A new story about gay rights in Cuba

Really, it’s the same old story, but this saga of one gay man’s journey through arrest and internment in a “rehabilitation center” at age 15, in 1974, to his current position as a refugee in Ecuador at the mercy of a Castro ally, exposes the ugly truth about the regime’s repressive anti-gay policies.

Via MinnPost:

From Havana to Quito: A refugee’s fight for LGBT rights in Cuba
By William Wheeler

QUITO, Ecuador — On her 15th birthday, a girl in Cuba gets a big party. A boy might get cash for a prostitute.

For Alberto Garcia Martinez’s 15th birthday, way back in 1974, his parents gave him money to go shopping in Havana’s city center. He was subsequently picked up in a police sweep targeting gays. For an effeminate teen who did not yet realize he was gay, the experience was both terrifying and confusing.

At his court appearance, his mother, a high-ranking Cuban bureaucrat, sat next to him, weeping out of shame.

We spoke in the office of Asylum Access Ecuador, a legal aid group helping the thousands of Cuban refugees in Ecuador’s capital, where Garcia says he fled after being persecuted in Cuba for his advocacy on behalf of gay rights. His story offers a window into the ongoing struggles of the LGBT community that challenges Cuba’s official narrative of progress on the issue. It also highlights the reluctance of Ecuador’s own government to recognize the limits of political dissent in Cuba.

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Arturo Sandoval: I Have Fulfilled my Dreams

English translation of an excellent interview with Arturo Sandoval, from Ivan’s File Cabinet:

arturo-sandoval

To speak about music in Cuba is an analogy. Cuba is the music. There are nice people, splendid weather, the smell of salty residue, and there’s always a reason to party. Other things, like the shrimp, tropical fruits, or beef are a luxury after 54 years of misrule. Cuba lacks essential liberties, but the music goes on.

Fidel Castro tried to scrap the Sunday calls to retreat and replace them with arrhythmic marches calling for combat. The olive-green regime planned to transform music. To bury guaguancó, toque de santo, and jazz.

But he couldn’t. In addition to inventing parameters to measure the quality of a music, in the medias sent to censure the greats like Mario Bauzá, Celia Cruz, or such a Lupe, only because they chose to observe from the distance the ideological folly established in the island.

And the music, like poetry, doesn’t let you break. The trumpeter, pianist, and composer Arturo Sandoval (Artemeisa, 1949), knows this very well. In the flesh has lived the holy war that political and cultural commissioners, scribes and historians, unleashed in 1990 when he decided to move away from the Communist madhouse. According to official decree, Sandoval was to die.

It’s rained a lot since then. The times are different. It’s been 24 years, indignant Berliners in the night demolished the wall that divided a same nation. Castro had to change politically. He spoke of socialism or death on a Havana platform, but from the sewers of power, sent especially trying to make negotiations with magnates of capitalism. He had to make accords. With the Catholic Church, the Afro-Cuban religion and with the selfsame devil. He cracked the social discipline and the fear was lost.

And in full view you could find blacks on a Cayo Hueso lot, in downtown Havana, between rounds of rum and dominos, daring to listen, at full volume, to Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino, Paquito D’Rivera. or A Time for Love, disco from 2010 by Arturo Sandoval. I was a witness.

On November 6th the Cuban trumpeter turned 64. On the 21st of this month his name may be announced in Las Vegas as the winner of a Grammy, the tenth in his career, to go along with 6 Billboard Awards and an Emmy. Although the most moving of all will be the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which will be presented to him in December by Barack Obama, along with fifteen other figures, including former President Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Mexican scientist and Nobel Prize winner in chemistry Mario Molina. Despite his busy schedule, Arturo Sandoval graciously answered a questionnaire from Diario de Cuba.

Arturo, I was a boy when your name rang out with force on the island. I remember you taking complete notes on the trumpet while Irakere was making Bacalao with bread. Would you be able to summarize your artistic trajectory?

“I have to give thanks to God every day because in my career I’ve been able to accomplish my dreams. Look, coming from a dirt-poor family, where nobody was linked to art, and me having been able to be in the best situations and share with the musical greats. I think that sums up my trajectory: a dream come true.”

He doesn’t say it out of modesty, but another dream come true is the Arturo Sandoval Institute, proud institution of Cuban music on two shores.

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Meet agent Camilo-political police kidnapper

Add this man to your list of those deserving justice when Cuba is free.

agente-camilo-300x209

From Translating Cuba, and in Spanish at Cubanet:

Political Police Kidnappers Identified / Leon Padrone
Posted on September 12, 2013
agente-camilo-300×209
The political police agent known as Camilo followed the route of the P1 bus, on which the Ladies in White were traveling.

HAVANA, Cuba , September, www.cubanet.org – Recently , blogger and freelance journalist Joisy García Martínez wrote via the phone to his account on Twitter, @criolloliberal: “Raul Castro ratifies the kidnappings in Cuba, but not the [UN Human Rights] Covenants.” The fact was related to the severe repression by the political police on about 30 human rights activists who, on the first Sunday in September were to provide support to the Ladies in White, during Mass and their traditional march down 5th Avenue in the Cuban capital.

Joisy own statements as well as those of Rubén Carthy, independent journalist and former prisoner of the Group of 75, and Eduardo Diaz Fleites, witness to the event, said that on that day, at the end of the press conference with the Ladies in White, they and six other activists were arrested by the political police, when they were at the bus stop on 3rd and 20th in the Miramar neighborhood. Suddenly, they were surrounded by a large group of soldiers, most in plain clothes and supported by a caravan of several Lada cars, Suzuki motorcycles, two police cars and an 8-seat bus, intended as a cell during the kidnapping.

Several sources said that, subsequently, the entire repressive squadron under the command of the officer known as Camilo, followed the P1 bus route, on which several Ladies in White and other dissidents were traveling. All of them were arrested when they got off at different stops. The Ladies in White and other passengers who were also on the bus witnessed how agents violently forced the opponents into the vehicles.

Throughout the journey, which had its destination in a confusing area beyond Cotorro, far from the center of Havana, the cruelty of the Castro agents was clearly made evident. One of the soldiers who participated in the operation slapped the face of the young man Adrián Chirino García, a member of the Commission for Assistance to Political Prisoners and Families ( CAPPF ), who desperately asking them to open the window, as he couldn’t get any air. This officer was identified by his badge: No. 2228. The license plate of the Lada car was that driven by officer Camilo, HH122. In addition, the number of one patrol car was 529, and the badge of the driver was 00884.

This is not an isolated event, and it marks another black page in the history of the regime in terms of human rights. And it further confirms that during the presidency of Raul Castro he has maintained the method of kidnappings which, although not new the island — in the past many members of the democratic opposition have experienced it — is being reactivated as one of the main forms of repression in the present.

Leonpadron10@gmail.com

From Cubanet

12 September 2013

Cuba still next to last in Index of Economic Freedom

The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom is out, and Cuba remains next to last place, above only North Korea.

Cuba’s economic freedom score is 28.5, making its economy one of the world’s least free. Its overall score is 0.2 point higher than last year, with a notable decline in monetary freedom counterbalanced by gains in freedom from corruption and fiscal freedom. Cuba is ranked least free of 29 countries in the South and Central America/Caribbean region, and its overall score is significantly lower than the regional average.

Cuba scores far below world averages in most areas of economic freedom, and its economy remains one of the world’s most repressed. The foundations of economic freedom are particularly weak in the absence of an independent and fair judiciary. No courts are free of political interference, and pervasive corruption affects many aspects of economic activity.

As the largest source of employment, the public sector accounts for more than 80 percent of all jobs. A watered-down reform package endorsed by the Cuban Communist Party in April 2011 promised to trim the number of state workers and allow restricted self-employment in the non-public sector, but many details of the reform are obscure and little progress has been observed. The private sector is severely constrained by heavy regulations and tight state controls. Open-market policies are not in place to spur growth in trade and investment, and the lack of competition stifles productivity growth.

[…]

A one-party Communist state, Cuba depends on external assistance (chiefly oil provided by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and remittances from Cuban émigrés) and a captive labor force to survive. Property rights are severely restricted. Fidel Castro’s 81-year-old younger brother Raul continues to guide both the government and the Cuban Communist Party. Cuba’s socialist command economy is in perennial crisis. The average worker earns less than $25 a month, agriculture is in shambles, mining is depressed, and tourism revenue has proven volatile. But economic policy is resolutely Communist, and the regime rejects any moves toward genuine political or economic freedom.

Amnesty International Concerned for Safety of Cuba’s “Ladies in White”

Relieved that their oil supply is safe, at least for now, the Castro’s are busy at what they do best: Complaining about the non-existent embargo, promoting failure as accomplishment, and repressing peaceful unarmed women wearing white.

From Capitol Hill Cubans:

AI Concerned For Safety of Ladies in White

Amnesty International Calls on Cuba to Allow “Ladies in White” Activists to Freely Commemorate Anniversary of Leader’s Death

Amnesty International said today it is concerned about the safety of the activist group “Ladies in White” as the one-year anniversary of their leader’s death approaches on Oct. 14, and called on authorities to ensure the women can mark the anniversary without harassment or intimidation.

“Given the Cuban authorities’ shameful record when it comes to the treatment of human rights activists, we are concerned for the safety of the Ladies in White as they commemorate the anniversary of the death of one of their members,” said Javier Zúñiga Mejía Borja, special advisor for regional programs at Amnesty International. “Our request is simple: the Cuban authorities must ensure that the Ladies in White and other activists in the country can express themselves freely.”

The activists will be travelling from across the country to attend mass at the Church of Santa Rita in Havana and carry out a silent march marking the death of Laura Pollán, who died on October 14, 2011 of cardio-respiratory arrest.

The Ladies in White have been subjected to a permanent campaign of intimidation, harassment and short term detentions to stop them from peacefully campaigning for the release of political prisoners and greater civil and political freedoms in Cuba.

On September 20, around 50 members of the group were arrested as they traveled to Havana to participate in activities to celebrate the feast day of Our Lady of Mercy and in memory of late political activists.

They were held for several days before being released without charge. Various members of the Ladies in White based in the capital also received intimidating notes aimed at discouraging them from taking part in activities.

On March 17, 18 Ladies in White were arrested during a peaceful demonstration on the ninth anniversary of a crackdown on dissidents, which led to the imprisonment of 75 government critics.

All were released except for Niurka Luque Álvarez, who was released on October 5, pending trial on charges of “violence or intimidation” against a state official.

On March 18, Lady in White Sonia Garro Alfonso, and her husband, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González, were detained at their home in Havana when around 50 police forced their way into the house and fired rubber bullets at them. They remain in prison without charge.

In February this year, authorities in Cuba prevented members of the Ladies in White from reaching the group’s headquarters to attend an event in memory of the second anniversary of the death of activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died on hunger strike in protest at his unfair incarceration.

The organization Ladies in White was formed by a group of female relatives of the 75 prisoners of conscience who were imprisoned in March 2003 for their peaceful expression of critical opinions of the government.

The group attends mass every Sunday in the capital, Havana, dressed in white, to pray for the release of their relatives. Afterwards they take part in a procession from the church to a nearby park, carrying white flowers. Following the release of all the prisoners of conscience from the March 2003 crackdown, the Ladies in White have been campaigning for the release of other political prisoners and to lift restrictions on fundamental civil and political freedoms in Cuba.

IAPA: Release Imprisoned Cuban Journalist

Here’s more proof of why Cuba ranks at the bottom of the Press Freedom Index, along with other repressive regimes Belarus, Burma, Sudan, China, and North Korea.

Capitol Hill Cubans:

A charge of criminal contempt brought against Cuban independent journalist Calixto Martínez Arias for warning about cases of cholera and dengue in his country was today protested by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). If found guilty he could face three years in prison.

The hemisphere organization called for the immediate release of Martínez Arias, a reporter with the independent news agency Hablemos Press, who was arrested on Sunday (September 16) near Havana’s international airport as he was investigating another piece of information regarding a shipment of medicines and medical equipment donated by the World Health Organization understood to have been damaged due to negligence and poor warehousing conditions.

In June this year Martínez Arias had disclosed the existence of an outbreak of cholera and in August he warned of the appearance of cases of dengue on the island – information that was known by local residents before the government publicly admitted it.

The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, expressed condemnation of the arrest and detention. He declared, “It is a contradiction that a journalist faces the possibility of gong to jail for reporting on matters of public interest, while on the contrary the information should be taken as an alert to correct a problem affecting the population.” He added that “as we have been denouncing on repeated occasions control of information that is disseminated in Cuba continues unchangeably in the hands of the government.”

Roberto de Jesús Guerra, the director of Hablemos Press, and Veizant Boloy, a lawyer and collaborator of the agency, said that Martínez Arias is being held at a police station in Havana, where they were able to visit him and confirm that he had been beaten. Shortly afterwards Guerra and Boloy were themselves detained and later released.

Martínez Arias, the victim of repeated arrests so far this year, is accused of contempt of Fidel and Raúl Castro, a criminal offense under Article 144.1 of the Penal Code referring to threats and various offenses uttered by word of mouth or in writing against authorities, which is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, announced that as part of its twice-yearly review of the state of press freedom in the Americas the IAPA will take an in-depth look at the case of Cuba during its General Assembly to be held October 12-16 in São Paulo, Brazil.

He is the third Hablemos Press journalist to be detained this month.

Cuba: Death threats, beatings, arrests, just another day in paradise

The repression of peaceful dissent in Cuba is relentless and violent.  God help those Cubans who dare to exercise their God given rights, and freely speak out against the regime’s atrocities.

 This is a sampling of the brutality of the Castro regime’s daily method of silencing dissent excerpted from  Varios Arrestos en el Dia del Opositor .   (my translation)

Dania Virgen García – Cuba – Sept. 18, dissidents celebrating the Day of Opposition in various provences were arrested and beaten.

Pinar del Río:  Members of several different groups were meeting, and attacked by State security officers.  Arrested were Miakel Alexander Hernández, José Antonio  Martínez Márquez, Caridad Tornado Gutiérrez, Misael Hernández Valdez, Juan Cruz Castro, and Yosbel González Miranda.  Misael Hernández and Yosbel González were released after interrogation, however, Juan Cruz´ whereabouts are unknown.

Manzanillo, Granma Province:  The home of Alberto Moreno Fonseca, President of the Partido Obrero Campesino, was surrounded by State security.  According to group member Yuleisy García, National Security Police detained Bartolo Vega Suárez, Rafael Díaz Martínez, Yordanis Yoel Lago Meza,

According to Misleivi Calbente Figueredo, fellow member Osvaldo Pérez Rojas was arrested, and detained for two hours during which time he was beaten, and threatened with death.  He was told by the Captain of State Security that they were going to kill all of them, that they were authorized to kill them and they could do nothing.

Yoani Sánchez walks us through her “peculiar” passport (English subtitles)

A few days ago I came across this recent video of Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez giving a camera a tour of her passport. It’s about the best illustration you could possibly ask for of the regime’s deliberate measures to keep the Cuban people from being exposed to life outside the communist bubble. Her passport is full of visas. Literally. There is nowhere to put a new stamp. And yet she hasn’t been able to use a single one of them to board a flight out of Cuba.

I downloaded the video and added it to my own YouTube channel for the sake of being able to add English subtitles. SO… here it is. If you don’t hve closed captions enabled, just click the “CC” icon in the YouTube player and select the English track. Subtitles should appear.

Obama’s Cuba’s policy fails to help the people

As Carlos Eire concluded in his post on the DNC Cuba platform, the party remains firmly in solidarity with Castrolandia. There’s no mention of a dictatorship, and there’s no mention of political prisoners or the lack of freedom. Well platform this DNC, your policy is a failure.  The continuing increase in the number of political arrests and  the record number of Cubans trying to escape the Cuban state show just how well “the people” are doing.

Capitol Hill Cubans:

538 Political Arrests in August

 at 11:00 AM Tuesday, September 4, 2012

According to Cuban independent journalists (CIHPRESS), the Castro regime has conducted over 538 documented political arrests in the month of August 2012.

That brings its 2012 total to 3,636, which means it’s en route to shatter its 2011 year-long total of 3,835 political arrests.

More “reform” you can’t believe in.

Open letter to the directors of all accredited media in La Habana

Dear Sir or Madam:

We write to you worried about the police and paramilitary harassment denounced from Banes, a small town in the Cuban province of Holguín, by Reina Luisa Tamayo. She is the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo the prisoner of conscience who died on 23 February after a prolonged hunger strike that up to its tragic and fatal outcome had little coverage in the international press.

Every Sunday, we receive, mostly through phone interviews broadcast by the US-based Radio Martí, the same report from Reina Luisa describing how she is beaten, insulted and how [the government directed mob] prevents her from going to the town’s church to pray for her son and the health of all Cuban political prisoners still in jail. The repressive organs of the Cuban regime also impede her to visit her son’s tomb.

It is surprising to us that despite the wide coverage dedicated to Cuban topics, your organization has not reported on this. We know of the limitations to movement within Cuba, but we also understand that any foreign reporter has the means and resources to travel to the Eastern part of the island and give an eyewitness report of what happens there, in front of Reina Luisa Tamayo’s home.

We do not wish to tell the media what they should do, but to share with you our concern for the life of a woman who has lost her son in unjust circumstances and is clamoring for the world’s help to avoid more deaths.

We, the promoters of the #OZT: I accuse the Cuban government Campaign that demands the unconditional and immediate release of all peaceful political prisoners in Cuba and the respect of all Cubans’ human rights; write to you because we know that the international press in Cuba not only bears witness to what happens there, but can also help prevent and stop harassment incidents like those suffered by the Ladies in White in March of this year.

We would also like to know if there is any kind of legal hindrance or of any other sort that prevents your reporter in La Habana from traveling to other regions of Cuba.

We thank you in advance for your reply.

Sincerely,

#OZT: I accuse the Cuban government Campaign

DIRECCIONES DE MEDIOS DE ESPAÑA:

escribanos@bbc.co.uk ( en “asunto” poner “mensaje para BBC Mundo)
cartasdirector@elpais.es
cartas.director@elmundo.es
cartas@abc.es
internacional@abc.es
internacional@elmundo.es
espanaexterior@efe.es
iberoamerica@europapress.es
noticias@europapress.es
director@libertaddigital.com
internacional@larazon.es

CONTACTO CON LA OFICINA PRINCIPAL DE AMNISTIA INTERNACIONAL DE ESPANA:
Esteban Beltrán- Director Amnistía Internacional – Sección Española
Dirección Secretariado Estatal
Fernando VI, 8, 1º izda.28004 Madrid España
Teléfono
+ 34 902 119 133
+ 34 91 310 12 77 (información general)
Fax
+ 34 91 319 53 34
Correo- e info@es.http://www.facebook.com/l/d02a0t3Xy_KBspVEkowL6dP3OuQ;amnesty.org
Para Asociarte a Amnistia Internacional: http://www.facebook.com/l/d02a02250XAqSzyb5guRJFqS1xw;www.es.amnesty.org/inicio/

En español abajo/In Spanish below

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He was my dad.

I spent both Saturday and Sunday at the Cuban Memorial helping Maria Werlau of the Cuba Archive. Together and along with a couple other volunteers including Jorge from The Real Cuba, we took testimonials from folks who had family or friends die as a result of the castro regime. It would be impossible to accurately describe the gamut of emotions I felt throughout the two days and there isnt enough bandwidth to write and carry all of the heartbreaking recollections I heard this weekend. There are a few moments, however, that touched me deeply, and which I will try to relate to you in the next few days. I can’t help but start with the following:

There were almost ten thousand symbolic crosses placed on the Tamiami Park field this year. Each with a name of a victim, the date of his or her passing and the location. The way these symbolic tombstones are placed, and the way they appear before you remind you somewhat of Arlington National cemetery, except, of course, that the loved ones these crosses represent are not buried below the crosses that bear their names.

Still, though, people knelt in front of the crosses and talked. They prayed. They brought flowers and photographs. They placed cards and notes. They wept at the feet of these symbolic crosses just the same.

The first testimonial I took down was from an elderly man, possibly in his late sixties. We had forms that asked all the pertinent questions: Loved one’s name, any nickname he or she may have had, place of birth, date of death, location of death and a couple other questions such as additional information or or pertinent information relative to the person’s passing.

At the bottom of the form we’d fill out the information of the person giving the testimonial.

I filled out all the information about this man’s loved one’s death and then asked him his own name. Both he and the person he was giving testimonial for had the same last name.

“What is your relation to the deceased,” I asked. “Brother, cousin…?”

The old man looked up at me, pursed his lips and swallowed hard. His index finger tapped nervously on the table and his eyes began to water:

“Era mi papa.”