Sunday, June 30, 2013

Prison Diary XXVII Iroel Sanchez, Militant in his Interests

Prison Diary XXVII: Iroel Sanchez, Militant in his Interests
Posted on June 30, 2013

The then-president of the Cuban Book Institute could have been one of my
witnesses in the trial that was set up against me, but our political
differences and his official functions did not permit him to put himself
on the side of justice; which I never understood, because on the day
that I might be a witness to any arbitrariness, I will come out in
defense of the abused without caring for the ideals or religion he might
profess. I like to say that I belong to the party of my feelings.

In the days of the 2009 Book Fair, barely five months before my ex-wife
began her accusations against me, when I was talking with Iroel Sanchez
at a corner of the fort concerning my attendance at the presentation of
a book by the writer and dissident Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo, outside the
Fair, which Sanchez considered a "provocation" that the CIA was behind,
we were interrupted by my ex, who was upset, her breathing labored and
her posture hostile, and who asked me for explanations for having gone
to the event in company of a lady, because "she could not stand it."

Iroel, on seeing himself involved in that situation, excused himself,
though not without first asking me to continue the conversation at
another more opportune moment.

It is worth mentioning that I had separated from my ex two years before
and was in a relationship, already public, with my current partner.

After Iroel Sanchez walked off, I asked her for respect and distance,
but paying no attention she searched for the sales booth of the woman I
was with, with whom I am still friends and whom I do not name out of
respect, and rebuked her in front of her co-workers and her partner.

A friend who was impressed by the attitude of my ex, of whom she retains
a violent image.

Iroel Sanchez himself, after we resumed the interrupted conversation,
asked me to be careful of her because of her aggressiveness, because she
seemed to be "in love."

Nevertheless, in spite of having been present at that scene, Iroel
Sanchez signed the letter headed by 8 women who began a campaign against
me based on violence against a woman with the purpose of serving as a
smoke screen to hide the regime's abuses.

I have searched in my memory for personal experiences while we met on
the cultural level, I as a writer and he as a State functionary, in
order to analyze his behavior, without trying to judge him, only trying
to understand.

Our disagreements began in 2001, the year in which I won the Alejo
Carpentier prize for the book Los hijos que nadie quiso ["The Children
Nobody Wanted"], when as a result of its publication the "Association of
Cuban Combatants" sent a letter where they classified the book as
"counterrevolutionary." Later, Iroel Sanchez himself confessed to me
that his companions from the war in Angola criticized him for having
permitted its publication, thinking that he should have censored me.

Months later, at the Book Fair of Guadalajara, Mexico, he told me that
the scene of the old woman with the little plate, from the story Lobos
en la noche ["Wolves in the night"], for him was unendurable, that of
many parts, it was the part that he could least bear.

Our big disagreement was with that posting where I made public the
economic needs and shame suffered by the Cuban delegation to the Book
Fair of Mazatlan, Mexico, which motivated the order that he gave to an
unknown official to respond to me. This posting was also the reason why
they cancelled the email service that I had been granted by the Ministry
of Culture, with the objective of isolating me.

Another reason against me arose from post that I published on my blog,
on the totally unfounded accusation that he made to a pair of young
people with a baby that was passing by the training field at G and
Malecón, saying that they did not want to return to him the portfolio
which I had lost while walking there and which, according to him, they
had found.

I also never shared his high-sounding speeches of honesty and austerity,
which did not correspond with his lifestyle, using the resources of the
Institution that he presided over for his personal benefit, such as when
he put the car which had been assigned to him as an official at the
disposal of his family, including fuel costs.

For me, I never knew what happened between him and Felipe Pérez Roque,
after which they ousted the latter, whom he considered his great friend
and with whom he had been a classmate at CUJAE [Instituto Superior
Politécnico José Antonio Echeverría], professing to him his delusions of
student brotherhood and ideals.

His animosity towards Alpidio Alonso was no secret, when Alonso ceased
to be president of the Saíz Brothers Association and went to the
Institute as "Vice President without Portfolio" he offered the criticism
that on the day on which he was not needed in the culture sector he
would not sit and wait to be reassigned but would practice engineering,
which was what he had studied.

At the end of his days in the Segundo Cabo Palace he did not comply with
his rule, refusing to leave his position as president.

By those ups and downs of life, here in the prison I run into an inmate
who had fought in Angola and overlapped with him in those days of "war."

He tells how Iroel Sánchez and Juan Carlos Robinson (today also ousted
after having been in senior positions of political power), were
nicknamed "the runners" because when they felt the sound of the enemy
shells firing, they were the first to arrive at the trenches. He also
tells me, sadly, how they distributed the medals Robinson nominated.

Even more coincidentally, I also know another prisoner here who worked
with him in the Juventud Comunista [Communist Youth], and who says that
they identified him a "frustrated guard" because he was outstanding in
doling out beatings, back in August 5, 1994, when some of the people in
Havana, unhappy people, launched a protest in the streets*. Among them
always there was the suspicion that Iroel sometimes was beating
dissidents for pure pleasure, because he struck without necessity, just
to prove that he had a better attitude than the others in "defense of
the revolution."

I have wanted to share here a series of experiences and facts, actions
and feelings, to help me understand the human being, the greater
ambition that, as an artist, haunts me.

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats. Prison 1580. June, 2013.

*Translator's note: This came to be called the "Maleconazo."

Translated by mlk and Hombre de Paz

9 June 2013

Source: "Prison Diary XXVII: Iroel Sanchez, Militant in his Interests |
Translating Cuba" -

Celebration of the 4th Anniversary of the Network of Civic Libraries

Celebration of the 4th Anniversary of the Network of Civic Libraries /
Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada, Jennifer Fonseca Padrón
Posted on June 29, 2013
By Jennifer Fonseca Padrón, Activist and Independent Journalist

( | Four years after the birth of the Network
of Civic Libraries (NCL), its members and founders decided to come
together to honor the date, look at the accomplishments of their work
and set new goals to reach. The celebration took place at the NLC
headquarters where a dozen librarians exchanged ideas and made a brief
account of the founding and development of the organization; among them
the presence of Teresita Castellanos, co-founder and integrant of this
civic organization, should be highlighted.

"The Network of Civic Libraries was created in mid-June 2009 at the
request of a group of librarians who were then dispersed without being
part of any project or already disappointed at others," says Omayda
Padrón, National Coordinator from the start to this day. One of the
future goals to achieve is the growth and rescue of libraries across the
country, she added. "The work of independent libraries is equally
important to the work of movements, political parties and other civic
organizations because it represents a permanent source of resistance
against the government in any community, city or province," said León
Padrón, a reporter invited to the talk.

The main objectives of the Reinaldo Bragado Bretaña Network of Civic
Libraries are book launches in independent libraries, giving lectures,
literary gatherings, offering courses on leadership, human rights,
Twitter, among others; exchanging ideas with other organizations and
mainly to make known books that have been censored by the government, as
well as to promote unknown literature in Cuba by Cuban writers from the
diaspora who were once convicted and even their work was banned. This
was the case of Reinaldo Bragado Bretaña, the writer and reporter the
Network is proudly named after.

Also it needs to be highlighted that within the Network we are
developing the Animated Smiles Project which consists in rescuing civic
values, encouraging reading as a habit and regaining the culture where
children play children's games, particularly for those who live in the
outlying communities of Havana where most of the families are
dysfunctional and present problems of alcoholism, drug and domestic
violence and many more, expressed Padrón.

Translated by: Chabeli

21 June 2013

Source: "Celebration of the 4th Anniversary of the Network of Civic
Libraries / Wendy Iriepa and Ignacio Estrada, Jennifer Fonseca Padrón |
Translating Cuba" -

Letter from Padre Jose Conrado to the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party re the Victims of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba

Letter from Padre Jose Conrado to the First Secretary of the Cuban
Communist Party re the Victims of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de Cuba
Posted on June 29, 2013

Mr. Lázaro Expósito
First Secretary of the Cuban Communist Party in Santiago de Cuba

Mr. Secretary:

I am writing to you in your capacity as the highest political authority
in our province of Santiago de Cuba. I am aware that, given the
hierarchical structure of the Church, by rights it is not for me to
undertake this effort, but rather for my Archbishop, Mons. Dionisio
García, and I have repeatedly suggested that he do so. But following the
dictates of my conscience, and from a basic sense of personal
responsibility toward our people, on the eve of my perhaps definitive
separation from the people of Santiago de Cuba whom I love so much, I am
addressing this letter to you.

In recent months we have experienced the tragedy of a people who have
lost everything or almost everything they had to survive: as you know
more than a hundred thousand Santiago de Cuba families have been
affected by Hurricane Sandy. We have watched with amazement the delivery
of aid for our people from so many countries.

And with amazement we watched how this aid was sold for hard currency,
or at inflated prices, in flagrant violation of the the intent of the
donors who gave it freely. We have received information from reliable
people who have followed the trail of the transports and have seen how
this aid, above all the roofs, were stored in State or military
warehouses, while the population was informed that these materials had
already been exhausted.

With amazement we have seen government or military installations
repaired in record time, while the people continue without roofs over
their heads, with their houses uncovered.

We are witnesses to the frustrations of the people, to their desperation
and helplessness, to a voiceless and threatening silence that makes us
think that at any moment they could explode with an uncontrollable and
justified rage, which could have dire consequences for the coexistence
of our citizens.

Many times, on going to offer them our humble aid, almost all of it sent
by other Cubans on the rest of the island, poor as the victims
themselves, we have heard, "You are the only ones who remember us, the
only ones who have assisted us"!

Mr. Secretary, the people perceive you to be an honest man, who works
hard to fulfill his obligations and who cares about the people. We have
also heard that corruption and incompetence surround you on all sides
and, much to your dismay, hinder your work. All of this saddens and
worries us.

As a priest, I have renounced having my own family. Along with some of
my colleagues, when our families, parents and siblings decided to
abandon our country, we decided to stay to serve our people in their
misfortune. These people are our family: our parents, our children, our
brothers and sisters. We live for them and we are willing to die for
them. If today we raise our voices, at whatever risk it might entail,
including being misunderstood, it is to seek a solution to so much
misery and pain, and because we are not inclined to stare at the bulls
from the other side of the fence, but to commit ourselves and to help
with all our strength.

I ask in the name of God, in the name of truth and justice, and calling
on your true patriotism which I do not doubt, that you seriously
investigate what has happened and quickly remedy it.

Padre José Conrado

I also ask that you yourself communicate with the president of our
country, General Raúl Castro Ruz, so that, with the full weight of the
State, repairs can be undertaken on so many totally and partially
destroyed homes, something so important for these families affected by
Hurricane Sandy. The call to the solidarity of our people you have
already demonstrated in your generosity and ability during the hurricane
and in the face of its devastating destruction. Thus, we make possible
the Nation José Martí dreamed of, "with all and for the good of all."

Padre José Conrado Rodríguez

Translated from version appearing in Penultimos Dias

26 June 2013

Source: "Letter from Padre Jose Conrado to the First Secretary of the
Cuban Communist Party re the Victims of Hurricane Sandy in Santiago de
Cuba | Translating Cuba" -

Filling Stores with Bolivian Clothing

Filling Stores with Bolivian Clothing / Juan Juan Almeida
Posted on June 29, 2013

No doubt you heard that last week, on June 13 and 14, representatives
from Cuba and Bolivia met in Havana to take part in their countries'
first business forum and first round of negotiations to explore various
possibilities for economic exchange and for strengthening bilateral
It is a bad omen, I tell you, that such an important meeting took place
in the Hotel Nacional, in the Tanganana Room to be exact, which
coincidentally is named after the cellar that forms part of the aged
facility's foundation and where, according to legend, Franciscan monks
hid valuable treasure.

The treasure is no longer there, only vestiges of the old legend remain
and any business agreement between Cuba and Bolivia will last exactly as
long as a Palestinian peace plan: one round.

But that is my very skeptical opinion. According to official sources,
this transcendental encounter was led by important officials from both
countries, who share a common enemy. The United States, Chile and the
hole in the ozone layer would seem to be disconnected strands but they
carry a direct message and a clear meaning. The meeting was more a
political consultation than a business gathering.

Teresa Morales, the Minister of Economic Development, led the delegation
from the South American country. You might remember her name from the
very descriptive headlines of well-documented articles that appeared not
long ago about the hundreds of demonstrators in the Altos district
demanding her resignation for — and I quote — "her inability to resolve
the problem of access to staple foods and for exacerbating the shortage
of basic goods and services."

Judging from all the signs and signals, cooperation between the future
partners promises to be unruly and counter-productive, which is typical
of fraternal governments which ignore laws and citizen demands.

Cuba was represented by Estrella Madrigal, a fat, bland mid-level
director with limited decision-making authority. She, like many,
augments her diet with unproductive trips, presents from businesspeople
and some small change here and there.
Other than a speech limited to the matter at hand — joint economic
ventures — she spent all her time drinking mojitos, eating canapés and
urging the participants to take advantage of the enormous possibilities
offered by membership in the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of Our
America (ALBA) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States
(CELAC). She expressed her support for SUCRE (Unified System for
Regional Compensation), a proposed common currency to be used for all
joint operations. In addition to speaking about investments, she
referred to the siphoning off of goods on consignment.

With corrosive cleverness Cuba offered the Andeans one-of-a-kind,
exclusive access to the thousands of empty shelves in its monolithic
chain of stores so that they might sell Bolivian-made textile products,
footwear and cosmetics. The risk would be all theirs; nothing would be
paid for in advance.

The accord has stimulated the sparkling wisdom of Cuba's people. Some
have even dared predict, with some degree of fear, that Bolivia's
traditional multi-colored woolen shawl — the aguayo — will be become by
decree the national attire. No matter what happens, it all depends on
who pays more.

26 June 2013

Source: "Filling Stores with Bolivian Clothing / Juan Juan Almeida |
Translating Cuba" -

From Havana to beaches, Cuba is an exotic mystery

From Havana to beaches, Cuba is an exotic mystery
By Bella English | GLOBE STAFF JUNE 29, 2013

HAVANA — When I entered Sloppy Joe's Bar, one of Hemingway's legendary
haunts, I was surprised at how brand-new it felt in a city, and on an
island, that seem suspended in time. Then I learned that, nearly 50
years after closing, it had recently reopened following an extensive
renovation. Today, it is sleek and dark, with a DVD of Frank Sinatra
crooning, photos of Marilyn Monroe, and rows of good whiskey displayed
in glass-and-mahogany cases.

I preferred El Floridita, where Ernest Hemingway drank his daiquiris.
The barmen still keep the blenders busy, and serve fine ice-cold
daiquiris. The only difference nowadays is that customers can have their
photos snapped next to the bronze statue of Hemingway, who is leaning on
the bar, his elbow next to a bronze paperback. Wish we knew which one.

I recently spent a week in Cuba, visiting Havana and the countryside
before checking out the beach. Because the country remains under US
embargo and travel by US citizens is limited — journalists and academic
researchers can go, and certain "cultural exchanges" are allowed — I
wanted to get there and write about it before the floodgates open and
tourists overrun the place.

Havana is really two cities. Its former beauty can still be seen,
through squinted eyes and imagination, in the stately but crumbling
colonial buildings that line some streets. Thanks to decades of sun and
neglect, many of the colorful concrete and stucco buildings have faded
to lighter shades of green, blue, yellow, and pink.

Then there's the post-1958 Havana. It can be seen in the pot-holed
streets and run-down apartments where lines of clothes hang from windows
and balconies. It can be seen in the ubiquitous image of Che Guevera,
which adorns everything from billboards to T-shirts, and in the
revolutionary signs that proclaim: "Be Proud of Our History!" and
"Revolution is achieved by audacity, intelligence, and realism."

It can be seen in the cars from the 1950s — from the bulbous Chrysler De
Sotos to the finned Chevy Bel Airs — that somehow keep rumbling down the
roads. The day after I arrived in Havana, a guide approached me as I
left my hotel and asked if I wanted to take a tour of the city in his
bright yellow 1953 Chevy convertible. I did.

For a couple of hours, Alberto and his father drove me around the city,
hitting the highlights, including "The Fifth Avenue of Havana," in the
seafront Miramar section of town, where the wealthy lived before the
revolution that ushered Fidel Castro into power.

It may be prime real estate, but many of the grand mansions are
abandoned or in disrepair. Still, there are lovely embassies and lush
foliage such as hibiscus, bright orange Flamboyant trees, and enormous
banyans more than a century old.

Despite its pitiful infrastructure, Cuba maintains its natural beauty,
and the balmy weather — except during hurricane season — means that
people are outside a lot: families, couples, schoolchildren in uniforms.

Yes, there is poverty, but it isn't the dire desperation that you see in
other capital cities across the world. Health care and university
education are free. But the socialist government can't provide all the
housing and jobs needed. Alberto told me that he worked a couple of days
a week in a parking lot; he and others have to hustle up second jobs "to
feed our families."

I stayed at the Parque Central Hotel, which overlooks a park at the edge
of Habana Vieja, the oldest and most interesting part of this city of 2
million. I loved simply looking out my window at the park, with its
statue of José Martí, hero of the Cuban fight for independence, and
lovers holding hands — or making out. Public displays of affection are
common here.

Habana Vieja includes the formerly walled section where the 16th-century
city began. Later, in the days when pirates were a threat, a cannon
would be fired at 9 every night, warning citizens that the gates were
about to close. The gates are gone, but the cannon custom continues.

The old city is home to colonnaded buildings with domed archways and
wrought-iron balconies of churches, mansions that are now apartments,
hotels and museums that grace cobblestone squares. The architecture is a
mishmash of styles, from colonial to rococo to Art Deco.

Alberto and his father took me to the Hotel Nacional, built in 1930 and
apparently the premier place to stay, judging from the photos of
luminaries that line the lobby bar, including Greta Garbo, Nat King
Cole, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Murray. (In April Beyoncé and Jay-Z stayed
at the renovated Saratoga, another beauty.)

We rode past Chinatown — the Chinese arrived in the 19th century to work
in the sugar cane fields — and then to the Plaza de la Revolución with
its metal visage of Che Guevara on one government building, and a
similar one of comrade Camilo Cienfuegos on another.

We stopped in at the Legendario Rum bottling plant and sipped various
flavors of the famous Cubano elixir: pineapple rum, cherry, and mint.
Then a bartender made me a cup of "rum coffee." He heated some rum,
lighted it, stretched his arm over his head, and poured the rum — now a
thin, fiery stream of liquid — into a coffee cup on the bar, 4 feet
below. Not a drop was spilled.

Old Havana is best seen on foot, and there are some great pedestrian
paseos. I spent the next couple of days walking the city, along
Empedrado and Calle Obispo, lined with shops and restaurants, small art
galleries, and a crafts market. The staples of a Cuban meal are pork,
beans, and rice, but the fish is excellent, the paella heavenly.

A couple of mornings, I ran along the Malecon, an oceanfront boulevard
with one of the few wide, and uncrowded, sidewalks in the city. I loved
watching the fishermen and divers in wetsuits.

The sweeping Plaza de Armas is ringed by bookseller stalls, featuring
historical and political treatises in Spanish and English. Hemingway
fans stop in at La Bodeguita del Medio, made famous by the writer's
penchant for the bar's mojitos. They still know how to pour rum and
muddle mint there, but it has become a tourist magnet.

The Hotel Ambos Mundos on Obispo is where Hemingway wrote "For Whom the
Bell Tolls." A clerk told me that Papa lived there "off and on" for
seven years. I didn't spring for the $2 to see Room 511, now preserved
as a mini-museum.

But I willingly sprang for the Buena Vista Social Club legends, who play
traditional Cuban music. Though most of the original members are gone
now, a few are left, and they are backed by a great band. At Cafe
Taberna, they sang their way around the room, even getting some of the
ladies up to dance. They are still fabulous after all these years.

I wanted to see more of the country and so, along with other hotel
guests, I boarded a bus for a day trip to Valle de Vinales, about two
hours west of Havana. We passed fields filled with tobacco and other
crops, with an occasional team of oxen plowing. On the highway we passed
horses pulling buggies; some even passed us.

The trip included a stop at a farmhouse, a modest concrete home with a
roof of palm fronds. Tobacco farmers must sell 90 percent of their
product to the government, keeping 10 percent for personal use, our
guide said. A farm worker showed us how to roll a cigar, a painstaking
process. He said each worker is expected to roll between 80 and 140 a day.

Last stop, the beach. In Varadero, I stayed at the Iberostar Laguna Azul
Hotel, an all-inclusive place filled with Canadian, European, and Latin
American tourists. The beach was wide, the water clear and warm, and it
was a great chance to read "Our Man in Havana," by Graham Greene.

He wrote, in 1958: "To live in Havana was to live in a factory that
turned out human beauty on a conveyor-belt." Here, even the dowagers are
beautiful: those once-dignified buildings that have tried to withstand
the vagaries of time, but could use a good facelift.

Bella English can be reached at

Source: "From Havana to beaches, Cuba is an exotic mystery - Travel -
The Boston Globe" -

First direct Brazil flight to take off in July

First direct Brazil flight to take off in July

CUBA STANDARD — Flag carrier Cubana de Aviación is reopening a route to
Brazil with a Havana-São Paulo flight on July 10, the tourism ministry
said in a press release.

The once-a-week flight, on a 262-passenger IL 96-300, leaves on
Wednesdays and returns on Thursdays.

No Brazilian airline is offering nonstop flights to Cuba. Brazilian
visits have risen modestly over the past decade, to 16,000 in 2012.
Also, Brazilian business activities in Cuba have intensified over the
past years, producing an increase in business travel from Brazil to
Cuba. Finally, as the government of Brazil is negotiating to contract
6,000 Cuban doctors, travel from Cuba to Brazil may be rising as early
as this year.

Cubana is marketing its Brazil flights via Cuban tour operators, the
Brazilian embassy in Havana, the Brazilian Export and Investment
Promotion Agency (APEX), and the Brazilian Association of Tourism
Operators (Braztoa).

"The more than 16,000 Brazilians that visited us in 2012 constitute a
number far removed from the potential that country represents," wrote
the Cuban tourism ministry in a press release. "Without giving up sun
and beaches, our destination will show Brazilian visitors its security,
culture and history, and the rich nature we have."

Source: "First direct Brazil flight to take off in July « Cuba Standard,
your best source for Cuban business news" -

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Afraid of Change

Afraid of Change / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on June 28, 2013

In close circles of friends there has been a lot of conversation
recently about the slow, almost imperceptible changes announced by the
government. What is certainly clear is that soto voce, almost secretly,
there is some perceived movement — a hint that "something is up" — out
of view, as usual, of the public.

The government is experiencing a never-before-seen crisis. The Cuban
economy is virtually non-existent. The country produces no wealth and
the hope placed in the government of neighboring Venezuela is fading
away along with Chavism, like a mirage in the middle of the desert just
as one is about to die of thirst. Our only options lie in the north, not
the south.

Are we ready for change? Not as I see it. As an uninformed and isolated
people we have waited for solutions to come "from outside." Many people,
perhaps a majority, fear the unknown. On the other hand the daily
struggle to survive leaves almost no opportunity for analytical thought.

During the last fifty-four years they have been scaring us with the
threat of "the enemy in front." It is an invention used by the
government to paralyze private initiative. It is an attempt to make us
complacent—into a people without expectations, always searching for
food, blaming all our problems on the so-called blockade, which is
itself is clearly on a path to extinction also.

Now that there is a subtle hint that "something is up" with the neighbor
in front, instead of being happy, many are terrified and even believe
that this is going to turn into a "move out of the way; I'm moving in"*
situation. We should never have allowed ourselves be manipulated to such
a great extent when in reality the United States has always been our
natural market.

A neighbor, whom I consider to be a wonderful person, told me that what
he really fears is "what will become of us, the opposition, when it

We will keep writing, I told him, pointing out what is wrong, come what
may. Then our inventiveness and creativity will be given free reign. At
the very least we will have equal opportunity. We will regain our
freedom as individuals and with it our free will.

An architect, for whom I have great appreciation, shared with me her
concerns about the changes. "Those of us who stayed behind and put up
with everything are not even going to have a penny in our pockets, while
those from over there are going to come in with money to invest," she said.

"Look," I told her, "we are the ones who are to blame for accepting
everything without complaint. And when it comes to those who are going
to come here with money, I do not mind at all; quite the opposite, I am
glad. Besides, many of those who are coming to invest their capital are
Cubans, or their descendants, from whom the government stripped
everything away, and who recovered economically with their sacrifice,
intelligence or good luck. That will be good for everyone."

I believe that now is the time to smooth over political differences and
be pragmatic. In many cases this will mean having to "pick ourselves up"
and start over without bitterness. To forgive but not to forget, letting
the appropriate authorities pass judgement on criminal cases perpetrated
against human dignity, which must not go unpunished. Apart from that, we
must try to contribute our own grain of sand in the rebuilding of our
country and putting it on the path of development in the XXI century.

*Translator's note: In the original Spanish this is, Quítate tú para
ponerme yo, a Cuban expression and title of a popular song.

27 June 2013

Source: "Afraid of Change / Rebeca Monzo | Translating Cuba" -

The University

The University / Henry Constantin
Posted on June 28, 2013

The University belongs to the Revolutionaries, says the slogan on a
central wall of the University of Camagüey, the first opened by the
government of the older brother, Big Brother, in the gray gray gray
years of the seventies, on the northeast side of my city. But today,
when sometimes we feel just half gray, we look around, a little sadly,
to see that little has changed.

I haven't woken up yet, but, like in a Monterroso story, I see the sign,
the dinosaur footprint, is still there.

The 2012-2013 school year has ended, and the reforms in this country
don't touch the essential: respect for the other. Even Ignacio Agramonte
University — as if The Older had once refused equality of rights to his
enemies — displays the same discriminatory sign in front of which I was
photographed 7 years ago, recently expelled from another university.

A dean of this place still shouts this little phrase at a meeting, and a
rector, from ISA (Superior Art Institute), remembers the student he
ordered out of the university. Still the university, like the armed
forces, elected offices, political and business administration, the
press, the diplomatic service, "solidarity" missions, and who knows how
many more things on the island, are not for all Cubans: they are for the
Revolutionaries. The country still is not with all nor for the good of
all, but for the Revolutionaries — and even for them, to top it off, all
they get is leftovers.

We all know today that the only requirement to be a revolutionary is to
remain silent, smile and look away while Cuba is falling apart on us.
The best revolutionary in Cuba is he who tries to revolutionize the least.

Ignacio Agramonte is the same university that expelled Harold Cepero and
other boys at the beginning of 2000, when they collected signatures for
the Varela Project. It is the same place where the freedom of other
friends as turned bitter while they studied and worked there.

It's where some who knew me have said, "Beware of being friends with
Henry Constantin." But this post is not only about the trip I took this
afternoon to the University of Camagüey and its little sign stinking of
apartheid; it was to talk about everything Cuban universities lack.

Cuban universities need not only to erase this sign. They also need to
raise salaries and student stipends, reconstruct and modernize their
facilities and services, de-politicize the internal rules, authorize
free association among students and professors and remove all the
partisan controls on their properties.

We also need to support non-state universities — because a single
educational system is the best way to prepare us for the single command
— to update the curricula, become more focused on technology and
information sciences, eliminate military and political subjects, connect
professors and students with the reality of the country and the word,
and empower them to influence it, so that physical and spiritual exile
are not the only options.

Cuban universities urgently need to become self-sustaining, modify
subjective and imprecise evaluation methods, measuring only academic and
creative performance, abandoning discrimination in admissions according
to geographic provenance, increasing the evaluative demand, applying
exposition and opposition of ideas in the classes, introducing the civic
and human component in the curricula.

It's a lot, but to eliminate the little sign would be a good step. Or to
change it so that we make it into a wall-museum, where our children and
grandchildren will stop for a minute, and remember that that university
and that Cuba should never return.

27 June 2013

Source: "The University / Henry Constantin | Translating Cuba" -

Cuba May Tourist Arrivals by Country of Origin

Cuba May Tourist Arrivals by Country of Origin
By Ainhoa Goyeneche - Jun 28, 2013 8:57 PM GMT+0200

Following is a summary of Cuba's May tourist arrivals by country of
origin, from the National Statistics Office in Havana:
May May YoY YtD YtD YoY
2013 2012 % chg 2013 2012 % chg
Total Visitors 191,120 196,974 -3.0% 1,413,076 1,438,010 883.0%
Country of origin:
Canada 61,172 60,412 913.0% 656,441 649,676 910.0%
United Kingdom 13,962 14,776 845.0% 62,832 63,180 894.0%
Germany 8,609 7,835 999.0% 56,229 50,921 1004.0%
Argentina 7,877 7,877 900.0% 50,383 55,671 805.0%
France 7,028 8,031 775.0% 51,434 56,727 807.0%
Mexico 6,521 6,795 860.0% 32,914 30,773 970.0%
Italy 5,150 5,368 859.0% 44,095 50,170 779.0%
Spain 5,046 6,450 682.0% 24,932 30,493 718.0%
Russia 4,343 5,694 663.0% 35,531 41,417 758.0%
May May YoY YtD YtD YoY
2013 2012 % chg 2013 2012 % chg
Venezuela 3,551 3,041 1068.0% 15,736 15,577 910.0%
Chile 2,959 1,715 1625.0% 16,926 12,864 1216.0%
Colombia 2,660 2,520 956.0% 12,064 11,470 952.0%
Netherlands 2,202 2,613 743.0% 13,884 14,072 887.0%
China 1,721 1,493 1053.0% 8,572 7,595 1029.0%
Switzerland 1,365 1,253 989.0% 9,743 9,279 950.0%
Brazil 1,355 1,027 1219.0% 7,565 7,370 926.0%
Peru 1,309 1,485 781.0% 7,859 7,804 907.0%
Panama 1,094 801 1266.0% n/a n/a n/a
Other Countries 53,196 57,788 821.0% 297,470 316,330 840.0%
SOURCE: Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas
To contact the reporter on this story: Ainhoa Goyeneche in Washington at

Source: "Cuba May Tourist Arrivals by Country of Origin - Bloomberg" -

Cuba May Tourist Arrivals Fell 3.0% From Year Ago

Cuba May Tourist Arrivals Fell 3.0% From Year Ago
By Ainhoa Goyeneche - Jun 28, 2013 8:54 PM GMT+0200

Following is a summary of Cuba's May tourist arrivals from the National
Statistics Office in Havana:
May April March Feb. Jan. Dec.
2013 2013 2013 2013 2013 2012
Monthly Visitors 191,120 273,950 354,578 300,658 292,770 280,986
Annual Change% -3.0% -4.9% 1.3% -2.9% -0.2% 1.7%
YtD Visitors 1,413,076 1,221,956 948,006 593,428 292,766 2,838,607
Annual Change% -1.7% -1.5% -0.5% -1.6% -0.2% 4.5%
SOURCE: Oficina Nacional de Estadisticas
To contact the reporter on this story: Ainhoa Goyeneche in Washington at

Source: "Cuba May Tourist Arrivals Fell 3.0% From Year Ago - Bloomberg"

U.S. says the number of visas issued in Havana increased significantly

Posted on Saturday, 06.29.13

U.S. says the number of visas issued in Havana increased significantly

U.S. diplomats in Havana increased the number of visas issued to Cubans
by about several thousand in recent months, they revealed Friday in
response to a Granma newspaper column alleging that U.S. consular
officials trade bribes for visas.

The column included an odd paragraph implying that island authorities
are not stopping Cubans from leaving illegally by boat — a statement
that is clearly false but may spark a quite a stir in a country where
many people want to emigrate.

Written by historian Néstor García Iturbide, the column was first
published in the pro-government Cuban blog La Pupila Insomne — The
Sleepless Pupil. But its reprint in the Communist Party's Granma
newspaper appeared to give it an official seal of approval.

García's column focused on his allegation of corruption and complaint of
restrictive visa policies at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana,
officially called the U.S. Interests Section (USINT) in the absence of
full diplomatic relations.

Some Cubans "have paid functionaries to receive their visa," he wrote.
"There are functionaries who get angry [when offered bribes], others who
allow themselves to be loved. The people waiting in line know who is who."

Garcia did not identify any corrupt officials by name or citizenship.
U.S. State Department officials sent from Washington hold the main jobs
at UNINT's consular section, but Cuban citizens hired locally handle
some of the work.

The USINT immediately issued a statement saying that the mission takes
all allegations of corruption in its ranks seriously and asking anyone
with reliable information on such cases to call its main telephone number.

Garcia also alleged that the USINT has not been issuing enough visas to
Cubans who want to visit the United States, "while spending million of
dollars on Radio and TV Marti to try fruitlessly to deliver the image of
the United States to Cubans."

Revealing previously unknown and surprisingly large figures, the USINT
statement said 16,767 Cubans received visitors visas in the first six
months of 2013, compared to 9,369 in the same period last year — a 79
percent spike — and that another 29,000 received migrant visas in 2012.
Under a 1994 bilateral accord, Washington promised to issue at least
20,000 migrant documents to Cubans per year.

The spikes were the result of stepped-up visa interviews by US consular
officials in Havana, from 150 to 600 per day, to clear out a large and
years-old backlog of applications. But Havana also greatly eased its
restrictions on Cubans' travel abroad as of Jan. 14.

As for Garcia's complaint that the 600 Cubans a day who apply for U.S.
visas must each pay a $160 fee to USINT — $600,000 per week by his
estimate — the USINT statement said the fee was the same at all U.S.
embassies around the world. Cuba has one of the most expensive passports
in the world, costing $140 for six years.

Replying to the column's complaint that USINT rejects most of the
applicants for visitor's visas, the statement said: "To qualify for a
tourist visa, applicants must demonstrate strong ties to Cuba that will
compel them to return after a short visit to the United States. That is
very difficult for many Cuban applicants."

Cuba analysts speculated that the Garcia column was Havana's opening
shot for the first U.S.-Cuba migration talks, scheduled for July 17,
since their suspension more than two years ago because of the detention
in Cuba of U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross.

But they were baffled by Garcia's apparent claim that the government
allows people to leave illegally by boat. Havana in fact interdicts
illegal departures, although there have been reports of officials taking
bribes to turn a blind eye to them.

Garcia wrote that some of the Cubans who had been turned for U.S.
tourist visas "were mentioning that they would not return again to apply
for a visa, that with some friends they would prepare an illegal trip by

That trip, he added, "would be to try to reach U.S. territory, as some
have done, above all with the assurance that the Cuban authorities are
not intervening in these intents, and when at the most they provide
advice on how to avoid risking the lives of those on the trip."

Garcia, who has written several essays on Cuba-U.S. relations, could not
be reached to explain his comment. But Havana residents said there
seemed to be little awareness of his odd assertion on the streets of the
Cuban capital Friday.

Source: "U.S. says the number of visas issued in Havana increased
significantly - Cuba -" -

US issues warning on driving in Cuba

Posted on Friday, 06.28.13

US issues warning on driving in Cuba

The U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana issued a warning Friday that
traffic accidents involving U.S. citizens are on the rise, and noted
that seven Americans are currently unable to leave the island because of
such accidents.

"We urge you to take extra safety precautions when driving to avoid
problems during your stay in Cuba," the mission, officially the U.S.
Interests Section, said in English and Spanish-language statements
posted on its Web page and sent to journalists.

Two U.S. citizens were jailed for accident-related offenses during
recent months, two others are under house arrest and three more are not
being allowed to leave the island because of accident-related offenses,
according to the statement.

Prison sentences for car accidents can run up to 10 years, the statement
noted, and witnesses and even some people who require emergency medical
treatment abroad have been forced to remain in Cuba while their cases
are investigated.

"Unconfirmed reports suggest that accidents involving motor vehicles are
now the leading cause of accidental death in Cuba," the warning said,
going on to list a long series of problems with the country's streets
and highways.

Highways lack lights and "night driving should be strictly avoided
outside urban areas," it said, while secondary roads are narrow, in bad
condition and used by "pedestrians, bicycles, horse-drawn carts and farm
equipment" as well as livestock.

In cities, many streets are not lit, some cars and most bicycles lack
running lights or reflectors and signage "tends to be insufficient and
confusing." Many Cuban cars are old and lack turn signals, the statement

Source: "US issues warning on driving in Cuba - Cuba -"

Message from Angel Santiesteban, sent to the event “Detained Writers/Dispatched Writers”

Message from Angel Santiesteban, sent to the event "Detained
Writers/Dispatched Writers"
Posted on June 28, 2013

Dear writers – French and from other nations present – critics, editors,
translators, readers and the public in general:

I do not deny to you that after several days the news of this event
slept inside the prison, mocking the constant and deep watchfulness over
my person, without it being possible to calm my anxiety after receiving
the news, as well as the fear that my contacts would be surprised and
punished severely, until I was happily delivered on this past Thursday,
May 30, I never imagined that solidarity against injustice and in favor
of free writing, by bringing me back, would take such dimensions and
awaken such beautiful feelings at the same moment in which I suffer

Already you ought to know that my "crime" was to think differently,
wrongly or not, to err is my right; but dictatorships, as everyone
knows, do not accept the most negligible possibilities of dissenting
from their policies.

Now, in order to write these words, I outwit all surveillance in my
surroundings; any informer who reports on me, especially on my
clandestine correspondence and contacts that mock the eyes of the
censors, is awarded with gifts, and whoever does not do so, if the
military learns that something was not reported – something as simple as
me writing this now – is maligned as not being reliable and sent to a
distant province, where his family can not visit him.

I could not deny to you and not make you participants, in the midst of
so much negativity and arid penance, of the excitement that the news of
this meeting today, Day 4, caused in me; I know that similar readings
take place in other cities of Europe, convened by the PEN Club and other
important institutions, and later on in September, the International
Book Fair in Berlin. Several tears escaped from inside me as a sign of
celebration and a thanksgiving to you; it was the only way to
demonstrate my stealthy tribute.

Nor could I deny to you that, despite the misery that lives my country,
and the misery that I live in my case in particular, I am on the altar
of the homeland. I will have no space in another place, inside or
outside of Cuba, while the dictatorship reigns.

I will definitely not leave our island while they do not respect the
human rights and freedoms of the Cuban people. I will keep fighting,
more now that I have encouragement from you, your prayers and the
activist support that comes to Cuba, to me, from that meeting you are
now holding.

Until freedom comes to my country, I will keep on denouncing the abuses
and outrages against all hope, willing to pay the price of my life, if
the time comes; but until today, I swear that God has not left me. I
have no other way, I have this, that I am master of my steps though they
have me behind bars. Meanwhile, and it is the unique luxury of revenge
that could shelter my feelings, I write and I attempt – as all of you do
– that literature justify each inhalation of my life and, in particular,
of the place where I am today.

I want to reiterate my eternal gratitude to all the organizers of this
reading, and to each and every one of those present, feel my embrace,
one bathed with enthusiasm and optimism.
Long live the word, and long live freedom!

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
31 May 2013
Prison 1580
Havana, Cuba

Note from the Editors:

This message was sent by Ángel Santiesteban-Prats to give thanks for
having been included in the reading tribute to the writers who suffer
persecution and imprisonment, organized by La maison de l'arbre, la
Biennale des poètes en Val de Marne, La Maison des écrivains et de la
littérature et le Pen club français, "Écrivains empêchés/Écrivains
dépêchés" (The Tree House, the Biennial of the poets in Val de Marne,
The House of the Writers and the Literature and the French PEN Club,
"Detained Writers/Dispatched Writers").

In solidarity with the imprisoned Chinese writer Li Bifeng, the
International Book Fair in Berlin called upon intellectuals, artists,
universities, media, theaters and other cultural institutions around the
world, to organize readings of tribute with the motive of the sad
anniversary of the repression in Tiananmen Square and of the day of the
World Wide Reading on the topic of resistance.

Among the readings which were done, Angel Santiesteban-Prats was
distinguished, who is unjustly imprisoned in Cuba by the Castro
dictatorship, for the simple "crime" of expressing himself freely in
this, his blog.

His story, La luna, un muerto y un pedazo de pan ("The moon, a dead man
and a piece of bread") has been read by the French writer and poet,
Irène Gayraud.

Translated by Hombre de Paz

12 June 2013

Source: "Message from Angel Santiesteban, sent to the event "Detained
Writers/Dispatched Writers" | Translating Cuba" -

Friday, June 28, 2013

Prison Diary XXXII My Gratitude

Prison Diary XXXII: My Gratitude / Angel Santiesteban
Posted on June 27, 2013

Making a cut in the first quarter of a month in prison, I must thank in
principle, the tantrum of the Castro brothers for my blog, for my
opposition to the system, which led them to create a terrible judicial
process against me that imprisoned me without proofs, and for having
been convicted in advance by Agent Camilo of State Security, before the
Court ruled.

I must also be grateful for the opportunity to share the pain of so many
Cubans, mostly young people not able to leave the country or see any
option other than crime, given that the spectrum of opportunities for
young people is infinitesimal. I should also be grateful for the
invaluable opportunity brought to me by power to conduct this
sociological study of the problems in the nation from this "privileged"
scenario, because here in this horrific concentration camp, everything
is exposed.

Being here has allowed me to corroborate one more time that my attitude
towards power is correct, and I will not stop denouncing the abuses and
irresponsibility of the Government toward its citizens.

To top it off, during these four months of confinement, I have
maintained the level of complaints because the violations of the human
rights they commit daily, because there is no day when they don't beat
the prisoners, who although fainting, continue to be badly beaten;
because the food, which I have never accepted, is terrible with fetid
odors, badly processed, lacking refrigeration, in short, pestilent;
because the overcrowding reigns, because hygiene is non-existent.

Despite all this daily calamity, I have finished three novels and a book
of short stories. By the way, the last I wrote was seized by Major
Llorente, the "unit's politico," in reprisal because in Paris he read a
story of mine, at an event that paid tribute to imprisoned and
persecuted writers. Thank God it was a work I'd managed to get out with
my family, and it is well-protected. As a gift, when I have it
completely finished, I am thinking of giving him a copy, precisely
because it talks about his horrors in the prison to which I have been

Ángel Santiesteban-Prats
Prison 1580

Editors' note: The day after tomorrow, June 28, Angel Santiesteban will
complete 4 months in prison, months in which he has contributed in an
exemplary way to denouncing all the abuses committed in Cuba which the
world, with its complicit silence, blesses. The most difficult 4 months
that he has served with absolute dignity, with his head held high and
looking into his eyes, with the peaceful spirit a peaceful conscience
provides. He is "doing" and writing the story that few dare to tell. We,
his family and friends, are very proud of him. God bless him!

26 June 2013

Source: "Prison Diary XXXII: My Gratitude / Angel Santiesteban |
Translating Cuba" -

El Sexto, Between Paints and Searches

El Sexto, Between Paints and Searches / Miguel Iturria Savon
Posted on June 27, 2013

Tall like a pine and genuine in his desire to express himself through
art that is ephemeral and challenging, describes the young Cuban
graffiti artist, Danilo Maldonado Machado — alias El Sexto (The Sixth) —
who does not smile at the spring greenery nor the excess of tropical
light, despite a love for the colorful trees and ocean breezes that cool
the bustling night on the streets of Havana, the city whose walls are
the objects his paints, as explicit and allegorical as the reality that
he tries to capture with spray paint.

It's not that El Sexto wants to beautify this bittersweet city that
defies moisture and time and official apathy. More than embellish, his
nocturnal murals call the attention of the bored capital pedestrians,
accustomed to looking without seeing or listening without hearing in the
midst of violence and the helplessness generated by the servility and
cowardice induced by the despotism of the State.

And so he has problems with the political police and the other police,
who control the order and carry out the order to arrest him on the
public street for having a spray can in one of his pockets and later
they made a search of his house and seized his works and painting
supplies as well as fining him a thousand pesos without specifying the
crime he committed.

In a short video shot by photographer Claudio Fuentes, El Sexto refuses
to pay the fine because "I would demonstrate that I'm doing something
wrong, that being an artist is a criminal act." And he says: "I prefer
to force the courts to make a judgment for me to demonstrate how and why
I'm doing harm."

We hope that Danilo Maldonado Machado, whose pseudonym satirizes the
demented political campaign of the Castro regime to free to Five Spies
convicted in the United States, comes out well in this new police hunt,
one among so many detentions and searches to dissuade him from his
"disturbing" street art.

For those who wish to know the urban odyssey of this Havana artists who
exercises freedom of expression without permission, I suggest you go to
his blog, located in the portal, where there is the
video made by Claudio Fuentes. You can also read the enlightening
article from the writer Ernesto Santana Zaldivar, who recreated the last
fight of Sexto against the police and legal harassment on this island of
automatons dressed as functionaries and of intellectuals vaccinated
against common sense.

In my case, I can attest to the personal, artist, and solidarity value
of this tall boy who draws, with banned spray cans, stars and satiric
cocks and naive and frightened faces. I met him several times at the
house of Yoani Sanchez — famous author of the blog Generation Y — and at
the residence of the physicist Antonio Rodiles, leader of the virtual
program Estado de Sats; in addition to attending and commenting on for
Cubanet the Exhibition put on by El Sexto in the apartment of the singer
Gorki Aguila, on October 29, 2011. I brought to Spain the sheet that
Danilo Maldonado Machado painted on my floor in Central Havana, days
before we caught the plane to freedom. El Sexto converted this sheet
into a protest my being held in police custody that is a testimony to
denouncing and friendship.

21 June 2013

Source: "El Sexto, Between Paints and Searches / Miguel Iturria Savon |
Translating Cuba" -

Cuba No Longer a Haven for U.S. Fugitives

Cuba No Longer a Haven for U.S. Fugitives
Jun 27 2013 11:51AM
Isaac Risco, dpa

Cuba would not be a safe place for US whistleblower Edward Snowden,
according to analysts, who say Havana does not want to strain relations
with Washington as political pragmatism gains ground on the island.

"Cuba has no national or political interest in receiving Snowden. And
given his libertarian stance, Snowden is unlikely to want to associate
his cause with Cuba," says Cuban-American expert Arturo Lopez Levy from
Denver University.

The former intelligence contractor, who exposed details of US online
spying activities, has been reportedly trapped in Moscow with no valid
travel document after the United States cancelled his passport on Saturday.

Snowden is believed to be at a Moscow airport, from where he had been
expected to fly to Ecuador via Cuba. But he did not board the plane to

Snowden may have received the message that Cuba could arrest and even
return him to the US, Anya Landau French wrote in The Havana Note blog,
which covers US-Cuba relations.

For decades, Cuba was a safe haven for dozens of fugitives wanted in the
US and elsewhere. They include Joanne Chesimard, a Black Panther
activist convicted of killing a police officer in New Jersey in 1973.

Chesimard, who the FBI recently included on its list of most-wanted
terrorists, is believed to have been living in Cuba since 1984.

Cuba has also given refuge to members of Spain's Basque separatist group

The island is currently home to more than 70 fugitives, according to
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a US congresswoman of Cuban origin who is known as
a fierce critic of President Raul Castro's regime.

US-Cuban relations have also been strained by the case of Alan Gross, a
US government subcontractor who was convicted of spying and sentenced in
2011 to 15 years in prison.

But now, with Raul Castro introducing timid economic reforms, a greater
political pragmatism is seen as gaining ground.

A recent reform made it easier for Cubans to travel abroad. And Cuba is
discussing migration-related questions with the United States, where
hundreds of thousands of Cubans have sought exile over the decades.

Cuba is on the US black list of states protecting terrorists, and the
two countries have no extradition treaty.

But that did not hamper swift cooperation in early April, when it took
Havana just 48 hours to repatriate a US couple that had abducted its own
children after losing custody over them and fled to Cuba.

The case reflects an interest in Havana in not straining relations with
Washington, even if Cuba still does not want to make "unilateral and
definitive concessions" without receiving anything in return, Lopez Levy
told dpa.

The analyst said: "If Cuba cannot receive tangible benefits from other
players, such as Moscow or Beijing in this case, it would prefer to keep
Snowden as far away as possible."

Source: "Cuba No Longer a Haven for U.S. Fugitives -" -

Cuba Has Amended Penal Code

Cuba Has Amended Penal Code
June 27, 2013
By Miguel Fernández Díaz (Café Fuerte)

HAVANA TIMES —The Cuban government has announced it will amend its Penal
Code (1987) and Penal Proceedings Law (1977) with a view to bringing a
number of legal provisions up to date and placing these in step with the
changes that the country's socio-economic structures have been experiencing.

Decree Law 310/2013, published this past Tuesday in a special issue of
Cuba's Official Legal Gazette, stated that the legislative changes will
lead to "greater effectiveness in the prevention and fighting of crime"
and constitutes one of the first steps "in the comprehensive efforts
stemming from the review of current penal legislation."

The four-page document, signed by President Raul Castro on May 29, is
the first step the government officially takes towards updating Cuba's
penal justice system. These wide-encompassing changes include the
gradual implementation of a new infringement code, a revised police law
and the modernization of the juvenile court system.

The Decree-Law will come into effect on October 1, 2013.

Reducing Cuba's Prison Population

In essence, the new legislation has been conceived to bring a measure of
leniency to court rulings in cases where "the perpetrator does not
represent a menace to society, owing to the individual characteristics
of the infringer and the nature and repercussions of the crime", and to
offer alternatives to incarceration.

According to government figures, Cuba's prison population is roughly
50,000 inmates. Human rights organizations, however, place the figure
somewhere between 60 and 65,000 prisoners. There are five maximum
security prisons and 195 other penitentiary institutions on the island.

One of the main changes implemented is a new clause which empowers
authorities to apply a fine on infringers for crimes whose maximum
penalty does not exceed a three-year prison term, or a fine of up to one
thousand pesos, or both – provided the prosecution agrees to this.

Courts will also be empowered to adjust the sentence when they consider
the penalty "excessively severe" for the case at hand.

Guarantees for the Mentally Ill

The new legislation will also offer legal guarantees for infringers who
suffer from mental illnesses.

"If the convicted should begin to suffer an episode of mental
derangement while serving the term of their sanction, the said sanction
shall be suspended and the convict relocated to the psychiatric hospital
designated by the People's Provincial Court in the jurisdiction where
the term of the sanction is being served," the Decree Law establishes.

To sum up, the amendments implemented are the following:

Municipal Courts (MCs) will now be competent to try crimes with a
maximum penalty of up to 8 years in prison. The previous limit was 3 years.
Courts will be empowered to adjust prison sentences, reducing them to a
term that is even below the minimum established by the Law, when they
consider that the officially established sanction is too severe in the
case they are hearing.
The term granted the accused to appeal the court's ruling will be
extended to 5 -10 days.
The police will be empowered to impose an administrative fine on
offenders, in lieu of taking the case to court, for such crimes whose
maximum penalty does not exceed a 3-year prison term (the previous limit
was a one-year term). This will require the prosecution's approval for
such crimes that entail a one to three year prison term.
Administrative fines will range from 200 to 2,000 Cuban pesos for crimes
with a maximum penalty of a year in prison, and from 500 to 5,000 pesos
for crimes with penalties ranging from one to three years in prison.
These fines could be as high as 3,000 and 7,000, respectively, in
dependence of the circumstances.
These fines must be paid within 10 working days following the ruling.
Cases in which the offender fails to pay the fine shall be referred to
the courts.
Proceedings for Foreigners

On May 29, the Governing Board of the People's Supreme Court of Justice
(PSC) adopted Agreement 122, binding for all Cuban courts, which also
makes Cuban legislation with respect to foreign visitors or residents
more flexible. The Agreement establishes that:

Preventive, temporary imprisonment (in anticipation of the trial) should
be enforced "only in such cases where it is absolutely necessary", and
"the least number of individuals" should be imprisoned, "and only in
highly serious cases."
Trials should be held within a term not to exceed 90 days following a
temporary imprisonment ruling and the "policy of granting early prison
releases" should be applied in as many cases as possible.
The PSC also instructed courts to "pay special attention" to cases
"where the accused are foreigners or individuals with permanent
residence abroad", to guarantee that the former receive consular
assistance, as an "essential component" of their defense and to avoid
handing down any ruling before the pertinent diplomatic steps have been

Source: "Cuba has a new updated penal code" -

Cuba Confronts Massive Test Fraud

Cuba Confronts Massive Test Fraud
June 27, 2013
Pre-university examinations annulled

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities today announced the annulment of a
pre-university exam in Havana after the discovery of massive fraud with
stolen math tests, reported DPA news.

Plagiarism affected "quite a few municipalities of the capital" said the
official Granma newspaper, without elaborating.

According to the paper, two professors of a senior high school in the
capital stole the math tests given to eleventh grade students as final
exams throughout Havana.

The answers were sold afterwards to large numbers of students. Several
parents admitted paying for the test, according to "Granma".

Also, many students "resold" the exams and answers and extended "the
fraud to many of the municipalities" that make up the capital city, said
the newspaper.

Both teachers in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, on the outskirts of
Havana, and a worker from the downtown Cerro district, have been
arrested for theft, said Granma.

The authorities decided to make public what happened "when the
investigations were concluded."

The Cuban Ministry of Education determined that the test was annulled
and will be repeated on July 1 throughout the province of the The City
of Havana.

Cuba's pre-universities (10-12 grades) are currently undergoing final
exams. The next course begins in September.

Source: "Stolen Tests Lead to Massive Fraud in Havana" -

Cuba’s migration policy revised

Cuba's migration policy revised
28 June, 2013

Cuban citizens residing in the Cayman Islands should be aware of key
changes made earlier this year by the Cuban government to the Cuban
Migration Policy.

The amendments took effect from 14 January, 2013, following which Cayman
Islands Department of Immigration officials sought clarification from
the Cuban consulate in Jamaica. Following are the updated guidelines
that relate to new policy:

Cuban nationals no longer have to obtain a Travel Permit or a Letter of
Invitation before travelling out of Cuba.

The required travel documents include a valid, ordinary Cuban passport
and the appropriate visa issued by the country to which the citizen is

Ordinary passports issued before the January change will remain valid.

If applicable, Cuban citizens may request updated passports from the
Ministry of the Interior (via the Honorary Cuban Consul in Jamaica).

Cuban passports are valid for six years and must be updated every two
years at the Consulate Office (i.e. A passport issued in 2013 will be
valid until 2019, but its validity shall be updated in 2015 and 2017).

Cuban citizens travelling on "private affairs" will be permitted to
remain outside of Cuba for up to 24 months from the date of departure from.

Applications for passport extensions and authorised stays beyond 24
months must be submitted to the Cuban Consular Office in Jamaica.

"Private affairs" refers to personal reasons not related to the Cuban
government or the state.

Cuban nationals taking up long term residency in the Cayman Islands are
required to apply to the Cuban Consular Office in Jamaica for a "PRE"
(RESIDENTE En El EXTERIOR) endorsement in their passport. This includes
Cuban nationals married to Caymanians.

In regards to longer periods of stay in the Cayman Islands, Cubans will
be required to obtain evidence of an "Extension of Stay" validated at
the Cuban Consulate in Jamaica.

Passport/travel extension services can be carried out at the Cuban
Consulate in Kingston – and usually without the applicant having to
attend in person.

There are application and material requirements associated with such
service transactions.

Given such an extension to the period during which they may remain
outside of Cuba, work permit approval periods may also be extended for
up to 22 months.

The Cayman Islands Department of Immigration has no authority to make
allowances or exercise discretion, outside of what is presented by the
Cuban government.

Any further questions on the law, and on entitlements, travel documents
or travel obligations, should be addressed to the Cuban Consular Office,
Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, in Jamaica.

Source: "Cuba's migration policy revised ::" -

A private affair

Economic reform in Cuba

A private affair
Hesitantly, wholesale markets are becoming more established
Jun 29th 2013 | HAVANA

FROM the Bay of Pigs to Che Guevara's mausoleum, there is plenty for
revolutionary tourists to see in Cuba. For economic junkies there should
soon be a new item on the itinerary: Cuba's first privately run
wholesale market in half a century.

At present it is a nondescript warehouse of green-painted concrete near
Havana's airport. It is unmarked, and so few locals know about it that
your correspondent drove past several times before finding it. But state
media say it will open on July 1st. It is a source of excitement for
those who will occupy it, because it will replace the muddy scrubland
where drivers of hundreds of old trucks have been gathering on the
outskirts of Havana to sell fruit and vegetables in bulk, always
concerned that at any moment their makeshift trading post could be shut

They see the new premises as a further step on Cuba's hesitant path
towards freeing up wholesale markets and loosening the state's control
of food distribution. A farmer, sitting under a banana tree next to his
cargo, proudly displays a handful of permits that he has recently paid
for, covering everything from selling crops to owning and driving a
delivery truck. He says that in the past, when the police caught him
trying to drive produce to Havana without a licence, they would seize it
and give it to a nearby hospital. "They can't stop me now," he says.

However, his ability to sell a broader selection of crops remains
stymied by a shortage of seeds and fertilisers, supplies of which will
not be available in the new market. Such inputs are still controlled by
the state, he says, stroking his chin in a gesture that is meant to
resemble Fidel Castro's beard. The only way for a farmer to acquire more
than he is allotted is via the black market.

The benefits of burgeoning wholesale trade are evident in a stroll
through the back streets of Old Havana. Handcarts owned by private
traders overflow with ripe mangos, avocados and limes, whereas
government outlets nearby contain a few tired-looking pineapples.

Although wholesale produce is becoming more widely available, the
government is only gingerly broadening wholesale trade to other
supplies. Restaurant owners, for example, want to be able to buy flour,
cooking oil, beer and soft drinks in bulk. Only a few shops provide
these. The same is true of construction materials. "We don't have
anything like a Costco, where you can buy 20 crates of beer," says Omar
Everleny, a Cuban economist.

Partly to put such concerns to rest, the government announced in early
June that it would gradually permit a variety of wholesale goods to be
sold to state-run and privately run businesses, apparently building on
an experiment started three months earlier on Isla de la Juventud, an
island in western Cuba where Fidel Castro was imprisoned before his
revolutionary victory in 1959. A pilot project to sell equipment to
private farmers is also said to be taking place on the island. More than
helping businessmen, the government's priority in promoting such changes
appears to be to raise output. So far, however, the reforms have been
too half-hearted to achieve that.

Source: "Economic reform in Cuba: A private affair | The Economist" -

Immigration overhaul Senate passes historic bill

Posted on Wednesday, 06.26.13

Immigration overhaul: Senate passes historic bill

WASHINGTON -- With a solemnity reserved for momentous occasions, the
Senate passed historic legislation Thursday offering the priceless hope
of citizenship to millions of immigrants living illegally in America's
shadows. The bill also promises a military-style effort to secure the
long-porous border with Mexico.

The bipartisan vote was 68-32 on a measure that sits atop President
Barack Obama's second-term domestic agenda. But the bill's prospects are
highly uncertain in the Republican-controlled House, where party leaders
are jockeying for position in advance of expected action next month.

Spectators in galleries that overlook the Senate floor watched
expectantly as senators voted one by one from their desks. Some
onlookers erupted in chants of "Yes, we can" after Vice President Joe
Biden announced the vote result.

After three weeks of debate, there was no doubt about the outcome.
Fourteen Republicans joined all 52 Democrats and two independents to
support the bill.

In a written statement, Obama coupled praise for the Senate's action
with a plea for resolve by supporters as the House works on the issue.
"Now is the time when opponents will try their hardest to pull this
bipartisan effort apart so they can stop commonsense reform from
becoming a reality. We cannot let that happen," said the president, who
was traveling in Africa.

In the final hours of debate, members of the so-called Gang of 8, the
group that drafted the measure, frequently spoke in personal terms while
extolling the bill's virtues, rebutting its critics - and appealing to
the House members who turn comes next.

"Do the right thing for America and for your party," said Sen. Bob
Menendez, D-N.J., who said his mother emigrated to the United States
from Cuba. "Find common ground. Lean away from the extremes. Opt for
reason and govern with us."

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said those seeking legal status after
living in the United States illegally must "pass a background check,
make good on any tax liability and pay a fee and a fine." There are
other requirements before citizenship can be obtained, he noted.

He, too, spoke from personal experience, recalling time he spent as a
youth working alongside family members and "undocumented migrant labor,
largely from Mexico, who worked harder than we did under conditions much
more difficult than we endured."

Since then, he said, "I have harbored a feeling of admiration and
respect for those who have come to risk life and limb and sacrifice so
much to provide a better life for themselves and their families."

The bill's opponents were unrelenting, if outnumbered.

"We will admit dramatically more people than we ever have in our
country's history at a time when unemployment is high and the
Congressional Budget Office has told us that average wages will go down
for 12 years, that gross national product per capita will decline for
25-plus years, that unemployment will go up," said Sen. Jeff Sessions,

"The amnesty will occur, but the enforcement is not going to occur, and
the policies for future immigration are not serving the national interest."

But with a weeklong July 4 congressional vacation looming, the bill's
foes agreed to permit the final vote one day before Senate rules
mandated it.

In the Senate, at least, the developments marked an end to years of
gridlock on immigration. The shift began taking shape quickly after the
2012 presidential election, when numerous Republican leaders concluded
the party must show a more welcoming face to Hispanic voters who had
given Obama more than 70 percent of their support.

Even so, division among Republicans was evident as potential 2016
presidential contenders split. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was one of
the Gang of 8, while Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas
were opposed to the bill.

The legislation's chief provisions includes numerous steps to prevent
future illegal immigration - some added in a late compromise that
swelled Republican support for the bill - and to check on the legal
status of job applicants already living in the United States. At the
same time, it offers a 13-year path to citizenship to as many as 11
million immigrants now living in the country unlawfully.

Under the deal brokered last week by Republican Sens. John Hoeven of
North Dakota and Bob Corker of Tennessee and the Gang of 8, the measure
requires 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, the completion of 700 miles of
fencing and deployment of an array of high-tech devices along the
U.S.-Mexico border.

Those living in the country illegally could gain legal status while the
border security plan was being implemented, but would not be granted
permanent resident green cards or citizenship.

A plan requiring businesses to check on the legal status of prospective
employees would be phased in over four years.

Other provisions would expand the number of visas available for highly
skilled workers relied upon by the technology industry. A separate
program would be established for lower-skilled workers, and farm workers
would be admitted under a temporary program. In addition, the system of
legal immigration that has been in effect for decades would be changed,
making family ties less of a factor and elevating the importance of
education, job skills and relative youth.

With the details of the Senate bill well-known, House Speaker John
Boehner said at a news conference the separate legislation the House
considers will have majority support among Republicans. He also said he
hopes the bill will be bipartisan, and he encouraged a group of four
Democrats and three Republicans trying to forge a compromise to continue
their efforts.

He offered no details on how a House bill could be both bipartisan and
supported by more than half of his own rank and file, given that most of
the bills that have moved through the House Judiciary Committee recently
did so on party line votes over the protests of Democrats. None
envisions legal status for immigrants now in the country illegally.

Boehner declined to say if there were circumstances under which he could
support a pathway to citizenship, but he made clear that securing the
border was a priority.

"People have to have confidence that the border is secure before
anything else is really going to work. Otherwise, we repeat the mistakes
of 1986," he said, referring to the last time Congress overhauled the
immigration system.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, also said
he favors a bipartisan approach. At the same time, she noted that
Democratic principles for immigration include "secure our borders,
protect our workers, unite families, a path to legalization and now
citizenship for those" without legal status.

Associated Press writer Donna Cassata contributed to this story.

Source: "WASHINGTON: Immigration overhaul: Senate passes historic bill -
Politics Wires -" -

Filming the Police is not a Crime

Filming the Police is not a Crime
June 27, 2013
Daisy Valera

HAVANA TIMES — With respect to Cuban police officers, my Spanish friends
and acquaintances more or less unanimously agree on one thing: compared
to cops in Spain, all of them look like nice guys.

After hearing several anecdotes about the Spanish police, I couldn't
help but agree with this impression.

During my last, unpleasant encounter with "law and order officials", the
news about the Spanish police and the use of video cameras during
protests came to mind.

I was chatting with my husband Eduardo and some friends at the park
located on the intersection of G and 23 streets. Suddenly, a teenager
(who looked mentally unstable) began to curse and throw kicks about him,
fighting, perhaps, with an imaginary rival.

A few seconds later, a mob of somewhat surprised and jovial people
encircled the youngster, which had suddenly become a source of amusement
for them. A young man, who apparently knew him, was doing a fairly good
job of calming him down.

The commotion was interpreted as a brawl by the more than numerous
police officers posted at G street, most of whom have nothing with which
to fill their boring weekend nights on duty and usually end up
recreating themselves (and justifying their salaries) by fining people
who accidentally step on the park's lawn.

Though talking to the kid would have sufficed to put an end to the whole
show and get him out of the middle of the street, two of the cops
(evidently quite bored) ended up throwing him to the ground, holding his
hands down and driving a knee into his back.

This free martial arts demonstration sparked off quite a scene.

The kid tried to break loose as the cops pushed his head down against
the sidewalk, deaf to his pitiful cries of "I'm gonna tell my doctor you
did this to me!" The people in the crowd began to yell "pigs!" in unison.

Eduardo pulled out his Ipod and began taping what was happening. Seeing
this, some teenagers encouraged him.

Almost immediately, one of the police officers took Eduardo by the arm
and began to interrogate him and threaten to arrest him.

It was thanks to the fact this same cop was trying to contain the crowd
that grew and lunged towards him that we managed to tear Eduardo from
his grasp and quickly get away.

Last year, Spain's Ministry of the Interior attempted to pass a law that
would make it illegal for people to film police officers while on duty.

Several sectors of civil society, including different lawyers
associations, immediately spoke out against the measure, calling it an
unconstitutional bill which dissuaded people from exercising their right
to protest. The initiative was unsuccessful.

The "crime" of filming a police officer is nowhere to be found in Cuba´s
Penal Code, but Eduardo didn't spend a night in the Zapata street
slammer out of sheer luck.

It is clear that, in order to combat the growing impunity with which
Cuba's National Revolutionary Police abuses its power, we need a
stronger, better-informed civil society.

Cuban cops may look like nice guys but they have far too much
self-confidence and imagination: if they can't fall back on an existing
law, they make it up, confident they will not be held accountable for this.

Source: "Filming the police is not a crime but..." -

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Prison Diary XXXI My World on a Little Piece of Paper

Prison Diary XXXI: My World on a Little Piece of Paper / Angel Sangtiesteban
Posted on June 26, 2013

Every morning, on waking up, surrounded by inmates surprised by my "good
mornings" to which they respond with commitment, and then I entrust
myself to God, I immerse myself in a blank piece of paper, because I
feel I am just an instrutment, someone who takes dictation, His
creation. I comes so naturally that I underestimate the physical
exercise I do.

From that moment, my country is the white space where I scribble in a
supreme intent to transmit my feelings. Then, the universe is reduced to
these centimeters of possible writing. It is the space which is my duty
and governs me.

And I immerse myself in my work, in this obligation to my thinking, my
feelings and my ideals. Like a hermit, I abandon the hostile environment
that surrounds me, I work tirelessly for human betterment, for the
freedom of Cubans facing a harsh dictatorship, and if possible, to add
some literature valid for my generation and my time.

And I laugh at the constant surveillance, their informers, their
unscrupulous persecution, their blackmail, their pressures and their
punishments, because I'm not on their level of reality, across time, and
by then, bareback in the redemptive Cuban jungle, feeling the sweat on
the back of my horse, the weight of the machete I hold and squeeze,
while the trumpet sounds the Call to Slaughter.

Ángel Santiesteban Prats

Prison 1580

24 June 2013

Source: "Prison Diary XXXI: My World on a Little Piece of Paper / Angel
Sangtiesteban | Translating Cuba" -

Apprehension of the Press

Apprehension of the Press / Regina Coyula
Posted on June 26, 2013

As a young girl, I wanted to study journalism, entirely for the romantic
idea to follow in the tracks of my grandfather, a decent Cuban who from
the jungle in The Free Cuban and then from The World and Bohemia made me
feel proud of my name.

A proud lady with the last name of Nuiry, to whom my name meant nothing,
decided not to accept me into the School of Journalism, and after a long
detour, now as a citizen I am fulfilling that desire of youth.

Did the Congress of the Journalists Union surprise me? There will be a
Congress, but will there be journalism? Yes, they confirm to me. Not all
there will be journalists, but all will be official.

It follows that the independent press not known for its certified
members, is still a press that establishes the necessary counterweight
for contrasting points of view and on more than a few occasions for
important topics that the colleagues of the guild pass over.

The press that "informs" us is an embarrassment. No journalist seems to
realize the ridiculousness of news such as: The Syrian government
inflicted a defeat on the terrorists and mercenaries to regain control
over an important area of Aleppo. This short note serves as an essay on
how the information Cubans receive is transformed. We never heard that
the government lost control of the area, and we still learn that the
Syrian opposition is heterogeneous and essentially native.

The Cuban press offers up a banquet of the evils of the world: the
crisis in Europe, political corruption, what to say about the United
States that even has its own journalist (Nicanor Leon Cotayo, no, not a
character from Macondo), another specialized in discovering the links
between the CIA and the Cuban mafia.

With so many foreign problems, and with such international solidarity
with the cause of the Cuban Five, little time is left for national
reporting. So they say almost nothing about the arrests and trials for
corruption, the failure of the sugar harvest, the change of sign of the
Cuban Workers Federation Congress, the housing debt of the victims of
the last two?… five?… eight? cyclones. And these kinds of things, as the
journalist Fritz Suarez Silva says. Oh, and they aren't my lies.

24 June 2013

Source: "Apprehension of the Press / Regina Coyula | Translating Cuba" -

Slow But Firm Steps

Slow But Firm Steps / Rosa Maria Rodriguez
Posted on June 26, 2013

The Multilateral Program «Cuba 360» was launched. We started two months
ago distributing the promotional brochure on this initiative — and other
writings as part of the "Seed" — in various social sectors and it has
been enriched with a modest collection of books that some compatriots
selflessly donated to the library.

Those involved are happy, but not satisfied, because there is much to be
done and the ambition that went along with the development of this
proposal is also present in its implementation, which so far is
progressing according to our capabilities. However, we continue to see
alternative ways to deploy this sociopolitical platform in its
architecture and instructional efforts to the whole country.

The possible and close dream of the democratization of Cuba, lets us
continuously leap over the pitfalls along the way and move forward in
this magnificent and colossal challenge. Our steps, although still
small, are sure and constant in the search for, creation and
facilitation of a climate of trust and dialogues among Cubans that open
the doors to reconciliation and lasting peace. The strength in this
direction is the grain of sand in the ecumenical and solidarity rock of
our nation.

25 June 2013

Source: "Slow But Firm Steps / Rosa Maria Rodriguez | Translating Cuba"