Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

Waiting for help
Waiting for help

Daily Archives: April 6, 2013

Prison Diary IX: A People Who Avoid Their Government / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on April 5, 2013

The prisons barracks are overcrowded with prisoners who, for the most
part, have committed the crime of "embezzlement." They have stolen State
assets, which according to "socialist legality" belong to the people,
public good managed by the Castro brothers for more than fifty years,
plunging the country into poverty.

A contradiction: if the goods belong to the people, and they, due to
hunger, take an infinitesimal part of their property, they commit no
offense and therefore they should not be punished.

In any event, this is only in theory; in practice they are serving time
for it, while complaining about the impossibility of surviving on the
wages of their work.

"If I don't take what I consider I've earned by my efforts, I can't feed
my family. In my case I did it because I wanted to buy a pair of shoes
for my daughter for her fifteenth birthday," a man with teary eyes told
me. Another approached to tell me that he is in prison for selling at
satellite dish, the dish only, not the receiver, eyes wide as if looking
into the abyss. "They exaggerated in the search they made of my home.
When they searched a neighbor, looking for drugs, it wasn't so
exhaustive; in my case, because of the lack of information, they are
worried about people seeing images of freedom."

A great part of this mass of "embezzlers" are directors of companies,
buyers, warehouse managers… anyone who has within their reach some item
that can sell, buy, rent, and profit from that will then serve to
acquire the elements vital to the lives of their children.

In a corroded, worn-out society, where young people, the children nobody
wanted, only think about leaving the country or stealing to survive,
it's logical to think that the prisons are overcrowded with the worst fed.

The dictatorship ignores the demands of a society to have, in the
political and economic order it offers its citizens, most of all its
young people, a reality that guarantees present and future prosperity.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats

La Lima Prison, March 2013

3 April 2013 Continue reading
Returning To Cuba

As a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, Carlo Bruno spent time in Cuba
during WW II. After 69 years, Bruno returned to the island as part of a
cultural exchange program.
by Dennis Hannon

April 05, 2013
The brothers Raul and Fidel Castro, notorious as keepers of political
prisons, might not make many lists of the world's most gracious
hoteliers. But, in the sixth decade of their iron rule over the island
nation of Cuba, the brothers seem to be extending their somewhat creaky,
octogenarian fingers in a gesture of "come hither" to American tourists.

Beneficiaries of this sea change in international diplomacy were Carlo
and Betty Bruno, two frequent travelers from Des Peres who jumped at the
opportunity recently when they saw an advertisement for a packaged tour
of sunny Havana.

The tour, arranged by the Road Scholar program, included hotel
accommodations, all food, door-to-door transportation to and from every
venue, and even bottled drinking water. Guests, therefore, were assured
of enjoying some of the world's most genial winter weather (average
January temperature, 70 degrees) with complete immunity to the
discomforts that beset ordinary Cubans - bad (or no) water, monotonous
diet, unreliable transportation and squalid housing. The Brunos were
wise enough to understand that this was a bargain too good to pass up.

And that's the way it turned out. The Brunos, along with Betty's sister
Irene, found themselves in the equivalent of a modern four-star hotel,
ferried about in a well-equipped Chinese-made bus and served
well-prepared meals in elegant restaurants featuring very good live music.

"Almost everywhere we went for lunch or dinner, there was music,"
recalled Carlo. "On the streets, the sound was beautiful."

In short, their hosts barred no hold and unturned no stone, and the
weather was as advertised.

Havana is a marvel, Betty said, but not because it is a bustling
metropolis - it is, in fact, a depressed "Sad Sack" of a city.

But "I have to give Castro credit," she said. "Anytime you can keep a
city going well without cars - without traffic - with two million people
in it, you've got to be doing something right."

But, interjected Carlo, "not very much, though. Not very much right."

Public transportation consists of "strange buses," he said. "They have a
tractor-like affair that hooks onto three cars - like railcars on rubber
tires - and people stack in there so tightly you can't believe it."

These caravans are the only motorized transport, other than
privately-owned cars that must be maintained by their owners without
benefit to a market for parts or repair service.

"Street mechanics is all they have," said Carlo. "If you can keep your
car running, you're lucky. Most of them don't have their identity any
more. They been modified so much you can't really tell. But some of them
are really well maintained. Most of those are used as cabs."

Tires must be imported from the U.S., however, as they cannot be
bootlegged. The trade is conducted by agents who hand carry tires four
at a time from Miami back to Havana, under the careful watch of both the
Cuban and American governments.

The Havana of Yesteryear

Carlo remembers a far busier Havana - the one he visited as a young
soldier in 1944-45. At the time, he was a radar mechanic, not yet 20
years old, stationed in Tampa in the Army Air Corps. When on leave, he
and his buddies could take their Army paychecks, bum a ride on a B-17,
and live lives of luxury in Havana's hotels and casinos, he recalls.

"It was a different city then," he recalled

Betty said Havana was "a Las Vegas kind of place.

"Everything was beautiful," she said. "The Italian mafia was there. They
ran the country with (Cuban dictator Fulgencio) Batista...there was this
Meyer (Lansky, a former kingpin in the New York underworld)."

Havana Today

"Now everything is owned by the government and it is gray and dirty and
deteriorated. The beautiful buildings with hundreds of porches showing
are all awful looking."

During his recent trip, Carlo was surprised at the utter lack of
maintenance of public structures, even residences.

"I didn't expect everything to be so depressed," he said. "It's like a

Though they never were shown the interior of a home, glimpses through
the occasional open door invariably revealed a squalid interior, the
Brunos said.

"Everybody owns their apartment in those buildings, but no one owns the
building - except the government," said Betty.

And the economy seems frozen, she said. "You can't buy anything. There
are no stores. In spite of these huge squares, there's not a show window
for any store.

"I don't know where you could buy your clothes or your shoes. You can't
buy anything except little junk," she added. "The stuff we bought was
just little trinkets."

It doesn't matter much anyway, said Carlos. "You can't bring anything back."

Only works of "art" are permitted out of the country. The Brunos
exchanged about $500 for Cuban pesos on entering the country, and
exchanged back nearly as much on leaving.

Remarkably, the Cuban people do not seem downtrodden by their economic
plight, the Brunos said. They saw no sign of depression on the faces of
people walking through the squares, or dejection in their posture or
demeanor, the couple said.

One unique cultural feature: "there were no police and no military"
visible on the streets, Carlo said.

On their visit to China a few years ago, "we saw soldiers on every
street corner, and they stayed in sight of each other," he said. "We
didn't sense the presence of any military, no guns, no cops, nothing
like that."

The streets, nevertheless, were quite orderly; "there wasn't even any
begging," said Carlo.

But Cubans are not allowed out of the country. The Brunos were warned to
lock their passports in a safe in their hotel room. And at the airport,
security was heavy, complete with police dogs.

"I talked to one woman who wanted to see her sister who left when she
was a little girl," recalled Betty. "She told me she wasn't allowed to
go because she was too young (and hence might not come back). She was 45."" Continue reading
Arturo Lopez Levy
Lecturer and Doctoral Candidate, University of Denver

Cuba: The Beginning of the Post-Castro Era
Posted: 04/04/2013 12:04 pm

In 1960, when Cuba's new first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel was
born, Fidel Castro had already been ruling Cuba for a year. Neither the
Beatles nor the Rolling Stones had conquered the rock 'n' roll market.
Dwight D. Eisenhower ruled the United States, being the first of 11 U.S.
presidents until Obama, who have applied the failed embargo policy
against the Fidel & Raul Castro partnership and the political project
they represent.

But there are no victories against the calendar. In 2006, Fidel Castro's
illness forced the first transition in the Cuban leadership since 1959.
Raúl, then age 76, replaced Fidel, who was almost 80. Despite that it
was a succession between brothers of the same generation, the presidency
of Raúl Castro has had important consequences for politics and the Cuban
economy. Faced with the loss of Fidel's charismatic leadership, the
Cuban Communist Party (PCC) began processes of economic reform and
political liberalization, in order to rebuild their capacity to govern
under the new conditions.

In the last five years, the government has created an important
institutional foundation for the parallel transition to a mixed economy
and a post-totalitarian relationship between the state and civil
society. With the election of the new Council of State on Sunday, the
last phase of the transition to the post-Castro era began. Raúl Castro
was reelected to the presidency, but for the first time a leader born
after 1959, Miguel Diaz-Canel, became the second in command. Although
this transition is unfolding with the same party and president in power
and is gradual and limited, new leadership and changing priorities are

If you look at the Communist Party as a corporation (an analogy that
should not be abused) Diaz-Canel is a manager who, over time, has served
at various levels of its production chain. He worked at its foundation,
as a university teacher and youth leader. Later, in the strategic
provinces of Villa Clara and Holguin, he administered the implementation
of economic reforms and directed the opening of the economy to foreign
investment and tourism -- all the while, maintaining party control over
both processes.

Díaz-Canel is part of the network of provincial party czars who are very
important in the implementation of the proposed changes, particularly
decentralization. Having worked in central and eastern Cuba, the new
first vice president has cordial ties with regional commanders of the
Armed Forces, the other pillar, along with the Communist Party, of the
current Cuban system. He is a civilian, the first in the line of
succession to have little military experience. But he is steeped in the
networks of power and well versed in the controlled management of reforms.
If Cuba implements the type of mixed economy proposed by the last VI
Congress of the Communist Party and establishes a new relationship with
its diaspora and the world, it will also transform politically. With the
economy and society changing, the political environment cannot remain
intact. The rise of market mechanisms and an autonomous non-state sector
will reinforce the new pluralizing flows of information, investment and
technology. The new social sectors will seek representation in the
political arena. Citizens will have greater access to the Internet, and
connect more horizontally.

This does not imply a transition to multiparty democracy over the next
five years. Nevertheless, economic liberalization will force an
expansion of the current People's Power system. Economic and migration
opportunities will channel some of the energy in the direction of new
businesses and travel, but it will not be enough. The party system will
be reformed in order to remain at the helm of social and economic
changes. Political liberalization will probably start at the lower
levels of government, allowing citizens to vent their frustrations at
that scale. However, the pressure will rise. Limiting leadership to two
terms, at a time when the older generation is leaving power by
attrition, will result in a less personalized and more institutionalized
leadership that promotes upward mobility of new leaders in an orderly

Pressures for systemic political changes could increase as the economy
recovers. A dynamic Cuban market would whet U.S. corporate appetites and
put the U.S. embargo against the island in jeopardy. Ending an
irrational relic of the Cold War would increase democratization demands.
In the next five years, the central challenge facing Cuban leaders is to
have the audacity, creativity and self-confidence to accelerate economic
reforms, without losing control of the ongoing political liberalization.

Follow Arturo Lopez Levy on Twitter: Continue reading
Only 41 minutes from Miami sits Cuba, a Third World country
Lu Ann Franklin Times Correspondent

MUNSTER | During the 1920s, Yiddish-speaking Jews traveled to Cuba from
Eastern Europe. Rather than a stopover on the way to the United States,
Cuba became home.

Before Fidel Castro's rise to power, the Jewish community in Havana
created a culture often closely associated with nightlife, gambling and
prostitution, said Michael Steinberg, executive director of the Jewish
Federation of Northwest Indiana.

"Meyer Lansky is revered more than (former Cuban leader) Batista," said
Steinberg, who visited the Jewish community in Havana and other small
communities from Feb. 12 to 18 with a delegation of 30 directors of
small Jewish Federations from across the United States.

Lansky was a member of the Jewish mob who oversaw gambling concessions
in Cuba and who is portrayed in the "The Godfather" books and movies as
Hyman Roth.

Fulgencio Batista was elected president of Cuba in 1940 and
constitutionally could serve only one term. He seized power again in 1952.

Although his regime was corrupt, Cuba flourished economically. However,
when Batista fled Cuba on Jan. 1, 1959, Fidel Castro came to power and
the economy of Cuba spiraled into poverty, which is what Steinberg said
he witnessed during his trip.

"We brought 3,000 pounds of aid with us. That was part of the mission to
Cuba," Steinberg said. "Cubans live on $20 a month. It's extremely
difficult for them to make ends meet."

Doctors don't always have prescription medications that are needed, he
said of some of the aid the Jewish Federation directors took with them.

"Cuba is a Third World country. It is an experiment that failed,"
Steinberg said.

Although Havana is only a 41-minute flight from Miami, for the
travelers, "it was going from one world to the next."

Vegetable markets are part of the local scene, he said, but many Cubans
can't afford to buy the produce and have ration books that allow only so
much food to be obtained.

Hygiene is another area where poverty hits hard, Steinberg said.

"A woman drove up to the hotel in a beautiful '54 Chevy taxi. I have
lots of chutzpah, so I asked her if I could take it around the block.
She said 'no' but I got in anyway," Steinberg said. "I gave her three
bars of soap to drive it around the block. It was gold to her."

Bars of soap, bottles of shampoo and Cuban cigars he bought also got
Steinberg photos of the people of Havana. Cuban cigars are plentiful,
but most Cubans can't afford them, he said.

Members of the Jewish community in Havana and nearby villages take care
of each other by providing senior programs, which include health care,
medicine, hot lunches and additional food items, he said.

"If someone is in need of something, they will try to provide it also
for those who are not Jewish," Steinberg said. "If they have it, they
will gladly share it."

Being a light to the world is part of Jewish faith, which is reflected
in the acts of kindness shown by the Jewish community in Havana, he said.

"Hillel (a famous ancient Jewish leader, scholar and sage associated
with the development of the Mishnah, a central text of Rabbinic Judaism)
said it best," Steinberg said. "Hillel stated, 'If I am not for myself,
who will be? And when I am for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?'" Continue reading
Editor Who Wrote of Racism in Cuba Loses His Post, Colleagues Say
Published: April 5, 2013

MEXICO CITY — The editor of a publishing house in Cuba who wrote a
critical article in The New York Times opinion section about persistent
racial inequality on the island, something revolutionaries proudly say
has lessened, has been removed from his post, associates said on Friday.

The author, Roberto Zurbano, in an article published March 23, described
a long history of racial discrimination against blacks on the island and
said "racial exclusion continued after Cuba became independent in 1902,
and a half century of revolution since 1959 has been unable to overcome it."

On Friday, The Havana Times blog reported that Mr. Zurbano had told a
gathering of Afro-Cuban advocates that he had been dismissed from his
post at the publishing house of the Casa de las Americas cultural
center, leaving the implication that the dismissal was connected to the
article. Other associates said Mr. Zurbano told them he had been removed
but would continue working there.

Reached by telephone in Havana, Mr. Zurbano would not comment on his
employment. "What is The New York Times going to do about it?" he asked.
He angrily condemned the editors of the opinion section for a change in
the headline that he felt had distorted his theme.

The article's headline, which was translated from Spanish, was "For
Blacks in Cuba, the Revolution Hasn't Begun," but Mr. Zurbano said that
in his version it had been "Not Yet Finished."

"They changed the headline without consulting me," he said. "It was a
huge failure of ethics and of professionalism."

Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, said the editor stood by the
article's preparation.

"We worked very hard to ensure that the wording in the piece was
translated properly and accurately reflected the writer's point of
view," she said in a statement. "There were numerous versions of the
piece sent back and forth, and in the end, Mr. Zurbano and our contact
for him (who speaks fluent English) signed off on the final version."

"We knew," she added, "that Mr. Zurbano was in a sensitive situation,
and we are saddened if he has indeed been fired or otherwise faced
persecution, but we stand by our translation and editing, which was
entirely along normal channels."

Cuba reported its population in a 2002 census as 65 percent white, 25
percent mixed race and 10 percent black, according to the C.I.A. World
Factbook, but demographers outside the island — and Mr. Zurbano in his
article — have said the black population has been undercounted.

A major tenet of the revolution has been leveling the playing field for
all Cubans, and its defenders point to racism that was a striking
feature of the country before 1959, but also to what they say are many
black doctors, scientists and intellectuals.

Mr. Zurbano wrote in his article that Cubans have a strong safety net of
housing, education and health care but that most blacks had been left
behind by recent economic advances, a topic that is taboo to discuss.

"To question the extent of racial progress was tantamount to a
counterrevolutionary act," he wrote. "This made it almost impossible to
point out the obvious: racism is alive and well." Continue reading
Posted on Friday, 04.05.13

Afro-Cuban author who complained of racism demoted
By Juan O. Tamayo

A black Cuban author, Roberto Zurbano, whose scathing criticism of
racism on the island was published in The New York Times last month, has
been demoted from his top job at the government-controlled Casa de las
Americas book publishers.

"To question the extent of racial progress was tantamount to a
counterrevolutionary act," the dreadlocked Zurbano wrote. "This made it
almost impossible to point out the obvious: racism is alive and well."

Zurbano's case reflects the growing black-rights movement in Cuba, where
35 percent of its 11 million people are black or mestizo, at a time when
its activists are complaining that Raúl Castro's open-market economic
reforms favor whites unfairly.

Maria Ileana Faguaga Iglesia, a Havana academic who specializes in black
studies, said she was not surprised by Zurbano's demotion — "it would
have been news if he was NOT fired," she said — because Castro's reforms
don't extend to politics.

"This ratifies for me their lack of understanding and tolerance for
diversity, for the range of all the problems that Cuba faces in all
areas, racial, social, political and economic," she told El Nuevo Herald
by phone from Havana.

Faguaga said Zurbano, an acquaintance and neighbor in his early 50s,
battled often at Casa de las Americas to publish more books on black
issues and especially the works of Frantz Fanon, a black,
Martinique-born Marxist and revolutionary.

Zurbano announced he had been "relieved" of his job as an editor and
publisher, selecting books to be published, and transferred to a lesser
job during a meeting of the Cuba chapter of the Regional Coordination of
Afro-descendants in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARAAC), according
to a post Friday in the blog Havana Times.

The post included a statement from ARAAC which did not mention him but
said it "resolutely supports the free expression of ideas by all its
activists" and opposes any "repressive or obstructive measures against
any participants in such polemics."

ARAAC member Esteban Morales confirmed Zurbano, who also writes poetry
and essays, had been demoted by Casa de las Americans but said he was
not at the meeting and did not know whether the reassignment was linked
to the New York Times column.

Zurbano "of course has the right to give his opinion," Morales said.
Casa de las Americas in any case has the right to reassign or dismiss
any of its employees, he told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.

"He's not been kicked out of Casa. Casa has simply removed him from that
job," he added.

Morales, a well-known Havana economist, was himself kicked out of the
Communist Party in 2010 after penning an Internet column in which he
complained about Cuba's burgeoning corruption. He was reinstated in 2011.

Zurbano's 982-word column for the New York Times on March 23 argued that
while the island still has a strong social safety net, Castro's market
reforms are providing better opportunities to the already better-off
white Cubans.

Whites have better homes that they can turn into restaurants or bed &
breakfasts, he wrote. Cash remittances arrive from the mostly white
exile community. And blacks are still "woefully underrepresented" in
tourism, the island's most profitable sector.

Cuba now has two realities, he added, one "of white Cubans, who have
leveraged their resources to enter the new market-driven economy … The
other reality is that of the black plurality, which witnessed the demise
of the socialist utopia from the island's least comfortable quarters."

Although Castro has brought more blacks into the legislative National
Assembly of People's Power, Zurbano noted, "much remains to be done to
address the structural inequality and racial prejudice that continue to
exclude Afro-Cubans."

"Racism in Cuba has been concealed and reinforced in part because it
isn't talked about. The government hasn't allowed racial prejudice to be
debated or confronted politically or culturally, often pretending
instead as though it didn't exist," the column added.

A key first step would be to get an accurate count of Afro-Cubans,
Zurbano argued, because the number of blacks on the streets belies
census figures showing that 65 percent of the island's population is
white. Cubans mark their own race in the Census.

Faguaga said the ARAAC statement defending Zurbano's right to express
his opinions was itself surprising because members of the group tend to
be "officials and semi-officials" of the ruling system who regularly toe
the government line.

She attended one of its founding meetings in 2011 but was not invited to
a follow up session last year because she was too independent, she said.

One of its documents from the 2012 gathering noted that among the
group's goals was to increase coordination in the "fight against racism
and capitalism" and to consider "the advances made by the Cuban
revolution in different political and social areas." Continue reading
Posted on Friday, 04.05.13

Fidel Castro breaks 9-month hiatus as essayist
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Retired Cuban leader Fidel Castro published his first column
in nearly nine months on Friday, urging both friends and foes to use
restraint amid tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

In the brief piece published in Communist Party daily Granma and other
official media, Castro warned of the impact that nuclear war could
unleash in Asia and beyond. He said Havana has always been and will
continue to be an ally to North Korea, but gently admonished it to
consider the well-being of humankind.

"Now that you have demonstrated your technical and scientific advances,
we remind you of your duty to the countries that have been your great
friends, and it would not be fair to forget that such a war would affect
... more than 70 percent of the planet's population," he said.

Castro used stronger language in addressing Washington, saying that if
fighting breaks out, President Barack Obama's government "would be
buried by a flood of images that would present him as the most sinister
figure in U.S. history. The duty to avoid (war) also belongs to him and
the people of the United States."

North Korea has issued a series of escalating threats in recent weeks as
the United States and South Korea have conducted joint military
exercises beginning in March, and expressed anger over U.N. sanctions
imposed after it held a nuclear test in February. Pyongyang says it
needs nuclear weapons for self-defense, and on Tuesday it announced it
would restart a plutonium reactor that was shut down in 2007.

Analysts say the elevated rhetoric is probably calculated to push for
concessions from South Korea, prod Washington into talks and bolster the
image of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But Castro called the situation "incredible and absurd," and said war
would cause terrible harm to the people of both Koreas and benefit no one.

"This is one of the gravest risks of nuclear war since the October
Crisis in 1962 involving Cuba, 50 years ago," he wrote, a reference to
what is known in English as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Castro last published one of his columns known as "Reflections" on June
19, 2012. In October, amid the latest round of rumors of his purportedly
dire health, he said he had stopped writing them not due to illness but
because they were occupying space in official newspapers and state TV
news broadcasts that was needed for other uses.

Letters signed by him have been released periodically, however,
including a message of condolences last month following the death of
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close friend and ally.

He also appeared in February at a voting station, bantering for more
than an hour with poll workers, island reporters and children.

Castro has been out of office since 2006, when a near-fatal intestinal
ailment forced him to hand power to his younger brother Raul.

Follow Peter Orsi on Twitter: Continue reading
To Redress a Wrong / Luis Felipe Rojas
Posted on April 5, 2013

A couple of weeks ago my friend, the poet Rafael Alcides, published a
text… as a way to air the case of Ángel Santiesteban Prats. I responded
to him immediately, "You are wrong, Master…" Alcides sent me this text
that I want to share with you about the opportunistic response of eight
Cuban writers, affiliated with UNEAC (Writers and Artists Union of
Cuba), on the occasion of International Women's Day.

Here is the complete text:

Dear Luis Felipe: Alcides gave me this charge, but there is no visible
email address for you to receive the letter, so I leave it here. In my
blog today I posted about Angel. Hugs, Regina (Coyula)

Havana, 2 March 2013

From Rafael Alcides / To Luis Felipe Rojas

My Friend Luis Felipe:

Regarding your calling me "teacher" in replying to my opinions about the
recently massacred Ángel Santiesteban, I will answer as Nicolás Guillén
would with his usual mischievousness: "The teacher, in fact, will be
you." And as for the reply itself, it has left me confused. Either I
didn't know how to express myself or you read me with too much haste.
Let's see.

I said that from the beginning this is not a political case, adding
slyly an "I've heard" that could not fail to be considered, and
continuing on to demonstrate that it is, in fact, a political case, but
to prove it without editorializing, in conformance with the method of
poets from time immemorial: to leave this I said without saying it
explicitly, so that it doesn't take hold without being read at least
once more, what Hemingway used to define with the seriousness of someone
who was claiming the rights of discovery, "Iceberg theory."

But truthfully, I talk about disagreements in the life a couple
magnified to the extreme of sentencing our friend and the excellent
writer Ángel Santiesteban to five years in prison, in its origin
situations typical of that long list of things and cases of the home
that nurtured the jokes of our grandparents, and then I stop to consider
what the government could do now to back off.

To shoot blanks, by mistake, at the execution or for reasons of state
usually happens with later governments, those that come after the fallen
government, never from the government that commits the executions.
Conscious of this important lesson in history, I mention possible
solutions for the government, withdrawals where we both win. We get our
Angel back, and the government, whatever it's going to do, reserves for
itself the romantic role of knight in shining armor who comes out to
defend the honor of the lady.

You have to play the hand you were dealt, Luis Felipe. Unfortunately,
Angel's case is much more delicate than that of the 75 from the Black
Spring early in the century. Then it was all very clear, then the
accuser was the government; this time, unfortunately — I insist,
unfortunately — the accuser is Angel's ex-wife, the mother of his son —
a son who is now fifteen years old — and this woman, this mother lied,
yes, that woman, manipulated from the beginning or not, sought out false
witnesses, simulated the marks of a beating on her face with leaves from
a guao tree, she spoke of death threats, arson, finally, my friend Luis
Felipe, this woman so in love that she would rather see her ex-husband
burning at the stake than with another woman,set the table for these
people and they, of course, eager, greedy, as is usual in these cases
that fall out of the sky when least expected, quickly sat down to eat.

These are the facts. Not even God could change them move. To move
heaven and earth to get Angel our is what we can do now, going to talk
to God if necessary (and I believe it is), continuing to insist, of
course, each in his own language, that our friend is innocent, that the
case was fabricated, but knowing that as long as the ex-wife doesn't
retract, they, the jailers, will be the good guys and Angel will be the
bad guy. That's the situation.

Finally, Luis Felipe, I do not usually discuss with the reader, I
respect your turn, but you are not a reader, to come out in defense of
Angel with the passion with which you replied to me, makes you a part of
me, since I too am Angel, in this moment when we are all trying to get
Angel out of prison we are Angel, so I'm explaining to you without
admitting that yes, perhaps, I didn't make myself clear to you.

For your exception and unique character this is first, a private letter,
but also first, we are talking about a tribute to your person, so you
are authorized to publish it in your blog or wherever you think it would
be appropriate, that is, useful to Angel.

I am among those who think that honest men do not have one discourse for
coming and another for going. They have one, in my case, it now remains
the discourse you replied to yesterday when I only showed the tips of
the icy crests in the immensity of the sea.

I embrace you, and thank you again for wanting to do for Angel what you
are doing.

Rafael Alcides

16 March 2013 Continue reading
Everyone / Regina Coyula
Posted on April 4, 2013

Times are changing in Cuba. A simple comparison to five years ago will
sustain this statement. One of the expressions of this change is the
proposal brought forth by a heterogeneous group of citizens (I have
grown fond of the term) at Laboratorio Casa Cuba* to discuss a topic of
interest to all of us, including those who do not know about the
existence of such proposal.

It should not surprise me, but it does surprise me, to see how from the
fringes of the political spectrum, Cuba Soñada** (Cuba Dreams)…receives
arrows; from each one according to their position and comprehension:
each one of them absolute owners of the truth, each one from the
meta-reading, each one disqualifying*** (surreptitiously or not) the

Now that is fashionable to defend homosexuals, blacks, women, the
disabled and any other socially excluded group, a little bit of respect
for politically different ways of thinking would not be bad; and, in
this, Laboratorio Casa Cuba is ahead of everyone else: laypersons,
Catholics, anarchists and communists have taken equal places around the
same table. The document may seem scandalous to many –better
controversial than anodyne- but they will not be able to attack it for
being offensive toward other schools of thought. Cuba Soñada…gives us
the opportunity to discuss. And, I say this to the orthodox within the
one (legally allowed) political party and to those who plan agendas for
the transition, in and outside of Cuba, and of course, to everyone else.

Translator's notes:

*Laboratorio Casa Cuba is an initiative born from the Cuban Catholic
publication Espacio Laical that has stated its mission as "to study the
Cuban institutional framework" and to promote "research, suggestions for
change, reflection and respectful dialog." It is integrated so far by
communists, democratic socialists, anarchists and Catholics.

**The full title of this document, from the Archdiocese of Havana, is
"Cuba dreams – Cuba possible – Cuba future: proposals for our immediate

***"Disqualify" is a term used by the regime towards any expression of
dissent as a way of dismissing the source. That is, the speaker/actor is
told, essentially, "You are not qualified to speak or act because we —
the powers-that-be — say so." Yoani Sanchez described this in a blog
post about a meeting with State Security.

Translated by: Ernesto Suarez

3 April 2013 Continue reading
Attention, Cubans! They're Making USB Flash Drives From Paper! / Luis
Felipe Rojas
Posted on April 4, 2013

Through the work of my friend Falco, this wondrous technology comes to
us, I reproduce it as I found it, if I dare to comment on it, there is
only this to say:

The American technology company IntelliPaper® based in Spokane,
Washington, has created and offered for sale USB flash drives made out
of paper.

These devices, in addition to being disposable, cheap and ecological,
have the advantage of weighing very little and the ability to be sent
through regular mail like you would send an ordinary plain paper letter.
The technology allows any paper product, for example business cards and
fliers, to include a disposable digital flash memory.

For now, the main application is in the greeting card industry, but as
soon as the capacity is increased (currently from 18-32 megabytes) and
they become more common, they could become one of the most useful, cheap
and creative ways to share information.

The nightmare of totalitarian dictators.

USB flash memories have become a nightmare for totalitarian dictators
who depend on total control to survive. Distributing information
impossible to censor through these drives will be easy for the masses do
to their small size and their prices affordable even in the poorest
countries. Through them, for example, Web Packages can be distributed
very effectively, safely and cheaply, so that we can make available to
our readers, weekly, books, manuals and audiovisual materials.

This new technology fills a cup that is about to overflow. The
Uniqueness of Totalitarianism is closer every day!

4 April 2013 Continue reading
Inquiry Is Sought Into Death of Castro Critic
Published: April 4, 2013

MEXICO CITY – The daughter of a well-known Cuban dissident who died in a
car wreck last year stepped up calls on Thursday for an independent,
international investigation of the case after hearing from the man who
was driving the vehicle that another car had struck it from behind just
before the accident.

The dissident, Oswaldo Payá, who relentlessly challenged the Castro
government's human rights record, and another dissident, Harold Cepero,
died on July 22, when the car in which they were traveling with two
European politicians, from Spain and Sweden, hit a tree in eastern Cuba,
according to the Cuban authorities. The Spaniard who was driving, Ángel
Carromero Barrios, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and was
transferred to Spain in December. He is on conditional release.

But immediately after the accident, Mr. Payá's family had questioned the
authorities' account, because Mr. Payá had been threatened regularly and
followed by people presumed to be allied with the government. Witnesses
had suggested that another car was involved.

Now, Mr. Payá's daughter, Rosa María Payá, is touring the United States
and Europe to press her case for an independent investigation, after Mr.
Carromero told her recently and said in an interview with the opinion
section of The Washington Post in March, that a second vehicle had hit
the car he was driving from behind. Mr. Carromero also said that during
the post-accident inquiry, he was under the influence of medication and
intimidated by Cuban investigators.

"There are now certain facts that indicate it was not an accident," Ms.
Payá said in a telephone interview Thursday from New York, where she had
arrived Wednesday for appearances. "So we are asking the international
community for an independent commission to investigate."

The Swedish politician who was traveling with Mr. Payá, Jens Aron Modig,
has said he was asleep when the accident occurred, but Ms. Payá said he
had sent a text message afterward saying Mr. Carromero had reported that
another car had hit them before the accident.

In his interview with The Post, Mr. Carromero also said he was dazed by
the crash and by the drugs given to him at a hospital, but that several
cars had been following the group as they left Havana, including one
that had driven up close just before the accident.

"The last time I looked in the mirror, I realized that the car had
gotten too close — and suddenly I felt a thunderous impact from behind,"
he told the newspaper, in the unsigned opinion article. It did not
disclose where and when the interview had taken place.

Ms. Payá said she has the support of a bipartisan group of eight United
States senators, who wrote a letter last week to the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights asking for an investigation, a move backed by
the State Department. The department's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland,
told reporters, "The people of Cuba and the families of these two
activists deserve a clear, credible accounting of the events that
resulted in their tragic deaths."

Separately, Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, has asked the
United Nations for an inquiry.

Cuba, however, is unlikely to accept such an investigation, and United
States support for one could deepen a wedge in relations already hung up
by a five-decade economic embargo, the more recent jailing of an
American contractor in Cuba and prison terms in the United States for a
group of Cubans convicted of spying.

Cuba has dismissed Ms. Payá's claims, though it did allow her and
several dissidents to leave the country recently for extended visits abroad.

A state-sponsored Web site, Cubadebate, ridiculed Mr. Carromero, The
Post and Ms. Nuland and said Mr. Carromero "repeats a series of
commonplace anti-Castro propaganda."

The Web site also said the foreign experts had attested to the quality
of the investigation and that Spain's consul general had called Mr.
Carromero's trial "procedurally impeccable."

Analysts said Cuba has been known to subject dissidents to human rights
abuses but less so for orchestrating political murders, suggesting
instead that if a second car did cause the accident, it might have been
the case of overzealousness in the pursuit of Mr. Payá.

"Without prejudging such an investigation, a knowledge of the ways in
which the Cuban Communist government deals with dissent would lead one
to be skeptical of charges that he would have been deliberately targeted
for such an accident by the central government," said Robert A. Pastor,
an American University professor who has long studied the island and who
was an adviser to former President Jimmy Carter.

"Whether incompetent or overzealous local officials acting on their own
might have done something that led to the accident is a different
question," he added.

Ms. Payá stopped short of blaming the Cuban government for what occurred.

"I just want what happened clarified," she said. "I want the truth to be
known and recognized." Continue reading
Zapata lives
Zapata lives
No place to live
No place to live