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Cuba Chronicle of Events
Issue No. 16 • May 15-31, 2006


Cuba Chronicle of Events Cuba  is produced by the Prima News Agency in Russia in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe. This issue of Cuba Chronicle is based on reports from PRIMA-News, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, APLO, Reporters sans frontiers, Jóvenes sin Censura, Reuters, KM.RU, CURSOR.co.il, Martí Noticias, ITAR-TASS, Izvestia, BBC, RBK, Telegraf.by, GazetaUA, Interfax-Zapad, RIA Novosti, Trend, Medicina Cubana, Associated Press, Polit.ru, and Dni.ru.

OPPOSITION

17/05/2006
New Issue of Nueva Generación Bulletin

Havana. The second issue of Nueva Generación bulletin, dated for March-April, has just been issued. The bulletin is the voice of the Young Cuba Popular Party and its National Council and includes the party’s opinions, ideas, and projects “inspired by Christianity and its concept of human dignity.” The idea behind the bulletin is to convey the message of “solidarity, social justice, and freedom.”

Nueva Generación carries an editorial and seven other articles written by Rafael Ávila, Ariel Arteago, Georgina Noa, Nelson Álvarez, and Leonides Ramírez. They address issues focused on the interests, problems, and hopes of young people in Cuba. The authors emphasize the importance of dialogue among democratic Christians of Cuba. The issue contains an extensive interview with Cuban dissidents who could not leave the country because the Cuban government has been delaying granting exit permits. The bulletin is a samizdat publication led by Asela Vega, a member of the Young Cuba Popular Party. It demonstrates the possibilities for operating outside the government censorship.

18/05/2006
U.S. Legislators Express Solidarity with Martha Beatriz Roque

Members of the United States House of Representatives called Martha Beatriz Roque at her home in Havana to express their support to the Cuban opposition activist. Cuban-American Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart (F) said the phone call of 15 members of Congress to the leader of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba was an unprecedented demonstration of solidarity. In the nearly hour-long conversation, the Congressmen conveyed their admiration, concern and support for Roque, Díaz-Balart said in an official statement.

On April 25, independent economist Martha Beatriz Roque fell victim to a vicious beating by pro-government thugs who staged an act of repudiation in front of her home. The statement reads that the increased acts of violence against Martha Beatriz Roque have generated great international concern over her well-being.

22/05/2006
Graffiti in Guantanamo City

Guantánamo City. On May Day, peaceful oppositionist Miguel Ángel Herrera wrote a graffiti slogan near the Daniel Llosa Escobar secondary school on 9th Southern Street in Gerona Oeste. It read “Freedom to Political Prisoners in Cuban Jails!” The inscription was seen by many school students and caused a lively response. A similar inscription appeared on Mothers’ Day at the Diosmedes Córdoba polytechnical college of information science in San Justo. The words “Freedom to Political Prisoners in Cuban Jails!” were spotted in a nook. On May 17, at 15.30, an inscription “Down with Fidel” appeared in the district of Prado in Guantanamo City.

22/05/2006
Oppositionists Mark Independence Day

Pinar del Rio. Hailing May 20 as Cuba’s real Independence Day, on which date in 1902 the Republic of Cuba was established, members of several Cuban opposition groups held a meeting to commemorate the anniversary. A spokesman of the Popular Party, Carlos M. Collazo, said, “We dissidents and oppositionists keep on struggling for the constitution we have been deprived of. To be free is the inalieanable right of every human being. We are thrown into jails for demanding our rights, but with each passing day the world gives us more and more support and our fellow countrymen show more understanding. There is no doubt the time will come when we will celebrate May 20 in a free Cuba.

Carmen Salas of FLAMUR said, “Today’s women are part of society, and we also suffer. We are followers of those who had tasted the real democracy on that May 20. The fight we are waging is the best tribute to their memory.” Abigail Ortega Beltrán, an independent librarian, noted that “there can be no democracy in a country in which people are not allowed to read books they want to. There is even less chance of democracy in a country where people are not allowed to run a private library and meet there with people they want to. The day of May 20 belongs to us. We will celebrate it some day if we uphold the struggle against totalitarianism and bans.”

The action was joined by Eliosbel Garriga Cabrera, an authorized representative of the Movement of Racial Integration, and activists of the movement, members of the Women’s Democratic Front and the Melinda Gates Cuban Democratic Foundation.

30/05/2006
Four Months on Hunger Strike: Fariñas Hernandez’ Health Deteriorates

Havana. The Cuban psychologist and independent journalist for Cubanacán Press, Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, on a hunger strike since January 31 to demand that the Cuban government allow unrestricted access to the Internet, is suffering from pneumothorax, a life threatening condition caused by the introduction of air into the thorax’s pleura membrane. He also has high fever, feels pain in the chest, and is very weak. On May 23, Fariñas had to be subjected to a procedure to remove fluid from the pleura. At present, doctors say the residual liquid is still present in the journalist’s left lung.
 

POLITICAL REPRESSION

08/05/2006
Cuban Dissident Sentenced by Military Tribunal to 4 Years in Prison

Havana. Fernando Martínez Calzadillas, president of the Occidental Cultural Civic Center has been sentenced to 4 years by a military tribunal for the crime of “intended” theft. The trial took place last April 28, less than twenty four hours after his arrest. Immediately after the trial, the prisoner was transferred to the Kilo 5 prison to serve his sentence, oppositionist Carlos Ríos said in a telephone conversation with Miami.

”Fernando denied all charges. The state attorney of the military tribunal relied on testimony of two witnesses who accused the defendant of selling false documents to some young people who wanted to dodge military service. Martínez Calzadillas stated that he did not know who the witnesses were and that the trial was a farce orchestrated by the State Security because of his opposition to the Castro regime.

14/05/2006
Four Youth Oppositionists Arrested in Bayamo

Ciego de Avila. Four young opposition activists were arrested on May 5 in the city of Bayamo, Granma province, in eastern Cuba. They were subjected by State Security agents to a six-hour interrogation and were issued threats. State Security has been investigating  the appearance of anti-government graffiti in a public park of the city. The names of the arrested are: Gabriel Yosmar Díaz Sánchez, Yoandris Montoya Avilez, José Armando Tornes and Francisco Juan Reyes Benítez.

Francisco Juan Reyes Benítez, the source of this information, said that security agents Leonardo Miranda González and Julio Cesar Sánchez had thrown the young people into solitary cells and brought a police dog  to intimidate them. The state security officers wanted to know how the opposition youth planned to mark Cuba’s Independence Day on May 20. They stated they would not allow any opposition actions and would use all possible means to prevent them.
 

11/05/2006
Repression on the Rise in Eastern Cuba

Santiago de Cuba. There was a rise in government repression in the province of Santiago de Cuba in April according to opponents of the regime who have been the main target of such attacks. Two dissidents reported being detained in the city of Santiago de Cuba, Juan A. Rodríguez Betancourt, chairman of the Fraternal Republican Party, and Mirtha Pérez Gomero, vice chairman of the Elena Mederos women’s group. They gave names of many others who were stopped in the street, detained, searched, and had their papers confiscated.

In the municipality of San Luis, 550 young people were detained on April 13-17 and registered by police as having “criminal propensities,” a term used by the Cuban justice system to define people’s strong disposition to committing crimes. At least two dissidents claimed they had been beaten. They were Henry Estiu and Guillermo Rivero. Two others, Ramón Roque and Roberto González said they had been fined 300 and 330 Cuban pesos respectively. In the nearby Palma Soriano, 40 youths were detained and cautioned in writing, the measure which could make their arrest more probable in future.

Dissidents from Palma Soriano reported increasing number of acts of repudiation during which government-instigated mobs are terrorizing oppositionists with verbal and physical assault. These acts are directed by Bárbaro Hernández, local coordinator of the Committee for the Revolution Defense. He declared that members of the committee had the full right to attack counterrevolutionaries and supporters of the Varela Project. Hernández issued his threat at a meeting to honor a man for his collaboration with the regime. This collaborator has two prison terms behind him, one for armed robbery, the other for growing and possessing marijuana.

16/05/2006
Two Journalists Arrested, One Still Held Without Charge

The French-based Reporters Without Borders have condemned the brutal and unfair arrests on May 13, 2006 of Odelín Alfonso, a regular contributor to Cubanet, and Milisa Valle Ricardo, who writes for the Jóvenes sin Censura (Youth Without Censorship) news agency and the continued detention of Odelin Alfonso without charge. Alfonso, a member of the Liberal Orthodox Party and correspondent for CubaNet, was arrested with his wife, on May 13 in Havana, after returning from a meeting of the Ladies in White, a group of mothers and wives of political prisoners. An officer in State Security known as Moísés had ordered the journalist not to attend the meeting. Alfonso and his wife were forcibly arrested at their home in front of their young daughter. The State Security took them to a local National Revolutionary Police (PNR) station, where the journalist is still being held. His wife was released a few hours later.

Milisa Valle Ricardo, of the small independent agency Jóvenes sin Censura, was arrested on the same day in Gibara, Holguín province, in eastern Cuba, together with her husband, Alexander Santos Hernández, a member of the Cuban Liberal Movement (MLC) and director of an independent library. The couple was intercepted by the PNR on their return from Havana where they attended an MLC meeting. Police surrounded their home and seized all the books from the independent library, along with two radios, before taking the journalist and her husband to the police station. They were both warned that their “activities would no longer be tolerated and that this warning would be “the last.” Liannis Meriño Aguilera, 21, is the head of Jóvenes sin Censura founded in September 2005 by young independent journalists. On December 29, 2005, she was threatened with imprisonment by two State Security agents in Obrero Banes, near Holguín.

“These arrests reveal once again an unfairness and denial of justice. No real reason exists to explain these repressive acts. It is pure and simple intimidation directed against peaceful opposition figures whose fate depends on the mood of their jailers,” said Reporters Without Borders. “We hope that Odelín Alfonso will soon be released.”

16/05/2006
Odelín Alfonso Freed

Havana. Odelín Alfonso, an independent journalist and member of the Liberal Orthodox Party, has been released in the early hours of May 13 after being detained with his wife and spending many hours in the Capri police station in the Havana district of Arroyo Naranjo. Alfonso was fined 30 Cuban pesos for “resistance and disrespect.” He was arrested by state security agents at his doorstep after returning with his wife and daughter from a meeting organized by Ladies in White. Two days earlier, agent Moisés had threatened him with troubles and demanded that the journalist refrain from attending the function.

15/05/2006
Evangelical Pastor Evicted

Pastor Luis Enrique Cervante Leiva has been evicted from his home in the township of Vicente, in Ciego de Avila province, because of his religious activity. He has also been dismissed from his job as a night watchman at a local pool. When the Pastor protested, the manager beat him, saying “I have fired you because such is my wish,” Pastor Cervante Leiva said. Pastor Luis Enrique Cervante Leiva, who has three small children, has no place to live after the eviction. He continues to be constantly stalked by a State Security agent called Fernando, who threatens the Pastor with incarceration should he refuse to collaborate with Cuba’s repressive organs.

17/05/2006
Marta Beatriz Roque Reports Persecution

Cuban oppositionist Martha Beatriz Roque gave an account of persecutions she was being subjected to and said that she would rather go back to prison than face this humiliation any longer. Beatriz Roque, the head of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba, was sentenced to 20 years in prison during the massive government crackdown on dissent in spring 2003. In July 2004, she was released on a medical parole. The dissident has recently requested that attorney Amelia Rodríguez Cala to represent her interests in the Ministries of Justice and Interior in order to stop the harassment she has suffered for the last nine months.

Beatriz Roque, an independent economist by profession, stated that if there is no positive response, she would instruct her attorney to initiate the necessary steps for her to return to prison to complete the remainder of her 20-year sentence. She also revealed that she had received a new warning from pro-government groups not to leave her home on May 20, the Independence Day celebrated by the opposition.

17/05/2006
Former Rafter Faces Imprisonment for “Social Dangerousness”

Havana. Cuban police have completed the investigation of a Cuban youth who had tried to leave the island by boat illegally three times. Hechmin Rodríguez Arana, 30, was summoned on May 5 to the Capri police station in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo. According to him, he was photographed several times and told he might be brought to court for being a “social danger.” The young man, who lives in the Managua neighborhood in Havana. Last March, Rodríguez was detained for several days for allegedly purchase meat for his family illegally.

18/05/2006
One More Cuban Oppositionist Targeted by “Acto de Repudio”

State Security agents and other pro-government elements staged a night-long “act of repudiation” in front of the house of peaceful oppositionist Camilo Cairo Falcón in Havana. In a phone call made from outside his home, Cairo Falcón told Radio Martí that pro-government thugs shouted abuse and humiliating remarks for several hours before stopping their action and drove away.

18/05/2006
State Security Threatens Neighbor of Independent Journalist

Havana. Carlos Prieto Fresco, a neighbor of independent journalist Odelín Alfonso (see above) arrested on the night of May 13, said he had been summoned by police, fined and threatened. On the morning of May 16, Carlos Prieto was summoned to a National Revolutionary Police branch in Arroyo Naranjo municipality and cautioned for “joining counterrevolutionary elements.” He like Alfonso was fined 30 Cuban pesos for “disturbing public order.”

A State Security officer, who introduced himself as Pedro, said he knew that Carlos Pietro had made four attempts to illegally leave the country and that he was waiting for an interview with the U.S. Interests Section’s Refugee Office in Havana. The officer said Pietro would not be able to leave the island until the Cuban authorities wanted this to happen. He warned Pietro that his son, who is working for the ETECSA phone company, might lose his job.

Pietro was harassment because he and his wife and some of their neighbors intervened during Odelín Alfonso’s arrest to prevent security agents from snatching a rucksack from the independent journalist’s young daughter. The agents persisted, saying they were searching for “explosives and enemy propaganda.” The girl’s bag had only some bread, a bottle of water, and her toys.

18/05/2006
Luis Cino Exposes Political Police

Havana. On the night of May 15, Luis Cino, a journalist and writer, was detained and taken to Capri police station in the municipality of Arroyo Naranjo, where he lives. At the station, security police officers called Moisés and Mario told him they would no longer allow him to support his colleagues engaged in independent journalism. They also threatened to arrest Cino should he disclose the content of the conversation.

21/05/2006
“Acto de Repudio” Staged Outside Home of Chairman of Coalición Juvenil Martiana

Edgar Lopez Moreno, president of the Coalición Juvenil Martiana and a resident at Nueva Aurora neighborhood in the town of Santiago de las Vegas, was a victim of an act of repudiation on May 18, 2006. Lopez Moreno told the Puente Informativo Cuba Miami agency that his family endured insults and threats from the people gathered in front of his home shouting revolutionary chants. They even brought secondary school students with them and made them read proclamations outside his house. “They filmed the entire repudiation act that lasted about an hour.  It was well planned and well organized. Regretfully, some neighbors from our block who have known me for many years participated in the act. I was accused, among other things, of having a dish antenna and disseminating enemy television propaganda,” Lopez Moreno said.

25/05/2006
Peaceful Oppositionist Jailed

Camagüey. Roberto Velazco Quiñones, a human rights activist, has been in provincial prison in Camagüe, Cerámica Roja, to serve a two-year sentence on charges of being a “danger” to society. Roberto was detained at his home on Damas Street in Camagüe by two officers of the National Revolutionary Police and a State Security agent, who brought him to police station No. 1 on Avellanada Street. René Montes de Oca Martija, the general secretary of the Cuban Pro Human Rights Party, says that Roberto is being held in harsh, inhuman conditions, according to a note smuggled from the prison. He has to sleep on the floor amid cockroaches and a host of other insects. Quiñones is a member of the Corriente Martiana (José Martí Current) movement. He defines himself as a pacifist whose only crime is defense of human rights.

21/05/2006
Cuban Independent Journalist Reports Harassment Against His Family

Havana. Carlos Serpa Maceira, independent journalist working with the news agencies LUX-INFO-PRESS and Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, stated in Havana that the government was persecuting his family because of his work as an alternative journalist. “On May 11, I received a telephone call from my wife Marielena Arredondo, who told me that electricity service in our home was cut off 15 days ago and has not been reinstated, but the other 80 homes around ours have no such problems,” Serpa said. Puente Informativo Cuba Miami reported that every time Mrs. Arredondo Rivero goes to the offices of the Popular Power to complain they tell her they cannot help her because of her husband’s counterrevolutionary activities.

22/05/2006
Marcelo Cano Rodriguez, a Cuban Prisoner of Conscience

Dr. Marcelo Cano Rodriguez, a medical doctor who served as the national coordinator of the unofficial Cuban Independent Medical Association and was a member of the unofficial Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation (CCDHRN), was sentenced to 18 years in prison under Article 91 of the Penal Code and Law 88. The activities, which the prosecution cited against this human rights defender, included visiting prisoners and their families as part of his work with the CCDHRN, and maintaining contacts with the international organization, Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Marcelo Cano has been severely treated by prison authorities. This physician has not seen sunlight since 2004, and his 6-year-old daughter has been traumatized after two and a half years of prison visits. Due to the lack of hygiene, he suffers from parasites and fungus on his feet.
 

POLITICAL PRISONERS

11/05/2006
Interior Ministry’s New Methods Against Prisoners

Camagüey. Political prisoner Lázaro González Adán reported from Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey about the new director’s terrorism of prisoners. González Adán, an independent trade-union activist who has already been in prison for 18 months stated, “Food in this torture-chamber is revolting, not even suitable for pigs. The rations are meager and consist of meals cooked from decomposed products. Since May 1, we are forced to stay in our canteen when eating the food brought by our relatives. We can’t take this food to our cells, a criminal act against inmates who are suffering from malnutrition.” The new director, named Jesús, hates the prisoners, González Adán added. On May 5, he ordered that the lights in all inmates’ facilities should never be put off. “If we turn them off the guards come in to put them on again in spite off our protests.”

16/05/2006
Another Political Prisoner Goes on Hunger Strike

Havana. Political prisoner Luis Cueto Echevarria has begun a hunger strike in the Ariza prison, Cienfuegos province. A member of the Pedro Luis Boitel Political Presidium, Cueto was sentenced to 12 years in July 1999. Several days ago, six agents of the political police searched his cell and confiscated books, brochures, and letters sent by Gladys Linares, chairwoman of the Cuban Women’s Humanitarian Front. Police officers accused him of possessing Cuban flags and “enemy propaganda” materials and transferred to him to a disciplinary cell. In an act of protest, Cueto has gone on hunger strike demanding the return of his belongings.

17/05/2006
Protest of Inmates in Cuban Jail

Ciego de Avila. An order forbidding bringing outside food into prison blocks stirred up strong protest in the high-security Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey province. This order was announced through the loudspeaker communications system. Protests forced the prison authorities to beef up security. According to José Daniel Ferrer García, a prisoner of conscience from the Group of 75, the protesting inmates were shouting “Down with Fidel,” “Respect Human Rights,” and “Down with Hunger.”  Ferrer García said that some warders tried to resolve the conflict by using force. Security guard Téllez Jiménez demanded that inmates denounce those who shouted the slogans so that they could be punished. Later, the prison authorities retracted their decision and pacification and announced they would allow prisoners to bring in food in small amounts.

18/05/2006
Mistreatment of Political Prisoner in Pinar del Rio

Havana. Prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo reports from the Taco prison in Pinar del Rio province that he has recently been subjected to degrading treatment and torture. Following the order of Major José Ramón Sánchez Castillo, prison guards dragged him from his cell to be forcedly shaved. They beat him, hitting on the head and in the face, and then handcuffed and threw him into a punishment cell. The following day, Major Castillo and Captain Walter came to his cell to cut off electricity. Zapata Tamayo warned them he would go on hunger strike if they did. Prison officers did cut off electricity in his cell, and Tamayo started a hunger strike. At two o’clock, after Zapato left his prison meal untouched outside the cell, he was shackled, handcuffed, chained to the bed and poured over with two buckets of icy water. Zapato began shouting anti-government slogans in protest against cruel treatment and violation of his rights. Three days later, he was moved back to his usual cell and he stopped fasting. Orlando Zapata Tamayo is serving a prison sentence of 25 years and 6 months. He was arrested and jailed during the notorious Black Spring crackdown in Cuba.

18/05/2006
Political Prisoners’ Relatives Put the Blame on Fidel Castro

Relatives of prisoner of conscience Luis Enrique Ferrer García have sent a letter to the provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Santiago de Cuba in which they hold the Castro regime accountable for possible health consequences of the hunger strike launched by the young activist and his two fellow hunger strikers, peaceful oppositionists and fellow Varela coordinators Alexis Rodríguez Fernández and Agustín Cervantes García. The authors of the letter are demanding better prison conditions for all prisoners.

Ferrer García, a member of the Christian Movement for Liberation and a leader of the Varela Project, has been on hunger strike since April 28 to protest against conditions of his incarceration, his sister, Ana Belkis Ferrer García, told Radio Martí. None of the families had any information about Garcia’s brother or Alexis Rodríguez Fernández and Agustín Cervantes García. Ferrer García was sentenced to 28 years’ imprisonment, Rodríguez Fernández to 15 years, and Cervantes García to 4 years in prison.

Given the circumstances, we have decided to write to the provincial Prosecutor’s Office to let them know the situation and hold the Castro government responsible for any potential health damage suffered by the three prisoners, said Ana Belkis. Her brother is being held in the prison ward of the Ambrosio Grillo hospital, while Rodríguez Fernández and Cervantes García are being held in a lock-up in the Mar Verde prison.

20/05/2006
Paya Makes Appeal for Three Cuban Political Prisoners on Hunger Strike to Death

Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardiñas, head of the Christian Liberation Movement, made the following statement and was published by the Cuba Miami News Bridge:
 

When you read this denouncement, count the days since the twenty-eighth of April and you will have the number of days three Cuban political prisoners have been on a hunger strike to the death. Luis Enrique Ferrer García had to be admitted to the Grillo hospital and is reported to be in critical condition, Alexis Rodríguez Fernández is in a punishment cell, a cage where he will dehydrate due to constant vomiting. Agustin Cervantes Garcia is also in a punishment cell. All three are confined in the Mar Verde prison in Santiago de Cuba.

What reasons could these three defenders of human rights, members of the Christian Liberation Movement, and leaders of the Varela Project have to start a hunger strike to the death? They are protesting against months of inhumane conditions at the Mar Verde prison, including rampant violence, constant death threats, humiliations, denial of medical assistance, and abuse by guards.

These three political prisoners would rather die than continue to live in these conditions. The Cuban government and the guards of these prisoners are directly responsible for their physical integrity. If the international community does not raise its collective voice against this crime, they will also be responsible for whatever happens to these three men. In particular, those countries that in total disregard for the human rights of the Cuban people, have rewarded the Cuban state by granting it a seat in the U.N. Human Rights Council, without first demanding that the Cuban state make improvements in matters of human rights. All those countries are accomplices in the massive violations of our people’s human rights. Also responsible are those who ignore the abuses being committed against the Cuban people and stay quiet.


GOVERNMENT

16/05/2006
Castro Furious with Forbes Story

Cuba’s President Fidel Castro denied on Monday a story in Forbes magazine that ranked Castro, one of the world’s longest-serving rulers, as one of the wealthiest men on the globe. With Cuba’s Central Bank governor at his side, Castro went on television brandishing a copy of the American magazine to tell Cubans that the story was a “repugnant slander” by a capitalist publication.

19/05/2006
Fidel Castro Will Live Long, Says His Chief Doctor

Cuban President Fidel Castro’ health is not any cause of concern and he has a real chance to live to 120, his personal physician Eugenio Zelman told journalists on Thursday. The doctor revealed a secret of his VIP patient’s longevity. “He is very disciplined in his daily life,” Zelman said. “He exercises regularly and is very moderate in eating.”
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30/05/2006
Castro’s Millions in Cuba’s “Pocket”

Even as the notorious British lawmaker, George Galloway, tried to defend Fidel Castro against a Forbes magazine report listing him as one the world’s ten richest rulers, former high-ranking Cuban officials have given credence to the article.

Long known as a “lawyer” for foreign leaders, Galloway appeared in Havana on a television program called “Round Table” alongside Castro and members of his government and ridiculed the Forbes’s article. “The Cubans are the only people in the entire world who have a leader who can say that he doesn’t possess one dollar to his name,” Galloway said. In the same television appearance, he called for the imprisonment of Prime Minister Blair and President Bush for their roles in the Iraq war. Galloway praised Castro as a “lion” of world politics who, unlike Bush he said, could walk down any street in the world without fear of being targeted by an assassin. “I hope the Cuban people know that Cuba has friends all over the world,” he added.

At the same time, some former high-ranking members of the Cuban government are cracking open the mystery of Castro’s fortune. Jesus Marzo Fernández, head of the Cabinet’s foreign currency commission in the mid-1990s, has no doubts about Castro’s personal fortune, although the sum of $900 million “seems too high” in his view. The former official said it is unlikely that Castro has a foreign account in his name. Instead, according to Fernández, the Cuban leader is just “shuffling the money from his own pocket to the state’s pocket, as if they were the two pockets of his pair of trousers.”

Fernández said that when Cuba urgently needed $20 million to buy foreign wheat flour in 1991, people at the top told him that the money could come only from “the Boss,” meaning from his personal account. Fernández claims that Castro’s personal accounts are not used to buy posh villas or luxurious yachts, but are kept for a rainy day to “save his revolution from unforeseen troubles.” Confronted with the charge of theft of public money after the Forbes article, Castro said he would resign the day his critics prove he has money in overseas bank accounts.

30/05/2006
Cuban Health Ministry Employee Fired for Visiting U.S. Interest Section’s Internet Center

Havana. Carlos Bosch Gonzalez has been fired on April 22 from his managerial job at the health ministry office in Boyeros for his frequent visits to the Internet Center at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. The 27-year-old Cuban had been holding his post, which is reserved for citizens exceptionally loyal to the government, for the last two years.

In an interview to Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, Bosch Gonzalez explained that he frequented the Internet Center mainly to search for new technologies to be used in his work. “I also used the internet to communicate with my friends and family. I have never belonged to any human rights group,” Bosch Gonzalez noted. Since internet use in Cuba is banned for most ordinary Cubans, the government is busy with tracking down unauthorized internet users.
 

REFUGEES

19/05/2006
Would-be Rafters Could Go to Prison

Havana. Several would-be rafters who were detained while trying to leave Cuba could be sentenced to three to five years in prison, said a prison official at the Melena prison south of Havana. Francisco Rolando Rivero, who is being held at Melena, said penal instructor Nildo López informed him he would be tried for attempting to leave the country illegally. Rivero was detained with several companions as they were trying to flee the island by their own means. He had been fined after a previous attempt failed.

24/05/2006
Mexico Deports 57 Asylum Seekers

Havana. Mexican immigration authorities have returned 57 Cubans who had arrived by sea in recent months. The immigrants, coming from all parts of Cuba, had arrived in Mexico in small groups and had been placed in a recently built prison for undocumented migrants in Chiapas state. Amaury Hernández, 33, one of the deported rafters, said that after arriving in Mexico he had learned of a new law that provides for 90 days detention for illegal immigrants and for their release thereafter. “We were always told we would be freed,” said Hernández, “but two days before it was time, other Cubans who said they were there for political reasons started fighting. The fight got out of control and the authorities decided to return all of us.”

Hernández’s wife, who remained in Cuba, said as soon as she learned that her husband had arrived in Mexico, she received a visit from a State Security officer who called himself Pedro and who told her: “Tell her husband that we will see each other again soon.” Hernández said he and his companions had sailed from the south coast of Cuba on February 21.

24/05/2006
Six Cubans Arrested for Attempt to Illegally Leave the Country

Camagüey. Police, border guards, and State Security officers in Las Tunas and Granma provinces frustrated an attempt to illegally leave the island and arrested five men and a woman. The would-be immigrants, all members of the Tamayo family, attempted to sail on a homemade raft made from eight 55-gallon (209 liter) drums held together by angle irons. They said they had been intercepted on the road on their way to launch their craft. Two of the men were fined 3,000 Cuban pesos each, and authorities confiscated two trucks. All those arrested had attempted to leave before, one of them on four occasions.
 

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

14/05/2006
Israeli Minister and Former Chief Rabbi to Meet Fidel Castro

Israeli Pensioners Minister Rafael Eitan and the country’s former chief rabbi Israel Meir Leu will meet with Cuban President Fidel Castro on a private visit to Havana. They have been invited for the unveiling in Havana of a monument to victims of the Holocaust in Europe. Maariv reports that Fidel Castro has long wanted to meet and talk with Rabbi Leu. To make this wish come true, he approached Rafael Eitan, an old friend who runs a profitable business in Cuba.  Israel has no diplomatic relations with Cuba in deference to the U.S. boycott. Yuval Porat, the press secretary of Minister Eitan, says a private trip of an Israeli government official to Cuba does not require government approval and does not affect U.S. interests.

20/05/2006
Hemingway Unites Cuba and the U.S.

The Cuban government is giving the United States copies of more than 20,000 papers relating to the Nobel Prize winning American writer Ernest Hemingway as part of an agreement to restore Hemingway’s legacy. The issue has united the usually hostile governments of Washington and Havana, according to correspondents.

Hemingway spent much of his time living in Cuba between 1939 and 1960. Marta Arjona, head of Cuba’s National Heritage Council, said the U.S. has been given an “invaluable” gift relating to that period. In an interview with Cuba’s Communist Party newspaper Granma, she said that the move was part of an agreement reached in 2002 to restore and digitalize some 11,000 documents relating to Hemingway. In return, American experts have come to Cuba to help restore the museum, Marta Arjona noted.

The documents include copies of letters in which Hemingway voices his position on World War II and the Spanish Civil War. Copies of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Old Man and the Sea,” which was inspired by his time in Cuba, have also been sent to the United States. The originals remain at a museum at Hemingway’s former house in Havana.

20/05/2006
U.S. to Help Cuba Create Peaceful Government

U.S. President George W. Bush has addressed the Cuban people with a message for the 104th anniversary of the island’s independence. In his message, Mr. Bush promised to help Cubans create a democracy, the White House press service reports.

“The hope of freedom is found in every heart, and it is the future of every land. The United States is committed to advancing the values that sustain liberty and helping establish a just and peaceful government in Cuba,” he said. “On this anniversary of Cuba’s independence, we look forward to the day when Cuba embraces democracy and human rights for all her people.” The U.S. president also sent greetings to Cubans who have moved to live in the United States. Cuba gained formal independence on May 20, 1902. It was assisted by the United States in its fight for independence from Spanish colonial rule.

24/05/2006
Washington to Suggest Plan to Move Cuba to Democracy

The U.S. Commission on Assistance to a Free Cuba  is preparing to advise President George W. Bush on how to inject democracy into a post-Castro Cuba. Critics of the present U.S. administration say Washington’s 40 years of isolating Cuba may significantly reduce the U.S. chances to advance democratic reforms on the island.  The report by the Commission that is expected in the next few days implies that Washington can influence Cubans in a transition from communism to democracy and a free-market economy when President Fidel Castro exits, Reuters quotes U.S. officials.

24/05/2006
Václav Havel on Fidel Castro’s Terror

Soon after the wave of repression three years ago in which Fidel Castro’s regime arrested and handed down long sentences to 75 leading Cuban dissidents, Václav Havel and many other human rights activists formed the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba. On its third anniversary, Havel noted, “The bravery of those who found their social conscience, overcame fear, and stood up to communist dictatorship is fresh in my memory. It reminds me of Czechoslovakia in 1989.” In his statement, Havel writes:

Three years ago, the Committee for Democracy in Cuba organized the conference in Prague calling for democracy in Cuba. We wanted to draw international attention to the human rights situation in Cuba, to support its opposition, and encourage pro-democratic forces. The European Union then introduced diplomatic sanctions, albeit mostly symbolic, against Castro’s regime.

Soon, a contrary position came to the fore. The EU opened a dialogue with the regime, sanctions were conditionally suspended, and it was made clear to dissidents they were not welcome at the embassies of several democratic countries. Cowardly compromise and political alibis defeated a principled position. In return, the Cuban regime made a sham gesture by releasing a small number of prisoners of conscience — mostly those who were tortured and seriously ill — who it feared would die in its notorious prisons.

Those of us who live in Europe’s new post-communist democracies experienced similar political deals when we lived behind the former Iron Curtain. We are also extremely familiar with the argument that European policies have not led to any mass arrests in Cuba. But democracy has shown weakness and the Cuban regime has in turn adapted its tactics.

Respected organizations like Reporters Without Borders and Amnesty International have collected ample evidence of violence and intimidation against free-thinking Cubans. Their cases often do not end in courts but in hospitals. Groups of “fighters for the Revolution” — in reality, the Cuban secret police — brutally attack their political opponents and accuse them of absurd crimes in an effort to intimidate them or to force them to emigrate. On the island, such planned harassments are called “actos de repudio” — “acts of repudiation.”

Political violence that creates the impression of mere street crime is never easy to prove, unlike jail terms of several years, and therefore it does not receive due attention from the world. The powerlessness of the victim of state-organized street fights and threats against his family is experienced in the same way as the powerlessness of somebody harassed during a state security investigation. Many European politicians who have sought to see the situation on the ground have been barred in recent years.

Some Europeans apparently regard Cuba as a faraway country whose fate they need take no interest in, because they have problems of their own. But what Cubans are enduring today is part of our own European history. Who better than Europeans, who brought communism to life, exported it to the world, and then paid dearly for it over many decades, know better about the torments inflicted upon the Cuban people?

Humanity will pay the price for communism until such a time as we learn to stand up to it with all political responsibility and decisiveness. We have many opportunities to do so in Europe and Cuba. And it is no surprise that the new member countries of the EU have brought to Europe fresh historical experience, and with it resolution and intolerance of compromise.

Representatives of the EU member states will meet in Brussels in mid-June to review a common policy towards Cuba. European diplomats should weigh up the consequences of accommodating Castro’s regime. They should show that they will neither ignore his practices nor neglect the suffering of Cuban prisoners of conscience. We have no right to forget the seemingly anonymous victims of Castro’s persecutions.

25/05/2006
Castro Won’t Attend Meeting of Presidents of Bolivia and Venezuela

Fidel Castro will not attend a meeting of the presidents of Bolivia and Venezuela, Evo Morales and Hugo Cháves, scheduled to take place in the Bolivian town of Chapare on Friday. The Bolivian president’s spokesperson, Alex Contreras, said Cuba’s vice president, Carlos Lage, would represent Cuba at the meeting. “Castro’s visit to Bolivia would have been a great honor not only to Bolivians but to all Latin Americans,” stated Contreras, speaking on national television. “But the people of Bolivia show great respect for him and we know that el Comandante has a very tight working schedule on the Island of Freedom.”  Contreras did not explain further why Castro would not be able to attend the Chapare meeting.

Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba are expected to sign eight energy-related documents on Friday in Morales’s coca-growing home region of Chapare. The agreements will be signed under the framework of the so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, an alliance set up by Cuba and Venezuela in May, 2005 in an attempt to counterbalance the U.S. free-trade zone in the Western Hemisphere. Bolivian President Evo Morales signed on to this integration agreement between Cuba and Venezuela in early May in Havana.

28/05/2006
“Collapse of Capitalism is Our Strategic Goal,” says Chavez as Summit Ends

The summit of leaders of Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba ended on Saturday, May 27 with the signing of 16 agreements in Bolivia’s capital city La Paz. Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez said the “countries are going along the path of socialism and the collapse of capitalism is our strategic goal.” The Venezuelan leader said the collapse of the U.S. empire would happen in the 21st century. He explained the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas and the People’s Free Trade Treaty were essential ingredients of their strategy to “destroy U.S. imperialism.”

The so-called Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas was launched in May 2005 by Venezuela and Cuba to counterbalance the U.S.-backed Free Trade Association of the Americas. Evo Morales signed on to this integration agreement early this May in Havana.

One of the agreements of the summit commits Venezuela’s state-controlled oil company PDVSA to set up a joint venture with Bolivia’s state energy company YPFB. Under the agreement, Venezuela will invest $1.5 billion to explore and develop energy resources in Bolivia, in this way pushing Brazil away from the natural gas market. Chavez also sealed a deal with Morales for Venezuela to purchase $100 million worth securities from the Bolivian finance ministry.  Venezuela and Cuba also agreed to assist Bolivia in building asphalt plants and training civil and military personnel.

In his one-hour speech, Hugo Chavez warned the United States that the use of force against any of the three countries would face strong resistance. Venezuela is carrying out military exercises in the Caribbean to train its troops to defend against an attack.

25/05/2006
Azerbaijan’s Milli Mejlis Vice Speaker Meets with Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister

Baku, Azerbaijan. Milli Mejlis deputy chairman Bakhar Muradova met on May 25 with Cuban deputy foreign minister Eumelio Caballero Rodriguez currently on his visit to Azerbaijan. Ms. Muradova noted that since regaining its independence Azerbaijan has established ties with all industrialized countries and international organizations and was interested in developing relations with the Republic of Cuba.

“We have opened an embassy in Cuba. We have a special group in Milli Mejlis for promoting friendly contacts with Cuba’s Parliament. At international forums, positions taken by delegations of the two countries sometimes coincide. Azerbaijan voted for lifting the embargo imposed against Cuba,” Muradova pointed out.

Caballero said he was satisfied with his visit to Azerbaijan. According to him, Cuba is planning to renew and expand its ties with Russia, Central Asian countries, and South Caucasian republics. The goal of the visit is to discuss these plans with the Azeri side. “We have many specialists in Cuba who studied in Baku and know Azerbaijan. We have a parliamentary working group for deepening our ties with Azerbaijan,” the visiting Cuban official added. He welcomed the fact that Azerbaijan has been elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council and thanked official Baku for its efforts to end sanctions against Cuba.  He also extended Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Peréz Roque’s invitation to Azeri foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov to visit Cuba.
 

ECONOMICS

25/05/2006
Police Crackdown against Shoemakers in Morón

Morón. Cuban police raided several self-employed shoemakers in the city of Morón, Ciego de Avila province, and confiscated their products, tools, and means of trade. Critics claim this measure is part of the government’s policy to wipe out private business in the country, thus forcing consumers to buy poor-quality footwear at state-run dollar stores.
 

SOCIAL ISSUES

17/05/2006
Passengers Protest against Poor Transport Service

Havana. A delegation of 20 passengers arrived on May 5 at the Peoples’ Authority office to protest against poor transport service, inadequate management, and terrible conditions at waiting areas. According to Elena Vesselova, head of Democratic Action on the Isle of Pines, the delegation represented a group of over 300 passengers who are being forced to wait at the Espadero terminal, the connecting point to get to Isla de la Juventud. Rosalba and Mirta Hernández, the state employees responsible for transport in this municipality, promised to see to the matter and officers of the State Council asked for help echoed the promise. But still nothing has been done, claimed Vesselova, a Russian citizen who permanently resides in Cuba. She said that more than 300 people, including elderly, the ill, and infants couldn’t leave for Isla de la Juventud, a recurrent situation which reflects the deplorable state of Cuba’s transport system.
 

OTHER NEWS

14/05/2006
Prisoners Left to Die of AIDS

Ciego de Avila. The Cuban Human Rights Foundation has recieved a letter from the prisoner of conscience Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta about numerous cases of AIDS in prison. In the letter, Acosta claims that the prison administration has deliberately placed prisoners with AIDS in every block in order to spread the deadly disease. The government denies those prisoners early conditional release — and they are kept to die. That is the government’s way to get rid of the prisoners, which in actual fact amounts to the extermination of the criminal populace, the political prisoner writes. At the beginning of 2005, he writes, an inmate of the high security Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey was found to have AIDS. The inmate, Osmany Quintana Ayala, confessed to having sexual contact with five male criminals after he was transferred from a prison in Holguín specially designated for AIDS sufferers.

24/05/2006
Some Havana’s Neighborhoods Affected by Flooding

Many streets in the Cuban capital have been flooded as a result of heavy rains. The most affected are Havana’s neighborhoods located within close reach of the city’s embankment. In the Miramar district, for example, water was 20 cm deep, and Havana’s downtown was also inundated. The city authorities had to temporarily suspend traffic on some streets, including major ones, in a safety precaution for motorists. The onset of heavy rains has brought the end of the long dry season in Cuba.

24/05/2006
Airport Officials Arrested

Havana. Two high-ranking officials of Havana International Airport were arrested on May 12 on charges of corruption. They have since been confined at the State Security headquarters. Roberto Fernándes and Liván Tápanes, director and deputy director respectively of the company responsible for the safety and security at the airport, were accused of illegal possession of $18,000, a Lada car, 90 hubcaps, several mattrasses, and other things. Sources claim the scandal could cost the job of Rogelio Acevedo as chairman of the Cuban Civil Aviation Council.

29/05/2006
One Man’s Challenge: To Abandon Home or Wife

Havana. Juan Carlos Linares has been fined for cohabitation with his own wife. Linares, who owns a house in Old Havana, said his wife was not allowed to move to his place because Cuban authorities won’t allow new residents in the historical center of Havana. His wife, in turn, lives in a house in the municipality of Diez de Octubre, which she has been tried to purchase for the last three years without success. If he registers as a resident of Diez de Octubre municipality, Linares would immediately lose his house in Old Havana.

Linares thus lives in his wife’s house unregistered, a violation of Cuban law. Last October, he was ordered to pay a fine of 450 Cuban pesos. Since he refused to comply, the fine has now doubled to 900 pesos. Even the threat of prison won’t make me pay the fine, Linares said. The local authorities told Linares to divorce his wife, visit her only at night, or take other measures so that none of their neighbors could see him and report his illegal presence in the district.
 
 

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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.