For those of you who understand Spanish, enjoy this masterful debate performance by Cuban dissident leader Antonio Rodiles. Facing Ric Herrero from the group Cuba Now, which lobbies for Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba’s apartheid dictatorship while ignoring the violent repression, Rodiles quickly and easily exposes their agenda.
Graffiti in Havana: “Super offer? If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat them in 1 hour. Loosen up Cubacel!”
Criticisms of the management of the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) have reached the walls of Havana. A nice graffiti criticizes the conditions attached to the latest international recharge promotions for cellphone customers. The drawing mocks the requirement that consumers use their balance in a short period of time.
“If I buy one banana they give me two. But I have to eat it in 1 hour,” muses a pensive chimpanzee painted on several walls in the capital. The complaint ends with a “Loosen up, Cubacel!” demanding that the cellphone network give better terms for its recharge offerings.
Between the 16th and 20th of November, the company launched an international promotion under the slogan: “A bonus on your recharge with 30 or 60.” Each prepaid customer whose phone was recharged from abroad (presumably on-line by family or friends) for 20 or 30 CUC during that period, received an additional bonus of 30 or 60 CUC respectively. However, the user had to use the balance before December 20th of this year.
Some customers of the prepaid service have considered the requirement an exorbitant condition and are demanding that the credits earned during a promotion should not expire over time.
A couple of days ago Ecuador announced that beginning December 1st, it would require visas for Cubans who travel to that country. This supposedly created outrage among Cubans who had travel plans to Ecuador and sparked a spontaneous protest outside the Ecuadorean embassy in Havana.
However, we should all keep in mind that as a loyal subaltern of Cuba’s Castros, there is little doubt Ecuador’s Correa was either following orders handed down to him from Havana or at a minimum, he sought and received permission from the Cuban regime to make the policy change. With this dynamic firmly in place, one can reasonably conclude that this change in policy did not surprise the Castro government. Furthermore, it would neither be unthinkable to surmise that the protests that took place outside the Ecuadorean embassy in Havana were officially sanctioned by the Cuban dictatorship if not wholly organized by them for propaganda purposes.
Enter then the international news media to provide the Castro regime with some assistance. The same international news media that under strict instructions from the Cuban dictatorship, refuses to publish any significant coverage of the weekly protest marches that take place every Sunday in Cuba, which always result in violent beatings and arrests of hundreds of peaceful human rights activists. This year there have been over 6,000 violent arrests of peaceful dissidents in Cuba, but you would likely never know that if you got your Cuba news from the mainstream media.
Suddenly, however, they are very interested in this particular “protest” in Cuba. And all the top news outlets are covering this like protests are something you rarely see in Cuba:
Normally, this would raise an important question: Why is the news media suddenly reporting so extensively on protests in Cuba when for years they have virtually ignored the thousands of protests that have been carried out by activists on the island on a regular basis?
But then again, is it really a question when we all know the answer?
Cuba and the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women
“When our revolution is judged in future years, one of the matters on which we will be judged is the manner in which our society and our homeland solved the problems of women.” ~ Fidel Castro, November 30, 1974
November 25th has been set aside as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and the Castro regime is attempting to use the date to white wash its dismal record and ongoing institutionalized violence against women in Cuba. Unfortunately some international organizations and non governmental organizations have looked the other way and given the Cuban government a pass on its systematic and regular violence against women. Below is a partial listing of documented instances where agents of the Cuban dictatorship have engaged in violence against Cuban women arranged by the most recent dates on top with a focus on cases where they were trying to exercise their fundamental rights.
Lady in White Daisy Cuello Basulto denounced that her 21 year old daughter was arrested, violentlystrippedand forced tourinatein front ofpolice officersin a policestation inCotorro. The 21 year old was arrested along with her momand other family on September27, 2015 while on their wayto attend the Sundaymarch ofthe Ladies in White. In the policestation“she washumiliated,” althoughshe refusedto urinate in front of the agents, who constantly jeeredat her,explained her mother in an interview with Radio República. The young womanwas lockedin a cell witha strong smell ofhydrochloric acidand nowsuffers from asore throat.“She has a fever and feels verybad,” reported her mother.
Sirley Ávila León, an ex-delegate of the People’s Assembly (Poder Popular) of Majibacoa who joined the democratic opposition after trying to keep a school open in her community. Official channels ignored her requests and when she went to the international media she was removed from office. Following escalating acts of repression by state security the mother of two, Sirley Ávila León, age 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 at 3:00pm by Osmany Carrión who had been “sent by state security thugs” and that the aggression “was politically motivated.” She suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand and could still lose her right arm.
Cuba: HRF Asks UN to Inquire Into Suspicious Death of Oswaldo Payá
GENEVA (November 24, 2015) — Yesterday, Human Rights Foundation (HRF) submitted a petition and legal report to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (U.N. Special Rapporteur), requesting that he send an allegation letter to the government of Cuba regarding the inconsistencies of the government’s official investigation into the death of Oswaldo Payá in 2012. HRF documented numerous due process violations, including damning witness accounts, a grossly inadequate autopsy examination, and other key pieces of evidence that were overlooked by the Cuban judicial system.
“Oswaldo Payá was the most prominent Cuban pro-democracy activist of the last two decades and he was killed in circumstances that indicate foul play in the Western Hemisphere’s only totalitarian country,” said HRF president Thor Halvorssen. “We ask the Special Rapporteur to question the Cuban government about evidence that strongly suggests that Payá’s death was the result of a car crash caused by agents of the dictatorship. We ask the Special Rapporteur to help the Payá family in their search for truth and justice,” said Halvorssen.
The legal report HRF submitted to the U.N. Special Rapporteur concludes that “the evidence the Cuban State deliberately ignored strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012 were not an accident, as was quickly claimed by authorities in State-owned media and later rubber-stamped in Cuba’s totalitarian court system. Rather, Payá’s death is the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the State, acting (1) with the intent to kill Oswaldo Payá and his fellow passengers in the vehicle; (2) with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm to them; or (3) with reckless or depraved indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to the life of Oswaldo Payá.”
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
“Being in Prison is like walking through the guts of the country”
Cubanet, Jorge Angel Perez, Havana, 23 November 2015 – Angel Santiesteban is the author of one of the most singular works in our literature. He has received multiple recognitions for this in Cuba and abroad. When he was very young he won the UNEAC Prize (from the Writers and Artists Union of Cuba) for his book, “Dream of a Summer Night,” and later the Alejo Carpentier Prize for “The Children Nobody Wanted.” This title also served as the name of his blog, where he has expressed himself in recent years. “Blessed are Those Who Mourn” was distinguished with the Casa de las Americas Prize.
After this brief summary, anyone unfamiliar with his work would say that he is “lucky,” but the larger truth is that he always earns what is most important: laurels from his readers. Life in prison is one of his recurring themes. Whomever starts reading his texts will discover this from the first line of many of his narrative pieces. It turns out that he was in prison twice, and in a ton of police stations. We talked for a long time about prison and his work, a few days ago at my house. And now, while transcribing our conversation, I learned why he was nominated by Reporters Without Borders to receive the Citizen Reporter prize that was just awarded to a group of Ethiopian bloggers.
Jorge Angel Perez (JAP): Angel, there are not many Cuban writers who lived through the hell of prison for two seasons. Did these two stays serve something in your writing?
Angel Santiesteban: Prison has been a rare source of nutrition; relating the events I lived, that I witnessed, has been my armor. Thanks to writing I didn’t lose my head. I think what I experienced intensely in those times gave my writing a great spontaneity. A writer with great imagination could write a great book without being imprisoned, but you can’t deny that someone who was there could tell it with more candor…
JAP: Is this reflected in your book, “Men without Woman,” of Montenegro…
Angel Santiesteban: I think so. Being in prison helped me to have the spontaneity and sincerity literature requires. That candor always remains. So while I passed those two times through that hell, I was thinking about the stories I could find, and how it might serve my work. Thinking about finding material for writing saved me, made those difficult stretches less so.
JAP: Finding those stories …
Angel Santiesteban: I found them there and they were what saved me. Going to prison is like going to war. The prisoner and the soldier have a lot in common. Both are far from home. Both are incommunicado. Both have unmet sexual desires. Both are under a military command that can be abusive and can impose, many times, in a humiliating way. Every day you are in danger of losing your life; in prison at the hands of a criminal and in war you can be killed by the enemy.
JAP: It is there that you will find stories that will serve you later, but the truth is you didn’t go voluntarily to rummage through the prison and the behavior of the prisoners.
Angel Santiesteban: I went because they took me, forced me. The last time I went to prison because I believed, and I still believe, that I could do something to make my country better, to make it democratic. Fidel once said that a better world is possible, and I went to find this better world, to find this better Cuba. That cost me prison. Because I wanted to get this world, I started in my house, for this country I love. My literary teachers told me what was important was to write, that it was my work I should pay attention to, the first thing was to write, to publish, to get readers. Write, write and write. Many friends, and those teachers, thought that a writer doesn’t need to do anything else.
JAP: And do you believe it?
Angel Santiesteban: No, I do not believe it. That is a lie, but I believed it for many years. For a long time I devoted myself only to writing. I built a body of work, I published books and I remained silent… out of fear.
Emilio and Gloria Estefan were among the 17 individuals awarded the “Presidential Medal of Freedom” in a White House ceremony this past Tuesday, when the medals were placed on the recipients by President Obama ( story with photo gallery here). Obama reportedly recognized the couple as “Latinos,” and Gloria was praised for her “iconic vocals,” while Emilio was praised for creating “a new wholly American sound.” Other medal recipients included Barbra Streisand (don’t miss her, uh, iconic photo in the gallery) and Stephen Spielberg (aka Mr. Eight Hours, which need not be explained here).
This is not, of course, the first time the Estefans have been publicly linked with Obama under exceedingly cordial and mutually favorable conditions, but by now Obama has gone from being dubious on Cuba to taking major “historic” steps that significantly dim the prospect of freedom on that tragic and endlessly betrayed island. The Estefans, however, hardly appear to hold it against him, though admittedly there are very nice medals to be had, and accepting them requires a certain, uh, forbearance, presumably.
I will not belabor the point further; the title of the post says it all.
Cubans continue to flee their island in record numbers while hordes of tourists pour in to enjoy themselves and gawk at the natives.
Meanwhile, some Latin American nations are trying to stem the flow, in various ways.
Here are two news stories on the growing exodus.
From The Yucatan Times:
Latest rescue brings Cuban rafter total to more than 150 in Yucatan waters
In the latest incident of Cuban rafters in Yucatan waters, on Tuesday Nov. 24 a Mexican Navy vessel came to the aid of six rafters who had been rescued by a fishing vessel about 492 kilometers (266 nautical miles) northwest of ProgresoLatest rescue brings Cuban rafter total to more than 150 in Yucatan waters.
The six Cubans were adrift when they were spotted and rescued by the crew of the fishing boat “Robalo VIII”, which immediately notified the federal authorities.
After providing first aid and verifying that they were in good health, the Navy transferred the rafters to the remote terminal of the Port of Progreso. The Cubans were then sent to the Merida facilities of the National Institute of Migration.
However, unlike the Cubans who have in past months arrived to Mexico, the six recent arrivals could never reach the United States due to the Mexico-Cuba repatriation agreement signed Nov. 7 in Merida by President Enrique Peña Nieto and Cuban President Raul Castro. Due to the agreement, the six Cubans would be sent back to the island.
Closing the Spigot: Ecuador imposes new visa requirements in attempt to stop flood tide of Cuban migrants
In what appears to be another example of Cuban backchanneling, Ecuador on Thursday announced it will start requiring visas for all Cubans who have been using the South American country as a springboard to emigrate to the United States. The new visa requirements are expected to take effect by the end of next week.
Ecuador’s announcement comes on the heels of Nicaragua’s decision to close its border to northbound Cubans. The move has created a humanitarian and political crisis on Costa Rica’s northern border, where more than 3,000 Cubans are stuck in migratory limbo. And thousands more are on their way.
Since Havana and Washington announced a thawing of diplomatic relations last December, a flood tide of Cubans has left the island in an desperate attempt to make it to U.S. soil before improving ties bring an end to the Cuban Adjustment Act. Most of the Cubans emigrating to the U.S.come by land via Ecuador, whose visa-free immigration policy made it one of the only countries in the hemisphere that allowed Cubans to enter with no questions asked.
As a result, tens of thousands of Cubans saved their remittances and sold their homes to buy a roundtrip ticket to Ecuador to start the long journey to “La Yuma,” as Cubans call the United States.
Jaime Suchlicki’s Historical Account Sets the Record Straight
Peruvian novelist and Nobel Laureate Marío Vargas Llosa once quipped that the greatest producer of ant-capitalist, anti-US propaganda was none other than the United States. Not that there was any doubt, but this truth crystallized in my mind recently, after I read Cuba: From Columbus to Castro and Beyond (fifth edition, 278 pages) and then inadvertently watched a A Brief History of US-Cuba Relations by ABC News.
Let’s just say that ABC delivered a version of “history” sympathetic to the Castros and critical of the United States, in contrast to the observational account by Jaime Suchlicki, a professor at the University of Miami. Narrated by George Stephanopoulos, the seven-minute clip is riddled with errors and lies by omission, perhaps by design, and could have come straight from the regime’s Institute of Radio and Television.
But regardless of whether the flawed account stems from incompetence or ulterior motives, it has been widely circulated as a feel-good synopsis. Its source, one of the largest US-based media networks, demonstrates why so many unsuspecting viewers are misinformed on Cuba and see the regime as benign, even enviable. The ABC clip also belies the importance of the hard yards, of taking the time to examine a topic in depth, as opposed to accepting superficial and sugar-coated reports. For those willing to make the investment, then, does Cuba by Suchlicki fit the bill?
Yes, but with a few provisos. Such an effort, covering Cuba’s long and complicated history, is a balancing act: depth versus economy, objectivity versus frankness, and nuts and bolts versus human interest. You cannot win them all, and Suchlicki’s focus on countless acronym organizations and his attempt at neutrality, at least for the bulk of the book, make for a dry read that is at times hard to follow — a problem amplified by the presence of many Spanish terms. The style is also a departure from his oral presentations and shorter commentaries, where he lays his views on the table without hesitation.
In saying that, those with the will to forge on to the end will be rewarded. Cuba packs a lot of detail and pays closest attention to the 20th century: the US presence and then the Castro era.
Cuba: Ongoing arbitrary detention of human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco amidst arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment of peaceful demonstrators
Mr Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been arbitrarily detained since 25 October 2015 and is now facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in peaceful demonstrations in Cuba.
Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza are also currently under detention following their arbitrary arrest on 5 November 2015 and a summary trial on 6 November 2015 in which they were sentenced to 6 months imprisonment.
This is an example of several cases of arbitrary arrests and judicial harassment against defenders in Cuba in the past months. Amongst them, the case of human rights defenders Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” and Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera, both of whom were arrested on 11 November 2015 and released the following day.
Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez, Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza and Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez” are members of Frente de Acción Cívica “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” (Civic Action Front “Orlando Zapata Tamayo” – FACOZT). FACOZT is an organisation that fights for the release of political prisoners in Cuba and reports human rights abuses committed by police forces against peaceful demonstrators in the country.
Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera is the president of Movimiento por los Derechos Civiles Rosa Parks (Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement), which is a feminist movement fighting to end the repression against human rights defenders and for the release of political prisoners.
Human rights defender Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco has been detained since 25 October 2015 when he was arrested while on his way to participate in the demonstration “Todas Marchamos” (We all March), organised by the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) movement. He is being detained at the Fifth Unit of the Municipality Playa (Quinta Unidad del Municipio Playa), in Havana. The human rights defender is facing charges of public disorder linked to his participation in a demonstration at the premises of the Attorney General’s office on 22 October 2015 demanding that all human rights defenders detained during the Pope’s visit to Cuba should be released.
Human rights defenders Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Rodriguez Mendoza were arrested on 5 November 2015 and taken to the police station in the city of Palma Soriano. In the morning of 6 November 2015 both human rights defenders were subjected to a summary judgement and sentenced to six months imprisonment. They were both convicted of failing to pay a fine of 15,000 Cuban pesos (approximately 4,700 euros) for allegedly making anti-government graffiti in the city of Palma Soriano. The graffitti read “Queremos Cambios” (We want change), “No más hambre” (No more hunger), “No más desempleo” (no more unemployment).
Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.
The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.
Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States.
In this case, the regime is pressuring the United States, and involving third parties, in the midst of a process of normalization between the Obama administration and the dictatorship, to win additional concessions from president Obama, without having to take steps to improve the appalling situation of human rights in Cuba.
We condemn the profound contempt, and the indolent and inhumane attitude of the dictatorship towards Cubans. Only a transition to democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms can reverse the misery that exists on the island.
We appeal to international organizations and those involved to be in solidarity with the Cuban people and their right to be free, in the face of his scenario that becomes more complex every day.
Ailer González, Estado de Sats
Ángel Moya, Democratic Movement for Cuba
Ángel Santiesteban, Estado de Sats
Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats
Berta Soler, The Ladies in White
Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats
Egberto Escobedo, Association of Cuban Political Prisoners
María Cristina Labrada, The Ladies in White
Raul Borges, Christian Democratic Unity Party
Obama’s Hope and Change Cuba policy continues to pay big dividends to the island’s apartheid regime. Obama’s “normalization” with the Castro dictatorship has served only to ensure the Cuban people will continue to live in squalor and denied the most basic rights under the yoke of a tyrannical apartheid dictatorship.
Last week, Florida-based Stonegate Bank, in partnership with MasterCard, announced it will issue debit cards to be used in Cuba by authorized U.S. travelers.
An open question remains whether the use of these debit cards constitutes financing (e.g. through an overdraft feature) and, therefore, a violation of Section 103 of theLIBERTAD Act, “Prohibition Against Indirect Financing of Cuba.”
Clearly, credit cards would have been illegal — but Congress, bank regulators and perhaps even the courts, should look into whether these debit cards also constitute financing for purposes of this prohibition.
But from a policy perspective — who stands to benefit the most from the use of these debit cards in Cuba?
Currently, there are 10,000 locations in Cuba that process such cards, of which 2,500 were installed in 2015, pursuant to Obama’s January regulations authorizing their use.
Every single one of these locations are regime-owned facilities.
And, according to the AP, the Castro regime is so excited about the fees and income it will charge for these cards that — “on Wednesday, officials with Cuban state company Cimex said the government plans to [further] expand credit card processing to commercial and retail outlets throughout Cuba in early 2016.”
Again, all at regime-owned facilities.
But, as the AP reveals, the biggest winner is the “Cuban state company” in charge of processing every single one of these transactions — CIMEX.
CIMEX stands for Cuban Export-Import Corporation, one of the Cuban military’s largest commercial entities, whose operations range from banking to retail. It’s yearly revenues are over $1.5 billion and rising — thanks to Obama’s new policy.
The head of CIMEX is Colonel Hector Oroza Busutin, a Raul Castro confidant. CIMEX falls within the greater GAESA military conglomerate, which is headed by Raul’s son-in-law, General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas.
Thus, once again, the beneficiaries of Obama’s new policy are not the Cuban people, or the “self-employed” entrepreneurs, who the President purports to support.
The beneficiaries are the Castro family and its military conglomerates.