Non-Exciting News from Cuba

Raul Castro ended the National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party. Yawn. The government found it to be a great success. The vocal dissidents said it was nothing new --- no changes. The populace probably paid no attention.

Then Dilma came to town. Another anticlimactic, non-exciting event. Raul met with the president of Brazil, and touted the great relationship between the two countries. The vocal dissidents discounted the visit. The populace could have cared less.

Yoani Sanchez reported that it was rather different having so many Brazilian press members in Havana.

Yoani also said of Raul’s talk at the Cuban Communist Party event, “Raul Castro's speech at the Conference of the PCC is more of the same so far: ideological radicalization and one-party system.

Yoani also had things to say about Dilma’s visit:

“We hope the @dilmabr agenda in #cuba will not be limited to the Mariel port or a new bank loan. And the #HHRR topic?”

“I was told that at the moment @dilmabr is visiting the works of the port of Mariel”

Report from Franklin Marquez about a Trip to Cuba by Non-Cuban Friends

[Franklin Marquez – Age –50’s; Birthplace – Santiago de Cuba, Cuba; Residence – Miami, Florida, U.S.; Lives with Wife and Children; Occupation – Attorney, Writer, Moderator of the Blog]

Some friends who have never been to Cuba, do not live in Miami, and have no connection or past history with the country recently traveled to Havana as part of a museum trip. The trip was actually organized through a religious group.

I wanted to learn about their impressions, so I went and met with them. As I expected, they visited only tourist areas and did not see the parts of Havana that I did. But their impressions are interesting.

I saw all their photographs, which were much like those I took in the tourist areas. They had photos of El Morro, el Castillo de la Real Fuerza, La Floridita restaurant, Hemingway’s room in the Hotel Ambos Mundo, Plaza de Armas, where people sell books, magazines and propaganda, and there are posters of and books about Ché Guevara, Fidel, and Russian communists. My friends stayed at the Hotel Nacional, which I had only seen from the outside. It was elegant. I saw gardens, views of the ocean from their room, and a lot of sites more beautiful than I saw in my hotel.

They also went to La Playa, where the tourist hotels apparently line the beach, and saw Cojimar. Why didn’t I go there when I was in Havana? Because my guide was my cousin, who grew up in Havana under the current regime, and Cubans have always been forbidden, and are now at least discouraged, from going there. The beaches are across the inlet from Havana Vieja, via a tunnel. You have to pass through the tunnel to visit El Morro Castle.

Oswardo had shown me that Cubans swim in the rocky beach near the Morro. But he did not feel comfortable going beyond this area on the road to the beach hotels. Maybe next time I go, I will visit the area, but I imagine it’s not much like Cuba. It could be a resort beach anywhere.

My friends told me about eating in a beautiful paladar (private home that serves meals under a license), overlooking the ocean. They said the meal was delicious, and they had steak. Although I did have one decent meal in a small paladar in Havana, it certainly was not gourmet food and did not have a view.

They also told me when they were leaving the country they learned that it is illegal for a Cuban to eat beef, and they were surprised about the meal they had eaten. I confirmed that it was true. There is no beef for Cubans, and if they get their hands on some, they’d better be careful having it in their possession. And the aroma of meat cooking would certainly arouse the attention of the neighborhood spies of the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution. I was told that possessing beef could bring three years in prison.

My friends have two dogs in the U.S. of a breed called Havanese. They had told me in the past that the breed came from Havana, and that was where the name had come from. When I was there, I did keep my eyes open for one, just to take a photograph for my friends. I think I saw only about two dogs while in Cuba, and no other domestic animals. My friend said he asked the guide about a pet store, thinking he could walk in and see some of these dogs. The guide tried to be helpful, and finally told them where there might be a “pet store”. But it was in the inner city of El Centro, and my friend decide it was too frightening to walk in there. It’s a good thing he didn’t bother, because he would not have found a pet store like he was expecting. Maybe it would have some pet food, but I can’t imagine it would be much of a store. The Cuban people have a full-time job feeding themselves, and to think they would have domestic pets as a rule is unheard of.

He said somebody asked him why he wanted to go to Cuba. He said he wanted to see what it is like before the government changes and it becomes another Disney World.

Another dissident dies of a hunger stike – a reporter arrested – ‘Whack-a-Dissident’

Human rights continue to take a back seat in Cuba, where many people have been arrested in recent months. Reporters say things like, “Family arrested while taking flowers to grave.” We know what that really means. The arrestees are dissidents, who loudly and regularly proclaim their outrage at the lack of human rights. Their actions anger and concern the government, so the government harasses, arrests, and imprisons them. But while one may say, they deserve it, how else can they be heard?

I always find it interesting that the dissidents are no more vocal or dissident than was Fidel himself so many years ago. At the same time, I always think ‘why can’t the people take over the government?’ Because the government does not allow them to combine, to plan, to converse in any useful way in order to initiate a cohesive rebellion. Many people talk, and take action, but it’s like individual shots in the dark.

So the government’s stance in preventing communication is working. And Fidel’s government really doesn’t give a crap what the human rights coalitions, the Americans and other driveling complainers have to say about it.

A few days ago, while Willman Vilar was still alive, although on “life support”, Babalu blog posted a story about this. It said, “The Castro dictatorship cannot seem to keep up with the acts of resistance taking place in Cuba.” It goes on to say that the “… dramatic increase in violent repression against the opposition has not quelled the resistance in Cuba but has seemingly emboldened them further. While the regime brutally quashes a protest in one city, another protest materializes in some other city. It appears the Castro dictatorship has found itself in a never-ending game of "whack-a-dissident," growing more desperate with each passing day.”

Then the government arrested a reporter for reporting these stories: Bablublog reported the arrest of Dania Virgen Garcia saying, “Unhappy about their violent acts of oppression being reported to the world, the Castro dictatorship has arrested Garcia to impede her from filing further reports.”

Yoani Sanchez, famous Internet dissident extraordinaire, tweeted the following today: “#cuba My husband @rescobarcasas was arrested this afternoon but he was released. The situation is tense as a violin string on here :-( …”
I found this interesting graffiti the last time I was in Cuba. Remember ….?

The Travels of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre

When I was in Cuba two years ago, we traveled from Santiago to the shrine of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the Patroness of Cuba. My mother had always invoked her assistance when a plane shook or when she needed help and guidance. Photos I took are below.

The Virgin has been on a journey around Cuba for the past year, preparing for the trip of the Pope. The trip was supposedly initiated in order to convince the Pope to visit, and now we know he will be in Cuba from March 26 to 28.

When the Pope arrives, he will go to Santiago first, and visit the Virgin in her shrine. Then he will go to Havana. The Virgin is traveling around with Cardinal Jaime Ortega and senior government officials.

No issue was reported on the Virgin’s visit to Havana, but there have been various news reports criticizing the alleged visit to a prison. As is typical, prisoners allege that the attendees at the celebration were planted --- guards dressed in prisoner uniforms. Only a few of the attendees were true prisoners.

Reports indicate that the Cardinal questioned the lack of a large audience, but nobody seems to know what he was told. Prisoners were locked in solitary and hidden away during the visit.

The Virgin has her own web page here 

Related Stories:

Ross-Lehtinen Denounces Cuba Dissident Imprisonment - Demands Release

House Foreign Affairs Committee

U.S. House of Representatives

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chairman

For IMMEDIATE Release – January 13, 2012

Ros-Lehtinen, Congressional Colleagues Demand Release of Cuban Pro-Democracy Leaders

Calls Arbitrary Detentions Appalling and Unjust

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, along with three of her colleagues, sent a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and to Amnesty International calling for the release of Ivonne Malleza Galano, Isabel Hayde Alvarez Mosqueda and Ignacio Martínez Montero. These Cuban pro-democracy leaders were imprisoned for peacefully protesting in Havana in November. Ros-Lehtinen’s statement:

“I call for the immediate and unconditional release of Ivonne Malleza Galano, Isabel Hayde Alvarez Mosqueda and Ignacio Martínez Montero. Once again, the Castro dictatorship arrested peaceful protesters without charging them or giving reasons for their continued incarceration.

“This unjustified and unwarranted imprisonment of these peaceful dissidents is indicative of the Cuban regime’s blatant disregard for human rights and basic freedoms.

“I urge that the Secretary of State, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations worldwide join the call for the immediate release of Ivonne Malleza Galano, Isabel Hayde Alvarez Mosqueda and Ignacio Martínez Montero. We must not allow their voices to be extinguished in the abyss of a Cuban prison cell.”

NOTE: Additional cosigners on the letter include: U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), and Rep. David Rivera (R-FL)

Dissidents Beaten and Prevented from Taking Flowers to Cemetery

Miguel Sigler Amaya reports that his family members in Cuba explained to him the following. He refers to the tyranny of the Castro government, which he says reflects “a criminal and murderous nature against the Cuban people”, in that it has “again unleashed its hatred and revenge against the Sigler Amaya family, leaving no escape from the control of violence against children, women and elderly.” [translated by Editor of this blog]

He says that on Sunday, January 8, two years after the death of Gloria Amaya González, a member of Alternative Option Independent Movement and Lady in White, family members and friends tried to take flowers to the cemetery in Matanzas, where her body rests.

He says that before they could enter, the cemetery the defenseless and peaceful anti-communist opposition members were brutally attacked by mobs organized by the Castro political police, the Communist Party and the Government of the town. He says that the visitors were chased by patrol cars, motorcycles and other vehicles and furiously beaten with blunt objects. To avoid recording of the brutality and abuse, the police forcefully removed the visitors’ cell phones and video cameras.

The attack actually began the day before when the State Security and the Police arrested Juan Fransisco Sigler Amaya, president of the Independent Movement alternative. Before being released, officers ordered him not to take flowers to his mother to the cemetery. posted a great story

Cuba: Miriam Celaya, A Dissident By Nature

Miriam Celaya is a quiet blogger. We have mentioned many times how difficult it is to obtain Internet access in Cuba. This is a great explanation about how she communicates as a dissident.

The Irony of Cuba -- Computer sciences student denied readmission for accessing the Internet

Several sources, including BabaluBlog, have reported an odd story from Cuba.

Reyner Aguero, a student in Cuba's University of Computer Sciences (UCI) was denied readmission because he had been caught accessing the internet from work. He also apparently ran afoul of regulations for giving an interview to Yoani Sanchez blog, Generation Y.

Anniversary of U.S. Break in Diplomatic Ties With Cuba

On January 3, 1961, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke diplomatic ties with Cuba. This action followed many months of serious disputes, actions and retaliations between the two countries, which commenced when Fidel Castro took power in 1959.

Early in 1960, Castro signed a trade treaty with the Soviet Union. The U.S. and Cuba both began accusing the other of placing spies in their embassies, and committing other breaches.

At the beginning of 1960, Cuba expropriated 70,000 acres of land held by U.S. sugar companies.

Also during 1961, the U.S. decreased imports from Cuba, eliminating many products, such as sugar in a trade blockade. Castro responded by increasing his program of nationalizing foreign property and companies. Then Castro ordered the reduction of workers in the U.S. Embassy.

Finally, Eisenhower officially broke diplomatic ties with Cuba on January 3, 1961.