Monday, April 30, 2012

Human Rights and Democracy -The 2011 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report - Quarterly update

Quarterly Updates: Cuba
Latest Update: 31 March 2012

The Cuban government announced the release of around 2,900 prisoners in
the framework of preparations for the Pope's visit in late March. Most
of those freed had completed over half of their sentences and only a
handful were considered by local human rights organisations to be
political cases, but this was nonetheless a very positive humanitarian
gesture from the Cuban authorities. The Pope's visit itself underlined
increasing religious freedom in Cuba and the growing role of the
Catholic Church in Cuban society as crowds turned out for mass in both
Havana and Santiago. Although the Pope faced criticism for not meeting
with regime opponents, he made important references to freedom, change
and reconciliation in his public appearances.

New economic policies continued to be implemented in the first three
months of the year. These included an expansion of the number of
authorised categories for self-employment which will allow Cubans to set
up businesses in a wider range of economic sectors, the introduction of
means-tested benefits and an easing of foreign currency controls,
further expanding private economic freedoms. The government also
continued to take tough action against high-level corruption. At the
Cuban Communist Party conference on 28 January, President Raúl Castro
reiterated the positive messages he had given on previous occasions
about the need for more open debate and an objective press, and called
for the promotion of greater democracy in society and the Party. But
despite these calls for greater democracy, President Castro's speech
defended Cuba's one-party system as necessary in the face of US embargo.
This was disappointing in view of the hopes raised via continuing
economic reforms, and previous talk of de-linking the Party from the
state apparatus.

Short term detentions of peaceful demonstrators, including the Damas de
Blanco (Ladies in White), continue to be a cause for concern. Illegal
but tolerated human rights monitoring groups published varying
statistics, with the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National
Reconciliation (CCHRNR) reporting around 1200 detentions over January
and February and Hablemos Press around 800 for the same period. Use of
these detentions rose sharply ahead of the Pope's visit, with the CCHRNR
reporting more than 1100 in March alone, greater than the number for the
whole of 2010. There were also a number of repudiation acts, in which
pro-government mobs publicly harass opposition groups to discredit them
and prevent them from marching. Both the acts and the spate of short
term detentions were mainly linked to protests around the anniversaries
of the 2003 Black Spring crackdown and the 2010 death of hunger striker
and European Parliament Sakharov Prize winner Orlando Zapata, as well as
the Pope's visit. According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation, over 300 opposition activists were
pre-emptively detained in connection with the Pope's visit in one of the
toughest crackdowns in recent years. Many were put under house arrest
while others were held in police cells to prevent them attending the
Pope's mass. Dissidents' communications were also targeted as the
authorities disconnected their phone lines.

In March, Amnesty International adopted as prisoners of conscience two
human rights activists detained since December 2010, one of whom is
suffering medical problems, and called for their immediate release. At
the same time, the organisation named another human rights activist and
her husband, arrested on 8 January, as prisoners of conscience. The
death of Wilman Villar, who had participated in opposition
demonstrations and died in prison following a hunger strike, again
highlighted concerns about judicial transparency and poor prison
conditions, although facts around the case remain unclear. Our Embassy
in Havana met with his widow to offer condolences, and we continue to
call on the Cuban government for improvements within the judicial system.

Parade / Regina Coyula

Parade / Regina Coyula
Regina Coyula

The May Day is a day of worker empowerment. On that date they parade
demanding improved working conditions, an increase in wages or more just
labor laws. In Cuba, where workers are being subjected to "downsizing",
where the uncertainty about their place of employment, and the
uncertainty of non-living wage are fundamental concerns, the first of
May is celebrated with massive parades in all provinces. Signs abound in
support of the Revolution (read Government) but there will not be a
single sign demanding wage increases, the disappearance of the double
currency, or transparency in the layoffs.

This country is so surreal, that the newly unionized self-employed
workers, will parade in massive numbers. A group whose main concern
should be the demand for non-discriminatory treatment, easing of red
tape to access a work permit, extending the range of permitted
activities and less severe taxes.

The union bureaucracy assigns the number of attendees by province and
two weeks ago it was announced precisely how many workers would
participate in each of the processions.

After this "spontaneous" demonstration, we will see in the news how the
movement of the indignant undertook their protests; how in other places
the workers march under heavy police presence and we may even see
repression in some corner of the world. I don't think they can find

April 30 2012

Cardinals or Soldiers? / Agustín Valentín López Canino

Cardinals or Soldiers? / Agustín Valentín López Canino
Agustín Valentín López Canino

What ranks in the military hierarchy would correspond to the equivalent
of Cardinal? Commander of the Revolution? General? Colonel of State
Security? Minister of Defense? Deputy Chief of Army? Could he have won
the last ascent for the sacrilegious statements about the 13 unhappy
people, with their lives ruined because of the great Revolution; those
who entered the Church in supplication for their rights, and who were
locked behind bars, by the miserable and abominable behavior of the State.

Mercy, Lord, mercy, Lord … ?!

The Cardinal shameless already exceeds the Inquisition. There have been
hundreds of years of evolution. The spit of a Cardinal on the poor and
humble, in these times because of the human condition, is to commit the
same outrage as judges of the Inquisition.

And many who conceived the Catholic God today prefer to be burned at the
stake like the Indian Hatuey: "If you Spanish are going to heaven, I
want to go to hell." Today the sensitive Indian rebel would say: "If you
Cardinals go to heaven, hell would be a paradise."

May God forgive them and forgive me because I can not forgive them. My
holiness is not so great, while my eye is on my Cubans within and at the
bottom, forced by cardinals with military ranks and Communist ideologies
to lose salvation.

"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it
were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and
that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

30 April 2012

Justice for Rolando / Yamil Dominguez

Justice for Rolando / Yamil Dominguez
Translator: Unstated, Yamil Domínguez

Rolando is a great man, father, brother and friend. His incarceration
just as he was prepared to bring people, including his family,but he was
not willing to sacrifice one life when the Cuban border guard charged
him with their ships. He could have run with the chance to escape and
those in his boat were screaming at him to keep going, the desire of
those people was above all to escape the regime of the island.

But even so he voluntarily stopped his boat because he knew that the
military regime were willing to sink it. He then told people that he was
not a murderer like the military regime and could not continue to risk
their lives. He followed the orders screamed from the soldiers of the
other vessel, saying to them, "I will not be complicit in a slaughter
that you are looking for, I am not the murderer, the murderers are you."

Anyone who has lived similar experience knows that this happens for
service members of the Cuban coast guard, they ram their boats against
those carrying people who want desperately to escape the tyrannical
regime. Rolando was sentenced to 25 years in jail. I wonder where in the
world this case would result in 25 years, and knew this regime and that
the best witnesses to are inside the prisons, because there no one has
anything to hide and you say what you did and didn't do. The phrase, "I
did this, but I didn't do what they made up," is common among the
punished, and that's how the Cuban judicial system works.

I knew guys who went to get their families and the coast guard
criminally rammed their boat running the risk that the families hadn't
boarded yet, among them children, because they would have been dead.
What happened to the tugboat 13 de Marzo? They sank it without scruples,
and even with so much popular discontent that followed, Fidel Castro in
one of his rhetorical speeches supported those who perpetrated such an
act that cost so many lives, claiming they were workers from another
ship protecting the tools of their trade. That was done only on orders
from of his government. That's exactly what the Cuban regime's military
has most of the time, the advantage and no witnesses.

Those who should have to serve a 25 or 30 year sentence or those who by
order of the tyranny are willing to sacrifice the lives of civilians who
have committed the crime of loving freedom. Rolando committed his crime
and no one denies it, but he has already been in prison 10 years, 9 of
those in Combinado del Este, the most inhuman in its conditions, and it
now up to the parole law and his application under Resolution 9 of the
Supreme Court.

Since 2006, a military medical team rules that he should not have to
complete his sentence because of his deplorable state of health, but
Cuban State Security reached out their dark hand and denied his parole
saying he could finish his sentence in a hospital. None of this happened.

Rolando was like Julio Mesa, me, and others treated as CRs
(counter-revolutionary), in my opinion for being a Cuban resident in the
United States or having acquired the citizenship of the United States.

Nonetheless Rolando has remained bravely fighting for his rights. When I
entered the military hospital in the State Security wing and he was
transferred due to his poor health to the next room, only a wall divided
us; he was also there for 16 months with the subcontractor Adam Gross as
a roommate.

Finally his hope was that they would give him his freedom for having
served half of the sanction imposed, but it was not to be, he was
transferred to the prison of Guanajay where against the repression he
declared a hunger strike. I always knew that this was the last thing
that would do because of his poor health, mostly his heart. But guess
that's what they are able to drive him to do, those thugs who are unable
to respect a man who has spent 10 years imprisoned and rightfully plays
his freedom.

His family and friends have opened a blog, desperately looking for
justice and demanding his rights, and trying to ease the repression on
the part of the guards at Guanajay prison, while his health continues to
deteriorate after 10 long years. The blog, Justice for Rolando, is here.

He is one of many men who have served more than his share, and who are
still suffering the relentless punishment without limit of a regime that
has no mercy.

March 26 2012

An Open Letter to Castro and The Cardinal / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

An Open Letter to Castro and The Cardinal / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, Translator: Unstated

By Luis Eligio D'Omni and Amaury Pacheco D'Omni: (Artists currently on
tour in the United States of America)

1- On The 13th of April, Hector Riscart Mustelier (El Ñaño), the leader
of Cuban alternativity, musician for and director of the band Herencia
[Heritage], and Bobo Shanti Leader in Cuba, will be tried behind closed
doors, without witnesses, and without defense counsel, for a cause
constructed by special police agents.

He is being tried despite the silence those of us who are worried about
his situation have sustained, expecting that justice would come from the
highest levels of government, and avoiding by all costs to turn Ñaño's
case into a political campaign. To this aim we have sent letters to the
president of the Communist Party and of the Cuban government, Raul
Castro Ruz, to the President of the Parliament, Ricardo Alarcón Quezada,
and lastly, to a high Catholic Church figure, cardinal Jaime Ortega,
given that Ñaño's case is that of a religious artist.

Today, Bob Marley would raise his voice in a song of glory for Ñaño,
would they prohibit it in our television?

Next, we will publish the letter we sent to Raul Castro and to the rest.
But before, we want to make a note that Ñaño was already sent to prison
unjustly many years ago. A search was performed in his house and no
proof was found. They found, behind a trash can, a small piece of paper,
smaller than a tear, and said it was marihuana. He was then accused of
drug trafficking and was incarcerated. Back then Ñaño's wife was
intimidated by State Security so that she would remain silent.

To those friends who are unconditionally in support of everything being
fine with Cuba's system, we say that we speak with the Truth.

Today, the answer has remained the same. Those officials who met with
Ñaño's wife and with his mother, supposedly representing the president,
offended them with rude words, and referred to Ñaño in the worst of manners.

We want to say, given so much insistence into turning Cuban artists who
courageously express their realities into politicians or members of the
opposition, in order to keep us tied to the Machiavellian repressive
machinery in Cuba (to those within and outside of Cuba who don't believe
this because of their unconditional love to the Revolution, and to the
impeccable and glorious record of Cuban State Security: we assure them
that it does exist), and with the aim of exiling us or locking us up in
prisons as in the case of Hector Riscart, that we think the Cuban
government ignores this situation, and that this is part of a strategy
of independent State Security agents to hide away political corruption.
We do not think it is possible for a ruler to be behind a situation of
this sort, and it is evident that the letter never reached him.

We hope Hector Riscart is placed in entire liberty this Friday the 13th,
after five months without any legal guarantees, and of being treated as
a common criminal…

In the case of Hector Riscart, they are applying all the weight of a law
lacking any mercy and are failing to take into account the light this
person contributes…but we know very well what happens with drugs at many
levels in Cuba. Since always, since the times of our grandparents'
stories, or the guerrilla, up to this very day, marihuana has been a
natural plant used in all of Cuba every day, and in every city we have
crossed. We have proved it, its prohibition is nothing but a big
business. Its legality would dismantle a great business, like the
medicine with which so many humans drug themselves daily, like the
alcohol and the tobacco that are main, legal causes of the death of
other millions.

We already know that they pretend that our Art be constantly reacting to
the repression of the government or of the institutions…..and that
today's youth live behind and wait in silence for the ideas of those who
behind their desks don't walk the streets or suffer what the common man

But our art is way beyond that, our Art is action, and original action
contains the forces of the Universe. We hope the tragedy that surrounds
Hector Riscart and his family comes to an end, for the sake of love, FOR

This Friday the 13th we will walk together to the tribunal of Carmen and
Juan Delgado (in the city of Santo Suarez), family, friends, artists,
and activists committed to the truth. Those of us who are outside of
Cuba will walk there with our minds, our hearts, and our spirits…

2 – Letter sent to the President of the Republic of Cuba, Raul Castro
Ruz, with copies sent to Ricardo Alarcón and to the Cardinal Jaime Ortega:


By family members, artists, and friends of Hector Riscart Mustelier (El


President of the Republic of Cuba and First Secretary of the Communist
Party of Cuba, Raul Castro Ruz:
We hope love and the highest intelligence guide you in your reading of
this letter, so that we can receive from you courteous attention.

In the midst of so many changes surrounding Cuba (whether some believe
it or not, whether many think they are slow, or whether many others
think it's a lie), changes that are being called for by you, from the
presidency of the republic, and from everyone at every social level,
within and outside the island…and despite the fact that every day the
official press publishes news of new economic and civil apertures, and
articles that denounce discrimination, we do not yet see mechanisms that
function efficiently and urgently before the power abuses and the
injustices of citizens with police and state authority against
civilians, although we are all Cubans, with the very same rights.

Last November 15th, something deplorable occurred, and we believe we are
before an act of discrimination that extends into an act of injustice
with grave consequences.

The artist Hector Riscart (El Ñaño): one of the first Rastafarians in
Cuba, a scholar of the religious spirituality BoboShanti, director of
the Reggae Band, Herencia (Heritage) – a very respected musical group
that is committed to the spiritual growth of the youth – was searched by
the Police while exiting his concert in the National Cabaret among other
members of his group, in the corner of the Capitol, in front of the
Payret Cinema.

Ñaño found this humiliating and asked to be led to a police unite, so
that he could be searched there, and so that he wouldn't have to face
humiliation in the middle of the street.

The police officers did not comply, and when Ñaño tried to defend his
rights, he was attacked with much violence from the part of the police,
and was treated as the most despicable criminal.

Already in the Police Station, he had to suffer further offenses and
insults, and before the amazement of the officer on duty who witnessed
such brutality, listen, along with another detained brother, to the
plans of fabricating a false accusation of drug trafficking: "you, who
belong to the party, accuse him, because no one will doubt your word".

The law will doubt this official much less, since he took so much care
in boasting, during the violent detention, of having found an important
artist of this country with hard drugs. Some days later, without any
official records or accusations, Ñaño was sent to a provisional prison
(where he currently is), where they cut his dreadlocks (long pieces of
hair tangled or weaved), the most sacred thing for a Rastafarian.

Every established legal procedure was violated: declaration of false
investigations, denial of a comparison between the accounts of
witnesses, and failure to allow a lawyer to assist him. Furthermore,
they shamelessly manipulated his wife so that she wouldn't defend Ñaño
publicly, and multiple visits were paid to the Cabaret's manger to ask
with exaggerated lies the expulsion of the musical group from their job,
this is the situation as of today.

It is only after almost two months of this sad event, that Ñaño was able
to see a lawyer, who is very scared and does not know how to defend this
case, saying it is impossible to go against the word of the police. At
this moment Hector Riscart is without a lawyer, because we can not find
one that is willing to defend the case honestly. All of this occurred
within our dear Cuba, under the surveillance cameras of the Payret
Cinema. The images taken by the camera were first said to have
disappeared, and then said to be pointing elsewhere. That is what we
were told when we asked to show them as proof. Why did these images
disappear, or why were they looking elsewhere when an act of violence
was happening under them? The police instructors sent to the prosecutor
a file fabricated with lies and incoherence, where it says that Ñaño has
no witnesses. The situation has been denounced in two occasions before
the Central Committee of the State Council (Attention the citizenry),
but no progress has been shown in two months.

(The situation of his wife and his children isn't the best; we won't
describe here his mother's suffering).

Hector Riscart, connected to his Biblical belief in God, does not eat
any type of artificial or animal products, whether they fly, crawl, run,
or live under the sea. His situation, besides being completely unjust,
is grave, because he has been eating only rice for two months, and they
do not allow for any other animal product to reach him. He has lost
weight in a manner similar to someone who is fasting or doing a hunger

The situation is even more grave, given that he suffers from four
gastrointestinal chronic diseases. We are very afraid that his health
worsens to the point of a tragedy in our lives. I say "our" lives
because we are talking about a spiritual brother, a natural leader, and
a very inspirational artist. His death or a sudden aggravation of his
health would be a great tragedy for us.

Many brothers feel greatly moved by this situation, and are waiting in
profound silence for a solution. But their silence hasn't been respected
either and it is no longer a solution.

Why the determination to keep such a dear and noble artist imprisoned,
one who contributes messages of spiritual liberation and whose endeavors
are known by everyone? Why is his status being ignored, treating him
like a criminal?

According to declarations from our brother Zenén (the other detainee
from that day, sound technician for the band), who saw him for the last
time in the unit, Hector Riscart was already convinced that they would
condemn him with all negative premeditation. "Look after my children, I
can only think about them", was the only thing he said.

Zenén shed many tears in the unit before the harsh officer who tortured
him psychologically so that he would give a false declaration; in that
moment a very young woman entered, who had been with them all the time
in the National Cabaret, during their concert, pretending to be a
prostitute. It is evident that the accusation against this leader of
alternative Cuban art was already being schemed.

Why was this trap laid out to accuse him of a crime he did not commit?
Was it because he is black, because he is a conscious Rastafarian,
because he is a committed artist, or is it simply police brutality
protected by officers and detectives whose job is to protect the truth,
a common situation to any citizen?

Why are they choosing to ignore that we can work for the social and
spiritual well-being of Cubans in today's Cuba, from the point of view
of philosophies, beliefs, and life paths that are very positive, and
that have become a salvation for many, but that aren't precisely within
the communist discourse?

(On that subject and as a parenthesis we want to tell you that we know
many Cubans of great dignity and integrity, that contribute and can
contribute even more to this nation because of their intelligence and
ethics, that are treated with disdain every day. Some have died, others
have been thrown out of their work centers or repressed in many ways,
disrespected by the police, or auto-exiled because of frustration since
they do not fit into our Homeland for not preaching the Government
discourse or for believing in the autonomy and individual independence
of thought and action).

There are many grave precedents, that aren't told in the book
Rastafarians in Cuba, whose presentation was advertised in only one
occasion last year on the TV news, and was presented in only one
library. This book should be re-edited and distributed among the police
units and study centers of the country. Artists of the New Protest Hip
Hop Song have denounced in several occasions the deliberate abuse
against them and others, in their songs. The internet is full with
fabrications, but also with audio-visual documents that shine light on
the abuse of power at a police and state level.

Fear is also natural, one that is founded in repeated and current
precedent, where police witnesses have withdrawn their accusations and
admitted to being pressured and intimidated to declare falsely against
the accused, and despite this, the accused is condemned. We can deduce
conditioning and a previously elaborated scheme. This scares us
terribly, and suggests judicial corruption. The Government, in its
presidency, should tend to all of these facts, and feel strongly worried
for the sake of justice.

We have plenty of testimonies of cases that could prove what we here state.

Hector Riscart himself was a victim of this in a court in the year 2003,
where he was condemned to a long prison term without any proof, and his
wife (signatory to this letter), was intimidated by agents of State
Security so that she would remain silent. At that moment the conscience
and innocence of both of them was different with respect to justice.
Hector, who was put in liberty two years later, was harassed by an
anti-narcotics agent so that he would work for him, and this agent
promised him vengeance.

This agent reappeared at this time and described el Ñaño described it
well in a fragment of his last statement:

"I made it clear to this officer that I would never work for him. He
said in 2005, that one day I would regret it and he would retaliate. I
didn't make a case of his threats and I never heard from him. Now he got
angry, saying by way of derision (I quote) "So you took to drugs! You
can make a fuckin' lot of money with drugs… " What a phrase worthy of a
chief national anti-drug department.
"Sure you have every luxury at home," he said. Everyone knows how we
live humbly at home with my mom and my wife. This officer wanted to
provoke me. I just opened my mouth to say: "LIAR, you say that because I
never worked with you."

"Then they took me to the station where I was assigned an
"instructor"(investigator/interrogator) named Yordanis, who insisted for
days that I make my statement, fooling me saying he would investigate
the matter well. I told him I had evidence to disprove all the police
farce and that was when I stated this in my own hand.

"We now know, all that is on file 826/11, they have set a trap, using my
declaration, adapting it to the police, with all their lies so
well-organized. The cost of my statement has been the loss of the only
visual evidence in my favor, disappeared.

"Now the file is back to the station with the sole intention of "fixing"
pretty much everything, or leaving out details that were inconsistent,
so that they are perfect."

Now several different artists have dedicated works, especially music, to
el Ñaño.

Maybe his arrest can open a debate about the use of drugs in Cuba. The
most consumed are 1) alcohol, 2) tobacco, 3) marijuana (unlike many
other countries here even its consumption is condemned), 4) crack
cocaine, 5) meth, 6) paco (cocaine residue, industrial solvents and rat
poison) and 7) ketamine.

These last three are medical industrial products. Those that generate
the greatest death and violence are the first two, both legal in Cuba,
of course.
There is a very great negative prejudice associated with marijuana and
Rastafarians. But we must listen to the Rasta fundamentals and attend to
the truth of the behavior in reality at all levels.

(We take advantage of this opportunity to say that in the streets of
Cuban the reality is very different from that expressed in the national
media. There is a growing dissatisfaction these days because ordinary
people are not represented, and because the freedoms which should be
ours from birth are not in our own hands, and continue being in the
hands of a vertical power, although they present it as a horizontal

We imagine that you know of a singer named Bob Marley, his songs of
redemption and freedom that are a global inspiration. This is the same
artistic and spiritual energy proposed by el Ñaño and the Real
Rastafarians in Cuba. (Real Rastafari is conscience, heart and life,
unlike many who just are Rastafarians in appearance).

There are many members of this movement who are being accosted,
imprisoned, and the injustice is in the whole country, especially when
it comes to making use of the new economic civil rights and rights of
association. Some have also criticized the Central Committee of the
Council of State without solutions.

Before the impossibility of receiving prompt justice, and because the
seriousness of it (which grows, we know that they will continue to
fabricate changes and that el Ñaño faces trial without any solid
defense, and without the right to bail which would cost him his life
because of the food in prison), almost two months later we have to make
the public understand his situation.

What do we hope for?

For Hector Riscart to be released immediately and restored to its home
with his children, his wife, his family and friends.

To let him return to incorporating his spiritual quest and his work as
director of his musical group.

That his group can work in peace.

That he be freed from all the charges he is accused of: a man devoted to
art and spirituality, who lives with humility, and preaches the social
good that can not engage in a business as dark as drug trafficking.

We hope not to be harassed or punished in any way, so say we here. And
we hope this happens because we are often subtle and silent.

We expect to receive Light. LIGHT. LIGHT …


April 14 2012

The Ideological Success of Neoliberalism in Cuba

The Ideological Success of Neoliberalism in Cuba
April 29, 2012
Yenisel Rodriguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES, April 29 — The economic and social failure of
neoliberalism is an established fact. In the economic sphere it has led
the world into a deep crisis, while socially it has generated greater
inequality than any previous economic model.

These effects are reported daily by the official Cuban media.

Despite this, we know that the Cuban government has affected a
neoliberal shift in its reform policies.

Nonetheless, even today it's difficult to find a direct connection
between the socioeconomic "reforms" implemented by the government and
fundamentals of international neoliberalism.

The similarities, which clearly exist, fail to form a definite pattern
of neoliberal-style economic and social policy.

This is why it's so difficult to follow the economic moves of the
political elite in their desperate retreat toward the deregulation of
the economy.

However at the ideological level, this complicity is apparent. It's at
this level that neoliberalism has become hegemonic in Cuba.

The ideological foundations of neoliberalism have achieved a tremendous
success in the sphere of the government on the island.

The authorities have proclaimed the deregulation of Cuba's economy as
inevitable, as they quietly accept the consolidation of inequality as
well as decreased social spending and the renunciation of full
employment as a goal.

These are basic principles of neoliberalism, ones reflected by measures
which they say should guide economic policy over the times to come.

The government is convinced that neoliberalism has won the ideological
battle on the field of international relations, despite its economic and
social failures.

Because of this they are paving the way for a future of the radicalized
application of its principles of economic deregulation and social

Given this, the proposed real alternatives to the neoliberal model will
remain the responsibility of the Cuban people and non-official social
movements that are consolidating themselves across the country.

Those on top will continue to sell out the country to the highest
bidder, which will always be some empire at the world scale.

Cuba and the Value of Silence

Cuba and the Value of Silence
April 29, 2012
Veronica Vega (Amrit)

HAVANA TIMES, April 29 — Last night I attended a meeting in my building
to appoint a new president of the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the

The previous president resigned nine months ago, but after several
attempts at holding a nominating meeting, none has ever succeeded at
obtaining majority representation of the 30 apartments.

It appears that no one was willing to take over the office.

The CDR person that came to the area specially to chair this most recent
meeting, stressed the urgent need for someone to assume the post.

"They're requiring that I find someone, it will be important when they
do the checking," she explained.

Those few in attendance only maintained their reticent silence.

Despite the repeated call for a possible candidate (even a
self-nominated one), the general reaction remained one of silence.
Thirteen representatives from thirty apartments was not a very
flattering figure. Yet, the gazes remained blank, without even a shadow
of guilt.

I've lived in different places in Havana, so I've also witnessed other
meetings of committees to defend the revolution, and I can say that
there's one common element in all of them: apathy.

People's opinions are silent or whispered, and you'll see suppressed
yawns, glances at the clock and gestures of annoyance. Nonetheless,
there was a vast difference between this and the first CDR meetings that
I went to in this building back in 2001.

Not only has the passing of time marked my neighbors' faces (and mine),
but we've also seen the surreptitious erecting of this wall of silence,
denial and skepticism.

While the woman from the area council was trying to encourage ideas, I
was tempted to express one: Why not dissolve the CDR all together? An
organization is only maintained by the free will of its members.

Free will is not the same thing as obedience, that aberrational
substitute for civic duty. No association is sustainable by outside
pressure, no matter how much it's facilitated or forced from the outside
– the inner fibers rot and tear.

"What a shame!" said the woman. "If this isn't resolved today,
representatives from the municipality are going to have to come. There's
going to have to be another meeting. Do you understand what I'm saying?
You're going to have to be bothered again," she continued to harp.

"But if it's such a bother – why does it have to persist?" I thought.
We'll get together to look at each other again, all concealing what we
really think: that the harsh demands of survival no longer allows for
the sustaining of a relic that only continues out of inertia.

However, among the complicit whispers and glances as the gathering
finally broke up, one thought made me almost happy: we were (by choice)
not practicing freedom of speech, but at least we had the freedom of

PDP urges probe of ACN youths’ aborted trip to Cuba - Nigeria

PDP urges probe of ACN youths' aborted trip to Cuba
On April 30, 2012 · In News
12:30 am

IBADAN—The South- West chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has
asked security agencies to go beyond just stopping the Action Congress
of Nigeria, ACN, youths' visit to Cuba, saying; "The youths should be
investigated to know the level of their involvement and knowledge of the
main mission for the trip."

Security agents at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos,
last Thursday night, reportedly stopped no fewer than 50 youths from
embarking on the trip, allegedly sponsored by Governor Rauf Aregbesola
of Osun State.

It was gathered that the youths were on their way to Cuba for the May
Day celebration as every year, labour leaders, activists and students go
to Cuba for May Day celebration.

It will be recalled that PDP had alleged that 50 youths were going to
Cuba for militancy training.

However, in a statement, PDP Zonal Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kayode
Babade, alleged that: "As against claim by the ACN government in Osun
State that the trip was for student activists to witness the May Day
celebration in Cuba, we have information that only seven out of the over
50 youths billed to embark on the trip were students. Other youths that
were part of the trip were drawn from Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states and
they are not student-activists."

Cubans court controversy in malaria battle

April 29, 2012 4:35 pm

Cubans court controversy in malaria battle
By Andrew Jack
Malaria vaccine trial in Tanzania©AP

Half a century after Cuba despatched military advisers to Africa to
spread communism during the cold war, it is sending less ideological
specialists to attack a very different foe.

Dozens of salesmen and technical experts from the Havana-based company
Labiofam have made inroads across the continent with a product to fight
malaria, capitalising on high-level diplomatic connections forged during
the early years of African independence. But health specialists have
voiced concerns about the cost and effectiveness of the technology the
Cubans are selling.

More than 600,000 people a year die in Africa from malaria, according to
World Health Organisation estimates, and donors spend about $1.6bn
globally on efforts to combat the disease.

Most international support credited with the recent decline in malaria
in Africa has been channelled to providing bednets, diagnostics and
drugs. The Cubans are instead pushing bacterial larvicides, which
destroy the eggs laid by mosquitoes in stagnant water, preventing their
reproduction and spread.

"We think larvicides can become a strategic intervention in the fight
against malaria," says Hafez Adam Taher, a representative of Labiofam in
Ghana, who says the west African government has agreed to pay Labiofam
$74m over two years for a single larviciding programme. "No single thing
can do it. If you want to tackle malaria seriously, you have to go to
the roots."

The WHO is more cautious. It is finalising guidance that concludes
larvicides have only a "specific and limited" role to play, where there
are sites for mosquito larvae that are "few, fixed and findable" –
something that is rarely the case in Africa.

Robert Newman, head of the agency's malaria programme, cautions over the
risks of draining scarce resources for tackling the disease. "Our effort
is to provide guidelines on the tools that are most appropriate," he
says. "We need to maximise the use of resources, financial and human."
The Ghanaian ministry of health declined to comment.

Scientists fear larviciding is expensive, requiring the use of many
specialists and local volunteers who could be better deployed elsewhere.
It has to be repeated regularly, and often proves ineffective because it
is difficult comprehensively to identify and destroy mosquito eggs.
Insecticide-treated bednets can last longer, both killing mosquitoes and
protecting people from the bites of those that survive.

Cuba's actions come as China – through drug donations and support for
health centres – has sought to match Western funding in Africa for malaria.

Cuba stresses the public health rather than business side of its work,
with the state-controlled company declaring on its website: "The
projects of the Labiofam Entrepreneurial Group are not implemented as
commercial operations, but as integrated two-year-long projects within
existing health programs."

Yet it is in discussions about contracts in several other countries.
Larviciding programmes are under way in Nigeria and the Ivory Coast as
well as Ghana. Labiofam also plans to build a factory in Tanzania.

To the frustration of local African malaria specialists, the Cubans have
frequently bypassed the technical experts and their demands for detailed
data proving the impact of larvicides.

"They go straight to the heads of state, playing the diplomatic
connection," says one African official, who declined to be named.

Mr Hafez says Labiofam has stepped up efforts in recent months to work
with other experts dealing with malaria. At a time of growing pressure
on donors, suspicion remains.

Stephen O'Brien, the UK minister for international development, says:
"I'm concerned there is a marketing campaign for larviciding uncoupled
from the science, and we find ourselves going down a route where people
think they are dealing with a significant new tool when [it has] only a
modest place."

The Rhetoric on the Cuban Embargo is Loaded with Subterfuge

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Rhetoric on the Cuban Embargo is Loaded with Subterfuge
By Jerry Brewer

U.S. government and certain close allies' transparency on internal Cuban
political issues are by no means totally and currently possible. This at
a time when even Pope Benedict XVI's timing in visiting the oppressed
Cuban island seemed to coincide with the approach of the Sixth Summit of
the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia last month.

With the Summit's advertised central theme labeled "Connecting the
Americas," the 33 inter-American governments convened to discuss a
planned myriad of topics. One issue was to be the denial and continued
exclusion of Cuba from Organization of American States (OAS) sponsored
meetings, "including the previous five Summits of the Americas."

The "Connecting the Americas" bridge was apparently sabotaged in
majority unison against the U.S. and Canada, who continue to staunchly
oppose Cuba's participation in OAS activities, and continue to support
and maintain the U.S. embargo against Cuba.

In January 2004, then Illinois state senator Barack Obama echoed his
support for ending the US embargo against Cuba, while stating the
necessity that other countries "... provide sustenance for their people,
human rights for their people, [and] a basic structure of government for
their people that is stable and secure...."

As President Obama assimilated into public office, he was then privy to
U.S. and ally covert intelligence that undoubtedly became a thought
sobering game changer for him.

At the Cartagena Summit, and boldly facing the large number of Latin
American constituents, Obama stated that Cuban authorities have "shown
no interest in changing their relationship with the United States, nor
any willingness to respect the democratic and human rights of the Cuban

One clear case in point was the most recent arrests and detentions of
the "Ladies in White." In fact, over the last month, they as well as
their supporters have "repeatedly faced arbitrary arrest and physical
attacks as they staged protests in several towns in the region." The
recent detentions were near Santiago de Cuba, where the women were due
to "march silently and pray for the end of political imprisonment,"
according to Amnesty International.

After being confronted by police, officials and government supporters,
the women attempted to leave. "Police pushed them and pulled their hair
before forcing them into buses. They were driven a few kilometers away
where they were transferred to police cars and dropped near their

Regarding the Pope, he may not have been in a position to witness these
kinds of actions as he called for an end to the embargo. But the Pope
did urge Cuba to "make deeper changes."

Vocal leftist anti-U.S. leaders throughout Latin America have a history
of using the Summit of the Americas events to attempt to bring ridicule
and humiliation to the U.S. presidency and government. Venezuela's Hugo
Chavez leads the list fomenting street riots in Mar de Plata Argentina
at the 4th Summit in 2005. His venomous and expletive laced tirades
against the U.S. included the insulting of then President Vicente Fox of
Mexico and his good relationship with the U.S.

Ecuador's leftist President Rafael Correa stepped up this year to
boycott the Summit in protest of Cuba not being invited to attend, as
did Nicaragua's leftist leader Daniel Ortega. Correa, who has been
accused of complicity with FARC guerrillas as well as narcotraffickers,
recently announced his intentions to crack down on them. However, his
brother Fabricio Correa, who previously announced his preparations to
run against his brother, said in an interview that his brother's
performance "has been harmful to the country, and Ecuador is today prey
to corruption, loss of freedoms and democratic institutions, and an
increase in crime and drug trafficking."

What exactly is the rationale of a Latin America consensus in support of
Cuba regarding the embargo by the U.S.? Albeit with leftist boisterous
dictatorial intimidation, and generous gifts and offers of support and oil.

Cuba can in fact purchase medicine and food from the U.S. Cuba can buy
and sell from most countries other than the U.S. A case can be made
that cheaper goods could be purchased from those other countries. A
shortage of consumer goods in Cuba can be significantly attributed to
Castro's "priorities in military spending, support for his international
causes," and strong covert intelligence services in Mexico and Venezuela.

Cuba's state-dominated economy has been "unproductive, inefficient, and
riddled with mismanagement and corruption," political commentator Val
Prieto told in 2006. As well, a strong case is
made that Cuba's failed economy, and the intense suffering of the
oppressed Cuban people, is not the result of the U.S. embargo "but of a
failed economy dominated by Castro and his military elite for over 47

Castro's hatred for the U.S. has never waned. His support of terror and
revolutionary anti-U.S. groups throughout the world, as well as his
unwillingness to change those practices, is clearly demonstrated by his
closest allies today that include Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, and Russia.


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a
global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia. His
website is located at

Andrés Carrión describes his anti-Castro shouts during papal visit in Cuba

Posted on Sunday, 04.29.12


Andrés Carrión describes his anti-Castro shouts during papal visit in Cuba

In an exclusive interview, the man who shouted anti-Castro-slogans
recalls the globally broadcast incident that occurred during the
pope's visit.

Andrés Carrión, the man who shouted "Freedom!" "Down with communism!"
and other anti-Castro slogans on March 26, shortly before the papal
Mass on Antonio Maceo Square in Santiago de Cuba, remembers that
moment as if it had been the end of his life. His throat was dry. He
panted. He thought about his family.

"I was worried because I thought that, at the moment of truth, my
voice would fail and my shouts wouldn't come out," Carrión recalled in
a telephone interview with El Nuevo Herald. "But they did, and I know
that they caused the dictatorship much harm."

The incident occurred in an area near the platform where TV cameramen
and photographers stood. It was broadcast widely, throughout the
world. As he was removed violently from the square, Carrión was struck
by several government sympathizers. One member of the Cuban Red Cross
beat him savagely on the face and struck him on the head with a folded

"If I had an opportunity to find the stretcher bearer, I'd try to
explain to him that his intransigence only benefits the government,"
Carrión said. "The same government that keeps him working hard and
selling bleach on the streets."

Carrión thought that he wouldn't leave the square alive.

For days, Cuban authorities kept his identity secret, until it was
disclosed by Alfonso Chaviano Peláez and José Daniel Ferrer García,
members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU). Chaviano said in a
phone interview with El Nuevo Herald that he had recognized Carrión
but that he was unable to report it immediately because he lacked a
means of communication and his home was under close surveillance.

"Not long ago, I was able to see some videos of the protest and the
great pounding they were giving me," Carrión said. "But in the midst
of that situation, your adrenaline and state of mind are altered and
you don't realize it. The only thing I felt was that my soul was
separated from my body."

Carrión said that the idea to stage a protest began when he heard that
Pope Benedict XVI would visit Santiago de Cuba. One week after the
papal Mass, he toured the square repeatedly. He even selected the best
location for his protest.

That day, Carrión was among the first to arrive. He took 10 candies
and a bottle of cold water. The wait was long and exhausting. He
arrived at 11 a.m. The Mass was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. One hour
before evading the police cordon and shouting his slogans, a Colombian
journalist approached him and asked him what he thought about the
Cuban government.

Carrión did not reply.

"I looked at him and said to myself, 'stick around and you'll find out
what Cubans think,' " he recalled.

On the evening of March 26, the authorities took him to the Versailles
Operation Center of State Security, in Santiago de Cuba. For at least
two weeks, he remained in a cell, alone, without knowing if his
protest had reached the outside world.

"The only satisfaction I felt was that I had done something in the
name of all the Cubans who remain silent out of fear," Carrión said.
"Now I'm fully aware that the regime will never forgive me for what I
did. That's why I think they're waiting for the right moment to give
me a final blow."

Carrión's situation provoked innumerable expressions of concern. Human
rights activists and peaceful oppositionists in Cuba and abroad
demanded his immediate release from prison. Carrión was freed one week
ago, although he's under obligation to meet a series of conditions.
The authorities have ordered him to appear every Wednesday at the
Versailles center. They've told him not to have contact with foreign

The government also has taken additional steps in his neighborhood,
Carrión says. An Interior Minister officer, a captain by the name of
Figueroa, told the residents of the Sorribes housing complex where he
lives that they may lynch or stone anyone who demonstrates against the

"State Security checks on me constantly and I'm the target of
provocations," Carrión said. "The people are afraid but express their
support to me covertly. On the street, they tell me, 'thanks from
those of us who didn't have the guts to do what you did.' That
comforts me."

Currently unemployed, Carrión has a diploma in social and occupational
rehabilitation. His wife is a physician. They have no children.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Why Vietnam and Not Cuba? / Dimas Castellano

Why Vietnam and Not Cuba? / Dimas Castellano
Dimas Castellanos, Translator: Unstated

In an article entitled Vietnam, a Country in Constant Doi Moi, published
in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde on Sunday April 8, Niliam Vazquez
Garcia stated that "the people feel it in the streets, in the prosperity
of the family business, perhaps even in the air, the achievements of
more than two decades of Doi Moi, a process that provides for the
introduction of market logic in the economy, but with socialist

She added that the Vietnamese "in a short space of time have become
exporters of oil and other products as well as the second largest coffee
producers in the world." I join in the well-deserved recognition of this
industrious and tenacious people, but I think it useful, along with the
tribute, to promote reflection about why Vietnam can and Cuba cannot.

During the last of the wars of that country, ended in 1975 against the
world's largest military power, with the number of bombs dropped on its
own territory three times higher than those used during the Second World
War, 15% of its population perished or injured and 60% of the 15
thousand villages in the south were destroyed. As if that were not
enough, they then had to face the economic blockade and cross-border

After the end of the war and the reunification of the nation, Vietnam
started from scratch. The system of a planned economy, which extended
from north to south, plunged the country into famine and hyperinflation.

Given the failure, the reformist Communist Party supported by younger
cadres overcame the conservatives and, in 1986, proclaimed Doi Moi
(renovation), under the theme "Economic reform, political stability,"
and began by introducing market mechanisms, the autonomy of producers,
the right of nationals to become entrepreneurs and the granting of land
ownership to farmers.

Doi Moi, focused on developing the initiative, the interest and
responsibility of producers, from the very beginning faced an economic
crisis caused by the laziness, the bureaucracy and the enemies of
change, which ended with the wholesale dismissal of the conservative
Party cadres.

Then, upon the collapse of the socialist camp, the reformist trend
continued the path of deepening and permanent renewal of the Communist
Party cadres. The result was so clear that the United States in 1993
withdrew its opposition to the granting of loans, in 1994 discontinued
the embargo, and in 1995 restored diplomatic relations.

In 2001, Vietnam became the second largest exporter of rice. To achieve
this, besides the allocation of a further extension to this crop and
technological changes, the determining factor was, without doubt, the
political will of the rulers who placed the interests of the nation
first and began, in fact, to make changes in everything that really
needed to be changed: they generalized the market economy, defined
multiple forms of ownership, eliminated the monopoly of state property
and placed socialist planning second.

Thus, with Doi Moi, unlike Cuba, and focusing on internal changes, the
economy managed to produce food for its 80 million inhabitants and to
occupy second place in world grain exports; second place in the export
of coffee (the President of the Council of State of Cuba acknowledged
that Cubans, who taught the Vietnamese how to grow the aromatic grain,
must buy their coffee abroad); first place in pepper exports; to which
is added sales of oil, shoes, electronics and other products, while
foreign investment reached tens of billions of dollars. These results
allowed Vietnam to reduce poverty from 60% to 5% of its population.

Meanwhile in Cuba, which also has people who are industrious,
intelligent and gifted with a high level of training, has lacked the
political will to implement an economic model capable of arousing
interest in production.

In 1986, when Vietnam applied Doi Moi, Cuba opted for the Correction of
Errors and Negative Tendencies, a project, if I may it call that, aimed
at blocking the influence of Perestroika, than beginning in the Soviet

Then, in 1993, forced by circumstances, facing the effects of the
collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe, Cuba implemented a small group
of measures — limited and isolated — that three years later were
paralyzed by the counter-reform initiated in 1996.

Similarly, but with the opposite results of Vietnamese rice production,
facing the decline of sugar production in Cuba from more than 8 million
tons in 1990 to just 3.5 million in 2001, the government announced the
restructuring of the Sugar Industry and the Alvaro Reinoso Task, in
order to produce six million tons. To meet that figure — which had been
achieved in the country in 1948 — they closed 71 of the 156 sugar mills
and redistributed 60% of the land used for cane plantations to other crops.

The result was the decline in the harvest in 2005 to 1.3 million tons (a
figure that had been produced in the year 1907). Twelve years after that
failure, last March 31, Vice President of the Council of Ministers,
Marino Murillo stated that the Ministry of Agriculture "presents a
financial and economic condition unfavorable for several years,
impacting negatively on business management" and recognized "that have
been insufficient actions and measures taken so far to reverse it." [1]

The difference is obvious. The Cuban government remains committed to an
obsolete and unworkable model, and so far refuses to have its own
citizens included as true subjects of the changes. Still pending is
reform of the current ownership structure, whose foundation has to be
political pluralism and opportunity for participation.

The big difference with Vietnam is that the delay in undertaking the
changes in Cuba has led to the structural crisis, making it impossible
at this stage to limit the changes to some isolated aspects of the
economy. Now, simultaneously, changes need to be made in the field of
civil liberties; it is the only way that Cuba, like Vietnam, can do it.

1 Puig Meneses Yaima. Working with integrity on each problem. In the
newspaperGranma April 5, 2012, p.3

Published in Spanish in Diario de Cuba.

April 27 2012

Havana Court Summons Panamanian Firm’ Joint Venture Partner in Rio Zaza / Laritza Diversent

Havana Court Summons Panamanian Firm' Joint Venture Partner in Rio Zaza
/ Laritza Diversent
Laritza Diversent, Translator: Unstated

The Economic Chamber of the Court of Havana issued a summons to the
Panamanian corporation Ingelco S.A., to appear and answer the lawsuit
within sixty working days from March 28, 2012.

The notice, issued on March 23, 2012 by the Supreme Court and published
on the 27th of that month in the Official Gazette of the Republic, the
organ of publication of national laws, the former Audience of Havana,
ignores the legal address of the firm.

According to the Secretary of the Court, Mara Piedras Velarde, the organ
of justice of the capital, began the paperwork in 2012 for the
Dissolution and Liquidation of the Joint Venture Company Rio Zaza S.A.,
at the request of the Food Corporation S.A.

Ingelco S.A. had a contract of international economic association with
the Heroes of Giron Combined Citrus Company, effective until December
31, 2005, and with the Combined Lacteo Rio Zaza, for 13 years from
August 10, 1998, according to the Resolution of the then Minister of
Foreign Commerce, Raul de la Nunez Ramirez.

The court notice also warned that failure to respond "would indicate
agreement with the facts of the demand, without the need to provide
proofs." In addition the notification of a judicial resolution provides
for the modification of protective custody, without specifying which,
and the citation to attend the hearing called for 30 July 2012 at ten in
the morning.

Rio Zaza Food S.A., a packaging industry for dairy, juice, food and
alcoholic beverage products, is approved for 15 years, beginning on 26
January 2001, and authorized to undertake direct and permanent
commercial operations in the internal Cuban market.

Max Marambio, a Chilean businessman of 63, is the co-proprietor in
partnership with the Cuban government, of the Rio Zaza firm through his
business, International Network Group (ING), also a Panamanian firm.

The conglomerate company, which did tens of millions of dollars annually
in businesses related to Cuba, received renewals of its license in 2005
and 2008. In 2010 the license to operate was temporarily suspended and
in 2011 it was canceled altogether.

Rio Zaza Food S.A, was subjected to an audit for irregularities in its
management and linked to a corruption scandal involving Ofelia Liptak,
its commercial director, and her husband, Rogelio Acevedo González, a
General of the Cuban Revolution and former president of the Institute of
Civil Aeronautics. On April 13, 2011, its General Manager, Chilean
Roberto Baudrand, died in Havana after Cuban authorities prevented him
from leaving the country.

Marambio,resident in Chile, was tried in absentia in March 2011 and
sentenced to 20 years in prison in May of that year, for "bribery, fraud
and falsification of bank or business documents, all of an ongoing
nature" according to official notice in the official newspaper Granma.

In the process, also sentenced to 15 years in prison, was former
Minister of Food Industry, Francisco Alejandro Roca Iglesias, for
allowing himself to be corrupted, for favoring the businessman and for
buying overpriced products for his consortium, causing serious damage to
the Cuban economy.

Currently, the prices of products sold by Rio Zaza in hard currency
State stores, rose between 5 and 15 cents in freely convertible currency
in the internal Cuban market.

April 27 2012

Havana Cuba 16 February 2012. Report of the Cuban League Against AIDS about Human Rights Violations in Cuba Against the LGBT Community / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Havana Cuba 16 February 2012. Report of the Cuban League Against AIDS
about Human Rights Violations in Cuba Against the LGBT Community / Wendy
Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada
Translator: Unstated, Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada

Five decades have passed since that fateful triumph featuring people
dressed in garments of olive green, who descended from the mountain
proclaiming a society of equality for all men without distinction of
race, creed, political or sexual orientation.

Not many years had passed when they begin to devise on the island the
first exclusions from workplaces, educational and government
institutions, of those Cubans whose sexual conduct was characterized by
the nascent government as shameful and as a practice that tarnished the
morals of the Cuban socialist nation.

Our forebears spent years in confinement, forced labor camps, facing
acts of repudiation, and in many of the cases were stoned and forced
into exile. Separating them from family and friends. Cuban history
includes the anecdotes and suffering of Reinaldo Arenas, Virgilio P,
Lezama and those who even their names remain in oblivion, or whose
bodies lie in the waters of the Straits of Florida or along the Cuban

Fifty years later, history repeats itself and violations of the respect
for human rights continues in Cuba and have again targeted the Cuban
LGBT community. The same ruler act as if they have changed the practice
of such violations, but when they come for analysis the situation facing
this community in Cuba is the same.

The lack of spaces, of freedom of expression, freedom of association,
free movement and the right to establish a relationship or marry in
equality of rights, the right to decide the opportune moment to make
your family aware of your sexual orientation, all these are some of the
constant violations facing the LGBT Community in Cuba.

Meanwhile, State institutions like the National Center for Sex Education
(CENESEX) directed by Mariela Castro Espin, daughter of the current
president of the nation, proclaim to the world uncertain openings that
guarantee the full respect of the human rights of the LGBT community,
the reality of the Island is otherwise, which they don't hesitate to
silence out of fear of losing the great sums of money given for phantom
projects that respond only to the interest of the Cuban State and not to
those of the LGBT community in Cuba.

On the island there are daily reports of the arrests of LGBT people
accompanied by heavy fines, deportations, in the case of homosexuals,
from the capital Havana, extortion or blackmail by the police or law
enforcement officers to purchase their own benefit at the suffering of
those who fall into their hands. Beatings, arrests, instant and
arbitrary searches in public places occur.

During year 2010 there is evidence of layoffs due to sexual orientation,
layoffs of members of this community not following the current
government's political thought or simply for maintaining a friendship
with someone who was an activist for the LGBT rights.

The violence resulted in the deaths from assaults of six homosexual in
unknown conditions. We denounced the death of a young transvestite in a
police cell from negligence and inattention. The dismissal from her work
of a transsexual woman, Wendy Iriepa Diez for wanting to unite in
marriage to a human rights activist. The arrest of homosexuals in public
places, the ongoing siege for alleged homosexual tourism among others.

We continue to denounce the abuse of prison sentences between two and
four years imprisonment or forced labor to those homosexuals who wander
at night through the streets of Cuba, those who ingest alcohol and even
those who are maintained by their families and do not choose to work
with the Cuban state.

Cuba is a country where, according to the authorities, Cuban citizens
are not prepared to face changes such as marriage between people of the
same gender, or adoption or cohabitation. Meanwhile we Cubans ask the
leader of these explanations where are your criteria, if when we walk in
the street people smile at us and on occasion congratulate us for our
sexual orientation, if not for our great humanism.

The truly guilty with regards to the constant violations of the rights
of the Cuban LGBT Community face are the State and it institutions,
armies of homophobics and discriminators. There is, in our nation, no
power or persons more exclusionary than our leaders.

The growth of male prostitution, in the community of men having sex with
other men, shows at this time in the large number of infections by
HIV/AIDS in the history of the illness in Cuba, 8 or every 10 people
with HIV are men.

Despite the totalitarianism, despite the iron hand of the power of the
State, the Cuban LGBT Community today is rising from the ashes like a
phoenix showing its beautiful plumage which, on this occasion, has the
colors of our unequaled flag demanding and recovering all the spaces
usurped by the power and the lies.

February 20 2012

Medicine in Cuba Today: A Series of Shortcuts and Scarcities / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Medicine in Cuba Today: A Series of Shortcuts and Scarcities / Jeovany
Jimenez Vega
Jeovany J. Vega, Translator: Unstated
By Alfredo Felipe Valdés

The professional trained for at least a decade, with a high educational
rigor, who once he or she graduates has a high level of knowledge, is
not treated by the State with the consideration deserved from the years
and personal effort it took to complete the training.

This includes how other social sectors are vastly better paid despite
not playing a social role even remotely comparable. This worker, who
economically belongs to the medium-low social class, and leads a life of
unjustifiable deprivation, has to witness how the government uses the
results of his work as a trump card and banner to export an image of
concern and anxiety for the good of the people and the rest of the Third

At this point the consolidated successes of past decades, such as the
eradication of polio and other rash diseases by mass vaccination
campaigns, and the low levels of infant and maternal mortality, are used
to present them as achievements only possible under socialism, and are
incorporated into the advertising discourse that seeks to mask the real
social situation.

The Public Health Situation in Cuba

In 1964, the government of Fidel Castro took exclusive control of the
Cuban Health System, just as it took control of most other spheres of
social, economic, and political life in Cuba. For the half-century in
which it has had this control, the Cuban government has presented the
health system as a model to follow and did not hesitate to classify it
as a "world power." However, it is possible that in this area are seen
most clearly the violations and trampling that for all these years have
defined the relationship between the State and the individual. The most
grave situations of this sector are described below.

Situation of Public Health Personnel

The professional trained for at least a decade, with a high educational
level, who oncehe has graduated has a high level of knowledge, is not
treated by the State with the consideration deserved from the years and
personal effort it took to complete the training.

This includes the fact that other social sectors are vastly better paid
despite their not playing a social role even remotely comparable. This
worker, who economically belongs to the lower middle social class, and
leads a life of unjustifiable deprivation, has to witness how the
government uses the results of his work as a trump card and banner to
export an image of concern and anxiety for the good of the people and
the rest of the Third World.

At this point the consolidated successes of past decades, such as the
eradication of polio and other such diseases by mass vaccination
campaigns, and the low levels of infant and maternal mortality, are
presented as achievements only possible under socialism, and are
incorporated into the advertising discourse that seeks to mask the real
social situation.

Health professionals face restrictions on travel, and are punished if
they apply to do so
Deserving of special mention is the extreme subjection of all workers
under the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) under Ministerial
Resolution 54 of July 2, 1999, by the then Minister of Public Health,
Dr. Carlos Dotres Martinez, which is one of the most exquisite
aberrations dictated by the Cuban government. According to the terms of
this Resolution, every employee under the Ministry of Public Health, who
desires to go abroad, either temporarily or permanently, is forced to
apply to the Ministry to be "released" from the public health sector; on
submission of the application the employee is held by Ministry for a
term of five years, with no exceptions.

This regulation applies equally to a recent graduate or to someone who
has worked for 20 years, all will be held for at least 5 years before
being allowed to travel. There are a great many cases where the
prohibition on travel has been extended to 7 years. Even doctors and
dentists who are already retired, are held for 3 years against their
will by this former minister, who is not required to specify an exact
term and who is the one who ultimately decides, according to his
personal will, who will be "freed" and when.

During this time, this professional is given medical assignments, which
are virtually forced on him, and which most of the time under spent
deplorable conditions with regards to meals and often of hygiene; it is
not uncommon for the staffof a polyclinic or hospital to have no running
water for hand washing, the food is limited to a little rice, an egg and
some root vegetable.

Salaries are low, and often not paid

The overtime medical shifts, are every 5 or 6 days, and the personnel is
not paid for them for decades. Nor are they paid for seniority,
bio-hazard risk, nor night shifts; for example, for many years nurses
were paid the absurd figure of 6.00 Cuban pesos monthly for night
shifts, that is about 30 cents on the U.S. dollar. Nor are those who
take on teaching and administrative tasks — which adds $2 to $4 USD
monthly to their salary — paid appropriately.

The Ministry of Work, through its Resolution No. 16 in 2005, fixed the
basic monthly salary for this sector between 257.00 pesos (a little less
than $13.00 USD) for technicians and 627.00 pesos (a little more than
$31.00 USD) for specialized doctors at the second level. With this lean
salary, this worker, given the high cost of living, will barely be able
to feed his family for 10 days — as a result of which he is forced to
engage in a variety of activities on the informal market or the black

In the case of doctors, this wage increase is around 48.00 pesos (less
than $2 USD) relative to the monthly salary that they have at the
moment. This was received by the workers with indignation and was seen
to demonstrate a profound lack of respect. Despite this, the government
then boasted about a disbursement of about 200 million pesos every year
(about $8 million USD), of which only two would fall into the pocket of
a mistreated doctor every month.

Asking for a raise brings loss of medical license

Amid these conditions, the aforementioned "augmentation" wage of 2005
led to two physicians, Drs. Rodolfo Martínez Vigoa and Jeovany Jimenez
Vega, then working in the Guanajay municipality west of Havana Province,
to draft a letter to then Health Minister Dr. José Ramón Balaguer
Cabrera where they presented the majority opinion generated by this wage

To try to prevent their carrying forward with this initiative they were
coerced and threatened in every way, including the classic acts of
repudiation organized by the Party and the Union. This letter was
endorsed by the signatures of 300 workers who shared their views and was
delivered on November 11, 2005 to the Ministry of Public Health.

The Ministry never responded. The only response, was that the two
doctors who had the initiative were barred from the practice of medicine
throughout the country for an indefinite period, by a Ministerial
Resolution that cannot be appealed.

To try to justify these penalties, those who handled the case resorted
to falsification of documents and the manipulation and misrepresentation
of facts, accusing both doctors of having deceived their colleagues by
presenting them with a document unknown to them and which they covered
up, at the time they collected the signatures. This was disproved by the
copies of the document made at the time.

Here it is not possible to determine whether, at that time, there were
similar reactions in other provinces, but it is suggested in the case as
being very illustrative of the modus operandi that continues to be the
posture of the State and the way in which the Ministry of Public Health
solves its differences with its workers.

Any initiative, from any worker anywhere in Cuba will be treated in the
same way. At the time of writing both physicians continue to be barred
from practice, after 4 years, for something they never did. This abuse
has gone on for years with the full knowledge of all the central
authorities of this country, including the Attorney General, but remains

One of these doctors decided to leave the country after 4 years of
humiliation, He was required to apply for the aforementioned
"liberation" from the Minister, but despite not having been a part of
the Public Health System for 4 years, having been separated for from it
against his will, the waiting time was determined to begin now so he
will have to wait 5 additional years before he can leave.

This last evidence, even more than the rest of the elements outlined
above, demonstrates that the Minister and other senior leaders of the
circles of power in Cuba have no limits on their abuse and violation of
the rights of workers this sector.

Primary and Secondary Health Care Understaffed and Undersupplied

The situation of care in primary health care has deteriorated
considerably during the last decade as a direct result of the priority
set for sending doctors and technicians to Medical Missions abroad,
which now represents about half of practicing doctors. When a doctor
leaves his workplace he does not always have an immediate replacement
and generally the population is affected in various ways, either because
the person who comes to relieve him only works part-time or because the
patient has to move to a clinic further away and, because the clinics
are now more crowded, the wait to be seen can extend to hours. In most
cases, the Municipal Health Directors choose to concentrate the patient
population in fewer clinics, given the scarcity of doctors working in
primary care.

The doctor who is here to bear the work of those who leave. There have
even been occasional very dramatic situations where a Polyclinic made up
of 22 individual clinics has, for a time, had only two doctors
overseeing all services.

It is valid to note that when any of these situations occurs, the doctor
in question continues to receive exactly the same salary for taking on
the work of their absent colleagues. It is even very common that an
entire municipality or a territory will be deprived of certain specialty
service because the only specialist has been sent abroad on one of those

For secondary care, the care situation also suffers from this
involvement but rather more attenuated fashion, because the Medical
Mission solicit all the specialists, especially the internal medicine
specialists in primary care. In the case, more acute situations in
hospitals and institutions are caused by problems of logistics and
infrastructure assurance.

The doctor's work is limited by the frequent lack of resources such as
disposable material for clinical and surgical treatments, the limited
availability of laboratory reagents, plates for x-rays, or even the
drugs themselves are often lacking. This is compounded by the structural
deterioration of many facilities that often do not have running water,
have poor ventilation and no air conditioning. There are cases of
Surgical Units closed for months because of structural problems.

Also affecting medical management is the dismal state of the available
ambulances, which often results in the involuntary abuse of patients who
have to wait, sometimes for 6 to 8 hours, to be transferred, sometimes
in life-threatening clinical situations in which the time is critical.
The Problem of Infrastructure

Although a little over 5 years ago the country began a program of repair
of many health facilities — in most cases the only repairs in decades —
this did not reach all of them nor did it always end with the best
quality, as is usual when the reconstructions are excessively delayed
and at times what should take months takes years, which is causing
inconvenience to the population, the theft of construction materials,
and results in cost increases for the final execution of the work.

Generally, once the repairs are finished, there is no follow-up with
regular maintenance, which is causing us to already see signs of
deterioration in these new facilities.

In primary care we see a heterogeneous situation. The original plan,
from over two decades ago, was to ensure one typical doctor's office —
with a doctor, nurse and all equipment — for every 120 families. Thanks
to the progressive deterioration over the years, in the current state we
can't say precisely the number of patients per doctor, but it can rise
to the thousands, and sometimes there is a sixth year intern to help.

This typical office model has only been preserved in a handful of cases,
and in general over the years has been taken over clinic, which, in the
best of cases, are located in homes confiscated from people who
emigrated, or some vacant locale adapted for this use. As a general
rule, the typical site is small, badly lit and ventilated even worse, in
most cases without running water for hand washing.

In secondary care, save in fortunate exceptions, the majority of
hospitals are more or less markedly deteriorated structurally, with a
lack or scarcity of running water in the rooms, sanitary facilities in a
deplorable state, bad conditions with regards to cleanliness, and often
infested with insects and the associated risk of spreading
hospital-acquired infections.

Medical Education: Creating a University in Every Large City

The so-called "municipalization" of university education, that is, the
intention to create a university in each municipality in this country,
has had a detrimental impact on the quality of teacher education, at
least in the case of medicine. This experiment, conducted over the last
decade, emerged as a direct result of the arrival of tens of thousands
of students of the Latin American Medical School (ELAM) following the
disaster of Hurricane Mitch.
And it's very good to help others, but everything should be studied
carefully and they should create the infrastructure necessary so that
this does not lead to problems, especially if it is ultimately decided
to extend the ELAM program beyond the 10 graduate programs included at
the time the idea was launched.

Foreign students displaced Cuban students at the historically recognized
faculties in the City of Havana, and from the provincial capitals to the
municipalities, where now the Cuban student sits in front of a computer
and takes lessons from teachers who often are not prepared with the
rigor that this level of education requires.

The results of the above combination and the desire to produce graduates
at all costs and at any price to ensure the continued availability of
relief staff to cover Cuba's Medical Missions abroad, has been to weaken
every link in the teaching chain. During the last decade and at least
until last year, there has been a degeneration of the requirements
demanded at all levels.

Simply to detail them: the high school graduate who already carries the
aftermath of the failed counterpart experiments in previous levels of
education, comes with a poor background, and the grade point average
required to enter these careers is increasingly dropping. The study of
the preclinical subjects that were once taught in prestigious schools
such as the Victoria de Girón Institute (Bay of Pigs Victory Institute),
by teachers with decades of experience in their subject, are now taught
at a computer in a local polyclinic with teachers who are just starting out.

Then for the rest of the stage of clinical training the student would
assist only twice a week at the hospital. In his sixth year he would
complete the internship stage, decisive in the consolidation of the
knowledge of the future graduate, by standing in at a clinic and
performing the work of a doctor who would be on a Medical Mission abroad.

Now graduated, this young doctor might complete the specialty of General
Medicine (MGI) in just 2 years, when the traditional method before 2000
required a total of 4 years. And to take it one step further, this MGI
resident can do a second, so-called "parallel specialty," for example
ophthalmology, and will graduate from both specialties in just two
years, although the combined specialties may be as complex as Intensive
Care Medicine and Anesthesiology.

Students of different Health technologies, after passing the first
semester but without completing the first year of training, have been
sent to any of these dozens of Medical Missions in Third World countries
which, incidentally, have netted the Cuban government, in recent years,
billions in hard cash dollars.

Artemisa, Provincia La Habana. October 2010.

Published on the Internet by Alfredo Felipe Valdés, before leaving for
exile in Spain with his family, as part of what he called "Cuba Report."

Originally posted on Citizen Zero Blog: February 22 2012

When a Friend Leaves / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

When a Friend Leaves / Jeovany Jimenez Vega
Jeovany J. Vega, Translator: Unstated

It leaves an empty space … my friend Alfredo goes into exile. In March
2003, that Black Spring, chaos erupted in his life. The son of Alfredo
Felipe Fuentes, an opponent of the regime, and Loyda Valdes Gonzalez,
Lady in White.

His father, proselyte, irreducibly dissenting, fell into the round of 75
opponents taken prisoner. His crime, as far as I could understand, was
to have in his home an independent library and the have participated
actively in the collection of signatures for the Varela Project.

State Security's search of his home lasted over 7 hours. The lawyer who
was in charge of the defense only had one hour, the time it took by car
to drive from his home to the Court, to study for the first time a fat
file inches thick.

Already in the Court, the room deliberately filled with people who had
nothing to do with the case, selected for the single reason to prevent
the several family members from being able to witness the trial.

The result of the summary trial: the prosecution asking for a sentence
of 15 years imprisonment and the judge ultimately imposeing a sentence
of 27 years, the third highest among the 75.

Then Loyda, his wife, joined the activism of the Ladies in White, who
stopped at nothing and the rest is history. Alfredo was released last
October 7 and exiled to Spain. last October 7 was released and exiled to
Spain along with part of his family. A health situation delayed the
departure of the rest. Today they fly to the desired reunion.

Leaving with his family is Alfredo the son, my friend from when we were
young until now. An unconditional friendship, even when it came my turn
to face the storm, he was at my side and assumed all the risks along
with me.

In 2002 he signed the Project Varela petition and later other civic
initiatives, including a public letter to Raul Castro. With his high
regard for human dignity and indignation before any offense converted
him, also, into a signatory of our Letter of the 300 workers, to the
Minister of Health in November 2005.

A doctor with soul, poet, engraver of chimeras, hopeless dreamer,
transparent and luminous spirit, an adamantine being. He leaves here
others to whom they scream slogans, others who in the name of that
Revolution try to legitimize barbarism; that authentic Revolution in
which, despite everything, we continue to believe, that Revolution
betrayed by so much simulation, raising of straw men, and opportunism
that has offended and defiled this beloved land.

I'll see you my brother. The future must be better!

Translator's Note: This early post from Jeovany's blog is translated and
presented here as a reference point to the following post, Medicine in
Cuba Today: A Series of Shortcuts and Scarcities, which was written by
Jeovany's friend Alfredo whom he speaks of here.

Detained, Once Again / Luis Felipe Rojas

Detained, Once Again / Luis Felipe Rojas
Luis Felipe Rojas, Translator: Raul G.

Editor's Note

The Cuban poet, Luis Felipe Rojas, has once again been locked away in
one of the "barracks of shame". Up to now, we do not know the name of
the center where he is being held, but surely he will not want to
remember this name when the long and dark night of communism is over in

Early this Saturday, April 28th 2012, the Officers of Terror arrived at
his home in San German, Holguin and took him away. As usual, they gave
no reasons for the arrest and also did not tell him, or anyone else,
which unit he'd be taken to. His wife was left home, under a species of
house arrest, considering that the henchmen stationed themselves outside
the house. For her, after living the experience of "the days of the
Pope", she has no doubt that as soon as she steps out, she will smell
the odor of a communist prison cell.

The telephone lines of the dissident couple are completely jammed, and
any kind of communication with them is impossible. Any messages of
support and solidarity can be left at the end of this post, and when the
poet returns home, he will hear them.

For now, we leave you with one of the poems he has written:

Like a Truffaut Film

The blood will run from the front door to the scaffold

the scene will begin with tricks. The blood will run

hate will run and so too will the drug of envy. Which of the two will
be stop

which of the two

The girl is a dull shadow. She is a celestial mask

over the face of the afternoon

Blood will run against us

light grey stains against the white light.

Translated by Raul G.

28 April 2012

An Odd May Day / Rebeca Monzo

An Odd May Day / Rebeca Monzo
Rebeca Monzo, Translator: Unstated

The venue for this year's parade will once again be the Plaza of the
Revolution, which for some is still Civic Plaza. One new aspect in
particular will stand out.

For the first time in more than fifty years self-employed workers and
owners of small businesses will take part. They are already unionized.

So, will these new people be pressing for labor concessions – something
prohibited under socialism – or will they simply be supporting the
Revolution and the Party, and demanding that the American imperialists
release the five spies. . . I mean, heroes?

I really do not understand this. One of the greatest aspirations which
all workers supposedly have – workers who in one way or another have
managed to distance themselves from the State in order to make a living
– is specifically not having to take part in parades, shout slogans, or
support and sign statements in favor of socialism.

Will this be merely a display of cowardice? If they are attending this
gathering out of a sense of conviction, they should be applauded. But I
fear that even in the private sector a double standard is becoming
evident. It is an indication that they by no means consider themselves
to be free men and women. I respect the decision they have made. But
what they are aspiring towards is to be treated with respect by the
State itself, which not only manipulates them at whim, but also burdens
them with excessive taxes, sells them wholesale supplies atalready
inflatedretail prices without any special consideration, while
unleashing on them a herd of ravenous inspectors. And, though no one
will say so publicly, they are considered to be cowards by society
itself. Is this the way we pretend that change is taking place in the

The changes will only be successful after a resurgence of civil society.
But for that to happen, it is necessary to discard the heavy ballast of
our induced fears and double standards. If you do not violate the
country's laws, no matter how unjust you feel they are, behave like a
respectable citizen, and neither defame nor cause harm to others, then
what is there to fear?

I believe that now is time to think before acting, to no longer continue
drifting along on the already weak current of an almost dry river on the
verge of disappearing.

April 27 2012