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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 13 • March 20-April 15, 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, PRIMA-News, PRIME-TAS, Interfax, Utro.ru, Puente Informativo Cuba-Miami, Reporters Without Borders, Daily Telegraph, Associated Press, RIA-Novosti, RBK, NTA-Privolzhiye.

OPPOSITION

22/03/2006
Guillermo Fariñas Hernández Enters 50th Day of Hunger Strike in Critical Condition

Cuban independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas Hernández is in serious condition after ending a 50th day of his dry hunger strike. At present, the dissident is in an intensive care unit at Arnaldo Milián Castro hospital in Santa Clara, said Argelia Quintero Benitez , wife of Julio César Montes Nerey, deputy coordinator of the Christian Democratic Movement of Cuba.

“Guillermo is seriously ill. For the time being, he has no fever, but we are greatly worried. With every day passing, our brother is becoming weaker and weaker. We are afraid of a fatal outcome. This government has been refusing to respond to Fariñas’s calls, but Guillermo is committed to continue his hunger strike to the end,” Quintero said by telephone.

She continued, “Oppositionists, dissidents and residents of Santa Clara are appealing to the world community to intercede for Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, a psychologist, human rights activist, dissident and independent Cuban journalist, before it is too late. Please, urge the Cuban government to lend its ear to and meet demands of our brother for free access to the Internet, in order to save the life of this courageous Cuban.”

 29/03/2006
Anti-Government Graffiti in Rodas Municipality

Cienfuegos. Anti-government signs appeared on two downtown streets in the municipality of Rodas. One, reading “Long Live Bush, Down with Fidel!”, drew curious passers-by on Independencia Street. Another sign on Martí Street said, “Long Live Bush’s Fifth Congress,” an allusion to the fact that the Communist Party of Cuba will shortly hold a congress. Lázaro Roger Avilés, who reported this information, said, “This is just a reflection of the frustration that affects the Cuban people.”
 

POLITICAL REPRESSION

21/03/2006
Independent Journalist Luis Cino Threatened by State Security

Havana. State Security agents threatened independent journalist Luis Cino with 30 years of prison if he continued his dissident work. Cino was ordered to appear at a station of the National Revolutionary Police in the municipality of Marianao. An agent named Iván told Cino that he had already received two warnings about working as an independent journalist, adding that for that the previous warnings would make it easier to send him to prison.

21/03/2006
Dissidents Suppressed on Anniversary of 2003 Arrests

Havana. Homes under siege, threats, and arrests were the order of the day as Cuban authorities tried to prevent dissidents from commemorating the third anniversary of the crackdown known as Black Spring.

        Alejandrina García de la Riva, the wife of Diosdado González Marrero, one of 75 dissidents arrested on March 18, 2003, said that Ladies in White, a group of wives and mothers of political prisoners, were threatened by members of rapid response brigades and State Security.

        Loida Valdés, wife of prisoner Alfredo Felipe, said she was told by a group of 10 persons who visited her home in Havana province that she should not travel to the capital for commemorative ceremonies.

        Lieut. Col. José Mariño of the political police in Ciego de Ávila took the identity documents of the wife of prisoner Pablo Pacheco and Yolanda Vera, wife of Pedro Argüelles, another prisoner.

        Melba Hernández, wife of prisoner Alfredo Domínguez, and Giselda Verdecia, wife of prisoner Reinaldo Labrada, were removed from a bus in Puerto Padre, Las Tunas province, to prevent them from going to the capital. Yaraí Reyes, wife of prisoner Normando Hernández, was harassed at a bus terminal in Camagüey.

        Ada Rosa Borrego, the mother of prisoner Horacio Piña, rejected an offer to have her son brought from prison for one day if she agreed not to go elsewhere to protest.

        Carmelo Díaz Fernández, president of the Christian Union Movement who is under house arrest after being released from prison, couldn’t leave his home for 13 hours as members of rapid response brigades camped out downstairs.

        Alexander Roberto Fernández Rico, coordinator of the Neo-Catholic Party, and fellow dissidents Miguel Alvarado, Yunieski Puebla, Jorge Marrero, and Gerardo Lazcano, were detained in the home of another dissident in La Palma and held overnight at police headquarters. They were fined 30 pesos each.

22/03/2006
500 Join Mob Surrounding Home of a Lady in White

Havana. About 500 pro-government demonstrators surrounded the home of the 41-year-old Isel Acosta, the wife of political prisoner Blas Giraldo Reyes, in Sancti Spíritus, making it impossible for her to travel to Havana. From 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm, the crowd camped out outside the house of the activist of the Ladies in White group that is campaigning against the imprisonment of dissidents arrested in the March 2003 crackdown.   On March 17, Acosta was prevented from leaving her home to travel to Havana where other members of the Ladies in White were gathering at the time to mark the 3rd anniversary of the mass arrests of dissidents.

22/03/2006
Sugar Mill Worker Sacked for Being a Dissident

Matanzas. Juan Francisco Sigler Amaya, a member of the board of directors of the Alternative Option Independent Movement (MIOA), said he was fired a few days ago from his job at the Cuba Libre sugar operation because of his political views. Sigler Amaya, 53, said mill manager Orlando Martínez Acosta cited Law 1 of 2001 as cause for his dismissal. Martinez Acosta said the worker met in his home with people opposed to the “ideological principles” of the Revolution. “This is evidently a political act, planned by the State Security and carried out by its unconditional collaborators,” Sigler Amaya held.

23/03/2006                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Home of Mother of Dissident Searched

Ciego de Avila. The home of Vitalia López Marín, ailing mother of dissident Osmel Sánchez López, was searched. When Sánchez López returned from a trip to Havana, two men who identified themselves as State Security agents and the president of the local revolution defense committee were waiting inside the house. He said they took four radios, various books and a list of 416 political prisoners in Cuba. ánchez López does not live with his mother. After the incident, he had to call a doctor to his mother.

27/03/2006
Three Opposition Activists Sentenced as “dangers” to Society

Havana. Three dissidents have been sentenced on charges of being a “danger” to society.
Raudel Martínez Gómez, 25, and Víctor Yunier Fernández Martínez, 22, received sentences of three years in prison while Joenny Alonso Saiz received a sentence of three years of home detention. Martínez Gómez is the son of political prisoner Raúl Martínez Prieto. He was sentenced on February 23 following his trial. Fernández Martínez, a member of the Popular Republican Party, and Alonso Saiz of the November 30 Frank País Democratic Party, were convicted on March 15.

28/03/2006
Police Search Home of Opposition Pacifist

Pinar del Rio. Two political police agents searched the home of Juan González Lugo, a member of the opposition People’s Party. “The policemen showed up at my house and without showing me any search warrants searched everywhere,” he said. “They didn’t find anything, but they insisted that they knew I had visited the home of the delegate of the People’s Party and that I had propaganda in my possession.”
González Lugo said the agents promised to return in the next few days to look for the propaganda.

27/03/2006
Political Police Threaten Journalist for Abdala Press

Pinar del Rio.  Two political police agents entered on March 21 the home of Genaro Martínez, a reporter for Abdala Press, and threatened him, the journalist said. “They told me the purpose of their visit was to talk to me about my activities as a reporter for a dissident news agency, Abdala Press,” Genaro Martínez said.
The policemen took his identity card and issued a citation to appear the next day at the municipal police headquarters, where he was issued a warning. According to Martínez, the visitors also searched his home and took a shortwave radio and a camera.

28/03/2006
Dissident’s Telephone Service Cut

Ciego de Avila. Waldímar Parra Santana, president of the Independent Farmworkers League, says he has been without telephone service since February 9. He said service was cut after the municipal president of the block committees visited his mother and played for her the tape of a news story he had filed to Radio Martí. He said the official accused him of using his telephone for "counterrevolutionary" activities.
Parra Santana said he has been many times to the Empresa de Tele Comunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA) but is always told that nothing can be done to reestablish his telephone service.

29/03/2006
Anti-Government Graffiti Spark Repression

Palma Soriano.  The recent appearance of anti-government signs in Palma Soriano, in the towns of Palmarito, Mella, San Luís, Alto Songo, La Maya and the city of Santiago de Cuba, has caused a wave of repression against dissidents. Anilla López, chairman of a local revolution defense committee, publicly blamed dissident Orlando Pérez Aguilera for signs saying “Down with Fidel!” and “Freedom to the 75!”  Pérez Aguilera was subjected to physical abuse.

In the municipality of Mella, agents of the National Revolutionary Police broke into the home of dissident Yunier Santos de la Cruz, saying they were searching for paint and paint brushes used for writing the signs. They seized a shortwave radio and literature from the European Union.
Santos de la Cruz was taken to Santiago. There he was promised help if he agreed to become a government informant. He was held there for three days.

10/04/2006
Independent Press Bureau Informs about Detention of Its Director

Havana. The Information Bridge Cuba Miami Independent Press Bureau reported that on April 9, Carlos Serpa Maceira, an independent journalist from Lux-Info-Press who is also director of the Information Bridge Cuba Miami Independent Press Bureau was detained at the Nueva Gerona maritime station by the National Revolutionary Police under orders of the Cuban State Security as he was set to travel by boat to Havana from the Isle of Pines (Pinos).

The journalist was brought to a local police station where he was subjected to a physical search and all his personal belongings were also searched. During the search, police confiscated a DVD equipment he was carrying, a cassette with recorded news programs of TV Martí and a text denouncing human rights violations in Cuba. The journalist was released an hour later, making it impossible for him to take the boat to Havana.
 

POLITICAL PRISONERS

24/03/2006
Jailed Journalist Sews His Lips Shut

Ciego de Avila. Independent journalist and prisoner of conscience Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, who has been sentenced to 20 years in the case of 75 dissidents, sewed his lips shut to protest against beatings he was subjected to in Kilo 8 prison in the city of Camagüey on March 21-22.

Herrera Acosta, who is on the 19th day of his hunger strike, was maltreated by prison officers who handcuffed and beat him and tore his T-shirt with anti-government slogans, reported Juan Carlos González Leyva, chairman of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights (FCDH). According to González Leyva, Herrera has become very weak and his health suffers from several diseases, including high blood pressure, chronic gastritis and occipital arthritis.

27/03/2006
Reporters Without Borders Call for Humanitarian Gesture toward Two Journalists

Reporters Without Borders voiced alarm about the state of health of the two imprisoned journalists who are on hunger strike, Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta and Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, calling for a humanitarian gesture from the Cuban authorities and for foreign embassies in Havana to intercede.

“How are we to interpret this indifference about the slow death of two individuals who are just demanding the right to express their views and surf the Internet freely,” the press freedom organization said. “And what danger could possibly come from the two people who are so physically and mentally debilitated?”

Reporters Without Borders added : “The silence from the authorities could reinforce the feeling of many prisoners and dissidents that they have nothing to lose, and could thereby encourage more hunger strikes. We reiterate our appeal to the Cuban government for clemency and we urge the foreign embassies in Havana to monitor the cases of Herrera and Fariñas closely.”

28/03/2006
Imprisoned Female Journalist Granted Conditional Release

Havana. Independent journalist Lamaciel Gutiérrez Romero, who reports for Nueva Prensa Cubana, was granted a conditional release from jail on March 22. Gutiérrez Romero had been arrested October 11 and later sentenced to seven months in jail on charges of disobedience and resisting arrest. Her husband, Rolando Jiménez Posadas, has been sentenced to three years on charges of insulting the regime, enemy propaganda, and divulging state secrets.

02/04/2006
Cuban Political Prisoner Still on Hunger Strike

Havana. Cuban political prisoner and independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez is on a hunger strike since last March 21, protesting the abuses he is being subjected to in prison as well as the fact that he has been jailed without trial for fourteen months now. According to his family, Guerra Perez wrote 17 letters to his relatives, but prison officials never mailed them. The 27-year-old independent journalist from Havana has been held in prison without trial since July 13, 2005. On January 20, 2006, he was transferred to Nieves Morejón prison in Sancti Spiritu while his legal situation is still in limbo.
 

REFUGEES

07/04/2006
A Migrant Smuggler Shot Dead by Cuban Coast Guard

Havana. The Cuban Coast Guard shot and killed one suspected migrant smuggler and rounded up 39 would-be migrants. The incident took place in the province of Pinar del Rio in western Cuba. The Cuban Coast Guard opened fire after a boat with the three-man crew aboard refused orders to halt their boat and nearly got the Coast Guard craft overturned. Two crew members from the U.S.-registered boat were wounded and taken to a local hospital. One of them died. The identity of the two surviving men was immediately known. Both of them are U.S. citizens. According to Cuban authorities, the crew had been engaged in illegal migrant smuggling, often carrying 30 or 40 people on a boat, charging them around $10,000 each. Cuban authorities later temporarily took into custody 39 people they believe had been scheduled to leave the island on the speedboat. Some of them were later released.

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

22/03/2006
Castro Congratulates Lukashenko on Election Victory

Minsk, Belarus. Fidel Castro congratulated, through his special envoy, the Belarusian leader on impressive victory in election. He called Alexander Lukashenko’s victory a “charming and impressive” win. The Cuban leader also invited the re-elected president to take part in the 14th Non-Allied Movement Summit scheduled for September 2006, said Deputy Foreign Minister of Cuba Eumelio Caballero Rodriguez, who arrived in Minsk on Wednesday.

ECONOMICS

21/03/2006
Russia’s Participation in Oil Exploration and Extraction in the Gulf of Mexico Is Possible

Moscow, Russia. Cuba considers Russia’s participation in the exploration and further operation of deep-water oil resources in Cuba’s exclusive economic zone in the Gulf of Mexico quite possible, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister Eumilio Caballero Rodriguez said in an interview to Russia’s ITAR-TASS news agency after wrapping up his negotiations in Moscow.

According to the Cuban official, “Cuba has favorable investment conditions for Russian businessmen.” Caballero stressed that “The Cuban economy is now on the rise. The country’s GDP grew by 11.8% in 2005 and the external trade turnover by 23%. This opens new possibilities for cooperation in such spheres as transport, aviation, medicine, and building materials manufacturing.”

The Cuban diplomat believes Russia might be interested in getting involved in the “modernization and development of the Cuban energy system.” He added, “This process in Cuba implies first of all the use of national oil and gas resources for energy production and the search for new renewable energy sources. For the time being, Havana does not have plans to pursue a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.”

Political relations between the countries are conducive to expansion of bilateral economic ties. “Our friendly and fraternal ties are based on the growing congruence of approaches taken by the two governments toward major global problems,” Caballero stated. “This, most of all, applies to the protection of the system of multilateral relations, mainly the UN, and strict observance of international law.”

22/03/2006
Cuba to Buy More Russian Planes

On March 8, a new Ilyushin Il-96-300 landed at Jose Marti airport in Havana. This is the second Russian passenger jet made at the Voronezh aircraft factory for Cuba’s flag carrier Cubana de Aviacion. The first long-haul, wide-bodied passenger aircraft, the Il-96-300 (Serial No.CU-?1250), arrived at the end of December and has already flown over 250 hours. It has been used to carry Cuban doctors working in countries as far afield as Pakistan and Indonesia. Paid medical services of Cuban doctors working abroad bring about 50% of Cuba’s hard currency earnings. Cuba plans to have four to five Il-96-300s in its fleet.

11/04/2006
ZMS to Supply Engines for Cuban Army Jeeps

Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Zavolzhsky Motor Factory (ZMZ) will supply engines for military jeeps of the Cuban army. This news was announced by ZMZ executive director Yevgeny Rebrov at a press conference. According to the ZMZ CEO, Cuban military vehicles will be fitted with ZMZ engines starting from summer 2006. The first batch of five engines is soon to be shipped to Cuba.
 

SOCIAL ISSUES

05/04/2006
Fidel Castro Slashes State Subsidies for Public Transportation

Buenos Aires. In pursuit of an “energy revolution” announced in 2006, Fidel Castro has dramatically cut government subsidies for public transportation, according to the mass media in the Caribbean region. “From now on, the government will subsidize 20 percent of public transportation instead of the previous 90 percent,” the leader of the Cuban Revolution said as he addressed a meeting to mark the 44th anniversary of the Cuban Union of Young Communists.

 With the current increasingly growing price for energy resources and the forthcoming global energy crisis, it is not wise to continue the policy of government subsidies, Castro stated. “In this situation we cannot afford to give people a gift of free ride in public transport,” he said. Castro has urged Cubans not to waste electricity and to more efficiently use energy resources of the state.

The year 2006 was declared “Year of Energy Revolution.” It is meant to improve the situation in the country. The energy-saving policy requires that Cubans replace incandescent light bulbs with more economical fluorescent ones. Specially designated social workers check trucks and tractors for fuel consumption, and inspect gas stations to prevent fuel theft. They distribute millions of energy-saving electrical pressure cookers, water heaters, and other electrical appliances to households all over across Cuba.

29/03/2006                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Government Seizes Land from Independent Farmer

Ciego de Avila. The agriculture ministry has seized state land that Manuel Ramírez Guerra, president of the Independent Farmers of Ciego de Avila, had been using for the past 10 years. Ramírez Guerra said the seizure was the latest repressive measure since he founded the independent farmers’ movement six months ago. Since then he has been fined twice, for 200 and 1,000 pesos, lost the use of his own tractor, and had his home attacked.
 

OTHER NEWS

24/03/2006
Castro Orders Burning His Clothes for Fear of Being Poisoned

Fidel Castro is in constant dread of being poisoned and has ordered that his underwear be burned, a former bodyguard to the leader revealed to the press. Delfin Fernandez, 44, fled Cuba in 1999 having become disappointed with the Communist regime. He lived first in Spain, but last year moved to Florida. Taking part in many TV talk shows, he has drawn the attention of the Cuban community there, with his revelations about Fidel Castro’s habits and oddities and his work with people closest to the Cuban leader.

He claims that Castro and his brother Raul have been gathering compromising material against foreign businessmen willing to invest in Cuba, and that Raul, who is in charge of the island’s army and Castro’s eventual successor, has stolen from state coffers millions of pounds. The former bodyguard, who, since leaving Cuba, worked in Spain for David Beckham, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, says he carried suitcases full of cash out of Cuba for the Castro brothers. “Raul loves money. He has a transition plan,” Fernandez says. “I think Raul would want to lead an economic transformation, and ultimately find a way to retire peacefully with his family with all the money he has stolen from the Cuban people over the years.”

03/04/2006
CIA Report Predicts Castro’s Death Within the Next Four Years

Washington, DC. U.S. officials in the Bush administration who monitor the situation in Cuba are predicting the soon demise of Fidel Castro. They believe his health is deteriorating and he may die within the next four years, US News and World Report says. It is said in the U.S. that the 79-year old Cuban leader is suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Citing an unidentified spokesman of the U.S. administration, the journal claims that his Parkinson’s disease has progressed beyond control. First reports of Castro having Parkinson’s appeared in the United States in November last year, including a secret CIA report that leaked to the press. Castro had immediately dismissed conclusions of American experts.

“Cuba’s enemies have tried to kill me off so many times, but I reckon this is wishful thinking on their part. I feel better than ever. The CIA that circulates these reports has once again made a fool of itself, Castro said in his 5-hour address to faculty and students of the University of Havana.   A BBC correspondent in Havana noted at the time that Fidel Castro was standing all five hours of his speech, never taking a seat and never losing his train of thought. The CIA secret report about Castro’s illness first emerged in the press in mid-November, 2005. American intelligence officials claimed the Cuban leader had been suffering from Parkinson’s since 1998 and that his health would dramatically worsen in the near future.
 
 

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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.