- An hour of international Internet services costs 4.5 US dollars. This is the rate charged by the 118 new state internet centres opened in Cuba on June 4. A full monthly salary of an average Cuban will thus suffice for four and half hours of internet connection.
- For another year, Cuba will remain on the list of countries promoting terrorism annually prepared by the U.S. State Department. Various exile associations and groups that have been pushing the Obama administration to remove Cuba from the list in recent months claim that its remaining on the list can be seen as the U.S. Congress admission of its hard line policy on Cuba.
- June saw the lowest number of arbitrary detentions in the island since September 2010. Yet, despite the first impression that the analysis of figures may give, the situation hasn’t improved. In fact, physical and verbal violence against activists and the number of acts of harassment has increased.
The Eastern Democratic Alliance (ADO), an organization whose main objective is to unify various civic associations defending human rights in the east of Cuba, celebrated the ninth anniversary of its foundation. The recent meeting of the organization was marked by reaffirmation of its commitment to restore democracy in Cuba.
According to the Cuban National Bureau of Statistics and Information (ONEI), a total of 1.47 million Cubans spent their holidays in Cuban hotels or used other tourist services on the island in 2012, producing revenues in the amount of 124 million dollars. In 2011, the number of Cubans was only 1.32 million and they generated 5.5% less income, according to data released by the ONEI.
Tourism is a strategic sector in the plan of changes carried out by the Cuban government as part of its effort to modernize its socialist economic model. It is the second largest inflow of foreign exchange to the island’s economy after technical and professional services.
In 2012, the Caribbean island was visited by 2,838,468 foreign tourists, which marks a 4.5% increase on the previous year. Most tourists are from Canada, England, Argentina, Germany, France, Italy, Russia and Mexico.
Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, was finally able to visit Philadelphia to receive an award for her efforts in the defence of homosexuals. At last, the U.S. State Department granted her visa, which she had been denied several times in the past.
According to the provisions of Presidential Proclamation 5377, the U.S. government is forbidden to grant visas to senior officers of the Cuban government or to Communist Party members, unless specifically authorized. The fact that Mariela Castro was granted a permission to visit the U.S. despite being a deputy of the Cuban parliament therefore raised a wave of criticism by many Cuban-American politicians, who accused Fidel Castro’s niece of being “an armed hand of the Cuban regime.” On the other hand, Berta Soler, president of the dissident group Ladies in White, wasn’t so upset by it. She said that “the only country that prevents its citizens from crossing borders is Cuba.”
Cuban government has given a permission to a U.S. doctor to visit Alan Gross, a 63-year-old American serving a 15-year sentence on the island on charge of having committed acts against “the independence and integrity of the State”. Gross’s arrest has been one of the main obstacles in the way of restoration of relationships between the two countries. The offer to grant the permit was made by Josefina Vidal, a senior officer of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, during her visit to the U.S.
A few months ago, the Cuban government denied Gross family’s request to allow their family physician to visit Gross in the military hospital, where he is serving his sentence.
On June 1, a helpline was set up to help curb sex discrimination. It will be available 24 hours a day. Any victim of rape or sexual discrimination as well as persons aware of any case or fact of similar nature can call number 538 61 902 for assistance.
Cuban blogger and independent journalist Yoani Sanchez returned to Havana on Thursday night after completing one of the most important international tours across Europe and the U.S. ever made by a Cuban dissident. “I’ve come back with many projects, exhausted by the demanding itinerary of the journey,” said Sanchez on her return. “It was a really wonderful journey, a journey that will change my life in many ways, from the human, journalistic, civic and technological point of view.”
Internationally, the tour undertaken by Sanchez has been a success, as experts on the Cuban issue claim. It had a similar impact as the visits to Europe and the U.S. made by the late Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), in 2003, and the opposition member Hector Palacios in 2008.
An hour of international Internet services: 4.5 convertible pesos (4.5 US dollars). An hour of national Internet services with international email access: 1.5 convertible pesos. An hour of surfing on the national intranet: 0.60 convertible pesos. These are the rates charged by the 118 new state internet centres opened in Cuba on June 4. A full monthly salary of an average Cuban will thus suffice for four and half hours of internet connection.
Access to the Internet from home PCs, mobile phones or laptops is not yet possible, although it’s part of the future plans, the government says.
According to official sources quoted by local media, Cuban government is planning to amend its foreign investment law by the end of this year as part of its endeavour to “upgrade” the Cuban socialist economic model. The Director of Finance of the Ministry of Foreign Commerce (MINCEX), Yamila Fernandez, explained that foreign investments should facilitate access to technologies, provide funding and access to markets as well as generate new jobs. Fernandez stated that “major efforts” have been expended to develop and update the portfolio of projects and businesses involving foreign capital, and “adequate pre-feasibility studies” have been carried out.
The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and the family of the late opposition leader Oswaldo Paya have officially brought their cause to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), denouncing “violation of the due course of investigation in the case of the deaths of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero,” a statement said.
They also submitted requests for taking precautionary measures to protect Paya’s widow, Ofelia Acevedo, and children, Oswaldo Jos, Rosa Maria and Reinaldo Isaias, “who have received death threats” as well as Yosvani Melchor Rodriguez, who has been imprisoned for over three years as an act of revenge on his mother, a MCL activist. “We believe that there is sufficient information outside of Cuba that will make it possible for an international investigation to begin. There are the survivors of the tragedy, the text messages sent after the accident, and also the version of the event given by the Cuban government – full of errors and contradictions, which are obvious at first sight and will be even more evident after they have been analysed by experts,” said Paya.
“It’s been a long, difficult way, but we have never lost faith that we would be able to come.” These were the words with which the representatives of the Ladies in White received the Sakharov Prize on April 23, which they were awarded by the European Parliament eight years before that. It was given to them in recognition of the courage they have shown in the fight for human rights since 2004. The Ladies in White movement was initially established to denounce the imprisonment of 75 dissidents. Gradually, it has become a symbol of the struggle against the Cuban regime. The 50,000 euro Sakharov Prize has been annually awarded since 1988 to appreciate outstanding individuals or organizations fighting for human rights.
On the closing day of the Oslo Freedom Forum, the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, received the Vaclav Havel Prize. The Cuban dissident said that the award comes as a recognition both for the Ladies in White and for the whole opposition movement on the island, which has been fighting for a democratic Cuba for many years. “There are no leftist or rightist dictatorships. There are simply dictatorships. We want a Cuba without Castro!,” concluded Soler.
After losing his great ally, Hugo Chavez, Cuban government plans to send 6,000 doctors to Brazil as part of its foreign policy. Doctors are to Cuba what oil is to Venezuela: an export commodity financing the bigger part of national budget and upholding its foreign policy.
For over 50 years, Cuba has been trading with international medical assistance with 107 countries worldwide, exchanging it for financial aid, loans and commercial arrangements. In the last decade, Cuba’s alliance with Venezuela has played a key role in the increase of Cuban medical diplomacy and support of the island’s economy.
At the moment, there are 31,000 Cuban medical professionals working in Venezuela within seven social programs (“missions”) focused on public health. In return for their services and other exports, Caracas ships to Havana 105,000 bpd of oil.
For another year, Cuba will remain on the list of countries promoting terrorism annually prepared by the U.S. State Department. Various exile associations and groups that have been pushing the Obama administration to remove Cuba from the list in recent months claim that its remaining on the list can be seen as the U.S. Congress admission of its hard line policy on Cuba.
Cuba was incorporated in the list of terrorist countries in 1982 due to providing support to communist groups in Africa and Latin America in the 60s and 70s. At the moment, only Iran, Sudan and Syria are on the list of countries promoting terrorism in addition to Cuba.
The widow of the leading dissident Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, Ofelia Acevedo, and their two children still living in Cuba decided to go into exile. After considering the increasing number of threats and harassment, to which the family have been subjected since the death of Paya and Harold Cepero, they took advantage of a U.S. refugee program and left Cuba on July 22, 2012.
Last Saturday, Fidel Castro received a visit by Diego Armando Maradona, his personal friend and a great admirer of the Cuban revolution. “It was a fraternal meeting of two friends,” commented the football star after the information on their reunion leaked out. Former Argentine football player No. 10 came from Caracas, where he had paid tribute to Hugo Chavez and where he had also met with the successor as president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro.
Fidel Castro and Diego Maradona have been friends since the footballer’s first visit to Cuba in 1987, when he underwent treatment to cure his addiction to cocaine and various health problems.
Antonio Castro Soto del Valle, one of Fidel Castro’s five sons, has become a supporter of resurrection of golf in Cuba – half a century after his father and Ernesto Che Guevara parodied it in order to ridicule the bourgeoisie sports entertainment. This week, Castro Soto del Valle won the 5th edition of the Montecristo Cup held in the Varadero resort, which attracted 100 participants from 15 countries. Regardless of the fact that he has taken up as a hobby a sport stigmatized by the 1959 Revolution, his presence in the international championship had a promotion objective: two years ago, Cuba approved 16 tourism projects aimed at wealthy travellers, which also involve golf and golf courses.
The life of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez will be made into a film. With the help of the funding platform Kickstarter, the organizers of the project entitled “Yoani, the Movie” have managed to gather the 108,000 US dollars they needed to be able to carry it out. The film crew has already spent 16 days in Cuba, interviewing the blogger’s relatives and friends and examining places for shooting, said a note published on Kickstarter.
In April, the Hablemos Press information centre registered a total of 377 cases of politically motivated arrests of activists and opposition members.
At dawn on April 10, Miguel Alberto Ulloa and Reinier Mulet Levis, aged 27 and 29 respectively, were arrested and taken to the Technical Centre of Police Instruction of the National Revolutionary Police, where they were interrogated for several days. The two young men are still held in the Valle Grande prison, waiting for a trial. They are accused of “damaging State property” for having painted signs demanding the release of the journalist Calixto Ramon Martinez Arias.
It should be emphasized that the Cuban government has made great endeavour in its new strategy to clean up its image before the international community and create an impression of a country respecting human rights. As part of the new international propaganda tactics, the government has organized a visit for a group of journalists to some preselected and carefully prepared prisons. It should be noted that Cuba still refuses to allow organizations like the Red Cross or Amnesty International to visit the country’s prisons, which cannot be visited by any of the UN special rapporteurs either. Also, Cuba still refuses to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which would involve acceptance of a system of visits to any Cuban detention centre.
Luis Enrique Lozada Igarza, human rights activist, went on hunger strike that lasted for nearly a month in order to show disapproval with his unjust imprisonment and demand his immediate release. Dozens of people who sympathized with his cause went on hunger strike to support him, especially in the East, where there were over 60 hunger strikers in April.
In April there was a growing number of cases of physical violence against human rights activists and members of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU). The organization has been increasing its representation and presence in the eastern part of the country, which has lead to attacks, displays of aggression and acts of repudiation against UNPACU members, authorized and incited by the State Security with the aim to intimidate them and stop their activities.
In May, the Hablemos Press information centre registered the total of 323 cases of arrests of dissidents, activists and regime opponents.
Cuban government was subjected to the Universal Periodic Review of the UN’s Human Rights Council. In an attempt to create an impression of normality in the eyes of the international community, the government submitted and defended a report emphasizing its efforts to protect human rights and improve the situation in the country regarding human rights. However, it was obvious that Cuba had failed to comply with the recommendations made by the Human Rights Council after the previous review. So far it hasn’t ratified the 1966 Covenants and it has failed to amend the country’s legislation to comply with its international obligations. Also, it hasn’t created any legal remedies that would guarantee the independence of courts and protection of civil rights.
Evictions have increased in recent months: the growing number of people forced to leave their homes is alarming. The reasons of evictions vary: sometimes they are ordered for the sake of the occupants’ safety (when their housing is no longer habitable), but often they are a result of construction failures and inefficiency of the State administration.
Evictions should never result in people becoming homeless. If the evicted citizens lack resources, the State should take all necessary measures to provide them with alternative housing, find them a new home or give them access to plots, where they could build a house, plots that are currently withheld from Cubans, so that they can be open for foreign investment.
June saw the lowest number of arbitrary detentions in the island since September 2010. Yet, despite the first impression that the analysis of figures may give, the situation hasn’t improved. In fact, physical and verbal violence against activists and the number of acts of harassment has increased. Displays of aggressions are not only permitted by the State’s repressive authorities but are often encouraged or even organized by them.
One of the new tactics used by agents of the State Security and the National Revolutionary Police employed in recent months has been to detain activists and opponents and drive them several miles from the place of detention or residence, where they are released. This form of detention helps the State Security prevent activists from participating in events, activities and meetings of any kind, while still retaining the impression of normality in the eyes of the international community, since this type of abuse is more difficult to verify or report.
Attacks against opponents have also continued with tacit approval of the State Security, which lets perpetrators of such aggressive acts go unpunished by failing to pursue them or institute criminal proceedings to punish them. Four members of the internal opposition were attacked with machetes by supporters of the Regime in June, according to the Hablemos Press information centre.
Although the government continues to grant petitions of opponents to travel abroad, it is still systematically violating the right of all Cubans to move freely across their home country. The threat of detention and deportation is looming over Cuban citizens in all the country’s provinces. It should also be borne in mind that in spite of allowing some citizens to travel abroad, Cuba still refuses to grant a permission to visit Cuba to thousands of Cubans living abroad.