Human Rights in Cuba

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December 2016
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Cuban Government Imposes Mourning By Force / 14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez

14ymedio,Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 29 November 2016 — Eulalia has two
obsessions in her life: listening to music and sitting in her easy chair
in the doorway of her home in the city of Alquízar, Artemis. There, she
watches the evening fall and keeps an eye on her chickens so they won’t
end up “in other people’s pots.” As of Saturday she has not listened to
her boleros because the are patrolling the streets to prevent
people from drinking alcohol, listening to music, or holding any
celebrations that contrast with the national mourning decreed for the
death of .

“I was here in the doorway when they picked up the pedicab driver,” said
Eulalia, a retired 80-year-old with two children in the United States.
The woman watched a scene this Sunday she will never forget: a uniformed
officer stopped the driver because “he had some speakers with music and
they told him to turn them off.”

The entrepreneur refused to comply and the scene ended with a violent
arrest. “In this town not even a fly moves,” said the elderly woman, who
believes that everyone should honor their dead however they please. “But
to force a whole nation… that seems like extremism to me,” she added.

The scene is repeated everywhere. “My daughter turned 15 on Sunday” — a
milestone birthday in a girl’s life often celebrated with as big a party
as the parents can afford — “and we had to cancel the planned party
because the police came by a few hours ahead of time and told us not to
do it,” explained Ramon Carvajal, a resident of Havana’s La Vibora
neighborhood. “We had planned to play the music softly behind closed
doors, but we couldn’t do even that.”

On the other hand, in the emergency room of Calixto Garcia one
of the guards welcomes the measure because, “since they suspended the
sale of alcohol it’s quiet here, peaceful.”

There are also those who want to sincerely express their sadness at the
death of the man who dominated the life of this island for more than
half a century. That is the case for a cameraman with the Cuban
Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT) for whom the president “was
like one of the family, like a father who has always been close and now
is gone.”

This pain is shared by Humberto, who drives for the Panataxi company,
and fears that will not follow the path of his brother,
“because he is not the same and there is a great difference in terms of
charisma.” He also fears that after the funeral “everything will be
forgotten and the government itself with throw aside what has been
achieved here.”

“We lost the Great One,” said a newspaper seller this Sunday outside the
Payret movie theater in Old Havana. “That man had a power, aché, and he
was protected by a powerful dead,” explained the man, referencing the
Afro-Cuban religions and the energy of the universe. “But I hope that
now he will look after us from the other side.”

Nights in Havana are unrecognizable. “Nobody wants to risk their neck
and people are waiting for all this to be over,” says Mizzy, a
transvestite who frequents Las Vegas caberet on Infanta Avenue. “What’s
going to happen when they open up the sales of rum and beer again… there
are going to be deaths and injuries in the lines,” he jokes. “Even
inside our homes we have to be careful, because the chivatón, the
snitch, is making waves,” he explains, speaking of the whistleblowers
who alert the police if there are celebrations in any home.

However, it is not only amusements and drinks that are regulated. “I’m
building a house and I have to haul out some debris but no trucks want
to move in these conditions,” says a resident of La Timba neighborhood.
“I had arranged with some friends to take the left over wood and bricks,
but they say there is a lot of control on the streets.”

The government intends to present a picture of massive acknowledgement
and pain. It seems to have achieved it because the foreign press doesn’t
look any deeper. The scenes on national television are of mourning and
homage to the deceased, the announcers are wearing barely any make-up
and two well-known presenters were captured on an open camera discussing
whether to open the program with the usual “Good morning.”

“I’m looking for a DVD with movies because no one can stand this,” a
retired ex-official from the Ministry of Foreign Trade told one of his
daughters, looking at the repetitive programming flooding the national
TV channels. “This is counterproductive, television is going to lose the
little audience that remains and then they won’t be able to complain
that people prefer the Weekly Packet,” he added.

In Sancti Spiritus, the residents are complaining that the Rapid
Response Brigades are roaming the streets and the city appears to be
under a state of siege. “People stay inside, there are a lot of
uniformed police and black berets,” source who prefers to remain
anonymous told 14ymedio.

At dawn on 26 November, a few hours after the announcement of Castro’s
death, two evangelical pastors were in Manatí, in Las Tunas
province. The police forcefully entered the home of Rafael Rios Martinez
and his wife, Maria Secades, and arrested them for the mere fact
spreading their religious message through the speakers used during their
worship service.

No one wants to cross the line to disturb officialdom. “You have to sit
out the weather and wait,” says Eulalia from her doorway in
Alquízar. The woman says that all these controls are designed to
“prevent scenes like in Miami, people are toasting and
celebrating.” However, despite her age, she is determined to celebrate
the event: “On New Year’s no one will forbid me from singing and getting
drunk; it will be late but it will be.”

Source: Cuban Government Imposes Mourning By Force / 14ymedio, Marcelo
Hernandez – Translating Cuba –

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