The European Union receives more than 52,000 signatures from the "OZT: I Accuse the Cuban Government" campaignposted on Monday, October 04, 2010
The more than 52,000 signatures of the "#OZT: I Accuse the Cuban Government" campaign were delivered the morning of October 4th at the European Union (EU) offices. The delivery was made by members of the Arco Progresista (Progressive Arch) Party in collaboration with this campaign. The signatures were delivered to Alexandra Knapton, the official responsible for human rights in the cabinet of the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton.
Delivery of the signatures to Alexandra Knapton, the official responsible for human rights in the cabinet of Ashton.
The group in charge of delivering the signatures had a meeting with Knapton and spoke about this human rights campaign and its demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all Cuban political prisoners. A letter included alongside the packet of signatures informed Ms. Ashton of the repression that continues to take place in Cuba, and asked for the support of the European Union for a future of full respect for individual liberties in Cuba.
Knapton reviews the documents of the #OZT campaign during the meeting.
This is an Art-Performance by Cuban born artist Geandy Pavon, it consist in a digital projection of Franklin Brito on the facade of the Venezuelan Consulate in New york city, Brito was a venezuelan farmer and engineer who die in a hunger strike asking for the lands that were taken arbitrarily from him by the government of Hugo Chavez. He is become a symbol of the struggle for freedom in Venezuela.
In Greek mythology, “nemesis” represents divine justice ─a persecutory memory.
He has staged performances like this one in New York, Barcelona and Washington, proyecting the image of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, an Afro Cuban plumber and peaceful activist, died last February of a hunger strike.
Vladimir Alejo Miranda, 47, stopped eating 62 days ago, sewed his mouth Sept. 5 and stopped drinking water Tuesday, journalist Heriberto Liranza Romero told El Nuevo Herald by phone from Havana.
Alejo's wife, Rita Montes de Oca, joined his hunger strike and also sewed her lips Sept. 12 with regular sewing thread and a needle, the journalist said.
Alejo was taken to a hospital in the Havana municipality of Guanabacoa on Wednesday after he blacked out and went into convulsions, Liranza added. No independent confirmation was immediately available.
He was receiving intravenous fluids and could be sent home or transferred to a larger hospital depending on his condition, Liranza said. Alejo and his wife also suffer from infections around the lips.
HAVANA — Cuba's Roman Catholic Church on Friday revealed the names of four more political prisoners to be released into exile in Spain, bringing to 36 the number freed and sent off the island under an agreement with President Raul Castro's government.
The men are among 75 dissidents who were arrested in a March 2003 crackdown on organized political opposition and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The charges included treason and conspiring with U.S. authorities to undermine Cuba's communist system.
Under a once-unthinkable government deal with the church, which Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos helped facilitate, Cuba agreed on July 7 to release the remaining 52 prisoners still imprisoned from the crackdown.
Nelson Molinet Espino, Hector Raul Valle Hernandez, Miguel Galvan Gutierrez and Jose Miguel Martinez Hernandez will be freed as soon and flown to Spain, Cuban church official Orlando Marquez said in a statement.
That means all 36 former prisoners released so far will have elected to head to Spain with their families. One then continued on to Chile and settled there.
That leaves just 16 awaiting release some nine weeks after the agreement — though some political prisoners have been offered freedom but declined to leave their country.
It is not clear if those released subsequently will be exiled or if some will be allowed to stay in Cuba — and how long their releases will take is also unknown.
The President of the European Parliament met today [yesterday, 14 September 2010] with recently released Cuban political prisoners: Antonio Díaz, Ricardo González, Normando Hernández and Omar Rodríguez whom are all exiled in Spain.
Following the meeting the President said: "There is no half freedom. Freedom cannot be handed out in small rations. Cuban peoples should enjoy their basic human rights, freedoms and solidarity in their own country, not in exile.
I have the highest respect for these brave people here and their families. They stand as an example to all those who care about freedom, human rights and democracy.
The release of the prisoners is a positive step.
However, the European Parliament calls again for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners in Cuba.
The Cuban government must respect fundamental freedoms, especially the freedom of expression and political association. I wrote this summer to President Castro to allow the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) to leave the island so that they can accept Parliament's invitation to collect the 2005 Sakharov Prize in person.
We voice again our profound solidarity with the entire Cuban people and support them in their progress towards democracy and respect and promotion of fundamental freedoms."
ISHR: New arrests and repressions against civil rights activists and independent journalists after the announced release of 52 political prisoners
Frankfurt am Main (23 August 2010) – One month after the announced release of 52 political prisoners new violations against civil rights activists and independent journalists minimize the hope that the Castro regime could move in the direction of respect for human rights and more democracy. The International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in Frankfurt, Germany, today criticized that the releases go on very slowly and in tiny rates. Until August 23 just 23 political prisoners who could or were forced to leave the Castro state had been released. Most of them would have rather stayed on the island to continue their commitment for a free and civil society. In the light of this fact the EU-Cuba NGO Network appeals to the European Union.
In Germany, this NGO Network is represented by the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) in Frankfurt am Main. The coalition’s aim is to convince the European Union to maintain on its Common Position on Cuba and not to negotiate a bilateral agreement on its fall revision.
The political prisoners who had been released into Spanish exile also ask the EU to maintain on its Cuban human rights policy and to support democracy and human rights on Cuba. Further on the NGO Network calls for the review of the developments in Cuba every six months and for not rescheduling the reviews as it happened in June 2010.
Despite some positive developments it is necessary to add that Cuba is still far away from democracy and constitutional legality. The released Cubans were inevitably forced to leave the country and, thus, their families and had to go into exile in Spain – a part of the agreement with the Cuban authorities. Thus, the Cuban government could legally ditch many human rights and political activists. In this way the democracy movement in Cuba lost many of its most active characters.
ISHR: Arrests and intimidation of democracy movement continue
According to the ISHR, the human rights situation on Cuba is unimproved: repressions against human rights activists go on. Several members of the Cuban democracy movement have been arrested in the last weeks, others have been exposed to aggressive assaults and have been harassed psychological. One example is Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger, the mother of the political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died on 23 February 2010 after an 86 days lasting hunger strike. Lately she was bashed by Security Guards, authorities do not allow her attending the mass in church or visiting her son’s grave.
On 16 August 2010, the author, journalist and blogger Luis Felipe Rojas was detained by the Cuban police in his house in the town of Holguín in the East of Cuba. The officials refused a reason for the arrest. It is assumed that the employee of the independent newspaper "Diario de Cuba" (Diary of Cuba) was arrested because of a report about human rights abuses in the East of the island. He was allowed to leave the police station after a questioning which lasted 19 hours.
On 15 August 2010, three supporters of Ms Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger have been arrested by the Cuban State Security. On 16 August 2010, five Cuban students were detained by police while holding a demonstration in front of Havana University. They called their fellow students to campaign for human rights on Cuba.
The ISHR demands from the Cuban government to release the more than 170 political prisoners who are still in prison, to release the recently arrested students and civil rights activists immediately and to stop the policy of intimidation against civil rights activists and journalists. “As long as these people are still in Cuban prisons, the European Union needs to maintain on its Common Position on Cuba and may not engage in a bilateral agreement“, the spokesman of the ISHR, Martin Lessenthin, declared.
STATEMENT BY THE EUROPE-CUBA NGO NETWORK IN SUPPORT OF EU COMMON POSITION ON CUBA
The Europe-Cuba NGO Network welcomes the recent steps by the Cuban government which show some progress in the area of human rights and democracy. We also appreciate that the Cuban government has acknowledged the existence of political prisoners on the island by releasing a significant number of them. The international community, however, should make sure that the release of these prisoners is unconditional, their exile only optional, and their living and working conditions are adequate. In relation to this, we call on the Cuban government to immediately release Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet and other prisoners who have expressed their desire to stay in Cuba.
In September, the European Union will decide on the future of its Common Position on Cuba, as the revision was postponed in June until the autumn months. In light of the efforts of Spanish government to replace the Common Position with a bilateral agreement, we call on the EU to maintain its Common Position as a sign of support for democracy and human rights in Cuba. It is important to stress here that the maintaining of the Common Position was recently officially supported by the released political prisoners exiled in Spain.
As a document, the Common Position does not represent an obstacle to progress in EU-Cuba relations. In paragraph 4, the Common Position states that the European Union will support progress towards democracy in Cuba by, apart from other means, intensification of political dialog and economic cooperation. In this light, the EU can apply additional interim measures that will reflect recent developments on the island - such as fostering of people to people dialog through diplomatic and academic visits, and the deepening of dialog with the Cuban authorities. It is also necessary to reinforce, to extend and to intensify at an institutional level the dialog with the democratic opposition and independent civil society.
If the Cuban government continues and reinforces respect for human rights and democracy with further positive steps, the EU should consider official lifting of the diplomatic measures introduced in 2003.
However, if taking any steps that would lead to closer cooperation between the EU and Cuba, the EU must set criteria which reflect overall progress in the area of human rights and democracy. These criteria might include patterns of documented harassment and acts of repression against political prisoners, political dissidents and independent civil society in general, as well as ratification and implementation of the ICCPR and ICESCR, etc.
Progress should then be revised in the current semiannual cycle, without using additional instruments, as was the case in June, when the EU decided to provide extra three-month period before reviewing the Common Position on Cuba.
The Europe-Cuba NGO Network would hereby like to express its hope that these steps of the Cuban government mark the beginning of its opening a dialog on human rights and democracy, becoming thus a partner for the EU and its members.
(Source: The International Society for Human Rights.)
By Alberto de la Cruz
Alfredo Álvarez Leyva, a prisoner of conscience on a hunger strike and who is being held in the El Tipico Nuevo prison in the Las Tunas province of Cuba has sewn his mouth shut in protest.The political prisoner is demanding the respect of human rights and adequate nutrition for the prisoners being held by the Cuban dictatorship.
Cuban independent journalist Caridad Caballero Batista has reported to Radio Marti that there are 56 prisoners in the penitentiary suffering from severe malnutrition and many more that have not been reported suffering illnesses from malnutrition and the lack of medicine.
(Source: Babalu Blog.)
By Alberto de la Cruz
Miguel Sigler Amaya, brother of Ariel Sigler Amaya, is informing that Guido, the brother still imprisoned in Cuba as a prisoner of conscience, has been placed among common criminals. Guido has received threats and his belongings have been stolen by other prisoners. This is a common tactic used by the regime whereby common prisoners are rewarded for attacking and harassing political prisoners.
This development comes on the heels of Guido receiving a phone call from Cardinal Jaime Ortega pleading with him to accept the regime's offer of forced exile in Spain. Guido informed the Cardinal that he would not accept forced exile in Spain as a condition to his release. He told him that if and when the dictatorship releases him, he will decide as a free man in his home whether or not to remain in Cuba, and only he would decide where he would go if he chose to leave.
Miguel Sigler Amaya states that Guido's transfer to an area of the prison with common criminals and the subsequent threats and theft of his personal belongings is an obvious attempt by the regime to persuade him to accept the Cardinal's offer. Miguel expressed disgust that the Archbishop of Cuba has lent himself to partake in this vile attempt by the regime to persuade his brother through threats of bodily harm to accept banishment and forced exile as a condition to his release.
(Source: Babalu Blog.).
A half-dozen more Cuban political prisoners will soon be released, according to the Catholic Church.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
Cuba's Catholic Church on Tuesday said six more political prisoners will be freed and go to Spain, but concern was growing over the fate of 10 others who want to stay and the fresh arrests of eight dissidents.
The church identified the six as Víctor Arroyo, 57, serving a 26-year sentence; Alexis Rodríguez, 40, serving 15 years; Leonel Grave de Peralta, 34, serving 20 years; Alfredo Domínguez, 48, serving 14; Próspero Gainza, 53, serving 25; and Claro Sánchez, 56, serving 15.
An additional 26 already have been released and gone to Spain under an unprecedented agreement between the government and Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega to free at least 52 political prisoners by the end of October.
The 52 were the last still in jail from a group of 75 rounded up in a 2003 crackdown. One wheelchair-using prisoner, Ariel Sigler Amaya, was freed and came to Miami for medical treatment.
But the government has remained silent on the 10 prisoners vowing to stay in Cuba if freed, said Berta Soler, spokeswoman for the Ladies in White, relatives of the 75. Her husband is serving a 20-year sentence.
Soler said some of the women met with Ortega last week and asked about the 10 as well as the two dozen among the 75 who were previously paroled for health reasons but technically remain under penal sanction.
``The government is aware of our questions, but gives no answers,'' she said by phone from Havana.
Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sánchez said he suspects the government will keep the 10 in jail until the end of the process, hoping the extra prison time will make them change their minds.
``It shows the government's bad faith,'' he said.
Sánchez said he's also concerned about the eight dissidents detained this month and still in jail, a shift from the usual government tactic of briefly detaining critics. Only a few dissidents were brought to trial last year, he noted.
Brothers Nestor and Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, Enyor Diaz Allen, Francisco Manzanet Ortiz and Roberto Gonzáles Pelegrín were arrested Aug. 12 during a public protest in Cuba's easternmost town of Baracoa. They are under investigation for charges of public disorder.
Manzanet and González went on hunger strikes the day of their arrest and are now in a hospital in nearby Guantánamo, the Miami-based Cuban Democratic Directorate said Tuesday. The Lobaina brothers joined the hunger strike Aug. 20 and remain in a Guantánamo jail.
Three other dissidents -- Michel Irois Rodríguez, Luis Enrique Labrador and Eduardo Pérez Flores -- have been held since Aug. 16, when they read an anti-government declaration from the steps of the University of Havana. Sanchez said he has received reports the three also have declared hunger strikes and could be charged with contempt.
South Florida Republican Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on Tuesday demanded the immediate release of the three, saying they ``face the risk of long prison sentences.''
(Source: The Miami Herald.)
We will update with more details as soon as we receive them.
MADRID — Two more political prisoners from Cuba arrived in Spain on Thursday, where they accused the island's communist government of harassing the mother of a dissident who died in a hunger strike.
The two -- Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, 44, and Fabio Prieto Llorente, 47, both journalists -- arrived on separate flights accompanied by a total of 16 relatives, an AFP photographer at the airport said.
Twenty Cuban dissidents arrived in Spain last month and three more on Tuesday following their release by Havana.
One more, 61-year-old journalist Juan Adolfo Fernandez, is expected on Friday.
In a deal struck between the Roman Catholic Church and the government of President Raul Castro that was brokered by Spain, Cuba agreed to free 52 of 75 dissidents sentenced in 2003 to prison terms of up to 28 years.
The releases came after dissident hunger striker Guillermo Farinas nearly starved to death in Cuba.
Another political prisoner, Orlando Zapata, died in detention on February 23 after 85 days on hunger strike.
Herrera and Acosta charged Castro's regime had been harassing Zapata's mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, since his death.
"They won't allow her to walk to church [to a cross of Christ the King] to pray for her son," Herrera said.
"That's why we call on the world, the European Union, and the community of democratic nations to speak out against this outrage, this barbarism."
Tamayo told Spain's Europa Press news agency she had only been able to visit her son's grave four times as security services had prevented her "by force" from leaving her home.
Both the journalists also accused Havana of using the release of dissidents to hide the repression of its opponents.
"No one should hope that the Castros are going to make changes," said Herrera.
"The regime will remain the same, corrupt and military," added Prieto.
He said the release of dissidents was merely aimed "easing international pressure" on the regime.
Cuban dissidents say that even after the release of the 52, another 115 political prisoners will still be languishing behind bars in Cuba.
Mother of dead Cuban prisoner of conscience prevented from attending church
Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling on the Cuban government to allow Reina Luis Tamayo Danger, the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died in Cuban prison earlier this year, to attend religious services and to cease their harassment of Tamayo Danger and her family.
Since the beginning of August, on consecutive Sundays, State Security agents and other pro-government members of the community in the town of Banes have physically blocked the road taken by Tamayo Danger on her way to church, preventing her from attending Sunday Mass and visiting the cemetery where her son is buried.
Video footage sent out of Cuba shows a line of men in uniform interlocking arms across a dirt road, standing face to face with a small group of women accompanying Tamayo Danger. The women are part of a larger movement across the island known as the Ladies in White, made up of wives and mothers of prisoners of conscience. A crowd of people chants pro-government slogans and shouts obscenities at the women who stand in front of them, unable to pass.
According to Tamayo Danger, for over five months she and her family have been subjected to acts of intimidation from government officials, including verbal abuse and threats of violence. Her weekly attendance at Mass at the La Caridad Catholic Church has been particularly targeted. She says, however, that the violence and intimidation is no longer confined to Sundays.
Tamayo Danger requested that the international media to come to Banes to cover the situation. CSW is calling on representatives of European embassies in Cuba to go to Banes to investigate these threats and show solidarity with her.
CSW’s National Director Stuart Windsor says, “No one should be subjected to these tactics of intimidation simply because they are attempting to attend a weekly religious service, a right enjoyed by religious believers across Cuba. We are calling on the Cuban government to cease its harassment of Mrs Tamayo Danger immediately and to allow her to attend Mass and visit her son’s grave without hindrance.”
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
Notes to Editors:
1. Orlando Zapata Tamayo was one of 75 prisoners of conscience arrested and imprisoned in March 2003 in a wave of political repression now known as the Black Spring. He went on hunger strike in at the end of 2009 to protest prison conditions. He died in February 2010 after prison officials denied him water for eighteen days, leading to kidney failure, and withheld medical treatment until it was too late. There was an international outcry following his death and he has since become a symbol for dissident groups across the island.
2. Video footage of the events in Banes can be found on Youtube:
The footage in this link is freely available to the public. CSW does not take responsibility for the content provided therein. Any views expressed on the website do not reflect those of CSW of its staff.
By JORGE SAINZ (AP)
MADRID — Three more Cuban political prisoners arrived in Madrid on Tuesday, bringing to 23 the number who have been released into exile under Cuba's pledge to free dissidents jailed there since 2003.
The three were among six dissidents Cuba's Roman Catholic Church said last week would be freed. The other three are due to arrive in Spain in the coming days.
The trio arrived by plane accompanied by some 15 family members and were taken to a hotel on Madrid's outskirts, where they were helped by Spanish Red Cross workers.
Twenty other dissidents were flown to Spain in separate groups last month.
The men are among 75 dissidents arrested in a March 2003 crackdown and sentenced to lengthy prison terms on charges that included treason.
In a landmark deal after talks with the church and Spain, Cuba agreed July 7 to release the remaining 52 prisoners still held.
All released so far have agreed to leave Cuba for Spain, with one then settling in Chile.
The three that arrived in Madrid on Tuesday were Marcelo Manuel Cano Rodriguez, Regis Iglesias Ramirez and Efren Fernandez Fernandez.
They were greeted at the hotel by other former Cuban political prisoners who waved Cuban flags, sang the national anthem and made 'L' signs with their hands for the word "liberty."
"I think we have been freed because the (Cuban) regime needs to clean up its image internationally," said Iglesias Ramirez.
The three said recent public appearances by Fidel Castro showed nothing was likely going to change on the island. A health crisis in 2006 forced Castro to cede power to his younger brother Raul — first temporarily, then permanently.
"I don't think anything will change," said Cano Rodriguez. "We have been obliged to leave and we're not any nearer democracy."
"There is no opening up. The regime is just looking to gain time as the brutal repression dissidents continue to suffer in Cuba shows."
Cuba maintains none of the released is a former prisoner of conscience and insists they are all mercenaries paid by Washington and supported by anti-Castro exiles in Miami whose only goal was to discredit the Cuban government.
Spain has said it will give all the former prisoners work and residency permits.
(Source: The Associated Press.)
Amnesty International Calls on Cuban Authorities to End the Harassment of the Mother of Deceased Prisoner of Conscienceposted on Tuesday, August 17, 2010
August 17, 2010
The Cuban authorities must act to end the harassment of the mother of a prisoner of conscience who died following a hunger strike to push for the release of other prisoners, Amnesty International said today.
Reina Luisa Tamayo, whose son Orlando Zapata Tamayo died in February this year, told Amnesty International she has been repeatedly harassed by authorities and government supporters during the regular marches in memory of her son that she carries out in the town of Banes.
"Reina Luisa Tamayo is simply paying tribute to her son who died in tragic circumstances, and that must be respected by the authorities," said Kerrie Howard, Amnesty International's Americas deputy director.
Every Sunday Tamayo, who is usually accompanied by relatives and friends, walks from her home to the church of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad, to attend mass and then they march to the cemetery, where Orlando is buried.
On Sunday August 15, government supporters arrived early in the morning and surrounded her house, Tamayo told Amnesty International, preventing her and her relatives and friends from marching and attending mass at the church.
Ahead of the march, Cuban security forces also allegedly detained in their homes some of the women due to attend for up to 48 hours, without any explanation for the measure.
Tamayo told Amnesty International that six loudspeakers were installed near her house and were used to shout slogans against her and the Ladies in White, an organization of female relatives of prisoners of conscience campaigning for their release.
On August 8, Tamayo was confronted by government supporters, who blocked her path and, according to her account, beat relatives and friends of the family. She said a police patrol was parked nearby watching the events, but failed to intervene.
Amnesty International has also expressed its concern at a series of recent detentions by the police of independent journalists and dissidents. "At a time when the Cuban government has begun to release prisoners of conscience, the campaign of harassment against Reina Luisa Tamayo and the arbitrary detention of journalists and dissident figures shows that the authorities are yet to make significant progress on human rights," said Howard.
Writer Luis Felipe Rojas Rozabal was detained by the police at 7 a.m. on August 16, at his home in the town of San Germán, province of Holguín.
Rozabal's family is unaware of the reasons of his arrest, but they have said they suspect this might be related to his criticism of the government. He has been arbitrarily detained on several previous occasions in similar circumstances.
Several members of the Eastern Democratic Alliance, a network of political dissident organizations, have also been detained.
Orlando was one of dozens of prisoners of conscience adopted by Amnesty International in Cuba at the time. The majority were among the 75 people arrested as part of the massive March 2003 crackdown by authorities against political activists.
Currently there are at least 30 prisoners of conscience in Cuba's jails. Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers who campaign for universal human rights from more than 150 countries. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
(Source: Amnesty International.)
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a senior member of the Florida Congressional Delegation, issued the following statement after hearing an audio tape of Sunday’s attack on Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of deceased political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died at the hands of the Castro regime. For the last couple of Sundays, Reina Luisa Tamayo has been verbally and physically attacked by state sponsored mobs as she tries to visit a local church to pay respects to her deceased son in her hometown of Banes, Holguin.
“The cowardly, brutal, dying and fearful dictatorship of the Castro brothers once again stoops to its usual low. Their latest attacks on Reina Luisa Tamayo, preventing this infirmed 62 year old grieving mother from attending Sunday church, is yet another example of the ruthlessness of the Castro regime.
A mob of hundreds of state sponsored thugs surrounded Reina’s home in Banes this past Sunday morning screaming vulgar and racial slurs against her and the five women and one girl who tried in vain to attend church. This grieving mother is even prevented from visiting her son’s remains in the town cemetery because the regime fears any possible outpouring of support for Cuban patriot Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died while imprisoned in Castro’s jails.
Only in a failed state such as communist Cuba would the regime send State Security and Interior Ministry forces to keep a grieving mother from properly mourning the death of her son. The international community must come to terms with the sad fact that the latest ploy by the regime of releasing political prisoners is just that, a ploy. Nothing has changed in Cuba and nothing will change as long as the Castro brothers and their feared and repressive apparatus are in control. Anyone who has any doubt need only hear or see the images from Reina’s home this past Sunday morning.”
For more information: August 16, 2010
Alex Cruz, Communications Director
Office 305-668-5994 or 202-225-3931
Cellular 202-225-8200 or 202-225-4630
Alberto de la Cruz at Babalublog reports on his phone conversation with Reina Luisa Tamayo. She sent a message to the world:
For the past two Sundays the Cuban government has not allowed me or my family and supporters to attend church or to visit the cemetery where my son, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, is buried. The government has sent people to carry out acts of repudiation. They have pushed and shoved us, beaten us. Both my legs have been injured by the physical attacks I have endured. We only want to be able to go to church and to pay our respects at the grave of my son, Orlando Zapata Tamayo. They, however, will not let us.(H/T Capitol Hill Cubans)
For five months my house has been surrounded by state security. The government has ordered people to harass and repress us. They have brought weapons with them -- clubs and knives. These people wait until uniformed security agents are watching to push and beat us with the hopes that it will curry favor for them from the government. They hope by doing the bidding of the Castro brothers, the government will overlook how they steal from their workplaces and trade on the black market. The government will not overlook their actions because it a government of assassins!
We have been beaten along with fellow members of the opposition that have stood next to me. My son has been beaten over the head and his back. But we will not give up, we will not kneel to the Castro brothers.
The news media has done nothing to help us. The Catholic Church has done nothing to help us. Cardinal Jaime Ortega has never tried to contact me and has done nothing to stop the beatings we are receiving for only wanting to to go church and visit the grave of my son.
This Sunday, at 8:30 am, I, along with my family and supporters, will once again leave the house and attempt to go to church and visit my son's grave. Whatever happens to any us, I hold the Cuban government responsible!
MOTHER HARASSED FOR MARCHING FOR DEAD SON
The mother of a Cuban prisoner of conscience who died after hunger striking has been repeatedly harassed and intimidated in an attempt to stop her from organizing marches to commemorate her son's death. The next march is planned for 15 August.
Reina Luisa Tamayo is the mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience who died on 22 February 2010, having spent several weeks on hunger strike whilst in prison. Since her son’s death, Reina Luisa Tamayo has organized weekly marches on Sundays in the town of Barnes, Holguin Province, Cuba, to honour her son's memory.
Relatives and friends accompany Reina Luisa Tamayo on these weekly marches from her home to attend mass at the Nuestra Señora de la Caridad Church, in Barnes and from there to the cemetery where Orlando Zapata Tamayo is buried. Last Sunday, 8 August, the group reported that as soon as they tried to leave Reina Luisa Tamayo’s house to start their march, they were confronted a few metres away from the house by hundreds of government supporters who blocked their way and beat some of the participants. They were pushed back to the house and followed into the house’s garden. The participants tried twice more to leave the house and resume the march but they were again violently confronted by the government supporters, who stayed outside the house until late in the afternoon. According to Reina Luisa Tamayo, during all this time a police patrol was close to her house watching as the events unfolded and failing to intervene.
The group have reported how prior to 8 August, they have also been confronted by government supporters and state security officials who have gathered around Reina Luisa Tamayo's house and prevented them from marching, sometimes preventing them from reaching the church, the cemetery, or both. They have also reported how state security officials and police officers have set up check points on the routes to Reina Luisa Tamayo’s house on the day prior to the march to prevent people from reaching the house and joining the march.
PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Spanish or your own language:
Calling on the authorities to ensure an immediate halt to the harassment and intimidation of Reina Luisa Tamayo by government supporters, and that of her relatives and friends and any other citizens who seek to peacefully exercise their right to freedom of expression, assembly and association;
Calling on the authorities to permit Reina Luisa Tamayo and others to march peacefully as is their right on Sundays.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 22 SEPTEMBER 2010 TO:
Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz Presidente
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Foreign Ministry); +1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: email@example.com (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior, Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +53 7 8333085 (via Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
+1 2127791697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Su Excelencia/Your Excellency
Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.
MOTHER HARASSED FOR MARCHING FOR DEAD SON
Reina Luisa Tamayo is one of the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White), a group of women relatives and friends of prisoners detained during a major crackdown on government critics in March 2003. In 2003, over several days, the Cuban authorities arrested 75 men and women for their peaceful expression of critical opinions of the government. They were subjected to summary trials and were sentenced to long prison terms of up to 28 years. Amnesty International declared the 75 convicted dissidents to be prisoners of conscience, 32 of them remain in prison.
Damas de Blanco organizes peaceful weekly marches in Havana where they distribute flowers and call for the release of their relatives and friends. In March 2010 Damas de Blanco organized a daily march for a week to mark the seventh anniversary of the arrest of their relatives. On 17 of March 2010, their march was forcibly broken up by Cuban police, who briefly detained several women. Some of the women claimed that they were beaten by the police.
UA: 174/10 Index: AMR 25/012/2010 Issue Date: 11 August 2010
(Source: Amnesty International).
The town of Banes, on the north coast of eastern Cuba, is best known as where Fidel and Raúl Castro were spawned. Before that, it was also Fulgencio Batista's hometown.More, here, at this link.
Some of that ignominy has been washed away in recent months as a current resident, Reina Luisa Tamayo, has courageously carried on the legacy left by her son, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a political prisoner who died Feb. 23 after an 86-day hunger strike.
Señora Tamayo and supporters, like their fellow Ladies In White in Havana, march each Sunday on behalf of Cuba's political prisoners, from Mass at a local church to Orlando Zapata's grave site.
And almost every Sunday, goons unleashed by Banes' bastard sons, the Castro brothers, swarm around Señora Tamayo and her supporters, tossing threats and insults and throwing punches and kicks. The greater their fear of this old woman and her friends, the louder and more dangerous they get.
Reina Luisa Tamayo, however, has remained undaunted, her undying love for her son driving her as she becomes one of the inspirational figures of the Cuban opposition.
It happened again today, as security forces and "common" prisoners brought to the scene by the authorities surrounded Tamayo's house, on the Embarcadero highway in Banes.
"They were punching us from behind, hitting and kicking us," Tamayo told Radio Martí. "My son took a tremendous blow to the head."
Tamayo called on the international community to intervene on her behalf, because "there are going to be very many dead on the Embarcadero highway."
Below, pictures of the military presence around her house.
These pictures were taken with a mobile phone on 1 August, brought to La Habana by Reina Luisa and later distributed by Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez.
Dear Sir or Madam:
Every Sunday, we receive, mostly through phone interviews broadcast by the US-based Radio Martí, the same report from Reina Luisa describing how she is beaten, insulted and how [the government directed mob] prevents her from going to the town’s church to pray for her son and the health of all Cuban political prisoners still in jail. The repressive organs of the Cuban regime also impede her to visit her son’s tomb.
It is surprising to us that despite the wide coverage dedicated to Cuban topics, your organization has not reported on this. We know of the limitations to movement within Cuba, but we also understand that any foreign reporter has the means and resources to travel to the Eastern part of the island and give an eyewitness report of what happens there, in front of Reina Luisa Tamayo’s home.
We do not wish to tell the media what they should do, but to share with you our concern for the life of a woman who has lost her son in unjust circumstances and is clamoring for the world’s help to avoid more deaths.
We, the promoters of the #OZT: I accuse the Cuban government Campaign that demands the unconditional and immediate release of all peaceful political prisoners in Cuba and the respect of all Cubans’ human rights; write to you because we know that the international press in Cuba not only bears witness to what happens there, but can also help prevent and stop harassment incidents like those suffered by the Ladies in White in March of this year.
We would also like to know if there is any kind of legal hindrance or of any other sort that prevents your reporter in La Habana from traveling to other regions of Cuba.
We thank you in advance for your reply.
#OZT: I accuse the Cuban government Campaign
Human Rights Cuba reports:
On the 16th anniversary of the Maleconazo, a large scale protest that took place in Havana in 1994 due to public discontent over food shortages and energy blackouts, Cuba’s repressive forces conducted a massive arrest of human rights activists and independent journalists.
The arrested were detained, beaten, interrogated and later released. This took place yesterday near the U.S. Interests Section building on Cuba’s waterfront known as the Malecon. Among the arrested were human rights activists who wanted to peacefully mark the anniversary and independent journalists who were trying to enter the building to use the internet on their scheduled appointment day and time.
Those arrested were:
- Alfredo Guilleuma “El Viejo Alfredo”, an elderly Human Rights Activist
- Carmelo Rodríguez Rodríguez, Human Rights Activist and member of the Movimiento Línea Dura “Orlando Zapata Tamayo”
- Daniel Anselmo Gonzalez, Independent Journalist and Vice President of the Comision for Assistance to Political Prisoners and their Families (CAPPF)
- Ernesto Rodríguez López, Human Rights Activist
- Enrique Labrada, Human Rights Activist
- Hector Julio Cesar Cedeño, Blogger and Independent Journalist
- Heriberto Liranza Romero, Human Rights Activist and member of the Movimiento Cubano de Jóvenes por la Democracia
- Hermogenes Inocencio Guerrero, Human Rights Activist and Vice President of Naturpaz
- Hidelbrando Chaviano, Blogger and Independent Journalist
- Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco, President of the Movimiento Línea Dura “Orlando Zapata Tamayo”
- Joel Lázaro Carbonell, Blogger and Independent Journalist and President of the Organización de Derechos Humanos Cubanos Libres
- Jose Alberto Alvarez Bravo, Blogger and Independent Journalist
- Juan Carlos Basallo Fregio, Human Rights Activist and member of the Partido Liberal de la República de Cuba
- Juan Mario Rodríguez, Human Rights Activist
- Julio Antonio Rojas Portal, Blogger and Independent Journalist
- Omar Lafita Rojas, Independent Journalist and Attorney
- Roby Gonzalez Torres, Independent Journalist and member of the Comision for Assistance to Political Prisoners and their Families (CAPPF)
- Ruben Carty Lowe, Blogger and Independent Journalist who is the Director of Centro Informativo Cubano
- Silvio Benítez Márquez, Independent Journalist and President of the Partido Liberal de la República de Cuba
Other activists were also detained and arrested whose names were not available at the time this information was reported.
(H/T Marc Masferrer)
Video from Al-Jazeera:
This has been my favorite emblem, starting one day when I believed to have found images alone lacking. Many things have happened since, and I was suspicious of images and had understood, as the creator of that emblem, I think understood that only through the union of image and text could there be a construct that spelled out a truth and included a picture.
One day, Orlando Zapata dies. I search for his image, and found it, but it is a photograph of very poor quality. Therefore, although I had an idea of what his face looked like, it was always in an abstract, blurry manner. This photographic document is also an identification one. The photo seems to have been taken from a [Cuban] identification booklet. I felt crushed when I realized this because this image is not a memory. It is simply an instrument of control, a way to be identified, but by the police.
Apparently, Orlando did not have many photographs. There are two others on the internet, but they are also of low resolution. Paradoxically, it is this image, the one taken to excise control over him, that in some way has become an emblem of his liberty, or more accurately, of Liberty.
Later, I decided to create “Némesis”, a performance piece that consists of projecting that very same photograph on the facades of buildings that shelter representatives of the [Cuban] dictatorship. One of the difficulties I found during the performance was precisely the bad quality of the image, mostly to project it from a certain distance and still keep Zapata’s face recognizable. I think that in some way, and not without some difficulty, this was finally achieved.
A few days ago, (still unsatisfied with this image) I decided to use it as a model, and try to paint a portrait. It was not an easy task because it lacks detail, volume, etc. I had to imagine many things about this face. Today, I have finished the emblem: the portrait is the image; Orlando Zapata is its text.
All who so wish can use this image-emblem. It is my gift to all who desire Liberty for Cuba.
The “#OZT: I Accuse the Cuban Government” campaign asks Raul Castro to abandon his lying and petty outdated rhetoric against the peaceful oppositionposted on Wednesday, August 04, 2010
August 4th, 2010 - The “#OZT: I Accuse the Cuban Government” campaign, which has gathered more than 52 thousands signatures worldwide demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all Cuban political prisoners, laments that Castro regime has lost again an opportunity to show its will to change in order to respect the individual freedoms of all Cubans. The recent declarations of Raul Castro, in which he assures that “there will be no impunity” for the “counterrevolutionaries,” whom he brands “enemies of the motherland” is the evident proof that nothing has changed in Cuba with the announcement of the release from prison of 52 peaceful dissidents, of which 32 still remain behind bars while the other 20 have been automatically deported to Spain.
The language used by Castro to refer to these people, who have not committed any other crime than dissenting peacefully of the status quo, shows that there’s not even a hint of a will on the side of the regime to amend a modus operandi that has violated systematically the fundamental rights of all Cubans for more than fifty years.
The “#OZT: I Accuse the Cuban Government” considers scandalous the statement of Raul Castro in which he considers “sacred” the alleged achievements of the regime and in which ha affirms that the defense “of streets and squares” will continue because “it will continue to be the duty of the revolutionaries, and we cannot deprive them of that right.” We consider that these statements are only meant to justify the reproachable “acts of repudiation” and the daily abuse inflicted upon all who don’t share the opinion that the regime pretends to impose on them. This campaign considers that for the process of release of political prisoner to be believable, the Castro regime must abandon its lying and petty outdated rhetoric against the peaceful opposition.
This campaign insists on its demand to the regime to release immediately and unconditionally all Cuban political prisoners, without imposing deportation as the condition to their release. We also insist on reminding democratic governments and NGOs throughout the world to not validate a false and deceitful process of releasing political prisoners, designed to diminish the pressure on the Cuban dictatorship, and that does not guarantee the respect of all human rights for the Cuba population inside and outside of the island.
Castro forces dissidents to accept exile as the price of release from his dungeons.
The announcement last month that Cuba would exile 52 political prisoners currently in jail was supposed to help repair the regime’s international image in the wake of the death of Orlando Zapata.
It’s not working. The 21 who have already arrived in Spain are speaking out about the hell hole run by Castro that is Cuba. And at least 10 are refusing to leave the country. Zapata lives.
In December 2009, Zapata, who had been rotting in a rat-infested prison cell and repeatedly tortured for almost seven years, launched a hunger strike on behalf of Cuba’s prisoners of conscience. He was protesting the unjust incarceration of nonviolent dissidents and the cruelty inside the dungeons. The regime desperately tried to break him, even refusing him water for a time. This led to kidney failure and his death on Feb. 23.
Zapata’s passing sparked international outrage, and on July 7 the regime yielded to the pressure. It agreed to release the independent journalists, writers and democracy advocates who had been jailed during the 2003 crackdown on dissent, known as the Black Spring.
Yet only the naïve could read Castro’s forced acquiescence as a break with tyranny. It is instead a cynical ploy to clean the face of a dictatorship. It is also an effort to reclaim respectability for the world’s pro-Castro politicians, including Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos. No one understands this better than the former prisoners.
Those sent to Spain have not hidden their joy about getting out of Cuban jails. “There are no words to fairly describe how amazed and excited I was when I saw myself free and next to my wife and daughter again,” Normando Hernández González told the Committee to Protect Journalists in a telephone interview. But Mr. Hernández, an independent journalist, hasn’t minced words about Cuban repression either.
In a telephone interview with Miami’s Radio Republica, he talked about his “indescribable” time in jail. “It’s crime upon crime, the deep hatred of the Castro regime toward everyone who peacefully dissents. It is a unique life experience that I do not wish upon my worst enemy.”
The regime tried to spruce up the former prisoners by dressing them in neatly pressed trousers, white shirts and ties. But they brought tales of horror to Spain. Ariel Sigler, a labor organizer who went into prison seven years ago a healthy man but is now confined to a wheel chair, arrived in Miami on Wednesday.
These graphic reminders of Castro’s twisted mind have been bad for Mr. Moratinos’s wider agenda, which is to use the release of the prisoners to convince the European Union to abandon its “common position” on Cuba. Adopted in 1996, it says that the EU seeks “in its relations with Cuba” to “encourage a process of transition to pluralist democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as a sustainable recovery and improvement in the living standards of the Cuban people.” Mr. Moratinos’s desire to help Fidel end the common position is a source of anger among Cuban dissidents.
The former prisoners also resent their exile, after, as Mr. Hernández puts it, “being kidnapped for seven years.” He explained to Radio Republica: “The more logical outcome would be, ‘Yes, you are freeing me. Free me to my home. Free me so I won’t be apart from my sister, from my family, from my people, from my neighbors.’” Instead he says he was “practically forced” to go to Spain in exchange for getting out of jail, and to get health care for his daughter and himself.
Cuba’s horrendous prison conditions are no secret. In his chilling memoir “Against All Hope” (1986, 2001), Armando Valladares cataloged the brutality he experienced first hand as a prisoner of conscience for 22 years. A steady stream of exiles have echoed his claims. But another bit of cruelty is less well understood: For a half century the regime has let political prisoners out of jail only if they sign a paper saying they have been “rehabilitated” or, when the regime is under pressure, if they agree to leave the island. Getting rid of the strong-willed, while being patted on the back for their “release,” has been Castro’s win-win.
Now some prisoners are refusing to deal. Ten of the 52, including Óscar Elías Biscet, famous for his pacifism, say they will not accept exile as a condition of release. These brave souls remain locked up.
Of course, if they are released and allowed to stay home, the same “crimes” that landed them in prison are likely to do so again. A particular hazard for dissidents is Article 72 of the Orwellian Cuban criminal code, which says that “any person shall be deemed dangerous” if he has “shown a proclivity to commit crimes demonstrated by conduct that is in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality.”
Cuban dissidents claim there are hundreds and perhaps thousands of prisoners locked up for “dangerousness,” “contempt” and other crimes of dissent. No one knows for sure. But shipping a few dozen out of the country doesn’t qualify as a step toward civilized government. The memory of Zapata demands much more.
Mary Anastasia O'Grady, The Wall Street Journal
H/T: Penúltimos Días
On Friday, April 23rd, a group of human rights activists had planned on delivering at the headquarters of the Cuban Parliament the declaration of the “#OZT: I accuse the Cuban government,” alongside the more than 52 thousand signatures from all over the world that support the demand for an immediate and unconditional release of all Cuban political prisoners.
A police raid under which several citizens were banned from leaving their houses and others were arrested when they were in the nearing their destination, impeded that these signatures reach the National Assembly of the People (ANPP, in Spanish), a form of government that, from many years, had the motto “the power of the people, that is the real power.”
What follows is the report from the coordinator of the illegal party Cuba Independiente y Democrática (Cuba Independent and Democratic, CID, in Spanish), regarding the raid against the human rights activists and peaceful dissidents:
Repression against the members of CID for the delivery to the Cuban Parliament of the signatures gathered by the “#OZT: I accuse the Cuban government” campaign
In commemoration of the fifth month of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the “#OZT: I accuse the Cuban government” campaign collected 51168 signatures worldwide condemning the premeditated assassination of the prisoner of conscience and demanding the release of all Cuban political prisoners. These signatures were attempted to be delivered at several Cuban consulates and embassies around the world and a team of activists of the (illegal) party Cuba Independiente y Democrática (CID) planned on delivering then on July 23rd at 10:30 am at the headquarters of the Cuban Parliament, located on Avenue 42, between 23rd and 25th Streets, in the municipality of Playa, Havana.
Here’s a detailed account of what happened to the activists of CIF from July 22nd -24th.
July 22nd, 2010
At 6:00 pm, the Departamento de Seguridad del Estado (the political police, DSE, in Spanish) ordered the house arrest of Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, a delegate of CID in the municipality of La Lisa and President of the hard-line and boicot platform “Orlando Zapata Tamayo”, as well as to Lazara Bárbara Sendiña Recalde, neighbors of 89 Street # 21410 between 214 y 216, in the municipality of La Lisa, for which a large number of policemen were deployed around their house, impeding the access to any pro democracy activists and checking the passersby against their ID cards, asking where they were going; besides they interrupted the home and cell phone lines of Yasnely Gainza Sendiña, daughter of Lazara Bárbara Sendiña Recalde, from9:25 pm, of July 22nd till 6:00 pm, of July 25th. The cell phone of Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarria, Secretary of Attention to Political Prisoners, as well as the mobile lines of Katia Sonia Martín Véliz, coordinator of CID in the western part of the island, and her aunt, Amelia Véliz Pérez, until after 8:00pm of July 23rd. In the municipality of La Lisa, at around 6:00pm, Luís Enrique Labrador Ruíz, activist of CID was kidnapped by the Political police, while he was getting a haircut.
July 23rd, 2010
At 7:00 am, “Pavel”, an officer of the Political police showed on the streets a judicial order of house arrest against Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarria, Secretary of Attention to Political Prisoners, and his wife, Katia Sonia Martín Véliz, coordinator of CID, signed and approved by a fiscal of the headquarters of the political police “Villa Marista;” but he refused to let them read the act, alleging they could destroy it. This very officer told them that there were seventy (70) agents, armed with sticks, with orders to beat them and even kill them if that were necessary, because the Castro brothers were very upset with the subversive activities of the CID. At that time, Abdel Rodríguez Arteaga, delegate of CID in Havana y Aimé Cabrales Aguilar, Attention to Political Prisoners in Havana were at the house of Ricardo and Katia. At 10:00 am, Katia went to the corner and agent “Pavel,” surprised, told agent “Ariel,” who was the other one assigned to the entrance of their building: “let her come back.” Ricardo, Aimé and Abdel were able to exit the apartment and shout out loud the reason why they were prevented from exiting, managing to catch the attention of neighbors and passersby. Katia was dragged by force to the interior staircase that leads to her apartment.
Elizabeth Linda Nañonga Kawooya Toca (who is 6 months pregant), wife of Lisbán Hernández Sánchez, delegate of CID in the municipality of Centro Habana was impeded from arriving to the apartment of Katia and Ricardo. Someone was able to make a phone call to inform the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN, in Spanish) to let them know what was happening.
An order of house arrest was also issued against Richard Morera Ramos, with residence in San José Street # 17714 between América and Aleja, Guardiola neighborhood, in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón, Havana; the same for Jorge Félix Candelario Martínez, delegate of CID in the municipality of Habana del Este, with residence in building H-62, Apt. 15, Zone 14, Alamar, and Aramís Tudela Pérez, Attention to Political Prisoners in the municipality of Habana del Este, with residence in building H-54, Apt. 13, Zone 14, Alamar. Their buildings were heavily watched by numerous political police agents.
The following activists were arrested as they approached the area of the headquarters of the Cuban Parliament, located in 42nd Avenue and 25th Street, in the municipality of Playa: Lázaro José de la Nodal Usín, vice delegate of CID in the municipality of La Lisa, who was then taken to the 4th Unit of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR, in Spanish), located in the corner of Infanta and Amenidad, in the municipality of Cerro, and then taken on July 24th to the Departamento de Técnicas Investigativas (a branch of the political police, DTI in Spanish). Eduardo Pérez Flores, activist, was taken to the 4th Unit of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR, in Spanish), located in the corner of Infanta and Amenidad, in the municipality of Cerro, and released after 24 hours, Francisco Sa Fuster, activist, was released after 4pm of July 23rd. Lisbán Hernández Sánchez, a resident of Centro Habana, was taken to the police unit located in the corner of Zanja and Dragones, and placed in a cell with transsexuals infected with HIV, who claimed the police to get him out there; one of the transsexuals was bleeding from the wounds of a sex transplant. Robmer Gálvez Urrutia, activist in the municipality of 10 de octubre, was taken to the police unit of of Zanja and Dragones, in Centro Habana. Leydis Coca Quesada, vice delegate in the municipality of Playa, was released near her house. Niurka Caridad Ortega Cruz, delegate in the municipality of Boyeros, was taken in police car #315 and release in Vía Blanca highway, in the border of provinces Havana and Matanzas. During the time of their arrests, they all kept a hunger strike, refusing also to drink water. Luís Enrique Labrador Ruíz, activist of CID in the municipality of La Lisa, who was originally arrested and taken to the 5th police unit of the PNR, located in 7th Avenue and 62 Street, in the municipality of Playa, from 6:00 pm on July 22nd until 4:00 pm on July 23rd, was then taken to the police unit located in the corner of Zanja and Dragones, in the municipality of Centro Habana, where he spent all his time shouting anti-establishment slogans and “Zapata lives!” until he lost his voice. He was release after 6:00 pm on July 23rd. At 6:00 pm, the officer of the political police activated the phone line of Katia’s house and told her that the house arrest order had been lifted. At that time, Ricardo and Abdel contacted the CCDHRN.
July 24th 2010
Finally at 1:30 pm, Katia Sonia Martín Véliz, made a phone call to the “Section 21” of the political police, explaining to them that a group of 16 activists of CID was in front of the police unit at the corner of Zanja and Dragones awaiting the release of the arrested activists and that if they weren’t released they’d protest in front of the police unit demanding that they be set free. “Section 21” approved the release of Sergio García Argentel and Lisbán Hernández Sánchez, after 2:00 pm, of July 24th; then, past 6:00 pm, Robmer Gálvez Urrutia was released. Lázaro José de la Noval Usín, vice delegate of CID in the municipality of La Lisa, was under arrest in the DTI in the municipality of 10 de octubre until after 8:00pm of Sunday, July 25th.
Major Pedro Chávez, instructor in the political police heaquarters of Villa Marista, drove his car, a blue Lada, against Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarria, in the corner of Matadero and Calzada del Cerro, at 5:45 pm.
Katia Sonia Martín Véliz
Coordinadotor of CID in the Western Region of Cuba
About the food they were given daily for seven years:
A hairy heap of ground pig eyes, cheek, ears, and other unidentifiable parts served as a main course.The cells in which they were kept:
The meal, nicknamed patipanza, is one of the typical dishes served in Cuban prisons, according to political prisoners freed and expatriated to the Spanish capital under an agreement negotiated by the Roman Catholic Church and the Spanish government.
"They didn't even bother to take the hairs off the animal's skin and it stank," says Mijail Bárzaga, 43, who spent seven years in four Cuban prisons.
In the Havana prison El Pitirre, where he spent two years, the food was more edible than in the others, Bárzaga said, but the portions of rice, watery picadillo and pea stew served to the prisoners kept getting smaller and smaller.
"The guards would steal from our portions, they would steal from the prison ministry to feed their families and to sell in the black market," Bárzaga said. "To steal from a man in prison who can't do anything about getting himself nourishment is denigrating -- the lowest point of humanity."
Often there was dirt at the bottom of the boiled concoctions. Other times, worms and bugs in the food.
"Kafka couldn't have written it worse," said Ricardo González Alfonso, an independent journalist sentenced to 20 years after his arrest in the Black Spring of 2003.
Small prison cells became filthy with overflowing feces. Rats, cockroaches and scorpions shared their jail cells, Julio César Gálvez said.On coexisting with common prisoners:
Just when the prisoners and their families adjusted to a prison, they were transferred.
"I was constantly moved from prison to prison and my family couldn't visit me," said José Luis García Paneque, a plastic surgeon who was a burly, 190-pound man when he was sent to prison and now weighs 101 pounds.
Paneque takes a reporter's notebook and drew a sketch of one of his prison cells -- a hole on the floor that served as toilet and shower, a sink with a spigot turned on only a few minutes a day, a metal bed with a thin foam mattress.
"The cells are all the same -- tiny, windowless," he said.
The solitary cells, used for punishment, were even worse.
Being among criminals posed a threat, but the political prisoners said they earned their respect by explaining to them why they were in prison.Human horror:
"We gave them a political education and they were helpful to us," Bárzaga said.
When he first arrived in a Villa Clara prison, he added, there were no utensils available. The presos comunes -- those in prison for common, rather, than political, crimes -- made him a spoon from a can and a cup from a cut-up water bottle.
Some of the common prisoners helped the political ones smuggle out letters and documents denouncing conditions
The political prisoners also witnessed how common prisoners resorted to drastic measures, making themselves ill -- setting fires to their mattresses and wrapping themselves in them, cutting their eyeballs -- to get a guard's attention to be sent to the infirmary.Read it all, share it, spread the word, and help us fight for the freedom of all remaining Cuban political prisoners, and for the respect of human rights and dignity in the archipelago.
"I saw a prisoner inject excrement in his veins. Nobody told me this, I saw it with my own eyes,'' said Omar M. Ruiz Hernández. "They sewed their mouths with wire. They do all this to protest the conditions, to get something they've been denied."
The Miami Herald reproduces this The New York Times article by former Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Castañeda regarding the latest political developments in Cuba:
The Castros blink
BY JORGE G. CASTANEDA
Finally, someone in Cuba went eyeball to eyeball with the Castro brothers, and they blinked.
On July 7, Guillermo Fariñas, a dissident on a hunger strike for more than four months, achieved what no one has done before. Through a combination of careful confrontation, personal fortitude and international support, Fariñas forced Raúl Castro to negotiate with Cuba's Roman Catholic Church -- which led to the immediate release of five political prisoners, with 47 more to follow over the next four months.
Of course, this is not the first time that the Cuban regime has freed political prisoners. The many other instances were almost always in exchange for political and economic concessions.
In 1978, Fidel Castro allowed more than 3,000 jailed dissidents to leave for the United States after a group of exiled Cubans from Miami visited Havana. Many in the Miami group subsequently advocated for ending the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
In 1984, Castro freed 26 prisoners; in 1996, three; and in 1998, more than 80, after visits from, respectively, Jesse Jackson, Bill Richardson and Pope John Paul II, according to The Miami Herald's Andres Oppenheimer.
Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos desperately tried to play a role in the Fariñas case. But this time, the circumstances were different. Fariñas was willing to die for his demands; he saw how they were, in a sense, reinforced by the death of another hunger striker, Orlando Zapata, last February.
The Castros knew that Fariñas would die, too, if they didn't accept his demands, and that his death would make any improvement in relations with the European Union or President Obama even more difficult to acheive.
The island's economic situation has gone from dire to worse in recent times. Raúl Castro recognized that, without a rapprochement, he couldn't achieve whatever changes he might hope to make -- hence the dialogue with the church and the release of the prisoners.
Despite Fariñas' courage and political skill, the significance of the agreement between Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega and Raúl Castro is modest.
• First, circumstances may change during the four months that will pass before all the prisoners on the list are freed. Meanwhile, the remaining prisoners are still hostage to the Castros' dealings with the church and possibly the European Union.
• Second, an additional 100 political prisoners in Cuba, and perhaps many more, are not included in the agreement. [The government has since indicated it may free all political prisoners, but that has not been confirmed.]
• Third, articles 72 and 73 of the Cuban criminal code, which establish the notion of ``dangerousness'' -- an outrageously inexplicit word that has been denounced by Human Rights Watch -- are still on the books.
According to Cuban law, anybody can be jailed at any time, even before committing a crime, if they are perceived to have a penchant for doing so. And political opposition to the regime is a crime.
• Finally, it is unclear whether the 52 dissidents will be freed in Cuba or deported to Spain and elsewhere. Fidel Castro has used expulsion from his homeland as a political instrument for more than half a century, with great success.
Whether the church and Spain should lend themselves to this ploy is debatable. Even ``voluntary'' exile is a non sequitur: Asking political prisoners in poor health to sign a statement that they will willingly accept exile is hardly magnanimous or ethical.
Most important, however, is whether small gestures like the new agreement alter the human-rights situation in Cuba and represent the beginning of a transition in Cuban politics.
Jose Miguel Vivanco, the Americas director of Human Rights Watch, hit the mark when he said that he could not congratulate a government for freeing people who should never have been jailed.
The real issue is whether there is any justification for the survival of a regime that acknowledges the existence of political prisoners, uses them as bargaining chips and needs to be forced by dead or dying hunger strikers to liberate any of them. Little can be done to change this situation until the Cuban people decide they have had enough. Meanwhile, voters should question their leaders' having any dealings with the Cuban regime.
Cuban blogger Claudia Cadelo, informs through Twitter that Guillermo Fariñas has been discharged from hospital, and is at home.
There were no details on his current condition, but we will update the post as soon we obtain further them.
UPDATE: Italian news agency ANSA informs in Spanish details his discharge from hospital. It states that Fariñas will have to use a wheelchair due to a neuropathy caused by his 135 day long hunger strike (his 23rd) and that he still suffers from a clot in one of his carotids that will take years to treat.
The opposition activist told the reporter that because of his motor limitations, he will continue his work as an independent journalist from his home.
We are happy to see Fariñas out of hospital, albeit not completely healthy. We will monitor his situation, and wish him a speedy recovery. And, we are most grateful to this great Cuban for his fearless fight, for risking his own life for the release of Cuban political prisoners.
A group led by Ana Fuentes, member of this campaign’s organizing team, has successfully delivered the more than 52,000 signatures supporting our Declaration for the Freedom if Cuban Political Prisoners at the Cuban consulate in Seville, Spain. This is the first successful delivery after we announced the start of such deliveries. Other similar efforts have been met with rejection and resistance (in one case, physcally violent) by the regime’s representatives in La Habana, Madrid, Barcelona, Montréal and New York.
In Seville, it was possible to deliver the signatures to a Spanish administrative employee at the consulate. The Cuban diplomats refused to come out to receive them, but told the Spaniard to accept them.
In the group there were several Cubans, and among them was Eddie Fernández a participant of Pedro Pan Operation, as well as several Sevilleans, including a lady representing the Asociación de Víctimas del Terrorismo [Association of Victims of Terrorism].
A reporter for the local El Correo newspaper was also present.
The newspaper reports on his statements to the press before departing La Habana:
"I'm going, looking to regain my health," he told reporters at the Havana airport before boarding his flight. "When I arrive in Miami . . . they are waiting for me and will take me to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where I hope to regain my strength."
Sigler said he eventually planned to return to Cuba "because this government's days are numbered."
"This dictatorship has very little time left," he said, "and I think this will be a temporary departure."
Dr. Darsi Ferrer: " It is very sad to see a country’s youth behind bars, living in cruel and deforming conditions, surviving as non-persons."posted on Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Marc Masferrer reproduces some fragments of an interview with Dr. Darsi Ferrer by Cuban independent journalist Juan Carlos González Leiva originally published on Payo Libre.
This is our translation:
Juan Carlos González Leiva: How is the health of Darsi Ferrer?
Dr. Darsi: First, I would like to say that I am very happy with your visit. One comes out of prison affected [by psychological issues] but I am in better spirits.
JC: According to [the regime’s] accusations [against you], you should have received a 3 year sentence. To what do you attribute your premature release?
Dr. Darsi: Many factors contributed to, and resulted in my release. In first place, [there was the] recognition of my status as a prisoner of conscience by that prestigious institution, Amnesty International, for what I will be eternally grateful. Also, [there was] the immense solidarity from the international black movement, and, of course, the solidarity of my Cuban brothers, here and in exile.
JC: What does Valle Grande prison represent to you?
Dr Darsi: This is a prison for those who are in preventive custody [not tried yet], [but] despite that it does not differ from [all] other Cuban penitentiaries. Life conditions are totally subhuman and the penal population suffers the cruelest and most inhumane treatments. For example, medical attention is almost [non-existent] because in spite of having doctors on staff, [in reality] they do not exist, neither is there equipment to perform a hemoglobin or glycemic test. Everything is a [smoke] screen [and] that is why there are inevitable deaths. Only in the past 11 months, three inmates died there for that reason. Overcrowding is terrible in the 18 galleys. They are 35 meters long by 5 meters wide, [and] there 120 inmates survive with only half a meter of vital space for each one of them. Many of them have to sleep on the floor because there are not enough beds.
Hygiene is horrible, they only run the water for a few minutes three times a day, every other day, and the heat is unbearable. Infectious diseases are very frequent, it is enough that one inmate gets sick [for the rest to be infected]. Contact with the family is limited to two hours once a month. The psychological trauma is very big. The scarce nourishment is of terrible quality and does not satisfy the needs of any human organism. As protein, they give you a tiny piece of chicken every 15 days. The rest of the food is a [disgusting mix] that is regularly [given to the prisoners] in state of decomposition. This brings lots of diseases and health problems.
The mistreatment and the horrible conditions make the inmates aggressive. There are frequent fights. Corruption is rampant. The guards are more criminals than the inmates are, and they have several inmates in their fold who control all their illicit businesses for their own personal benefit, and the most lethal are used to impose discipline. The guards are the ones that facilitate the sale of rum and the high drug use. Religious assistance and freedom of worship are not allowed. There are several disabled [inmates] [whose conditions] are incompatible with the prison system. I met blind, deaf and some in wheelchairs. In the political prisoners’ case, they survive in constant danger since the guards constantly encourage assassins to harass them and attack them. It is Hell, a nightmare that if you do not experience it, you cannot imagine how horrible the Cuban jail system is.
JC: Could it be said that Cuban jails are centers of terror?
Dr. Darsi: Prisons here make up such a gruesome picture that words cannot describe it in all of its magnitude. This is the reason why the government does not allow monitoring by the [UN’s] Rapporteur Against Torture, His Excellency Manfred Nowak. [They] have much to hide. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners are not respected at all, and even national laws are violated daily in there.
JC: What is the number of prisoners inside Valle Grande prison right now?
Dr. Darsi: There are 18 galleys with a total penal population around 2000 inmates. It must be noted that, as I said, this is a prison for [those] awaiting trial, and it is the only one that receives those who are under [arrest awaiting trial] in all of the [province of] Ciudad de La Habana. Almost every day, around 80 to 100 new inmates are admitted, which is incredible. Of course, this does not include those already sentenced who are sent directly to other penitentiaries. In other words, the number of Cubans who are sent to prison daily is alarming. That is why I can assure [anyone] that the Cuban penal population is not 100,000 inmates as it has been said until now, but that it is well above 200,000 convicts. It is such an amazing [uncontrolled growth] that it forces the government to hide it.
JC: Could it then be stated that more than 500 people are incarcerated each week only in La Habana?
Dr. Darsi: I do not say 500 people, but a much higher number because one has to take into account the prisons for women that are 4 or 5; the juvenile prisons, and the uncountable penitentiaries in the city and province of La Habana. The Combinado del Este prison alone keeps around 5000 inmates behind bars. These are the reasons why I call on all people and institutions around the world to make an even greater effort to help humanize the Cuban jail system, alleviating the suffering of hundreds of thousands of convicts and their families.
JC: What are the race and age characteristics of the penal population at Valle Grande?
Dr. Darsi: Around 80% are black and more than 70% of the total is not over the age of 25. It is very sad to see a country’s youth behind bars, living in cruel and deforming conditions, surviving as non-persons.
JC: Marxism books state that criminality is a leftover from capitalism; however, Cuban convicts are in their vast majority young and black, born after the revolution. How can this be explained?
Dr. Darsi: The lack of opportunities, the arbitrariness, the injustices…I would say that they [affect] all the same. What happens is that for cultural and economic reasons, blacks were behind [everyone else] when the revolution triumphed, in other words, blacks were behind, and blacks were left much further behind later. Today are blacks the one who live in “solares” [tenements], those who are barred from hotels and those who are not [represented] in the [highest] political [levels]. It is enough to say that in a country where surviving is hard for everyone, those issues are tenfold for blacks. All of this forces blacks to be linked to issues like the black market. They go beyond what is tolerated by the authorities and remain in [extreme poverty] being much more alienated, discriminated against and displaced than whites. This is a grave problem because this is not a [mainly] Caucasian society. Cuba is a country where he who does not have Congo [blood] has [that] of Carabalis. We are a racial “ajiaco” [stew], despite the government’s efforts to reinforce the idea that black is negative. This is why blacks in prison receive the worst treatment and contempt from the guards. I can conclude by stating that blacks have been thrown by the so-called revolution into the lowest sectors of [Cuban] public life.
JC: What is the explanation for the use of drugs and alcohol at Valle Grande?
Dr. Darsi: The average salary of the guards is extremely low. They live in misery as well, that is why most of the practice corruption. Inside of the prisons, corruption is huge. It is precisely the guards who own this business of alcohol and prescription drugs sales. It is they who bring those noxious substances to the penitentiaries around the country. It is incredible and scandalous, but tremendously real. These are the direct causes of the frequent fights and murders. Furthermore, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, the inmates mutilate themselves or inject [themselves with the] AIDS [virus] with syringes supplied by the guards. One day, I saw the guards bringing six AIDS patients into my galley and left them to live with us. Some had bleeding wound since they had hurt themselves. Logically we were all [exposed] to the risk [of infection].
JC: What treatment receive those who are physically and mentally disabled at Valle Grande?
Dr. Darsi: They are victims of the worst treatments because since they are sick, they do things that irritate the guards.
JC: How would you describe your trial?
Dr. Darsi: I was tried behind closed doors by the Municipal Tribunal of Diez de Octubre [a municipality in La Habana] this past 22 June, and sentenced to 1 year and 3 months of prison. [During the trial] Security of State cordoned off the area [surrounding the tribunal] and subjected me to a biased process, lacking any [due process]. They tried me 11 months after my arrest, and they sentenced me after I had already served the time, on the trumped up charges of “Sabotage and receipt [of stolen merchandise]” that implies that I must serve another three months in this sort of house arrest. I do not accept this condition, and I am ready to be sent back to prison whenever the political police would want because I am innocent and my trial was nothing but a circus. My family, friends and neighbors could attend.
JC: Do you continue to have the same dreams?
Dr. Darsi: Cuba continues to be a large jail, and our people still lives the same drama of the destruction of all their freedoms and rights. This is what motivates me to continue fighting for democracy and [the rule of law]. I am 40 years old, and I do not know freedom. I move forward with even more emphasis so that soon Cuba becomes a place of happiness, prosperity and opportunities for all.