Human Rights in Cuba

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Daily Archives: April 12, 2013

The Cuban Diet and the Politics of Hunger / Alexis Romay
Posted on April 11, 2013   

Today I didn't need my morning coffee. I woke up to a pair of articles about the profound socio-economic crisis in Cuba, which became acute in the early nineties with the collapse of the socialist bloc. What those champions of euphemism called "The Special Period." One of the articles, in Spanish, was published by that usually faithful friend of Cuba's Granma newspaper, El País, from Madrid; the other, in English, appeared in The Independent, from London.

Both were based on a study published today by the British Medical Journal. About what? Hunger. But not the infamy of starving a population. That's in poor taste. About hunger as a cure for obesity. The thesis that unites them is simple: while we ate cabbage as appetizer, main course and dessert —the first person plural is intentional: I experienced this first-hand—, we were doing a favor to the nutritionists and cardiologists of the first world, who then would go around shouting to the four winds that the lower the body weight, the lower the cardiovascular mortality. "A textbook example in real life," declared a Spanish scientist who wasn't part of the "experiment," although what he really wanted to say is: "they were dying of hunger, but not of heart disease."

It turns out that when Cubans were fainting on their bikes, or being overcome by polyneuritis —a severe inflammation of multiple nerves— or simply dying from lack of food, this was part of a long-range plan: to demonstrate to the British Medical Journal, to the international press —and to the world at large— that if you take food and transportation away from a population, the trouser sizes of men and women will be drastically reduced. One can't but wonder why they don't also recommend trying bulimia and anorexia.

Although separated by language, both articles have in common a contempt for the Cuban people, and they remind one of the great achievements of tropical totalitarianism: The Castro brothers have not only created a theme park so that those who love far off utopia have an island as a point of reference and place to visit; even before that, they have made Cuba into a giant laboratory where every human being is a guinea pig.

10 April 2013

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Cubans are Prohibited from Boarding Tourist Boats / Yusnaby Perez
Posted on April 11, 2013   

While it's true that they have relaxed the Immigration Act in the recent update of January 14, 2013, nowhere is it reflected in this what will happen with the internal guidelines (there is no law on this) that prohibits Cubans from boarding tourist boats.

It is no secret that Cubans (simply for being Cuban) can not embark on catamarans, launches or boats for tourism, while all foreigners may. Often hotels in Varadero (and those at other beaches as well) offer deals including catamarans or motorboats, and although Cubans are hotel guests, they are denied access to the enjoyment this option.

The explanations (unofficial) that I have received with respect to this agree that a Cuban could steal a boat with the intention to migrate illegally (to go to Miami illegally) and therefore, this "measure" prevents the theft of boats.

In addition to calling us "terrorists" and "thieves," they discriminate against us in our own country again, violating several articles of the Constitution.

With the new immigration reform, supposedly they have eliminated all the restrictions that cause "the theft of ships" and have facilitated legal exit from the country. In addition, Cuba has maritime borders, allowing in "theory" that a Cuban could use a boat to travel to other lands. Planes are not the only means of international transport that exist; there is also the boat, among others.

If the Cuban supposedly can not ride on boats for tourism purposes, will they not let me travel to other countries on ships? Here we have one of the inconsistencies of immigration reform. Hopefully it will be resolved soon.

22 January 2013
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The Executed and The Accomplices in April / Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
Posted on April 10, 2013   

2013 marks a decade since once of the most depressing moments of post-revolutionary history: the so-called Black Spring. It was a time when Fidel Castro, excited about what he assumed was a revolutionary wave in Latin America and the arrival of the first subsidies from Venezuelans, decided to eradicate every sign of discontent and opposition that had accumulated along the road of defeat-after-defeat-until-the-final-victory that he had laid out. The pretext was, as it had been since 1959, shutting the door to the imperialist threat.

Although the Black Spring is remembered above all for the imprisonment of 75 opposition activists without due process, I focus my attention on another event: the shooting of three black youths for the failed hijacking of a passenger ferry that crossed Havana Bay.

As is well-known, a group of eleven young people participated in this criminal act on April 2, 2003, intending to reach the coast of Florida. This involved taking thirty passengers hostage, including two foreign girls who converted to kidnappers and who became, for the police, key pieces in the negotiations. Finally the boat ran out of gas, prompting the hijackers to accept a settlement that only their naivete could support: be towed to the dock at Mariel where they would be refueled so they could resume their journey north.

The result was the capture of all the hijackers without any physical injury to any passenger. On April 8 a summary trial concluded, at which the detainees had had no access to an attorney of their choice. Three of them — Lorenzo Capello, 31; Bárbaro Sevilla, 22; and Jorge Martínez, 40 — were sentenced to death, while others were punished with sentences ranging from life in prison to two years.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Cuban State had proceeded to "try and condemn them without the guarantees of due process," adding "because of the type of offenses committed by alleged victims (under the applied law) the death penalty did not apply, only a penalty of  deprivation of liberty."

In the galactic time of three days, the sentences were reviewed by the Supreme Court and the Council of State, whose members unanimously upheld the execution of the three youths. Finally, they were shot on April 11, without notification to their families — who were confident the entire time that the order would be reversed — or allowing them to say goodbye. This means that in the nine days that elapsed between April 2 and 11, the lives of three people proceeded to execution, including time for appeals.

The Council of State based its decision, to quote Fidel Castro — in a four-hour tirade that followed the execution — on "the potential dangers that involved not only in the lives of many innocent people but also for the security of the country — subject to a sinister plan of hatched by the most extremist sectors of the United States Government and its allies in the Miami terrorist mafia with the sole purpose of creating conditions and pretexts to attack our country."

That is, according to Fidel Castro, three young Cubans who did not commit acts of bloodshed, nor take any life, were shot in order to deal with the alleged threat from the United States government headed by then George W. Bush; thus it is conceivable that a decision was made against Cuban citizens based on the attitudes of the American president. Who, in this way, became a legal and internal political actor in Cuba, making Fidel Castro a common "Plattist" (supporter of the Platt Amendment) who accepted the power of interference.

And it happened again some time later, when other Cubans hijacked a boat on the north coast, but this time with more severe acts of violence, and yet that time they were not sentenced to death because that was the condition set by the American government for it to began to returning to Cuba Cubans intercepted at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard. In this case, again, the American government imparted justice and decided on the life of Cuban citizens. And again the Cuban leaders joined the bandwagon of "Plattism."

To make the ignominy worse, 27 Cuban intellectuals and officials took it upon themselves to produce a plaintive document in which they declared to "friends of the world" that "in order to defend itself Cuba has been forced to take energetic measures that naturally it did not wish to," and called for a repudiation of "the great campaign to isolate us and prepare the ground for United States military aggression against Cuba."

Among in the intellectuals appeared creatures who never missed an opportunity to dabble in the mud, as is the case with Silvio Rodríguez, Miguel Barnet and Amaury Perez. Nor were other erudite officials missing — to call them intellectuals would be unpardonable hyperbole — such as Carlos Martí, Eusebio Leal and Alfredo Guevara. But also signing were figures from whom one would have expected, at least, an opportune withdrawal, as was the case with Leo Brouwer, Chucho Valdés, Roberto Fabelo, the late Cintio Vitier, his wife García Marruz and Marta Valdés.

The most aberrant aspect of the document was that it held Cuba responsible for the ignominy, when in reality it was only a very small part of it that was guilty. The majority of Cubans knew nothing about it until the newspaper Granma published it, without any contrasting version, and always under the threat of police billy clubs which in those days were swung more quickly than ever.

Nor were the emigrants, who are also Cuban, and who in their vast majority have nothing to do with the metaphor of the "Miami Mafia," a part of this decision. And most importantly, the executed young people and their families were a legitimate part of Cuba. Consequently, not only was the criminal decision made behind the backs of the majority of Cubans, but also against them.

It is likely that, with the passage of time, this event is weighing on the minds of those who opted for the summary execution of three young black men. It is possible, for example, that in his wanderings as a hospital administrator with no future, then vice-president Carlos Lage has thought about this, as did the Felipe Perez Roque, then Foreign Minister, when he wrote his little note of repentance and noted that he felt a lack of firmness in his pulse when he signed the confirmation of the crime. And it's possible that when the castrated spokespeople of authoritarianism look back, they will also feel some regret for having called on their friends and not blushing, when faced with the ignominy and the crime.

Another chance for them that Barbaro Sevilla, Lorenzo Copello and Jorge Martinez didn't have.

Nobody gave them an opportunity to repent.

Translated from Cubaencuentro.

8 April 2013

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Quinones breaks the silence of UNEAC with respect to the case of Angel Santiesteban / Angel Santiesteban

Posted on April 11, 2013   
From Montenegro to Santiesteban
By Roberto Jesus Quinones Haces

Guantanamo, Cuba, Apri, — Carlos Montenegro and Angel Santiesteban are not the only Cuban writers to have suffered the misfortune of incarceration; the latter twice.

At barely 19 years of age, Carlos Montenegro was condemned to 14 years and eight months in jail for the commission of a bloody act in which a person died.  He had the luck of meeting, in the prison's Cashier's Office, Jose Zacarias Tallet and establishing a friendship with him. From that relationship it is affirmed that Montenegro's literary vocation emerged.  There, too, he met Pablo de la Torriente Brau.

In 1928, after having published some of his texts in the magazines Social and Orto, with his story El Renuevo he won a literary prize organized by the magazine Carteles, a fact that generated a wave of sympathy for him and abundant solidarity for his situation. Intellectuals of such stature as Emilio Roig de Leuchsenring and Zacarias Tallet himself joined with other prestigious writers and numerous journalists in asking Gerardo Machado to free the writer forged in the bowels of squalor and confinement.  But Machado refused. Montenegro left jail at 31 years of age when the Machadato — the Machodo dictatorship — was fatally wounded.

Angel Santiesteban Prats was born in Havana in 1965.  In 1995 he won the "Luis Felipe Rodriguez" prize UNEAC awards in the story genre for his book South: latitude 13.  In 2001 he won the "Alejo Carpentier" story prize for The children nobody wanted, and in 2006 the "House of the Americas" prize for his book Blessed are those who mourn.

I do not know whether Santiesteban is responsible for the events for which he has been punished. Nor am I his friend. I write these lines from my condition as a simple member of UNEAC, because I do not think all the writers and intellectuals of this organization are in agreement that there is an ominous silence surrounding the event.

Outstanding figures of our culture, like Pedro Pablo Oliva and Pablo Milanes, who have been the objects of unconscionable attacks when they have dared to express opinions dissenting from the government and the national direction of UNEAC, have not spoken about it either.

The answer some months ago that the national direction of UNEAC offered to the tendentious accusations of a State Security agent against Reyna Maria Rodriguez and other Cuban intellectuals does not amount to a rule but the exception.  Once more the deplorable silence of a great part of Cuban intellectuals remains on the agenda, just like the paralyzing fear that impedes the exercise of values anywhere in the world they identify someone who works in favor of the culture.

If Santiesteban were responsible for the events — which according to what I have read on Cubanet happened four years ago — in the Cuban Penal Code there exists all the legal presumptions to prevent his imprisonment, substituting the sanction of imprisonment for another less rigorous, much more so when dealing with a prestigious intellectual, a person of good social and moral conduct, for an event whose incidence is insignificant within the framework of habitual violence that exists in the country and specifically in Havana.

We all know, including those who put together the file, that prosecutors who requested the sanction and the judges who ordered it — that Santiesteban is not "anti-social." It is very difficult to admit that in our country it is justice when an intellectual is imprisoned, while those who sank the "13 de Marzo" tugboat and caused the deaths of innocent people, including children, continue to walk the streets with impunity.

Those who have imprisoned Santiesteban have done a disservice to the Cuban government, as if it had no more acute problems than adding another charge of this kind, because the international resonances begin to be felt very quickly. Rather than imprison him, these proxies should wonder why a man who emerged within what was once the revolution detaches himself from it, what are the causes of increased dissent and the stampede of our population to foreign countries, to social apathy, vulgarity and the loss of values in our society.

They should be consistent with the assumption that "Cuba is a Socialist State of workers, independent and sovereign, organized with all and for the good of all, as a unitary and democratic republic, for the enjoyment of political freedom, social justice, the individual and collective well-being and human solidarity," as defined in Article 1 of the Constitution.

We all know that if Santiesteban did not have a blog to express himself freely, he would not have gone to prison for such a minor charge. From my humble condition as a man of culture, also discriminated against, I can only say that those in charge of asking for freedom for Santiesteban can put my name on any list to be drawn up for that purpose.

Hopefully this excess will soon be rectified. The Cuban government does not win anything with this error, nor does it need more enemies. Rather than continue this policy against dissent, it should open itself to dialogue in order to take out country, once and for all, on path of peace and understanding. Hopefully the government's stubbornness will not make Cuba into another Syria.

8 April 2013

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Socialism: A Transition Stage Between Capitalism and… Capitalism / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on April 10, 2013   

I was having a conversation recently at a friend's house about new private businesses, doctors being given permission to travel, the prices and shortages of food, and other issues currently affecting our Cuban planet. One of those present mentioned that she was very concerned about the crisis in Europe, unconsciously repeating what she had been told on television, radio and in the press.

I said that I had just returned from Spain and that in fact this is the only thing that the people and the media there were talking about. When they did this in my presence, I asked them to please "not talk about the rope in the house of the hanged man."

Indeed, there is a serious crisis in Spain and other European countries, caused perhaps  by a housing bubble — among other things — which led people to spend much more than they could really afford, but which is in no way comparable to our situation, which has lasted for more than half a century. I personally visited many European cities and nowhere did I observe anyone who was badly dressed, wandering from place to place through streets that were not impeccably clean and pothole-free, in search of a store with toilet paper or toothpaste for sale, much less in "foreign money," or at least not in a currency in which salaries and benefits are paid.

As I told my friend who is so worried about the crisis in Europe, this does not even take into account the high cost of having gone through a revolution, whose specific goal was to improve the quality of life for the population, but which has resulted in the deterioration and destruction of its cities and inhabitants. Nor does it take into account the high price of familial separation, nor of the ever greater exodus of young people in search of social and economic freedom — the very people for whom all this sacrifice was supposedly made — not to mention the corruption that has dominated and continues to dominate the entire country, apparently "at will."

The upshot is that now, among other signs of a "new capitalism," there is a contagious frenzy for selling large and beautiful buildings, which were confiscated from their original owners and family members and subsequently handed over to people of "revolutionary merit." Their descendants are now asking astronomical prices for them, as though they were an inheritance resulting from some familial sacrifice. There are other crazy things happening, like buying out someone, whose home was once the big brick smokestack of the now abandoned El Cocinero cooking oil factory, so that a private investor can turn it into a restaurant, cafe and bar.

At any rate, these and other questions — quite discomforting, to be sure — cause us to reflect on the fact that the sacrifices made over all these years for "socialism" have served only to bring us back to where we started. There is, however, an additional grim reality. In spite of the enormous moral and material deterioration, which we "carry in our ribs" along with a great many lost years, we have in the end returned to a capitalism, but without capital.

8 April 2013
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Counterrevolutionary / Yusnaby Perez
Posted on April 10, 2013   

I recall that all my life I've been characterized as a rebel, protesting what I considered wrong or unfair and most of the time proposing solutions. In the Cuban political environment I've experienced agonizingly slowly a change that has cost me 25 years of life.

If we analyze the significance of the the word "revolutionary" it's far from many of the arguments politicians in Cuba use to define it. It has always been a deadly war. It came to mind when Cubans were "strictly forbidden" to access hotels. I never understood this prohibition and would discuss it with whomever I could. The response I continuously got was, "Don't talk about that because they'll think you are a counterrevolutionary."

The same thing happened with the prohibition to have dollars and mobile phones, to buy and sell houses, buy cars, and recently to be able to leave the country freely with the new "Migratory Reform."

In each of these previous cases I complained, to very high levels. My mother was always at home hysterical, repeating thousands of times that they were going to label me a counterrevolutionary.  And all these things have been changed (although many remain). And then?

Yesterday it was counterrevolutionary to complain you couldn't travel. And today? Revolutionary for not complaining? Perhaps being "revolutionary" means obeying without objection and dutifully doing what the government "directs"?

Unfortunately we have lost the social enthusiasm for offering opinions, proposing changes, asking for explanations, demanding rights, asking for respect.

They have inculcated us for more than half a century and if you protest you're bad (or seen to be bad). If you tell your delegate at a meeting of the People's Power that you don't agree with the way elections are conducted, then the president of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) puts you on the block's indelible list of "counterrevolutionaries."

The Cuban people find themselves in the murky tide of fear, uncertainty, ignorance, censorship and self-censorship. The system is not adapted to interact with the people, there is no direct dialog with the ordinary Cuban. For how long will they not submit themselves to the popular vote laws, or to a referendum?

Being an opponent or a "danger to the Revolution" can be anything from expressing out loud an opinion that disagrees with any political direction from the Cuban government; even if the person doing this has never heard of Yoani Sanchez nor knows anything about the Varela Project.

Shouldn't "counterrevolutionary" be someone who steals or 'resolves' (our euphemism for stealing) from their work; or who provides bad service to people in an Identity Card office; the clerk in a State store who tells you there is no product when there really is, the politician who invents incoherent arguments to justify obsolete prohibitions (like Ricardo Alarcon and his congested air*); the grandson of Fidel Castro who sells Vega Sicilia wines in the gym for foreigners, wines his grandfather gave him as a gift; the TV journalists who wait three days to report the news; the minister who hides from the people the actual availability of a fiber optic cable; a president who has country indebted for millions and millions of dollars and he doesn't mention the subject?

Those are the real counter-revolutionaries, not those who openly question the above issues.

Call me counterrevolutionary, I'm not one or the other.

*Translator's note: Questioned by Eliecer Avila, then a student, about why Cubans could not travel freely without government permission, then vice-president Ricardo Alarcon responded that if everyone could travel at will there would be too many airplanes in the sky…

29 January 2013

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Expulsan a estudiantes de enfermería
Álvaro Yero Felipe
12 de abril de 2013

La Habana, Cuba – – Cinco estudiantes de licenciatura en Enfermería fueron expulsados, el pasado 5 de abril en La Habana, por no tener el 12avo grado aprobado.

Un familiar de una de las expulsadas, la joven de 17 años Denia García Contreras, dijo que esta, junto a los otros cuatro, llevaban 1 año y 5 meses en el ejercicio de la profesión en el Hospital Infantil "William Soler " en las salas de gastroenterología, pediatría y en terapia intermedia, a la vez que estudiaban.

Los estudiantes habían sido aceptados con su certificación de 9no grado aprobado por los directivos de la Facultad de Enfermería del Instituto Superior de Ciencias Médicas de La Habana.

A los cinco jóvenes les comunicaron que eran baja académica definitiva. Los expulsados consideran que fueron utilizados y explotados por el Sistema Nacional de Salud Pública, donde existe una acentuada escasez de fuerza de trabajo.
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Cuba Between Blockade and Embargo / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on April 11, 2013

I will not waste a second in explaining the difference between
"Blockade" and "Embargo"; that's irrelevant, it's all in the dictionary.
Cubans (from here, there and the hereafter) understand that this
definition does not lie in the linguistic details, it comes from the
place of residence of the person referring to it and/or, of course, in
the subtle hypnotic force exerted on the individual by the media.

I am referring to the measure began as a response by the U.S. government
to the expropriations, by Cuba, carried out against U.S. citizens and

There's no need to explain that it all happened before I was born,
perhaps you weren't either. The measure, pun intended, was understood by
those affected, the dispossessed; and in certain legal circles it still
stimulates vigorous debates over whether or not it violates the
extraterritoriality of the law.

Perhaps to omit its history is a mistake; but I assume we all know it is
very easy to Google to find a bibliographic reference. First it was a
measure, then it was an ordinance that has been, in essence, the
platform of many.

Some speakers use it with relative shamelessness to add that pinch of
salt, or sugar (in controversy, it's the same thing) that manages to
catch the attention of whatever boring set. It's magisterial how people
continue to zigzag for or against the issue, depending on the audience,
and so gain a loyal base of fans who on feeling pleased end up being

Cuba's government maintains business relations with companies and
governments of almost all UN member countries, the three observer
states, and at least one of the so-called disputed territories. The
island is also known for its chain of defaults, and for assuming
commitments that it never meets.

The strategy they use is simple, after acquiring the needed amount in
credits and/or loans, wham! in one breath they expel from the country
under any pretext, the ousted employer or company and ban them from
returning. Examples abound.

For the revolutionary government, "The Blockade" is the leitmotif that
serves like a worn out prop in the staging of the biblical battle of
David against Goliath, but in the hermetic Cuban shell the issue is not
seen in the same way. Cuban entrepreneurs hallucinate about breaking the
U.S. embargo, not for "patriotic" reasons but to feel themselves close
to the longed for and prohibited.

The embargo law is what protects those U.S. farmers who manage to sell
their products to Cuban companies. For them, although they ignore it,
it's recommended that they know that the embargo is the only real and
legal instrument they have in order to get paid. Today, more than
working, it's an excellent relief that guarantees commercial seriousness
on the part of the revolutionary government. Also, it assures, under the
contractual time, that a little rice, a piece of chicken and a piece of
bread reach Cuban homes.

Every law, new and old, generates a moral dilemma. Today, I'm in favor
of the embargo.

9 April 2013 Continue reading
Angel Santiesteban on Hunger Strike
Posted on April 11, 2013

The writer Ángel Santiesteban has declared a hunger strike and has been
confined to a punishment cell

Sunday, the authorities took him "by force" from La Lima prison, one of
the prisons that was preparing to receive a visit from Cuban and foreign

"He wanted to see the journalists and tell them about his case," the
activist Antonio Rodiles said.

Santiesteban is now in Prison 1580, San Migeul de Padron, incommunicado
in a punishment cell.

The guards told his attorney, Amelia Rodriguez Cala, that the writer was
on "voluntary starvation" and refused to let her meet with him.

Santiesteban, condemned to five years in prison after a trial without
legal guarantees, could be suffering from skin cancer, according to the
doctors caring for him.

Translated from

11 April 2013 Continue reading
Zapata lives
Zapata lives
No place to live
No place to live