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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 12 • March 15-31, 2006


Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency, based in Moscow, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. Items in this issue are based on reports from Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Information Bridge, and PRIMA-News.

OPPOSITION

13/03/06
Guillermo Fariñas’ Mother Gives Details about His Condition

Alicia Hernández, mother of independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas and a medical nurse by training, told a group of oppositionists in the province of Santa Clara about the state of health of her son, who is on a hunger strike refusing food and water since January 31.  She said Fariñas is suffering from headaches, bad sleep, cramps and swollen lower extremities. He has also lost much weight. The mother of the oppositionist said, “For me, it is the situation of uncertainty. It keeps me in suspense. It kills me to see him fading away.”

Guillermo Fariñas is in the intensive care unit at the Arnoldo Milián Castro hospital in the province of Santa Clara, and he is being fed with an IV drip. His mother is worried that Fariñas has been refusing liquids for the last five days or so, which might cause an acute kidney failure, heart problems, and a comatose state at any moment. The peaceful oppositionist is demanding that all Cubans have unrestricted access to the Internet, the reason for starting his hunger strike. He has been refusing both food and water for more than a month now. Guillermo Fariñas, 43, is director of the Cubanacán Press news agency. This is his twentieth hunger strike. In 2002, he was sentenced to six years of internal exile for an alleged crime against public security.

See also item below.

13/03/2006
“Down with Fidel!”

Havana. Millions of Cuban TV viewers all across the island watching the teams of Cuba and the Netherlands play live in Puerto Rico saw on their screens the forbidden slogan “Down with Fidel!” These words were written on a banner carried by a baseball fan. Nothing is known about this man except his name, Enrique, who sat in the stands in a way which TV cameras could not avoid showing the banner. This occurrence has provoked an excessive outburst from the Cuban regime, which staged a protest outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. The Cuban authorities have even threatened to withdraw the Cuban athletes from the World Classic of Baseball should anything of that kind happen again.

13/03/2006
Oppositionists Appeal for Solidarity and Support

Pinar del Rio. Dissidents from the Pinar del Rio province have appealed to the international community for solidarity in the face of crackdown launched by the political police against them. In recent months, dissidents, oppositionists and independent Cuban journalists have been subjected to raids and threats by political police. “We are afraid that we will soon witness a new wave of repression similar to the one that happened in March 2003. These threats and searches at our homes might become a prelude to what the authorities are planning against us in future. We are calling on the international community to express solidarity with us in order to prevent a new wave of repression against oppositionists and independent journalists,” said Roberto Estrella Salas, an authorized representative of the People’s Party in this province.

15/03/2006
Opposition Youth Honors José Antonio Echevarría

Havana. Members of the Cuban Youth for Democracy movement, led by its chairman Néstor Rodríguez Lobaina, held a commemoration of José Antonio Echevarría, chairman of the University Student Federation (FEU) who was killed in March 1957 in the events following the takeover of Radio Reloj and the attack on the Presidential Palace. Nine members of the Youth for Democracy movement made a pilgrimage to José Antonio’s home in his native town and then to the cemetery in the town of Cárdenas in Matanzas province where he was buried. After placing flowers at his grave, they paid tribute to the former student leader in their speeches, Rodríguez Lobaina said.

Another six members laid flowers on a spot near the University of Havana where he had received his fatal wound in the raid on Radio Reloj. There is a special mark indicating this spot. “As a proof that there is still student opposition against tyranny and totalitarianism in Cuba that is suppressing the nation, we are today remembering José Antonio Echevarría,” Rodríguez Lobaina stated. “He is not a hero of the Cuban government propaganda or any political party. He is a hero of the student struggle, he is a hero of the people of Cuba fighting for their freedom and democracy,” he stressed.

17/03/2006
Anti-Government Slogans in Havana

Havana. On March 11, some twenty policemen raided a two block-area on San Francisco Street in the Lowton district after graffiti “Down with Fidel!” and “Fidel the Dictator” were spotted there. The police came in four jeeps, four trucks and several motorbikes to carry out the raid, setting up a temporary police post at the Pestalozzi elementary school, taking pictures of the graffiti, questioning residents, and calling on house-painters to paint over the slogans, which were considered seditious. The anti-government messages appeared on San Francisco Street after Castro called for a demonstration outside the U.S. Interests Section in Havana to protest the banner “Down with Fidel!” that was carried by a baseball fan at the World Classic of Baseball in Puerto Rico and allowed to be shown on television.

15/03/2006
Information Bridge Cuba-Miami: Urgent SOS for the Life of Doctor Guillermo Fariñas Hernández

If God wants me to die, I will die. I will be a martyr for the free information in the world. --- Guillermo Fariñas Hernández

After hearing reports of a turn for the worse of Cuban hunger striker Guillermo Farinas Hernandez’s health, the Information Bridge Cuba-Miami Independent Press Bureau, including its correspondents on the island and the Executive Board abroad, as well as the organization Net For Cuba International, launched an urgent SOS to the international community as a last effort to save the life of this valiant Cuban human rights activist.

Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, an independent journalist, began an indefinite hunger strike without fluids last January 31 to protest the restrictions placed on internet access by the Cuban government and to demand that the Cuban government allow free access to the Internet from home telephones. Hernandez is director of Cubanacan Press and the the Villa Clara correspondent for Information Bridge Cuba-Miami Independent Press Bureau.

The statement declares, “In a letter addressed to Fidel Castro, Doctor Fariñas has raised his voice, at the risk of loosing his life, demanding his inalienable right to access cyber space freely. May this urgent SOS for the life of this valiant Cuban activist be heard and acted upon by all men and women of goodwill around the world. We cannot allow our brother Guillermo Fariñas Hernández to die due to the unyielding, insensibility and arrogance of the totalitarian Cuban government.”

The statement provided the following channels to express concern and support Farinas’s demand:

CUBA
Fidel Castro Ruz
President of the State Councils and Ministers
Palace of the Revolution
Havana-CUBA

Roberto T. Díaz Sotolongo, Cuban Minister of Justice (Fax: 537-511-122)
Ing. Felipe Pérez Roque, Cuban Minister of  Foreign Affairs (Fax: 537-333-085.  E-mail cubaminrex@minrex.gov.cu)
Attorney General of the Republic (Email: fisgecu@tinored.cu)
Public Health Minister ( Office) (Email: ofmin@ceniai.cu)
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada, President of the Cuban, National Assembly of the Popular Power (Fax: 537-203-0182.  E-mail: anppci@cenial.inf.cu)

Apostolic Nunciatura en Cuba
Calle 12 # 514,
e/ 5ta Y 7ma Avenida.
Miramar. La Habana. Cuba.
Teléfonos: (537) 24-2700; 24-2296, Fax: 24-5722

General Secretariat of the Conference of Catholic
Bishops of Cuba
Calle 26 N° 314, e/ 3ra y 5ta ave. Miramar Ciudad de La Habana
Teléfonos: (537) 29-2298, 29-2395, 24-2001, Fax: (537) 24-2168

Diocese of Cienfuegos/ Santa Clara (Email: bishop@ceniai.cu)

Newspaper "Computacion" / Editora Abril–UJC  (Email: compu@tinored.cu)
Granma Internacional / La Habana (Email:granmai@tinored.cu)
Press Information Center (Email: cip@ceniai.cu)
Prensa Latina / S.A (Email: prela@ceniai.cu)

Cuban Movement for Peace (Email: cupaz@tinored.cu)
Cuban Association of the United Nations (Email: acnu@ceniai.cu)
Cuban UNESCO-CNCU Commission (Email: cncu@ceniai.cu)
Medicaba (Email: medicuba@ceniai.cu)
Fidel Castro Diaz-Balart (Email: siva@ceniai.cu)

INTERNATIONAL
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL SECRETARIAT
Web site: www.amnesty.org, Telephone: 44-20-74135500, Fax Number: 44-20-79561157
Address: 1 Easton Street, London, WC1X 0DW, UK

AI, UNITED STATES
Web site: www.amnestyusa.org,  Email: admin-us@aiusa.org
Teléfono: +1-212 807 8400, Fax:: 1-212 463 9193\1 212 627 1451
322 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10001, USA

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
350 Fifth Avenue, 34th floor, New York, NY 10118-3299, USA
Email: hrwnyc@hrw.org
Tel: 1-(212) 290-4700, Fax: 1-(212) 736-1300
New York Office: Email: hrwnyc@hrw.org
Washington D.C. office: Email: hrwdc@hrw.org
London Office: Email: hrwuk@hrw.org

European Parliament Human Rights Unit
ATR 3K060
Rue Wiertz, B-1047 Brussels
Email: XP-DROI@europarl.eu.int

INTERNATIONAL RED CROSS
Washington D.C. Regional Delegation
2100 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Suite 545, WASHINGTON D.C. 20037, USA
E-mail: washington.was@icrc.org

ICRC Regional Delegation/Mexico
Calderón de la Barca No. 210, Colonia Polanco
Delegación Miguel Hidalgo, MEXICO C.P.11550
E-mail: email.mex@icrc.org

COMMITTEE TO PROTECT JOURNALISTS
330 7th Ave. 12th Fl., New York, NY, 10001
Email: Americas@cpj.org, Tel.: 1-212 465 1004, Fax: 1-212 465 9568

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS
5, rue Geoffroy-Marie, 75009 Paris, France
Web : www.rsf.org, E-mail : rsf@rsf.org , Tel..:  33-1-44 83 84 84, Fax. 33 1 45 23 11 51

FIDH (Federación Internacional de Ligas de Derechos Humanos)
Tel. and Fax: FIDH : + 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / + 33 (0) 1 43 55 18 80
E-mail: observatoire@iprolink.ch;  fidh@worldcom.ch

Please also contact the Cuban mission in Washington by phone (202) 797-8518, and Cuban diplomats in embassies all over the world.
 

POLITICAL REPRESSION

14/03/2006
Opposition Youth Accused of Posing a Threat

Havana. Two youth, Víctor Yunier Fernández Martín, 22, and Joenne Alonso Saiz, 24, were arrested on March 8 and March 10, respectively, and accused of “dangerous behavior,” according to the youths’ mothers. Víctor Yunier works as a tin smith at a metropolitan trade enterprise and is an activist of the Republican People’s Party. Joenne works as a laborer at a state farmers’ market and belongs to the November 30 Frank País (Free Country) Movement. The two are in custody at the 11th district police station in the municipality of San Miguel del Padrón. They have not been visited by any defense lawyers; a policewoman advised them to hire a lawyer by Wednesday, March 15. Their most serious crime is participation in an anti-government hunger strike which was held from February 14 to 24 in the María Luisa neighborhood of Maria Luisa municipality to demand that the Cuban regime stop acts of repudiation against peaceful oppositionists. The two detained youth face 1 to 4 years in jail.

15/03/2006
A Lady in White Speaks Out About State Security Threats

Havana. Dolia Leal Francisco, wife of prisoner of conscience Nelson Aguiar Ramírez, reported an intimidation and blackmail attempt by state security agents named Marcos and David. The incident, she said, took place in the Carlos J. Finlay military hospital on March 13. She is regularly subject to threats and blackmail for her membership in Ladies in White, a group campaigning for the release of political prisoners, and also for belonging to the Liberal Orthodox Party headed by her husband.

The authorities consider the activities of these groups detrimental and counterrevolutionary. Leal Francisco said in a telephone conversation, “To intimidate me, they warned that my actions could negatively affect Nelson. They threatened to deny Nelson a parole and make him serve his sentence to the last day should I continue my membership in the Ladies in White. Nelson Aguiar Ramírez, 60, has been held in a prison ward of the military hospital since November 30, 2004 because of degenerative arthrosis, discal hernia, chronic high blood pressure, gastric diastasis, venous insufficiency, a first stage prostate hyperplasia and other health problems.

“Neither my husband nor I will ever do anything dishonest . . . . Before world public opinion, I would like to denounce the Cuban government for cruelties committed against those who oppose the regime,” Leal Francisco said.

15/03/2006
Oppositionists Persecuted, Not Allowed to Leave the Country

Havana. Peaceful oppositionists Alfredo Suárez Leandro, Andrés Rosabal Alarcón. and Adolfo Peraza Rico and their families have received U.S. entry visas but have been unable to get exit permits from the Cuban authorities since 2005. On the evening of March 13, the three Cubans were detained outside the Immigration and Foreigners Department in the metropolitan municipality of Playa. Speaking after the release, Suárez Leandro said by phone that on the morning of the 13th they applied in person at the department for permission to leave the country, which they regard as their lawful right. Since 2005, they have been denied the so-called white card, which is obligatory for everyone wishing to leave the country. The authorities have been refusing to grant them permission without giving any reasons. The three oppositionists were detained at about 5 pm by police officers led by a state security agent named Omar. Suárez Leandro was taken to the Capri police station in Arroyo Naranjo municipality, while Rosabal Alarcón and Peraza Rico were taken to a police station in Playa municipality. They were threatened with prison should they come again to the department with the same intentions.

17/03/2006
Dissident Sentenced to Three Years in Jail

Havana. Aníbal Torres Deslile, a member of the opposition Cuban Liberal Movement, was sentenced in February to three years in prison for “being a social threat.” Prior to the arrest, Torres had been subjected to “repudio” acts which were staged outside his home. Torres is serving his term in Prison no. 1580 in Havana.
 

POLITICAL PRISONERS

13/03/2006
Political Prisoner’s Wife Appeals to the Pope and Fidel Castro

Caibarién. Gisela Delgado Sablón, wife of political prisoner Héctor Palacios Ruiz, has sent a letter to Pope Benedict XVI and the Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Sablón has also appealed to all people of good will across the world. In her letters, she is making a plea for her husband’s release on health grounds.
Sablón, a member of the group Ladies in White, told Villa Blanca Press agency that her husband had been at a hospital unit in the Combinado del Este prison in Havana since June 25, 2005, and that she was growing increasingly worried about Héctor as he has suffered yet another attack of ischemia several days ago. For two years, Palacios Ruiz, 64, has been suffering from several life-threatening chronic diseases, including ischemia, high arterial pressure, and pulmonary emphysema.Palacios Ruiz was incarcerated in March 2003 together with the 74 pro-democracy activists and independent journalists. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for being the director of the unofficial Center of Social Studies.

14/03/2006
Independent Trade Union Activist Held Hostage

Havana. Independent trade union activist Lázaro González Adán has been held for 17 months in the Cerámica Roja (Red Ceramic) prison without being officially charged by the prosecutor’s office. Speaking from the prison by phone, González Adán said his incarceration was absolutely arbitrary. “I consider myself a hostage of the regime that is trying to intimidate me and other oppositionists on the island to make us stop our anti-government civic activity,” he stressed. González Adán was arrested on October 14, 2004, at his home in the town of Sibanicú, Camagüey province, by four agents of the National Revolutionary Police. They beat him and then dragged him, barefoot and shirtless, out of the house to a police jeep.

After 17 months in detention on remand on suspicion of disobedience, resistance and disrespect, he has not yet stood the trial. “I am here for painting a Cuban flag and writing two phrases of Jose Marti on the facade of my house. I believe that mine is not an isolated case, but part of the chain of abuse and violations of all rights by the Castro dictatorship that we have the dignity to openly challenge,” González Adán said.

15/03/2006
Montes de Oca Sends a Letter from Prison

Havana. Eight months after his arrest on July 13, 2005, peaceful oppositionist René Montes de Oca Martija has sent a letter from the Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey province urging Cuban oppositionists and independent librarians to go on with their activities. De Oca Martija claims that the Cuban authorities have kidnapped him, holding him more than 500 km away from his home without bringing a charge against him and without observing proper legal procedures.

Montes de Oca Martija is general secretary of the Pro Human Rights Party of Cuba which is a member of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation. He is 42. He was detained by the Cuban authorities on July 13, 2005, near Havana’s Coach Terminal, for laying flowers with other rights activists on the Malecón Embankment to commemorate the victims of the “13 March” tugboat incident. [O July 13, 1994, Cuban authorities caused the deaths of 41 women, and children seeking to leave the island on a small tugboat named “13 March” after the famous failed student uprising against Batista. --- Editor’s Note]

18/03/2006
Three Years after “Black Spring” the Independent Press Refuses to Remain in the Dark

Below is the summary of the 11-page report on Cuba’s independent press recently published by the Reporters without Borders:

On March 18, 2003, an unprecedented wave of repression broke over Cuban dissidents. For three days, ninety opponents of the regime were arrested on grounds that they were "agents of the American enemy." Among them were twenty-seven journalists. Nearly all of them were tried under the "88 Law" of February 1999, which protects the "national independence and economy of Cuba," and were given prison sentences ranging from 14 to 27 years.

This "black spring" dealt a heavy blow to Cuba’s independent press, which had started to emerge on the island in the early 1990s with the creation of small news agencies. Since the latter’s founders and directors who had been thrown in jail, many journalists preferred to give up their profession or opt for a life of exile. Did independent journalism die out in Cuba that day?

Three years after the crackdown, Reporters Without Borders wanted to take stock of the situation. Unable to send representatives to Cuba, the organization contacted journalists who were still living on the island, or in exile, members of an agency or freelancers, families of jailed dissidents and media outlets - such as Internet websites, radio stations, and publications - most of whom are based in Miami (the second largest Cuban city in the world, with close to 3 million nationals), Puerto Rico, and Madrid. Although it is difficult at present to estimate the exact number of working journalists in Cuba, and their working conditions are even more precarious in the wake of a new wave of repression that has begun to spread across the country, the unofficial Cuban press has not given up. In fact, it constitutes the top news source on the status of human rights on the island. However, its clandestine situation has forced it to be a press "from the inside for the outside", one nearly inaccessible to those whom it covers on a daily basis.

For the full report, go to: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16771
 

REFUGEES

15/03/2006
Eight Cuban Youths Attempt to Flee the Island on Makeshift Raft

Havana. On March 2, eight young dissidents fled Cuba on a makeshift raft. Three of them are now back in Cuba. The dead body of another rafter was netted by fishermen and the rest were reported missing at sea. The eight Cubans belonged to the anti-government groups Plantados hasta la Libertad y Democracia (Non-Cooperation Until Freedom and Democracy) and Comisión Nacional Cuba. After the waves had overturned the raft several times, it had broken in half. The oars, food and drinking water were all lost at sea.

Omar Bustamante, a survivor making his tenth attempt to reach the U.S., recalled that he and two of his friends were clinging to one part of the raft, and the other five, to the other. Bustamante,Yoan Risco Bidot and Julio Beltrán were picked up at sea by fishermen and handed over to coastal guards in Cuba. The survivors suffered from sun stroke and were offered hospital treatment. Bustamante refused and was taken to a police department for questioning.
 

OTHER NEWS

17/03/2006
Old American Fridges to Be Exchanged for Chinese Brands

Havana. Owners of old American refrigerators have to exchange them for brand new Chinese ones at a discount price. This is part of Fidel Castro’s energy-saving plan announced by the Cuban leader last year. Chinese models are considered to be more “energy efficient” than decades-old American ones. Some Cubans claim the old ones are better, however. “I have a fridge made in 1951 that still works as on its first day, and I don’t want to get rid of it,” a Cuban said.  The government has launched a refrigerator census. They are checking every household to determine Cuba’s need for Chinese fridges.
 
 

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The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. Items are based on or reproduced with attribution from other news agencies. Please direct inquiries and comments to Editor, Cuba Chronicle of Events, Prima-News at prima@prima-news.ru or to idee@idee.org.