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“El Sexto” in the Clutches of the Castro Beast / Luis Felipe Rojas

28 Aug
Piece by "El Sexto" (mixed media)

Piece by “El Sexto” (mixed media)

Danilo Maldonado is a Cuban political prisoner who just embarked on the terrible path of committing to a hunger strike. This was confirmed by his family members from Havana late on August 25th.

“El Sexto” (as in “The Sixth [hero]”, referring to the 5 Castro spies who were imprisoned in the United States, and in open mockery of the 6th Congress of the Communist Party) is a restless youth who for months ran Cuban Intelligence ragged in Havana, painting his graffiti art around as he pleased.

The following is a short and intense note posted by Lia Villares today on her blog. She has accompanied him during the months of travail since his apprehension for painting the names “Fidel” and “Raul” on two pigs that he was going to release in a Havana park, as performance art:

From Lia Villares

In a telephone conversation a few minutes ago with Danilo’s lawyer Mercy, she told me that—because she has only been licensed for two and a half months, and is in the midst of family problems—she has “turned over” Danilo’s case to another lawyer.

This Monday when she started work, the first thing she did when she got to the office (at 23rd and G) was to pick up Danilo’s file.

She said she had done everything possible for Danilo, including filing with the prosecutor more than 4 petitions to modify the conditions of release; all were rejected. The last time she went to apply for modification of conditions of release at the Municipal Prosecutor’s office, a prosecutor named Viviana told her that she couldn’t do anything because the file was at the Attorney General’s Office (at 1st and 18th).

She insists she wants to take on Danilo’s defense, because she sees no “crime” in the case, and although Danilo had told her during their last visit (some months back) that he did not want any defense, she still wants to defend him because she also sees no “dangerousness in the act,” which is what they are arguing in denying the modifications she has requested.

“I didn’t want to let go,” she told me in an anguished voice, “and everyone who has come to see me knows that I haven’t stopped doing everything available to me.”

Tuesday I will see her along with Danilo’s mother and take to her the Complaint document prepared byCubaLex, the independent legal counsel office. I delivered a copy of it on Tuesday, August 25 to the Municipal Prosecutor of La Lisa, to the Provincial Prosecutor of Havana, and to the Attorney General of the Republic. I have an acknowledged receipt from each of them. They are required to respond within 60 business days.

The document explains how Danilo’s case ranges from arbitrary detention to the violation of the universal right to freedom of thought and expression, how “due process” has not been accorded him, and how his right to liberty, security, and personal integrity has been violated.

The Complaint is directed to the officials charged with enforcing the law, that they “accept this document, and investigate the facts here reported, and submit the officers involved to criminal proceedings, while restoring the law violated, to avoid the international responsibility of the Cuban state for breach of its obligations to respect and guarantee the human rights of all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction, without distinction, as affirmed by almost all the relevant international treaties.”

And it further requests his “immediate release as a necessary measure to protect his personal well-being. The precautionary measures requested are raised as necessary and appropriate, according to the truthful information reported and provided in this document.

“The extreme gravity and urgency of this case justifies the need to protect the physical and mental integrity of Maldonado Machado, because of the extreme seriousness of the threat to his freedom and personal safety presented by his arbitrary detention and current imprisonment by the national authorities. The urgency of the measure is clear when we set forth the extremely vulnerable position Danilo finds himself in because of his role as a dissident and defender of human rights.

“It is internationally understood that ‘a person who in any way promotes or seeks the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms, nationally or internationally’ should be considered a defender of human rights, and that the work of human rights defenders is fundamental to the universal implementation of human rights, and for the full existence of democracy and the rule of law.

“Defenders of human rights are essential for strengthening and consolidating democracies, since the goal that motivates the work is for society in general and seeks to benefit it. Therefore, when a person is prevented from defending human rights, the rest of society is directly affected.”

Translated by Tomás A.

Cuba Without Rights on Human Rights Day / Luis Felipe Rojas

11 Dec

The Cuban government has cracked down hard on dissidents who dared to go out on December 10th, the day when the world celebrated Human Rights Day, according to sources from the island who have posted on the social networks.

In Baracoa, Jorge Feria Jardinez and Roneidis Leyva Salas, activists with the Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO) and the John Paul the 2nd Movement, were arrested while distributing leaflets about this issue, said Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, ADO Coordinator, in his Twitter account (@ Lobainacuba).

On the same social network, Lobaina reported arrests, beatings, and acts of repudiation in locations around Buenaventura, with the detention of Nelson Avila Almaguer, Ramón Aguilera, Jorge Carmenate, and Nirma Peña, all four with ADO. He added that activists were stationed in front of the town’s police station demanding the release of their brothers in the cause. In the same province, but in the village of Velazco in the municipality of Gibara, paramilitary mobs in coordination with State Security and the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) attacked the house of activist Damaris García, fired tear gas, and beat and arrested peaceful activists.

Among those arrested with Damaris were Marta Alina Rodríguez Pérez, Walfrido Pérez García and Gelasio Pupo Verdecia, all from the same opposition alliance.

In the capital arrests occurred when activists, artists, and other members of the independent civil society tried to reach the headquarters of the Estado de Sats Project, led by Antonio Rodiles. According to the twitter account of Ailer María (@ ailermaria), his wife and arts coordinator of the project, they had learned of more than a dozen arrests that occurred starting on December 9th when participants in the 1st International Conference on Human Rights tried to approach the site. The venue was harassed by an act of repudiation, a military siege, and a “revolutionary act” by the well-known orchestra “Arnaldo y su talisman,” according to reports arriving from Havana. Other groups suffered persecution, harassment, and abuse at their homes.

Bertah Soler, leader of the Ladies in White and 2005 Sakharov Prize winner, was arrested along with her husband, Angel Moya Acosta, when she had summoned her members and the entire civil society to march and gather on the corner of 23rd and L, across from the Coppelia ice cream parlor. Those who made it were violently arrested and transported to remote places; Soler was taken to the village of Tarara.

On the morning of December 10th, President Raul Castro attended the funeral of South African president Nelson Mandela. He was greeted with an unanticipated “handshake” by U.S. President Barack Obama, who said in his speech: “There are leaders who support Mandela and do not tolerate dissent,” a clear allusion to the Cuban dictator and to the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, also present at the gathering.

Translated by Tomás A.

11 December 2013

They Order Punches in Response to Solidarity with @reinaozt

23 Jul

It happened on Wednesday night, they told me yesterday, June 22nd, and I give this alert because I do not know what other incident might happen today, which marks five months since the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

It started when Caridad Caballero Batista and Mariblanca Avila were in a car headed for Banes to meet with other friends and the family of Reina Luise, mother of the martyr of our generation, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Cari tells the story: Two days before the 23rd we went to help Reina make arrangements at Zapata’s grave and to attend on the 23rd and pay tribute at the end of five months, but we couldn’t reach the family’s house. They stopped the car when it came to Banes. Several policemen ordered us out. I asked why, but there was no answer, just another order, “Get out!” We continued to refuse and told them to explain before all the passengers why they were ordering us to get out. No answer. They attacked Mariblanca and several others and me. They grabbed us, pulled on us, and forced us out of the car. They dragged us along the dusty road and put us into the police car a few yards away. Then they took us down the road to Holguín, but further away to a dark, isolated place and detained us for hours. We were left locked in the car, and when I tried to get my phone to notify family, they saw me. They returned to the car. A new flurry of punches. I have bruises on my breasts and arms because they beat those parts of the body covered by clothing and that generally do not show in public. Then they left and did not stop until we reached the headquarters of Holguin. There I lost sight of Mariblanca. I don’t know if they returned her to her home town, Velazco, or if they kept her in jail. After midnight they returned me to my house. In the morning two policemen were standing guard at my door. They say that even after the 27th I cannot leave. And I know that if I do they will drag me back again to the filthy cell at the G2 operational headquarters.

From Banes, Reina Luisa told me a few hours ago: “Today we went to paint the grave of my son and prepare everything in the cemetery for the 23rd, to bring flowers, pray for his soul, and say there ZAPATA LIVES! ZAPATA LIVES! ZAPATA LIVES!

I do not know if they will stop me from praying at the grave of my martyred son. Here in Banes they have arrested those attempting to come to my house. Everyone be alert because what @reinaozt needs most is solidarity.”

From Holguin I offer this, my solidarity. It is the only option left to those of us who live in the interior of the island, where no microphones or foreign journalists show up to witness the ordeal that Reina Luisa lives through every Sunday and every 23rd.

Translated by: Tomás A.

For the Democracy of Cuba

18 Jul

Several days ago the digital site “Rebellion” published an article which bitterly attacked the public actions of a group of men and women in Eastern Cuba who are not incorporated into the country’s Communist system, nor retain ties with any government enterprise or organization.

It was referring to the Eastern Democratic Alliance. Among the names that the journalist offered to “prove his case,” I saw mine, accompanied like the others, with adjectives used by the Cuban regime against those of us who take our time without masks or restraints.

The journalist who wrote it (Percy Alvarado) has the freedom to do so. The members of the Alliance have the freedom through my blog of telling a bit of what they have accomplished over the past seven months in parts of eastern Cuba and Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba, and Guantanamo. Despite the arrests, beatings, restrictions on movement, and closed-circuit monitoring, they all lived to tell the tale.

Rolando Rodriguez Lobaina chairs the Democratic Alliance and spoke to me on their behalf.

Translated by: Tomás A.

Racism: The Same and Different

14 Feb

It can be difficult to find traces of institutionalized racism in Cuba. It’s not in the country’s laws or in the hidden prohibitions (called decrees, those subsections added at the directives of the Commander in Chief) that come out at the last minute to protect the victimizers.

In the eastern part of the island for a long time they spoke, and still speak, of Holguin as having a “strong racist component,” referring perhaps to the majority population. Here in this province more atrocities have been covered up than we can imagine.

The case of prisoners, both common and political, refutes any argument. It’s astonishing that seven out of ten prisoners are of the black race, according to a clandestine poll conducted by an opposition group in 2007. And on the other hand, the first-hand accounts are eloquent.

When they abuse a prisoner, the word “black” comes out with the first kick or blow. Zapata Tamayo, in the Holguín Provincial Prison, was always insulted for being black, and he didn’t know he should thank the Revolution for “having saved him from disgrace.” Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez said, in an interview he gave a south Florida radio station, that this past December 28th he heard from a senior police official in Holguin the worst racial insults that he had ever heard during his career as a  fighter for civil rights.

“Combating racism” is never going to be an effective rhetorical device as long as one personal testimony remains standing.

Translated by: Tomás A.

The Flaming Torch

30 Jan

As did our patriots for independence in front of the Spanish army in the nineteenth century, youths from the east of the island have begun to burn the constitution of the Republic of Cuba in public places.

Some, like Néstor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Yordi García Fournier and Jorge Corrales Ceballos did so in early January in the central park of Baracoa.  When they were interrogated by the Creole Gestapo they replied that if a document as important as the constitution of a country only serves to protect victimizers and not victims, if it is the shield and refuge for imprisoning citizens without the opportunity of a defense, if it provides cover for the government to decide who enters or leaves the country, when and how it pleases, then it serves no purpose, and must be destroyed, at least physically.

It had already been done in Banes and Palma Soriano, and the flaming torch will continue to appear as one of the methods used here to demonstrate civil resistance and civil disobedience.

Symbolically burning or burying the Constitution of Cuba, destroying it in front of government institutions, is becoming common for public officials, who impassively observe the action.

The moorings are loosening, little by little.

Translated by: Tomás A.


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