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Archive for August, 2010

Here comes the same old story again, the elimination of restrictions on commerce with the Havana dictatorship.  Once again the same voices, influenced by powerful interests, continue talking about the same thing.  Sometimes, it’s as if we lose faith in our own efforts as Cubans.

Not long ago, I read and heard about an important shipment of I-don’t-know-what kind of ham that arrived from the United States for none other than the members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.  This is a crude insult to the people who suffer, not only from those who eat it, but also on behalf of those who promote politics that allow this to happen.

Enough of double standards, enough of feeding those who spill the blood of and oppress our people!  Enough of the dictatorship eating quality ham while the everyday Cuban feeds himself with whatever he is able to fish, if he is even allowed to do so.

Could it be that if we promote tourism, and if we fill up homes and the hotels that belong to the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (MINFAR), and the oligarchy while our children go to bed hungry and go to school nearly barefoot and in rags;  is that how we promote democracy?

Oh, Barack Obama!  Oh, all those letters to  Congress asking for more trips, increased remittances and cultural exchanges only with artists approved by the dictatorship!  Oh, Cuba, how you suffer and how they toy with your pain!  Oh, Jose Marti and Antonio Maceo!  If only you could see what they have done with your country.  If only you could see how our Church, from Rome all the way to Holguin, allies itself with our oppressors, lending itself to an operation to clean out and exile the best sons of the Nation.

If only Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo were alive and could see how the message of reconciliation, understanding, and flexibility was being appealed to in order to not to bother those who murdered them by starvation  during their hunger strikes.  But at times when some seemed to doubt and to resort to an alternative without independence, the Bronze Titan* said:  “I don’t want even freedom, if with it comes dishonor.”

And that is the watchword of those who struggle for Change in and out of Cuba, a maxim which strengthens and encourages us.

*Translator’s note: Bronze Titan was the alias of Antonio Maceo, historic Cuban freedom fighter for independence from Spain.

Translated by Raul G.

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For those who do not have the slightest idea what prison is like in Cuba, a punishment cell and how prisoners are treated, they would have been shaken by the fanfare regarding the supposed mistreatment of Gerardo Hernandez, confined in an American prison for committing serious and proven crimes against the national security and stability of that nation.

The fanfare could have even confused those who know that the Castro-Communist penal system is a veritable hellhole of torture and death where human life has no value.

As it turns out, Gerardo Hernandez is prohibited from having in his punishment cell a radio, books, a fan, and other conveniences.  Imagine the indignation the ringleader of the infamous Wasp Network must have felt when he was deprived these luxuries.

It seems that in addition to being an accomplice and a liar, Ricardo Alarcon is exceedingly cynical and shameless to the point that he and his thugs cannot ignore that in Cuba no prisoner is permitted to have a radio, telephone, or even a fan.  Access to telephone calls is limited and under strict control and has only been allowed since 2002 or 2003.  This is thanks to the famously stupid mistake committed by the spies’ wives and mothers who complained on the Mesa Redonda TV show that none of them – Gerardito , Renecito, nor the others – were not allowed to call them in who knows how many days.

In my case, I had to wait fourteen years and six months to make my first telephone call.  Cuban prison cells lack water and the majority of the time there is no light.  When one is there as a prisoner, you can only bring with you your woeful personal toiletries such as soap, toothpaste, deodorant – items that many times are useless due to the lack of water.

The Cuban regime’s punishment cells, in contrast to where Gerardo is serving, are veritible coffins where there is not even sufficient space to walk.  A hole, referred to as a turco, serves as the toilet and is near the bed.

I am certain that Gerardo can sleep at any hour of the day; that he is not given his mattress, pajamas, and spread to cover himself at 10:00pm, only to have them taken away at 5:00am; or that, as an additional punishment, he sleeps on the floor like a dog.  I am certain that if he violates some that he is not brutally beaten.

I don’t pretend to compare either the two prisons nor the penal systems, much less the food and visitation policies – that would be like comparing night and day – only the situation in the punishment cells.

Still, it would be a good thing if these spies could spend a few hours in one of those Cuban prisons.  Even if they lack the courage to face it, they would think to themselves, “Cuban prisoners truly live in veritable holes.”

When I heard about Gerardo’s radio, I remembered that when I was found with one in Camaguey’s Kilo 8 prison, I was beaten so badly that my teeth came loose.  When I heard about his books, I recalled how in 1996 I went on a hunger strike for more than 20 days until they returned the Bible they had taken from me.  And while in prison in Guantanamo in 1998, they confiscated my copy of La Prision Fecunda(The Fertile Prison), edited by Cuban officialdom, which details Fidel’s Castro’s conveniences while in serving time in the Isle of Pines prison.

The comfortable conditions enjoyed by the spies are proven by how the Castro brothers obfuscate and deny them outright.  In their methods and human insensitivity, you can draw parallels between Nazism-Fascism and Communism.  Unlike Hitler and Mussolini who publicly proclaimed their crimes – the theory of Lebensraum (living space or territorial annexation) and racial superiority – the Communists hide and deny their crimes.

Please, Ricardo Alarcon, have some self-respect.  You should defend the common sense of almost 100,000 men and women who are permanently confined to their holes.  Respect and consider their families and quit sounding so ridiculous about your five spies.  For the true heroes are those suffering torture and mistreatment, of which I am convinced that neither you nor your five spies could ever withstand.

Translated by Louis A. Mayor

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The recent speech by the ruling Castro in the National Assembly of People’s Power is a clear and devastating response to those who believed in the possibility of reforms and relaxations within the current system, and that the controversial releases – better understood as exilings – could be the signal of a process of détente and tolerance, a prelude to a step towards democracy.  Once again the government’s strategy for maintaining its position of power consists of well-calculated delaying actions and sowing false expectations.

Even though the large media outlets have brought more attention to the economic situation he laid out, I believe that discourse of the barricade, the same rhetoric against his opponents, and threats against Cuban civil society are more important and are the equivalents of a clear demonstration of his rigidity and continuing policy, such that the people have no other option but to fight for their freedom.

Castro was clear and precise, and once again made our argument for us – those of us who do not subscribe to bland politics and approaches, like the naive idea that with moderation one can exhaust his repressive speeches and gestures regarding failed and useless strategies.

When one has no enemies, one invents them – the siege mentality is his strength, and whoever tries to take that away is taken out of circulation.  “He that is not with me is against me” – this is and will continue to be his ideology.

Sometimes I find it hard to see that any analyst who knows the macabre mind of the Castro regime would entertain the slightest hope that reforms and change would come with Raul, as if the dictator was not involved in the creation and support of this totalitarian monster, as if his younger brother did not share his fierce anti-democratic and dictatorial zeal.

The other part of his speech concerning warm openings in the economic sphere I believe is secondary, and to spotlight them with too much seriousness would make it easier for the regime to spread them.

It is true that Cuba needs the introduction of a market economy and economic liberation from the tight control the government monopoly exercises over people and property; anything else is more of the same and sleight of hand.

There, in the words of the dictator, are the answers and the results of those who urge restraint to avoid hurting the beast, and there also is clear affirmation of we who refuse not to continue calling things by their name, we who do not accept that a president who is not one governs by tyranny. We who refuse a reconciliation without justice first.

Translated by Alexander Gonzales

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Bethlehem Hill

In the early morning hours Idania Yanes called me. “Antúnez, there is going to be an eviction here in Santa Clara, in the Bethlehem Hill subdivision. Seven or eight families were given 48 hours to vacate their homes, or else the bulldozers will come and remove them. They just called us asking for support. I cannot allow this. We must go back them up.”

“And when is the deadline?” I immediately asked her.

“Tomorrow at noon. I’ve prepared the troops here to help these families.”

Very early the next day we arrived there – more than a dozen members of the Central Opposition Coalition. Bethlehem Hill is far removed from the city center, close to the ice plant and nearly adjacent to the National Highway, so an eviction there would be hard to hear in the city. Seven or eight houses, nearly all masonry, were to be demolished.

Upon seeing us, the families were visibly and touchingly hopeful. The number of children and pregnant women there broke our hearts. As soon as we arrived we explained to them what their legal rights were, and how they should defend them.

“We are here and we will be with you until the end. We are human-rights activists and our duty is to stand with the victims. Don’t let them provoke you. When they come to remove these houses we will get in front of the bulldozer and if there is repression we will remain peacefully in the front row, but we will not let you be homeless.”

Our words encouraged the neighbors, and the rumor that “the human-rights people have arrived,” had spread throughout the area, so even families that had not been threatened with eviction were there to see and hear us.

Thirty minutes later a Lada pulled up on the side of the highway; two more stopped on the other side further back, watching and taking photographs. Out stepped Major Oirizat, Commander of the State Security Confrontation Brigade for the province, along with the Head of the Provincial Housing Department who, by way of greeting the families, said:

“What’s going on here?”

We dissidents preferred not to speak at that moment, or at least not until we were addressed. We were not there to do politics, but in solidarity to solve a problem.

“Although yesterday you came to tell us we had 48 hours to leave or you would demolish our houses, we do not . . .”

“That was a mistake – nobody is going to be thrown out of here, so be calm. What I can assure you is that by your being here you will not get title to the property because this is illegal!” said the official.

Upon hearing that we breathed easier – the same person who hours before had publicly announced to these families: “You have 48 hours to collect your stuff and leave or I will come back with the bulldozer,” now said the opposite.

Oirizat looked at us hatefully. “And now we are leaving and we hope you will withdraw and not complicate things,” he said as he was leaving.

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