News from Cuba: January – March 2013

Sections: NationalInternationalCulture and SportHuman Rights

Highlights:

  • Madrid Angel Carromero said that a car with a Cuban Government licence plate attacked them and caused the accident in which two Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were killed in Cuba, last July.
  • The Cuban ex-president Fidel Castro (86) appeared in public again in order to vote in the Cuban parliamentary elections.
  • Various Cuban dissidents are allowed to travel abroad. The new reform came into force on January 14th. Since that day, the Cubans only need a valid passport and a visa issued by the destination country for a temporary travel out of the island. Previously, they needed a leaving permit known as “the white card” (tarjeta blanca) and an invitation letter.

National

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January 14th
Cuba introduces the anxiously desired migration liberation, which will eliminate restrictions previously applied to the travellers from Cuba to abroad and also the visits of the Cuban emigrants. This is one of the major reforms introduced by the president Raúl Castro. After decades of restrictions and costly administrative barriers, the Cubans will be able to travel abroad only with a valid passport and a correspondent visa, if required from the destination country, from January 14th on.

January 15th
The Cuban government informed about 51 cases of cholera, just after a few cases reported early January being commented as a retreat phase of the outbreak.

January 31st
The Cuban blogger and dissident Yoani Sanchez announces via her Twitter @yoanisanchez that she already has got her passport. Yoanni Sanchez confirms “I am happy and sad at the same time: on one hand I have the document which allows me to travel, but there are my friends who do not have such permit.”

February 3rd
The Cuban ex-president Fidel Castro (86) appeared in public again in order to vote in the Cuban parliamentary elections, after almost 10 months without being seen. Last time before this he was seen at a live transmission on the state television.

February 8th
The leader of the Ladies in White (Damas en Blanco), Berta Soler received her passport this Friday. This will enable her to travel abroad for the first time, as a consequence of the migration reform put into force three weeks ago, she comments.

February 18th
The oppositionist blogger Yoanni Sanchez, who was denied to travel abroad about twenty times by the government, leaves for Brasil this Sunday to commence a three-month tour through twelve countries in Latin America and Europe, as announced by a AFP journalist.

February 24th
Raúl Castro´s president mandate was re-confirmed. He also announced he would leave his post in 2018 when his second mandate expires. This Sunday, the legislators introduced Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermudez (52) the first vice-president, which poses him at the successor position after Castro.

March 30th
The crew of rescue boats Knight Islands and William Flores of the U. S. Coast Guard repatriated 61 Cuban immigrants to the Cabañas bay (Bahía de Cabañas) this week. They had been intercepted in the waters of the Florida Strait, announces the Coastal Guard Service this Thursday.

International

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January 28th

Raúl Castro, the President of Cuba, accepted the presidency of the Latin American and Caribbean Community (Celac) Summit, the largest block of regional integration. This event took part in Santiago de Chile this Monday. “It is a great honour to accept the presidency pro tempore of the Celac. It is recognition of my ascetic fight for the independency of my people,” concludes Castro.

March 6th
The leader of the New Generations of the Popular Party in Madrid Angel Carromero said that a car with a Cuban Government licence plate attacked them and caused the accident in which two Cuban dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were killed in Cuba, last July.
He also claims his trial in Cuba was a comedy and he was forced to lie and admit the “official version” of the issue.
He confesses he had decided to speak out after having consulted so with Payá´s daughter, her family was defending his innocence.

March 8th
The death of the president Hugo Chávez gives an impulse to fear that Cuba would get deeper to its economical crisis if Caracas decides not to continue granting Cuba its subsidy. The subsidy is much higher than former great help of the Soviet Union to La Habana.

March 12th
The Cuban government intended to block Rosa Maria Payá´s declaration before the UN Human Rights Council in which she accuses the activities in Cuba, and claims independent investigations of her father´s death. He was the opposition leader, Oswaldo Payá.

Culture and Sport

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January 2nd
Raggaeton was prohibited in Cuba early this year. The music of Daddy Yankee, Wisin & Yadel and many others protagonists of this musical style can no longer be listened to in the island, being accused of unwanted ethical influence on the citizens, damage to popular sensitivity, and distortion of the art creativity.

Orlando Vistel, the president of the Cuban Musical Institute declared early December at the national newspaper Granma that it is prohibited to listen to the ‘pseudo-artistic rhythms in combination with aggressive, explicit, and obscene lyrics which distort the Cuban Women`s sensuality.´

January 24th
José Ariel Contreras returned to Cuba, one decade after leaving his country to reach his dream about playing in the great leagues. The pitcher is visiting his family, according to the NBC News from La Habana.
The visit of the pitcher from Piñar del Río was the first visit of a sportsman who emigrated from Cuba and who enters the island again, after the new migration politics was put in force on January 14th. This allows a return of the athletes who had left the country in an irregular way in the 90`s, and who spent 8 years in emigration.

February 25th
The XXII International Book Fair of La Habana 2013 culminated this Sunday with a ceremony in the Nicolás Guillén Hall at the fort San Carlos de la Cabaña. The Fair was honoured with the presidency of José Cesar Augusto, the ambassador of Angola, the country which was exclusively invited to this event, and Edgar Ponce, his colleague from Ecuador, the nation who will host the Fair in 2014.

Human Rights

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January

In January, the Information Centre ´Hablemos Press´ documented 302 detentions with political background. This one was another month stained with intensive government repressions. The apparatus of power accomplished numerous acts of repression and violence, mainly against the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activists, which seats in Palmarito de Cauto, Santiago de Cuba.

More than ten UNPACU activists underwent meticulous house searches in their homes without legal authorization. Working equipment and UN documents including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were confiscated. Members of Christian Movement Liberation (MCL) were arrested in Holguín and their homes were searched.

There was registered a relatively minor number of arrests in January. The Cuban Human Rights and National Reconciliation Commission (CCDHRN) is alarmed by so called ´Acts of repression,´ the invasive actions against the dissidents´ homes and the alarming physical aggressions committed by the “unknown individuals without uniforms,” all under a real lightness of impunity.

The paramilitary Brigades of Fast Response (BRR) trained and directed by the Department of the State Security (DSE) agents continued fulfilling the acts of bully against the oppositionists, such as throwing objects, dead animals, and excrements on their houses.

February

The centre documented 471 arrests with political motivation in February, which indicates a rising number of the arrested, compared to January (302).

The writer Ángel Santiesteban Prat was definitely sentenced to imprisonment on February 28th. He is to serve a 5-year injust jail imprisonment sentence, after being accused and judged for constructed offences of criticism of the government.

The activists, their families, and their homes are still under vigilance and violent treatment. Many of them underwent acts of bully, like in case of the oppositionist Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco, who suffered 72 such acts between February 19 and 24, for having placed –accompanied with other oppositionists – a card bearing name of Orlando Zapata in a municipal park La Lisa.

Other foreign citizens were arrested on February 14th while they were taking photos of two women who were protesting in the Central Park of La Habana. A Brazilian journalist was arrested in the 34th Street in the quarter of Miramar for taking photos of the Ladies in White, on February 24th.

During last years, the government switched from long imprisonments of pacifists dissidents for systematic few-hours-lasting detentions, days or weeks (the average number of politically motivated arrests reached 550 cases a month in 2012). In spite of the repressive tactics change, the number of imprisoned pacific oppositionists has doubled during last 10 months (from 45 to 90).

The prisoner in a temporary prison Antonio Ribalta Junco (44) died on February 16th after a 38-day hunger-strike, under the State custody. He claimed to prove his innocence against an apparently false accusation by the police.

A violation of the known oppositionist Marta Beatriz Roque´s home is very irritating. On March 19th she and some of her accompanying colleagues were mugged by hostile people hired or observed by the state security police. Such a hostile environment and repressive violence has been put on Martha Beatriz Roque for long years.

March
The Information Centre documented 394 arrests with political context, which shows the Cuban government goes on violating the right of gathering, expression, opinion, religion, association, and moving.
Today, there are twenty-three Human Rights activists arrested in different prisons in the country, who are waiting for jury. Only one of them, Rogelio Tavío López, was liberated on March 6th after being one year and three days behind the bars without trial.

On March 22nd, an UNPACU member Gerardo Terrero Sarrión (19) was presented to the Holguín court. This young man was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment. He was accused of an assassination preparation, after having quarrelled with a local Police (Poder Popular) delegate.

A journalist and a prisoner Calixto Ramón Martínez Arias, a correspondent of Hablemos Press, remains in prison in spite of having spent six months there. This is the deadline for determining of the offence for which a person is retained. Martínez Arias was on a 22-day hunger-strike from March 6th to March 28th demanding immediate liberation. He ended the strike upon a request of the authorities and a promise of liberation.

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Agnes Koleman has been visiting Cuban since 1997. She is long time admirer of Cuban people and hopes Cuba will soon will become a democratic country.