Juan Tamayo in The Miami Herald:
Cat-and-mouse secrecy game plays out daily in Cuba
Cuban dissident Berta Soler says she and other members of the Ladies in White were handing out toys to children at Trillo Park in Havana when a State Security officer detained them and seized the 60 to 70 toys.
Soler said she protested that the women bought the toys legally in Havana with money received legally from supporters abroad. But the agent told her, “Berta, don’t play the fool, because you know those toys come from Miami, the terrorists.”
The March 15 incident reflected the cat-and-mouse game played almost daily by dissidents, supporters abroad who send them assistance and the security agents of a communist government that views most such aid — even toys — as “subversive.”
That’s why, several of the foreign supporters argue, they must use a measure of discretion when sending aid to democracy, human rights or Internet freedom activists in Cuba — enough to ensure it reaches the right people on the island but not so much that it raises suspicions of major illegalities.
“When State Security seizes laptops or even copies of the [U.N.’s] International Declaration of Human Rights, you have to use some discretion,” said Frank Calzon, head of the Center for Cuban Democracy in Washington.
The issue of secrecy in efforts to help Cuba’s civil society hit front pages last week when The Associated Press reported that the U.S. Agency for International Development had created a “covert” Twitter-like platform for Cubans. USAID said the program was not covert, only “discreet” because of the “nonpermissive environment” on the island.
Calzon said he did not mind talking about the precautions he takes in helping Cubans because his center no longer receives U.S. government grants for Cuba programs, and suspects that Havana knows them anyhow.
He stopped keeping important documents in his office after three break-ins in which thieves rifled through files but took no valuables, Calzon said. He keeps four shredders in his office and has it swept occasionally for eavesdropping devices.
Continue reading HERE.
Cuba's peaceful human rights group the Ladies in White and other dissidents set out yesterday to celebrate Palm Sunday and the start of the Holy Week. Unfortunately, as it seems to be the case every Sunday, thugs of the repressive Castro dictatorship were lying wait, violently pouncing on the pro-democracy activists and arresting more than thirty of them.
Uncommon Sense has the report:
Holy Week started in Cuba on Sunday with the arrests of at least three dozen "Ladies In White" and other anti-Castro activists in several towns and cities in the eastern end of the island, according Martinoticias.com.
Nonetheless, more than 100 other activists were able to make it to Palm Sunday services, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, one of the leading opposition groups on the island and whose activists are frequently targeted by the Castro regime.
Ferrer said police detained several Ladies In White, or "Damas De Blanco," in Bayamo, Santiago de Cuba, Gibara and Holguín.
Via Twitter, activist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo reported that like every Sunday for the past nine months or so, police targeted Damas De Blanco and other activists in Colon and other cities in Matanzas province.
Continue reading HERE.
By Regina Coyula in Translating Cuba:
The Means and the End
Much has been written about Zunzuneo and Piramideo and I’m not going to be an analyst. My reflection is simple: Could a mass messaging through Twitter subvert governments like those of Great Britain, Canada, France, Australia, Sweden, Costa Rica?
Beyond the well-known 15-M (May 15th) protests in Spain, the student movement in Chile, and Occupy Wall Street in the very belly of the beast, the social networks have mobilized, have probably knocked down politicians, but they haven’t knocked down governments.
Where does this turn into a dangerous thing? In countries where a bad economy, lack of freedoms, or both, create the conditions. The Arab Spring is the best known referent. The displeasure of the Cuban government is not about the alleged violation of the telephone privacy of its citizens (that would be a colossal joke) but precisely because the government knows very well the express or buried opinions of much of its citizens about the bad economy, the lack of freedoms, or both, and what they least want is that a significant group of them would organize themselves through this means.
And also, I believe, reacting in the face of the launch of Yoani Sanchez’s announced project–a new digital newspaper–a “means” that could align the feelings of citizens in response to the bad economy, the lack of freedoms, or both.
Via Venezuela News & Views:
How much "save Castro!" is part of the agenda about Venezuela?
I have written on and off about how vital Venezuela has become for the survival of the Castro brothers, and maybe their system. In the latest mention of this I was listing LatAm countries whose leaders cannot bear the fall of the Cuban regime as it would be a blow of their raison d'être. I need to come back on this with more emphasis after the words of Brazil's ex president Lula calling upon Maduro to create a "coalition" government to bring Venezuela out of its current crisis (in English here).
Let's start with the apparent sensible aspect of these words. In a normal country majorities are negotiated. Lula himself never had an absolute majority and has had parliament associates that he must take into account for setting the priorities of his administration. For all of Lula defaults, and he has many, he ruled as an apparent democrat. Or was at the very least forced to do so and play the game according to the rules. Even in countries where electoral systems favor a dual party system, coalitions do exist. The US is a big example when you consider that neither the GOP or the DEM are monolithic parties, but a coalition of interests agreeing on some basic points.
Thus Lula advice could seem sensible considering the deep crisis that Venezuela suffers. Unfortunately for him the PSUV, the regime's official party was created with the firm intention to fuse together all the original parties that supported Chavez. That it failed to do so has not modified the Leninist bent of the PSUV and for them it is simply impossible to conceive a coalition. Their everyday practice, from town-halls to Miraflores Palace restate everyday that commitment to establish in Venezuela a one party system. For chavismo negotiations are at best punctual, within a strategy of gaining time while the final blow is readied. See the examples of 2002, 2003, 2004.
Also, Lula cannot fail to know that given the current situation of Venezuela, the opposition is unable and unwilling to enter into such a coalition whose sole purpose would be to spread to them the blame of 15 years of mismanagement. Even the soft belly of the opposition would agree upon such as scheme if the regime were to part with substantial amounts of of its power. The Venezuelan opposition is a democrat one and thus expect what democrats expect everywhere: in a political deal all sides get something.
So, was Lula daydreaming when he offered such as DoA proposal?
There are two options here, and they are not mutually exclusive.
Lula in fact sent a message to Maduro telling him that inside the frame of MERCOSUR his economic plans were nonviable and would lead to disaster, not only for Venezuela. So, either Maduro changes his policies or else. And if he does not know how to change them he should do a "coalition" government which may just mean the inclusion of some technocrats that would be allowed to work without major political pressure. Here, what matters the most, is that Venezuela finds a way to pay its debt towards Brazil. Since 2002 we know that Lula has cared shit about Human Rights in Venezuela and the rule of law.
Continue reading HERE.
Garrincha in Yahoo Noticias:
"Should I sit down with the opposition and talk to them?"
"If you're sitting on top of them, yes."
By John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:
Venezuela's Non-Violent Resistance 60 Days Later: #12F - #12A
"Today, we citizens went out massively and peacefully into the street in Caracas to once more find a brutal regime crackdown." - Maria Corina Machado, April 12, 2014 over twitter
Some of the Venezuelans killed since February 12th.
Sixty Days later and Venezuelans by the tens of thousands are out in the streets marching on April12, 2014 for the future that they want. The march was organized by the student movement. What sparked these protests that have gone on for two months: violence and insecurity in Venezuelan society and the government's response which has involved shooting and torturing students.
Remembering Day 1:
On February 12, 2014 a national youth day in Venezuela student protesters were shot in the head and killed by government agents. Robert Redman, Neyder Arellano Sierra and Bassil Alejandro Da Costa were all extra-judicially executed by collectives and officials of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (Sebin) in an effort, apparently to use terror, to shutdown the nonviolent student marches. Others were tortured and one of the young detainees was raped with an assault rifle. The death toll now in the political protests is above 40 and scores of Venezuelan students have been detained and some disappeared.
Continue reading HERE.
Watch and listen as a courageous protestor in Venezuela lectures armed Venezuelan security forces under the control and command of Cuba's dictatorship on who the real enemy of Venezuela is (beginning at the 2:20 mark):
"The United States is not the empire! The empire is Cuba!"
This is simply too rich. Raul Castro, the self-appointed single and all-powerful dictator of Cuba who like his brother Fidel before him was never elected leader, let alone sole ruler of Cuba; who's so-called revolution allows only one political party; one political ideology; one unelected supreme leader; demands one way of thinking; perpetuates one owner (the Castro family) of everything on the island; turns out is an enemy "unanimity."
In a speech yesterday where the dictator praised the extremely mild criticisms (more like meek suggestions) leveled at his "reforms" by hand-picked "officials" of Cuba's communist National Congress, the Cuban dictator let loose this gem (via Café Fuerte - my translation):
"It is very good that they have expressed their opinions, although I do not agree with some of their criticisms. But I respect those who disagree. I am an enemy of absolute unanimity."
Cuban-style repression continues to be employed on a massive scale against peaceful protestors in Venezuela. The photos below, which were taken yesterday in Bello Monte, Venezuela, shows the armed forces of Cuba's puppet dictatorship, the GNB, using violent repression in an attempt to stop a vast exhibition of free expression and dissent.
See all the photos HERE.
This is the kinder, gentler Castro dictatorship the "Cuba Experts" and Castro sycophants here in the U.S. keep telling us about.
Via Capitol Hill Cubans:
Amnesty "Prisoner of Conscience" Brutally Beaten
Cuban political prisoner Ivan Fernandez Depestre has been brutally beaten and placed in a small, inhumane punishment cell (known as a "tapeada") in the Guamajal Prison of Santa Clara.
Fernandez Depestre, held without charges or trial since July 30th of last year, has been designated by Amnesty International as a "prisoner of conscience."
He had simply protested against the brutal beating of two fellow inmates by the prison authorities.
More "reform" you can't believe in.
By Tania Diaz Castro in Translating Cuba:
HAVANA, Cuba, April – Osvaldo Esteban Brito Amat is another of the many Cubans, mostly youngsters, who every day jump into the sea looking for a better future.
“And the sharks? Aren’t you afraid of them?” I asked him while he told me about what happened to him when he tried to get to the coast of the US for the second time.
“No way. If you don’t take any risks in life, you won’t achieve anything. The sharks here, on land, do you more harm. They go around dressed as policemen and they don’t let you live.”
Everyone calls him Valdy and he was born 41 years ago in Ben Tre, one of the various communities forming part of Bauta Council, in the province of Artemisa next to the city of Havana.
Because of his height, blue eyes and his build, Valdy could be taken for a North American in any place in the world, although the sun has darkened his skin and he speaks in a very Cuban manner.
He boasts of never having been a good example of a revolutionary, because from when he was a child he never felt anything in his heart when he was made to repeat every morning before starting his classes: “Pioneers of communism, we will be like Ché.” He says that nothing that you are forced to do can be sincere.
“I think that ever since I was born I have dreamed of living in the USA,” he tells me. “I didn’t try to go earlier because of my mother. I promised her not to do anything crazy like going in a very risky way. But my mother died a year ago. So now it won’t hurt her if the worst happens. And if I succeed in getting there I am sure she would be very happy.”
“In Ben Tre, that small village, where scarcely three hundred people lived, working on miserable little plots and in the poorest of living conditions, many people remember the former North American landowners there in the fifties of the last century, the good wages they paid to the workers, and how they lost their lands and they left the country when Fidel Castro disappropriated them without offering any compensation.
“It’s the second time I have jumped into the sea, hardly ten days ago, at El Salado beach, at Baracoa. I was a kilometer from the Florida coast. I could almost smell Miami. I felt so happy to be able to open my eyes and try to make out its lights from afar. But they caught us. There were several of us, all youngsters and we almost cried when we saw the US coastguards’ boats on top of us.
“They treated us well. With respect. Just as the Cuban authorities did. They only asked us why did we want to leave. I told them the truth: because I don’t like socialism. I am a bird with four wings who wants to fly to liberty. To earn money by working, not looking for handouts offered by the Cuban government.
“I work for myself. I sell meat and pigs’ trotters, sausages, and some fruit, from my horse and cart; what I get from the community in order to earn an honest living. But that’s a criime in Cuba. That’s why I am familiar with jail. I am very familiar with it without being a criminal.”
“Of course I will try again. As they say, third time lucky.”
He showed me the baseball hat with Florida on it which they gave him in the US boat. For him it’s a trophy for his heroic act of confronting the sharks in the middle of the night. I ask him if he doesn’t think that they deserve to be welcomed into that great country and he looks at me with his deep blue eyes, filled with tears.
Cubanet, 8 April 2014
Translated by GH
Francisco Toro in Caracas Chronicles:
A Night of Epistemic Closure
First, a confession: I did not watch last night’s misnamed “dialogue”. I didn’t need to. Nor did anyone else.
There was no point. We all knew exactly how it would go. Reading the accounts this morning, that’s exactly how it went.
Last night’s parallel-monologue (which is way different than a dialogue) exercise was useless for reasons that don’t boil down to the basic fact that the two sides just don’t agree on anything.
Not agreeing on anything can, under the right circumstances, be the starting point to a productive exchange. But only if some minimal conditions are met. Each side has to be partially interested in how the other side sees the world. Each side has to agree that it doesn’t own the truth, that there is a possibility of learning by confronting their own beliefs to a reality that’s sometimes recalcitrant, and to views it might find repugnant. Each side has to agree that dissidence is legitimate, and that truth matters.
We knew last night was a waste of time because it’s so gallopingly evident that those conditions don’t hold in Venezuela. But while the opposition has its problems with confirmation bias and groupthink, this is no time for specious parallelisms: the problem in Venezuela is a government sealed into a air-tight bubble of rigid ideological certainties that bear no resemblance with reality as the rest of the world knows it.
The opposition’s problem with epistemic closure is a spring breeze. The government’s problem is a category-5 super typhoon.
Fifteen years of sitting in front of a VTV screen have taken their toll. Chavismo has zero interest in reality outside the deep, cozy grooves of its ideological comfort zone. We’re talking about a movement that, when faced with a prominent figure claiming that Jews were using newspaper crossword puzzle clues to send each other coded messages, actually promotes the guy.
These people have all the power, all the money, all the rents, and all the guns. It’s going to take a lot more than having the Papal Nuncio sit through a six-hour meeting to get them to step outside that bubble.
In a way, chavismo doesn’t have an epistemic bubble - it is an epistemic bubble. The obdurate refusal to confront a reality it cannot control, to honor opposing points of view without necessarily sharing them, to treat others’ points of view as basically legitimate even if possibly wrong…these things aren’t features of chavismo as a belief system, they’re its essence.
Which is why, all told, there was just one figure who came out of last night looking relatively good: Maria Corina Machado, who called bullshit on the whole sad charade before it even started.
Venezuela News & Views:
Dialogue, monologue or guarimbalogue? Venezuelan political discourse peculiarities
I am not only a little preoccupied about personal matters but to tell you the truth from the start I lost any possible interest in the "dialogue" attempt last night at Miraflores. See, the regime is so predictable, such a rehash of old grievances that one could have easily guessed the discourse.
Last night it was my turn to stay over at the health center that the S.O. has been staying these days. Yes, even in functional high level health centers it is advised that a relative spends the night on a cot in the sick room. The S.O. having recovered somewhat from recent treatments asked me to put on the "debate" that was taking place in Miraflores. We caught it with Andres Velazquez intervention, which was passable. He was succeeded by Aristobulo Hernandez, Anzoategui current governor, and the travesty started. After a few minutes the S.O. found strength somewhere out of his apparent slumber to say "enough of this fucking idiot, turn it off".
Sponsored by UNASUR, last night was finally the first encounter on TV of spokespeople from the regime and the opposition. The regime must be feeling enough heat that it acceded to this highly dangerous show. After the absurd repression of these last two months, repression that has yielded no tangible result for the regime but nasty brutish backlash overseas, it needed desperately a picture of all smiling as if this were a normal country. With a lot of reticence the opposition agreed as long as a certain format would be respected and that could not be interpreted as the regime scoring a point. Maybe they should not have worried that much, the regime did a fine job of ridiculing itself in front of the national audience (it was a cadena) and in front of UNASUR sympathetic ears that must be having more and more second thoughts about validating further Venezuela's regime style.
From what I read the presentation of the opposition envoys were over all much better than the regime's one, if anything by showing that apparently the opposition is more knowledgeable on dossiers and country's problem than the regime trapped in a frozen mind set. It is amazing that people that have been 15 years in office seem way outpaced in delivery by an opposition that is constantly harassed and denied access to real data.
But that is not really the point. The point is that the regime pretends to have a dialogue without conditions. Whereas the opposition offers very reasonable conditions. For example it wants political prisoners to be released. The opposition does not mind them being judged but wants them to be judged in liberty until a sentence comes, like it happens to the very few corrupt and abusive chavistas that have to be sent to trial. Another request is that the constitution is followed. That means in practical term that it is not possible that the high court of 32 members has never a dissent opinion. That means that the offices of comptroller of the nation is given to someone that actually will control the expenses of ALL elected officials, be them chavista or opposition. And other such examples.
What does chavismo want? That opposition ceases all type of protests, recognize the primacy and mandatory line for Venezuela organization even if last April 2013 there was a an electoral fraud to hide that chavismo had lost a majority of the vote. The government has all and wants things to stay that way. Is dialogue, any type of dialogue and agreement a possibility?
Read it all HERE.