back with me as if I was an assassin.  3 others were in the car with me, and 2 others behind in a desolate road, there were woods everywhere.  I was very afraid because I know that they are capable of anything.  And because of that man I have not been able to sleep again.

Translator’s note: If anyone wishes to fix the ‘?’ which I could not hear too well, please add it in the comments, below. Thank you!

Translated by Raul G.

The Violators

3 Aug


Photos by:  Luis Felipe Rojas

Since we suffer from a lack of rights, I find myself obliged to publish photos of three well-known oppressors from the Eastern region.  They are especially notorious in the areas of Banes and Antilla in Holguin.

Henry Borrero (he appears by himself in the photo) and Freddy Allen Aguero Diaz and Wilson Ramirez Perez (from left to right).

Ramirez Perez savagely beat Caridad Caballero Batista and Mariblanca Avila — inside of a car to prevent anyone  from helping them — like all the people who show up to help Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger in Banes.

Caballero Batista and Avila Exposito were both dragged out of the car they were traveling in and were thrown in another car with a license plate that proved it was property of the G2.

Through this blog, I have helped to denounce such actions, like the ones that occurred on Thursday July 22nd, in the voice of Caballero Batista.

Ramirez Perez himself was also involved in the beating of Cristian Toranzo Fundichelis in 2009.  The others are all members of the operative group of the G2 in the area.  Their sad mission consists of attempting to squash the opposition movement in Holguin.

That is their legacy, a string of violations that will eventually work against them when the long and unfortunate nightmare of socialism is over.

August 3 2010

Translated by Raul G.

Simpleness and Solidarity

27 Jul

They took me to a scenic park in the city of Holguin.  I accepted the offer of a natural orange juice and we sat at the table.  They were two young guys, most likely about thirty years of age.  They lived through the hell of the rafter crisis and had returned in solidarity with the Cuban blogosphere.

She pulled out a small bag with some Flash Drives while he pulled out some blank DVDs, “So we can fill them up with whatever we like.”  That is enough for them, they think, that is enough, I know it’s true.  Carrying a few gigs with prohibited movies and documentaries to pass from hand to hand.  That is well worth it.

“What else can we do”, she asks me.  And the question remains lingering and contaminating the air of conspiracy and secrecy.

Many things can be done to help a blogger.

This example of ingenuity and simpleness is enough in itself.

Translated by Raul G.