By Lilianne Ruiz in Translating Cuba:
The Dictatorship’s Annoying Writer
Writer Angel Santiesteban in prison — photo Luz Escobar courtesy of Lilianne Ruiz
HAVANA, Cuba. This past February 28, Reporters without Borders issued a statement attaching the second Open Letter from Angel Santiesteban to General-President of Cuba, Raul Castro, on exactly the day that the writer finished a year in jail. Santiesteban published the first letter, addressed to the same leader, on his blog a few days before being taken to jail for a crime of which he declares he is innocent.
The place where he is currently held is a military settlement in Lawton, Havana, with the appearance of a housing construction company. It houses 19 prisoners. His companions have committed crimes of theft, drug trafficking and murder. They are required to stay in a regimen of forced labor. We went there to visit him, a group of friends and this reporter, who could obtain his statements.
Previously he was in La Lima, a prison establishment located in Guanabacoa, and afterwards in the prison known as the “1580,” situated in San Miguel del Padron.
The writer’s people skills guarantee respectful relationships with the inmates. While they are going to work at the ironworks or carpenter’s shop, he stays writing all day. But this he has gotten by force of protest.
Compared with the other jails where he has been, the place is less severe:
“The only explanation that I give you for the fact that they have brought me here is that I publish complaints. Within the jails there are beatings constantly on the part of the authorities. In the ’1580’ I made 70 complaints in four and half months,” explains the writer who receives us in the penal enclosure.
This is the second time he has been a prisoner. The first was when he was 17 years of age. He spent nine months awaiting trial in the La Cabana jail. He had gone to the coast to say goodbye to a part of his family that was leaving Cuba clandestinely. They were caught, and all were taken to jail. From the memories of those nine months, which for him were interminable, came the book that won him the Casa de las Americas Prize in 2006: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn.
He has lost a lot of weight. He accepts no food except that supplied by his family. He came to have a diet as strict as milk with cookies at mid-day and a soup of dehydrated substances, made with boiling water, at the end of the afternoon.
Twice, in the “1580? prison during a hunger strike, he was shackled at his feet and hands. Then the jailers took him by the throat opening his mouth to make him swallow some foul liquid.
He is about to finish a novel:
“It will be an homage to Cirilo Villaverde, for his Cecilia Valdes,” he comments. But he has another in the editing stage of the detective genre in order to entertain, which breaks with his usual style:
“I wanted to have fun,” he explains.
He has also written a book of stories about prison.
“I wanted to tell how riots occur. I condensed the stories that prisoners have told me.”
He was able to get the manuscripts out of jail, and now the texts are saved on a computer. In the “1580? he began writing at eight in the morning and only stopped when the guards turned off the light at ten at night.
“I wrote as if I were going to die. In spite of everything, this is going to be a time that I am going to miss for the rest of my life.”
Continue reading Reports from Cuba: The Dictatorship’s Annoying Writer
You will never guess who screened and hailed Stone's Castro infomercial "Looking For Fidel" promptly upon its release in 2004...Yes Julia Sweig made sure the screening was at the Council on Foreign Relations..where she could add her expert plaudits to the blatant propaganda film...plaudits from Marifeli Perez-Stable also.
The new film won plaudits from two scholars at the screening, including Marifeli Perez-Stable, a professor at Florida International University, who called it a "historical document of enormous importance."
"When I asked Fidel why he let me return to make this film, he replied: "because I trust you."(Oliver Stone.)
Here at Babalu we don't need to elaborate on what it implies to gain Fidel Castro's trust. We simply point out that Stone makes no foolish and "academic" attempt to hide his fondness for the Cuban dictator or his services in his favor. And yet people who hail these blatant and admitted propaganda services on Castro's behalf are proudly associated with such as The Cuba Study Group, where both Sweig and Perez-Stable appear prominently as--yes!--"experts."
Fund for Reconciliation and Development: "Let's work really, really hard for repression abroad!"
Get ready. The floodgates are about to open on travel to the Castro Kingdom.
Yeah. The betrayal of the Cuban people has already been carefully set in place at the State Department.
Much like the rumblings that precede an earthquake, the tremors felt at a travel industry show this week point to a seismic shift in U.S. policy towards Castrogonia. The travel fair was sponsored by The New York Times.
The bête noire orchestrating this seismic shift is Raymond McGrath, coordinator for Cuban Affairs at the U.S. State Department. Search on the internet for information on McGrath and you will be hard pressed to find anything substantial. Judging solely from the comments he made at this travel fair, it seems that he is a graduate of the same "Cuba expert" school that trained Phil Peters and Julia Sweig.
Another sinister presence hovering over this issue is the "non-profit" Fund for Reconciliation and Development headed by John McAuliff, a long-time proponent of "respecting" and doing business with repressive communist states. The FFRD was established in 1965 in response to the war in Southeast Asia. Its aim was full "reconciliation" with the communists who were seeking to control the area, including Pol Pot in Cambodia. According to its own mission statement, this organization was established by Quakers and their American Friends Service Committee. It branched out to include Cuba in 1998.
Good luck finding information on the funding sources for these lobbyists.
The FFRD's aim is identical to those of the repressive regimes it lobbies for. In the case of Cuba/ U.S. relations, the FFRD aims to "foster respect for both countries institutions and right to self-determination."
Yes, "self-determination"... you know, the right to oppress mercilessly, as in the killing fields of Cambodia and the gulags of Castrogonia. And "respect" too... you know, respect for oppression, torture, and genocide.
As McAuliff said in a previous interview: "U.S. officials should respect the authority of Cuba’s socialist government rather than trying to undermine it."
Unfortunately, it seems that this kind of "respect" is now the determining factor in U.S. policy towards the Castro dictatorship.
John McAuliff, proponent of the permanent enslavement of the Cuban people
Tour bookers hopeful U.S. may ease rules on travel to Cuba
While more than half a million Americans are already traveling to Cuba legally every year, the door could open wider. There are indications of a thawing of relations, even as the decades-old embargo remains in place, according to travel professionals who gathered Saturday at The New York Times Travel Show.
Currently, visits by Cuban family members are allowed as well as tour groups that follow cultural agendas that don't allow much independent travel.
"I think there will be general licenses before the spring is over," said John McAuliff, the executive director of the U.S. not-for-profit Fund for Reconciliation and Development. "It means you can stay in bed and breakfasts, eat in private restaurants, take the public buses, rent a car and pick up Cuban hitchhikers. It becomes a totally different process of engagement."
Raymond McGrath, the U.S. State Department's coordinator for Cuban affairs, participated in the Cuba panel at the travel show and acknowledged that changes have been underway. But he advised travelers and tour operators to research their trips, make sure they're not stage-managed the entire time, and then return to the U.S. to add to "educated debate" on the topic.
"Cuba caused a lot of trouble," McGrath said. "Fidel Castro caused a lot of trouble for a lot of people all over the world for a long, long time. And the reason that to a certain extent ended was because he ran out of money, not because he had a change of heart.
"But things have changed and change will continue to happen," he added. "It is U.S. policy to encourage purposeful travel ... as well as family travel to Cuba.
Continue reading HERE.
Via Venezuela News and Views:
Brief comments on the OAS resolution
The lengthy and often postponed OAS debate on the situation of Venezuela gave birth to a shameful communique where only two countries saved their honor by putting comments down, the USA and Panama (although I understand that Canada did not approve but the tally of the votes does not appear).
Three conclusion: 1) the OAS is clearly useless 2) the regime scores a point and 3) the April 2013 strategy of Capriles and the MUD is exacting a heavy price on them.
1) In spite of all evidence the OAS refuses to go further than an exhortation to peace that places, almost, the Maduro regime as the victim. That is, OAS has simply desisted in examining democratic behavior. What matters is only whether and "elected" president is overthrown legally or not. that is, the Cuban strategy applied though Chavez of minimizing the OAS has worked beautifully and it is now a castrato without a voice.
2) The regime scores because not only the OAS will not send any mission or observation, not only the OAS will not go beyond an exhortation but the OAS also writes "Its appreciation, full support, and encouragement for the initiatives and the efforts of the democratically-elected Government of Venezuela ...". there is an "and" after that to include other sectors but the first part is the one that counts, the one where Maduro is considered democratically-elected when we all know the gigantic fraud that was committed last April 2013.
3) Having failed to be more energetic about the claim of fraud in April 2013 and making it worse by putting all eggs in yet another fraudulent election in December 2013 has been noted. The strategy of Capriles and the MUD has failed at home, but more importantly, has failed overseas demonstrating once again that the Venezuelan opposition has no coherence and as such it is difficult to take it seriously. Indirectly the OAS states that there are waiting for some one serious enough to talk to in Venezuela. Meanwhile Maduro it is.
But of course long time readers of this blog shall not be surprised by this turn of events.
Yes, there is a "Twilight Zone" element to my post but stranger things have happened. Click below for the full article:
President Obama should call the Castro-Chavez axis the new "evil empire".....read the full article below:
Andres Oppenheimer in The Miami Herald:
Mexico’s new friend: Castro’s Cuba
MEXICO CITY -- There are many theories about why Mexico is cozying up to Cuba’s dictatorship and looking the other way as Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro brutally represses street demonstrations, but I think the most credible one can be summed up in one word — fear.
Well-placed foreign policy analysts tell me that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s disregard for the defense of universal rights and basic freedoms in Cuba and Venezuela is partly due to fear that these two countries could use their clout with Mexico’s leftist movements to stir up trouble at home.
Peña Nieto has recently passed ambitious energy, education, and telecommunications reforms that have gained enthusiastic applause from Wall Street, but that most of Mexico’s left opposes. The last thing Peña Nieto wants is for Cuba and Venezuela to encourage these leftist groups to derail the reforms in Congress, or through protests on the streets.
“Cuba and Venezuela are domestic policy issues in Mexico,” says Miguel Hakim, a former Mexican undersecretary of foreign affairs in charge of Latin American affairs. “The Peña Nieto government does not want them to stir up the pot at home while he is trying to implement his energy and education reforms.”
Late last year, Peña Nieto forgave 70 percent of Cuba’s nearly $500 million foreign debt to his country. During an official visit to the island in January, he met with semi-retired Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and praised him as “Cuba’s political and moral leader.” The Peña Nieto government has also remained largely silent on Maduro repression of street protests that have already left 20 dead.
Close aides to Peña Nieto told me that Mexico’s foreign policy is guided by pragmatism, and by a desire to be a major player in Latin America’s diplomatic community. During the recent governments of Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and Felipe Calderón (2006-2012), of the opposition National Action Party, Mexico had adopted a more pro-human rights, pro-democracy stand regarding Cuba and Venezuela, which had infuriated those countries’ leaders.
“We have a very pragmatic view of how we should conduct our foreign policy,” Peña Nieto’s chief of staff Aurelio Nuño told me in an interview last week. “In the case of Venezuela, we prefer to be prudent. We do not believe that strident positions will be very useful.”
Most South American countries, led by Brazil, are openly backing the Maduro government in Venezuela. But Brazil’s support for Cuba and Venezuela — which is much more explicit than Mexico’s — comes as less of a surprise, because it is consistent with Brazil’s shameless foreign policy regarding democracy and human rights issues in recent years.
In its quest to become a Third World power, Brazil has befriended some of the bloodiest dictators in the Americas, Africa and Asia. Also, Brazil’s leftist government has been pursuing free market economic policies, while keeping its leftwing base happy with a pro-Cuba, pro-Venezuela foreign policy. Brazil has also invested heavily in Cuba and Venezuela’s oil and infrastructure projects over the past 10 years.
Continue reading HERE.
Marc Masferrer has a Twitter Storify compilation of photographs from yesterday's massive protests in Venezuela:
See all of the photo tweets HERE.
Photos from Maduradas:
The New York-based Latin Rock band Del Exilio will be in town for a rare Miami performance on the Telemundo 51 stage at the Calle 8 Festival this Sunday March 9th. These guys are friends of the blog so if you're like me and haven't been to Calle 8 in a few years it's going to be well worth it.
You can buy their latest album, Panamericano on iTunes.
Imagine if you will...an outfit titled "Students for Liberty," an international libertarian organization, the biggest on earth they boast. Now Websters defines a libertarian as: "a person who believes that people should be allowed to do and say what they want without any interference from the government."
Now imagine if you will....that among the honored speakers at this international libertarian conference was a man who devotes much of his time and fortune to glorifying a totalitarian dictator who abolished private property and murdered entrepreneurs. The lust for absolute control of every facet of his subjects' lives was such that the totalitarian dictator idolized by the honored speaker idolized by Student for Liberty was such that he jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin and murdered more people in his first three years in power (out of a subject population of 6.8 million) than Adolf Hitler murdered in his first six years in power (out of a subject populations of 70 million.)
Now imagine if you will... that rather than a perfunctory invitation to show that they "practice what they preach," and rather than accord this glorifier of international totalitarians the perfunctory politeness such an occasion might call for--rather than this, according to press accounts these libertarians lined up for this honored speaker's autograph and crowded around him in the manner of a rock star....
Here's a very abbreviated list of the activities criminalized under penalty of jail and/or torture-chamber by the totalitarian dictator idolized by the honored speaker idolized by Students for Liberty (who, remember, campaigns for liberty internationally :
1. Travel abroad without permission from the government.
2. Travel abroad with spouse and/or children. With the exception of some senior government officials.
3. Switch jobs without prior government permission.
4. Switch homes. Home exchanges are subject to endless regulations and is practically impossible.
5. Publish anything without permission from the government.
6. Own a personal computer, a fax machine, or a satellite antenna, without permission from the government..
7. Access the Internet, without government permission. The Internet is strictly controlled and monitored by state security. Only 1.7% of the population has access to the web.
8. Send your children to a private or religious school. All schools belong to the communist party.
9. Belong to any religious denomination without penalty. Adults may be terminated from their jobs and the children can be expelled from school.
10. Belong to any organization regardless of its national or international presence with the exception of government organizations. The exceptions are the Communist Party, Union of Communist Youth, Committee for the Defense of the Revolution, etc.
11. Listen to or watch any radio or television station that is independent or privately owned. All of the media is state property and controlled by the state. Cubans illegally listen to or watch BBC, Voice of the Americas, Radio Marti, TV Marti, etc.
12. Read books, magazines, or newspapers, with the exception of those approved/published by the government. All books, magazines, and newspapers in Cuba are published by the government. There is no authorized independent press.
13. Receive publications from abroad or from visitors. This is punishable by jail pursuant to Law 88.
14. Freely communicate with foreign journalists.
15. Visit or stay in hotels, restaurants, beaches, or resorts for tourists.
Continue reading Oliver Stone honored speaker (and mobbed as rock-star) at Libertarian-palooza
It's hard to believe but it happened 31 years ago:
By Angel Santiesteban in Translating Cuba:
Raul Castro, are you satisfied now?
By The Editor (of Angel’s blog while he is in prison)
One year can be a sigh in time or an interminable nightmare; it depends on how you pass the year. To be deprived of freedom is always a bitter drink, but when in addition you’re innocent, when you’re condemned and incarcerated by a judicial system answering to the guidelines of political power of a dictatorship like that of the dynasty that you incarnate today, it’s much worse.
To this you have to add the characteristics of the prisons and concentration camps elaborated on by your Regime, which in no way resemble, neither in form nor in treatment, what you tried to make the national and international journalists who visited last year believe. They cowardly and immorally endorsed the farce to which they were subjected, ridiculing the tragic reality of the thousands of Cubans who, the length and width of the island, are brutally treated, tortured, humiliated and living in conditions that are absolutely inhumane.
As if the dirty complicity of the press wouldn’t have been enough the year before, this year, you, Castro II, tried – and with great success – to gain support for your dictatorship from the member presidents of CELAC, the secretary of the OAS, the director general of the United Nations and the European Union – which only a few days ago, announced that it would resume negotiations with your dictatorship, without caring in the slightest about the destiny of the 11 million inhabitants of the island. Economic interests are more powerful than the fundamentals at the dawn of the 21st century, but the OAS and the UN seem not to notice that they are consenting silently to letting other nations enrich themselves at the cost of Cuban blood and tears. Pathetic but true.
Meanwhile, in the concentration camps and penitentiaries of the Prison Island, more than a hundred political prisoners wait in vain for justice and freedom, and much of the opposition who are being besieged today will, before long, be political prisoners also.
The existence of the opposition in these circumstances should cause an international scandal, but on the contrary, it’s ignored obstreperously by those who can do something. Only the governments of Chile and Costa Rica showed interest and concern for the reality of the opposition in Cuba, and not for the Chinese story that they sold to all the rest of Havana in the context of the Second Summit of CELAC.
Continue reading Reports from Cuba: The Ministry of Revenge Imparts Punishment in the Castros’ Cuba
Garrincha in El Nuevo Herald:
"How funny, with all this breaking relations with everyone, last night I dreamt I had broken relations with Cuba... Ha... Ha... Ha..."
"He left before I could tell him that I woke up crying."
Peter Wilson in Foreign Policy:
Speak Ill of the Dead
A year after his death, Hugo Chávez is still wrecking Venezuela. Why won’t his opponents just say it?
The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has proved as divisive in death as he was in life. At a military parade in central Caracas commemorating the one-year anniversary of his passing on March 5, thousands of marchers -- both soldiers and civilians -- paid their respects to the country's "Eternal Commander." Before a crowd that included Chávez's successor, Nicolas Maduro, Cuba's Raúl Castro, and Bolivian President Evo Morales, Chávista Venezuela was on display.
Beneficiaries of the late Venezuelan president's various social programs waltzed by in carefully choreographed groups, smiling and singing while dressed in bright red, the color of the revolution. Billions of dollars worth of new arms from Russia and China were also paraded through, along with units of the country's National Guard, decked out in anti-riot gear, and informal "people's militias." To honor the late president, Maduro even unveiled a new insignia for the armed forces featuring Chávez's likeness.
"Chávez was the great protector of the people," Maduro intoned before the parade began. "There never existed a leader who would love the country like he did, and who would respect the poor."
Only blocks away, however, opponents of Chávez and Maduro showcased a different Venezuela, continuing spirited anti-government protests that have rocked the country since Feb. 2. Residents of the middle class neighborhood of Chacao woke up on Wednesday to find an effigy of Maduro hanging from a traffic light on the main boulevard that runs through eastern Caracas. Barricades constructed from concrete blocks, tree trunks, and garbage remained in many parts of the city, causing traffic snarls. Across the country Maduro's opponents launched protests and built barricades in most major cities, provoking violent clashes with security forces.
Since the protests erupted a little more than a month ago, at least 20 people have died and hundreds more have been arrested or injured in the worst rioting since Maduro assumed the presidency in April 2013. The government response has been two-faced: calling for dialogue and convening a peace conference on the one hand, and unleashing the police and National Guard on the other.
One year after his death, Chávez remains an important source of legitimacy for the regime. Maduro and his backers have done everything in their power to keep the memory of El Comandante alive -- and to deflect scrutiny away from their own embattled government. A caricature of Chávez's eyes and forehead forms the official insignia of Maduro's United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Visitors arriving to Caracas via the main highway leading to the central part of the country are greeted by a massive billboard with his distinctive bushy eyebrows and steely eyes looking down on them.
Continue reading HERE.