Press freedom in Cuba is worse than in Iran and Syria

Never mind increased American tourism, the hype from media, and the usual “Cuba experts”, Obama’s new Cuba policy has not brought the Cuban people improvements in their standard of living, or respect for human rights. Cuba remains unfree.

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

Cuba Ranks Among ‘Worst of the Worst’ in Press Freedom

In Freedom House’s 2016 new report on freedom of the press, Cuba ranks even worse than Iran and Syria.

Again, moving in the wrong direction.

Read the 2016 Freedom House Report HERE.

Cuban Political Prisoners of the week

Via Marc Masferrer’s tireless advocacy on their behalf in Uncommon Sense:

Cuban Political Prisoners of the Week, 5/1/16: Alexander Alan Rodriguez, Carlos Calderin, Jordys Dosil, Isain Lopez and Ernest Ortega

During President Barack Obama’s visit to Cuba in March 2016, dictator Raul Castro said he would be willing to release all political prisoners; all he needed was a list of names.

Only the biggest fool would believe him, but several groups almost immediately released their lists. Of course, there was no mass release.

On April 25, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, one of the most credible sources in Cuba for information on political prisoners released its updated list of 93 political prisoners.

A major goal of this blog since its inception more than 10 years ago is to recognize those brave Cubans imprisoned because of their opposition to, and their actions in service of their beliefs, against the Castro dictatorship. It is one small step to ensure that they, and their oppressors, know that they are not forgotten.

In that spirit, Uncommon Sense has revived one of its most important features, the Cuban Political Prisoner of the Week.


Alexander Alan Rodriguez, Carlos Amaury Calderin Roca, Jordys Manuel Dosil Fong, Isain Lopez Luna and Ernesto Ortega Sarduy, all activists with the Patriotic Union of Cuba, were among demonstrators arrested last summer while carrying out peaceful anti-Castro protests in the Parque Central in Havana.

According to the human rights commission, Alan, Calderin, Lopez and Ortega face charges of “disrespect,” while Dosil has been found to be a “pre-criminal social danger,” the Orwellian “crime” the Castro regime brands many of its political opponents, and sentenced to 3 years in prison. The others have not been sentenced.

Soon after they were arrested, Alan, Calderin, Lopez and Ortega were among several activists jailed at the Valle Grande prison who went on hunger strike to demand the end of political persecution and repression of opposition activists; elimination of the “pre-criminal social danger” law; and the release of all political prisoners.

Alexander A Rodriguezwi

Alexander Alan Rodriguez

Jordys Manuel Dosil Fong-800wi

Jordys Manuel Dosil Fong

Carlos Amaury Ortega Sarduy-800wi

Carlos Amaury Ortega Sarduy

Reforms in Cuba: Same old talking points, same old Castro response

Via Capitol Hill Cubans:

As Predicted, Castro Keeps Reverting “Reforms”

Obama’s policy supporters long argued that normalizing relations and easing sanctions towards Cuba would encourage Raul’s “reforms.”

That misses the glaring fact that Castro’s regime only responds when it’s economically pressed. For example, “self-employment” — albeit a half-measure — was a temporary reaction to loss of Soviet subsidies. Years later, with the remnants of the Chavez-Maduro regime in Venezuela imploding, Cuba resorted to it again.

However, as we warned several months before the Obama-Castro deal (December 17th, 2014), once the Cuban economy stabilizes or begins to “bounce back,” the Castro government will reverse itself to freeze or revoke any “reforms.”

Lift U.S. sanctions and Cuba’s government will solely focus on strengthening its state conglomerates and the repression required to suppress change.

That’s exactly what has been happening.

Here’s the latest from Reuters:

Cuba backtracks on food reforms as conservatives resist change

Cuba decided at a secretive Communist Party congress last week to reverse market reforms in food distribution and pricing, according to reports in official media, reflecting tensions within the party about the pace of economic change.

President Raul Castro unveiled an ambitious market reform agenda in one of the world’s last Soviet-style command economies after he took office a decade ago, but the reforms moved slowly in the face of resistance from conservatives and bureaucrats.

At the April 16-19 congress, Castro railed against an “obsolete mentality” that was holding back modernization of Cuba’s socialist economy. But he also said the leadership needed to respond quickly to problems like inflation unleashed by greater demand as a result of reforms in other sectors.

In response, delegates voted to eliminate licenses for private wholesale food distribution, according to reports over the past week in the Communist Party daily, Granma, and state television.

Delegates said the state would contract, distribute and regulate prices for 80 to 90 percent of farm output this year, compared to 51 percent in 2014, according to debates broadcast days after the event.


With No Embargo, What Would Castro Do?

A thoughtful analysis from Dr. Jose Azel via The Azel Perspective:

With No Embargo, What Would Castro Do?

Ironically, an end to the travel ban on the merits of US tourists as communicators of democratic values would enrich the Cuban military — who control the tourism industry.

The recent editorials arguing for or against the continuation of the US embargo and travel ban towards Cuba have one feature in common; unlike the evangelical self-inquiry of “What would Jesus do?” the writers fail to ask the WWCD question. That is, what would Raúl Castro do if the United States were to unilaterally and unconditionally end economic sanctions?


This is a peculiar omission, since the formulation of US foreign policy is often compared to a chess game in which every prospective move is analyzed and weighted with an eye to what the adversary’s counter move would be. As with a conditional proposition in logic, a unilateral policy move by the United States implies reciprocity by Cuba in the “if … then…” array of possibilities.

And yet, advocates of a unilateral-unconditional ending of economic sanctions simplistically posit that the policy has failed and hence it must be changed, without advancing their vision of how the Castro government would respond to such a US initiative. This is an irresponsible approach to the formulation of US foreign policy.

Let me thus advance a WWCD scenario that, although necessarily speculative as these crystal ball exercises are, is perfectly consistent with the statements and actions of the Castro government.

First the obvious: Cuban officials would move to capitalize economically in every possible way, but most importantly by welcoming US tourists as the most immediate source of foreign exchange.

A corollary is that the Cuban government may also move to restrict travel by Cuban-Americans. The Castro logic is simple: US tourists do not speak Spanish, are not subversive, will have limited contacts with Cubans, and will stay in isolated resorts that are off limits to the average Cuban and controlled by Cuba’s security apparatus. Cuban-Americans, on the other hand, symbolize a more destabilizing and less profitable group, given their propensity to stay with family and friends and their ability to communicate in Spanish their experiences in a free land.

Ironically, an end to the travel ban on the merits of US tourists as communicators of democratic values would enrich the Cuban military — who control the tourism industry. Under this scenario, they would likely threaten travel by Cuban-Americans who offer more accessible evidence of the virtues of democracy and free markets.

My WWCD scenario foresees another Castro move that would be very awkward for the United States. For years, the Cuban government has carried out a very successful campaign in the United Nations and other international platforms to make a case for economic damages to Cuba caused by the US embargo.

In Cuba’s view, this policy by the United States has caused over US$116 billion in damages to the Cuban economy. The damages are detailed in yearly reports that Cuba submits to the United Nations. In the latest UN vote, 188 nations voted to end the embargo and only one nation voted with the United States.

Ending economic sanctions unconditionally would strengthen Cuba’s juridical case and would be exhibited by Cuba to the international community as an admission of culpability by the United States. Indeed, Cuba may seek reparations for damages in forums such as the International Court of Justice.

This “if … then…” scenario is not as far fetched as it may seem. The doctrine of state immunity, which protects a state from being sued, allows exceptions for disputes arising from commercial transactions. Moreover, scholars in this field have argued that states should not have immunity in cases relating to human-rights abuses.

Correspondingly, and astutely, the Cuban government has diligently built its case against the US embargo as a violation of human rights, contending it is a policy “deliberately designed to provoke hunger, illnesses and desperation in the Cuban population.” Opponents of the embargo naively reinforce Cuba’s case by always noting in their language that the embargo “only hurts the Cuban people.”

Some provisions of the embargo extend the territorial jurisdiction of the United States in a way shunned by most nations. The Cuban government will rejoice at the opportunity to place the United States “on trial” in international stages populated by anti-Americanism.

This is not to suggest that Cuba’s case would prevail and be awarded damages, but it is the sort of scenario that makes advocacy for a non-negotiated ending of economic sanctions such an irresponsible argument. Supporters of terminating the embargo unconditionally must be confused; the Castros are not the type to “turn the other cheek.”

Paquito D’Rivera pens letter to Obama after White House “veto” of performance (Updated)

Is this another example of Castro thuggery against U.S. citizens?

Via InCubaToday:

Cuban-born musician writes Obama after invite for White House performance is withdrawn

MDA16 BookFair NEW PPP (1) (2)


Multiple Grammy-Award winner Paquito D’Rivera has penned a letter to President Barack Obama questioning whether the decision to “veto” his participation in an upcoming performance at the White House is due to his stance against the Castro regime, now that relations between Cuba and the United States have been restored.

In the letter dated April 11, 2016, D’Rivera — who has previously played at the White House — says he fears that his exclusion is the result of his long-standing stance against oppression in his native Cuba, that he is concerned the decision was made without the Obama’s knowledge and as a form of manipulation by the Cuban government and that as a citizen of a free nation he feels a duty to bring the matter to the attention of the most powerful man on Earth.

Here is the full text of the letter.

Dear Mr. President:

A few months ago, the prestigious Thelonious Monk Institute informed me that they had proposed that I participate in International Jazz Day, an event organized by UNESCO that will take place at the White House on April 30th, and will have you, Mr. President, and First Lady Michelle Obama, as hosts. This concert will feature many loved and admired colleagues of mine such as Chick Corea, Aretha Franklin, Jimmy Heath, Dave Holland, Al Jarreau, Diana Krall, Christian McBride, John McLaughlin, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter, Esperanza Spalding, Sting, and even my former Cuba-based colleague Chucho Valdés. I was delighted and put the rehearsal schedule and dates on my calendar.

I regarded this invitation as recognition of my contribution to American culture that, throughout the years, has earned me the appointment as NEA Jazz Master, honorary doctorates from Berklee School of Music and University of Pennsylvania, , Kennedy Center Living Jazz Legend, and the Presidential Medal of the Arts, among other awards. So imagine my surprise when, a couple of days ago, I received a phone call from the Monk Institute informing me, without any further details, that my participation did not pass the vetting process by the White House. That is all the information that was given.


If the matter at heart here were my cultural contribution to Jazz and American culture, I wouldn’t take the time to write you this letter, Mr. President. I have played the White House before. However, I fear that this “not passing the vetting process” may have to do with my decades-long vocal position against the dictatorship that oppresses Cuba, my country of birth, and my support of human rights and democratic values that you defended so well a few weeks ago in Havana. This wouldn’t be the first time that I have suffered discrimination instigated by the Cuban dictatorship, due to my democratic convictions, even in the United States. And still, this occasion strikes me as particularly troublesome, given that it is an event in which you, Mr. President, will be the host. You, who just a few days ago defended in my native-land the principle that “citizens should be free to speak their mind without fear, to organize and to criticize their government and to protest peacefully,” and praised the accomplishments of the Cuban exile, of which I am a proud member.

Mr. President, I write to you because it concerns me that your genuine goodwill gestures towards the Cuban people could be understood as a call to be complacent towards the demands of the dictatorship that oppresses it; that these gestures may be taken as a pretext to marginalize, even on American soil, Cuban exiles who defend the right of the Cuban people to express freely and to decide their destiny democratically. It is telling (and I pray that I’m wrong) that if the Cuban regime is willing to exert this level of spite and pressure against a public figure in another country — and not just any other country, but the United States — one can only imagine the level of impunity with which the Castro regime acts against Cuban private citizens at home.


It concerns me, that if this is an act of political discrimination against me, it will take place in your house — which is the house of all Americans, given its symbolic weight. It concerns me because it is easier to bear individual discrimination against my person — no matter how painful and humiliating it may be — than the idea that in the name of coexistence with other governments, regardless of their repressive nature, there will be a violation of the basic principles of free speech that so many generations of Americans have fought for over centuries — principles that are a model and a beacon of hope for a considerable part of humankind.

I suppose that this decision to “veto” my presence was made without your knowledge, but my exclusion from the show will be made public. It is my civic duty as a citizen to warn you that even an event celebrating a musical genre that embodies the aspiration of freedom could be used precisely to do the opposite. Because of my respect towards you — which has only increased recently due to your performance in my native country — I believe it is my duty to inform you that your status as host is possibly being manipulated by the very people who deny the very principles that allowed you to become the President of this country, and which allow me to address the most powerful man on Earth with absolute freedom and without fearing repercussions.

Most respectfully,

Paquito D’Rivera

UPDATE: Several Babalu readers report that shortly after Mr. D’Rivera went public, he was quickly re-invited to the White House event. Read more in Spanish, at Diario De Cuba.

Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona

Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, in Translating Cuba:

Thinking About America Amid the Red Rocks of Arizona


14ymedio — On the 8th and 9th of April, along with some fifty other speakers, I was invited to the Sedona Forum which is organized every year by the McCain Institute in cooperation with Arizona State University. So I flew from the democratic volcanoes of Iceland to fall, almost by parachute, among the rusty canyons of Arizona, whose red stones immediately reminded me of Stalinist aesthetics.

This elite event takes place behind closed doors at the Enchantment Resort, a kind of luxury campsite under Sedona’s cliffs and pristine dawns, where the sky is preserved by lighting technicians to make visible 101% of its stars, constellations, comets and Milky Ways.

I sneaked in there, with no qualifications but Cuba in tow, like a conspirator sect, side by side with more than 200 personalities from the elite of American and global politics, including the National Intelligence Director, governors, ambassadors, ex-generals, university rectors, editors-in-chief, CEOs of NGOs, and a dozen senators and congressional representatives.

All were entertained on the family ranch of Republican Senator John McCain, a hero of the war against communism in Vietnam where, incidentally, he was tortured and left with lifetime scars by Cuban hitmen hired by the Ministry of Interior, who killed in cold blood several of his colleagues who were prisoners of war (all of which he told me with a hand on my shoulder and a resolute expression of resignation).

Until the sessions are made public on the website of this conclave, we were asked not to say anything of the men summoned there and their controversial statements. But I can reflect a little now on America as such. That word that, notwithstanding the academic left, remains synonymous with the only functioning and stable democracy in our hemisphere: “America” as an apocope of “United States.”

Without falling into apocalyptic aporiae, the American Union seems to stand, in the spring of 2016, just on the edge of one of those red abysses of the desert where the Sedona Forum took place. The United States desperately cries out for water, its eyes caked with the dry sand of freedom on probation. Between fundamentalism and schizophrenia, between fear and manipulation of the masses, between ethnic tolerance and immigration balkanization, between ghettos and wars, between nationalism and the NSA, between chauvinism and pornography, between correction and criminality, between idiocy and ideology, between capitalism and the lack of capitalists, between isolationism and abstention, between the State Department and its fourth floor despotic populism. Finally, between socialism and the wall.

The sessions included testimonies from Russian and Eastern European activists, for example, and they were chilling. For all of them, Putinism – that Mafioso model that Cuba is implementing today among the tycoons of Cuban exiles and the tyrant Raul Castro – mercilessly assassinated a colleague or loved one. Or both. Some of the panelists in my discussion, in fact, were survivors of violent attacks or the posthumous peace of free doses of radioactivity.

All these champions of human rights – including, by sheer luck, me – can or cannot return to our countries of origin some day, but all of us, within or outside of our Cubitas, face the most brutal impunity of regimes that kill professionally as a state policy. Be it in a “dictatorship” or a “democracy,” we all survive in an eternal state of quotation marks: precarious countries with a fancy for the gallows.

I understood then that the democracies of the world are a race in the phase of extinction and that we have been left very alone, like lost souls, despite the solidarity as symbolic as it is insolvent of the ever diminishing governments and institutions of the free world – where now no one declares themselves free – howling like fatally injured coyotes, or perhaps like characters from Roberto Bolaño: losers who are lost in the Sonora desert, just in sight of the Sedona Forum in new-century Arizona of the end of Europe and the United States.

I shared these 48 hours of voluntary seclusion like a half-silly monk amid futility and philanthropy. Still trying not to set off too many alarms in the debates all about this alarming situation. Still trying to seem like a person with perspectives, facing our fossil future or Fidelity ad infinitum. Still playing at being that Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo who, in the Isle of Infamies, at a party under surveillance even in our most intimate lives, was an incisive and intolerable writer for the system of the rude masses.

In my talk – and hoping not to violate the sub-rosa Sedona code in saying it – I first diplomatically applauded President Barack Obama’s approach to Cuba. It is not us, free Cubans, who rely on censorship and closure, but we are precisely the victims that have suffered it most. But. I immediately confirmed in public my faith in Castroism as a thing intrinsic to Cubans, as a congenital condemnation that defines us before and after Castro.

So. I told them in the English of my childhood – when the United States was, in Cuba, an illusion that everyone believed in, everyone hoped for, everyone supported – that the heart of Castroism is unwavering and that in consequence, it will end up (and this is already starting) criminalizing the Obama administration’s “opening” and its empowerment of our civil society, far beyond the vile greed of the Chamber of Commerce of an ever more un-united Union, and far beyond the terrible Cuban-American betrayal of a nation that was never born.

In other words. I told them, as a devotee of the barbaric nature of the Castros as an incarnation of Cuban complicity which, in whatever variant, America could emerge even more shutout with its “humanitarian” intervention of bombarding us with dollars and hams and computer clicks and cellphones. Although. I also asked them – among the cackle of American laughter and sophisticated sips of wine – for a civil re-colonization, a civilizing interference that finally makes us people and not subjects of a socialism with no way out, neither by ballots nor bullets. I asked them with full responsibility for a reverse invasion of human beings without anthropological damage, while our poor people escape in a suicide stampede. Curtain.

With or without embargo. With or without engagement. With or without internet. With or without repression. With or without political prisoners. With or without a market economy and the Sugar Kings who will come. With or without the rule of law. I told them that Cuba is and will be only a dynastic tyranny in self-transition, as long as a Castro or a Callejas or a Cardinal or a theatrical etcetera of these remains alive: a caste in the throes of perpetuating itself, not from Law to Law, but from Power to Power. And so. Cubans tremble, tremble like enslaved plebeians, tremble both from the opposition and from officialdom before the specific initiative of a plebiscite as a tool of liberation, as has been proposed by led by Rosa María Payá.

And I offered them this other little tidbit. Dear little friends, American daddies and grampas: the first Cuban opponent or dissident that is inserted into some little post within the institutional machinery of the regime, be it at the grassroots level in the People’s Power or in the National Assembly itself, before or after the post-totalitarian shebang of 2018, this will not be a Cuban opponent or dissident from any Cuba, but an agent planted not in secret but brazenly by the think tanks of the Ministry of the Interior and its intelligence thugs. Full stop.

Why. Without citizen mobilization and participation, the rights of Cubans – on the island as well as in exile – will remain hostages of our national sovereignty, in the hands of a clan that controls the agenda of the secret pacts where the latest guest of horror has been the White House. Please.

Forgive me, compatriots. I went to the Sedona Forum to talk about despair and left despairing. By the same grace, at a Miami foundation in the summer of 2013, a great magnate almost accused me of “doing the dirty work of the Havana Government.” And a radical counterrevolutionary said the same thing (listen to how good it sounds): “the Havana Government.”

My answer three years ago was the same with which I concluded my plea in Arizona on the afternoon of Friday, the 8th of April:

“Better despair than demagoguery.”

The future does not belong to socialism

Via Diario De Cuba:

The Castros’ Party-State


Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro at the Sixth Congress of the PCC, Havana, 2011. (ANALITICA.COM)
Fidel Castro and Raúl Castro at the Sixth Congress of the PCC, Havana, 2011. (ANALITICA.COM)

The phrase which best defines, in broad strokes, the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC), which in the coming days will hold its VII Congress is the celebrated quote by King Louis XIV of France: “L’Etat, c’est moi” ( “I am the State.”)

Such is the PCC, a party/state. In Mesopotamia and classical Greece, millennia ago, there were city-states, such as Babylon and Athens. And today they exist in the Vatican, and Monaco, but what is new is that there are also party/states, so seldom studied that nobody talks about it anywhere.

“No communist party in power is really a political party, unless it is an opposition party in a country featuring a democratic system.” Only then does it take advantage of “idiotic parliamentarism,” as Karl Marx called it, and partisan pluralism, engages in politics, electoral work, and sends representatives to Parliament, in full compliance with the law.

But Communist parties do not play fair. If they rise to power – almost always by force, and not by universal suffrage – the first thing they do is to suppress all political parties, except the Communists’, and establish an autocracy similar to those of Europe’s absolutist monarchies before the French Revolution. They automatically cease to be a political party and supplant the state, assuming all its functions.

It was Niccolo Machiavelli, in his work The Prince (1513), who first used the word “state” in its modern sense. Its first theoretician, he called it stato, derived from the Latin term status. Today the most widely accepted concept of the state is a set of institutions that have the authority and power to establish rules governing a society.

And that is precisely what a communist party does. It proclaims itself the holder of absolute truth (which Marx claimed to be non-existent) and takes over all public powers, abolishes private property, seizes control of the entire national economy, the armed forces, the media, education, health, culture, and even citizens’ private lives.

Let’s take a look at the PCC. Created by Fidel Castro in 1965, in his image and likeness, it is a massive state-administrative-ideological paramilitary apparatus of a repressive nature, whose mission is to maintain the people’s “revolutionary loyalty” through iron-fisted social control and intimidation, whether veiled or explicit, a constant barrage of political-ideological propaganda, and the suppression of citizens’ basic rights.

Going further than fascism

By prohibiting private enterprise, Communist parties in power go even further than fascism. The regimes headed by Mussolini, Hitler, Franco and Oliveira Salazar placed the national economy at the service of the fascist party-state’s interests, but they di not abolish the private sector.

If something clearly reveals a communist party’s status as a state apparatus it is that its members do not gather at regional, provincial or national forums to discuss new ideas or reach agreements, like political parties do in the “normal” world, but rather at workplaces.

In Cuba members of the PCC meet in factories, companies, schools, shops, hospitals, military units, theaters, construction sites, media facilities, etc. There is a “Party core” at every workplace, where they receive instructions to bully people and control and manage everything.

It is as if there were committees of the Democratic Party (now controlling the US Executive) at every US factory, with orders from the White House to oversee every business executive and tell them how to do their jobs. Or as if the Popular Party in Spain did the same thing at every workplace in the country.

Moreover, the CCP even violates the Leninist principle of “democratic centralism,” according to which the minority must obey and comply with the decisions made by the majority of members. In Cuba, and in every communist country, it is precisely the other way around, as most have to obey, without question, what the dictator and a select group of illuminati decide. It suffices to note that, with the VII Congress of the CCP coming up, the Party’s leadership did not even deign to inform members of the points to be addressed and the documents to be examined at the event – and far less to solicit their views.

All Communist leaders in power are autocratic despots, many of them with as much personal power as that wielded by Caligula or Ivan the Terrible. Let us recall five of the most notorious: Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Kim Il Sung, Fidel Castro and Pol Pot, earthly “deities” that aggravated the systemic infeasibility of the communist model, spilling rivers of blood and inflicting tragically suffering on their peoples.

In the case of Cuba, Fidel Castro’s whims over his 52 years as head of the CCP and dictator constitute an internationally unprecedented litany of outrageous, idiotic, and reckless acts that sank Cubans further into poverty, in a country that had enjoyed a standard of living higher than that of some European countries before 1959. And to that we must add its crimes and human rights violations.

The paradox here is that while the Castro party’s ruling cadre is very powerful, its base of members is not. They have neither the capacity nor the instruments to question the mandates handed down from above by the authorities, who control and threaten them, forcing them to toe the line. The dictator and his team know that the average Joe in the party has lost faith and no longer believes in fairy tales, scoffing at the notion that “the future belongs to socialism.”

Continue reading HERE.

US – Cuba policy tweets of the day

Via the Twitter accounts of Capitol Hill Cubans, and Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

Cuba: Exploitation, propaganda, and slavery

Never to miss a propaganda opportunity, Cuba sends 53 doctors and aid workers to to join their fellow medics slaves already in Ecuador.

As part of a larger policy of internationalism, there are currently 52,000 Cuban doctors working in 66 countries worldwide, representing an annual revenue of 8.2 billion dollars for the government. | Photo: Reuters
As part of a larger policy of internationalism, there are currently 52,000 Cuban doctors working in 66 countries worldwide, representing an annual revenue of 8.2 billion dollars for the government. | Photo: Reuters

Cuba’s medical personnel sent abroad are subject to gestapo style intimidation and surveillance, via IWPR:

Cubans deployed abroad are subject to tight controls intended to deter them from defecting. Before leaving Cuba, they attend lectures warning them of the supposed multiple dangers of life in their destination country.

The doctor whom IWPR interviewed about her experiences in Venezuela said that when she arrived there, her passport was taken away to stop her defecting or requesting asylum at a United States embassy.

In Trinidad and Tobago, a Cuban doctor said everyone’s behaviour was monitored. They were told it was inappropriate for them to go out after work as the Cuban authorities could not be responsible for their safety after seven pm.

Anyone who broke the rules received a bad report and was threatened with being sent back to Cuba or never again being selected for a medical brigade.

Team members are also instructed to keep watch over one another. If individuals defected or broke a rule, the person assigned to monitor them was also sanctioned.

There are written regulations to the effect that team members must “inform their superiors of any violations of disciplinary standards they are aware of, as well as inappropriate conduct that is detrimental to the prestige of the mission”. It is also considered a disciplinary infraction to “maintain friendships or relationships of other kinds with Cuban citizens… or foreigners who hold hostile views, or are against the Cuban Revolution”.

The regulations make it difficult to interview Cuban health professionals working abroad. The rules say it is an infraction to “articulate opinions or views to the press, radio or television that compromise the Cuban collaboration [with host nations], or that concern internal situations in the work centres where they provide their services or in the country where they are based, without prior instructions and authorisation on these matters”.

There is a massive international response to the tragedy in Ecuador, countries around the world, independently and through the UN are sending rescuers and aid. Why is Cuba’s response different? Only Cuba’s doctors and medical workers are part of a dictator’s slave trade in doctors program, which earns the regime around “$8 billion a year off the backs of the health workers it sends to poor countries”, and you have to ask, just where did all that money go, certainly not to help the impoverished Cuban people.

In Havana, there is no disaster relief from earthquake Castro, where in spite of those billions received on the backs of slave workers, state controlled housing collapses from lack of maintenance.

Image from quake site in Ecuador:

Image from Castro quake in Havana:

An Epistolary Life: Writings About Love, Gratitude, the Arts, and Political Discourse


I’m so pleased to share with you that our own Honey has written a memoir. It covers her adult life, and contains letters she wrote to many notable people in the arts and public life over the last half century, as well as their responses. The book is a plea to bring love and gratitude back into the public square to replace the divisiveness rampant lately. It is also fun and serious; I laughed often, and more than once had to put the book down and let the tears flow.

There is a long section at the end of the book that contains letters between our own Professor Carlos Eire and Honey. Our esteemed professor also wrote the foreword for the book.

An Epistolary Life: Writings About Love, Gratitude, the Arts, and Political Discourse is wonderfully entertaining, a thoroughly enjoyable, lovely epistle. Highly recommended. It is available at Amazon, HERE..


Reports from Cuba: Havana Hides its Beggars

By Mayeta Labrada Via Translating Cuba:

Havana Hides its Beggars


For several days, brigades from the Ministry of Public Health are interning the city’s beggars in health facilities to get them off the street. (14ymedio)
For several days, brigades from the Ministry of Public Health are interning the city’s beggars in health facilities to get them off the street. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Yosmany Mayeta Labrada, Havana, 17 March 2016 – Fixing up the Latin American Stadium and repairing the streets where Barack Obama’s motorcade will travel are just a part of the preparations before the coming of the president of the United States to Havana this Sunday.

Nancy Navarro, a nurse at the January 1st Teaching Polyclinic in the Playa district, told 14ymedio that there was a meeting at her workplace to prepare a census of the people wandering around the city. The process also included an assessment by professionals specializing in mental health, who in the company of other technicians are responsible for picking up the beggars, “on the street or even in their homes.”

A doctor from the Fifth Canaria Health Center in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, said that “seniors roaming the streets of Havana’s various municipalities will be interned” there. The employee acknowledged that she expected an influx of a little more than 200 elderly, “although this is a very high figure for the facility because it does have ideal conditions for sheltering them.”

Yaneysi Rios, a doctor at the 14th Clinic in the municipality of Habana del Este, explained that many homeless people do not have family and need to be hospitalized for life. “It is up to us to see to these people who belong to our medical center, many are elderly and that have no family nor do they receive care from any parallel institution. In reality they need to be hospitalized for better care of their health,” she added.

One of those elders who wanders around the city is Rogelio. He can be seen in a centrally located park in Vedado as well as in the remotest neighborhoods on the outskirts. “I’m retired from transport for more than 15 years ago and since then I collect cans in different places and in nightclubs. With over 42 years of work I have no place to live, so today I stay here and tomorrow there,” he said.

Now he is trying to hide from the eyes of the police and medical teams who are inspecting the streets. He does not want to go to a detention center because he prefers “to have my independence.” Xiomara Kindelan agrees with him. Her 69-year-old brother was taken to one of those temporary centers while she wasn’t home. “Truly he roams” she declared, “but if they had told me to control him so he would not to leave the house for several days, I would have no problem, ultimately he is my younger brother.”

Neighbors on Monte street, in the municipality of Old Havana, watched when employees from Public Health approached several people begging in the streets and put them on a bus. A worker from Community Services in the area said that since early Monday the raid has been massive: “I have not seen anything like it and I have spent years working here, anyone with the hint of a being beggar was forced on the bus, many are elderly people living in the area who have children and grandchildren who are dedicated to their care.”

Reinier Lopez, a resident of Monte Street at the corner of Angeles, said he was angry because his grandfather was taken away “like a dog in the street… I do not agree with these actions, I am a trained young man and for five years I have devoted myself to my job, my house and caring for my grandfather who is 78. Now he is in a place for people with mental disorders it is not the right thing when you have family members who care for you,” he argued.

Although these measures were never officially announced, some homeless migrated to more distant neighborhoods, while the families of others are hosting them temporarily until Obama finally says goodbye to the island and life returns to normal.

Human rights body reports on politically motivated machete attack against Cuban dissident

This is what Cuban dissidents risk when speaking out against the Castro dictatorship. This is what Obama has chosen to put aside for the sake of his legacy.

Via Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Regional human rights body reports on politically motivated machete attack against Cuban dissident

Sirley Ávila León who was the victim of a politically motivated machete attack mentioned in Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) 2015 Annual Report published in 2016.


Photos of injuries suffered by Sirley Ávila León in May 24, 2015 machete attack

On September 2, 2015, the IACHR requested that precautionary measures be adopted for Sirley Ávila León. Based on the request filed by the Cuban Democratic Directorate (Directorio Democrático Cubano ) with the Commission , Ávila has been subjected to harassment and threats, which came to a head in May 2015, when the proposed beneficiary was allegedly the victim of a machete attack as a result of her work as a human rights defender. After examining the allegations of fact and law submitted by the requesting party, the Commission believes that the information shows that Sirley Ávila León is at serious and urgent risk, inasmuch as her safety and life are threatened. Accordingly, as provided under Article 25 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, the Commission requests Cuba to adopt the necessary measures to ensure the life and personal integrity of the beneficiary and to make it possible for her to engage in her activities as a human rights defender without being subjected to acts of violence and harassment. Additionally, it requests the State to come to an agreement with the beneficiary and her representatives on what measures must be taken and to report actions taken to investigate the alleged incidents, which gave rise to the adoption of the instant precautionary measure and thus prevent them from happening again. [ Read the full resolution in Spanish]


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