Human Rights in Cuba

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Daily Archives: April 18, 2013

Yoani Sánchez Is Cuba's Digital Enemy Number One
By Abraham Riesman

"I'll tell you where she's staying," Yoani Sánchez's friend told me over
the phone. "But this is top-secret, okay?"

He'd been helping me set up an exclusive interview with Sánchez --
Cuba's premier dissident blogger -- during her brief stop in New York
City. And he had reason to be concerned about her location getting out:
Sánchez was in the midst of a massive world tour, and just days before,
she'd faced vicious crowds of pro-Castro protesters in Brazil and Mexico.

Sánchez is used to that kind of fury. Since starting her blog,
"Generación Y," in 2007, she's become the Castro regime's most
internationally visible opponent. Her site gets millions of hits per
month, and hundreds of thousands of people follow her on Twitter, and
she uses those platforms to shed light on life within the western
hemisphere's last true dictatorship. She reports on everything from mass
arrests to the terror of the national census, from sudden spikes in food
prices to the hardships of Cuban victims of domestic violence.

This blogging is especially remarkable because Internet access is
incredibly restricted in Cuba. Partly, that's due to technological
backwardness: the impoverished country has virtually no high-speed
Internet connections, even after the recent completion of Alba-1, a
fiber-optic cable link to Venezuela.

But the scarcity of access is also due to extreme government
restrictions. There are huge legal hurdles that prevent Cubans from
having home computers and public computers usually just connect to
RedCubana, a closed intranet system containing only regime-approved
sites. An estimated 98% of Cubans have no Web access, and the government
shows no sign of reducing that number.

So how does Sánchez do what she does? Not easily. She's been repeatedly
arrested and beaten up by regime thugs. She has to use roundabout
methods to get her blog posts published. And after years of being denied
a travel visa, she was only granted one a few months ago (she says she's
not sure why the government changed its mind).

During her whirlwind trip to New York, full of speaking engagements and
press conferences, we caught up with Sánchez at the hotel where she was
staying under a pseudonym. She only speaks Spanish, so Argentina-born
Motherboard writer Leandro Oliva spoke with her and covered a wide range
of topics. Just a day or so after we were done, she was off to more
cities and countries. her world tour continues, and she doesn't know
what will happen when she eventually returns to her homeland.

Check out our video to learn about Cuba's underground railroad of USB
drives, how to blog without a computer, and how Raúl Castro is getting
craftier at using the Internet as a weapon against dissidents.
By Abraham Riesman Continue reading
WSCC highlights human rights violations in Cuba
April 18, 2013
By JASMINE ROGERS , The Marietta Times

MARIETTA - In hopes of raising awareness about the ongoing human rights
violations taking place in Cuba, Washington State Community College is
hosting a trio of Cuban human rights activists for a series of
discussions that start today and lead up to an open forum to be held at
the college Saturday.

The three-day event is part of the Evergreen Arts and Humanities series.

"In our area, we don't hear a lot about human rights violations. We may
hear something about China, or North Korea or Burma. But rarely is the
issue addressed concerning Cuba, which is only 90 miles away from
American soil," said Tanya Wilder, chair of the Evergreen Arts and
Humanities series.

The event will feature John Suarez, the International Secretary for the
Cuban Democratic Directorate, Anna Lee, the Christian Solidarity
Worldwide Advocacy officer for Latin America and Laido Carro, president
of the Coalition of Cuban-American Women and a Cuban exile.

Cuba has been under a totalitarian regime for 54 years, the longest
running tyranny currently suffered by any country, said Carro, who fled
the country at age 12 shortly after the Cuban Revolution began.

"The brutality of what is going on over there is not known because of
the propaganda, because this is a police state that uses all its
resources to make sure the world thinks otherwise," said Carro, who
regularly communicates with activists still in Cuba.

The recent transfer of power from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul in
2011 was followed by a loosening of restrictions for Cubans who wanted
to travel outside of the country.

However, the move was purely tactical, said Carro.

The government routinely kills and tortures dissidents who speak out
against the Communist regime, she said.

"When you talk to people in other counties they don't believe you. It is
a priority to make sure everyone understands what is there 90 miles
away," said Carro.

In addition, there have been talks in the news of loosening tourism
restrictions that America has in place to prohibit Americans from
traveling to Cuba without the proper licenses.

But foreign visitors are simply led from place to place by the
government and shown only what the government wants them to see,
according to Carro.

Florida Republican politicians recently criticized married musicians
Jay-Z and Beyonce for their early April trip to Cuba.

"Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press
reports described the couple's trip as tourism, and the Castro regime
touted it as such in its propaganda," wrote U.S. Representatives Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart.

What is worse is the couple did nothing to meet with activists or raise
awareness about the Cuban plight, said Carro.

"They just go around looking pretty and the government has more to write
about in the one Cuban newspaper," she said.

The three days of discussions in Marietta will offer several
opportunities for students and the community to meet with the three
activists and discuss human rights issues in general and as they relate
to the problems in Cuba, said Wilder.

Friday will offer four breakout sessions to take place in Washington
State's Graham Auditorium at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

On Friday, a roundtable discussion with Carro, Suarez, and Lee will take
place at 3 p.m. in Marietta College's Thomas Hall, room 113.

Saturday night's open forum will feature short topical discussions by
each of the three speakers before transitioning into a question and
answer session.

Suarez, who recently gave the closing remarks at the annual Geneva
Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, will be talking about human
rights and what is happening in Cuba.

Lee will be giving the latest report on religious persecution in the
country, which has not fully rebounded from the three decades of state
enforced atheism which ended in the early 1990s.

Carro will be talking about human rights violations directed at
children, she said.

"This brutal police state uses their citizens from birth to death in
order to make sure they stay in power and they've been very successful,"
she said.

Children of those who resist the regime are sometimes tortured in order
to force their families to flee, said Carro. Continue reading
Ukraine leases An-158 jetliner to Cuba
Source: XINHUA | 2013-4-18

KIEV, April 18 (Xinhua) -- Ukraine has leased an An-158 regional
jetliner to the state-run Cuban Aviation Enterprise.

"I am very pleased that we are starting today the serial production of
the An-158 plane. It means, that the aircraft industry in Ukraine
revives," Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Thursday at the handover

The jet was one of 10 An-158 aircrafts that will be leased to Cuba under
a 2010 contract with the Ukrainian design bureau Antonov and the Russian
leasing company Ilyushin Finance Co..

The planes, manufactured by the Kiev-based firm Antonov, will be
delivered to Cuba between 2013 and 2014. They will service Cuban
domestic flights and routes connecting the island with the Caribbean and
Central America.

An An-158 jet, which costs from 20 to 30 million U.S. dollars depending
on equipment, is designed to carry 99 passengers and has a range of
3,000 kilometers. Continue reading
Cuba to Get More Brazilian Investment
April 18, 2013

HAVANA TIMES – Brazil is weighing granting the construction company
Odebrecht a $150 million credit to remodel airport terminals in Havana
and other Cuban cities, reports the Reuters news agency, citing
unidentified official sources.

The report from the British agency, datelined São Paulo, says the credit
would be issued by the Brazilian Development Bank, BNDS. The topic
presumably was discussed during a recent visit to Brazil by Cuban Vice
President Marino Murillo, the manager of the economic reforms undertaken
by President Raúl Castro.

"The financing of the airports is under discussion," and the topic "is
subject to an evaluation by the bank's technical staff," the report
says. Reuters says its unidentified source is linked to the
administration of President Dilma Rouseff.

For its part, the Cuban daily newspaper Granma said that Murillo met
"with Brazilian ministers and heads of state institutions dealing with
agricultural and cattle farming, business, and scientific and
technological development. According to Granma, Murillo also met with
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota and the Vice President of Brazil,
Michel Temer.

The anonymity granted to the Brazilian informant may have resulted from
the government's stated decision to be discreet about its investments in
various countries, Cuba among them, apparently because of malicious
interpretations by some media.

The Cuban press has reported nothing on the possible cooperation to
modernize the airports. Reuters points out that modern airports are an
essential element of the tourism industry, one of Cuba's main sources of
income. Last year, Cuba welcomed 2.8 million foreign tourists, a record

Although the Reuters report says that the work could begin in June and
that Odebrecht already has a team selecting the suppliers of the
materials needed to remodel Havana Airport, it also quotes an Odebrecht
spokesman in São Paulo as saying that the company at this time does not
have representatives in Cuba performing such tasks.

Reuters does not specify which of the Havana Airport terminals – the
oldest one or the one built in the 1990s with Canadian aid – will be

It is very true that the Cuban government is working hard to improve
infrastructure. New highways are being built and existing roads are
being maintained. Passenger and freight trains, engineering works that
range from dams and viaducts through several provinces, and the ailing
air fleet that provides national and foreign transportation are some of
the projects selected to boost tourism and the domestic economy.

Reuters is right when it says that Brazil right now is one of Cuba's
principal commercial and financial allies. The BNDS underwrites as much
as 80 percent of the exportation of engineering services and capital
assets by those Brazilian companies that undertake works agreed upon by
national governments. If the reports are confirmed, the cost of the
works done in Cuban airports could amount to nearly $190 million. Continue reading
US working to free Americans held in Cuba, Iran: John Kerry
AFP | Apr 18, 2013, 02.03 AM IST

WASHINGTON: Washington is seeking to free two US citizens held in Cuba
and Iran, but has rejected a deal with Havana to swap a jailed American
for five Cuban spies, top diplomat John Kerry said on Wednesday.

Kerry told US lawmakers that officials were working hard to win the
release of contractor Alan Gross held for more than three years in Havana.

Senator Patrick Leahy visited the island recently, met with Gross "and
talked to the government," Kerry told the House foreign affairs committee.

"They were and have been attempting to trade Alan Gross for the five
spies that are in prison here in the US, and we've refused to do that
because there's no equivalency," the secretary of state said.

Gross, 63, was arrested on December 3, 2009 for illegally distributing
laptops and communications gear to members of Cuba's small Jewish
community. At the time, he was working for a firm contracted to the US
State Department.

In March 2011, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for "acts against
the independence or territorial integrity" of Cuba, and relatives fear
his health is failing.

Kerry said he hoped the US could appeal to Cuban leaders to treat
Gross's case as a "humanitarian" issue.

Kerry also said he had been working through back channels to try to find
out more about retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared some
six years ago while on a trip to Iran.

"On Levinson, I have actually engaged in some back-channel diplomacy in
an effort to try to see if we can get something done there," Kerry said. Continue reading
Posted on Wednesday, 04.17.13

Cuba's 'Ladies' to pick up EU prize 8 years later
The Associated Press

HAVANA -- Members of Cuba's Ladies in White opposition group will
finally pick up Europe's top human rights prize from 2005 in person next
week in Belgium, the European Union and the daughter of the group's
former leader said Wednesday.

In a statement, the EU said several representatives of the Ladies will
be awarded the Sakharov Prize in an April 23 ceremony at the European
Parliament in Brussels.

"It will be an honor to go in representation of the Ladies in White and
above all my mother, Laura Pollan," said Laura Labrada. Pollan, the
group's co-founder and most prominent leader at the time, died in
October 2011.

Labrada said she and Belkis Cantillo would leave Sunday and later meet
up with Berta Soler, another co-founder of the Ladies, and Blankita Reyes.

The Ladies in White formed in 2003 to demand freedom for their loved
ones, 75 government opponents who had been jailed that spring in a
crackdown on dissidents.

They became known for their Sunday post-Mass marches down a leafy Havana
boulevard, dressed all in white. All 75 prisoners have since been released.

The EU honored the Ladies eight years ago for their activism, but Havana
denied them permission to travel to receive the Sakharov in the flesh.

This January, President Raul Castro's government ended the much-detested
exit visa that had been required of all Cuban travelers for decades.

Since then a number of dissidents have traveled overseas including noted
blogger Yoani Sanchez, who has been on a tour of at least a dozen
nations since February.

However other government opponents with pending legal cases against them
have been denied passports. Continue reading
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Zapata lives
No place to live
No place to live