Human Rights in Cuba

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Angel Santiesteban Completes 10th Day on Hunger Strike. Report. / Angel
Posted on April 18, 2013

Yesterday, April 16, 2013, the attorney Amelia Rodríguez Cala
interviewed Angel in Prison 1580.

Angel has been removed from the punishment cell but remains under very
severe conditions and maintains his hunger strike until they respect his
rights as a citizen and as a prisoner — whatever happens. He is unjustly
imprisoned after a trial fabricated by State Security with the only
purpose of silencing and discrediting him as a person and as the great
writer he is.

Angel has lost a great deal of weight and today completed day ten
without eating or drinking. We fear for his health and his life.

From here we hold Raul Castro responsible for everything that happens
to Angel and we demand he be returned to La Lima prison from where —
although he shouldn't be there serving any sentence at all — he should
not have been removed against his will and violently.

Every day that Angel is made to pay in the miserable Castro prisons for
crimes he never committed, having proved his innocence ad infinitum,
will be one more day that the dictatorship demonstrates to the world how
it lies about the situation on the Island, and another day that the
media learns about how it has misled them about the living conditions
within the Castros' prisons — and of course in the whole Island.

The living conditions in Cuba are miserable and freedom isn't even a
memory; repression and violence on the part of State Security is our
daily bread; the acts of repudiation are the expression of how they
manipulate the people to punish the dissidence; the media are mere
channels of propaganda; every day more Cubans risk their lives to escape
from this island, not wanting to imagine what life is like in the Castro
prisons, true concentration camps where they are not human beings, only
objects, objectified bodies whom they constantly humiliate, deprive of
all rights, and force to live in subhuman conditions and all this in the
name of the "humanist" Revolution that the Castro dynasty has ruled over
for 54 years.

We demand that Angel be returned to La Lima Prison immediately and that
they guarantee ALL his rights.

We hold Raul Castro Ruz directly responsible, for Angel's safety and
integrity and reiterate that the same justice and the same rights that
we demand for Angel we demand for all the prisoners in Cuba. And so, one
more time, we demand the release of ALL THE POLITICAL PRISONERS.

We remember, Mr. Raul Castro, that when you assumed the presidency of
CELAC you promised that you would act "with total fidelity to
international law, the Charter of the United nations and the fundamental
principles that govern relations between countries." During your speech
of January 28, 2013, you also said, "We reject interference, the threat
and use of force, and dedicate ourselves to dialog." What happened to
your promises? You should be ashamed and you should behave in
conformance with the commitment you yourself assumed.

The Editor, in the name of Angel's family and friends.

17 April 2013 Continue reading
Prison Diary XIII. They have dubbed me "Mandela." I have started to be
their hope.
Posted on April 17, 2013

The 5 spies, who committed bloody acts and spied for a foreign country,
have not been punished like they do with any prisoner in Cuba. Here they
humiliate and constantly harass them.

They, the Castros, say that at the Guantanamo Naval Base they commit
horrors, but they don't say what they know because they commit the same
abuses they "denounce" daily.

Here the prisoners swallow nails, springs or pieces of spoons to demand
their rights, or at least have the opportunity to explain to someone.

Amused, I always have to laugh and respond to my new name, no matter how
many times I tell them to call me Ángel or Political — like they used to
— but they have baptized me Mandela. I have begun to be their hope
despite finding me isolated, although without them letting the two
prisoners who helped me get even to the door of my cell; I'm totally

I asked for my glasses and they also refused me. The only thing I can do
is write on the walls, except that there is less space left, and I'll
have to figure out how to reach the ceiling; I'll have to do something
about it. Writing is a mania, a necessity and a duty. When they searched
me on my arrival, twelve guards commanded by Major Erasmus did it. And
I told them that my weapons were in my mind and they couldn't get them
out of there.

I thank God for giving me the protection and constant companion in my
lonely hours, but I'm also grateful to be here, they provide me
Literature and complaints against the regime.

God, forgive the dictators and their henchmen.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
1580 Prison. April 2013.

Editor's Note: Ángel Santiesteban-Prats finishes on his ninth day of a
hunger strike today." Continue reading
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
Jose Marti Society is a Ghost With the Site in Ruins / Intramuros
Posted on April 16, 2013
By Juan Carlos Fernández Hernández.

José Martí, the man we Cubans call our "Apostle," was, and let no man
doubt it, a man of vast moral, spiritual and cultural heritage.
Qualities that have served as the cornerstone for modeling the thinking
of being Cuban.

Well, some years ago José Martí Cultural Societies were set up in
provinces and municipalities, designed and created to foster among our
population, especially young people, the thought and vision of the
Master; this was a vain endeavor by Communist Party leaders to somehow
fit Marti within Marx, Engels and Lenin.

It sounds crazy but the effort still persists, although it is fair to
say that the Communist ideologues don't know how to insert the liberal
ideas of Marti within those of International Communism, and no one
swallows their story anyway because the Complete Works of Jose Marti
circulate freely on the streets, and in these works Marti dismisses
Marx, Communism included.

But back to the idea of the so-called Cultural Society, as an idea it is
very good but, it all depends on the intentions… let me explain.

If this was intended to rescue the thinking of the Apostle from
shameless oblivion shameful for new generations, for them to have as a
reference in their lives, it would be logical that these institutions
would have the social role that the name suggests. But, on the contrary,
the organization almost unknown to the ordinary person from Pinar del
Rio, passing by its headquarters, dilapidated and unpainted, in an old
house located in San Juan Street between Yagruma and Martí. What irony,
given that this was the home of a respected and wealthy local family. It
is in such a shameful state due to the degree of neglect that is
inhabited only by the ghosts of its former owners.

I do not think anyone in Pinar del Rio would be happy with the fate of
the José Martí Cultural Society, but the complaints can be put to good
use, we have to rely on citizen action, so we can together find
solutions to rescue something that can be very valuable and appreciated
by all.

A public collection in Pinar del Rio would involve a lot of citizens,
taking as its theme something that can't miss: "With all and for the
good of all." It would be healthy, it would empower citizens and they
would feel a part of a city repairing one block for this Society, where
the authorities are rushing to repair the hard currency store popularly
known as "Bambi."

I would like to note that material things are important to us, but more
important than profit are the healthy and transcendent ideas of the
Apostle of all Cubans, who preferred to reach out with the white rose
because he could not hate.

by Juan Carlos Fernandez Hernandez. (1965). Pinar del Rio. Co-leader of
the Brotherhood Assistance to Prisoners and their Families Pastoral Care
of the Diocese of Pinar del Rio. He is a member of the team of Coexistence.

4 April 2013 Continue reading
Zurich bank cuts Cuba's last Swiss franc channel
Published: 16 Apr 2013 21:07 GMT+02:00

Zurich's cantonal bank is halting all transfers to Cuba starting next
month to avoid activities deemed in violation of a US embargo on the
communist-ruled island.

"Starting on May 1, the Zürcher Kantonalbank will cut all business
relations with Cuba," the bank said on Tuesday in an email sent to AFP,
confirming Swiss news reports.

"The bank is part of an international network and must respect
international economic embargoes and restriction lists," it explained.

Bank spokeswoman Evelyne Brönnimann told AFP that new rules meant ZKB
must now attest to its banking partners in the United States that its
activities are in line with the US Office of Foreign Asset Control
(OFAC) rules.

"If this is not the case, the United States can take actions against the
banks like freezing their holdings," the bank statement said.

A number of international banks have been slapped with
multi-million-dollar fines in the past year for flouting US sanctions on
Cuba, as well for transactions with Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan.

The bank said its decision would impact 12 clients, but did not provide
details on who they were.

The head of the Swiss-Cuban Chamber of Commerce, Andreas Winkler,
however, told AFP the move would especially affect small and
medium-sized Swiss companies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
that dealt with Cuba.

Winkler harshly criticised ZKB's decision, lamenting that the bank was
removing the only banking channel operating in Swiss francs.

"Now operations will need to go through European banks that operate in
euros," he said, pointing out that the extra exchange process would end
up costing businesses more money.

He also questioned whether ZKB was actually required to cut business
ties with Cuba under the OFAC rules, since it is not a US bank, or
whether it was just playing it safe.

Washington has faced international criticism since it imposed its
embargo on Cuba more than five decades ago.

AFP ( Continue reading
16 April 2013 - 23H11

Venezuelan vote bad news for Cuba: analysts

AFP - Venezuela's disputed election result is bad news for the communist
regime in Cuba, which became heavily dependent on oil and hard currency
from Caracas under its late leader Hugo Chavez, analysts say.

Nicolas Maduro won a much closer than expected election to succeed
Chavez, but deadly protests have erupted after liberal opposition leader
Henrique Capriles demanded a recount.

"Cubans can't be cheering this result. They have to be worried that
Maduro proved so politically weak. The opposition has the momentum and
will define the agenda," said Michael Shifter, head of the
Inter-American Dialogue think tank.

With Maduro entering office with a much weaker mandate than his colorful
predecessor, the Castro-led regime may not enjoy the same economic
benefits, potentially threatening the communist island's lifeline.

"The sympathy effect for Chavez was fleeting, and Capriles was able to
capitalize," Shifter said.

A clause in Venezuela's constitution allows for a possible referendum to
revoke a president half way through his six-year term, a consideration
that will weigh on Maduro's foreign policy, after his narrow election win.

"The outcome could accelerate Cuba's reform process," Shifter told AFP,
alluding to the likely need for Maduro to focus his efforts on domestic

"The (Cuban) government will be compelled to pursue other economic options."

Venezuela supplies Cuba with two thirds of its oil on extremely good
terms: in exchange for 100,000 barrels of crude a day Havana has sent
some 40,000 experts to Venezuela, notably in the health sector.

Worth some $6 billion a year, the deal is Cuba's biggest source of cash,
well ahead of money sent home by expatriate Cubans ($2.5 billion),
tourism ($2 billion) or exports of nickel, tobacco and drugs (less than
$2 billion).

During the election campaign Capriles repeatedly attacked the "gifts"
sent from Venezuela to Cuba, calling Maduro "Cuba's candidate" and
demanding that Caracas cut off oil supplies to Havana.

"Cuba can't hope for anything good from political instability in
Venezuela," according to Cuban academic Arturo Lopez-Levy, from the
University of Denver.

"The Cuban government would do well to accelerate its reform process and
the opening up of its economic system, to prepare for various scenarios,
all of them less favorable than the current situation," he told AFP.

Paul Webster Hare, British ambassador to Cuba from 2001-2004 and a
former deputy head of Britain's mission in Caracas, added: "Cubans will
know now that the Chavista movement depended on Chavez for its
leadership and momentum.

"The Cubans will now conclude that their time for depending on the
largesse of Chavismo is limited," said the ex-diplomat, who now teaches
international relations at the University of Boston.

The lesson of Venezuela's disputed post-Chavez election should also be
borne in mind by Cuba's new number two, Miguel Diaz-Canel, the
designated successor of President Raul Castro, according to Hare.

"The key lesson may be that for Miguel Diaz-Canel to assume smoothly the
mantle of the Castros will be much tougher than they may have supposed,"
he said, noting that he has until 2018 to prove himself fitted to the
new reality.

Diaz-Canel, 53 this month, "may need to start talking more about the
material ambitions of Cubans," and "tell fewer fantasy stories" about
the state of the country, 54 years after the Revolution.

Marking the second anniversary of the 6th Congress of the Communist
Party of Cuba, which launched economic reforms, the official daily
Granma said Tuesday that "the tasks facing us are among the most complex
and important."

"They will have the biggest impact on reform of the Cuban economic
model," it added, without elaborating on the challenges facing the country. Continue reading
April 16, 2013 4:15 pm

Venezuela forces Cuba's pace of change
By Marc Frank in Havana

Hugo Chávez's death, the narrow election victory of Nicolás Maduro, his
chosen successor, and Venezuela's stuttering economy are forcing Cuba,
the country's closest regional ally, to pick up its reform heels.

In 2011, before Mr Chávez's failing health potentially imperilled
Caracas' annual supply of $3.5bn of subsidised oil to Havana, Cuba's
Communist party adopted plans to "update" its stalled socialist model.

But two years later, Cuba remains only part way through that
transformation process, as even Miguel Díaz-Canel, the new
vice-president, admitted recently on state television.

"We've made progress on the issues that are easiest to solve, that
require decisions and actions that are less complex," said the 52-year
old. "Now what's left are the more important choices that will be more
decisive in the development of our country."

To date, measures under Raúl Castro, 81, the president, have bettered
everyday life but failed to improve Cuba's underlying performance,
critics say. For the regime, it is a balancing act: change too fast and
the regime could unravel; change too slow and the economy will
deteriorate and undermine the Castro brothers' legacy anyway.

Mr Castro, who was quick to congratulate Venezuela's president-elect on
his victory, which should ensure that Cuba has five more years of cheap
oil, has three main goals, says Bert Hoffmann, a Cuba expert at the
German Institute of Global and Area Studies: "Avoid splits in the elite,
and also social unrest; organise a succession; and get gradual economic
reforms started to secure the regime's survival."

At least one part of the juggling process, the organisation of a
potential succession, has happened after Mr Díaz-Canal was appointed
vice-president in February, putting him a heart beat away from the

The former electrical engineer and party official, known as more of a
technocrat than a political firebrand, has already taken over some of Mr
Castro's ceremonial functions – such as travelling to Rome for the
election of the Pope.

This has been accompanied by a slight softening towards some of the
regime's internal critics. Yoani Sánchez, the pro-democracy blogger who
operates despite general government restrictions on internet access, and
Berta Soler, leader of the "Ladies in White", can travel abroad after
new rules that allow all Cubans to leave and return.

The appearance of the economy is also changing. Often funded by exile
remittances, which have doubled in two years to $2bn, once barren city
streets are clogged with private taxis and small businesses that employ
about 400,000 in total. Some 1,700 restaurants and 5,000 bed and
breakfasts are operating, against a few hundred in 2010.

Sloppy Joe's, a Havana haunt once famous among tourists in pre-US
embargo days, even reopened last week – too late for Beyoncé and Jay-Z's
recent controversial trip but not for the growing stream of American
visitors, over 90,000 last year, that have followed looser US restrictions.

Farmers are selling almost half of their produce directly, bypassing a
state monopoly. Demand for paint, plaster and skilled tradesmen has
mushroomed after Cubans were allowed to buy and sell their homes.

Nonetheless, those changes are only around the edges of what remains a
centrally-planned economy that needs to attract foreign investment and
grow by more than 5 per cent a year if it is to have any hope of
rebuilding crumbling infrastructure and create sufficient jobs to absorb
the bulk of Cubans who work for a state that barely pays a living wage.
Since 2008, when Mr Castro became president, economic growth has
averaged just 2 per cent.

"The macroeconomic trend does not support such gradual reform," said
Pavel Vidal, a Cuban economist teaching at Cali's Pontificia Universidad
Javeriana in Colombia.

Officials admit the most dramatic measures are still wanting: eliminate
excessive subsidies; allow farmers to purchase inputs; make state
enterprises autonomous and efficient; provide true incentives for
foreign investment; and eliminate a dual currency system.

"The reforms are afflicted by inner contradictions in their design: a
positive step is taken but then excessive controls and restrictions are
introduced, generating disincentives that conspire against their
success," said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, author of Cuba Under Raúl Castro:
Assessing the Reforms.

"This 'compromise' . . . results in a hybrid that does not bear the
expected fruits. More daring measures are needed."

Mr Castro begs to differ. "We are moving forward at a good pace," he
said this month. "We must resist the pressure of those who insist we
need to move more rapidly."

But Mr Castro may not really have a choice, especially if Venezuela,
which suffers a gaping fiscal deficit, finds it can no longer afford to
subsidise the island. Henrique Capriles, Venezuela's opposition leader,
has said he wants to cancel Caracas' oil subsidy and slammed
president-elect Mr Maduro as a Havana puppet.

"Havana has failed to find oil offshore and, in terms of financial
support, the new Maduro government in Venezuela only creates
uncertainty," a European diplomat in Cuba said. "It must pick up the
pace, like it or not." Continue reading
Posted on Tuesday, 04.16.13

Daughter carries out father's bold work in Cuba
By Fabiola Santiago

A gray Miami morning framed the conversation with Rosa María Payá,
blinding rain pouring into Biscayne Bay, long, tear-like droplets
streaking the conference room windows.

"What we're asking for has nothing to do with ideology or party," the
24-year-old physicist said to the journalists gathered to meet her in
the same Miami Herald room where her internationally recognized father
presented his ground-breaking — and daring — Varela Project 10 years ago.

"We want to know the truth about what happened to my father and to
Harold Cepero."

Rosa María is the daughter of Oswaldo Payá, the late leader of the
island's peaceful Christian Liberation Movement. And he was the founder
of the Varela Project, a human-rights based platform for change that
included a signature-gathering drive throughout the island calling for a
referendum on Cuba's leadership.

Payá, 60, died under increasingly questionable circumstances last July
along with Harold Cepero, one of the group's most charismatic young

Rosa María, who had been active in the movement for only two years
before her father's death, has been on a tireless European and U.S. tour
— Madrid, Geneva, Sweden, Washington D.C., New York — to get the
international community to call for an independent investigation of the
car wreck the Cuban government has blamed for the deaths.

Petite but exuding tremendous strength, Rosa María has been methodically
collecting evidence, stringing facts together and speaking with
witnesses — most importantly, the Spaniard driving the car, Angel
Carromero, and the Swede activist Jens Aron Modig, who rode with
Carromero up front.

Text messages sent immediately after the wreck by both men, testimony
from Carromero that a car with government plates was following and
harassing them, then rammed them off the road, and a string of other
circumstances such as the government's refusal to give the family the
customary autopsy report and the police accident report, as law
requires, all indicate that the crash was not an accident.

The Cuban government was following Payá's moves that day, and let him
know publicly via an official Twitter post at 6:15 a.m when he left his
home with Carromero and Modig: "Payá is on the road to Varadero."

This was not unusual, the daughter said.

State security officers often followed Payá and their threats had become
quite blunt, telling him things like: "You are not going to live to see

After their conversations with Rosa María, Carromero and Modig both
broke their silence publicly.

In the most complete account to date, published in The Washington Post,
Carromero gave a hair-raising narration of what happened from the moment
the four men left Havana until he was finally allowed to leave for Spain
after the Spanish government negotiated his being allowed to serve in
his homeland the four-year-sentence imposed in Cuba. After the accident,
he was sedated at a heavily militarized hospital, his life threatened, a
confession to reckless driving coerced.

After meeting with Rosa María, Modig described on radio how he was kept
a prisoner for more than a week in Cuba without any communication to the
outside world, his possessions confiscated. He confirmed the existence
of the texts he and Carromero sent. He says he doesn't doubt Carromero's
account and the information Rosa María had gathered, but has no memory
of the crash.

"He says he was sleeping for most of the time they were on the road and
that since he doesn't speak Spanish he's not sure what the others were
talking about," Rosa María told us. Armed with facts and testimony, Rosa
María denounced her father's death before the United Nations Human
Rights Council, not without the interruption of the Cuban
representative, who banged on the table and called her "a mercenary."

And recently, thanks to Carromero's coming forward and Rosa María's
intervention, the human rights arm of the Organization of American
States has formally asked Cuba for details of the car crash.

Yet the government has remained mum.

If the Cuban government is so certain the death was an accident caused
by careless driving, why not give the grieving families the autopsy
reports? Why not give them the accident report? Why not respond to the
OAS? Why not prove their case before the UN instead of calling Rosa
María names?

As I write on Tuesday about her path through Miami, Rosa Maria Payá
reports via Twitter that she returned to Cuba without incident, despite
the death threats made against her life.

"I'm with my family in Havana," she tweets in Spanish. "Thanks to everyone."

Her family — minus one, the father she lost but whose voice can still be
heard through his valiant and eloquent daughter. Continue reading
Cuba and the Enslaving System of Two Currencies / Yusnaby Perez
Posted on April 16, 2013

The dual currency system in Cuba is one of the major economic and social
problems of the country. Don't take my word for it, on several occasions
the president of the country, Raul Castro himself (and I have no
intention of calling him a dissident) has recognized this. We Cubans
have already become accustomed to the existence of the two currencies,
and the government has become so entangled in an economic and payment
system that it would be very difficult to disentangle it without
enormous economic and social — and, of course, political — cost.

Lately I've dedicated myself to making several comparisons on Twitter
about the prices of things in Cuba and their equivalent in months'
wages. To someone who isn't Cuban and doesn't live in Cuba, it's very
difficult to understand the Cuban monetary system; which is why I would
like to give a brief introduction to it.

Historically, Cuba's currency has been the Cuban peso. This is the only
one that has always existed. In the '90s, with the opening to tourism on
the island, dollars began to come in. At first the use of dollars by
Cubans was prohibited and severely punished. I knew people who went to
prison for seven years for having one dollar in their wallet.

The threatening force that American money on the island represented to
the Cuban peso, forced the government to legalize its use by ordinary
Cubans and it became the currency that ruled the Cuban market.

All the stores, hotels, snack bars, restaurants and general services had
their prices in dollars, displacing the Cuban peso. I remember that at
the end of the '90s my parents rented out a room and I could watch many
dollars passing before my eyes.

This of course brought a political cost to the Cuban government. The
simple fact of devaluing the national currency versus the dollar didn't
bring much satisfaction to Comrade Fidel. From that moment the
two-currency system started. Now, how did the Cuban Convertible Peso
(CUC) come about. At that time, in 2004, using the excuse that "Bush has
prohibited the use of dollars in Cuba," they decided to withdraw all
existing dollars from the population and change them for convertible
pesos (CUC). The exchange was 1 for 1.

Fidel Castro set a deadline for the exchange and after that date started
to charge a 20% tax on exchanging dollars for CUCs. Fidel was very
clever, he was left with all the dollars and gave the people CUCs, which
are nothing more than pieces of paper printed with the "supposed"
backing of the USD. This supposed backing was spent on the Commander's
fabulous idea of buying "rice cookers" to sell to the people. Thus was
born the CUC, which up to today has accompanied the Cuban peso in an
apparently eternal rivalry.

Cubans are paid their wages in Cuban pesos. This is the official
currency of Cuba, the "socialist" money. With this money Cubans can pay
for some services such as water, light, gas, staple foods, bus fares, a
part of the phone bill (because the caller ID and international calls
are charged in CUC), their dues to the Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution (CDR), and a few other things.

The rest, such as the food in supermarkets, hotels, services, state
restaurants, getting a passport, the departure tax, paperwork, cell
phone services, car rental, entry to clubs and discos, drinks, taxis,
home appliances, buying school supplies like pencils and erasers, in
short, everything that is not "subsidized" is paid for in CUCs (the
"capitalist" currency) — and this is 99.2% of everyday things.

The Government is fully aware that some Cubans receive remittances from
relatives abroad; some get money from tourists in pay for prostitution;
some engage in the "disappearance" of goods, corruption…; and the
government disregards it on a huge scale to promote the development of
the national economy.

A convertible peso (CUC) = 25 Cuban pesos (CUP) today. The monthly wages
of an ordinary worker are around 375 Cuban pesos, which, applying basic
math, gives us a total of 15 CUC a month. Below I show a list of set
prices at a supermarket in Cuba.

1 liter of milk = 2.50 CUC
1 kg of rice = 3.15 CUC
1 liter of sunflower oil = 1.50 CUC
12 eggs = 1.80 CUC
1 kg beef = 17.00 CUC

The prices of some services are:

An ordinary passport = 100.00 CUC
A certified birth certificate = 20.00 CUC (expedited = 120.00 CUC)
1 night in the Habana Libre Hotel = 275.00 CUC
1 taxi from Vedado to Habana Vieja = 10.00 CUC
Airport Tax = 25.00 CUC
1 minute phone call = 0.35 CUC
One international text message = 1.00 CUC
1 1-minute phone call to Germany = 1.80 CUC
Shoes, low end = 30.00 CUC

So now you can see how little 15.00 CUC, the salary of an ordinary
worker, buys.

Now let's continue by looking at the comparison to understand what it
means for a Cuban to pay prices in CUC. Consider a staple like milk and
the 375 Cuban peso salary of an ordinary Cuban.

1 liter of milk = 2.50 CUC = 62.50 Cuban pesos = 16.7% of the monthly
salary of a worker

Let's take Switzerland as a random reference, where the minimum wage is
about 3,000 USD. If we apply the same percentages that a Cuban pays for
a liter of milk, it would be the equivalent of a Swiss paying 501.00 USD
for that same liter of milk in his country.

To calculate what it means for a Cuban to buy 1 liter of milk relative
to your salary, you can do the following calculation: Take 16.7% of your
monthly wages.

Imagine that the above result is what you would pay in your country for
one liter of milk. A horrible truth? Well the equivalent of this result
is what a Cuban in Cuba pays because of the dual currency.

Even though Fidel seized all the dollars in 2004, dollars still
circulates among us, and the government is subtly giving signs that it
needs U.S. surrency again. Why do you think that every month the phone
company ETECSA holds a 2-for1 promotion for recharges over the internet?
Because it's a very simple way to get "fresh" dollars for the government.

In fact, in the days when ETECSA is running the 2-for-1 promotion, a
Cuban who goes into the local ETECSA office with 20 CUC will not be
offered the promotion; because it can only be paid for with VISA or
MASTERCARD, and what ordinary Cuban has one of those?

Unquestionably the suppression of the second currency (the CUC) would
have a political cost which in my opinion would be unbearable.
Supposedly the CUC is the currency that tourists use (previously having
exchanged euros, dollars, Swiss francs, Mexican pesos for it…). Now, if
they suppress the CUC, then tourists would change their currencies into
Cuban pesos, and then they would see the abysmal economic inequality
without the "slavish" intermediary CUC. This same comparison can be
drawn today, but without the second currency it would be much sadder.

For example, if we eliminate the CUC, one night in a standard room at
Habana Libre Hotel would cost 6,875 Cuban pesos, or 18 months salary of
an ordinary worker. The reality is that mathematically it wouldn't
change anything relative to where we are now, but for millions of Cuban
who have spent more than half a century of continuous brainwashing, to
digest that it would take 18 months — without spending a single peso on
anything else — to be able to sleep one night in this hotel, would be a
serious blow to the government.

Raul has supposedly been working for years on a project to eliminate the
dual currency, but so far without success. To do it, he would have to
raise Cuban salaries 3500% (using as a reference point the costs of an
average family of four), for Cubans to be able to minimally survive with
the real prices that exist in Cuba today, without creating an internal
crisis. And the country does not have now, nor will it have in the
distant future, the conditions for such a change, such that, if such a
reform happened, I highly doubt that the majority of Cubans could meet
the minimum requirements for survival.

Today, we Cuban face an ongoing struggle with money. They pay us with a
money worth very little and with which we have to acquire many things
including food. Our work is devalued to the level of slaves when we have
to change Cuban pesos into convertible pesos. If, in theory, the
convertible peso is a currency "designed" for foreign tourists… Why do
they charge us in convertible pesos to get a passport? Or to buy ham? Or
chicken? And I can continue naming countless examples of things that the
government makes it very difficult and costly for us to access.

But, dear readers, I'm not talking about changing the peas for coffee.*
What I have outlined above was not a "mistake" by the government. No! It
has been a carefully calculated strategy of domination. Economic power
is political power.

By leaving the overwhelming majority of Cubans with meager wages and
depriving us of basic things like eggs and meat, they put us in a state
of despair. Cubans live every day just trying to get — to "resolve" as
we say — the food for that night. A teacher who is a mother with two
children, who after working 8 hours at the school has to tramp all over
the place to get food for her children's dinner, hardly has time to
think about "democracy."

This story is repeated every day for millions of Cubans, who over 50
years have become accustomed to subsisting, forgetting the decency of
the right to a fair life, and living with the hypocrisy of two
currencies: one socialist and the other capitalist.

*Translator's note: A reference to the fact that the "coffee" sold to
Cubans is greatly extended with peas.

2 April 2013 Continue reading
Calixto, the Resolute* / Lilianne Ruiz
Posted on April 15, 2013

This past Tuesday, the Cuban authorities finally acknowledged Calixto R.
Martinez Arias's right to go free, after he had served more than six
months in prison, initially for the crime of "insulting the leadership
figures of the Revolution." He had no trial.

Martinez Arias twice engaged in what is known in the post-1959 history
of Cuban political prisoners as "taking a stand" (literally, "planting
oneself"): he declared a hunger strike. In the first, he went 33 days
without eating, the second, 22. Until, after the second strike, it was
reported by state security that his case had been reviewed and they had
"understood" his demand for freedom.

"I started the first hunger strike to protest my stay in the Combinado
del Este prison," Martinez Arias said. "I also refused to wear prison
garb. When an inmate declares a hunger strike, the guards use many
methods to make them quit. The first thing they say is that you are
committing a disciplinary infraction, which hurts your eiligibility for
rights such as conditional parole, and for family and conjugal visits.
And ultimately they take you to the infirmary where the doctor will take
your vital signs and issue you a "suitable cell" notice, which means
just that: you are fit to be taken to the punishment cells."

"The punishment cell measures about 6 by 8 feet. It has no light. It has
a "Turkish" toilet, and a water basin you can access twice a day, when
the guards allow. There were days when they refused me water because a
captain who claimed to be the second-in-command of Building 3, where I
was detained, said that I could not drink water and took it away from me.

"By day you have to lie on the floor or stand. To that end, they remove
the mattress. They left me my clothes, but took away anything with which
I might cover myself. I spent very cold days, especially during the
first strike. The cells are very wet and very cold, deliberately
prepared to be that way. There were times when I had to sleep sitting on
the floor, up against the wall, because the guards would come very late
to give me the mattress. Lying on the floor you can contract a lung
disease from the cold and moisture. The floor is very dirty because the
cells are not cleaned. There are many insects: enormous rats, droves of
cockroaches. It is a sacrifice that you have to make, convinced that it
is all designed to psychologically torture you.

"During the second hunger strike, of 16 days, they took me to what they
call 'the increased' area, which is more severe. Then they took me out
of there after one day to an even harsher cell. There the conditions
were more brutal. They kept a surveillance camera on me at all times;
they never turned off the light."

In the second hunger strike, Martinez Arias started bleeding profusely
from his gums and his teeth began to fall out. He lost 45 pounds. But he
says: "I became a lot stronger."

The "Official Organ of the Communist Party of Cuba," the newspaper
Granma, on Wednesday April 10, published an account of the "good
conditions" in which prisoners live in Cuban jails. Regarding this,
Martinez Arias said:

"This is an absurdity. I can assure you that they began preparing this
article in December. In the month of December they informed us that
journalists from the national and foreign press accredited in Cuba were
going to visit the Combinado del Este prison. Major Rodolfo, who is in
charge of the building where I was, a building for 'pendings,' explained
to us that the visitors would not be given access to our building
because of the appalling conditions. Prisoners there live in a state of
overcrowding, because every day many 'pending' prisoners enter.

"It also has many leaks, and the bathrooms are in an extremely
unsanitary condition. The building should be declared uninhabitable.
Rodolfo explained that he was not going to take visitors there, because
of these conditions, and that this was not a bad decision because, and I
can almost quote him verbatim, 'when a visitor comes to your house, you
want to show him the best, not the worst parts.' For that reason, he
said, they were going to repair a wing of building No.1. The foreign
media should not be allowed to have access to the punishment cells. In
fact, in none of the pictures they showed are these cells seen."

In Cuba, the exercise of the right that everyone has to seek, receive,
and distribute information, by any means of expression, without
limitation by borders—as stated in Article 19 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights—may be considered a crime. But on occasion,
to put an independent journalist in prison, as in the case of Martinez
Arias, the authorities bring charges of common crimes against him, to
deflect the political nature of the arrest.

On September 16, 2012, Martinez Arias had been inquiring of some
terminal-workers near Jose Marti International Airport about a batch of
medical aid provided by international humanitarian organizations to
address the outbreak of cholera and dengue and that, because of official
mismanagement, had spoiled.

On leaving the airport, as he and others took shelter from the rain,
perched on the benches of a bus stop to avoid the puddles, a patrol car
arrived and gave them all tickets; but Martinez Arias was transferred to
the police unit of Santiago de las Vegas on the charge of being
"illegally" in Havana, having an address of the province of Camagüey.
Martinez Arias claimed in his defense that "the brothers Fidel and Raul
Castro are natives of the province of Oriente."

"Immediately" said the self-described activist "the police handcuffed
me, took me to a dark hallway, and beat me hard."

The police who detained and beat him then accused him of "insulting the
figures of the leaders of the revolution." He was automatically moved to
the Valle Grande prison, and from there, as punishment for continually
denouncing through his colleagues the human rights abuses of the prison
population, he was taken to the maximum-security Combinado del Este prison.

During the first hunger strike, State Security informed Martinez Arias
that the prosecutor's petition stated that he had been "insulting" and
"resistant", for having offended a policeman.

"If I had reacted during the beating they gave me by dodging a blow, or
by landing a defensive blow to the policeman who was giving me the
beating, I would have been accused of 'attacking,'" Calixto said. Police
in Cuba can feel "offended" and "attacked" if you don't react with
absolute passivity to their arbitrariness and brutality, and then they
fabricate the charges of "insult" and "attack", respectively, resulting
in the person's imprisonment.

Martinez Arias believes that the visibility conferred by having been
declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, together
with the solidarity of human-rights activists, independent journalists
in Cuba, and many foreign media with the participation of Cubans living
abroad, managed to send a message to the government of Raul Castro that
a person imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression
is not alone, and you cannot keep them in prison subjected to cruel,
inhumane, and degrading treatment without paying a high political cost
that limits your room to maneuver with impunity.

*Translator's note: Literally "the planted one"

Translated by: Tomás A.

This post appeared originally in

12 April 2013 Continue reading
Light and Liberty / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo from Sampsonia Way
Posted on April 15, 2013

Rosa María Payá is visiting the United States from April 3 to 16. She
lives in Havana and is the daughter of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, the Cuban
dissident who won the Andrei Sakharov Prize in 2002 and founded the
Christian Liberation Movement. He died alongside young Harold Cepero on
July 22, 2012, in what the Cuban government classified as a "traffic
accident," convicting Spanish politician Ángel Carromero –who was
driving at the time of the tragedy– of "involuntary manslaughter."
Carromero has now been deported to his own country, where he recently
told The Washington Post that what happened may have been a
State-sponsored assassination.

Rosa María is hoping to win the support of the US media and authorities
for an international campaign demanding an independent investigation of
both deaths. She will visit New York, Washington and Miami. To honor the
memory of her father and Cepero, on Saturday, April 6, exiled Cuban
artist Geandy Pavón projected the image of both martyrs onto the
sinister façade of Cuba's diplomatic mission to the UN, at the corner of
Lexington and East 38th Street, in front of the only military sentry box
that I've seen in New York, and in the presence of Rosa María herself
and twenty or so other companions in exile.

Geandy Pavón's project is called Nemesis and has already paid homage to
Cuban social activists who have died in suspicious circumstances, such
as prisoner and hunger-striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo (in 2010) and the
leader of the Ladies in White, Laura Pollán (in 2011).

During this peaceful political protest to honor his father, Rosa María
announced that, "just as this light illuminates the walls of the
consulate, I hope the light of truth illuminate the hearts of Cubans,
and we can pave the way of reconciliation together, towards the peace,
happiness, and democracy that we seek."

15 April 2013" Continue reading
Human-rights group asks Cuba for details of dissident's death
Posted: Monday, April 15, 2013 4:52 pm
Associated Press

The human rights arm of the Organization of American States has formally
asked Cuba for details of the disputed car crash that killed noted
dissident Oswaldo Paya, his daughter, Rosa Maria Paya Acevedo, revealed

Paya Acevedo also told El Nuevo Herald and The Miami Herald that ruler
Raul Castro's economic reforms amount to "fraud" and noted that "neither
Castro nor (his hand-picked successor Miguel) Diaz-Canel were elected by
the people."
Lodi Tokay Rotary Club | Donate | ROS | Medium Rectangle | In-story

The 24-year-old physicist said she learned of the letter sent by the
Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, or IACHR, to the Cuban
government during a meeting in Washington last week with IACHR Executive
Director Emilio Alvarez Icaza.

IACHR press office director Maria Isabel Rivero confirmed the letter was
sent last week but said its text is confidential, like all exchanges
between the commission and OAS member states.

"The Cuban government has not replied to the IACHR in many years. The
only letters … received from Cuba said that the OAS doesn't have moral
authority and the IACHR doesn't have jurisdiction over Cuba," Rivero
added in an email to El Nuevo Herald.

Paya Acevedo said Alvarez, a Mexican sociologist, told her that Cuban
authorities sometimes return IACHR letters unopened.

Cuban authorities also have never given her family a copy of the
official police investigation of the crash, she added, even though Cuban
law requires that those reports be provided to the families of traffic
victims within 30 days.

IACHR officials have the power to investigate human rights violations in
the 35 member-nations of the OAS, based on the "American Declaration on
the Rights and Duties of Man," signed by all member-states in 1948. Cuba
remains a member, though its membership was suspended in the 1960s.

The commission also can refer cases to the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights, based in Costa Rica, if the countries involved have ratified the
American Convention on Human Rights and recognized the court's
jurisdiction. Cuba, along with the United States, Canada and nine other
OAS members, have not done so.

Paya Acevedo said Alvarez told her the letter to Cuba was triggered by a
Washington Post report on March 5 alleging that Cuban security agents
caused the July 22 car crash in eastern Cuba that also led to the death
of fellow dissident Harold Cepero.

The Cuban government claims the crash was an accident caused by their
driver, Spanish politician Angel Carromero. A Cuban court convicted
Carromero of two counts of vehicular homicide and sentenced him to four
years in prison.

Carromero asserted in the Washington Post interview that another
vehicle, presumably driven by State Security agents who were tailing
Paya, rammed his rented vehicle from behind and forced him off the road.

Paya Acevedo said Carromero gave her the same version of the crash when
they met in Spain earlier this year. The Spaniard left Cuba in December
under an agreement to serve the rest of his sentence in his home country.

Another passenger in the car, Swedish politician Jens Aron Modig, who
was not injured, has said he was dozing at the time of the crash.

Paya Acevedo has been repeating her family's demand for an independent
investigation of Paya's death throughout a two-month trip abroad that
took her to Spain, Sweden, New York, Washington and now South Florida.
She is expected to return to Cuba this week.

She also has been asking the OAS, United Nations and European Parliament
to protect Cuban dissidents "and especially my family," which has become
a growing target of death threats and harassments by State Security
agents since her father's death.

"From our experience, we know they are not fooling around," she said
during her visit with the editorial board and reporters of El Nuevo
Herald and The Miami Herald.

As for Castro's economic reforms, she added, she prefers to call them
"fraud-changes" because she does not believe that there have been real
changes, and the level of repression against dissidents in fact
increased under Raul Castro.

Among other changes, the reforms allow more small-scale private
businesses, make big cuts in the overstuffed public payrolls, and trim
government subsidies in areas such as health, education and welfare.

Paya Acevedo argued that the changes are designed only to "clean up"
Cuba's image so that the government can win economic concessions from
the United States and Europe.

"It would be dangerous if they start to believe those changes," she added.

Cuba's best future, she noted, lies in the plebiscite on democracy and
human rights that her father proposed under his Varela Project in 2002 —
and backed up with 25,000 signatures with full names and national I.D.
card numbers, she added.

That could lead to a dialogue between the government and its critics,
and a "real transition," Paya Acevedo added.

The Cuban government answered Project Varela with a harsh crackdown in
2003, known as Cuba's Black Spring, that sentenced 75 peaceful
dissidents to prison terms of up to 28 years. All were freed after
serving up to eight years of their sentences. Continue reading
Internet for the Cuban Opposition is Possible / Yusnaby Perez
Posted on April 15, 2013

phone googleMany wonder and don't understand: How can I have internet on
my Smartphone? Others don't even believe I'm in Cuba. But hey, in the
last two months I've been researching an effective method to provide
internet to the opposition within the island with funding from abroad.
And I found it! I proved it! It works!

Cubacel has the technology necessary to provide internet services. They
don't have 4G, nor even 3G, but the GPRS works perfectly. For those who
aren't familiar with it, GPRS is the service that provides internet to
cellphones with a data plan. Of course, in Cuba it's blocked for
national customers and only works on cellphones with service through
foreign companies using "roaming" in Cuba. Normally, the data plans
abroad are very expensive: But they work in Cuba!

At present, many of the opponents get their cellphones recharged so they
can tweet "blindly," which costs 1 CUC (roughly $1 U.S.) for every
tweet. Here I recommend to them this alternative.

All someone needs to do is get a contract in Spain with the company
Movistar and active the data plan for abroad. There are two options. The
most economical costs 50 € a month for 150Mb. Then someone sends the SIM
card to the opponent on the island and they will have up to 150Mb to
interact with the network for a whole month, live, anywhere there is
coverage by the Cuban phone company ETECSA. 150 megabytes isn't much,
but it's enough to have instant communications with Twitter and to
report, with images, what is happening in the country.

For more information here is the link to movistar:

This connection path is undetectable and cannot be blocked by the Cuban
government, as the service comes through Movistar. There are other plans
of 500Mb a month that would be great, but the cost is higher: 140 € / month.

So here I leave you this open door that today allows me, thanks to my
brother in Spain, to tweet #EnVivo — Live — from the Island.

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